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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - father died of Pneumonia, Federal University of Technology Owerri, dread locked, children, nearly a million Naira.

“You don’t feed me Dike. You have no business telling me what to do. I will do as I wish…I am answerable to no one!” Izunaso shouted into the phone, yelling at his much older brother Dike. “Did you say that you are not answerable to me Izunaso?” “Yes I did. I am a man of my own. No one pays my bills,” Izunaso insisted. “You are wrong about that Izunaso. I pay your bills every single day,” Dike countered. “No you don’t. I work for every penny I have. I am no longer a child. You can think whatever you want, but as far as I am concerned, I owe you nothing!” Izunaso was raising his voice by now. Dike closed his eyes. He nearly had a heart attack. He could not believe the words that had come out of his younger brother’s mouth.

Eighteen Years Earlier…
“Dear brother, good evening,” Izunaso greeted over the phone. “Izunaso how are you today?” His older brother, Dike asked. “I am fine thank you. How is Lagos?” “We are all doing alright. So how is Owerri?” “We are fine big brother. I don’t have enough credit. Please can you call me back?” “Of course, hang up then.” “Thanks for ringing me back.” “It is okay. Is anything the matter?” “Well, we have no food in the house and school resumes next week. We are sorry to bother you, but we are in dire need of help.” Their parents had both been dead for some years. Their father died of Pneumonia, while a heart condition claimed their mother’s life less than two years afterwards. Dike was in University when they both passed away. He worked odd jobs and pushed himself to the limits to support himself at the Federal University of Technology Owerri, as well as support his younger siblings (six of them). He landed a small job with an IT company in Lagos shortly after graduation.

“I will send you people some money by tomorrow okay,” Dike promised. First thing in the morning, he sent fifteen thousand Naira to his siblings and a bag of rice and beans each via a luxurious bus driver traveling to the East of the country. That was most of his earnings for the previous month. He had very little to live on afterwards, having paid his own bills. He lived on very little, managing his finances as carefully as he could. He walked to work, waking up early to get there in time. He packed lunch with him to keep from eating out; a measure that saved him a lot of money. Despite his hardship, he was happy that his siblings were not starving. Each month, he made sure they were provided for, as much as he could.

“Why don’t you get married and let your younger siblings sort themselves out?” Magnus, a close friend of Dike’s asked him one evening. “You earn very little, yet you send most of it to you siblings. You will die young, at this rate. They might grow older to forget everything you are doing for them.” “My siblings are my first wife, Magnus. I have no intention of getting married until the last of them has gone to University,” Dike replied him boldly. “I like your spirit, but I am afraid, you will live to regret it.” “Then so be it. I can’t bring myself to abandon them with our parents both dead.” “Must they go to school? Go with the flow. Times are tough. They should learn a trade or skill,” Magnus suggested. “I’d rather they go to school,” Dike insisted. A few years later, he was earning slightly better. Both of his younger brothers, Izunaso and Nnolim obtained admission to university at the same time. Dike burrowed as much as he could to cover the cost of their tuition, particularly, Izunaso’s who was in to study law, meaning that his tuition was about three times that of Nnolim.

“I will do everything within my powers to ensure that you all go to school. Work hard and never give up,” Dike enjoined his siblings. By the time, Dike left the university, their youngest sibling, Anulika was in university. By now, Dike had spent heavily, and he was still single, yet, he was the happiest man alive to see his siblings graduate from the University of Lagos. Izunaso landed a decent job in Lagos. Soon, he was rolling in money. He lived like a king. “Izu, it is your turn to look after Anulika, so I can face a few of my own personal matters now,” Dike suggested. “Why do I have to do that?” Izunaso shot back at him.” Shocked, Dike looked at his younger brother. He could not believe what he had heard. He recalled the words of his best friend Magnus. “What did you say Izunaso?” He asked him, still in shock. “I said, why should I do that?” “You do it or I will disown you,” Dike threatened. “And what does that mean? Disown me or not, it is none of my business. You should sort out Anulika,” Izunaso replied sardonically.

Izunaso made good his promise, refusing to support Anulika in school. Dike, who earned less at the time, continued to toil to support his youngest sibling, as his other siblings had not been lucky with jobs. Izunaso got married in less than two and a half years after graduation. One evening, his younger brother Nnolim came to visit. He had been working the streets of Lagos in search of a job. After another futile search, he walked to his Izunaso’ house. Izunaso’s wife served him water. He had been hoping for a meal.  His stomach growled and howled as he waited for a meal that never arrived. “I am not able to return to Dike’s house tonight. Is it okay if I spend the night here?” he requested as he had no money on him to cover his transport fare. Besides, he was still hoping for a meal for the night, at least. “I am afraid, we can’t harbor you for the night Nnolim, Izunaso answered him. I will drop you off at the bust stop. We don’t have room for you in the flat,” he explained even though he had a spare room that lay fallow. “I don’t have transport money, Izu. Please could you lend me some, or drive me home to brother Dike’s?” He pleaded with his brother. The next time you leave home, you should make plans on how to get home. Don’t come here to beg us,” he replied with a frown on his face. He reluctantly gave him money for transport fare.

Dike would lie in bed at night and bemoan his pains and sacrifice in training Izunaso. He cried when Nnolim told him how Izunaso had treated him. He still provided for his other siblings, none of whom had a meaningful means of livelihood. Dike continued to take extra trainings that landed him more certifications. After his third attempt, he landed a job with Good Nigeria. Gladly, he brought the rest of his siblings to Lagos, to live with him. Izunaso’s wife on the other hand began to place incongruous financial demands on him. “Our kids ought to go to better schools like Tony’s. His kids attend the best elementary school in Lagos,” she shouted caustically at her husband. After incessant pressure, Izunaso caved in, and they sent their first child to a school where they paid nearly a million Naira in tuition per year. Soon, their second child was in the same school, thereby, increasing their expenditure. Soon, the third child was in the same school, while their first child went off to secondary school. His tuition jumped from one million Naira to three million Naira.

Izunaso, was slowly being bled white. Soon, money was harder to come by in his household. His stress levels hit the roof, and before he could pull himself together, he lost his job. “I am not going to continue living like this,” said his wife. “Is that how you are going to sympathize with me?” He asked her. “Your mates are making good money and you are asking for sympathy,” she shot back at him. Soon, his wife, Imelda moved out of the house and moved in with another man who lived two streets away from them, taking the children with her. She took the only car they had not sold. Izunao’s efforts at landing another job yielded no success. To further complicate matters, no one was willing to accommodate him in their law chambers. He had been far too arrogant when things were rosy. Shortly afterwards, Izunaso’s landlord threw him out for his inability to pay his rent. He went from friend to friend, but no one had room for him. Inexplicably, he found himself at the foot of a bridge with other vagrants.

He begged for arms, worked as a bus conductor, worked on a construction site…he did all the odd jobs he could find. He went from a well-manicured man, to a bushy dread locked fellow. From a distance, one could see sediments of dirt on his bushy, thick hair. One afternoon, while he was working as a bus conductor, he saw his first son. He looked at him intensely, wanting to embrace him. His son recognized him, but he did not share the same urge for a hug. There were specks of tears around his son’s eyes…perhaps an indication of pity for his father. “What are you doing there,” Izunaso’s driver yelled at him as he watched his son walk away with another man. When he returned to the shack that had become his new home, having graduated from under the bridge to a makeshift house, he thought of taking his own life. He did not have the guts to go through it. He thought of his siblings. He had no idea where they lived. He recalled that Dike had been offered a job by Google. He took the next Monday off and walked to Google office. He sat near the gate and waited. Around 6:00PM he sighted Dike from a distance.

He entered a Toyota Rav-4 and began to drive. As soon as Dike reached the gate, Izunaso began to wave at him. At first, Dike did not recognize him. He kept driving slowly, but Izunaso continued to shout and wave. He stopped, looked him over and the resemblance began to come through. Dike parked and alighted. Izunaso stared at him as he walked toward him. He was covered in guilt and shame. He could hardly look Dike in the eye. “Izunaso,” Dike called to him. “Deede (Big brother),” Izunaso replied. “I heard you were living under the bridge and I did not believe it. Has it really come to this?” Dike asked pointing at his ragged nature. Izunaso could not answer him. “I am sorry,” he said face down. Tears trickled down his face as he stared straight at the ground. “For give brother,” he repeated, still not able to look up. “I want to forget everything you did Dike, but I can’t trust you. You are only here because you need help. You turned against your family…you are a very self-centered person. I am sorry for what you are going through but I am not ready to have you back in my life,” Dike replied. “Please don’t come back here again,” he added as he returned to his car and drove off.

Izunaso sat on the floor and cried. He was broken…overtaken by guilt and sheer sadness. Dike drove as fast he could. As he sped home, he wondered if he had done the right thing. What would our parents say if they were alive? He thought, yet a wave of anger swept through him. When he reached home, he sat on the couch and began to cry. The haggard look of his brother began to haunt him. I should have brought him home, he thought. At least give him food. He thought of Izunaso’s shirt that was torn and patched; his shoes that barely covered his feet and his dirty looking hair. I can’t take this anymore, he concluded. He returned to his car and headed back to work. By the time he got there, the gate man told him that Izunaso had cried bitterly before leaving. “He sat on the floor and cried like a baby,” said the gate man. “He said he had been bad in the past and that he deserved what he got from you. He said in case you changed your mind, that he lives at this address,” the security man added, handing a small, ripped piece of paper to Dike.

He called his other siblings who joined him shortly. They drove over in Anulika’s car. She had graduated and was married with a child. They went to the address in Ajegunle. Wading through potholes, mud, raw sewage that was spewing out of poorly sealed septic tanks and giant mosquitoes that appeared to have machetes with them as they emerged from dirty gutters, they found Izunaso’s address. When they reached the makeshift building, Ukeh, the youngest of the boys knocked on the door. “Who you dey find? (Who are you looking for?),” A man asked from the neighboring room. He came out as he spoke. He was equally dread locked and lanky. “We are looking for Izunaso,” Ukeh replied. “You mean Jah Man?” The man asked. “Is that what you call him? The guy who lives here.” “Yes. He is dread locked with thick, rough beards?” “Yes, answered Dike. “He left since morning. I don’t know where he went.” They stood outside and waited for him. It was getting dark when he appeared. He was surprised to see them. Guilt was still written all over his face.

“Nnolim! Ukeh, Anulika…” He called to them one after the other. Anulika could not hold back her tears. She opened her arms and wrapped them around him. They both cried in each other’s arms. The other siblings joined in. “Please forgive me, even though I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I…I am so sorry for being very selfish. I treated you all, especially you Dike, very badly. I lost it all…I was brought down to earth like a crashing air plane. I am deeply sorry.” “It is okay now, you are coming home with us,” Anulika replied. They allowed him to pick up his personal belongings and they all headed for their vehicles. “You are leaving me here Jah Man?” His neighbor asked as they walked away. “Jah has heard my cries, Festus,” Izunaso replied.

THE END                              

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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