By Juliet Rogers,
Then came the outburst of cry and mourning everywhere, in every corner of the town of YINKIN. At her house, big pots were steaming with water and food, prepared for family relations who will certainly travel from far and near places to pay their last respect to Ya Masiratu, dead! The presence of her corpse, the uninterrupted movement of people, coming in and out, and their wailing were evident enough to tell everyone that Ya Masiratu is indeed dead, dead and gone forever.
It was in the midst of this confusion that saw the entrance of Mama Seray who was commonly called ‘Maama.’ She lives in a city and was here to witness the burial rites of her late elder sister, Ya Masiratu.
Suddenly, a long blue car which brought Maama snaked in, slowly through the thick crowd. Their brothers were subsistence farmers – Uncle Bunduka, Brima Jajua, and Sallu Kontorfri embraced her and held her very tightly as if to prevent her from collapsing. Helping her into her seat, she appeared confident and steady which served as inspiration to those who wept and wailed uncontrollably. Ya Masiratu’s husband had died two years ago. The most pathetic everyone was thinking of was Seriatu, the only daughter of the deceased. She was the only gift in their relationship. Seriatu was in the senior secondary school, level two (II). She was attending the only secondary school in YINKIN.
A big family meeting was held as anticipated, after the interment the following day. Brima Jajua who was appointed by the rest to chair the meeting started: “I was with our sister when she died last night. She asked that we appeal to Maama to continue the job of educating Seriatu to match up with her dream. Seriatu had always wanted to become a barrister-at-law, at whatever cost. I think this is the crux of the meeting,” he emphasised. “Without saying it, all the unfinished assignment of my late sister, will be my new project. She will join her two sisters, to attend the same school. She will go with me after the third day ceremony,” she concluded.
Her first day at school, Islamic Call School for Girls (I.C.S.G), was highly remarkable. Her two sisters walked her into the principal’s office for a quick interview. “You are doing the Arts,” the principal confirmed. “Yes Ma’am,” Seriatu responded. “Could you help me with the literature text you are doing at WASSCE?” She asked. “Richard Wright’s Native Son and Williams Shakespeare’s Othello,” she answered. The principal who was Mrs. Susanna D. Josie, happened to be the literature teacher in the school, continued the interview: “Please help me to know the legal process in a court of law that can acquit the accused who is not at the sight of a crime he is charged for. Also, help me to know the kind of hero Othello is and why.” Seriatu looked up and answered: The legal term is application of alibi. Othello is a tragic hero because he entertains the tragic flaw of jealousy.” The principal stood up, hug her, gave Seriatu a broad smile and clapped for her.
From that day, Seriatu became the principal’s best friend, much to the jealousy of her sisters. When they went home that day, they explained the interview and the extension of friendship the principal gave to their sister. Maama also grew jealous. Needless to suggest that Seriatu’s real life of challenge started from here. Just after their breakfast one morning, Maama took her to three empty drums and instructed her: “You aren’t going to school now,” pointing at the drums, these must be filled with water to the brims before you go to school every morning, starting now.” She told her with wild ugly looks. With this kind of assignment, it was certain that Seriatu went to school late everyday. The principal did not notice what was going on. Yet Seriatu studied very hard. That very third term she gained admission, she took the first position to proceed to the third level, the level she sat to the WASSCE. She suffered so many pains, including denial of breakfast and launch; therefore, she became lean and hungry-looking. Least to say that Seriatu was starving, but she remained focussed to her dream.
On their price giving day, she was prized for six(6) subjects, all first positions. It was at this time that the principal recalled a certain intelligent and sober girl she interviewed, whom she admired and won her favour. But Principal Susanna hardly recognised Seriatu, as she had really gone bony owing to hard life. Certainly the girl knew her to be that same principal who glared into her face on her interview day. Unable to answer her questions at the second encounter, Seriatu burst into tears; she allowed the tears to freely flew down her cheeks in torrent, cheeks that gave clear passages for the tears to be entertained momentarily and rolled on and emptied into her mouth. For a moment, the principal became confused and was lost. When Seriatu saw the confusion in the principal’s face, she summed up courage to explain herself in these words: “I’m the girl you interviewed in your office at the commencement of third term last academic year. I was the student who answered the questions on alibi, a tragic hero and tragic flaw.” “But why are you like this?” She enquired. My mother’s sister with whom I’m staying grew jealous from that day I had the interview and news reached her of my excellence; she had treated me like a beast of burden since then, and – and…” She collapsed with uncompleted words on her lips. When she came to normalcy, the principal decided to drive her home to her aunt. “She will almost kill me if you do. She’ll feel I’ve betrayed her and exposed her cruelty.” “I’ll go with you, jump into the car,” Principal Susanna agitated.
Reluctantly, she got into the car, and in no time, they were at her aunt’s. “Who is this,” Maama asked in her usual cocky way. “Don’t ask any further. The law is supposed to deal with the likes of you, I’ve only come to inform you I’ll not sit back to allow you to destroy a good girl like this – as I leave here, I’m going to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender
and Children’s Affairs to explore legal means by which I will help this poor girl to fulfill her good dream in life.
That was how Seriatu came to live with her principal. Her distinction WASSCE result, the best in the region of five countries, awarded her a scholarship to study law in the United Kingdom (U.K), got her first degree, as well as her Masters; she had won two critical cases on human rights abuses, involving a South African national and a Senegalese. Returning back to Africa from England, she met her aunt, Maama, in a legal battle, charged for murder, with no one to fight her case. If no reputable lawyer represented her, more or less and adequately, she will go down for life imprisonment.
That morning, the man she wanted to almost cut his throat was surrounded with a battery of lawyers who were poised to win that case, for they had all it takes, tangible evidence to win the argument. Maama’s daughters, one is dead and the other Sunna, who did not treat her education seriously, had married to an alcoholic. The two partners fought at their house, Maama’s daughter fled to her, pursued by her husband who held in his hand a long knife, trying to attempt to stab Sunna, her daughter. Maama rose to the occasion, joined the fight, and finally stabbed the drunken forty-six years old husband in the neck. The court hearing had commenced when Seriatu entered the high court to represent her aunt, Maama, not known to her that it was Seriatu who returned just in eight hours to the hearing and had stepped in for her defence.
After the persecuting lawyer had presented the case eloquently, Seriatu, now a barrister, argued that Maama acted in the ordinance of self defence, in the sense that she was defending herself, for the husband vowed that, openly though, to kill her daughter and the mother who gave birth to her, adding to two murder he had committed in the the past. And she being the mother could not have waited for her death in the hand of a murder; “besides, he had murdered before if he had killed my sister, was he not going to be considered a celebrated murderer, heading for another head to cut off? My Lord, kindly permit me to step-down and stand-by to see this honourable court allowing a murderer to roam about freely to murder more precious lives,” the defence counsel, Barrister Seriatu concluded. She won the argument and her aunt was acquited and discharged.
Outside the court, Maama humbly confronted the young lawyer, together with her brothers, Jajua and Kontorfri who came from the village to helplessly listen to the hearings, could not believe that any lawyer could have won that case. Competitively extending their hands for hand shakes, Seriatu disclose her identity to them. They were shocked, dumbfounded and ashamed of themselves. Weeping openly and uncontrollably, Seriatu consoled her aunt with gentle tears on her face too, she ended it all with these words: “TO ERR IS HUMAN, AND TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE.”
Juliet Rogers is a Societal Engineer, Life and Emotional Intelligence Coach.