Canteen Punks

“Oya, time don reach for all of you useless people to vamoose,” A fat man stated as he hit the table. 

In fear, all the ladies and children got up from their tables and walked out as some guys followed them out, laughing. 

I could feel dad’s anger rising at the rude statement the fat man had made.  

We had come to have lunch in the usual canteen close to dad’s small house which was also close to the local school. And this isn’t the first time Dad and I are hearing these taunts and rude words, especially to the female teachers. 

I knew today was going to be different as he stood up from our table and walked over to the table of the fat man who had just spoken. Seeing my huge dad approach him, he dropped the chicken he had picked from one of the female teacher’s plate with anxious concern. 

Dad sat on a table beside him; tapping his fingers on the table, he stared at the fat guy. 

Unable to hold it anymore, “what are you looking at?” He asked dad. 

But dad kept mute. 

“I asked you a question,” he roared as he leapt up and made to attack but dad was faster. Dad got hold of his fist and stared deeply into his daring eyes. 

The only guy who hadn’t gone out with the others moved to hit dad but he got a mighty punch that sent him to the ground. I chuckled. 

The fat man loosened himself from dad’s hold, charged towards dad and they started fighting. I figured out the other two had heard the noise because I could see them running in. Seeing that dad was gaining, I turned around and rushed for them. 

The lanky one tried to grab me but I ducked and immediately grabbed his arm and wrung it. I snickered as his cries filled the air. The chubby one rushed at me but I ran and I kept running around the table. 

“Jenny, I need you here,” Dad called, abruptly halting the fun I was having. 

I stopped running and so did the panting chubby man and with a blow to his forehead, I put him to sleep. 

“I’m here,” as I got to dad. He had hung a rope on the fat man’s neck but they were still struggling. Dad urged me to double the ropes. Torn between battling with Dad and me, his strengths faded, giving me the chance to double the ropes. As he let dad go, we watched him struggle for his life, upside down. 

Changing my world

This dull day became worse as they stared speechlessly with their mouths agape and their hearts in shambles as they saw their parents lying lifeless in their own pool of blood. This was the worst day of their lives or so they thought. Atika and her sisters cried uncontrollably.
‘’Mama, please wake up,’’ Atika shouted as tears streamed down her face.
‘‘Papa, please don’t leave us. Don’t leave me,’’ Jummai the youngest yelled out. She was too young to lose both her parents.
‘‘God will punish them. Every one of them that has a hand in their deaths will suffer and continue to know no peace in their lives,’’ Jamal the second cursed. He had always been the strong one, not just because he was a boy but because he has always felt the need to take care of his sisters and right now he knew he had to brace himself up to console his sisters.
‘’Atika, it is okay. Stop crying. They are gone, our tears won’t bring them back,’’ said Jamal as he tried to lift Atika from their mother’s cold body which she held in a tight grip but Atika tightened her grip and struggled with her brother till he freed her. He left her and pulled Jummai up from their father’s body. Her body was stained with blood, tears and sweat. He hugged her tightly and patted her back as he watched Atika cry her heart out.

‘‘Mum, please pass me the juice,’’ Elena smiled as she requested her mother to pass her the jug of juice on the dining table. They were having a sumptuous dinner.
‘’Thank you,’’ said Elena as her mum passed the juice to her.
‘’How’s the food, honey?’’ Isabela asked her husband as Elena looked up to see her father’s reaction and then she continued with her food. No doubt she was enjoying her mother’s food.
‘’As usual, you’ve not lost your touch baby,’’ said he smiling and then he continued eating.
Senator Mark gave Elena an evil eye, when he had looked away from her, she too gave him an evil eye and Isabela pretended not to notice.

Two days later, after Adamu had heard of his sister and her husband’s death, he came from his village to pick up her children to his place in his village. As the old car drove its way through the tattered village roads, they discovered that their mum’s village had developed a little bit. There were few houses built with bricks and they passed through the place where the pipe borne water was sited but the community was still poor. When they arrived to their uncle’s house, it too was made of bricks and the sitting room was neatly furnished but not with expensive furniture though. The sofas, centre table, radio and standing fan looked like they had already being used till the owners had no use for them anymore. They marvelled when they saw electricity and how it could produce light and air without effort. His wife was one of the few women that were from families that their parents could afford to send to school to receive primary education and now, she is a teacher in the only primary school in the community.

‘‘Elena, where are you going to this early?’’ Senator Mark asked his daughter when she descended the stairs gorgeously dressed. She was a bit surprised with the question,
‘’Dad I’m going out. Any problem?’’
‘’I know you are going out, but where?’’ he asked.
‘’You know where,’’ she answered smiling as she walked out the door.
With an angry voice, he yelled his wife’s name, ‘’Isabela, Isabela.’’
Isabela quickly came out of the kitchen. ‘’Honey, you called. What is it?’’ she asked looking at his face like she was searching for answers.
‘’You better warn that daughter of yours. She won’t drag my name to the mud. Warn her to stop daring me. She won’t be able to withstand my venom,’’ he warned.
Confused, Isabela said, ‘‘my love, you know she has had this dream right from her childhood. We can’t stop her. We have tried and failed. You should know that Elena is very stubborn. Despite all we’ve tried to prevent her from doing this, she still won’t listen. Please take it easy,’’ said she as she touched his chin and rubbed it. Isabela was scared that the relationship between her child and husband was turning sour.
‘‘I’ve told you what I have to tell you,’’ he said as he removed her hand from his chin and walked out.

It’s been two months since Atika and her siblings started living with their uncle.
‘‘Atika, Atika, Atikaaaaaa,’’ Ladi yelled from the sitting room.
Atika came in running from the backyard. ‘‘Yes Aunty,’’ she said with fear.
‘‘What were you doing?’’ Ladi asked with a stern look.
‘’Erm, I was…………. I was……….. I was sweeping the backyard,’’ she said shaking.
‘‘Well, that’s your little business. I want this house sparklingly clean by the time I get back from work and I mean sparklingly clean.’’
‘‘Okay ma,’’ Atika replied.
‘‘Good,’’ she said glowering at her.
As Atika turned to leave, ‘‘Ehn ehn, Atika, when you are done with everything in this house, I want you and Jamal to go and buy some roasted fish from the junction for my husband,’’ she informed her as she handed her a 200 naira note.
‘‘Okay Aunty but what about Jummai?’’ Atika asked her.
Ladi gave Atika an evil eye, ‘‘what kind of question is that? Is Jummai a baby? Is a 7 year old not old enough to stay in a house alone? And please the last time I checked my husband is around. You must be really stupid for this question you just asked. But if you are still not comfortable with leaving her here, then you can bring her to me so I can carry her on my back and take her to work, rubbish. My friend, you and Jamal will go and get the fish. You should be grateful I’m letting him go with you. You know how far that place is,’’ she hissed, picked up her bag and left the house. She didn’t need to inform her husband she was leaving because he was still asleep.
Atika and her siblings were scared of Ladi. She was a nightmare.

‘‘Ah, Jamal it’s like I forgot the money at home o,’’ Atika exclaimed after checking her pockets and finding nothing.
‘‘Ohhhhhhhhhh, tell me you’re joking,’’ Jamal said disappointed.
‘’I’m not joking. You know what? Just wait here while I go and get it, okay? I will walk fast,’’ she told her brother.
‘‘But we have come a long way already,’’ he said sadly.
‘’It is okay. At least it is better I found out now than when we would have got to our destination. That would be worse. So just look for somewhere to wait for me, I’ll be back soon,’’ she told him as she removed her slippers and ran as fast as her legs could carry her.
Jamal looked around to see where he could wait, he spotted a little shade under an orange tree by the road, and he left the road to stand under it.
Atika turned the door knob and opened the door, as she made for their room to search for the money she paused, she was hearing cries from her uncle’s room. They sounded like Jummai’s voice. ‘’Could it be that Uncle is beating my sister?’’ she asked herself as her heart started racing. She was ready to take the beatings right now for her sister. When she reached the door, the cries were very loud and different from Jummai’s usual cries. She gently opened the door and her heart sank immediately at what she saw. She held the door tightly to stop her from falling. She watched speechlessly as her sister and the man they call ‘Uncle’ and looked up to struggled. They didn’t even notice her presence. Jummai’s cries pierced Atika’s heart and it bled. She couldn’t stand the hurt or think straight. She left the door ajar and walked slowly to the kitchen. She looked around dejectedly and went for the pestle she considered the only available weapon. She picked it and carried it to his room. Atika raised the pestle up and with all her strength which she didn’t know existed, descended the pestle on his head. Adamu screamed and tried to look up but Atika didn’t give him that chance. She hit him and hit him and hit him till his brains scattered all over the bed and floor. All her strength left her immediately as she dropped the pestle, shaking with tears, she staggered back to the wall close to the door while Jummai folded herself and kept crying.

After standing on the road for almost two hours, Jamal began to wonder why his sister was taking this long. He couldn’t take it anymore so he decided to head back home.
‘‘Atika, Atik…….’’ Jamal paused as he entered his Uncle’s room. Immediately he threw up at the sight of the shattered brains. ‘‘What happened here?’’ Jamal asked thinking the touts had done the same thing they did to their parents to their Uncle. Atika didn’t even look at him, she was just sitting down and staring at Jummai who was just sobbing now after being tired from crying. When Jamal saw that Atika wasn’t ready to give him any answers, he moved to Jummai who was curled up. He touched her face gently, ‘‘Jummai, what happened? Please talk to me.’’
With a cracked voice, she explained, ‘’Uncle called me into his room to sweep, while I was sweeping, he lifted me up from behind, he put me on the bed and and and………..’’ she started crying again as she revealed her blood stained dress. Jamal’s eyes widened as he saw it. His eyes also went in the direction of Jummai’s pant that had been removed forcefully by the Uncle. He swallowed hard as he got up and started kicking the bed so hard, ‘‘No, No, No, NOOOOOOOOOO, this did not happen. Why? Why? Why?’’ he cried as he carried Jummai from the bed, went over to Atika and held them together.
At 4:47pm, Ladi almost fainted when she saw her husband’s body with the head smashed. ‘’What happened here?’’ she asked with shock as she bit her shaking fingers. ‘‘Who did this?’’ she asked in tears. She read the children’s expression and because they were unable to conceal it, she needed no soothsayer to tell her what happened. She rushed to the children and started hitting them with her bag but the children didn’t move. After some minutes of crying and beating, she reached for her phone and called the local police.
They arrived twenty minutes later and arrested the children.
‘‘I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget in your miserable lives for making me a widow this young,’’ she threatened them as they all marched out of the house into another rickety car owned by the police. The girls remained mute till they got to the station. They got down and were taken to the counter for interrogations.
After the interrogations, Jamal and Jummai were released and Atika was detained. The police didn’t even care to know what had impelled Atika to kill her Uncle. The children themselves were too scared to mention the reason for Atika’s action and since the children were poor and uneducated, they didn’t know the law or their rights so that was an advantage for the learned Ladi.
‘’Mrs Ladi, Atika will stay, take the children home,’’ the D.P.O told her.
She raged, ‘‘take which children home? That murderer’s siblings? How am I sure they won’t kill me too? I’m not taking them anywhere.’’
‘‘You have to take them. They are your responsibility now.’’
She just looked at him with folded arms.

‘’Okay, get out,’’ she ordered as she pulled over at the side of a lonely road.
‘‘Aunty I don’t understand,’’ Jamal said and immediately a resounding slap landed on his cheek.
‘’Are you deaf?’’ Ladi roared with a red face.
Jamal hurriedly opened the door and stepped out, he rushed to the back door, opened it and carried Jummai out. Ladi zoomed off immediately almost brushing Jamal’s leg. They stared into blank space, they didn’t know where they were neither did they know where to go.
‘‘Brother Jamal, why did she drop us here?’’ the scared Jummai asked.
Jamal patted her hand as he was still holding it, ‘‘Jummai, I don’t know ooo. I don’t know but you know what?’’ he asked Jummai and she shook her head. ‘’Let’s keep going this way,’’ Jamal pointed the way Ladi’s car had gone. ‘’Since that’s the way she went.’’
Elena opened the door and stepped in chewing gum. It was 8:43pm so she entered quietly.
‘’And where are you coming back from by this time of the night?’’
Elena paused as her father’s voice startled her. ‘’Good evening dad, I thought you’d be asleep by now,’’ she said as she swallowed her gum.
‘’It should be Good Night not Good Evening but you have not answered my question,’’ he shouted.
‘‘Well Dad, where I went to is none of your business. I’m old enough to go anywhere I want to,’’ she retorted.
He stood up, ‘‘Old enough,’’ he laughed. ‘‘Old enough you say? You call twenty years old enough?’’ he asked her as he moved closer to her but Elena didn’t even move an inch.
‘’Dad, we know that the only reason why you are picking on my age, where I go to and my time of coming back to this house is just because of the kind of life I choose to live. If I was living the life you wanted for me, I know you wouldn’t be so angry at the slightest thing I do. If you give me the best of everything, then why can’t………’’
He cut her off before she could finish her sentence because he knew where she was heading to, ‘‘we won’t have this conversation.’’
‘‘Oh really? I see. Then Good Night Dad,’’ she said as she walked out on him up the stairs.
‘’You are such a disgrace to my reputation,’’ he roared.

‘‘Jummai take,’’ Jamal said as he handed his sister the biscuit and water he had bought.
‘‘Thank you brother,’’ Jummai said as she received it happily.
‘‘Come let’s find somewhere to sit and eat. It’s very hot,’’ he said as he led her to a shade.
‘’Brother, how long will this continue? We have been suffering for long now. At least life was a little better with our parents. Look at Sister Atika suffering because of me,’’ Jummai complained bitterly.
‘’I don’t know,’’ Jamal said as a tear dropped. ‘‘But I believe this will end soon. I don’t know how but I have a strong conviction it will. Just be strong for me, please I need you to be for me and Sister Atika especially,’’ Jamal tried to console her.
After some minutes of silence, ‘‘Okay it’s time to take something to Sister Atika to eat, we have to hurry so we can come back before it gets late.”
It’s been eight months since Atika had been unjustly detained without any trial. Her siblings had resolved to beg on the streets. They worked hard day and night and what they got was not even enough to feed the three of them but Jamal had to sacrifice so his sisters would eat. Still, Atika grew thinner as each day passed.

During one of their usual dull days, standing under the hot sun and running after people who were not even buoyant enough and begging them for money.
‘’Pull over please,’’ Elena said to her driver as she sighted a fine young boy and a very pretty little girl looking tired and tattaered. The car stopped right in front of the siblings and everyone stared in awe including Jamal and Jummai. They had never seen such a gigantic and exotic car. Their uncle’s car was no match. Elena stepped down graciously and everyone could see she was different from them. She was sophisticated and flawless. She walked over to the children but they stepped back. Jamal was just about her height.
‘‘Hello,’’ she said smiling.
They stared at her lost because they didn’t understand English.
Elena was a polyglot so she spoke in their language, ‘‘I see you don’t understand what I said. My name is Elena and I come in peace.’’ They looked at each other and smiled.
‘‘I’m Jamal and my sister is Jummai,’’ Jamal replied her. They were so glad that someone like her could approach them talk more of talking to them.
‘‘Oh, you’re siblings? That’s nice,’’ said Elena. She took a deep breath, ‘‘would you like to ride with me?’’ she asked with the fear of being refused.
They hesitated for some time before saying ‘’Yes’’ in unison.

Elena took them to Lagos where she and her foundation for the poor was based. She took a special liking for them. She brushed them up. From their dress sense to educating them and knowing their health status. They were carriers of bacteria so treatment was commenced on them immediately. She was glad to have reached out to them in time.
Two months later, when the nurse was going through Jummai’s test results again, she saw she had skipped the test result where traces of sperm were found in Jummai’s system. Immediately she reported to Elena.
‘‘Some people are just demons in human form. How could someone do that to a 7 year old?’’ she asked a question that didn’t require an answer from the nurse. Elena was angry and furious at what poor people especially girls go through because they don’t have a voice or someone to stand for them. ‘‘Call them in. I want to speak with them now,’’ Elena ordered.
‘’Yes ma’am,’’ said the nurse as she left the office. Seven minutes later, the door came open as Jamal and Jummai walked in.
‘‘Sit down,’’ she said and they did. She stared at them for a while before speaking out, ‘‘I heard your sister was raped.’’ They bent their heads in silence. ‘’Come on, look at me and speak up. How did it happen?’’ she asked them.
Tears streamed down their faces as they recounted the experience.
‘‘That man is a monster. Your own uncle? What a shame! He deserved what he got and no one should tell you otherwise although I’m not saying what your sister did is right but I don’t blame her. So, where’s your sister? How come I have not seen her and you guys have not spoken about her before,’’ Elena asked curiously.
‘‘She was arrested,’’ Jummai replied.
‘’Arrested? By who?’’ she was surprised.
‘’By the village police’’, Jamal said.
‘’Was she taken to court?’’ Elena asked.
‘’No, she wasn’t taken to court,’’ Jamal replied.
‘‘Then where is she?’’ Elena asked again.
‘’She has been in detention since August last year,’’ Jamal replied.
Elena eyes widened. ’’What? You mean to tell me that they put a seventeen year old in prison for a crime that wasn’t intentional and still didn’t put her up for trial? What madness,’’ Elena was filled with rage. They didn’t understand why she was so angry because they had no idea that people would go to court before their fate could be decided. They felt really sad their sister had been suffering unjustly. She picked up her phone and called in her secretary. When the secretary came in, ‘‘Chioma, take them, prepare them and get their things ready. We are going on a big trip.’’

‘‘Mum, Dad. I’m travelling,’’ Elena told her parents in the night as they watched the television.
‘’Where are you going to honey?’’ her mum asked.
‘‘To a poor village in Katsina,’’ she said.
‘’But it’s not been up to two months since you came back from Katsina and you are going back again,’’ her mother said.
‘’Yes mum but this time around it’s for a different and important reason. There are some people in need of my help.’’
‘’As usual, you always help people who don’t deserve it.’’
Elena moved her gaze to her father since he was ready for this dreaded discussion.
‘’You are not going to any village again. Enough is enough with your stupidity in this house,’’ her father shouted. ‘‘You keep spending my money on these useless people. These poor rats that don’t even know their right from their wrong,’’ he added.
‘‘Yes I agree, they are poor, uneducated, they are rats but they are people like you and me, the only difference is the status and it’s still people like you and me that make them so miserable,’’ Elena retorted.
‘’No, they can never be like me,’’ her father defended.
‘’Then make them. Dad, life is not only about the good things that we the rich get, it’s also about using our comfort we have been blessed with to be comforters to those people who are not privileged to have the comfort they deserve. Dad, you and I know that the reason why this people are suffering and are less privileged is not because of lack of money.’’ Senator Mark couldn’t attack his daughter as she spoke, he just watched her speechlessly. ‘‘Think about the quality medical care you get, the clean and excess water supply, the education you have got, the luxury cars just for transportation and the trade policy that these poor people don’t even know about talk more of having. It’s because much of the money spent on these sectors is captured by powerful elites like you before it even reaches the poor,’’ her father cuts her off, ‘’How dare you?’’
‘‘Dad, I’m not done. If you politicians will keep failing at doing the right things then I think the most productive action I can take is to reach out to the very poor ones that are losing out and most importantly, empower them with information and I mean the right information,’’ she said in a mocking tone.
Isabela coughed.
‘‘You are acting like a fool, Elena. You dare defy me and you think you are strong enough. Listen, information by itself is not enough to empower those poor people. You can’t make those poor people you think you care for any better,’’ her father told her.
Elena scoffed, ‘‘I know that helping the people and reaching out to them is not easy but since people like you won’t give a damn then I will try and I know I’m really trying and I’m impacting lives already and I will give them the mechanism they need to hold you all, I mean all of you accountable for ignoring them, the citizens of your country,’’ she warned her father.
‘’And how do you intend to do all of these unaided, baby girl?’’ he asked with a smirk.
‘‘Oh you think I’m not capable. Well you just wait and find out and also open your ears to listen because I will shock you and you won’t stop me,’’ she said smiling as she got up and walked out.

‘’Good morning DPO,’’ Ladi greeted as she entered into the office and walked over to sit.
‘‘Good morning madam. You are welcome,’’ the DPO responded.
‘‘So why did you want me to come here? What was it you wanted to tell me that you couldn’t say on the phone?’’ Ladi asked impatiently.
‘‘Well,’’ the DPO started as he adjusted his glasses. ‘A lady came here earlier today,’ he told her.
‘‘So what’s my business with that?’’ she asked unconcerned.
‘‘Well that is where I’m heading to because it’s entirely your business. She came to request that Atika be taken to court for trial at the nearest jurisdiction court,’’ he said.
Ladi laughed very hard, ‘‘you are joking, right?’’
The DPO with his palm under his chin just stared at her until she was done laughing. ‘‘Wait, you’re really serious. But how’s that possible? The Atika I know doesn’t know anyone that would do that for her,’’ she bit her lips hard.
‘’Well it seems she does now,’’ the DPO said.
‘‘So what was your response?’’ she asked sadly.
‘’I said yes of course. She came with an attorney,’’ he replied.
Amara became tensed, ’’so what are we going to do now?’’
‘‘Well I don’t think you need any cause to worry. If Atika’s siblings found someone, she won’t be capable enough. I believe this might not favour them. There’s no cause for alarm.’’ Ladi took a deep breath after the DPO said that. She was a bit relieved. Deep down she resolved within herself that maybe the person was just trying to show Jamal and Jummai that she was concerned. After all who would want to help those poor things?

As Atika stood in the dork, she was overwhelmed with joy that tears streamed down her face. She never thought that she would see so much people in colours again. She thought her life in the open world had ended. Her joy knew no bounds as she saw her siblings looking eager. They smiled at her. She noticed the very beautiful young lady sitting close to them. She wondered who she was. On the day the request to take Atika to court was made, Elena had sent her PA instead. So neither the DPO nor Atika saw Elena.
Atika pled guilty to the charges against her after the initial appearance. Then the evidence on the charges against her were read to the jury. When they found her guilty, Ladi’s lips went in a crooked smile. She thought she had won after all but it wasn’t over yet. Her attorney was a top professional hired by Elena. With her siblings’ statements, he was able to give explanations and motives for Atika’s actions. Atika was too scared to say why she had done what she did. Report was provided to show that Jummai had been raped. Ladi became uncomfortable as she sensed the table turning. Jamal, Jummai and Elena were called to the witness stand to tell their own part of the story. After all was done, it was found that both the DPO and Mrs Ladi had both conspired to keep the young lady in prison till Ladi felt she could be released. Ladi had been paying the DPO the sum of two thousand naira monthly. The court declared Atika innocent and free to go because she would have been sent to a juvenile home for three months if she had been brought to court earlier because she had committed a crime, intentional or not. Since she had served a ten months term unjustly, she was acquitted. Immediately an arrest was issued for Ladi and the DPO.
Jamal and Jummai were so happy they screamed and ran towards their sister, they held each other in a warm embrace. Elena was happy they were happy.

‘’Thank you so much Aunty Elena,’’ Atika said in Hausa. ‘’I’m so grateful for all you have done for my sisters. God will bless you always,’’ she said with tears.
‘’You’re welcome Atika, they are my responsibility so no need to thank me. And call me Elena, no need for the formality,’’ Elena told her and just then, Atika went on her knees, ‘‘Thank you Elena,’’ she said crying.
Elena took her hands and raised her up, ‘‘I’ve heard you, please get up. It’s okay. Stop crying,’ she said softly as she hugged her. ‘‘I’ll make you and your siblings’ better people and I’m sorry for all you’ve gone through. You didn’t deserve it but it’s all over now. No one will ever hurt you all again,’’ she assured Atika as she patted her back.

Four months later, Elena, Atika, Jamal and Jummai, Elena’s influential friends who stood with her and supported her quest and all her aids left the city for Atika’s village to reach out to the villagers there and give them hope. When they arrived, the villagers marvelled at how polished Atika and her siblings were when they recognised them. Elena had taken good care of them just as she had to the other children she had in her care. Some who had been with her for a long time have been taught to stand on their own and make a name for themselves with their own lucrative businesses.
Elena spent two days surveying and starting what she came for. The third day, she planned to speak to all the villagers. The microphones, stage and speakers were set up for Elena to speak to the people. They started with music so it would attract them to the area. In no time, the place was full and bubbly.
‘‘Good day everyone,’’ Atika greeted and round of applauses followed. ‘‘I don’t need to introduce me or my siblings to you all,’’ she said smiling. ‘’I know you all know our story from how we lost our parents to how we left this village with my Uncle to live in my mother’s village. But what you don’t know is what I want to tell you. The person who came here to take us away claiming to be our Uncle raped my sister when she was just seven years old,’’ their gasps and curses made her pause. ‘’He raped a girl who was not old enough to have sex, a girl who wasn’t ripe enough to hold or take in a penis, a girl who had and has not fully grown into a woman and he abused her and took her pride away,’’ she looked away from the crowd and turned her head to look at her sister as Jamal held her hand. Then she faced them again, ‘‘I couldn’t bear the pain so I killed him,’’ murmuring was heard in the crowd. ‘‘I don’t know if he deserved what he got because till today, I still wish I didn’t have to stain my hands with his blood but I couldn’t stop myself. My emotions got the best of me. Maybe if I wasn’t ignorant, I would have controlled my emotions and allowed justice take its toll. I paid my price though. I spent close to eleven months in prison and I suffered but I suffered not just because I was there but because I couldn’t bear knowing that my brother and sister were out in this wicked world on their own but God sent an angel, a selfless, wonderful and amazing being to help take care of my siblings in my absence. What I couldn’t have done even if I was here. Many people in her shoes would never look at our faces or even imagine how we felt but she’s different and she’s the best thing that has happened to so many people who do not have a voice. I’m happy she took care of my siblings, came to my aid and rescued me.’’ She smiled and turned to Elena then back to the people again, ‘‘Please let’s welcome Miss Elena Olabanji, daughter of Senator Mark Olabanji,’’ Elena came forward to hug Atika and the crowd applauded. Her charming smile made them cheer more.
‘’Good day my good people, I come in peace. I know you have suffered for long. It’s time for a new dawn. I’m sorry that you have all been suffering this way. I’m sorry that poverty has taken its toll on you all. The lack of health care, water supply, sanitation, electricity, transport, labour market and trade policy is making life so difficult for you. We are going to make all that available for you including education and infrastructures because they are important for escaping poverty especially for your children,’’ as she spoke, everywhere was calm and not even a pin was heard. ‘’I know some of you might think that this little community you habit is the only thing that matters in this world and there is no money to achieve all these but the money is available and there are people who know where this money goes to. Overcoming government failures is difficult, I agree but it is as a result of the interests of some powerful groups in the society most especially the government officials and politicians who are resisting attempts to reform. People like my father.’’

As he watched his screen from his sitting room with his wife, he was filled with anger, ‘’finally this girl has disgraced me on National TV. Are you seeing what she is doing? She has succeeded in dragging my name to the mud,’’ he gazed disappointedly as he listened to what she said while his wife remained mute. ‘‘Why are you silent?’’ he asked her.
‘‘What do you want me to say? All I know is that I’m for the truth and that’s what Elena is doing. So I don’t have anything to say.’’
‘‘I knew it that all these while you were not scolding her was because you were taking on her side,’’ he shouted.
‘’On her side? You are both my family so I’m not taking sides. Like I said I am for the truth.’’
He shook his head and stared at his wife confused as she continued watching the TV.
‘‘The government itself is captured by its special interests but perhaps the most productive action to take is by empowering ourselves with information. We are going to give ourselves the mechanism to hold politicians accountable for ignoring the citizens of their country. We are going to promote your access to information because technology will help us to achieve that because the fact that one in two Africans has access to mobile phones has made it easier to reach anybody. So as my friends come close to you, accept the cell phone they give to you,’’ she informed them as her aids went around sharing the small smartphones she had bought. Each person that a phone was handed to smiled in appreciation. ‘‘I know it won’t go round but we are going to teach you how to use it to campaign on social media so they will hear us and finally see us and they will know that we are tired of being neglected, tired of suffering and tired of being ignorant to the things around us. If they fail to hear our cries then the world will see how they have abandoned us and we will make them restless.’’
On hearing that, the crowd jumped and cheered. Atika and her siblings couldn’t contain the happiness that they joined in the jumping and cheering as well.
She continued, ‘‘as we speak an AJJ school and clinic is in construction in this village. AJJ stands for ATIKA, JAMAL and JUMMAI because I want them to be remembered as the first siblings, the first people to be educated and liberated from this village. And you don’t have to worry about spending anything to be attended to. Send your children to school, lets join our hands to make our children better especially the girls who are abused everyday by men, they need to find their voice to speak up and bring those beasts to justice. We need to help and teach them to overcome their fears and lose that burden they bear,’’ there was sadness in her voice but then she covered up by smiling again. ‘’But then if you feel sick, don’t hesitate to fly to the clinic, I didn’t say walk, fly.’’ And everyone laughed. ‘‘I and my friends promise to deliver to you most of the privileges the elites enjoy like electricity, water supply, transport, etc. We will try to make businesses available for your young men so they don’t resolve to robbery that would lead to bloodshed. I’m not promising the best but I will try my best because you all deserve what I deserve. It is time for transformation,’’ she smiled contentedly.
The crowd shouted, clapped and cheered that it seemed like the whole village would tear in two.