After the traditional wedding, the “umu ada’ group from Emeka’s village escorted me, and sang nuptial songs as we drove to his Umuchueke village, that would become my home for life. They had come in a hired 24-seater bus, and were proud custodians of the traditions of their people. They disdained church weddings despite dad’s arguments. The first night with Emeka was one that came with a pot-pourri of experiences. One that was tinged with pain, laced and spiced with such pleasure that I never had experienced all my life. Mum was proud that I passed the virginity test which other villages had discarded for ages! There was no honeymoon but Emeka and I stayed in his family house for another 3 weeks during which I got integrated into his extended family who showered me with so much love.
Three weeks after our wedding, Emeka and I boarded “Ekene dili Chukwu” to Abuja. It was my first trip outside my locality save for the raining season when mum and I went to farm at the farming camp at Umuawuchi village, some 8 hours walk from my village. We arrived Berger Junction in Abuja while the sun was setting. The golden rays washed Abuja which shone like a princess adorned with beauty. Since we had a lot of luggage with us, Emeka chattered a “kabu kabu” driver to take us to Idu- Karimu where he built his famous house which made my dad respect him. The traffic along Karimu road was heavy since workers and traders headed back home after a tiring day at work. Within an hour, we got to Karimu and I heaved a sigh of relief, having being exhausted from the long trip from the east.
We got to Dantata road junction and Emeka asked the cab to take the right turn. He did. We drove round and round till I got worried. It seems Emeka had missed the way.
‘Oga abi we never still reach your house?’ the kabu kabu man asked my husband.
“E be like say we don make mistake” Emeka answered. “Or abi my eyes dey decieve me? I dey try locate our street but e be like say government don change the name since I travel. Oya make we try the other road”.
The creases of worry on Emeka’s face arched the more as he peered out of the window to figure out how best to direct the driver who had become impatient. The streets were dark as NEPA; or rather the new PHCN had not given light to Karimu residents for weeks we later were told.
“Oga, your money no be 500 Naira again oo. See as I don burn fuel reach as we dey waka round since 7 o’clock.”
Emeka didn’t respond. He looked all the more confused until he spotted a familiar landmark, “Mama Okey’s Restaurant” located at Isiaku Street which was adjacent to Dan Musa street where he lived. To his surprise, what remained of the popular street was mere rubbles of mangled rods and broken bricks. He asked the driver to stop. He opened the door and walked out to survey the street. To his left and right were houses razed to the ground by bulldozers, and forklifts, some of which were still parked in the neighborhood. The access to Dan Musa Street had been barricaded. In a short while, he saw his friend and neighbour, Obinna.
“Obino wetin dey happen for dis side now?” Emeka asked.
“Nna, El-Rufia don kill us ooo! Yesterday, de guy and his FCDA people carry bulldozer come demolish shops and houses for our street. Your house and other ones follow. I been try recover some of your things but some people come loot am since na only me dey carry am .U for see as people dey cry yesterday, some dey swear for the guy sef. Abeg dis Abuja don tire me. Dis short man engine no go let poor man drink water and keep the cup in peace for dis Abuja sef.!”.
My husband stood transfixed and mute for a long time, as shock waves coursed through his weary legs and buckling knees. He gritted his teeth, clasped his hands over his head, and moaned as tears flushed his face uncontrollably.
“Alu emeeeeee!”, he wept as a crowd gathered. ” My own don finish. Everything don kpafuka for me. Wia I go carry my wife go live now. All the money wey I save for 5 years. So I go come become tenant again?”
Bystanders watched as Obinna held Emeka close to console him. ” Nna dieya oooh! Owukwanu ndidi ga eji eso uwa.Mana gini ka umu guys gakwanu eme government? We’re just powerless masses for dis country. Senators, Reps and Aso Rock people just dey do like say nothing dey happens when hunger dey kill people here.”
Emeka couldn’t speak a word as he looked back me. It was the worst evening of my life, and what a way to herald me into the famed Abuja. Tears filled trickled down as my confused mind roved and wandered in and out of reality world. Maybe Emeka lied to me I thought, but his grief-seethed heart heaved as he held me close to me close. He looked so limp like a child in need of the swaddling warmth of his mother’s doting love. I felt pity for him but much more for myself, who had married a landlord in Abuja.