‘Please get him more soup,’ Ibekwe said, as he looked at his son’s almost empty bowl of soup and somewhat heap garri. ‘My son is now a man. He will be inducted as a medical doctor this week.’
‘No, I’m okay.’ Bright responded, swallowing a lump of garri. ‘I don’t think I can finish it.’
Bright forced a smile. He wished what his father said was true; that he was to be inducted as a medical doctor that week. But it was never going to happen. Three years ago, he had dumped medicine and surgery for psychology when he couldn’t cope with the course.
He couldn’t tell his father as he feared what could be his reaction. ‘He would have probably stopped paying my school fee’, he thought to himself. Since then, Lies had been the order of the day for Bright.
All through his life, He had never failed to impress his parents as he once claimed many prizes and scholarship when he was in secondary school. Many of those things, especially the money, had always gone to his father, thus making him the father’s pride.
Since Bright gained admission into the varsity, Ibekwe had been paying his tuition fee even at the expense of his three younger sisters. He was of the ideology that educated female child is a waste of resources as he believe she would end up being another man’s wife. Since Bright was the only son, he got a very good support from his father. However, Ibekwe appreciates the very brilliant ones like in the case of Mary, Bright youngest sister.
‘But you haven’t eaten anything. Don’t you like my cooking anymore?’ Amaka asked, rather worried.
‘No ma. The food is delicious. It’s just that I don’t eat much nowadays.’ Bright replied as he got up and rinsed his hand. He began to walk toward his room when his father spoke again.
‘Bright! You need to tell your mother the number of your friends that are coming so that we can prepare well.’
‘I’m coming. I just want to get something in my room.’
When he got to the room, he leaned against the wall beside the door as he pondered on how best to break the news to his father. Amaka, Bright’s mother who was aware of his plight had told him to do it after the supper. She believed that one will in a way subdue his reaction. Bright remained where he was for a few minutes rehearsing his speech but it changed each time he tried to say it over again. He later left the wall and decided to present in whatever way it comes to his mind. He walked over to where his bag was and brought out an invitation card to the event he was to be conferred as the ‘Africa writer of the year’. That was to be his ‘joker’ to counter the disappointment and he prayed it work.
Suddenly there was a knock on his door and it interrupted his thought. It was then he realised he had stayed long in the room.
‘Your father is calling you.’ His mother announced as she entered his room. ‘Don’t be afraid. First give him the ‘IV’ and describe how colourful the event will be.’
‘Yes ma. Thank you so much’’
Amaka won’t give up on her son. She believed Bright had brought so much pride to the family especially when he had the best WAEC result and it earned his parents recognition by the nation’s ministry of education. To Amaka, that was one of her happiest moment as it earned them a quite big fortune that changed their story. All these made it easy for her to forgive Bright when he told her about the disappointment.
‘Where is your mother?’ Ibekwe asked as soon as Bright entered the sitting room.
‘She is coming.’
‘I don’t know what is always wrong with this woman. She knows she suppose to be here.’
‘She will soon be here. She went to do something in the kitchen.’ Bright said, calmly.
Ibekwe grabbed the newspaper beside and read out the details of the induction invitation made by the school.
‘So, what’s expected of the parents of graduands?’ He asked, suddenly.
Bright tried to find his tongue but the words were not just forming. Something he had rehearsed severally.
‘What’s wrong with you? Why are you stammering?’
‘Sir.’ He began, trying to gather composure. ‘This IV is for you. I wrote a book and it received many accolades in and out of Nigeria. So, there is an event to …’
‘Who is talking about book here?’ Ibekwe cut him short. He afterward waved the newspaper at him and asked ‘or you are not among them?’
‘I’m not part of them.’ Bright answered quietly. ‘I graduated as psychologist.’
Ibekwe’s eyes widened and one would think they will drop off. He wished his ear were deceiving him. ‘What will I tell the chiefs and those I invited?’ was the first question that propped up in his mind. He had invited many of them to come and witness the induction of the second medical doctor the village would ever produce; many years after the first one, Dr. Nnaji died in ghastly car accident. Bright had been tipped by many to fill his shoes as the head of the village’s primary health centre which had been occupied by a doctor from the city since the death of Dr Nnaji.
‘You are what?’, he yelled. ‘Amaka! Amaka!! Come and hear your son.’
‘I am so sorry papa.’ Bright pleaded. I could no longer cope with the course, so I crossed to psychology.’
‘Shut up.’ Ibekwe cut him short. ‘When did you dump medicine?’
‘Three years ago sir.’
‘And you have been collecting money from me…’ Ibekwe continued to vet his anger and if it were to be the days Bright was younger, he would have probably hit him with walking stick. Bright tried to explain to his father that he wasn’t a failure after all. To Ibekwe and many of the villagers, anything outside engineering, law and medicine were deem as waste of time and resources as they believe nothing could ever come out of them. Bright tried to convince his father of his recent achievement –Being the African writer of the year and the suppose event in his honour.
‘Si na-akuku m puo.’ Ibekwe shouted in Igbo, pointing his walking stick in the direction of the door. ‘I want you out of my house now.’
Bright tried to beg but his father threatened with the stick. Bright sluggishly got up and went to pick up his bag. Since he came from the city earlier in the day, the bag was still as he brought it except for the stuff he bought for his parents and younger sisters that he had removed.
‘You are not going to send that boy away.’ Amaka cried out. ‘He has brought so much pride to this family than for him to be treated like this.’
‘Will you shut up woman?’ Ibekwe roared. ‘What is pride in what has done? He wasted my money studying one useless course. I’m sure you are aware of this but you won’t tell me. If you want to follow him, follow him but He is not sleeping in my house.’
With that he banged on the table and went to his room. He locked it and then started pacing round the room. Moments later, he laid face down on the bed and soon fell asleep.
The next day, when the sun was yet to raise its head, Nwakolo, the former headmaster visited Ibekwe house. He was the one who discovered Bright intellectual prowess, and advised Ibekwe to send him to the city for his post elementary education; a decision Ibekwe reluctantly undertook. Bright often felt indebted to him and hence regarded him as his second father. Like his mother had advised, Bright went to his house and explained his ordeal, and that was what has brought him to Ibekwe’s house.
‘Is your father at home?’ he asked a young girl sweeping the compound, pointing his hand-made woven fan in the direction of the main entrance. He loved to hold that thing even when the weather is cool.
‘yes, he is inside. Good morning sir.’ Chimanma replied. She was Bright’s immediate younger sister. Since she left secondary school and had failed the WAEC examination once, she has resolved to fate; that education wasn’t for her. And since then, she has been helping her mother in the grocery where she found herself to be a good entrepreneur – better than her mother.
‘Please call him for me.’ Nwakolo requested, taking a sit on a rocking chair on the Veranda and began to fan himself, as usual. Ibekwe soon came out and both men exchanged pleasantries amid many laughs. They seemed to have a lot of respect for each other as they were both chiefs of the village.
‘What brought you here so early? Hope there is no problem?’
‘No problem. It’s about your son.’ Nwakolo began. He explained how Bright came to his house and told him all that happened. Nwakolo said many things and tried to convince his old friend of Bright prospect but many questions kept coming to his mind that he didn’t know which one to ask first.
‘Now, tell me. What does he want to do with psychology? He asked, hesitatingly.
‘My friend, psychology is a big shot in abroad. It’s only in Nigeria that we don’t value it. They refer to them as ‘doctor’ as well. Lets’ leave that one for now; your son is an excellent writer. Have you gone through the invitation card?’ He asked, handing Ibekwe the card. ‘It will be held in Lagos – Nigeria small London and Wole Soyinka is coming. He is the one going to decorate your son. I’m sure you won’t to miss that for anything.’
Ibekwe tried to digest all what his friend had said but he still felt somewhat hurt that his son was not going to be a medical doctor after all. He had informed many of his friends about his induction and they were equally anticipating.
‘What will I tell the chiefs and other people I have told?’
‘Don’t worry. Call the chiefs together and I will help you explain to them. There is nothing to worry about.’ Nwakolo assured. With this, the two men shook hands and Nwakolo left for his house.
In the evening, Bright returned to the embrace of three sisters and his mother. He had used many hours of the day to visit his old friends and told them about the change in fate.
‘Where is Papa?’
‘He is in the sitting room.’ One of his sisters answered.
Bright walked toward the house with his heart in his mouth. Despite that Nwakolo had encouraged him to return home, he was still afraid to face his father. He knew how much his father had wanted him to be a medical doctor. He entered the living room and saw his father reading a newspaper; his usual hobby.
‘I’m sorry Papa.’ Bright said as he got next to his father.
‘Please save that.’ Ibekwe cut him short. ‘Are we to cook and bring food to the venue?’
‘No sir. Everything is already taken care of. Just come.’ Bright answered with a smile on his face.
With this, Ibekwe dropped the newspaper, smiled and extended his right to him for a handshake and said ‘CONGRATULATION’.
Written by Oseni Opeyemi
Garri – a local food made from cassava
Si na-akuku m puo – get out of my sight