It was at the Peak Island Bank stand that I saw him. I was asking the lady at the stand if they would employ a Law Graduate with an MBA but no BL (Nigerian Law School degree) when he stood beside me eagerly waiting for their response. I looked up at him and could not but smile. I've always had a problem with fine guys, they were my Achilles Heel. He was no exception. Tall, slim built, yet muscular, fine facial structure. He was very clean looking. The lady had started responding but there I was, still admiring God's work of art. Quickly, I slipped out of my reverie in time to catch the last few sentences. Then I promptly moved on to the next stand, embarrassed at myself.
'You didn't get what she said, did you?', a deep voice said behind me. Lo and behold, it was Mr. Hotstuff again.
'Erm, some of it', I mumbled.
'I noticed you were a bit distracted and given her open ended, non-specific response, I would have expected some sort of questions to follow from you'.
He then went on to explain the lady's response to my question. To be honest, I really didn't care for what he was saying as much as how he was saying it. He was really hot.
I found out he was doing his Masters at Jesus College, Cambridge after having finished with a First Class and also second best in his year in Ife. It took a while to become friends because I had to first of all get over my infatuation with him. That took a few weeks of totally ignoring his calls and refusing his self invite to Manchester to see me and also refusing to go to Cambridge to see him. I don't know when exactly or how exactly it happened, but I stopped being so 'star struck' and started seeing him in a normal light.
The next time we saw was during the Festival of Life programme in London two months after we first met. He had come with his church bus and my friends and I had driven from Manchester because we could not make the timing of our church bus. We planned to meet up during the Testimony Time and we did. We strolled to the very back to get water and I realised I was nice and easy around him this time. We talked for a few minutes and went back to our different seats.
When he offered to come see me the following weekend. We went to see a movie and then had dinner at a lovely Asian restaurant. On Sunday, he met up with me and we went to church together, had lunch afterwards.
As I waited for a bus back to my house, I was reeling with excitement. I could not believe what great time I had had. You see, as someone who likes fine guys, I know very well that most of them are either cocky, stuck up, stupid, unintelligent, proud, taken or all of the above. So you can imagine my feeling of good fortune when I found out that Adeniran Ola-Baker possessed not one of those vices. He was so humble, respectful, kind, intelligent and fun to be with. I also found out he comes from a family of geniuses. His father is an alumnus of Oxford and currently a dean at Unilag. His mom has 2 Bachelors and 2 Masters degrees. His younger sister was in the final year of her PhD programme at Nottingham at just 26! I felt a bit intimidated but he was quick to credit it all not to their hard work or natural gift but to God's grace.
We carried on with our friendship for another 3 months till he asked me to be his girlfriend with the hope of one day becoming his wife. I was so excited. I said a fast yes. I had prayed about him and felt so much peace in the relationship. It was as if God had come to wipe away my tears because I had kissed a few frogs in my 25 years on earth.
I was indeed in a very happy place.
Our Masters programmes ended and it was time to go home. I had met his sister, 'Lope. She was not the geek I expected her to be. In fact, she was exceptionally fashion conscious and an 'it' girl for a PhD student. I just assumed all PhDers were geek glasses wearing and braces wearing. We became good friends during the period I was in the UK.
Niran and I were on the same flight back home. My mom and 2 sisters came to pick me up whilst his mom and dad both came to pick him. That was the first introduction of our families and it was short and sweet. Two weeks after arriving Nigeria, he invited me to his parents' to meet them properly. It was such an ordeal deciding what to wear. My mom had said 'no English outfit' but my big sister was the other voice saying, 'be yourself and wear what you're comfortable in'. In the end, my mom won and I wore a really nice yet simple Ankara dress and kitten heeled pumps. I had my hair in a bun and wore my favourite earrings.
His mom was extremely welcoming. She apologised that her husband was on a call upstairs and would be joining us shortly. It was a very relaxed meeting and it went well. If Niran's mom is described as friendly. His dad would be described as funny. He told one joke after the other and had me in stitches all afternoon. It was also interesting to watch his mom laugh so hard at his jokes after 32 years of marriage. It was a good afternoon.
On our drive back as Niran dropped me off, I asked,
'Niran, I saw another girl featuring a lot in your older family albums. I thought 'Lope was your only sister'. He went quiet for a while and I felt bad thinking maybe she had died and I was scraping at healing wounds.
'Yes I do. We are three kids. She's older than I am. She's 31 this year'.
'Oh wow! What's her name? Where does she live? Is she also a genius like you guys?', I asked smiling, relieved she was alive.
'Her name is is 'Lade, Omolade. She lives here in Lagos. She has some problems', he said dismissively.
'Oh, what kind of problems', I probed.
'She was committed to the mental institution two weeks to her Bar Finals when she was just 20. Last year was her 10th year in the Psychiatric Home. She graduated with a First Class from Ife at 19 but never got called to the Bar'. He said this as a matter-of-factly with zero emotion. I was literally open-mouthed for 5 minutes or so.
'I'm so sorry', I gushed, not knowing the appropriate words to speak. He dismissed it and apologised for not telling me all along. We had already gotten to my house by then. He dropped me off and left.
As soon as I got home, my sisters and my mom were in the living room excitedly waiting for news of how the day went.
'It went so well. His parents are so cool. I had a great time. I found out he has an older sister who's not well', I said of the meeting at Niran's.
'Eh yah, what's wrong with her?' Bisodun asked.
'Erm, she's ill', I mumbled. How does one say it? I thought to myself.
'What kind of illness?' Impatient Lara quipped.
'She's insane. She went mad during her Bar Finals 11 years ago', I blurted. To hell with the political correctness.
'Oh my God', 'What?', 'Damn!', the three of them said at the same time. We all bemoaned the poor girl's fate for a while and then changed the topic.
At about 1:30am, my dad and mom strolled into my room, interrupting my Dexter.
My dad was fumbling with his fingers. My mom on the other hand, sat down on my bed and began,
'My dear, your dad and I have discussed things long and hard and there's no way we are going to sit back and watch insects crawl into our eyes. You are a young girl and you have your whole life ahead of you. You can't marry into a family where madness runs. It is hereditary and I won't have a mad man for a son-in-law nor have mad grandkids. You need to break it off with him and fast too.' My mom was emotionless. She spoke as if she was a newscaster speaking about some remote girl's fate and not like she had just shattered my very being.
I sat there mute, looking at my dad as if he should help me and save me from my mom's unreasonableness. 'Dad', I began.
My dad cut me off saying, 'We spoke with Aunty Biola whose husband is a psychiatrist at John Hopkins as you know. He told us unequivocally that madness induced by studying is hereditary. I'm sorry dear but I withdraw my blessings on your relationship'.
I was devastated as I watched my dad speak. My mom is known to make decrees and still change her mind. But my dad is soft and so hardly speaks BUT when he does, we all know no Jupiter can make him change his mind.
I confided in Lara about it. She's a non-conformist and I chose her because I knew she would support me. She did but also blamed me for telling them, accusing me of never learning from my past experiences of how badly they handle sensitive information.
I eventually spoke with Bisodun. Bisodun has always been the family oracle, very intelligent and also extremely rational and pragmatic. She is also a lover of God so I knew I would hear the truth from her, even if painful. Here were her words,
'Sis, this is indeed a toughie. Whilst I believe in the power of prayers regarding these issues of hereditary diseases, the truth is our parents' faith is not on that level. And you must get parental consent. You absolutely must. I don't support you going ahead not because of the disease of the mind of his sister but because of dad and mom's resolve. Hold it off for now and begin to pray hard. I'll join you and we can even start fasting from tomorrow. Now Sis, our prayer is not for mom and dad to change their minds, no. Instead, it is for God's will to prevail.
I love Niran and you together and when I place him besides the losers you have been with, I am personally pained at the thought of you guys not being together. However, sometimes, the devil brings a counterfeit of God's plan for our lives. There still will be but guess what, God's work cannot be hindered. So if it indeed is God's plan for you, we need to call on God and tell Him, Oh God, you gave me this and the world wants to destroy your gift and take it from me.
You need to quit this starvation you've put yourself on and all this weeping.This is our period of inquiring. Let's first of all seek God's will, the rest will follow. The heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord and like a river of water, He can turn it as he so wishes. So babes, forget mom and dad for now, they are not the real matter at issue. When God says yes, they dare not say no so let us hear God say his yes first.
As great as Bisodun's words were, I'm still torn. There's no way God can say no to a love so true. Why give me someone that brings me so much joy only to snatch him away? Why should I leave Niran because of fear, not even mine, my unbelieving parents'? He is not mad and can never be mad and I know I can not have a mad child.
According to Bisodun, I'm to tell Niran I want to seek God's face for something for a while and during that period, I'm not to communicate with him. She says I need a severance from him in order to hear God speak clearly. That is easy to say and I know myself, it is just impossible to pull it off. Plus, our relationship has never been that way. We discuss all our problems and pray for each other so this 'problem' I have that requires solitary confinement would definitely have him raising an eye brow.
So many questions running through my head: my parents are not such strong believers. Is it not praying parents you obey implicitly? Is his sister's illness really hereditary? Why did I open my big mouth to tell my mom? Why did I not make my parents find out after the wedding? Should I go crazy and get married without their approval? Should I open up to Niran about my predicament? Would that not make him judge my family? Should I go ahead and have a clean break from him whilst I pray?