By Uche Amunike
One of the greatest challenges of having a column is being able to let it run, not just consistently, but with great content. I have had the challenge of coming up with ideas on several occasions and at times like that I’m tempted to let that particular edition run without Frank Talk. But then again, I think of all our teeming readers and how disappointed they would be if they didn’t see it fly.
So, on this particular day, I drove to work really worried because it was a Thursday already. We were already on production and I still lacked the inspiration to write on anything. No topic came to mind at all. I didn’t want to write about Nigeria’s Independence because, even though I already wrote about it as Editorial, it had been over flogged by Daily Newspapers. I was simply blank in my head and in my mind and was truly disturbed.
As I drove into the Fides Premises, however, I saw her. She is a quiet, well behaved young girl under the employ of Fides. She works in our finishing section and we simply called her Ezinne. She waved at me as I parked my car in my favourite spot. Then she walked up to me as I alighted and offered to carry my laptop inside the office. I obliged her. As we entered the newsroom, she innocently asked me how I was doing and I told her, ‘Not good. I still don’t know what to write on my page and we’re already on production’. And she jokingly said, ‘Write about me, Aunty Uche’. I found that amusing and asked her if she won a goldmine that I should write about her. She just told me, ‘I’m an orphan’.
Something about the way she said it tugged at my heart strings. I asked her if she was serious and she nodded her head in affirmation. Then she flashed me that sad smile that made me curious to hear her story. So, as she made to walk out of the newsroom, I told her to come and tell me her story. Then, she started and while I listened to her talk, I watched her struggle with her emotions at different points and by the time she was done, I knew I had a topic for Frank Talk in my hands.
Here’s her story:
Ezinne is a beautiful 22 year old young girl. The only daughter and last child of her parents. She has a brother and they had a perfect childhood. Her dad was very caring and her mum was an angel. They were a perfect family and happiness was a part of their everyday life. Love was their strong forte and laughter came naturally.
Sadly, they had no idea that all that fairytale life was soon to come to an end. You see, her mother was Asthmatic. As I listened to Ezinne talk passionately about her mother’s illness and how she had to miss school most times in order to take care of her in the hospital, I couldn’t help fighting my emotions as I felt her every pain with every swing of her mood while giving her narrative.
Her mum had to be in hospital a lot of times each time she had the asthmatic attack. Even though this happened a lot of times, they never thought the illness would end up claiming her life because she always got well eventually and returned home. Painfully, she didn’t make it this time and she breathed her last, right in Ezinne’s very presence in September, 2014. As she broke down and cried in my office, I realized what a strong girl she must have been to have passed through that very sad road and still stand strong.
Mrs Juliet Ekwonye’s death naturally left a vacuum and indeed, became the beginning of the problems in her family. The events that followed her death caused untold pain and sadness to the entire family and like in Achebe’s novel, things truly fell apart and the centre could no longer hold. Sadly, in less than two years after she died, her husband brought in a second wife and that became the biggest mistake he ever made in his life.
I remember being very angry while I listened to this amazing young girl in my office. A lot of questions crossed my mind. She recounted that her parents had only two children. They were her brother and herself, her brother being the first child. She described her family as a perfect family of four. Father, mother, her brother and herself. According to her, they lacked nothing at all as growing kids. They were born and raised in Kano and attended the best schools. The only sad times they ever encountered was their mum’s ill health. Life was truly good for the Ekwonyes.
That was why I mentioned that certain questions crossed my mind as I listened to the young girl tell me her story. Mr Ekwonye loved his wife and children. And yet, when his wife died in September 2014, he did the burial and outing service in 2015. By 2016, he got himself a new wife!!! Why? Where is the love??? Again, if it was Mr Ekwonye that died, can his wife for any reason remarry, how much more, remarry after less than two years? Im sure that the answer is NO!
Let me not digress, though. The story continues: Immediately he married his new wife, the narrative changed. Laughter left the home. Love flew out of the window. The second wife came to the once happy home and turned it into a sad one. Initially, Mr Ekwonye got upset when she treated the children badly and always protected and supported them. That however, changed because before long, he became a total stranger. He stopped attending to the needs of his two children, he stopped caring about their welfare. The second wife stopped feeding them and made sure their father stopped feeding them too. They started eating when outsiders offered them food.
When my father remarried, his son, Ebuka was already in Abia State Polytechnic in his second year, but she made sure he stopped paying his fees. He had to drop out of school and eventually ended up going to learn some hand craft. As for Ezinne, her education became a dream, she wondered if it will ever come true. So,when her mates were being admitted into different universities for studies, she went to acquire the skill of tailoring. Sad, but true. She became a seamstress in the making. By then, things had gotten so bad with the new madam of the house that Ezinne and her brother had to move down to their hometown in Mbaise.
They fled the home they had known all their lives in Kano because it was now hell for them and the only parent they had could not even protect them from the wicked treatment meted out to them by their step mother. In Ezinne’s words, ‘whenever we call her mummy, she yells at us to stop calling her that, because she wasn’t our dead mother’. It was that bad.
Interestingly, she never even had a child of her own.
Mbaise became their new home and they barely fed without the help of neighbours. Each time they called their father over the phone, he refused to take their calls. He never took their calls. He never replied their text messages. They eventually intensified their calls to him about at least their feeding money and he refused to budge. I asked her about their uncles and other relatives and she said that they all refused to be involved because of the character of the new wife and the unbelievable transformation that came over their brother. Ezinne and her brother resigned themselves to their fate and tried to make the best of what life threw at them. She actually took JAMB, had a very good score and passed the post UTME exam but her father was unperturbed.
It then came as a shock when a phone call came on the 29th day of October in 2017 to tell them that their father had passed on. The call didn’t come from their step mother. It came from concerned neighbours. Yet again, these two children were dealt another blow. It is really sad that after the ill treatment meted out on them that made them become outcasts in their own home, they still had to go through the ordeal of seeing to it that his remains was brought home through the help of uncles.
He was buried and his new wife returned to Kano to take over her late husband’s property. She made sure that the products of that marriage were not a part of the property. Recently, Ebuka was invited by his late father’s associate in Kano and advised him to take over at least one of his offices. His second wife is threatening fire and brimstone as she wants to take over everything.
That wraps up the story as told by the very beautiful Ezinne Ekwonye. Now, I have had to analyze this whole story as told by the young girl and I was emotionally scarred. I don’t know who you blame for the entire problems encountered in that family. But I, Uche Amunike, fully lay 95% of the blames to the Late Mr Ekwonye.
First of all, he lost his wife to the cold hands of death and in less than two years, he remarried. Who does that??? Even in bad marriages, the man respects the memory of his wife by at least pretending that he isn’t interested in getting married immediately after. By so doing, he also respects her family and even their children, knowing how attached all children are to their mothers. That is what a respectable man does. But he didn’t. He just married almost immediately and stood by the sidelines and watched a total stranger destroy the very foundation of love built by him and his late wife.
I want to appeal to every man reading this piece to learn a lesson or two from it. It is always better to marry a second wife when your children are grown. What a wise man does is to see that his children are stabilized in life, then he will marry a second wife if he must. You cannot build a home over the years and have it destroyed overnight just because of a woman who lacks the sense of family. By the way, must you marry for the second time? How many women remarry after they become widows? If a widower is lonely, there are ways to do these things. It mustn’t be spelt out by Uche Amunike. However, caution must be applied and the institution of marriage, greatly respected.
Now, Mr and Mrs Ekwonye are both dead. The two lovely children they both raised in love and comfort and made plans for are scattered like sheep without shepherd. Ebuka would have been a graduate by now, but his own father, prodded by his childless second wife, refused to pay his fees. Today, he is a school dropout through no fault of his. Ezinne is a very intelligent and smart girl but still hasn’t gained admission because her father refused to take on her education. Today she’s still planning on returning to her tailoring so she would be able to save money for school.
The culprit in all this is the new Mrs Ekwonye who is sitting pretty on her late husband’s wealth and damming all the consequences. I pray that God will make her change her ways and make her understand that those children are her responsibility. I encourage all the Ezinnes of this world to look up to God in their pain.
He heals. He restores. He rewards!!!