Kokumo went back to school a week later. Immediately he arrived campus, he sat down to write a letter to Ajoke. He informed her that he had arrived school safely and that he missed her already. He told her he couldn’t wait to complete his education so that they could be together forever.
Ajoke smiled when she received Kokumo’s letter. She placed the letter on her chest and day dreamed about her marriage to Kokumo. She was still lost in thought and did not realize when her mother walked into the room.
“Ah ah, kí ló n se ìwö ömö yìí? O jòkó sí ibí bayìí, tó yë ko wá bámi dá iná.” (What is wrong with you, this child? You sit down here when you should be helping me prepare food.)
Ajoke was startled when she heard her mother and quickly put the letter under her pillow.
“Kíni ìwé to tójú sí abé ibusùn ë?” (Which paper did you just keep under your pillow?) Iya Ajoke asked.
“Kò sí mà.” (Nothing ma). Ajoke replied looking scared.
“Sé ìdáhùn sí ìbéèrè mi nì yën?” (Is that the answer to my question?)
“Rárá mà.” (No ma). “Ìwé…ehn…ìwé yën.” (Paper….the paper). Ajoke stuttered as she looked at her pillow and looked back at her mother.
“S’ó ò lè dáhùn ni?” (Can’t you answer?) Iya Ajoke shouted.
“Ìwé tí wón fi ránsé sí mi láti ilé ìwé gíga ni.” (I was sent the letter from the University).
“Ilé ìwé gíga? Sé bàbá ë o sò fún ë pé kò s’ówó láti rán ë lö sí ilé ìwé gíga ni? (The university? Has your father not told you that there are no funds to send you to the University?)
“Wön ti so fún mi, mà.” (He has told me, ma). Ajoke said looking at her feet.
“Kí lo n wá da ara ë láàmú fún?” (So why are you disturbing yourself?)
“Mi ò ní rò ó mó.” (I won’t think about it again). Ajoke replied as she stood up.
Her mother pulled her close and hugged her. “Ilé ökö ló yë kí o ma rò ní ìsìnyín. To bá ti lo sí ilé ôkö ë, o ma gbàgbé nípa ilé ìwé.” (You should be thinking about getting married. Once you get married, you will forget about schooling.)
“Mo ti gbó Màámi.” (I have heard, my mother).
That night, as Iya Ajoke and her husband were about to retire to their tattered mattress, she mentioned the discussion between her daughter and herself to Baba Ajoke. She told Baba Ajoke that she was beginning to see reasons with him as regards giving their daughter out in marriage. She told her husband that even if Ajoke was interested in going to the University, she would be better off doing that from her husband’s house; as he would bear the sole responsibility of financing her education.
Baba Ajoke told his wife that he was happy that she understood his point of view. He informed her that a friend of their first son, Adisa who was an engineer had indicated interest in Ajoke but since she refused to give out her daughter, he had asked him to hold on for a while. He also mentioned that he had even gone ahead to make investigations about his family and that they were good people.
Iya Ajoke was surprised that her husband had made all the inquiries needed prior to the marriage of their only daughter without her knowledge. She was however, happy that they had found a suitable suitor – an engineer. That meant her daughter would be referred to as “Iyawo Engineer” (wife of an engineer). She smiled as she thought about the title which was much better than hers – Iyawo Baba Elemu.
The next day, as agreed between her parents, Iya Ajoke called her daughter aside and informed her that a young engineer had indicated interest in her. She told her daughter that she and her father had agreed that this was the best time for her to get married. Most of her friends were already married and they did not want their daughter to become an outcast. She informed her that the young engineer was her elder brother’s friend who frequented their house in search of her brother. She also assured her that he would take care of her and make her a proud mother of many children.
Ajoke looked at her mother, unable to utter any words. I warned Kokumo. I warned him. Now what I feared is eventually coming to pass. She thought. Oh Kokumo, where are you? How am I going to fight this battle alone? Her heart cried out.
“Ajoke…Ajoke, so gbó gbogbo nkan tí mo sö?” (Ajoke, did you hear all I have said?)
Ajoke looked at her mother as a tear escaped her eyes.
“Mo gbó ö yín Màámi.” (I heard you, my mother).
“Kí ló n wa pá é ní igbe? Nkan ìdùnú kó ni mo bá ë sö ni?” (So why are you crying? Isn’t this discussion a thing of joy?)
“Mi ò tí ì fé lö sí ilé ökö.” (I am not ready to get married now).
“Kí lo fé ma se ní ilé Bàbá ë? Sé orí méjì ni àwön òré ë tí wón ti lo sí ilé ökö ní ni?” (What will you be doing in your father’s house? Do your friends who have gotten married have two heads?) Iya Ajoke asked irritably.
Ajoke looked down as the tears flowed freely.
“Ya nu ojú ë kíá kíá, ko múra láti pàdé àwön ëbí ökö ë ní òsè méjì sí èní.” (Better wipe your tears and get ready to meet your husband’s people two weeks from now). Iya Ajoke concluded.
As Ajoke lay on her bed that night, she thought about the promise Kokumo had made to her; the promise to get married to her immediately after his graduation. Since eavesdropping over her parents’ conversation about marriage, she had been uncomfortable with his decision to wait till he graduated. But his dream was to become a graduate and she knew denying him that dream would be selfish of her. With the turn of events now, she wondered if his decision was the best. Her parents were giving her out in marriage and there was nothing she could do about it. Most of her married friends also had their marriages arranged by her parents and thinking hers would be an exception at this point was laughable.
Early the next morning, before her brothers woke up to prepare for the day’s job, Ajoke tore a sheet of paper and wrote a lengthy letter to Kokumo. She informed him about the decision taken by her parents, the date set for the introduction by her prospective husband’s people and her fear of living a life of misery married to someone she did not know. She put the letter in her pocket and waited till the right time to go to the local post office.
Two weeks later, Adejoro and his immediate family came for an introduction. They came bearing gifts of foodstuff and told Baba Ajoke that they had found a flower in his house which they intended to pluck. Baba Ajoke welcomed them into his abode and asked Iya Ajoke to entertain the August visitors.
“Àwön ëbí ökö ë ti dé.” (Your husband’s family members are here). Iya Ajoke said excitedly to her daughter who was pounding yam at the back of the house.
Ajoke refused to look up from what she was doing but continued to hit the mortar with the pestle in her hands with force.
Iya Ajoke assuming that her daughter did not hear her moved closer to her. She repeated herself again.
Ajoke ignored her mother and continued to pound.
“Sé o ti di adití ni?” (Are you now deaf?) She asked her daughter.
Ajoke stopped and wiped her brow with her forefinger flicking the sweat away. “Mo ti gbó yín.” (I have heard you).
“Wò ó, ya só ara ë, tí o ò bá fé kí bàbá ë bínú sí ë.” (Look, you better be careful if you do not want your father to be cross with you). Iya Ajoke said as she pointed a warning finger at her daughter.
She walked into the kitchen and started dishing the efo elegusi that she had prepared that morning for their visitors in bowls. When she was done, she called Ajoke to scoop large mounds of the iyan into plates and bring them into the kitchen. Iya Ajoke called her youngest son, Akanni to assist her so she could serve their visitors. It was not yet time for the prospective husband to see his intending bride.
Akanni and his mother went ahead to serve the visitors while Ajoke went to her room to await her parents call. As she sat down on her mattress, a tear slid down her cheek. She was at a loss of what to do. She hadn’t heard from Kokumo and she wondered if he had received her letter. She was half-expecting him to show up in her house any moment from now to disrupt the marriage rites. She was still in her state of dejection when she heard her mother’s voice. “Ajoke, Ajoke, ó ti yá o.” (It is time).
She quickly cleaned her eyes and stood up. Her mother had given her one of her most expensive iro and buba to wear. The attire was always at the bottom of her portmanteau as she only wore it for special occasions. Ajoke’s introduction was one of such and she told her daughter that she deserved to be dressed expensively. Even though the attire looked a little big on her, Ajoke had cared less about the fit. She was not interested in looking attractive to her prospective husband’s people.
Her mother took her hand and led her into the small courtyard where everyone waited for the beautiful flower to be plucked. As taught by her mother, she knelt down in front of every member of her prospective husband’s family greeting each one of them. Adejoro smiled broadly as he nodded his head. He raised his shoulders with pride as she took turns to greet every member of his family. He was the last to be greeted and as she knelt down in front of him, he pulled her up into a hug. Every one clapped at Adejoro’s gesture while Ajoke boiled inside. She refused to hug him back but Adejoro was too caught up in the moment of adulation to notice.
He had eyed his friend’s younger sister for years. She was still in the junior secondary class when he had mentioned to his friend, Adisa that his sister was beginning to sprout into a beautiful lady. Adisa had mocked him when he said he would not mind marrying her one day. Adisa told him she was too young for marriage and that their father wanted her to finish her secondary education. Adejoro had agreed with him on the importance of education. He had also finished his secondary education the same year as Adisa but from different schools. While Adisa had gone ahead to trade in shoe making, Adejoro had gone to a technical college to fine tune his engineering skills. He was still in the technical college but also made a few cash helping out with sub-contracted jobs. His side job had earned him the title “Engineer” within the village and he prided in it jealously. He had also earned the admiration of the young ladies in the village and each one of them sought his attention.
The two families agreed to wed their children in four weeks’ time. A list of items to be bought by Adejoro’s family was also handed over to them by Ajoke’s family. Baba Ajoke reckoned that since his daughter was getting married into a family which stood better than them in terms of means, he needed to make sure he requested enough to cater for his own family. He therefore demanded for an increased number of food items than the usual tradition. His wife also needed to have a change of clothing, so he demanded for expensive clothing items as well.
This was the only chance he had to upgrade his family and he was ready to go the extra mile to ensure they were well catered for.
By Bukola Adekusibe
THE WAIT continues
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