Updated: May 13
A FATHER'S LOVE AND A STRANGER'S EMPATHY! 11th APRIL 2023
“This series and the characters in it are fictitious. Certain long-standing institutions, agencies, and public offices are mentioned, and the religious rites are authentic, but the characters involved are wholly imaginary. “
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Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.
Alhaji Kura tried to act brave as he consoled his wife, who was panicking. She had discovered Nana Aisha was missing when they returned prayers and sightseeing. She was angry with Hajiya Safiya for leaving her alone and going out herself. Hajiya Safiya apologized several times, but that didn’t do anything to help. Alhaji Kura told her it wasn’t Hajiya Safiya’s fault or job. He said that she should be grateful that the lady helped to begin with, despite her hands being full with her own children. She then apologized to her.
They had searched everywhere and even enlisted the services of hotel security to help, and they were told to brace themselves as this was Hajj season, and with a crowd that large, it may be days before they find her. That threw both of them deeper into panic mode. He suddenly wished he didn’t confiscate her cell phone. Even if she could communicate with Zakari, if she still had it, at least he could call her and find out if she was ok.
He felt responsible for everything, her bad behaviour, addiction, everything. He had been a bad parent. He had raised his first two children with a firm hand but was lax about Nana Aisha. She was his favourite. He loved her from the moment he held her in his arms, and he had named her after his mother, who had just died. In fact, she even resembled the woman, which made him love her even more.
In his defense, she started out as a good girl right up to secondary school; she had been obedient and fantastic. He enrolled her into one of the best schools in Kano, and at first, she did him proud. But along the way, her grades started to fall. That was the first red flag, but he dismissed it easily and decided to get her extra lessons and anything else to help her academically, even making promises of huge financial rewards if she got her grades back up. When the reports started coming to him about her drug use, he denied it, not wanting to believe that his little girl could do so. He confronted her, and she also denied it, so he turned a deaf ear to all the reports until she nearly overdosed. That was when he accepted that there was a problem and ran around trying to get help for her, which she constantly rejected. The more effort he put into trying to help her, the more she fought back. Soon, her actions started to become public. Somehow, it leaked to the outside world and the nosey media got a hold of it. They began to follow her around and take pictures of her at parties and anywhere else they could, to make her look like a spoiled child. He strongly believed that some of his business rivals had a hand in it. If they couldn’t beat him in business, they could as well drag his name through the mud, and his daughter was making it easy for them.
He finally found the root of her problem; Zakari, and he did everything in his power to separate them but to no avail. The boy always found a way to get to her. He had threatened the boy and his parents and even tried to bribe them, but his money was no good. They were wealthy and found it insulting.
Finally, his business partner asked him to give him her hand in marriage, promising to take care of her and help her with her condition. He wasn’t in love with the idea but decided to let it happen if that would help. He hoped it would.
She had cried her heart out and threatened to run away, or even kill herself. He had refused to listen. He would rather have her hate his guts than see her dead. Not only was he saving her life, but he was also saving their collective reputation.
“Salaamu Alaikum Alhaji” A male voice brought him out of his thoughts. He turned around, and Munir and the two gentlemen from the bus were standing behind him.
“Alaikum Salam.” He answered.
“I apologize for startling you. But we heard about your daughter. So, we are here to offer our help.” Munir spoke.
“I am grateful, my son. But I doubt if you could be of much help. She is lost in the crowd and the security men are handling it.”
“Alhaji, at around 5:30 pm, I saw her going towards Gate 367 of the Mosque. I think she wanted to catch the Mangrib and Ishai prayers there.”
“Are… you serious?” Alhaji Kura was suddenly interested and so was his wife and everybody else.
“Yes, Alhaji. Sure, as I can be. But I was too far away to talk to her.”
“Alhamdulillah!” Alhaji Kura exclaimed, and you can see the look of relief on his face and that of his wife. “I will send the security men there at once.”
“No Alhaji. Perhaps, she is already on her way back. I would advise you to exercise a little patience. They might miss her, and that could cause you more panic. Give her time to come back on her own.”
“I… don’t know…” The Alhaji said with a worried voice. “I would feel better if I knew she is safe. I mean, the Ishai prayer was over two hours ago, and she is still not back. Don’t you see the problem here?”
“Perhaps, she just needed some space.” Munir said, and Alhaji Kura gave him a surprised look loaded with unspoken words. At that moment, Nana Aisha walked in, and her mother screamed and ran to her and hugged her. Alhaji Kura pulled his gaze away from Munir and went over to hug his daughter too.
“We were worried about you, my darling. Where have you been?”
“I was at the mosque, praying. Then I slept a little. I didn’t know that it was so late. I am sorry.”
“No, honey. It is ok. We are just happy that you are safe. Don’t scare us like that again.” Her father said. “If you want to go out, tell somebody where you are going so, we will know where to look. Ok?”
“Wait…you mean I can go out by myself, and I am no longer a prisoner?”
“You were never a prisoner, darling…” Alhaji Kura stammered. He turned around, embarrassed, to look at Munir, but he was gone. “We were just keeping an eye on you to make sure that you are safe. You are not a prisoner at all, you understand?”
“Yes, Baba. I am sorry I scared you”.
“It’s ok, go back to your room and rest, ok?”
“Why did I open my big mouth?” Munir recalled what happened as he lay on his bed in their room. He needed to sleep for two hours before going back to the Mosque for a night prayer session. But he was too nervous to close his eyes. He still couldn’t believe that he had the nerve to call out Alhaji Kura on his treatment of his own daughter. “I shouldn’t have done that. It wasn’t my business.” He was in Macca because of Alhaji Kura’s charity. The last thing he wanted to do was to get on his bad side, especially as he was still hoping that the Alhaji would donate some charity to the Islamiyah.
But part of him argued back and reminded him of how sad Nana-Aisha looked on the plane. He didn’t know what really happened, but he understood what it was like to be trapped. He once felt like that when he was with his biological family. They were not bad people but they were very controlling. And they hovered over him all the time.
He was originally an Ijaw from Bayelsa state, in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, and his name was Inemo Ebipade. His father was a tire seller who moved to Kano, the commercial center of northern Nigeria, to grow his business. His mother died when he was young, and his father married another woman soon afterward. His stepmother was a nightmare. She was the stereotypical wicked stepmother who made his life unbearable. And to make things worse, his father never defended him; in fact, his father hated him for being slow. He complained that instead of paying attention to his business, he always buries himself in books and reads. The man hated him and threatened to pull him out of secondary school and force him to stay in his shop all day, attending to customers. At that time, he worked at the shop during the school holidays and only ate from what he was paid as his stepmother deliberately starved him at home.
He used to wonder if the man was indeed his father because he couldn’t understand why he was so cruel to him.
He was always happy when school resumed, as that was where he found peace. He became friends with two of Sheik Abdullah’s sons. They shared a hostel, and he was impressed by their lifestyle. He noticed how no matter what they were doing or how busy they were, they always stopped everything to pray the moment they hear the adhan, even though no one was watching them, and their father would never know if they missed one. In fact, they seem to enjoy it. He also loved their recitation of the Qurán. The melodious recitation was hypnotic to him, and he found himself asking a lot of questions which they were more than willing to answer. Everything he heard about Islam and Muslems before then was wrong. He found himself being drawn to the religion. So, when they were going home, he followed them. His family didn’t even notice his absence, or they didn’t care. He met the Sheik who welcomed him and gave him an easy-to-read, few chapters of the Quran as parting gifts. He also taught him a lot in the few days he was there. The next time he went, he took the Shahada and officially embraced Islam. He was given the name Munir, meaning Light.
His family were not happy. They tried to change him back. First, they used incentives, then blackmail and finally violence, he weathered through all of them. When it became too much, he ran to the Sheik’s house. The Sheik took him in and left him in his first wife’s care. His family threatened them for a while; but later gave in, and just when he thought they had finally accepted his decision, he found out that they had moved back to their hometown and abandoned him. He wasn’t too broken up about it. His new family was wonderful. The sheik’s wife was very kind and treated him like her own son.
He spent days and nights learning the Quran and everything about Islam. In just three years, he memorized the Quran and became a Hafiz. The sheik was proud of him. He brought him closer to himself and ran the Islamiyah with him. Even though the Sheik’s other sons showed no interest in the family business, they became jealous of Munir as they felt their father loved him more. The only one among them that wasn’t jealous, was the first wife’s son, Idris, with whom he shared a room. They were very close, in fact, it was Idris that was his friend in school and who had invited him to meet their Father. He had protected him from his brothers and kept him from harm. Six months ago, Idris got married and Munir had to vacate their room and move into the Islamiyah.
“Are you ok, my son?” Malam Tanko asked, and he came back to reality.
“What?... Sorry, did you say something?”
“Yes. What’s wrong? You seem lost in deep thoughts.”
“I was just thinking about life.” He laughed, nervously.
“You are just a child, what do you know about life, my son?”
“Ah Ah! Plenty, Baba.” He laughed.
“Well, stop worrying too much, or you will grow old very fast.”
“Ok, Baba.” They both laughed. “Do you think that I was wrong, calling out the Alhaji on how he was treating his daughter?”
“No. I notice it too. But sometimes, minding your business is the best option.”
“I know. But I couldn’t help it. I am sure there is more to it than meets the eye, but the girl was drowning.”
“I am sure he loves her, a lot more than we can see.”
Yes, I am sure. You know what? I think I was comparing the whole situation to mine. My experience growing up wasn’t pleasant. My own father was terrible to me, so alarm bells started to ring when I saw the way they were treating her. But, then again, not all fathers are bad. I know that very well too”.
“What do you mean?” Malam Tanko asked him. So, he recounts his story to him. He told him everything he didn’t tell him before, from his childhood to his accepting Islam and being adopted by Sheik Abdullahi. He was crying by the time he told him about his death.
“I am so sorry, my son.” Malam Tanko comforted him.
“I don’t know why I am crying. Sorry.”
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I'm Hadiza Bagudu, a mom, blogger, poet, author, and podcaster. Join me each week as we embark on 'An Epic Journey of Faith!' A series about a group of pilgrims whose lives were transformed by the Hajj experience. Let's explore the power of faith, the beauty of human connection, and more captivating stories on love, family, and society. Come along, and let's dive into the world of literature together!