With the reality of a ruined outfit staring him in the face, Shata Anele had no other option but to go in search of a solution in his unpacked suitcases. He was torn between a navy-blue crested blazer over white long sleeve shirt and a pair of black trousers for the Ivy League look he preferred for work, or the white Swiss-lace kaftan chosen by his sisters during their grandmother’s burial six months earlier for the classy “Otedola” look.
In the end, he decided to go with the native attire. He figured most people in the church service and at the reception afterwards would be dressed in traditional outfits as well so he’d fit in. The people from Edozie Express might be unhappy with his choice but it was the best he could do.
When Elder Iniebong saw him in the white kaftan, he bowed his head and apologised for the embarrassment caused by his tailor and church brother. Shata signalled to him with his hands that he was over the incident but his driver must have mistaken the gesture for something else so he kept on talking.
“The guy can sew for Atlanta and Georgia, I tell you.”
“If you say so,” a defeated Shata muttered under his breath.
“I no just sabi wetin enter him head,” Iniebong continued. “Na so this Bayelsa boys dey take spoil their luck. After now dem go say na person for village stone dem otumokpo. Oga abeg make you no vex.”
“No need to apologise, it isn’t your fault. You aren’t the one that sewed the outfit. Thank God I came with a few natives, I would have felt very uncomfortable in a suit and tie.”
“Ah Oga, this one when you wear so, e gum your body die. I swear, if not to say how you take tall and yellow small like oyibo, I for tink say you be dat governor for my state dat year.”
“Donald Duke. Oga, make you no vex oh, abi you and the man una relate small?”
“No, I’m not related to Donald Duke.”
“You no be him cousin-brother?”
“No, I’m not his cousin or brother.”
“But you don meet am before?”
“No, we’ve never met.”
“Na the question everybody for office dey ask me since you start to work with us be dat. Dem dey ask me weda na the same mama and papa born una or weda una come from the same village.”
Not wanting to hear one more reference to his obvious resemblance to the former Cross River state governor from Elder Iniebong, because he got that a lot from people wherever he went, Shata changed the subject.
“So, this place we are going for the burial, how far away is it from Yenagoa?”
“It is far, but not too far. Let me just say like two or three hours because e no dey Bayelsa and you know how our roads dey very bad for this country.”
“Abuja roads are good,” Shata retorted. He wanted to say more but he remembered the first time he complained about the roads in Yenagoa. It was a mistake. Iniebong went on a rant about the failure of governments not just in Bayelsa, but in the entire country. If he hadn’t told him to turn on the volume of the radio so he could listen to the news, the man wouldn’t have stopped talking. To save himself from a similar tirade, he quickly changed the subject again.
“Did you say we’d be going outside Bayelsa?”
“Yes sir. The place we dey go dey for Okrika and Okrika dey for Rivers state. It is not inside Bayelsa at all.”
Shata got into the back seat of the car and immediately brought out his phone and tablet, signalling to Elder Iniebong that he was done with the small talk. To drive home the point that he was done listening to him, he put on his Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, connected his airpods and kept a straight face.
After going through his work and personal emails and responding to a number of text messages, Shata rang his father’s phone. He had noticed earlier while trying to decide what to wear that his old man, Ambassaor Nebu Anele had tried to reach him.
At the time he had been too disoriented to take the call and, afterwards, it completely skipped his mind, so he hastened to make amends.
“Hey Pops, so sorry I missed your call.” From the other end, his father whispered to him that he was in a meeting and would return his call as soon as he was done. “No worries, Pops. I just wanted you to know that I am doing okay and that Chief Edozie has been really nice to me since I got here.”
His father’s response was an inaudible grunt, but Shata clearly made out the part where he reminded him to stay focused and not to forget the plan. “Make sure everything goes on according to plan. I have to go now but we will speak later in the day when I’m resting.”
Shata heard the click on the other end and knew that his conversation with his father was over. The unexpected reminder about the plan sent his heart pulsating really hard and he didn’t realise he had yelled at Elder Iniebong to cut down on his speed until he played back his own words in his head. They were harsh and condescending but he couldn’t take them back or apologise to his driver so he didn’t appear weak.
Instead of worrying about his driver’s feelings, Shata chose to cogitate on the plan. The more he thought about it, the more he questioned his ability to execute it within the timeframe given to him by the wily diplomat.
It was a simple enough plan and Shata was confident he could pull it off without enlisting the help of anyone in the company although something told him he could have an ally in the young lady called Rain. As CFO of Edozie Express, he had access to pretty much any document or file he wanted but he just didn’t want to start snooping around too soon. It might look suspicious.
He wasn’t certain when would be the appropriate time to begin to probe and look for the evidence his father wanted. One thing was sure though, he knew he would figure it out. But as the car sped along the smoother potions of the East-West Road and they got closer to the place where the late Mr. Wakama would be buried, all he could think about was fitting in with the crowd.
Shata Anele was what could be described in local Nigerian parlance as quarter-caste. He was three parts Nigerian and a quarter German. His father, Ambassador Nebu Anele, had him at the age of eighteen. Nebu was in his last year in secondary school when he got his classmate and girlfriend, Sofie, pregnant.
Sofie was half-caste. Her father was a German Julius Berger employee and her mother was a local from Lagos State. The builder met the prostitute while working as a forklift operator with the team that constructed one of the major bridges in Lagos in the 60s. The two met in a nightclub and became lovers after their first night together. When their daughter was born, he rented an apartment for his mistress in Apapa, and made her a promise to take her with him to his country when his job in Nigeria was done.
When Christmas came that year, he told her he was traveling to Braunschweig to tell his parents about her and their daughter. While there, he would pay for a house and a car and even get her a small shop so she could start a business selling groceries while she went back to school for a diploma in secretarial studies. That was the last she saw or heard from her German bricklayer turned building equipment operator. The rumour in her neighbourhood was that he had a wife and children back in his country and she was just a coping mechanism.
Abandoned by the man who promised her heaven on earth, she went back to work in the nightclub so she could take care of her daughter. This time though she got a job as a backup singer and dancer in the club’s in-house band, a reggae group called Bobby Big Thing and the Wailers. Her days as a hustler was over and before long she moved in with the leader of the group, Bobby “BBT” Big Thing. They never got married officially but they had two children together.
When Sofie became pregnant for Nebu at seventeen her mother and step-father were disappointed in her. They thought she was raised better. They feared having a baby before she was through with secondary school would truncate the good plans they had for their children and they weren’t happy with that.
After the birth of the baby, Sofie was sent to live with her cousin in Benin while her mother nursed the child. The plan was for their daughter to continue her education there, but Sofie never went back to school. Instead, like her mother when she was her age, she went into prostitution. Sadly, two years later Sofie died in the brothel she worked and lived in. Her death was as a result of injuries she sustained during a fight with her cousin over a rich customer that preferred the ‘oyibo’ girl to her dark-skinned cousin.
BBT named his step-grandson Shatabendi. The name was the title of the only hit song in his 1976 reggae dancehall album of the same title. It was the only album he released in his lifetime. BBT’s promising musical career came to an abrupt end two years later when he fell off the stage during a life performance in Ibadan.
The fall mysteriously affected his vocal cords and movement and BBT never sang professionally again. For years he was only seen in small bars and clubs and his fans speculated that the fall wasn’t ordinary. They swore that it was a spiritual bullet from his biggest rival at the time, Jahbless Maveric, whose own career experienced a meteoric rise after BBT’s fall.
When Shatabendi was five, his maternal grandmother died. Nebu’s parents were forced to take him away from his step-grandfather who was a known heavy drinker and drug addict, a condition that worsened after he lost his partner of many years.
The elderly Anele’s took the young boy back with them to their home in Enugu and brought him up as one of their own children.
Grandma Anele didn’t like the whole Shatabendi business, but because the boy was already used to the name and they didn’t want to appear insensitive to his predicament they didn’t change his name. Instead she shortened the name to Shata and he had been Shata ever since.