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Uzodimma’s Security Vote Would Have Been Better

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By Nwadike

The Imo state governor Hope Uzodinma on Friday signed into law an Executive Bill he personally sent to his boys at the Imo state House of Assembly requesting them to cancel the monthly payments of pensions to former governors, their deputies, Speakers and deputy speakers in the state.

The passage of that Bill which went with the speed of lightning surpasses all previous legislative abracadabra known in the history of the Imo House of Assembly, including those of the former governor Rochas Okorocha who, it seems, is fast becoming beatified by Sen. Hope Uzodimma and may soon become a saint.

Governor Achike Udenwa had signed that law as ‘The Imo State Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges Law No. 5, 2007’ while in office, to provide monthly stipends to former governors, their deputies, Speakers and Deputy Speakers after they left office.

That law had allowed an official approval of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000) only as a monthly allowance to a former Governor in Imo state after he or she might have left office.

My estimate is that a former Governor in Imo state is entitled to an annual sum of Six Million Naira (N6m) only to manage himself, his medicals, his family and the retinue of aides and societal dependents the allure of his former office created. This amount is about the same package given to a retired Permanent Secretary.

Sen. Uzodimma while assenting to that Bill as was swiftly passed, described it as a “bad omen” and a “condemnable law” which he could not personally condone, hence his immediate demand from the lawmakers to repeal it.

Commendable!

But when a governor who is presumed to have been elected through democratic processes begins to manifest undemocratic features and actions, then the making of a dictator is ongoing.

The process of law-making, including the repeal of existing law, requires some rigorous approaches, beginning from the stage of the originating of the Bill to its final ascent.

An Executive Bill from a governor requires nothing less than Seven to Eight stages, with the most important being the Gazetting stage.

Gazetting of Bill before consideration comes after the initial review with the primary purpose of “giving the public notice that a new piece of legislation is being considered, and to give members of the public and concerned persons the opportunity to weigh in on the process and potentially give written representations either in favour of the proposed law or against it”

Conceding that Sen. Uzodimma as a serving Imo governor, now has all “powers” of Ndimo at his very disposal, but wouldn’t it have been decorous to have notified the public, especially, these senior colleagues (former governors, deputies, Speakers, etc.) of his intention to end their hitherto legitimate packages? So, at what point was the public notified of the Uzodimma’s Bill?

The legislative process also requires a Bill of this nature to be read at the floor of the Chambers the First, the Second and the Third time. After the debate at the Second Reading, this Bill is moved to the Committee stage where it is critically reviewed, deliberated and where necessary, subjected to a Public Hearing. The Bill returns as a Report back to the Chambers for the Third Reading and possible passage, before enrolment by the Clerk of the House for the governor’s assent.

At which points, when and where were these procedures observed by the Imo governor before the rush to extricate a legally established law of the state? Did Sen. Uzodimma critically analyze the wider implications of denying these elderly citizens, especially the former Deputy Governors and Speakers their monthly stipends, when shreds of evidence abound that most of them, due to old age and health challenges, is now economically weaker? Does Uzodimma not know that those monthly alerts are enough reasons for these guys to live with Hope? Where lies the toga of Shared Prosperity when people are daily impoverished by the Uzodimma’s administration?

My quick summation of the so-called pensions of these ‘former this and that’ shows a little above Three Million Naira (N3m) monthly for all of them put together, (excluding Okorocha who is now a serving senator). What is the effect of a N3m positive deduction from Imo allocation for our aged and retired leaders where a serving governor like Uzodimma personally pockets undeclared Millions of Naira as Security Votes monthly?

If Governor Uzodimma truly has “conscience” and cares about his place in “history” as he claimed in his brief address during his assent, why has it not occurred to him that this unaccounted Security Vote he pockets every month is illegal, “bad omen” and “anti-people”? What is the difficulty in revealing the amount and surrendering it to Ndimo “as a young state grappling with enormous challenges”? How does the governor’s “conscience” go to sleep knowing that most civil servants, pensioners and teachers still have their salaries denied them while his Information agents fling out lies and propaganda, including suspension of workers who dare to complain?

Imo’s Post Covid-19 era will require a concerted effort of all, especially former governors and leaders. This is the exact time to court them and tap from their stocked wealth of administrative ingenuities and coordinations which, unfortunately, are major lacks in the Uzodimma’s administration, not scaring them away as we witnessed under the Okorocha-led eight years of hell in the state of which consequences are well known to all.

Uzodimma should avoid the mistake of emulating Okorocha who once bragged that there were no men in Imo. Imo nwekwara men! (Imo has men), and I can tell you that they are quickly gathering having learnt from the past.

With the heeps of wastes and refuses now piling heavily on our city roads; the mess our roads are gradually returning to (especially the Orlu-Owerri road); the ineffectiveness and cluelessness now made of our men and women appointed SAs and SSAs; the withdrawal of Rights of fiscal control from the appointed chairmen and members of the Interim Management Committees of most councils, etc., one is daily tempted to query how and where the hell the governor spends our resources these five to six months in office with the state gradually sliding back to the Okorocha era. How did Emeka Ihedioha perform the noticeable feats we observed under him, both in administration, governance and in quality road infrastructures at the state and Local Governments Councils?

It will amount to passing the buck for anyone to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse in answering my various questions here, because allocations of the state have been coming to the governor even with the Covid-19. The governor may just have to humble himself and submit to superior ideas and suggestions if he seriously desires a comfortable place for himself in history. Perhaps he should review his relationship with past and present Imo leaders. He should also be humble enough to consult and acquire some administrative senses from them, or better still, under-study the Prof. Ben Ayade’s Post Covid-19 palliatives measures for Cross Riverians.

Certainly, Sen. Uzodimma needs more to be able to enliven and stimulate our people for his government. The repeal of former Governors pensions’ token does not excite Ndimo.

Greg Nwadike GOC writes from Uzoubi-Umuna in Orlu LGA of Imo state and can be reached only by WhatsApp +2348099088443.

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Opinion

Who Owns Eastern Palm University?

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By Ifeanyi Maduakor

In the first term of then Governor Rochas  Okorocha’s administration  between  2011 and 2015, Nigerians,  particularly Imo people  were told  that another  campus  of the Imo State  University had been  situated at Ogboko in Ideato-South  Local Government  Area of the State.  Communities and individuals lands were forcefully taken by the state through the instrumentality of the land use act for the purpose of building the campus of the Imo State University currently situated at Owerri. 
Imo people were told that the new university at Ogboko was solely owned by the state government, and was being built with state government’s funds.  Shortly  after, same rhetoric came from the state government led by Okorocha, that the new university would no longer be a mini-campus of Imo State University but now a separate university of its own with a new name and ownership.  Imo people were told that the new university which was originally intended to be a varsity solely owned by the state which necessitated the brazen seizure of people’s lands would now be a joint ownership between the state and some ghost private individuals in what was called public-private-partnership (PPP). 

However, there are some disturbing or nagging questions which need clarification on this contentious   issue of joint ownership of the tertiary institution at Ogboko. This university was  originally  planned and executed  as a  solely  owned state varsity, when did the  private sector partnership come into it since the public  sector (which is the state government) had  sunk a lot of  funds into it at the initial  stage knowing full well that it was a state university or satellite campus  of Imo State University?

In a public-private-partnership (PPP) arrangement, can any of the two partners be incorporated long after one of the partners had gone very far in the execution of a particular project or does PPP arrangement start at the foundation level? Is there any state in Nigeria where the state government and private individuals jointly own a tertiary institution? 
Assuming without conceding that such a PPP arrangement exists somewhere else, who are the individuals who make up the private partnership in this  case of  Eastern Palm University, Ogboko? Did National University Commission (NUC) register Eastern Palm University as a PPP arrangement or was it registered as a state government property? If NUC registered it as a PPP arrangement, what was the share ownership agreement between the public and private joint ownership during the registration?

The truth of the matter is that then Governor Okorocha ruled Imo State with unmitigated impunity. He had the delusion and concrete belief that he had subdued and pocketed the state and its people without a whimper from any quarter. He did what he did with the erroneous belief that his son-in-law would succeed him as the governor of Imo State in 2019. If he had succeeded in foisting or imposing his son-in-law as his successor, who would have questioned him about the ownership of this Eastern Palm University? How does one also rationalize or explain the brazen takeover of Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) quarters at Orji in Owerri North which now houses Rochas Foundation College? 

Recently, there was a little brouhaha about the matriculation of this Eastern Palm University, Ogboko. The state governor was reported to have sealed the place, but another report said that Rochas Okorocha forcefully unsealed the place and the matriculation took place. If those reports were true, then is the state government no longer part of the so-called PPP ownership? Is the university now solely owned by Rochas Okorocha to the extent that he could unseal what the state government sealed without recourse to the state government’s joint ownership of the varsity? If the joint ownership truly exist, it is high time the state government took over the entire ownership of the varsity. Joint ownership of a tertiary institution between the state and private sector is an aberration which only purportedly exists in Eastern Palm University. 

Rochas Okorocha should divest his share ownership from the school and surrender the sole ownership of the school to the state. The state can never jointly own any project with him. It is not done anywhere in the world.

The Imo State government led by Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodinma should sweep the entire management and staff of the school, from the Vice-Chancellor to the gateman. The state government should be responsible for the recruitment of the staff of the varsity if actually, the state has a stake in the so-called joint ownership of the school. Since the state’s funds was sunk in the building of the varsity, the state can only recover its funds by taking charge of the appointment or recruitment of the staff, otherwise, the joint ownership is useless to the state if Rochas Okorocha is in charge of everything in the varsity. The state must never hand off its ownership of the varsity, rather it is the private individuals represented by  Rochas Okorocha who should hands off from the joint ownership of the school. 
There are so many Nigerians who have their privately-owned tertiary institutions, and if Rochas Okorocha wants to own a tertiary institution, he should so do now that he’s no longer a governor and build it with his own funds.

The latest defence or statement about the ownership of the university came from Okorocha who claims to own 90% equity share of the university while the state as a whole owns 10% equity investment. What manner of partnership does an individual own 90% while over five million Imolites own 10%? Why didn’t Okorocha build the varsity before he became the governor of Imo State? Is it not greed writ large for him to have used his exalted position as governor to appropriate a dominant chunk of equity share of the so-called partnership? Didn’t he contravene the constitution of Nigerian and the code of conduct by such action?

Maduako, writes from Owerri (08061562735).        

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Opinion

Uche Onyeagocha And His Owerrinization Hyperboles

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By Ethelbert Okere

One big thumb-down for Chief Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State was his involvement of Hon. Uche Onyeagocha (Onyeagucha) in his administration, more so in no less a position as secretary to the state government (SSG). To be sure, Hon. Onyeagocha was eminently qualified to hold that office once we are talking of academic qualifications and political exposure but not when matters like comportment and carriage come into play.

The main reason Governor Emeka Ihedioha got knocks for appointing Onyeagocha as the SSG (some say SGI) was what happened on the eve of his declaration as “winner” of the March 9, 2019 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The story is very well known but it is worth refreshing our minds on it. Onyeagocha, acting as an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the INEC collation centre in Owerri on March 9, 2019, shocked the entire Nigeria when he grabbed a copy of a certified election result (Form EC8C) from Ideato South local government area of the state and tore it pieces. Hon. Onyeagocha ostensibly acted on the allegation that the result was cooked up in favour of one of the governorship candidates, Uche Nwosu, but particularly against his favorite candidate – and that of his party (PDP)  –  Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.

I watched the live coverage of that episode from my living room in London and I told the fellow sitting next to me that Onyeagocha (Onyeagucha) would surely pay for that. Shortly after, I put I call across to Nigeria and got the information that he was promptly dragged out by security agents and given a thorough beating. One account had it that he was made to frog-jump by the soldiers before being taken away for detention. He was subsequently arraigned in court but once the person he was “fighting” for was declared governor, it was not surprising that a nolle prosiqui (He has no case) was entered on his behalf and the case was dropped.

The next Imolites heard was that he had been appointed SSG (SGI), a development that kept many Imolites thinking. How could a fellow who was, or is, so unruly be appointed into such a sensitive office; a fellow who, by the action just described, showed that he had iota of regard to the rule of law – albeit his background as a lawyer and exposure as a law maker.

In the end, however, Imolites got somewhat consoled by the narrative that Ihedioha was “compelled” by sentiments arising from the argument that Onyeagocha “risked” his life in a bid to have him declared the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election. But Ihedioha, a gentle but crafty fellow, knew deep inside him that the likes of Uche Onyeagocha had no business being part of his administration. Of course, even the least discerning fellow in the state knew that Governor Ihedioha merely tolerated Onyeagocha throughout his seven-month stint as governor.

Perhaps, the most eloquent attestation to that was when Onyeagocha, without obtaining clearance from the governor, issued a statement declaring Ihedioha’s predecessor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, a persona non grata to the state, a claim which an embarrassed Ihedioha promptly repudiate. This writer was not an appointee of the Ihedioha administration but I was close enough to some of its insiders to know that Onyeagocha was quite discomfiting to the governor. In fact, his tendency to vitriolic, brashness and short temper was a major source of concern to members of the topmost echelon of that administration.    The only significant thing about Oyeagocha’s tenure as SSG or SGI was a white attire, a red cap and a white sandal.

Even so, the height of Onyeagochas’s perfidy against Imolites in general and the Ihedioha administration in particular was the day he took some hoodlums to ambush Chief Okorocha at the Sam Mbakwe International Airport (SMICA), Owerri to prevent the later from coming into the state. It was an act that again completely embarrassed his boss, Governor Ihedioha, who, as a seasoned politician, knew that there was no basis for such a thing. But Onyeagocha, who throughout that regime went about with the impression that he couldn’t care a thing about how the governor felt, even overstretch the drama.

After waiting for Okorocha – with the hired thugs – till about 5 pm without the latter’s arrival at SMICA, Onyeagocha, sensing that Okorocha might have changed route to either Port Harcourt or Asaba Airports, commanded his ‘troops’ back to the Imo International Conference Centre, IICC, –  built by Okorocha – for debriefing.

Thereafter, a consignment was sent towards the Owerri-Port Harcourt route and another to the Onitsha-Asaba axis. At the end, Okorocha did not show up and Onyeagocha went home unsure of what to do next but with continuous knocks from well meaning citizens of the state who saw his action as senseless.

While narrating the events that surrounded Ihedioha’s election in his recently published memoir, entitled SECOND CHANCE, Chief Willie Amadi, a frontline politician in the state and a leader in the PDP wrote: “…We returned to Tony Chukwu’s house and once there, I called Ihedioha to alert him that action would soon commence. I however used that opportunity to express my disappointment in Uche Onyeagocha for tearing the result sheet from Ideato South local government area while we were trying to resolve the impasse. He agreed with me but pleaded that it should distract us” (page 172).

 The position of most Imolites was that granted that Governor Okorocha perpetrated a lot of subterfuge against the state and its people, his ‘trial’ had not yet gotten to the stage where he should be banished from the state. And to demonstrate that Hon. Onyeagocha did not understand the nuances of events during that period or chose to do things his own way, the various judicial panels set up by the very administration he was serving – as SSG (SGI) – were just settling down when Hon. Onyeagocha took laws into his own hands and began to met out punishment to Okorocha.

Even though the Ihedioha administration was brought to an abrupt end shortly after, Governor Hope Uzodimma, on coming on board, retained the panels. One after the other, the panels invited Chief Okorocha to appear before them but the ex governor rebuffed all, citing security reasons. Chief Okorocha might well have had other reasons why he did not obey the summons by the judicial panels but he could not be faulted for citing Onyeagocha’s move to ‘capture’ him, as earlier narrated, as one major reason. The result was that the panels wound up without Okorocha appearing before any of them and as such could not give answer to any of the many questions that were agitating the minds of the people over his conduct as governor,  no thanks to Onyeagocha’s exuberance.

Fast forward to sometime in July 2020 when Rt. Hon. Ihedioha came visiting the state with pomp and pageantry. Ihedioha rode in a motorcade from the Sam Mbakwe International Airport – where he was welcomed by a tumultuous crowd –through the streets of Owerri without anybody challenging him.

In an article entitled, Imo And The Metaphor Of A Roman Mob, published a few days after Ihedioha’s ‘triumphant’ entry into Imo, I drew the attention of Imolites to two things. One, that we now have a precedence whereby one ex governor could be banished from the state and another received with a rousing welcome,– only in Imo state. Two, I asked Imolites to imagine a situation where Governor Uzodimma’s administration had insiders who are as reckless as Onyeagocha and who, like him, would have thrown every caution to the winds to pronounce banishment on Ihedioha and then go ahead to line thugs along every route he was expected to pass, as Hon. Onyeagocha had done. I noted further that given the mood of Ihedioha, his party men and supporters then, the result would have been too grave to contemplate.

A few days ago, Onyeagocha was in his elements again with his uncouth, infantile idiosyncrasies. He was reported as saying that Senator Hope Uzodimma is not the governor of the state, described Professor George Obiozor as “expired drug” and Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu as a “serial betrayer”. Of course, Onyeagocha’s childish attitude to Governor Uzodimma is not new and I could remember that I had once cautioned him against his unbecoming utterances.

Although it is a mere waste of time to try to get even with Onyeagocha, having earlier situated him as both lacking in maturity and necessary comportment, I think there is need to disabuse the minds of some hapless Imolites, particularly the youths, who would innocently or naively see him as bold or courageous.  Hon. Onyeagocha is neither of the two but merely garrulous.  Some even go to the extent of describing him as “radical”. Hon. Onyeagocha is not a radical. He is a conservative to the core, who sees every issue from a primordial point of view.

Hon. Onyeagocha is said to be lawyer and I know for certain that he was once a legislator. So, for such meaningless utterances to come from a high profile politician like him is to make a caricature of the entire Imo collective otherwise known for its sophistication and fecundity. In other words, as childish as his utterances appear, their real implication is that they portray Imo state as a place where some of those who parade themselves as among its best do not even qualify for the third eleven of most of the less rated states of the federation. Is that what Imolites want? A lot of people had expected that after his primitive act of shredding election results sheets, as earlier narrated, and after his several misadventures while serving as SSG, Onyeagocha would have by now began to act more with the hesitance of age than the hastiness of youth.

The context in which Onyeagocha made his allusion to Governor Uzodimma had to do with the genuine argument by the people of Owerri zone that it has not had a fair share of gubernatorial power. Of course, that position becomes even more understandable with the sudden termination of Ihedioha’s tenure even while the people of the (Owerri) zone were still singing alleluia. Though a setback, the antics of the likes of Onyeagocha trivialize such an important matter and erroneously portray the people of the zone as lacking in the needed tact and candor to continue the pursuit of that noble objective.

Yes, I am an insider of the Uzodimma administration but I am also from Owerri zone and I can state without any fear of contradiction that majority of our people do not share in Onyeagocha’s pedestrian views on a lot of issues on the relationship between the zone and the rest of the state. Our people, generally, are too enlightened and politically exposed to wallow in the type of bitterness and naivety Onyeagocha and probably a few of his ilk in the zone find themselves in.

Hope Uzodimma is the governor of Imo state and not that of Owerri zone. Even so, or as a corollary, there are many indigenes of Owerri zone that voted for him at the March 9, 2019 election and even those who did not have since queued behind him. Hon. Onyeagocha could decide to forever live in the regrets of what happened on January 14, 2020 but a far great majority of the people of Owerri zone, irrespective of partisan affiliation, prefer to learn the lessons from that episode and with that go ahead with the pursuit of their collective destiny with greater enthusiasm and clear headedness, not with the type of animosity Onyeagocha champions.

Agreed, it is said that in politics there are no permanent enemies or friends but permanent interest but I dare state that Onyeagocha belongs to that category of politicians whose only interest is to plant rancor and bitterness in the polity. He has quarreled with every successive governor beginning from Achike Udenwa. Ikedi Ohakim was his biggest nightmare and though he romanced with Okorocha for a while, we all know how it ended up. What saved Ihedioha from Onyeagocha’s harmer was the mere fact that the former involved him in his administration. Even at that, Ihedioha ended up every day not sure of what to expect from his SSG. As a matter of fact, not a few believed that it was just a matter of time before the two would fell apart.

Similarly, Onyeagocha’s remarks on Professor Obiozor–again through the narrow prism of Owerri zone –is most unfortunate. He was most probably reacting to the former diplomat’s aspiration to be the next president-general of Ohaneze Ndigbo and the support he has gotten from a section of the Imo political elite. But it is not in the interest of the people of Owerri zone to allow anybody to Owerrinize the matter. The position of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo president-general is said to be zoned to Imo state, not Owerri zone. In any case, among the top contenders for the office and, indeed, one of the most qualified and suitable, is from my own local government area. But even as our people would do everything in their power to ensure that he gets there, we would not allow him to narrow down his aspiration to that of an Owerri zone champion. It is not even enough to be seen as an “Imo candidate” since delegates from the other Igbo-speaking states are also going to vote at the election.

Like in any other contest, people are free to pitch their tents wherever they choose but methinks that Imolites must be careful in their choice of language in canvassing their preferences for the Ohaneze president-general office. If we allow ourselves to be misled by the antics of the likes of Hon. Onyeagocha, we may be inadvertently demystifying and Imo-born Ohaneze President-General, whosoever it will be, even before he assumes office.

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Opinion

Woman 2 Woman With Nneameka Onochie

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Dear Woman, All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Kehinde swaggered into my sitting room clutching a medium-sized orange bag and said, “Ha! Tinuke I told you my tailor is superb.” Slowly she unzipped the bag and swiftly brought out the Indian lace which unfolded to my view. “This is the latest material I told you about, my tailor has performed wonders on it.”

I smiled and took the glittering cloth from her, turning to different directions and nodding in satisfaction like an agama lizard that just finished a meal. “This cloth is really beautiful, Kehinde, and I like the austere style.”

“Oh let me wear it so you will see the fitting.”She grabbed the cloth from my hands and stripped till she was in her underwear. She quickly wore the clothes and turning in angle one hundred and eighty degrees, she asked, “So how do you see it?”

“You look heavenly,” I said.

“Thank God for my husband. Do you know he gave me two hundred thousand for this material?” She puffed up her nose and pouted slightly.

“Oh your husband is really spoiling you silly…You are indeed lucky to have such a man,” I said. I knew she would like it. She always loved to bask in the euphoria of compliments. Then her next word threw me off balance.

“Tell your husband to give you the money let me take you to where we can get you this beautiful lace.”

I masked the displeasure I had on my face with a smile. We had just paid our Ola’s school fees and we had other spending priorities to take care of.”Maybe when he is buoyant enough I will tell him,” I said.

“Hmmm.”She sneered.”That’s why I like my David, he always budgets my needs and excesses despite taking care of his responsibilities,” she concluded with a hint of pride and mockery.

After Kehinde left I sat on the couch beside me thinking how lucky she was to have such a husband who adored her. She had been my neighbor for the past one year and she didn’t hesitate to flaunt David’s generosity. One thing with her numerous visits to my flat was that she irked me with the feeling of being the underappreciated wife and infused a sadness in me. She would always flaunt the Birkin bag or Louboutin shoe David had bought for her. She had that pompous, larger-than-life attitude of the woman living the life others could only dream of. One day I was bemoaning my unfortunate self when my phone rang. It was my husband, Tunde. I let it ring for the second time before I picked.

“Hello, baby,” he said with excitement.”What are you making for dinner? Guess what? I just got a raise, can you prepare something delicious for us tonight?” He paused. “Are you there, baby?”

“Yes, I’m here,” I said less impressed and angry.

“But you sound unexcited and distant, what is the matter?”

“When was the last time you increased my monthly allowance, ehh? So does it mean you will increase my monthly allowance now that you have gotten a raise or appreciate me as a wife?”

“Baby, what is the problem? “he asked.

“Please, Tunde,” I said, already irritated.” I have a slight headache. I’ll see you when you come home,” and I ended the call almost crying, thinking of how Kehinde’s husband would have gotten her beautiful gifts to celebrate a raise. I was utterly frustrated at his seeming nonchalance about my happiness.

That night when he came back from work looking stressed and utterly disappointed in me I couldn’t have cared less. I had earlier on fed Ola to satisfaction and made sure I emptied every content of the pot.

“Baby, please serve me my dinner, I’m really hungry,” he said as he removed his clothes while I watched the whole time, seething.

“You will have to take tea and bread or cornflakes, I wasn’t able to make dinner because my head hurts so much.” I laid a hand on my head, sighing.

“It’s okay, I’ll fix something for myself,” he murmured. I knew he thought I was being mischievous but Tunde was such a nice man. He later entered the room and handed me something wrapped in a small box. I unwrapped it and opened the box. It was a gold necklace.

Then he said, “Baby, please, I will increase your allowance but let us finish our project.”

“So because we have a project then my needs will not be met?” I retorted, not minding he’d just gifted me a necklace that must have cost a fortune. He ignored me.

That night we didn’t speak much and I went to bed more frustrated than I had been.

I was in the market when my phone rang days later. It was Kehinde.

“Girl, guess what?” She sounded so excited.

 I wiped off the sweat on my forehead with the back of my hand. The sun was already dealing with me. “What?”

“My David just got me a new Highlander, 2019 model, can you believe it?” she screamed.

“Oh congratulations, dear, it calls for a celebra—”Before I could finish my sentence she’d already hung up. I was happy for her but sad in my bland life. I continued with my purchase of soup ingredients. The sky was already pregnant when I was done and I rushed to my old 2009 Toyota Corolla and drove home. As I drove into the compound, I saw Kehinde and some of her friends having a get-together close to her new car. I made to sneak into my flat but she saw me.

“Tinuke, come and have your champagne and pizza. My David said we should celebrate.”

l stopped in my tracks.”Okay, dear, I’m so happy for you but first let me go inside and drop my bag.”

“Alright, make it snappy,” she said.

I entered the house feeling drowsy. Kehinde’s husband had gotten her a 2018 Toyota Tacoma last year now he’d gifted her another car and I was still struggling with the old rickety car I’d been driving since ten years ago.

“Tinuke darling,” Kehinde called.”We’re waiting for you.”

“Coming,” I replied and quickly took the bags to the kitchen, dropped them on the counter and rushed out to celebrate with my friend. She let me open the car and admire the beautiful interior.We ate roasted chicken and pizza and drank champagne.

“My David has sworn to spoil me,” she said, “indeed he’s living up to his promise.”

That night when my husband came back from work I barely spoke to him; all he did to get my attention was futile. I drifted to an unhappy woman and my marriage became strained. Tunde tried talking to me but I returned his efforts with scorn. Soon we drifted apart as I cared less and less about him and his work. Each time I ran into Kehinde it was either David had planned a vacation for them or gotten her one gift or the other, reminding me how stale my life was.

Three weeks later on a Monday morning after my husband had gone to work, I heard a noise coming from Kehinde’s flat. People were arguing and quarreling. From the rants, I heard a woman shouting, “How can you owe me two hundred thousand for six months? Do you want to spoil my business, eh? You know you don’t have money yet you want to buy everything in my shop.”

Fifteen minutes  later the angry woman stormed out of her house shouting and cursing with Kehinde tagging behind pleading, “Please, I will pay you.”

The woman took most of her valuables leaving her with a parting word of, “If I don’t get my money by tomorrow I will call the police.”

On seeing me Kehinde dashed into her house without a word. What is happening, I thought, Kehinde doesn’t look like one who would run into debt?

I dressed up and left for the salon. There I met Kehinde’s friend who was narrating how Kehinde’s husband had lost his job a year ago and how they were neck-deep in debt. It was there I understood that the cars were sent by his brother who was in America for sale. After I went home that day, I entered the kitchen and prepared rice with shredded chicken sauce, put it in a flask and drove to my husband’s office to surprise him with lunch. As I drove to my Tunde’s office I wondered how I hadn’t seen the blurred lines in Kehinde’s life. I pushed the thoughts from my mind and started taking mental notes on what to cook for my darling Tunde for dinner.

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