I really don’t know what went wrong between my father and my mother but the picture I saw of my childhood had not my father in it. My mother is the taciturn type and has made me promise her not to ever talk or ask about my father from her or from any of her siblings. This I promised her the day I was branded a bastard by my closest friend in school who told the entire class when we were in JSS 1 at the age of eleven that I am a bastard.
I went home a changed boy ever since that day. Another friend of mine on the following day had come to me to ask me if it is true that I am a bastard. To me then, it doesn’t mean a very bad thing to me being labeled a bastard not until this friend of mine used a confusing tone of voice to ask me about my father. When I confirmed to him that I don’t know who my father is, he went to town with the already old news now confirmed from the horse’s mouth that actually, I am a bastard.
It was shocking when even some of my teachers started asking me questions openly in the classroom on who my father is. I told them that I don’t know who my father is as my mother has forbidden me from asking her who he is. Some of these teachers really betrayed their pity for my status in life. I have everything going for me as my mother is with the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja and takes good care of me aside the gigantic help her brothers give to us from time to time. There have been many times we traveled outside Nigeria on either Christmas or Easter holidays, so I never really understood what it means for one not to have a father who is alive somewhere or not knowing his family history and background.
That was when I started hurting and started becoming moody. My mother noticed it but when I raised my bother with her, she reminded me that I’m killing her softly by reminding her of that ‘evil man’ my father. I had gone through my mother’s picture collections without seeing any one my father is in. To save my heart from continuously worrying me, I asked my mother if I actually have a father who is alive somewhere, she answered in the affirmative. That gave me the hopes that one day, my father would come and claim me. I really needed my father in my life.
All my attempts before I reached the age of eighteen to figure out what made my father such an evil man that I’m being denied and punished for something I’m yet to know of came to naught. I pretended that I have forgotten everything about my father but always hurt inwardly whenever I stumble on fellow guys in the company of their father. I always felt hollow. It was my biggest ‘low’ in life. Any movie of father-son bonding puts me off.
When I gained admission into the university, I did my best to please my mother by not raising the issue of my father again, but I went to a major newspaper’s online site and got their telephone numbers and address and traveled to Lagos to advertise my picture and names to see if my father would stumble on my effort. This and other efforts I put up amounted to nothingness. I was badly hurting and frustrated. My mother has this hard-heart that you wouldn’t believe is in her by her mere appearance and I have discovered that I’m not like her at all. But as my mother who has sacrificed much for me, I have continued to respect her wish while I handed my plight over to God in prayers.
My academic sojourn to the university earned me a first class result and one of my uncles made me a promise of a master’s degree education in the UK. I accepted his support but insisted I finish with my youth service before traveling for my master’s degree. After spending close to one year at home while waiting for my call-up letter to embark on the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps exercise, my call-up finally arrived and I was posted to Lagos to serve the fatherland.
My mother had booked me on an evening flight to Lagos that fateful day but in the morning, a commercial flight to Lagos crashed into a building in Lagos and killed the entire one-fifty two persons on board and twelve more on ground. My mother accepted I use a commercial bus to Lagos instead as she feared for my life. Hence I entered Lagos very late. It was my second time to Lagos. Thank God. I was able to secure the services of a taxi driver who took me to the Orientation Camp. I got there at about 12 midnight. By the time I was able to charge my handset’ dead battery, and put a call through to my mother, many SMS started coming in from all of them who kept calling my line and caused my blackberry handset to loose its battery power. My mother’s relief was so felt and I was happy that they all care that much for me even though they have all refused to care about me where I needed the caring most. At the age of twenty-two, they still treat me like I’m a kid.
The security helped me discover the place to go to for my welcome package and assistance. I slept in the open hall provided for all who came in the time the officials had left for their homes. At exactly 9 a.m., I was able to wake up and brushed my mouth as I joined the queue of fresh graduates yet to secure their service gears. Around 9.30 a.m., I had showered and adorned the white and brown khaki gear and looked the picture of my immediate environment.
When the beagle sounded, I joined everybody at the open field. It was there that the Camp Commandant happened to look an older version of me. That is what we call in Nigerian parlance, ‘carbon copy’. I hid behind the person in front of me as I continuously prayed that he end up my ‘unknown’ father. Our eyes never met or so he made me believe. Immediately after the parade session ended, I got a message from one of the soldiers that my attention is needed. He asked me to follow him. My heart was palpitating as I suffered instant tearing in my eyes. When I eventually walked into his presence, I knew in my mind that he is my father. We stared into each others eyes for what lasted an eternity.
“What is your name, young man?” he finally asked me.
I stammered out, “Chima, Sir!”
“What is your mother’s name and surname?”
When I told him, he held his head in his two hands and started shedding hot tears.
From him, I found out that my name is not Chima but Chukwuka. He told me how my mother ran away from our home with me in Lagos when she couldn’t cope with the little his pockets as a young soldier could provide us.
At last, I have a father who is not in any way evil as he was painted by my mother and her siblings. At last, I lost the toga of a bastard. I can’t thank God enough for the strength of His will which provided me the providence to be properly established as a complete person.