ajagunna

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

Category: Culture(al) Marketplace C(al)M

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.

Taninomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Joy Isi Bewaji vs. Hallelujah Challenge Brouhaha (JIB vs. HCB)

Don’t throw the child away with the bathwater. While many of you are calling for Isi Bewaji’s head because of her rant against the Halleluyah challenge, you seem to neglect the salient lessons. She was wrong to have interfered in the religious business of faithfuls who decided to come together to worship their God. It was not the Ministry of Science and Technology or the Ministry of Education that called the challenge, it was a group of Christians and that is why they called Christians. But she was also right in the rant; religion has to a large extent adversely affected us. It has made us more selfish, close minded and unquestioning.

So, I went to an ‘SU’ secondary school, those schools where the proprietor is an ultra-religious adherent. We had a long list of dos and don’ts. The school directress, who at that time was running her PhD in English, told us not to read Festus Iyayi’s Violence, a NECO prescribed text. Her reason: it was ‘corrupt.’ The intolerance was top-notch; these were people willing to kill with the rod in order to bend you to the mould they think is right.

tmomo

Hand-in-pocket: Oluwaseun Tanimomo of TPoM

In general, it seems besides salvation a number of Nigerian churches have no other good to offer. Church here means an organized body of people on earth who gather in a place regularly to listen to a scriptural exegete. What obtains in the religious circles in Nigeria and some African countries is different from the reality in Western countries, where Christianity and churches appear to be compassionate. In Germany for example, I know that the Catholic Church and the Protestants have scholarship stipends for students. They have hospitals and organise conferences and fairs. In Nigeria we build big churches and organise big programs year after year. How do you explain to the people that they are the real church when we spend millions adorning buildings? And are those private jets really for evangelism or for jetting out to world capitals where the honorarium is heavy and enticing? Do our super-pastors travel to the villages in Adamawa, the poorest parts of Malawi and Mozambique to preach? It seems to me that the good news is only for the super-rich. That is one other thing I like in my German church; offerings are collected to travel to the very poor, for ‘development aids’. Just look at the good Pope don’t you like him?
Religion for a number of us is a tool for control; a tool to force people into your line of scriptural interpretation. It is the reason we are so quick to fight for our God. Imagine! In my second year at the Obafemi Awolowo University, I had picked a Quran to read, so this boy called Maxwel, who we had all thought to be Ibo and consequently Christian told me to drop the Quran. I smiled and thought the bros was joking until he picked a knife. I like my life! I dropped it immediately until another good Muslim friend, Damola is his name, explained to me that they don’t treat their holy book the way we did ours. I asked Damola why he chose not to stab me instead. After all, they are both Muslim . Damola condemned the action of the violent Muslim.
Still in my second year, a group of student-religious leaders decided for the whole hall that it was wrong to watch adult movies in the common room on Friday nights. They succeeded because they added violence to their quest. This was a hall of residence for students majorly above 18 years. adults. Anyways, we went on a two week break after that, we called it Mojo break.
As a child of about 8years, my mum once left her work to come pick me and my siblings at my grandma’s place in Ijoko-Ota because the Gods of the Ota people did not know it was the dusk of the 20th century. Businesses shut down and a pin-drop silence accompanied by a palpable fear enveloped Sango-Ota area, a midway city to Ijoko-Ota, and its environs. The Oro festival was being held. Talking about Oro festival, I once attended a vigil as a child and Oro visited. They charged at us because there were women in the church. Women should not see Oro. Well, our Pastor’s wife and also a family friend said she was not going to hide that she had rights. Fearless woman! Whether you interpret this as a Westernized Christian woman, disrespectful of her culture, standing in the way of tradition. Or a fearless woman standing for her rights against a patriarchal religion is another matter. I choose the latter.
Family members, friends complain about the gridlock along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway from time to time. True, it might not be the responsibility of the churches to build roads, but I believe these churches have enormous influence on governments.
Whatever shape or form religion takes in Nigeria, it seems that those at the helm of its affairs are one way or the other complicit in the oppression of the people. Our ancestors had seen the tyranny of religion and concluded that religion or whatever deity we choose to serve must be able to save us and make our lives better. Orisa bi o le gba mi, se mi bi o ti ba mi, our ancestors warned. In the act of our ancestors, they preempted a danger of an unbridled deity, hence the insertion of the freedom clause in the design of our Gods. The freedom to choose is important, saving which the head of a particular God may swell and tell adherents to kill or punish non-adherents so that (s)he can be more God.
Christianity, Islam and our traditional religions sure have many positive sides. But to be a slave to religion is to be a slave to unreason. Religion should help and not be a problem. In fact, I am against this seeming adopted Westernized religious manicheeism in Nigeria that clearly divorces reason from feeling, and religion from science. Fact is, science and religion can walk hand in hand and lead humans to a more humane world. It does really not have to be this manicheeism kind of approach as it is presently in Nigeria.

!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!

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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

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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.

Everything About Nigeria Will Kill You! (With Laughter!)

There are two things you need to note: first, the title above is not a panic propaganda. Of course, it sounds like one (…), yet it’s no propaganda, it’s a fact. But even if you disagree with this premise, then let’s call it a propaganda, but it is one that has become necessary and urgent at this point. – Ayo Sogunro, May 2014

Everything about Nigeria will kill you! With laughter! Or not! One is but not always able to laugh considering how pathetic things are in this space. No doubt, Nigerians living in Nigeria have grown thick skin, hardly any of these things affect them the way it would Nigerians in diaspora. I am one of the latter. I live in Dortmund, I died many times in the past ten days, I resurrected almost immediately so I could see more of these things that killed me (with laughter), then I died, to wake again. Naija wenjele!

Ahjot Naija in Ibadan

Ahjot Naija in Ibadan

Think of a man who would be willing to get killed at dawn when what anybody wanted would be to make it to a destination as early as possible. So, it happened that I boarded this Lagos black-yellow bus to Oshodi. I jumped in without a second thought because it was unbelievably cheap at 100 Naira; from Stadium Bus stop. The bus filled up on time, most likely with awuf-liking hurry-hurry passengers like me. A mobile police officer sat beside me in front. With the driver. Three people in front. Of course, the police officer was not expected to pay a fare. It is an unwritten pact between officers and commercial bus drivers, a give-and-take arrangement; there is always a payback time.

Well, I will talk more on that later, lest I talk too much, forgetting the man who was willing to get killed. The bus conductor called bus stops, passengers responded and got alighted until trouble started. The bus driver and conductor must have seen trouble coming long enough to be prepared. I knew this when attempts were being made to beg the trouble-passenger to leave in peace. He had paid 50 Naira for a route worth 100 Naira. The driver said his fare expired two bus stops ago, yet he did not come off the omnibus. He stayed put. To add salt to injury, when the bus conductor called out for passengers who wanted to alight at Obanikoro, this passenger demanded to be dropped at another bus stop, purportedly the “correct” Obanikoro bus stop. He would have no nonsense of being dropped off at a stop other than his wish.

The bus driver begged him to come down NOW! The conductor begged him to come down NOW! He refused. That was when we knew trouble has met us unprepared, except for the two men who knew how much he paid, this trouble-man happened on us all suddenly. The bus drove past the wished bus stop. Upon stopping at another stop, the trouble-man punched the bus conductor in the stomach, the poor busboy was then dragged off the bus, being held at his waist. It was the trouble-man’s voice we heard, even though it was the conductor who was being hit! He shout-promised trouble, trouble, and more trouble in abundance! “I will show you that you cannot do anyhow. I told you where I wanted to stop, you refused to drop me, you wanted trouble this early morning, now you can have it in full.”

The driver jumped out of the bus, going to rescue his boy, passengers begged the man to let go, there was another police officer on spot to intervene, yet the man would not be appeased. When the police officer beside me jumped out to help settle the matter, the trouble-man threw away his only belonging of a nylon-bag, he declared convincingly he was willing to get killed; only death was going to pacify his anger. He threw tantrums here and there, insulting anyone who thought it was not the driver’s fault to stop him at a different stop, nobody could even touch him because he threw shout and spit in all direction.

When I realized this was not stopping anytime soon, my fear spiked. I took 100 Naira from my purse to appease the trouble-man. By now, he was talking on phone, only hell knew what he wanted. “Here is your money, take and go, please, just go, let it be! Here! Take! Take! 100 Naira! He refused still.

The driver did not want me to give him the money, some passers-by cum onlookers wanted to take the money out of my hand, I did not give them, I wanted the right man to collect it so there could be peace, the police officers pointed him to the money. “Oga, take your money and leave!” Yet, he did not bulge. At that point, I was lost, I knew no further.

Then suddenly, just like the whole theater started, he was pacified. All by himself! But that was not before he accused one of the police officers of watching him get slapped by the bus conductor. He told me not to worry, he thanked my kindness. Now, passengers who had alighted when trouble started got back on the bus, the driver ignited, and we moved on, I pursed my money. I did not stop wondering what the trouble-man was all about. The mobile police officer said the trouble-man had a “mission”. The driver talked and talked, the bus conductor was quiet, passengers continued talking. And on we moved to other things.

Allow me talk about two other incidents on commercial buses.

One- on the road to Ibadan from Akungba-Akoko. The driver wanted four passengers seated in a space barely enough to house three. When I did not “shift” to accommodate a fourth passenger who was going to seat just as uncomfortable as I would have, the driver threatened to throw me out. One would think the passenger about to be picked was going to see reason and go away. How wrong I was!

From left: Ms Talabi, my personal assistant, Ahjot Naija, Driver, Patrick Sowunmi

From left: Ms Talabi, my personal assistant, Ahjot Naija, Driver, Patrick Sowunmi

He stayed put. He abused me, called me names for being inconsiderate. “And people like you would not be ready to pay for space, yet want to sit as if they owned the bus!” I was at a loss. The driver was all smile. He won the bet. My frustration was boundless. I changed tone, talked with the driver who agreed to take 500 Naira extra to leave three passengers in a space best suitable for two. We continued our journey to Ibadan.

A young lady seated next to the Muslim woman beside me busied herself with a Christian literature, it was a self-help on getting motivated, Osupa Saheed blasted in his fullness from the louder-than-loud speaker mounted somewhere in the bus, at interval, he was replaced by another song. The replacement was not as beautiful as Osupa Saheed’s. I wished he could sing forever; he was my only redemption in this house of chaos.

We arrived Ibadan in peace, the Christian bookreader would not come down. She insisted on being carried further, she threatened to not accept this madness, she was deadsure she told the driver a different destination. I was too fainted to beg her to leave in peace, I carried my luggage on my head and walked into the night.

Two- From Kila along Abeokuta-Ibadan road. The Agbero began to shout, he insisted a market woman insulted him, he bragged and bragged until I caught fire and told him to go away or keep quiet, my personal assistant was seated at the back, she was watching, she said nothing. I was soon to realize my intervention was futile when I saw the crazeman increased the pitch of his rage to an incomprehensible level.

Ahjot Naija, Beauty and a nephew

Ahjot Naija, Beauty and a nephew

By now, the market woman was not relevant anymore, he wanted to throwback my own insult at me. The issue was, how could I ever dare insult him and his reputation. For the driver’s timely intervention, I am sure he would have shouted forever to “restore” his dented reputation.

Beyond doubly overloaded, our road-unworthy omnibus began its journey to Apata in Ibadan. I gave up trying to make the driver see reason not to overload when he told me that a conductor was still going to share my space with me. “This is how it’s done here, sir. If you want change, please talk to NURTW.” He said this with a tone of friendliness I have not seen a long time that I was willing to agree with this helplessness for once.

I have many tales of killing encounters on my omnibus journeys in my short stay, but lest I bore my readership, I will go on to other killing stories while I visited the land that my ascenstors call home. Next, I will talk about two dogs I met, I will show you a pig on a motorcycle, then go on to talk about bad roads. I will talk about toilets in Nigeria before I move on to a motorcycle rider who was bent on dissing a woman foodseller, until I blessed the woman with 200 Naira; the money was to make a point.

Beauty is my cousin’s dog. She is indeed a beautiful dog. I fell in love with her on first sight. When I asked for her name and I was told she answers to Beauty, I knew I was right all along. Beauty likes to play wild, she runs up a distance, comes back to be cuddled, then runs away to come back again. When I carried her in my laps, she was full of happiness; my nieces and nephews looked on in excitement, they called out to their dad to see me carry Beauty on my laps. Beauty and I enjoyed our short meeting so well. I am sure if I stayed longer, I would have taught her a few more plays, like getting to catch a thrown stick. I suspected she was afraid whenever I picked up a stick, so I stopped, she definitely thought I wanted to hit her. We played other plays without sticks.

The other dog I met is resident in Ikorodu area of Lagos. He barked and backed off, not so friendly unlike Beauty. He was scared to come too close to us. His master dragged him to us. Reluctantly, he took a picture with us. Unlike Beauty, who was glad to take pictures with me and her family. The pig on the motorcycle. I met her on my way to Ibadan; on her way to death-the slaughter’s slab, that much was sure. I pitied her condition. I requested the Okada rider to allow me immortalize this cool creature before she would be no more. He agreed, and we took shots together.

Good roads are not existent in Nigeria. If anyone tried to convince you otherwise, look him in the face and tell him this truth- “Now I know how a liar looks!” I swear, we hardly traveled a 20 kilometre stretch without something wrong with the road; talk of potholes, untarred roads, worn-out coaltars, unleveled paths, stony to water-logged ways, an unsecured bridge(-like) roads, just any badness imaginable! To travel safely in these roads, I would recommend a speed limit of 80 km/h, anything else is suicide.

Toilet matters. This is what my cousin said when I showed a picture of a toilet of a private hospital: “This is still manageable now. There are more terrible toilets.” He was right. Toilets in Nigeria are anything between manageable and outright disastrous. In eateries and fastfood joint, in other public and private spaces, the condition of toilets are bizzare, only a handful are usable, I found handwash in one or two, hand-dryers did not work, no disposable towels, I could not sit on many, my business would simply not be done upon sighting some, I refused food and drank water instead so I  got pressed less frequently. I did just anything to avoid using a restroom. In short, I would be anywhere but in a toilet in Nigeria.

A Toilet in a private hospital in Nigeria

A Toilet in a private hospital in Nigeria

I visited a primary school where I had to use a restroom. The pit-latrine stank to high heavens. Of course, I was not expecting a five-star pleasure from a pit-latrine, but the condition in which I met the adjoining pit-latrines meant for the school pupils were appalling. Excreta littered everywhere, I picked my way carefully so I did not stumble on a shit, I opened the padlock to use the staff pit-latrine, the condition was only better because no shit littered the locked shithouse.

While I squatted to do my business, I was carried in thought to my primary school days when Babangida was president. We had same terrible shithouses. Our teachers had same, just like present-day shithouses in that primary school in Kila village, they were full of shit, we shat everywhere, we shat until we had no more space to shit on, then we shat on shits. Just like now when Buhari is president, nobody cared where we did our business.

There is no other way to put it, the truth is, a people who cannot create for themselves a toilet fit for human use, talkless of manage one, is unable to create and manage change, in fact, such a people is far away from change, they are ready for anything but change because there is (and will be) no change!

Enough of toilet shits, I must remember to talk about the foodseller who was being dissed by the motorcycle rider. That was in Akungba-Akoko. We had negotiated to sit only three passengers at the backseat, the driver agreed to take 1900 Naira instead of 2000 Naira to seat four. He agreed after I called a NURTW unit-chairman in another city. I crossed the road to eat before we took off.

“How much rice do you want?” “I don’t know, just sell me little, scoop a spoon or so, add a little beans, just a little, and one ponmo will do, no chicken abeg, no, that is alright.” While I talked with the woman, the Okada rider stood behind, waiting for his turn. I ate while he ordered. “Put more now, haba, is that 50 Naira worth of rice!?, what a cheat you are!, add more joor!, more meat, more spaghetti, beans, more beans, dodo too!, everything, add jaara o!” He abused this and that about the foodseller and the food he was about to eat. The woman did as instructed. I was taken aback by this rudeness.

Eating eba with vegetable stew in a fast-food in FUNAAB, Abeokuta, standing, with a foodtray in hand, is my cousin, Dr. Jegede Vincent

Eating eba with vegetable stew in a fast-food in FUNAAB, Abeokuta, standing, with a foodtray in hand, is my cousin, Dr. Jegede Vincent

Here is a woman who sold you good food, trying to feed your hunger, yet all she deserved was insult. I finished my food, gave the foodseller 200 Naira. I asked for water, she pointed to a bag of pure water. One cost ten Naira, I took two and gave her twenty Naira. That was when I noticed the big smile on the woman’s face. She knelt down and thanked me. “Not to worry, you deserve more than the insult of a motorcycle rider.” I did see the Okada man was now quiet. He looked at me and spoke softly. “Oga sir, find something for your boy too o, sir.” I gave him 50 Naira to add to his food money, but that I did after I told him it was irresponsible to talkdown a woman whose only offense was her kindness to feed a hungry motorcyclist. He collected the money with respect, and thanked me.

While I made to cross the road to join other waiting passengers, a woman dressed in Ankara greeted, her intent was clear from the way she greeted, she wanted to be blessed with money. I ignored her and ran into the safety arms of the commercial car hungry to eat the road leading to Okene.

Deutsches Haus Ile-Ife- A House of Culture and Language

Mr. Odidiomo, in blue attire, is the  of Deutsches Haus Ile-Ife

Mr. Odidiomo, in blue attire, is the Director of Deutsches Haus Ile-Ife

I was at Deutsches Haus Ile-Ife. It was a sunny day in Ile-Ife. From faraway I sighted my long time lecturer, garbed in a blue traditional attire. His abetiaja-cap was cool.  I half-walked and -ran to meet this wonderful inspiration and promoter of language and culture. We were all smiles, for it was a beautiful reunion. We greeted, and I finally hugged him. I had promised on a Facebook post I would hug him to thank him for being a great teacher. In that moment, I was thankful a dream was realised.

Being a great enthusiast of language and culture, I felt at home immediately in the House. Mr. Odidiomo received me. He is the Founder and Head of this beautiful House of Language and Culture. Considering the impromptu nature of my visit, the warmth with which Mr. Odidiomo received me was overwhelming. He walked me through the House located in Moremi Estate Phase 1 in Ile-Ife. It is a non-profit initiative for the promotion of intercultural exchange, namely German and Yoruba Language and Culture. In fact, I was invited to a programme scheduled for 28th July but for time I could not participate.

Founder and Head of Deutsches Haus, the House of Culture and Language, Mr. Odidiomo with me

Founder and Head of Deutsches Haus, the House of Culture and Language, Mr. Odidiomo with me

In the course of our discussion, I learnt about the positive reception enjoyed by the House in tge area; residents do say the estate is being “germanised”. This underlines the success recorded so far by the house. The House has trained (and still trains) many students. At the end of which a Goethe Institute Certificate exam is recommended. The facility is also a research centre; the coolness of the estate, the location of the House is good, away from distraction, close to nature and a house dedicated solely to language and culture, I am sure the mind would be at its best to create. The House recently hosted students from Benin Republic, they came for an immersion programme. Interested Doctoral students of Languages and intercultural studies from Germany and Austria and around the world would find this house a cool place, I believe.

We talked about the importance of language. Mr. Odidiomo emphasized the interculturalness of the house. The mission is not to germanise anybody, rather all are encouraged to keep their originality while embracing the newness and uniqueness of the other. Cultural understanding is a key factor here. I mentioned the idea of integration, it is not about giving up oneself, it is about believing in, imbibing and accepting the host society which has long became home for millions of immigrants in Germany. The idea is, be you and be German, always and as at when due.

We gisted about life in Germany. We prayed with wine. Mr. Odidiomo plucked cocoa, we ate and talked about the taste for a while. I was to be treated to a real cool meal of eran-igbe. Mrs. Odidiomo was busy in the kitchen while we busied ourselves under the cocoa tree to talks of culture and language. When, Ms. Gajuwa, my Personal Assistant (PA), prompted me it was time to leave, I still did not want to leave. Thinking about the warmth of reception, the moments shared and the memories relived, and the beautiful food I was about to miss, I wished I could stay much longer. We went to meet Mrs. Odidiomo, she brought us pieces of meat, fried and hot, I bit into it, thanking her heartily. She is a wonderful woman, wife and mother, a great support and believer in the House of Culture and Language. I promised to come back again. In the company of my PA, we headed for the motorpark, with a thankful heart. This visit was a success, it was worth every moment.

Merchants-of-Memories (MoM): This Is Growing Up

cropped-upload-gq9u7q43rfm1ntpe2aaaj4rj30397680-final.jpgThis Is Growing Up. I was playing outside, playing ball with other friends, I can’t tell how many exactly now or who they were. Of course, if I had to guess I would immediately think of Jelili, Biodun aka Agbako, Saburi, Wasiu et al, who played with me on that day. We had an unripe orange as ball, and we kicked it around until it was no more playable, then we got another or engaged in other activities.

I am sure what I did exactly at the moment mother came to call and informed we were moving. I had both my hands on the ground, rested firmly on my palms, I wanted to sommersault, I laughed while I did, apparently enjoying myself. I saw mother coming from behind through my bent head which could see what went on behind. ‘Come, lets go’, she said. I did not ask why. I followed.

I changed into another clothe. Mother had cooked beans, not exactly my favourite, but since I did not have to eat immediately, I was less concerned. She packed it into a bag, we carried few bags and set out for our new house. I made the journey with mother, my sister and an aunt my age. I am not sure now if my brother came with us, but this I am sure of: Mother did tell me what would happen to our clothes, furniture and other things in the room that had housed us since I was barely five. I know for sure now because I asked her what would happen to our loads. She responded: ‘Akin and Alfred will bring them tomorrow for us.’

We walked to the bus-stop, about three kilometres from our face-me-I-face-you-house. We had always walked this way to connect omnibuses when we had to go to church, to LBSS, to General Hospital or to visit friends and families who lived faraway. We walked this route again so we could enter a bus to Oke-Odo. The buses queued in rows of two, waiting for passengers to fill up their empty seats. We walked past Orile-Agege Primary School, Saka-Tinubu High School and past Orile Agege Baptist Church, in front of which was a transformer. That transformer used to be like a giant each time I walked past it. Maybe it still is, I think my child-size magnified it in my eyes. Even now in my memory I still see it as the giant transformer.

We walked past the poffpoff seller. She had her market not too far-removed from the transformer. Whenever we walked to church on Sundays, I was sure to hold on, patiently hoping mother would buy us some hot poffpoff. If she did not, I wept the rest of the way. If she did, my joy knew no bound as I devoured the delicious sugar-fried flour-balls as if nothing else ever mattered.

We crossed the busy road and walked the few metres, barely 300 metres, into a waiting bus. There was a Y-junction just before we reached the yellow-with-black-stripes omnibuses. On the left were the omnibuses, the road on the right led to the palace of Oba Orile. I looked with wonderment each time I went past the palace gate. Memories. Memories. Memories. I hope I would be patient enough to tell you all. I must not forget to tell you this very quickly: Just opposite the Baptist Church, on the other side of the road was Ile-Esu-Orile. The small shoplike room housed a particular deity. The deity is sacred and must not be moved or destroyed, so she stood at that spot gidigba. Any construction work that had to be carried out must find a way to accomodate her space. Well, lest I stray too far into many things I want to tell you, thereby killing you with too many unstraightened memory, let me return to the journey at hand. I will tell you later of Igbale Egun sited three houses away from our house. I will tell you too of Ile Osa right beside our house, which doubled as our communal football field and mini waste-dumpyard.

Boarding a bus was not always fun especially when we had to maximize a space of one to accommodate four persons. One needed be prepared to meet the anger of the busboy. We met that of our busboy, but with the help of other passengers, we succeeded in calming him. So, one passenger carried on her lap my sister, my aunt sat on the engine in front of mother. I sat on mother’s lap. I am sure I was very excited to sit on mother’s lap. With this arrangement, we paid a fare for a passenger. After this, we had two other buses to join before we reached our destination. The story was not less different- unfriendly and angry busboys who thought, and that rightly so if I may add in retrospect, that they were being unfairly cheated.

It was night when we reached our destination, our new house. Once again we walked from bus-stop home, this time around, it lasted less than three kilometres. Unlike busy roads and bustling activities of Orile Agege, Ijoko welcomed us with a nightly serene I have come to cherish till today. This is in no way to say I cherish any less the ever bustling life we lived in Orile Agege before we moved. If anything can be relied upon to remind how much I enjoyed growing up in these two places, then my memory is.

Now, let me talk of our arrival.

We arrived. There was a burning shakabila two plots away from us, it was from Baba Ile-Keji who henceforth with his family of eight became our only close-by neighbour. His house was a modest hutlike one room house, he was sure to build the house big enough to accommodate his big family. More on Baba later.

Mother, accompanied by my aunt made their way to Baba Ile-Keji’s house. In what happened to be a coincidence, Baba had called one of his sons to follow him to our house. He said he heard unusual movement and sound from our wallside of his house, so he wanted to check that it wasn’t thieves. He was pleased to come out into mother’s arm and that of my aunt. ‘Ma’a Sunday, it is you’. He had a bush cutlass in one hand, a torchlight in the other, his son had a lantern. They all came over to us. We greeted. Bringing out the cooked beans, Baba sent his son home to fetch gaari. He came back with his mother and Sister Basira, Baba’s eldest daughter. When it was time to eat, the gaari leebu they brought was a perfect match for the beans we had brought all the way.

Before food, we lit candles and spread clothes on the floor. The breeze of the night behaved like a good breeze, it cooled our traveled body. Once in a while, lizards in the ceiling broke the silence that ensued when no one talked. They ran here and there in that part of the house. Later, we believed they were no more lizards but runaway cats who have grown into big dangerous wild cats. Baba and his wife and his two children left after we ate. They were visibly delighted a neighbour arrived. We thanked them for welcoming us. The tiredness from our journey returned, sleep overtook our overwaka-limbs, we laid on the spread clothes and slept. I woke up in my own pool of pee when morning broke. It was such a night!

So, before I continue with Ijoko-Ota, I will tell you of the three or more memories I touched on already. Fairness demand I do. I love and hate suspense like kilode 🙂

Palace Oba Orile. The palace was right in the middle of Oja-Oba. Two market kiosks away from the palace were chicken sellers. I was always delighted to see the chicks. They looked beautiful and innocent. The joy in my eyes made my heart race fast whenever I saved enough to buy one of them. There was even a time I was able to buy two! Double joy!! Come and see my happiness!!! I (actually, not only me) would raise the chicks to become real big chickens. Anyone who cared could touch the pride in my eyes. So strong was my sadness too whenever we had to go throwway dead chicken because gutter rats had chosen to kill them with their sharp teeth when the chicks slept at night. Really, we tried all we could to keep the rats away, but like any human endeavour, success was not always guaranteed.

Past the palace led a road to Mrs. Siwoku’s house. Mrs. Siwoku owned a post office box. So mother would send Tunde to go collect Dad’s letters from London. I used to be very excited whenever he allowed me to follow him.

On the doorpost of a one-storeyed house was an inscription, it read: ILE ABENI ILORI. I was sure to look at the inscription each time we went past the house, as if to be sure it was still intact. Years later when my Yoruba subject-teacher taught us the importance of sign-placement in order for our written-thoughts/sentences to be so understood as intended, I could not stop laughing; my mind brought back the inscription on the doorpost of that house when I used to accompany Tunde to collect Dad’s letters.

The road to Mrs. Siwoku’s house was gully and rocky, the earth was mud-red. So, enough about the palace and its memories. At least for now.

The only thing I remember about Ile-Esu-Orile is this: Close to it was fruit-tree. People sat under for shade. I passed the shrine to deliver mother’s errand to her friends.

Ile Osa was sacred land. It belonged to the gods and must be left undeveloped. We did not only play football here, we sometimes dug out old bottles and metals which fetched us good money from merchants who dealt in this business. Once in company of friends, we attempted to make money from lizard-head. There was a myth that lizard-heads dey turn money, one only had to do the ritual well. When after three days nobody talked about the lizard-head we buried for money-sake, I concluded the ritual did not work for us. To be sincere I thought one of us probably outsmarted the rest in that he went earlier to dig out for himself alone the money we had all wished on the lizard-head when we severed it from the rest of its body. We had buried the head not too faraway from the goalpost, the body we threw into the smoky fire that burned wastes dumped in that space which was meant to house the gods.

Igbale Egun. Apart from being the spirit-yard from where human beings, turned masquerades, emerged in colourful costumes with scary heads of different shapes and sizes, we were often told anyone who entered without permission go die mysteriously. This held my curiosity under control. The closest I got into this yard of ancestral spirits was few steps past the open gate one day like that. It was masquerade festival period. I was damn scared to go beyond the gate. It was horrible enough that the masquerades scared the hell out of us when they moved around streets with whips and sticks. The whips, we used to believe, were poisoned, anyone beaten with it, would need special intervention to avert ominous end. There was a rumour that one Alfa, once beaten by a masquerade, stood his ground, beat up the masquerade, and unmasked this rude masquerade. The story had it that the spirit being disappeared when it became impossible to prevent Alfa from desecrating him. I did not witness this event. I wished I did each time this adventurous encounter was narrated.

So, now that I have unburdened these memories, I will tell you what happened after I woke up in my own pee. E ma ba mi ka lo.

I packed my wet sleep-clothes, changed into another and went outside. I heard mother and aunt talking at the backyard. Looking up, I saw guava tree. Birds chirped at ripe fruits. I breathed in fresh air, the freshness was touchable, the air smelled strongly of it. I walked to the tree. On the sandy path were guluso-moulds, I scattered some with my legs, some with my hands, I let others be. There were neatly dug holes too, small, and plenty. Aunt showed us later we could trick out the caterpillar-like insects that lived in these holes. So, when we saw any, we cut juicy yet-to-mature part of this yeriyeri-grass and inserted it into the holes. The caterpillars in this earth always bit the thing and we dragged them out without delay. Sometimes we killed them, other times we let them be, at times we simply looked on in wonderment.

On the guava tree, I spent a pretty good part of the morning. The birds all flew away when they saw me. I sat on a branch and helped myself to as much I could. I plucked and filled my pockets. When they filled up, I let them fall on the ground. I was going to gather them when I got down the tree. I went home when mother called out that food was ready. I adapted to my new life seamlessly.

In the afternoon, Brother Akin and Brother Alfred arrived with our loads. Two more uncles accompanied them. They began unloading at once. We helped them while they did.

New home. New life. New friends. New families. New memories to make.

Pastor Akinleye was a carpenter. I got to know before we reached his house. He had helped with carpentry work in the new house. That was how mother happened on him. Since, he has been very supportive. The road to his house became the road I walked very often in my sojourn in Ijoko-Ota. It led to the houses of my new friends. Mother took me along to pay him a courtesy visit. Following Sunday he came with church members to pray on our house. That was a week or two before the house warming ceremony.

I have told somewhere of the sacrifice mother offered when we moved in. It wont be out of place to repeat it here. It confirms the Yoruba proverbial saying of faith/Western religion not forbidding participation in the traditional Oro cult. This is what I was able to spin from the little hearsay I remember today: Mother was afraid, or rather unwilling to move into our new house. She thought she had it too easy! Imagine a woman building a 3 bedroom flat with such a big expanse of land to join! That was 1995. Unbelievable! So, for fear of this-or-that ills, she did not want to move in fiam like that. She confided her fear in her brother, who in turn told their father. Baba Igashi acted swiftly. ‘Iyabo, it is bad omen to finish a house and not move. It is not good!!! Have you forgotten Lagbaja Omo Lakasegbe who built a house and refused to move on time!? You have to move into your house, even if not complete yet. We shall consult the oracle to know if need be for a sacrifice.’ This way Baba Igashi was able to convince mother it was time to move. The oracle advised we sacrifice a big goat. We slaughtered a big goat when we moved, so people had enough to eat during the house warming ceremony.

If I had thought religion was a big part of my life in Orile Agege, then it became my very existence in Ijoko-Ota. The church and her members did not only play a very active role in my growing years, the mosques in and around our street contributed in no little way to my interculturalness and acceptance of you-for-you- you might belong to a different religion, but you are first human! How else does one survive in a community with a potpourri of all possible religious confessions and colourations. Of particular interest was Baba Laila. We did not know his real name, he got his nickname because he would say this word times without number when he talked. He was a Muslim. Many thought he was not completely sane, but I wondered what yardstick we measured sanity with. If the words Baba Laila spoke were a yardstick for sanity, then he was not mad. In his many rants it was clear he detested hypocrisy and intolerance. He spoke good English too. For me, Baba Laila was neither Muslim nor Christian, he was a bit of both and a traditionalist at the same time. This old man spoke wisdom almost all the time. So, when we returned from church, it was the mounted loudspeakers of the muezzins’ call to prayer that welcomed us. When Mukadam, the young Muslim cleric beside our house began holding night vigils in his Quran school, I began to rethink many things I had hitherto thought were only common to the Christian faith. I will still talk about Quran recitation feasts celebrated to showcase successful attendees of the Quran school; it was a necessary rite of passage for devouts of the Muslim faith. I witnessed many of them. Just be patient with me, I will tell you all about them. Trust me, I wont forget to tell you too of many Baptismal classes and Holy Ghost Services plus Special Services held to eat The Lord Last Supper; they were all part of me.

There was this big fight between Baba Ile-Keji and a land-urchin, popularly called Kwara. Among land-urchins, he was least-liked. He could be loud and unruly. Overtime Baba Ile-Keji became a land-dealer too. One thing one thing, it happened that Kwara felt Baba’s landbuyer was a former potential landbuyer that Baba snatched from him. I did not know how it all began but it became real messy at the end. I saw Baba Ile-Keji high up, bourne in Krawa’s hefty hands, landed on the bushy footpath. I am not sure if he intentionally dropped him at this spot so he did not get killed. Baba Ile-Keji sprang on his feet and ran home while two of his sons scratched and tore at Krawa’s flesh. He pushed them off with fists thrown in all directions. Baba’s voice did not stop being heard on his way home, he shouted instruction to his children not to let Kwara escape. Apparently, he was coming back. And back he came! He came with a small chord. I saw him held the thing to his tongue, licked and spat at Kwara, then cursed! The curse-words were better left unsaid, I swear. Kwara would take none of this charm-shakara! He dashed at Baba Ile-Keji and landed him a hot slap on the head, then back-sent the curse. This were his words: Igi ti arigisegi base ori are re lo fi nru!

When we saw the fight was not going to end in peace and on time, we dispersed one after the other. With nobody to voice-separate the fighting duo, the fight ended.

Another crowd-puller was when Alfa was caught red-handed in the act. I was coming from Thursday Revival Hour when I noticed this strange figure on the rooftop of a church in front of Orolu’s house. That strange figure, silhouetted by night’s darkness became Alfa when street people gathered to see the face of our rooftop-thief. We did not know what to do with this familiar thief. Alfa was once an influential landseller, his family owned our street before he and his sibling sold the whole land plot by plot. Mother once told of a time when Alfa and family whisked away large chunk of money in baskets, and when there was not enough baskets they wrapped hard-earned monies in their dansiki and carried them away. In short, Alfa was rich until another family won a court case and claimed Alfa’s gold-shitting donkey.

We were children and women who had caught Alfa. Pity almost rescued him until Baba Anu appeared. I had seen him running towards us, he must have heard that his distant relative was caught stealing roofing sheet. With a tight fist, he went straight for Alfa’s face. Successive fist punches landed on the thiefman-face. Alfa was heard shoutcrying for mercy under this fistrain. ‘Shanu mi! Shanu mi!! Shanu mi…!!!’. This is the truth: Where I grew up, a thief is not among creatures to be pitied. We beat them till they bleed or die! I will tell you why. Just hold your breathe first 🙂

I was barely 7 years old when thieves came to Alhaji Raimi Street. The following day, different stories filled the air. One story in the mouth of all was that of Omo Alhaji. She had returned from Mecca few weeks. They wanted gold. Some version had it that she had first flown to London, then routed her flight to come home via Mecca. In short, news of her expensive trip must have reached the thieves who held us hostage in our own houses that night. Not to long the talk sha, Omo Alhaja aka Madam Custom died two months later from post-thiefvisit trauma. Doctors confirmed that her condition could not have survived such a shock! She was pregnant, she died with her foetus.

The drama that accompanied this thief-night was horrible and funny. Imagine. Married men shat in their trousers, toddlers clamped to their mothers howling their throats dry for fear. Different scenarios of thief-stories stared me in the face. I was terrified! Scenes of rape, handcutting, correct beating, outright killing, Naija-style humiliation, all of them flash-flash my head in an instant! I died and ressurected, all the nightmares came rushing back! We were cramped in the passage and rooms. Mother scooped the money she had and gave Brother Bayo. ‘Tie it inside nylon and drop it inside drinkwater-drum. Stomach dey turn me!’ Our hell hot hotter with bullets. Only when day broke were we sure of our safety. Such a nightmare!

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