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Let the cat out of the bag


DIARYMy aunt knew there was no point lying to me anymore. It was time to tell me the truth about who I was, about my parents and why I had been deprived the joy of having a father in my life for 30 years. She had to tell me why I had lived an “average” life, when my father was undoubtedly one of the richest men in Nigeria.

Tears filled her eyes as she spoke.
Aunty Titi: Your grandparents, God bless their souls were very hard working and dedicated people. Your grandfather was a civil servant and your grandmother owned a small restaurant in Ibadan, where we lived. She was an amazing cook and your mum took after her in that regard. As you know, they had only two girls: your mum and I. We were what a lot of people would probably refer to now as poor, but we never saw it that way. Our parents were hard working and they gave us the best of everything they could afford. We were loved by our parents, raised in the church and with high moral standards.

Your mum finished secondary school and she got admission into the University of Lagos to study Law. Our parents were so proud! Their first daughter was going to be a lawyer! I remember the day she left for campus, my dad followed her all the way to Lagos in a bus, and made sure she settled in and then came back the same day. That was the kind of sacrifices our parents made for us. I remember my mum working tirelessly to meet up with the demands of paying for my tuition in a private secondary school and sending your mum money and provisions in school. Your mum finished her first session with sterling grades and we were very proud.

However, she decided to take up a summer job here in Lagos, so she could ease the burden on our parents. She went to stay in a friend’s house for the summer break and got a job as a receptionist at a very big manufacturing company. The Badmus family owned the company, which was where she met your dad. At the time, your mum was about 19 years old. Your dad, Akin, was already in his early 30s and was working in the family business. You know your mum was a very beautiful woman, she caught his fancy and he began to relentlessly pursue her. He was handsome, rich and had a way with women. He had a reputation of being a playboy, so your mum avoided him like a plague. He didn’t give up, even after the summer was over and she was back on campus. He began wooing her constantly, buying her expensive gifts and trying to impress her. I remember she would smuggle some of those gifts home and hide them so our parents wouldn’t see them. Occasionally, she would even give me some of them and ask me to promise not to let our parents find out.

Tears started streaming down Aunty Titi’s face, so I went to sit beside her on the sofa and held her. When she gathered herself together, she went on.

Aunty Titi: A few months into her second year on campus, there was a fire incident at our mother’s restaurant and the whole place was burnt to the ground. That was when our lives really changed. We discovered that our mother had actually been the silent breadwinner and our father’s salary was so meagre he could barely meet up with the financial needs in the home. I was moved from the private secondary school I was attending to a government school, but the impact on your mum was worse. Our parents advised her to get a job, while she was in school until they could find their feet. She was eventually forced to swallow her pride and go to Akin your dad, for a part time job at his family’s company. He offered to sponsor her through school, but she refused and instead took up a part time job as an office assistant, while she was still in school.  It was the perfect opportunity for him to continue to pursue her. Eventually, your mother began to fall for his charm. They began a romance that was doomed from the onset.

Me: Why was it doomed Aunty? Didn’t they love each other?
Aunty Titi: Your mother was a good woman; so don’t let this affect how you remember her. Akin was married. His wife was in America with his kids, while he was here managing the family business.

Me: So, she had an affair with a married man?
Aunty Titi: Yes, she did. But she was under the impression that his marriage was in trouble and he had every intentions of leaving his wife. A few months after, she got pregnant. It was a horrible time for her. Our parents were so disappointed in her, because they felt they had raised their child better than for her to get pregnant, while in school and even for a married man making it worse! His parents on the other hand were a nightmare! His mother was convinced she was a gold digger trying to claw her way into the family for money and fame and she was determined to frustrate her. However, your father remained firmly by her side. He got her an apartment off campus, got her a car and a driver, the best medical care…she lacked nothing and it was obvious he loved her! By the time she was almost due, her classmates were writing their second semester exams. She couldn’t write the exams because around that time she had your brother Afolabi. The agreement she had with your father was to have the baby, wean him and go back to school, while he was to work on sorting out his divorce, so they could have a proper family.

Me: I don’t understand, so what went wrong?
Aunty Titi: Hmmmmmm. Your father didn’t keep his end of the bargain. One day, she got a visit from his wife, who flew in from America, when she heard he had fathered a child by another woman. Apparently, his marriage was not in trouble and had never been. Your mum was devastated that she was nothing more than a mistress. She moved back to Ibadan and started trying to pick up the pieces of her life. By then, our parents’ financial situation had worsened, so she wasn’t able to go back to school as planned because she refused to accept any form of help from your father. She struggled and eventually was able to gather enough money to set up a restaurant like what my mother had previously owned. You know she was a great cook. She started singlehandedly supporting the whole family and paying my school fees.

That is why she could do no wrong to me Anjola. Your mother paid my entire way through the university even though she was never able to complete her own university education.I was stunned. I knew my mum never went to the university, but I had no idea she was ever a student at the University of Lagos like I was or that she ever dreamt of becoming a lawyer.

Aunty Titi: Our father hated Akin with all his heart because he felt he ruined your mother’s life. After he passed on a few years after, Akin was able to regain access to your mum and she started allowing him spend time with Afolabi and accepting financial assistance from him. With the financial assistance from him, our lives changed drastically. Your mother’s restaurant business became a full catering business. She started getting quite popular and she decided to move back to Lagos because of the bigger market potential. She also had dreams of setting up a cooking school. Obviously, she was still in love with your father and after a while, they fell into a pattern again, spending a lot of time together. At the time, it was no longer a question of money, because she was able to take care of herself and her child. This time, it was because she genuinely loved him and he loved her. When Afolabi was about seven years old or so, your mum got pregnant again.

This time Akin swore to do right by her. He was going to finally end his marriage, because he had never loved his wife to begin with and start a family with your mum. But guess what? His wife came to her again, this time with a little baby she had just given birth to. That is Atinuke, who Emeka told you about. Akin had told her his marriage was definitely over, but apparently he was still having relations with his wife, while he rekindled his romance with your mum. My sister was devastated, very! On the day of your naming ceremony, his mother and wife came to the house and caused a terrible scene. It was so embarrassing, she was torn apart. But she still waited for Akin, believing he would definitely choose her. She was wrong. His marriage had been a consolidation of two powerful families and his family threatened to cut him off, if he did anything foolish. He was torn between securing his financial future and following his heart, which was obviously with your mother. He made your mother an offer, he promised to take care of her and her children all through their lives, but he would remain married to his wife.

Me: In short, she was to remain his mistress?
Aunty Titi: Yes. He said he loved her, but that was the best he could do. He had ambitions, and he needed a woman who fit into that circle. Your mum being a university drop out and daughter of a canteen owner in Ibadan didn’t cut it. She felt betrayed, knowing she had given up her future for him, but she was willing to accept him however she could have him. Unfortunately, there were other stakeholders in their union. The Badmus family started frustrating her, his wife was constantly threatening her and then there was an attempt to kidnap Afolabi.

Me: Whaaat?
Aunty Titi: I guess his family saw her as a threat and it was their way of showing her that she was no match against them. The drama was just too much for her to handle, it was affecting her business, because they were blocking attempts at her getting clients and Akin wasn’t fighting for her the way he should. I remember on one occasion going to see him in his office and telling him to relocate my sister and her children out of the country so they could live in peace and he said it would make no difference even if she was at the other end of the world. It was as though he had thrown in the towel and she was in the battlefield alone.

She eventually took matters into her hands and went to negotiate with his family. She promised to stay away from Akin, but Akin was to have no contact with her children. She didn’t want her children growing up thinking of her as the other woman or the mistress of a wealthy man and she didn’t want them exposed to his family, who had proven to be callous and ruthless. The Badmus family refused to give you and Afolabi their last name, which was all she had asked for. Your surname “Adekoya” was our father’s middle name. Your father stayed away, not because he did not love you or your brother. He was simply obeying your mother’s wishes because she truly believed it was best for both of you that you were protected from it all. She didn’t want to grow up as the Badmus outcasts and rejects.

Me: That’s not enough to make a responsible father stay away from his children!
Aunty Titi: When your mother was diagnosed with cancer, I went to him and told him. He was responsible for her medical bills from that day till the day she passed away. He told me afterwards to come to him for anything you and your brother needed. He paid for your tuition, when you went to the UK for your Masters Anjola. I lied to you that Afolabi and I scrapped money together, but it was not true, as I returned Afolabi’s contribution to him. Your father paid your tuition. That was the first and only time I went to him for help because I knew how badly you wanted that degree. He told me he was making provisions for your future and would come and do right by you and your brother, when you returned from the UK.

Me: Do you know what Emeka was referring to, when he spoke about the feud between the Badmus family and the Ayo-Kessington family?
Aunty Titi: I have no idea. But now that you know who your father is, you owe it to Tokunboh to tell him. I have been so worried about you. I supported your marriage to Tokunboh because I saw what the absence of your father in your life did to you. I didn’t want that for Oladunni, but I’m afraid I was wrong. The exact same thing is happening to you. Tokunboh’s mother, his family, his past…everything happening to you now has just been like a déjà vu to me. I sometimes feel your mum would have done things differently, if she had a chance. You still have an opportunity to live your life to the fullest.
After I left my aunt, I called TK immediately; I was surprised he picked my call on the first ring.

TK: Anjola we need to talk.
Anjola: I need to talk to you, too.
We agreed to meet at the house. I couldn’t believe he was allowing me into the house. It had been months…surely it was a good sign. I was nervous, but excited to see him.
TK: Thanks for coming Anjola.
Me: It’s ok. It’s so good to see you TK. I have really missed you.
TK: I got a visit from your friend Emeka.
I gasped in shock.

TK: Don’t worry; it’s not what you think. He is alive and well. He came to tell me that I would be a fool to lose you; that he was unreasonable in his behaviour and was willing to ensure our marriage did not end over his obsession.
Me: Was that all he told you?
TK: Yes. What else could he have told me?
I was relieved Emeka hadn’t told him about my father’s identity or the pregnancy.
TK: I have had time to think things through and I totally agree with Emeka. It would be unreasonable not to give this marriage another chance. I would like for you to come home, Anjola. Let’s make it work.
Me: Why?

TK: I would ordinarily say because of Oladunni or to keep up appearances, but I’d be lying. The truth of the matter is that I love you. I love you so much, these last couple of months without you have been horrible. I acknowledge the role I played in pushing you into confiding in another man. Please, come home let me make it up to you.
TK: was saying all the right things, everything I had prayed to hear in the last couple of months, so why couldn’t I speak? Why did I feel like the words I was about to say were going to turn my world upside down once again? I wanted to run into his arms and go upstairs to make love to him, just to show him much I had missed him. I wanted to tell him about the countless nights I spent missing him, wanting him, but I couldn’t.
TK: Say something baby.
Me: Tokunboh, Chief Akin Badmus is my father.

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