I sat in solitude as I smoked a wrap of Indian hemp; we called it Kpoli in Abakaliki Prison. I was outside the Cell at night but within the confines of the Prison Yard. I needed to think out the way forward in my life, I had been doing this for the past six days.
First of all, I do not have a Father, I do not have any sibling, and I do not have any known Cousin, Uncle or Aunt. I grew alone with my Mother, we hardly received Visitors except for those that seek to buy domestic Animals on non-market days that would come and ask my mother if she knew anyone that has to sell.
I did not visit anyone socially, even on boxing days when Children visit relations in the spirit of Christmas; I never participated for once in my life. My mother brought me up the hard way, she was scared of losing me, and I was always within her sight.
Eventually when I came of age I ventured to leave the Village to carve out my destiny and all these calamities are befalling me. Okay! Let’s say life is not a bed of roses, let’s say everyone has his or her own issues in life! I agree. They say the Rose flower also has thorns, but mine are merely thorns! All the flowers are withered. They say it is him that wears the shoe that knows where it pinches; I decided not to wear just a shoe but a Boot! But my Boot is full of thorns! It pinches me all over!
Joining the Army was not an easy feat to endure but I survived depot without a visit from any one for the whole nine months. Instead of staying in the Army and reap the fruit of my labour, here I am in Prison; borne out of my negligence! I have wasted almost four years of my life waiting for an elusive freedom. I do not know how much longer I would stay here.
Now, my Mother, my only relation, she was the reason I left home for Zaria, I wanted to prove my Village People wrong, I wanted to change the name of my family for good, I wanted to redeem our lost glory, I wanted Mama to be able to walk tall in the Village, I wanted to help change her life in the City so that when she returned home, tongues will wag and people will marvel at the transformation in her life. I wanted the constant frown that has left permanent lines on her forehead to be wiped off! I wanted her dimple to return to her face by putting a constant smile on her lips. I had it all planed out right from the day I entered the Army. Even though I was not an Army Officer, my earnings would have been enough for me and my mother. I had rented a Shop for her already and I had money set aside for her to start a business with, my trip to the village had started the magic of restoring our family’s dignity, I had plans to enroll in school and get a degree so as to apply for commissioning to the Officer cadre, or better still I resign and get a civil job, I had it all planned out!
My Mother has gone mad; some stupid Soldiers had lied to her and broken her heart. She was called “iya oloju kan” in the Village, the Woman with a lone eye, I was the lone eye and now the supposed lone eye is plucked out! How would she see? She has gone blind! Her world has been plunged into pitch darkness completely! She now sees nothingness! Barrister Amaka said my Mother gazed at her but did not see her, I know my mother, she is just waiting for death to take her, if not for the fear of God, she would have gone to drown herself at the Osun River. She had always talked of committing suicide but for the consequence when she gets to heaven, she would have killed the two of us whenever things got so tight and we went without food for days.
Only if I could do something from here! My God! Why have thou forsaken me? Why is my own so different? Please God help my Mother, save her! If she dies, what becomes of me? What is the essence of all my aspirations? I will be likened to the lunatic on the street who has no family to be identified with. Even his biological relations point at him from a distance and shake their heads in shame at his plight.
I needed to see my Mother! If she sees me she will regain her senses, I was positive about that. I only need to cuddle her and keep her close to me and gradually she will be well, it may not be instantly, but she will eventually recover if we stay together, I know what to say to her, I know her favourite songs, I will sing them to her, I know she loved to watch me dance, I will always dance for her, I will sit her down and plait her hair, I used to plait her hair, I know the foods she loved, I will prepare them for her and feed her like my baby. Oh mama mi.
But I am in prison, even if she is brought here to see me, I can only embrace her, I would not be able to keep her close, wont her condition become worse if she is brought here and taken away? The moment she sets her eyes on me, would she let go? She would go berserk if she comes here to see me and after ten minutes I am ushered back to my cell, away from her. Whatever string that is still holding her between sanity and total insanity would snap!
The other person that seems to affect me somehow now is Barrister Amaka. I do not really understand how or where to place her. She is supposed to be a paid legal consultant to me but she has gone beyond that! The way and manner she is taking my case called for concern because she had not even requested that I paid for all the cost she had incurred so far. She had dug up much about Mr. Chike, she had gone to my home town to see my mother, and she had visited the Army Barracks to collect my Cheque book. All these moves cost money yet I have only paid her for the initial consulting fee. I hope I would be able to pay up when she eventually gives me her bill. I have a lot of money saved up now though lately I have stopped saving after the news of my mother’s health got to me.
To tell myself the truth, I secretly wished this Barrister was not so high in status! Imagine the daughter of a senior advocate of the federal republic of Nigeria! The daughter of a magistrate Court Judge, handling my case! How on earth could I have come in contact with her in normal life? But she is so unassuming and down to earth. She does not treat me with disrespect and there is no iota of pride or arrogance in her. She even had to shed tears with me the other day when I was crying and begging her to help me because of my poor mother; she also lost the spark in her eyes when she wanted to tell me about my mother’s present state of health. She knew it would break my heart and she was not happy being the harbinger of such news to me. She has got a good heart.
I was on the third wrap of kpoli when Oga Inside came to join me; he sat quietly starring at me as I dragged on my kpoli, I was in another realm and my brain cells were charged and running errands. I looked at him and offered him the Indian hemp, he collected it and took two long drags, he allowed the smoke to run errands in his system before exhaling thick smoke which he directed to my face, we were communicating, I got the message; we laughed out loud together.
We finished smoking the parcel together in silence before Oga Inside broke the silence.
Ojo I want to talk to you! He had said.
Oga mi, talk! I dey listen. I said.
This Indian hemp wey you don start to dey smoke everyday now no good o! I sabi say you be Soja before you come here and Kpoli no be new thing for a Soja, but I no sabi say you dey smoke am well -well like this nah!
Oga inside! I interrupted; life don tire me I beg! I just tire for everything!
Hmm,I understand your situation Ojo, he said; this na my twenty three years for this Prisons work and I don serve for eight different Prisons all over Nigeria so my eyes don see plenty! Your case no be the worst o! At all, at all! In fact your case better pass plenty People own. No be People dey for CC cell? Thank your God say you still get hope of leaving here someday. Thank God say you get sound health, you dey fit to eat and drink, you dey even smoke Kpoli! Old boy! I don see cases wey worse pass your own well -well! You wey dey inside Prison and you still dey do business, you dey complain!
Oga Inside! I interrupted; wetin be the importance of the money wey I dey make when my Mama, the only Person wey I get for life don kolo? What is the use? I asked.
The use be say, you still fit use that money to cure her and take care of her! He said; but if you use your money to smoke Kpoli finish, how you go take carter for your mama medical needs? How you go take settle your Lawyer? Even me wey I dey here with you, you think say na because I like you? I go run from you I swear!
You mean am? I asked him.
Before nko? He asked; no be quarrel me and you dey always quarrel before? Abi you don forget? The reason I dey close to you na because you dey settle me o! If not, wetin go make Warder and Prisoner sidon together dey share Kpoli smoke? Look! You better wise up o! Stop this yeye habit wey you want to start now before you ruin yourself! Kpoli dey very expensive inside Prison and at the rate you are going, you go smoke your money finish then your eyes go clear! By that time, your case go bad pass your mama own sef!
And that Barrister of yours! He said; he be like say she like you! The way she dey carry your matter put for head dey make me to wonder whether no be me connect her to you again!
Wetin you mean Oga? I asked
Just be careful not to hurt her or disappoint her by misbehaving or giving up all hope, let her continue to see the drive and desire to survive in you. Stop burning your money on Kpoli! Don’t emulate these Politicians here! These Guys have chains of businesses churning out money for them outside the walls of these Prisons and abroad. The only source of income you have now is the illegal trade you are indulged in here, and remember that no be everybody like you! Some people dey jealous you already if you must know! But no be everything I go dey tell you! The fact that you are doing business in the Prison does not mean that it is legal and allowed! It is illegal! But we just look the other way, and for your information, the day our Oga or external inspectors will come here and they happen to find out, all of us including me will deny you three times before the Cock crows! So make your money while you can and stop squandering it, because nothing lasts forever!
Before we parted ways that night, we agreed that he contact my Lawyer and together they should see that my Mother is brought to a Psychiatric Hospital in Abakaliki. From then we shall know the way forward.
I will forever be grateful to Oga Inside for our discussion that night.
Oga Inside did not embezzle my money, he had used up some of it for family issues but he promised to pay back. The balance of eight thousand naira with him he had deposited into my Bank account, he brought back the deposit slip to me for keeps