But the full weight of who I was came when I needed land to build my own house in the village. I had invited the elders of the clan to tell them of my intentions over some cartons of beer and whisky.
“Ladi, you have spoken well. In fact, it is a thing of joy that you were thinking in this direction. When you get money from the city, you take it to your home town to invest. Are you aware, we are only your mother’s relatives. The meaning is that you are not a true son of the village. The only place you can build a house is your father’s village. Your mother, Eneh who happens to be our sister is the only person who can make this explanation”, one of the elders called uncle Adakole said.
“I can’t understand what you people mean! You named me Ladi Ameh, meaning that I am one of your own, so why can’t I build a house like one of your own? I have lived with you people for as long as I can remember. Why would people forsake me now?”
“We did not say you are not one of us. We are saying that you should build in your father’s compound first. Go and locate him and build in his compound first before building in your mother’s place,” another elder, Owutebe replied.
After listening to all the things they were saying, I came to a conclusion that they were just jealous of me. Of course, the immediate neighbourhood was filled with old mud houses and I guess they were not comfortable with having me become the first to own a standard house.
In arriving at a decision, I decided to consult one of the men I respect a lot in that clan. He is Adugah. He retired as a teacher and had always made me believe that life was a battle of wits. Before I left the community, he would call me to offer pieces of advice, the way a genuine elder would. I had grown up, seeing him as a role model, in spite of the fact, that he was distant in terms of relationship with my mother. I knew he, Adugah would tell me the truth about the situation.
He was sitting under the mango tree in his compound when I arrived that evening. And like a concerned father, welcoming his prodigal son from a long and lost journey, he asked me to sit down. When I placed the bottle of brandy I brought before him, he cleared his throat and told me he knew why I came.
I was astonished, “You mean you were expecting me?” I asked him.
“Expecting is far from it. I knew you would come. But Ladi my son, it is good that you came to me. Of course, you trust I would tell you the truth. But it could be bitter. However, it is the pathway of life because it a truth that lasts longest. You do not just wake up and tell the elders in your mother’s village that you want to build a house. You do not wake up and begin to demand for a piece of land. I know the way our people reason. They would feel that the next time, you would run them out of the village because it has happened before. Our people are very careful when it comes to such things,” he stated in clear terms.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked him.
“You have asked a very good question. In fact, that should have been the first question you should have asked. Your mother has to tell you about your origin. I believe you have a father. Everyone has a father. Your right is potent in your father’s village. I know a little about you when were young. But your mother will be in the best position to explain because whoever wears a pair of shoes will know where they are pinching him,” he explained.
After I had asked a few more questions, he told me in graphic details the events that led to my being brought home. He told me stories about when my mother was living in Onitsha and how she came back and travelled to Jos.
“Your mother, Ene grew up to be one of the most respected gifts in this village. I taught her in school and I was here when she left this village and travelled to Onitsha. I was also here when she came to say that one man wanted to marry her. We were all happy and expectant waiting for the day. Then she returned with bruises and a pregnancy. Under such circumstances, there was little anyone would ask. The next time, she moved to Jos, where she had the baby. I saw her again in the village after two years, with a baby boy, who happens to be you. Like I said, she has the explanations to make. You are going to confront her,” he told me.
Honestly, I left his house that day more determined to unravel the mystery behind my existence. I knew it was awkward, living without knowing where someone is coming from. That was exactly how I was living. The painful aspect is the fact that the man had opened up some aspects of my life. I never would have known. If I had not gone asking; the Onitsha and the Jos angles were quite strange. I knew there were such incidents.
To be continued…