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The itching blouse


"We have come to a stage where we don't end up in the kitchen anymore. We are taking over the world, that is why we have come into even your villages to get you informed. Empower yourselves to get to where you desire in life. Always declare yourself a proud feminist, Thanks", she bowed and allowed her slim fingers pick up the sleek silver tab where she had been reading from.

 The crowd erupted into a thunder of applause.

"Nwanyi ka ibe ya', a thin woman yelled in a shrill voice at the top of her voice amidst the crowd.

The anchor, a lady in her late fourties walked in elegant strides in her pair of stilletos to the podium and grabbed the mic then made few announcement.

"Oyibo dizikwa too much. We should be allowed to go now", a fat sweaty woman behind the first row grumbled. Some of the participants were already making their way to the door.

"No one should be in a hurry to leave, we will be taking photographs after now and there are also gift items to be shared right in front of the hall", the anchor's melodious voice rang out from the microphone.

Gift items? The thronging crowd of women that had been struggling to leave the hall froze. They all ran to the photo stand to take photographs. Some pushed each other like primary school children who were jostling to stand in front on a school assembly ground.

Click! Click! And a flash. The photograph session ended quick with a few sweaty faces being captured, an obviously money-conscious old lady who had her money pouch strapped to her waist and an aerial view of a myriad of colours of head gears.
The struggle continued till all the women had carted away with mini bags of rice and Hollandis clothing materials. Every woman smiled as they swayed their waist back to their husband's houses.

"Hmmm... This ngo people tried o", Odoziaku said with a smile as  the women walked back to their village in groups.

 The chatter boxes were engrossed in their tale-telling. Another group sang and danced. Kathy, the cathcheist wife hummed solemnly as she walked alone with her long scapular swinging from side to side.

"Odozi, it is not ngo but NGO", Ugodiya corrected her.

Odoziaku laughed hard. "My sister, you people are the ones that finished standard six. Did you ever see me in your class? Don't blame me too much o", she replied in an amusing tone.

"With this wrapper and quarter bag of rice. I am sure I won't need my husband's permission to be here again. He will be the one to push me out. After all the lazy bamboo does not like to work", she continued.

The two women laughed till tears brewed in Ugodiya's eyes.

"You eeehhhnnn!", she wagged her finger at Odoziaku in mock caution.

"But eeehnn, you should not talk about Omemgboji like that in public o", she advised her friend wearing a serious countenance.

"Hiiiiaaan! Are you my friend sef or my enemy? That man provides nothing for the children and I. He deserves it o. He is Omemgboji, he gives out when he has and I am Odoziaku, a woman that keeps imaginary wealth. Kedu kwanu aku? Where is the wealth,my sister?", she complained bitterly.

"My dear, everything will be fine. Give him time", Ugodiya advised further.

"All he does is drink and speak english. Time? Ok ooo", she replied.

The sun shine was mild. The birds played lover's hide and seek games as they perched and flew from tree to tree. They walked in silence for a while absorbed in their thoughts till Ugodiya cleared her voice.

"I have heard about women like this when I lived with Mazi Nico in the city. They are women who desire to be more powerful than men. They could be bad influence and you volunteered yourself to be our woman leader" Ugodiya let out her fear.

Odoziaku stole a glance at her friend. "Bad or good influence, my concern is as long as I keep  getting gifts like this", she waved the wrapper in Ugo's face.
Ugodiya remained mute.

They continued to walk till Odoziaku made an abrupt stop at the junction leading to Oye Anaugo. She looked left and right then drew closer to Ugodiya.

"I believe those women have good plans. I want to be educated too and have plenty of money like them. Enter the boat before it sails", she drew her ear with her right hand.

***********************

The six-springed bed made cringy noise as the wooden sides creaked each time Ugodiya tossed in bed. Her heart was restless. She sat up and re-tied her wrapper across her breasts.
"Ugo m! You are not sleeping, what is it?", Azuka asked in his sleep-doused voice. He struggled to sit upright on the bed and rest his back against the wooden frame.

"Obi m, I have been thinking on pulling out of that meeting", she blurted.

"But why?"

She heaved a sigh. "What we discuss there in recent times is more like we are planning an attack against our men"

Azuka rubbed his huge palm over his hairy chest and sat up. "What do you mean?"

She swallowed hard, "All they talk about is how to educate women, start up businesses for us with millions of naira and other things"

"Is that why you are sounding like Barmenda is planning to bomb Panya? Mmm... Ugo m, if that is why you are afraid. Let your heart be still. I desire more than that for you", he looked into her eyes and kissed her forehead as the moon provided them illumination through the cracks on their wooden window.

A smile lit up her face and she slided her tiny figure into the huge arms of her husband.

"Don't say I didn't tell you o", she warned in a feigned baby voice.

He chuckled, "Nothing will happen. If they intend to empower women, I am in support but never forget that a man remains the head of the house."

She pouted her lips in mock displeasure. "Did I ever tell you that my mother didn't teach me that? Oya, leave me alone", she teased him and shifted to the unlaid side of the bed.

"You are going nowhere", he growled as he stretched his huge arms to grab her. Their giggling entertaining the listening pleasure of the hooting owl through the dark night.

The next day was bright and fair. It awaited  even to come. Market women retired back to their houses with their raffia baskets sitting on their heads. Few men made their way into Mama Chinaza's bar. Her husband's  palm wine was the best in Anaugo. Slanderers  had spread a malicious story that the old wine tapper often mixed the wine with saccharine to sweeten it.

The villagers ran away from his bar like they would from a cursed corpse meant for the Ajaohia forest  for two weeks. When  the truth was revealed, the drinking continued.

"We have more shorter days and longer nights", observed Idika.

Azuka sipped from his glass. "It is good for couples", he said with a chuckle.

The other men roared in laughter. Idika was a fair stout-looking man whose goatee shone like it had been dipped in black dye.

Omemgboji waved his hands over his glass of wine and shook his head solemnly.

"Hian! Nwoke m, what is it?", Idika asked.

"These days, I can't seem to comprehend the annihilating pattern which my conjugal partner has been brandishing", he answered.

"Azuka, have you seen it? This man can never tell his tales in a normal way",Idika hissed.

Azuka laughed heartily. "Omemgboji, we didn't attend oxford university with you. Make us understand you better"

"Ox gini? He didn't smell there o. I heard it was when he was forceded to fight during the burma war that he managed to learn this thing, he speaks", Idika lashed at him.

"No! No! No! I won't be a recipient of any iota of insolence from you", he warned Idika.

Azuka wore an infuriated look. "Hei! We are here to relax after the day's work, stop behaving like school boys", he thundered and lucidity returned.

He motioned to Omemgboji to continue.

He adjusted his washed shriveled  bow tie that adorned his white shirt and adjusted his spectacles.

"I am bothered by the manner in which our women have taken to the feminism revolt introduced by the women from Lagos to the dentriment of our homes"

Azuka took a deep breathe. "My brother, it still baffles me. Women of our community now insult their husbands, show less regard for family and even go on sex strike. I wonder where we are heading to, I am only lucky that my wife has a  different disposition to this"

"Aluu!", Idika cried out. "But wait o.... When you people heard feminism, you should have known that only Ofe mmanu women will be the ones to bring it to our women. The Ofe mmanu women don't stay in marriage. Who will exorcise this demon?"

"I actually heard it is Odoziaku, Omemgboji's wife that is stirring up the women and that she is being well paid by the Ofe mmanu women", Nnabuike who had been quiet all along chipped in.

Omemgboji stole a glance at him and looked away. "My wife has no part in it"

"Okwa ifugo? Soon you will be the one pounding fufu in your home then Odoziaku will also probably climb on top of you at night. Keep supporting her", Idika laughed mischievously.

"Eheeeen! How did you get the money to buy the new keke Napep?", Nnabuike asked.

"You all know that I am a hard working man", he rose up from his seat and adjusted his crossing belt. "I have a meeting to attend"

"So this is what you and that wife of your's have been up to. You must finish what you started o!", yelled Idika as Omemgboji walked out on them.

*******************

The rains had finally stopped. Each day seemed brighter than the previous. It was an Oye market day. The market stalls were empty. The normal colourful appearance of the market by different food stuff and fruits were replaced with dull shades of brown tables used to display wares by the market women.

Villagers stood stranded and hoping that perhaps one trader will stroll in yet it seemed like it was not going to happen.

"Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever! We shall always fight for our right", a throng of market women wearing white and red tracksuit sang and marched down the major roads of the village carrying placards with inscriptions:

'We are feminist'

'We want our right'

The children scampered out of their compounds to watch the sight. A scruffy old  man tying a blue and yellow wrapper with a chewing stick in between his lips staggered to the road holding an uncovered pot of soup.

"She has eaten my gizzard o", he yelled, pointing to his wife who was gallantly marching with the other women.

A vehicle of press men stormed the village. The photojournalists took shots of the scenario. Men of various age brackets lamented and granted interviews.

The market square was in a frenzy. The women marched with their feet covered in red dust. The children clapped on in foolish delight. Nnabuike drove his keke napep to the village square. He turned off the ignition of his vehicle and alighted. He tore his shirt in fury and exposed his dirty white singlet.

"Men of Anaugo! What is happening? Why have we kept quiet when our women have gone crazy?"
He rushed to his tricycle, carried out a bunch of cardboard papers and shared it to the men with inscriptions such as;

'Bring Back Our Women'

'Good women don't eat men's gizzard'

"Ofe mmanu women should not impose their culture on our women"

The men marched to the open field to pose a counter match against the women. Some of the excited press men wore their  face mask to enable them stay longer and cover the situation. Azuka whisked his wife away from the village square and headed home.

The noise of local drums were deafening. The stampede of feet adding to the rhythm of the throbbing drum.
Agiliga, the village lunatic laughed hysterically as he passed. He scratched his buttocks and let out another bout of laughter.

"Mad people!", he laughed and he poked his large nostrils with his index finger.

"Later, they will say that Agiliga is mad. Woman, no hear English. Man , no hear Engish. Madness e don burst", he laughed again then choked. He let out a lung-wrenching cough  as the cloud of dust enveloped him.

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