Akua Ibori woke early every day to work on his farm. He couldn’t afford to hire labor so Bayo helped him in planting and fertilizing. The soil preparation was hard and Akua would ask his neighbors to help. There would be a long period of growth. At harvest time, Bayo helped in bundling and storing the pulled corn stems. When Demond was a baby Bayo carried him on her back, wrapped up in a long cloth as she worked in the hot sun.
“Daddy wants you to be rich when you grow up,” She would say.
By evening Bayo would be exhausted after a day’s work. She cooked the Nsima as Akua sat outside and talked with neighbors.
Akua was lucky for a few years. There was plentiful rain and the crop was strong. He enrolled Demond in the elementary school to learn English and mathematics. Akua hoped he would complete school and graduate. One of the problems he had was to be consistent in paying the tuition. The schools required payment or the students would be sent home.
“The government isn’t for smallholder farmers,” Akua said to Bayo one day. “They only support big tobacco farmers, because they give them money. What about us?”
Bayo had no answer.
It was middle of 1969 when the Ibori family faced a famine. Akua had planted the corn but it wouldn’t be ready for consumption for another four or five months. He hadn’t saved enough money to buy food in the market. During the period between planting and harvesting the price of corn would skyrocket due to shortage and it made matters worse for people like Akua even if he had some money.
When there was nothing to do Bayo sat outside her cottage with her children. Badru and Abebi played in the dirt and came and hugged her. They caressed Bayo’s face with their hands and asked if they could have something to eat. Bayo hugged them tight and cried. Akua felt helpless and just walked away. He would go to his farm and stare at the plants. Sometimes Bayo filled a bowl of water and kept it on the fire to pretend that she was cooking. She gave them hot water. Bayo knew the next day would be same. She thought of going to Akua’s farm to see if she could salvage some corn even if it was not ready to pull
Bayo’s mother Nomusa lived ten miles away. Her father Macario worked as a laborer in a large coffee plantation. He earned decent money, but it wasn’t enough to help Akua’s family.
Macario had helped Akua’s father invest in the farm. He had seen Akua grow up from a child into a teenager. Akua had impressed him as an honest, hardworking person. Macario had convinced Nomusa that Akua would be a good match for Bayo. They had high hopes that Akua and Bayo would be an ideal couple and would raise a good family. Macario had taken the initiative to approach Akua’s father seeking the alliance between the families. Akua was twenty and Bayo sixteen when they were married. In two years Akua faced the first challenge of his life. Bayo got pregnant and his father died of heart attack. Akua found him in his farm, face down. Akua had done whatever he was told by his father without learning the skill of proper farming. Now suddenly he found himself with the responsibility of managing the farm and being a father. He was the only surviving child of his parents. His mother lived for four years after her husband’s death and then succumbed to Malaria. Macario and Nomusa were sad at the turn of events in the Ibori family.
Nomusa would visit Bayo at least once a month. She liked playing with her grand children. Macario rode his bicycle carrying Nomusa on the rack in the back. They brought tea and milk and sometimes rice. It would help for a few days.