She knew that a woman was nothing but light, a treasure to mankind.
They have waited for two hard days, but the gates won’t be let open.
A Peaceful Protest
They left their husbands at home, their infants, and toddlers: these women decided to stage a peaceful protest in front of the oil factory; it sat on one of the hills of Enugu. These poor mothers would rather go hungry than watch the factory owners starve their husbands of their salary; such was not done. Their hearths were cold, their children were hungry and out of school, and the little money they made from the long list they gave their husbands, no longer came in as usual. Meanwhile, they were fed up with feeding their family from their petty trade. It became too difficult to engage in their normal cooperative.
Some of these women built a small tent, round and about the factory gates, some were fast asleep while some walked about, idly; they all waited for one thing: their husbands’ salaries.
Nkiru was one of the women who hopefully waited; she sat her wide buttocks on the hot tiled road. The road was specifically constructed for the transportation of oil. Nkiru was expecting, and the fear on her face was too obvious to be overlooked. If this baby comes, there was nothing available to welcome it: they had no money or food, they had nothing, but the quarrels that waited for her at home. So was it with other desperate mothers like her, who knew that the oil-money kept food on the table and sent the kids to school. Their men grew too fat around the waist, that they hated the sight of a farm hoe: they neither farmed, hunted or tapped palm wine, it was oil money or nothing.
How it all Started
Nkiru came home one day to find Uzodimma home already. She had gone for antenatal and from there, she rushed into the market to get some foodstuffs for dinner. It was not easy, because she was seven months gone. Climbing the hills of Akwata made her heart , legs and back, ache. People she came across, pitied her, but what could she do? It was not only the baby she worried about, but Uzodimma; Uzodimma didn’t want another girl, but the factory refused to pay them for six months. Adaugo was still in school, because her parents stepped into the matter and took up paying for her school fees.
The oil factory at Oji River was one of the first of its kind: their men became employed, they brought in more money, they quarrelled less with their wives, but they became too demanding. Their men became wiser; they kept other women apart from their wives, and demanded for more sons than daughters. Unfortunately, Nkiru’s husband fell out with her when their second daughter turned out to be a girl. Uzodimma nearly abandoned her at the hospital if not for his mother, she came to the rescue.
Uzodimma became a changed man after getting the oil work. He kept late nights, and expected her not to ask questions. He came back with gallons of oil, shared to the neighbours who sang his praise songs. He took up a new title in the village and erected a new building close to his late father’s grave. The oil money made Uzodimma a man, a man with less action than speech.
But from the very first day of the nine months, things took a strange look. Uzodimma no longer brought back gallons of oil, the praise singers went back to mind their business, and Uzodimma withdrew into his shell. It didn’t just stop at that, but the lack of money came with a lot of things: drinking, annoyance, bitterness, transferred aggression, fights, and more fights, and a mandate: Uzodimma no longer wanted girls as children.
A month before everything started, Nkiru found out that she was with child. She didn’t know how to break the news to Uzodimma : Good or bad. They had no money to eat, and her parents were already burdened with paying their daughter’s school fees. The night she broke the news to the world, the words that came out from her husband’s mouth could kill a rat. She had to carry it in pain, even as people in the market, with neighbours, congratulated her: their joy brought her much pain, and heart ache. But the money, and the gallons have stopped coming. Uzodimma didn’t complain, because his food waited on the table each night he came home.
It was already the sixth month, but there was no money. The child in her needed clothing and milk, they ran out fast of provision, and her petty trade wasn’t as stable as it used to be. She couldn’t go back to her parents, because they never liked their union. Her parents believed that Uzodimma was the termite that fed fat on human corps.
Hunger was No Man’s Friend
Oh! Yes, hunger was no longer their friend. Nkiru noticed that many mothers no longer brought their wares to the market to sell; most of them resigned to feeding their hungry mouths from their trade: many went into hiding, because they had borrowed much more from their common purse. Hunger was not a good sight to behold.
One morning, a union call brought Nkiru with the rest out of the open: these women decided to protest, since their husbands were too shy or foolish to demand for their rights; their ego ended in between their legs.
The group of concerned mothers, marched all the way from their homes, each hand a green leaf, knotted on their heads, waists and arms. Their protest led them to the gates of the oil factory. On seeing them, Nkiru’s husband who worked as the Chief security officer, ran back and locked the gates. He could not believe his eyes, his pregnant wife was busy, jumping up and down.
At the end of the third day, it was obvious that the women were not ready to move. Their protest attracted news men, and their action was on the lips of everyone.
The sun looked like something that came for a revenge. The ground was too hot to have a seat. Nkiru felt uncomfortable, she made to get up, but she felt something that trickled down her legs. A look told her everything she needed to know. She gave out a loud piercing scream, and all of a sudden, her fellow women gathered around her, while some went wild on the gates of the factory. It was not long before the gates were let open, and before she knew it, she was bundled into a car that was fast on its way to the hospital.
While on their way to the hospital, the women were informed that their wait brought their husbands’ pay. Nkiru in her pains could not believe her ears, but as it was, the baby came too fast in the car. One look at her baby’s face told her that she had come to the world, once again, and with her last breath, Nkiru said:
That night, while the feet of the mourners left Uzodimma with Ife who cried too often, Obi, his assistant, rushed to his door, and shouted:
“Oga, the factory is on fire!”
For the first time, he missed Nkiru.
Written by Udemezue, Oluoma
Udemezue, Oluoma loves to read and write, you can catch her on firstname.lastname@example.org, udemezue, Oluoma Judith –Facebook, oluomaudemezue on Instagram, and @Udemezueoluoma on Twitter.