‘T-Money’, Emeka said to me as he stepped aside for me to enter his self contained apartment. ‘See my life o’; he said handing over his phone to me. I took the Samsung S4 mobile phone from him to look at the picture staring at me.
Emekus; The Frustrations of Young Nigerian Professional
By Blessing Akinsehinwa
‘Emekus my man’,
‘My guy open door nau, I know say you dey dis house’.
The wooden door opened slowly, and there he was standing by the door wearing a long face, looking downcast and dejected.
‘Ahnahn, Emeka. Guy wetin do you. You dey so? I dey pass for dis your area come say make I come hala you.’
Shock went through my spine as I stared unbelievably at the picture.
Thirty seconds passed before i could compose myself and mutter an unnecessary question.
Is this not Jumoke? Same Jumoke? Your girlfriend?
‘Yessoooooooooo’ Emeka echoed.
‘Haba, I am not understanding something. No be Jumoke your babe be this? Your babe wen we dey reason una wedding for later dis year. Did you guys break up or what?’
‘T-Money, naso i see ahm o. Na Nonso my brother for Lagos send me dis picture like 30 minutes ago to confirm to me say Jumoke marry today. And I had no absolute idea when and how! Am I cursed? Must everything turn out badly for me? Where am I supposed to start from? Is love a crime? This girl is the only one that gives me the little joy I have, and now she’s gone. Forever!!!’
‘Mekus, you need to leave this house. You look terrible. Like someone who just lost his wife.’ I said to him
‘E no reach? Ehn T-Money, e no reach?’
‘I know my friend, I know.’
‘You know what? Let’s go have a drink, bills on me. I can’t possibly leave a brother like this’
‘T-Money, abeg leave me dey go. Me no dey in the mood to drink as i dey so. Leave me to mourn in peace.’
‘Iffa hear say you no commot from that bed follow me, make I break. You think i’ll leave you to sulk all alone in the house? Get up my friend.’ I barked!
Grudgingly, Emeka dressed up and followed me to the bar close to his house where we usually watch football matches. There was a match being shown between two English Premiership sides. We made our way into the already crowded bar, slid into two empty seats at the back corner. I beckoned to a waiter serving some other guys watching the football match. I made an order of Goldberg for myself and Small Stout for Emeka but he declined his regular brand and requested for Coke. My Emekus ordered for Coke! Only heartbreak could do this.
‘So my friend, I really don’t understand what is going on. Did you guys break up or what? How can you say she suddenly got married and without your knowledge?
Emeka, Jumoke and I had attended the same Yenagoa Campus of the Nigerian law School. While I was Emeka’s roommate, Jumoke and Emeka had belonged to the same reading group. Back then, our campus authorities divided us into study groups to ensure we produced excellent results. Despite being less than 3 years old they wanted us to compete with other Campuses of the Law School; most especially the Lagos Campus which had a reputation of producing the best results. These study group meetings were presided over by supervising lecturers which held every evening in order to review and preview the lectures for the day and the following day respectively. We were also divided into sub groups in order for us to take turns to teach topics to one other. Thereby helping each other out generally on anything concerning the school curriculum. The two of them belonged to the same study group giving them ample opportunity to see each other every evening after class. Because Emeka was someone who was intelligent and made no attempt to hide his intellect, Jumoke who according to him ‘needed some coaching’ gravitated towards my roommate. They saw each other more, and even hung out for longer hours. As fate would have it, a romantic relationship evolved.
Emeka hails from Bende Local Government of Abia state. He attended the Abia State University, Uturu. Having lived all his life in the east, attending the Law School in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State was the first time he ventured outside of the Eastern part of Nigeria. He came from a very humble background. Having lost his father at the age of 10, his mother who was a petty paint trader struggled to see him through school so that he would one day assist her in raising his 3 other siblings; Chukwunonso his immediate younger brother and 2 other girls, Nijideka and Nneka. Life couldn’t have been harder for anyone as it was for Emeka. He told me one evening while we were taking a stroll on Campus, rehearsing what we had learnt in class earlier that morning that his mum had to take a loan from money lenders before he could pay his Law School fees. Emeka usually ate one meal per day and it was usually lunch. Since class was by 9am, we usually skip breakfast; so lunch was always our first meal of the day. For Emeka, he never for once ate during break or at noon. He ate his meals usually after the completion of the class for the day which was usually around 3pm-4pm.
Oluwajumoke or Jumoke as we call her is your typical silver spoon child. She is a Yoruba girl from Aboekuta in Ogun state. However, because her parents both work in Lagos, Jumoke had lived all her life in Lagos. She attended the University of Lagos. Jumoke was well travelled. Her Politician father was at that material time a Special Adviser to the Governor of Ogun State, their home State. Her father ensured she never lacked anything. In fact, he assigned to her a car and a driver who stayed until the completion of her registrations. Money was never a problem for her because she had it in abundance. She bought all books recommended to us; necessary and unnecessary. Jumoke’s friends and I resorted to her as the depository of books and academic materials. Her parents ensured she got everything gettable that pertained to her studies. She was not as brilliant as Emeka, but she was humble, and willing to learn. She never discriminated against the rest of us because of our social class. She sometimes ate at the buka with where we ate, but had to stop when she came down with severe diarrhoea.
‘T-Money, remember I told you my younger brother, Nonso schools in Yaba Tech.
I nodded…‘yes I remember’.
‘Yesterday, Nonso said a friend of his who works part time as a caterer returned from a traditional wedding in Ikeja and had invited him to assist cater for the white wedding today; Saturday. Nonso agreed since that friend of his was going to pay him. Moreover, he needed the cash. Especially as Mama’s Paint business had been experiencing a lull since the present dollar crisis forced the prices of everything in the market up astronomically.’
‘According to Nonso, this morning he resumed duty as early as 4 am assisting in preparing the food before they would be transported to the venue of the event which was also in Ikeja. The madam, who was the main caterer that employed them, held a souvenir has been used for the traditional marriage the previous day with which she was using to fan herself because of the heat from the kitchen. Once, she dropped the booklet to go coordinate some other things in the kitchen, Nonso said he picked it up to fan himself too.
T-Money, naso bubble burst o. Nonso said he saw the picture of my Jumoke with another man getting married. Nonso said he was very confused. He called me immediately asking rapaciously after ‘my babe’. To which I replied that she was fine and chilling in her Lagos as usual. He asked me like thrice if I was sure and I replied in the affirmative.
This afternoon, Nonso snapped and sent the picture I showed you at the reception of the wedding. My Jumoke is married to someone else. T-Money, I am finished ooooo, chai..’
‘Kai, Emekus, this is a very sad and disheartening story my friend….yamani’
‘Which one be gamani again, I’m talking serious matter here, you’re saying gamani,
‘Haha, sorry my friend. Yamani means sorry in my Tiv language.
‘Oh okay, no problem. But Terhemba, am I not finished like this? You know what I have gone through because of this babe; convincing my people to accept a certain Yoruba girl and all……you know the story. Anyways I don’t think you can understand how hurt I am right now. My world has just crashed. Kai, if I had known, I would have impregnated this girl like she requested since last year. At least, then it’s going to be certain that she will forever be mine. But mba, I was doing good boy.
If not for this Profession of ours sef that is so unregulated and Junior Lawyers left uncatered and unprotected. Look at us; we left the Law School five years ago. Look at where we are now. I live in a one bedroom self contain that I even struggle to pay the rent. How much is my boss paying me T-Money? How much? 40k in a city like this Abuja. He doesn’t even allow us to do our own briefs. All we do is work and work for him, for 40k. Shey your own is still better. Your boss allows you to do your own briefs as long as his work is not suffering. What you have been able to acquire today as properties are not from your salary. Look at my own life. From the 40k, Nonso will call from school to ask for money. From Umuahia, Njideka and Nneka will call also. I should have relieved mama of some burdens, but I cannot. I even shamelessly atimes ask that woman to give me from the little profit she makes because I don’t have a choice. See T-Money, I’m tired.
If I had known that this practice would be like this, I would have gone to study something else in school, probably medicine. Look at Yemi, my doctor friend that works in one of the hospitals here in Abuja. He drives a car of his own and lives in a one bedroom flat in Gwarinpa where he pays 650k per annum. But look at me. I’m still using my legedis benz (legs to walk), and living in a self-contain apartment inside one bush in Kubwa where I cannot even single handedly pay my 150k rent unless I disturb that poor woman, Mama.’
‘Calm down Emeka’, I said to him. ‘Calm down and don’t be negative about yourself. But I thought you told me about 6 months ago that Jumoke’s parents promised to assist you to get something better since their daughter insisted on marrying you.’
‘Ehn, yes they did.
6 months ago, her parents invited me over to Lagos. To be honest T-Money, Jumoke tried for me o. And I don’t blame her for marrying that boy. Walahi I don’t.’
‘Oh, do you know the boy?’ I asked
‘Yes nau, I know him. He is the son of a former Senator from their State. The Senator is a friend to her father. The boy’s name is Lanre. He just finished his Masters degree from Oxford University in the UK, so his parents wanted him to take a wife and settle down.
So back to my story, about 8 months ago, when things were very difficult for me financially; Lanre had just returned from the UK so his mother and Jumoke’s mothers hatched the plot to have their children marry each other. But Jumoke would have none of it because of me. She refused all entreaties to even go on a date with this Lanre of a boy. She would call me on the phone and cry for hours, begging me to do anything I can to make small money. That she was willing to marry me like that. She even at a point muted the idea of getting pregnant for me so as to force the hands of her parents. I refused. It wasn’t right to do such. Moreso it would have been very selfish of me. It would also have made me come across as marrying her because of her father’s riches.
After about 2 months of back and forth on the issue of marry me I no marry you. Her father asked me to come down to Lagos. That they wanted to see the mysterious ‘omo ibo’ as Jumoke says her mum calls me.
T-Money, I had to obtain a 20k salary advance from my boss and added the small money I had on me to be able to make the trip. I bought some new clothes and used the rest to transport myself to Lagos by night bus. I left Abuja on a Friday night because I had to be at work earlier that day. In fact I went to the park straight from the office. Saturday morning, I got into Lagos, and Nonso came to pick me at the park to his house. You know dem Jumoke’s house is at Somolu not far from Nonso’s school, so it was somehow easy for me.
Nonso lives in a one room Face-Me-I-Face-You house off campus where he shares the payment of the rent with his roommate. Once I was rested a little from the journey, I asked Nonso to take me to a supermarket close by to buy some things. I bought one Seamans Aromatic Schnapps and an expensive wine which I intended presenting to Jumoke’s father.’
Didn’t you buy anything for her mother? I asked
‘Because the money I had left with me wasn’t enough, I couldn’t.’ He answered!
‘So when it was 12 pm, I left for their house. By 12.30 I was already at their gate. Nonso had described to me how to locate the address Jumoke had given me of their house.
T-Money, see money is good o.
Their house was like a king’s palace. The duplex of 5 bedrooms as Jumoke told me was tastefully furnished from the outside to every bit of the inside. Parked at the garage were 6 luxurious Sport Utility Vehicles of different brands, all black in colour. Jumoke even told me they had sent 3 other vehicles for servicing at the servicing company. Jumoke was waiting for me at their gate when I arrived. It was she who led me into the sitting room where her father and mother were waiting for me. So as not to look like the poverty stricken boy that I was, I had worn my bottom box native attire that I sewed last Christmas in the village.
Once I entered the sitting room, I prostrated to greet her parents like Jumoke had instructed me to. As I bent low, her mother burst out into a loud laughter. She said ‘‘e wo omo ibo ton dobale o’’
‘What does that mean?’ I asked……cutting in
‘It means see omo ibo that is prostrating’.
I couldn’t help but burst out into laughter also myself. I said, ‘wait, so you Emeka, Igbo boy, prostrated like a Yoruba man?’
‘My guy, wetin I for do nau, that was what Jumoke said I should do’.
‘Okay, okay, sorry for laughing, I’m listening to you’.
‘So her father asked my full names. I told him. He asked where I hail from, the name of my father and mother. What they do for a living. I answered every question as he asked.
‘I presented my gifts to him; he was impressed and accepted them wholeheartedly.
Soon, Jumoke’s mother called her to come assist in the kitchen, leaving me with her father in the sitting room. The father then asked me to move closer to him as he wanted us to talk man to man.
The man told me that left to him, he would have wanted his daughter to marry someone else, preferably a Yoruba man like themselves. But since his daughter insists on marrying ‘‘Emeka’’, he had no choice than to accept her choice. He asked me what plans I have for myself and his daughter. I told him I wanted to continue being a Lawyer, one day become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and have diverse business concerns. For his daughter, I told him that I indeed loved his daughter and would like to marry her. Then he went further to tell me that Jumoke had explained my job situation to him. How I was increasingly frustrated with my current job and financial situation. He offered to employ me as the Company Secretary/ Legal Adviser of his Company, but that then I must be willing to relocate to Lagos. I thanked him for the offer, but told him I didn’t want to leave active legal practice to become a company lawyer. That I was serious about becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He smiled, and then said he had a Senior Advocate friend. That he’ll call him up to see if anything can be arranged about me joining his law firm in Lagos. He said he’s insisting on Lagos because he wanted Jumoke, his only daughter to be close to home. Finally, the man said before these plans materialise, I should endeavour to get some things together as Jumoke wasn’t getting any younger, likewise myself also. He reminded me that Jumoke will be turning 29 by May and as it is, she was the only one not married amongst her clique of friends.’
‘So what did her mother say, abi you didn’t discuss with her?’ I asked
‘We did o. After the meal, her father left us at home. He said he had a meeting to attend. The mother called me ‘‘omo ibo’’ all through. Never for once did she mention my name. She categorically told me that she was reluctantly consenting to my friendship with her daughter. She said she was aware of the obnoxious cultural practices of the Igbo people. How they treat their widows, and she wouldn’t want anything of such to happen to her daughter. She said we discriminate a lot. That even amongst us, the Anambra people discriminate against the other Igbos because they see themselves as the original igbos. That is it an outsider we would not discriminate against? She was emphatic that I would have to relocate to Lagos before our marriage because she wanted to be close to her grandchildren and would want them to learn the Yoruba culture and language. She said any attempt by my people to make her daughter unsafe and threatened because of her tribe in her marital home if we eventually marry; she is taking the girl away from me. So I had to assure her that I have told her husband I was willing to relocate to Lagos because of Jumoke. That no harm or threat will come Jumoke’s way from my people or family. That I loved her so much and will do everything in my ability to make her happy with me.’
‘If you ask me’, I interjected, ‘I completely understand their pessimism in permitting their daughter to marry you. The cultural differences are so wide apart; including the prejudices, whether correct or not that tribes have for one another. Even we the Tiv people of Benue State, there is this widely held belief that we don’t marry the Jukun people from Taraba state. I have tried finding out why from my parents, all they told me was that that was what was passed down to them from their ancestors. Similarly, the Idoma people also do not like us. There is this silent beef between the both our tribes despite having existed together for quite a long time. They accuse us of dominating them in the state. So I totally understand their sentiments.
However, it still doesn’t explain her marrying that Lanre guy today. How come?’
T-Money: For about 3 months now we have been having quarrels and quarrels.
‘What for’, I asked?
‘Terhemba if I tell you I don’t understand, will you believe me?
‘Sometimes e just dey be like say devil gada hand for the matter. Jumoke will just pick quarrels with me for almost nothing and keep malice with me for days even after I apologised repeatedly. Money that was never an issue between us since we knew each other now became a big issue. Yet I explained my predicament to her and begged for her patience.’
‘Do you think maybe this Lanre guy was already back in the picture then?’
‘See, that was what Nonso said too. But I thought the bond I shared with Jumoke was so strong nothing would come between us.
I suspected things were heading towards the rock was when she told me last week after one of our meaningless quarrels over money issues that she wasn’t going to talk me again. That I shouldn’t try to reach her anymore. She said she was tired of my everyday excuses and could no longer deal. That she wasn’t going to put her life on hold any longer for me. Only for me to see this!’
‘Wow…….whereas she had already planned to be married to someone else?’
‘Well, it seemed so.’
‘But why didn’t she come out to tell you plainly that she was dumping you?
‘My guy, I have no freaking idea.’
‘Well, Emekus, you see this life wen we dey so, na hot pot of beans life. It’s not always fair. Jumoke is gone, you just have to take your L and move on.
Tears streamed down Emeka’s eyes as I said these words!
Lawyer, Writer sent this piece from Lagos.