The Village Square Journal presents an excerpt from Obinna Udenwe’s second book, “Colours of Hatred”.
Colours of Hatred, published by Parresia Books, is set partly in Sudan and largely in Nigeria, and follows the life of a young woman, Leona whose family escapes assassination in Sudan during the Sudanese civil war, only to face greater challenges in Nigeria, which forces her to commit a sin that haunts her till her dying day.
There are some things a human ear should not hear, like a young bride hearing that her groom was just brutally murdered by his own brother. Such things could make the ear bleed.
I flew to Abuja to visit Dad. He was the serving Minister of Commerce, and we were in his palatial sitting room with high stucco-finished ceilings and gold-coated chandeliers. Dad was dressed in white babaringa, just the way Olusegun Obasanjo, his principal, dressed. The white material of his heavy cloth matched the brilliant white colour of the walls that sparkled to the golden light flickering from the chandeliers in the room. Several imported cushions were scattered about and a massive television stood on the ground, almost reaching half the height of the wall behind it, making the images on it seem human.
I sat facing him, alone in the room. What he just said made the quiet of the room seem eerie, but for the almost mute sound coming from the massive television. He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, while tears issued from my eyes, streaming down my face and neck and dampening my shirt. Dad came and sat beside me on the cushion, but I drew away, repulsed.
“Look, you have to listen to me, Leo,” His rich baritone was imploring and subdued. He was a smooth diplomat used to getting what he wanted, always. It was the problem he had had with my mother, and why it did not work out between them soon after we returned from Sudan.
“What you propose, Dad, is evil.” I raised my head to look at him. “I cannot for the life of me marry the son of the man who killed my mother.”
“Look Leona. Listen, please.” He shifted closer.
I moved away, raising my left palm before him.
“First, you should want to know why.”
“Why? No. I don’t want to hear anything. There should be no reason for this kind of thing, none at all. None sensible enough to—”
“That’s why you are a child, Leo. Look, I have been here for long. I have seen and passed through a lot. I cannot do anything rash. Before talking to you about this, I thought long and hard about it.”
“I have always known you,” I said. You have always been egotistical and over-ambitious, I thought but did not say. I stared him down instead.
“Whatever I have done, I did for you. Look, I don’t have another child that—”
“Yes, Daddy. You do not have another child with my mother. You have four sons from two other women.”
That shut him up.
He stood and sat on another cushion.
“I loved your mother.”
“Oh, you did!” I snickered.
“I did. We went through hell together. Look, If not for her father’s . . . your grandpa’s wealth, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“You never valued that. You never showed gratitude to my mother. You made her suffer. Even after you were released from detention and saw that she had sustained your business, you didn’t treat her right. Women are objects to you, just like I am an object of vengeance to you.”
His mouth hung open. “You are my daughter, Leona, my beloved child. Whatever I have belongs to you.”
“And not to your boys? Your boys that you wanted so desperately? Your quest for male children made you treat my mother like a rag!”
He looked down. Not that I cared about what he had; my mother left enough for me.
“Boys or not. I value you. You have always been my world,” he went on.
I snickered again. He used the word “value”, each time we argued, as if I was some merchandise he wished to acquire, like a new fast car or a new building in Dubai or New York.
He softened his voice some more; now, it sounded like the meowing of a cat.
“Look, you should want to know why I want you married into the family that killed your mother.”
“Why would I do that? Why should I marry Akinola Wale?” I asked.
I wanted to get the discussion done with. I could hear the noise of crockery hitting the sink as they were being washed in the kitchen. It could be Smart, Mum’s housekeeper of many years whom Dad inherited and had move to Abuja as soon as Mum died. I made a mental note to discuss the matter with Smart. She would know something.
Dad came back to the couch. I guess it was his routine, every time he had business deals with some foreign diplomats or his business partners – this act of moving to the sofa to sit with you when he wanted to make a point. The way he tilted his head, blinked several times, and made his face innocent and calm could make anyone think he was God’s son or the best thing after Azikiwe.
“Your grandpa . . . remember back then in Sudan when you were little, and he would come to the house in the evening to drink and talk about the war?”
I said nothing and just stared at him. He shook his head in resignation. I remembered everything that happened around that time but did not want to humour him with an answer.
“Once, when they were looking for him, on one of those days when we talked on the phone, he told me that if anything happened to him, I should make sure you and your mother are safe. Look, he made me promise him that nothing would happen to any of you and that if anyone harmed your mother, or you, I should retaliate.” He allowed that sink. “See, my girl. I admit that things didn’t work out perfectly between me and your mother. Things didn’t go the way we planned or the way we hoped it would, but I loved her. I still love and miss her.” He removed his wristwatch and gold bracelet and placed them beside him. That was usually his way of making me take him seriously. “Your mother was killed by the man who convinced Sani Abacha to incarcerate me for three years; after all I did for that motherfucking general.” He paused to cough. “Pardon my words, but when I remember Sani Abacha, my blood boils. Look, your mother was killed by the man who wanted to run my business down. The same man who lusted after my wife while I was away.” He swallowed hard and fast.
“And this is the man whose son you now want me to marry?”I asked, looking straight into his eyes.
He smiled wickedly, his lips barely moving.
“Because to know your enemy, you have to get close to him.” He sat up, leaned towards me and said, “To get back at your enemy, you have to be closer. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. With you around him, he is going to be helpless.”
“How?” My mouth quivered.
“Leona, nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit. There has been no great wisdom without an element of madness. Listen, we are going to invoke the old long tradition – an eye for an eye.”
“A tooth for a tooth.”My eyes widened. The lights in the sitting room flickered, dimming a little.“Nothing more. Nothing less.”We stared at each other. The silence between us felt tangible. The lights flickered again, and the voltage increased. He looked around. “We are going to kill his son.”
My mouth fell open. Then, the memory hit me, and all that happened to us in Sudan, years ago, came running through my mind.
Colours of Hatred is available in all major bookshops in Nigeria, including Page Book Connoisseurs, Adams Pages, Roving Heights, Patabah Books, the Book Sellers Ibadan and Abic Bookshop, Enugu. Want to order a copy from the publisher? Click here.
Obinna Udenwe is the author of Satans and Shaitans. He is the winner of the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Prize 2020 for his short story ‘John 101, or The New Ridiculous Way to Commit Suicide and Be Famous’.