Updated: Jul 4
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Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.
Nana Aisha was miserable. She was trapped in an airport bus with her parents on their way to board a plane to Madinah, En-route Macca, for the holy pilgrimage of Hajj. It wasn’t her decision, and she didn’t want to go. But her father was forcing her to. Not only that, but he was also going to force her to marry his friend as soon as they returned. The journey to Hajj was to soften the blow. It was her mother’s idea. She promised her that they will stop in Dubai, on their way back to Nigeria, to shop for the wedding and she was to get a twenty million Naira budget to spend on whatever her heart desired. Even that did not make her happy.
She shifted nervously in her seat, looking from left to right and back to the front, hoping to find an escape route. Her father gave her a stern look and her mother gave her a gentle nudge on the side to keep her still. She sighed angrily and rolled her eyes. She thought that she might make her escape while they were lining up to board the plane. Her father would be in the men’s line while her mother may be busy identifying their luggage. She would make her move then. She was sure that Zakari would be waiting for her in his car park, where they would escape. She had stolen five hundred thousand naira from her father’s room and some gold Jewry from her mother’s and had hidden it safely where she would retrieve it as they escaped. That would take care of them for a while before finding a job. But one thing for sure is that they would never be seen again. That thought brought a slight smile to her face.
“Will you sit still?” Her mother snapped at her. She looked at her and pursed her lips forward to sulk. The other pilgrims on the bus were all staring at her, and her father gave her another stern look. Without saying anything, she knew it meant that it was her last warning. So, she sank back into her seat and became meek. But inside, she was plotting and calculating furiously.
There were about 15 people on the bus, all sponsored by her father. They were all wearing modest attires. The men wore Kaftans and caps, and the women were in Jalabiyas and khimars. In front was her father, Alhaji Babangida Bello Kura, one of the wealthiest men in Kano. He was one of the most successful clothes merchants, rice farmers, and exporters, and the CEO of Kura Cement Company and Kura textiles respectively. His net worth was estimated to be over seven billion naira, and as one of the only three children he had she stood to inherit at least one and a half billion of that someday. To his right was her big brother, Nura. Her sister was supposed to come with them, but her husband got sick at the last minute, and she had to cancel. To Nura’s right was the General Manager of Kura Cement, Alhaji Ibrahim Hamzah Jigawa.
In the second row, she was wedged in between her mother and Alhaji Ibrahim’s wife, perhaps deliberately to stop her from escaping. Just behind them were a man and woman that she didn’t know. They had three children who from the looks of it were all below ten years old. They were very noisy and the littlest one cried almost every two minutes. In the last row was an old man who she could smell from where she was sitting, a young, handsome man, and a middle edge man, all of them she did not recognize.
The cheap material she was wearing irritated her skin and she found herself even more irritated by the presence of all those smelly and annoying strangers. The Kura family always traveled by private jet or first class, wherever they were going, and they were usually chauffeured in one of their many expensive cars all the way to the foot of the plane. That way, they didn’t have to interact with any poor people. But this journey was different. They were on their way to Saudi Arabia for the holy pilgrimage and those rules didn’t apply here. At least, that was what her father intended when he suggested that an airport bus pick them up at his company, together with strangers.
“Your money or status is of no importance here. Everyone is the same in the sight of Allah and the best among men is one who is more God-fearing.” He told her.
“So, that smelly old man may as well be more important than her father.” She thought.
Everyone was treated the same, and there was no first-class or economy. It was literary the first time she took a bus, and she didn’t like it. “Maybe there is some kind of lesson there.” She had hoped that Zakari would be waiting in the car with some drugs and a few sticks of heroin, for she was seriously craving a fix at that moment.
The bus stopped at the international wing of The Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, where she caught a glimpse of the huge and imposing Max Air Boeing 747 in the large picture window of the departure terminal and wondered if that was the plane they were about to board. They were directed to the Emirates desks where their documents were checked, and their passports stamped. Their luggage was checked in, except their carry-on, which they would take with them into the plane. It took over forty-five minutes to go through the intricacies of the customs, further worsening her plight.
Her mother grabbed her hand and didn’t let go of it until they were safely seated on the plane. It was as if she could read her mind. She protested gently. She even begged to be allowed to go to the bathroom because her stomach was hurting but she was refused.
“You can use the plane’s bathroom now ma’am.” A lovely female flight attendant informed her. The whole crew of the plane seems too nice. She found that irritating too. It was almost as if they knew her plight and were mocking her.
“No thanks. I am fine.” She replied.
“But you were pressed just before boarding.”
Ï am ok now.”
“It’s better you go now, ma’am. Because you would be allowed to while we are taking off…”
“I said I am ok!” Her mother eyed her sharply after she snapped at the now upset-looking flight attendant. “I am sorry. But I am ok now.” She apologized.
“Ok ma’am. If you need anything, press this button” The lady said before leaving her alone.
“Ke, be careful.” Her mother warned. “Do not think that I will not hit you because we are among strangers. Don’t push me!”
Nana Aisha Sulked some more. She looked around the plane, embarrassed to see who was looking after her mother yelled at her. To her relief, everybody was busy, from finding seats to loading their luggage in overhead carriers and so on. Her father and brother were all the way in the back of the plane. That was another thing she was happy about. She couldn’t handle all of them at once.
Suddenly, two of those little children she saw on the bus ran past them while pushing people and squealing with glee. Their mother hurried after them and yelled for them to stop while trying to hold on to the little one and juggling with two small bags. Her husband was behind her and didn’t help; instead, he glared at them. He was only holding a small case and could have helped his wife with one of her kids or the bags at least, she thought. Some men are so insensitive. She shook her head. Is that what her father planned for her, a life of misery like that woman? Not only was it cruel to force her to marry someone she didn’t love but the man was three decades older than her and had two other wives. Even though polygamy was widespread in Kano, she didn’t want to end up in one, especially not with someone she couldn’t even stand. She had to find a way out, but how? She couldn’t risk reporting her father to the police, because she would bring shame to their powerful family; she knew the police wouldn’t have the courage to confront him if it got to that. It was a war she would never win so there was no point in starting it.
While the stewardesses were busy doing their ritual pre-take-off puppet shows she looked back and then noticed the handsome young man again. He was sitting three rows behind her in between the old man and the middle-aged man, the same way they were sitting on the bus. There was something about him that seemed to put her at ease. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about him was right. She wished she could talk to him, but it was impossible at that time.
She sank back into her seat to continue wallowing in her misery and by the time the plane took to the air, she had resigned to her fate.
Thank you for reading this episode. What do you think about Nana Aisha's predicament? Do you think her parents are harsh on her, or do they know what is better for her? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Let's discuss it in the comments section below.
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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!