Monday, 2 November 2015


           My future was planned from the start. My mother used to quote from the Bible Jeremiah 1:5 to me quite often so I knew it by heart. I knew a lot of things about my future like my husband had to be Yoruba. I knew that I was going to be a lawyer even though I hated art courses and loved Mathematics and Science. At family gatherings my mum would boast to everyone, "Our little Tola will one day be our family lawyer."
         I once tried to disagree telling Aunty Funmi, "No, I will be an Engineer."   
     Mother smiled adoringly and said, "Funmi, you know how all these children are. When you leave now, she will start watching all these tv shows with lawyers and say that's what she wants to be." Aunty Funmi would nod in acknowledgment and talk about how her son Peter said he wants to be a musician. 
      "Oh these children won't kill us", mother said and burst in raucous laughter that went cah-cah-cah. Aunty Funmi joined in. Her phlegm-filled voice disgusted me and I hated that I was standing in the sitting room and not lying down in my room so I could block my ears with my pillow. 
        Later that day after aunt Funmi left, mother dragged me to her room pulling my ears. 
    "Ow.", I squeaked. 
    "You better shut up your mouth. So you think you are now grown ehn that you can argue with me and in front of visitors for that matter? Ehn Engineer ko, bricklayer ni?" 
  I wanted to reply with something sassy but Aunty Dora had preached on wisdom in Sunday School. I was wise enough to know that the only reply to prevent slaps from raining on my back was "Sorry ma."
           Three years later, I pulled another stunt. This time I told my mother I would like to be a doctor . "Your older brother is already the doctor in the family . We need a lawyer now that your father is no more."
           I understood this perfectly and started to work towards this goal by attending only Art classes when it was time to make the great decision of Art vs Science. even though I dreaded literature class and history. I couldn't grasp why I needed to know in explicit detail all that happened millenniums ago and to be very honest, Shakespeare wasn't that great. I once voiced this opinion and my teacher made me write a thousand word essay on, "The Eternal hero, Shakespeare". 
          That was only my initial penchant for mischief. I quickly fell in line and got my Cs and Bs in school. I even got an A sometimes in Literature. Passing was not an issue for me. My own problem was how I would have to wear those scratchy wigs favored by lawyers in Nigeria. I was much too fashionable for that. 
          As I grew older, life happened. The post-JAMB exam kept me at home for 3 years. I was begging any university to give me any course at all because my family was slowly turning me to a maid. Law, farming, ritual killing, animal husbandry - I didn't mind which. I was just begging any university to give me any course. I wasn't tired of staying at home. I loved it, but my family had come to an unspoken agreement that Tola was the maid. 
         I eventually got my admission letter. It wasn't really a letter like in the American movies where the university would send you a mail to tell you your fate. I couldn't expect that luxury from a Nigeria that cared for nobody. 
         From the living room, my mother shouted. "Tola, wa. Come o. Bisi just told me that her daughter, Angela gained admission." 
        I feigned ignorance. I already knew but I was too scared to go and check. Now that I knew Angela had gotten admission, I knew I had to as well. Aunty Bisi could boast for Africa and I wanted to give my mother bragging rights as well.
          "Ah really? I did not know." I scratched my hair. I always did that whenever I lied.
          Mother pressed some notes into my hand. "Take this money and go to the cybercafe to check."
       My mother did not pray with me before she sent me off to check my results like the last three times. The last three times, her prayers were never answered. I prayed alone as I made the 15 minute walk to the cybercafe on my street. 
       "Give me 20 minutes time. I wan check my admission status.", I demanded. 
       "Na 100 naira. This year own no good at all.", the attendant at the cybercafe with yellow teeth said.
        "Okay, I have heard you", I practically screamed as I proceeded to check the university website.
Yes yes yes. I was accepted. That evening, mother threw a house party of some sorts and even Wale, my brother came home. It was just another excuse for a neighborhood get-together and hot juicy gossip. The jollof rice never finished. 
          I wasn't sure I was as elated as I portrayed to have gained admission to study Law . It just didn't feel like it belonged to me. It belonged to everyone but me - from my mother to Aunty Funmi to my father who'd passed on and even to the majority of my extended family. It was hard, juggling all these expectations. That night, I dreamt I was attending to patients in my consulting room. 

      There's such a thing as broken dreams, but what's even worse is unacknowledged dreams. Maybe that's why 11 years later I chose  to quit working for the firm that hired me right after graduation. I was frustrated of acting out the script set out for me ab initio. I really hated the wigs I had to wear in the court room in addition to my normal wigs. When I told my husband my decision, he looked at me like I was crazy and told me to talk to my mother. I did and the next day she came to my house with her pastor. 

         "Tola, I know you are not thinking right. You could be going through mid-life crisis."

        "Ma", I replied. "I'm not even forty yet." I was getting close.

       "Exactly. This is why I know my enemies are at work. How can you just wake up and              
         say you want to quit your job. Mogbe. You know your husband's salary alone can't
          take care of you and the kids." 

     I earned more than my husband and maybe my mother was right.  Mulling it over, my resolve started to weaken. "Pastor please. You have to pray for my daughter', mother continued. 
    We knelt down, held our hands and the pastor prayed for me not to make the wrong decision. In the same breath, he managed to kill the enemies and condemn them to death by fire. Intermittently, mother adjusted her scarf and squeezed my palms to urge me to say Amen.
    Two weeks later, I quit the firm much to everyone's dismay. I didn't know for sure if God had answered the pastor's prayers and I had made the right decision. 


       "What do you want to be in future?", I asked my nine-year old daughter.
       "A teacher", she said. Last week she had wanted to be an astronaut.
 I asked why. She wanted to be like her teacher Mr John that told them interesting stories in English class. I laughed at how idealistic she was. I told my husband about it that evening over a glass of wine. We didn't have much to talk about anymore. 
       The next week, she wanted to be the President. She had to write an essay in class on what she wanted to be in future and she wrote on wanting to be the President. I laughed. She wanted to have the ability to command a whole nation to do her bidding. Her essay was judged the best and she had to give a presentation. I was a proud mom until she came home sad on the day of the presentation.

       "Honey, what's wrong?", I asked. "How did your presentation go?". 

         She told me about a little boy that came second in the essay writing. He'd told her that she couldn't be president of Nigeria because she was a girl. There had been no female president. She argued that she'd be the first girl president. The little boy told her that President was a male noun like duke. My daughter argued that then she would be the Presidentess. She asked me if it was possible.
       "You can be anything you want to be", I assured her. She told me that she'd asked Uncle John, her teacher the same thing if she could be the President. He'd told her that girls were not to be Presidents but the wives of presidents. I could kill her teacher. 

         I hugged her close and reassured my daughter once more that she could rule the world. I didn't sleep well that night. I wanted badly to tell my daughter with more confidence that the sky wasn't a limit- that it went without saying. 
         I filed a complaint to the school management the next day all the while thinking that dreams that are not allowed to sprout is injustice. The next day, she told me she wanted to be a doctor and the wife of a president. A part of me wept.