(Story) Farida – Part 4

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A few days after her encounter with Baba Juwon the landlord, the tenants in her compound were summoned for an urgent meeting. The compound got a letter from armed robbers telling them they would be paying them a visit in two weeks. As the letter was read, Iya Farida’s heart began to beat very fast as the robbers specified what they wanted. They asked for a special meal to be prepared, the specific amount of money they expected to collect and women who would “service” them. This threw the compound into a panic. Some of the tenants moved out immediately. Iya Farida was stuck; she had nowhere to go. The week of the intended visit by the robbers, Iya Farida begged a danfo(commercial) bus driver to give her shelter in his bus at night so they could hide from the robbers. The man agreed but wanted something in return and made it clear what he wanted. She left him and went to the head of the touts popularly called “agberos” to help her secure a place in the market where she could sleep with her children at night. He found a place for her. She arranged the tables in the stall, used their clothes as a mattress on the floor and used a wrapper as a bedsheet. She used the tables as a shield. She took old mosquito net to cover around the tables to keep mosquitoes away. Then she went to get her children.That night, as they slept, Iya Farida heard someone stagger towards the stall. The person stopped and urinated in the gutter nearby and then staggered back to their stall. Obviously, the person was either drunk or high on marijuana. She was worried about the safety of her children who were sound asleep. As the person got closer, the person called out to her. She immediately recognized his voice; it was the head of the touts. She knew she and her children were not safe anymore. She quietly woke them up as he was calling out for her. She packed their things and through the side of the stall, without making much noise, she escaped with her children. She went back to the house with them. Sleep eluded her as she watched guard over them. She was scared but she felt safer there than at the market. As the day began to dawn, she thought about her situation. All the men she had encountered wanted the same thing from her. Most of the women were not willing to help her; they only gossiped about her which she didn’t bother her’. She had three children to protect, what should she do? She weighed her options. Just to sleep at night, she would have to be regular ‘food’ for the danfo driver and the head of agberos who are still young and agile. If she stays back in the house, the robbers will rape her in the presence of her children and to the knowledge of everyone in the compound. This will bring shame to her and her children. But if she agrees for Baba Juwon, the landlord, the man is old, she would have accommodation and her family will be well taken care off. She had to make a decision and quickly too.The next morning, she found herself in the Baba Juwon’s house. He asked her if she was ready to pay for the house. She explained to him she still had no money and narrated what happened in the compound.“Well, my offer is still open. If you want the accommodation, it is available under my terms. I will take care of you and your children and in return, you will take care of me.”“How do I take care of you?” she asked.“Anytime I send for you, you have to answer me. You will do whatever I ask” he replied while winking at her and raising an eyebrow in a lewd way to drive home his point.“Sir, I work. I leave home very early in the morning and come back home very late at night. I cannot be at your beck and call. I am saying this so you will not say I did not keep to our agreement and throw me out.”“That’s not a problem. How much do you make a day?”“N1,000 sir”“I will pay you for the days I want you.”Iya Farida smiled. She made just N500 a day and here she was getting a N1,000 for doing nothing. She could put the boys in daycare with the extra cash so Farida can start school. She believed she made the right decision. Instead of having sex with different men that would even take from her like Ronke in the compound did, it was better to stick to one man and hide it as much as possible.Iya Farida was now living the life. She moved her belongings into their new abode. Baba Juwon installed burglary proof on the doors and windows to make her feel safer. He renovated the place and painted it. He gave her his old furniture to use. He gave her an old television set he had so her children could be entertained when she was not around. She could see that her children were happy. Everything was looking good.Baba Juwon was kind to her. He never treated her like her husband did. She was already used to being maltreated or forced to have sex so she was expecting the same treatment from her new lover but he was different. He was gentle and wanted to please her. He was also very generous. Whenever he travelled to his home state, Ondo state, he bought foodstuff for her which kept their tummies full for a long time.She fulfilled her promise. When she was introduced as the new caretaker, some of the young men who were tenants saw an opportunity. They were surprised that she was very strict and rigid. She took very good care of the property. She swept the compound herself every morning. She ensured contributions for electricity bill are made and the bills paid timely. All complaint about the building were made to her while she channelled the complaints to Baba Juwon during their “private” time. She gave him less work which made him glad.She lived there happily for three years. She wrote GCE so she could at least have her WAEC. She passed. She got a job as a teacher in a nursery and primary school. The salary wasn’t much but at least her children had the opportunity to attend the school for free. She was more confident and lost her village ways of talking and dressing. She was now exposed. Baba Juwon was getting jealous with the men that he observed around her especially male tenants. She assured him that she had nothing to do with them. He didn’t really believe her but he had no proof she was dating anyone of them. After some time, he learnt to trust her.Several months after Iya Farida had settled down. on a Sunday morning which was her rest day, she heard a loud knock on her door. Farida answered the door and ran back in visibly frightened. She couldn’t respond to her mother continuous enquiry of who was at the door due to the fear. Iya Farida went to check herself and was shocked to see Alhaji, her husband, and her father. She became dizzy instantly. How did they find her? Who told them where she was? There was only one person she ever disclosed her whereabouts to and the person was supposed to be trusted. It was only her sister she had been sending letters to. “Open this gate immediately” her husband bellowed at her.“Iya Farida, is this you?” her father asked. “We thought you were dead. Please open let us talk.”She didn’t have a choice but to open the burglary and let them in. She knew the day won’t end nicely. She feared more for her children.“You took my children away from me Iya Farida. You stole my money and my children so you could come to Lagos and start ashawo business. How market now?” her husband asked her. She could see the anger in his eyes. She didn’t answer him.“Iya Farida, pack your things and those of your children, you are coming back to Ilorin with us.” Her father emphasized. “I don’t need her; I only came for my children. She is an ashawo, a prostitute. How could she afford to live in this Lagos if she was not selling her body? I don’t want it again. I just want my children especially the twins.” Her husband replied.Iya Farida knelt down before her father to appeal. “Baba mi, I almost died the last time he beat after you talked to him. He wanted to have sex with me in the presence of my daughter. I knew it was a matter of time before he kills me. I have a job; a good job. I am teaching in a school here and my children are attending that school. Please baba mi, I don’t want to go back with him. Allow me achieve something in my live.”Her husband laughed at her words and then reminded her, “You were given to me; I didn’t come for you. You cannot be returned to your family. Since you have started prostituting then I will use you to make money.”“Haba Alhaji, why would you say that about your wife? I shouldn’t have told you about our discovery then. If her mother hadn’t found the letters, will we be here today? Be patient with her. Let us resolve this and take her back.” Her father replied.“Baba mi, I am not going back. He cannot take my children.” She insisted.Alhaji descended on her as she spoke to her father. He threw blows at her body. She shouted while her children wailed at the torture their mother was facing. The chaos attracted the tenants in the compound; they gathered in front of her room. A tenant went to call the landlord. When the young men in the compound saw Alhaji beat Iya Farida, they came to her rescue and without asking questions beat him up. Her father watched in shocked amazement while his in-law was dragged out of the apartment and taught a bitter lesson. A man cannot beat a defenceless woman in the presence of other men. It was no proof of his manhood.The commotion in the compound attracted Baba Juwon to the scene. When he was told what happened, he invited the Police. They picked up Alhaji and took him to the Police station. He was charged with assault and was locked up for a week. His family members and Iya Farida’s father met Baba Juwon to appeal for his release. He asked them to come back the next day after much begging.He summoned Iya Farida who had been avoiding him. He needed to understand all he had heard from those who came to beg for the man’s release. She was terrified to see him but knew she had no choice. Immediately she stepped into the room, she fell on her knees. She cried as she confessed to Baba Juwon who Alhaji was and her reason for running away. She concluded by saying, “He beats me till I am unconscious and then rapes me and leaves me for dead. When I realized that I could die from the constant beating, I ran away from his house.”“Why didn’t you tell me? It is a taboo for me to sleep with a married woman. Do you want me to lose all my fortunes? Why did you do this?” he replied angrily.“I am very sorry. I had to hide our identity. Please Baba Juwon, you can see what this man is capable of. I want him to divorce me and free me. If you can help me achieve this, I will be forever grateful.”Baba Juwon thought about the situation hard and long before deciding. He was upset at her deception but on the other hand, he could understand why she did it. If it was the last thing he would do for her, then he will help her regain her freedom from an abusive husband. The cell at the Police station had not been fair to Alhaji. The inmates beat him up for attacking a woman. He was made to serve the president of the cell. He was ready to do anything to leave. He had his regrets. He would have just collected the boys and left but instead he decided to teach Iya Farida a lesson. He just wanted to leave and erase his visit to Lagos from his mind as a bad dream. Baba Juwon went to the Police station and gave Alhaji a condition.“I can leave you to rot here in the cell. Ilorin is not Lagos. You might be a strong man in Ilorin but here, you are a nobody. You assaulted a woman openly. I don’t care if she is your wife but it is assault. She can file a case against you. But if you don’t want that, divorce her right now and I don’t want to see you anywhere near my property again. If you agree, I will release you immediately but if you refuse, I will transfer you to Federal SARS and accuse you of armed robbery. You won’t see your family again.”Alhaji didn’t need to think too long about it. He was quick to accept the condition. He divorced Iya Farida and wrote an undertaken never to come near Iya Farida or the children again. Iya Farida’s father was so disappointed that he disowned her and offered Alhaji his other daughter in exchange but he declined saying, “I don’t want any child from you. Is it not the girl that was hiding letters from us you want to give me? I am not interested. Keep your children. Because of them, I spent how many weeks in the cell. I will never forgive Iya Farida for what she put me through”That was the end of it. Alhaji and his entourage left Lagos for Ilorin. Baba Juwon was Iya Farida’s savior once again. With a joyful heart, she went to thank him and he expressed his disappointment at her.“What you did could have cost me everything I have. I had to go for cleansing. You should have told me; I would have understood, and still have given you the house. But it is okay now he has divorced you. Never you lie to me again. I will protect you as much as I can”That was good news to Iya Farida. She was happy the issue had been resolved amicably. She still did some work for him at home but he hardly called her into his bedroom anymore. She was not needed to render such services. It created shortage in their lives. He was no longer giving them the perks that come with her servicing him. She talked to him and begged him to forgive her but he refused to reconsider. She had to take up extra jobs to meet up. Some days she worked very late in the night selling by the roadside. She still performed her duty as a caretaker.Baba Juwon fell ill. He had been diabetic but had managed it for a long time. Iya Farida had helped keep the diabetes level down when they were still together because she forced him to obey the instructions of the doctor. Months after their separation, he relapsed on the instructions and his sugar level was dangerously high. To worsen the situation, he had an injury on his right foot which refused to heal for a long time. His children came together and took him abroad for treatment. He was there for about two years and then news got to them in the compound that Baba Juwon was dead. It hit Iya Farida hard. He was her benefactor and was very good to her. She wailed uncontrollably when she heard it. After the burial, the children called the tenants together for a meeting. The tenants were informed that the house will be managed by a lawyer and he would attend to everything concerning the house. The tenants told them there was a caretaker who had done a good job for years now. They advised that the lawyer works hand in hand with Iya Farida as she knows everything about the house. The lawyer said he was going to quit her from the care taker’s room and bring in his own person. The tenants refused saying she had handled the job very well all these years and she should be allowed to continue. The children agreed but the lawyer had a wicked plan in mind.Three days later which was a public holiday, thugs came into the compound carrying sticks as weapons. They tried to paste eviction notice on the doors of the tenants. They barged into Iya Farida’s room dragging her and her children out. They proceeded to throw out all her belongings. She had rice on fire when they came and they threw both the food on the fire and the stove outside. The hot rice poured on Iya Farida but she didn’t notice the damage it had done. Luckily, the fire quenched before the stove landed. Iya Farida’s cries were wasted where they were because it was a Sunday and the compound was almost empty until a Police officer and the vigilante group of their areas came to the house. Apparently, the tenants who were left in the compound couldn’t stand the injustice being meted out on their caretaker and called the Police and vigilante in their area. The thugs stopped their task.“Who sent you to remove this woman from the house?” the head of the vigilante asked.“The lawyer did. He said she had been asked to go but she refused” the thugs answered.“Where is the eviction notice? Is it your duty to evict anyone? Where is the court judgment giving the lawyer such right? Call him here immediately.” The police officer instructed the thugs.“He must come here immediately. If he doesn’t come, both this house and the landlord’s house will be destroyed. You better call the landlord’s children too, otherwise, their inheritance will be destroyed as they destroyed this woman’s property.” The head of the vigilante added. Iya Farida tried to stand up but she noticed she couldn’t. When she was dragged out of the house she had hit her leg and scratched it on the floor. She couldn’t support herself with her right leg. She became scared when she notice blisters on her face and her hand. They had swollen. What could have happened? It was then she noticed the rice grains on her body.Iya Farida was rushed to the hospital. The vigilantes were so angry that they wanted to burn down the Baba Juwon’s house. The security quickly contacted the children as the lawyer who gave the instruction refused to show up. The children arrived in the nick of time. They quickly resolved the issue. They never instructed the lawyer to evict anyone. They also had agreed that Iya Farida remained as the care taker. The lawyer wanted to use intimidation to have his way but it failed woefully as the neighbourhood stood with Iya Farida.Iya Farida stayed for several days in the hospital as her face and hand were scarred from the boiling rice water landing on her face and hand. Her ankle was twisted in the process of throwing her out which developed into a fracture.Late Baba Juwon’s children came to visit Iya Farida in the hospital bearing gifts. They paid all her hospital bills and also assured her no one would chase her out of the house. Her twisted ankle required her using clutches which they provided for her. Unfortunately, the ankle never went back to normal and affected the way she walked because she couldn’t afford physiotherapy.Life took its toll on Iya Farida. She had to depend solely on her teaching as she couldn’t carry load on her head which she used to augment her meagre salary. She had a roof over her head and did other menial jobs which her condition enabled her to do. Sitting in a place made her put on excessive weight which made movement on the ankle very difficult. She had help from just one source; her daughter Farida and now Ade decided to steal her joy. She had plans for him.

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