Ife was an intelligent girl and did very well in school. Had learned to speak English at a very early age and so took pleasure in discussing issues with her father in English. He enjoyed these conversations and took pride in her education. He would come back from work and chat for long hours with her. It did not occur to him that she was still in primary school. His wives would stare at the pair in annoyance. They sat and planned which secondary school she would prefer to attend. She took forms for each secondary school and sat for the exams. Her father took her on his big motorbike to these schools.
She rarely spent time with her mother as they grew further and further apart. Her mother stayed imprisoned in her fear that Ife was still going to leave for her spiritual world even after she no longer carried the slur of being the mother of “Abiku”. The dreams she had experienced while expecting Ife seemed to have faded away, except the conviction that she had a strange first child.
Ife carried an uncanny ability to know what was going to happen and would innocently announce an impending event with a casualness that made people around her give her a second look. One day at lunch she suddenly stopped eating and stared at her father with an air of consternation. Her father had looked up and asked her what was the matter.
“That your friend Abdul is going to be caught soon. He has been stealing from the police stores and has been planning to let them think it is you but he will be caught a few nights from now by the inspector himself. Will you be on duty Papa? I have just been told.”
Her father stared and swallowed his food, washed his hands and walked to his room. Everybody stopped eating and stared at Ife. She stared back and washed her hands too going into her father’s room. She found him sitting quietly on the bed and sat next to him.
“I am sorry Papa ,I did not mean to offend you”
Her father turned and stared at her, for long seconds. Then he sighed, “I did not tell anyone but I am going to be placed on suspension and room orderly for those missing items Ife, so how did you know?”
Ife shrugged helpless, “I don’t know how I know, they just tell me, things or sometimes I just suddenly know”.
“Like you see visions”?
"No, papa I have no idea how it happens , I just know and sometimes I argue with them but they wouldn’t tell me if I press. I just know” Ife was now close to tears.
Her father looked at her and drew her close in an embrace comforting her.
“It is okay, might be nice if you know how to make thieves stop” and he laughed but Ife heard the catch in his voice and looked up at him. “Don’t worry, Papa, you will even get a nice letter from this”
He laughed now in genuine amusement. “That one was you right”? I can tell sometimes when it is you from when it is her.”
“Are there two of me Papa?”
“Definitely, I like both of you,” he added in soft voice, "Sometimes though I am scared of the other.”
When she finished her primary education there had been drama about the desirability of her going to secondary school. The women all protested against her, that she was just a girl and was going to be somebody’s wife someday so why bother sending her to school? She said nothing and stared at her father. He looked at the women, shrugged observing that he did not see any reason why she should not be allowed to go to secondary school. His mother came for another visit and supported the wives arguing that Ife was from one branch of the family and since her father had more than one wife, it was the turn of the second wife to have her son educated. Her father pointed out quietly that the said son, was not even ready for primary.
That did not wash with the wives and things went a bit ugly as they referred to her ‘strong head’. She asked what that meant, was told that her strangeness did not guarantee that she would finish school. Spirit children could decide to leave at the peak of their successes so that their departure could be painful. They asked why her father had never been able to extract from her the secret spiritual pact stone. A pact stone was a shiny pebble believed to be the secret symbol of her spirit world which all spirit children tend to hide somewhere.
Her father shook his head puzzled, and appealed to her mother who he assumed ought to know better,
“Why give her this unnecessary stress?, you know don’t you ?”
Her mother stared close to tears insisting she had tried to persuade Ife to give up her secret pact stone, but each time Ife had shrugged and said she did not understand what she was talking about.
“I thought since you are close, you could make her talk.” her mother concluded.
Her grandmother who was smoking her pipe, gave Ife a very close observation, declared that she was calling in the medicine man who would decide. She said with some relish in her voice that the medicine man was so powerfull that no spirit child or abiku could resist him.
Ife looked at her grandmother and smiled. She said nothing. She was curious, how can a man make what does not exist happen she wondered.
It was arranged that the man should come in on the next market day early in the morning. Ife shrugged and went to her room. Her mother hovered over her pleading and promising all types of things. Ife watched her mother and then smiled. She explained to her mother that she had no pact with anyone and was simply living as normal as she could. Her mother said she was going to vigil in the church and Ife shrugged and wished her well.
The next morning, the medicine man came and brought out his divining beads. She was asked to sit in front of him. She sat on the mat and stretched out her hand. The medicine man took one cursory look and then a shocked second look and fainted.
There was instant pandemonium. Everybody started shouting at once. Ife stared at the man irritated, why make a ceremony out of nothing. She stood up and walked away.
When the old medicine man was finally revived, he insisted on seeing Ife. Her father asked why and he said he was not talking until he had seen her. So she was sent for. Ife came back wondering what she was going to be accused of now. The old man saw her and bowed very low in greeting saying he would be of assistance if ever he was needed. She assumed he must have lost it as she just shrugged and said she didn’t know what the man was talking about then brightened and asked if the man could persuade her family that she should be left alone as she was not going anywhere and had made no pact with any living or celestial being. She finished speaking close to tears and really upset.