“Look who we have here!” Fola exclaimed as he opened the door “Hashtag Femi&Funke 2019!” He pecked Funke and hugged his brother.
“How you doing, bruh? I learnt you’re about to displace Forbes CEO” Femi slapped his back as Fola led the way to the living room.
“A-ha! You’re the one doing great stuff” Fola returned the praise-singing “I learnt Silicon Valley boys wanted to buy you for three million dollars but you refused to sell.”
“Mehn! It is what it is. I wish African boys owned their home and stopped gushing all over twitter whenever Silicon Valley boys visit the continent. These guys are not tourists. They are hawks, sharp businessmen. I sometimes cringe when I see boys submit their work in a PowerPoint presentation as though they had been working for Silicon Valley approval.”
“It’s an eagle-eat-rat world. Maybe it is a relic of the colonial mentality that makes us celebrate it whenever folks from the West visit to inspect our work. Perhaps, it’s capitalism – the power of money and influence. Whichever, Africa will emerge with time.” Fola sighed “But I’m proud of you, brother. You inspire me.” His countenance brightened.
“You are the most talked about investment banker in Lagos. Do you know how proud that makes me feel as your big brother?” Femi looked around “By the way, where’s mom and dad?”
“Upstairs. Let me go tell them our 2019 couple is here”. He gave Funke a pat “I came to give you guys moral support. I am aware of everything and know how funny mom can be.”
“Thank you, Fola” Funke responded with a smile.
The steward came in with a tray of juice to welcome the couple and to announce to them that the table would be set in ten minutes. Otunba Francis Alao had earlier discussed with his son, Fola, to ensure that the kitchen prepared adequately for the couple because he was sure that his wife, Bisi, would rather see to it that not even a glass of water was available for the visit. Femi observed the nervousness in Funke as she held on to the glass of juice with shaky hands without taking a sip.
“Breathe, Babe.” Femi stood up and sat by her side, placing his arm on her shoulder. “We have all the support we need. Mom will come around”.
“But what if she doesn’t? We need her blessing, Femi.”
“We have the blessing of the Most High” Femi smiled.
“What’s the correlation, Femi?” Funke looked at him with masked irritation “Can you be serious for once?”
“He has the hearts of Kings in his hands, babe.” Femi rubbed her shoulder for assurance “I don’t want you to be worked up over our wedding plans. We’re simply asking God, the state, our family and loved ones, to bless and celebrate the bond we share. That is what we both believe the wedding process is about. We have been in a marriage, though yet to be married, we will not let the wedding process stress us.”
“You’ve gone philosophical.” Funke took a deep breath.
“I’m glad I could make you take that deep breath. See how easy life can be when we breathe? Get some oxygen into those tensed muscles, girl.”
Funke abruptly stood up, spilling her juice as she heard Otunba descend the stairs.
“Look who we have here, bestowing her elegant gracefulness on us mortals!” Otunba announced with open arms as he descended the stairs, picking his words and raising his voice to a crescendo. It is no surprise that he raised chivalrous sons who are theatrical in speech. His two apples fell directly under the tree.
“Good morning, daddy.” Funke knelt as a sign of honour and respect.
“Oh! Come on! My dear, that is not necessary” He assisted her to her feet with an embrace “Please, feel free daughter. You’re home.”
“I am very surprised to see that her weak knees can touch the floor.” Bisi Alao took everyone by surprise. Nobody saw her descend the stairs. Disgusted by her husbands plot to welcome her to their home against her instructions, she continued: “I’d recommend you hold her properly, seeing that you invited her, and see to it that her legs are in proper shape as she leaves. I do not want any Guzape Hills parents to come harass me in Ikoyi that I broke their daughter’s joints. I will show them the stuff that Lagos is made of!”
“Mom!” Fola pulled her blouse to caution her acerbic remarks.
“Good morning, mummy.” Funke’s voice quaked as she struggled to suppress the embarrassing tears. She tried to kneel in greeting again but Otunba held her firmly in his hands, straightening her up as she made the attempt.
“Oh please!” Bisi dismissed the audience and moved to the dining.
“Bisi, love.” Otunba started as he motioned to the boys to migrate to the dining area. “Abuja will never fight us in Lagos, and our lovely Funke is our daughter. We are peaceful and sociable in Lagos. We will never fight Abuja. Just give us some lively party and good food, and that’s all Lagos has ever wanted.”
“The great Owambe spirit!” Fola took the cue from his dad to re-channel the conversation to a lighter one. They indulged in some social gossip and political news as breakfast went on. Otunba nudged his son, Femi, under the table to lighten his mood. Knowing his son, he knew he was struggling between being a man in charge of his emotions, respecting his mom, and defending Funke’s honour. Otunba knew he was weighing the consequences of an emotional outburst, while trying to prove to himself that he is ready for the higher responsibility of marriage. It is beneath a husband and a father to succumb to emotional outbursts. He had never seen his father give in to such weakness or be led to the slaughter by negative emotions.
“I see the government is beginning to discuss climate change, mom.” Femi hopped on a topic that would delight his mother in showing forth her brilliance. “How does that affect our oil and gas?”
“There are two sides to every country, dear.” Bisi straightened up in her seat and took a sip of water. Femi, Fola, and Otunba exchanged a knowing look as Otunba gave Femi a nod, thanking him for following the cue. “The world is hypocritical at best. You see, countries that make the most noise about human rights are the ones that blow up civilians and commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of economic and national security.”
“Hmm…Good point there, mom.” Fola sought to draw her out some more.
“The big nations on the climate change move are the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. So, it’s all theatrics and showmanship. They have nuclear powers, blow up other nations, and are strong players in the oil market. Don’t they all know that nature regulates itself? She propped her elbows on the table with her palms open as she looked from one person to another. “All of these is just politics to class the nations and keep weaker nations under with ridiculous regulations. All Nigeria does is oil and gas. We’re not responsible for the world’s problem.”
“Neither are we the largest producer of oil.” Femi chipped in.
“You can say that again! Apart from pollution from generators, we do not even have enough cars and trains for our population to be bothered about climate change activism. We need to be industrialized first, and build more infrastructure.” Bisi submitted. As one who sits on the board of three oil companies, Bisi comes alive in vain glory and a display of insightful knowledge whenever the spotlight is on her.
“You make good points my dear” Otunba cleared his throat lest he interspersed his speech with guttural coughs because his wife finds that disgusting, though he quietly enjoys it. “Our government should be focused on infrastructural development for industrialization to take place. However, we might take a cue from wisdom and be environmentally aware as we pursue that. I also believe that nature resets itself and we are not the first human civilization to arrive on the scene, but we are the most fickle and weak.”
“I often wonder the quality of minds of people that set the world’s stage as we have it today. Designing curricula, investigating time, the laws of nature, gravity, organizing society, these things look simple but they are a lot, if we gave it some thought” Funke joined the conversation, looking at Bisi, hoping to elicit some warmth from her. “It is amazing that in education for example, the curriculum for mathematics was broken down into basics that can be taught to a 2year old in nursery one, and built up into an edifice that a post-doctoral candidate will have to unravel. If not for advancement in communications technology, our dispensation might not have had much to contribute to human advancement.”
“And that’s a lot, my dear” Otunba quickly chimed in as the entire table observed Bisi’s laser eyes rest on the rock on Funke’s ring finger as though she was trying to invoke the powers of Thanos in blasting the rock. “The internet changed everything. Absolutely everything. You young people are so blessed.”
“Um…Femi, that reminds me.” Bisi shifted her malicious gaze off Funke to flash Femi a warm smile. “Kemi said she has been trying to reach you but you have not been returning her calls. I hope you are able to see her today, this one that you are kuku on the island already. She is a lovely and strong girl.”
“Thanks mom.” Femi knew he must not let this moment pass because it was the moment that defines if he was man enough to be a husband. “Kemi and I talk, but I will not be seeing her anytime soon. Funke and I have a couple of things to get done in Lagos because we have to catch an early flight to Abuja tomorrow.” Femi held Funke’s hands in his. “We’re getting married and we would like to inform you first before going to her parents.”
“Wonderful!” Otunba exclaimed as though it was news to him. “That’s my son! I actually thought the ring was a fashion ring. You know, ladies and accessories. Congratulations my dear!” Otunba rose to welcome Funke afresh to the family.
“This deserves a toast!” Fola stood up, mimicking his father’s energy and popped the champagne.
“Toast to what!” Bisi exclaimed in indignation. “You people must take me for a fool. When was the last time the steward placed champagne at our breakfast? Was I born yesterday? You men are so simple, you think I am unaware of your plans?” She faced Fola “Even you, when was the last time you spent the whole weekend at home?”
Fola felt uneasy under her gaze, looked away and shifted on his feet.
“You can organize whatever you want and scheme anything behind my back. Nobody marries my son without my approval, and not even a weakling at that. I will not allow my grandchildren inherit a disease. Not on my watch!”Bisi called her driver to prepare to move out in ten minutes because she had an appointment at the salon to get her hair and nails done for the birthday dinner of Ronke Tejuosho, the deputy director of the Department of Petroleum Resources, and wife of Otunba Kolawole Tejuosho.
Otunba Alao was pretty stunned at his wife’s vituperations. He has known her for 35years and would never imagine that even in her most volatile state, she was capable of saying such things to anyone’s face. Understandably, she had voiced her concerns, objections, and reservations, in private, he just assumed that they would remain private, or at most, subtle. It was quite jarring to see her pour out all her frustrations on the poor girl, embarrassing her before everyone. He knew he had to do something, lest his own sons began to see him as weak.
“Let’s move to my office, gentlemen and lady” Otunba re-installed himself as the leader of the Alao dynasty, assured the couple they had no concerns, reaffirmed that he will speak with his wife and she will come around with her blessings. He apologized for the embarrassment Funke had faced and promised to make it up to her in due season. The delegation decided that a wedding ceremony was feasible for the year and that it was best for Funke’s family to agree on the date the couple decides, before the Alaos start making plans. Otunba believes it is cultural and respectful to let the bride’s family have the say.
Funke and Femi made more rounds of visits across the city and its suburbs before retiring to the hotel.
“Babe, I’m sorry about mom. She will come around” Femi said as he stepped out of the shower.
“Thank you, Femi. I understand her concerns, though it hurts to be the one receiving them.”
“I know!” Femi drew closer to her and grabbed her hands. She has kept herself busy all day with mundane activities like typing away on her phone to wiping the sparkling hotel mirror, just to distract herself from having this conversation.
“I don’t think I can do this, Femi. It’s harder than I imagined.” She broke into tears.
“Put it on me.” Femi wiped her tears with his palm and locked her in an embrace as she sobbed into his chest. “Put it all on me. I promised to protect you and be by your side, and you can hold me to that.” Femi rubbed her hair and continued. “Mummy will come around, baby. I promise. She will love you and your health will be fine. Our kids will be fine.”
Femi lifted her face to look into her eyes “can we pray about this?”
Funke nodded in agreement.
“Father, we give you thanks for today…”