There was once a man named Marcus Amujiukwu, born into a low-income household in one of the more squalid neighbourhoods at Abakaliki. His father was a carpenter who loved listening to Bongos Ikwue, and his mother was a teacher who detested cats, as was common with many devout Christian women in the mid-1990s. They didn’t have much, but they were eager to see that their only son got a good education, even if it meant borrowing from more pecunious relatives. Isimkachi, one of Marcus’ uncles, particularly loved taking digs at the struggling couple during family reunions. However, they didn’t care about references to blunt cutlasses and cursed hands; they wanted their child to have access to the opportunities that had long eluded them.
Marcus navigated secondary school without much incident and gained admission to study Engineering at the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, but he had one weakness: he loved women, which wouldn’t have been much of an issue if he understood the concept of The Age of Consent. Much unlike Ewan McGregor’s character in the 1996 movie Trainspotting, he had no conscience nudges whenever he learned that some of the girls he brought into his bedsitter (which his mother paid for annually) were yet to celebrate their 15th birthdays.
Marcus somehow got around to graduating with a Second Class (Lower Division) degree, and even though the NYSC scheme had long lost its relevance (given that ethnic bigotry had worsened over the decades), he was posted to a place called Ugep in Cross River state. He grimaced when he saw the letter deploying him to a public secondary school, but he quickly immersed himself in the community…and immersed himself in some of his students, too. He was poor at warding off teenage crushes, the love notes dropped on his desk by wide-eyed girls were treated to “intense feedback”, and his room at the lodge became a chalet of sorts; Wofai and Nkinamma were his favourites on the tryst roster.
Wofai began to skip school, and when she resurfaced four months later, there were a few glaring signs: her face was rounder, and her bust bigger. Like Shaggy in the aptly-named “It Wasn’t Me”, Marcus shirked responsibility, and the girl, amidst tears, put away her SS1 Literature texts in her mother’s drawer…but that didn’t deter him from “hosting” Kedei’s 13th birthday in his room on the night before his Passing Out Parade.
Years passed, and Marcus rose through the ranks of Zenith Bank, switching from Customer Service to Commercial Banking, but he began to feel disillusioned, and when his father died from a heart attack after the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital experienced a power cut, he knew that his time in Nigeria was up. He got his writer friend to help him draft a convincing Statement of Purpose for an M.Sc programme, sold his three generators, and by the end of 2022, he had purchased flight tickets for Belfast.
The winter was unforgiving when Marcus arrived at the capital of Northern Ireland, and the Jergens lotion he brought from Enugu didn’t make it to mid-February. He opted to download dating apps, but just as in Ugep, he failed to understand that minors could not possibly give consent.
“Send photos of your backside”, he texted Siobhan, two days after she revealed that she was only 14.
“You should come over, we will watch John Wick 4 and have a few drinks”, he said to 12-year-old Erin over the phone in the middle of a conversation where he had his left hand inside his briefs.
One day in the final weeks of Spring, Marcus heard the doorbell and raced to the door in anticipation. He had been expecting Siobhan, but to his dismay, he saw two policemen and a woman who had the thickest accents he had ever heard. He was in denial when they confronted him for texting minors, but when presented with all the screenshots, he burst into tears and yelled “Temptation, it was a temptation. All I wanted to do was surprise her. I just wanted new friends, seeing that I just moved here.”
Unlike their baton-happy counterparts in Lagos, the Belfast police were gentle in whisking Marcus away. They put him in their Sedan, and ensured that he got tea every morning as the charges against him were drafted.
Somewhere in one of Abakaliki’s suburbs, Isimkachi, now blind in one eye and needing a stick to support his frail steps, pulled down a small bottle from an old shelf. The bottle contained a photo of Marcus that had been printed from Facebook. Isimkachi began to howl derisively.