Alani Alelojo visited Anuoluwapo Villa No. 12 Olukale Street, Isolu. He had been worried about the place. It is a well built house in a good location yet the rate at which students left the hostel was just too high. His son Segun did not mind because a new tenant meant new agreement fees, which was his own share for being the care taker. His father though, thought differently. It is goodwill for the landlord when tenants stay long. He wasn’t a materialistic man either, he valued goodwill more. After all, he had been a recipient of such. It was not for nothing he named the hostel Anuoluwapo Villa meaning ‘God’s mercies are abundant’.
He arrived very early one Saturday morning. He visited each tenant, tried to be friendly and fatherly. Majority were hostile, some even rude. He couldn’t understand why.
Omoyeni’s room was the first on the left. So by starting with the first tenant on the right in a U-form manner, Mr. Alelojo visited Omoyeni last. He was the only one who welcomed him into his room. He offered both father and son drinks. Their discussion surprisingly was cordial.
‘My son, you seem to enjoy this place very much and you are not in default on any payment.” Mr Alani asked.
” Its a nice place sir. Mr Segun is not a bad person, he just needs to be understood. If one can follow his instructions, you won’t have any issues.” That was Omoyeni’s mild response.
It all made sense to Mr Alelojo now. ‘Mr’ Segun. Instructions. So this Segun of a boy has turned himself into a demigod. His time here is up!
Meanwhile, Segun smiled sheepishly, not discerning the real meaning of
Omoyeni offered them food too. Much to Segun’s dismay, Mr. Alelojo declined graciously.
There was something about Omoyeni that impressed him. He was gentle in his ways, but very wise. He was noble.
‘What is your name again?” Mr Alelojo asked.
“Omoyeni, Omoyeni Olateru.”
At the mention of that surname, it seemed as if two nerves connected to each other in Mr. Alelojo’s brain. His face lit up.
‘Are you related to one Mr Akindiji Olateru who worked with the Ministry of Internal Affairs? Mr. Alelojo inquired.
‘Yes sir. He’s my father.”
“Hmmn.” Mr Alelojo sighed. He put down his cap from his head. “I am grateful for this day. My sons sit.”
The doorbell rang.
“Expecting anyone?” Clarence asked his wife.
“No. Else, I would have informed you.”
“I see an elderly man and a woman. Likely to be his wife. They have a young girl with them.”
Sylvia joins him. “Wow! That’s the headmistress of the school where I work. And Njideka too.” Sylvia said looking surprised and happy to see them. It was at this point she realized that Njideka is Mrs Agwu’s daughter. That explains the girl’s slightly domineering attitude.
” Never knew teachers can be this colorful.” Clarence said mischievously. He was referring to Mrs Agwu. Unaware that they were being watched on surveillance camera, she kept turning her head sideways like a pedestrian desirous of crossing a busy street. Only that this time, she was taking note of every face that saw them stand in front of Ibuzo lodge. Her red lipstick was too much.
Clarence welcomed them. Sylvia went upstairs to put on something more appropriate. She returned in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt.
On sighting Sylvia and thinking that perhaps she was there on a busybody trip too, Mrs Agwu clapped her hands and voiced out: “Ah, Sylvia, You girls of nowadays, you are here before me.”
There was a moment of silence. Mr Agwu recognizing the damage her loose tongue was about to cause, swung into damage control. He quickly tapped his wife’s shoulder and said: “Christiana, don’t tell me you are still nursing your dreams.” Turning to Clarence and Sylvia he continued: “Please pardon my wife, she has always dreamed of traveling abroad and returning to Orlu as a guest to stay at Ibuzo lodge. The only lodge you are permitted to stay in is Agwu lodge, precisely my bedroom.”
Everyone started laughing pretending not to know that she had goofed.
The evening was good. Njideka assisted Sylvia in the kitchen to make pounded yam and egusi (melon) soup which Mr Agwu referred to as ‘animal kingdom’ because of the large variety of meat and fish it had. The men discussed a wide range of topics. They were both very knowledgeable.
Soon it was time to go. Everyone was happy and satisfied except red tiger. The hunger in it had forced it into a coma. It just would not start.
Swiftly, Clarence had everyone get into his Toyota LandCruiser Prado. He assisted his passengers with their seatbelts. It was a short ride.
“Thanks once again for visiting us. My wife and I will stroll down here to visit you too.” Clarence promised.
“That will be very good. Fortunately I keep a fresh supply of palm wine daily” replied Mr. Agwu.
“Wow! The original. We shall come with some peppered snails. This woman makes some delicious ones.” Clarence said referring to his wife. He was playing with her palms.
“Come soon please, my son”.
As the Ani-Njokwus made to leave, Mr. Agwu had a serious look on his face.
” My son, you are a good man. Keep it up.”
“Thank you wise one.” Clarence said with a bow.
“Maazi Agwu needs to get paid for his jokes”. Clarence said as they drove home.
“You are right. Whenever i thought I had heard the best, he reels out another”
“Please remind me to call the auto mechanic. Their car will require some work”
“That’s really kind of you” Sylvia said. She suddenly appeared withdrawn.
” O gini? (What is it?)” Clarence asked.
“If I know Mrs Agwu well, I think she was too quiet this evening”.
” your father was my boss.” Mr Alelojo recounted. “One night it rained heavily and the roof of my one-room apartment leaked badly. I had a wife and two daughters then. I was in arrears of rent so I couldn’t go to the landlord. Your father was the only one I could call on. He took us in and we stayed in his quarters for four weeks while he used the guest house.
I was very grateful. I searched out ways to show my gratitude. I got wind of two properties going up for sale here in Abeokuta at very good prices. I encouraged him to buy them thinking perhaps that could make him settle here in Abeokuta and even marry one of us. He gave me money to buy the properties. I did all the inspection and paperwork.
At the last stage I wanted him to meet the sellers and lawyers. I remember that morning. I walked into his office full of smiles. When I asked him if he was ready, he walked up to me and smiled. He shook me and said “Mr Alelojo, congratulations. The properties are yours. Go and finish up what you have started.” I stood there for a few minutes motionless. I started crying. That was how unbelievably I owned not one house but two!
He was shortly transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he traveled a lot. I lost contact with him but every morning when I wake up under my roof, my heart prays for him.”
The room became quiet. Segun buried his head in his palms. Omoyeni smiled. He was used to tales of this kind. People usually stopped him on the way to recount one good deed or another that his father did to them. It was one reason he respected the old man and could do anything for him.
“How old are you?” He asked Omoyeni
“I’ll be 25 in two months”
“When I was thinking of hanging my boots my boss was just starting. Segun here will be 22 soon. Segun, prostate before him. Egbon e ni(he is your elder brother).
Omoyeni couldn’t believe his ears. So the boy was just 22! Years of exaggerated importance had left him looking not like a big man, but more like an old man. As he laid low before him, Omoyeni pitied him. When he gets to Lagos, he would plead his case with his father and if the boy is willing, he would be sent to school. He sure needs some education.
” One more favor my young man” Mr Alelojo said “can I have your father’s contact details? I shall leave for Lagos tomorrow. Be it the last thing I do, I must see my benefactor again.”
It wasn’t only Sylvia who noticed Mrs Agwu’s silence. Her husband and daughter did. Mr Agwu though, couldn’t be bothered. After all, she had had her way. They had gone in spite of his reservations to Ibuzo lodge. Thankfully, it was a good visit. His jokes had rescued them once again. She was on her own now. At least, he could sleep in peace after such a wonderful meal.. Njideka on the hand, had stories for her siblings. Since this whole business of going to Ibuzo lodge started, she had become a sort of celebrity at home and in school, wielding ‘precious’ information as her power. Whatever was wrong with her mother could be dealt with later.
Mrs Agwu manoeuvered her way in the dark living-room. She found a wooden chair and sat on it. The chair creaked as her buttocks landed on it and struggled for comfort. She was all alone.
So Sylvia was the ‘Madam’ at Ibuzo Lodge she thought. And the girl came to Orlu Comprehensive Primary School like a commoner, even on foot. She remembered her discussion with Sylvia on traveling. She, Mrs Agwu had mentioned Port Harcourt, Abuja, Lagos. Clarence this evening had mentioned United States, Germany and Bruss.. Ehm, Yes, Belgium.
At that point a basket fell from a shelf scattering close to a hundred pens on the floor. Most of them had dried up from not being used. She, Mrs Agwu was hoarding pens due to the other teachers! She remembered how Clarence welcomed them warmly even without an invitation. She remembered how Njideka laughed as she worked in Sylvia’s kitchen, how the dining was filled with drinks of different kinds. She remembered the bottle of red wine Clarence gave her husband. The carton of juice they gave Njideka. She looked at the pens on the floor again this time she felt dizzy.
She remembered the ride home in that ‘giant’ car. She never knew that back passengers use seat-belts too. Clarence did not mind giving them a ride. She remembered how she selected teachers to ride with her in red tiger. She remembered Mrs Nwaneri Asst. Headmistress. The poor woman had Arthritis. She couldn’t remember when she last gave her a ride. Her whole life seemed to be on replay. Honestly, it was a bad video. She remembered Sylvia again. Young, modest, gentle and wise. She remembered that the dictionary had a word called ‘CHANGE’.