My uncle was an obstinate widower.
He had five daughters, whom he loved deeply, but not as much as he loved being an Edo man.
He had no sons, and dreamt continually about the Edo son-in-laws he would have when his daughters got married.
Each day, as his daughters grew up, he would unceremoniously announce while tapping on the mahogany dining table with his open palm. “Any daughter of mine who will bring to this house any man who is not Edo to ask for her hand in marriage will be summarily shot.”
My cousins believed him. My uncle was a military man. And he carried around his service pistol, proudly.
He had once shot a policeman in the leg when he was stopped at a checkpoint as he drove his family home from church. The policeman had insisted on impounding the car because the chassis number on the engine could not be clearly read. The policeman did not believe my uncle was a soldier. He refused to collect his ID card.
And he did not realise that when my uncle began to stammer, it meant his murderous rage was about to be let loose. My cousins knew the heavens were about to fall. And it fell – with a bang.
There was a howling of pain, a crumbling to the ground, a ducking for cover, a scattering of onlookers. And then there was a screeching off of the car.
Nothing happened to my uncle. The Army was enough immunity.
So it was that my uncle pranced the world as though it was his living room rug, setting his terms of existence and those of others like the god he believed he was.
Hence when his eldest daughter, the lawyer with fear in her eyes and knees that threatened to buckle, told him that her boyfriend, who she had kept secret, proposed to her, the first question from him was:
“Where is he from?”
She hesitated, and then fearfully whispered, “Kaduna.”
All hell broke loose, thunderstorms and roaring volcanoes. After which he sent her out of his house, her skin bleeding from a terrible beating. There were interventions from his extended family, my father included.
But he held his ground. “I refuse to dilute my bloodline!”
“He is a lawyer, a Christian. Schooled and has lived his entire life in Lagos. Surely that should count for something.”
“Let him go and marry a Hausa girl. As far as I am concerned, it is Edos for Edos. No more, no less.”
“Why hate who you don’t even know?”
“It is the principle of it.”
“You are hating based on principle?”
“You heard me correctly. I am a soldier. My business is eliminating all identifiable threat. My code of conduct has been passed down from generation to generation. We fight armies not people. So you see, it is not about him but about his people. Not the one but the many. We must keep family traditions alive. My forefathers forbade us to marry outside. I am an honourable man. I will not go against their wishes.”
“Even if you don’t know the reason?”
“Stephen, do you know the reason you were created?”
“Have you refused to live because of that?”
“Of course I haven’t.”
“Exactly. Not every law needs a reason to give it the authority to be obeyed. You simply do as you see it done.”
“Monkey see, monkey do.”
“I am not a monkey!”
“Your daughter will marry without your blessings, is that what you want?”
“Let her dare try it!”
My father sighed as he looked at him with his reflective gaze. “I understand how you feel, but this is the future your father didn’t see. Things have changed. Old laws have been broken. I know you love her. Please give her your blessings to marry the man she loves.”
“Over my dead body!”
My uncle was shot dead by armed robbers a couple of weeks later. He had exchanged gunfire with them as they tried to snatch his car.
His daughter married the Hausa man she loved three months after his funeral.
And over his dead body, none of his son-in-laws were Edos.
Written by Jude Idada