We call my step-mum Alhaja; she came from a Muslim home, so when she married my dad, he didn’t stop her from going to mosque or practicing her religion; even though we are Christians …or so we claim.
Now, Alhaja has no children of her own; she was our mother but a very strict mother for that matter; she was foul mouthed, yeah, for an Alhaja, o. She was not unlike your typical step mother, she could be nasty and could also be good, you know; I guess being saddled with a co-wife’s kids can’t be easy and with no child of hers…
Anyway, Alhaja and my dad were not two peas in a pod and we used to wonder how they met; my dad was a heavy jazz man; they had plenty of bad days, they quarreled a lot; I often wondered why Alhaja remained in the marriage and why my dad even married her. He believed in traditional things, you know in charms and herbals, in going to seek mediums for what the future holds; and he often disdained her religiosity.
I don’t know whether Alhaja tried to preach Islam to my dad but as I said I didn’t understand their kind of marriage. Anyway, my dad began to do badly. He was a business man, did contracts, had a few buses that ran interstate and you could say he was fairly well off for sometime.
So Alhaja began to give him some strange food to help his ‘destiny.’
I am not sure anything improved; I would hear my dad complaining; this was even after he would drink all kinds of concoctions, all kinds of herbals, have all manner of people come to give him things to rub on his body…nothing improved.
One day, my dad and Alhaja had a massive quarell and he accussed hor of stealing his destiny!
Serious wahala, o.
Would you believe; they settled and Alhaja went back to giving him that strange food and he continued to eat it like a school boy trying to please his mother! Then one day in November last year, he just couldn’t get up from his bed; it wasn’t stroke, it was paralysis of some sort. I said not stroke because well, the mouth would be lopsided, hand and leg would be well, paralyzed, my dad’s own didn’t happen like that; he had got up in the night to pee, went back to bed whole, following morning, he was unable to get up.
Again, all manner of men; imams, Alfas, medicine men paraded through our house. They burnt all kinds of incenses, Alhaja prepared all kinds of agbo, our house was always stinking. I swear. She would bathe my dad with it, he would drink it, he would do everything with it.
Whenever we asked Alhaja what the strange food was, she would curse us and tell us to mind our own business. One day, my younger brother summoned up courage to ask our dad, he told him to keep quiet, never mention it ever again. The man was so furious that he called the rest of us and warned us never to ask about the food that Alhaja gave him.
Ha, what did we do?
We kept quiet o. If the man is happy with whatever his wife is feeding him, who are we to object? But he is getting worse; he is losing his mind, he is wasting away.
Yet, he has refused to go see a doctor, he believes so much in that thing Alhaja gives him; even though there is no cure. He has refused to stop eating it, he has refused to go to the hospital, I have therefore washed my hands off him. if he dies today, we bury him!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)