ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Category: Creative Writing

The Black Burden by Ola Dunni

One day,

My nephew arrived from school

Tapped his mum and asked in a very innocent voice

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Doctoral student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Are Africans stupid?

Are we stupid mum?

Were we shocked at this question?

No

Wary?

Yes

We needed some more time before we had to do the whole black stereotype discussion

We wanted him to be innocent for a few more years

To grow up like every other kid

And not be weighed down by the black burden we all have had to carry for centuries

He was just 7 years old

7 freaking years old

Why do you ask this?

His mum inquired

My classmate Bobby said all black people are stupid

With further digging and prodding,

We realised Bobby’s mother was the origin of this statement

Bobby’s mother told Bobby who called my nephew stupid

 

My nephew is the only black kid in the school

A very smart kid who has been promoted twice

But he questions his intelligence because a white kid said so

Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the iceberg for him

I am not pessimistic, simply realistic

He is gonna encounter far worse as he ages and leaves his cocoon

All we can do is arm him with tools to navigate a world which has been tilted against his kind

Educate him on history which was scripted to subjugate his kind

While stealing from him

Got us convinced we are not good enough

Got us convinced our religion is paganistic

Our way of life is far from the ideal

While stealing and raping our culture

Got us convinced our culture should take a back seat

While we embrace another whole heartedly

For yours is the standard of civilization

The bible was given to us in exchange for our freedom

And now you want me to continue to pray to a god which looks nothing like me

Believe in a fairy tale which paints an image of my kind as never do well slaves

You wear my hair as wigs during your carnival

While I am still struggling to wear mine as they grow from my head

Without being subjected to regulations on the definition of beautiful hair

 

My flatmate once called Kenyan food smelly and disgusting

With her nose scrunched up at me

Probably wanting me to apologise on behalf of Kenyans

Me shrugging my shoulders and retorting

Yours too stink and taste like rubber

The smell of cheese makes me want to puke

But the difference between me and you is understanding that identity is a construct

And no one chooses to which race, country, family he is born into

And that whatever you are,

Your taste, favorite food, fashion, culture is largely dependent on these 3 factors

What one chooses however is how you treat another human

How you don’t assume your own normativity should trump another’s

I am no longer going to be defensive

Apologizing for my culture, food, hair, body and colour

I have a right to own my narrative same as you do

I do not owe nobody an explanation either

For I am tired of smiling to the camera

Like some props to be displayed at the market square

 

Ask every black person

And you would hear the same story

How we subtly double check ourselves at every store

Before walking out the door

Making sure no article is tagged to our body mistakenly

We all sadly make fun of this

But it is a worry that plagues us all

That even if we got nothing on us

The alarm would still ring and we would be doubly embarrassed

So we pat ourselves stylishly

Because we are always automatically guilty until proven innocent

Who decides the innocence?

You

How do you then decide my innocence

If you are already plagued with your stereotypes of me

That I am a good for nothing criminal

 

The young guy who screamed monkey from his car

While high-fiving his friends

All laughing drunkenly

The doctor who requested for my asylum card

Automatically assuming my identity

The checker who came directly to my friend

And asked for her ticket

While the white dude who minutes before told his friend on the phone that he had no ticket was ignored

But of course he’s white so no one assumes he would drive black

Only black people drive black

The bouncers who refuse us entry into the clubs multiple times

The people who try to justify this act

The girl who dug her hand into my hair without my permission

Giving me her unsolicited opinion on the texture of my hair

Like my existence desperately needed her validation

The guys who ask to date me to satisfy their fetish

According to them,

Black girls are this and this and that

I was just some black face to them

And still told me I was the racist one for not throwing myself at their kind

The old woman who dragged me to her living room

To show me pictures of black kids she helps back in Africa

Oblivious to my discomfort and mechanical smile

All I wanted was a room to rent

The people who say we are all one when it suits their narrative

And scream go back to your country

At other times

The problem is not our difference

The problem is the interpretation of our differences

How we are narrated as not good enough

By the one who has the structural power

A proverb says,

Until the lion is able to write

The story will always glorify the hunter

 

So I told my nephew

Do not let society own you, shine so bright it dims the one who tries to stifle you

You are not intelligent, beautiful in spite of being black

You are all these because you are black

Embrace an undiluted image of you

Love yourself unaplogetically

But remember,

You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have

Standing tall in a world that has been programmed to proclaim your negatives

And impose their narratives on you

 

So when you say All lives matter

I ask you

Will your kids die with the world on their back

For mine will.

Lost in Transit? A Long Poetic Conversation on Language, Culture and Identity by Ola Dunni (!SiDOS)

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Doctoral student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Hasten up,

I’d like to take my shower before we leave

No, it is take your bath, not shower, my friend corrects me

No, it is shower, I insist

No, you shower when you want to cool off your body

And take your bath when it involves scrubbing your body

Whatever, I’m off to the bathroom

Lets continue this English lesson in the bus

Ola I’d like some tea

No I don’t have tea

But I got chocolate if you want that

Well that’s tea, my friend shakes his head at me

No it’s chocolate, I insist

Tea comes in a bag

We argue over this for some minutes

Until I shrug my shoulder, “Whatever leave me be”

 

Hey Ola

Can you direct me to the closest cafe around here?

Sure, it’s right around the corner after the traffic light

You want to get some bread and coffee?, I inquire

What?, my friend stares at me incredulously

I want to print some documents

Oh! Its a print shop you need and not a cafe

No, its a cafe I need to go

 

These are the excerpts of conversations

between my newly arrived Nigerian friends and me

For two weeks, I’ve been made to pay attention to my grammar

With the realisation that I’ve picked up the German English

And lost my Nigerian English

Replacing peculiar Nigerian words for German phrases

It doesn’t end there

 

Wake up, your phone is ringing

The guy slaps the girl lightly on the shoulder

Wake up, it’s your alarm

Wake up, you have a message

I stare at them both incredulously

Why you do you have to wake her up to pick her call?

You should just mute the call and when she wakes, she calls back

Why would I do that?, he replies

Your suggestion is weird

Well, you waking her up to pick a call is weird too

I sigh

 

The guy is gone to class

Just me and my girlfriend at home

Her phone rings

I am awake so I mute it

She wakes up later

Hey Ola, did my phone ring?

Yeah, you were asleep so I put it on mute

Why didn’t you wake me?, she grumbles

You didn’t inform me that you’d like to be woken up to pick a call,

I replied

 

Hey Ola, can I use your perfume

My friend shakes my shoulder to wake me up

Is the home on fire?, I ask sarcastically

My sleep ridden face all squeezed

No, but I’d like to use your perfume

You actually wake me to ask this question?

I wasn’t even pissed

I was flabbergasted

You know you should simply use it or leave without using it

Either way, it’s rude to wake me up

I note the differences in our interaction

It will be difficult not to

 

These differences are very obvious

How I walk, how I interpret and respond to messages

My gestures, short mechanical smile I give to strangers

Do you know that person you just smiled at?

They ask

No, we don’t know each other. It’s just simple mechanical smile

Why you smile then? They ask

The hugs of goodbye and welcome I share with my friends

These ones opening the door without hugging me

Me still talking about the weather while they already gone back to the room

Weird people, I shake my head at them both

You are the weird one, they laugh at me

Why you hugging everyone

You not even in a relationship

 

My two newly arrived Nigerian friends

Remind me of the fact that I’ve lost the authentic Nigerian identity

Yes, I have a green passport

And I say I am Nigerian to everyone I meet

Holding on to that identity

But I realise I am swimming against the tide

And I am at the point of drowning

My friends tell me every minute

You are not Nigerian

You are so German

You wont fit into the Nigerian society

 

I have not visited home in 4years

Without my friends showing me what it means to be Nigerian,

I would continue to insist on my authenticity

Telling archaic stories and slangs

No one uses that word any more

They’d laugh at me. This is how we say it

Even your English is all mixed up

It has lost that peculiar Nigerian accent

Your words are pronounced on a very high pitch

Our pronunciations are very flat and low pitched

You are hybrid, just accept it

 

Then I remember the woman at the train station

On a Sunday morning

Shouting in anger at a young boy

It was a small argument that quickly escalated into a fight

I was tired

It was 5am and I had partied the entire night

All I wanted was to take the bus home in peace

But these two were at it

Exchanging words

And then the outburst

Go back to your country!!!

The woman shouted at the dude

It was obvious his facial structures was Arabian

We all turned in alarm

Shock written over our face

Condemning her in our silence

But of course we said nothing

That’s how it always goes

No one was willing to tell her how terrible that was

Then the dude responded, back to where? Bitch!

I was born here, same as you! I belong here!

I am from Germany!

 

He was from here

This is what he’s known all his life

But his identity was snatched from him in seconds

And he had to fight to reclaim it

Who knows how many times he’s had to do this?

Fight this identity battle

Telling everyone willing to listen, I belong here same as you

I pondered to myself

He didn’t look fazed

His statement was very flat

 

So when you say, tell me about Nigeria

I can only tell you about memories

Locked up

Brought out once in a while

Cleaned till it glitters

And locked up again

To be pushed out when the occasion arises

 

But my Nigerian identity has been contested

By my newly arrived friends

I cannot even eat their food

Neither can they mine

I talk about how we eat pepper a lot

Not realising that I do not eat the Nigerian quantity of pepper anymore

They say my food is bland

I say theirs is too hot

Almost ripping my tongue out

How can you feel the taste of the food if you douse it with this quantity of pepper

They say the pepper is actually the taste

So we decided to cook separately

 

I do not know what I am

Of course I’m not German

But they say I’m not Nigerian either

And I’d have to learn how to be Nigerian

So I cannot in good faith regale you with stories of Nigeria

Or how it feels to be one

That will be claiming an identity I do not 100% fit into

Neither do I 100% fit into the German society

 

So I have decided to juggle both

Be the German in the very Nigerian camp

You should lower your voice when you talk

Use your earpiece when you listen to music

Wait for the traffic light, be very time conscious

And be Nigerian in the very German camp

Laugh at the top of my voice, be the pepper eater, invite strangers into my home

This way I have my peace

And I do not have to try too hard to be anything.

!SiDoS Slams For Girls in Münster Germany

This is For Every Girl Fighting The System

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

It was the end of the school term
I accompained my mum to my brother’s school
I was four years old
My brother was nine
The three best students for each class were always selected
And prizes awarded amidst claps and encomium
It was the turn of his class
He came second
A girl came first
I was glad, I was proud of him
I clapped so hard my hands began to hurt
My mum wore her pride like a peacock
And marched out with him to receive his prize
But her face was marked with lines of unsatisfaction
Well, must it be because the first position was snatched out of his hands?
I questioned myself
Every parent wants her child to be the best

On our way back home
My mum said to my brother
Congratulations, you did well
But a girl beat you to the first position
A girl
You shouldn’t let that happen next term.
Whats wrong in being a girl?
My four years old brain pondered
Why cannot a girl be the overall best
In an egalitarian society,
My mum would have said
Congratulations my son, you did well
But second place is not the best
Try harder next term
I am proud of your achievement

My mum bought me every kind of dresses
Puffed shoulder, wide- lacy-frilly skirts
But I envied my brother’s trousers and t-shirts
All I wanted was simple t-shirts and trousers
Why couldn’t I have clothes like him
I wailed at my mother
Because you are a girl
She responded
And girls should not wear what belong to boys
I hung my head in despair
Pondering on this argument
Why make this much effort for someone who don’t want it
Well, you don’t have a say in this, she smirked at me
So I wore my dresses and pranced about in my girly shoes
Cussing at my life for being a girl

Visiting the tailor was another scary day
My mum and I always came home mad at each other
I had to make my pick out of the feminine collection
I was always very quick to choose the simple dresses
Can we go now mum
I would say to her
Oh, so quick
She would stare over my head asking me to show her my choice
Well, here it is
I would fume at her
Why not this? She would say
Why that? I would reply
At least now, you can’t question my choice
It’s still from the freaking female catalogue
So can I have my deserved space
I would glare back at her

I enjoyed playing football with my brother and male cousins
Running, jumping and screaming to high heaven
Oh, the scent of freedom and liberty
But my mother wasn’t having any of it
It was all good at the beginning
She didn’t care too much
But whenever an errand needed to be done
It was me who had to go
What a heavy burden
The boys continued with their football
While I quickly went on the errand, returning to join in screaming
One day, the football had to stop
Why?!
Because you are a girl!
You shouldn’t be jumping around!
You are beginning to grow boobs!
Wow!
I hate my boobs then!
And would like to cut it out if given the choice
I bared my teeth at her
But then I found a way around her
Whenever she wasn’t home
I joined them
But my long dresses wasn’t made for the sharp turns and twists of football
Often, the ball got buried in my yards of skirts
We had to dig through to find it
But my cousins were super nice
So we came up with a plan
I had to be the goal keeper
Both team wanted me even if I sucked at it
Because my wide skirt did the job of fending off the ball
That’s quite smart right?
Hell yeah
My team always won
My skirts did a very good job
The moment we heard my mother’s car horn
I scrammed into the house
Wiping off my sweat and trying to stabilize my breathing
To get caught was to be flogged
And lectured on the proper way of being a girl for days

Sunday was the Lord’s Day
It was another day to spell out your gender codes of conduct
The pastor was the police
The bible was the constitution
It was a predictable service
I’ve heard it countless times I could become a pastor
Woman, be submissive
Learn how to please your man
Be quiet when he is angry
Give him food when he is hungry
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach
For a submissive woman is a woman after God’s own heart
I would dose off mid speech
Waiting for the service to end
So we could go home to eat rice
One Sunday,
My mum said
I don’t want you to sit in the front pew any longer
Well, I don’t care wherever I sat
I would rather stay home
If I had a choice
The back pew would be more comfortable for my sleeping session
But out of curiosity, I asked her why
She said I was disrupting the church with my negative rebellious energy
Well, if your pastor was making sense
Perhaps, you won’t be staring at me during the service
Trying to pin down what energy my body was emitting
I grumbled under my breath

I was always the best in school
I was smart
I had no competition
My report sheet was predictable
Intelligent but rude
The intelligent part always got my mother so proud
But she would shake her head and beg God to change me
I could understand her though
I had one flaw
I was a girl
And girls shouldn’t be considered rude
They shouldn’t have a cause to fight for
They shouldn’t talk back to people
No no no, they shouldn’t even have opinions
I would laugh at her and run into my room
Screaming,
You don’t have to be worried for me mother, I don’t want to be married either

The more I aged,
The more my femaleness became hell for me
So I distanced myself from anything considered feminine
I didn’t want my brother’s penis either
So no, I had no penis envy
I just wanted to do things everyone labeled boyish
And also liked the benefits that came with having a penis
I would sit with my legs wide apart
Strut around like a peacock
Pick up fights with boys in school and on the street
I was tough
I was assertive
And I dared anyone to correct me
So everyone called me a tomboy
And I began to wear the label with pride
Because it meant being different from other girls
It meant power, authority, intelligence and superiority
It meant being able to wine and dine with boys on the same table

But then as I began to put things into perspectives
I realised the problem wasn’t me
The problem was the society and its perception of the female body
I realised being called a tomboy shouldn’t be a label I should wear with pride
I realised whenever I talked, men listened
But whenever another feminine girl talked, she was always shrugged off
I realised there is language and there is language
The difference between the two is how you wield it
I realised that whenever I wrote articles and responded to comments
People always assumed I was male
I always took great joy in telling them I was a girl
Then they would ask again to be sure
Are you sure you are a girl?
And I would puff out my chest in great pride
But then, I stopped smiling whenever my guy friends said
We don’t see you as a girl anymore. You are now part of us.
You belong to the guy club. We can’t date you.
So I would say: No, I am a girl. A girl who doesn’t want to be a boy either
You don’t get to mutilate my female body to consider me equal

This is it: I ran away from my life. The problem
I didn’t run from my female parts. The physical me.
The problem is this: We raise girls to be different from boys
Now, I still love to wear big t-shirts and trousers
And there are days I like to wear dresses and paint my face
It dawn on me that the dresses are not the problem
The problem is the baggage attached to the dresses
The problem is being taught hours hours unend how to rightly be a girl
Investing so much effort in teaching to live life as the inferior gender
Talks like: Keep your virginity. It’s a big price to pay for
Don’t have multiple sex partners or you would be considered a slut
Let a man decide for you what he wants or he might get turned off
For the big price, why don’t you go sell me in the market then?!
Meanwhile, the boy child is left off the hook
He doesn’t need to be taught these things
Only the wings of the girl child must daily be clipped
For the unfortunate reason that she is a girl and must fit the norm

So I reclaim the female parts!
I take great pride in the boobs and vagina!
I love big t-shirts and sweaters!
My favorite color is blue!
I do whatever I want without giving it much thought!

I sit and ask:
What if I was super feminine and liked frilly dresses, and stylish hairdos?
Would I still be taken seriously? Wouldn’t I always have to prove my worth as female?
Why can’t girls be happily girly without their femininity attached to inferiority?
Isn’t this why boys stay miles away from anything labeled feminine?
These asymmetrical relations, that can be traced to no beginning! Will it ever end?

I will say this:
A culture that weighs down a woman to feed the ego of a man is bad!
I am a woman. I sit on the same table with you. As a woman!
I have boobs and vagina! And I will behave whichever way I want!
I will be feminine! And masculine. I will be whatever I want to be!

img-20161112-wa0003

Ola Dunni of !SiDoS Slams for Girls in Münster Germany in a Spoken Words/Poem Event titled “Kunst gegen Bares”

Na Who Debauchery Epp?

“With these thoughts in my mind I came to Italy and Sicily on my first visit. My first impressions on arrival were those of strong disapproval-disapproval of the kind of life which was there called the life of happiness, stuffed full as it was with the banquets of the Italian Greeks and Syracusans, who ate to repletion twice every day, and were never without a partner for the night; and disapproval of the habits which this manner of life produces. For with these habits formed early in life, no man under heaven could possibly attain to wisdom- human nature is not capable of such an extraordinary combination. Temperance also is out of the question for such a man; and the same applies to virtue generally. No city could remain in a state of tranquillity under any laws whatsoever, when men think it right to squander all their property in extravagant, and consider it a duty to be idle in everything else except eating and drinking and the laborious prosecution of debauchery. It follows necessarily that the constitutions of such cities must be constantly changing, tyrannies, oligarchies and democracies succeeding one another, while those who hold the power cannot so much as endure the name of any form of government which maintains justice and equality of rights.”
Plato, 360 B.C.E.

Plato is wrong! Damn wrong! He jumped too early into conclusions. Ignorant outbursts. SMH. I’m laughing out loud. LOL. LMFAO. He never was in Nigeria before making this ignoramus of a statement, in fact of himself. He should have waited, or traveled a little farther. He didn’t walk enough. He would have met the great people of Nigeria. Yes, they were all great. No jokes. I don’t have such luxury when I’m reading Plato, The Great. He is such a writer. A great man. A Great Prophet. Of Our Time. Daddy. How did he know there was a man called Senator Dino Melaye in Okunland? This Plato is more than any president!
President Buhari needs to read him. Somebody please read Plato’s The Seventh Letter into Buhari’s good ear. Not the bad one, please. Yes, there was a line, in fact a whole paragraph in the letter where Nigerians apologized profusely to President Buhari for voting him into office. They said it’s time to go. If you don’t believe me, Google the document. It’s there for all to see. It’s history.
Plato called out Saraki and Tinubu goodly terrible names. I’m not making things up. But wait o, what if Plato was a man like Chief Obasanjo, a man who wrote books, a genius, and all the books are full of lies, contorted truths, shistories turned on their heads. And I’m here reading him. Jesus save us from us! We are back from 360 B.C.E. to torment hell into us!
Welcome back, Good People. Let’s ignore Plato. And dance away our problems. Who intellectual debauchery don epp? What intellectual debauchery!!! Debauchery?! What’s the word? What does that mean? I don’t know. I didn’t check, like many of our people, we don’t check, and if we do, we just don’t do. Like the last manifesto before the election. Who understood the document?! Not me. Who get that kain time? At least, I know I don’t. Life is too short to care about non-existent beauty.
Who needs beauty and good roads when there is Gala and LaCasera to sell. We are too much. We are like that. Ahen. Now that I have used the word “Debauchery” I can go back to reading Plato. It feels so cool showing off in a time like this. Bad time it had been. Worse time we had. This is Buhari time. So cool. Asiko yi a tun wa lara o. May this time soothe us like Aboniki Balm. Do they still sell the balm? My neck aches.
Who reads Plato when the country is not well-runned?! Have you ever heard of an hungry deadman? It will not happen. Strange times are here. A Woman, Pastor Wife. Killed. She was not dismembered, as in her head was still joined to her body when she was found dead in her own body. The vice-president church member. That’s an improvement, I mean that completeness of the dead. We are grateful. At least, the president urged us to respect each other’s religion. That was the last time the person who was killed and dismembered was found out not to have been dismembered but only killed. Did that make any sense? No? That wasn’t my intention too. Life is too short to make sense. Not when you can afford not to.
Everybody is tired. No, only some. People like us, poor masses who cannot afford a new car. That’s why we hurting on the good president. Leave him alone. Go grab your husbands and wives. He’s not your president. Can’t you see that? SMH. We are poor and our children finished from England universities. We can afford it. Go to hell if you can’t afford your own children. Why you born them? Useless (wo)man. Thank you. You too. Go and steal if that’s how easy stealing is.
The Man of Daura never wanted to be Head if State. We forced him. Like Tinubu and his gang did with a forced presidency. After the inauguration, somebody said it felt like a big mistake and a relief at the same time. That somebody was Sahara Reporters. I added the relief part. That is a lie.
Back to Plato, he mentioned fuel scarcity in The Seventh Letter. Look not too far. I will quote more when I finish reading him and submit my opinion on my blog. It’s a free world. Grab a copy of NTA and read. Many terrible things in the news these days. Oshiomole. How I wish this people can read Yoruba. Kai! Disaster Has Now Not Only Known Our House. It’s now living with us. At first, we thought it was a joke, we told Disaster we had no stood. Or is it stool. The thing to sit down. Like magic, Disaster produced a fine golden chair and sat with us. Eating, praying, sleeping with us real good. We are pregnant as I speak. May we deliver in peace. IJN!
We are enjoying it. All the roads had been bad, were bad, are bad, will be bad. Please somebody tell Oshiomole to stop the accusations. It’s not his fault. The loan he collected will not be asked back from him. He may keep the whole money. Patapata porongodo. He’s not a useless government. Unlike his predecessors. I don’t mean the people he replaced. I don’t mean anybody. Who wan die! I’m not visiting Nigeria anytime soon. The price hike is revoked. By a court of law. Who cares? After all, it was in the sky The Minister of Darkness announced the price hike. You don’t get it? Don’t worry. This is the truth. The man accepted to grant interview. He told us in the sky. You all must pay more for the darkness to get worse. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Only if you agree to pay more. You all on your own now. He kept a promise. Bad belle will carry nobody nowhere. We are in this together. Congratulate him! Haba!
Buhari, unlike Jonathan, will serve two terms. He’s doing a good work. See him in the military regalia. He is so cute. Sai Nigeria! Just like Jonathan some years back. Some caps simply don’t fit again.
Our Buratai is a richman. He earned all that money. You haters are going to hate, anyway. Buratai. General Sir! We love you! Leave the haters out. EFCC will cater for them. They have started well, sealing off the offices. We have to start somewhere. Anywhere belle face. We need no plan. Professors support the corruption fight. I’m not a professor. I support too. What’s the price of tomatoes got to do with making Nigeria corruption free. The masses are in support. Like Nigerians in diaspora and home love to say. Na corruption we go chop? Who corruption don epp? Bad habit. I crazily like the sound of that word. “Epp!” I can’t have enough of it. That’s why I use it here. Like Debauchery. The thing sound well for ear. Like Nigeria. We need more of it.
At least trillions have been recovered in promise. Trillions of money. To fill the Atlantic Ocean! We are not broke. Hell forbid! We are not broke. We repeat that enough and the truth, this truth shall set us free. We are free. Free at last! The Man of the People has made it clear. No free money to share. Only wise and people friendly thieves can steal. Go back to livestock. Go back to where you come from. Go get life.
The president understands what Nigerians are going through. I assure you people, it’s like that in Germany. Everywhere in the EU. Money is scarce. Children beg for money on the streets in Brussels too. The Capital of the EU. I’m not joking. Begging is not a Nigerian problem. This is not peculiar. My people. Let us calm down and continue. It’s like that everywhere in the world. Who change don epp? LOL. SMH. I am not laughing out loud. Check my article on Pestilential Beggary in Brussels. The records are there.
Our children go to school in swamps. I mean not in Brussels. In Lagos. Those on festland have terrible classrooms. I went to school in that kind of place. Yes. When I saw VGC children for the first time. I mean I became a teacher after all and taught richpeople children. That was when I realized you either get rich or die trying. Nigeria is like America. Two countries. What is two? plenty countries in one. The rich don’t worry. They are rich. Pray you are not poor! I know what it means to be privileged. I have seen it with my my two korokoro eyes. Privilege. That word. Ehn. It’s not a richman word alone. There are privileged poor. Poverty get category. Nigeria is that kind. I know because I moved all my growing up years in that circle.
Let’s leave that. Back to the issues. When is the speed-train inauguration? We call it ICE. Inter-City-Express in Germany. In France. TGF. Or something more chic. America and the UK don’t have that. That’s what bad belle can do to a country. Nigeria. We are not bad belle. I heard the speed-train is in the pipeline. Many things are in the pipeline. That’s why Niger Delta Avengers are bombing pipelines. Goldrush. The mad goldrush. There is gold and plenty of madness. It will go round. Whatever that means. Boko Haram has been decapacitated. Our girls are not back. The ones found are living large, hail and hearty in Aso Rock. Our government has given us life. We are thankful. I swear we are.
The other time, good rich people in power and politics shared food with the poor. To celebrate End of Ramadan. That’s the spirit. In Ekiti state the same spirit worked. , the magic is near over. The stomach infrastructure has its limits. If given a chance, Nigerians would vote overwhelmingly for the Man of Ekiti. To fight later. Don’t argue it. We did it before. Facts are like that. Like PHCN and NEPA. Hardly distinguishable. Many years ago. We voted proudly for Jonathan, followed by Buhari. Fayose is not that bad a choice considering who we are and where we are headed. Even if he is not educated, Fayose speaks English. Good or bad. At least he speaks. Buhari hired lawyers to argue out his WAEC certificate, most times doesn’t understand what he’s saying, and he doesn’t care. Old people are like that. I am old too. Especially those of us who can afford the school fees of our children abroad. This is what we do. We don’t care.
Nigerians and our leaders are genius. We always set newer standard. We raise the bar. So that people with commonsense may never reign over us. Yes, reign. Not rule. Who commonsense don epp? That’s our genius. Think about it. We started with Obasanjo, a man with 20 thousand Naira to his name, according to the El-Rufai mythology, now we are here, dealing with a man who could not afford APC Nomination Form. I was moved to tears when I read the news. I wrote op-eds. Many people did. Professors. Diaspora and Home. Inbetween the two, we had Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Think am, my people. We are lucky. Who knows what the Christian God has in stock for us next.
I’m not curious. I’m interested. There is a chance I will make my first one million Euro with the information at the jackpot. Really, somebody should create an app, like Pokeman. Guess who is Nigeria’s next president and be rich. Nooooo. Rara. Not gender, names, or things like that. Those are for idiots. Not for Nigerians. Choose among the four we had so far. If you guess right, you win. Hey, I should patent my great idea before it’s stolen. I’m the next big thing. Albert Einstein. More books. More books. This summer will be bahd. Real bahd. I’m jobless. I need to find ways to turn this into money. Any epp? Who knows Aso Rock? Abeg. Na we-we-arrangement. Sure. I go settle. Thank you.

Sub War Culture: A Nigerian Perspective on Roforofo Fight by Ola Dunni and Ahjot Naija

1410700233928

Ola Dunni and Ahjot Naija

Background

Conversing on the exchange between Joy Isi Bewaji and Njoku Nkiru, we will analyse two primary texts, reflect briefly on feminism and sub wars, the place of society and/or culture in this exchange and the benefits of sub war culture.

The first hurdle was deciding the appropriate description for the phenomenon, the core of this piece. Anyone who had read the exchange between the two women, and if per chance is Nigerian, will have little difficulty understanding what roforofo fight is. We must but go beyond the assumption that Nigerians will understand at first sight, to define in no unclear terms what this is, a deconstruction is necessary for the benefit of all.

What is a roforofo fight/sub war?

A sub war is calling someone out personally in a public or private space (without) mentioning the name of the person. One might be tempted to call it badmouthing, it is not entirely badmouthing. The space, public or private, is the medium through which the sub war is realized, i.e. birthed. Until it is birthed, as in passed on for consumption, it is still not a sub war; at best it qualifies as an unrealized sub war. It is safe to say, it is the medium that gives life to this art.

The Medium

A public space is for example the social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, a Whatsapp group chat etc. It is a public space when at least two listeners or readers have access to the message. Beyond social media, a church, mosque, an open/closed gathering, school, playground, market, meeting, family, house etc qualifies as a public space. A private space can be, but not limited to, Whatsapp chat, telephone conversation, E-Mail, one-on-one talk, SMS. Using our primary texts as an example, Joy Isi Bewaji and Nkiru Njoku chose Facebook- a public space as a medium to birth/realize their sub war.

The History

Sub war is not new in Nigeria. It is an old art. In our myths, folklore, stories, daily activities abound narratives of sub wars. This is not to suggest this is a peculiarly Nigerian phenomenon. No doubt, there can be features specific to Nigeria. For instance the proverbial Apari Ado among the Yoruba. Of course, it is not meant solely to be a sub, there are other ‘wisdoms’ derivable from the saying, it is but first and foremost a sub to the proverbial people of Ado. Another instance of a sub war in our folklore, and this is realized in a public space, is Ijapa’s call for help in the open market fight between Asin and Okere. To begin with, it is not Ijapa’s fight. He only comes to settle a fight, at least according to Ijapa’s version of event. Before long, he gets a chunk bitten off his nose by Asin. In the song (call for help), Ijapa lays bare his ordeal to onlookers/spectators. Below is the songtext:

Asin toun t’okere. Jomijo. Asin toun t’okere. Awon mejeeji. Jomijo. Awon lonjonja. Jomijo. Ijawon mo wa la. Jomijo. L’asin ba bu mi nimuje. Jomijo. Egbami lowo re. Jomijo.

Of course, if Asin was given a chance to narrate his side of the story, it definitely will be different from this version which presents Ijapa as a peaceful arbitrator, harmless being, who is unfortunately caught in a bad fight. In short, in the song Ijapa succeeds in the representation of himself as the good one, the positive character in the sub war.

Before the advent of social media, it is not unusual to read in mainstream newspapers, gossip magazines, and other media of exchanges between or among public figures (men and women alike); these reports come in different forms, they include news, revelations of transpired activities hitherto kept secret or outright lies. There are enough reasons why A felt it is time to reveal or talk about a particular matter. B may go all out to counter, or reveal something about A, that which is even more damning or scandalous. This trend continues, until peace is reached. Peace is not often reachable. Much older are quarrelsome exchanges between or among family, friends, neighbours etc. In an effort to outdo the opponent, it is not uncommon to throw abusive words at each other and/or at the family in particular, the lineage of the opponent. This is expected, as it gives the message a special weight when disseminated. A sub hardly qualifies as a good sub if there is no vulgarity. It is more potent if the vulgarity is extended beyond the direct opponent. Vulgarity is an essential characteristic of/in a sub war. The belief, an individual is a representative of his family, his lineage, and that through him one can get at his ancestors, explains the inclusion of the family in the course of throwing vulgarity.

The Exchange

Nkiru was informed about Joy’s inappropriate reference to Didi, Nkiru’s daughter, who was born blind. Joy referred to Didi as ‘needy’ in a conversation. In Nkiru’s opinion, the word was to get at her. She normally would not respond to any of Joy’s rants. Joy knew this so well, so she (Nkiru) claimed. The only way to get her (Nkiru’s) attention was to involve the physically challenged Didi. That way, Joy was sure to get the needed attention. This, I believe, is the summary of Nkiru’s piece, if other parts of the text were ignored. Joy, in response or counter-response, wrote three pieces. These pieces are best summed up as denial of a wrongdoing as conceived by Nkiru, acceptance of a wrongdoing (if the word ‘needy’ counts as abusive) and an apology. She (Joy) accepts responsibility for a careless choice of word in a heated exchange, that the physically challenged Didi came up in the conversation was reason enough for her (Joy’s) acceptance of a blame. (Source: Facebook Timeline of Joy Isi Bewaji and Nkiru Njoku)

The Subs

I will analyse two pieces, one each from Nkiru Njoku and Joy Isi Bewaji respectively. Starting with Nkiru’s, we shall take a critical look at the subs in her piece and their specificity, which qualifies them as such. She started off with a typical introduction of a sub. Lets read her:

“I have been advised to stand down from this. I listened. But then I un-listened. Because my motherhood instincts far outweigh my cool-as-a-cucumber status. Heaven basically forbid that I sit by being calm and unflustered while my daughter Dirichi, takes one for the team, in the hands of a silly woman.” ( Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline, 2016)

A sub introduces itself often with a distinction of the sub-giver, a kind of ‘I am different’ badge, ‘I would normally not do this if not for the situation’, ‘my hands are tied, as such I have no alternative response’. She (Nkiru) had been advised. One can deduce from this that she is one that is advisable. She is sure to make clear that ‘she listened’, but something emergent outweighs the advise, as such her decision to act differently. In this manner, we are informed of her character, something of a near flawless personality, a positive self-appraisal. According to her, she (Nkiru) is as cool-as-a-cucumber. After the positive distinction, follows the sub. She refers to the source of the exchange as one that comes ‘in the hand of a silly woman.’ A sub will not only positively distinguish the sub-giver, it will go further, it will tell why the assailed person is indeed the very opposite of what the sub-giver is.

Apart from positive self-appraisal, there is another well-placed constraint the sub-giver employs to justify her effort at being different (distinguised), the conditionality forces an alternativeless action. Here she goes:

“Heaven basically forbid that I sit by being calm and unflustered while my daughter Dirichi, takes one for the team, in the hands of a silly woman.” ( Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline, 2016)

Nkiru basically said it is the involvement of the physically challenged child which necessitates a reaction. This, while passing out a sub, leaves her positive personality intact. The sub act is successful.

After a successful introduction, she goes on to inform the reader about her road trip, making sure the reader is not uninformed of Didi’s condition. Didi has so far slept well through and through. She gets information about ‘her opponent’s madness’ upon stopping to refill fuel. Here are Nkiru’s own words:

“Then boom. I am told that Joy Isi Bewaji has gone to places she shouldn’t go. Joy dragged Didi and her blindness into her madness. I am stunned. Joy should know better. Joy should have a little bit more sense than this. Just a little. But then I remember. She lacks love. As in, Joy was clearly never loved as a child, therefore this is the mess she has grown to become. You can insult me as you’ve done before. My resolve is never to fight on my Facebook wall and if I ever fight, not you – Joy. You KNOW that I do not value you that much. You are aware of this and it has hurt you in the past and it continues to hurt you. I will never understand why. But that is your monkey and your circus. Your problem to deal with, not mine.” ( Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline, 2016)

Taking out phrases like Joy’s madness, Joy’s ‘sense’ should be a little bit more than this, Joy should know better, the reader is told that much more is expected of the said character, that she can be more than what she is or that she is in fact not expected to be caught this way. The character is successfully subbed yet again. It is sometimes not the abusive languages in themselves that qualify the act as a sub, but the manner of conveyance. a character, who is expected to be distinguished does otherwise, the character causes a damage, the damage coming from him/her makes the act worse.

Nkiru, who knows Joy’s (marital) past, alludes to this in her assertive declaration. She claims confidently, Joy lacks love. She goes further in her claim. According to her, Joy was not loved as a child, an act resulting into ‘the mess’ Joy is as a adult. Nkiru weaves her narrative well. She knows Joy had marital problems, she concludes it must be that she lacks love, she extends the search for the reason(s) for this lack of love beyond the publicly known fact, digging farther into Joy’s childhood. This way, Nkiru connects the reader to Joy’s childhood, a possible horrific experience, to ‘the adult mess’ and the supposedly act of wickedness against her (Nkiru’s) child. On the surface, this is plausible, and this is exactly what the writer, Nkiru, achieves- superficial plausibility. A sub does not necessarily have to be truthful, it can be a baseless assertion, one which is probably superficially plausible.

Lets look at this part:

“You can insult me as you’ve done before. My resolve is never to fight on my Facebook wall and if I ever fight, not you – Joy. You KNOW that I do not value you that much. You are aware of this and it has hurt you in the past and it continues to hurt you. I will never understand why. But that is your monkey and your circus. Your problem to deal with, not mine.”(Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline, 2016)

The first sentence suggests this is not new. Joy had done this in the past. And Nkiru’s decision not to fight was unbroken. Joy knows she is of little to no value to Nkiru. This knowledge, according to Nkiru, hurts Joy so badly, she insists Joy still hurts. She does not want to understand, declaring this as Joy’s monkey and circus. This kind of attitude sums perfectly well a typical characteristic of a sub war and a sub-giver. The line of demarcation is always drawn, that the sub-giver is positively different from the opponent. Reading this part, the Nigeria peculiarity could not be more obvious. the writer declares, ‘if I ever fight, not you- Joy(…)’. There is a sense of an oral transportation into the written form. This line transports the reader into a particular mood, that which is best imagined as of a physical presence of both parties to the exchange sorting out their difference in a thug of words, fist cuffs and all attending theatrics in a Nigerian atmosphere.

This is also of interest to the subject matter:

“Please say absolutely anything about me. I don’t mind being ‘subbed’. That shit doesn’t affect me the way it affects many people. So please go ahead and project all you want. Identify everything that you are, and say that is what I am. Foam at the mouth as you do so.” (Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline)

And this too:

“In any case, may you find love one day. True love. Whether it be from family or friends or a romantic interest, I actually wish that you find love. The kind of fierce love that I have for my Didi. Maybe your life would be better then. Maybe you won’t feel the need to make such needless displays that show you for who you truly are. You make me laugh. You’ve always made me laugh and I’ve also always viewed you with a mixture of suspicion and pity. I was not wrong about you.”(Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline)

Hardly goes a paragraph without a sub, clothed as a non-sub, this does not make it less a sub. While trying to suggest the opponent is probably satisfied at the thought of the created mess, she (Nkiru) subs her opponent by calling her ‘the needy one’, ‘In need of attention and not caring how you get it’. She refers to her action as ‘such stupidity’. This is Nkiru in her own words:

“I hope you get that satisfaction now. I hope you gloat. Because this is the sort of person you are. Calling my child needy? When you’re the needy one. In need of attention and not caring how you get it. Such stupidity.” (Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline)

She ends her piece with a sub:

“But you see Didi – don’t ever fucking come near her again. Or speak about her blindness with derision. You silly, silly woman.” (Nkiru Njoku, Facebook Timeline)

Lets consider Joy Isi Bewaji’s piece, a response to Nkiru’s. The introduction is not much different from Nkiru’s. In the same manner, it is someone who insisted Joy must do this. This qualifies for the ‘I don’t normally do this badge’ a sub bears. She is coerced against her will. This act of coercion presents the writer in a different light, a positive one; this introduction attempts to convince the reader to see she (Joy/the writer) is unaware of a wrongdoing, or at least it is not intentional if any wrong/harm was done. This is how she starts out:

“This is not the easiest thing to do…but Toni Kan is not going to let me rest if I don’t.

He knows how to string his words that will wrap around my neck like it’s about to choke me. That feeling can be very uncomfortable.” (Joy Isi Bewaji (JIB), Facebook Timeline)

Somewhere in the introduction is this:

“Toni Kan says this roforofo fight is beneath me. Long note. But it touched me. Iheoma Obibi says the distraction is beneath my brand. I agree. These are two people I respect. I have seen their works and their love for me runs deep.” (JIB, Facebook Timeline)

After the admittance of the task at hand, that is to ‘do what she is unwillingly doing’, follows a sub:

“In all of this, a child is involved. It was the mother I wanted to chop into bits and fry to a crisp. But the child found her way in.” (JIB, Facebook Timeline)

She wants to chop the mother (Nkiru) into bits and fry her to a crisp. To tell the truth, she did exactly this in the piece. Joy wastes no time in telling us what her mission is. She is out to sub her opponent. Her choice of words is unmistaken. She dilutes or attempts to dilute this clarity with a tint of kindness, when she admits that a child is involved. Suggesting it was not about the child, but the mother, she wants the reader to focus on two things, one, the sub and the subbed person (who is anything but the positive distinction the sub-giver is), two, the child. The second being the sub-giver’s way of stretching her own positiveness in the course of the sub war.

The reader is informed of Joy’s two healthy children. In contrast to Nkiru’s physically challenged Didi, the message is not lost on the reader. She (Joy) never intends to involve the child, it is an accident. While taking responsibility for her action, at the same time she shifts blame away from her person; she is a mother just like Nkiru. She would not cause another mother pain, especially if the pain is one that she personally does not know. This way, she taps so well into the sub war frame.

Joy has not only Nkiru to deal with, Chioma, another character, comes up in her narration. This is what she wrote about Chioma:

“(…)I got munched tweets from a twitter handle I didn’t even know who it was. I was accused of subbing their sister…and sincerely, how do you sub Chioma? There’s nothing to sub. I know nothing about her. I have no records of any achievement. Not even a proper job. Or career. Or exceptional goals. She is on twitter. And that is all I know of her. And she uses the hashtag #Winning alot for the most trivial of activities. It was all I could gather when I ran through her timeline (is that what they call it on twitter?) to understand what the issues were. And I was really offended. (JIB, Facebook Timeline)

To Joy, Chioma cannot be subbed because she has no record of any achievement beyond being on twitter. In that case, we see Joy admitting she subs, she indicates the criteria which the character for her sub must fulfill. There is a standard. She would not sub for the sake of it alone. Does it qualify as a sub to conclude that someone cannot be subbed because her career identity is unclear on her twitter handle, has no proper job or career or exceptional goals? Yes, it does. In the same text, Joy ‘was really offended’ because she ran through the timeline to understand what the issues were. The reason for her being offended and the tone employed are apparent; she found nothing worth subbing about when Chioma is the character involved. She does not meet the criteria.

She further emphasizes on the criteria. She wants trouble ‘with a worthy contender’. Thus being caught in a web with this below-my-sub-character infuriates her more. Throwing a jab at Chioma’s sister, she employs an abusive word used by the latter in bringing home her message. She describes her relationship with Chioma as a “preek”, stating that the word was borrowed. She dilutes the message (sub) with a touch of apology for ‘unknowingly’ firing at a child. Below are her words:

“If I want trouble, I want it with a worthy contender. It was insulting, and I just concluded that her sister was right- the only relationship I have with this person is a “preek”. That’s her sister’s words, not mine. And it irritated me further. And I aired my irritations. But thing is, I have very strong opinions about people and groups they all are involved in. So the heat never really goes away. I really don’t mind the heat. But not when a child is involved. And I dragged a child into this. Unknowingly.” (JIB, Facebook Timeline).

Worthy of note is, the art of conveyance (as visible in the diction, the tone and texture employed) is important in a sub war. It drives home the point. Take for example the use/choice of the word ‘preek’. Limiting the definition of the word to the context, we can read ‘preek’ to mean ‘a tiny minuscule’. A minuscule is already very tiny, unimportant, it describes something or someone absolutely immaterial. Lets now imagine the addition of an another adjective to qualify this word, and the choice of the new word is ‘tiny’. The effect of the doubleness is not expected to be lost on the reader. In Yoruba language, repetition can be for emphasis, in fact, it is a common tool employed for this purpose. Driving home a point in a sub, it is not out of place for a sub-giver to employ this tool for a purpose, namely to strongly emphasize the absolute uselessness of something, someone, a situation etc. In this case, Joy excelled at this with her use of the word ‘preek’.

Rounding up, Joy lands hard on her opponent and the opponent’s supporters, subbing them all. In an advisory voice, one not completely free of scorn, here is how she ends her participation in the sub market:

“In the last 24 hours, I have been reminded of the most heartwarming things I have done and I could do with the brands that endorse me and my platform. These are the things I want to focus on henceforth. I am rising above it. Without anyone’s permission. What else? Yes. Hymar. Son, are you hungry? I’ve always wanted to ask that question. Your hunger can be cured. You are not an angry man. You are hungry. There’s a difference. Until subs and counter subs and comments and likes translate to money or flight tickets… I will like to concentrate on the things that actually cover my buttocks. Iheoma says there’s alot of work I need to put my name on. Many worthy causes. (…) And we are here, living on subs. This is crazy. (…) I can’t do these things if I am going to keep up with the sub market. It ends now. Have a beautiful Sunday y’all.” (JIB, Facebook Timeline)

Feminism and Sub wars. Any Connection?

An attempt to localize the discourse in feminism will not be out of place. The authors of our primary texts are women warriors, they are feminists. Feminism is a movement for gender equality for women in every sense of the word, not only as opposed to the other gender, that is the man, it aims to remove any form of intra-gender bias and inequality that exist among and within women. Does sub war diminish the work of the movement? No, it does not. Although it adds some negativity to the personalities involved, this deducts nothing from their contribution to feminism. Does sub war have a place in feminism? No, not at all. One can be a feminist and sub-giver at the same time. The sub war culture is not peculiar to women or feminists. Anyone can sub. Neither must one be a woman nor must one be a feminist to sub. As far as their works in the feminist movement is concerned, both parties in this sub war are independent women who want to make changes, they want to change the narratives and perception of women in the society. Among other things, they challenge the status quo and expose the inherent double standards in the society. With this sub war, of particular interest/relevance are unavailable pre- and post-sub war texts. Notwithstanding the unavailability, that which becomes evident from the primary texts is this: Both parties do not understand there is no particular way of who and what the new woman should be as this would be plying the same route we are trying to avoid. No one should own a monopoly of the new woman entity. Independence, economic, cultural and social rights, and the right to be considered an individual irrespective of her attachment to a/no woman/man are desirables in the walk to equality; really, the freedom of choice is what feminism should be about taking into cognizance many factors like race, class, sexuality and many more in the advocacy for gender equality. In the absence of this, we will be shooting ourselves in the leg; in fact, we might be unknowingly ignoring many factors which inhibit the realization of equality. In short, what we are saying is, sub wars can only be evidence of shallow feminism; it is unconnected to feminism.

The Place of Society/Culture

We are undeniably a product of our society. The sub war confirms this. Narcissist tendencies are commonplace in our society. Going through the primary texts, of particular interest is the use of vulgarities. Reading between the lines, we can see that the parties strive to portray each other not only negatively but also to show that she is the better person of the two fighters. There is a kind of ‘I did not ask for this’ attitude in the narrations. A claim that the other fought dirty is clearly a pointer to one’s fairness in an unjust fight. References are made to different people, apparently both parties flaunt supporters, while the other tries to mud-sling the other’s supporters; there is a show-off of loyal supporters. Is this narcissist and like our society? Yes, it is when we think of it this way: Why does one need loyalty, will it not be enough to simply have friends, family members instead of loyal friends, loyal family members, and by so doing creating (un-)willingly grounds for new sub wars or reviving of old strife?

Weaving out words and more new words to cuss out each other adds linguistic angle to it, that which is much connected to our society and culture. The Yoruba language is a tonal language, a very rich one, it is creative when it comes to coining new words, placing identities on people, things, acts, actions, attitude etc. The tonality helps the creativity. This must have informed the parties, or at least one of the parties, use of this creative linguistic form in the sub war.

Freedom is relative. In the South West, at least among the Yoruba, we are a free society, until the borderline is crossed. What exactly makes up the acceptables in this controlled space of freedom is not difficult to make out, when one see them, they are recognizable. There are gray areas too. Same goes for behaviors, actions, or situations outside the border of allowed societal freedom. Our freedom is controlled. We are at liberty to do whatever pleases us until we cross this thin unwritten border. We internalize this relative freedom as we daily become and grow into our society. We call it the Omoluabi character. It is thus not unusual when strands of this societal norm find their way into our words, oral or written; in exchanges we want to determine where these borders are, what makes up the border, and more important is who sets the borders. We negotiate these things among ourselves. There is for example a right way to talk, eat one’s food, there is a right way to dress, to party, to have fun, to think etc. This is much visible in the primary texts. Take for instance, the un-listening by Nkiru after being talked to (advised), the attempt by Joy to contextualize or neutralize the word ‘needy’ as used by her, the acceptance by Joy to attend to a matter after being persuaded upon by another character etc.

The Benefits

Who roforofo fight don epp? Are there benefits for individuals and for society at large? As it is presently, hardly. Sub war is a societal norm, an indigenous art form, which if refined, can serve us positively. A recognition of this societal norm is a step in that direction and can help create an atmosphere of constructive criticism, an indigenous streitkultur sans the vulgarities characterisitic of sub wars.

 

A Telephace Conversation by Tanimomo Oluseun

tmomo

Hand-in-pocket: Oluwaseun Tanimomo of TPoM

When she came to you last Sunday and asked which part of Africa you were from, you thought she was not one of those people. Those white-church people who thought Africa was a single country with warring and half naked peopled tribes. So, you smiled at her and said “Nigeria”. “I am Igbo, from the Eastern part of Nigeria”, you added. She smiled back; her blush reddening as she took the empty seat beside you. 

She told you she had been to Ghana where she attended a good church with fire, she stressed the fire, her accent bending the word to sound like “foya”. She told you of her time in Uganda, Zambia and South Africa; she had visited Uganda and Zambia with her second husband and South Africa with her third and present husband. She told you that in those countries she met other fire brand Christians who could pray an entire week without food. But she had never been to your country, Nigeria though she had heard of the revival in your country of men and women who really sought and knew God not like the Europeans who had abandoned God and church.
She was beginning to sound like them you thought. “People should be able to subscribe to whichever religious system they want to. If Europeans don’t go to church again, they have their reasons. And Nigeria is not a Christian state” you had told her praying she would be kind enough to leave you at that moment.
“Don’t you think we should be doing something about that?” she responded. “Souls are perishing in Africa, many Africans are going to hell if they don’t change from their voodoo ways” she added with that knowing mischievous smile you had seen on many other faces.
You were beginning to hate her now. She was obviously one of them. One of those Christian people you had met in several other churches you had attended across Europe. But you allowed her; you were willing to suffer her foolishness gladly. “Don’t you think you should be more concerned about your country than Africa where religion is presently a problem in some parts?”
“No, you don’t understand, we need to save Africa, polygamy, female genital mutilation and all those” she quipped back. “Most especially with voodoo” she waved her hand like a conductor leading an orchestra when she said “voodoo”.
Your Nigerianness slipped in “Ehn ehn?! So what’s wrong with polygamy?”
“What’s not wrong with polygamy?”
“I don’t think polygamy is wrong provided it is done with consent and the woman is also allowed to come home one day with another man and tell her husband she has a second lover”.
She looked at you in surprise, her blush a dark red, she threw some strands of straying hair to the packed lots and muttered with something close to anger, “no, that is not right and we have to save the Africans they are perishing, their souls will rot in hell if we don’t save them”.
You were beginning to enjoy how she looked and it was your turn to enjoy the moment. You dropped the shell and shattered the friendliness that was budding between you two, “but you are also a polygamist if we look at it from a Biblical stance, you have divorced two husbands before your present husband.” You fired.
She went ballistic, her high-pitched voice filling the church hall. She told you that you had no concern with her private life and that you were not genuine with your Christianity and that you, Emeka who had gotten born-again twenty years ago as a secondary school student, were an ungrateful servant saved but not wanting to save the many perishing lots in Africa.
“We can start from here, from your country” you retorted with a mirth.

the water-walk

We rolled tyres in sheer abandonment, in company of children from i-don’t-know-where. Only the moment mattered, we were happy to be alive. We sang. Songs we never knew how they came to be. We heard them sung and we joined in, they became part of us, and never left us. Whenever I sing, I remember my childhood, and my growing up is brought back to me. Hear me sing of three children accosted and abused by a soja.

Awa meta lanlo. Loju titi. Apade soja. Oni awawe. Alawa o we mo o. Ofowa leti. Eti mi o. Eti mi o. Bisi ba mgbeyo. Oko Bose.

Songs accompanied our daily living. The song of three children accosted and abused by a soja accompanied us once we were out in search of water. We sang as loud as we could. One late afternoon.

We went through a narrow path. Mechanics littered the path, it was their workshop. Hot silencers. Firewood. Charcoal. Burnt metal. Thick air. Master called to Apprentice. Apprentice ran over with the Master’s bidding. Fearing for no apparent reason. Hoping he brought the right tools.

We walked past them, and there in a corner sat men. Not too far away were women, mothers and wives, babies strapped to their backs, bare-chested girls, wrapper-tying women, two or three plaiting hair, talking away the hot afternoon while the day gave way for the arrival of the night.

And the sitting men. They played ayo-olopon. One of the men lived in our house. was one of them. His wife complained about him. He would not look for work, how would a man not look for work!?

We came to a wider road with open gutters. Buckets and bowls dangling. We carried no water yet. My small bowl in my hands had its back to my stomach. The journey was just about to start.

We went past The Photographer’s shop. I peeped. The doors were open, but the curtain shot out outsiders. One or twice we had come to the studio. The Photographer took us family shots. Sometimes he came to our house, into our room, and took us shots. Mother would have arranged his coming, so that hours before he came, we would be busy wearing clothes, choosing and unchoosing our best of clothes. Sunday clothes. Occasion clothes. Or just Readymade. His arrival often met us unfinished, unprepared for the shooting.

I remember one of the photographs, very cute it turned out to be. Mother sat on the blue chair, the chair was placed so the window could be seen, my sister stood beside the chair to the right, my brother to the left, and I stood in front of my brother. I wore my cherished somodobo and a t-shirt. My lovely t-shirt. My red canvas from Bata. My sister wore her gown of evening dreamlike pink, somewhere around the waist a small bag. Mother was in her best, the headtie covered the jerrycurl in part. My brother’s t-shirt was with yellow stripes.

We were instructed to smile. The Photographer could have spared us this instruction. It made it harder to get the smile out of our happy faces. We smiled but before the click of the camera happened, the smiles fled our faces, too scared to withstand the camera-click. When the picture was brought, my brother had his lips supressing a smile. When we knew the picture was to be sent to Daddy, we dotted more on it, it became one of our most treasured possessions.

We went past The Photographer and joined a tarred road. On the road we were joined by other water-searchers. They in their group. We in our group. We talked in our group, and they talked to each other. Then we increased our pace, wanting to outwalk each other. When the walking gave neither group an edge, we ran until we scattered. At the end of the road, we branched into Mr. Jerry’s street. We had been told there was water there. The queue was long.

We heard screams. I came before you. It’s a big lie. You cheat. You liar. Get out. Get in. Leave my bowl alone. No I will not. A fight broke out. Solidarity. Peacemakers. Onlookers. Laughter. And more laughter. The queue moved a little. The fighters finished their fight, and brought back their bowls, and we moved back to where we were.

After the fight. Then the talks. Bad water. The water we fetched was contaminated. We must boil it before we drink. Or not drink it at all. We could bathe with it, wash our clothes and cook. We would boil it before we cook. THe boiled water in the orange bucket back home began to make sense. Mother had boiled water and instructed us not to come near it. It’s very hot. If you do, you will be burnt. Stay away. Mother must gave heard the contaminated water-talk.

It was our turn. We fetched water. The sun had retired for the day, cool breeze blew out the heat, walking us back home as cold water fell in lumps. We made to balance our walk and the water on our heads.

Walk gently. You. If not. You will get home only with empty bowl. You. You will not come with us tomorrow. You. You don’t hear word. See. You. You are running. That’s why the whole water is pouring away. Take it easy. You. You see. You have just wasted a whole day’s queue.

We walked past the roads and their many people. Before we knew it, we were home.

Alhaji Raimi Street

Growing up. We were not poor. And by this, I mean every word of it. I will be clear from here: I am talking about me, about myself, about those that gave me life, it’s about us, and about all those who can identify with my story. It’s not fiction. Our happiness was real, it’s still real. The memories are beautiful, of a childhood well spent, of fulfillment and of good tidings. Thanks to my mother, and my dad too, who made it possible. Dad was, and still is, a great guy. I am sure he never would have wished for a different wife.

Let me begin with my MAT memory. MAT is a multimillionaire. He is a business tycoon, he is one of the first major distributor of Nigerite Asbestos roofing sheets before many many other distributors caught wind of the business and flooded the market. MAT owned big trucks. All of them very big. We children called them Trailer MAT. And this is what they truly are! We would stand by in awe counting all of them as they retired to our street in Orile Agege to sleep for the night. The day’s work was done and their big big rocklike tyres walked into our world to complete our expectations before we ourselves retired into the night on our mats spread out in the nightly moon in attempt to escape mosquitoes and heat of our binukonu house.

Many of the trucks arrived before nightfall, so that Brother Peter could still wash them. Bro Peter was a giant, very tall, his mother was one old woman, whos face and beautiful look I still have in my memory till today. She sold pepper in lambebe and other aworobo in front of her house. She was such a gentle woman. A complete contrast to Bro Peter’s loud nature. Bro Peter was loud but not ruly nor unwarantedly rough. He would fight nobody if the fighting partner had not first found his trouble. I remember one case like that when we saw some new people washing the trucks that were normally carwashed by him. That was one day I will not forget in a hurry. His rage came with such loudness and roughness the people did not wait to see it land on tthem before they disappeared into thin air.

Later news spread that some people, apparently his foes, had gone to MAT to badmouth him there. They said he did not carwash the trucks clean enough. We all knew this is a wicked lie. Is it not Bro Peter who would collect Omo from his mother and fetch water without end to carwash these trucks? Trucks that drove intoin our streets very dirty and after which Bro Peter would carwash them so well that we see our pictures glister in their newness!? Why would anyone tell this kind of lie against our giant? Bro Peter was all tears as he carwashed his beloved trucks that evening. I never saw him cry like that, not before that time, and not again thereafter. We even heard that these new people did not even wait for MAT to decide the matter before they set out to begin carwashing the trucks that particular evening. It all infuriated Bro Peter even the more. It hurt him too much.

Many times, it was after Bro Peter finished washing that MAT himself drove into our street. Our street led to Abeokuta Street. Ours was Alhaji Raimi Street. He preferred connecting his house via our own street because it was wider than Abeokuta Street. He had a Jeep. His name was the platenumber. I am not very sure now, but I think he drove with a peculiar sound. We children knew this sound way too well. We needed no reminder who it was when MAT appeared around the corner into our street. All of us children on the street would burst into jubilation, praising him, shouting his name. I am sure he saw us through the fully tinted glasses of his Jeep. His driver always drove with extreme care because we were everywhere on the road, busy with all types of children games of our time.

We played Suwe. We played soccer. With unripe oranges. We played Rubber. We did TenTen. And we sang ChiChi O Emego! The bigger ones played table tennis and some of us hung around the table tennis table watching them play to win big bet monies. There were enough games to busy all the roads and streets so that the sound on MAT’s Jeep was actually a good thing, and the slowness was to safe us from accident. In anycase, we loved him so well because he was our multimillionaire. He lived among us. He was one of us, just like us. We would gather behind the Jeep shouting MAT! MAT!! MAT!!! How I so much enjoyed these times.

His first wife, Alhaja, was a friend to many women in the street. We heard his wives don’t work. And this is true. Because I was there once when Alhaja told my mother she had to go home before Alhaji returned from office. His wives called him like that. For us, he was MAT. She had come out of the house to tell my mother she would be buying a very expensive cloth that the women chose for an occasion. They talked about other trivialities before she left. I could not cease looking at her face. She was old and young at the same time. Her skin was fresh and she was softspoken. We used to know that MAT’s latest wife followed him in his Jeep in the morning and that they returned together in the evening. Each time when he drove past, different kinds of new rumour about him filled the air, passing from one mouth to the other, before we finally settled back into our many disrupted games on the roads and streets.

His fame only grew stronger when he single handedly pursued thieves with his double barrel gun out of our streets. The legend had it that MAT jumped down from the penthouse built like watchtower ontop of his storeyed house. He jumped right into the midst of the thieves and scattered them. The thieves could not wait. They took to their heels and he pursued them! He chased them all out. That was before he relocated to his new house in Okekoto Area. He left the old house for his first son, so we heard. He moved into a much bigger house. In my child mind, I agreed he moved into a mansion. And a big house it was indeed. We used to see the light from faraway Okekoto in our street.

Lest I forget, it was because of MAT that a powerline was brought into our area. So, those of us who were sure of the thickness of the wire that carried the powerline on the electricity poles would point them to those of us who did not know. I was awed when I finally recognised the thick powerline. Each time light went off, and MAT’s house was well lit, I concluded it was the powerline that gave him light. Also, when the other line in the powerline gave up light, standby generators took over, keeping the supply of electricty constant in MAT’s house. A legend had it that he left because the thiefraids on our streets were becoming too many and a nightmare for his safety.

Let me spare my first time experience in the hands of armed robbers for awhile and tell of many other blissful times in Orile Agege. There was one unforgettable one like that. It happened at Ile-Osa. We were a handful playing football on this open space, undeveloped because it was a sacred space. Its sacredness notwithstanding, we had not been able to deter people from turning this space into wastedumpyard. So, when we saw that day somebody coming with a big bowl on his head, we were all tensed, waiting to pounce on him if he dared to dispose his waste right before our korokoro eyes while we played. He pulled a smart trick on us though.

So, he came, and before our own eyes, removed the big bowl from his head and placed it on the floor. At once we gathered around him to tell him to carry the dirt immediately. We had barely gathered when he pointed our attention to something none of us had noticed before then. He shouted: “Look! Look!! Look!!!” And pointing his fingers while he did. We followed the direction of the fingers in surprise at this new thing we could not figure out. Out of curiosity, our gaze removed from the wastebowl in the floor, focused on the new unseen threat. Then, like play like play, this wastecarrier took to his heels in the direction of his fingers. We were still not sure what he saw there it was pointing at, but we were carried away long enough for him to run away leaving us with the wastebowl. When our consciousness returned back into our body, we were left with the stranger’s wastebowl. The stranger had long run out of sight. We could not stop laughing at our own stupidity. He got us was all we could say!

So, talking about the nightly moons. Those were beautiful times. I swear they were!  If I ever was born again, I swear I would not hate it if I came back to that same street. At about 7pm, depending on how soon night broke or which family was first to bring out its mats, we all would sweep different spaces in our frontyard, spread our sleeping mats, and laid on them. We children moved from mat to mat, playing all plays imaginable, shouting our voices coarse for excitement. We told stories and sang songs. We recaptured the day’s occurrence, individual or common experiences. If there was any act of valour, we relived them again in the night, we talked and laughed about how many of us lost their afternoon food to the game of Kelegbe.

I bet, nobody would think it fun when a friend just happened on you and caught you and your afternoon food pants down! Imagine this: your friend caught you with your favourite food in your hand, or anything valuable, and you must give it up, because you both had an earlier gentleman agreement that either of you, who in that moment is caught without a piece of broom hidden somewhere in his hair, so that he can counter you with “Motayo!-response” when he charged at your possession with a Kelegbe!-declaration. So much fun we had playing our fun games. This and many more busied our night. We jested, we fought, we smiled, we laughed and told Ijapa stories abd many more. All under the moonlight.

I am coming back tomorrow to tell you of the story of The Dog who hid His Mother in The Sky although it was agreed that all animals kill their mothers for meal due to the famine in the land. But let me tell you first of our deep freezers. The joy that entered our whole house when the deep freezer arrived. It was on one afternoon like that. None of us children suspected mother was going to buy one. We would have been caught unprepared all the same to welcome such a huge change in our room, but our surprise would have been lesser. Mother caught all of us unprepared. It was not a Tokunbo. It was brand new ThermoCool Deep Freezer. It was a playmate who pointed my attention to mother stepping out of the transporter and the people dragging something towards us. The whole house erupted into ecstatic jubilation. Mother was being praised from right left back front and centre. The next day, I carried my books to school in the packagebox which had housed the electricity stabilizer. The stabilizer was bought alongside the deep freezer so that irregular power supply doesn’t spoil it. I placed it proudly on my head and walked to my primary school.

It was in this same house we shared our sorrows together. Like when Wasiu died. It was like we all died. We sorrowed like there was no tomorrow. Same way we jumped and ran to the hospital when we received news of Aunty Muji’s accident, or when we heard Bro Nojimu had fallen off a bus. He was a busboy. We were more than happy to receive him back into our midst. Our love and attention nursed him back to health. We were immeasurably happy when the wife of the younger brother of Bro Semiu put to bed. We all went to the hospital. We all trekked, talking loudly. We were happy. Very happy. We were simply being us. She brought home her baby and she became part of us, growing up with us in who we were!

Before I forget these two, let me drop them here: (1) the night we heard the bakery at the other end of Abeokuta Street invented a new bread. Solo Bread. We stormed the bakery, bought so many, ate them. And bought again. And ate them all. Because we could afford them. It was such genius. The Cocacola Company had just brought a new product into the market. The Solo Coke. The name and price inspired the new bread. We enjoyed the hotness and freshness of the bread. And we enjoyed the idea even more. I am not sure how much a piece sold for, but I bet it could not have been costlier than one Naira. (2) The night an adult brought the new one Naira coin and other coins in lesser denominations home. They were new. Babangida had just killed our beloved one Naira note and many more. We comforted ourselves in the newness we held in our hands. We passed them around. We all wanted to have a look.

It was not all fun in Alhaji Raimi Street. We had our differences. We fought each other. As in bitter fights o. But our bitterness never outlived the night. We resolved them. And I mean every word of that. The adults did. The children did. We all did. We were bigger than our bitterness. We never allowed that to destroy us. How else could our unity despite our differences be nade evident other than 1991/1992. The years that preceded the Hope ’93 project. Iya Funlola was the SDP in the house. She was the lead vanguard of the people’s party. We couldn’t have enough parties in the house. Whenever Iya Funlola returned from The Airport where she worked for FAAN, the whole house would be agog with praise and singing of all songs imaginable in support of Chief MKO Abiola and The Horse, the symbol of the party.

On the other hand, Baba Shamu, the man in charge of NRC in our house, not to be outdone, would roll out songs, invite more than enough people from other streets to join us in celebrating the victory of The Party with The Bird as its emblem. Chants of Egbe Eleye loni competing to outdrone voices of Egbe Elesin! In the middle of all these were us, children, living our happiness right there as it happened. We did not know the difference. We were only happy. And we lived it.

End of the year. I remember two spectacular occasions. One was super cool, one was not. The bad one first, and that very short. We went for a watchnight service. On our way back home, the high tension wire on poles began this terrible spark. We did not know what triggered this sparkling. Thank Goodness we escaped. I held mother’s hand as we ran away from the sparkling high tension. It was such a thin escape that we were not struck. Now to the good one. I dont know how it started, it sha started. We were at our backyard in our street. Was it Iya Tope or Iya Omopenu who had killed a chicken and we were all gathered to look at the defeather-ing process, to be followed by the careful cutting into small pieces. Someone fetched water to fill his empty drum somewhere close to the kitchen. Some bathed their children while some did nothing in particular. Iya Funlola’s voice joined the song blaring from a stereo in one of the rooms. It was the traditional end-of-year-song. Then, one of us joined. Another joined. Yet another joined. Until we were all singing and rejoicing that we were going to see the new year! The revival that descended on the househouse lasted hours. Iya Funlola only stopped us at imterval to feed us with more reasons why we must be thankful. And we indeed were. We raised our voices and sang even louder. Our religion never mattered. We were just all happy and thankful for the new year.

I can continue to tell of many many beautiful times while I was  a growing. They were great times, for real. But I don’t want to bore my readers so I will stop here for today. I will continue tomorrow. Then, I will tell of that armed robbery experience. It was a trauma, no doubt, but many other memorable moments far outweigh it. Times that cannot wait to be told. I will tell of these good times and memories. And many many more. Tomorrow.

Meet Solomon, My Dad

wp-1451299569031.jpeg

Old and young Solomon

Meet Solomon. Solomon is my father. He was in Dortmund weeks back. With my mother. To welcome the birth of their latest grandchild. My sister had put to bed barely a week prior to the visit. And here they were to see the baby, the mother, and of course to see all of us. This is what they have always done each time a grandchild is born. Solomon was born on 30th July 1942.
After the grandchild-visit came the confirmation of the Job-message via telephone. He was diagnosed with cancer, cancer of the kidney. The stage had not been clearly explained on phone. Really, there are some things that can never be explained good enough for anyone to understand. Cancer is one of them. How do you explain to me that my father might die anytime soon because he is sick? Well, I never will understand. In that state of denial, we started discussing treatment options available to us. The top on the list is chemotherapy. “This terrible word”, I said to myself.
So far, we had only talked on phone, the conversations had always been among me, my brother, my sister and my mother. My mother informed me later she had also informed her sister-inlaw at the time, to which she responded with the highest form of sadness imaginable. It was via the telephone, and yet the sadness couldn’t have been better packaged and shipped on to London.
Back to our telephone conversations. “Did you see my Whatsapp message?” That was my mother to me on a Whatsapp call. “Yes. I saw it. What is that?” “Well. You saw what is inside. Abi o ri ni?” “I did. I will call you back.” I rang up Tunde, who confirmed he received same message. And my sister too. Apparently, they had been discussing the sickness. “Well. Chemotherapy ni won ma se.” “No way. They want to kill him. He is too old. For his age. No. What did he say? Has he agreed to undergo the treatment?” “That is still being discussed. If that is the only option he will have to, at least a chance of survival is still there if he went for it. If not, he is good as dead.” “So. What do you suggest? You sha cannot be against one without bringing an option to the table.” “I don’t know. Has he agreed to it? It’s his life on the line here. What are we saying here? Is she that excited to become a widow!? Listen, if he doesn’t want it, then let him be!”
The conversations went on for days unend. I read up on chemotherapy. I read up on kidney cancer. It all sounded so terrible a sickness as I had imagined. Chemotherapy is not great either. The side effects almost made me throw up. Abi iru ki re!?
I returned from work one evening like that, I met Mrs Brinkmann, my good old neighbour. We greeted. She opened the housedoor. Sisi, her old dog entered, she struggled with the dog-rope and getting her key out of the doorhole. I helped, as much as I could. She valued her independence. We were in the staircase.
“So, Ibu, how are you?” “I am not fine, Mrs Brinkmann. My father has got cancer. Kidney cancer.” Her countenance became sadness. “I am so sorry, Ibu. He is such a fine man. See how he hugged me when last he visited you. Telling me everything will be fine, as if he knew I had problems. He is such a kind man. So sad he has been caught by this terrible thing. Ibu, I am so sorry.” She continued, “Ibu, did I tell you our neighbour has got brain tumour?” “Yes, you did, Mrs Brinkmann. I was about asking you if she was getting any better. How is she responding to treatment?” “Ibu, forget it. She’s 87. Age is not on her side. Plus, that’s brain tumour we talking about. She’s got brain cancer, Ibu! Right in her head! Poor woman.” “No wonder she had such terrible headaches almost everyday. She used to tell me each time we meet on her dogwalks.
By the way, what will happen to her dog? Will he be taken to a home? I hope he is not killed for lack of anyone to care for him”. “No. No. No. Ibu, that will not happen. The last time I spoke with Heidi, she told me the children had come for the dog. They did not bring him to the hospital because they feared he might be traumatised. He is too young to see his owner in such a sickly condition.” “Oh. So sad. Did you not say it was Heidi who called the emergency when she discovered her condition needed immediate attention?” “Yes, Ibu. She informed the children too.”
She continued. “Thank Goodness for Heidi. What would have happened if not for Heidi! Even me, she helps out alot. Oh, by the way, Ibu, thank you for spreading my clothes on the line. You needed not do that. I thought I told you so.” “Yeah. I know, but I felt I could do that for you too. I brought it up from the washroom, I checked my time, it was not too late yet. I quickly spread and pegged them before I went in. I jumped into my bed almost immediately to catch some sleep.” “Oh. Thank you, Ibu. You are such a darling.
I returned to the dog. “So, the dog was not taken to the hospital?” Mrs Brinkmann spoke about the woman. “I heard she refused to be touched or given any drug or treatment whatsoever. I guess she is bent on leaving us. So sad, Ibu. I pity her.” “Yeah, so sad. She’s been through alot.” “She might be brought to the hospice anytime from now. I am not sure she wanted the hospice in Mengede. I was told it is such a terrible hospice. But what can she do now? In her condition, she will definitely be brought to the nearest hospice. She couldn’t be part of the decision where to spend her last days. She was unconscious, you know, when the emergency arrived. I am not sure she’s coming out alive.” “She lived a good life.” “Yeah, that’s true. Ibu, I am so sorry about your father. Chemotherapy is the only option, even if terribly feared, you might have no choice than to let him do it. It’s his chance. He should take it.” “I don’t know, really. I don’t know. Good night Mrs Brinkmann. Thank you for your time.” “Good night Ibu.”
We will have to visit in London. To show moral support. He’s been such a good father. He needs us in this difficult time. I was as busy as hell. My brother too. My sister had just put to bed. How shall we get to visit him? I was decided in my mind to pull off a visit, no matter what. Few days before my leave, I submitted my application for a UK visa. It was granted. One thing led to the other, and the next day I was standing at Shifford Path where my parents live. I knocked on the wrong door for a while. When nobody opened, I called my mother’s mobile.
“What are you saying?… Open the door biti bawo!? The door is open. Come in… Did you say you are at our door? This is London number you are calling with… Ah. I thought Jumoke was joking when she said you were on your way. Olorun a gba e. What kind of child are you… Number 21. Where are you knocking… The neighbour. Ah. He has a giant dog… Come over to Number 21. The door is open…” I dropped the call, walked over to Number 21, and there she was standing at the door to welcome me home. I greeted. My brother-inlaw greeted. My nephew was fast asleep. “Where is daddy?” “Upstairs. In the bed. Not sleeping though.”
I went upstairs to tell him I have arrived to spend Christmas with him and his wife. He jumped out of the bed to welcome me. He was full of smile. I saw happiness. More than that, I have come to meet him. I want him to tell me everything he knows about his family. The next day we started with his mother.
She was a gentle woman, loving mother and the epitome of beauty. She was the best mother anyone could wish for. She must have been born between 1918 and 1920. An exact year of birth was not easy to arrive at. In the course of our discussion, I decided to place the birth of my paternal grandmother around the started years. The reason being this: When she got my father, her first child, she probably was 21 years old. According to Solomon, my father, it was usual for women of that time to be married off early, around 21 years or younger. Allowing that she was married at 19/20 years, depending on how soon she became pregnant with my father, then she must have been 21 years old when she gave birth to Solomon in 1942. Of course, she could be older if we allowed in our calculation that she suffered delays in becoming pregnant. So, if we insist that she was 21 when she got her first child, then add the possibility of delayed pregnancy, it will be that she was married much younger than 21. If our calculation was right, minus delayed pregnancy, then it must be that she was married around 20/21 years of age. In any case, according to Solomon, his mother could not have been 100 years old if she was alive today.
She gave birth to other children. She had four children in all. In this order: Solomon(born 1942), Dada aka Jonwo (1945), Iyabo aka Iya Mushin(1947), Modupe aka Iya Ketu(1949). She died of cancer of the uterus. According to Solomon, if only he knew earlier he could have arranged for the uterus to be removed. He explained further. It was not as if she could still give birth. She was done with child bearing, so the reasonable thing to do was to remove the uterus, at least if that would have saved her life. The cancer was found out too late though. So, my paternal grandmother had little or no chance of survival. She died in shortly after Solomon’s return from the UK. It was in part due to the sickness of his mother he decided to come home in that year. He had left for the UK in 1964 with a work/study voucher after he finished from Yaba College in 1963.
He must have loved his mother so well. I could hear it as he talked about her. He said these things about her:
“Mama used to be my bank. I was the treasurer of our football club back then at Arokolaran. I was chosen to keep the moneybag because my integrity was proven. I am a disciplined person, not given to nonsense of that time. So when money was given to me, I took it to Mama. (Solomon referred to his mother as Mama during the whole talk between us both. I could practically touch the love in his voice for the woman as he spoke about her). And when we needed the money, Mama brought it out and gave it to me. I then took the money to my club. There were banks back then, of course. Standard Bank, Barclays Bank, now First Bank and Union Bank respectively, but we did not own a bank account with any of these banks. Mama kept the money for us.”
When he talked about his younger stepbrother, he came back to talking about his mother, to underline the kind of pure love this woman embodied. This is what he said:
“You won’t believe it but it’s true. Do you know when I told Mama that I will not be responsible for Tunde’s education anylonger, she broke down crying. She was crying and begging me not to withdraw my financial support for her stepson. This is a child, who apparently was unwilling to enjoy education, his mother said nothing, although she heard Mama crying and begging me, when I brought Tunde’s report card which a family member had fished out from the dustbin. He had thrown it into the dustbin because he did poorly in school. Mama was such a simple personality, full of love for all. Such a pity you did not get to know her.”
We went on to talk about his father. Solomon’s father worked with PWD, the Public Works Department in Lagos. My grandfather had moved with his parents, my great grandparents, to Ijoko-Ota in present day Ogun State from Igasi-Akoko in search of greener pasture. Solomon said it was for the same reasons people moved from Nigeria to London these days that informed the decision of my great grandparents moving to Lagos. Lagos was London back in those days. At first, they settled in Ijoko-Ota. A farm settlement was founded, from where they later moved to Arokolaran and Mushin Akala Area in Lagos. Both Solomon’s maternal and paternal grandparents had strong roots in these places. They settled there. It was there in Lagos he was born.
His relationship with his father was cordial. Just like that of any father of that period in time. Solomon talked of fathers of this period as being ‘terrible’. They were like Gods. He narrated of a father who cursed his own son, and the son ran mad. The said father was angered that his son, who had forgotten him when things were rosy, dared come to him to tell him that fate issued him a bad card at that point in time. The father placed a curse on the ungrateful son.
What prompted this narration? I asked him why he did not prevail upon his father to not marry a second wife. Solomon’s response was great shock. I could see it on his face and hear in his voice the abomination I wanted him to commit. He said: “That would be pushing too much insult way too too far!” He then narrated of the father who cursed his own son.
Solomon loved and took care of his father. He ensured he was operated when he had health issues that necessitated surgery. He pleaded with him to give up drinking, which his father did not do. His father died not long after. According to Solomon, he was a good father. He probably would be around 110 years old or older if he was alive today, but certainly younger than 120 years. I placed his birthday around 1905.
There were many pictures. Solomon stood up from the couch, looked somewhere under the shelf in the living room and brought out pictures, well wrapped away in big papers. He started showing them to me and we kept talking. More sturves to talk about came up. We happened on a picture of his grandfather, my great grandfather. We talked about this man. From my calculation, if Chief Sajowa, my great grandfather gave birth to his first child when he was about 30 years old, he must have been born around 1867. This is what Solomon said about him:
“That is Ajagunna. Ajagunna is the family name. It’s a chieftancy title and the family name. He is Sajowa. Chief Sajowa of Igasi-Akoko. He came from a Muslim background. There was one of his sons named Jacob Aliu. His family moved from Ikare-Akoko to Igasi-Akoko to settle there. He had six children. My father was one of his children. He was buried in Igasi-Akoko when he died.”

wp-1451299392739.jpeg

Chief Sajowa of Igasi-Akoko, Solomon’s grandfather, born around 1867.

Solomon met his wife, Mercy, when he brought the corpse of his mother to Igasi-Akoko for burial in her ancestral home. He saw the young woman and decided he was going to marry her. She was reluctant at first. Solomon said he wasted no time in moving on to other ladies to try his luck. Then Mercy came back to him and agreed to marry him. We had a good laugh about ‘wasting no time’. Both were married in 1981. The couple had their first child in 1981(my brother Tunde), the second child was born in 1983(my sister Jumoke) and the third and last child was born in 1985. That’s me.
Solomon is grandfather to six grandchildren. He lives in London with his wife.

wp-1451299557704.jpeg

Above: Solomon in his office as Technical Manager, BEWAC Construction Company. Below: Solomon at his engagement/marriage ceremony in Igasi-Akoko.

Ajankolokolo

Ajankolokolo

Ajankolokolo

Things we do for love. Ehn! Ajankolokolo. Da Love of My Life. She knows. I will do anything for her. I don’t care. Whatever. All that matter is Ajankolokolo!

What further confirmation do I need than hearing this confession of love from the horse-mouth itself. She said to me: “Thank you for plaiting your hair to honour me.” I was in the heavens when she finished this compliment. She had looked me in the eye to tell me this beautiful Thank you. Imagine that. She looked me straight in the eyes and told me how she felt about my new hair.

I could not hold my joy. I cried and cried, until she gave me a tissue to wipe my face. “Oh,…”, I immediately apologized for my mess. “I didn’t wish to mess up or make you uncomfortable with my tears. I was only too glad to talk in words. “I understand, My Dear.”, she assured. “Oh,” I thought to myself, “can you hear that? She just called me My Dear again.” By now, I was totally broken down for joy. Not even an extra tissue could wipe my tears. She continued, ” I did not think you indeed wanted to do that for me, you know. Now, that you have shown me what caring really is, I am going to give you my answer.”

I held my breathe for a moment. It seemed to last forever. Ajankolokolo looked me once again in the eyes, then she said, “I am so blessed to have you plait your hair for me. All for me. Thank you.”

I smiled a big smile. “You see, she recognised you did it for her. Cool.” In truth, I had been growing my hair for months. All for Da Love of my Life, Ajankolokolo. Then on Saturday, I moved an inch closer to my love. I did what I had to do to show it.

It paid off. Minutes after my hair was done, Ajankolokolo entered, saw me, and decided to give me an answer. After she said Thank you, she breathed and continued talking, but not without swallowing deep. She had to swallow her tears so she could tell me what she wanted to say. I was patient. Very patient.

Then, it was my turn to give her tissues to wipe her tears. I gave her gladly. I gave her more than enough. I helped to wipe as much as she allowed me. I was careful not to hurt her gentle face while I wiped the tears from her eyes. She thanked me again. I supposed she said “My Love” after the Thank you, but for having to breathe in one last time while I hurried to dispose the used wipes, I did not hear her loud enough. It doesn’t matter anyway. So long she called me that, I am fine. Or put differently, so long I could convince myself I heard her call me My Love, that is enough.

She called. I answered. “Ehn”. Then she asked: “Did I tell you this is exactly how Sango Olukoso plaited his hair to prove to Oya that he loved her beyond mouth can tell?” I said “No, I don’t”. Ajankolokolo continued. “You need to know. You need to come and see how Sango Olukoso was always dotting all over Oya, his wife. Their love was soo real. Each time Sango was angry, It was Oya who could calm his anger. She would come out, sing this beautiful love song. Sango only needed to hear Oya sing this song, and his anger would be gone, one time fiam, like it was never there.”

I did not interrupt. I just said “hmmn”. We kept eye contact.

“She knew Sango love her so well because he did not stop at hair plaiting. He showed her another thing. That thing was all she needed to confirm even more that Sango’s love was for real.”

When Ajankolokolo finished by saying a sentence I did not really follow, but heard something like “that thing eventually killed him…”, my eyes opened an inch wider. I almost shouted ahhh! I smiled. Our eyes were still glued to each other.

“You have started well. Just like Sango, if you keep it up, I am sure, very sure self, that I may end up marrying someone like you”. My heart leaped for joy. My breathing intensified. I did not know what to answer. I just groaned.

“Should I tell you something?” I said yes. My response was so swift that one could say she was not interrupted at all. So, she slipped on to what she wanted to tell me.

“You know what? Mummy really suffered in the hand of popsy gaan ni. Really.” I noticed the face of Ajankolokolo became sadness. I shook my head to show solidarity with her sadness. I could not have done otherwise. Tell me, what could I have done?!

“There was this one day when mummy caught him redhanded. He brought another woman into our home. Our one room. Mummy had been told by some neighbourhood backwatchers what they saw on mummy’s back when she was not there.

Hell was let loose on this day. It was as if popsy knew the kind of wife he married. I only saw something that looked like him as he ran with all his power. There was something wild in his desperate face. I saw his face like in a dash. Yet I knew he was scared like shit.

Mummy’s face was wilder. She could not be calmed. She was not pursuing her husband. She had in both hands an iron pail. Therein was a red content. Not until I heard the pepper grinder who was shouting out her irrecoverable loss did I realize what mummy had in her hand. Pepper! Real pepper!

She made it to our room and emptied it on the woman who had slept with her husband on their matrimonial bed. Come and see shout! Mummy was bent on killing the woman. The strange woman knew death was in the air, so that even as she dey shout so, she did not stop running helter skelter, looking for an escape.

Mummy did not as much as care about her presence after having bathed her with pepper. She was rather interested in her clothes and shoes. She packed them, took them to the backyard through which popsy had escaped, and set them on fire.

When popsy returned the following day, calmness returned into our home. They both never talked about the incidence, not even an hint that anything like that happened. It was as if nothing happened.”

I listened seriously to Ajankolokolo. I did not know what to say when she finished, so I swallowed spit, closed my eyes and opened them again. Finally, I said something. Very gently. “Is this what you wanted to share with me?” My face had a smile on. “Yes”, she answered, holding my hands. “I have not finished though. Oh, did I tell you that a longtime friend actually proposed to me. Funny enough, he told me he loved me. Me?! I was shocked. I wondered what happened to his wife who gave him children! Hmmn. Men are funny. I did not answer him o.”

Now, we were both smiling. “You don’t mean it?!”, I said. “Of course, I do”, she countered. We both laughed out loud. All the while I was congratulating myself she was yet to reject me outright, thankful I was none of those men she talked about.

“But really, Ajankolokolo, what is it you wanted to tell me. I mean, the answer?” My breathe returned to its held position as Ajankolokolo made to open her mouth. I was but quicker to open mine. “Don’t say it. Not yet,” I heard my own voice, and I was surprised I could say that, after having wished she had spared me the long detour so far. I was dying to hear her answer. Then this! Coming from me! “Unbelievable!”, I said loudly, like acting on reflex. “What is that?” she wanted to know. “Nothing. Really. Nothing. Now, you can tell me the answer”.

“Tell you the answer?! What else is there to say? Look at your head. Look at your head!!! Leave me joor. Isn’t it clear that you love me?! Even a blind man can see that you love me. Wake up to your own reality!”

Reality? What reality? Ajankolokolo! What reality? At my head? What is my head? What is on my head? Blind man? Ahh! What is this? I was about to say something when I opened my eyes. I touched my head. My Ajankolokolo was nowhere to be found. Gone! Da Love of My Life! Just like that? Hmmn.

%d bloggers like this: