It was an incredibly dark night. The kind of night that makes you want to go back inside and search for your Bible.
We had all arrived at the venue of the party – a large mansion in Ikeja GRA – in rides First Lady had arranged for the purpose.
NEPA had plunged the compound into absolute darkness, and from the intermittent spluttering and spitting sound coming from a shed we passed at the entrance to the property, it was obvious that the generator was refusing to cooperate.
As I waited for First Lady to finish chatting with some boys dressed in colourful polo shirts and low-hanging jeans, I figured out that the other girls loitering by the gazebo on one side of the swimming pool were other girls she had ‘arranged.’
I consciously walked a little way away from them. I had noticed people looking at the gathering of girls dressed in white and black and I didn’t want them to think of me as one of them - I am not an Ashewo like that. But my ‘uniform’ still bundled me with them.
First Lady was not in white and black. In fact, her multi coloured tube-top and her golden trousers were anything but black and white.
Also, I and the other girls by the gazebo were the only ones in the whole compound dressed in white and black. Other girls mixing with boys there were overdressed in every other colour but white and black. My outfit, a pair of white jeans and a black silk shirt, was going to cost me N7,500 the next day.
Why had First Lady made us dress like waitresses? Or was it that she did not get the update that the dress code had changed? But she wasn’t in white and black.
All around, people stood in near silence: shifting silhouettes under a cloud-covered night.
I remembered the unexpected scene in Funke Akindele’s movie, Jenifa, when girls who had been told to wear a particular colour combination to a party suddenly found themselves magically transported to a clearing in a dense jungle, surrounded by fear invoking statues, and the innocent looking men who a moment ago had been partying with them suddenly became frightful black-magic priests who chased the them, caught them, and proceeded to offer them as sacrifices in a demonic ritual.
My spirit said to me, “Amaka, you should not be here!”
As I was contemplating my escape, urged on by a quickening of my heartbeat, another girl broke from the crowd of white and black girls and started walking towards me.
“Juliet,” she whispered , “You are Juliet, shebi? Kike’s friend?”
“Yes,” I said.
I did not recognize her but who she was was the last thing on my mind. I was thinking of how to slink away unnoticed before the generator finally kicked to life. Wait o! Was the broken generator simply part of the ploy? My head swelled up by several inches of fright.
The girl moved even closer and whispered even lower.
“Juliet, why are we the only ones wearing white and black?” she asked.
Only then did I strain to properly look at her face. I still didn’t recognize her but she looked scared. I became even more scared.
“Is it that they are planning to do something?” she asked.
My fearful heart reached out to hers.
“Let us go,” I said.
We agreed to go but we both stood there, a few meters from our other white and black girls, the other people to our other side, a huge wall behind us, and the silent pool in front of us.
First lady was on the other side of the pool, still discussing with the boys she was discussing with. At that moment, I prayed to God that should he let me leave this place alive, I would never go to where they are doing bad things again.
The generator spluttered. I don’t know who took the first step, but we were soon walking towards the other people at the party – the ones not dressed in white and black. We had almost gotten to them when I felt something nudge my spirit to look back.
I looked over my shoulder, and behind us, walking in a long silent line, were the other black and white girls. Who told them to follow us!
That was First lady’s voice. Everybody stopped; even I and my fellow would-be escapee.
She, First lady, left the boys she was with and marched in quick steps to where we were.
“Where are you people going?” she asked no one in particular. “Who told you to go anywhere? I said wait by the gazebo; don’t you know what gazebo is?”
In fairness to her, even I didn’t know till that night that the hut/bar by the pool was called a gazebo. But in that darkens, and with the fear of God that had been planted in my heart, its pitch black hallow belly shrouded under an overhanging thatch roof looked like a sacrificial slaughter house prepared for us, the girls in white and black.
“Who told you to move?” she asked again when nobody answered her the first time.
As subsequent girls looked at each other seeking out the one to blame, the girl who had approached me with the same fear I had, broke out into a run.
The way First Lady spoke, and the spectacle of girls all dressed in white and black outfits walking towards the normally dressed people had attracted everyone’s attention.
The girl ran through the crowd and they parted for her. First Lady stood looking stunned, the entire party with her.
I was watching her escape - watching her save her life - when I heard the generator make a distinctly different sound than it had been making all night. That was my cue to follow the girl. I ran!
The next day, in the safety of my uncle’s house in Surulere, I learnt that First Lady’s girls had been taken from the house in Ikeja to the Sheraton Hotel, also in Ikeja.
It was a secret party hosted by the egbons of the London boy whose bachelor eve it was.
At the Sheraton party, each girl was given $500 dollars on arrival: Thanks for coming, even on arrival!
And the lucky ones who caught the eyes of some of the big boys in attendance were rumoured to have returned to campus with thousands of dollars - in crisp hundred dollar bills.
I have since then been avoiding First Lady, and the girl who sold me the white jeans and black silk shirt on credit.