By Anayo M Nwosu
It was a mild drama at Reddington Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos and I was at the centre of it.
The doctor was reviewing the results of my annual medical tests and had told me to cut down or avoid eating red meat and other assorted meats. He also said that I should avoid Isi Ewu, Nkwobi and Catfish.
“Doctor, you are not serious! You can’t be serious! I don’t believe you!” were all I said before the doctor called his colleague and a senior nurse to join him in driving home the importance of his admonition should I value my continued residency on earth.
“How could that be?” I painfully remonstrated.
I had worked so hard to come this far in life and believed that the long awaited time had come, the time when I could afford whatever I wanted to eat and in quantities I wanted them.
“Devil is a liar!”, I rebuked.
“I shall eat the fruits of my labour!” I reassured myself.
A second opinion of same tests at Mecure Laboratory at Oshodi Lagos, gave the same indications.
I gave up. Reddington Hospital was after all very right in their diagnosis.
I now watch and salivate, as a hungry dog would, whenever my wife and my children devour meat anytime we dine together as a family.
My doctors have sentenced me to a miserable life of eating vegetables like a goat, following my medical tests results.
Was my situation a curse by Mama Obiora, my mum?
Did she curse that unknown petty thief of the meat in her pots of soup before I repented?
But she had caught me on some occasions and flogged the daylight out of me. That was before my junior brother grew up to love meat and to join me in the unauthorized visits to Mama Obiora’s soup pots.
My brother and I never did it together but each could tell when and who stole the meat when an occurrence was detected.
Once there was a meat stealing incident, Mama Obiora, our mum, would flog me and my brother with each of us claiming innocent.
My mother, unknown to me, was thinking of the best way to solve the puzzle of who between I and my junior brother was stealing the meat from her pot of soup.
It was sometime in July when schools were on long holidays that Mama Obiora decided to carry out her test.
On that certain day, my mum made a delicious pot of Ogbono also known as Draw Soup very early in the morning and told me to stay at home that she was going to the market that day with my junior brother, Tochukwu.
I didn’t know that it was a trap.
I was later to understand why my mother took my younger brother with her.
She wanted to eliminate the confusion whereby the two possible suspects would be outdoing each other in denying culpability hence making it difficult for her to detect the real culprit.
There were occasions when I was not responsible for meat disappearance but my mother would still punish my brother and me even if only one piece of meat was stolen from the pot.
On that fateful day, as I opened my mother’s pot of soup to help myself with one or two pieces of meat, I noticed that the Ogbono soup was so thick. Immediately I picked a large piece of meat, a gaping hole was created on the very spot I pulled the meat from.
My plastering efforts on the soup surface with a spoon was useless as the hole appeared like a pothole filled with red oil which was markedly different from other congruous surface of the soup. Many of my readers who also stole meat from their mothers’ pots would relate to this.
“Chi m egbuona m tata” meaning “I’m finished” was what I kept on muttering. The tale trail was very evident.
I had a decision to make. Should I go ahead and eat my loot or do I return it and use same to plaster the hole on the surface of the soup?
If I returned the meat into the pot, it would cause the entire soup to get soured and that would aggravate my sure corporal punishment; if I didn’t, the hole would show that someone visited the pot.
At the end, I decided to eat the meat as the deed had been done. The chunk of cow leg meat I picked from the pot of soup was also very tempting.
However, the fact that my act had left a tale trail had made the meat taste like bitter kola in my mouth. But, I swallowed it after a long chewing of the meat and my impending sorrow.
I decided to apportion a personal penance to myself by sweeping and mopping the entire bungalow and the surroundings. I reasoned that seeing my good works, that my mum would temper justice with mercy.
I also washed the heap of my mother’s worn wrappers and blouses, sprayed them on the hanging ropes outside and waited in the sun for the clothes to dry.
Any observer seeing the way I was sitting under the sun would think that I was drying myself in the sun instead of clothes.
As the sun was commencing its descent towards Yoruba side of the country, I knew that Mama Obiora would soon return. And she did with my 9-year old junior brother carrying our Mama’s market basket on his head.
My mum was not fazed by the unusually cleaned environment and the sparkling house floors. She must have also noticed some uneasiness in me.
She rather changed into her night wear after bathing and quickly made straight to the kitchen which was a small building detached from the main house as many other bungalows in Nnewi in the 70s.
I heard as she was shouting “where is Anayo? Where is Anayo?”. I didn’t answer. How could I have?
I rather sprang from a wood bench in the living room and dashed into mbụbọ or the cultivated farmland in front of our home.
The mbụbọ was thick enough to hide a horse.
And the moonless night made it a perfect hiding place. I lay in between two huge yam mounds and remained still.
I was fast asleep in the farm when my mum picked me up like a goat on anesthesia and dragged me into the house.
Mama Obiora, my mum, had been saddled with the misfortune of raising alone her last two troublesome boys. Her husband, Papa Obiora had died few years after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war.
My father was a former rich man who lived in Kano and Zaria; who was happy when Gowon announced “No Victor No Vanquished” after the war but was soon to realize that Nigeria could only give him 20 pounds out of the huge fortunes he left in the bank’s before the war broke out.
My dad died cursing Awolowo, Nigeria’s Finance commissioner and General Gowon the head of state for their callous economic policies against the citizens of the defeated Biafra.
My mum would always tell my younger brother and I that we were born when my father was no longer rich and must bridle our taste from good things of life.
But, that was difficult.
As my mum dragged the sleepy me into the house, she needed to give me two dirty slaps to clear the sleep from my eyes.
“Go and bath”, she thundered and I did just that after which she asked me to go lie on my mat.
And I slept till the next morning.
That was quite unlike like my mum.
I expected her to wake me up around 4am to give me a minimum of 6 stokes of akpụlụekwe or cane. But, she neither beat me nor discussed my offense.
About 10am the next day, my mum asked me to go and bath that I would be escorting her to somewhere.
We arrived our destination in an hour.
Many people were there before us.
In fact, it was a huge crowd and the numbers kept swelling even after when the prison officials arrived with Ọkpọntike, the notorious armed robber in Nnewi.
The armed soldiers soon arrived and lined up in front of Ọkpọntike who had been tied to a wooden stake and was being administered his last holy communion by a priest.
I noticed that one of the relatives of the man on the stake was allowed to get closer to him in case he had any message for anyone.
Soon after, the soldiers were commanded by their mean looking superior officer to shoot and within minutes, Ọkpọntike was a dead man.
A doctor certified him dead and his lifeless body was sprinkled with concentrated sulphuric acid and he was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
Ọkpọntike was someone I knew very well. He was caught in the act of armed robbery, tried by a tribunal and sentenced to death.
The then Buhari-Idiagbon military government had decreed that all condemned armed robbers must be executed at their local government headquarters of origin hence the reason for killing Ọkpọntike at the headquarters of Nnewi Local Government .
Each execution and the venue must be announced by the state radio a day before.
The shock of seeing someone I knew being killed by firing squad shocked me to the bone marrow.
On our way home, Mama Obiora told me, “that is how you will be killed when you perfect your act!”
I started to sing like a canary bird. I held my mother’s hands and promised her that I would never steal her meat or anything of value again.
I confessed my other sins like tapping some coins from the home sales proceeds of Maggi Cubes which my mum normally kept in a small black container or komkom.
I wondered who gave my mother the idea of giving me a shock therapy. It was a very traumatic experience.
Not only did I stop stealing Mama Obiora’s meat and her coins, I promised myself to work harder to be successful so that I could buy myself not only enough meat but also fish, chicken and other good things of life.
Is it not ironic that now that I can buy a full cow for myself, the doctors have given me a restraining order?
You can see why I am so grateful to my mother? She taught me how to be a good man in soft and hard way.
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