It seemed to her that the rich always got away with everything. She thought to herself that if only she had the kind of money that Ikenna had or if her parents were still alive and rich, they would have been able to pay as much money as Ikenna had probably paid the judge to be able to get the judgment in his favor. She felt a strong resentment towards Ikenna, towards the judge especially who didn’t have pity on her and towards she the Legal system and Nigeria as a whole. She didn’t even wish to meet with this lawyer, but it was the only option she had.
“Sis we are here” Ehi said to an absent minded Janet as she pulled up in front of a two storey building. She shifted her gear to park and grabbed her purse from the back seat of the old car. “Sis!” She tapped her sister’s arm as she noticed her lost in thought.
“Ehn!” Janet jerked, turning her gaze away from the window. Her eyes fell upon her sister’s questionable stare. She hissed apologetically. “Don’t mind me”
“Sis, honestly you can’t keep worrying yourself like this, honestly! Remember that high BP was one of the things that took mum‘s life. I know it’s hard but life first, I’m begging you sis. We will get the boys back as long as God lives, I believe that we will”
Ehi and her optimism, Janet thought, If only she had as much hope as her younger sister did. Ehi didn’t know what it meant to lose a child, she had her girls and a man who adored her, so she couldn’t possibly understand the wreck that Janet’s world had become, but Janet didn’t blame her little sister, she wouldn’t even wish the pain she felt on an enemy.
“It’s okay, let’s go in” Janet said to appease her.
Both women alighted from the car. They stood in front of the car and scanned their eyes over the white painted story building in search of a sign to Mr Jide‘s chambers. Ehi’s husband had earlier informed them that it was on the third floor and they just wanted to make sure before climbing up the fairly new looking building. Ehi sighted the sign post that read “O.A JIDE & ASSOCIATES, SOLICITORS & ADVOCATES..”
“There it is!” She pointed out. Janet turned her eyes to her sister’s direction and confirmed the address. Both women began to walk towards the building, they made their way into the white painted storey building and climbed up the stairs to the third floor. They found Mr. Jide‘s Chambers sitting at the right hand side of the building. They slid open the pocket door and stepped into the air conditioned office. They walked straight to the secretary’s corner. Behind the desk sat a young skinny girl with light skin , her pale looking face was devoid of makeup, her synthetic twelve inches weave was held together at the back of her head with a red ribbon that matched her red peplon top.
“Good morning” Ehi spoke up. Janet had become too emotionally drained to engage in small talks with random people. “We are here to see Mr Jide“
” He’s in court__,“ Janet glanced at her wrist watch, the time was 3pm. They had deliberately taken their time to come in the afternoon so they would not miss him, so she wondered why he was still in court at that time. “__I’m sure the Court had a lot of matters” the secretary said as if reading her mind. “Just sit down over there” she pointed towards the stacked black chairs resting against the wall “He should be back soon”
“Okay thank you” said Ehi.
Both women trudged their way to the offered seats and sat down, enjoying the air conditioning. Channels television was playing on the flat screen hung on the wall in the opposite direction. Janet watched the news while Ehi brought out her cellphone and began scrolling through her Instagram page.
They had not stayed for up to 30 minutes when they heard noises approaching the door, they didn’t have to wonder for long as the door opened and in came a middle aged short looking man. Janet hoped that was not Mr Jide. The man walked in with two young lawyers at his heels.
“Welcome sir” the secretary greeted to the affirmation of Janet’s fears.
“Yes how are you?” The lawyer returned the secretary’s greeting in a soft sounding voice. Janet‘s heart dropped – not only is he short, he sounds like a woman! How is someone like that going to be able to help me?…she wondered to herself.
“Im sure that’s him” Ehi said staring over at the lawyer as he walked into a door and shut it behind him. Janet didn’t look excited, it seemed like with each passing day, something kept trumping whatever hope she had left in her. Ehi could read her older sister‘s expression. “What is it?” she asked.
“Can’t you see how chenkele he is?!” Janet whispered with her arms crossed over in her laps. Ehi laughed and Janet smiled mildly. “You are not serious” Ehi said.“What has his statue got to do with what he knows about the Law? Can’t you see his fine office? ” She gesticulated with her eyes. “I’m sure he knows what he is doing”
“Excuse me ma” It was the skinny secretary. Both women looked in her direction. “You can go in now” she said.
Ehi and Janet stood up and made their way to the the door the lawyer had earlier walked into. They knocked at the closed door and Mr Jide responded from the inside in his tiny voice. “Hmn!” Janet grumbled in her throat and Ehi tried not to laugh, she pushed the door open and they stepped into an even better decorated space.
“Welcome madams” Jide greeted from his Executive Chair. “Please sit” he pointed towards the two empty seats across his large brown desk. Both women sat down.
“So which of you is Mrs Janet?” He asked smiling softly.
Janet waved her hand “I am”
“So you are Mrs Ehi” he was referring to Ehi.
“Yes I am” nodded Ehi.
The lawyer’s smile hadn’t wavered. “Doh. I grew up with your husband, we used to play together in those days and we cause a lot of mischief” he laughed at the memory. “I was very happy when he contacted me again, we hadn’t spoken for years. We lost contact until a mutual friend connected us” The lawyer smiled gladly. “Doh, you’re welcome”
“Thank you” both women chorused.
The lawyer cleared up his throat, changing into a serious demeanour and sat upright. “So Mrs Janet, Ehi’s husband told me the much he could, let me hear from you”
Janet sighed. “My husband divorced me, the court gave him custody of our two sons but allowed me to visit at reasonable hours but for the past three weeks they haven’t been to school and he won’t even pick my calls. I don’t know where they are”
“Hmmnn” the lawyer nodded empathetically. “But you know where he lives?”
“Yes I do.“
“Can you help us sir? Ehi was asking. “Because the man is rich and was able to bribe that judge and that was why all these happened”
The lawyer smiled. “It’s not easy to bribe a judge. In fact it rarely happens, people just say that because they don’t know any better__”
Both women exchanged doubting glances.
The lawyer continued, “You see, in court, judgment is given based on how well you argue your case, which is why you see some criminals go scott free. It’s not because the judge was paid, it’s because the prosecution was not able to convince the court beyond all reasonable doubt that such an accused person committed that crime. It’s all in your argument power– how well you can convince the court, backing it up with authorities, but if you fail to do this better than the other Counsel has done, then you lose. I think what happened in your case was due to the fact that your husband was more capable of providing for the children. I was told you are putting up with your sister for now?”
“Okay, do you have a job?”
She shook her head.
“Did you have a job then, at the time this matter was in Court?“
“So you see? There is no way the Court could have given you custody because what the court considers when it comes to awarding custody is what will be in the best interest of the child and that covers their care, maintenance, facilities like education, proper upbringing etc, basically it is whichever parent would best care, control and main the child that the court would likely award custody to. In fact, even where the child is tender, let’s say below two years, if the courts do not think it will be in the child‘s interest to be with the mother, it would not grant it“
“Woow!” Ehi nodded, feeling amazed
“Yes. So what will happen now is, you’re going to have to get a job” The lawyer said to Janet. “If you really want your children back, you have to get something doing, get a place of your own and then we can ask for custody because then we will be able to prove to the court that you can take care of your kids. But for now, we would apply to the court to hold your husband in contempt because he disobeyed the court orders by refusing you access to the children, and at the same time, we would ask the court to vary the order. But first, I would need your case file from your former lawyer, he has__”
“It’s a woman” Janet chipped in.
“Okay, she has to give it to you so that I can take over from where she stopped but even if she doesn’t it’s no problem” he waved his hand dismissively “we would apply to court for it“
For the first time in a long while, Janet felt a glimmer of hope, for some reason, she believed Mr. Jide. He sounded convincing.“Thank you very much sir” she said.
“Thank me when we are done” he laughed it off lightly.
“We are very grateful sir” a smiling Ehi said anyway.
The lawyer dismissed the gratitude with a wave of hand. “God will help us” he smiled.
“Amen” agreed Janet.
Janet got home that day and pulled out the box that contained her Certificates. She knelt to the floor besides the red box and began to sort out her documents one after the other. She hadn’t worked in thirteen years and now she had to do this.
Ehi knocked and opened the door almost immediately, her girls ran in with her and raced to their bed. Ehi sat on Janet’s bed. “How is it going?” she asked her.
Janet scoffed. “It feels weird, I haven’t worked for as long as I can remember, I don’t even know where to start from” She shook her head at the papers laying in front of her.
One of Ehi’s daughter‘s jumped down from the bed and quickly snatched one of the documents off the floor.
“Hei drop it!!” Ehi snapped at her and reached out to receive the laminated paper.
“Let me seeee” The little girl insisted dodging her mother. Ehi spanked her bum and overpowered her. “Oya, go to the parlor, now!”
“Mummy me too?” The second girl who had been jumping on the bed asked.
“Yes! Both of you, now!” Both girls scrambled to their heels. Ehi hissed apologetically. “Thank God she didn’t tear it” she said handing the document back to Janet. “This children will not kill somebody“
Janet laughed a bit, then sighed. “Where do I start from?” She looked at her sister feeling genuinely confused.
“We’ll figure it out, there‘s Instagram, NairaLand, Twitter, Newspapers, we’ll look out for ads, in fact bring your phone, let me turn on notifications from all these job advertising sites”
“It’s beside you there on the bed”
“Oh okay!” Ehi said as she sighted the phone and picked it up. “You’ll be getting notifications every time they post something new, let me just follow and turn on their post notifications”
“Okay. I don’t know what I would have done without you fa” she said feeling relief.
Ehi smiled without lifting her eyes from the phone. “Everything. You are stronger than you think”
“Still, thank you, I’m grateful”
She smiled, raised her eyes up to look at her older sister‘s grateful expression before returning them back to the phone screen. “You’re welcome”. She said.
Janet waited on those phone notifications every day in the weeks that followed, she thought to herself “If getting financially stable would get me my kids back, then I must do it.” And so she checked the Internet everyday for job advertisements. There was a newspaper vendor who sold daily papers just a stone throw away from the house, she bought from him so much that he began to drop a copy for her before getting to his station every morning.
Janet had studied Sociology during her University days and was looking at working as a Human resource officer, so she looked out for such jobs.
“Hello good afternoon Madam” Mr Jide spoke from the other end of the phone.
“Oh good afternoon Sir!” Janet greeted, dropping the newspaper she had been looking at on the couch she was lying on.
“How are you doing today?”
“I am fine Sir”
“Okay, we thank God. I just want to inform you that the police just arrested your ex husband”
Janet bolted and sat up straight, her heart began to skip for joy “What?”
“Yes, you remember he ignored the Form 48 and Form 49 Order we served__”
“Yes last week, I remember”
“Yes so now I just secured a Bench Warrant and he has been arrested, the Police took him from his office this morning“
Janet was standing at this point, she placed her palm to her chin grinning. “I can’t believe it! How about my kids?”
“Don’t worry, when he leaves jail in two weeks, if he doesn’t make them available to you, he will be arrested again for another two weeks, it rotates like that until he obeys the orders the court had earlier given him”
“Wow!” She exclaimed almost jumping for joy.
“So I will be with my boys again!”
The lawyer laughed, “Yes but only to visit for now, we’ll apply for custody when you can stand on your feet financially. How’s the job haunting going?”
Janet hissed and put a hand to her waist . “It’s not easy sir, I’ve been applying, I get called for interviews and thereafter it’s the same we’ll get back to you but so far none has, it’s beginning to feel frustrating”
“Keep at it, something would happen by God’s grace”
“Yes Sir, amen. Ah!! Ikenna in prison, I almost cannot believe it!”
The lawyer laughed. “I have to go now, take care Madam“
“Okay, thank you Sir, bye Sir” she dropped the phone and jumped her thirty five year old self up and down. “Ehi!!” She yelled her sister’s name as she hurried off to her bedroom to tell her the good news.
“You haven’t worked in thirteen years” The aged dark skinned employer said staring intently at Janet’s Curriculum vitae. “You have no experience” He looked up at her.
“Yes Sir, but I am willing to learn Sir, I can learn on the job Sir”
The aged man removed his glasses and relaxed back into his reclining chair, with the Curriculum vitae dangling freely between his fingers. “Well, I’ll see what we can do. We’ll get back to you” he said.
Janet’s shoulder‘s slumped, she knew what that meant, she had heard it one too many times in the past weeks. “Okay, thank you Sir”. She picked up her purse and escorted herself out of the large office room.
She passed by the other job seekers in the reception and made straight for the entrance, she exited the building, hailed down a cab, got in and headed home.
She met Ehi helping her girls with their assignments in the sitting room.
“Aunty Janet!!!!” The older girl ran and embraced her legs. The younger one took to her heels and imitated her sister.
Janet smiled, “How are you?” she rubbed their heads.
“Fine, aunty, you buy something for me?” The older girl asked expectantly. But Janet had been in a bad state of mind and so had forgotten to get any snacks for her nieces.
“I forgot but I will send Monday to get them right away okay?”
The girls nodded and followed Janet out as she walked to the security post and gave orders to the gateman to buy some snacks for the girls. Both girls held her hands and hopped beside her back into the house.
“You get time for these girls o” Ehi remarked with a grin on her face.
Janet laughed hissing casually. She dropped into the couch. “My dear, how you dey?”
“Fine, got back not too long sef. How did the Interview go?”
Janet hissed. “They said they will get back to me, the usuals”
“I’m tired already. I don’t know how people who have been doing this for years cope. I don’t think I want to search anymore”
“Really?” Ehi squeezed her brows in confusion. “Hey!” She called at her daughters arguing over a pen at the other corner. “No fighting! Stop that right now!” She cautioned then returned her attention to her sister.
“I’m thinking of going into business” said Janet.
“Okay? But, capital nko?”
“I want to sell my jewelries, and all those shoes I don’t wear anymore. You know those jewelries are gold na and even the shoes sef, all these slay queen will rush them. I even have some good wigs too”
“Okay! And we didn’t think of this before o but what business do you want to go into now?”
“I’m thinking of an eatery o. I’ll just find somewhere and start up, but I have plans to be advertising on Instagram since everybody is doing business there now, I will be doing home and office delivery and stuff”
“Hmn, that’s not bad o, especially with how well you can cook, I’m sure it will boom”
“Amen o!” She rose up from the couch. “Tomorrow, I will enter market and try to sell off what I can. I’m tired, let me go in and rest”
“Okay sis, I made swallow, won’t you eat first?”
“Later. Let me rest” she began to walk towards the door that led to the room she shared with the children.
“En hen sis!” Ehi called out, causing her to stop and turn around. “How far with Ikenna na? Is he still in the cell?”
“Yes, he will be released next tomorrow, I plan to be there with my lawyer, I just want to follow him from there so I can see the boys“
“Aaaryah, okay, no wahala, if I’m free, I will come with you”
“Okay dear” she faced her front and strolled into the small room.
Janet arrived at the police station and watched as Ikenna was released. He looked worn out and completely tired. He had a steady frown on his face which escalated when he sighted her, she could tell he was angry at her but all Janet could feel was gratitude to this lawyer who stood beside her. She looked over at the small statued man and learnt never to underestimate anyone ever again.
“Mr Ikenna” The lawyer greeted the worn out looking man as he paused in front of him and Janet. He held out his hand in a handshake but Ikenna eyed his short statue up and down instead.
The lawyer withdrew his hand. “My client,” he said referring to Janet “would like to see the boys today”
“It’s not possible, they are with my mother” a frowning Ikenna said
“With your mother?!” Janet blurred out. She was shocked, it made sense now, the calmness in the woman’s voice when she had called to complain about the missing children”
To be continued …
WRITTEN BY JOY TERUNDU OGBUGOH.