We have got this heart touching story, titled: “The Thorn In My Flesh (Episode 1)” for your reading pleasure and am sure you’re going to learn one or two things at the end.
Thirteen years old Toke walked with her widowed mother to the community secondary school in their town where Toke had been sent home by her teacher because she had failed to pay her school fees. She was an only child and her mother who had lost her husband shortly after the birth of her daughter was left with almost nothing by her husband to take care of herself and her daughter.
Her husband, Martins had been a successful merchant when he was alive and he had built a name for himself among the local traders in that town for he was one of those men who could lend out huge sums of money for months without asking for interest.
He was a tall man with broad shoulders and a husky voice that complimented his looks. People wondered how he had fallen in love with Toke’s mother who was of a small frame and average height.
The combination of her father’s height and her mother’s small stature had given Toke her average frame.
Her father who was a very strong man used to travel to different remote villages and buy goods and farm produce from local farmers and sell in wholesale and retail to his numerous customers.
It was from one of such trips that he had returned shortly after Toke’s birth only to start complaining of headache few hours after his return.
He had dismissed the headache as the handiwork of fatigue and had gone to sleep, a sleep he had never waken up from.
His wife who was busy making his dinner then had gone to wake him to alert him that his dinner was ready and that was when she discovered that her husband was dead.
After his burial, his family had branded her and her few months old daughter witches who had killed their brother and so they were sent out of the house without any of the property and money Mr. Martins left behind. Mama Toke had worked hard to feed herself and her daughter who was all she had.
As they drew near to the school compound, Toke’s mother began to rant.
Mama Toke: “I don’t know why my own daughter should be sent out of school simply because I cannot afford to pay her fees. Don’t they know that I am a poor widow? Where do they expect me to get the school fees from when the term just commenced not long ago? I don’t blame them, I blame God who took your father away from us this soon” she asked rhetorically.
Toke watched her mother from the side of her eyes. She was used to her mother’s endless soliloquizing and so she was not surprised at this outburst.
Her mother continued.
Mama Toke: “what kind of life is this? Even if I beg for them to take you back to class today, will I plead with them forever? Where will I see money to pay your fees? And alll those your stupid and wicked uncles and aunties will never help us, shameless pigs! God will punish them for sharing all my husband’s properties, in fact it shall never be well with them. crazy witches and wizards! Nonsesnse. Shebi it is me and that your uncle and his crazy wife in this village, I will deal with them one after the other. A’won weeres! (Mad people)”
Toke knew that at this juncture, she had to intervene if she didn’t want her mother to break into tears right there at the middle of the road.
“Mama!” she screamed.
Mama Toke; “kini eh? (What is it?)”
Toke: “thou shall not curse, learn to forgive and forget” she advised.
Mama Toke: “forgive and forget oshi won ni yeh? (What kind of a stupid forgive and forget is that?) Am I God?”
Toke: “mama don’t worry, when I finish school, I will become an engineer and I will give you plenty money” she said innocently.
She was just thirteen but she was way sharper and sensitive for her age.
Mama Toke: “look at what you are saying. Anyway, I don’t blame you. You are just a little girl who doesn’t know how difficult this world is” she said to her daughter who tagged along, sometimes running to catch up with her mother.
Toke: “no mama, our teacher told us that engineers create things out of nothing and then sell it off and make plenty money, that is what I will do when I finish school so that I will give you the money”
Mama Toke: “that is where the problem is. Where will I get the money to pay for your school fees until you finish school? You can never become an engineer unless you go to higher institution and going to higher institution is plenty money” she said.
Toke: “our teacher told us that God is good and that He is the father of the fatherless and the husband of the widow. She said He will provide all our needs and make a way where there is no way” she said, trying hard to remember the exact words that her teacher had used to explain the good and compassionate God that Toke had come to love so dearly.
Mama Toke: “Which God? Which God is that your teacher talking about? The same God that was on His throne in heaven watching while your father’s people accused me of killing your father and then chased you and I out even though you were just few months old? If God is the father of the fatherless, why hasn’t he provided your fees? If he is the husband of the widow, why do I have to struggle to provide for you and myself?”
Toke: “mama, my teacher said God sometimes allows us to go through difficulties so that he can test our faith and love for him” she replied as they took the last turn that led to her school.
Mama Toke: “okay, your form teacher that is busy teaching you about God, why did she then chase you away from school even though I have explained to her several times that your father is dead? Is that how people who know God are supposed to behave?”
Her daughter became quiet, unable to answer the question that her mother was asking her.
“Maybe God is not as good as they say He is”, Toke thought and that sank deeply into her memory.
Form Teacher: “madam, I have told you that it is not my fault that I had to chase your daughter away from school. The orders came from the government, remember that this school is owned by the government” she explained.
Mama Toke: “Which government? You and I know that president Buhari and Prof Osinbajo have better things to do than to give orders for students to be sent out of school”
Form teacher: “that is the general misconception in this village. You see, president Buhari and Prof Osinbajo are not the only government in Nigerian. This school is managed by our local government here and we receive orders from them”
Mama Toke: “okay, help me tell the government that they should allow my daughter stay in school this week. I will look for money and pay her fees next week” she pleaded.
Form teacher: “I am sorry madam but I cannot do that. Your daughter here is not the only one who was sent away from school, there are several others. If I allow your daughter in, the others would come to plead too and I have to allow them in and I would have no choice but to accept them else I will be seen as being very partial”
Mama Toke: “My daughter must go back to class today o. This girl is the only thing I have and I want her to get education so that she can become successful in life and shame all those my witches and wizards in-laws who killed their own brother with their witchcraft and then turned around to accuse me. I want my daughter to be so successful that they will come to me crawling on their knees and begging for mercy, that is when I will also take back my pound of flesh. I am not leaving here until you allow her into the class”
Form teacher: “I am sorry madam but I have to go back to class now, my students are waiting” she said and turned to go but stopped when she heard someone scream behind her.
She turned and saw that mama Toke had slumped and was lying on the floor while her daughter was beside her, shaking her and screaming.
Toke: “mama, wake up. Don’t leave me alone in this world, I cannot survive without you” she said sorrowfully.
To be continued….