Terror’s Dance Hall

Boom!

We scatter left and right
Then we arise furious and indignant
How dare bombs go off here?
Know they not who we are?

Boom! Boom!

Less noise now,
But still we condemn and castigate
Such ‘heinous acts’
This ‘Un-Nigerian’, ‘Alien’, ‘Unbelievable’.

Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Everyone is quiet now,
It is just another day,
Another blast
Another sacrifice of innocents

We are too numb to shout
Our voices are mute
In the senseless silence
We grope
And wonder
How?

How did the ‘Happiest Nation on Earth’
Become Terror’s Dance Hall?

Safe Places

It felt good to be home. The past five years had been a blur of trips, trainings and travel. Morocco, Denmark,Houston, Bangkok, everywhere the services of excellent brand and media strategists were needed, they were there. Sidax Consulting had changed her life. Within months of working there, she had been exposed to a world of opportunities and affluence beyond anything she had ever known. It had been good while it lasted. And it would have lasted longer if her manager hadn’t gotten greedy. In the inquiry that followed, she was found to be innocent but the company felt it was best to fire the entire unit. The severance pay had been generous but the shock of being unemployed was a jolt that singed her soul.

Home was the only place to go. Her parents recent move to the village made the Abuja house an easy choice. There she would have time and space to think and plan. Or so she had thought.

Incidentally, things had changed. Abuja had changed.

The city wasn’t the way she remembered it. The carefree, secure, moneyed, air the city once wore was now a stifling cloak of fear. Everywhere you looked there were reminders of the terror that gripped people’s hearts and minds. It was in the metal detectors at hotel lobbies, the frisking one got at the church entrance, the long queues into places like the Shoprite Mall as boots were opened and mirrors passed beneath car hoods.

Yet, the bombings continued. Forty killed at a blast in a motor park, fifty slain while another exploded at a crowded shopping centre, two dozen dead and many more injured at a viewing centre last weekend, numbers where once were lives.

She shivered in the mild evening breeze and opened her tablet to read the day’s news.

Two airplanes were missing, 230 people aboard.

A man suspected to be carrying the Ebola virus had died in Lagos.

A pro-Gaza riot in Zaria had escalated into a clash and at least ten were feared dead.

She switched the device off and took several deep breaths. The walls of the room seemed to close in on her do she dressed quickly and left the house. A chilled pack of juice would help, she thought, and the fresh air too.

She got back feeling better but her mood was soon changed. On her bed, lying at the exact spot she had been reading, mangled in her mattress, was the carcass of the overhead fan. Flecks of foam and cloth were strewn everywhere.

Her legs wobbled and she collapsed at the door in a pile of quiet gratitude. Then the tears of anger and frustration she had not cried since she got home came and she let them flow.

To Our Missing Girls

My mouth can’t speak
These words that
Leaden my heart,
Though I hope each hour,
I read also, the marks on the wall,
It is the pain of death

image

the grinding of a heart on glass,
But the truth has never been honey – tongued,
If our eyes never again meet,
Know that I love you
And that I did all that
I could.

Pink Or Blue?

When Oma brushed past him without a word, Joshua knew something was wrong. He wanted to hurry after her and ask her what the matter was but his legs felt stiff, so he went to fridge and poured himself some pineapple juice instead.

Sipping from his glass he tried to imagine what could have upset her. He had given her the month’s upkeep. He had serviced her car. He had kissed her on his way out that morning. He was blameless.

So with that, he rose to find his wife and the reason for her annoyance.

Oma was curled up in bed covered with a duvet. The room was quiet but he could see her shoulders rise and fall and he could hear her sniffle. He rushed to her side.

“Oma, are you alright? What is wrong?”

“Leave me alone. Joshua. Leave me alone!”

“You know I’ll never do that, honey. Tell me. What is wrong?”

“Everything. Josh. Everything is wrong. You told me this baby was going to be a boy didn’t you? You refused to try any family balancing options, laughed at all the Chinese calendars and said you knew. Well, I am just back from the hospital and the radiologist says it is a girl. Well done Mr Seer.”

A pool of ice settled in his belly. It couldn’t be. The baby was a boy. His spirit told him so, God told him so. He could still remember the exact words whispered in his spirit.

“You shall have a son and his name will be Prince. He shall eat the good of the land and he shall be a blessing to his family, his country and his generation.”

Now this?

Oma’s sobs grew louder and more distraught, he gathered her into his arms and wiped away the snot and the tears. “It is okay babe. Don’t cry. A son will come.”

“When? Honey? When? Kayla is 6, Marla is 5. I am turning 35 next month. When will I have time to get pregnant again? And how are we supposed to care for another mouth? We wanted 3 children remember? I am tired honey. I prayed, I believed. Why?”

Joshua had never been a talking man, now words eluded him altogether. He adored his daughters, and even now that they were with his parents for the weekend he felt incomplete. He knew Oma had always wanted sons. And though he didn’t share her obsession, he had prayed and God had promised him his next child would be a boy. But now, he wasn’t so sure.

He wasn’t sure at all.

So instead of answering Oma’s questions, he held her and rocked her in his arms till sleep came.

* * *

The next few months were blur. his job as a company secretary had him traveling around the country. Thankfully he had saved his annual leave for July when the baby was due. Despite his schedule he couldn’t help noticing Oma had changed. She was no longer excited about the baby. She stopped buying baby and pregnancy magazines. She walked off when cute baby boys came on screen.

During their daily devotions her prayers were brief, like she was just ticking a register. He hardly saw her study. Nowadays she spent more time sleeping or fiddling with her phone.

In his times of prayer, he reminded God of the words he heard and listened with his whole being for a response. All he ever heard was, “Peace My Son, Fear Not.”

Once while looking for a nail cutter he stumbled on a half-empty baby bag and a list of baby items beside the dresser. “Honey, what is this why haven’t you bought any baby clothes?” Joshua asked.

“There is no need. The baby ll wear what we have.” Oma replied with a hard edge in her voice.

Ignoring her, he took the list and went to get the items himself.

“Pink or blue?” The sales-girl asked holding up two sleep-suit sets. “Or would you prefer green?”

Joshua thought for a while. Dressing a girl in blue would be so drab and might make the child feel unwanted. Every girl deserved pink. Green was doubt. Unbelief in action.

“I’ll have blue. Three sets.”
***

A week later, Oma’s water broke as she rose from bed. Doctors were on strike so they couldn’t go to the Teaching Hospital where she had registered. A couple of phone calls later they were directed to Shava Specialist Hospital. The lead midwife there spoke to them and told them to hurry, third deliveries were often much faster than previous ones.

As they got closer to the hospital excitement melded with anxiety inside him. This was the first time he was witnessing Oma in labour. Marla was born when he was in Malaysia for a course, Kayla while he was in London for a company meeting. Oma was panting and he had a feeling she felt more pain than she was showing. He found parking space and the orderlies came and took Oma in a wheelchair.

They had discussed it and she had told him she didn’t want him in the room. He was happy to agree. Some of his friends had followed their wives in, the stories weren’t pretty.

So he walked the grounds instead, praying for a safe delivery for Oma and their baby.

The midwife was right, Oma delivered after five hours. Fours hours faster than when she had Marta, six hours faster than when she Kayla.

Joshua held his baby and tears flowed down his face. The baby was so perfect. Pink, healthy, whole, nothing missing. The radiologist was wrong.
He was a boy.

Laughing through his tears, Joshua bowed his head, “Thank you Father. Your Word is final authority. Thank you Lord. In Jesus name.”

“Amen”, Oma intoned as he gathered her into his arms and they held each other, in silent awe of God’s goodness and love.

Unbridled Delight: A Pre-Review Of ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ by Chimamanda Adichie

When was the last time you stumbled on a piece of writing that made you laugh, then made you cry? Then made you laugh through your tears?

When was the last time you read a piece that said all you have always wanted to say yet couldn’t quite find the words or the time or the skill to say it? And did so in a few hundred words?

When was the last time you read something that touched you, gripped you, wouldn’t let you go?

For me the answer is simple: tonight.

It had been a long day, a tiring week and I was just scrolling through the ‘Please Read’ links littered on my phone without missing a beat. Experience had taught me that most weren’t going to be my idea of a pleasurable read. Even the writer’s ‘big name’ wasn’t enough to get me reading:

‘The Miraculous Deliverance of Oga Jona’

It is probably just another drawn out opinion piece harping on the things we know already. I thought. What else was there to say? That hadn’t been said already?

But I was wrong. Ah, I was so wrong.

The story begins with an awakening. Oga Jona, the main character, wakes up miraculously delivered. Upon rising, he discovers all he had been doing and saying wrong and has logical, tangible ideas on how to get things done right.

And wonder of wonders, he starts to do them.

I won’t give anything away here, but let me say the responses of his erstwhile praise singing minions alone are worth your eye time. Plus, there are enough generous spoonfuls of allusion, sub-text,irony and sharp jabs stirred in throughout the tale to make you wish for more.

Midway through the piece I found myself laughing, but as it drew to a close, tears were dripping down my cheeks. They were tears of hope and hopelessness, a rivulet of unspoken dreams and wishes for my dear country Nigeria.

Ms Adichie has done something special here. She has expertly woven the searing pain of the patriotic Nigerian, the possibilities of our desperate situation and the potency of literary magic into an adorable piece that will certainly outlive our time.

One can’t help but wish that this story and @zebbook’s stirring piece “The Gospel According To Farouk”, the best of @elnathan’s “How To Be A Nigerian…” series and a some other great works of contemporary Nigerian satire were made into a book/e-book.

Moreso, one can’t help wishing some Nollywood director would be bold enough to buy the rights to this and make it into a film. I would buy one.

Why, I would buy a hundred.

Because, the message here needs to be shared, needs to be talked about, needs to shown in every Nigerian salon, bustop, market,home and phone.

Today, we still marvel at Fela Kuti’s music and it’s timeless classic message. Fela used his gift to speak about the ills in the society of his day. I can’t sing Afro juju. And well neither can most of us but we can read and we can write. We can ping, and we can tweet. So let’s read and write and act and share.

Let’s get the ‘Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ All the attention it deserves and some.

Let’s share it on BBM, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Whatsapp and Beyond.

Also,
Please let’s read ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ here and comeback back here for some healthy discourse.

And possibly a proper review.

Stay tuned.

http://www.thescoopng.com/exclusive-chimamanda-adichie-miraculous-deliverance-oga-jona/

No Prizes For Cowards

A poem to mark the making of the female Thor and the Black Captain America.

I exist without your consent,
Thrive without your meaningless rhetoric,
I have never needed your smile to stand tall,
Never need your nod to be all
I was created and designed to be
You can’t define me in recycled dregs of burn-out or
Lack of creativity.

If you aren’t brave enough
To discover me,
That’s alright,
No one’s giving you a prize for this
Half-baked redeemer fight,
Look away in shame
Like you always have,
Truth will find a way
She always has.

Second Chances 1

We shuffled into the house in silence. It had been a long drive from his mom’s place to mine. Shaq had stayed glued to his novel all through the trip. My efforts at drawing him into a conversation felt clumsy, like a string of paper balls that couldn’t find the trash can.

“Welcome home.” I said, putting on the lights.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

“I fixed you a room, I hope you like it. Let’s have a look.”

I prayed he would like it. I lived alone in the 3 bed-room apartment but I wanted him to feel wanted here, so I had made one of the rooms into what I thought was a male teenager’s dream. I had the walls repainted in gentle blue and brown stripes. Matching curtains, a persian rug, a small bookshelf and an abstract painting helped to complete the picture. As I showed him in, I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

My teen years had been spent on a naked mattress on the floor shared with three brothers. My bookshelf was a piece of trampoline spread out in a corner. My abstract, the patterns of clouds and stars that danced far above me through missing window panes. Even now, soft beds made uncomfortable, in many hotels I just spread a towel on the floor and went to sleep. But this wasn’t about me, it was about Shaq.

He walked in and dropped his Ghana-Must-Go bag by the bed. I winced at the sight. There was so much I had to make up for. So much I had to undo in my relationship with my son. I wished things were different. I wished I hadn’t abandoned his mom fifteen years ago when I heard she was pregnant.

“See you at dinner, in an hour,” I said, as I closed the door and strode away. I didn’t listen for his reply, I was too busy trying to escape my thoughts. My shame. But they embraced me and soon I was back in Utoke, fifteen years ago….

Telling My Baby About Chibok

We lay on the bed, in the semi-darkness listening to neighbouring generators assault the night with their discordant droning. We had just finished a session of mock tests on Verbal Reasoning and Simple Maths. Examinations were two days away and we had a lot to revise before we could claim to be ready. The past sixty minutes had been spent on word sums and codes before The Power Holders struck. In the silence that followed, I cradled my Blackberry and scrolled through my Twitter TL, I didn’t notice her searching eyes following every movement on my phone’s screen.

“Why are you doing that? Scrolling up and down so fast without reading anything?” She asked me.

“I am reading. I read a little faster than you do but I am not just racing past. Besides I have read some of this before.” I answered, sensing there was more to come and considering dropping the phone before someone decided to post a nude selfie on the TL.

“Wait! What is that? Why is a frog drinking tea? Do frogs drink tea?” She asked, her face buckled in a frown.

“Uuuh it is a puppet. Kermit. Like the one I put my hands in when I am pretending to be a Tiger.”

“Oh. Wait. What is #BringBackOur Girls ?”

Somewhere inside me I began to wonder what other things my inquisitive 6 year old had read. And to kick myself for not pocketing the phone while I could.

“It is a campaign. A call to action. Some people stole some girls about 3 months ago. #BringBackOurGirls is a call for them to be rescued.”

“Stole? Who stole them? Boko Haram?”

I sat up and looked at her in surprise. “Who told you about Boko Haram?”

“I dunno,” she shrugged, “radio or TV or something.”

“Hmm. Well, yes, so they went to a school and took away girls in the middle of the night.”

“Oh no!” She said, her eyes as wide as saucers. “But how could that happen? Where were their teachers?”

” Their teachers were away.”

“Away?” She asked raising her eyebrows.” How did Boko Haram know the girls were there?”

“It looks like they were informed by some school staff. The Police and the Army are looking into it.”

“How many of them were stolen?

“234.”

“Two hundred and thirty-four! Oh men! That’s so bad.”

“Yes it is.”

“I saw a girl carrying a banner on Aunty Christy’s phone, it said Our Girls Are Not For Sale…”

She snuggled closer and her voice became smaller. “I am scared,” she said.

“It is OK, dear. Don’t be scared. No harm can come to you. You are safe here.”

I wrapped my arms around her and I told her we would protect her. I told her God was with her. I told her everything would be fine.

Then I closed my eyes and clenched my fists willing myself to believe my words.

Raw Deal

For Lily

She lets Prince kiss her. Moving to his rhythm, making the right sounds at the right places, she is the perfect partner tonight. Her thoughts pirouette through the window, soar above the twin duplex and outdoor pools, flit across the bridge, to the semi-slums, to the crammed self-contained room without air conditioning or TV where she and Taiye used to live.

She sees, no, feels Taiye smiling at her, lifting her in his muscular arms twirling her in the yard while the kids watch and giggle. She breathes the scent of his freshly washed clothes, and subtle musk as it caresses her skin.

He calls her by name but it sounds different when he does, like a treasure– something he never wants to lose. Then they are sharing a drink on the 6-spring mattress on the floor, or playing ludo, or cuddling while he tells her his dreams.

Prince is done, he rolls over like a boulder and begins to snore.

She is still awake and she can’t forget the TV-less room, or the man with muscular arms. She wonders why she still wants more. Wasn’t money what she gave it all up for?

And in that lonely room, tears falls, and she knows she is poorer now, than when she was in the arms of the man that made her feel on top of the world.

Midnight Snack

The plates were washed. The kitchen floor scrubbed. The dish clothes laundered. Still, a basket of fruit waited to be washed and refrigerated on the kitchen table. The chrome wall clock beeped, 12:00am. Agnes wiped her soaked forehead and collapsed on a stool. It had been a long, long day. She was hungry, exhausted and irritated by the aroma of chicken casserole that lingered in the kitchen mocking the plain garri and salt her mistress had left her for supper.

Sometimes she wondered how someone as rich as Madam Kenjo could be mean about simple things like food. Where she came from people were generous with food and embarrassed to give anything less than their best.

If it wasn’t for the money she would have left months ago. Madam was stingy with food and demanding but at least she paid her staff promptly. Unlike the last woman she worked
with, she had left without four months wages, now the woman wouldn’t answer her phone calls….

Grinding her teeth she pulled her self up and began to wash the fruits. A little black speck on one garden egg caught her eye. Frowning she pried it open to find a wriggly maggot, five more tries yielded the same results. Even the juicy looking ones had worms in them.

“Agnes! Get me some garden eggs and groundnut sauce,” Madam yelled from the dining.

She wanted to tell Madam about the worms and offer her something else instead, but as her eye caught the bowl of garri, she wavered. Then with a shrug she set the tray and took it out to her waiting mistress.

The harder part was stifling her laughter as she watched madam nodding with her eyes closed as she munched the garden eggs, savoring her midnight snack.