07 November 2010

The Price of Ignorance by Femi Olawole (unpublished book excerpt)

The entire household of the Martins was enveloped in confusion. The patriarch of the family, in spite of his tight schedule, was not left out of the crisis. Chief Dipo Martins was a well-known multi-millionaire investor with controlling shares in several corporate organizations in Nigeria. Presently, he was confounded by the events unfolding right before his eyes. And when he looked at his wife for some explanation, her response only compounded his perplexity.

Ironically, on this Saturday, they were all supposed to be celebrating the 30th birthday of Julie, the first child and the only daughter among six children. Naturally, the entire family was happy for her and wanted to be in a joyous mood. However, they were not. Rather, they were all wearing mournful expressions as though a loved one had just passed away, and above all, they were all angry.

Chief Martins was angry because he had shifted forward, by two hours, an important meeting that he was scheduled to attend at Ikoyi Exclusive Hotel. This was in a bid to accord honour to his daughter. And she very well deserved the honour. Here was a very brilliant girl. She was an upwardly mobile young lady with the sky alone as her limit. Yet, the same young lady stood everybody up on a day that was especially dedicated for the celebration of her birthday. All because of a love-turned-sour affair! The chief shook his head in exasperation as he stated sotto voce. “Women, they’ll never cease to amaze me.”

Mrs. Martins, on the other hand, was terribly disappointed at the moment because one stupid young man had the effrontery to jilt her daughter. The young man in question was Tunji Lacosta who she considered to be absolutely dumb to throw away a great opportunity to marry Julie Martins. As far as Mrs. Martins was concerned, the marriage would have been a huge blessing to the dwindling fortunes of the young man’s family. Tunji Lacosta came from a family that once belonged to a circle of great, wealthy families in Lagos Island. But, at the moment, what remained of this once great family was its name. The wealth was gone. Through the assistance of a friend, Mrs. Martins had personally arranged Tunji and Julie’s relationship. Everything had been moving on fine and smoothly. Even the initial wedding plans had been put in motion. Until yesterday!

Yesterday, Julie had rushed home late in the evening, sobbing and screaming at everyone in sight. Then, as though possessed by some demonic spell, she ran into her en-suite room and slammed the door furiously. Thus began the gloomy silence and confusion that now engulfed the entire Victoria Island mansion of the Martins.

Earlier in the eventful day, Tunji Lacosta was at the residence of a dear friend, Roland to discuss an aspect of his upcoming wedding. There, he met Benson, another friend of Roland. The discussion between Tunji and Roland was mid-way when, on hearing the future bride’s name, Benson had rudely interrupted. “Are you two talking about Julie Martins?”

Tunji and his host looked at the other man quietly, not knowing what the other man was driving at. “Yeah, do you know her?” it was Tunji who could muster enough courage to ask.

“Do I know Julie Martins?” the man began coyly with an exaggerated disgust. “She was my bedmate all the time we were in England…”

“Benson!” the host interrupted in anger. “How dare you say such a thing in the presence of the lady’s fiancé?”

“Oh, come on Roland, stop your pretense!” Benson said. “You know Julie’s ugly reputation those days... how everyone called her Julie, the charity, because of her sexual escapades all the way from high school.”

Stunned by what he just heard, Tunji was momentarily speechless. A few seconds later, he was able to compose himself mentally enough to turn to his host. “Is this a true story?” He calmly asked Roland, “was this guy going out with Julie at any time in the past?”

Embarrassed, Roland could only nod his head in affirmation. “But…” Roland tried to salvage the situation. “That was in the past.”

“Oh, please, don’t give me that crap!” Tunji interrupted, shaking his head sadly as he got up to leave. “What a shame, to imagine Julie with a scum like this guy, I can’t believe it!”

The following day, Tunji broke off his engagement to Julie after a bitter argument over the incident. The man insisted that it was utterly distasteful for Julie to have had any relationship whatsoever with a man as crude as Benson. “What were you thinking?” Tunji could not help yelling at one point during the argument. “That guy has always been scum!”

“But that was then!” Julie insisted, screaming back in anger at the top of her voice. “And his crudity contributed to the break-up of our relationship.”

“That’s a lie!” Tunji shot back. “The bastard claimed that he dumped you after he had his fill of you, and not even Roland could dispute the statement.”

Shocked by this bitter fact, Julie was speechless as Tunji stood up to say his final goodbye and left. That was the end of their engagement.

Presently, as she sat transfixed before her mirror, Julie began to sob afresh. With a pair of blood-shot eyes, she glared in anguish at her image in the mirror. “Where do I go from here, I’m now thirty, for Christ sake!” she wailed. “In England, no one would care a hoot about it, but this is Nigerian society with all its silly sentiments about one being an old maid.”

Julie had refused to bathe. Neither would she acknowledge commiserations from members of her family. She would not even take phone calls and birthday messages. Visitors, mostly her friends, were politely turned back by her brothers. Ironically however, the woman acknowledged within herself that she had only herself to blame for all her woes. Several years ago, a teenage Julie Martins had lain the foundation for this self-inflicted anguish. The emotional pain, in essence, was the price of her ignorance.


Julie, a starry-eyed seventeen-year-old had just taken her bath. She stood before the full-length mirror in her room and began to inspect her beautifully-shaped body. This chore had now assumed a weekly devotion. She started from her face. The pimples were still there but not as pronounced as those you would find on very light-skinned girls. She was about to lower her gaze in extending the inspection to her chest when the intention was interrupted by rapid knocks on the door. On instinct, she crouched defensively. Luckily, the door was locked.

“Who is it?” she asked.

“It’s me!” said Bayo one of her brothers from behind the closed door. “Your friend, Gloria Savage is here to see you.”

“Okay,” she answered, “tell her to wait for me.”

Quickly, she dressed in a mini-skirt and a short-sleeved shirt. Opening the door, she went into the adjacent children living room where her friend was already seated. “Gloria! Gloria!!” she called as she sat opposite the other young lady.

“Eh, eh, don’t call me!” the other girl feigned anger. “Don’t call me at all because I’m angry with you.”

“I know why you’re angry with me, Gloria.” Julie smiled apologetically at the guest. “But you just have to forgive me.”

“How could you be absent at my birthday party?” Gloria bellowed in wonder. “You that I relied so much upon to brighten up the party?”

With a tinge of embarrassment, Julie began to explain. “I was down all day with menstrual cramps.”


“Yes! It happens that way each time I have my period... oh, it can be terrible.”

Gloria studied her briefly for a few seconds. Then, she began to giggle. “Oh, oh! Julie, haven’t you started having sex?”

“What?” Julie said, and sprang to her feet nervously to look around. She wanted to be sure that no one was eavesdropping, although her friend was not, in the least, bothered.

“Well Julie, haven’t you?”

Julie blushed in acute embarrassment as she shook her head slowly. “No!”

“There you are! Once you start having sex, there’ll be no more cramps.” The brash, young lady went on to present her naïve friend with advice laced with warped, contorted concepts of human sexuality. As an antidote to incessant menstrual cramps, Gloria placed all emphasis on sexual intercourse.

“But, Gloria,” Julie groaned, though excitedly, “I don’t even have a boyfriend!”

“What, are you kidding me?” Gloria expressed surprise with disdain. “At a ripe age of seventeen, you don’t have a boyfriend?”

“No!” Julie replied, almost apologetically.

“My, oh, my!” the other girl was amused. “Anyway, I’ll advise that you make yourself available, okay! I mean, there are boys all around you, for God’s sake.”

“Alright... I’ll see what I can do” Julie agreed and then whispered. “So, you have been having sex?”

“Oh, yes!” Gloria answered with a smile. “I even had it yesterday.”

“Ah!” Julie’s palms flew to her mouth in a bid to stifle her cries of excitement.

“And let me give you another word of advice,” Gloria continued. ”Make sure you go for a matured man. Small boys are too inexperienced to take care of a girl.” Gloria went on to impart more and more of her false concepts until noon when she departed.

Julie was, once again, in her room that afternoon when the arrival of her private teacher was announced. It was then, on impulse, that she hatched a plan.

Solomon Duru was employed as a private teacher to take Julie in Mathematics. A young university graduate in his late twenties, Solomon was scheduled to come in every Saturday afternoon to prepare the young girl for her forthcoming West African School Certificate examinations. As she stepped into the living room, the young man noted that Julie wore no bra under her shirt. The skirt, on the other hand, was the briefest he had ever seen on her. As soon as she sat down opposite him, Solomon’s guess was confirmed. The girl wore no underwear.

“For heaven’s sake Julie...” he protested, his body already at the peak of arousal. “Why are you dressed so provocatively?”

“Well, mister teacher...do you mind?” a smiling Julie asked as she stood up. Now, she beckoned to the mesmerised man. “Come, Mr. Duru... there is something I’ll like to show you.”

Consumed by his own insane desire, Solomon stood up like a robot to follow her. It was inside her room that he found out her true objective was in line with his desire after all. Smiling coyly, she began to undress. To be very sure, he waited till she had discarded her shirt before he commenced to remove his own clothes. Soon, they were in bed, where they both fumbled and wobbled awkwardly for some minutes without any progress. Suddenly, Julie shrieked in agony. A few seconds afterwards, the painful, crushing exercise was over.

Completely disappointed, a tearful Julie could not hide her disgust. “Is that all?” she sneered.

“Eh, that’s all, for now,” an embarrassed Solomon stuttered in feeble explanation, “but, if you can just wait for a few minutes.”

Hissing amidst an uncontrollable rage, Julie sprang up from the bed to dress up. Then she saw the bloodstains on the bed sheet. But as she made to scream in panic, Solomon quickly explained the source of the bloodstains, attributing it to her broken hymen. Shortly afterwards, the two were out of the room. For the rest of the day however, the mathematics lesson was out. A ruffled Solomon loitered awkwardly around the teenager in the living room for a while before leaving.

When he was gone Julie lay crumpled on a settee like a used cloth, wondering if what she had just experienced was what sex was all about. She had imagined and expected a glorious trip to a land of erotic pleasure. But all she got was a brutal, crushing torment in the hands of an inexperienced man who went about the exercise like a beast in heat. As she throbbed with acute pain on the settee for a while, she scrambled up towards her room. There she lay restlessly in bed as she gritted her teeth in reaction to the terrible throbbing pain in her groin. “So, this is sex?” she soliloquised in anger. ”Jesus... this is absolute rubbish!”

The girl was writhing in pain when her mother, came looking for her. The older woman had been angry to find their parents’ living room in shambles. This was in spite of repeated warnings to the children not to venture there. She had wanted an explanation from Julie. Mrs. Martins opened the door to find her daughter sprawled on bed and crying softly as she clutched her groin.

“Julie, what’s wrong with you?” she demanded curiously as she entered the room.

“Oh, you’re back?” Julie stopped sobbing as her mother came into the room.

“Julie! I asked you a question.” She persisted, and scanned the room. The bloodstains on the bed-sheet caught her attention. Now put on alert by the discovery, she moved closer to the bed. “Ah, ah!” Mrs. Martins shrieked in panic. “Julie, how come you have bloodstains on your bed?” Her face contorted in fear and confusion, the girl began to sob. On impulse, an alarmed Mrs. Martins lifted her daughter’s short skirt and was confronted by bloodstains on her thighs. “Julie, what is this?” the older woman screamed.

Julie shook her head slowly, “I... I don’t feel like talking about it.”

“Are you crazy?” Mrs. Martins screamed at her in anger. “Do you want to bleed to death?”

“What?” the girl shot her mother a look of panic. “Is one going to continue to bleed?”

“Well” Mrs. Martins shrugged her shoulders, seizing on the girl’s naiveté. “It depends on what your problem is. But from what I’m seeing, your situation may be critical.”

Julie sat up in bed instantly on hearing her mother’s appraisal of the situation. “So, one can bleed to death?” she asked in morbid fear.

Her mother pressed on to scare her in a bid to uncover whatever it was that brought about the bloodstains. “Oh, yes!” the older woman insisted. “So, you better tell me about it.

“Eh!” embarrassed by the incident, a scared Julie pleaded with her eyes. “Please, mom... I... I don’t know how to present it.”

Her fear now obviously confirmed, the older woman decided to hit the nail on the head, in spite of her anxiety. “Julie!” she stared at her daughter anxiously. “Did you, eh, did you have sex?” Not daring to meet her mother’s stare, Julie began to sob even as she nodded her head slowly. “Oh, my God!” Mrs. Martins grabbed her head in alarm. “Julie! You had the nerve to have sex right under my roof?” The girl said nothing. “And what are you trying to prove?” Mrs. Martins glared coldly at her daughter. “That you’re fully grown, at the age of seventeen?” The girl had no immediate answer. And so, a silence reigned until the older woman asked the next question. “And with whom did you do it?” Again, there was silence. “Julie.” the older woman screamed in utter anger as she repeated the question. “With whom did you do it?”


“Eh, what?”

“Huh, Mr... Mr. Duru.”

“What, the private teacher?”

“Eh, yes!”

Mrs. Martins, dazed by the revelation, could only shake her head slowly in disbelief. “I, I can’t believe this. You and Solomon?” She turned abruptly and stormed out of the room, leaving a confused Julie to wonder about the consequence of her confession. Julie did not however have long to wait, as things began to move far beyond her pace and expectation. Several minutes after the encounter with her mother, the girl found herself on the way to a hospital, sandwiched between her parents in their chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz car.

While in transit, she had to contend with the painfully-throbbing sensation between her legs on the one hand, and the noise of her screaming parents on the other hand. They were so busy showering her head with insults that they did not seem to be aware of her physical pain.

Earlier, her father who had been devastatingly disappointed with her behaviour had called her aside. “If people ask you about the incident, tell them you were raped by Solomon, is that clear?”

“Yes, daddy!” she had replied quickly, afraid that a slight hesitation could earn her another horrific yell. She had been yelled at twice already by the same awfully disturbed father; who had wondered why God should give him a daughter, at all.

“This is why I never envy couples with female children,” the angry chief had snarled in his daughter’s direction, “they are too full of drama for my liking.”

In a sharp reaction, his wife glared at him in disbelief. “Well...” the woman sneered in his direction. “Now that you have a female child, are you going to get rid of her?”

“I wished I could!” The chief retorted angrily.

“You wished you could?” his wife asked again, as she shook her head in sadness. “I’m really disappointed in you!”

“I beg your pardon!” the angry man would not relent. “In whom should you feel disappointed here, your daughter or me?”

“Oh, so she is now my daughter, not our daughter?”

“Yes.” Chief Martins retorted without remorse. “Right now, she is your daughter!”

“Okay.” the woman shook her head sadly. “You’re only restating our people’s adage that men will always lay claim to a good child while a bad child is said to belong to the mother. No problem, I’ve accepted this situation as my fate.”

“Whatever!” her husband snapped. “My male kids will never cause me this type of embarrassment.”

“I can’t believe this!” she stared at the man in surprise. “I guess I have to educate you, even at your age that this issue has nothing to do with the sex of a kid.”

“Really?” Chief. Martins sneered. “Okay, go ahead, educate me.”

“Listen Dipo,” Mrs. Martins continued to talk unperturbed by her husband’s sarcasm. “Presently, there is a need for an urgent response to the large-scale ignorance that pervades the lives of youngsters, across the world, on the subject of sex.” Her husband stared but said nothing. “Sexual ignorance has become so endemic in the lives of these young people that they fumble and wobble into maturity through bitter lessons in sexual experimentation. Unfortunately, these lessons often leave them with physical and emotional scars.”

““Uh, huh!” the chief said and nodded in agreement. “So, what do you think should be the response to the problem, because this kind of thing can be very embarrassing to a parent?”

“Sex education.” she said.

“You mean sexuality education?” her husband corrected.

“Whatever way you say it.” said Mrs. Martins and shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “The primary goal of such a sexuality education is to canvass for the restoration of traditional moral values in the global community. With these values in place, the ultimate panacea to all sexually-related problems will simply be abstinence for the bachelor, chastity for the spinster and fidelity for the married.”

“Well, well!” Chief Martins smiled for the first time since the crisis began. “You always have a way of impressing me by your smart analysis of issues like this.”

“Thanks.” the woman smiled in appreciation. “Don’t forget that I hold a Master’s degree in Sociology.”

“Yes.” the chief nodded his head. “I know.”

The hospital stay was brief but precise. Julie was thoroughly checked and tested for signs of sexually transmitted diseases which all came out negative. Afterwards, she was given an assortment of medications which the attending doctor described as antibiotics and birth control pills. The young lady was however glad when it was all over.

From that moment and all through the return journey home, her parents neither uttered a word to her, nor to each other. Whenever the birth control pills were exhausted, she would inform her mother who would simply get her another package.

Since that fateful day though, her parents ceased worrying about the girl’s personal activities. They were confident that their greatest fear of seeing their daughter’s education interrupted by an unwanted pregnancy had been allayed. And, above all, they did not have to entertain the fear that the girl could bring shame on the family’s precious name.

In the meantime, Solomon Duru was arrested by the police and charged with various offences, ranging from criminal sexual assault to statutory rape. For the young man, Julie’s legal status as a minor made matters much worse.


Still looking at her dishevelled image in the mirror, Julie suddenly remembered the pill. If the truth must be faced, she thought, the decision to place her on the oral contraceptive was not really the source of her problem. It was her fault, she decided finally. If only she had not attempted to join the bandwagons of mere happy-go-lucky friends. It was only now that Julie realised that a girl’s best teacher and confidant on an issue as sensitive as sex and its many concepts and myths should be her mother. Unfortunately now, a lot of water had passed under the bridge.

“God!” Julie heaved a deep sigh. “I suppose the whole thing has now become a fait accompli. But where do I go from here?” She was in the process of considering an answer to this question when her attention was attracted to an over-turned handbag on the floor.

As the distraught young lady bent down to pick up the bag, she remembered how she had angrily flung it to the floor on rushing blindly into the room the day before. Picking it up, she tried to click it shut when she saw a small white envelope that stuck out of the bag. Inside was a birthday card. “How did this escape me?” she thought aloud in wonder. “Didn’t I tear up all the birthday cards yesterday?” Julie snarled as she got hold of the card with the intention of tearing it. Suddenly, memories of the card and its sender flooded back to her.

For the first time in over fifteen hours, she detected a smile in the mirror. It was a smile that embarrassed her somewhat under the prevailing circumstances. Opening the little envelope, she brought out a miniature card, the smallest she had ever seen. It was also the most beautiful one in outlook and in content. She proceeded to read the message in the card. On the left side of the card was the usual prototype message while on the right side, the sender had painstakingly added his own thoughts in very fine handwriting.

Dear Julie,
It all started as a little aspiration.
Then it grew into a monstrous desire.
Only a silly game,
I thought my emotion was playing.
But now the reality is stark
even for an unbeliever like me
that here is the manifestation of a new dawn.
My heart, cowered in submission
and placed on a platter of gold,
is now handed over to you.
Thomas. (a.k.a. The Unbeliever.)

“Wow, what a card?” Julie shrieked excitedly. “This guy is creative!” As though it was an ornament of the highest value, she clutched the tiny card to her chest while a full smile lit up her face. It was at this glorious moment that a thought suddenly occurred to her. Instantly, she sat up in bed to think furiously about this interesting idea that had surreptitiously crept into her head.

After a few minutes of a restless mental exercise, she jumped up from the bed excitedly. Then, she read the message in the card again. She tossed the card up happily. “Wow!” she screamed joyously. “Boy, I’ve got you!” For the umpteenth time, she picked up the card to read, her mind reviewing the plan being hatched in her complex mind. “My, oh, my!” she shrieked in ecstasy, staring at her hair in the mirror and went into the bathroom.

Some minutes afterwards, she emerged from the bathroom, stark naked to stand before the full-length mirror by her bed. “Boy!” she began to assess her body with a smile. “This body of mine is still great for heaven’s sake!”

Quickly, she dressed in a pair of jeans and a body-hugging, sleeveless blouse. “Tunji has removed his lousy carpet.” Julie said as she walked out of the room. “But Thomas is about to replace it with a marvellous oriental rug.”

Mrs. Martins and two of her children were having lunch in the dining room when Julie joined them. There was a huge silence as she sat on a chair, her face lit up in a strange smile. It was this quite unexpected smile that aggravated the confused state of her mother and siblings. Scared that her daughter could have lapsed into a mental depression, Mrs. Martins asked “Are you okay, Julie?”

“Of course, I am.” Then she smiled apologetically to an audience that still chose to remain cautious. “I’m awfully sorry for all the troubles I’ve caused.”

“Oh, that’s all right dear. I only hope you’re really alright.”

“Sure, mommy, I’m absolutely alright now.”

While her mother heaved a sigh of relief, Julie scooped some rice onto a plate and commenced to eat. “By the way!” Julie asked her mother. “Where is daddy?”

Her mother shot her a sharp look and contemplated briefly before answering her. “He is attending a meeting at Ikoyi Exclusive Hotel... I’m sure he will be surprised to see you in this good mood.”

Julie smiled sardonically while her brothers gaped in astonishment at the mild manner in which their mother had put the issue.

The Price of Ignorance was written by Femi Olawole and is an unpublished book excerpt from The Price of Ignorance.

Copyright © Femi Olawole 2010.

Femi Olawole has been a man of many parts at different times - an accountant, banker, law enforcement officer, poet and freelance journalist. He contributed to The News Journal as a member of the Community Advisory Board of the Delaware’s top-most newspaper. A social commentator, Olawole has contributed to many journals, anthologies and on-line/print media across the world.

In 1993, he received The Nigerian Media Merit Award in Business Reporting for Sailing on Dark Waters, a special report on the travails of Nigerian entrepreneurs in their search for seed capital. Olawole lives in Delaware, USA.


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