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Sweet and sour for Shola

– the funloving, but hardworking single parent

By Treena Kwenta
Hi readers! If the first three ceremonies to mark the wedding of Shola’s son were great, the last one, which was the reception for the wedding proper, was simply fantastic.

“This lavish entertainment must cost Shola a bomb,” remarked Boma.

“He alone couldn’t have been responsible for all these,” said Tayo. “Four live bands, several serving points, food and drinks aplenty! Riskat and her husband must have spent a lot of money too. There’s also the bride’s parents. Wedding receptions are normally the responsibility of the bride’s family among the Yorubas. But where possible, the groom’s family chips in to help. They can send a cow, a goat, bags of rice, etc., to help with the catering.”

“We did that when my son got married,” said Becky.

“Me too,” said Boma.

Liz said that she and her first husband, bankrolled most of the wedding expenses when their son got a bride from the East, because in their culture, it’s the bridegroom who’s responsible for everything.

“We were lucky there, said Becky, “for even though my daugher-in-law is from the East, her parents are wealthy, so they told us they would take care of the reception. Although we protested feebly, we were actually very relieved. They spent a lot of money o! Decent family.  This bride here comes from a very modest family, according to what I’ve gleaned from conversation around us. That means, Riskat and the husband, who are wealthy traders, must have spent a lot of money. Don’t you see how well-dressed the couple and their six daughters and their families are? They look well-fed too. This is the only male child Riskat has, remember?”

“Yes, but the greater part of the expenses would have been borne by Shola, as the father of the groom.”

“Does Shola have money?” I asked. “With about 14 children from various women, he must be perpetually broke. He’s a responsible father, so, he has so much responsibility. Tayo, how much did you give Shola to help him with this wedding?” I asked suddenly, trying to catch her unawares into divulging the information. Not the sly vixen!

“Very little, apart from what we gals contributed and gave him as a group. As his boss, I had to give him something, otherwise I would have stuck to what we all gave him. The staff of CLAWS must have contributed money to give him too.”

“But that won’t be much,” I observed. “My mind tells me that much of what we’re seeing here was paid for by you, Madam Generous. Well done! Rich or not, I can’t see Riskat and her husband footing every bill.”

Tayo smiled, but said nothing. “Lay off that now, Treena dear,” said Liz. “Who cares who paid for what. Can you hear the music?  Let’s go dance. Didn’t we say we’ll trail Shola wherever he’s dancing, and spray him?”

“Sure, that’s part of the support we’ve come to give him,” said Boma.

“Now, we must do the civilized thing, and spray Riskat, her husband and the bride and bridegroom too,” said Tayo. “Shola has introduced them to us, and we should do the right thing.”

“Who’s with the money for spraying?” asked Becky.

“I have it,” I said. “Here are the packs for each of us,” I added, as I handed out the envelopes of one hundred naira notes. Trust Tayo! Before we went down to Ilorin, we had argued about what denomination of the naira we would spray at the wedding reception. She had wanted us to spray one thousand naira notes, but I swiftly refused to be part of such stupid extravagance because I just didn’t have the money to ‘waste’. Boma and Becky suggested five hundred naira; Liz, two hundred naira notes, while I suggested fifty naira notes. They all hushed me down, and told me that we must not be seen disgracing our group with such meanness.

“How can we come all the way from Lagos to display such poverty?” asked an outraged Tayo.

“I wonder,” said Becky. “And then we’d see locals here spraying five hundred naira notes, or even one thousand naira notes. Shola would feel terribly let down. He said we’ve been put down as the ‘Lagos Aunties of the Day’. Come dancing time, and we bring out wads of fifty naira notes! Ridiculous!”

“Who cares?” I scoffed. “Left to me, we shouldn’t spray anything since we’ve given a generous sum to Shola to help him. Didn’t you say that we’re not competing with anyone, and we should stop trying to attract people’s attention?”

“We may not be competing with other guests, but decent ladies should behave decently. I don’t believe in extravagant spraying,” said Becky, “but fifty naira note is far below what we should hand out. Let’s make it two hundred or one hundred.”

One hundred naira notes was arrived at. This was exactly what I had in mind, but if I had said this, they would have made it five hundred. I got someone from my office to go change five sets of twenty thousand naira for each of us, into crisp one hundred naira notes. They collected the envelopes from me and we began to dance our way to the bandstand where Shola was dancing. We subtly elbowed everyone around him away, including his girlfriend, and encircled him. Then we began to spray him.

It was a sight to behold. It wasn’t so much the money as the style with which we did it. We would dance and wriggle round him, and then cascade crisp notes on his head, hugging him to us. The silly man was ecstatic with joy and pride, as he hugged us back. Most of the other dancers stopped to watch the show. When he moved to another bandstand, we went along with him. We continue this ‘circus’ until he had completed the rounds of all the bands. His girlfriend was going to collect the money, but Tayo gently pointed to four gir
ls with small sacks she had appointed to do it for Shola .

We then turned our attention to Riskat and the husband, and then the couple. Other dancers came to wriggle in front of us so that we would spray them. We did a bit, then I discovered that my money had run out. ‘Time up’ I whispered to the gals in turn, and we danced our way back to our seats.

As we took our seats there was general applause, and some guests came over to pay us compliment on our dance steps.

“Well done, my darlings,” Tayo said, fanning us in turn. “We did marvellously well, didn’t we?”

“Oh yes!” applauded Becky. ‘It didn’t matter that we weren’t in this month’s ‘must wear’. Our personalities carried the day.”

I looked at this ‘woman of God’. One minute, she’s condemning ‘being in the world’ and the other minute, she’s very much ‘in the world’ herself. The waiters appointed for our table came in to serve us with packs of drinks.

“I suggest you take off the plastic top and drink straight from the pack,” said Tayo, winking at us. I nodded, thinking it was because she thought the glasses might not be very clean. We thanked her and then I took a sip from mine. My goodness! It was gin and lime. Pleasure!

I could see the smiles on the faces of the other gals. That meant we each got our favourite tipple! Clever Tayo. I had been dying for a gin and lime, but understandably, only soft drinks were being served. Small chops followed and they were delicious. I was about to commend the caterer when I noticed that the waiters were indeed some of those who had served us at Tayo’s guest house and farm. I looked at her quizzically.

“Oh yes! We’ve been eating and drinking my stuff,” she admitted to my unasked question. “I wouldn’t trust our sensitive tummies to stuff being served around. In fact, in all the ceremonies we’ve attended, I had food brought over from the guest house and served by my staff.”

I looked at this my friend who could be very ‘carefree’ and at the same time ‘ extra cautious’. I think she was afraid of being ‘poisoned’ by some ‘hidden’ enemy. After all, the wives of her ex-toy boy Ade, must be around; or their emissaries might be. Since Tayo chased them off her farm for cheating her and almost taking over the place, she’s not been on speaking terms with any of them, including her ex-lover. I sighed. Just then, someone came to whisper something into Tayo’s ear. She put her food down and got up agitatedly. We got up too in concern, asking her what the matter was.

“I’m told there’s some fracas somewhere near the bush, and some of Shola’s kids are roughing him up!”

I was floored by this news. Wao! Good stuff for my page, yes?

“They’ve torn his attire, I learnt,” continued Tayo. Yo! Exciting!

We discarded food and drinks and were led to a secluded area near the bush. Shola’s outfit was indeed torn, and there were scratches on his face. He looked so miserable and felt disgraced. His assailants, having dealt with him well, had left before we got there. It was no time to ask what had happened, so we crowded round him, making sympathetic noises. Tayo yelled for her driver to bring her jeep round. He was whisked away to the guest house; his girlfriend riding along with him. We then returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the evening.



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