Conflicted Destiny - Season 1 Episode 46
In November 1993, I bought a ticket to Nigeria with the money I had made at Olympic Village. When I got to Lagos, I went to my cousin Joy and her family in Ikeja. Everyone was happy to see me. My cousin Ike was there too, and it didn’t take him long to start planning how to rip me off. The first thing he asked me was how much money I had brought home with me, and I told him. He started talking about all kinds of business ideas that he claimed would double my money. He also informed me that our childhood friend Chibuike, who we used to gamble with while I was living at Aunt Comfort’s house in Aba, was also in town. Chibuike had left Nigeria two years before me and was based in Germany.
Ike and I went to visit our old friend. I was happy to see him; he looked well groomed and was hanging out with a couple of friends when we arrived at his place. It was really fun talking about our different experiences in Europe, especially with other people who were aspiring to be like us.
After two days in Lagos, I couldn’t wait to travel to the east to see my family and share my stories with them. I was also looking forward to hanging out with Okey De Boy. Before leaving, however, I allowed Ike to convince me to buy a minibus for a transportation business. He insisted that it was the most profitable business in town at the time. So we bought a bus and headed for the east. On the roads, the police extorted a lot of money from us for all sorts of reasons, as usual. Eventually we got to my village. Everyone was elated, most of all my mother and siblings. My entire village came out to see me. I handed out some of the gifts that I had brought with me, and then took the rest into the house for my family.
My happiness was short-lived because I got to the house to find that my grandmother was really dead. For some reason, part of me refused to believe that she was actually gone, and I had expected to see her when I got home. I tried hard to hold back my tears.
The most painful thing about losing my grandmother was knowing that she hadn’t lived long enough to enjoy the fruits of her labor. I wished I had done more for her when I was in Spain. One time I had sent her twenty dollars, but I should have sent her more on a regular basis. She deserved more for all she had done for me, but how could I have known she wouldn’t to live to see my return? I convinced myself that she must have been happy with me. Being the strong woman she was, there was no way she would have let herself die if she didn’t think everything would be okay. She must have concluded when I got to Spain that all would be well, because she had full confidence in my ability to succeed and she knew she had taught me well.
It was really nice being around my siblings again. They all seemed so grown-up. My brother John and my sister, Joy, were doing well. John was in secondary school, and Joy was just finishing primary school. My brother James had already started his own small shoe-repair business, and I was very proud of him. I gave him a lot of the shoes and clothes I had brought back with me. James was a special child and had always been sickly. He had a bulging tumor in his stomach that had impaired his growth, and his leg was badly twisted so he could not walk normal. He was also slow academically, but was phenomenal with common sense. Because of our religious beliefs he was never taken to the hospital and never received a diagnosis of his ailments. It wasn’t until much later in life, after all my travels, that I got to know what he was suffering from, as well as the fact that we could have had him cured or at least tried to help him with all the modern medical treatments available.
After spending two days in my village, I went to Orji Uratta to see my other grandmother, Eunice. Everyone was equally delighted to see me there. I gave my grandmother the gift I had bought for her, and handed out more presents to my other relatives. After spending a couple of nights there, I drove the minibus to Aba to do some work on its body and to paint it the right city transport color. After that, I went to Aunt Comfort’s house. She was overjoyed to see her beloved brother’s son back in Nigeria, and I was likewise thrilled to see my favorite aunt again. I gave her all the gifts I had brought for her. Her husband was happy to see me, too. While staying with them over the next few days, I noticed that my aunt gave me equal or greater portions of food than she served to Ike, and on better dishes. I loved my aunt very much, but I never thought she would deliberately treat me differently from her kids. I was uncomfortable with the extra nicety and asked her to stop; I hadn’t changed, and I preferred the way things were before I traveled overseas. She commended me for my wisdom, hugged me, and told me how much she loved me.
As usual, Ike helped me with most of the things I wanted to accomplish in Aba, not because he was being a good cousin, but because he wanted every possible opportunity to make money off of me. I didn’t mind too much.
While in Aba, I couldn’t hold back my excitement about reuniting with all my friends. My eagerness was fleeting, though. I found out that Okey De Boy had passed away just two weeks before I returned to Nigeria. He was his normal self during the day and had gone to sleep as usual on that fateful evening. But in the middle of the night, he had woken up yelling that someone wanted to kill him. He died minutes later. It was indeed a very sad way to die, and his family strongly believed that his death was not natural. They suspected that a relative had killed Okey through witchcraft. The news of his death dealt me a devastating blow. But it wasn’t just Okey; some mutual friends of ours had also died in similar mysterious ways. I couldn’t help but be grateful to God that I hadn’t been in Nigeria all this time or I might have died, too.
A few days later, I returned to my village and my mother reminded me that I still had unfinished business: my uncle John. She wanted me to make peace with him and insisted that I repay him for the property I had stolen. I was reluctant because I had already offered him the money once before, but I gave in after she continued to plead with me.
Surprisingly, everyone at my uncle’s house in Aba was happy to see me, even my uncle. I gave him a large sum of money as a “gift”—that was my way of returning what I owed him—and he accepted it this time. But I was shocked by what happened next. The whole family turned into leeches. They were all so demanding. I gave money and gifts to everybody, and I gave money to my uncle’s wife daily to cook for the entire family. Despite the large sum I had given my uncle, he still asked me for money every morning. After two weeks staying with them, I was practically running out of money. My uncle offered to manage my transport business and I accepted, just so we could maintain our newfound friendship. He employed a driver for the minibus and it was agreed that he would render account to me on a monthly basis.
Meanwhile, I had obtained my legitimate international passport. Passports were easy to get in Nigeria during this time. The normal process could take up to three months, but there were many immigration officers who specialized in fast-tracking the process with the right bribe, so I paid and got my passport in two days. However, I still couldn’t go to the embassy..