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Family, friends and well-wishers stormed the home of Ridwan and Jameelah to felicitate them on the birth of their son which they named Hassan.

Ridwan grinned from ear to ear. He couldn’t contain the joy that oozed out of him. He was a proud father of a son. The feeling was surreal.

Similarly, Jameelah was also excited. Her gratitude to the almighty was immense. The safe delivery was worth a lifetime of gratitude. Her labour came easy with no complications at all. And her husband was with her throughout the different stages of labour. From the mild contraction to the big one; from the shouting to screaming and eventually the pushing of the baby; he was present and for this, she was thankful and once again, he melted her heart.

Even though he wasn’t financially responsible, he provided the warmth and support needed. What if he was physically and emotionally absent the same way he was financially absent? What would she have done? She began to console herself. Telling herself that half bread was better than none; telling herself that his moral support was something money could not buy.

When visitors started trooping into their house, Ridwan went to meet Jameelah in the bedroom. He stood in front of her as he felt his pocket.

“What is it?” She looked up to ask what he wanted.

He continued to feel his pocket while stuttering incoherently. She knew he needed money but she didn’t want to put words in his mouth.

“The guests,” he said, pointing in the direction of the living room. “I think the tradition is to give people biscuits when they come to visit a newborn. Ermmmm …. We ….. we need to get biscuits and I don’t have money,” he said at last.

Jameelah smiled wryly. She wanted to say that she didn’t have money too but on second thought, reached for her purse and gave him 5,000 naira. He gave her a thumbs up without any verbal gratitude and left. She shrugged and heaved a deep sigh.

‘For how will this continue?’ She mumbled.

Ridwan got biscuits and shared them amongst the visitors. As visitors left, they gave them biscuits. He was helpful around the house. He cooked, cleaned and did everything necessary to ameliorate the stress of the new mother.

The couple continued to receive visitors and gifts.

On the fourth day of their baby’s arrival, Ridwan’s elder brother came to visit them.

Jameelah carried the baby to his brother-in-law and left to attend to some other things in the bedroom.

As she was about to step into the bedroom, she heard her brother-in-law say something she was interested in, so she paused and decided to eavesdrop.

“Now that you have a child, what do you want to do?” Ridwan’s brother asked him.

“I don’t understand what you mean?” He replied, confused.

“I mean, what are your plans about working? You now have an extra mouth to feed, you can’t continue to be idle.”

“Is it my wish to be idle? I haven’t found a good job …”

“This is what you always say. Listen, you have to work now that you’ve become a father. Even if the pay is not high. A man has to strive to feed his family.”

“I know, right? But I’m not going to do any job if the pay is not good, never!” He replied.

“Don’t be stubborn!” His brother’s tone was stern. “Do you want your wife to continue feeding you and your baby? Since you’ve been shouting about your dream-job, have you found one? All the years that you’ve stayed idle while waiting for your dream job, even if it was 40k you earned every month, your living condition would have been better. But no, you kept rejecting job offers and continued to remain stagnant. Don’t you think at all? Can you retrieve all the time you’ve wasted? Can you retrieve all the money you’ve refused to earn because you’re waiting for a dream job …..?”

“I can retrieve it, trust me. You wanted me to accept a job of 40k, didn’t you? 40k every month is 400k annually. That’s very little compared to what I’ll get monthly if I land my dream job. If I earn 800k every month, that’s two years salary of a 40k job. Have you seen the wisdom in my waiting?” He asked and his brother laughed sarcastically.

“What’s funny?”

“Your way of reasoning is!” His brother replied. “How can you even think like this? Do you have a fish brain? So you’d prefer to wait for a job that only exists in your imagination thereby rejecting the ones at hand? There’s no wisdom in your waiting at all. In fact, your waiting is foolish because no matter what you earn in the future, it can’t mend what you have lost in the present. Your future earnings cannot erase the fact that you subjected your wife to so much inhumane treatment ..”

“Ha.ha! What do you mean by inhumane treatment? Am I maltreating her?”

“Yes, you are,” his brother told him bluntly. You’re maltreating her because you’re not responsible for her upkeeps, making her fend for herself and for you! And now that a child has come into the picture, you still don’t want to man up. Tell me if that’s not maltreatment!”

“How can that be maltreatment? She understands that I don’t have a job and she’s only being supportive like a good wife should ..”

“Really? She understands that you don’t have a job? Do you really not have a job or is it your choice not to work?”

“My dream job is on the way. It’s only a matter of time …”

“Wawuuuu! An eight hundred thousand naira job is what you’re waiting for, right? No problem, keep waiting. I wanted to tell you about a job but the salary is not even close to 800k so I better keep it to myself …”

“Yes, please keep it to yourself if the salary is not 800k and above. Oh, I can manage 500k, anything short of that is a no,” he replied and Jameelah, who’d been listening all along, bit her finger so hard with tears cascading her cheeks.

She shook her head and returned to her bedroom.

Before Ridwan’s brother left, he asked about his plans for the naming ceremony and he replied that he didn’t have money but was hopeful of his siblings’ assistance. His brother didn’t mince words when he told him not to expect any assistance from them for the naming ceremony.

His siblings had all planned to stop assisting him because they now understood that he banked on their assistance, making him more lazy to work. They thought if they stopped assisting him, he would sit up and find something to do with his life. They planned not to give him a penny for his son’s naming ceremony. The only thing his siblings did was give the baby gifts; baby clothes, detergents, diapers and that was all. They completely shut the door of their favour on him with the aim to teach him a lesson.

After his brother had left, he took the baby to Jameelah in the bedroom. Jameelah was sitting on the bed, resting her back on the headboard. He noticed that she was wearing a long face.

Gently, he put the baby on the bed and sat beside her.

“You don’t look fine. What is it?” He asked her.

She stared at him with disdain and burst into laughter.

“What is it? Why are you laughing?” He asked but she continued laughing which scared him.

His heart thumped as he thought she might be suffering from what Yoruba called ‘Abisinwin’ (Postnatal depression) or why is she laughing all of a sudden when no one said something funny? He thought.

Jameelah kept laughing and this scared him even more. He tried to hold her but she pushed him away so hard. And gradually, the laughter turned to tears.

“Why are you crying? Please tell me,” he persuaded her lovingly.

“You’ve been rejecting jobs because you’re waiting for a job of 800k, right? Haaaaaaaaaaa! Ridwan, you should be ashamed of yourself ….”

“Did you eavesdrop on my conversation with my brother?” He marvelled.

“Yes, I did because it concerns me. You should really be ashamed of yourself, Ridwan! So you’ve been neglecting your responsibilities and making me do everything because you’re waiting for a job of 800k, really? How many graduates earn 200k not to talk of 800k. The few people that earn 500k and above have built themselves to a certain level. What have you done to build yourself? Master’s degree, no! Professional exams, no! Skills that pertain to your profession, no! Work experience, no! So you think any company will just wake up and hire an inexperienced and unqualified worker and start paying him 800k, just like that? If you want to earn that amount, you have to make yourself an asset first by acquiring additional qualifications and earning job experience. You’ve remained stagnant since graduation without taking up any job to boost your CV. Now you want a miraculous job of 800k, just wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!!” She whirled around the room dramatically.

“Stop projecting your negativity on me. Stop it! Are you telling me I can’t get a job of that range? Are you kidding me? My coursemate that I graduated with landed a job in Chevron and his starting pay was 650k. Are you limiting me? Even if you limit me, I won’t limit myself. I know I’ll get it and I’m going to get it. I don’t know why I’ve been unlucky with jobs. I don’t know why my own is so different. I don’t know why I find it difficult to achieve what my mates are achieving. I just don’t know why I’ve been so unlucky …”

“Hmpp!” She snorted. “You’re not unlucky. Not at all. Your mistake is that you want to be like your friends who are getting high paying jobs forgetting that your destinies are different. Some people will run to success, some will walk to success while some will crawl to success. If success has been destined, at the end of the day, the runner, the walker and the crawler will all meet at the top. That’s what you don’t understand, Ridwan. If you’ve been destined to crawl to success, you can’t start big. You can’t imitate your friend who has probably been destined to run to success. If you keep wanting to be like your friend, you’ll just remain stagnant forever. My dear, I also pray that your big job comes because your ease is my ease, your success is my success, but before then, you can’t stay idle. I won’t accept it,” she shook her head and he hissed.

“Cut the crap, please! Who’s a crawler? Did you just refer to me as a crawler? Now I know that you’re my no 1 enemy. I’m going to run to success and I shall achieve success no matter what! No one can kill my dreams. Not even you, Jameelah,” he pointed at her.

She shook her head and hissed.

“You’re just impossible. I understand that your reasoning faculty is malfunctioning probably due to poverty and frustration because you seem to misunderstand my good intentions. Who’s your no 1 enemy? You must be high, Olohun! Anyway, your brother mentioned something about a job which you told him not to talk about if the pay is low. Ridwan, wallahi, you have to accept that job! You just have to accept that job! If not, I’ll carry Hassan and leave you ….”

“Are you out of your mind? Why do you always threaten me with leaving? Anyway, I won’t accept that job, never! And I won’t beg you not to leave. If you want to leave, you’re free to leave, just don’t take Hassan with you. c’est fini!” He replied and left the room.

Jameelah sat down and wept again. After she had given herself a good cry, she dried her tears and called her brother-in-law to inquire about the job. Her brother-in-law explained to her that it was the job of a manager in a food store. And the pay was 50,000 naira.

Jameelah begged the man to persuade her husband to accept the job. She told him not to do it alone but involve all Ridwan’s siblings as their collective voice might make a difference. And so, a week later, all his siblings invited him for a meeting. He didn’t know they’d all be present. His elder brother only asked him to see him and upon getting there, he met all his siblings to his surprise.

Together, they scolded, begged, persuaded, admonished, urged and encouraged him to take the job as little was better than nothing. They told him how it was now very important for him to man up because of the additional soul that had joined his little family. They cited how lack of money didn’t allow him to celebrate the naming ceremony of his first fruit on earth. They told him it would have been different had it been he was earning something.

His siblings’ mouths almost peeled off while trying to make him reason with them. He grumbled and refused at first but after much persuasion, he unwillingly accepted to take the job. His siblings were happy.

His elder brother put a call through to Jameelah to give her the good news. Jameelah’s excitement knew no bounds. At least now she would stop worrying about fending for him. And even if it was little, he would drop something at home for food. Still, Jameelah didn’t tell him about the money she got from her mother’s friend and she wasn’t ready to tell him. She planned to kick-start her business when her son clocked three months.

Eventually, Ridwan started working and Jameelah couldn’t be happier. She teased him that his first salary would be used to celebrate the naming ceremony of their son. Even if they wouldn’t have a big party, slaughtering two rams for the boy as per the tradition of Islam should be done. Ridwan hissed loudly.

“You want to slaughter two rams with 50,000 naira? Are you joking? After removing transport and feeding money from the salary, what will remain of it? Oh my God! Me!” He touched his chest. “A ridiculous job of 50,000 naira is now what I settled for? Haaa! Oh Lord, this does not befit me at all. Why am I so unlucky? Why am I so unlucky? Why am I so unlucky?” His lamentation was on repeat.

Jameelah moved closer to him.

“My darling, you’re not unlucky! Not at all. A lot of people want to be blessed with the job you’re calling ridiculous but they’re not so lucky. And here you are, calling yourself unlucky. You’re not unlucky at all …” she hadn’t finished when he pushed her away.

“Get out of my way!” He said as she pushed her away with a loud hiss.

Jameelah staggered and struggled to regain her balance. She heaved a deep sigh as she sat on the bed, thinking of what she’d done to deserve that from him.

Ridwan worked now but there was no difference between his jobless days and his working days as he wouldn’t drop any money for his wife. At the end of his first working month, Jameelah expected him to at least drop 10k but that didn’t happen. She asked if he’d not collected salary and he replied that he had. Then she demanded money for upkeep but he hissed.

“Are you really expecting something from 50,000 naira?” He sneered.

“Ridwan, 50,000 is better than nothing. Your baby needs diapers. We need to stock the house with food. We need money for other things. I’m not telling you to give me the whole 50k but at least, your family deserves an allowance from your salary …”

“I don’t have. I really don’t have. In fact, the money was exhausted before I collected it …”

“Really? So how do I survive with your son? How do we eat?”

“The same way you’ve been eating …”

“What do you mean by that? Am I working?”

“Please don’t disturb me!” He snapped. “All the money people gave you when you gave birth, nko? You think I don’t know? Or you just want to frustrate my life needlessly?” He hissed and walked out on her.

“Wow!” She opened her mouth in dismay.

She decided to overlook his irresponsibility that month, giving him the excuse that he just started working and needed time to adjust. So she continued running the house with her money. She would cook and he’d eat. He would even state his preference for dinner before going to work. Jameelah was hopeful that the subsequent months would be different. But the subsequent months were the same.

At the end of the month, she would expect him to drop something but he wouldn’t. She would ask but nothing would change. He kept complaining that nothing remained of his salary after transport fare and feeding. He complained that he accepted the job just to please his wife and his family. He told her not to expect anything from him. She became tired and hopeless at this point.

As soon as her son clocked three months, she started looking around for a shop to avoid spending all the money on diapers and food. She informed him of her plans. He asked where she would get money and she lied to him that her friend assisted her to get a grant from an NGO. He asked about the amount of the grant and she lied again that it was 500,000 naira.

Jameelah got a shop at a very good location. She got the required instruments and began her snacks business. When Ridwan visited her at the shop, he knew that what was seated in that shop was more than 500,000. He smiled without saying anything.

The following week, Hassan got immunisation from the hospital. After the hospital visit, he was irritable so Jameelah could not go to the shop that day. She returned home to give her baby maximum care.

At about 12:30 in the afternoon, she just put the crying Hassan to sleep and was taking a nap when she heard a screech on the door. Thinking it was a thief, she quickly jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen to get a spatula. She hid behind the door, prepared to smash the spatula on the thief’s head. As the door opened, Ridwan’s head escaped from being shattered by the skin of his teeth.

Jameelah quickly withdrew the spatula when she realised it was her husband.

“Do you really want to break my head?”

“I’m sorry. I thought it was a thief. What are you doing at home at this time of the day?” She asked and he hissed.

“I resigned,” he replied bluntly.

“Resigned, why?” She marvelled with a shrug.

“I want to take a nap,” he said and walked past her to the bedroom.

To be continued.

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