Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.
‘Se awon omo ita naa lo fa ki adugbo da bayii ?” (Are the area boys the cause of this silence?)
‘My sister, na so we see am’. Iya Ibeji was an Igbo woman who had married a butcher from Ibadan. She understood Yoruba quite well but couldn’t speak it fluently. She got up to light the coil, whose fumes were to repel mosquitoes. ‘I forget to buy Otapiapia*, the mosquito dem go chop belleful today. Baba Ibeji go talk die.’
She came back outside to bid her friend goodnight. But the woman was no longer there. She hurried back inside as one of her children called out to her. It was one of those face-me-I- slap you houses. The caretaker had not locked the main door. She ran out to the backyard.
‘Old soldier, you no go lock the gate? You dey hear say your pipu wan fight? Pa…’ she was interrupted by the sound of bottles being smashed, and cutlasses scraping the floor. She fled to her room, and locked herself and her children in. She got on her knees and began to pray.
The woman called out to her. ‘Kilonshele? Won ti bere ija abi? Caretaker Oloriburuku nyen o ti gate? Omuti oshi! Alainitiju! Ma lo ba. Won bi i da ki o ma ti gate nyen nsiyin?’ (What’s happening? They have started fighting already? That unfortunate caretaker didn’t lock the gate. Useless man! Shameless drunkard! I am going to meet him. He must close that gate at once’.
Iya Ibeji began to plead with her to go back in and lock her own door. She shooed her back to bed and walked down to the end of the corridor. She was about to step into the yard when two young men rushed in armed with cutlasses, guns, broken bottles and charms. She is roughly shoved to the side. One of the young men screamed, ‘Taju? Oloshi da? Ni bo lo sapamo si? ‘ (Taju? Where is the useless boy? Where is he hiding?’ She was struck repeatedly each time she tried to get up. ‘E so fun un pe ko ni se orire’. (Tell him it will not be well with him). The other one kicked her. ‘Sebi eyin ni iya e? Ni bo lo wa?’ (You are his mother. Tell us where he is). They made her lead them to her one room apartment which Taju shared with her and his half brother.
Saka, her son from her first marriage, was awakened by the ruckus the boys were causing. He was angered by the way his mother was being handled. He expressed his displeasure at once. ‘Ki lo fa oshi gan na. E wa o, e ti gbo pe Taju o si nibi. E ko oshi lo jo.’ (What is all this nonsense? You have been told Taju is not here. Get lost!!!’ ) He turned to face the younger of the boys, but the other one stabbed him in the back with a broken bottle. He was repeatedly cut and stabbed by the boys. They turned to his mother. ‘E jise fun Taju. Ko ni ku re.’ (Deliver this message to Taju, he will not die a pleasant death).
Her cries rent the air, as soon as they had gone. ‘E gba mi!!! Ara adugbo! Ara Ile!!! Esanu fun mi! Eleda mi! Ki ni ma so? Ta ni mo se’ (Help! Neighbours! My Creator! What will I say? Whom have I offended?). She grabbed her son, and wept uncontrollably. She watched as life left his body with each drop of blood he lost. She heard her neighbours come and go. She watched them clean the blood. She continued watching. That was the last thing she ever remembered.
*Otapiapia is a locally made insecticide