Fiction

Chasing the Dream: A Short Story by Uche Nworah

As Emeka waited for Bus 107 at the Woolwich Crossway bus stop, his mobile phone rang; it was Donna, his Jamaican – born shift supervisor on the phone.

“Ee-meka, Where are you?” she barked at him in her usual bullish tone.

“Ee-meka, me no like this, ya understand me no like them people them a – come late to work.”

“Donna, take it easy, i will soon be there”, Emeka almost shouted back at her.

“Me no take nothin’ easy. Them trucks, them are waiting to be loaded, me no allow them people to mess with my shift, Ee-meka”. Donna continued.

“I’m almost there Donna, my bus came late”. Emeka answered back.

“What ya mean them bus them come late, when you gonna be here Ee-meka?

“I’m only 5 minutes away Donna”. Emeka lied to her.

“If ya don’t come here immediately, me goin’ to sack you Ee-meka”, Donna warned him finally. 

By now Emeka was pissed off with Donna. He was irritated at the way she pronounces his name, and how she spoke to him as if he was her dog at home. Donna had been like that ever since he started working at the warehouse, she loathed Emeka and other Africans whom she describes as ‘Them lazy Africans’.

 “Stupid Jamaican bitch”, Emeka muttered to himself the moment Donna got off the phone.

“I don’t really blame you”, Emeka carried on talking to himself. “If not for my stupidity, would you have seen me in your fucking country, nor at your bloody warehouse to talk to me like that?”
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The year 2005 was a terrible year in Ada Elechi’s life. She lost her job with Hallmark Bank in Lagos, alongside many others. They were the victims of the bank re-structuring and consolidation exercise introduced by Charles Soludo, the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank. Ada had thought that she could be re-absorbed by the emerging stronger banks but things hadn’t quite gone as she hoped. 

She had attended several interviews but kept being turned away because she had graduated from Abia State University (ABSU), a state university in South Eastern Nigeria. Ada wondered why the new banks were discriminating against graduates of state universities.

During one of the interviews at Zenith Bank, she had lost her usual cool and calculated countenance, and had not wasted words in telling the interview panel what she thought of their new recruitment policy. 

“This is really unfair; it is not as if the quality of education we received at the state universities is inferior to that provided by the federal universities.” Ada had told the panel.

“You guys should open your eyes, all Nigerian universities are in the same shit”, Ada said as she stormed off. She had had enough, this interview held at Zenith Bank’s Head Office building in the Victoria Island area of Lagos was the fifth she was attending that week and her patience had gradually worn thin.   

Although Ada needed a job, things hadn’t quite gotten so desperate yet for her; she has some money left in her savings which she could live on for a while. She also has her Honda Accord saloon car which she bought while working with Hallmark bank. The car was still in pretty good shape and could take her around still. Although kids in her neighbourhood have now taken to calling the car pure water, she found it amusing because they had started out by calling the car Honda Hala when she bough the car initially. Perhaps the kids were trying to tell her that it was time to buy a new car, since the model she owned is as common in Lagos as pure water, water sold in sachets all over Lagos. Ada also knew that if all failed, she could always go back to her parents in Abuja, but she wanted to make it on her own, and wasn’t yet ready to pursue that angle yet.

Ada was also happy that she had paid a 3 year rent for her 2-bedroom apartment in Festac town – Lagos from the upfront payment she received from Hallmark bank. It is traditional for Lagos landlords to demand 3 years rent in advance. At the time, Ada had groaned and complained but in retrospect, it wasn’t such a bad idea after all she thought. At least, she has a roof over her head; things could have been a lot worse for a single unemployed girl like her in Lagos, as she would have been an easy prey for Lagos randy men.

Just when Ada thought that things couldn’t get any worse, she received the heart breaking news that her parents had been killed in a car accident along the Abuja-Lokoja expressway. Their vehicle had collided with an oncoming luxury bus belonging to The Young Shall Grow Motors Ltd while travelling to the village to attend to some village matters. The police report of the accident which was sent to Ada months after the accident occurred had claimed that the luxury bus driver had swerved on to the on-coming vehicle side of the road, in an attempt to avoid a deep gash in the middle of the road. The driver of the luxury bus was on top speed and couldn’t complete the manoeuvre on time, and dragged Ada’s parents’ Peugeot 604 saloon car backwards, crushing both the car and its inhabitants. Chief John Elechi, his wife Mrs Ifeoma Elechi and their driver of over 15 fifteen years (Ignatius) all died at the scene of the accident.

As the only child, Ada found herself suddenly all alone. Taking care of the estate of her late parents turned out to be a harrowing experience, made more difficult by the evil men in Umueze, her father’s village. During the burial ceremony, some of them wondered aloud why she was not in the car with her parents on the day of the accident. They wished she had died with them so that they would take over her parents’ estate. 

Ada despised the Igbo culture for being cruel to women. She had heard about discrimination against widows in the past, but she never believed that such could also be meted out to surviving female daughters. Her parents had shielded her from such realities and negative aspects of the Igbo culture while they were alive, but now she was facing these issues all by herself. Ada hoped that one day; she would be in a position to set up a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which would campaign vigorously for the rights of widows and other such victims of tradition in the Nigerian society.

When she was younger, Ada remembers her mother telling her never to feel inadequate because she was female, and the only child at that. Her father, Chief Elechi, had also resisted several pressures from relatives asking that he re-marry, in order to have a male child who would carry on his lineage.

“Ada is the will of God, she will play the role of a male and female child in my family”, Chief Elechi had often told his relatives whenever they raised the subject. 

But now, with her loving parents gone, Ada wondered what her fate would be. On several occasions, she thought about taking her own life but somehow, she found herself trusting in God’s promise that He would take care of those who trust and believe in Him.

Ada had expected Emeka Nwosu, her long term boyfriend to be at her parents’ burial to support her emotionally but he wasn’t. Emeka claimed that he couldn’t get permission from work to attend, but Ada had her own theory. She felt that Emeka was securely in the iron claws of Amaka Okolo, his colleague from the Nigerian Law School. Ada had always suspected that Emeka was having an affair with Amaka; the first daughter of the Minister for Education, but Emeka denied it when Ada confronted him. But still, her womanly instincts told her otherwise.

Ada and Emeka had their issues just like other couples; she wanted reassurance from Emeka that she would be his future wife. This was normal because she couldn’t see what else a woman her age would be thinking about at this stage in her life, especially in Nigeria. Emeka would remind her whenever the issue came up, that 30 years was still a young age, and that she should take things easy. Ada would have but she didn’t trust Nigerian men that well to buy their promises on the face value. Her friends in the office daily narrated their tales of woe at the hands of Nigerian men, and she didn’t want to be a victim.

Ada had expected that the tragedy of her parents’ death would at least bring them closer, but Emeka choosing to stay away from the burial confirmed to Ada that she no longer featured so much in his plans. Ada steeled her heart and vowed to be strong, not only for herself but for her late parents.
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Emeka secretly proposed to Amaka and subsequently left his job at GTBank to join Amaka in the United Kingdom.

When Emeka arrived newly into the United Kingdom, he lived in a one – bedroom flat on Edgware road with Amaka, who was finishing off her MBA at City University. Amaka had convinced Emeka to abandon his bank job in Lagos and relocate to London with her. Things had worked according to plan as Amaka had used her father’s connections, though without Chief Rufus Okolo’s direct involvement to procure visa and travel tickets for Emeka.

But unknown to Emeka and Amaka, Chief Okolo was aware of everything that had been going on between them. The information had come to him through the State Security Service (SSS) operatives attached to his office.

Emeka couldn’t believe his misfortune the day Amaka told him that Chief Okolo had given her an ultimatum; it was either she ended their relationship or Amaka risked being disowned by her family. Chief Okolo had investigated Emeka’s background and found out that he was an Osu (outcast), and his tradition forbade his daughter marrying an Osu.

———————————————–

The Nigerian general elections had seen the emergence of different types of candidates. While members of the old guard still featured prominently, there were still some new kids on the block who appeared to have good ideas that would move the society forward.

It was at a church Sunday service at House on the Rock (HOTR), Ada’s local church in Lagos that she met Dr. John Agbasi. Dr. Agbasi was also a member of the church but was now campaigning for the governorship seat in Aba state. He had just finished speaking to the church congregation on his reasons for going into politics, what his agenda are and how Christians could help in the process of changing the Nigerian society for the better.

During his speech, Dr. Agbasi had also shared with the congregation his pain at the loss of his wife (Martha) to breast cancer. 

“My beloved brothers and sisters”, Dr Agbasi called out at the congregation. 

 “We have our beautiful daughter Manuela; she is two years old, but my only regret is that Martha is not standing with me at the podium today to share our unique vision for Nigeria and Aba state with you”. Dr Agbasi told them in a pained voice.

Although she was still consumed by the anguish of what she suffered at the hands of her father’s people, Ada felt shy to say anything during the Questions and Answers session but  suddenly, she summoned enough courage and asked Dr Agbasi if he had it in his plans to address the plight of widows and people like her if he got elected. Ada then narrated her story publicly for the first time.

Ada didn’t finishing telling her story before breaking down into tears. For a few seconds, everywhere remained silent; people present in the auditorium could feel the depth of her hurt and pain.

Ada and Dr. Agbasi got introduced formerly after the church service. When Dr. Agbasi found out that Ada was out of job, he instantly hired her and offered her a position in the strategy unit of his campaign team. Though a voluntary role, Dr Agbasi promised to take care of Ada’s daily expenses in the course of carrying out any duties assigned to her. For lack of any other appealing options, Ada wholeheartedly accepted.

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Dr. John Agbasi secured a landslide victory as the first executive governor of the newly created Aba state. One of his major acts within the traditional ‘First 100 Days in Office’ was to marry Ada in an event witnessed by the high and mighty in Nigeria including the president of Nigeria. 

Ada subsequently became the first lady of Aba state and pursued her Widows In Nigeria (W.I.N.) pet project with vigour. She attracted local and international media attention everywhere she went.

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As Emeka leafed through a copy of the Metro newspaper which he picked up inside Bus 107, he froze as he came to page 10; staring him in the face was a picture of Ada and Dr. John Agbasi, flanked by the British Prime Minister and his wife. They were on the entourage of the Nigerian President on a state visit to the United Kingdom. There was also mention of a proposed audience with the Queen of England in the news story, where Ada will brief the Queen on the activities of her W.I.N. initiative.
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Only if he had been patient and listened to his heart, Emeka told himself. Ada was the love of his life but Amaka had offered him the hope of a better life and higher status in the society.

Emeka was still cursing Amaka, who has since gone back to Nigeria to pick up an appointment with Chevron. Emeka believed that Amaka was responsible for his pathetic immigrant life in London; he couldn’t go back to Nigeria because he had no job waiting for him there. Even his life in London appeared cursed as well, without a resident permit; he was condemned to low – life jobs like other immigrants like him. As he cursed Amaka and his lot in life further, he vowed revenge against Amaka.

When the bus pulled up in front of the bus stop, opposite Asda warehouse in Leyton, Emeka alighted and sprinted into the Asda compound. As he swiped his card to be clocked in for the days shift, Donna was waiting and followed him into the warehouse still swearing and cursing.

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