Ukadi brought his kinsmen to our house in the evening of the next day. My father called his kinsmen to join. They were kind enough to allow my father to detach them from their various commitments and bundle them to the house.
I wasn’t there at the meeting – of course, I was only a tenager and a girl for that matter. I needed to be a fully-fledged man to be a part of the meeting.
After the meeting father said that both kinsmen arrived at the conclusion that the marriage must hold on the ground that I had kept the “poor man” waiting for almost a year during which he had spent a huge amount of money on me, Amaka and the entire family.
Father said that when he insisted that Ukadi should go find someone else, Ukadi’s kingsmen demanded for the refund of all the money Ukadi had spent on my family.
That my father should pay him the total amount he spent on me, including my one year worth of school fees, books, clothes, and all the money he gave to my people. Everything he had put into our family.
One thing I knew was that I didn’t ask Ukadi to pay my school fees. I didn’t ask him to buy me things- gifts. None of my family members asked him to give them money. Why should he ask for refund? He was being shrewd and he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew nothing on earth would ever make it possible for my father to pay him back and if my father couldn’t pay, the next option would be for me to go ahead and marry him.
Father said he was ready to refund the whole amount and before them all accepted to refund him. They asked Ukadi to state the total amount and he said it was Five Million Naira. Ukadi said he must refund the money within one month.
Five million naira was a huge sum for my father to settle within one month. And since there was no one to look up to, it became impossible. The only option was giving Ukadi a piece of my fathers land. And my father said he couldn’t relinquish our only piece of land to him.
I was prepared to defy the kingsmen’s mandate, travel with my uncle to Lagos and never come back but father said his kinsmen would ex-communicate him if he failed to do as they said.
Had my father and mother allowed me to say my mind on the day of introduction and engagement, Ukadi could have been history.
“What are we going to do, father?” I asked. I pitied him because he had started blaming himself for ever bringing the ant-infested firewood into his house.
“Where are you going to borrow that kind of money from?”
“The Community Bank!”
I looked at him and pitied him the more.
To be continued…..
© Florence Ezekafor