My name is Unoaku Edekobi. I hail from Eastern Nigeria and in those parts, Unoaku means house of wealth. My father gave me that name in faith, faith that one day, his house will overflow with wealth. You see, I am his first child and at my birth, money was nonexistent in my father’s house. But as they say, there’s power in the tongue. My father started to make money miraculously a few months after I was born. He was practically living Psalm 126:1, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.”.
He didn’t become the richest man but at least, we were comfortable, very comfortable. And so, I was not only his Ada, I became his favorite child. Three brothers and one sister down the line, my father still spoke of me like I was his only child. He told whoever cared to listen that I changed his life for good and that my birth brought good luck. How? I don’t know.
It was this same affection that made him almost prevent me from going to Salford for my Masters. He didn’t want to be away from his child for such a long time. To be honest, I was mad because I didn’t understand why he was hindering my progress just because he didn’t want to miss me. I have always been a rebellious child, so I was going to go either way, whether he liked it or not.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to rebel, because my mother made sure he gave his blessing for me to go. So I traveled left home for the first time, I went to Salford. It was in Salford that I met one of my best friends, Benazir. Bena, as we call her, is one of the sweetest human beings in the world, selfless to a fault and forever putting others first. I admired her so much for that because God forbid I break my back for anybody that is not me. I’m not selfish, but I always make sure that whatever I do for others doesn’t affect me negatively.
That wasn’t Bena. Throughout Salford, Bena was my rock. She’d give me money when I was too broke, help me with assignments when I had crazy schedules because of work, she even let me live with her rent-free. Her father is a filthy rich man in Nigeria so she had easy access to money and she didn’t mind sharing it with me.
After one year in Salford, we were done with our masters. I definitely was going to come back home and Benazir, who had lived the better part of her life in the UK decided to come back too.
“I’m tired of this place, I want a new environment.” She had said.
I wondered why anyone would want to leave a country that works to a country that needs to be sold, it baffled me. But Benazir had always loved the masses, she wanted to live like she was a lower class citizen, like her father wasn’t Malik Ashaya, the biggest oil magnate in Northern Nigeria. I honestly didn’t like it because I didn’t understand why. My family is probably higher middle class and even at that, we still wished we had the privileges of the upper class. Then someone, who was upper class wanted to become lower class my all means? The girl surprised me.
We came back to Lagos and rented a two-bedroom apartment in Lekki together. While I was job hunting, Benazir was focusing on a relationship with George, a no-good human. The idiot was unreasonably jealous and hit her at the slightest provocation. He constantly belittled her and called her cruel names at every chance he got. I begged her to leave this guy, but she refused. I even threatened to report her to her family, but that didn’t work either. She promised me that she would unfriend me if I did. I was tired of talking, so I let it be, hoping and praying that he wouldn’t kill her one day.
In the middle of Bena’s drama, I got a job at an advertising agency, one of the biggest there was in Lagos. I was excited because it was exactly what I wanted. As a creative, I had dreamed of bringing my ideas to life in a place that gave me financial stability. I didn’t have the power to be a struggling self-employed creative abeg. So when Bridges came calling, I answered gladly.
It was at Bridges I met my other best friend, Salewa. Salewa’s desk was beside mine so she was the first person who spoke to me. When I turned to smile at her, I noticed her red snakeskin Birkin on her desk, her Van Cleef earrings, and her Cartier love bracelet. Her hair was silky straight, laid to perfection and her dress was from Clan’s latest collection, I had seen pictures on Instagram. Heck, it wasn’t even up for sale yet. She was obviously rich rich, more or less, wealthy.
Our communication became constant and didn’t take long before we became close. Asides liking finer things, we had another thing in common, gossip. Salewa knew everything that happened in Bridges and she was always willing to share and I was always ready to listen. We were inseparable in the office and everyone called us twins.
I later found out that Salewa was married to Kene Okafor. His family owned one of the biggest conglomerates in Africa so they were extremely wealthy. They owned a family house in Banana Island and that was small compared to the one in their village. It was no surprise because Igbo men spend a fortune building country homes in their villages. But this was next level, when Salewa showed me the pictures, I was in awe. That house was like an entire estate, it even had roundabouts. The kitchen alone was fitted like it was a hotel kitchen. Her father in law was paying domestic staff monthly, to work in a house he visited maybe three times in a year. According to Salewa, the man wanted the house running like he was there at all times.
I wondered why Salewa continued working after she got married. She didn’t need a job. Even she had said that the money she received as allowance was more than her salary.
“So I shouldn’t be useful again because my husband’s family is wealthy?” Salewa had asked me.
“That’s not what I’m saying joor. You know you could have started your own business if you wanted to and Kene would have being in full support.” I explained.
“Abeg I don’t have the strength to manage a business. I’m fine where I am and my husband is totally fine with it.”
Whenever Salewa spoke about her husband, she never referred to him as Kene. She would always say, ‘my husband this, my husband that’. They were like Romeo and Juliet, always lovey-dovey when they were together. For that, I nicknamed Salewa “nwuye Kene” and she gladly accepted it.
I was at a great place in my life, a great job, a good car, Lekki living, and amazing best friends. Life was good for Salewa and me but I couldn’t say the same for Bena. She was still getting hit and she didn’t want to do anything about it. I wasn’t sure what to do, I didn’t know how to help her, so I spoke to Salewa about it.
“What nonsense! Is she an animal that he should be hitting her like that?” Salewa was mad.
“Same question I asked myself o. If she even saw it as a problem, we would have been able to help. But no, she is just sitting there, blaming herself. She even said that I can’t understand because I don’t have a boyfriend.” I was bitter.
“Even me that has a husband, I don’t understand. Kene kuku knows that he can’t lay a finger on me. The day he tries it, it’s his corpse his parents will come and meet. If I die, I die.”
“I am serious o. I cannot stand it.” Salewa said.
“So what are we going to do about Bena?” I needed a solution fast.
“What do you mean ‘nothing now’?”
“Ahan! The owner of the problem says there is no problem. Which one are you carrying it on your head like it’s you they’re beating?”
“But she’s our friend.” I said
“To be honest, I think you need to leave her alone because there is nothing you can do. When she’s ready to solve it, she’ll carry her load and leave the idiot.”
I knew leaving her alone was a bad idea, but I had no choice, so I let it rest.
Two months later, I had gone to work like I did every day And while at lunch with Salewa, my phone rang, Bena was calling.
“Babes, what’s up?” I said into the phone.
“Good afternoon madam.” A strange voice answered.
“My name is Dr. Chibueze. A patient who was just brought in here asked me to contact you.”
“Patient? I don’t understand. The owner of this phone is not admitted in any hospital. So what are you talking about?”
“Her name is Benazir. She was rushed in here a while ago, with injuries on her head and a fractured arm. She was involved in an accident.” The Doctor explained.
“What?! Accident? How? Where? When?”
Salewa heard the panic in my voice and rose her head to find out what was happening.
“I’m sorry but I don’t have those details. You’d have to come to the hospital to find out what happened.”
“Ok ok. What hospital?”
“The Savior’s Hospital, 12, Sanusi Fafunwa.”
“Sanusi Fafunwa? I’m on my way.” I hung up.
I stood up immediately and was rushing out when Salewa, who had been watching me in silence spoke up.
“What on earth is going on? Where are you going? Who had an accident?” She asked.
“Bena was in an accident. She’s in a hospital on Sanusi Fafunwa.”
I dashed out, with Salewa following closely.
We hurried back to the office and grabbing my car keys in a flash, I ran out again. Salewa arrived at the car park just after me and prevented me from getting into the car.
“I can’t let you drive like this. We don’t want another accident on our hands. We’ll go in my car.”
Her driver had already parked behind my car.
We got into the car and left. In a few minutes, they were in front of The Savior’s hospital. We alighted from the car in a hurry and dashed into the hospital.
“I want to see Benazir Ashaya please.” I said to the nurses at the reception.
“Benazir Ashaya?” They asked themselves.
“Ki lo se awon eyan yi?! We are looking for Benazir Ashaya. She was brought here a few hours ago.” Salewa answered.
“One Dr. Chibueze called us from this hospital.” I added.
“Ahh! Dr. Chibueze just left o.” One of the nurses answered.
“Someone I just spoke to?” I asked wide-eyed.
“It’s like you will wait for him o.” Another one said.
“What nonsense! How can you not know who was admitted in a hospital you work in?” Salewa asked.
“Madam don’t shout at me. I am not the cause of your problem.” The nurse fired back.
“Wo, don’t try me this afternoon, you will not like it.” She was getting angry.
“Salewa calm down, this is not the time for this.” I said.
An older nurse walked to the counter and asked,
“See me o matron,” the first nurse explained, “these people came here to look for someone. They said Dr. Chibueze called them and I told them to wait, Only for them to start insulting me.”
The matron turned to us and asked politely,
“What seems to be the problem?”
“My name is Unoaku. Dr. Chibueze called me from this hospital to say that my friend, Bena, Benazir Ashaya had been admitted here. He said she was involved in an accident.”
“Ok. I know who it is. Dr. Chibueze attended to only one female accident victim today. So it must be her. Come with me please.” The matron said.
“Thank you o jare matron.” Salewa eyed the nurses as we walked away with the matron.
The matron took us to a shared ward with two female patients and Bena was one of them. I ran to Bena’s side and stroked her hair. There were plasters on her forehead and a bandage on her right arm. She opened her eyes to see Salewa and I sitting beside her. As she tried to sit up, I urged her to lie back.
“Easy easy.” I said as she adjusted her pillows.
“Sorry o.” Salewa said.
“Thank you.” Bena responded weakly.
“What exactly happened?”
“George came to pick me this morning and on our way to his house, my friend, Lamide called me. I picked up the phone and we spoke for a bit. Only for George to start a fight. He accused me of cheating on him. I tried to explain to him that it was just Lamide but the argument became so heated that he told me to get out of his car. I was still trying to talk to him when he opened the door, pushed me out, and sped off. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up here.” Nkem narrated.
“That bastard!” I was fuming.
“See Bena, I know we are not exactly close and I am not in a position to tell you what you do. But I really think that you need to end this toxic relationship you’re in. I mean, you could have been killed today. Look at your body, all bruised up, broken bones, bandages. This is not good for you.” Salewa said.
“I know. Thank God nothing serious happened. I’d think about what you’ve said.”
“Think about it? Really? Bena you almost died. You’re in a hospital bed and you still want to think about it? Wow! You know you don’t get second chances at life. If you had died today, George would have moved on with his life in a split second. That man doesn’t love you, he’s the devil himself.” I was more pissed at Bena for still being so adamant to break up with George than I was with George for the accident.
“See just leave her alone. Shebi I have told you before, only she can solve her problem. She no go hear word.” Salewa said to me.
“Maybe I should call your parents and tell them what is happening. So they can knock some sense into your head.” That was my last resort.
“Please please please, don’t call them. My father will kill George. Please.”
“Then you better stop acting like you’re possessed and start using your head.” I scolded.
Bena was in the hospital for two weeks and throughout her stay there, George never called or sent her a message. She would stare at her phone for hours upon hours, waiting for him to contact her, yet he didn’t.
He finally called when I was driving her home after her discharge. She refused to pick up.
“Who’s that?” I asked when the phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“You’re not going to pick up?”
“I don’t think I want to talk to him, Uno. He hasn’t called me in two weeks. Two weeks! You know lying on that hospital bed for this long gave me time to think and reevaluate things and you’re right, George is a monster, a selfish bastard with no conscience at all. How can you hurt a human being so bad and not show concern? Not just any human, your girlfriend, a woman you claim to love. Only the devil can do that.” Her eyes were welling up.
I turned and looked at her with a smile on her face. Finally, she had seen the light. I had been saying the same thing for weeks unending and Bena didn’t listen until she landed on a hospital bed.
“I’m happy you can finally see it. You need a breath of fresh air babes, you don’t need this.” I said.
“I definitely do not!” Her mind was made up.
I arrived at our estate gate to find George‘s car parked there. The security didn’t let him in so I was sitting on his car boot, waiting for us.
Bena was the first to notice him and she called my attention.
“What?! He came here?” I said in anger.
“Don’t say anything. I’ll handle him.” Bena said.
“Are you sure?” I knew how good George was with his words. I feared that if Bena spoke to him alone, he’d sweet-talk her back into the relationship.
“I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.” She insisted.
I came out of the car and went to the other side to help Nkem out of the car. Bena’s arm was in a cast so she couldn’t do a lot with it. George immediately ran to her but she pushed him away with her free hand.
“What are you doing here?” She asked him.
“I came to see you babe.”
“What kind of question is that?” The idiot had the guts to raise his voice.
“The kind of question you ask abusive and toxic people who you don’t want around you.” Bena fired back.
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t understand what George? I’ve been lying in a hospital bed for two weeks because of you and not once did you call me to find out how I was or if I was even alive. Or maybe you thought I was dead, seeing that you pushed me out of your car and abandoned me on the road.”
“It’s not what you think, I left town the next day.” He was obviously lying.
While he was making excuses, the security men came to ask me if anything was wrong. I told them not to worry since we were handling it. They went back to their duty post and continued spectating.
“Oh really? To Mars? Jupiter? Or maybe Saturn. Because you couldn’t have been on earth all this time.” She wasn’t taking it.
“I didn’t even know you were in the hospital.”
“After pushing her out of a moving car where did you think she would end up? A church?” I responded in anger.
Bena was signaling to me to calm down when we heard George ask,
“How is this even any of your business?”
“It’s her business because unlike you, she protects her own rather than destroy them. Look, I’m too tired for all this drama, please leave, and don’t come back.” Bena said as she walked back to the car.
“We’re not done talking.” George rushed to prevent her from entering the car.
“Well, I’m done talking to you. This melodrama we call a relationship, is over. I’m done with you, your distrust, your accusations, your abuse, everything. So leave and don’t come back.”
“You’re breaking up with me?”
“Thank God I am still alive to do that. Yes, I am, before you kill me.”
“But Benazir, I love you.”
“Well, love is not just enough George. I can’t do this anymore. So please go.”
“I’m sorry, please forgive me. I promise not to hit you ever again. Please, we love each other, we can do this.” He begged.
“I’m tired of your promise and fail too. Just go please.” She was exhausted.
“You know I only hit you to correct you. You’re the one who always pushes me to the wall.” He was trying to defend himself.
“Wow! So now it’s my fault that you have anger issues, or that you’re abusive? Is it also my fault that you are a jealous nag? See George, you’re draining me of all my energy. Leave my house! Or at least, excuse me. I need to get into the car.”
“I’m not letting you go anywhere till we finish sorting this out.”
“Right now, you’re being a nuisance, as usual. Leave this place before I call the police.” I spoke up. I was tired of the back and forth and even more so angered by his presence. I wanted him to leave.
“Who are you calling a nuisance?” George aggressively turned to me.
“Bia, I am not Bena o. So don’t even try this nonsense with me. Si ebe a puo biko!”
“What will you do if I don’t?”
“Ohhh! You want to know abi? Chere m na-abịa.” I went to the car, retrieved her phone, and dialed a number.
“Hello, General.” I said into the phone.
“Please can you send some of your men to my house? There’s a dangerous man harassing me.”
Bena turned to George and said,
“You had better leave here before she ends that call. Uno doesn’t play.”
As I ended the call, I looked at George, who was already panicking, and said,
“My friends from the army are on their way here. It would be my pleasure to introduce you to them.”
Taking one last look at Bena and me, he hurried away to his car.
“You’re going? Such a shame you can’t stay to meet them.” I burst into laughter as he got into his car.
“This is not over.” He said as he got into his car and zoomed off.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish.” I hissed.
“I didn’t know you had friends in the army.” Bena said as we got into the car.
“Army ke? I don’t know anyone in the army o. That was a fake call.”
Bena laughed and said,
“Unoaku! You’ll never change.”
“What?” I chuckled. “If I didn’t do that, he won’t have left here today.”
I couldn’t wait for the next day so I could tell Salewa what happened. She was going to die of laughter. When I finished narrating to her, she laughed and said,
“You should have called me now, I’d have actually sent soldiers to your estate. They would have taught him a lesson. Idiot.”
I was in the middle of a roaring laughter when I got a call, one that changed the direction of my life.