Akindiji Olateru married late. His first child Omoyeni was about the age of the last children of his contemporaries
that is if they had many children. Well, age is one thing, maturity is another. That boy had proven to be a man. Shortly after Omoyeni finished his secondary school education, he, Akindiji fell ill. For three and a half years Omoyeni took care of him as they moved from hospital to hospital in search of a cure. It was also a financially rough time yet the boy was a pillar managing everything and everyone. He was so efficient that his mother could stay back and take care of his
two younger sisters.
Akindiji remembered the day he apologized to his son for disrupting his education. He lay on the sickbed weak and in pains. Omoyeni held his hands and smiled. “Daddy don’t worry” he said. “I can always get a degree anytime. Let me take care of you. Of what use will it be flaunting a certificate and living with a guilty conscience as to whether or not I did my best for you. I can always get a degree but no one can replace my father.”
Whenever Akindiji remembered those words just like the first time, he became teary-eyed. But from that moment, his health improved drastically. What a son! he vowed to reward him. The boy will get half of all his properties as a sign of his gratitude. His sisters will share the other half between them. It was a large estate anyway, so everyone will be happy.
Omoyeni was 21. The storm was finally over. Thankfully no one had drowned. He gained admission to study Agriculture and Economics. Leaving home was not easy. He had to put the house in order, make adequate arrangements for his father’s check-ups and take care of everyone. By the time he arrived at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta all the hostels had been fully occupied so he had to stay off campus. That was how Omoyeni landed at No. 12 Olukale Street, Isolu, Abeokuta.
Chief Odenigbo owned Ibuzo Lodge. It was the house he lived in in Orlu before moving to Owerri. When he left, he turned it into a lodge-Ibuzo Lodge. It became the unofficial State house in Orlu, accommodating top government officials, expatriates and very important personalities. Everyone loved Ibuzo. It had the luxury of a five star hotel yet it felt like a home.
Something else made Ibuzo special. Because it isn’t always occupied, there were no permanent stewards. The status of the guests determined the type of steward engaged. Even locals were often drafted. There’s a popular tale of a sitting governor who went there in disguise. He was so impressed by the community member who waited on him that he offered him a job. This made everyone in Orlu look forward to being at Ibuzo Lodge. It might just be your good day. Hoteliers in Orlu despised Chief Odenigbo on account of Ibuzo Lodge but he couldn’t be bothered. It was one of the ways he remained relevant to the government and kept his hold on the people.
Lolo Odenigbo figured that Secondary school students would suffice to wait on the present occupants. The girls could assist the man’s wife if need be after school or on Saturdays. The woman seemed capable and Lolo liked her.
The students were having the time their lives. Working at Ibuzo turned out to be some sort of finishing school for them. The lady taught them A lot of things. Etiquette, Food recipes, Academics. She even listened to them and guided them on their adolescent issues. Ibuzo couldn’t be any better!
Segun was never a problem for Omoyeni. The latter treated the former like a television- to be switched on for only important things else it becomes an unnecessary distraction. He paid his rent on time and other levies. Even when Segun chose to be unnecessarily difficult and highhanded, Omoyeni ignored him.
The other students in the house often argued over what Segun’s real age was but Omoyeni never bothered. If there was one thing his father’s illness taught him, it was that life is too short to be spent on frivolities, quarrelling and rancour shouldn’t spoil the joys of everyday living. This made Omoyeni greet Segun, call him Mr and addressed him as Sir.
Omoyeni was the one who stayed the longest. Others couldn’t stay beyond a year. Omoyeni was in his final year. He had only six months to go…
Njideka’s version of what happened at Ibuzo Lodge was the most colorful and comprehensive.
“Mama, we will no longer break spaghetti. We will cook it like that. If you want to eat it you will use your fork to pick two or three strands turn it around until everything us around your fork. It is called twirling”
She narrated everything that happened there. They learnt how to make
Bolognese sauce, Spanish omelette, Irish Shortbread, American burger.
‘Chei, Auntie is very nice.’ She beamed. ‘If you want mama, I can take you there. She is very humble. She will welcome you well.”
It took a few minutes for the meaning of those words to sink in but when they did, things started to happen. She, Mrs. Agwu, on her daughter’s instance, could go to Ibuzo lodge. She had never been there, there had been no cause to go there. But this opportunity will not slip away. She must go there!
When her husband came in, she ran the plan by him. He did not buy the idea at all.
“You are a retired headmaster, I am a serving headmistress. We are important people in this community. Let us mingle with important people too.” She said.
Her husband turned down the plan. She insisted saying the same thing in different ways. He was resilient.
Then she started panting and fuming, sitting and standing, picking things and dropping them. Her voice was getting louder with each new set of banter.
Linus Agwu knew his wife was desperate and in that state, she could do anything like go to Ibuzo lodge without him. To do what? To say what?
He loved his wife Christiana Agwu. A woman who managed a household of four children with their meager salary was a strong woman. Her type were the real ministers of finance. However, he had realized early in life that he would need to use his good sense of humour to cover for her indiscretions.
” Ngwa, let’s go” he said, resigned.
Mrs Agwu sprang to her feet. She had the evening all planned out. She would wear the red gown she got from Nwunye Otiti(Otiti’s wife). She was yet to balance her 2500 but it didn’t matter.
As she rubbed and combed and patted, a thought flashed. She had to spread this good news in school tomorrow. She would call a meeting. An emergency. No. That will be just one opportunity. Then she smiled. Every teacher deserved another set of pens for this good news. No. That’s too much. One each will do. Some black, some blue, some red.
Instead of taking it to them, Stella will go and call them one by one to sign for it in her office. She rehearsed how to tell them. To one, she will say “how do you spend your evenings. I spend mine discussing with very important personalities. Last night I was at ibuzo lodge…”.
To another it will be “it is good to train children well, because my daughter Njideka is a good example, we were invited to Ibuzo lodge….”
Sylvia’s turn will be most direct. She will say “because we are respected members of this community, we often meet with other important personalities. Last night we were with Mr and Mrs ….. at Ibuzo lodge..”
She was happy. Very happy.
“I’m ready.” She said. Bursting into the living room.
Mr Agwu went out of the house. He was soon on the road.
“Where are you going to?” She screamed from the yard.
He walked back into the compound towards her reducing the need for a raised voice.
” Ibuzo is walking distance, isn’t it? ” he asked.
“I cannot go there like a commoner” she retorted.
“Take” she handed him the car keys.
They all sat in the car. Even red tiger wasn’t in the mood for Ibuzo. It refused to start.
” Try, biko try” mrs Agwu kept urging her husband. “This car can be stubborn at times”.
At the 15th attempt, red tiger woke up. The engine started bleating like a goat, then it roared like a hungry tiger. Of course it was hungry. Hungry for oil, hungry for fuel, hungry for care.
Off they went.
The final part of Little Power People will be posted next week.
Thanks for your time.