Ogbeni Lasisi licked his fingers, washed his hand in the yellow bowl beside the empty plates, drank from the cup of water on the table, and belched.
“You must think I eat too much.” He said with a sneer.
“No sir. If I were in your shoes the plates would be empty in less than three minutes. The aroma says the food would be quite delicious.”
He smiled; the amused smile of a curious man. “You like pounded yam?”
“Sir, I love it.”
He wiped his hands with the blue napkin his wife brought to him. He frowned as if some bad memory had just flashed through his mind.
“You said you met my daughter in shursh?”
“Yes sir, we work together in the ushering unit. I’m the unit head, she is one of the members under me.” I cleared my throat, “We started as friends but it blossomed along the line.”
“Horshearing unit? What is that?”
“We welcome people to church and make sure they are well settled.”
Ogbeni belched again. “Well, what is the relevance of that in shursh? Shursh is meant to be an informal solemn religious gathering. What is this nonsense of horshas making people well settled?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just glanced at his picture on the wall: He was beside two smiling generals – looking straight ahead – as they fix epaulettes on his uniform. I knew the generals; one with dark sunshades, and the gap-toothed one. I said a quick prayer, but the next question suddenly got my heart beating hard; for the tone and the look he gave me. I was not expecting it.
“You said you are a unit head and she is one of the members working under you. Hope you are not sleeping with my daughter o.”
“No sir. Not at all.”
“You are speaking as if it is an impossibility.”
“I am a Christian sir.” I said, wiping the sweat that seemed to suddenly appear above my lips.
Ogbeni Lasisi rubbed his chin. “Most dodgy people in this country claim to be Christians isn’t it? They don’t miss camp every month.”
“The good Lord says by their fruits we shall know them.”
“Right. You are right. But you are here, asking for my daughter’s hand in marriage. I can’t know your fruits now, can I? I mean, not within this short time. Isn’t it possible that you are here pretending to be a saint even though you’ve been doing things to my daughter in every position.”
I felt some moisture in my armpit, I was hoping Bolade would come in, so I could tell her to switch on the fan. Something about the man made me feel I had no right to ask anyone in the house other than the one I know to switch it on.
“What did you call your name again?”
“Are you not the guy with OSRC? I mean Sunshine FM.”
“That one is Dayo Johnson sir.”
“But…Your face looks familiar. I can’t remember where I’ve seen the face but I’m sure it will come to me before you leave here. I’m very good with recalling faces. Military advantages, you know?”
“What has my daughter told you about me?”
“Not much. I know you are a disciplinarian; I can see a lot of that in Bolade. She is never late to church, she is very hardworking, very focussed, very confident.”
Ogbeni nodded, intense eyes on me; there was something about the man that made me worry about his thoughts. This was not just about desperately hoping he would approve my relationship with Bolade. It was beyond that. “Hmmm. And you are quite eloquent. I give you that. You have such a sweet mouth. I understand why my daughter would want to be with you.”
“Sorry sir. I was just answering your question.”
“No, no. Nothing to be sorry about. I mean, I was the one who asked a question.”
Bolade walked in with a shy smile and sat beside her father.
“So,” Ogbeni continued. “Have you got your call from the lord? Are planning to start a shursh?”
“No sir. I love sports administration. Sports administration and sports management. I am a player agent; currently four players in the Super Eagles are in my books.”
“Wonderful. Wonderful!” he repeated in quick succession and glanced from my face to Bolade’s face. “Because if you didn’t tell me that, I would think you would one day put your sweet mouth to good use by starting a Sunday Sunday gathering with a fancy name, preaching all through the year about the curse that would come upon people who don’t tithe and the outlandish magical blessings of tithers. That sort of thing sells, you know?”
I wiped the sweat on my forehead with the back of my hand; Bolade stood up to switch on the fan. I wanted to say something that would change the pouty frown on my Babe’s face.
“Bolade told me you were in Liberia during their civil war.”
“Yes,” he nodded and adjusted himself on the seat as if he would soon fill me in on the dead bodies and the crazy children with guns and the naked fighters. “Yes, that is true.”
Mrs Lasisi walked in too and sat beside her husband; at this point Ogbeni was between two women. Bolade looked more like her father; I could see where she got the nose, the fat lips, the oval shaped head. She took the almond eyes of her Mum and her light complexion.
“Tayo, your food is on the table.” Mrs Lasisi said.
“Eshe Ma. Eku itoju wa Ma”
Mrs Lasisi turned to her husband. “Ogbeni let him eat before his food gets cold.”
“No, wait a bit.” He said with a nasty smile. “We will soon be done here. No need to rush. Abi Tayo, are you in a hurry?”
Bolade took the remote from the stool beside her and switched on the TV; on AIT a bespectacled man in white agbada and black cap was shouting “Who will you vote for on Saturday?” And a crowd got their brooms up. Bolade pressed the remote urgently to bring the volume down before she changed the channel.
Ogbeni Lasisi squinted. “Now I remember you. Are you sure you don’t remember me?”
I considered the face, because it was expected of me.
Three months ago, after one of my clients got a good deal in China, I wanted to use the ATM. I needed to send some money to my Mum, I wanted to do a data recharge for my younger sister and I needed to get some cash for myself.
It was one of those times when it would seem as if the whole city wanted to get money from the ATMs. Queue, queue, queue……impatience, frowns, insults, queue….
Almost all ATMs in the Alagbaka axis got crowds waiting, even the ones in Ijapo; I had to go to the mall. Even there I was not able to transfer money. If you stay too long in front of the ATM the folks behind you will throw insults at you in subtle ways, in creative ways: What is he doing? Is he taking all the money in the machine? Does he know how to use it or is he ode? He has been there for the past ten minutes, see his coconut head.
Soon I was speeding towards Ijapo for a Skype meeting when this animal almost got me off the road. I was driving on a straight road and the animal probably just got fuel from the roadside petrol station; it was a three-lane road for God sakes. The idiot would have simply waited for me to go before rushing to the road. On that broad road the nitwit could still go on without almost blocking my way.
I had to drive like a stuntman, my tyre screeched, and got dust and smoke in the air. I had to let the man hear what I got on my mind: nitwit! Idiot! Animal! See his mouth like goat!
The man’s face finally rang a bell in my memory. I wondered – as Ogbeni Lasisi spoke of that day with an enthusiastic smile – if he would indeed give me her daughter’s hand in marriage.
Photo Credit: Mujib Waziri | Dreamstime