I was quite elated to read in the newspaper that the Federal Government was committed towards establishing special courts for terrorism cases. While I believe it is long overdue, the contemporary …
I was quite elated to read in the newspaper that the Federal Government was committed towards establishing special courts for terrorism cases. While I believe it is long overdue, the contemporary history of the country’s fight against terrorism indicates that our Spartan fighting force, the Nigerian Army is back to winning ways. News of Boko Haram combatants orchestrating jail breaks seem to have faded into oblivion. We no longer hear of the tidings of full scale war; whether the Army units had routed the Boko Haram combatants or the other way round. But for the pockets of suicide bombings, one would have been conditioned to think that the end to the Boko Haram uprising is here.
Some time ago, Amnesty International published a report detailing the arbitrary detention of Boko Haram suspects without trial, torture and in some cases, summary execution. The report substantiated its allegations with pictorial evidence. Although the Military Authority have since denied all the charges of Amnesty International, it is my view that the allegations, even if it may be untrue, reflects a structural defect in our conventional criminal justice system. For noticing this defect, I remain grateful to the Federal Government.
This malady leads me to ask the questions weighing on my mind: What is the command issued to armed contingents when they face Boko Haram fighters? Is it to capture? I would not want to believe that it is to mete out instant justice, although there is no negating the fact that death is certain in the gun duel to follow. If it is to capture, what is the guarantee that they would be tried promptly in consonance to the 2013 Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act.
If they were detained without the assurance of trial, the Federal Government would only be violating the human rights of the Boko Haram suspects as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and other International Humanitarian Laws; of which Nigeria is signatory. You might be appalled but terrorists are humans too. Furthermore, our prison facilities across the country might have stretched their capacity to the limit considering the sizeable number of suspects that have been apprehended. It should be borne in mind that we still have conventional criminals cooling off their feet behind bars.
In conclusion, it is imperative for the Federal Government to set up this special court with judicial branches straddling the six geopolitical zones of the country. Whoever sits in judgment must be acquainted with the pseudo-military nature of the offence of terrorism, ably assisted by military officers who have had their tour of duty in the North- East. Most importantly, the court should have a designated time frame to dispense justice and must not tolerate the habits of lawyers who are wont to delay the wheels of justice with frivolous preliminary issues.
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is…
Your face is as pretty as tender petals
Swaying to the sunlit breeze of the afternoon
Splendid as the moon
I will declare my love, O Emotan!
Your eyes are as radiant as the sky king
You are clothed with the elegance of the rainbow
Spanning the horizon in an arc of glory
I will declare my love, O Emotan!
You are stronger than the lioness
Prowling the night
Poised to pounce on worthy preys
You are as tall as the Iroko tree
Your breath; the fragrance of roses
There will be no end to moonlight tales
I will declare my love, O Emotan!
Is like the clap of thunder
The lightening’s assault on the rainforest
You are the gay sickle-swing in harvest
The veil of the harmattan
Enveloping distant hills
Rattling my teeth
I will declare my love, O Emotan!
You are the morning dew
Sating an earth so unjustly starved
Also her many, many diamonds
Look, the days are new!
Possessed by the grandeur of your presence
You are that blade of circumcision
Shedding my foreskin
Your voice has the sweetness of the nightingale’s
Lulling me to sleep on beauteous orchards
Why should I wake
When lovers mate?
You captivate me with the purity of your tears
And I feel the stillness of the churchyard
I need not fear
For you chase my mortality with the swiftness of a gale
I will declare my love, O Emotan!
Your pace, your pace
Is like the feline grace of the cat
You are the surface
of the mirror lake
Hear O image of immeasurable beauty
I haven’t come nigh the bucket, yet kinsmen weep
For they can’t bear to look upon my captivity
(October 30, 2008)
The Radio Station Read Out His Self-Imposed Laurels, “His Excellency, Field Marshal Dr Alhaji Idi Amin Dada, Holder of The Victoria Cross, Conqueror of The British Empire, Master of All Men, The Birds of The Air And The Fishes of The Sea.”
Degrees and titles. I believe it is a thing of pride for the princes of the academic world I used to observe closely in my school. When he is addressed by his title in a non-university setting, it gives him an air of importance. In the university setting, students must conform to the rule of addressing their lecturers by whatever they have earned. Sometimes the rule doesn’t pertain to students alone.
Once upon a time, I was sitting in the reception room of the X-ray theatre, medical centre, University of Lagos. I was awaiting my turn to be examined. The medical officer seemed tired and nonchalant going by the way he conducted his business.
“Ayomide Alade Williams,” he called.
The man sitting beside me, rose to his feet as if he had been sitting on pins and blurted out; “Mister, I’m Dr Ayomide Alade Williams!”
The medical officer said he was sorry.
“Just be aware.”
“I’m sorry, doctor,” he said again.
November 11, 2015- I was listening to Fact file on Raypower. The topic for conversation was about the reluctance of Africans to resign from exalted offices in the face of moral crises. The case study was Dabengwa, former Chief Executive Officer of MTN who, as a departure from the norm, threw in the towel. This was the action of someone whose President, Robert Mugabe has been at the helm of affairs since 1980. Wasn’t it a sweet irony? He was compared to Ibrahim Lamorde, former EFCC chairman who had stayed put until he was unceremoniously shown the way out.
The conversation attracted several callers, responding with their opinions until the on-air-personalities put a call through to a Lagos based lawyer, Seun Akinbiyi Esq. They addressed him as Barrister Seun. The lawyer began sternly, “don’t address me as barrister.” There was a hint of agitation to his voice. Then he stated that many Nigerians were guilty of committing this error.
According to him, “the business of a barrister is confined within the premises of a courthouse.” Lawyer Seun did other things apart from going to court. He gave his opinion, introducing an innovative legal perspective:
“A person who has been removed may choose to go to court to challenge his removal if it was done arbitrarily.” I daresay this had no bearing on the the topic. I doubted if he understood the conversation. But in giving his parting shot, he called the OAP, Seun Somide. The poor chap’s name is Olutayo Somide. He merely laughed when his female confederate playfully suggested that the lawyer was having his pound of flesh for not addressing the former properly.
Now I believe it is not African the way educated people wear their titles and advanced degrees round their neck. I have a problem with the image they cut before the ambitious youth aspiring to be like them. They are like demigods! This is something, I believe, they allow to blossom. I doubt if a sizeable number of them are favourably disposed to mentoring the youth within the age-bracket of eighteen- twenty five. I am particular about those in the academic world- doctors and professors. I personally do not like reading their citations. I believe it has lost the objective to inform the lettered university community. And because of that, students are somewhat intimidated by the delicious academic labours and exploits, in the order of the labours of Hercules, written on paper. The way they carry themselves is reminiscent of the colonial days of yore when the overbearing mien of the educated Europeans, the boast of imperialism was witnessed; when an educated black man, who might have studied at oxford, was seen to be inferior to the white man. Pan- Africanists waged a protracted war against that.
Some doctors have even refused to answer to their own names because the “doctor” either by action or omission was conspicuously missing. I have seen that happen in my class. The man just earned his doctorate a month back and not a few were quite unaware about the latest development. It was interesting for me to find out that some Europeans do not care about their academic excellence neither do they rub it off on others. I met a Scottish professor who said to me, “call me Bob…” And I didn’t know he was a professor until he was hailed by another.
It leads me to pose the ultimate question, what is in a doctorate when it can be acquired honoris causa without beading a sweat? I may choose to be called a doctor in any field tomorrow, because I choose too. After Idi Amin, former dictator of Uganda had expelled the last droves of foreigners from his country, he bestowed upon himself this litany of laurels, perhaps to celebrate his feat. Yet he was an illiterate man, renowned for his buffoonery.
In the 1970s, just after the civil war, there was Dr Oyenusi who was notorious in the Lagos Metropolis. He was a prince among the gentlemen of the highway. He unleashed terror on the Lagos population, and had investigated murders pointing in his direction. But he had never seen the four walls of a university classroom. He wasn’t even literate. He was eventually apprehended and he smiled to his death by rifle-fire. Some years later, a crew of filmmakers wanted to do a movie concerning the life and times of the bandit. A certain Dr Oyenusi (this one, a medical practitioner) went to court to estopp them. He believed it would do grave damage to his name and practice. I wondered if he gave that much thought when his dreaded namesake was alive.
In conclusion, it isn’t how you comport or pride yourself that matters but the opinion people form about you. According to Milton Obote, the man Idi- Amin deposed, the latter was “the greatest brute ever brought to life by an African mother.” I believe that actually stuck.
The incident strikes me, with the clarity of a yesterday happening, to this day. On a cold, drizzling morning, in the year 2013, someone was trying to leap to his death from a three storey floor. He danced, did a short run and stuck out his tongue. I would have guessed he was just a Creative Arts Student, readying for an event. Then he declared, “I am not afraid of the name of Jesus!” A good number of students began to collect, wondering what he was up to. He said, “I am going to jump.”
“Jump, jump,” his spectators jeered at him, calling his bluff. Then he lifted his bulk over the railing and shook the King Jaja Hall of Residence to its foundation. There was a full- throated roar. Then came the Hall Executives, hurrying to the rescue. I remember tweeting, “Thankful for the morning showers, another student trying to attempt a leap of fate.” The gossip mill began to grind- The boy was insane. What was the cause?
I reckon if the boy had made good his suicide bid, people would have been confronted with the sorry tale of what a good student he was. A student on a good standing. Incidents of many a student going crackers on the eve of examination abound in the University of Lagos. Many would attribute this to over-tasking the brain, reading non- stop day and night, until one can read no more, and the brain becomes toast.
But it is not in every situation that “over-reading” should be fingered as the remote cause of a student’s sudden mental imbalance. There is an incipient drug culture in the University of Lagos, and many a student is tailoring his lifestyle to this phenomenon. Either the school management is not aware, or has decided to look away. A veritable place you find adherents congregated is the notorious LONDON BRIDGE in King Jaja Hall. London Bridge is a thoroughfare linking A-wing to B-Wing. Marijuana smokers meet there on a cold, windy evening. It even has a collage of graffiti stating thus, “in weed we trust, in London Bridge…, Illumnichronic…., Money, Pussy and Weed.”
I have seen students swig beer as they read. Shekpe, Bullet, Alomo. There is the legend of an engineering student who made a first-class. It was said that his consumption of Marijuana accounted for his exploit. He weed whenever he had books to read.
“When you smoke the joint,” said an acquaintance, “It opens the brain to assimilate anything.” He went further to state that, “Marijuana smokers are naturally intelligent. It is good for the body.”
That this school of thought have a good number of students (which makes it a school) cannot be gainsaid. Inasmuch as the exploit of the Marijuana scholar amounts to hearsay, it is to be noted that many a student on the streets of the University of Lagos is not well. What would you say of a stranger who walks up to you, dishes you a slap, laughs and takes to his heels? Can you call a person, “normal” who sings by 3 AM every morning, “There is a fire stirring in my balls” Or “Nobody can do me like you”?
Once upon a time, Barbecue Nights were held by every Faculty in the institution, until the present Vice Chancellor deemed it expedient to do away with it. In those evening functions, weed was like a commodity which demand equalled that of garri. Freshmen had their induction into the sizzling night of the institution for which it is famous. The coaxing of a student by his pals to take weed, spirit or whisky is conventionally geared towards determining how high he can get, and recording his moments of vulnerability. I give an example: A friend who attended one of such, had to be wheeled back. He was deposited in the toilet, and as he vomited and defecated on his body, his buddies took snapshots. I have seen people challenge each other to a drinking match: The last man standing. You are cool if you weed, even if you only do it in a party where it is in supply. But it is gospel that the potency of Marijuana makes for religious users.
However, the University of Lagos, is to be credited for organising symposia against the dangers of drug abuse: OUR DRUG STORY: LIFE AS WE DON’T SEE IT. I trust that the school would address this menace within the shortest possible time.
One day I will write about this olosho…
(Over five hundred retweets it got. Masterpiece. The ingenuity of a celeb.)
Nonso admired folks who had such a sizeable following on twitter. The acknowledgment every tweet got; howbeit stupid. The respect they seemed to command. You dare not pick a fight with such people, they only had to take the leash off their worshippers; and should they dignify you with a response, the hundreds of retweet which would follow would only earn you a feature in the trailer jam show. The trailer jam show is an account which brings to twitter- Nigerian prominence, the highlights; the epic clap- backs of twitter fights.
RuinAnAfricanBookTitle is a hashtag trending this day. The Ebony Blog is the first to fire the first salvo of tweets using the hashtag, and its followers join in the fun. Nonso sees tweets like yellow jollof, we need new corruption revelations, the goitre around your neck etc. He attempts a funny tweet, or so he thinks: Waiting for a runs girl. Nonso is delighted when tweeps begin to mention him: Lol @nonso_ikenwa it’s gonna be a very long wait.
“@nonso_ikenwa there are many fish in the sea.” “@nonso_ikenwa Helon Habila won’t forgive you oooh… Nice one, bro.”
Nonso feels a sense of beatitude as he lies on his bed. Today he is having an interaction on twitter, and he is pleased with himself. He retweets every tweet to his handle. The Ebony Blog is going to award the tweep with the highest number of retweets a book. Nonso’s tweet has reaped twenty endorsements so far. He is becoming quite sure of carrying the day until @soledad comes along with one day I will write about this olosho. When the tweet gets eighteen retweets, Nonso knows he has lost out.
Somebody tweets, “@soledad perhaps there is something special about this olosho.” Everyone soon forgets, that not long ago, Nonso is poised to win this context. Nonso feels that this soledad fellow just refined his tweet. He feels cheated. But he cannot take on the guy. His friends would be talking about his humiliation for days, just as they were talking about April and Pastor Igboro…
This story begins on the day Jaiye read a note from a deeply disturbed sister during a conference for the single.
“I do not know what is wrong with me,” said the note, “how do I determine if a boy truly loves me, or not. I am so gullible that I cannot read the handwriting on the wall until they have had their fill of me.”
The church murmured with laughter.
“This sister,” said Jaiye, “needs deliverance. For Jehovah’s sake, you are not Animashaun. Why don’t you surrender yourself to Jesus so we can lay hands on you, and make the spirit of fornication jump out of your life?”
There were people who found fault with Jaiye’s statement. Some of them used to be quite close to him; his buddies, before the good Lord told him to separate himself.
“Who does Igboro think he is” Queried Boniface, “that he should judge April?”
“He didn’t judge her,” said Dickson, “he only voiced his opinion.”
“I laugh in spiritual powers,” Nonso jeered. “How does the word fornicator sound to your ears?”
“He has forgotten he was once an expert fornicator, at whose feet we learnt.”
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. God has sanctified Jaiye. Igboro is dead to sin”
“Dickson, cut that out. The sins Igboro committed shall live after him. Imagine him, calling someone Animashaun. Has he any idea how many people bear that surname in his assembly of dummies?”
Conversations about their friend and his new found love in Christ threatened to murder their peace. It snowballed twice into fisticuffs, several times-into a heated exchange of words. Dickson was warming up:
“Nonso why are you always on the offensive whenever April’s name is mentioned. Is she not a useless girl, is she not an olosho?”
April Balogun is not a useless girl, Nonso would rise gallantly to her defence, neither is she an olosho. God blessed her with so much beauty and in the right places too, that many a Casanova laid in wait for her. And she was quite susceptible to their charms, her intuition could not offer her salvation against their predatory instinct. Nonso was of the conviction that April had been steadfast in her love; not cheating on her boyfriend but loving only one in his time.
“But she is always in a relationship, always in that catch-22 situation.”
“They just use and discard her like a piece of rag.”
“One day, a real nigger will call your sister a piece of stinking rag.”
This was the flare to their passion. Dickson would leap to his feet and make for Nonso, as if to strike him. The latter would also take a dive for his legs; and if there was none to separate them, there would be a fight. The last time there was such a fight Nonso hit Dickson so viciously that others began to suspect he was having a clandestine affair with April!
The saying, Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder did not apply to April Balogun, Nonso thought. Tall, slim and light- skinned; quite rare for a child of the South- West. Her face was oval shaped, dimpled and cut in the centre of her chin by a cleft. She also had a gap in the front of her dentition. In their institution, the University of Lagos, guys had contrived three basic requirement girls had to pass: sense, front and back. The saying went thus: if she get front, she no go get back, if she get back, she no go get front. If she get back, if she get front, she no go get sense!
Someone tweeted this and was celebrated. But what was meant by a girl not having sense was because she was on her high throne of beauty, she looked down on prospective boyfriends of lowly means. She either became the companion to senators and aristocratic dandies, or dated the Lagos big boys who reigned supreme over the coast and night life of the Island. She was a material girl. A runs girl.
Nonso would argue that April Balogun was not deserving of such an appellation-runs girl, olosho. A pejorative which riddled the lyrical content of many a Nigerian recording artiste. Her parents were well to do. She drove a car around campus and lived all by herself in a private apartment. Though she dated guys below her net worth, they would have her crucified. How unfair the society was to women, thought Nonso.
“Because she has slept with a few loud-mouthed idiots whom she loved with all her heart shouldn’t make her one.”
“Hundreds, you mean,” Teased Dickson. “She is so cheap.”
“She may be cheap. But one thing is certain, you will never get between her legs.”
The room roared with laughter.
“You may not be far from the truth,” said Boniface. “Dickson once asked her out. But she told him a blunt no.”
Nonso’s eyes widened with surprise. It felt good knowing April Balogun had a standard in his friend.
April Balogun wanted that demon out of her. To Pastor Jaiye she went.
“You were the author of that note?”
She nodded her assent, barely meeting his gaze, tugging at the strap of her bag. If seeking exorcism from this pastor, a student like her, would liberate her, she would better do it.
“How many boys have you slept with?”
“May I know why you are asking?”
“Don’t bother.” Pastor Jaiye leaned back in his seat and surveyed her. He tensed for the merest fraction of some seconds. He had to get his shit together. Who hadn’t heard of April Balogun? She had been voted the most beautiful girl in the Faculty of Arts three times. She was even related to a former police sheriff.
“Sister April I want to help you. But in so doing, I will need you to help me. Do you understand?”
“By virtue of this, I might have to ask you some searching questions in order to avail myself of facts with which to work. Do you understand?”
“Questions like how many guys I have slept with eh?” She raised her face to stare incredulously at him. “You must think me a commercial sex hawker!”
“On the contrary, I see you as a beautiful Christian sister whom the Lord loves so much and desires to express it in any physical way. That is why he is telling me to ask you…”
“So you hear from God?”
“I do. Men of God like me are usually modest and refrain from talking about the benefits of their spiritual work with God. Here is how he sees your challenge: You violated a commandment of God- Ye shall have no other gods beside me… for I am a jealous God.”
April Balogun restrained herself from screaming, “this is balderdash!” and cursing for good measure.
“You have had several boyfriends; you have other gods. And God is not happy about it. He needs you to come clean with him so that he can use me to help you.”
“How is that going to happen?”
“Right from time immemorial, the activity of sex has been manipulated by Satan the Devil to serve some anti- Christian purposes. In occult and coven induction of a new member. In fusing two souls together. The Bible made reference to it where it is written the two shall become one. God imbued sex with life- giving powers. It belongs to the matrimonial bed. But for those who have erred and have been made vulnerable to the attacks of the Devil, Jesus will have to come personally and set such a fellow free. He says in the scriptures whoever the Son of Man shall set free shall be free indeed.
“But you cannot have him in our presence. His holy eyes cannot behold sin. My righteousness is like a filthy rag. So the mandate is on the Pastor, my very good self, to set you free with the bible, anointing oil, and God’s rod and staff which will be mine in this circumstances as necessity dictates. The Psalmist said, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
April Balogun would later say to Nonso that Jaiye sinned against her three times- He called her a free lover, and spoke so smoothly she felt he was used to having women in his lair and talking like that. He also lied against God.
Jaiye was still speaking and she cut in, easing her face into a wry smile;
“Why cannot Jesus come down and do the fucking himself? He made us as we are, didn’t he?”
The youtube video generated over ten thousand views. It was also featured on Instagram and on twitter, and a meme was made out of it. The University community was agog with the news. One more pastor caught pants down. No. Dancing pants down holding his bible to his head. That which was done in secret shall be shouted from the rooftop.
“Damisa can never change its spot,” Nonso jeered at Dickson. “You condemned April in the past, didn’t you?”
“I shall never go to any campus fellowship again,” declared Boniface. “this paper reveals that most executives are always fond of having illicit affairs within the fold; reason why many of them get married when they leave school. H’mmm.”
He tossed the paper away. “Investigative bit of journalism. Good work.” The headline in Lagos Today screamed, THE PASTOR WHO COMMANDEERS THE BED ON BEHALF OF THE LORD.
Dickson picked up another paper, the publication of a student media outlet: DELIVERANCE IN A HOTEL ROOM TURN NASTY. Yet another. EXPOSED: ANOTHER RUNS BOYS- SERVANT OF JAH. And another: LIBIDO AND THE POWER OF A WOMAN. This was an article.
“Did you know that April even paid for the room in the hotel?” Queried Nonso.
Boniface chewed his lips reflectively. “Igboro, the runs boy. Let him come back to us. We won’t turn him away.”
“Did he have to do that humiliating dance without music, like a madman.”
That was April’s condition to having the deliverance. If she had nursed any second thought that Jaiye might be relaying whatever he had heard; howbeit incredulous, she quickly put away the thought when he shed off his clothes and began to dance about, wildly. She had some big- muscled boys planted behind the curtains filming everything. They waited for him to pounce on her, tearing off her clothes and crying, “this deliverance must begin” before they zeroed in on him. If Jaiye thought he was going to have his way that evening, the unexpected happened. He was made to kneel down and raise his hands heavenwards as they took pictures of him.
Nonso smiles to himself. Perhaps @soledad is deserving of his victory after all. He hopes to write about Jaiye some day.
Monday morning: I believe it is the busiest day of the week. On the streets, you find office holders hurrying to work, the day student hurrying to beat the assembly- bell. It is trite fact that many, in villages, awake at the first rooster crow. Talking about the fortunate ones, helped by nature. In the city, recourse may be had to the innovation afforded by phones, alarm clocks etc. However, in King Jaja Hall of Residence, University of Lagos, life begins even before the muezzin call to prayer. You see boys forming a queue at the taps, then you see the taps hissing and water trickling forth. The queue continues to stretch, and boys; barely awake, are spooned a dose of the harsh reality of a breaking dawn. My friend, if you have an exam scheduled for 8 A.M., you may have to go to the examination hall without bathing.
The boys begin to complain, as always. Some blame the federal government, and some heap curses on the school authority. Some make reference to extant J.F. Kennedy’s quote about asking what one can do for country: “King Jaja Hall is our country.”
There is a subdued burst of laughter, and a boy suggests, “why not appeal to the private sector.” They continue to shout; some openly calling for the cotton head of Professor Rahman Bello, the vice chancellor. Then you want to contest the assertion that Nigerians are the happiest people on the face of the earth. After two hours have elapsed, the queue is dwarfed as water gushes out. Then you see boys nodding in unspoken approval, and you are reminded that the passion of the masses will always be ephemeral, subject to their change in fortune. The toilets, the bathroom presents topics upon which doctorates could be earned.
As you fill your bucket with water, you see a conspicuous signpost hanging on the coloured brick wall: “BATHING HERE IS PROHIBITED; order by management.” That notwithstanding, a guy fetches water, then moves a short distance away. He sheds his clothes to reveal his penis at full mast. You can only look away. Then he takes his bath, and you can’t but notice his kingly confidence. He is quite oblivious of your presence; the way he throws water on himself. It glistens on his boxer’s chest, spreading onto his seemingly sculpted packs. My God, what a “laptop chest” he has got! No homo please.
Then you cast your mind to the seemingly eternal season of impunity in Nigeria which has refused to be dispelled by a favourable climate. You wonder why laws are so brazenly violated, why nobody is saying anything, and why everyone seems to have gotten accustomed to such a menacing trend.
You hasten to the bathroom, and as you step in; you sniff out the sharp, tell- tale smell of “Indian Hemp”. Just so you know, the authorities in India once wrote to the National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) asking them to quit referring to weed as Indian Hemp. According to the man who disclosed this on Political Platform, a programme on Raypower, the missive made it succinct, that the illegal cultivation of this hard drug wasn’t a peculiar menace to India.
If you have an allergy to dust and smoke, you are momentarily dazed but then, you would want to laugh at the smoker who is bawling praises to God in the toilet, “thank you for saving me, thank you my Lord.” You make a mental note of the similarity between this incident and the errant governor who delves into state coffers, and tithes a ten- percent. In fact, he has assumed the backbone of the church. The pastor is never sparing in intercession to God on his behalf.
You wait your turn to use the bathroom, in a queue. The occupant is urinating all over the floor and at the same time, spitting his irritation. You are the next person to use the bathroom. You are painfully reminded of the dilemma of an incoming government, formerly in the opposition, quite unprepared for the monumental mess staring it in the face. And when you begin to rail at the nasty occupant, you enact the first strategy of the new government which is- releasing a press statement as to the glaring nature of things and vilifying the outgone administration over years of waste and decadence.
Sounds familiar? Perhaps the new administration is trying to seek for itself a cushion effect, a kind of justification if it doesn’t perform stricto sensu everything inherent in its manifesto. In this clime, it is called “the sixteen years of PDP misrule.”
Now you wish to belong to the category of those who are so appalled by the sight they meet in the bathroom that they cannot venture inside. Or those who go to the toilet to relieve themselves but flee at the sight which confront them. From the aforementioned categories may emerge that lily- livered governor who cannot, or who is unsettled on how to confront the daunting challenges of his state. There is also the ex- citizen of Nigeria who has refused to come home.
You let the water run down your trunk. In one of the toilets, a guy is relieving himself and the stench is so stifling, you want to grab your nose and suck in your breath. There are people who create mess like that, along the corridors of power, whose antecedents reek to the high heavens. But, clever folks they are; they have been able to launder their image. So they are seen as the paragon of virtue. The British have a saying that “behind every great fortune, there is a greater crime.”
Picture Credit: Chibuzor Ejims.
In another toilet, the occupant who has come out is debarred from taking another step, because he didn’t flush.
“Nigger you must flush your fucking shit now!”
“But it was messed up before I used it.”
“I don’t give a damn.”
EFCC is poised to disgrace somebody. The boys in the bathrooms, encased in soap lather, turn their attention to the offender. There is none among them fit to cast the first stone but by virtue of the eleventh commandment, “thou shall not be caught,” they are blameless and without guile. They chant, “flush it, flush it.” The offender, tail between his legs, submits to their will. Then you examine the spirituous solidarity driving Occupy Nigeria, and all such protests. Many an agitator would be guilty of the same offence, given the same situation.
A preacher has grouped the social ills committed by Nigeria into a hierarchy of three concepts. These concepts could be best examined in relation to this topic.
1. The first is Disobedience: You are told not to take your bath by the taps. You do not wish to visit the bathroom because you have no heart to withstand the stench and the resultant nausea, or perhaps, you haven’t laid eyes on the notice.
2. The second is Iniquity: You know it is an offence. You know it is wrong but you are confident you cannot be caught. Even if you are caught, this is your first time.
3. The third is rebellion: Whether the Hostel Management likes it or not, you must have your bath by the taps. Iya Jaja and her boys can do their worse, or go and die!
Such an outlook, I must say, leads to civil disobedience.
The call was for writers to picture African Literature as an estranged lover, and reaffirm undying love to such a lover in 300 words. You might want to vote for any of the five nominations on http://www.brittlepaper.com
My dearest, we have walked along this famished road in the past. But we were holding hands, unafraid to tread upon stumps which cut as keen as knives. The reality, today, is that our link of fellowship has been broken. Our love has waxed cold, and things have fallen apart. I cannot navigate this road with none to accompany me.
I refuse to bid farewell to those lovable eyes of yours. Can the muezzin be asked to end his relationship with the minaret? Plucking me away from your presence is like denying me the majestic sight of the promising half of a mellowed sun. I am still in love with you, your feline grace and the way you used to set me alight with passion.
Indeed, you were the mirror of my identity. Remember how we wove our memories into our trysting place, and it became for us, a house of symbols. I have defiled that house, having traded my matrimonial honour for a one night stand. Now, I must move to the rhythm of disgrace. Please do not think your friends, those naysayers, have been vindicated.
On this road, I see a vivid picture of you and me. This famished road could open up onto a meadow path, with forget- me- not, white rose and purple hibiscus to greet us. Alas, without you, this is wistful sentiment, like dreams of peace in a time of war.
I cannot tell where I stand with you. Your eyes are as hard as marble. You do not ask me to go, you do not ask me to stay. Presently, I am no longer at ease. But if you would forgive me, I promise never to let you down again. Perhaps one day, I will write about your olive branch.
Picture Credit: Clement Mmaduako Nwafor
It wasn’t until the cemetery workers began to shovel mounds of earth into the grave that Omolewa realized that Damope had truly gone out of her life.
“Gone to be with the lord,” the officiating minister said, crossing himself solemnly.
Even when the church choir sang, “Jerusalem on high… My home when I die. The centre of my bliss,” she still prayed for the resurrection of her friend, so they could go home to their hostel, and perhaps laugh and talk about the incidents of the past two weeks. Then in the coming week, Damope would testify in church how God raised her from the dead because Omolewa didn’t want her to die. Then she would be the heroine of the charismatic revival in the University. Alas it wasn’t so.
She found herself holding tight Damope’s aged mother who had thrown herself into the grave, in a fit of the wildest grief. She found herself weeping disconsolately. The wailing reached a crescendo as the cemetery workers toiled on, sealing the grave, oblivious of the emotion it stirred.
“Good friend, rest in perfect peace.”
She spent the weekend in Damope’s family house, not letting the old woman out of her sight. She had refrained from furnishing the details of Damope’s death to her family, or any living soul. Although she felt it was better left untold, she knew everyone had to know that Damope hadn’t died trying to save her own hide. Perhaps it was her fate to die like that. But could fate had destined their meeting and fished both of them out from a sea? It was during their registration at the Obafemi Awolowo University. It had been God for everyone, and everyone fighting to get his papers examined.
Omolewa had been at the front of the queue, cock sure she was going to have it done. There was nothing hustle-free in Nigeria, she had been thinking. From obtaining her JAMB registration form at the bank to sitting for her POST-UTME exams, it hadn’t been an experience that was worthy of fond remembrance. Her brow was beaded in sweat, and she was hot inside. The heat was stifling, and her throat was dry and like a parched land. Omolewa knew she was a strong girl, despite being a sickler. A girl, unable to bear the hardship of it all, had fainted away.
Her eyes were glued to the door- the door that wouldn’t open. The door that tested her perseverance and mocked her patience. The registration officers had commanded that it be shut against the students. They didn’t want any student in the registration hall, except he was summoned. So far only the first fifty had been admitted into the building and until the lucky batch was done, nobody else was permitted to enter. Omolewa had prayed to that door, in that usual manner of desperation when one would resort to doing the most ridiculous. Now she felt that door was no longer worthy of her attention. Some of the students had left the queue to take a walk; to eat. That was the last thing on her mind. She couldn’t afford to abandon her vantage point for there was no guarantee that she would have it back once she returned. It was in her best interest to wait it out.
Like an answer to her prayer, the door eventually opened and a thick-set security officer marched out. In that split moment, he had arrested everyone’s attention. He looked quite important; knowing his next utterance wouldn’t float idly in the air, and having these children at his mercy. He was clean shaven, and his uniform was well starched and ironed. He was flaunting an impressive crease on his trousers. There was something special about the university staff with the way they cared about their appearance, Omolewa thought.
“Let the first fifty step forward,” he called, hoarsely.
A murmur broke among the crowd; as those, to whom the order was issued, complied.
“What about us?” Someone from the crowd shouted, irritably. The security officer turned a questioning eye at the student.
“We have been waiting here for ages!”
“And how does that affect the price of garri in the market?” Returned the security officer.
“How can you be so callous?” Shouted the student, warming up. “We are human beings, not fish to be smoked in the sun.”
The other students murmured in approval, at the challenging audacity of this boy.
The security officer lost his temper.
“Who are you to raise your voice at me? Am I your mate, or is that how you talk to your father at home? It is idiotic rascals like you who come here to cause trouble and get…”
“Radicals, you mean,” the student cut in.
“Look, I am not going to waste my time with you,” Declared the security officer. “Where are my first fifty?”
“No one is going through that door!”
A commotion ensued as the select fifty made their way. Everyone charged for the door. Omolewa was caught in the frenzy. There was a spirit which guided the way of a mob, which she dreaded. That spirit was going to tear down that door, pushing her; against her will, towards it. The security man, with an agility unsurprising for a man of his physique, glided into the sanctuary of the registration hall and shut the door. The surge of the crowd crashed against the door, the result of which made students fall. Omolewa was one of them. She was trampled upon by hasty merciless feet; flat heels and stilettos.
The burden of feet resisted her attempt to rise. She cried in agony. Mercifully, someone caught hold of her arm and dragged her to her feet. This Samaritan carefully shepherded her out of the crowd. She was breathing sharply, her face was lacerated and the blood ran freely. She was too daze to appreciate the presence of her helper. The latter took out a handkerchief and wiped her cut, then she got a sachet of water to wash her dust-smeared face. Not a word was spoken between them as Omolewa didn’t reply any of the questions put to her.
It seemed her shock had stiffened her tongue. So there prevailed a silence as the samaritan continued her work in, undeterred. The crowd at the door was chanting protest songs. Omolewa hated them. She hated the registration officers with a greater vehemence. Her new smart phone had vanished into thin air. She tried not to let the tears betray her emotion. She wanted to scream and bang her head against the wall as she was wont to do when she was a kid. In her present mood, she didn’t know when her helper took her leave.
Omolewa soon forgot about the incident at the registration hall. Classes were to be attended, books and materials were to be bought and studied. New people were to be met, and friends made. The face of her helper soon became etched in distant memory. She didn’t wish to stay in the hall of residence the school provided so she phoned home, asking for money to acquire accommodation in a private hostel. She had been told that private hostels were well maintained. Besides it ascribed to her a big girl status. She was glad when she found out that she was to have only one room mate.
Omolewa moved in, after completing her registration. Her room mate hadn’t moved in then. She prayed the girl would never come. She would have the whole room to herself in blessed privacy. Alas, it wasn’t so. She returned from class one day to find a girl by her door, sitting on a huge suitcase. The latter lifted up her eyes to stare at her, and Omolewa exhaled sharply. It was the Good Samaritan.
“How are you?”
“Fine… Thanks for the other day. I am sorry about the way I behaved. It was due to shock.”
It came in a rush.
The lady simply nodded.
“Let me help you move your things in.”
The days they spent as room mates unravelled so many things about them. Damope, for that was the Samaritan’s name, was a worthy companion. They were quite inseparable. They shared their deepest secrets and fears, dreams and aspirations. Damope was the only girl in a family of three boys whilst Omolewa was an only child ensnared with sickle-cell anaemia. Her father had remarried because he could no longer wait. They lived as if they had known each other from birth. Omolewa even knew Damope’s ATM password. It was quite easy for guys to suspect they were lesbians; for while Damope was of average height and buxomly, Omolewa was thin and quite unattractive. While Omolewa was a fire-praying Christian, Damope didn’t care about the church or what Omolewa’s pious church sisters whispered about her when they visited.
Damope was the darling of men. There existed no power of a man to withstand her charms. One day, Omolewa had returned from lecture and found her in bed with the President of the United Joint Christian Mission. He was sucking her breasts with delight, in the noisy manner of a hungry infant.
“Na wah-ooo. So you can also make pastors fall too?” She asked in wonder thereafter.
It was at the end of the first semester that news soon reached the campus that a gang of boys had overran a private female hostel, and raped every inhabitant including the female porters, and that the school had sent the victims home. These boys were members of cult fraternities in school: The Black Axe, Buccaneer etc.
Omolewa was frightened.
“Will they come here?” She asked Damope.
“Do you want them to come here?” The latter returned.
Omolewa was speechless but nevertheless afraid.
“No harm will come to us,” Damope reassured her. “I can promise you that.”
It wasn’t in her power to keep that promise for their hostel was paid a visit, too. The sporadic clatter of gunshots had roused Omolewa. She started up from her bed to see her friend staring at her with wild eyes. They knew what was in the offing. Omolewa heard distant cries, crashing doors, and mechanical laughter. A cold chill crept down her spine. Soon a machete slashed at their door, and chips of wood flew at her. Damope dived under the bed and she followed suit. They held each other in a tight embrace. Each machete-blow that was dealt to the door brought nearer her fate. The door soon yielded. The visitors marched in, reeking of alcohol and marijuana smoke. The petrified girls saw their feet pacing up and down the room.
“There is no hiding place for you bitches. Come out now!”
The movement around the room went on; the wardrobes were hacked open, till one of the boys looked under the bed. Both were dragged from their hiding place and made prisoners in a corner of the room.
“So you think you can outsmart us,” said one of them who appeared to be the leader; “today I shall slay your pussy.”
His voice was like a whiplash. It carried much venom. Omolewa broke down and cried. The boys began to take off Damope’s night gown.
“This girl is mighty in breasts and yansh.” They bawled. When she tried to resist, they set on her face with blinding blows. Having subdued her, the leader fell on her laps. Omolewa broke down and cried. The boys taunted her:
“Bitch can’t you be patient? His rod cometh in a moment to comfort thee.”
His appetite thus sated, the underlings had their turn. Damope was in a vanquished state.
The rapists seized Omolewa.
“Please, don’t do this,” Damope cried. “She has HIV. She is also a sickler. Can’t you see?”
“Is that so?” Asked their leader, his lips curled in a sneer. “Then we shall cure her right now.”
Omolewa bit and clawed at their grip. The leader slapped her, hard. She spat in his face. He straddled her and started to shed off her clothes. At that moment, she felt she was the world’s worst sufferer. She never imagined her chastity was going to be taken, stolen from her in such a violent and undesired way. She had created her wedding night in her fantasy; how her Prince Charming will make his entry into the sanctuary of her groove, in a bedroom glowing with candlelight. In a night set alight by their passion, a night pleasing to God himself. She had voiced it out to Damope.
“I envy you…,” the latter had said. “But I don’t wish I had waited till my wedding night.”
Quite all of a sudden, the room was steeped in darkness. Someone had upset the candle illuminating the room. The leader cursed. When a glimmer of light was seen again, it was in the flames leaping up the curtain on the window.
“Fire… Fire! The bitch has done this.”
The boys, quite distracted, fled the room. The leader stopped by the door and fired in the direction of the curtain. Damope let out a piercing scream. Omolewa wormed her way in that direction and gathered Damope up in her hands. The latter was fighting for life, gasping for breath.
Omolewa began to cry afresh for her friend.