That evening, we were not alone but the house was cold. Our home became a grave of itself because someone was missing. Someone, who bonded us together. Unfamiliar faces trooped into our house in their numbers. People of different sizes, colours, and accents came to offer their condolences.
I stood beside the door watching in utmost disbelieve with tears cascading from my eyes. He spoke to us this morning before he left.
‘Daddy, buy me cashew’ Chukwuemeka, my youngest brother, had told him. ‘I will.’ He had responded with a beam and left after he gave us a dear peck.
Mum sat on the bare floor, in the middle of our sitting room wailing. Pain and anguish became her companions. Her face was pale, her eyes swollen and reddish. Her wrapper hung loosely below her bust. She threw herself up and down in grief. Madam Felicia and Ma Boi held her but from time to time she would break loose and scream. A scream that trembled everyone, and triggered the crying among the grieving.
The odour of sweat and tears clouded the atmosphere of our home that evening. It was hot and unbearable. The strangers contributed to this.
My siblings were at home when it all began, when the bad news came when hell broke loose, but they were taken away by my aunt who hurried to our place immediately she heard the sad occurrence.
“Bobo” She called; for that was what she called me even though I was christened ‘Kosi’. “Come along”. She beseeched but I refused. I wanted to stay with my mum and watch her cry for I loved her and I didn’t want her to grief alone. That, to me would be a betrayal. Aunty Chi understood and so she let me be.
It was so hard to embrace reality as it unfolded. I blinked continuously hoping and hoping to wake up from the nightmare. I couldn’t imagine someone will have the nerves to murder a harmless soul like my dad. Stories of people who were unfairly murdered have made headlines but little did I know that my hero, our hero, our pillar, my dad, will just like the others become a story to be told in the past tense, in grief, and disarray.
I didn’t know that he would one day, become a story that will end with a sigh or with words like ‘Why do good people die this way?’, ‘Why did he shoot him?’ ‘Why did he have to die this way? ‘He was such a good man’ ‘Justice will be served’.
If someone had told me that soon I’ll be narrating the story of how my dad was murdered by a policeman, I would have given him a piece of my fist.
We were having lunch when the bangs on the door came. My mum, my siblings, and I halted our meal. Chukwuemeka ran off towards the door.
“Sha!” Mum hushed him, “Sit down!”
She tightened the loose ends of her wrapper and walked towards the door.
“It is me, Ma Boi. Open the door!” A woman’s voice trailed off. Half screaming, half crying. My mother hesitated for a while and later bolted the door open to reveal Ma Boi, our next-door neighbour, and a good friend of hers. She stood there, looking abnormal. So abnormal. The Ma Boi I knew will never visit someone without wearing a high-heeled shoe but this very day, she came to our apartment barefooted. My mother did not notice this.
She will think later, ‘Maybe, if I had known I wouldn’t have opened the door. To make the story untrue. To make it unreal’.
Ma Boi stared strangely at my mother.
“Ma Boi, what is the problem? Why are you staring at me like that? What is it? O gini?” My mum questioned.
“Are your children in?’
“Yes….” My mother turned to us to make sure we were intact. “What…”
“Take them inside,” Ma Boi said and dragged herself in. We greeted her, she nodded and gave a mischievous smile.
Without any argument, my mother bolted the door quietly and asked us to get inside. Moments later, she let out a deafening scream. We ran back to the sitting room and there was she was. A fading shadow of herself. We watched in hysteria.
‘Jide obi gi, hold your heart!’ Ma Boi held her.
Remembering this moment in my life sends daggers to my heart. The shock has not left me. Father was gone! The story was everywhere.
My dad was our Guardian Angel. He was our shield and he stood for us when no one was there. He loved us and always told us that we were the only thing he could boast of in the whole wide world. He gave us what most fathers could not give their families.
“You all are the reason I am still standing. I will fall if anything happens to any of you.” He would say to us and then, we would wrap ourselves in his arms, clenching so tight so that nothing will take him away from us. Mum would watch us for some time and then throw herself around us and we would be silent breathing into each other’s nostrils; stirring an atmosphere of pure harmony.
All these will now and in the future become memories. Memories of my father who was unjustly killed by a psychopath of a policeman.
A Passer-by who saw what transpired narrated that my dad harmlessly confronted the policeman who was molesting a young female hawker. He questioned him on why he was traumatizing the helpless girl. He suddenly became aggressive and pulled the trigger at him. He picked race afterwards.
Later, he was caught, but nothing was done. We trended on social media for so many weeks and stayed indoors for our security. Just like how it started, the dust died down, dad was buried and the policeman disappeared unscathed.
Our home without my father would be a misery of a lifetime and a void place to dwell. To get justice for him will be a journey. I am ready to walk down that road for the love he shared, for the kindness he freely gave, and for the darling, he proved to be.