Imade At War
Uyi Idemudia, PhD, internationally acclaimed expert in particle physics was born Omoruyi Agbontaen to pagan parents. He had a name change as he was certain from past experience that Americans found it difficult to pronounce his real names. You see before he became third time lucky, he had attempted on two separate occasions to illegally migrate to America.
The first time he entered the US, he came in disguised as one of the Boat People – i.e. as a Haitian refugee. The second time he came in by foot across the Mexican Border. On both occasions he was easily apprehended and deported. The third time therefore fearing that his identity was sorely compromised, he swore to an affidavit and officially became Uyi Idemudia. This was far easier to the tongue and could bring him some good luck he reasoned. Fate proved him right.
In those days and about a year before he was born, Imade his mother had lied to Pa Idemudia Agbontaen his father, that she was a virgin. She had been introduced to Pa Idemudia by his younger sister Iye Lucky (Lucky’s mother), who was married to a man from Imade’s village and who felt her sisters-in-law were not taking good care of her elder brother in his old age.
Imade was the grand-daughter of one of Iye Lucky’s closest friends in her marital village. Iye Lucky had watched her closely while growing up and was convinced that she would make a good wife to some lucky man. Indeed, her original intention was to marry her off to Lucky her own son. On one of her rare visits to her ancestral village for the wedding of the daughter of a close relative, Iye Lucky had picked up a series of quarrels with her elder brother’s wives who she felt were neither respectful enough to her brother and their husband, Pa Idemudia, nor to herself, their sister-in-law.
Determined to teach her brother’s wives an abiding lesson, Iye Lucky decided to cheer up her brother’s spirits by injecting fresh and rather young blood into the family in order to grant the old man a new lease of life while at the same time putting his unruly wives in their proper place.
She convinced her brother Pa Idemudia that it was time for him to pick a new wife. Pa Idemudia was initially skeptical, not because he did not fancy the idea, but because as he told his sister, “it is far easier to find a monkey that does not like banana than it is to find a young girl of nowadays that does not enjoy sampling multiple men.”
“Ah Epa Monday,” (Monday’s father) replied Iye Lucky, clearly relieved that her elder brother had not been bewitched by his stubborn wives into dismissing such an idea right out of hand. “If that is your only concern, leave everything to me. I will bring a fresh young girl from my husband’s village to you. She is only about sixteen years old and I have been monitoring her very closely right from the very day she was born. I can vouch that she is still intact unlike many girls of her age.”
“Yes I can vouch that she is still unpolluted unlike all the young girls we see nowadays who individually have more physical encounters with men in one year than I have had with my own husband after more than 40 years of marriage.”
“Just give me enough money to make all the necessary arrangements including notifying the girl’s parents and relatives and entertaining the relevant people in my husband’s village. Once this is done I will bring your new wife to you within two to three weeks.”
Pa Idemudia’s first wife Iye Monday (Monday’s mother) who was eavesdropping on the siblings’ conversation behind the door, could bear it no longer. “Epa Monday, you will do no such thing,” she said emerging from her vantage position. “I have said it time and again that this sister of yours is too covetous. She wants to grab her husband’s money as well as grab other women’s husband’s money too.”
“Do not give her a farthing. If she likes you her brother so much as she claims, let her use her own money and marry a new wife for you.”
“By the way, why should she be the one to marry a wife for you? Are you no longer capable of acting like a man? When you married me or any of your other wives did anybody help you? Did you not chase and marry each one of us by yourself?”
Iye Monday, struck the fatal blow. “Epa Monday, something must be wrong with you. No wonder all your wives are complaining behind your back that you have changed. When did you meet me last? Is it not over two months ago? I asked all your other wives and each of them said it is over a month since you met with them last.”
“They said when it is their turn to serve you dinner, you fall asleep immediately after eating. If you cannot maintain your current wives, from where will you muster the energy to maintain a young girl if your sister brings a new wife into this house?”
By this time all Pa Idemudia’s wives had gathered around the scene and were all nodding in agreement and solidarity with the Senior Wife.
Buoyed by the public show of support from her co-wives, Iye Monday declared with a tone of finality. “Epa Monday, we your wives want to let you and your sister know that we shall not tolerate any woman bringing a bastard into this house. My fellow wives is that not our joint decision?”
“Yes! oh yes!! yes – oh!!! oh yes!!!! yes - oh!!!!!” they all thundered back almost in unison.
Iye Lucky was besides herself in anger. “Stupid women. You call yourselves wives and you are coming here to disgrace yourselves that your husband has not met with any one of you for over a month? How can a man meet with stubborn and unruly women like you?”
“Don’t you all realize that a man’s inflatable is very fragile and needs to be handled with tender, loving and respectful care, otherwise it can easily get punctured and fail to reflate?”
“As women don’t you all understand that you have to stoop down and flatter a man into thinking that he is conquering you when in reality you are the one actually conquering him?”
“With your unruly attitude and insolent behavior, from where do you expect a man to muster the energy to reflate himself in order to mount you, querulous lot. Or do you think that a man’s body is like an automatic machine that can pump itself up with the single press of a switch?”
“I don’t blame you stupid women. It is rather my own brother that I blame for being too gentle and lenient with all of you, ungrateful lot. If it were my own husband, he would teach each one of you useless wives a very bitter lesson.”
Iye Monday was furious at the sharp rebuke and public humiliation by her sister-in-law. “Don’t come here and lecture us ‘Mrs. Good Wife’. What are you doing here? Go back to your husband’s house. You think we don’t know about you and your husband? Tell us are you the only wife of your husband? If you are so good, why did your husband marry many other wives? Nonsense.”
In spite of the women’s bedlam, Pa Idemudia did not utter a single word. When eventually he spoke, it was to ask his sister, “Iye Lucky, how much exactly do you need to bring this young girl you have spoken of so highly into this house?”
Iye Lucky did a few mental calculations. “You know we have to impress the elders as well as the aged women of the village. Then the village youths have to be taken care of as well as the girl’s parents and close relatives as well as….”
Pa Idemudia cut in exasperatedly. “Just tell me how much exactly you need.”
“Okay, okay” Iye Lucky said as she completed her mental arithmetic. By her own estimation after allowing for all conceivable contingencies, she was coming close to a thousand units of the local currency. She shrewdly added an extra two hundred and fifty units of the local currency for herself. “I would say about a thousand, two hundred and fifty units of our local currency,” she said excitedly.
Pa Idemudia again said nothing but went into his bedroom. After a short while he re-emerged with a bundle of money in his hands. “Here you will find two thousand five hundred units of our local money. Take it and do exactly as you have said. I hope to see you back here with the girl in not more than two weeks.”
Iye Lucky was beside herself with excitement as she grabbed the money. She made a point of counting it slowly to the chagrin of Pa Idemudia’s wives who were looking on forlornly like dogs deprived of juicy bones. Her hands shook with excitement as she counted. “One hundred, two hundred, three hundred….” Every once in a while she would wet her fingers with her lips while looking on triumphantly at each of her brother’s wives.”
Iye Monday could take it no longer. “Epa Monday, where did all this money suddenly come from. I remember asking you for money just yesterday to buy and sew new school uniforms for Monday and his sisters and you said there was no money and that all of that has to wait till the end of the month….”
Pa Idemudia did not even wait for her to complete the statement. He got up, picked up his cloak and walking stick and went outside to join other men from the village playing draughts across the street. As he left Iye Lucky shouted on top of her voice, “Epa Monday expect me back with the girl in one week’s time. With this money, things will move much faster than I earlier anticipated.”
Energized by their potential in-law’s display of affluence, all traditional wedding ceremonies in Iye Lucky’s husband’s village were hastily completed. And true to her word, Iye Lucky proudly escorted the young bride, Imade from her marital village to her own ancestral village and handed her over to her brother, Pa Idemudia as his newest wife.
That very night just before Pa Idemudia was about to consummate his union with his newest bride, the young Imade who was barely 16 years old laced herself with copious amounts of pulverized tomatoes, mixed with warm water and palm oil which she brought along with her for that very same purpose. On the first physical contact, Imade jerked abruptly as if she had suffered an electric jolt.
Pa Idemudia was joyously startled. “Imade, so really this na your first time? (Imade so this is truly your first time?)” he said rather excitedly. Actually it was more of an assertion than a question. “Yes-oh Epa (Oh yes father),” Imade replied with feigned agony. That tearful admission seemed to energize and invigorate the old man. He then proceeded to accomplish the task at hand without caution but with such vigor that defied belief and an energy and enthusiasm that belied his age.
A tactical battle not too much unlike the one fought over control of the strategic Mosul Dam in Iraq between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the one hand and coalition forces ably led by the United States on the other hand soon erupted on the marital bed. Pa Idemudia could be said to have aptly prototyped the allied forces while young Imade could not unjustly be cast as having pre-modeled the ISIS who were in control of the dam at the time of that battle.
Imade proceeded to re-enact the Kegel muscle maneuver she had been practicing feverishly day in and day out over the past one week since she learned she was to be married off to an elderly man. It seemed as if she was trying to behead Pa Idemudia’s masculinity thereby decapitating his claim to manhood.
With his opponent mounting such a fierce resistance and proving such a stalwart territorial defender, Pa Idemudia had to deploy all the mesmerizing acrobatic skills he had acquired in his significant years of invading both friendly and unfriendly feminine territory.
Like the U.S., it was Pa Idemudia’s aerial bombardments with his hands and lips that proved decisive in distracting and dislodging his enemy’s defences thus allowing his “inflatable” ground troops access to secure the beach-head. Once he did this and thankfully in this case the supposed dam did burst, he felt some warm liquid substance on his body. ‘Truly dis pikin na virgin (truly this child is a bonafide virgin)’ he admitted rather happily to himself. Immediately Imade’s unit corporal value soared rather bullishly in Pa Idemudia’s mental stock exchange to reach stratospheric record heights hardly attained by any of his older wives.
Now a working definition of family life is that ‘marriage is a subtle declaration of war by other means between two or more consenting or non-consenting people joined together in a permanent or non-permanent physical union.’ Going by that street definition of marital relationship, after that first night, Imade had already realized her barest minimum objectives of waging marital war with Pa Idemudia and his extant family by successfully pulling off her macabre stunt and entrenching herself firmly in the pole position inside his heart.
Imade now known today of course as Iye Uyi (Uyi’s mother) had never before experienced something like she witnessed that first night, not even once with all those young boys she used to play with under the moonlight in her village. For in those days she would habitually sneak away from her parents’ home when they were fast asleep just to play outside with boys. That night however she felt completely fulfilled. There was no need to sneak outside again.
Epa (idiomatic expression for Father in the local language), her new husband was a man of considerable means, so she had no fears about being well looked after. Her singular fear was in that delicate and sensitive area of conjugal acrobatics. She had feared that Epa could be so incapacitated by age as to be an unworthy sparring partner. Amazingly what she had borne witness to that first night was a tour de force. Epa was still capable of giving her everything a young woman could conceivably dream of without ever needing to go outside for solace.
It is true that after that night’s grim opening skirmish with Pa Idemudia, Imade an adolescent child according to biology but a seasoned adult according to exposure, had seemingly lost her ‘corporal integrity’. The manner of her ‘loss’ however meant that she became strategically poised to win the larger intra-family ‘war by other means’ just declared separately and jointly between her and her future offspring in one corner, Pa Idemudia standing alone in a separate corner, as well as his wives and their various offspring in their own respective corners.
At the first break of dawn while Epa was still sleeping, exhausted by his exertions of the previous night, Imade gingerly smuggled away the bed sheet from under him without waking him up and took it outside to wash. Epa’s senior wife (first wife) Iye Monday (Monday’s mother) who had hardly slept all night but had been eavesdropping and keenly monitoring the goings-on in the master bedroom from a secret location accosted her. “What are you washing so early this morning?” she asked. “Iye (mother) it is the bedsheet” replied Imade. Iye Monday hissed loudly and sniggered “Why did you not wait so that I can inspect it at daylight?” “It is because I am ashamed” Imade replied.
“Ashamed indeed!” snapped Iye Monday as she snatched the bedsheet from her. But she was too late, for by then Imade had already dipped it in soapy water and squeezed it a bit with a physical agility that lay far beyond her years on earth. When Iye Monday inspected the bedsheet with a lantern, all she could see were some dull wet stains on it. “I am almost certain that this is not human blood” she concluded loudly.
The following morning, she hastily reported her findings to her husband. “Epa Monday (Monday’s Father), this your new wife is not a virgin as she claims.” But Pa Idemudia would have none of it. “What concern is it of yours?” he replied harshly. “Or were you the one that broke her?” But Iye Monday insisted. “Epa when you married me I remember I preserved my loin cloth and the bedsheet till day-break to show to your mother. Why was Imade so quick to wash hers early this morning?”
Epa himself was surprised by Imade’s precipitate action but he could not betray his fears to his quarrelsome senior wife as she would taunt her ceaselessly, thereby turning himself into a collateral object of public ridicule. “Iye Monday, you know these young girls of nowadays are not accustomed to the old ways” he explained rather gently but to no avail.
“Young girl indeed” sneered Iye Monday. Seeing that Iye Monday remained unconvinced and adamant, he changed tactics by adding rather pensively, “besides my mother is long dead. Are you now my mother that she should report herself to you? Maybe she was afraid that the cloth could be used for juju by her rivals.”
With a tone of finality and beating of his chest he quickly added the coup de grace. “I am the one who went in. And I know what I saw.” Iye Monday walked away in annoyance, “Epa Monday” she hissed, “I can see that this young girl has bewitched you.”
It was into this pagan polygamous family setting that Uyi was born. Between Iye Monday the eldest and Imade the youngest, there were five other wives. Pa Idemudia had 10 daughters from his six wives and a single son Monday born to the first wife before he took in Imade as his youngest wife. Monday was the fourth and last child of his mother. By this time, five of Pa Idemudia’s daughters were already married to men from neighbouring villages.
There was great fanfare and not a little envy therefore when Uyi, Pa Idemudia’s last child was born to the young Imade and found to be a male child. Given the family background, it was understandable that at Uyi’s birth, all of Epa’s wives took it in turns to inspect the new born thoroughly to be sure that he actually belonged to the family and was not a bastard.
His resemblance to Pa Idemudia was so striking as to dispel all unreasonable doubts concerning his paternity. When the child was weaned, Iye Monday the matriarch immediately took the child from his mother and brought him up under her immediate care. Uyi who was to be the only child of Imade therefore grew up believing that Iye Monday was his biological mother.
Now Monday, Uyi’s half-brother, who was about 15 years old when Uyi was born, was a rascally lad. When Uyi was 8 years old, he came back from school one day to witness great commotion in the village. It transpired that Monday had broken into his father’s room, forced open the trunk box where he kept a large chunk of money and made away with it, some said to Benin-City, others said to Lagos.
Pa Idemudia was so livid with rage that he brought down a curse on Monday right on the spot. In addition, Monday’s mother was banished from the compound unless and until the missing box of money was retrieved intact.
When young Uyi came back from school to meet Iye Monday his presumed mother weeping and rolling on the ground begging for forgiveness, he broke down in tears. Pa Idemudia was adamant that Iye Monday had to leave until the missing money was recovered. The intervention of the village elders pleading with Pa Idemudia to rescind the banishment order was to no avail. But the young Uyi clung to Iye Monday not letting her leave without him. He wept loudly that he would go with her wherever she went.
That was the moment when Uyi was told that Imade was his real mother. But young Uyi would have none of it. The more Iye Monday handed him over to Imade, the more he cried inconsolably that she should take him with her. At this moving scene all the women of the village including Imade broke out in tears, in the case of Imade, for a different reason of course. The men of the village, trying in vain to hold back a tear or two in accordance with African tradition which forbids men from crying in public, took to staring fervently and rigidly at the ground.
Pa Idemudia ordered the village youths to restrain Uyi until Iye Monday had departed on exile. But all the onlookers stood still as if they were frozen to the ground. Not one single person volunteered to help in restraining the young Uyi not the least Imade who was thoroughly embarrassed.
Pa Idemudia was too proud of course to physically restrain Uyi. Faced with the looming prospect of either losing his only other remaining son or having to take back the mother of his errant and fugitive first son, Pa Idemudia was forced to rescind his banishment order on Iye Monday.
That was how Uyi saved Iye Monday.
However, from that day onwards Iye Monday was banished permanently from Pa Idemudia’s bedroom. It was also from that moment onwards that Iye Monday stopped addressing Uyi as my pikin (my child) but resorted to calling him publicly ‘my husband’ and more pointedly so in Pa Idemudia’s presence in a feminine act of taunting defiance.
From that day, Uyi’s stature grew within the village. The elders said the little boy had done what the entire village could not do in overturning the orders of the mighty and powerful Chief Idemudia Agbontaen. Uyi must be destined for very great things they concluded.
Their prediction was not in vain for great things indeed Uyi later did accomplish.
P.S. This piece is dedicated to the long suffering poor masses of my home country Nigeria who have had the singular misfortune of perenially enduring shoddy leadership. In the immediate past and up to the present day, the poor folk in Nigeria have endured two different and unequally debilitating forms of impotent laissez-faire leadership back-to-back. First there was the criminal laissez-faire attitude of the Good-luck Jonathan Administration to the plundering of the national treasury by political buccaneers and economic piranhas.
Now there is the even more dangerous, vicious and treasonable laissez-faire attitude of the current Muhammadu Buhari Administration to the pillage of the nation and wastage of innocent lives by terrorist Fulani Herdsmen, ably supported by over-zealous agents of the State. As if this is not enough the situation is further compounded by the Buhari Adminstration’s enthronement of internal apartheid as its modus operandi and its adoption of geo-political segregation and targeted regional exclusion as the official state policy.
If in spite of this turmoil, further aggravated by economic meltdown and hunger in the land, this piece is able to draw laughter from Nigerian readers, then this writer’s mission can be considered as fully accomplished.