The senior wife traveled from Ogwashi-Uku to Asaba, in a bus, with the money they had raised in her bag. This was her first time outside Ogwashi-Uku, going to the capital where they said white men were easily found. When she boarded the bus, she sat beside a weird looking man who had on a face cap. She held her bag tightly, with the thought that this man could be a thief because he looked like one. But not long after the bus started its journey to Asaba, the senior wife fell asleep.
In her dream, she was sitting with other people, who had come to witness the hanging of the man who killed another man. She watched as the priest ministered the last confession rites to Ejike, and then he stepped on the raised podium, with a noose over his neck, a soldier was standing by with his rifle drawn to finish him off, if there was any mistake in the hanging. At the commander of the general, the podium was kicked off from under Ejike’s feet.
The senior wife screamed, just as the bus conductor tapped her violently, the bus had reached its final bus stop and everyone had deboarded, except this woman. The senior wife opened her eyes, and looked around her, her handbag was gone, so was the weird looking man.
Senior wife: “My bag, where is my bag?”
Conductor: “I don’t know. As old as you are, you don’t know you are not supposed to sleep in the bus?” he said and beckoned on her to leave the bus. The driver also joined in to tell her to leave.
She left in confusion, she didn’t know where she was going because, everything was in the bag, even the address of the lawyer’s office. Tears dropped out of her eyes as the implication of what had happened dawned on her. She went from person to person asking for money, some gave her a few shillings, others shoved her away. When she had enough to transport herself to the prison, she boarded a taxi.
At the prison, Ejike was brought out to meet her, when she saw her husband and how he was looking; fresh tears flowed from her eyes.
Senior wife: “I am so sorry, my own daughter pushed you to this, and yet the task I was told to do, I could not”
Ejike: “What task are you talking about?” he asked out of curiosity.
Senior wife: “We sold everything we own so I could get a lawyer that will represent you, but on my own here, they stole my bag” she replied and began to sob.
Ejike: “Don’t cry, I have some money hidden somewhere in the house. You will use that money to take care of your co-wives and the children. Make sure you start a trade that will enable you train your children in school” he retorted.
Senior wife: “What about getting a lawyer for you?”
Ejike: “The Scripture Union (SU) has retained a lawyer for me. I am a changed man now, I have given my life to Christ, and I know if I am hanged today, I will go to heaven, not hell”
Senior wife: “You will not be hanged, I have a child coming, and it is like it will be a boy, he will need his father” she said sobbing.
Ejike: “If it is a boy, he has you, I don’t know a stronger woman than my first wife” he replied with a small smile, and tried to wipe her tears away, but she pulled her face away, she was not used to such kindness from him.
In the magistrate court in Asaba, where Talbot, a orange colored, English, middle aged man, was judge, murderers hardly escaped the hangman’s noose. It was before Judge Talbot that Ejike was made to appear. On the day of his court hearing, the people from the SU gave him a pair of khaki trousers, and a shirt. He wore this to answer for his crimes.
The court was filled with white people, and some Nigerians who worked in government houses, it was a jury system, and the jury was mostly white men.
Ejike knew right then that he had no chance. He was resigned to his fate even when the Nigerian lawyer that the SU had employed for him, tried to encourage him to trust in God.
Court Clerk: “The people Vs Ejike Nwobodo on first count of murder”
Judge: “How do you plead?” he asked in a no- nonsense way. Ejike looked at the judge with his orange colored hair that had bangs kissing his fore-head, and shivered. This was the dreaded judge Talbot.
Ejike: “Guilty. But I beg my Lord, to hear what I have to say”
Judge: “Pleading guilty has made this case easier for everyone involved, especially the government. I might as well give you our request” he said and nodded his head at Ejike.
Ejike: “I killed my fellow villager, not because I had murder in my mind for him, but because I was angry, I was blinded by my anger.”
Judge: “Really, why were you angry?”
Ejike: “His son was having an affair with my wife, and if you know the black man well, you will know that is a stain on my honour”
Judge: “The black man is no different from the white man on this respect, but could it be your fault that your wife decided to have an affair with the deceased’s son?”
Ejike: “It is my fault. I was cruel to her, she was only thirteen when she came to my house, and I continuously raped her. I wanted her to give me a male child because my other wives could not give me male children. I know now that I was wrong”
Judge: “Hold on, before we start with the apologies, I need to get something straight. You say your wife is how old?”
Ejike: “She was thirteen when she came, years have passed, she should be fifteen now” The white people in the audience began to bawl with laughter.
Judge: “How many wives do you have altogether?”
Ejike: “I have four wives, but now they are three, because the youngest has run away”
Judge: “Oh my God, these Africans are a wonder!” he said in amazement and there was mumblings I the audience. A black man could be seen narrating to the white man sitting close to him, how his uncle had 12 wives and 144 children.
Ejike: “Give me another chance and I will be a better man. I didn’t know better, my father before me, collected their conjugal rights whether the brides were willing or not. But I have embraced Christianity and now, I know that a woman has a right to her body.” He said and broke down in tears.
The senior wife, who was sitting in the audience, saw her husband crying like a baby, and she felt bad. She stood up and walked to the podium where Ejike was standing in the defendant box.
Senior wife: “Perhaps you are wiser because of the color of your skin and because you rule us, but a man who marries a lot of wives is seen as a great man in our land. Ejike was a good husband, he warmed our beds and he provided for us and our children. So why must you ridicule a man’s way of life just because he made a mistake. You tell us to embrace your ways, and your religion, bit doesn’t your religion say that to err is human and to forgive is divine? He has realized his mistakes, so forgive him” she said and walked back to her seat. The court room was quiet because the white people didn’t understand the language she had spoken in, they just saw her genuflecting and were wrapped in the rhythm of the kwale language. But when the court translator began to translate what she had said, they began to show more emotions, especially the jury. A woman among them took a handkerchief to her eyes, while the men nodded their heads; the African woman was passionate about their men, something they didn’t quite get from their women.
Judge: “While the bible preaches about forgiveness, it also says that the wages of sin is death. If you cannot pay the wages of your crime, do not commit crime. Also, people should learn how to control their anger, wise is a man that is slow to anger. Now, does the jury have a verdict?” he asked turning to the jury.
Question: What will be Ejike’s judgment; will he be hanged for his crime?
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