Where did I come from?
When will I wear long trousers?
Why was father jailed?”
* * * * * * * *
Today is exactly two weeks father was taken away. The image of him being led by those dark googled soldiers into the Black maria is and will continue to be fresh as long as I live.
Today, I make yet another page -a full page of life without father. Today’s entry is not different from the previous ones. It will still be as full as the rest; sad and heavy; prayerful and suplicant. This is how our past fourteen days have been. This is how my memoir will read.
No one expects to make ecstacy out of sorrow.
Life without mother has always been unusual but, we have learnt to adjust to her annual absence. It has become a routine for her. And everyone,even Ugoo the last child in the house,knows it that mother takes Grandpa abroad yearly for his Checkups and medication. Mother’s month-long absence is not unusual.
But father’s absence is.
No one has ever witnessed father’s absence for more than two days. Not to talk of two weeks. No one had anticipated it!
I know he use to suspend business meetings that would take him outside town in order to stay with us. He would rather risk the daily drive or flight if they were long distances than stay away from home.
It is two weeks since they took him away. Life in the family has been unstable. Christy, our elder sister has taken over mother’s domestic roles as she is wont to whenever mother was away .
Though I am almost 20,I have never tried doing father’s job. Because he has never been away before. I have never read night stories to Ugoo on his bed. I have never organised and led morning prayers. I have never distributed nor directed the house helps on their daily chores. I have not done many thing I now do. Because father has never been away as he is now.
* * * * * * * *
Now, the difference in today’s entry is Ugoo. Yesterday was his birthday. A birthday that had been planned even before mother went on her trip and father was taken away. Father as he was given to had planned it to be a great bash as it coincided with Ugoo’s graduation from primary school. I had watched Ugoo, intoxicated with excitement and anxiety, tick his countdown. Even after father’s arrest.
As the day drew nearer, I became more troubled. It had been very difficult walking in father’s shoes,presiding over Ugoo’s birthday. I knew it would be difficult. But we still carried on. Calmly and with ease,I carried on.
At last with the combined effort of every one at home,the birthday went successfully,despite the sombre air that hung like february cloud all through the event.
It was with the same air that Ugoo had borne father’s absence – silently. His calmness was almost mature.
Then as we retired to bed ,after a moderated feast,he quietly asked me the question I had waited too long for,
“Why is father in jail?”
I have never thought of asking such question to anyone,not even to myself. Though the answer was not far. But I found it hard to give.
My lips stood like a disused entrance,gaping at his curious eyes.
“Father is in jail because…eehm”, the words stuck to my throat. I cleared it effortlessly. “…because some bad men think he is against their evil ways.”
“What are they going to do with him?” he asked,almost in whispers.
“Nothing!” I quipped. “He will soon be back.”
Then that question continued to haunt me. Why was father arrested in the first place? Why is he being detained for these two weeks?
I knew the answers to those questions but they still buggled me. It still sounded paradoxical passing through a hard life in the hands of a government that promised a better life programme so eloquently.
Yes! That was why father hated everything about it. And they hated him too.
They have issued warning to him severally to close down the publishing firm he operated. To stop producing and circulating his publication. His “anti-government” publication as they wrote in one of the letters they sent him. But father had refused.
Father is a fearless man who stands for what he believes in. He was open in his criticism against the cruelty of a government that hides under the cloak of kindness.
He criticised them in print and in many of his long public speeches.
His last speech which broke the camel’s back was the ‘NEW NAME CRUSADE’ where he had said:
“There is no benevolence with a gang that speaks and does brutality.”
Then ,the government had declared him an enemy of the state and charged him of treasonable felony. They came to our house and took him away.
That was two weeks ago.
Father hated the government. The government hated him too. And that is why father is in jail.
*Light Obi is a poet and short story writer.