Rain scrolled hastily through the pictures in the photo gallery of her phone. She was looking for pictures she had of Mr. Wakama from their trip to Dubai, because they would be the most recent ones she had of him. After a brief search, she found one of him alone having breakfast in the restaurant of the hotel they lodged in. His light skin and charming smile radiated through the picture, and it made her head spin. She couldn’t believe that the handsome and kind CFO of Edozie Express, the man she called boss and who time and time again had proven to her that he had her back, could be her father.
“Mother, have you seen the picture? I just sent it to your phone.” Rain was filled with mixed emotions. A part of her wanted him to be her father so that the questions that had tugged at her heart since the day her mother told her that the man she called father all her life wasn’t really her father would finally be answered. Still, the rest of her didn’t want her mother to look at the picture she sent and say she had found her daughter’s father. Rain was terrified of that outcome and what it portends for her. Because if it turned out Mr. Waks was her biological father, then he was the monster that raped her mother when she was still a vulnerable young girl and then faked his own death with the connivance of his uncle to avoid the responsibility of being a father. He was still the same man stealing Padrino blind and acting like a saint when in reality he couldn’t be trusted.
“Mother, why are you taking so much time?” Rain blurted out in frustration. “Or do you need me to send another picture?”
“There’s nothing wrong with the picture,” her mother responded calmly. “It is clear enough. I am still studying it.”
“Mother, it’s just a picture and not a bible verse. Just look at it and tell me if it’s the same person from your past. Is it him?”
“The eyes and nose, they look like it could him, but I can’t be so sure. You know it has been so many years and he was very slim then. He didn’t have all these facial hair this person has and he didn’t have money to look fresh like this man in this picture I am looking at.”
“Mother, people don’t change that much from childhood to adulthood. If it is the same person – then he was already in his twenties when you met him, I doubt that his face would undergo any radical transformation that would make him unrecognisable if you saw him at the airport or in church. Look again, Mother; is it him?”
“Is this man’s name Don?”
“Yes, mother. Donald Wakama.”
“The Don I know is dead. He died even before you were born.”
“Mother, just look at the picture and tell me if you see any similarities. Can you do that, Mother?”
“Rain, I don’t think it is the same person. I see some resemblance, but maybe it’s my eyes forcing me to see what they want me to see.”
Rain paused to think for a while. “You know what I think, Mother? I think you should come to Yenagoa. I’ll arrange for you to meet with this Mr. Wakama face to face – ”
“Or you could just ask him if he spent a holiday in – ”
“Mother, can you do this one thing for me, please? I know why I want you to personally identify him. After all these years, I can’t afford for us to speculate.”
“But you know my condition. My health is failing and I can’t travel.”
“Moroyei can bring you on Monday or Tuesday. You can rest for a day in my house or in a hotel and leave the next day.”
“No. If I must come to Yenagoa, then I have to come with your father…my husband. He has been wanting to see you.”
“I’ve told you I don’t want to see him.”
“He wants to apologise to you in person,” Mrs. Tamuno sighed. “Your father wronged you. He knows it and I know it too. What good would holding on to a life-long grudge do for you? You’d only be hurting yourself more if you choose not to forgive. Talk to him. Please for my sake, hear him out and let us put the past behind us.”
“But he isn’t sorry,” Rain lamented. “He hasn’t even admitted that he raped me.”
“I confronted him after your last visit and he opened up to me. He told me the truth and I saw a broken man. Rain, your father is seeking redemption and he can only get it from you.”
“If it is redemption he is looking for, let him go and find it in the church.”
“We want to see you, Rain. I too want to meet this boy that is asking you to marry him. I need to be sure he is financially stable and can support you and your children when they begin to come. Or are you pregnant already?”
“Mother! I’m not pregnant!”
“If you say you’re not, I believe you. We are your parents and it is our responsibility to ensure you end up with a good man that loves you genuinely. But we would be failing in our duty if we don’t ascertain that both of you are looking at tying the knot for the right reasons.”
“Bring Moroyei along whenever you decide to come to Yenagoa. I’d like to see my brother again. But give me time to think about father visiting me here.”
“Your father wants to do the right thing and he doesn’t have that much time. You remember the NDDC appointment he has been lobbying for all these years?” Mrs. Tamuno asked. “He might finally get it this month when the new board is announced. That is why he wants to talk to you so that you don’t go and mention it in the wrong place and to the wrong people and it then becomes an issue during his confirmation before the senate.”
“So the redemption he seeks is for himself?” Rain couldn’t hide her disgust and disappointment. “Tell him he has nothing to fear. I only told one person, my best friend Annabel and I know she would never tell anyone. I trust her with my life.”
“Okay. So we’d see you in Yenagoa on Thursday or Friday. Your father has a meeting in Abuja with the Minister in charge of the Niger Delta, but he should be back in Port Harcourt on Thursday.”
Chief Rowland Edozie’s mind kept going back to his last conversation many years ago with Nedu Anele, about the ownership of Edozie Express. They were in the lounge of the Presidential Suite of Sheraton Hotel Abuja that cold December morning when he had insisted, in spite of entreaties from a very angry and disappointed Nedu, that the company was his. That day, he was willing to concede ten percent of all profits made after tax and other deductibles to his one-time business partner and best friend, but Nedu wanted more. He had insisted on a forty percent stake in the company because the initial capital and connections that resulted in the birth of the company came from him and his uncle, but a hot-headed and much younger Rowland Edozie wouldn’t have any of it.
Years later, however, as the possibility of his imminent demise drew closer, the business mogul saw things differently. What was uppermost in his mind as he approached fifty-five was not the immense fortune he amassed over the years. He didn’t care about money, but he cared about his legacy and the future of his company.
If indeed it was his fate to join the ancestors of Arondizuogu in what could be months or even days, he had no idea what would become of the empire he worked so hard to build and sacrificed to stay relevant and profitable for over twenty years.
Seeing Nedu again at the party did something to his conscience. For two days and nights in a row, his mind kept troubling him to make amends with his old friend. Chief Edozie wanted desperately to right the wrongs of the past.
Even though he had a will drawn up when he turned forty-five, he put off crafting a succession plan for Edozie Express, because that would have meant admitting that he was going to die, when he wanted so much to live and drive his company from the list of hundred, into the exclusive class of the fifty most profitable indigenous companies in Nigeria.
Tried as much as he did, over the years, he just couldn’t see anyone else at the helm of affairs at EE. No one could run the company as he did, and he was beginning to have doubts about the trustworthiness of his CFO, Donald Wakama. Chief Rowland Edozie hadn’t groomed a successor because he was too busy chasing contracts and growing his balance sheet. And now that he knew that all the money in the world couldn’t save him, and his mortality starred coldly at him in the face like a broken mirror, he must begin his search for a new chairman and chief executive for his conglomerate.
His personal will and testament had settled Ohita and the children financially, but it didn’t answer the question of who would replace him on the board of his companies. Chief Edozie didn’t have a contingency plan for their management if the juju Baba Iperu was preparing for him didn’t work, and this troubled him.
As with the days of its little beginnings, it was his responsibility to curate the flourishing of an organisation he fed with his life’s blood and sweat, in the event the curse claimed his life before his next birthday. He had thought long and hard about his choices in the past few days, but he couldn’t think of anything. His family would be fine, but the company would die because he couldn’t entrust the burden of keeping it alive on his ill-prepared and unwilling wife and grown-up children.
What he hadn’t considered before the party was selling off Edozie Express and its subsidiaries, but with someone like Nedu back in the picture that could be an option worth considering. Nedu would love the company like his own, because he was there from the scratch. And if his offer of divesting his shares in EE were something Nedu would consider, then money wouldn’t be the problem. Chief Edozie would accept whatever offer Ambassador Nedu Anele made for the company, as long as it came with an inbuilt mechanism to fund his children’s education and sustain the lifestyle they had grown accustomed to for as long as they lived. He was confident that if he could bring Nedu to the table, they would work something out because in the end, it wouldn’t be about money but about restitution.
“Rowland, why are you hiding here in the study when all of us are in the parlour watching the video clips from your birthday party?” Adaiba entered her brother’s office without knocking.
Chief Edozie got up to meet her and they walked to the lounge together. “You people are still on this party matter?” he asked jokingly. “Me, I don’t have time to look at any video. I have some files to go over ahead of board meeting on Monday.”
“My brother, you work too hard. Please you know you have to take things easy; let us not give the devil victory over us because of our own carelessness. Remember what the pastors said at the party? By the grace of God, the yoke is broken, but you have to slow things down until we cross this hurdle.”
“I have heard you, Adaiba.”
“Anyway, Ohita has done well. God sent that woman to you for such a time as this.”
“Amen oh!” Chief Edozie prayerfully concurred.
“With everything settled here, I have to go back to Enugu tomorrow.”
“Why? You don’t have to go back so soon. I thought you would stay with us for a few days. I know Ohita would want to arrange some dry fish and plantain for you to take back with you to Enugu.”
“My brother, you and your family have done enough for us. I can’t stay beyond tomorrow. You know Ezinne has to go back to school.” Ezinne was the twelve-year-old daughter she had when she was in her mid-forties and had given up on having any children after so many years of marriage.
At the mention of his little niece, Ezinne, a light bulb flashed in Chief Edozie’s head. Ezinne was twelve and undefiled. That much he could vouch for because of the hawkish way her mother watched over her only child.
If he could convince his elder sister to stay for a few more days in Yenagoa, he could set things up so he and the child were alone together in a part of the mansion no one would see them. If he succeeded, and he didn’t see any reason he wouldn’t if he drugged her, then he would have fulfilled Baba Iperu’s second condition and he would be left with just one more.
Chief Edozie smiled wily. Baba Iperu’s impossible conditions didn’t seem so difficult at all. Indeed, the gods of Arondizuogu wanted him to live longer than his father.
He had done the excreta task without anyone suspecting why he took the faeces sample from those physically challenged girls. He would deflower his niece, Ezinne, and pin it on one of the male servants in the mansion. The biggest hurdle would be finding a girl that was raped by her father, but Chief Edozie didn’t let that bother him. For some reason he couldn’t fathom, he felt lucky already.