By Taju Tijani
Tokunboh “TT” Temidire looked unruffled. Elegant, relaxed, commanding voice, mixer, playful, voracious reader, stylish and dramatic. She is a female connoisseur of fine wines. She took me through the tresses of her wine knowledge. I doffed my hat. You will think she had worked in a wine cellar before. For the night, she wore a beautifully crafted aso ebi gown with array of couture stones over a long skirt. Though she was on a wheelchair, she looked like a human mammy water. She had a jet-black Brazilian human hair covering her delicate scalp. Bright red lipstick sat on her lips innocently. She wore a gold rimmed Gucci designer glass.
We exchanged glances and smiles at the same time. I moved closer to cheer her up for the night. She held on to the wheels of her wheelchair and rolled them towards me. I was spell bound by her genial, feminine nature. A woman’s woman, so to speak. “E ku ise opolo sir,” she teased me. I blushed like a high school kid. “Awa niyen, e se o,” I answered. She took a piece of fried plantain and dipped it inside a bowl of coleslaw and ate it.
“Otutu yi nsha gan,” she said. “Well, we are in winter, ki lo expect.” “Bori has done a PRO job about you. How you guys have been friends for years from West London. And the fact that you keep in touch till date. Family nko sir? Pelu awon omo yin ati iyawo,” TT inquired. “Gbogbo won wa nbe. We are fine,” I answered back. As I looked up, I saw Bori rushing towards me with a bottle of Cognac and a big gift bag. I took the haul and left it by my chair. She smiled at TT and rushed back to the dancing floor.
“Tonight, na tonight, TT has come to meet Teejay,” I said. We both dissolved into laughter. “E funny o. I hope you are a good Nija man to your wife because I had a bad experience with my ex-husband o,” TT began. She took out a soft white tissue to dab her teary eyes.
She looked at me for support. I moved closer and held her hands. What was the sins of her ex-partner to make her shed tears to a stranger, my mind queried? I was moved. I struggled with my emotion because I wanted to keep an open mind. I patted her on the shoulder and asked to let go whatever happened in the past. My job as a counsellor took a while to kick in. She nodded her head and gave a weak smile. She gulped her bottled water and cleared her throat.
“Amin Temidire, my ex-husband is from Ilorin. He is of average height, traditionalist, liberal Muslim, kind, music lover, funny, business oriented, shrewd, devoted and humble. He had a business in Lagos Island selling gift items. In the 90s, the Ndigbo began to muzzle on the big business shift of that decade. They started buying up businesses in Balogun, Oke-Arin and its environs. Amin sold his business and hatched the relocation to London. He came here in 1991.”
“Teejay, I came from a devout Christian home. My dad was a deacon. Mum was a church matron. Alhaji Afeez Temidire, Amin’s dad was a bosom family friend. He got on well with my dad. I was 16 years old when my mum and dad died in a ghastly car accident along Ore-Benin Road. I am the only child. It was Alhaji Afeez who funded the whole burial arrangement of my parents and took me in as his own daughter.”
I felt dizzy unable to know why. I took out a pack of paracetamol and gulped two tablets. I could see a bit of commotion at the fourth table. Two side chicks were fighting over a man. It became rowdy. Two security men whooshed in and ejected the ladies. I shook my head in disgust.
“So, by the time I finished my secondary education, Amin was in the UK. You could see that I was part of the family and marriage to Amin was Alhaji’s greatest desire. By the time I came over to London in 1993 I was Amin’s natural God-ordained wife. Though a Muslim home, I was treated well. I came here to join Amin at the age of 20. Amin was a bit older. He was living in a small room in Acton Town. I didn’t like his condition. He was working as a night porter in a hotel in Paddington. His condition made me sick. He lived in a shared accommodation with a dirty kitchen and the smell of Indian curry around the clock in the house. The landlord was an Indian man.”
Another friend of TT tapped her on the shoulder. She was watching a funny skit on TikTok and desired to share the laughter with TT. She watched the skit for some minutes and burst into a prolong laughter. “Ah, what’s funny in the skit?” “Teejay, awon oniranu okunrin ni jare,” TT said. “Bawo,” I queried. “Some men were giving side glances to women with large bums and every one of them fell into a ditch through momentary distraction,” TT said. “Ose ore mi asoro later,” TT dismissed her friend.
“Enhnn Teejay, bi mo se nsolo. Ten years later, Amin was at a dead end. He jumped from one crappy job to another. Within those years, I bagged my master’s degree in investment banking and security. I fought him for many years for his lack of ambition and vision. I encouraged, cajoled and blackmailed him yet he would not listen. He worked as a mini cab driver for years. He enjoyed his comfort zone. At a stage, I sent words to his dad. Alhaji tried to drum sense into him before he died. Amin was just adamant.”
Two human bureau de change guys walked to our table hawking crispy dollars in exchange for pound sterling. TT brought out her debit card and purchased £100 worth of dollar to spray on the celebrant. “Asa le je gbogbo onje bayi kama fun oniparty ni nkan,” she whispered to me. I nodded in agreement.
“I love Amin. His family did a lot for me. But… hmmm….I just don’t know why this guy won’t rise above menial existence. Later, I got a job as a junior investment banker in an investment bank in central London. Fantastic package. Great money.
Future opportunities and many other bonuses. I was just 30. I cobbled some money together and bought a house in Clapham – a three bedroom semi close to the station. I went solo. I did not put his name on the mortgage. Amin stopped making joint payment for the BMW we bought two years ago. He lost every sense of responsibility.”
My mind was protesting. I was fighting inwardly for Amin. Hmmm…In London, it’s easy to forget how we got to where we are. She has forgotten Alhaji’s fatherly contribution to who she is today. She is now becoming self-absorbed without any remembrance that she was an orphan to the Temidires. TT is now losing sight of the grace and goodness of God. She is now building illegitimacy against Amin. She benefitted from the support, love and investment of Alhaji. Now she is becoming selfish, and about to dodge her destiny assignment to Amin. My mind wandered as she rattled on.
“Amin started feeling very jealous. He lost his self-esteem the moment we moved into our new home in Clapham. I had upmarket friends as an investment banker – Asians, white and black people. I attended business meetings in top London hotels and outside the city. I had frequent trips to Europe especially Luxembourg where we have our European office. I became the bread winner. He wanted to get out of the agreement we had that I must be allowed to work for at least five years before having any child.”
I panicked when I heard the last sentence. TT wanted his husband to chill for five years before raising kids. Yes, a man will take the shit for laziness in London. A woman will mock, control and sit as a conqueror if you lose the true place of a man – as a provider.
“Amin came home one day and guess what, he smelled of marijuana. I was shocked and I confronted him. He fought back and began to recount the story of my life. There was a shouting match. He called me a witch that I ruined his life. He even said that I stole his glory. I started crying unable to know what to do. Then…..”
“The police came and locked him up under the mental health law of the United Kingdom. He was packed away to a mental home after series of tests. He would be there for six months taking battery of treatments. I had instructed the Police that he should not return to my house again. Never!”
One year later. Clapham High Street is a bustling and popular south London haven for shoppers from across London. There is a large presence of Caribbean immigrants there and was once a battle ground for the Yardies (drug gangs) of the 90s. With money to spend, Tokunboh Temidire, the investment banker, was among shoppers one Saturday. She wore a Levi jean and a cool Nike trainer. She felt relieved and carefree. She wore a deadpan, no nonsense dark glasses to conceal her inner demons – being childless and without husband.
“Why are you crying? Stop all this. Party lo wa now. Common get a grip. Don’t embarrass me now,” I encouraged TT who was now crying and mopping her eyes. READ ALSO:
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“Teejay, I will not forget that day. Two black youths with covered faces accosted me at the car park after my shopping. I thought they wanted my phone and the goods I bought. I was shot at twice. I fell to the ground face down. Then another shot went through my back affecting my spinal cord. I spent three months in the hospital. Doctors saved my life but from that moment I became paralysed downward.”
Still sobbing furiously and looking at her paralysed legs, I offered my hand and she held on to me. I was moved to tears but hide it by grinning my teeth.
Amin Temidire served a 10-year jail sentence for attempted murder of Tokunboh “TT” Temidire. CCTV cameras around the car park caught the assailants. In court they confessed that it was Amin that hired them to finish his wife.
“Teejay nkan to happen simi niyen o lowo okunrin. Now, look at me, I am paralysed, and the bastard is in Nigeria with another woman and with kids…” TT said crying.
To be continued…