Mr. and Mrs Okpara, one of my neighbours have a ‘no-trousers’ policy for their three beautiful daughters. I hear it is a very conscientious matter for their father. I have always admired how they’ve been able to keep at it when I heard that it’s been like that since the girls were born. As in, the girls have never worn trousers all their lives! You know those kinds of people you see and you start feeling like a ‘sinner’.
Then, the first daughter Njideka completed her university education and started her youth service.
You remember how we all have issues with the government khaki so we end up sewing new trousers at the camp’s mammy market. Njideka made 8 trousers! One for each day of the week. Straight cut, boot cut, baggy trousers, pencil mouth, low waist, high waist and three-quarters. The last one was a pair of shorts for doing house chores and for public holidays.
Njideka wore trousers like there was a prize for it. She is the only youth corper(a term referring to a fresh graduate aged 30 and below undergoing a one-year mandatory national service in Nigeria) I know that enjoyed wearing the uniform to work. She wore the green khaki pants with Ankara tops and high heels. She ran petty errands just so that she would have an excuse to wear the trousers. And if you dare ask her why, her answer always was ‘I am serving’. Within a year, her nickname in the neighborhood changed from ‘jide to ‘the only one of Mr. Okpara’s daughter who wears green trousers.’ All the trousers she has never worn since her birth, this girl wore in one year.
I could feel the torture she was putting her father through. The man was practically counting down to the end of her youth service. So some weeks back when they had their passing out parade, we all heaved a sigh of relief. They said thatnight, Mr. Okpara burnt all the ‘useless khaki’.
But baby girl had other plans.
The next morning, it was her knock on the door that woke me up.
‘Anty Dami, good morning. Please do you know any one working at Road Safety, or Fire Service, or Passport Office, or Civil Defense, or even LASTMA?
Panic made the remnant of sleep vanish from my eyes.
‘’Jide what do you need uniformed men for? Are you in trouble?’ I asked.
She started smiling mischievously.
“No ma. It’s just that now that youth service is over, I need to get a job and I like these agencies.”
“What do you like about them?”
“I like how they maintain law and order, how people respect them and how they dress smartly. I think uniform is my calling.”
I shake my head.
“’Jide, don’t deceive yourself. Paramilitary is not your calling. Wearing trousers is your calling. Go and beg your father to permit you to wear them.”
Njideka has tasted trousers e don sweet am. She don backslide in the faith.
LASTMA ko, LAWMA ni. Please come and carry her for neighbourhood watch.