The day things began to fall apart, I was on holiday. After my final examination, Mama called to break the news to me.

“Elochukwu,” her voice poured out of the phone into my ears. Hoarse, unlike the calmness in Papa’s voice that comes like a feather titillating one’s ear. “Your father. Nna gi,” she paused to blow her snotty nose, “they’ve imprisoned him.” My happiness deflated at the news. I could remember the phone sliding off my palm, and landing on my thigh. I picked it up immediately. I wanted to reach out to her and yank the bad words off her tongue. “They confiscated our property too. Those people. Ndi obi ojoo,” her voice cracked. The phone bleeped before I could shout Ekwuzina. Her airtime was exhausted. I stared at the screen as if chiding it for being the bearer of such news. From here, I knew things would never remain the same again.

I’d leave Enugu for Umuahia the next day because I wanted to console Mama. To hear her recount the whole story. She’d tell me how it all began, picking each detail the way she picked stones off her beans; from Papa’s false allegation to how the police came, handcuffed him, and confiscated our property. Everything became blurry. My dreams shattered like a pack of dominoes. I realized how circumstances can maim one’s optimism. I, who’d carved a great future ahead of me.

That morning, we vacated our flat because we needed to secure a cheaper one. I held one powerful ammunition with which I’d bring our conditions back to normal – hope. I let hope slaughter my fear, this belief that things can’t turn out well for us again. It showed me a brighter future. The one where we’d move out of this rat-infested room we rented. Hope told me we could be another Job rising like a Phoenix to reclaim what belonged to us.

The next week, I stomped out of the house with my Ghana-must-go bag, which contained the Okrika clothes I intended to sell in the market, slung over my shoulder. I didn’t feel the weight. The only weight I felt was that of my dreams which made me come up with this business idea. I maneuvered through the alleyways, refusing to scrunch my nose at the malodorous smell of urine and mosquito-infested garbage emanating from the gutters. I was learning to get accustomed to this alien smell. So far, my life has known more luxury than suffering. I ruminated over my father’s predicament as I picked my steps towards a curb, where I stood to flag down a keke-napep. My father, my ebullient sturdy man, who a few weeks ago had encouraged me to apply for a UK visa, vowing to give me his best till I become the best.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Does God delight in their sufferings? If not, why then will he permit them to suffer?

Tears were brimming in my eyes. Specks of it found their way down my cheeks. But I was fast enough to wipe them before the curious eyes of passers-by darted towards my direction. At that instant, my eyes caught sight of a keke-napep gliding to a halt. I rushed towards it and inadvertently stepped on a woman who had had her child strapped on her back and a ware resting comfortably on her head. “You no dey see road abi? Mumu. Anu ofia,” she cursed in her thick Igbo accent.
“Sorry ma. No vex biko,” I apologized, rushing to meet the keke-napep. I sat between two drowsy men, squeezed in between like a hastily made sandwich. Smell of wet unshaven armpits flooded my nostrils. I let my mind flounder around the event that led to my father’s imprisonment.

He was accused of embezzlement — a set-up by his colleagues who have been nursing resentment towards him for refusing to be part of their immoral deeds in the company. They cooked up lies which they injected into the general manager’s bones. Next thing, he was bundled by the police, who demanded a whopping sum of money for his release. To them, part of the money would be used to settle the embezzled sum. Since we couldn’t afford the money, they confiscated our property too.

I knew this would thwart my plan of joining my friends who had gone abroad to find their future, as all my father’s savings had been reserved for sponsoring that dream. We needed money to bail him out and Mama’s petty trading business wouldn’t sustain either of us. Saddled with a new financial responsibility, I decided to take up the okrika business to make ends meet.

On reaching the market, I alighted and secured a position on the ground where I spread a sack bag and strewn the okrika clothes on it. “Grade one Okrika, this one pass bend down select oo, oyibo never wear am well,” I shouted, ringing my bell at intervals and beckoning potential customers for patronage. Soon, the place began to brim with people, bending to make their choices.

As the days crawled into weeks and weeks into months, I upgraded my okrika business and recorded much profit. Profit big enough to bail Papa out of prison. Big enough to enable me to apply for my dream UK visa.


“Papa. Ogadimma uzo. It shall be well again,” I affirmed the evening he returned home, peering lovingly into his brown eyes. He nodded childishly and embraced me into his now lean arms. Two specks of tears escaped his eyes which had become sunken from many months of solitary confinement. I watched my man cry. Smiles creased my brows as I pictured myself in London, where I’d make money. Big money. Enough to banish tears from his face for life. Big enough to secure his comfort.











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