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The Mechanics Of Yenagoa (Season 2) – X
Post Series: Mechanics of Yenagoa

​The meeting didn’t start until about 1 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a good thing it held in Ebiakpo’s house and that I arrived there quite early because it gave me a chance to play with Anda while waiting for her in-laws to show up. My sister also made starch and banga soup with dry fish, prawns and periwinkle so I had the opportunity of filling up as well.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bad eating in the house of a man that had just died under what I would classify as mysterious circumstances. But in my defence, I hadn’t tasted a decent home cooked meal since the last time Blessing spent the night with me. Another thing is that I’d never been known to show much resistance when it came to Ebiakpo’s cooking, but that’s just by the way.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t realise the great thing my elder sister did for me when she insisted that I ate and fortified my stomach before the meeting began. Until her husband’s relatives showed up one by one and the meeting finally began, I didn’t realise it wasn’t a meeting but a shouting match.

Probably because I was still young when we lost our parents, I didn’t realise informing immediate and extended family members was such a big deal and that traditional Ijaw burials were steeped in so much cultural practices and immutable rites that had existed for generations. Getting everyone on the same page and to agree on where Benson was to be buried, fixing dates for laying-in-state and interment and arriving at the amount each family member was to contribute to his final journey home took almost three hours.

I had known Benson’s family for a number of years now, so it was really shocking to me how much money they were willing to spend on coffin, clothes, food and entertainment for a three-day ceremony. From my sister’s description of them to me in the past, I knew there was no way on earth they would have agreed to raise even one-tenth of that amount in celebrating births and weddings or in settling hospital bills or school fees for one of their own in desperate need of assistance even if their lives depended on it.

It was as if the meeting was never going to end and I kept looking at the time because of my evening out with Oputi.

Finally, after hours of going back and forth on the same points, and very intense arguments and near-fights, I saw the men shaking hands and smiling happily at each other for what they had accomplished.

“Benson is going to be buried in style,” his elder brother Captain Jerry (rtd) whispered to Ebiakpo, as if it was any comfort.

“Sagbama people go see something,” a younger member of the family couldn’t contain his joy at the plans they had agreed and he high-fived the person sitting next to him.

The next thing I knew, as if from a rehearsed performance, Captain Jerry stood up, cleared his throat loudly to grab everyone’s attention and declared that there was one last item on the agenda.

He turned to face Ebiakpo, but when he couldn’t look her in the eye I knew what that final item was. He began by telling my sister how much Benson loved her and Anda and how he was a good man who did his best to provide for his family, immediate and extended. And then he went on to say that no man was perfect and that every now and then even the most faithful of husbands try other women’s cooking and that it wasn’t anything strange for real Ijaw men.

Captain Jerry announced with voice dip but with a tinge of pride that was not lost on my sister and me, that his younger brother only recently ate outside and that he did the right thing afterwards by bringing the food home.

“So, we thought you should know this as we begin working towards the burial ceremony because his second wife, Amara, also has a role to play in the burial.”

There was a long silence after he spoke. Everywhere was quiet and I’m certain if a toothpick had landed on the tiled floor, it would have made a bang. Ebiakpo was quiet for the longest time and all her in-laws in the room had their eyes on her. I could tell they were wondering what was going through her mind, but I for one didn’t have to. I already knew.

Ebiakpo stood up slowly, pulled down her long black and red ankara print mourning dress so it touched the floor, and then she did something totally unexpected. She lunged at her brother-in-law, grabbing him by the neck and knocking off his medicated glasses from his face and unto the floor before any of us knew what was going on. There was commotion everywhere as old and young men scrambled without success to loosen her grip.

“Liar,” Ebiakpo screamed. “Liar! Liar! Liar!”

More people joined the rescue party and this time they were able to free Captain Jacob from the vice grip that was Ebiakpo’s hands.

“See this mad woman oh, do you want to kill me?” Captain Jerry was almost at the door as he spoke. Someone ran to him with his glasses that was missing the nose pads, one temple and the left lens, but the retired army officer couldn’t be bothered. He had seen enough.

“It’s not a lie oh our first wife. Your late husband, Benson, has another wife. We went to marry her a few weeks ago in Port Harcourt,” another relative spoke.

“I say it’s a lie yeeeeee! How can you tell me that a man that loves me the way Benson did can marry another woman behind my back?”

The next thing I knew, Ebiakpo was crying uncontrollably.

“Ebiakpo, please don’t do this.” I added my voice to those of the other men begging her to stop crying.

“How can I stop crying when I’m just finding out that Benson was a betrayer, a liar and a cheat? Haaa! Benson, wherever you are, it will not be well with you I swear.  God – why am I calling God sef? Satan will baptise you in that hell fire you are burning in right now,” my sister cursed.

“Ebiakpo, please don’t talk like that about the dead,” I pleaded with her.

“Ebinimi, I will talk anyhow I like about that bastard and his bastard relatives who all conspired to make me a laughing stock in this Yenagoa.”

“Our wife, it is not like that,” the same relative that spoke earlier tried explaining to her. “Benson may have married a younger girl, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t love you again. We are men, that’s how God made us.”

“Oh, so that is why you all conspired with Benson to bring in a whore to come and reap where she did not sow, abi? Let the same God that you just brought into this matter punish all of you to your children and your children’s children.”

At this point I was really confused. In my private conversation with Ebiakpo a few days ago, she admitted to knowing about the marriage so I couldn’t for the life of me understand the drama unfolding before my very eyes and why she was pretending like she only just found out.

“Now you are taking this thing too far,” another elderly relative of Benson’s cautioned her.

“You call this taking things too far?” Ebiakpo shouted, not minding that by this time all her neighbours had come into the house to see what all the noise and commotion was about.

“Yes woman, you are taking this thing too far,” the same relative said again.

“You call this taking this too far, abi? You people haven’t seen anything yet. Ebinimi, please come and help me pack my things out of this cursed house. I will leave this house for you people, but all of you should mark my words, this is only the beginning.”

That was how my sister and her son followed me back to Kalakala Street that Sunday evening and by the time I was done helping them unpack and settle in, I had missed my date with Oputi.

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