TRUE COLOURS - Episode 2

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Mbgafor woke her husband Ejikeme. “Ejikeme please wake up. I can hear my friend crying outside...

Mbgafor woke her husband Ejikeme. “Ejikeme please wake up. I can hear my friend crying outside. I think Ikoro has beaten her again. Please wake and come check on her with me,” she pleaded. Groggily, Ejikeme woke up and went with her. They found Maria crying in the pouring rain. “I want to die Mbgafor but to whom do I leave my son? He may be dead. That monster smashed his head against the wall. Please Ejikeme can you go and check if my son is still alive,” she pleaded. Ejikeme knocked on the door. There was no answer. Then he knocked again, and again. Finally, a drunk Ikoro came to the door. “What do you want?” He asked aggressively. “Is Dubem alright?” “Yes he is. He is in bed. Leave my house.” “Can I take a look at him?  You know if he dies, the police will come after you.” “You have come to threaten me with police in my own house? Get out Ejike. How are you sure other men are not sleeping with that wife of yours. I know she sent you because you have no mind of your own.” “I know you have a mind of your own Ikoro, and all you can do with it is beat a wonderful woman who takes care of you and your own son.” “Ikoro charged towards him. “If you come any closer to me, I will punch you to death,” Ejikeme warned him. Ejike was almost twice his size. Despite his drunkenness, he knew how to pick a fight. He stayed back and barked at Ejikeme. “Leave my house idiot!”

“I have warned you, if anything happens to that boy, I will make sure you don’t get away with it.” “I want to see my son!!!” Maria shouted from a distance. She could no longer stay away. She wanted to make certain her son was alive. “I no longer want to live with you Ikoro. Please let me have my son,” she added. “And where will you go without me? Have you forgotten that you have no family? No one to run to? I am all you have Maria. You do as I say. Right now, get out of my sight. Dubem is mine and there is nothing you can do about it. I am sure by tomorrow you will come on your knees and beg me. You have only me in this world Maria,” Ikoro said sarcastically. His voice was laced with malice. Pain stabbed deeply at Maria’s heart. She recalled the very night she had run to Ikoro and how he took her in his arms. As the months went by, all she got from him were harsh words and beating. “Please let me have my son…I need to see him.” “You cannot.” Ejikeme could no longer stand this. He brushed Ikoro aside and pinned him to a rickety old chair in the living room. “Are you there Dubem?” He asked. “Yes uncle Ejikeme,” Dubem answered. Come and get your child Maria.” Ejikeme urged her. The drunk Ikoro kicked and punched, but he was no match for the bulky Ejikeme, who kept him pinned down until Maria picked up her things and her son’s. “I will have you arrested,” Ikoro threatened Ejikeme. “You will come back and beg me,” he yelled at Maria.

One year later…
“I will do anything in this world to protect you,” Dubem promised his mother. “Just go to school and learn my child,” she urged him. They now had their own small apartment near Artizan Market. Maria finally followed Mgbafor’s advice. With her contribution, she managed to get a place and put a few things in it for her son and herself. She had started attending night classes at Construction Elementary School nearby. She had dropped out of Elementary years earlier. She worked hard at day to make sales at her small shop, and studied hard at night. Dubem helped her with her work. Soon, she was getting better. She was able to read after one year of consistent studying. At night, while she studied, she would pause to watch Dubem as he slept peacefully. Oh God, I will do anything for give him a better life than the one I have had so far, she would think. Soon, Maria was taking secondary school classes. She even got unto the accelerated program to help her finish her secondary education in half the time via night school. Dubem continued to blossom at school too. Money was tight, but Maria had seen far too much in life to give up. Mbgafor and Ejikeme continued to help them the best they could.

“I want to borrow two hundred thousand Naira,” Maria said to the bank manager. “That is a hefty sum woman. I wonder if we can afford to lend you that sort of money. You are a petty trader. Can I see your business plan?” The bank manager asked. Unfazed by the bank manager’s doubt, she opened up her book and began to present her ideas to the bank manager. “I have learned how to read and write sir. I did that in a little over a year. I have enormous desire to carve out a better life for my child and I. I have kept records of my current business.” She showed her earnings and expenditure to the bank manager who was beginning to show interest. “I can assure you that I have studied the baby wears business thoroughly sir. I will start with Onitsha, and then I will move to Lagos to buy my wares, and in the next six years, I can guarantee that I will be shipping my own wares from China and Indonesia. I have the knowledge, the desire, and carefulness to make this work. Give me a chance sir,” she pleaded.

“I like your desire madam. I don’t doubt that you can make it, but do you have any collateral?” “No. I will not run away sir,” “I am sorry, I cannot afford to offer you the loan. It is against bank policy.” The bank manager looked at her with pity. “I wish I could help ma,” he added. She left the bank sad, but not defeated. When Maria reached home, she began to think of another bank to contact. She thought of pledging her shop as collateral but she did not own it. She spoke to her shop landlord to see if he could help, but he was no interested. She was rejected by five banks along the line, yet she kept going. “I am not sure they will give you that sort of money mama,” Dubem said one night as they both talked about it. “Where there is a will my son, there is a way. I am determined to find that way, because I have the will.” “I hope you find it ma, but I am worried that because we are poor, no one would be willing to give you that kind of money.” “That is the way people who want to remain poor think. My son, I have seen a lot in life even though I am still fairly young. I want to change our fate. There has to be someone out there waiting to be convinced by me, and I am willing to find them.” “I like your spirit ma.” “You should take on life with the same spirit.” “I will mama,” Dubem promised.

It was a normal Saturday morning. Maria had opted to stay home that day to work on her loan proposal. She had found another bank she was willing to give a try. She did all her calculations and made sure she had covered everything. Then, a 2002 Mercedes Benz E Class pulled up in front of her shack. These rich men are here again, always looking for those young university students, she thought and she went back to her math. She was distracted by a knock on her door. She recognized the man. What brings you here? He was clad in white brocade with white sandals to match. “I came to see you,” the man replied. It was the bank manager of the very first bank she had visited in her quest to raise money to expand her business. “Please come in. I hope all is well?” “Yes, all is well,” he answered. “It is a poor woman’s house,” she said. “It is okay. I…I came to tell you that I was impressed with your numbers during your presentation, for someone who only just recently acquired decent formal education. I was touched by your infectious desire to create a good life for your child and change your fate. You had enough reason to wait for a man to pick you up or give in to your circumstance, but you won’t do that. Although my bank won’t offer you the loan, I was moved in my spirit to help you and your son.” Maria looked at him, bright-eyed.

She could not believe what she was hearing. “I have decided to offer you a loan to the tune of three hundred thousand Naira. I think you will need more money along the line. Just tell me how you want to pay it back and I will write you a cheque right now.” A jubilant Maria leapt into the air. Quickly, she presented an exit plan to Mathew, the bank manager. By Monday morning, Maria was cashing the cheque into her bank account. Slowly, she began to buy more wares. Soon, she was the biggest dealer in her line at the Market. Meticulously, she kept records and identified new avenues to make more sales. She was nice to her customers and Dubem was always on hand to help when he had time. Mathew checked in every few weeks to make sure everything was going well. After a year and half, Maria was in a bigger shop.  


                                             CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 1

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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