‘AJOKE’

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The movement in the house those past few days were more than the last months combined.
My cousins from the city were coming to visit and mum made us clean every single part of the house.

‘Danku’ ( the cloth seller)came by the village, and mama bought my sister and I new clothes, which was very strange because that only happened during Christmas of which we would buy them on credit.

I kept trying to imagine how my cousins would look like, the last time I saw them I was five and I could barely remember.

The house was sparkling now, literally.
“Joke!Joke! Mama called. I angrily dropped my book, just when I was getting to where tortoise would be caught she had to call me. I hastened my footsteps, I didn’t want a slap today.

“This book you’re reading, will it get you good husband to marry??? Mtcheeeew”, she hissed and went on mumbling some words in our dialect. I bent to help her with sorting the fish which was only meant for the visitors since we couldn’t afford a chicken, I was about to dip my hand when she slapped it, “lo fowo jare!” (Go wash your hand!).

I smiled to myself, if only mama knew how interesting books were.
I almost lost the chance of attending secondary school, many say that I was just lucky but I beg to differ…I read day and night to win that scholarship.

As night settled in, I sat on my bed with my book, trying to imagine my uncle and his family, if we even looked alike in any way…I slept off on this thought.

My sister tapped me in the morning and I instantly woke up.
Mama had shared our duties the day before. All I had to do was fetch water…like eight times in a row while my elder sister and mama prepared the food.
Papa had already gone to the farm to tap some palm wine…. So I carried my bucket and strolled to the village Well

After doing seven rounds, i was finally on the last one. I kept humming that song I heard on the radio…” he lives in me, heha pumpum pada”…it sounded something like that. It had been ringing in my head since the day before.

As I approached our compound i saw a big black car parked just in front of the compound. That must be them i thought to myself, my cousins. As I moved closer I noticed the car was different from the ones I saw passing by the village occasionally, I couldn’t see the inside, everywhere was completely black.

I kept staring till I heard the door click and someone pushed it open, I bent my head immediately, afraid that I had done something wrong. My eyes caught sight of the shoes that stepped out of the car, very fancy shoes with different colors all at once and a lace of some sort that went all the way to the knee, I unconsciously looked up to see the face. It was a girl, who looked the same age as me. By this time I had already dropped my bucket.

She was followed by an older woman, who I guessed was her mother, holding onto the hand of a boy. Then next came a man from another door, who in no doubt was her father , the resemblance was striking. His shoes were practically shinning like his car.

Finally, the person that probably drove, he carried all sorts of wrapped items in his hand…
That must Daudu the driver…even he was dressed well.

They all walked in without giving me a second glance… maybe they didn’t know that I was their cousin, I tried to console myself.

Looking at them, I understood why mama bought us new clothes, but even those clothes could not match their rags. It was then that it dawned on me that we were poor.
I walked in behind them quietly with my bucket in hand, when I had someone whispering my name. ‘Ajoke’, ‘joke’!, that was certainly mama, I went round the back of the house only to see my mother holding the new clothes she bought for me in her hand.

Mama was ashamed too, I could see it, her gaze wouldn’t even meet mine. I wore the clothes hurriedly as tears welled up in my eyes.

That night, I didn’t hear a word they discussed, I knew we were just there as decorations for papa and mama. But I made up my mind, If studying was all it took to get to the top I would do it. There was no way I was going to be married off. Nothing was going to stop me from going to school, not even the fact that this school term is when my scholarship will expire.

One night after mama and everyone went to bed, I sneaked into mama’s room. The principal had threatened to chase me away from school,
I couldn’t leave school, not when I was in my final year. I knew exactly where she kept her savings, what was she saving for anyway if not for us, the children.

I counted the money, It was about five thousand naira but my fee was six thousand, so I added my personal savings.

They were never involved in my school affairs anyway, they didn’t understand my drive for success. It was ride or die for me

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Little did I know that success didn’t come with open arms
All these thoughts were running in my head as I paced back and forth in my new office, I fought my way through the university driven by the mad hunger for success and wealth.

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But now as I stare at this document on my table i am faced with a choice of committing fraud or losing my job. I had drifted from my family, since mother was disgraced in the village for not being able to repay her debt. I didn’t know the savings was to repay her debt, I didn’t even know she owed anybody, those were the things I said to myself to escape the guilt I felt. My only friends were my business associates, I didn’t even know what I wanted anymore. As if nothing else could go wrong I found out that my uncle whom I wanted so much to be like is into this dirty game as well.

My desperation drove me down this path
Maybe there was another way
Sleeping with the boss, i thought was my apex
But international fraud ?

Ajoke…

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