Read Episode VIII (The previous episode)
Chief Rowland Edozie wasn’t his usual self. He hadn’t slept soundly for days and it was starting to affect his mood and productivity. He was impatient and inattentive at home and in the office, and he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in all that time either. His palate just couldn’t take in anything fried, boiled or baked. He did consume a lot of liquids though, but it was mostly because the alcohol helped with his anxiety and it stopped him from going completely crazy.
In two weeks, he’d turn fifty-four and it scared him. Ohita and the children were planning to shut down Yenagoa and that terrified him even more. Chief Edozie was certain that the impending celebration was the beginning of his end, but there was no way of stopping his family from going ahead with the lavish party they had planned to make the day special for themselves, and maybe for him too.
The first time he tried dissuading them, they almost renounced him as head of the family. His second, third, fourth and fifth attempts weren’t successful either. The last time he brought up the issue, all hell broke loose on the dining table and dinner was almost ruined.
Ohita said she was too far gone in the arrangements to pull the plug, and she wouldn’t know what to say to Chef Fregene who was handling the catering and his friend, Guy Murray-Bruce who was in charge of entertainment. The children said they had already posted the invitation on Instagram and Facebook, and that all the people invited couldn’t be uninvited especially after they had bought the aso ebi for the party and booked flights to Yenagoa.
Kendra, his last daughter, was the only one interested in knowing why he wasn’t enthusiastic about the party.
“You never used to be like this, dad. Why don’t you want a party?”
“Pumpkin, I just don’t think the timing is right. The date is too close to the elections and you know I have friends in both APC and PDP,” Chief Edozie explained to the only person in the room listening to him. “I’m careful not to send the wrong signal because the guest list may have more people from one party, and that could be misread to mean an endorsement of that side.”
“I made sure all the governorship aspirants and their running mates are invited,” Ohita quickly jumped in. Rowland Edozie didn’t realise his wife was even listening to his conversation with their 10-year-old daughter.
“You see what I mean? Then it’s no longer a birthday party but a campaign rally.”
“But none of the candidates would be speaking, I’ll make sure of that,” his wife assured him. “Apart from my speech and yours, and when the children come out to speak about what a great father you are, it would be performances from Basketmouth, Rema, Johnny Drille, Yemi Alade and Olamide all through the night.”
“Still, this compound would be filled with politicians and their thugs. Honestly, I don’t want them turning this house into a battleground. Ohita, if you ask me, I would say let’s scrap this party idea for now.”
“Chief, but you know why we want us to do this thing and do it big. If you’re not comfortable with us having the party here, we can move it somewhere else. Perhaps to the Royal Tulip Castle?” Ohita asked her husband. “That place has a really beautiful ambience.”
“Mum, there’s nothing wrong with us having it here,” his eldest child, Klarissa insisted. She was a twenty-one year old public health graduate and popular social media influencer. “We only need to beef up security and we’re all good. I mean, how do I go back on Insta and announce to my followers that we are changing venues at this eleventh hour? They’ll think we’re not even ready for the party.”
“Father, you’ve always celebrated our birthdays and yours in grand style. Why are you being this uncooperative all of a sudden?” his first son, Kennedy asked. He was nineteen and a replica of his father. Amongst their many similarities was a love for the good life. They loved women, cars and extreme sports, and whenever there was an argument in the family, they were almost always on the same side. The one thing they didn’t agree on was a career path for his heir. While Chief Edozie wanted his son to get a university degree from Princeton or Harvard, and then join Edozie Express, the boy opted to enrol in the Nigerian Defence Academy because he wanted to become an Air Force pilot.
“Yes daddy, why are you so against this party?” Kendra asked again.
“Because fifty-four isn’t a landmark birthday and so isn’t deserving of the carnival you guys are planning,” Edozie calmly responded to her question.
“That’s rich, coming from the man who has always thrown loud parties every time there’s a birthday in this family,” Kobi, his 6’3 seventeen-year-old basketball player and aspiring DJ son jumped into the argument for the first time. “Even Kendrik’s thirteenth birthday last month was a fiesta.”
“That was your mother’s idea, not mine,” Chief Edozie protested.
“I wish we could have invited Burnaboy or Davido instead of Olamide,” Kendrik voiced his displeasure at his mum’s choice of headline musical act for the big night.
“Me, I don’t know why Wizkid wouldn’t be on the list of singers,” Kobi said. “I’ve always wanted to meet him and get his autograph.”
“And why don’t we all start by wearing the red lace fabric and then our navy-blue outfits, before changing into the all-white formal English wear for our last look,” Klarissa changed the subject from music to fashion, which was her thing. “That’s when dad would be cutting the cake, and I bet you guys, the pictures with all of us dressed in white would really trend on Instagram.”
This was the point Chief Edozie decided he’d had enough. He left them arguing about whether or not to have a fourth clothe-change before the party ended.
Because he wanted to be left with his thoughts, he went into his study to drink and ruminate over the day he’d had.
Four years earlier, when he turned fifty, Ohita had planned a destination party in Madrid. It was a fun night of laughter, dancing and good food with two hundred of his closest friends and family members gathered to eulogise him. Although there was something tugging at his heart and cautioning him not to get carried away with all the merriment, he let himself forget the curse and pretend that his life wasn’t coming to a tragic end very soon.
With every birthday after that, the excitement died down just a notch. But there was no way he could stop the paid advertisements in the papers and tellies from business associates and friends celebrating an “Icon, Leader and Philanthropist” on his “Special Day.” He didn’t know how to tell everyone to stop and that he was tired of the parties and praise-singing because there was so much he was dealing with on the inside even though outwardly he smiled.
If he could turn back time, or make it standstill, he would. But only God had such powers. With each birthday, the end drew nearer and nearer, and finally it was upon him.
For many years, his money had settled hospital bills for acquaintances and strangers and saved so many lives he had lost count. But all that money couldn’t help him when he needed it the most because the clock was ticking fast against him. His wealth could afford him all the necessities and luxuries other people desired for life and happiness, but it couldn’t buy him time. He knew that to hope was to live in denial.
His grandfather died at fifty-four. His father died at fifty-four. His two elder brothers also died when they turned fifty-four. Chief Edozie was certain that if there was a register of births and deaths around the time of his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, it would have revealed that they too died at that age.
To prevent the impending doom, Ohita visited all the big pastors in the country for prayers and special offering. The consensus amongst the powerful men of God she consulted about her husband’s predicament was that he had been delivered of all ancestral curses and his family’s covenant with death. It cost them a lot of money in gifts of church buildings, residences and cars, but in the end it was all well worth it because God gave them the victory and the enchantments and divinations were broken. So Ohita told him and she believed them.
The sumptuous birthday party was their idea. It said to the gods of Arondizuogu that Chief Edozie had conquered death and that he was not afraid. It was a declaration to the evil spirits that he would live to be a hundred and that he would see his children’s children. Instead of gathering people to eat and drink at his funeral, he should rather gather them on his fifty-fourth birthday in celebration of his victory. The pastors were unanimous in their affirmation to his wife that the Blood of the Lamb had crushed the affliction for good. The weight of her giving had broken the yoke, and untimely death would not come near her husband or his sons ever again.
Ohita believed, but Chief Edozie wanted more assurances than the church could provide. That was why he agreed to meet with the juju priest from Iperu his elder sister, Adaiba, and her husband told him about.
Because of the quality of his work, the priest had a very busy calendar so it was almost impossible securing an appointment with him. Eventually, so much money and gifts exchanged hands and the busy native doctor freed his schedule and even accepted to travel from Iperu to Yenagoa on a chartered flight to meet face to face with his client, even though for decades he maintained a strict policy against leaving his house or travelling outside his village for work.
The juju priest was imposing in height. He had the darkest skin Rowland Edozie had seen on a black person. Though younger than he had expected, the tribal marks on his cheeks gave him the look of an ancient sculpture. The man looked slightly unkempt and dishevelled, like someone that had been drinking, but when he spoke, his English was impeccable. He had a mixed European and Ghanaian accent that was totally expected from someone whose Yoruba ethnicity was evident in his deportment and clothing.
Recalling the weird conversation they had that morning in the privacy of the bedroom of one of his guesthouses along Nikton Road made Chief Edozie grit his teeth in shame and utter disbelief at how low his desperate grasp for life had reduced him.
The medicine man didn’t mince words.
“I have seen everything.”
“And there is a solution.”
“Yes. But it will cost you.”
“Money is not a problem.”
“And you will have to do things.”
“Do things? Things like what?”
“I am a business man, I take shit from people all the time.”
“I don’t mean business shit, I mean real shit.”
“Like shit, shit?”
“Yes. You have to deep your fingers in the hot excreta of a deaf and dumb woman and lick it.”
“Is that all I need to do for this curse to be broken?”
“No. You also have to make love to a girl.”
“That one is easy. I do it all the time.”
“But the girl has to be a virgin.”
“A virgin? Interesting. I haven’t come across one in a long time, but I’m sure if I look hard enough, I can procure one. I will speak to my boys.”
“That is good.”
“But how do we ascertain that a girl has never had sex before? You know what this world has turned into. Even the so called born-again ones that spend their whole lives in church can’t be trusted.”
“I know. That is why we mustn’t take chances.”
“Maybe we would find in one of the nearby villages.”
“Those ones are even worse. The men in the village don’t let them rest at all.”
“Interesting. So what do we do?”
“We look for a very young girl.”
“Younger…ten, maybe even nine or eight. We don’t want to take chances because you have to do it once and it has to be done in front of me. And so I don’t forget, the girl must be an amputee. No hand or leg.”
“You will watch me make love to an amputee child?”
“I have to oversee every step of the cleansing. Do you have a problem with that?”
“I don’t think my objection will change anything. Is there any other thing?”
“We would need fresh blood. That is the final requirement.”
“Cow, goat or chicken?”
“Male or female.”
“Again, if that is what it takes to keep me alive beyond fifty-four, then I don’t have a choice. I will bring you fresh blood.”
“But not just any blood will do. It has to be blood from a special kind of person.”
“The blood of an albino?”
“Are you trying to teach me my job?”
“Sorry, baba. It is just that I read somewhere that the blood of albinos is good for – ”
“Money ritual. But you already have money. The blood we are looking for is the one that will keep you alive to enjoy the money until your old age.”
“In that case, what kind of blood are we talking about here?”
“The blood of a girl that has slept with her father.”
“Interesting. So I can pay someone to sleep with his daughter and then bring her blood to you for the ritual?”
“That will not be acceptable for the juju I have to perform to save your life. The blood must come from a girl that was raped by her father and you must embark on a journey to find her. You can’t use money to get that one. That is the only way the medicine I will do for you will work. The charm will lose its efficacy if you try to obtain it any other way.”
Chief Edozie opened another bottle of whisky and took a chug to calm his pulsating nerves.
He knew where to find a deaf and dump female. He could even get an amputee virgin kid for the right price, but where on earth would he find a girl that was defiled by her father?