SLOWLY, ADO OPENED HIS EYES. They were somewhat glazed with dreariness as he stared at the ceiling, wondering where he was. The golden rays of the morning sun filtered through the window beside him, illuminating the room. Even though he wasn’t looking around yet, he felt the coziness of the room. With one hand, he felt the I. V. fastened to the other hand with a Band-Aid. Was he in a hospital? He wondered. If he was really in a hospital, he would have heard the familiar sound of lowered lugubrious voices that usually rustled for hours on end. He would have as well perceived the nauseating smell of drugs and antiseptic that seemingly lingered forever. Did it then mean, he reasoned, that this is a private room of a hospital?
He turned his head to the left and was shocked to see his three wives—Nabila, Huseina, and Jumai—standing by him, a mischievous trio. Women, he sighed, being tempted to turn to the right to face the wall, working hard to figure out what was going on, denying the sheer futility in it.
Relieved that their husband had finally opened his eyes, the three women exchanged glances, a pleasant surprise dancing around the corners of their weary eyes. To their dismay, however, the grey on Ado’s large chest had multiplied—so had those in his thick mane and matted beard. Perhaps, they thought, this startlingly sudden amount of grey meant that Ado had truly gone to meet with the dead. Well, whatever that meant, or whatever could have happened to him, they were delighted that their dear husband had come back to the land of the living, hale and hearty. But their delight was a mirthless one, and only the three of them knew why.
They had been staring at him ruefully, speechlessly, frantically fingering their carbi, their gaudy shawls still draped around their heads, cascading to their shoulders and torsos. In fact, ever since that unholy hour of their husband’s admission last night, they had not moved even an inch; they had been praying to Allah to spare the life of their husband.
They had rushed him to the hospital. Last night. And the doctor-in-charge, Dr. Kande, with a quiet hopelessness concealed behind the façade of his usually starchy grin, had said he’d soon come up with the diagnosis.
Meanwhile, however, a comatose Ado had lost considerable sugar and fluid, and, to the consternation of his wives, one of the night-shift nurses had fixed the fifth pouch of dextrose-saline, with drugs injected into it.
Ado recollected that the very place he had slumped was in his palatial residence, at his dining room table. Just last night. And after that, he remembered nothing more. His third and youngest wife, Jumai, after serving him dinner, had disappeared to God-knows-where. She had cooked miyan kuka, Ado’s favorite baobab-leaf soup, with a lot of beef and dry fish. With great relish, he had eaten it with tuwo shinkafa, a thick, dense rice pudding. But no sooner had Ado finished this sumptuous dinner than he began to have terrible stomach cramp. Everything had suddenly turned dim. In excruciating pain, he had writhed and gasped and groped, and, completely overwhelmed by a whirlwind of giddiness, had slumped to his knees. And then, lying face down on the floor, he had foamed at his mouth, completely unconscious.
Nabila, wise and ebullient, outspoken and always in control, was his first wife.
Huseina, as upbeat as Nabila, was his second, a chatterbox who never allowed prattling to tire her. Once she started, like a tap turned on, you must do something to stop her.
And then Jumai. She was young and inexperienced, ever calm and withdrawn.
Dr. Kande had told them that the drugs in the intravenous fluid had caused their husband’s deep sleep. And, with much ambivalence, they had agreed. This old doctor, they had whispered amongst themselves, was nothing but a sham. They believed he had put no drugs in the I. V., because Ado’s case had been, and still was, too hopeless for him. Dr. Kande knew there was nothing, absolutely nothing, he could do about this case. He had furtively dismissed Ado’s condition as moribund, waiting impatiently for him to die, waiting impatiently for his wives to get the bill paid. In full, for that matter. Every hospital was known for this vicious cycle, after all. And, in fairness to Dr. Kande, there was nothing illegal about it.
The three women also believed that their husband’s problem was not medical, anyway. They believed it was something far more than being comatose, something supernatural. The guilt they felt, for unanimously being the brains behind their husband’s condition, was so intense that they couldn’t succeed in tucking it away in the recesses of their hearts. It kept rearing its ugly head. They had called upon Allah for forgiveness. They had prayed harder—with their carbi. And, much more fervently than ever, they had beseeched Allah to bring Ado back.
Yes, they did not want him to leave them so soon and stay in the other world forever with the spirits of their ancestors. As they gawked at the crisscross wrinkles on his bare skin, and at his pot-belly which seemed to have gone down in size like a half-deflated balloon, they cursed Dr. Kande for his seeming insincerity and sheer avarice.
Slowly, Ado lifted his head from his pillow and peered through the mistiness of his eyes to make sure the three familiar figures staring at him were real. With simulated smiles, the three women inched closer, bunching together, as though posing for a photograph, knowing their husband wanted to decipher that they were actually Nabila, Huseina and Jumai—in that chronological order. Yes, they were his wives. He was sure now. Once these three women joined forces together with unity of purpose, he mused, they could move mountains—like a bunch of witches.
“Where am I?” He broke the silence, his brow furrowing as he waited impatiently for an answer.
Nabila, Huseina, and Jumai, deciding not to say a word yet, marveled at the fact that those ancestral spirits had not impeded their husband’s speech. For, surprisingly, he had asked that question without his voice quivering, in his usual authoritative manner.
“Where am I?” He reiterated, a mild wave of exasperation evidently washing through him. Immediately, in the ensuing silence, his eyes flickered to Nabila. Of course, he expected her to answer. Being the first and the eldest, she was the spokeswoman of his harem. “Where am I, Nabila?”
Overwhelmed by a gust of guilt and contrition, Nabila burst into tears instead. And, as the guilt got too searing for them, Huseina and Jumai followed suit. Oh, thank goodness! At least, he has opened his eyes. Finally. And isn’t it awesome that he can talk again, that he can get mad at us again, with that deep-seated anger of his? May Allah be praised!
“Enough of those tears!” He still had his head indignantly raised from the pillow. “I say, enough, the three of you!”
Immediately, they stopped crying. Not completely, though. They had only reduced it to sniffling, like snotty-nosed children awaiting their father’s punishment to be meted out to them.
“Nabila?” He shouted, glaring at her, his head still raised from the pillow.
“Ya mijina,” Nabila answered, avoiding his glare. She had said our dear husband.
“I can condone those tears from Huseina and Jumai, but definitely not from you . . . Now, I command you to talk to me, Nabila!”
Nabila burst into tears afresh.
Reluctantly, Ado shifted his glare to his second wife. “Huseina?”
“Ya mijina,” Huseina answered, also avoiding his glare, the pimples on her swarthy face peering at Ado.
“Where am I?”
Huseina also burst into tears afresh.
Reluctantly still, Ado turned to look at his third wife for a while. Noticing that her prayer beads had fallen on the floor, he smiled a knowing smile. “Then you should be the one who knows where I am.”
“Ya mijina,” Jumai answered nervously. Also avoiding Ado’s glare, she began to whimper like a schoolgirl.
Ado put his head back on his pillow. “Pick up your carbi, Jumai,” he said gently. He had an uncanny way of handling Jumai like an egg, perhaps because she was the youngest.
Still whimpering, Jumai stooped and picked up her prayer beads. They were white in color, like pearls. Ado had bought her that beautiful carbi on the last Hajj.
He regarded the faces of the three women as they cried like three mice, shedding what appeared to him like crocodile tears. Women, he sighed again, placing his head back on the pillow. Bitches! I no longer trust any one of you. “The three of you,” he continued with his characteristic matter-of-factness, staring at the ceiling, “should tell me what is going on here . . . Well, I already know where I am. And I may know why I am here. But I need the three of you to tell me.”
Silence descended on them forthwith.
Then Nabila felt a nudge from Huseina. Of course, Nabila must take the lead, as always.
Wondering why they were hesitating to answer, Ado turned to look at them. As he waited for them to say something, he shifted his gaze from one to the other.
“Ya mijinmu. Our dear husband,” Nabila finally said, ready to get on her smarts, “we just managed to rush you to the hospital. We also wonder what happened to you. In fact, we thought you were dead.”
Ado winced, bunching his eyebrows. “Dead? Allah forbid!”
“We have been saying our carbi since last night, right here,” Huseina said whimsically. “We bless the name of Allah for hearing our prayers.”
“We don’t want you to die yet, because we know that you certainly do not have a will,” Nabila said.
Ado laughed derisively, in spite of himself. “What do you know about wills, matata?” He asked. “As illiterate as you are, you want me to tell you whether I have a will or not? When are you going to stop being so manipulative, Nabila?”
Nabila felt heavily insulted. “Look, mijina,” she said, “I may be illiterate. But I know about wills. My father, as old and illiterate as he was, left a will for his sons.”
“And you were not included, because you are a woman?” Ado asked, giving her a sarcastic smile.
“Yes, because I am a woman. Women, my late father made us to believe, are not allowed to inherit even the least of the estate of the family they come from. Besides, I am married to you. So what business do I have with being included in my late father’s will when I am married already? My father was a man with many sons, after all. So he had male names, too many to mention, to stuff into his will. They had to ration his cattle and other livestock.”
“If you know how wills work, you should not have brought it up in the first place. And if you know about wills, then you should know that whether I have a will or not is none of your business! Okay . . . I see . . . Perhaps the three of you somehow got to know that I do have a will. And that is why you want to kill me before my time?”
The three women exchanged disheartened glances.
“It is our business, ya mijinmu,” Huseina retorted. “It is our business, because you must not leave your wealth to outsiders, those opportunists who are desperately waiting to reap where they didn’t sow. Perhaps you have forgotten you have many sons already. You must not leave your sons empty-handed.”
“So my faithful wives desperately want to kill me, simply because they cannot wait for my wealth to go to their many sons?” Of course, Ado knew that once his wealth got to his sons, it would get easily accessible to his wives. But that did not mean that he would not leave behind a little of this and a little of that for them. He shifted his gaze to Jumai. “And you, too? You are colluding with both of them, the two hags who make my life miserable?”
Hags? He calls us hags? Nabila and Huseina were shocked to hear that word come out of their husband’s big mouth.
And, out of the blue, Jumai began to blab . . .
Nabila and Huseina stared at her in total mortification. Don’t, Jumai! They wanted to say, deeply regretting involving her in their escapades. But, to their bewilderment, Jumai did not implicate them.
The truth was that the three of them had teamed up to give their husband boka’s medicine, so that he would stop the madness of dwelling on the prospects of a fourth wife. Intermittently, they had been putting the powdery medicine in his meals, just a pinch per meal as directed by the boka, the witchdoctor, whom they had consulted in the heart of sweltering and boisterous Kano. They did not want another woman to join them in the harem, let alone one who had received Western education in Lagos.
They knew everything, every single detail, about Binta Danliti, the daughter of Yakubu Daniliti, Ado’s political and business crony. Besides Binta’s secular education, they had gossiped, Lagos life had given her a very bad milieu. Who knew, she might by now have reached the pinnacle of promiscuity. They simply did not want to live in the harem with a woman of easy virtues, a whore, whom their husband wanted to shamelessly bring home to parade as his fourth wife.
On the other hand, they had reasoned, it would not be fair on them for Ado to bring another wife when he could not take proper care of the ones he already had. In spite of all his wealth, they had argued, Ado hardly bought gold or silver ornaments for them whenever he went on the Hajj. Instead, he bought them such things as carbi and hijab and burkha. They all looked rather gaudy. (And he so much preferred burkha to hijab, since the former not only covered the whole body, but also covered the face. No other man, Ado had told them smugly, was permitted to see even their faces. And here they were with only head gears and shawls, to his dismay.)
They had, however, been assured by the boka that the medicine, if used as directed, would make their husband to jettison, completely, his plan for Binta—or with some other woman. It was as simple as that, the boka had assured them.
Nabila and Huseina kept staring at Jumai in feigned astonishment as she continued to make her confession, without mincing words: “. . . I thought the dose recommended by that old boka was not working, so last night, just last night, I decided to put more than prescribed.”
Ado winced again. “You have been putting boka’s medicine in my food? After I warned the three of you never to have anything to do with witchdoctors?”
Jumai did not answer. Instead, she went down on her knees and began to howl, laden with deep-seated guilt, asking Ado to forgive her. She knew that, being the youngest wife, Ado had always loved her. Specially. She also knew that Nabila and Huseina did not bother. Yet she wanted more and more of Ado’s love, to commandeer every bit of it to herself. She had therefore seen Binta Danliti as a competitor, a new bride who would come to take away Ado’s attention from her, to kill her joy, to render her and Nabila and Huseina sexually useless. She had feared that Ado would automatically switch that love to Binta as soon as she was brought home. What was worse, Binta was not only a lot younger, she was educated, of fairer skin, and far more beautiful. For this reason Jumai had selfishly agreed to join forces with Nabila and Huseina to visit a boka, instead of exposing their scheming.
“But why, Jumai?” Ado asked incredulously as Nabila and Huseina looked on, wishing the ground to open and swallow them up before Jumai exposed them as her cohorts in the scheme. “Why don’t you want me to marry a fourth wife? After all the love I have shown you? Can’t you see that virtually all my friends have four wives already? Chindo Lamido, my party friend who just won a seat in the House of Assembly, is about to go for his fourth. And he is far my junior.”
Jumai could not hold herself, and the profuse tears seemed to be scalding her cheeks. The guilt was too much for her to carry. It was as though Nabila and Huseina had heaped it all on her, so that she would carry it all alone.
They had expected their husband to fly into a howling rage.
But Huseina did not want to totally believe that Jumai had put more than the recommended dose. The useless boka, she now concluded, must be a sham. He must have given them a poison, instead of a love-portion. If that was the case, she decided, she would storm into the boka’s house like a mad woman, scatter his shrine, and get the police to arrest him. This boka wanted them to kill their husband? He wanted them to be arraigned on a charge of murder, so that the law would be the only arbiter of their innocence and freedom? As far as Huseina was concerned, this boka had turned out to be a sham, a counterfeit, a quack. They were indeed lucky that their husband had survived the poisoning. Maybe Dr. Kande knew what he was doing, after all.
Jumai was surprised that Ado was nevertheless taking it easy with her. Who knew how he’d have reacted if Nabila or Huseina had made the confession. She wanted to tell Ado that they were the ones who had put ideas in her head, who had planted in her the seed of jealousy. But she had decided against it. Nabila had always treated her like a mother would her child. Huseina, on the other hand, had never ceased to treat her like a sister.
Ado watched as both Nabila and Huseina helped Jumai to her feet. Then, to his consternation, they hugged Jumai. “It’s okay, Jumai,” they whispered to her. “Stop crying.”
Nabila turned to look at Ado squarely. “I am also a culprit, ya mijinmu,” she said matter-of-factly, after a moment’s silence, ready to face the consequence. “Do to me whatever you want to do to Jumai.”
“Yes, ya mijinmu,” Huseina seconded. “Also do to me whatever you want to do to Jumai. I am the chief culprit, because I hatched the plan and dangled it in front of her like a carrot being dangled before a rabbit.”
Jumai was as bewildered as Ado. She wiped her tears with the edge of her wrapper and, her jaw dropping, made not another sound.
Ado shook his head in incredulity. “Since the three of you brought me here as you claim,” he said, “then the three of you must get me out of here first of all before I can decide what to do to Jumai. Meanwhile, Nabila and Huseina, both of you should not bluff again, or you will regret—”
The door behind them opened, and a morning-shift nurse stepped in, clutching a syringe. She had come to examine the I.V., and also to inject some drug, careful not to step on the toes of the patient’s wives. She had heard from the night-shift nurses that Ado’s wives had obstinately told Dr. Kande they would not leave until Allah’s intervention came through. “Good morning, everyone.”
“Good morning, Nurse,” Ado said in return, knowing his wives had kept mute, because they loathed nurses. They had once told him that nurses brazenly flirted with the male patients.
“You mean, you’re awake, Alhaji Ado?” The nurse asked, astounded.
“Yes,” Huseina interjected. “He’s not only awake. He’s fine now and wants to go home.”
The nurse and everybody else saw Huseina’s answer as more of a retort but wisely decided to let it pass.
“I will let Dr. Kande know about that then,” the nurse said and, after examining the I. V., trotted out of the room. As soon as she shut the door behind her, silence descended on man and wives.
“Jumai?” Ado broke the silence.
“Ya mijinmu,” Jumai answered and sniffled, the redness around her eyes evident.
“Tell me why you wanted to kill me.”
Immediately, Jumai’s hands flew to her head. “Ah! Mijina! Kill you? Allah forbid!”
“Yes, you wanted to kill me, so that you’d throw away all the hijab and burkha I bought for you, since you are still young enough to attract younger suitors with fresher blood.”
The silence was now edgy.
“No wonder the three of you are having just head gears and shawls. Who bought them for you, anyway?”
Nabila, now with arms akimbo, blurted with a frown, ignoring all Ado’s balderdash about hijab and burkha and so on: “What would Jumai gain if she killed you? What, mijinmu, especially when she does not know where all your treasures are hidden? Let me tell you, it is not only Jumai who does not want you to get a fourth wife. It is the three of us.”
As Ado stared at her, head raised from his pillow, jaw dropping.
“Yes, ya mijinmu,” Huseina seconded, “it’s all of us. We’re not bluffing. You just can’t bite more than you can chew.”
Ado sat up, staring at Huseina, obviously flummoxed. “Huseina?!”
Without blinking, Huseina stared back at him in defiance. “We won’t allow you to bite more than you can chew, ya mijinmu, so that you won’t choke to death,” she said. “Are the three of us not enough trouble for you as you always complain? Or is it that we are no longer young and beautiful?”
“Of course, he can bite as much as he wants, and he won’t choke.” Nabila said. “After all, he has his entire dentition intact.”
“And the enamel of some of his teeth are made with pure gold,” Huseina added.
Ado gave a derisive guffaw. “Meaning?”
“We won’t waste our breath giving you the meaning, because you know it,” Nabila said.
“Oh, oh . . . I see . . . the three of you ganged up to stop me from marrying Binta? You are not going to succeed. You hear me? You definitely will not succeed. Now I know you call me your dear husband all the time with your lips and not with your hearts. I am not dear to you three! Now, get out of my sight! Get out!”
They were defiantly rooted to the ground, refusing to be intimidated.
“We are your wives!” Nabila retorted, glaring back at Ado. “We are not going anywhere!”
“It is either Dr. Kande, or his security, who can ask us to leave,” Huseina said.
“Then I will call one, or both of them, to whisk you away! I need peace!”
Jumai had her gaze fixed on the floor, but was furtively enjoying all the fiery arrows Nabila and Huseina were shooting at Ado.
Ado looked at Jumai. “Are you also defying me?”
Jumai’s eyes met his. “No, ya mijinmu,” she answered.
“Now leave—since Nabila and Huseina refuse to obey me, those stubborn two.”
“But we brought you here together in your Prado. I cannot go without them. Besides, only Huseina can drive. I can’t.”
“Good answer, Jumai,” Huseina said, clapping. “Very good answer!”
Nabila cleared her throat. “Ya mijinmu,” she said, “tell us why three wives are difficult for you to take care of, in spite of all the money you have acquired in this world. Also, tell us why you want to get one more wife. Of course, we know that you’d get many more, if you were allowed. But it baffles us that once you get over the euphoria of having a young bride, you dump her like an old rag and begin to look for another fresh cloth to eventually turn to another rag.”
“Let’s not talk about your not being romantic,” Huseina quipped. “You don’t bother yourself especially about the sexual needs of your wives. Is that supposed to mean that you sleep with Binta? Or that you sleep with some of those prostitutes like her who hang around in every nook and cranny of Lagos, that cursed city that you frequent in the name of business engagements?”
“We are not even financially secure, ya mijinmu,” Nabila said. “Yet we are the wives of a rich man who is respected all over Kano and beyond. Is it more ridiculous that we are the wives of a man that is running for governor. It is your own life that you are making miserable, not ours.”
“And your children,” Huseina added. “You are too busy to give them the fatherly attention they crave. You don’t know their birthdays, neither do you know whether or not they are actually receiving the education you recommended for them. You don’t even seem to care whether they are dead or alive . . .”
Nabila waved at Huseina to stop, so that she would hit Ado where it would pain him most. “Let me tell you, ya mijinmu,” she said, “two of your children—Haruna and Nana, precisely—have run away from home, because you are never there for them. They find solace in those scallywags who hang around your manor. And now they are pregnant. That is why they ran away.”
“Pregnant?” Ado asked, alarmed. “None of my daughters will get pregnant without being married away the proper way. I studied in a madrasah! And all my sons, I promise, must be sent to a madrasah in either Saudi Arabia or Egypt.”
Empty promises, Nabila and Huseina wanted to say. Instead, they burst into derisive laughter, while Jumai maintained her composure, stifling her amusement.
Ado adjusted himself in his bed, looking at his third wife imploringly. “Jumai, tell me Haruna and Nana are not pregnant.”
Jumai raised her gaze to look at their husband. “It is true, ya mijinmu.”
“But, ya mijinmu,” Jumai said, “is it true that you want to send Binta to the university after bringing her to our home?”
Ado was surprised. “Where did you get that from? And why do you ask?”
Jumai sighed, not daring enough to look Ado in the eye. “Our children will never stop rumouring that Binta wants to study at the University of Lagos to become a lawyer. They say you have agreed to foot the bill. If you could compromise to that extent, why would you not want to give your own children, or some of them, the same opportunity? They desire to go to a good university in the country to study to become doctors and lawyers and engineers—and accountants.”
Nabila hissed. “You have these secular professionals rendering services to you, ya mijinmu—to your family, and to your companies. You sent Binta to secondary school, still willing to send her to where she will study Law, yet you say you are against Western education. Dr. Kande and his nurses are products of Western education. And so many of those Americans and Europeans you do business with. You want your daughters to marry at thirteen without education. You want your sons to study nothing else but Arabic. Are you not contradicting yourself?”
“He is not just contradicting himself,” Huseina said as Ado listened in total shock. “He is confusing himself, and also deceiving himself—big time! See, ya mijinmu, we cannot stop Haruna and Nana. They and Binta are of the same age. You did not stop Binta from furthering her education. Instead, you gave her all your support. And you still do. Who knows? Perhaps she’s carrying your child. This might have informed your decision to marry her.”
A derisive giggle escaped Nabila. “As a result, Haruna and Nana feel totally betrayed. The rest of your daughters, including those not yet born, will tread their path. You have not seen anything yet. Why should you force our sons into a madrasah, into what they do not want? Why don’t you send that slut called Binta to a madrasah, instead of that university in Lagos? You are even ready to spend more and more on her. And you sent Haruna and Nana, and the rest of your daughters to that ramshackle Islamic boarding school to do only primary school.”
“Who on earth told you that I am sending Binta to the University of Lagos?” Ado asked, his nonplussed eyeballs darting from Nabila to Huseina, from Huseina back to Nabila, and back again.
“We glean information,” Nabila retorted.
Ado raised one of his dark eyebrows in surprise. “From who?”
“That is not necessary,” Nabila answered. “We know it was meant to be a secret. But you forgot that nothing is hidden under the sun. You must have hidden it from the imam—and from your friends who serve Allah more faithfully.”
Huseina began to shake her head in objection to what Nabila had just said. “Even if they knew, what would they do? I am very sure that the imam himself has his daughters totally absorbed in the secular education system.”
“Don’t worry, ya mijinmu ,” Nabila said. “No one knows, or remembers, that a peacock also has a smelly anus, because it is concealed by its colourful feathers. It is only when the wind blows that one can see it. I believe the wind will soon blow against those peacock feathers of yours. Then you will understand what I am talking about . . .”
“Shut up, Nabila!” Ado said, his eyes shut tight in indignation. “If Yakubu could afford to send his daughter Binta to secondary school, and now to the university, why would I do it? You forgot that Yakubu embraces Western education . . .”
“But not for women, ya mijinmu,” Huseina answered instead.
“I am not talking to you, Huseina!” Ado barked. “I am talking to my first wife! And don’t you dare to interrupt me again!” He turned back to look at Nabila. “I did not send Binta to any secondary school,” he lied. “Isn’t her father Yakubu too wealthy to look for someone to train his daughter in a mere secondary school, then a university? Then what about Binta’s younger sister Turai? You also gleaned that I sent her to secondary school as well?”
Nabila sighed. She knew that her husband was lying, but wanted to dismiss the matter. She had no proof, anyway. “Please,” she said, “let’s forget about that for now. We need to trash out the issue we raised about Haruna and Nana.”
“But this is not the right place to discuss that, matata.”
Nabila felt good whenever Ado called her matata, meaning my wife. Ado ascribed it to her alone, as though the other two were not his wives. And, interestingly, Huseina and Jumai had accepted it, having overcome the power of the green-eyed monster. There was nothing they could do about it, anyway.
“Do you hear me, matata?”
“I hear you, ya mijinmu,” Nabila answered. “Of course, I know that this is not the right place. But this particular issue is so expedient that we cannot wait till we get home. Besides, once we get back home, you are off again to attend to this or that, against the doctor’s advice. And none of us will get to see you for days on end—or even weeks.”
“I won’t discuss those rebellious children with any of you! That is my decision. And it is final!”
Immediately, the three women exchanged glances of near-despondency. And Huseina and Jumai quickly signalled Nabila not to keep quiet.
“You will discuss them, ya mijinmu!” Nabila retorted. “You have to! So I suggest you give them a chance! They are exceptionally brilliant, and they will surely go places, if we offer them support. They are very much eager to learn the secular way of life. I won’t be surprised to find out that the imam’s daughters are all in Usman Dan Fodio University studying to become engineers and accountants and doctors.”
“Do not insult the imam. Do you hear me?” Ado said. “Don’t you know that the whole of Kano would hear it, if it was really true?”
“You remind me of the proverbial king who, after getting drunk, throws the caution of his shrewd council to the wind and begins to dance naked in the market square, perhaps because he forgets that royal blood runs in his veins. Consequently, he loses his scepter, his crown, his throne, his robe—all the symbols of power and authority—and abdicates shamefully—”
“I want to go home! I have had enough of this nonsense!” As Ado reached out for the intercom to call the security, the door flung open.
Dr. Kande, accompanied by a male nurse and the nurse who had come in early on, walked in, a pair of gold-rimmed bifocals hanging on the bridge of his large nose. They had with them Ado’s case notes.
With his stethoscope, the doctor examined his patient while the two nurses and Ado’s wives looked on.
A moment later, after scribbling on a sheet of the case notes, the doctor peered through his glasses at Nabila, then at Huseina, and then at Jumai. “Your husband is going home today,” he said with a smile. “He is fine now.”
“Thank you, doctor,” they chorused, returning his smile.
“It is indeed a miracle that he is alive,” Dr. Kande said. “I must confess, I could really not pinpoint what the problem was, but did the best I could to resuscitate him.” Truly, at a point, he had thought he was doing the wrong thing, not knowing he was getting it right.
Grinning, Ado thanked the doctor.
But his wives, out of mischief, preferred to lavish the thanks on him. They were convinced that the doctor had lied. As far as they were concerned, he had done practically nothing to salvage the situation. For they strongly believed in the power of their prayer with those beads. They had paid the price, they had concluded, and now Dr. Kande wanted to take the glory.
Sooner than they had anticipated, Ado was discharged. And his three wives could not stop thanking Dr. Kande. With simulated smiles on their faces, they made flattering remarks and several innuendos about his medical expertise.
The doctor turned to look at the male nurse. “Umar, you’ll come back to remove all these as soon as the remaining I. V. is completely consumed.”
“Yes, doctor,” Umar answered.
The three women began to embrace one another. Like birds twittering on the branches of an Iroko tree, they prattled joyously as the small medical team departed.
But Ado knew that their joy was a sham, because they would do just otherwise as soon as they got back to the harem. They were full of trouble, he thought, staring at them—and Jumai, my sweet Jumai, has joined them. He dreaded going back home with them.
In any case, he decided, a vacation to Saudi Arabia would be a good antidote. His skin would get smoother and suppler by the time he came back. And it would get thicker, so that it could absorb enough of his wives’ trouble before he found himself again in one of Dr. Kande’s beds. But with his distrust towards Jumai, he thought with a grim look on his face, he would make the trip with Binta. She was the one to make it worthwhile, and nothing whatsoever would stop him. As they impatiently waited for the I. V. to completely drain into their husband’s veins, Jumai reached out and took the remote-control on the centre table, and pushed a button.
The television, resting on a stainless-steel chest of drawers came alive, attracting everybody’s attention. She quickly went to a Hausa channel. And, to their stupefaction, it was being reported that a certain man, who had been parading as a witchdoctor in one of the shanties of Kano, had been arrested for selling fake talismans and outlandish concoctions that contained cyanide and other poisonous substances.
Totally flabbergasted, the three women peered into the television. Truly, they were able to recognize the man as the very man whom they had visited for a bottle of boka’s medicine.