The car rocked from side to side, throwing its passengers from left to right.
Just in front of her, a man hit his head on the glass window, as he slept and Adanna wondered why he didn’t wake up. It was 5:15pm and Adanna was on her way to Lokoja with the same travelling bag she left with. She imagined her journey back home would be more pleasant than when she was going to Abuja but she seemed heavier. She felt like a failure. Going for NYSC for her, was like a window to endless opportunities. Opportunities she could take advantage of and help her family, but it was the complete opposite. She had been very optimistic about her posting. It had been her number one prayer from Day one at the camp. She needed a job opportunity that was amazing enough to sustain her and her family. It was no news that some corpers were lucky enough to get high paying job opportunities with free accommodation, or little paying jobs with accommodation. Even if she got paid without accommodation or accommodation without pay, it would have been better. But she had no Primary place of Assignment (PPA).
Yes! She was elated when she collected her posting letter and saw ministry of Finance. All who had asked her where she was posted to, were happy with her. They paid corpers 50,000 naira per month and In addition to her allowee, she was a big girl. Good enough to help her family and get a good apartment to stay. Her joy was dashed when she got to the organization and was given a rejection letter. She wasn’t even given an opportunity to talk or explain herself. The woman she was told to speak to simply said “We are not taking corpers anymore.”
Then she proceeded to tear off the slip and signed a rejection there.
Adanna wondered how a simple signature on a slip could change everything. She had wandered the streets of Abuja in her full NYSC outfit- Khaki, jungle boot, crested vest, head dress… and her traveling bag. All the other organizations she entered to enquire turned her down faster than she could say ‘Jack.’
It was late afternoon with no PPA and no possible accommodation for her.
Was she supposed to sleep under a bridge? It was at that point Adanna asked around and got to the nearest park, where she boarded a bus to Lokoja. Instead of staying at a cheap hotel in Abuja, she’d rather go home and buy food stuffs for them to eat. Was there even a cheap hotel in Abuja? She wondered.
Life was just hard and cruel. Adanna felt miserable. It was not worth it at all. Not even the camp experience- The hot sun, the wicked drills, the tasteless food, the money she spent, her fainting incidence… Captain Jude. Her lips quivered with threatening tears. That moron!! She was a fool.
How did she ever think a man like him, rich, handsome, with such big ambition will settle for her? Who was she?
She didn’t even have is number to call and insult him. After the rubbish he did that night, he had the guts to send his sergeants to her. She still had her dignity, to stoop so low as going to see him after that. Her self-pity was replaced with hot rage.
“Arghhhh!” she groaned as the bus slowed to a stop. They had arrived Lokoja and immediately the driver opened the door, every one scampered out. In the process, several people pushed and hit others. As one man’s bag hit Adanna’s head, her accumulated frustration descended on him.
“Bros! Are you okay? Abi something they worry you! See as you just hit my head.”
The man looked at her shocked at her outburst but Adanna did not care. She hissed and got off the bus, brushing the man aside. She walked straight to those roadside sellers and purchased some things such as Yam tubers, pepper, tomatoes, onions, grounded ogbono and egusi, cray fish, garri, rice and of course bread. By the time she finished buying, her anger had diminished and in its stead was remorse.
Why had she shouted at that man like that? She was never one to let her emotions get the better of her. But that day she had.
“Adanna!!!” Oge shouted and ran towards her, dropping the tray of beans she had been picking. Adanna dropped her big leather bag of purchases and her traveling bag before enveloping her sister in a big hug.
“I Missed you so much.” Oge said.
“And I missed you too. Where is Daddy?”
“He went out again.”
“Okay, help me with this things.”
Oge collected the bag and peeked inside. “Ada! Where did you get money to buy all these things?”
“I used my Allowee.” She said simply with a smile.
“God bless you big sister. We really need these things.”
Adanna smiled as she walked behind her sister.
“Ada!” Oge called, still walking towards the house. “What will you tell daddy? You know if he hears that you used your allowee he will not be happy.”
“My answer is still no!”
“But… but what other choice do you have? Where and how do you plan on raising the money?” Obinna asked.
“So I should make my daughter pay? I should make her pay for her fees I borrowed? Obinna I can’t! It is not a prestigious job. A maid!!! My first daughter? Never!”
“Oge can go instead of Adanna.” Obinna suggested.
“Oge is only 13 years! It’s not possible. What if the man starts sleeping with her? God forbid.”
Obinna stood up in frustration and almost topped the stool beside him. He had tried his best. He had begged on behalf of his friend for too long and he too was tired of the constant pleading and avoiding the captain’s phone calls. He even feared for his life. This military people were not one to be joked with and he was not ready for such problems.
“What do you want me to do Nwankwo?”
Mr Nwanko was quiet, his head bowed low “Obinna. I am confused. What can I do?” He lifted up his face to look at his friend, who caught the sheen of tears in his eyes.
Obinna felt bad for his friend but he too had a lot of responsibilities on his shoulder to take up his friend’s problem. He placed a gentle hand on his friend’s back “Let Adanna go…I think it is the best way out.”
“No!” He shook his head vigorously “N’mba! No! Not…” he swallowed the rising lump in his throat “Not Adanna, not Oge. Tell him I can’t give out my daughters as maids. I can do the work myself. Gardening, gateman… anything. Not my girls.” He gripped Obinna’s shirt “Not my girls you understand me?”
Obinna stared at his friend for a long time before he nodded. Mr Nwankwo let go of his friends shoulder and buried his face in his hands.
“Nwankwo, just keep holding on. It will be alright! Don’t do anything stupid.”
They were talking in hushed voices but Adanna heard everything through the kitchen curtain. She stood there, with her back pressed against the wall and heard everything! She put her right fingers in her mouth and bit hard on them, to keep her sobs from sounding, while silent tears ran down her cheek.
So it was that bad? Poverty had eaten so deep into her family that her father was given the option of giving them up as maids. What broke Adanna’s heart was the love and devotion in her father’s voice as he defended them. They were his treasures. His prized possessions, his wealth and he loved them so much that he didn’t mind being a gate man or driver or gardener as long as it made a way for them.
As uncle Obinna left, Adanna ran through the back door into the late afternoon sun, and it was until it was dark before she came in with Dinner.
She served her Dad his meal and watched as he and Oge ate.
“Ada! Why are you not eating?”
“I am not hungry Daddy.”
“Nonsense! Wash your hand and come eat with me.”
“Daddy, enjoy your meal, I am not hungry.”
Her father looked at her sternly before he pushed his food aside and began washing his hands.
“Daddy! Please eat your food.”
Mr Nwankwo ignored Adanna as he kept washing his hand.
“Daddy!” Adanna stood up and squatted beside her Dad. “Please you have not eaten anything today. Please!” she pleaded with shaky voice and looked at her dad with teary eyes “Please Dad!”
She watched her father’s eyes water instantly and Adanna spoke up “Oge, please can you go to the kitchen and eat there?”
Oge who had been watching the exchange stood up immediately and left the parlor, she knew that if there was anyone that could talk to their father and he would listen, it was Adanna.
Once Oge was out of sight Adanna looked back at her dad whose expression had become Stoney.
“Please Daddy you have not been eating. Please eat this meal.”
“Not until I see you eating. Wash your hand Adanna.”
Seeing the determination on her Dad’s face, Adanna washed her hand and cut out a small piece of eba before dipping it in the soup. It tasted like sand in her mouth. She really didn’t have the appetite to eat. Not with what she was about to tell her dad. Still, she took a few more hands and forced it down before she stopped. Her dad kept eating which only proved that he was indeed hungry.
The tears were threatening again but she held them in until her dad finished eating. She held the bowl for him as he washed his hand.
“What is on your mind my princess?” He asked her as he drank from his cup.
“Daddy, I have been home for two weeks now and I cannot continue staying here. I need to go back to Abuja and get a job. I need to finish my NYSC.”
Her father cleared his throat and sat up “How much do you need?”
“I still have money to take me back to Abuja. I don’t need any money just your permission to go.”
“Ada…” her father watched her carefully with a sad expression. “Something is bothering you. Say it!”
Her eyes filled up with tears instantly and this time she allowed them flow “Daddy I have decided to take the maid job.”
Her Dad stood up immediately “Who told you about that?”
“Nobody daddy. I heard you and uncle Obinna talking about it this afternoon.”
“Daddy I have thought it through. It is the best option. It was my school fees afterall.”
“It is not your responsibility to pay your school fees Ada! It is mine!” Her father shouted and began pacing.
Adanna stood up from the ground “And I can help! I have watched you go out every day to look for money, sometimes you don’t eat Dad! I can do this. I can help the family. Please let me.”
“Ada! I am your father! Never! I will rather die than see you work for your school fees.”
“Daddy! I have thought it through and I have made up my mind. This is the best option. Look at it this way. I don’t have a place to stay in Abuja. I have to feed myself too, transport myself everyday with 19,800 naira only. It is not possible Daddy. This opportunity settles all that. I won’t pay for accommodation, I will definitely be fed and I will be paying off our debt.”
Her father’s eyes misted “My Ada.”
“Please daddy, let me do this. Please! I have already told uncle Obinna to take me there tomorrow. I have also packed my bags. I will be leaving tomorrow.”
“Ada!” her father pulled her into his arms and hugged her. “Ada I am sorry, I have failed you as a father.” As he said those words, he broke down in tears. Adanna couldn’t stand her father crying and so she joined him.
“You haven’t daddy.” She pleaded. “You haven’t. Your love and sacrifice for Oge and I, has given us the courage to be better ladies. Daddy let us make you proud the way we are proud of you. Please!”
Oge was watching them from the kitchen door with tears of her own. The moment she entered the kitchen, she had covered her food and went to hear the conversation.
“We are so proud of you dad. We don’t need all the money in the world to know what kind of father you are. You are the best and we love you.” Adanna continued.
Oge left the kitchen door and ran to join them in an embrace too.
Mr Nwankwo looked down at his two daughters, saw how beautiful, brilliant and disciplined they were and he realized that with them, he was the richest man.
“My blessings will go with you.” And with that, he held his two treasures and blessed them with all his heart.
To be continued…