Veronica was in a hurry. She had slept late because she was reviewing a case she handled the day before. It was a case of seizures in a 24 year old man. It was unusual to see such a presentation in a man who was not epileptic so she dug out her books and her laptop for research. She had recently moved to Lagos from Port Harcourt where she had lived with her parents, working in the University of Port Harcourt teaching hospital. A resident in family health, she was hoping to become a consultant doctor in 3 years.
Her uncle, Dr. Nigel Ogwu, was the reason for her move. He died suddenly and left his hospital, St. Lucas, to her. The lawyer who called her, stated that she was to immediately take over and ensure that the hospital did not become bankrupt for any reason. Her parents were astonished but pleased. Even her brothers wondered why he did not will it to his two sons. None of them studied medicine but they could have hired any doctor to be the Medical director. She took a leave of absence in order to see to the assignment.
At 29, Veronica was aware of the weight of the responsibility but it did not faze her. All her life, she had had to work a little harder, speak up boldly and be more creative, to avoid being ignored. She was 5ft 2: a fact her family of giants never let her forget. The blame was that of her grandmother, who was the only possible donor of the genes for her height. Her parents were both tall, her 3 brothers were over 6ft each and her 2 grandfathers were tall as well.
She was petite, dark, with a mane of long dark hair (also suspected to be gulping the nutrients that should have made her tall), and a pretty smile. Her brown eyes were her best feature. They were set in an oval face with a pointed nose, and small lips. A lot of people thought she was pretty but she did not believe them.
She was driving to work in a small honda car. The car belonged to the hospital and was actually for the use of the medical director, her humble self. She currently lived in a one bedroom flat usually rented for their doctors who needed accommodation. As she was new in Lagos, the flat was perfect because of its proximity to the hospital. The former occupant left for another job so she moved in.
St. Lucas was in an upscale neighbourhood but the only way she knew to access it from her house took her through an area populated by families living in shacks. They bathed and did their business in the open, unmindful of the eyes of passersby. She always wound up her windows so as not to perceive the stench of the drains they were filled with all sorts of waste. Her speakers were turned up as she listened to the CD of a message preached by her favourite pastor.
Suddenly, she heard a loud bang and a shout. Turning off her radio, she slowed down. A motorbike had knocked down a child who had run into the road suddenly. The rider sped off without stopping. She thought of giving chase but changed her mind. It was better to save the child. What good doctor would leave an injured child to hunt down a criminal? That was the job of the police.
Parking by the road, she turned off her engine and got out. A small crowd had already gathered. She reached for her stethoscope and first aid bag before locking the car.
“Make way! Excuse me! I’m a doctor,” she shouted as she approached.
“You be doctor?*, ” a rough looking fellow asked. “Give am chance!*”
The man shoved aside the onlookers to allow her kneel by the child. She saw that he was about 5 years old. He had a huge gash on his left leg that was bleeding profusely and was not moving. She felt his pulse after pulling on her gloves. It was faint.
“This boy needs to be rushed to the hospital. Where are his parents?,” she asked looking around.
“The boy no get papa. Na the mama wey dey and im don go where she dey sell for person shop,” the young man volunteered.
“God go punish person wey do this thing!,”a voice came from the crowd.
“The boy don die?, ” another asked.
Veronica ignored them and got out the things she needed. She found a pair of forceps to hold the severed artery. That minimized the bleeding. On examining the child, she observed that the leg was fractured. She gave instructions to someone in the crowd to get some wood so she could fashion a splint. After that, she bandaged the limb, cleaned him up a bit and gave him an injection for the pain.
Two men carried him into her car. She dropped her contact details with them, while a lady who claimed to be his mother’s neighbour, got into the car and sat with his head on her lap. Veronica sped off. She was now 1 hour late.
Perez and Abel were in the office of their father Dr. Nigel’s solicitor. Barrister Obi was an old family friend. He and their dad had gone to secondary school together and they even married women who were cousins. It was 2 weeks after Veronica had assumed the position as MD of the hospital, a fact that did not sit well with them. Both Perez and Abel had lived in the Uk for many years. Their mother had sent them to high school there and kept a flat for her visits to see them. Their father was happy to have them out of his hair so he could do as he liked.
While in the university, they developed a cocaine addiction. They had been sent for rehabilitation many times but it was all money down the drain. Their mom died 5 years before their dad. He threatened to cut them off if they did not get their act together but they did not believe him. Now, they wanted to go to court to challenge the will their father left.
“Perez, P-boy, how are you?” Barr. Obi rose to shake his hand as he entered.
He and Abel were twins. They were so similar that few people could tell them apart but Uncle Obi had never been fooled by their antics as children.
“I’m alright,”Perez replied in his deep voice with the British accent that reflected his many years of sojourn abroad.
Abel had hung back to take a call. He now entered as well.
“Hi, Uncle Obi.”
He pronounced it “O” “b” instead of “Obi” but Barr. Obi only laughed and shook his hand.
“You blokes are getting bigger by the day! I have to start training with you,” he playfully punched their well- muscled arms before ushering them to their seats. “So, how do you do?”
“Uncle Obi, we are not really here for chit chat.” Perez frowned.
“We came for what is ours,” Abel added.
“The hospital? ,” Obi asked.
“Yeah, the bloody hospital! I’ll be damned if some mother…..”
Obi stopped him with a hand raised. “No, not in my office”
“Pardon my French but how do you expect us to sit by and watch our inheritance go to a gold digger?,” Perez scratched his head angrily.
“You have to help us get it back,” Abel announced.
Barr. Obi held their gazes for some seconds. He had expected this day when his friend came in to make the will. The fact that their father left a house for each of them in Ikoyi and Abuja was no consolation. Leasing or selling those houses would bring in good cash but they still felt cheated. Why should their cousin who was even a female, inherit the hospital?, the cash cow that funded the extravagant lifestyle they lived?, the pride of their family? It was inconceivable.
They were not only addicted to cocaine, they had dropped out of the university with no training or skill that could bring in an income. From studying architecture, Perez now wanted to act in movies. Abel who was to study Medicine, wanted to become a martial arts instructor. If only they actually pursued any of these passions intently, perhaps they would have an income of their own but no. They depended on the pocket money their father sent till the day he died and on the rentage from the flat in London.
“Your father was so angry with you boys, he actually wanted to leave you with nothing. I begged him for the sake of your mother, to leave you the houses and the cars. He expressly warned me not to assist you to thwart his will. What do you want from me?,” he threw up his hands.
“We have been civil because you’re like family, ” Perez warned, rising. “It seems you are in on this plot. Our lawyer will contact you”
“P-boy, sit down!,” Obi raised his voice. “I don’t care how old you are, I won’t take that tone”
“You have no right to hand the deed for the hospital to Veronica. We are not even shareholders for us to believe she will make returns to us. This is just hogwash?,” Abel complained.
“I had to obey my client”
“Yeah, right!,” Perez scoffed. “You could have kept the will a secret and we would have cut a deal with you. Did you cut a deal with that short girl? How much will she fork over to you?”
“Get out of my office, both of you!,” Obi had had enough. “When you are off whatever you smoked this morning, come back and I will find you a financial adviser to help you turn your lives around. I have work to do”
He rose to his full height. Barr. Obi was 58 but he was still imposing enough to make his point. The young men got to their feet.
“We will not give up our inheritance without a fight,” Abel announced.
“That’s the thing: The hospital is Veronica’s inheritance. You got the houses. Be content,” he replied.
“We shall see,” Perez intoned as they stalked out.
Obi watched them stomp out and bang the door. He went over to the window to see which of their father’s cars they had come in. Suddenly, he was grateful for his wife who was the chief disciplinarian in his home. His 3 children would have turned out like the Ogwu twins or worse, left to him. He had a very soft heart and often trembled when his wife spanked them as kids. Now, they were all adults, living on their own and thriving in their careers. Indeed, it was wise to train a child in the way he should go so that he will never depart from that way.
This is my way of saying “Sowie”. Hope I’m forgiven. I had to attend to pressing business. Thanks for checking in. God bless u. Cheers. Dr. N