My Dad was waiting for me at Asaba airport with an ever ready smile, but as usual, I didn’t return it.
I called my mum to let her know I was in Asaba, and I was extremely jet-lagged after an 18-hour trip. I wasn’t ready to make small talk with my father, all I wanted was sleep.
“Nike, how are you doing? You have grown so much since last year. How was your trip? How is school? And how’s your mother? Let me help you with your bag.” His voice and expression showed pure excitement.
I moved my suitcase to my other hand and rebuffed his help. “Everything is fine, thanks.”
He sighed and held my shoulder firmly. “I know your mother didn’t raise you to be disrespectful. In this country, we greet our elders, and I demand that you greet me the way you should have.”
“And if I don’t? Will you do me the favor of sending me back? You think I want to be here?” We were creating a scene and he knew it.
He relented and led the way to his car while I followed. After making our way out of the airport, he resumed his tirade.
“Year after year, I have tried my best to make you feel welcome. I know the amenities here cannot be compared to what you have over there in the States, but I’m trying. Nike, I am trying.”
“First, my name is Nikki, stop calling me Nike.”
“I named you Nike, after your mum’s mother. I am not going to stop calling you what I named you.”
“Second, don’t act like you want me here. You never wanted me as a child, so why should I believe you would want me now?” My voice was breaking and I hated it.
He suddenly stopped driving and he parked the car by the side of the road. He turned to look at me, while I was trying to keep my tears at bay.
“Why would you think such a thing?” He asked softly.
I gave a bitter laugh. “Oh please. You cheated on my mum just because you wanted boys, since I wasn’t enough as a child for you. Instead of you to apologize, you let grandma insult her and call her barren, and you justified your misdeeds with the archaic culture you practice in this godforsaken land.”
“Nike, I swear to God, I loved you and your mother, but I let the fear of ‘what would people say?’ push me into hurting you both. I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you, but believe me, I want you here and I can’t wait to let you see how much I love you.”
The tears ended up falling and I groaned. I could be such a softie sometimes. I didn’t forgive him, not really, but I no longer hated him either.
When he finally realized I wasn’t going to say anything anymore, he sighed and started the car.
Halfway to the house, I noticed a bunch of posters and billboards; ever the political scientist, they caught my attention.
“The Delta State Governorship election is next month.” Dad told me when he caught me staring at a particular billboard.
I was silent at first, I wanted to ignore him, but my curiosity and interests wouldn’t let me. “Who is the young candidate?”
“That’s Peter Irivwotu for the CPC party. He’s a good man, but he’s not going to win. He doesn’t even have a chance.”
“He’s competing against the likes of Chief Ikenna and the current Governor.”
“So, people would rather vote for chief Ikenna, someone who has served them for eight years in the senate with nothing to show for it, or reinstate a governor that has spent the past four years squandering their resources?” I was irritated at that moment.
He chuckled silently. “That’s the power of money my dear.”
“I’m sure the people will eat that 5000 naira for the next four years then.”
“You can’t blame them. They are poor and that 5000 naira is a lot to them. Those that know better know their votes won’t count so they don’t bother voting.”
“You mean people like you?” I asked him.
“I thought you hated Nigeria. Why are you suddenly so interested in our welfare and politics?”
He got me there! I scowled, folded my hands on my chest, and pouted like a child. We were silent through the rest of the drive to his place. When we drove into his compound, my eyes immediately went to the orchard.
It was my favourite place in the compound while growing up, and it was still my favorite place each summer. No matter the season, there was always a tree with fruit in there.
While I was getting my suitcase out of the backseat, dad went to close the gate. I turned to look at my home for the next two months, and I sighed. My Dad’s house was actually pretty big; when I was a child, I used to think I lived in a castle.
It was a turquoise storey building with two guest rooms downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. Overtime, the décor and appliances inside the house changed to accommodate the ever changing trends.
I wheeled my suitcase inside after him. The living room was quiet and it felt devoid of life. I looked around me, feeling out of place, even though it was my dad’s house, it wasn’t my own home.
“You know your summer breaks come faster than that of Nigerians. The boys are still in boarding school and will not be home until next month. Amaka should be in the kitchen making something for you.”
Speak of the devil! Amaka came into the living room with a smile for me. I had come to like her over the years, though I wouldn’t let her know, when I realized she was also a victim of Africanization. She was manipulated by her parents into dating and marrying my dad traditionally, without telling her he had a wife and kid in Asaba.
“Nikki my dear. See how big you’ve grown. How are you doing and how was your trip?” She actually hugged me.
“My trip was fine, thank you. I am jetlagged and will actually love to rest.”
“Not without eating first. Tell me, how is your mother doing?”
“She’s really good. She’s seriously dating Brian, our handsome and hunky black neighbour and they are so happy and in love.”
“Oh!” This came from my dad.
Everyone was suddenly quiet because he didn’t hide the look of hurt and jealousy on his face well enough. I was suddenly happy and giddy inside because I made him feel one of the things his betrayal did to me.
“I’ll just go upstairs and shower, then I’ll come back down to eat. Is that okay with you?”
They both nodded, so I made my way upstairs, reveling in my victory while they stayed in an awkward silence. Someone will not be getting laid that night.