By Yusuf Aliyu.
Dispute arose over my paternity.
Please, don’t ask me how I felt after decades on earth.
I asked my mother. She chose the silent treatment with an outpouring of tears. I ached for her, having had my own irresponsible share of sinful escapades. I could not speak a word of condemnation as she racked in quaking sobs.
My father? He took a look at the man making claims and staked no claim.
I was the man’s spitting image.
I didn’t need to be told who my biological father was.
My father refused to be part of a DNA test.
I visited the claimant in his hotel. He apologised for rocking the boat of my family and life. He said that he knew who my real father was.
‘In today’s parlance, I am no better than a sperm donor, but I just needed to restitute as much as I can before I die. Please forgive me. I came to see your parents, because your mother wanted this deadly secret kept, but I know I will die soon and didn’t want to go to my grave with this. She knew I was coming because we have been at this for years.”
“It started when I saw your photograph in the papers when you were campaigning to be lawmaker. Actually, my son showed it to . He had travelled all the way to the US with the newspaper to ask me if he had a twin brother alive.”
“I laughed it off then, but he kept at me for months on end because his friends would not let him be. When I could bear it no longer, I had you investigated and was shocked to find out that Aisha was your mother. For religious reasons, she was taken away from me to marry your father. I didn’t even know our only one night of indiscretion the last time I saw her would lead to this. Even today, forty-eight years after, I regret de-flowering her. She just would not stop pestering me our last week together. Looking back, I think she wanted this.
“Out of respect for you, I waited this long to enable you end your tour as a lawmaker but in the interim, I took an early retirement and asked my son over to the US to take over the operations of our business concern. Now, I have to face him. His mother already knows and has forgiven me.
“Now why I came forward: Last two months, I was on a flight with a gentleman your age, who started on and on about any man who did not have a deposit of the Spirit of God, not being His son and not making paradise. According to him, only a son who has his father’s blood confirmed by DNA would share in his inheritance as his child.
“In the same way,” he added, “only those who had the Spirit of God could come near Him in eternity. As soon as he said that, unknown to him, he started a chain reaction within me. When he concluded by saying I had to be a child of God to have His Spirit, I asked Him how to be His child; then he made a mistake, he used an expression I have come to loathe. He said I must be born again. I looked at him in fury and quietly instructed him to shut his flapping lips. I made to pick my headphone and as I looked for it in that Business Class, he spotted it and pointed to it. He simply just said, “I am sorry, sir, just read John 3 in any easy to read version of the Bible.”
What impudence, I thought, as I turned on the volume.
I woke up later to see him reading a King James Version of the Bible, and laughed inwardly. He was reading a King James and wanted me to look for an easy to read. Once when Iglanced at him, he smiled so warmly, but I ignored the fool.
I became restless after that, and wondered why. I went to lavatory, sat down and brought out my phone; and breaching the rules, I opened to the Bible app, simply read John 3, switched it off and returned to my seat.
“I never spoke a word on the long flight, didn’t take sip of water, and asked not to be disturbed until we landed. The gentleman felt rotten, and as we disembarked asked for forgiveness.
“I simply said, “thank you,” and walked off. That encounter, and doctor’s diagnosis that I have cancer led me to do all that has turned your world upside down.”
I quietly stared at the fully grey-haired man and wondered if he was going to lose the beautiful silvery hair.
Whether it was that or his coming clean with me or whatever, I sat there and the tears flowed. We both wept like babies, a 70 years old man and his 48 years old s and the son he was meeting after over four decades. We sat like that for over an hour saying nothing until I arose and led my biological father to go wash his face. I did mine, too.
He told me he was leaving Nigeria the next day and may never see me or mother again. I nodded, but I knew I was going to see him.
It took me opening the villified christian bible to read John 3 to go looking for him six months later.
That reading changed me, but that was not the shock.
A week before leaving for the UD, told Mama about my encounter with my biological father in his hotel room. She listened ever so quietly and shed tears all over again. It was the painful type this time around. When I told her specifically that I was going to Maryland in the US to see him, her tears stopped and she turned sharply. “Why?” she asked.
We stared at ourselves for at least three minutes as I searched for an answer.
“John 3,” I said simply.
“What is that?
“That is all I can say, Mama.”
“What is the meaning of that,” she insisted.
“It is the Bible. John Chapter three,” I stated quietly.
She stood up and walked out on me. I understood her action. That was Mama’s classical way of showing disapproval.
When I returned a month later, she just listened to me without uttering a word as I told her about her former lover. When I was through, she simply said she was going for sallah.
I quietly slipped out and we never saw again until she was rushed to hospital.
Before she passed on, she asked to speak with me alone. Even Baba was stupefied when she asked to excuse us.
“I am about to go to sleep, but you need to know that I have also read John 3. A glowing smile appeared on her face as she announced she had read it at least 40 times yearly…
She smiled beautifully, again. “I did not admit it when you spoke to me about it because I was afraid for my life.”
She asked for Baba. She would not speak to me about it any more.
I called in Baba. She asked me to leave.
Two years later when I asked Baba what transpired that night, he just said, “I thought you knew.”
“Knew what,” I asked.
He stared at my face searching for a clue.
“Your paternity. I am not your biological father, which I already knew. And the second, how she had been an infidel under my roof while going through the motions.”
He stared into space for an unusually long time, and blurted out from clenched teeth:”She had the temerity to tell me to go and read the Bible.” He hissed and walked away.