I’m back with a new series. It’s called Abowu District and it follows the lives of the residents of a small town in SouthWestern Nigeria in the 1970s. I hope you’ll love it!
This series is FREE. However, I will only post on Mondays and Fridays. Please read, share, and leave a comment. I’ll appreciate it!
“Mummy! Mummy! Wake up! Wake up!!!” Sewa turned to see her nine year old daughter standing over her.
“Teju! What is it? Why are you screaming this early morning?” her husband, Babatunde said sitting up sharply.
“Teju what is it?” Sewa asked groggily.
“Mummy Daniel is in the sitting room. She said I should wake you. Something happened to your shop…”
“Ehn? My shop!” she gathered her wrapper around her chest and ran out of the room, closely followed by her family members.
In the sitting room, Mummy Daniel was pacing the small sitting room furnished with two brown faded armchairs and a sofa surrounding an old circular wooden table. The blue walls were decorated with old calendars and a black and gold wall clock. A small black television sat on a low wooden stool.
“Mummy Daniel, ehn ehn, what happened?”
The woman turned towards Babatunde. “Daddy Teju, it is good that you are here…”
“I said what happened?” Sewa asked irritably “What happened to my shop?”
“Come and see.”
Sewa dashed out of the house, out of the large compound and onto the untarred street. She ran past old houses, shops, plots of land and uncompleted buildings. Her feet dodging muddy potholes and gullies. She ran, her heart smashing against her chest, her mind imagining all the things that could have happened.
“Sewa! Sewa! Wait! Wait!” her husband cried after her, clad in shorts and a torn singlet.
She noticed that people avoided her eyes, walking past her without saying a word. She turned the corner past the shoemaker’s stall and the mosque into the street her shop was on, hers was the third in the block of shops. Ahead of her she saw that people had gathered in front of it. Slowing to a stop, she walked in the path that the onlookers had created for her and then she saw it. Her shop was empty, there was nothing left but the chair she sat on and the mat her children slept on. The kegs of palm oil, crates of eggs, cans of vegetable oil, and sacks of rice were all gone.
She gasped. “My goods! Where are my goods? Who took my goods? I just restocked yesterday. Babatunde, didn’t I borrow money? Didn’t I go to Lagos?”
Babatunde’s hands shook, their entire savings had been used to restock the shop that had profitable.
“Babatunde, there’s nothing there. There’s no…” she turned back to the shop as her legs weakened and she fell backwards.
“Sewa! Sewa!” Babatunde caught her just as she fell and held her across the chest.
“Get water! Somebody get some water!” he yelled.
Some of the crowd broke off looking for some water as Babatunde continued to call his wife’s name.
Sewa sat on the sofa in her house surrounded by her friends. Her arms were folded, her face was wet with tears and her eyes were swollen. Her friend’s arms were folded too, they sighed periodically and shook their heads. Babatunde leaned against the wall that led to the rooms, his arms were folded too.
“Stop crying,” Simbi, Sewa’s slender neighbour said, her wide lips downward-arching. “Leave them to God!”
“What I don’t understand is how they were even able to do such a thing and no one heard them. They must have brought a car, in fact, a van. How come no one heard them?” Florence, her beautiful Eastern neighbour said. “Sewa, some of the people in this community must have colluded with the thieves.”
“I agree…” Philomena, a thickset woman with sparse hair on her chest said, bobbing her head.
“Let us not talk like this. Sewa, let me ask you hard questions that you might not like.” Deborah, a dark woman wearing an oversized t-shirt on a flowing skirt said. Her hair neatly tucked under a black and bright yellow scarf. “When bad things happen like this, it is because we have sinned. Who did you offend? This is the time for you to repent and go and beg for forgiveness. You know there will be repercussions for all our sins…”
“Deborah, what are you saying?” Florence asked irritably.
“I know what I’m saying. This life is very fragile, and many times we are the architects of our own misfortune. I’m sure that if we look into this matter, we will see that she has offended someone somewhere…”
“Are you saying it is her fault that this happened?”
“I’m not really saying…”
“So what are you saying?”
“Deborah,” Simbi said. “I don’t think that we should be talking like this. No one wishes evil upon themselves.”
“I know but we must pay for all our…”
“Shut up!!!” Florence yelled. “Can you hear yourself? If you don’t have anything reasonable to say, must you talk?”
“Florence, you don’t have to insult me!”
“And you don’t have to say nonsense! Shut up if you don’t have anything else to say.”
Deborah sighed. “God bless you my sister, I will not argue with you.”
“Don’t pray for me! You didn’t pray for the person you should have prayed for…”
“Please…” Babatunde said. “Let us not fight. Your friend does not need this now.”
There was silence for a while.
“Have you reported the matter to the police?” Philomena asked.
“Yes…” Sewa said almost inaudibly.
“Since when did the police become dependable?” Florence said. “What we should do is go to a priest and put a curse on them.”
“Blood of Jesus!” Deborah said, covering her ears. “My ears shall hear no evil!”
Florence stared at her first in surprise and then in annoyance. “Who called this woman here? Don’t you have other things to do?”
“Why should we call an evil priest when we can call upon the Lord?”
Florence dismissed her with her hand. “Look Sewa, let me take you to the priest in my church. He will give you powerful instruments that you can fight your enemies with? Two months ago, one of my customers refused to pay up my money. When I went to him, all he gave me was a red candle. He said that I should light it and keep calling the person’s name. I’m telling you, before the candle was half-way gone, she came to my house and literally poured the money into my hands. She said that she just suddenly became uncomfortable.”
“The bible says that we should pray for our enemies.” Deborah said.
Everyone looked at Deborah. Sewa laughed dryly. “Thank you everyone. I’d like to be alone now.”
“We should go?” Florence said.
“I want to be alone, thank you.”
Slowly, the women filed out. Babatunde closed the door and sat beside his wife, taking her into his arms and saying nothing.
Inspector Toye Abegunde stood in Sewa’s shop looking for any evidence that could be of use. He had recently been promoted and transferred to Abowu District. Moving from the small village of Igba was his opportunity to make something of his life. He was the first person in the family who had left their town to seek out greener pastures.
He scratched his mustache and looked up at the ceiling. It was intact. Then he looked in all the corners of the room. The room was absolutely empty except the chair in the middle and the mats rolled up by the side of the wall. He stepped out of the shop and closed the doors. There was nothing else to see.
Bringing out his notepad, he studied the address he had scribbled at the office and then walked away from the shop.
Sewa was absentmindedly picking beans when the Inspector knocked on her door. After he introduced himself, she let him in and offered him a seat.
“I have just been to your shop and like you said in your statement, there is nothing there but a wooden chair and two mats.”
“Yes,” she replied sullenly.
“Do you remember anything about that day or anything anyone said before that day? Did you get into a fight?”
“No. I didn’t fight with anyone.”
“Who did you tell about going to Lagos to buy goods?”
“My husband. I also told Deborah, she prayed with me. Philomena also knew, Florence too.”
“Where do they live?”
“Not too far from here. But Inspector, none of them could have done it. I’ve known all of them for years.”
The inspector chuckled. “Madam, sometimes it is the people who are closet to us who do treacherous things.”
Sewa sighed and fidgeted with her hands while the inspector scribbled something in his notepad.
“Do you remember anything else?”
He took down the addresses of her friends.
“If you remember anything else, please come down to our station and ask for inspector Abegunde.”
“Alright. Can I go and get the rest of my things now?”
“Who knows if someone hasn’t taken them…?”
“Don’t worry about that. They’re not obvious, they’re beside the wall. Anyone who wants to take them has to look into the shop to see them.”
“I didn’t put them against the wall. I remember that I was in a hurry to attend to my children, so I just shut the door.”
He scribbled something in his notes and promised to do his best for her.
Later that day, Inspector Toye walked towards the unpainted long building beside the Aladura church where he lived, humming a folktune. He stopped by the small stall where Mama Abioye sold steaming hot moin-moin and bought a couple with a wrapping of eko, cold pap.
“You need to get married. How can you be in the city all by yourself, at the mercy of those vain town girls.”
He smiled as he thought of his kind mother with her decaying teeth. As he walked into the fenceless building where he lived, he greeted the landlord, Pa Jinadu, who was listening to his black transistor radio, with a toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth.
“Ah, Inspector Toye! Welcome, the bad people didn’t get you today.”
Toye hadn’t gotten used to this greeting, still he answered. “No sir, they didn’t.”
He walked into the building, someone had left their door open, letting some light into the dark hallway. He got to the last door on the right and from the corner emerged a plump teenage girl, carrying a small white bucket. The smell of freshly ground pepper filled his nostrils.
“Becky,” he said startled. “What are you doing here at this time of the day?”
“I had to see you.”
“How can you be pregnant? We only did it twice.”
“Come and meet my parents before they find out.” She turned to leave.
“Wait, wait, wait! Meet your parents? You’re just fifteen!”
“Didn’t you know my age when you were you were groping me?”
“Becky, don’t be unreasonable. Let us do something about it!” he whispered harshly.
The cry of a child emanated from the open door, the sound reverberating throughout the hollow hallway.
“There are things we can do…”
“The only thing we can do is for you to come and see my parents.”
And then she was gone, the smell of fresh pepper lingering in the hallway.