Hi folks, Welcome to the final episode of Generations. It’s been a long time coming. Technical and personal issues were a major factor and I am so sorry. Anyways scroll down and get to the bit of the day. Also look out for my two-episode Christmas series titled “The Colours of Christmas”. Enjoy.
Forty one year old James Akano knelt at the centre of the Cell 244 in the famous Sun City maximum security prison. He had counted the number of sunsets and sunrises everyday for the past twenty three years and for each one he wrote a poem. The talent for writing surfaced in the dryness of the lonely prison cell he occupied. His poems ranged from themes of the metaphor of the gun and the pen, to Monologues with my daughter which he had been writing for over a year. Having been told of his impending release, he dug his pen to paper as he wrote the final stanza of the poem.
Do you even exist ?
Do you know that I exist?
A man feels his generations locked in his loins
And , so you have lived
In my conscious world from the unconscious
Ah , yes you exist my damsel
I see you through the holes in my heart
I see a picture of me bright and beautiful
I never meant to sire you
The almighty, however, meant that I father you
The footsteps of the prison guard interrupted the flow of James’ thoughts. He had tried to keep his mind away from the promise of the pro bono lawyer who told him a few weeks back that his release was imminent, but everytime he heard footsteps outside his cell, his head straightened up and his eyes brightened with the prospect of a release. The brightness of the morning sun crept in through the tiny windows of the cell focusing its direct rays on his compendium of poems as he scribbled. It was an auspicious morning because , along with the prison warder was a senior prison official and the lawyer standing in front of his jail cell. The padlock crackled in the hands of the warder and opened with a loud noise . His thoughts drowned by the loud cheers from fellow inmates in other cells, James could not believe his freedom had been secured. Barrister Gabriel, had taken an interest in his case a few years back and had gone to the court of law to prove a case of maligned justice against his client who was never given a fair hearing because he was a Nigerian.
“I told you. You would be free some day!” Barrister Gabriel looked into the eyes of his client.
“Is this the day?” James had given up on hopes of freedom after the first fifteen years in jail. Several lawyers had brought up his case in different courts to no avail.
“Come with me sir! This is the day!” The prison warden spoke softly.
James hands shivered and tears flowed freely down his cheeks, as the lawyer signed his release papers. His facial muscles twitched in a combination of agony of many wasted years behind bars and the joy of making it out of the prison alive. He took a cursory look at wounds he sustained from stabs and fights while he tried to defend himself from homosexual inmates, who thought highly of his voluptuous behind. He learnt to swear and pray in the prison. Swearing was a diversionary tactic of a fearful man who needed to ward away the evil that lurked behind the bars. Praying was a necessary tool to remain connected to the essence of his existence while ensuring that every ray of light streaming through the windows came with the hope for freedom.
His pair of black jeans, tee-shirt and snickers that he wore on the fateful day of his flight to South Africa was handed over to him; It had been laundered and carefully tucked away in the particular crevice that had his prison number 907/1988 boldy written on it. The tee shirt was now loose and he had to fold the pair of jeans at the waist since his belt was nowhere to be found. Walking out of the Sun City prison in Johannesburg, South Africa after twenty three years incarceration, James threw his hands in the air and wept profusely, not knowing which way to turn. His lawyer had informed him that he will be on a flight back to Nigeria that evening , with the status of a regular traveler and not a repatriated Nigerian citizen.
With no memory of the surrounding hillside, James stared into open space. He had several questions to ask but he was not sure who to ask. How do I start all over again? Which way…the north, south, east ..the west? The horizon broadened and disappeared behind him and memories of where he left his real life picked up again. He wondered if his family had not given up hopes that he will ever surface again. He imagined his mother would have transversed the country in search of her son, would she recognize me? Oh , yes he was quite sure but twenty three years is a long time. Long enough for mum and dad to be dead. Long enough for me to be orphaned. Long enough for a country to have changed beyond recognition. If my baby was delivered he will now be a man close to twenty three years of age. Swarmed by thoughts of a life he never knew , he drifted into deep sleep.
Kike stood under the tree in the courtyard in the quadrangle surrounded by rooms occupied by several students staring unbelievably at her two uncles. They had come to take her home. Home to her father’s house.
“ Uncle , you mean you met my grandmother?” She held on to the bark of the tree. “And she asked you to bring me down to her house.”
“My dear , let us not waste too much time. Mama Akano is eagerly expecting you in Lagos. Infact, she sent a driver with us.”
It was the last Sunday in the month of November and a trip to Lagos was far from her plans to join in the Christmas play rehearsals after fellowship in the afternoon. Not sure if to jump for joy or scream like a woman just delivered of a pregnancy of several years, Kike walked back into the room.
“ What’s the news from home?” Rolawe looked up from behind the novel she was reading.
“My father’s mother would like to see me in Lagos!”
“Hallelulyah..it’s a lie!” Rolawe pushed aside her cover cloth and jumped up in excitement. Kike burst into tears. “I don’t know what to think. I’m just confused. So all this while I had a grandmother somewhere. Nobody has told me if my father is alive.”
“Kike, it’s a miracle day. God is answering our prayers. Don’t cry, if your grandmother could be found, who says your father will not show up some day.”
Unable to pacify her friend, Rolawe offered to travel with the family to Lagos.
“My name must appear when you tell the story of this day in history.” Rolawe wrapped her arms around her friend who sobbed uncontrollably.
Chief Mrs Akano stood at the porch closest to the gate waiting anxiously for the arrival of her grand- daughter. She had sent word to the Bishop in charge of her diocese requesting his presence at a mini banquet in celebration of God’s goodness over her life. She was grateful to God for sparing her life to see a day as this. Bishop Roberts had responded through text messages that he would be there in person. She had called in her designer to take measurements for a most gracious gown to celebrate at the coming Sunday’s special thanksgiving. She barked orders at the gardener to ensure the compound was spick and span. Her mourning of many years had been turned to dancing. Receiving her younger sister’s phone call she repeatedly said If I see James’ daughter , then I have seen James.
At the familiar roar of the Mercedez benz of many years at the gate, she jumped up like a two year old at the sound of her mother’s arrival. The gates flung open and she stuck her neck looking out for the replica of her son. Uncle Alamu and Uncle Femi alighted from the back seat, while Kike opened the door on her side slowly looking at Rolawe for succor and reassurance.
“My God! This is my daughter. Jesuuuuu ooooo..” Chief Moji Akano wept profusely as she caught full glimpse of Kike with the exact stature of her son. Her high cheekbones, oval face, and long hands brought memories of James and hot tears, as she broke down hugging Kike.
“Yes, you are my daughter. Yes, yes..It is true. James did not leave me without a token.” She held Kike on the arms studying her facial features.
“ Mama, where is my father?” Kike could not fight back the most important question she had asked all her life. She wished the image of the woman that stood before her would dissolve into the image of her father. She wept uncontrollably for joy of connection to a part of her soul that she had given up on, but at the same time the bitterness of an incomplete connection. Her soul longed for closure.
“Labakemi, I have asked that question for twenty three years and I believe God almighty will answer me one day!”
“I am happy to meet you ma.” Kike quickly retorted in an attempt to keep her grandmother happy.
“I would never have thought a day like this will come. My mother told me she had no idea where to find you.”
“Ah, your mother. Gracious woman of blessed memory. How I wish she was here today. My daughter..wo, oro po ninu iwe kobo.”
Kike introduced Rolawe to her grandmother as they made their way into the palatial structure that stood at the centre of the large compound. Kike imagined her father must have been born and bred with many silver spoons.
Barrister Gabriel had been unusually kind to James. He ensured all documents for the return trip to Nigeria were in place, and also got his friends at the South African Embassy in Lagos to receive James and take him home.
“Barrister, for all these gestures I remain eternally grateful.” James hugged the popular egalitarian South African pro Bono lawyer.
“I heard about your story many years ago during one of the routine visits to the prison with my staff. I swore, not only to ensure your release but also to get you back home safely.” The tall Barrister chimed in a loud baritone.
“Aurevoire my friend. Keep in touch.” He patted James on the back and offered a firm handshake; one that gave reassurance and hope to James.
“I will definitely keep in touch.” James hurried into the Lagos bound South AfricanAirways flight. Taking his seat on board, he drifted into deep thoughts of Lagos , Ikoyi , and Alice. Alice? What if Alice gave birth to the baby? That was a long time ago…where would Alice be at this moment? Maybe she’ll be married with her own children. Sleep eluded him throughout the six hours forty minutes flight back to Nigeria.
The South African embassy had detailed protocol officers at the airport who fasttracked his re-entry into Lagos. The whole check-out process was so fast James barely had time to brew upon his sudden change of status from a prisoner of many years in South Africa to a free citizen in Nigeria. He did not know his way around the airport, but tried to find memorabilia of his last sojourn there that led to his arrest.
Kike sat beside Mama at the big banquet family table laced with an array of local and foreign dishes. She had never been treated to such lavish meals at a dining table.
“My daughter, eat and be merry. God has crowned the year with goodness!” Mama offered to serve her new found grand daughter while showering encomiums and family eulogies on her. Kike had never felt such dignified. She smiled , laughed , and cried. How I wish my father was here.
It was late Sunday afternoon, and the house of the Akanos was agog with celebration. Kike became the cynosure of all eyes as her ectstatic grandmother paraded her before guests and regular Sunday visitors, announcing that she had prayed for several years for the return of her son, and today she has found a token. She interjected conversations with shouts of joy and Halleluyah.
“Princess Kike.”, Rolawe whispered into the ears of her dazed friend who seeemed enthralled by the celebration that went on around her.
“No one can explain the ways of our prayer answering God! Could you have imagined a reunion like this this time yesterday?” She prodded her friend smiling.
“Rolawe, wake me up. I must be in a trance.” The soft tremor in Kike’s voice was noticeable, as she drifted between the reality of time and space and the surreality of a human being walking on thin air.
“Number 7 Bourdillon Drive.” James told the diplomatic corp driver as he steered the Toyota Landcruiser to an exit of the Third Mainland bridge. Tears welled up in his eyes and his voice shook. If memory served him right, he was close to his father’s house. He could scarcely recognize the houses, some of which were now corporate offices with sign posts hanging on their walls and gates. His mood became a carousel of nostalgic delight, deep sadness of his incarceration, and joy that he made it back home alive. Oblivious of the motionless vehicle in which he sat, his mind wandered back and forth, until he heard the familiar sound of the huge gate that led to his father’s house opening.
“Number 7 Bourdillon Drive sir!” The driver looked into his mirror for reassurance.
Ahead of him, through the big windshield of thevehicle, James was greeted with the sight of the home of his childhood. Nothing had changed much except for the palm trees that were now as tall as the house itself. The frescoe paintings on the walls had not changed either. There were a number of cars in the compound , but he spotted the famous green mercedez benz; his father’s favourite.
“Drive in!” Not knowing what to do James asked the driver to stop by the gateman.
“Madam dey house.” He recognized Mr Akpan, their gateman of many years.
His face now wrinkled with old age , Mr Akpan looked up curiously.
“Oga, she dey.” He would have sworn the voice he heard belonged to James. Blaming his memory on the mind tricks of old age, he motioned the car into the compound.
“Please hold on.”James said to the chaffeaur as he alighted from the vehicle. He found his way quickly to the front porch and opened the door. The house was agog with celebration , and he walked past two beautiful ladies sitting on one of the large seats in at the patio room going through what looked like the old family albums.
“Hello, young ladies.” He paused curiously waiting to see their faces.
“You are welcome sir!” Kike looked up at the figure before her and looked down at the album immediately.
The man walked past slowly, and turned back at the entrance to the expansive sitting room where several guests were making merry.
“If you could please excuse me for a second. I’d like to see Chief and Chief (Mrs) Akano.” Kike pinched Rolawe as they both stood to courtesy. Goose pimples crawled all over her body,as she looked closely at the man in disbelief.
“Please tell them James is here!”
Kike let out a sharp cry that resonated from her belly.
She was not dreaming, the man before her was the man in the album. She ran hysterically out of the house and back again as guests gathered wondering at the young lady.
“Yeeeeeehhhh…Gooood ooooo…yeeeeeh.” She screamed uncontrollably weeping profusely holding James and letting go intermittently. Rolawe sank to the floor.
“Faithful God! The one that creates and never forgets!” She wept
James looked around the small crowd as they made way for his mother who stared at him as she approached.
“Mama.” James jumped on his mother whose eyes had become misty with hot tears.
“I thought you were dead. Where on earth have you been?” His body odour was unmistakable, and his voice was now like his late father’s.
Mama’s photographer quickly sprung to action with his Canon digital camera capturing every candid moment of the reunion.
“I am sorry Mama.” An emotional James looked at his mother’s wrinkled face allowing the tears to flow freely from his ducts.
“Here, meet your daughter!” Mama pointed at Kike who wailed uncontrollably sitting on the floor.
Kneeling down beside her, with tears flowing down his cheeks, James looked at his daughter and said .
“I am sorry!”
Kike threw her arms around his neck and the camera man took a few shots as she wept profusely.
thank you for your time. Use the comment box and let me know what you think about Generations. And watch out for The Colours of Christmas.