A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part 29, read it Here
This didn’t help matters. We didn’t have electricity, and my hallucinations got worse in the dark. Later, I started sleeping in my grandmother’s bed with her. She comforted me and told me that nothing would happen to me. I could see the sadness in her eyes and could tell that she didn’t want to lose any more of her children. She had seen so much death in her lifetime. I was sure she would have given her life to save mine.
By the first week of July, I began to feel a little better. I had devised a means to stop the headache by tying something around my head. The whole time, I was maintaining faith with the Faith Tabernacle doctrine and did not seek medical attention, even though I was tempted to many times. I could barely wait to start my business again, but I wasn’t quite ready yet. It occurred to me that Ricky could run it for me until I was well enough to continue. He was still doing the Dymo tape business that I had introduced him to before I left for Liberia.
I told Ricky that I wanted him to team up with me in the business. I would provide the funding and make the purchases; he would take the shoes and bags to Sierra Leone and supply them to my clients. Ricky was delighted—mostly for the opportunity of traveling to another country. Like me, he had always harbored an ambition to travel overseas, so Sierra Leone seemed like a good start for him. For the next few days, I taught him the ins and outs of my business. Eventually, I ordered enough shoes and bags and bought a one-way ticket in his name, since the plan didn’t require him to come back to Nigeria anytime soon. He would remain in Sierra Leone and learn the ropes. All Ricky had to do was sell the shoes and bags and send the money to me through the guys who were going back and forth from Sierra Leone to Nigeria. Then I would buy more goods and ship them to Ricky. We would continue this way until I was able to return to business full-time. I also educated him about which of my friends he could trust, including Chukwuka. I advised him to do whatever Chukwuka wanted in order to gain his trust; should Chukwuka take a liking to Ricky, he might help him in the future.
As soon as Ricky left, I decided to pop in and surprise Jacinta’s mother, whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I stopped in the market on the way and bought some food and beverages. As soon as Jacinta’s mother saw me, she jumped up and yelled my name, tears rolling down her face. She recounted a vision that was revealed to her in a dream that some people were trying to kill me. Her pastor also had a similar vision, and they had been praying for me for the last few weeks. She wanted me to go with her to church so we could pray together, but I politely declined; mixing with dubious spiritualism was far from what I needed. She belonged to one of these churches that dealt with prophecies, visions, and dreams. Sometime the members and their pastor acted like crazy people and they scared the hell out of me.
After many pleasantries, she told me that her daughter was doing well at her husband’s house. She also complained that she had been ill for a while and nobody came to help her. Jacinta barely visited, and all her other children were dead. She was basically waiting to die. After spending an hour with her, I was eager to leave. I had my own demons, and her story and situation were adding to my already bad condition. The voices in my head were starting again and I couldn’t bear to be around her anymore. I gave her some money and bade her farewell. That was the last time I saw her.
As I left her house, I began to wonder whether my situation had anything to do with my late father. For many years I thought I was free from the oath that he had with the secret society; their attempts to kill me when I was younger were unsuccessful. Were they coming after me again now, after all these years?
Several weeks passed, and things did not go as I had planned. I hadn’t heard from Ricky since he left, and when I finally received news from him, it wasn’t good. I was told that my goods never made it to Sierra Leone, but Ricky did. As a result, he had become stranded there and was staying at Ernest’s shop as I had arranged. Since there were no goods to sell, he had no other way of making money to feed himself. He followed my instructions and stayed close to Chukwuka. Luckily, Chukwuka had just opened a shop in Sierra Leone and needed someone to run it, so Ricky was eventually chosen to run the shop. On hearing what had happened to my goods, and about Ricky’s situation, I became frustrated and suspicious at the same time. I couldn’t honestly believe that my goods had been lost. I suspected that Ricky had played me. But there was no point in crying over spilt milk. It was the cost of doing business. After all, I had played people like that in the past. The incident reinforced my determination to travel abroad.
Fortunately, I had a little money left and was finally feeling well again. I told my grandmother and mother that I was going to restart my business. They gave me their blessings and I took off toward the end of August. I traveled to Aba, bought my goods, and headed back to Sierra Leone. As soon as I got there, I confronted Ricky; he maintained that my goods never made the flight with him. He insisted that was why he couldn’t send me any money and that he wouldn’t have survived, had it not been for Chukwuka. I looked into his eyes. Ricky was my childhood friend. I chose not to let the situation derail our friendship. After all, he had gone to jail for me. I encouraged him to continue staying with Chukwuka, figuring that if Ricky served him well, Chukwuka would eventually give him enough capital to start his own business.
As usual, I supplied goods to my customers. During the three-week waiting period to collect my money, I changed my routine a little bit. I stopped reading entirely, afraid of triggering my sickness, and focused my time on other activities. I exercised regularly and tried as much as possible to avoid being alone. After I collected my money, I returned to Nigeria. By now my business was picking up, but I still wasn’t getting rich. Nonetheless, I made enough to help support my family.
Finally, my prayer was answered and I started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. One day I chose to do some window-shopping in downtown Freetown before I met a customer to collect my money. As I looked through the shops, I stumbled across a travel agency. I walked up to the windows to admire the wonderful display of worldwide travel and vacation spots, and right there in front of me was the advertisement that would change my life. It was about a trade fair in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, in Spain. The advertisement had an all-inclusive package of four days to Las Palmas, which included return airfare, hotel accommodation, and transportation back and forth for three days from the hotel to the fairgrounds. What captured my attention was that the agency would arrange for the visas in Las Palmas, which meant that there was no requirement to have a visa prior to departure. I almost hurt myself jumping for joy.
I went inside the agency to confirm that I had read the advertisement correctly and wasn’t imagining it. It was also important to confirm that nationalities other than Sierra Leonean could participate. The salespeople answered all of my inquiries in the affirmative. I was curious as to how it worked, so I asked them to explain further. They told me that the owner of the travel agency, Tony, was Lebanese as well a Spanish citizen. He was the Spanish representative in Sierra Leone. He would be traveling with the group and would be responsible for getting our entry visas upon arrival in Las Palmas. I immediately felt at ease and that the venture was guaranteed to be a success. I told the travel agency that I would return in no time to purchase the package, and as soon as I received all of my money from my customers, I did. I was hesitant to tell others about my plans because in the past, everyone had laughed at me and never believed that I could make it out of Africa.
There was one very important thing I had to do before I traveled. I always had a feeling that the reason why I had been unsuccessful in going abroad was because my mother and grandmother really didn’t want me to, and until they allowed my travel and released me in their subconscious mind and prayers, I would not succeed. So when I returned to Nigeria, I went to my mother, who was at my grandmother’s place in Orji Uratta at the time. I told them everything I had been through up to that point. I explained that it was revealed to me the reason I hadn’t been successful in my quest to go abroad, and I urged them to let me go. Those in Western countries were similar to those in Nigeria or anywhere else in Africa, I told them, and if I humbled myself and did what was right in the eyes of God, no harm would come to me. Furthermore, I explained that if I were not allowed to go, I might never get married. They knew that I wanted to marry a white girl, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I were stuck in Africa. When I finished speaking, they were overwhelmed with emotion. Tears started rolling down their faces, and they confirmed that I was right: they had never wanted me to go.
My mother and grandmother were deeply religious and believed in the power of the mind. They had always taught me that I could do anything with my mind and my faith—and yet they had inhibited me with their minds so that I could not travel overseas. After listening to my entire plea that day, they told me they would free their minds. My mother acknowledged that her fear was based on the fact that if I traveled overseas, she had no doubt I would end up marrying a white girl, and she didn’t want that to happen. When I expressed that my whole life depended on this journey, she could no longer hold me back. She and my grandmother gave me their blessing to travel anywhere in the world and marry whomever I wanted, irrespective of race, with one exception: the girl had to be of the same faith. She had to be from the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. I was overjoyed.
I didn’t want to return to Sierra Leone empty-handed just because I was about to travel to Spain, so I returned to Aba and purchased a small quantity of goods. At the back of my mind, I worried about who would take care of my family while I was gone. The fear of potential repatriation also occupied my thoughts. I needed to put some money aside in case I had to start all over again when I returned.
I thought it wise to let my cousin Ike keep some of my money for me. I went to his shop to exchange the foreign currency per my normal practice. But rather than exchanging all the pounds and dollars into naira, I told him to give me just enough naira to buy the goods that I needed to return to Sierra Leone. I explained my plans and said he could use the remainder of money for his business in the meantime, but that if I got repatriated, he would have to return it, in dollars and pounds just as I had given it to him. If I succeeded and was not repatriated, I would call to tell him when to return my money or, better yet, my mother would collect the money from him whenever she was in need. All this was written in his book and we both signed, but in my excitement, I forgot to make a copy of the agreement.
I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Nigeria. A week into the New Year, 1992, I went to tell my grandmother –Nwanyi Burunnu– about my plans. She gave me her blessing and held me close. I had a weird feeling, like I would never see her again. She prayed for me and told me in an unusually calm voice that I should go forth and nothing would happen to me. She told me that wherever I went, she would be with me. I didn’t understand her words, but I accepted them, and the next day I bade her farewell—which turned out to be our last farewell.
I went to Aba and collected my goods. Before I left, my Aunt Comfort’s neighbors begged me to take their son, Okechukwu, with me to Sierra Leone and show him my business. Okechukwu was one of the notorious gang members in Aba. He was always in and out of jail, and it was rumored that he had killed some people during a robbery operation. His parents wanted him far away from Nigeria, hoping that maybe he would change and become a useful member of society. I accepted and they gave me money for his airfare. He and I left for Lagos together and flew to Sierra Leone, where I put him in Ernest’s shop and used the next few weeks to teach him how we did business. Since his parents didn’t have money to start him off on his own, he had to stay permanently in Sierra Leone and help other Nigerians there to sell their goods until he could raise enough money to be independent.
By February 1, I had sold all of my goods and collected my money. I had little choice but to tell a few friends that I would be going to Las Palmas. As I expected, some laughed and made fun of me and wondered why I couldn’t just settle there and continue my business. Some even joked about who would take care of my kids—two little monkeys I had rescued six months earlier. Both were heavily injured when I got them, having been abused by their prior owners, and I kept them with me at Ernest’s shop and nursed them back to health. Fortunately, a few days before I left for Spain, a female friend agreed to take one of the monkeys, and Abigail and her family adopted the second with a promise to take care of him like I did.
It wasn’t only the monkeys who needed care while I was away. I called a meeting with Ricky and Okechukwu, after which I committed Okechukwu to Ricky’s care, admonishing him to look after him like a brother. I advised Okechukwu to be on his best behavior if he wanted to succeed.
The next morning I left for Sierra Leone’s Lungi Airport. My adventure in Spain awaited me.
To Be Continued…