My name is Obiora Uzoamaka Okoroji, the first son and child of Chief Okoroji Uzoamaka and Eberechukwu Okoroji Uzoamaka. My father is a palm wine tapper, a skill passed down through generations from my great-grandfather to my grandfather and then to him.

In our community, my father was renowned as the best palm wine tapper, and our family was known not only for his skill but also for our noble behavior and the sheer number of children he and my mother had. My mother, Eberechukwu, gave birth to twelve children—eight boys and four girls. In our society, the abundance of offspring, especially male children, is considered a sign of a man’s wealth.

While it was common for men to take multiple wives if their first wife couldn’t bear children, my family stood out as having the highest number of offspring. Despite not having much material wealth, we were content with what we had and followed a strict routine. We functioned as a close-knit family, sharing both joys and sorrows, and witnessed our father’s deep love for our mother.

Our family’s daily life included working together in the palm wine business and on our extensive farm. Each of us, the boys, had a designated portion of the farm to tend to, while the girls took care of household chores, prepared meals, and occasionally brought food to the farm for us. Our unity and love for one another made us stand out in the community.

Our parents’ marriage, though arranged, became a testament to the power of commitment and hard work. My father, in addition to tapping palm wine, would join us in the fields. We always worked in unity, and our bond as a family was evident to everyone. On Sunday nights, we gathered to share a meal of roasted yams with red oil. My father used to say that the way the oil stained our hands was a symbol of how we should always stick together in love and unity. I cherished the moments when he’d invite me to take the second bite after him, calling me “Opara, were nke gị,” instilling in me a sense of leadership and responsibility for my siblings.

Life in our communal village was simple but fulfilling. We engaged in farming, hunting, fishing, and participated in dance and wrestling competitions. Our small community fostered a sense of communal living, where elders could correct young ones without causing offense, and we acted as our brother’s keepers.

However, the tranquility of our lives changed when my age group uncles, who had traveled to neighboring states, started coming to take some of us away from our community.


The first of my three close friends to depart was Emeka. His uncle came from Onitsha to whisk him away, bound for an apprenticeship in a trade. Shortly after, Cosmos’ uncle took him to Aba to delve into the world of fabric selling, and Augustine’s journey led him to Lagos to learn the nuances of petty trading. Initially, their departures didn’t strike me as profoundly, as I had the comforting company of my siblings.

However, as I absorbed the tales of the allure and opportunities that awaited them in neighboring cities, an indescribable yearning began to well up within me. One day, I shared my desire to leave our community with my father. His response was a sobering reality check — the cost, and the cautionary tale of his only brother who had severed ties after leaving. I relented, reasoning with him, and ceased my persistent appeals.

During a Christmas season, Emeka returned home after five years in Onitsha. He looked different, more worldly, clad in a baggy trouser adorned with numerous pockets, a large polo featuring the face of a black man at the back, and a distinctive soothing scent. He handed me bread and shared, “I have missed you, Obi.”

“I miss you too, nna,” I replied. “Ị na-enwe obi ụtọ. Olee otú Onitsha?”

“Ọ dịghị mfe, ma enwere m obi ụtọ na m hapụrụ ebe a,” he responded. Life wasn’t a walk in the park there, but Emeka was content with his decision to leave our community. His stories stirred something within me, igniting a resolve to follow him when the time was right.

The weight of staying in the village pressed heavily on me. The impending marriage of my younger sister, Olado, to a man with an existing wife but no children troubled me deeply. My disagreement with the situation was futile, as my father had given his blessing. It felt like a sacrifice, prompted by Sir Clifford’s promise of fertile land.

I couldn’t help but imagine a different scenario where financial stability would spare my sister from this marriage. She, too, disliked the idea but adhered to the cultural norm that forbade a child from disrespecting their elders. Elders were revered as living ancestors, believed to possess wisdom accumulated over the years. Opposing them was akin to committing a grave offense.

I pleaded with my father, but the traditional marriage proceeded in front of our father’s Obi. Olado, visibly unhappy, and even Sir Clifford’s wife, wearing a facade of acceptance, participated in the rites. As Olado’s bride price was paid and the festivities concluded, tears streamed down her face as the women escorted her to her husband’s house, not far from ours.

Observing them dance behind my sorrowful sister, my heart shattered. Olado had always aspired to be a schoolteacher, a dream we all knew well. The pain deepened as my father granted his approval, fully aware of her ambition to complete Form Six and secure a teaching job in our community. After the wedding, the yearning to leave my hometown surged, and I became determined to do whatever it took to make it happen.


I was prepared to do anything to leave our community, aiming to amass wealth and potentially rescue my sister from an undesirable marriage if she ever expressed discontent. I confided in Emeka about my plan, expressing my desire for him to help me plead with his uncle to take me as one of his apprentices.

Emeka promised to speak to his uncle, noting that the uncle was actively seeking someone. This brought me immense joy, and I prayed fervently that his uncle would find favor in me, allowing me to depart the community and return with ample resources to marry Alice, my long-time crush.

Alice, the daughter of Mazi Nkume, captivated me with her beauty, respectfulness, and hardworking nature. My admiration for her had roots in our childhood, watching her dance under the mango tree at the market square whenever the Ogene boys played during various festivities.

Whenever I saw her dance, I would offer words of admiration, initiating conversations that eventually blossomed into a friendship. Yet, I had never revealed my deeper intentions. I envisioned a future where I would approach my father, who would convey my intentions to her father, initiating a courtship.

One noon, while toiling on the farm, my immediate younger sister urgently summoned me. She insisted that someone was waiting for me, and they requested my immediate presence. Without allowing me to properly don my shirt, she hurriedly pulled me from our farm.

“Father said I should bring you home immediately,” she explained between pushes.

Arriving home, I found my father in the company of a not-so-elderly man, whose skin glistened as though coated in olive oil. Carrying a calabash filled with palm wine, I approached them, slightly bowing my head in a sign of respect. Their unified response prompted me to swiftly take a stool nearby.

“Obi, this is Mr. Maduka, Emeka’s uncle from Onitsha. Emeka has spoken highly of you, and he would like to take you to Onitsha to serve him. Is this something you’d like to consider?” my father inquired.

“I am ready to serve him, Father,” I responded eagerly.

With a smile, my father asked, “Eiiii, ngwa ngwa?” and Mr. Maduka chuckled.

“Oge adịghị,” I replied playfully. I cherished the camaraderie with my parents, who managed to be our friends while fulfilling their parental roles. Mr. Maduka then elaborated on life in Onitsha, detailing the intricacies of his foodstuff business and cautioning me to be vigilant.

He assured my father that he would take good care of me, promising that after five years, he would provide the means for me to start my own foodstuff business upon my return. Mr. Maduka planned to come back in two days for our departure.

That night, my father summoned us to his Obi, the central place for hosting dignitaries and serious occasions. I was filled with excitement and couldn’t wait to leave home.

As night fell, one by one, we filed into the Obi. My mother looked somber as she sat close to my father with folded hands and downcast eyes. When my father entered and took his seat, he addressed us.

“I call this meeting because one of us is going far away, not for ill but for the betterment of us all,” he began, grounding me back to the reality of the situation.

“Obiora is going to Onitsha in two days to serve as an apprentice to Mr. Maduka, who is in the foodstuff business. The next time we might see him, some of you might be old, married, and I might be in my grave,” he joked.

“But I pray we will be alive to see him doing well,” he continued. My siblings murmured, and my father addressed me directly, “Obiora, as you go to serve your master, remember the son of who you are. Do not do anything that will bring shame to the name of my forefathers. Serve your master as if your life depends on it so that when you are leaving, he will settle you well. Do not get involved with women, do not get involved with plenty friends. Know the reason you are going outside and stay true to that reason. Lastly, do not forget to pray to your CHI always. Talk to him all the time and make him your closest companion. We might be far from you, but CHI is always with you.”


Father imparted all the words of encouragement and advice to guide me through my stay with my master in one sitting. When he concluded, he turned to Mother for her input, and she shook her head, signifying she had nothing more to add.

Once Father declared the meeting over, I approached where Mother sat, attempting to console her. I promised to return whenever possible, wiped away her tears, and rested my head on her bosom. She held me close, and I could hear the rhythmic beat of her heart.

In the remaining days at home, we bonded—talking, playing, and sharing meals in a large tray. None of us ventured to the farm or the field. Father insisted we strengthen our family ties before my master would take me to Onitsha.

The day to leave home finally arrived, and I was both excited and a bit melancholic bidding them farewell. After tearful goodbyes, I embarked on the journey, balancing the sadness of leaving home with the thrill of exploring a new world and earning wealth.

As we traveled, I secured a window seat to gaze at the passing scenery. Clutching my bag to my chest, I observed the moving trees, dusty roads, and smoke billowing from vehicles. Although people bought items whenever the bus stopped, Mr. Maduka made no purchases, nor did he inquire if I needed anything.

Despite feeling thirsty at times, I refrained from asking him to buy water, reluctant to begin my journey on a platter of asking and begging.

Upon reaching Onitsha, I marveled at Mr. Maduka’s house. Cars dotted the compound, leaving me curious as to why he hadn’t traveled with any of them.

“Move fast, Obi. We need to go to the shop,” he commanded.

“Yes, sir,” I responded, dragging my bag containing a few clothes.

Entering the expansive living room with plush sofas, a center table, television, flower vase, and a family portrait, I awaited instructions. Mr. Maduka entered a room without informing me of what to do, leaving me standing at the entrance.

Soon, a fair woman walked in. I greeted her, unsure if she acknowledged my greeting.

“Follow me,” she instructed, guiding me to a smaller building behind the main one, near a doghouse. Nervous about staying in a house with dogs, I suppressed my fears. She opened a door.

“This is your room. Drop your bag and come to the main building for your food,” she said before swiftly leaving.

Surveying the room, I wondered if humans or dogs inhabited it. A mat lay on the floor, clothes hung on the wall, some scattered on the floor, and a pot with a small black stove sat amid food items. Unsure whether to tidy up the room or rush for my meal due to my hunger, I dropped my bag and hurried to the main building.

I knocked for almost twenty minutes before the woman opened the door, revealing Mr. Maduka eating at the dining table.

“Why did you take forever to come here?” the fair lady asked.

“Sorry, ma,” I responded.

“Obiora, we do not waste time over here. In the city, time is money,” Mr. Maduka emphasized.

The fair lady handed me Egusi soup with yellow garri, instructing me to eat outside or go to my room. When I asked for water, she said, “There is a bucket of water in your room.” I took the food, my mind buzzing with myriad thoughts, dismissing them as the new experiences of city life.

Hurriedly, I consumed the meal, drank water from the not-so-clean bucket in my room, and rushed to meet my master.

Fortunately, as I approached the main building, he was stepping out. He drove us to his shop, offering insights on how he wanted me to be his ears and eyes among the other boys.

Mr. Maduka expressed distrust in Emeka, emphasizing his desire for me to take charge. We arrived at his shop, and upon seeing Emeka, I embraced him.

He looked less fancy than I imagined, donning torn singlet and worn-out trousers. After a lengthy hug, Mr. Maduka introduced me, and I was directed to join the boys and observe how they attended to customers.

His shop was extensive, filled with varieties of food items, and customers streamed in constantly. Mr. Maduka sat close to the money drawer, while the boys managed sales and carried the wares.


Living in Mr. Maduka’s house wasn’t ideal, but the training and experience were invaluable. We opened his shop at 5:45 am, catering to women selling roadside food condiments, and closed by 10 pm when no customers were expected to come. Sometimes, exhaustion or lateness led us to sleep on bags of rice or garri.

Mrs. Madukka, the fair lady, provided food only at night, prompting the boys and me to secretly eat Mr. Maduka’s provisions. One person ate while another kept watch, alternating until everyone had their share. I missed the abundant meals from home—akpu, bitterleaf soup with stockfish head, bush meat and father’s palmwine with roasted corn and pear on the farm.

Here, our meals consisted mainly of indomie, red oil rice, or soaked garri with salt and tap water at noon. For dinner, it was yellow garri with watery Egusi soup Mrs. Maduka provided after sales. The soup lacked protein, and the routine grew monotonous. The rare occasions we had rice or a different soup coincided with Mrs. Maduka’s joy or Mr. Madua’s successful sales.

My living conditions warranted complaints, but I couldn’t voice them, following Father’s instructions to endure and talk to CHI to make the days pass quickly for the completion of my service years.

One morning, while preparing to leave with the other boys, Mr. Maduka instructed me to wait behind. Unsure of the reason, I hoped I hadn’t offended or angered his wife. I strived to be a good servant and helper, waiting patiently for his call. Around 7 am, their last son summoned me.

“Obiora, my father is calling you, and he said immediately,” he stated sternly.

I didn’t reply but promptly followed him. Mr. Maduka asked me to sit at the dining table, a rare invitation. I was initially scared, as I’d never sat in their living room, but he reassured me, saying, “Tukwuru ala.”

He served me a cup of tea, along with some loaf and egg—a meal uncommon in their household. Accustomed to raw indomie or pap from the roadside woman in the morning, I hesitated to touch it. Mr. Maduka instructed, “Obiora, na-eri,” and reluctantly, I started eating, fearing the unknown.

Amidst the meal, he asked, “How is life in Onitsha?”

“I love it; I am learning so many things,” I lied.

He smiled and said, “You will like to own one of my types of business, okwaya?” I nodded in agreement.

“Good. One day you will have your own, but first, you need to work hard. Before that, I want to ask you something, and I will need the truth from you,” he said, looking straight into my eyes.

Unable to meet his gaze, I stared into my tea cup. “I will tell you the truth, sir,” I replied with a shaky voice.

“Are the boys stealing my food and money?” he asked, catching me off guard.

I stared wide-eyed at him, not expecting such a question. “Remember to tell me the truth because if you lie to me, I will find out, and I will arrest you all before sending you to your poor father,” he threatened.


I will speak the truth,” I stuttered.

“Good, so who and who are the individuals consuming my provisions?” He inquired.

“They used to eat indomie, white garri, and use your money to purchase meals,” I said.

“Who?” He interrogated.

“Emeka, Ifunnaya, John, and Barnabas,” I responded, enumerating with my finger.

“Good, if they question you about why I summoned you, inform them I instructed you to clean my shoes. ị na-anụ,” He directed.

I hastily replied and departed, grappling with guilt for not revealing my name but disclosing my friend’s name. Emeka was supposed to have been settled before my arrival, yet my master consistently found faults, asserting that was the reason he remained unsettled.

Emeka often complained about his folks expecting financial support, but my master’s reluctance hindered him. I couldn’t fathom why I exposed him, even knowing his dire situation.

A week later, after divulging the boys’ activities to Mr. Maduka, he convened a meeting in his living room. The boys speculated about the purpose of the gathering, but deep down, I sensed it was a consequence of my revelations.

My heart raced, praying he wouldn’t implicate me. I couldn’t bear the thought of betraying Emeka.

“I’ve heard that some of you are pilfering my supplies and misappropriating my funds for food and sundries. No denials; my source doesn’t deceive. Understand that the boys you mentor will reciprocate the same. Additionally, your service tenure has been extended by two years. If you decide to leave, anticipate no compensation. You’re dismissed,” he declared authoritatively.

As we returned to our quarters, the boys, excluding Emeka, speculated about the informant. Emeka’s eyes were red, indicating he had likely wept. I kept silent, unable to meet his gaze.

Later, Emeka summoned me, questioning, “Did you inform him?”

I met his gaze, praying he wouldn’t decipher the truth.

“Ị gwara ya,” he asked, almost teary-eyed.

I shook my head in denial.

“I’ve spent over five years here, and nothing like this has occurred. How could he suddenly find out?” he pondered, gesticulating with frustration.

“Amaghị m,” I uttered unconvincingly.

Emeka scrutinized me before retreating to sit near the doghouse. I grappled with the decision to enter the room, join Emeka, or escape altogether.

Following the meeting, Emeka became more withdrawn, barely uttering a word, his eyes perpetually swollen. Each glance at him intensified my remorse. He yearned to depart, but the means remained elusive.

Hunger became our constant companion, as everyone embraced solitude. The boys sought tips from favored customers, while I, without patrons, relied on Mrs. Maduka’s dinner and tap water with dry garri at noon. Weight loss and fatigue afflicted me, unnoticed amidst the collective struggle for survival.

One early morning, as we prepared for the shop, Barnabas’s cry summoned us. Rushing outside, we found Emeka lying in a pool of his own blood.


We discovered Emeka lying lifeless in a pool of his blood. The shock immobilized me, rendering me unable to express any emotion. I cautiously moved away from the scene using my back, glancing back at his lifeless body, and leaned against the wall of our room.

I continued to stare at his body, even as Mr. Maduka arrived to inspect it and ask a few questions. Later that day, we were all taken to the police station for interrogation. Each time I faced a question, tears involuntarily streamed down my face. Mr. Maduka had to explain to the impatient police officers that Emeka and I were close friends, a fact that held true.

Emeka was more than a friend; he was like a brother. We had bonded since childhood, participating in all age group rituals together, playing football in our expansive field, always ensuring we were on the same team. His loss left me shattered.

After separate police interrogations yielded identical answers, it was concluded that Emeka had taken his own life. Emeka’s death intensified my self-loathing. If only I hadn’t betrayed him, he might have been settled and moved on with his life, but now he lay in the cold embrace of Mother Earth.

Nightmares plagued my sleep, a secret burden I couldn’t share. Each time I woke up, I implored my Chi for forgiveness. What I did stemmed from fear and naivety; I never fathomed it would culminate in death or retribution. I hadn’t intended to betray anyone, but my fear of Master Maduka had clouded my judgment.

Two years into my service under Master Maduka, my sister Olado’s letter arrived, detailing the struggles at home, my father’s deteriorating health, and my mother’s attempts at using local herbs for his treatment. The letter concluded with the unexpected news that Alice, my long-time crush, had married Mr. Adam’s son, a learned doctor in our community.

Learning about Alice’s marriage stung, but my primary concerns were my father’s health, the dismal living conditions in Mr. Maduka’s house, and the haunting memory of Emeka. The reality I faced in Onitsha was a far cry from the envisioned experience, and often, I wished I had never embarked on this service.

Faced with the wretched conditions in Mr. Maduka’s residence, I ensured to cultivate friendships with both males and females nearby, securing occasional meals. Among these acquaintances, Dorcas emerged as my closest confidante.

Dorcas, a strikingly beautiful and well-proportioned young lady, assisted her aunt in selling cooked food under the bridge, not far from my master’s shop. Despite being four years my junior, she exuded maturity, captivating me with her allure.

Dorcas became my lifeline, and over time, our friendship blossomed into something deeper, though we kept it discreet. Every evening, I stole moments to meet Dorcas at the bus garage. We shared conversations, playful banter, and laughter before bidding each other farewell.

During one such encounter, I mustered the courage to kiss her, a desire fueled by the tales of my friends. Pinned against a bus, Dorcas offered no resistance; instead, she welcomed every touch, even as I navigated the unfamiliar terrain of physical intimacy.


Dorcas became my lifeline in Onitsha, sneaking her aunty’s meals for me three times a day. Aware of the time she would pass, I stood outside Mr. Maduka’s shop to collect the food, quickly retreating to the back to consume it.

Our bond deepened, and we found solace in each other. We carved out moments to meet in the evenings at the bus garage, sharing tales of our daily struggles, discussing our masters, and weaving dreams of prosperity and a family together.

“I’d fancy our first child being a girl,” she romantically mused one evening at our usual rendezvous. Before I could respond, a heavy blow landed on my head. I yelped in pain, turning to find Dorcas’s aunty in a fit of rage while holding a stick. She cast insults and threatened to report me to Mr. Maduka.

Clutching my head, I pleaded with her not to inform my master, blood now dripping from the wound.

Dorcas, alarmed, exclaimed, “Lee, Obara!”

Unmoved, the aunty delivered a stern warning and insults before dragging Dorcas away.

I could not go back to the shop with blood dripping from my head, so I rushed to a nearby chemist to get the wound cleaned. I told him I mistakenly hit my head and did not have money for treatment. I asked if he could help me clean the wound without medication.

He cleaned the cut with spirit and cotton wool before dressing it for me. He gave me some pain relief to take without collecting a dime. Mr. Ogazi was known to be a kind chemist who did not study medicine in school but served his master, who settled him with a shop after ten years of working for him. Almost everyone in Onitsha knows about Mr. Ogazi because of his philanthropic nature.

Upon my return to the shop, Mr. Maduka awaited, visibly irate. Crafting a lie to evade punishment, I explained,

“I went to check if Mama Promise is back to collect the money, she owes us.” Although skeptical, he lacked evidence to refute my claims.

“What happened to your head?” he asked, showing minimal concern for the injury but eager to affirm his suspicion of deceit.

“I mistakenly hit my head on a piece of wood,” I lied once more. He instructed me to pack the beans inside the store, warning of an impending rain.

The following day, Dorcas visited the shop, genuinely worried about my health. Observing the wound, she offered apologies.

“I am fine; I think we should pause our meetings for now, please,” I pleaded.

“Obi m, do not say that. We can change our meeting spot, but I can’t stop seeing you, biko,” she implored.

“Your aunty threatened me yesterday, and look at my head. Please, for now, let’s halt our meetings,” I requested.

“Obi m, it was Ugonna who told her about our spot. He’s jealous because I didn’t accept to date him. That’s why he went to tell my aunty. Biko, obi m, let’s change our spot; don’t ask me to stop seeing you,” she begged amidst tears.

I urged her to leave before causing a scene, mindful that Mr. Maduka could return at any moment.

“Let’s meet at Aguata Primary School this evening,” she pleaded.

“I can’t come; please, go,” I said, feeling disheartened by the situation but compelled to make her depart.

“There’s something important I need to tell you, “She responded.


“I won’t be able to make it,” I responded.

“Biko Obi m, Achọrọ m ịgwa gị ihe,” she reiterated.

“Please, reconsider,” I implored, feeling agitated.

“I’ll be waiting for you this evening,” she stated before walking away with the used plates she must have gathered from her customers.

Later that day, while at the shop, I noticed her passing by. She seemed visibly upset, and I was sure she might have gone to wait for me at the school. I refrained from calling her or trying to stop her, and she made sure our eyes met before walking away.

The period Dorcas and I refrained from talking was challenging for me because, apart from the emotional support, she was the one providing for me. She stopped coming to our shop or would just attend to my master and leave immediately. There was a time I attempted to get her attention, but she was not receptive.

I started to miss her—the time we spent together and the food she brought to me. One afternoon, when she came to give my master his lunch, I discreetly went outside to wait for her. As she was about to leave, I pulled her away from my master’s sight.

“Nne m, I’ve missed you,” I expressed.

She remained silent, acting as if she wanted to leave.

“Nne m, I miss you. A na m atụ anya gị,” I said.

“Okay,” she replied and attempted to leave.

“I am sorry, mummy,” I pleaded.

She looked at me as if she had been waiting for me to say those words. Her eyes were red, and it seemed as though tears would fall at any moment.

“I don’t have much time now. Can we meet at the school by 7 pm?” I suggested.

She nodded, and before she left, I hugged her tightly and rushed back to my master’s shop.

That evening we met, discussed what happened, shared what was happening in our lives, and I apologized repeatedly. We vowed not to leave each other. While sitting close to each other, she held my hand and led me to a classroom, asking that I make her feel like a woman.

I was scared because it would be my first time being intimate. Despite hearing tales about how and where to touch a woman, I still felt some fear. The last thing I wanted was to make her feel like I was a weakling.

I gently leaned her back against the wall, lifted her gown, and tried to penetrate her. I noticed she was in pain and wanted to stop, but she held onto me. It wasn’t a pleasurable experience since it was our first time, but I promised her that I would improve, and the more we got intimate, the better I would learn.

I cleaned her up and rushed back to the shop. The boys were trying to find out where I was and what I was up to, but I didn’t budge.

After our first sexual experience, we became addicted to intimacy, meeting almost every day at the school for a good time. This continued until Dorcas stopped coming to our shop or our usual hangout spot.

I wanted to ask he aunt, but I was too scared of her reaction, so I refrained from asking. One noon, while washing my master’s food flask outside the shop, Dorcas came to see me looking sick and malnourished.

I dropped the flask on the floor and went to meet her. Just by looking at her, you could tell she wasn’t well.

“Nne m, what is it, where have you been?” I asked when I got to her.

“I’m not feeling too fine, and I want to talk to you,” she said.

I gently took her to the next shop. The boy working for Mrs. Magrate was my friend, so I begged him for a few minutes.

“I’ve been sick all this while; that’s why I haven’t been coming. Yesterday, my aunty took me to the hospital, and they said I’m pregnant,” she said, crying.

When she mentioned she was pregnant, my heart sank, and I left her hand immediately to look at her tummy. The tummy I saw didn’t look like the big, protruded tummies of my mother when she was pregnant with my siblings.

“How are you pregnant, and your tummy is small?” I innocently asked.

“It’s still small,” she replied, feeling irritated.

“Wow, what are we going to do? My master will settle me in the next two years; I’ve only worked for three seasons,” I asked without expecting an answer.

“My aunty is asking who is responsible, but I didn’t call your name, so she sent me out to go and bring the person responsible for my pregnancy or i should not return home,” she said.

At the mention of her aunty, I felt traumatized. The pain she inflicted on me the last time came afresh all over again.

“She said I should come?” I asked with a shaky voice.

“Yes, she doesn’t know who the father is. She said I should find the father of my baby,” she responded in a tired and teary tone.

The Dorcas I knew was not the one in front of me; she was darker, looked sick, and had saliva in her mouth at intervals.

A part of me was happy that she was having my child, which meant forever was certain with Dorcas. I loved her in all ways. I know I had a crush on Alice at some point in my early days, but what I felt for Dorcas was spiritual.

Spending my life with Dorcas would be a dream come true, and it seemed as though the baby wanted to make it happen faster than expected. However, I had my fears.

I was scared of what my master and her aunty would do. Would he settle me on time, at least for the sake of my unborn child? Would her aunty allow me to take her home until she put to bed if I couldn’t get a place in the city? I had a million and one thoughts as we both sat in my friend’s shop, but I had to act strong, holding her hands and rubbing her hair.

“Nne, I am sorry for everything, and I want you to know I will support you in every way possible. If you want us to see your aunty now, I can,” I said in an unconvincing manner.


Unable to return home until she identified the man responsible for her pregnancy, I advised Dorcas to wait at my friend’s shop until evening, hoping to avoid Mr. Maduka. I intended to consult with Barnabas to gather insights on handling the delicate situation.

Barnabas, equally fearful, suggested persuading Dorcas to consider terminating the pregnancy, emphasizing that my master would never settle me without completing my service years. He painted a bleak picture of the challenges of starting a family and argued that terminating the pregnancy was a common practice among young girls.

Unfamiliar with the concept of abortion, I recoiled at the idea of ending my child’s life. The thought of becoming a father was both overwhelming and exciting, but the fear instilled by Barnabas cast a shadow on the joy.

In the evening, we proceeded to her aunt’s shop. Upon seeing me, her aunt burst into tears, erupted in fury, hurling objects in our direction. Despite my attempts to shield Dorcas, her aunt vehemently opposed our presence.

“Dorcas, come this side now. So, among all the men in this market, it is the nwa boi you opened your legs for. Nwa boi, tufiakwa gi!” her aunt exclaimed, expressing her disapproval.

Ordered to leave immediately, I pleaded with her aunt, assuring her that I would take care of Dorcas. However, my pleas fell on deaf ears, and her aunt threatened me, prompting my hasty retreat to avoid physical confrontation.

Back at the shop, Barnabas, attempting to console me, remarked, “It is better for her to take her sister than leave her with you. Since she said you should forget about the baby, nna, forget about it.”

There was little comfort in his words. If Dorcas’s aunt refused to accept me, knowing she was pregnant, it signaled a bleak future.

Questions about the fate of my child, the possibility of reuniting with Dorcas, and achieving the wealth I dreamed of haunted my thoughts, overshadowing any semblance of happiness Barnabas spoke of.


After my last confrontation with Dorcas’s aunt, I lost contact with Dorcas for months. I would stand in front of Mr. Maduka’s shop, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but she never passed by. Countless times, I considered approaching her aunt to inquire about her well-being, but fear of the unknown outcome restrained me.

Barnabas, noticing my ongoing struggle, finally intervened.

“Guy, don’t do this to yourself. Let her go,” he advised one afternoon as I shared my ordeal with the boys. Seeking closure, I was desperate for guidance, yet the boys were not providing the encouragement I needed.

Six months later, while accompanying Barnabas to collect supplies from Mr. Maduka’s distributor, I spotted someone who resembled Dorcas. Upon closer inspection, it was indeed her. I couldn’t contain my excitement, shouting her name and rushing to greet her as she purchased fruits by the roadside.

Dorcas had changed; she looked healthier, with a lighter complexion and a flat tummy. Attempting to hold her hands, I emotionally expressed how I had searched for her everywhere, except asking her aunt. However, her response was disheartening.

“Obiora, how are you?” she casually inquired, her demeanor suggesting irritation. My attempt to overlook her unwelcoming attitude failed as she abruptly stated,

“Nice seeing you. I need to go.” I held her back, questioning her behavior, but she simply informed me that her aunt had terminated the pregnancy. Furthermore, she revealed her impending marriage to Mr. Fidelis, urging me to forget about her.

Stunned and unable to respond, I watched her leave. Barnabas had to push me before I started moving again. My silence in the shop worried customers who were accustomed to the cheerful and talkative Obiora.

That night, when we returned home, I skipped dinner and retreated to our room. For the first time in years, I cried silently, hands squeezing my shorts, heart racing. The boys’ attempts to comfort me were futile, as nobody seemed to comprehend the turmoil within me.

Despite my efforts to pick myself up, everything and everyone revolved around Dorcas’s marriage to Mr. Fidelis. Her aunt flaunted the wedding invitation with joy, ensuring I saw it when she came to my master’s shop to invite him. The ceremony took place, and the whispers about Mr. Fidelis’s intentions to secure a male heir through Dorcas circulated.

Determined to move forward, I focused on completing my service years. Some days were tough, haunted by memories and the loss of my child. However, I persevered, staying diligent, hardworking, and obedient to Mr. Maduka, despite the mistreatment.

Five years later, while eagerly awaiting settlement, I realized Mr. Maduka had no intentions of discussing it. New boys had joined to serve him, and one day, I decided to confront him during inventory check.

“Sir, I want to talk to you about something,” I said.

“What is it?” he replied, engrossed in his inventory book.

“I haven’t seen my people in five years, and I’m wondering when I’ll be able to see them,” I asked politely.

“When you are done with your service years,” he responded without looking up.

“But you said after five seasons, I would be settled,” I pointed out.

“Yes, I said so, but you can’t leave now. You’ll need to train the new boys before you go,” he said authoritatively, taking a seat.

“I’ve been teaching them for over a year; they are capable,” I argued.

“Obiora, you will have to spend three more years before I can settle you. Business is not going well, and you need to teach these boys,” he declared.

“Sir, I need to see my people,” I pleaded.

“You can see them,” he replied.

“How, sir? I don’t have money,” I responded.

“That is on you. If you want to see them, go and see them, but know if you leave, don’t come back,” he said before leaving.

I couldn’t fathom my master’s heartlessness and deceit. Determined to see my family, that evening, while he was away, I gathered the money from the day’s sales, informed the boys I needed to use the toilet, and left without looking back.


I headed to the motor park and hopped on a bus bound for my hometown. Before the bus set off, I purchased some bread, cookies, and candies. I wanted my siblings to experience city snacks.

Upon reaching home, if not for spending both my childhood and teenage years in my community, I wouldn’t have recognized the path to my father’s compound. Progress was reaching our community, and the once familiar bush paths we traversed were now paved roads. It presented a picturesque scene.

As I approached my father’s compound, waves of nostalgia swept over me—a rush of memories from past activities and the moments we shared. Contemplating my present reality, it became a poignant moment.

Eager to see if my father was in his obi, I found it closed off with palm fronds, an unusual sight as the entrance was never blocked before. About to search for my siblings or mother, one of my kin spotted me and exclaimed, “Brother Obi!” before enveloping me in a tight embrace.

During this reunion, I noticed my mother clad entirely in white. My heart skipped a beat, hoping my suspicions were wrong. Mother approached me slowly, holding onto me tightly as if her life depended on it. We embraced and wept until we found solace before taking our seats.

Inquiring about my father, she promised to explain everything but insisted I freshen up and partake in the yam and red oil available since my arrival. The unfolding situation was perplexing, so I declined eating until the whereabouts of my father were disclosed. The last communication indicated he was unwell, and now, his absence was met with silence.

Seeing my unwavering determination, my mother urged me to follow her. Together, we ventured to the rear of our hut, and there, I confronted my father’s grave.

“He is there,” my mother whispered through tears.

The reality seemed inconceivable—how the man I left just five years ago met his end, buried without his eldest son. They had made decisions without me. Why didn’t they convey a message, allowing me to bid my father farewell? Regret over not being present during his illness or at his burial weighed heavily on me. How could they entrust me with the responsibilities of caring for my mother and siblings without a word?

“Why did no one inform me before his burial or when you knew his sickness was critical?” I questioned with frustration.

“Your master came during his sick days and claimed you saw the letter but couldn’t make it. So, you instructed him to meet us when he came to inspect his plantation,” my mother clarified.

“Me?” I exclaimed.

“I only received one letter, and your sister mentioned you were attending to father. I never informed my master to seek you out. I was unaware of any letter, Mama. I had no knowledge,” I responded with tears.


I wept so profoundly that day and pledged to amass wealth regardless of the hurdles. I elucidated everything to Mother, who chastised my conduct, urging me to reimburse the money. She stressed the significance of an honorable reputation over material wealth, trying to remind me of my father’s counsel before I left to serve my master.

While I acknowledged her wisdom, my anguish overshadowed rational thought, and all I aspired to do was accumulate wealth, regardless of the means.

Sensing that my master would inevitably seek me in the village, I advised my mum to feign ignorance about my whereabout. I handed her some funds and informed her of my departure for the metropolis before dawn the next day. I was uncertain of my return but assured her that I would come back one day.

Despite her tearful pleas for me to stay, I persisted and assured her that I would manage. She declined the money, so I distributed it among my siblings that night and bid them goodnight/bye, knowing I wouldn’t see them in the morning.

I yearned to visit Alice and my married sister, but I couldn’t prolong my stay in the village any further, especially considering Alice had already relocated to the city with her spouse. By the time I contemplated visiting my sister, it was too late.

The next morning, I bid farewell to my mum. It was a struggle, but I had to depart. At my father’s grave, I implored him to safeguard his abode and guide me through this new odyssey.

Armed with two trousers and three tops, I left home in the chilly morning and boarded a bus bound for the bustling city of Lagos. Unfamiliar with anyone there and lacking a place to stay, I maintained optimism. The journey from my community to Lagos surpassed the duration of the trip from my community to Onitsha.

To conserve money, I refrained from purchasing items on the road. The lady beside me, engrossed in her snacks of eggs, fried plantains, cashews, chin chin, bananas, and groundnuts, almost tempted me, but the cautionary tale from my grandfather about spirits enticing people with food held me back.

It was a tale that instilled in us a reluctance to accept offerings from strangers. The bus made intermittent stops for breaks and restroom use, and each time it paused, I would inquire if it was the last stop, only to receive negative responses.

Eventually, I opted not to ask again and trailed the bus to its final destination. After all, it would lead me farther away from the possibility of encountering my master.

Upon arrival in Lagos, some passengers disembarked, but since it wasn’t the ultimate stop, I remained seated. Watching as vehicles inched forward on our lane while the adjacent lane flowed freely, a driver informed our driver,

“Them say trailer fall for front, na wetin dey cause the holdup.” He added.

“Na so I hear too, God go dey save us. Na food we dey find, make we no die while we dey find food.” Our driver prayed,

“Amen,” the man responded as the vehicle crept forward.

As we approached the final bus stop, I alighted, uncertain about my next move. I proceeded to a spot where men peddled fried yams and potatoes, purchasing twenty-naira fries and a five-naira water. Seated there, I contemplated my subsequent actions.


After indulging in my fries, I positioned myself close to the men, grappling with the decision of whether to reveal my predicament or play along. The last thing I wanted was to be taken advantage of, and also my time in Onitsha had taught me the significance of social connections – acknowledging that nobody is an island and at every stage in life, one needs somebody.

As night descended and the streets grew quiet, a profound sense of loneliness engulfed me. I couldn’t help but regret my decision, yearning for the familiarities of Onitsha – the humble roof over my head, communal dinners, and dreams of owning a store. Here I was, on a dark, desolate road with no clear direction or hope. I contemplated what I would do once these men closed their kiosk for the day.

Silently, I wept, seated and observing the passing cars, their headlights piercing the darkness. Providentially, I noticed the men arranging cardboard boxes in front of their kiosk, intending to use them as makeshift beds. Swiftly, I approached the guy who sold the fries and implored him for one cardboard box.

Wherever those men are now, I sincerely hope life treats them well. They allowed me to sleep on the cardboard, but my rest was disrupted by mosquitoes. In the middle of the night, I found myself awake, swatting away mosquitoes from my body and the guy who shared my sleeping space.

I marveled at how he managed to sleep soundly despite the mosquito bites. Perhaps I slept later in the night because a tap from one of the men roused me the next morning.

“How you dey, my friend?” he asked.

“Fine,” I mumbled in my groggy state.

“You follow us sleep, you no get house?” he inquired, glancing at his companions.

“No,” I admitted.

“You be Johnny just come?” he grinned.

“Yes,” I responded, not entirely understanding but thinking that saying yes was the safest bet.

“Oooo, welcome, my friend. As you follow us sleep here na why I ask you. Welcome, no problem at all. You fit dey sleep here, but you go find work o,” he advised.

I nodded and thanked him profusely. The noxious smells emanating from my body and the others were overpowering. When I inquired about bathing, they informed me it was either in the middle of the night or early morning, but for now, I could do a quick “wash and shine.” I washed my face, legs, and armpits, changing into fresh clothes. Although not feeling entirely well, it was an improvement.

Opting to explore the city on my own, I spotted a bus conductor with plenty of cash, sparking an idea. Working as a bus conductor seemed like a viable option. The thought appealed to me, and I resolved to apply for the job. Despite facing discouragement from some busy conductors, I persisted in my quest for information about the motor park.

I was on the verge of giving up when I encountered Oye, seated under an umbrella, smoking. I approached him and explained my situation. He asked if I had experience, and I confessed that I didn’t. He expressed doubt about finding a driver willing to take me on due to my lack of experience and unfamiliarity with the city.

Assuring him that I was a fast learner and capable of the job, even though I wasn’t entirely convinced of my abilities, the prospect of earning money fueled my determination. Oye looked at me and asked me to return in the evening. Since I lacked a place to stay, I informed him that I would wait with him there.

“Guy, I no go run. Go come back na,” he smiled, revealing his brown teeth.

“Make I wait here with you, abeg,” I pleaded.

“Oyah, come sit down, take,” he handed me what he was smoking. I declined with a smile and settled down beside him. A food vendor arrived, and he bought food for himself and me.

“Small small before the food kill you,” he remarked with a smile.

It was the first substantial meal I had in two days, so I devoured it eagerly. He requested the vendor to wait for us to finish so she could take her plate and add more food for me.

“I no fit wait again; drop the plate for here when una finish,” she declared.

I couldn’t express my gratitude to Oye enough, repeatedly thanking him. He playfully hit my chest and said, “Ṣé o ya wèrè ni.”

I didn’t comprehend the words, so I smiled and refrained from further expressions of thanks. Before evening, he procured a few snacks for me, and I interacted with some of his friends who came to meet him. He introduced me as his boy, and I exchanged handshakes with some of them, intrigued by the cuts and bloodshot eyes on their faces. They had a specific kind of handshake that I didn’t understand but found intriguing.

In the evening, Oye introduced me to Mr. Lati, informing him of my new status and unfamiliarity with the city. Mr. Lati pledged to pay me two thousand naira every day. The thought of earning such an amount nearly overwhelmed me, but I contained my excitement. I visited the fries’ guy, informing him of the new development and pledging to return and purchase fries occasionally.


Embarking on the role of a bus conductor under Mr. Lati’s employ proved to be an exhausting and challenging experience. The daily struggles ranged from disputes with passengers about missed stops to enduring the elements while scouting for potential riders. Additionally, there were instances of chasing street vendors to purchase items for passengers or running after the bus itself. The job demanded resilience, and my motivation stemmed primarily from the financial gains rather than any sense of fulfillment.

My accommodation was within the vehicle, utilizing a Ghana must-go bag to safeguard my limited possessions. Despite the rigorous routine, I diligently saved money, anticipating a return home in December to proudly show my mother the fruits of my labor. However, my aspirations crumbled eight months into this toil when someone stole my bag – containing my life savings of ninety-five thousand two hundred naira – while I briefly stepped away one early morning. The loss was devastating, casting a shadow over my hard-earned efforts.

In the aftermath, I sought solace in Oyewale, whose outward toughness belied a softer side. As I poured out my anguish, he offered silent empathy, uttering only,

“He don do” in his characteristic raspy voice. Unable to quell my sorrow, I returned to my duties on the bus, working mechanically. In a distracted state, I fell from the moving bus, narrowly escaping a potentially fatal encounter.

My fellow conductors assisted me back to safety, and Oyewale arranged for a chemist to treat my injuries. Following the treatment, I drifted into a troubled sleep. Upon waking, I found myself in an incomplete building, incapacitated and surrounded by distant voices. It was Oyewale who, dressed in black, approached and reassured me before leaving for work.

The following morning, he returned with food and water, providing a brief respite. Summoning courage, I broached the topic of his mysterious nocturnal activities.

“I thought you were the garage chairman; what other work do you do, bro Oye?” I queried.

“Omo Igbo, you like to know too much. You wan work too?” he playfully responded.

“I no mind; I need money, bro Oye,” I confessed.

“First, you go talk about money; Omo nna,” he asserted.

“So you fit shoot gun with this hand?” he inquired, scrutinizing my gaze.

“Gun?” I exclaimed, bewildered.

“Yes, gun,” he replied, adopting a serious demeanor.

“I thought you worked as the car park chairman,” I stammered.

“That one too na my work; I get plenty work,” he chuckled.

Intrigued, I asked if he could handle a gun, to which he cryptically hinted at the duality of every individual’s nature. Inspired by his words, I contemplated my life’s trajectory, the unkindness I had encountered, and the circumstances that led me to my current state. Determined to change my fate, I expressed my desire to join him in his endeavors, whatever they entailed, as long as there was financial gain.

Upon sharing my intentions, Oyewale explained the necessity of swearing an oath of allegiance, marking my official induction into their ranks. With the oath taken, I became a part of their clandestine operations, where we seized valuables without resorting to bloodshed.

However, one fateful mission saw us ambushed by the police. In the chaos, a bullet pierced Oyewale’s brain, unleashing a torrent of blood. Helpless, I watched him crumple on the seat as our getaway car sped away recklessly.


Oye was laid to rest in an open field, wrapped in white with a mat serving as his makeshift coffin. Witnessing Oye’s final moments with Mother underscored the fragility of life. One can be buzzing with happiness one moment, and in the next, the cold hands of death consume you.

Oye was more than a friend; he was like a brother who wasn’t connected by blood. He always looked out for me, offering his time, money, and love whenever I needed it. Despite his criminal endeavors, Oye was a good guy who made unfortunate choices.

With Oye now lying cold in Mother Earth’s embrace, I had no option but to seek means for survival, and this time, I desired legitimacy. I roamed marketplaces, begged for food, and eventually found work carrying people’s loads to earn a living.

During this laborious task, I developed friendships with some customers, and one of them was Mr. Cletus. His monthly visits to the market brought a glimmer of hope to my challenging days. Mr. Cletus, moved by my story, extended a helping hand, inviting me to his home.

Upon visiting him, I discovered that Mr. Cletus was a multibillionaire. Overwhelmed by his generosity, I expressed my gratitude. Recognizing my diligence and respect, he offered me a position as one of his salesboys, promising a monthly salary of ten thousand naira. He even invited me to live with him.

Ecstatic about this opportunity, I gladly accepted the job. For four years, I worked diligently in Mr. Cletus’s electronic store. On my fourth birthday with him, he surprised me with a mini party, brought my mother over, and presented me with the key to a fully stocked electronic shop in Asaba.

Mr. Cletus declared the shop mine, acknowledging my hard work and commitment. Overwhelmed with joy, I embarked on a new journey and after two years I opened outlets in different locations, and “Obi’s Electronics” became a household name.

I built a mansion for my mother in the village, supported my siblings in their education and businesses, and even assisted my married sister in returning to school. I married the most beautiful, hardworking, and homely woman whom I met during one of my business trips to secure goods. Together, we have been blessed with four wonderful children.

During a chance encounter in the village, I met Mr. Maduka, who sought forgiveness, explaining the difficulties life had thrown at him. He lost his shop to fire, and his wife left him for a wealthier man. As for Dorcas, she found happiness, gave birth to children, and lived a prosperous life.

Grateful for how everything turned out, I constantly thank God for my past. Always remember that a good name is more valuable than silver or gold. Life may not start as a bed of roses, but with time, it can blossom into one with help of God and consistency.


25 thoughts on “IJE NWOKE”
    1. So sweet , I was so intrigued to know what happens next. God bless you this piece . More grace and inspiration 👌👌🥰🥰💃💃

  1. Chai this boy didn’t understand the reason why Emeka took his life, the man is heartless.

    How I wish the money Obiora took is much, he will just use it to start his own business instead of traveling to the village. Nwoke na Ife😲😯😟

  2. Ooh Obiora I didn’t see this coming…. Life can make you do things you never thought of doing hmmm

    1. Hmmm….what a lesson
      Life may not start as a bed of roses, but with time, it can blossom into one with help of God and Consistency.

      Thank you mimi

  3. The saying “who go help you no go stress you” I believe everything he went through was just a preparation of what God is planning for you….

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