Bala, as a gentleman who respects his wife, and detests societal scorn, doesn’t beat his wife until he has taken her to the outskirts of Kaduna in his jeep, far from snooping noses. And he doesn’t beat her frequently, once a week, and for a hefty offense like when she forgets to switch off the fridge at power outage or delays in opening the gate for his car. He only beats her to correct her, never out of malice, just a dozen lashes of koboko; then he consoles her, kisses her and drives back to the city-centre. He buys her suya as soon as they enter the city. Sometimes he feeds her. Bala is a romantic man. Rabi is a good Christian wife. She never argues with her husband and master, Bala. She submits wholly to him. Theirs is an enviable godly marriage.
One Sunday Rabi failed to wake up in time to wake her husband up for church, six o’clock mass; she woke up quarter past six. Six o’clock mass is conducted in English, and since Bala cannot bring himself to attend the inferior nine o’clock mass in Hausa, he missed church. He decided to beat his wife, tonight. ‘Make sure you remind me.’ She nodded.
That night Rabi interrupted his concentrated viewing of a premiership match to remind him of the beating. How dare she interrupt him when he was engaged in such dignified exertion? ‘Because of this I will beat you double.’ He snatched up the car key and stamped out. Rabi fetched the whip and followed him.
If Bala had attended church today, or tuned his satellite TV to a Nigerian channel, he would have heard of the bomb scare in Kaduna. He would have been made aware of the dusk to dawn curfew the state government had declared in honour of the bomb. But he was busy flicking from one foreign channel to the other, and since he keeps his neighbours in an arrogant distance, none informed him of an incidence that had occurred under his nose.
So Bala drove his darling wife to be beaten. It was just before Kawo Bridge that soldiers stopped their car. Three of them, cold, hungry, foul.
‘Who are you?’
‘Where you dey go?’
‘You no know say coffee dey?’
Bala didn’t know whether to reply in English or pidgin. Which of the questions to answer first, as he hadn’t got three mouths. For one brief rash second, he was tempted to make a correction–It’s curfew not coffee. It was God’s handiwork that he kept his correction in his pot belly, otherwise this story would have been a different genre, and I might not have written it.
Well, to spare you boring details, Mr and Mrs Bala failed to provide convincing excuse for being abroad when they should be inside, observing the curfew/coffee. The soldiers conveyed a quick court and passed a sentence. The couple would be flogged twenty-four lashes of koboko. Since they were all for gender equality, man and wife would share the reward equally, twelve lashes each, on their respective buttocks.
‘Make una come down.’
Remember, Bala is a gentleman. He told the military boys that he was the head of the family, so would take responsibility. He would take the whole lashes of the whip. They asked him to strip. He took off his trousers and boxers and set nude bum to the moonlight. His buttocks were a fresh pair, almost too fresh for a fifty-five year old, the soldier in charge of ‘discipline’ observed.
When the whip tore his soft bottom with hot purpose ‘Jesus’ fell out of Bala’s mouth. But he managed to keep from crying. It would diminish him and hurt his pride. Jesus falling from his lips wasn’t a substitute or cover for crying, nor a call for help; why, Jesus, well… Jesus is Lord.
Whup! The whip reported the second time.
‘Oh Jireh.’ The pain tore through his buttocks, shook his waist, crawled on his spine to his heart which it duly burnt. Sweat, in lieu of tears, filled his forehead like a bowl of beads.
When the third stroke fell, Bala ran away, towards the heavy vehicles parked by the road. The soldiers fished him by the legs from under a truck and dragged him back with difficulty. They pinned him to the asphalt and their comrade flogged away. Bala’s was the cry of a young goat when a knife had cut two inches into its throat. Bala wailed so hard that the soldiers stopped whipping after twelve lashes, fearing he might not live to see the twenty-fourth lash, fearing his wails could wake their superiors sleeping in their base, not too far from here.
It was Rabi who drove the car away. Bala was thoroughly beaten, too subdued, like a drenched rodent to drive. He couldn’t even sit on his buttocks. He sat on his belly, like an overfed frog, whimpering. If he hadn’t buried his face in the seat he would have seen that they weren’t driving back to the city but up, towards Zaria. And if his senses hadn’t been wiped out by koboko, he would have noticed that they should have reached home now even if they lived twice further from the checkpoint. But he wasn’t looking nor sensing until the car began to descend from Kwangila Fly-over, and the noise of traffic and hawking, and powerful beams of light brought him back to the land of the living.
‘Where are we?!!’
‘There’s curfew in Kaduna and people are not about so I decided to bring you to Zaria and… er… and get you suya.’
Another set of stupid characters are ready. Read them here.