Yesterday, Dr Iniobong, the only consultant psychiatrist in Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), was found floating, face down in Lamingo Dam with his jeep parked at a safe distance. Today, I have been directed to attend to his patients on interim basis.
Preliminary examinations have not revealed any evidence of assault on the deceased, but journalists are not known for their patience and so every news media in the country that have deemed the death of Dr Iniobong newsworthy, are already ruling it a suicide. The only variation in their report is the theory or factor that may have led to taking his own life. Some claim suicide rates in Nigeria have gone up owing to the economic recession in the country, ushered in by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and this case is just another statistic to that effect. Others opine that the tedious learning process, long work hours and anti-social life of a medical practitioner is very overwhelming and could breed adverse effects such as suicide. Amazing theory. I don’t know whether to be offended or appreciate the concern of the writer.
Interestingly, I am a senior resident doctor in the last five months of my programme in JUTH; I am no psychiatrist but as a family physician in training, I am expected to be skilled at the treatment of the whole person, including the mental part. Now, I don’t know how many doctors in this hospital have been offered this interim position and humbly declined; I don’t know how long I’ll be required to act in this capacity before a specialist is recruited. I just know that psychiatry is not the most popular branch of medicine anywhere but I am happy to fill in for a man who was very fond of me just because I graduated from the university in his hometown.
There is nothing spooky about Dr Iniobong’s office – my temporary base. The only thing spooky and weird, is having to use the word “Late” when referring to my senior colleague henceforth.
Conspicuously placed are a few framed certificates hanging on the wall (I wonder if I have to take them down), there’s a plethora of books stacked neatly in a shelf, a couple of file carrying cabinets, more books on a sturdy table and two chairs – one either side of the table.
To acquaint myself with their conditions and progress, I have been steadily going through patients’ files and interacting with them in therapy. Some of the cases, I have to say, are just comic (sounds unprofessional but I am first a human being before I’m a doctor), others are particularly strange while some others literally challenge my capacity as a man to hold back tears.
Jonah, a ward attendant, manages to knock and charge into the office at the same time, holding the door open. “She’s here sir,” he announces.
“Okay,” I nod in acknowledgement.
The patient, led by a nurse, walks in and sits before I ask her to.
“She has taken her Seroquel meds,” the nurse informs me, but as she and Jonah step out locking the door behind them, I know Jonah is standing right there, alert, just in case.
Eniola Lakanse is the name on the file and acute psychosis the diagnosis. In contrast, charming is the indifferent look on her face and her poise is impressive, not to mention her weight. The behaviours associated with psychiatric illness (eating unusually large amounts of food for example) as well as the use of certain psychotropic medications which contribute to weight gain, tend to leave most mental illness patients obese, but not Eniola. Judging from her book cover, she does not belong here.
“Eniola, how are you doing today?”
“I’m Dr Munir Yahaya. I’ll be handling your therapy sessions from now on as uhm…” I hesitate a little, with her condition in mind, searching for the appropriate expression. “…as Dr Iniobong is no longer available. The hospital has decided that I take over from him.”
She continues to fiddle with the edge of her sweater and doesn’t ask why or throw a tantrum, and I’m grateful.
“So how did you sleep last night? Did you get enough sleep, little sleep or you didn’t sleep at all?”
“Enough sleep,” she says.
This is our first meeting, so I’m completely caught unawares by the sound of her voice. There’s something about its slightly deep tone. Whenever she speaks, it’s as if she has a cold and needs to clear her throat. I quickly learn that it is the way she talks every other day and there’s no cause for alarm or medication for that matter – fascinating stuff.
According to her file, 25-year-old Eniola heavily abused marijuana with friends, about seven years ago, in her first year in the university and eventually plummeted into psychosis.
Looking at her now, I wonder what kind of psychosis affords one the luxury of looking this good without an iota of make-up. The only thing close to crazy about her, is her unkempt hair, which even makes her look a little like some of these natural hair activists revolutionising the hair industry nowadays.
“How is your mood today? Are you feeling depressed or anything?”
“No, I’m okay.”
“Do you feel like hurting yourself or anyone?”
She shakes her head.
“Tell me about your day so far.”
Though she is constantly fiddling with her sweater, she maintains her poise throughout the narration. For someone whose formal education has been heavily interjected by check-ins into mental health institutions, her articulation and coherence is quite okay. Perhaps I’ll be recommending her discharge sooner, rather than later.
When she is done narrating, I ask her if she’s had an urge to smoke marijuana lately, she says no and adds that if she eventually does, perhaps outside the four corners of the hospital, she’d tackle it with Dr Iniobong’s cognitive exercises. I encourage her to humour me and she goes through a few techniques, including “Investigating Thoughts” which basically involves placing a friend in your shoes. That is, imagine a friend is an addict and you’re not and the friend confides in you about an urge to “use.” Whatever advice you can think up in your head, to dissuade your friend would help in combating your own urge in reality.
Satisfied, I jot down a few notes in my pad, endorse said techniques and bring the session to an end. I call out to Jonah to get the nurse. She arrives soon after with good news – Eniola is the last patient I am scheduled to see today. I am tempted to do a cartwheel but I simply say “That will be all then. You may take her back to the ward.”
Like Late Dr Iniobong, who was a consultant, I am the only doctor in the entire psychiatric ward – no house officers, no resident doctors, and no registrars as supporting cast. Only a couple of nurses, ward attendants and guards, but the work load is far less, compared to the general ward. Whenever I was “on call” in any of the departments I’ve been posted to in the general ward, I was required to carry out ward rounds (check on patients to see their progress) every morning and evening along with unit members – usually made up of house officers, nurses, resident doctors and consultants (who were often MIA), attend to new patients and handle emergency cases. And when on “unit calls,” I was required to work for 24 to 48 hours at a stretch after which normal shift would resume.
In the psyche ward, doctors don’t see all the patients in a day, as regards therapy. Patients are grouped into teams so that each patient sees the doctor at least once a week. Also, nurses do the bulk of the work in ward rounds as they are required to investigate drug charts (to see if patients have been given their medication at the appropriate times), ascertain if the patients have been sleeping or eating right and basically find out everything that has happened to the patient since the last meeting with the doctor and report to the doctor before ward rounds.
Long story short, I now get to go home to my wife Khadija every night as opposed to three or four times a week, back in my previous postings. However, going through my new patients’ files and interacting with them every day in therapy, is enough work to drive one crazy; I wonder if it drove my predecessor crazy.
The croaked voice of the muezzin singing the call for Maghrib prayers from a mosque in the neighbourhood, greets me as I pull over in the driveway. It is a far cry from Eniola’s husky voice.
I find Khadija watching Zee World in the living room. She is wearing a long, flowing, black nylon gown that gave her the guile of an aerial ballet performer as she approached me with a smile.
“Welcome my husband,” she says and squats briefly in front of me, taking my messenger bag.
We both understand Hausa but somehow, English prevailed as our number one marital language.
“How was work today?”
“Fine. Business unusual, but fine.”
She doesn’t press me for details; she just simply says “May Allah make your path smooth.”
My beautiful wife, Khadija, is a graduate; B.Sc. Sociology but chooses to act like a PhD holder in servant-hood from a reputable college of “wifery.” I very much appreciate her decency and submissiveness but it gets monotonous sometimes. I wouldn’t mind a wild companion once in a while.
Instinctively, I go into the bathroom to wash my arms, feet and face and then walk the short distance to the mosque.
After prayers, I can only think of Khadija’s dinner of tuwon masara and karkashi soup but I take a moment to say hello to the imam, mallam Jibril.
“Wa alaikum wassalam,” he replies and stretches his arm towards me, so I shake his hand. “Likita, how are you doing?”
“Very fine, thanks to Allah.”
In the past, I have had cause to switch mosques a couple of times because of the kind of sermons being preached. I once listened to an imam say that the Europeans are on a quest to conquer Islam and they are starting by conquering our culture through worthless and sinful education, and so western education must be refrained from and fought because it is haram. Here in this mosque, mallam Jibril refers to me as “doctor” and not even by my first name or anything like that.
Some elderly men approach the imam, seeking audience. I greet them, bowing slightly and then excused myself.
The weather this morning is pretty cold and there’s almost no traffic on the road. At about 7am, I arrive at JUTH and I’m greeted with matted faces whose bodies have lacked adequate respite. Greetings are taken a little too seriously in northern Nigeria and so before I get to my office, I have exchanged pleasantries with nearly two dozen people, individually or in clusters. When I eventually settle down, I take some time to do a little research and at about a quarter past eight, a nurse shows up with her report and informs me that all is set for ward rounds.
As soon as we enter the ward, I hear a relative berating a woman, who looks to be in her fifties, about failing to cover her hair or wear a hijab again.
The patient was a stroke victim who now suffers from short term memory loss, which means I get to reintroduce myself to her every day.
Sadiya Dahiru is the patient’s name. It is an open ward so I decide to begin with her. I’m told her English is not so good so I engage her in Hausa language.
“Sadiya, ina kwana?”
I introduce myself to her and tell her what I am there for but she is preoccupied with the melon seeds she is breaking. When I query the nurse about this, she informs me that it was one of the last things the patient did before she had the stroke and lost her memory, and so every now and then she throws tantrums about her melon seeds that needs breaking. The alternative is usually to sedate her.
“Sosai ma,” she says when I ask her if she slept well last night. Five minutes later she asks me what the time is, for the third time.
I recommend to Sadiya, in conclusion, to maintain order (keep her belongings in a particular place), do one task at a time so she doesn’t get things mixed up, speak aloud; repeating names and tasks to either herself or someone else and go for walks around the hospital premises with hospital staff, as it is a proven way to jog one’s memory. She nods but I wonder how many times she’s been taught these exercises and forget to carry them out.
The next patient is on limb restraints. Her file says she’s 17 years old. Apparently, Peace Medugu was part of the girls who had been kidnapped in Chibok by the Islamic terrorist sect and recently released as part of some kind of bargain with the federal government. Miss Medugu was subjected to repeated sexual assault during her two and a half years in captivity and so nowadays, when unsupervised, she has the tendency to insert any available object, indiscriminately, in her vagina. She also experiences irregular panic attacks. These make her a danger to herself and others, hence the restraint.
I ask the nurse to relieve the patient so I can counsel and examine her.
A little argument erupts two bed spaces away, between Eniola and an elderly woman.
“What’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s going to reduce its potency! Jeez!”
“Stop screaming at me, I’m your mother.”
A nurse rushes to the scene of the ruckus to restore order. I quickly round things off with Peace and go to find out for myself, what the matter is.
“Good morning doctor,” the woman engages me as I approach.
“Good morning madam. What seems to be the problem here?”
“It’s nothing serious but she’s made a mountain out of it. I doubt she’s taken any drugs this morning.”
I see Eniola shaking her head from the corner of my eye. I want to interrupt the woman but I decide to let her finish.
“Today is her birthday so I bought some presents for her, including a Bible which she received with her left hand, which I did not query. But soon after, while eating, she placed that metal cup on the Bible and filled it up with water. I tell her it is inappropriate and then she started to scream about it not being a big deal.”
My eyes shift to Eniola who says “I’m sorry” before I could utter a word. So I refocus on her mother and beseech her not to hold it against her repentant daughter. The nurse, per my instruction, let Mrs Lakanse have a look at the drug chart which shows Eniola has had her morning medication, and so everything is under control.
On one hand, is a relative who wants a patient suffering from short term memory loss to always remember to cover her hair or wear a hijab; on the other hand is a mother who thinks putting a cup of water on a Bible is inappropriate. I’m not an expert but I think we take this religion thing too far, here in Africa. How does abducting teenage girls and sexually assaulting them, for example, promote God’s cause? This is probably why some “Mujahideen” are against western education, because it affords people like me the luxury of being a little analytical.
Whenever religion was the topic of our discussion, Dr Iniobong would often say “On the last day, there will be many surprises.” Which always makes me wonder who, on that day, would be walking with shoulders raised very high, telling everyone else “I told you so.” Would it be the Sunnis, Shiites, Christians or perhaps the Hindus? Or would God just laugh at us all and say “There’s no winner, my friends. You may all enter into paradise.”
It takes me about two hours to finish with the female ward, and then proceed to the male ward, after which I’ll take a break before attending to my Wednesday batch of patients in therapy.
Every time I think of my youngest sister Hajara, I always say to myself “Blessed is the man whose wife she would end up being.” It’s not every day that one comes across a girl who’s beautiful, funny, intelligent and responsible. Well today – the very first Saturday of the year – is the fateful day where that blessed man will be given Hajara’s hand in marriage.
I don’t know too much about the groom, Farouk Aliyu, I just know his family is well-to-do and he’s good looking. At least I know they will be producing beautiful offsprings together.
Even though unit calls are basically non-existent for doctors in the psychiatric ward and I get to go home daily, I have no off days and work every other day, including special Saturdays like this. So as I steer the Honda Acura with my left hand, I dial Helen’s number (the nurse on duty) with my right, in the bid to ensure she carries out my directives as I would be coming in late today.
Khadija left two days ago for my family house in Bauchi, where the wedding fatiha will be taking place, so I am travelling alone – which is somewhat better than doing most of the talking, whenever we travel together.
When our marriage was in the works, my mum (the chief arranger of the marriage) said to me “Khadija is a very humble and respectful lady.” She forgot to add “to a fault.” Khadija’s attitude has never bothered me until Eniola came along. Three nights ago, I searched “Eniola Lakanse” on Facebook and got a hit and spent a long time swooning through her photos. A Khadija, who was supposedly sleeping beside me on the bed, whispered “Is that our second wife?” Embarrassed, I put the ipad away, stammering “No, no she’s just…uhm…she’s just a friend.”
“It’s okay,” she insisted. “It is halal for you to have up to four wives. I don’t mind if you want a second wife.”
I stared at her, consumed by disbelief. Our marriage is only three months old. This type of loyalty is insane. I should consider offering her some psychiatric treatment.
There’s no parking space anywhere around the house when I arrive, so I drive past and pull over in front of Alhaji Bahago’s residence in the next street. After the daurin aure, I grin “hellos” and “thank you for coming” at a plethora of relatives and well-wishers along with my dad and brothers. The walimah, reception, is set to unfold at Zaranda Hotel in about two hours but there is no reason why food and refreshments would not be served here as well.
“Sannu da zuwa, maigida,” I hear Khadija say. I was too busy grinning at guests, I didn’t see her coming. I acknowledge her greeting, and she asks me what I’d like to eat and then goes off to get it.
Hajara is still savouring the event of her sa lalle. I send a text telling her I may not be able to stay for the walimah.
“No qualms,” she texts back.
Not long after, she sends me a picture of her henna laden self in the company of her friends. “How do I look?” she inquires.
“Stunning. Your husband is a lucky and blessed man.”
She replies with three grinning emoticons.
“Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them.” The words of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, race through my mind as I watch Eniola’s lips permeate responses to my questions. The Prophet’s words have never crossed my mind in the past, when handling female patients; I wonder why they are now.
Maybe I’m imagining things, but I can tell from Eniola’s eyes that whatever is responsible for disrupting my heart rate during our meetings is also at work in her. As physicians, we are taught to hold the doctor-patient relationship sacred and to keep a proper professional boundary between us and our patients. So far, I don’t think I have broken any rules and I do not plan to, so help me Allah.
“Do you feel like hurting yourself or anyone?”
She shakes her head.
“Not even your mum?” I press further.
She scoffs. “The fact that she doesn’t love me does not mean I want to hurt her.”
“But of course she loves you. She visits you as often as she can and pays for your rehabilitation here, so you can get better and live a normal life.”
There’s a wry smile on her face. “That’s just two naira love.”
“Two naira love: cheap love, eye service love. She’s doing all she’s doing because it’s what is expected of her and not because it’s what she wants to do. If she could, I believe she would just donate me to charity and have her peace.”
For a moment, I think of all the societal ills – racism, xenophobia, terrorism, embezzlement of public funds etcetera – and wonder if they would still be in existence if people just had as little as this two naira worth of love for one another; love that would cause us to treat each other not as we wanted to but as we’re expected to.
“These strong emotions you harbour toward your mother, is that what informed your decision to abuse marijuana?”
There’s an air of soberness to her countenance now, almost like she regrets saying all she had said about her mother. “I don’t know, I don’t think so. It’s just …I lost my dad when I was about to enter into the university; we were very close. I guess that, coupled with the intricacies of a tertiary institution got to me and I…I caved in.”
Apart from the sound of shuffling feet, from worshippers heading back home and indistinct murmuring from a handful of people still inside the mosque after Fajr prayers, the atmosphere is serene and utterly quiet. I take advantage of the moment to indulge in some personal dua and spiritual reflection. Half way into it, fantasies of stroking Eniola in sensual places filter through my mind. I quickly call myself to order and mutter astaghfirullah, Allah forgive me, a couple of times and then return to my supplication.
As soon as I unlock the consulting room later that morning to resume work, I get a text from management to report to admin. The first piece of information I receive is welcoming: Dr Kalejaiye Obateru, a consultant psychiatrist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Kaduna, will be available on supervisory basis twice a week, starting from next week. And so I’m required to report to him during those periods.
The second information is heart-breaking. I’m told Mrs Lakanse would like the hospital to begin the process of discharging her daughter. Call me crazy but I do not want her discharged; I want to keep seeing her. It is however out of my hands – a patient can be kept in a hospital without his/her consent or that of a family member (in the case of an emergency or when the patient is a danger to himself or others) for a maximum of 5 days, after which a court order would be required to keep the patient in admission against his or a relative’s wish. Eniola is in agreement with her mother’s wishes when I ask her, so I reluctantly endorse her discharge. My only hope is in the possibility of Eniola relapsing again. The last time Mrs Lakanse pulled a similar stunt; Eniola eventually started using again, had a manic episode and almost eviscerated the Lakanse family house in Zaramaganda by deliberately starting a fire in the kitchen after she had threatened her mother’s guest with a kitchen knife. She was subsequently readmitted.
“I’d like to, if it’s okay by you, call every now and then to monitor developments,” I suggest to Mrs Lakanse. She thinks it’s a good idea and hands me her complimentary card.
As I watch mother and daughter leave, I suddenly recall a joke from a comedian about how nobody gets a soul mate in life and that the best anyone can get, if they’re lucky, is a mate. Because even if we meet the perfect person, it would not be the perfect time: you’re either married and they’re single, or you’re Jewish and they’re Palestinian or you’re a Mexican and they’re a raccoon. He went on and on. It was funny then but I’m not laughing now.
The male patients in the psyche ward tend to exhibit relatively more craziness than their female counterparts. Perhaps the fact that a good number of their conditions are triggered by the abuse of marijuana and other hard substances could be responsible. There is the guy that often confides in me about having sexual intercourse with a house fly, there’s the character that sticks his face to the window burglary proof for hours in search of fresh air, there’s the sweetheart who declines doing a number two and chooses to hold his poo in because he believes stooling would mean aborting his babies and there’s the romantic artist who sketches imaginary faces on the wall and makes out with them. Most of them have given me reason to either up their dosage or change their medication a few times.
Dr Kalejaiye’s first day at work is an eventful one. The man is meticulousness personified. He asks me numerous questions, some of them indicting, as I brief him on patients and their progress or the lack of it. His demand for details is exhausting.
Somewhere in the middle of ward rounds, a woman who appears to be in her mid-thirties walks into the psychiatric complex and engages the nurses at the reception. I can hear them repeatedly asking her if she knows where she is. She maintains that she does and would like to see a doctor and so the consultant and I are notified. Dr Kalejaiye suspends ward rounds temporarily and invites me to join him as he examines the patient in the consulting room.
“My name is Halita Nuhu,” she reveals. She is wearing a neat, ash skirt suit and clutching a matching hand bag. There’s a sense of elegance and class about her, little wonder the nurses had to clarify if she indeed knew where she was.
Halita discloses to us, as well, that she is the Branch Manager of a certain bank not too far from the hospital and that she had been postponing this visit for a while now, because of her hectic schedule and also because she is worried about what people might say or what her employers may do if they knew she was receiving treatment in a mental hospital, but had to take the bull by the horn today because her condition keeps getting more critical by the day.
Dr Kalejaiye jumps in and asks her how she’s feeling and what kind of symptoms she’s experiencing.
“I frequently have this feeling of unfulfillment that leaves me really depressed, even though I’ve progressed really quickly in my career. These depressions arouse frequent suicidal thoughts in my mind of which I’ve attempted twice. I have been unable to secure lasting relationships, whether sexual or platonic, because of my extreme mood swings. Today I am excited to be in the company of a friend; tomorrow I detest the mere sight of the very same friend, for no reason and this feeling could last for days.”
I notice Dr Kalejaiye is doing more listening/maintaining eye contact than jotting notes in his pad. Perhaps he has a computer brain; perhaps he wants Halita to understand he is paying attention.
“I am 34 years old and cannot boast of a relationship that could lead to marriage anytime soon,” she continues. “The whole thing is…” Without warning, tears cascade down her eyes and she makes no attempt to wipe them, so my supervisor hands her a clean napkin.
We listen to her some more before Dr Kalejaiye diagnoses her with Borderline Personality Disorder. Some Abilify for her depression and Ambien for insomnia are instantly prescribed, and a course of treatment and therapy is arranged.
“Is there a friend or relative I can call to take you home?” my supervisor asks.
“No, thank you. I drove myself here; I think I can drive myself home”
Dr Kalejaiye insists so she provides a number and informs us that the owner is her boyfriend.
Two months after Eniola, in the company of her mum, walked out of this hospital and out of sight, I still have not been able to get her out of my mind.
“She’s doing fine, taking her medication diligently and being of good behaviour,” is the report I get every time I call her mother. Sometimes Eniola is put on the phone and my heart is set alight by that husky voice; other times she’s not close by and I have to wrestle with the temptation of asking Mrs Lakanse for her daughter’s private line.
Perhaps one day, Eniola would come to her senses and realise the gravity of my admiration, and together we would relish our love that is way beyond eye service and worth more than two naira (more like 2 million dollars). Perhaps one day I’d come to my senses and separate myself from this fallacy that has corrupted my heart and is creeping into my soul.
I remember the time when thick, delicious fura da nono comes to mind at the mention of the word “Fulani.” Now it just connotes midnight massacres of people in their sleep, in the name of countering cattle rustling. I am anything but happy, as I see fresh news of a herdsmen attack on the hospital’s canteen TV.
The other day, I watched on television the National Assembly initiate the process of passing a “Not Too Young to Run” bill to law, where, for example, a Nigerian citizen as young as 30 years can contest for the office of the President. Personally, I don’t think our problem as a country lies in the age of our leaders, because I still see the possibility of a 30-year-old Fulani President being reluctant about a visit to Benue State to commiserate with the victims of the regular Fulani herdsmen attack, I still see a 30-year-old south-easterner leaning more towards a Biafra than a Nigeria and I still see a 30-year-old Munir Yahaya being denied the opportunity of marrying an Eniola as a second wife. Our problem, if you ask me, is that there is no love lost between us all as a nation and we are not the most patriotic set of people. Perhaps more nation-friendly programmes like the National Youth Service Corps scheme should be initiated, to foster more national unity, cultural integration and tolerance, and then just maybe, our children will learn to live together.
Today, Hajara my lovely sister is three months into the school of marriage, my beautiful wife, Khadija, is exactly four months pregnant and my enchanting patient, Eniola Lakanse, has failed to relapse six months after being discharged from the psychiatric ward of Jos University Teaching Hospital. Amazing.
I decide to log on to Eniola’s Facebook page and I’m shocked to see her pre-wedding photos, uploaded about an hour ago. A certain Folorunsho Owotunse is the only one tagged and it turns out he is the bridegroom in the making. Later that evening, I conduct ward rounds with a conspicuous scowl.
On a brighter note, I am now two months old as a consultant doctor, having completed my senior residency. The hospital decided to retain my services and I have decided to take courses in psychiatry in the bid to become a genuine specialist.
Any doubt I ever had about taking this decision was squashed about two weeks ago when Hajara called, sounding like melancholy as opposed to a new bride.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She sobbed gently for a good 105 seconds before opening up. “My husband is easily irritated these days. He comes home with bloodshot eyes and exhibits unnecessary aggression.”
“Did he hurt you?” I demanded and immediately felt my throat heating up like I was clocking 48 hours in the Sahara desert without any water.
She must have felt my temper rising too, so she quickly cut in. “No, no. He’s usually too lethargic to do so. His left elbow pit appears to be infected; I think he’s been ingesting some kind of drug. Please help me Munir, I think I am beginning to sink along with him into depression.”
“Take it easy, Hajo, everything will be fine. I’ll stop by tomorrow after work,” I assured.
Mental illness, it appears, is more rampant and closer than we think, hence my decision to contribute my quota to curb the menace.
Through the window panes in the living room, I am able to see and appreciate the marauding lightning illuminate the night sky. Sooner or later, I suspect, it’s going to rain like kilode? (It’s what the kids are saying these days). Unfazed, I continue watching the football match on television. Khadija is somewhere in the house, doing whatever it is women do when soccer has the attention of their husbands.
I hear some honking in the driveway. Mrs Lakanse is standing by the front door when I open it. I don’t know how she knows where I live but I let her in nonetheless. She looks distraught.
“Is everything okay?” I ask, offering her a seat.
“I’m a terrible mother,” she exclaims.
I want to assure her that she’s not but I let her ramble on because I am eager to know what’s going on.
“I shouldn’t have taken her out of the hospital. I should have let her complete her rehabilitation.”
“Is Eniola okay?”
She shakes her head as tears roll down her eyes. “Her fiancé was teaching her how to drive in a local football field. She ran into a tree at full speed and they weren’t wearing any seatbelts; they didn’t make it. Some heroine was found in the car.”
“How am I supposed to live with myself now?”
Mrs Lakanse suddenly springs up, locates my kitchen without any help and slits her wrist with a kitchen knife before I could react. That’s when I woke up, sweating. A quick glance at the clock reveals it’s time for Fajr prayers. It suddenly occurs to me that today is the day Miss Eniola Lakanse becomes Mrs Owotunse, a.k.a her traditional marriage day.
Later in the day, at work, I incessantly fantasize about a lot of things that could happen to avert the marriage ceremony – an act of God, a last minute change of mind by Eniola (probably realising I am her one true love), my nightmare becoming a reality, with the exception of Eniola losing her life. I thought about everything.
Immediately after work, I drive to the Lakanse’s residence to witness proceedings. When I arrive, Folorunsho and his white-agbada-wearing friends are completely flattened on the mat in front of Mrs Lakanse and an uncle representing the father of the bride. Several prayers and pronunciation of blessings later, the gentlemen were free to go and then it was “extortion” time – Eniola is worth more than every penny and item, in any case. Besides the bride price, the Alaga ijoko, master of ceremony, makes the groom pay Owo Isigba (money required to open the gift items brought by the groom, which includes numerous lace clothing, several pairs of shoes, a wrist watch etcetera), Owo Ikanlekun (entrance fee), Owo Isiju Iyawo (money required to unveil the bride). The master of ceremony goes on and on; I get bored and focus on the magnificent bride in her halo of a gele, her sparkling buba and majestic Iro, exuding a charming countenance for good measure.
The plethora of food items scattered all over the floor, also required of the groom (bags of rice, sugar, salt, several tubers of yams, a keg of honey, etcetera) seem to have no bearing on the variety and quantity of cooked food available, for the eating pleasure of guests. I do not partake in the feast.
When the wedding bands are exchanged, I had seen enough and left as discreetly as I had come, feeling confused, discomfited and desiring some kind of comfort. These emotions must have affected my conjugal performance positively, later that night because Khadija wouldn’t stop grinning like an idiot the following morning, and served me breakfast in bed.