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My ninety-year-old mother has damaged my pristine image, and I am shopping for a lawyer to sue her. So, dear reader: if you happen to know a ruthless, take-no-prisoner's lawyer, please, please send me her or his contact details.

In case you don't get it, let me stress the kind of lawyer I wish to hire. I want a lawyer with a long record of suing defamers for the last cent, penny or kobo they have to their name. My dream lawyer would accept no pleas. She or he would disdain half measures. In short, I desire a lawyerly equivalent of Mike Tyson in his prime. No, don't send me any lawyer who floats like a butterfly. I'm not looking for a skelewu dancer!

I crave an expert at delivering devastating legal upper cuts, a knockout specialist who never pauses or stops until the enemy is fully, totally vanquished.

So why am I looking for such a lawyer, you ask?
I thought I told you already. Because I want to—I must—sue my mother.

What exactly am I suing her for?
You've not been paying attention, or you'd remember I already disclosed the reason. Okay, again: my mother defamed me, that's why.

Is it possible to talk it over, to persuade me not to sue her?

The answer is no. Nothing will—and no earthly force can—stop me from pursuing the said lawsuit. Let all the bishops in the world compose an episcopal epistle garnished with a hundred and forty-four citations from the Holy Writ, I won't be deterred in the least. If all the traditional rulers in Igboland (and the accompanying self-crowned monarchs in the diaspora) should expound on the cultural plague that awaits the son who drags his own mother to court, I will not listen.

Hear me, reader: This matter is way, way beyond the intervention of peacemakers. It's definitely bound for the courts!

All my uncles and aunts, siblings and cousins may waste their breath, but my ears are plugged to their pleas. And to my friends, I have only this to say on the issue: Keep your counsel to yourself. I won't listen.

From now on, I wish to hear only from those with the names and contact information of the meanest, nastiest lawyers.

I want a lawyer so hard-hearted s/he makes rocks sulk in envy. If you know a lawyer whose dictionary doesn't have the word mercy in it, pick up the phone now and call me.

You're still not clear why I'm this incensed? Why I'm threatening a lawsuit against the woman who gave birth to me?

Phew, dear reader, I'm about to lose all patience with your impermeable mind! First, why must you use the word threatening? I'm not threatening to sue; I'm promising!

Let me break down in ABC language what my mother did to me. Perhaps, then, you would understand the gravity of her offense. And hasten to find me that Tyson-like lawyer.

You see, I am a good, tried and tested African man. That means that I worked hard to create for myself the most perfect, flawless life story. Like my blemish-free forebears, I made sure to tell this story of the perfect me to anybody who has ever met me.

I took care to feed my children this perfect narrative of their father. No day passed when I didn't drum my story into their ears, like a daily dose of vitamins. In the end, they understood how perfect I was from the moment of conception. And they recognized I was fortunate to be born in the good, good old days of yore.

I told them how, from the moment of my birth, I instinctively learned the great virtue of obedience. As a baby, even when I was hungry and wailed to be breastfed, all my mother had to do was give me a stern look, or Father say, “Sshh!”—and I immediately fell silent. It was as automatic as that, a reflex, in fact.

Anybody who has ever spent five minutes with me knows that I wasn't quite a week old when I started running errands at home. By five, I was cooking five, six meals a week. As for doing dishes and laundry, ah ah, that was a responsibility I demanded as my permanent birthday gift the year I turned six.

Shall we talk about me as a student? Like every good African of my generation, I was consistently, unfailingly first in every class I took, from kindergarten to PhD. I scored A (or A-1) in every subject I took, from English to Molecular Biology. It's an incontrovertible fact! In fact, the records are there for anybody who has eyes to see. What do you take me for, a liar?

I realize that all my secondary school classmates have also told their children and friends that they, too, always occupied first position. But their claims do not contradict mine in any way. That there are so many simultaneous claimants to the title of “best student” simply goes to prove that I belonged to a generation of “firsters.”

As a true, adult African man, I made sure that, whenever my children looked at me, they marveled at the presence among them of the very embodiment of perfection. I inspired this sense of awe in them by telling them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about my perfect self.

How flawed and fickle children of these days appear when juxtaposed against the genius I was as a child. Between them, for example, my three children have broken enough pricey glasses and plates to run a restaurant. Me? As a child, I never once threatened any chinaware, I swear! It's true that, once or twice, I was involved in an incident in which a glass or plate broke. But, trust me, it was always the said glass or plate that initiated the contact. If I was minding my own business, just walking by, and a glass cup came and touched me, toppled and broke—how was that my responsibility?

The children of nowadays are notorious experts in truancy and delinquency. Me, no! As a child, the moment I woke up, I began to do chores. At the end of the day, my parents often had to order me to leave work alone and go to bed. I always went to bed shrieking in protest, because I wanted to do more and more chores.

As a true African man, I made sure my children knew that I never once smoked a cigarette, never drank a beer or spirit, never looked at a girl in an unholy manner, never sneaked out to a party while my parents slept. All I thought, day and night, was work, work, and more work. And I dreamed, at all hours, about becoming that great lawyer, doctor, engineer or accountant.

Dear reader, I had a perfect story that fit the perfect me.

Then, last December, two so-called friends from my home state of Anambra talked me into doing a literary event. “You've traveled all over the world giving readings, but not in Anambra,” they said. “Why are you discriminating against your own people? Did we put a monkey's hand in your soup?” they asked.

I agreed to read in Awka, the state capital. My head swelled when they promised it would be a huge event. For starters, the whole event would be broadcast live on radio. All my hard work had paid off, I thought. I was a perfect prophet about to be honored by his own people. Kai!

The day came, the hall was crowded. Many who couldn't make it into the venue tuned in on the radio. Then the organizers announced that a special person was going to introduce me. That person, they said, was my mother. After all, they added, she's known me longer than anybody else.

Dear reader, that's how my trouble started. I didn't know that these so-called friends had laid a vicious ambush for me!

My mother grabbed the microphone and began to speak to the audience—those present and those listening on the radio. To say she was merciless is an understatement! She told everybody that this son of hers who had become a popular writer used to be headstrong, a rebel, a juvenile delinquent. She said her son used to shirk his studies and detested doing homework and chores. She then stated that she and her late husband had used the cane to flog sense into me.

Chai! That's how, in one fell swoop, Mother demolished the perfect story I had sold to my children, my friends and even acquaintances.

Why, I want my perfect image back! I worked hard for it. And I want my mother to pay for wrecking the perfect verbal selfie I had labored, like every good African man, to create.

Now you know, dear reader, why suing my mother is a task that must be done. If you happen to know a lawyer who has scratched out the word “mercy” from her or his dictionary, please send me the lawyer's info. And be fast!

Written by Okey Ndibe.
[email protected]
@ okeyndibe

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