The day of Ebuka’s trial dawned on a watered earth. It had rained heavily the previous night. At about three a.m Mama had come into his room and woke him gently.
“Mmmh.” He grumbled.
“Chibuike, wake up.” Mama hissed.
He opened his eye a crack. The rain was drumming loudly on the roof.
“Mama O gini?”
“Did you not hear this rain?”
“So?” Ebuka asked her; his voice groggy with sleep.
Mama brought the rechargeable lantern she was carrying closer to his face.
“What do you think it means? Mama asked him, ignoring his drowsiness. “Is it a bad sign?”
It was the fear in Mama’s eyes that did it. The sleep fled from Chibuike’s eyes. He got up immediately and held Mama’s shoulders. They felt gaunt. The aftermath of days spent worrying.
“Mama its just rain,” he said but he doubted his own words. Still, he had to be strong, for Mama.
“But why will it rain like this on the night before his trial?” Mama persisted. “It has not rained at all since this week. Then suddenly, gbim! rain. it is a bad omen, I tell you. bad omen.”
Buike forced a laugh he didn’t feel. “Mama Na wa for you o. You’re too superstitious.” But he had begun to wonder too. What if it was a bad omen? Barrister Okeke had called him aside, so that Mama would not hear, and told him the case was looking bad.
“Your brother could be hanged.” Barrister Okeke had told him.
Buike had smiled and told Mama: “Its okay, we’ll get him out.” He couldn’t afford to lose her too. Not yet.
“Chibuike I’m worried. And scared too.” Mama said, bringing him back to the present.
He scooped the girl in his arms and stroked her hair. Again. And again. And again. All the while whispering “Nnem, it’s okay. It will be okay.” Until she fell asleep.
The alarm woke Buike at six a.m in the morning. He had slept for one hour only. He looked over at Mama. She was still sleeping.
Let her sleep, he thought. She rarely does that these days.
Around eight o’clock when he dressed and ate and stepped outside the gate the bustle on the streets was just like every other day. Workers heading for their offices and shops. School children headed for schools. Owerri has woken up and people milled about everywhere each person quite unaware of what the other person might be feeling. It was like Chinwendu always said: A Machie Uwa Jioji O di ka o Magbuola Onwe ya.
How right she was. If any of the individuals hurrying to their workplaces were to stop and regard Buike in his expensive suit and shoes and his well-groomed hair, they will quickly conclude that he lacked nothing and wish to be him.
He shook his head. A machie uwa jioji.
It is normal sometimes for a trial to begin later than the scheduled time. A lawyer’s car might get caught up in traffic. Or it could be his lordship the judge who makes the apology for lateness. Today, however, the proceedings began exactly at eleven o’clock. The scheduled time. It was as though everyone agreed to get it over with as soon as possible.
Ebuka was sentenced to death. Before the pronouncement, the learned judge faced the court and gave a long sermon on the need to eradicate the bad eggs in the society.
“This young man.” The bespectacled judge wagged a fat finger at a lean and rough looking Ebuka cuffed to two unsmiling policemen, is a very rotten egg. And to think that he took the life of one of the most respected men in the state.”
The judge banged the gavel with a very loud thump that spoke of a very self-righteous anger burning within him.
Mama erupted into screams that plucked at the strings at the base of his stomach. He held her not daring to look at her face. She fought him as she accused him, “you said it was going to be okay.”
He stole one last look at Ebuka before the policemen led him away. He was staring wide-eyed at Buike. Buike looked away.
He didn’t cry. He couldn’t. His reservoir has long depleted from constant usage. He has heard it before under different titles. His mother had told him and Ebuka : avoid bad company. The pastor in the church they went to as little boys preferred to use the Bible to make his point. He read a passage to them – and all of the other children – evil communication corrupts good manners, he read. Even their grandmother had her own version. If you don’t cut off the finger that dipped into the oil pot, pretty soon the whole hand will be soiled.
Different people, same message – people are inherently and irrevocably bad and should be avoided. Buike didn’t agree. He reasoned in terms of causes and effects. And after Ebuka was sentenced to death. He understood that there is more to crimes than facts.
He decided he will ask the question most people don’t care to ask – WHY?
When his eggs become diseased, he will not just throw them away. He will ask two questions: Why did they go bad?
Is there a solution?
It was the day that Ebuka was sentenced that he formed the club.

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Written by Chimeremeze David Okafor

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