Aisha’s mum spread the pale yellow jollof rice to the edges of the round metallic plate. She knew her daughter had to get breakfast before setting out for school but the meal was just too hot for nine year old Aisha.
In a bid to avoid a scenario of serving her child half cooked meal or something as steaming as this plate of food she had woken up much earlier, before the imam’s Morning Prayer call. But the firewood seemed to have a mind of its own. She stooped beside the fireplace and relentlessly blew it with her mouth until her eyes reddened from accumulated ash flakes. Refusing to give up, she went on to use the cover of one of her aluminum pots to blow it as hard as she could. Not long after, the reluctant fire blazed beneath the disobedient pot which was blackened with soot accumulated for years.
As she fed Aisha, spoon after spoon, she recalled her conversation with Yusuf, Aisha’s father the previous night. Alhaji Abdullahi, whose third wife put to bed a fortnight ago called at my stall today. He came to get some bags of beans and maize for his in-laws. As we stuffed the items into the trunk of his car, I saw other mouth watering food items that made my pocket smile.’
Aminat not knowing what her husband was driving at, placed her chin on her palm and wedged it on her left thigh as she listened.
“…errm I was thinking…” stammered Yusuf. “If I give Aisha’s hand in marriage to Mallam Saheed, I’d also have lots of presents and gifts as the father-in- law”. He grinned.
A frown had already perched on Aminat’s face but they say a wife must speak only when her opinion is sought, so she sat still and the molten magma of disgust burnt the walls of her soul.
“You know… he went on, “I have been making enquiries since he showed interest in our daughter. Saheed is well to do; his diary farm is the largest in Kano. He has several other businesses asides that”.
He swallowed a lump and rubbed his palms against each other. “Allah answers the prayers of a poor man, the day he plants a female child in the womb of any of his wives”. He said in excitement without the slightest notice of the frown on Aminat’s face. As Aisha sat innocently and savored her breakfast, she had no idea what fate held for her. Aminat, having suffered the same fate, fought the tears as she recalled how she her parents bundled her like a goat for sale and delivered her to Yusuf on her twelfth birthday.
By roadside of life, girls, clad in the veil of fear are afraid to look at the future because it is foggy with fate.
Written by: Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio
Photo credit: Ore Ogunmola.