I had hoped and wished for freedom from Prison all those years, believing the free world is safer than being behind bars. When freedom eventually came, I had challenges to contend with in the real world.
The immediate issues where; where to go and where to start from, as in how to get my Job back, the second was how to take care of mama and settle Baba Miko and finally how to manage my budding romance with Amaka in the midst of these challenges.
Mama had completely recovered and all bills were settled before she was discharged from the hospital. Baba Miko was fortunate to have started getting acquainted with the Hospital management immediately he came to Abakaliki, he had been washing their Cars and helping in fixing anything that needed repairs in the building so it was just natural they gave him a temporal job as a guard when one of their old guards retired and went back to his Village. He was to be on shift duty. We decided that he stayed put at Abakaliki for now, he said he would save up some money to buy modern tools for his Job before returning home or start life all over at Abakaliki.
I discussed with mama and Amaka on my next move and we both agreed that mama stayed with Baba Miko in Abakaliki while I go to Enugu and see my Commanding Officer with the exoneration letter the Court gave me.
It was at this juncture that I asked mama to tell me what I do not know about his relationship with Baba Miko.
Mama Miko told me that Baba Miko had always loved her, he started pestering her for marriage since she was a teenager long before my Father came along with his sweet tongue and wooed her. My Dad was very handsome; he was popular with his dances at social functions and church services. He was more of an extrovert compared to Baba Miko.
Every young girl at that time wanted to be identified with my Dad so she could resist him when he came for her because she felt she was lucky to have him. But my dad had turned out to be a disappointment. He was very lazy, he loved fun and hates work, he could sit over a keg of palm wine and talk about his plans for a better future but it ends there! He never moved a muscle towards acquiring and developing Lands for farming like his mates, instead he resorted to selling off his lands to his mates and drinking the money.
I asked my mother her age as at that time and she said she was just sixteen years old when she conceived me, which made her forty one years old now, I had always thought she would be older, I never knew she had me at so tender an age.
Baba Miko had left the village out of frustration and shame because our People have a saying that “it is the brave man that snatches the wife of a lazy man” every man in the village at that time knew Baba Miko was a strong and hard working man so for a well known lazy and unserious man like my Dad to collect a woman he was interested in, was a big slap on his face so he relocated to Ogbomosho.
He returned to the Village when I was ten years old to find a wife only to discover that my mother had been widowed for about a decade, he did not marry again, and rather he approached her and restated his love for her but my mother told him she was afraid of marrying again. But Baba Miko remained in the Village so he could be around her and he too refused to marry.
I told Mama to give him a chance; I told her that no man can love a woman more. The man had sacrificed everything for her, what Man would abandon his work and Kinsmen in the village and follow a Woman to a strange land to start living in servitude. The fact that he got here and sought out a means of survival showed that he is a determined and ambitious man. I told her to stay with him so I can go and pursue my own destiny. She prayed for me and Amaka and we all slept at Baba Miko’s two rooms Apartment and left early for Enugu the next day.
We went straight to see my Commanding Officer, Colonel Garba whom Amaka met the last time she came for my Cheque book but he had also been transferred and replaced by a Colonel Akindele, a Yoruba man. We discussed with him for about one hour updating him on my case, he brought out hand over files from his predecessors and saw the copy of the letter the Police had sent to the G.O.C to release me to them for investigation, he called for a new file from his secretary and he put the letter into the new file, he then collected the exoneration form the Court gave me and put in the file too, he said he would take the new file and explain to the new G.O.C. Amaka then told him to make photocopies of the exoneration letter and give us the original, he obliged.
So you are very free now? He asked at last
Yes sir! I replied
And this lady here is your Lawyer? He asked again
Yes sir! I replied
Good! Good! Boy! You would have gone through a tough time! How come the investigation took too long? He asked.
The Police abandoned the case immediately he was moved to Abakaliki! They wanted him to rot there. Amaka replied.
Kai! Sorry o! Not to worry, you will be rejabbed into the Army, I will personally take your case up, he promised.
When we left the C.O’s Office, I went to see the new A.O and introduced myself, A.O is the Admin Officer and second in command to the C.O. he congratulated me and welcomed me back.
I went and looked for the R.S.M who almost jumped out of his skin when he saw me; he was the same R.S.M seven years ago. He asked silly questions that annoyed Amaka. He was so pessimistic and incongruous asking me if I was sure I was free indeed! He asked if the family we robbed are aware that I have been released from Prison; he asked if I was sure I did not break out from Prison; it was Amaka that cautioned him by asking him he if he was scared that I was back, she told him that everyone had been happy to see me back except him, she asked him that if I were his Son and have been to jail for seven years, would he treat me the way he had just done? He felt challenged and demanded to know who she was. She told him she was a Barrister and my legal representative from Abuja. He turned and hurriedly left us.
Something is wrong here! Amaka had said that day: the way this man reacted shows that he does not want you around, you need to be careful Ojo, she had cautioned.
Our sergeant Korofo ran towards us as we were about entering Amaka’s Car, he called out my name and I turned to see him running excitedly towards me, we embraced.
Old boy them don release you? He asked
Yes sir! I replied
Ha! I happy for you o! Thank God! I talk am! I talk am say you no guilty! I tell them say you must to come back one day! He said. He stretched his hands and we shook hands like men, he pulled me close and we hugged, then he whispered to my ears ‘wahala dey o! Oga R.S.M no like as you return o! He say Criminal na Criminal, he say him dey go tell C.O not to allow a Criminal back into the unit, so make you be careful o! I thanked him and he left. I told Amaka what he said and she advised that we be vigilant and careful.
We drove to the house of Saka my friend, he had married with two Sons, and he was shocked to see me. I greeted his Wife and played with the Kids, I pulled him outside his house and apologized for the incident that happened seven years ago, he could not accept my apology, he was dumb founded because he knew I had come to show myself to him that after he abandoned me for seven years, I came out alive, after all what are friends for? It could have been me with him in a stolen Car he bought ignorantly; I would not have abandoned him like that.
Amaka and I later drove to the Mammy market to eat, I pointed to her the shop I had rented for mama seven years ago, and someone now sells provision in it. I saw few Soldiers that still remembered my face, some thought I was posted out to another state, some also thought I had been in Lagos with the green Berets, the Army football team while those that knew what actually happened came and congratulated me, they said they heard of Mr. Chike’s arrest and they knew I would soon be free. I saw two of my mates with the rank of Corporal hanging on their arms; I congratulated them on their promotion.
Amaka and I then drove to Dannic hotels at new Haven and booked a room to spend the night. We discussed in detail and planned on the way forward together.
To Be Continued