I was anxious throughout the journey home. I wished the driver could run faster, I felt like taking over the steering from him but I had not known how to drive then, I looked at the speedometer and saw that the man was on 120 km/h already. I had butterflies in my stomach; I would laugh out of excitement at intervals when I think of the reaction I would get from my kinsmen upon reaching the Village. I know some passengers in the bus were nervous whenever I gave out my intermittent chuckles, they might be thinking I am not sane.
The Bus stopped at Ilesha at past two o’clock and I joined a taxi to Ijebu jesha from where I joined another taxi to my village Esa Odo, I dropped at the Market junction in the Village which is along the road to Ilare. I was fully cladded in my military uniform, my Boots were sparkling in the Sun, my green khaki stood still as if it was carved out of wood, I re positioned my beret perfectly on my head as I began to march towards my house like a robot cop.
The crowd grew as I marched home wards, I could hear whispers from women and Children all around me, I did not look sideways, I heard my name spoken, some were doubting if it was Ojo, some say it is Makanjuola, others whispered Stephen. I also heard someone whispered “is this not the son of Iya oloju kan?” it is him! Another answered, it is wa pa! (Short for wa pami loni)
Then why is he walking like this? Another asked.
Why are you asking me? Look at him before you! Ask him yourself! Another person countered.
I was hearing all they were saying but I was not seeing them, I was looking at my house at the distance.
Don’t you know they give them a certain injection when they join the Army? Someone proffered.
And so what? Another challenged. What has that got to do with the way he is walking! Is he a robot? Why are his arms spread as if he wants to fly? And why is his chin so raised and he is not even looking sideways!
Ha! Alaba watch your mouth o! Don’t you know what they call Sojas during the war? Kill and go! He is in a Killer mood now o! He can kill any one of us now if he has a gun!
Ha! Olorun maje! (God forbid) who will give him a gun here? And why would he kill us? Is this a battle field?
The crowd grew, the whispers became murmurs, the murmurs became clatters, soon it was noise all over me, and I kept walking as they run along to meet my pace.
I kept walking, I saw her from afar, she was seated plaiting someone’s hair, two other women sat on a bench opposite her, they had Trays on their laps and their hands were busy.
I increased my pace, I wanted to run, I couldn’t, I wanted to call her but my tongue was tied, my head was swelling, my vision was blurring, the tears dripped freely as I began to jog towards my mother.
She rose from afar, I saw her rise, and she looked towards my direction, our direction, me and my crowd. She sat down and continued her work. She stood up almost immediately she used her hands to block the sun rays from her eyes as she started towards my direction, some children had already run to meet her and were talking to her. She started towards me, her wrapper loosened and dropped on the ground as she limped toward me, she limped , she jumped and she slumped as she was trying to reach me, I screamed “Mama!” she got up and limped quickly towards me shouting my name.
We met; we locked in an inseparable embrace. I had never cried like that in all my life. We clung to each other for over ten minutes crying. Other women present at the scene were crying too and rendering my ancestral praises. I found strength and lifted my fragile Mother off her feet, I carried her like a baby and marched towards the house, she clung to me with her head on my chest crying, we got home and I gently placed her on the chair she was sitting before my arrival while I sat on a stool close to her and cleaning her tears with my immaculate white handkerchief.
My Son you have changed! She managed to say
I know mama I replied
Shh! someone hushed the crowd: iya ati omo nsoro! E dake yin! (Mother and Child are talking! Be quiet!)
What happened to your legs mama? I asked: you were limping!
Before she could open her mouth, someone offered
She tripped and fell on her way from the early morning stream!
She had a big pot of water on her head, it was still dark! Another offered
It was very serious o! A third person said: we thank God for Baba Miko and Okoro the Igbo Chemist! Your mother could not walk for four good days!
A fourth person said: your mother does not eat else she would have recovered fully!
The first person said: how would the drugs administered on her work when she does not eat food? When we beg her to eat, she says she heard that there is hunger at the Army training ground; she said we should help her take the food to you instead! She said she cannot bring herself to eat when you are hungry and suffering.
I nodded my head affirming all that was said, which is typical of my Mother. I pulled her closer: hope you will eat now mama? I asked
Yes my son! I will eat! In fact I am hungry now! She said
Mama got up and stamped her feet twice on the floor, she placed her hands on her waist and wriggled it severally then she walked briskly towards the room
Let me get some food to eat and then take my drugs! Can’t you see I can walk well now? She asked.
The shout from the crowd was understandable, it was a miracle, and my presence had healed mama.
To Be Continued