By Francis Ewherido
About a month before, I decided not to celebrate my 50th birthday for some reasons; I just wanted it to pass by like a beautiful yacht at night: unnoticed, and I made this very clear to my wife severally. She never argued. While I felt she was sensitive to my feelings, I also decided to be on my guard just in case she decided to be “mischievous.”
On March 9, my birthday, we went for morning mass and everybody left for work and school subsequently. I wanted to go somewhere and spend the whole day alone, but decided against it since I was already home alone. I settled down to medicate and reflect on the last 50 years. There was no power supply, but I refused to put on the generator because I did not want anybody to know I was home. Meanwhile when I woke up that morning, I saw birthday messages from two old friends, Beatrice Aghwadoma at 4:01am and Chudey Pride at 6:04am. No course for alarm, these two people have a way with birthday dates. There was also a message from my cousin, Dicta Onuorah and her husband, Ekene, at 5:03am. Still no course for alarm, they live nearby and we see every other day.
By 8am the messages had started pouring in. I suspected and checked Facebook; my wife had posted it. Not what I planned, but nothing spoil, I carried on amidst congratulatory phone calls. Just before 4pm, my wife came back with the children carrying a big cake. No problem, usually, every birthday celebrant in my household cuts a cake. Then she went into the kitchen to cook “little soup because there is none.” Still no problem, but I ensured there were no drinks beyond the usual. The day was panning out well.
By 5:20 pm she requested we went to church for Stations of the Cross, a very sobering spiritual exercise I cherish so much. But I had already made up my mind to stay at home the whole day and told her so. She took it calmly. Eighteen minutes later, my parish priest, Fr. Pius Omofuma, called me for an urgent meeting. I wanted to tell him I could not come, but refrained since he said it was urgent.
Off I left for church with everybody and the “doors and gate firmly locked.” The “urgent meeting” over, I called my wife so we could go home, but she complained of “serious stomach upset.” She wanted to use the church toilet. That was odd because she avoided public toilets, unless impossible, and had not used the church toilet in 16 years! She spent eternity in the “toilet” while I waited patiently pitying her.
Finally we left. When we got home the generator was on, but I remember seeing her putting it off. She immediately accused my son of failing to put off the gen. I reminded her I saw her putting it off. I was still trying to make sense of the “mystery” when I stepped into my dark sitting room to hear shouts of “happy birthday” and the lights came on. I had been badly outwitted. A successful coup had just taken place. It then occurred to me why she desperately wanted me out of the house: to smuggle in the coup plotters, food and drinks. Everything now began to fall into place.
Among the coup plotters were my octogenarian and septuagenarian neighbours, the Bajomos; my other egbons, the Sowandes and the Morgans. Mrs. Tayo Akintunde, Bode Akinboye and Godwin Evwaire, friends, close insurance associates and former colleagues at Industrial and General Insurance, were also involved. Of course my younger brothers, Emma and Edesiri, were active participants in the coup; I also suspect that my other brothers, though far away, were actively involved. Others coup plotters are: Mrs. Stella Edafioka, Sir and Lady Lawrence Amadi, Aremo and Pastor (Mrs.) Tope Babayemi, Mr. and Mrs. Onoriode Oludemi, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Agbofode and the Egeres; not forgetting old coup plotters like Emma Esinnah and Ejike Ekwegbalu, friends and brothers of over 30 years since our days at Jackson Building (Mass Communication Dept.), University of Nigeria.
My church members, led by my Parish Priest and the Parish Pastoral Council First Vice Chairman, Sir Victor Anyanwu and his wife, were also part of the coup, also Fr. Vincent Bankole and some Rev. Sisters from nearby St. Anthony’s. Other coupists are Ezinne Esinnah, Pastor Deola and Bose Adekeye, three very mischievous aburos; Comrade Oghenetega, Ese, my sister-in-law; Juliet Enebeli, Efe Adaraugo, his wife and shockingly their toddler. Even my usually quiet neighbour, Sunkanmi Oladimeji got sucked in; his wife’s involvement was not surprising though. She looks like a coupist.
I took away two three lessons from the experience: one, do not underestimate a determined woman. Two, pray the determination is positive. Three, I will never finish reading that bulky book titled, Florence Oghenerume Eseoghene Ewherido, until I go to my grave.
To rub in the successful ambush, Mrs. Amadi teased me, “I think say Warri no dey carry last?” I replied, “na true, but sometimes dem fit catch Warri man mugu, expecially when trusted family members and clergies join the matter. After all Warri man no be God, na man.” Was I angry with my wife for the “betrayal”? Not at all; I loved every bit of it, especially the laughter, the love and the reunions. It is good to be loved. My prayers as the awaiting-trial-coupists departed: God should not let laughter depart from them. May they enjoy health of body and mind and 10 years hence when I turn 60, may none of them present be missing through death as I experienced between my 40th and 50th birthday parties with my brother, Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido, my uncle-figure, Commodore David Edafioka and my friend of 28 years, Douglas Ude. I also thank other friends and family member for their love and well wishes via visits, phone calls, Facebook and other social media. God bless you all.