August 1972

My father’s compound was full of activities, women gathered round the various fire stands, some women sat at a corner cooking meat, others were frying it, another batch was making Egusi soup. A group of young men were dressing a cow that had just been killed while another group were at pounding yam at intervals. Visitors kept coming and going, dropping gifts and eating food – those invited and those who were not, everyone can relate with free food at that period. Some young girls were serving palm wine to everyone that requested. Children were playing around. Something big is about to happen in Chief Ojo’s compound and as usual, the celebrations always lasted for days. 

“New bride, can you have your seat so I can make your hair” I said to Jumoke

Jumoke calmly sat on the nearest stool, I started to make her hair into the traditional style – koroba.

“Sister Jumoke, I am so happy for you, tomorrow is your traditional wedding and after that you are now a married woman. How does it feel?” I asked with enthusiasm

Jumoke smiled, “I really don’t know but I am happy to be finally getting married to someone I chose and not someone that was chosen for me, the devil I know is better than the angel I do not know”

“Wow, good for you, just remember all the lessons our mothers have taught you and endeavour to be a good wife that would not bring shame to our father”

“Oh, now, you are feeling like an elder right? look at you giving me advice” Jumoke said as she gave me a jab at my thigh.

“Wow! Somebody please help me here!” I shouted playfully and that drew the attention of some of the visitors to us

Aya Akanbi!” a visitor that walked up to us said.

Jumoke smiled and kneeled to greet her “Ekasan ma

Kasan, kare! It is well with you, your home shall be blessed, may the gods of our land give you boys, girls, twins and even triplets if you want”

Asee!” Jumoke said as she got up from the kneeling position.

“Titi, pele o” the visitor said as she walked away from us.

“Yes ma, eseun ma” 

I exhaled loudly, “one day, it will be my turn!”

“Of course, it will and I will be there as well helping you get dressed just like you are doing to me now”

“Yes, I cannot wait to marry Uchenna” I said

“Oh, wait, you are still serious about this boy?”

“Yes, why not?” I replied.

“I am surprised that you are stubbornly insisting” Jumoke looked at me in shock

“Well, stubbornness is in my blood, I guess” I responded and gave my sister a mischievous smile

“Baba will not be happy with you at all, he loves you so much even more than the son he desperately needed and he is even supporting you in addition to the federal government scholarship to go to a university in America. So you mean eventually, you will come back to say you want to marry an Igbo man? I pray he does not place a curse on you”

I laughed very heartily, 

“You are missing the point. The fact that  he has spent so much on me does not mean I should marry whoever he chooses for me! Never! That is not possible! After all, he also trained every one up to secondary school and was willing to go further for whoever was interested but you all were not willing” 

“Well, we just do not see the need for further education since we would still end up in our husbands’ houses and be housewives” Jumoke retorted 

“You see, that is another issue I have with you all, you do not have to be a-stay-at-home-mum, you can also work to support your husband. You can teach or engage in other skilled jobs” I suggested

“No, the stress of taking care of children and the home is enough and I cannot join that to the stress of working.”

“Okay then, suit yourself” I replied flatly

“Are you almost done?” Jumoke said as she raised her hand to her head to check how much progress I had made

“yes, this is the last row, bring the beads so I can attach it to the tips of each weave to give you a bridal look, my sister is going to be the most beautiful bride in the whole of Oola village.” I said excited while swinging her waist

Jumoke blushed and hit me playfully, “Now, you are mocking me, you that looks far more beautiful, you have eaten Lagos’ food and will soon be eating white man’s food. I am sure by the time you will be getting married; people will come from the neighbouring villages to see your beauty”

“Wow, that is an exaggeration” I said with my hand covering my mouth.

Chief ojo sat in front of his personal hut, the visitors kept coming to greet him. One young man particularly brought a lot of gifts for him and was casting side glances at Titi who barely noticed. 

Chief could sense that the young man had interest in his favourite daughter and thus decided to help him out. 

He gestured to me, 

“Titi, please can you come and serve this young man palm wine”

The man was shocked; chief seemed to want to bust his bubble very quickly

“Oh, no sir, do not bother, I was just about to leave” he said rather jittery

By then I had gotten to where her father was and was watching the enthusing drama with some interest.

“You cannot go without at least taking a cup of wine, this one tastes very good” the older man insisted

I went ahead to serve the man with the fearful look and as he made to collect the bowl, our fingers slightly brushed. We both looked at each other in the eyes and I averted his gaze. 

“Th..thank…you… very much’ he said as he finally gained composure. He however gulped the drink self-consciously as  Chief Ojo smiled at the scene. 

“Titi, you can go” he nodded to me and I left them both

After two minutes the young man stood up to go 

“Thank you very much for the gifts, young man. And what is your name please? “

“You are welcome sir, I am Jaiye Akande” he replied with some confidence

“Oh really, Jaiye, the son of Chief Akande?”

“Yes sir!” he replied with more confidence

“The same Jaiye that has been in London for years? It is good to see you, how is life and work and what brings you home?

“Everything is fine sir, I decided to visit after a long while just for family bonding and I would be returning to London in two weeks’ time” he said smiling

“Oh, have a safe trip and I hope to still see you before you leave” chief said with a wide smile on his face

Jaye looked at him shocked “For what sir?”

“Oh, never mind!” he said as he winked at him and laughed loudly

Jaiye smiled and walked away but made sure to pass  by where I was and stopped to thank her for the wine.

“Oh, you are welcome” she said as she averted his gaze once again. He seemed to look at her eyes as if he could see through it and she was slightly uncomfortable.

He greeted the bride-to-be and went away. 

Immediately he was out of earshot, we girls busted into laughter.

“What was that about?” Jumoke asked

“I really don’t know but I think baba has a hand in it” I replied

“Oh really, now I am going to see how you will escape”

“Escape what?” 

We were both startled

My mother was at our back and we were not sure for how long she had been there. 

She suddenly became excited as soon as he saw Jumoke hair style.

 “Oh, look at the bride looking very beautiful, let those who still want to go to school  reconsider and get married quickly” she said as she eyed her daughter and drew Jumoke closer into a tight hug. 

“May our gods bless your home and may it be fruitful”

Asee!” we replied 

Jumoke’s mother saw her daughter hugging her rival. She became furious and dashed towards them and in split seconds, she dragged her daughter away. 

Mama, what is it? Jumoke queried, shock written all over her face

“Will you shut up, first it is her spoilt daughter that was making the hair for a special day like tomorrow – I ignored that, next you are hugging the mother – the witch herself who blindfolded chief and made him send only her daughter outside this village for schooling”

Ah! Maami!!!” Jumoke screamed as she covered her mouth with her hands and reluctantly followed her mother leaving a dumbstruck Me and my mother. 

“Who knows if the son she claims to bare for chief is truly his son and who knows where she has been to all in a bid to secure the total attention of chief” she said as she hissed loudly 

My mother and I could only stare gobsmacked!

The attention of a few people was drawn to the drama but they did not suspect anything. 

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