Pa Efe had just one ambition, to die and escape the rot in his country. From his worn-out clothes and weather-beaten skin, one could tell that he had not led an easy life. He sat on the old wooden chair. His eyes glinted with pain, poverty and dreams unfulfilled.
“Onome! Onome! Onome!” Pa Efe bellowed. ‘Where the hell is this boy?’ he wondered.
Pa Efe could not hide the frown on his face. He knew Onome had gone out to hang around with area boys. He did not like this.He did not want his first son, a graduate of business administration, to mingle with street urchins and ne’er-do-wells.
“I must put an end to this,” he said under his breath.
Pa Efe would be sixty in July this year. He was a former employee of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, where he had worked as a site supervisor. Pa Efe was one the workers who lost their jobs in the recent retrenchment exercise. Pa Efe was embittered by this retrenchment. He had served the ministry for thirty years, and he wondered why he should be given the boot just five years to his retirement.
Pa Efe adjusted his tall, lean frame on the chair. Just then, a figure appeared from a corner. It was Onome.
“Good evening Papa,” Onome greeted.
“What’s good about the evening…eh? Tell me?” Pa Efe retorted.
One was confused. He saw the look on his father’s face and sensed trouble.
“Where are you coming from?” Pa Efe asked, finally.
“I went to visit my friends.”
“Which friends? Tell me, you stupid, good-for-nothing boy! You call those area boys your friends? Those rouges and street urchins? Look, Onome, if you are not ashamed of your unemployment, I am! I spent a fortune to send you to the university, hoping that when you graduate, you will take care of your younger brothers and sisters. You’ve spent five years at home now after your graduation and, instead of getting yourself a job, you’re busy hobnobbing with rascals. Useless boy, son of his mother.”
“Yes, I know. Onome’s behaviour will always be linked to me, shameless old man,” Mama Onome interjected as she came out of her room, where she had been listening to Pa Efe reprimanding Onome. She was fat and of medium height.
“See who is referring to someone as useless, the case of a pot calling the kettle black! Like father, like son. How long have you been sitting at home, eh? Answer me na, shameless man, since you were retrenched last year, what efforts have you made to secure another job? Even if you’re of retirement age, that’s not an excuse. I have heard of men who are seventy and still working. You lazy man, always blaming me for every misfortune!” She hissed and went inside.
“Yeye woman!” Pa Efe shouted after her. “Now will you move out of my sight?” he shouted at Onome, who was still standing in front of his father.
Onome hurriedly went into the sparsely furnished sitting room.
Pa Efe brought out his pipe and filled it with tobacco. As he smoked, he vowed silently to deal with Mama Onome someday. ‘She must be handled with utmost care though,’ he thought. Since he lost his job last year, she had been the family’s sole provider.
The next day, Mama Onome called her son, Onome, into her room. She too was worried about Onome’s nonchalant attitude towards getting a job. She remembered how, after his National Youth Service, he had combed the streets of Lagos in search of a job.
Onome broke into her thoughts when he came into the room.
“Yes Mama, I heard you calling my name.”
“Eh o, my son, indeed I called you, I want you to sit down. I have something important to discuss with you.”
Onome sat on the bed.
“Onome! Onome! Onome! How many times did I call you?” she asked.
“Three times, Mama.”
“Our people say that one can take a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink.”
To be continued next week
“It is true, Mama,” Onome agreed.
“You see, my son, we have done our best by sending you to school. We had hoped that when you graduate and start working, you’d be able to help us. I know that jobs are difficult to find these days, but that doesn’t mean that you should relent on your efforts. But you have to stop hanging out with those street boys you call your friends. We have given you education; it is up to you to use it to better the lot of your family. Heaven helps those who help themselves. Don’t wait for manna to fall down from heaven. Think of what you can do to earn money. I am not saying you should go and steal. There are many graduates who are conductors, bus drivers and cleaners. It is not a must you start from the top. You can start from the bottom and work your way up.”
She went on: “I know that with your qualifications you should be aiming for a white-collar job but, failing this, what will you do? Your father’s old Peugeot 504 is there. If you are ready to use it as a taxi, I will lend you money to buy tyres and repair the engine. When your father lost his job, I told him to repair that car and use it for taxi business. He complained that he had no money. I told him that I’ll borrow from my club for him to repair the car. He stuck to his guns. He told me that he didn’t want my money. I also remember he told me that as an ex-senior supervisor in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing he couldn’t belittle himself by driving a taxi around town.
“You can see we are suffering now; your father does not give me money. I am now the breadwinner of the family. The weight is really on my shoulders. Your younger brother, Edirin, has finished secondary school, he has to go to the university, Uzoezi is there too. I have to pay her fees and buy books for her. Things are not easy my son, so please try and do something to help me out. But I must reiterate that I am not asking you to go and steal. Think about what I’ve told you. If you make up your mind, don’t hesitate to tell me.”
To be continued next week