Kasumu explained in Yoruba to the woman that the name of the person whose family they sought was Tyler, but he was certain that wasn’t the name he was known with back home. He produced the picture and the woman squinted her eyes so hard before she finally said, “Ha. Mukaila re!” Identifying the man in the picture.
She handed it over and asked again, “Ehen, se ko si?”
Kasumu informed her that they sought any member of his family.
“He has a father.” She said not in Yoruba, with the Ibadan dialect which Kogberegbe didn’t understand but had come to love dearly.
“But I doubt if he will be interested in talking about this bastard, a generational misfit.”
Kasumu gave Kogberegbe a side look loaded with meaning, and though Kogberegbe didn’t understand much of what this woman said, he knew it when an Ibadan person was being abusive; and the passion with which this woman rained down abuses laced with curses made Kogberegbe more alert.
Kasumu requested to see his father nevertheless. The woman gave an uninterested look, pulled a long bench on which she fitted her round frame and slammed her heavy fist on it, requesting that they sit down. Kogberegbe was going to decline but one stern look from Kasumu told him this would be disrespectful, so they both joined the woman on the bench.
“Baa Mukaila!” She screamed at the top of her voice. On the second call, an elderly man with lots of grey hair and frail frame appeared from the dark corridor; he looked like he might be in his early seventies, though Kogberegbe knew from experience that he would likely be younger than that. He had on a well-worn pair of ankara trousers, with the usual baggy design and a drawstring holding it in place around his loins. The upper part of the trousers was made of a material different from the lower part, this seemed to be the way men from this side of town sewed their native trousers. His chest was bare though he had the buba of the outfit strapped over his shoulder; the tired looking cap on his head complimented his dressing in its own way!
“S’aye nse o ni ab’ewo ni ko kan mo pe’yan bi eleti didi? Kinni mo ra ‘ngba re ti’n sanwo gaan?” the man said all these nonstop as he approached, as if reciting a song. His voice was frail and barely audible. Kogberegbe was certain he must have rocked his early years as a chain smoker.
“E nle o.” The man said, acknowledging both men who returned his greetings, getting on their feet in the process. He gave Kasumu an empty smile for understanding his own greeting but threw a weird look at Kogberegbe, glanced back at the woman and asked, “Ta ni Bonferey Jo?”
“E se mo n beere awon oro alaini laakaye bayi?” She said to the man with a frown that seemed to come to her easily.
“Se ‘ngba won de, emi ni’on beere ni. Baa Mukaila e sora se o. Tori oro ojulowo omo yin Mukaila naa ni won kuku ba wa.” The woman unfolded a tip of her wrapper that was neatly knotted and produced a quarter kola from it, which she nibbled on.
“Ab’aye re fe baje mo tile ni?” The man said vehemently and approached the woman like he wanted to beat her up. Kasumu quickly stepped between them. He turned to Kasumu to confirm what indeed they came for and when Kasumu confirmed that they indeed were there because of his son, he hissed and denied ever knowing him.
“Ta’n bimo ale?” The man said in anger.
“Omo irankiran. Mukaila n’lobi so won, o fi’gbakan je K-money. O tun ya o di Mo-keeli! Yio wa mo daun pe ‘o ngba’. Omo t’o ye k’o ti s’ofo danu tipe. E wo, emi o mo nkankan nipa re o. Tori igba ewon ti mo ti gbaa’le gbein uun ni mo ti ko l’omo. Nitori naa, b’o ba je pe nise ni o Se, e da seria fun!”
Kasumu asked why he thought they were men of the force since they weren’t in uniform, and the man explained that his son only always had policemen come looking for him there, no other corporate looking people ever sought him to his roots. With that, the man turned to go inside. Kasumu then played his last card, telling the man that his son indeed was dead, hoping this would make him rethink discussing him.
“Alahu Akbar! Boya iya re o le sun ni orun bayi, odoodun nii ma n pooyi beere Omo re. Ironu re naa l’o pa!” With that, he sighed and continued down the dark corridor, still not interested in discussing his son.
“You need to convince this woman to talk. This man obviously isn’t interested in discussing his son. But this woman seems to equally know his past…and that past seems pretty messed up.” Kogberegbe said to Kasumu who quickly jumped into action.
Kogberegbe watched in frustration as Kasumu tried for several minutes to convince the woman to talk, as the sun beat down mercilessly on them. Kogberegbe beckoned on a young boy who came out of the house, gave him some money and gestured at the kolanut as an explanation for the boy to buy some more for this woman. She obviously understood, her eyes lit up and she said thank you with a genuine smile.
“Bab’oko mi! O ma se!” She exposed a set of brown teeth.
She asked if Tyler truly was dead and when they reaffirmed, she smiled and thanked God. Kogberegbe wondered how terrible this man could have been.
She went ahead to say she was Tyler’s step mom and that she wasn’t surprised at all that he was murdered. She said if Tyler hadn’t been banished from home way back, she herself would have killed him and she would have killed his father too for indulging him. So, she wasn’t surprised that he kept up his terrible lifestyle that made his murderer also seek his blood. She was glad he had a painful death.
The woman obviously had an old grudge and didn’t mince words as she shared her thoughts with them. When she was through, Kogberegbe handed her two one thousand-naira notes. Her mouth was agape for a few seconds before she said, “Emi nikan tan baba oko mi? Ah! O se o, oju o ni ti o!” she was on her knees before Kogberegbe could stop her.
At this point, they had learnt a whole lot about Tyler. He had once been charged for the rape of a minor, with suspicions linking the incidence to money rituals. He was able to get out after a few months of good behaviour after which he then travelled out of the country less than four years later, totally changing his identity.
They were about taking their leave when some kids came running with a few bags and then someone called from around the house.
“Maami mo de o!” It was a girl’s voice and though she hadn’t surfaced, this woman’s face lit up as she jumped from her chair, praise-singing the approaching guest. The person showed up from around the corner, made eye contact with Kogberegbe and immediately took to her heels.
“After her!” Kogberegbe said to Kasumu who already sprang into action before Kogberegbe finished speaking, Kogberegbe close on his heels. The intricate pattern with which the houses were constructed made the chase a difficult one as both men wove round and round old mud houses, many of which were already beginning to fall apart.
After about twenty minutes of fruitless chase, Kasumu stopped in his tracks panting.
“It’s no use…” He started to say, only to turn around and discover Kogberegbe was nowhere in sight! He shook his head in disbelief and retraced his steps in the direction he had come. As he expected, a small crowd had already formed here and there; everyone probably wondering why Kasumu was running when no one chased him and apparently, he was not after anyone either. Having dealt with situations like this several times, Kasumu fished out his stern look, which complemented the black uniform he wore.
The looks on their faces immediately changed, some of them whispering amongst themselves that he was a ‘genuine’ police officer and that they needed to be careful in case he was armed. Kasumu felt ashamed when he heard the last part for he understood their fears; many Nigerian policemen had tainted the office which they served primarily because of money, and when civilians refuse to “shake body” as it was popularly called, these policemen threaten them with weapons, but unfortunately the threat oftentimes becomes mishaps and lives get lost.
On getting back to the Bodepades’, he stopped in his tracks shocked as he saw Kogberegbe securing the suspect Kasumu thought he was chasing.
Kogberegbe smiled and said, “It dawned on me that she knows this maze better than we do, and that more than anything, she would want to find her way back home. I turned back after some blocks, hid right there.” He pointed in the direction of another mud house, “And then there she was, sneaking out of her hiding place and attempting to secure herself in the house before we would turn back.”
“Wow, sharp thinking! Well done sir!” Kasumu said, wondering how this lady was important to their case. He moved closer and observed her beneath the fashionable glasses she wore, and immediately, Kasumu’s jaw dropped!
© 2017 Temitope Adelakun
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