Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema has a BA in History and International Studies. He is a teacher by day and a writer at all times. His fiction and non-fiction have been published in naijastories.com, qwenu.com, Kalahari Review and some Nigerian newspapers. His short fiction won a highly commended award in the 2005 Commonwealth short story competition. He published a novella titled 'In Love and In War' in 2020.
The Temptation at St. Peter's - Part 1
She was Helen Adefunke Obioha, glamorous former model and youngest wife of prominent politician, business tycoon and powerbroker, High Chief Ikonne Edward Obioha. At thirty-six she had the build of a woman ten years younger and her matured sexiness was enough to make a Reverend Father conclude that the first book of the Bible was Revelation. Being the wife of ‘the Lord of the Cash Kingdom’ as her husband was known meant that she had all money could buy. It was routine for her to eat breakfast in Abuja, lunch in Dubai and dinner in the Rivera every week. Nothing in her wardrobe cost less than fifteen thousand dollars, and these were the most basic items like handkerchiefs. Her beauty, poise and posh accent meant that she was the toast of the tabloids and blogs. Her husband, on marrying her, put her in charge of an arm of his group of companies that specialized in women’s beauty products. Helen rose to the challenge and the company became a gold mine. A delighted Chief Obioha made her the CEO and retained titular chairmanship of the company’s board of directors.
But no cup of joy is ever full. There is no ointment, no matter how rare, that a fly or two will not perch on. It is your duty to prevent the flies from approaching. It is up to you to appreciate the contents of your cup of joy and control your unhappiness at not having everything you want. Easier said than done, right?
There were a couple of flies in Helen’s ointment. First was the tribal issue. Many of the chief’s family, including some of his brothers, expressed strong reservations over his choice of a Yoruba woman as his fifth wife. The gene of ethnic animosity is deeply embedded in the DNA of most Nigerians, irrespective of their social class, and the Obiohas were no exception. When one remembers that the patriarch of the family, Ikonne Edwin, barely escaped with his life from Kano during the 1966 pogroms against the Igbo, the dislike for non-Igbo brides becomes somewhat understandable, though not rational. Till his death the senior Ikonne never stopped saying that it was his Yoruba business rivals who set him up to be killed in Kano; that the indigenous Hausa and Fulani merchants were his friends, and that it was two of them who forewarned him and got him out of harm’s way. Mercifully he was deceased by the time his third son married Helen. He was alive to see his son marry his first two wives, beautiful, educated and sophisticated Igbo damsels. But the younger Ikonne expanded his financial and political horizons far widely than his father could have imagined. It was wise to have solid ties in all these domains. And what greater tie existed than marriage? After all, one of the wise sayings of his people is that a man’s in-laws are his chi or personal god. So, his third wife was a doctorate degree holder in Educational Administration from one of the aristocratic families in Benin. Ikonne put her in charge of his elite group of schools; the fourth a Fulani nurse from the Seat of the Caliphate, Sokoto; and Helen was his latest jewel. Ikonne privately told close friends that ‘his Funky’ (his pet name for Helen) must have learnt the secrets of keeping a man fully engaged in the other room from her Abeokuta ancestors. ‘‘The way she drains everything in the pipeline, no other woman will come after her.’’ His friends quaffed with rich laughter and rolled up their eyes in doubt. Ikonne’s love for the fair sex rivalled King Solomon’s.
The second ointment bothered Helen far more than the first. She had only one child, a son. One boy was not sufficient insurance in such a high-powered, competitive household. None of her fellow wives had less than three children. The fact that Ikonne did not hide his love for the boy secretly bothered her. Who knew what venom the green-eyed viper was feeding into the hearts of the other women, especially Nkiru and Nkechi who openly wondered ‘‘what juju this ex ofe mmanu prostitute has used to ensnare Iko anyi?’’ So, Helen took all precautions. She refused to send her son to the Oasis Citadel, the exclusive secondary school arm of her husband’s group of schools ably managed by Atiti, the Edo wife. Ikonne could not believe she would stand against their son going to the Oasis, a school closely modeled after the best of British public schools. But only an idiot underestimates the power of a woman. Helen knew her man’s weakness. She gave him a first-class dinner which was rounded off with the kind of sex even ancient Indian prostitutes would have marveled at. ‘‘Darling,’’ she cooed at the end of it all, her dreamy eyes burrowing into his, ‘‘please allow me to send our son to St. Peter’s College. It is a top missionary school. You know I am from a Catholic family and by virtue of our marriage; I have given up my family’s religion. Please let Banji have a Catholic education. That is the greatest and final gift I can give to my late father.’’
Ikonne took a deep thoughtful breath. He was not a religious man, though officially he came from an Anglican background. As he matured in age and education he became liberally disposed to matters of faith, with more inclination towards the ways of his forefathers. He allowed his wives and children to follow their religious inclinations as long as they did not practice devil worship. Oasis had strong affiliations with orthodox Islam, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Assemblies of God denomination. Each had a chaplain and strong educational representation for staff and students in the Citadel. The chief knew that even the most rational woman was a bundle of unexplained sentimentality, and this was coming into play on this matter.
He kissed Helen hungrily on her inviting lips and reached for her nipples. She gently eased off his hands. ‘‘My chief, my chief,’’ she purred. Ikonne found himself drowning in her eyes and wondered why he wanted to throw himself on top of her despite the vigorous bouts they had rocked. He stiffened his will.
‘‘Funky, tell me the truth. Your father never brought up religious issues when I came for your hand.’’
‘‘He is my father. He knew how much I love you and so would not stand in my way. But deep down, he felt the loss. I was close to him in his private moments.’’ Her voice trembled and the beginning of tears formed in her eyes.
Ikonne was no fool. He sensed there was another reason, but whatever it was, it paled beside Helen being unhappy. He knew how sensitive she was over anything that had to do with Oyebanji Chibueze Obioha.
‘‘Okay. At least St. Peter has good standards. They came second to our school in last year’s rating of the top 20 secondary schools in Nigeria.’’ Oasis had come first.
Helen grabbed him and kissed him happily.
‘‘Daalu, di m,..’’ she said in misshapened Igbo. Her husband grinned wickedly.
‘‘Thank me the way I like.’’
Helen did profusely, silently appealing to the giver of children as his stiff pipe released strong juice in her receptacle repeatedly. Let at least one germinate, she whispered. Her prayer was not answered.
TO BE CONTINUED
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema is a teacher and writer. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org