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3 FOR MANHOOD“S SAKE



This particular day Dozie was in daddy's room again. He had been called in after daddy had looked at his SS1 first term result. Dozie told me that whenever he went into daddy's room like this particular day, it was to receive fatherly advice. He was all smiles late that afternoon as he came to pick me from the primary section of our school, BRIGHT MINDS SCHOOLS, Okota. I knew immediately that he had passed his exams and that he would not repeat. But then I was not sure. Dozie also smiled even when things were very wrong. So I asked.

"Did you pass?" I was looking up at him trying to catch a glimpse of sadness but I found none. I believed that he had passed until he said,

"No. But I'm not going to repeat. It's just first term". Then I was sad for him, but he seemed not to be.

"Will daddy be happy?" I asked.

"Daddy understands" he replied.

How I wished Dozie had shown a bit of sadness, at least for me to feel a bit of the gravity of what he felt on the inside. Dozie was a sweet elder brother.

"Nonye, please come out of the road," he said to me as he drew me to his side, shielding me from vehicles and motorcycles; he was so protective of me. His left scarred arm held me close to his sweaty body, he had played a lot of football that day in school, he was a good player, and he was my hero.

Mummy had warned him about playing rough. I can remember that day when mummy asked him to pull off his T-shirt and was shocked at the numerous scars on his back, chest, and stomach.

"Ennnh! Chidozie you are playing too much! Chidozie you are playing too much! Chidozie you are playing too much!" She repeated as if by repeating the sentence severally, Dozie would understand her better.

"Mummy I'm becoming a man" Dozie replied.

"Keep shut biko! See the way your body is as if the world decided to use koboko on you" mummy was apparently not happy." Are you sure those teachers in your school don't use cane on you?"

"No mummy" Dozie replied. Truly teachers were not allowed to flog students in our school. They could only make students go through some punishments. But even if they were allowed to flog, they wouldn't leave such wild marks on the body as the ones on Dozie's body.

"Nne, get me the G.V on the table in my room" she was talking to me. I went into her room and brought the little bottle with purple liquid in it. She smeared the liquid on the fresh wounds running across Dozie's body. Mummy sobbed as she did this. Even the scars of old wounds were still visible.

"I will tell your daddy to allow you to watch TV and play some games in the house. So that you don't go to school li..li.ke a dog set free from a cage, then you..you play like you've not seen play before, you injure yourself and bring yourself home for me to treat. Causing me high blood pressure at this age....look at your body Dozie, look at you." mummy was sad.


Daddy allowed us to watch T.V later on, but it was only during the weekends. Daddy was a principled man, the principal of a government school. Thanks to mummy. We didn't get enrolled in that school where he was the principal. I remember Dozie hugging me, lifting me up and twirling me around in joy when mummy announced that we would be attending a different school. Dozie had just finished his primary school then.

As for mummy, she was a businesswoman. She owned a fashion shop called AMAKA'SWEARS, where all kinds of clothing and accessories were sold. She made sure we wore the best of clothing, the kind that made people stare twice at us when we walk through the aisle in Church. It was only daddy who didn't dress so gaily. Nevertheless, he didn't tolerate shabbiness, he was more particular about looking smart than looking flashy.

So mummy was not always around like daddy was. She had told Dozie and me that it was because of her business; that it took her across the country. Daddy and mummy had quarrels sometimes about her business, daddy had accused her of sleeping around with politicians. I didn't understand what that meant.

But we feared daddy.

He had never flogged me, but the thought of him doing it scared the shit out of me. I remember I convulsed one time he raised a whip to flog me. Dad was fat and huge and whenever I stood in front of him, he looked like Goliath. I had never seen him flog Dozie, he always called him into his room whenever Dozie erred one or some of his so many commandments.

And Dozie erred too often.

Dad would start with a question. He wouldn't even wait for an answer before ordering him into his room. For example, he would say, "What did I tell you about idling and playing around?.... Come into my room". or he would say, "Did I not tell you to always wake up before the women and join me in morning exercises?.... Let me see you in my room" or "What did I tell you about talking too much, Chidozie?....go to my room" or "Haven't I told you to eat enough food to be strong like a man?...follow me" or "What on earth are you doing in the kitchen Chidozie? Is the kitchen a man's place? ...Come with me".

There was one instance I remember and I regret because I had caused it. A boy in school that was older than Dozie had broken my food flask. I had told Dozie, and Dozie had fought him for me, but Dozie got beaten. Dozie had told me to tell neither mum nor dad. But I didn't heed him. I should have told mum but mum was not around. I told daddy. I had hoped to get dad's sympathy if I told him that Dozie was beaten in school fighting for me. I had hoped daddy would come to our school and deal with the boy. But it was Dozie I put into trouble

"You must not fall for another man, not for anything... Come into my room," he said to Dozie. Each time Dozie came out of daddy's room, l saw fresh slashes of wound, either across one side of his neck or at the temple of his face or across his hands. I also saw dried tears parched on his sweaty face. But then Dozie would smile and ask me what I was looking at.

In all these periods of COME INTO MY ROOM, mummy was not always around. Even if she was, most times she was too tired or drunk and stayed in her room. She didn't share the same room with daddy. Martha, our house help took care of us and so many things beyond the limits for a house help. But then she had her limits; she couldn't save Dozie from daddy.

So this particular day when Dozie and I came back with his SS1 result and after daddy had looked at it and called him into his room, I had decided to eavesdrop. I tiptoed to daddy's door and placed my ear gently on it. It was my first time. I had expected to hear the solemn conversation between a father and a son. The thickness of the door made what I heard a bit faint. What I heard was a screaming voice and another rebuking voice.

"Daddy, please! Daddy please!"

"Idiot! Worthless fool! People with this kind of results never amount to anything! I won't spend my dime on a hopeless son!"

"Daddy, please! Daddy please!"

"Shut up! Shut up! Fooool! Shu..."

I also heard the painful and terrible lashes of a whip, the stamping of a foot and the crushing of a body, the dashing of a head against the wall. I heard the thunderous shifting and falling of pieces of furniture and other things.

"Daddy, please! I won't fail again!"

"You don't have to promise me. If you fail again, I will kill you!"

I heard the groans of one in agony and the groans of another one so enraged and beastly. Terror filled me. I left the door and went to sit on the cushion waiting for Dozie, hoping he would come out alive. I had feared daddy all my life, but before this time, I had not feared him the way one should fear a deadly beast.

Some minutes later Dozie came out of daddy's room. He came to the parlor where I was. I stood up and stared at him. He was having his result sheet in his hand. Fresh red wounds ran across the top of his chest and at both sides of his lips. I knew more would be under his shirt. He was looking his usual self, he was smiling at me, but then I wanted to cry. I broke the silence.

"Brother Dozie. Were you the one screaming?"

"Screaming, how?"

"In daddy's room"

"Ooh" He put his arm across my shoulder and we were walking to our room, "It was daddy's radio. There's a funny radio drama going on, where a father is dealing with the son for coming back home with odo oju eja" he said, wanting to be funny. I had always laughed at his jokes.
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"You are lying to me brother...why?"

"How?"

"See, there's a new wound on your neck" I pointed out. Now in our room. He was soon going to leave me all alone in this room because he was fast becoming an adult. Mummy said he would soon be needing his privacy. He sat down on the bed, there was silence, he broke it.

"Don't tell mummy," he said gently without looking at me but at the books he was arranging.

"Why?" I wanted to know.

"If mummy knows, she will fight him and he will kill her," he said simply. More terror got hold of me. He knew I wanted to cry, he drew me to him and I cried on his scarred chest. That night I dreamt. I saw daddy, I saw Dozie. There was a vast river between them. None could cross to the other person. Later on, I saw Dozie floating on the river. He was floating away.

I told mummy about my dream. She said it meant that Dozie was going to travel abroad. That he was going to be a great person. I felt lonely. Was Dozie going to leave me all alone in this house and travel abroad?

Another day came, which was the end of these days. Mummy had come back home with the news of Sandra's death. Aunty Sandra was a family friend. She liked Dozie so much and even called him her husband. Mummy was describing the fatal accident and Dozie started shedding tears.

"Aunty Sandra was a good woman," he said. It was a friend's death. We sobbed. We held hands.

Daddy was at the door now. He had come back from somewhere. He saw the tears on Dozie's eyes and was angry.

Daddy was at the door now. He had come back from somewhere. He saw the tears on Dozie's eyes and was angry.

"What did I tell you about crying?" He asked from the entrance door. I was very happy that mum was very around that day.

"Dear, you should have asked what was making him cry" mummy replied for Dozie. We had all forgotten to greet him.

"I don't care! He should never cry, not even for me when I die!" There was silence. His words I was sure echoed in everyone's head, but we were used to them. Dozie didn't even look at him, he kept his eyes away.

"See me in my room Chidozie," he said finally and went into his room.

Dozie stood up, he didn't go into daddy's room but went into his own room instead.

He defied daddy!

I became scared. And a few minutes later, I daddy storm out of his room.

"Where is that boy?"

"Take it easy, dear. He's gone into his room. I think he's tired. Chinonye tell him daddy is calling him" I made to stand up.

"Don't bother!" He scolded me and I ran back to my mum.

He marched on to Dozie's room "That brat has not seen me yet," he said.

Mummy angrily stared towards his direction "my son is not a brat. Did you hear me!? My son is not a brat or whatever you said now. And you must take it easy with that boy, Benjamin, did you hear me!? I don't understand the kind of father you are!" Mum was shouting so he could hear.

A few seconds later, daddy stomped out into the parlor again. He was breathing fast. Mummy was jolted, she stood up immediately facing him. "What, you want to beat me? Come, come and beat me in front of our little daughter. All I will do is just dial my brother's number and you will be in jail" mum threatened him, she was warming up for a fight. When she said her brother, I knew she was talking about uncle Livinus who was an IG in the police force.

But dad had not come for her. He went to where the T.V was, raised it and smashed it on the floor. He broke the mirror on the shelf with his bare fist. He destroyed whatever was within his reach, from the frames on the wall to the glass cups on the dining table. As he destroyed, he groaned like a wounded lion.

"I was only trying to make him a man!" he groaned. His voice was horrible, scary. He was in agony. Mummy took me to a safe corner and held me tightly and we both watched him in shock.

When he was through with making a mess of the living room, he knelt down at the dining table, on the pieces of glass and metal, as though he wanted to pray. For the first time in my whole life, I saw daddy cry. The sweat on his face covered his eyebrows and mixed with his tears.

Something was wrong! Perhaps Dozie had run away, he'd left me and run away through the window, to abroad like mum said. I don't know if the same instinct moved mum and me, because we both immediately started running to Dozie's room.

Dozie's room didn't look deserted. His clothes and everything were still intact. But there was a pair of dangling legs above our head; they were Dozie's!. .His lifeless body was dangling above us, tied to the ceiling fan. He had committed suicide.

"Chimoooooo!" Mummy screamed and slumped.

I had heard of death. I had heard that the dead can't come back to live with the ones they love. They're gone forever. He was the only brother I had. It was difficult for me to accept that Dozie was gone forever, his kindness, his brotherliness, his playfulness... I mean, I mean the beautiful fragrance that was in his warmth.

Beneath that fragrance had been the suppressed smell of suffering, of dying. Though there were scars to show, Dozie had told me that they were scars for manhood; scars that said he was becoming a man. But these scars were evidence, of abuse, of oppression, of torture, of madness...now I understand that, before Dozie killed himself, he was already dead.

What could I have done? I was only a child.

Today, mum and dad are divorced. Martha has a son for daddy.