The Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize, Top 20 List Is Out, We Made It!

The Etisalat Flash Fiction Top 20 List is out and our entry, Dressed Like A Prince, is on it.

We wish to thank all of you that read, liked, voted, shared, tweeted about, reviewed, endured and celebrated the #DressedLikeAPrince campaign.

You are the real heroes.
This Victory is yours, and we celebrate you.

May people gather to support you as you supported us. May you always have the help you need to realise your dreams. Amen.

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Our other story, A Show Fit For A King, Is still up for Facebook Likes!

Please

1.Visit the : Institute of Certified Communicators Facebook page. or click here: https://t.co/Lqi0hWkGba

2.Look for Story #3: A Show Fit For A King by N. Bassey.

3. Read & Like: A Show Fit For A King

4. Tell all your Facebook friends etc about it.

Thank you for supporting (y)our stories,

Thank you for supporting African Literature,

Thank you for supporting The A Show Fit For A King campaign!

Win Prizes In The Dressed Like A Prince Quiz!

Hello there,

Etisalat is doing something amazing for unpublished writers and we are glad to be a part of it.

Our story ‘Dressed Like A Prince’ is one of 480 stories up for votes on the Etisalat Prize website.

We are giving away some nice prizes to some lucky winners.

Visit: http://www.etisalatprize.com/dressed-like-a-prince

Read: Dressed Like A Prince (DLAP)

Vote: Under the story, Click Vote For Me.

Then send an email to stnaija@gmail.com with the answers to theses questions.

1. Name 4 Book titles you saw mentioned or alluded to in the story DLAP.

2. What Colour changes did Godspower’s clothes undergo?

3. What 6 themes could you see?

4. What were your favourite lines?

All the best. Contest closes by Sunday October 27 2013.

20+ Ways To Help The #VoteDressedLikeAPrince Campaign

Kabosh!

We are in the last ten days of the #VoteDressedLikeAPrince campaign. I thank God for keeping us through the first two-thirds and I trust Him to take us to the end.

I am lost for words to express how humbled, amazed and thankful I am for all the love, care and affection you have show me in this especially trying time. It is true: Life’s dark moments have silver linings; you, are its gold.

Through out the week, people asked me how they can help make the campaign a success. After some thought, I decided to do a post on it, please add your own ideas and thoughts too. We are better because of you.

Permit me to share with you, 7 ways to help the ‘Dressed Like A Prince’ bid.

1,2. Read&Vote

This is basic but being human and all, we forget the basics sometimes. Your own votes are the start of making the campaign work. Ensure that you have voted with all devices/Sim cards/Ip addresses near you, including your neighbour’s Wi Fi.

Thank you.

3,4. Share & Re-share

After voting please go ahead to share. The easiest way is to click the Facebook and Twitter share buttons below the ‘Vote For Me’ banner.

Other ways to share include : Free/Bulk SMS, Word of Mouth,Flyers with the link on it, Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApp, Mailing lists, Instagram, Keek, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twoo, 2go, Badoo, Path, Linkedin, Reddit, Google+ etc.

If possible leave a personal note to convince people that it is not spam.
And if possible do some follow up so they know it is important. 😉

Special thanks to
http://www.twitter.com/@4eyedmonk
http://www.twitter.com/@indepthnaija
http://www.twitter.com/@zebbook
http://www.twitter.com/@IykeDexter
http://www.twitter.com/@Kweeneth

And all the other people that have been making it happen.

We Love You.

5,6. Review & Discuss.

Review the story. You can do this on your blog, on Twitter, or any of your Social Media Platforms. Reviews help create a buzz around a story. More buzz means more readers which means more votes.

Special thanks to http://www.twitter.com/@naitwt and http://www.twitter.com/@Omotayome for their reviews of Dressed Like A Prince.

You can also discuss it on Twitter, Facebook, Nairaland, NaijaStories etc

7,8. Blog/Reblog it.

Even if you don’t have the time to review ‘Dressed Like A Prince’ you can at least leave a word about it on your blog. Just a paragraph or two along with the link to the story goes a long way to help.

Special thanks to http://www.twitter.com/@sunkit and http://www.twitter.com/@persius5 and http://www.twitter.com/@newnaija for their support in this regard.

9. Campaign
This involves talking to groups and individuals that you know can help announce #VoteDressedLikeAPrince.

Such groups and individuals may include–but are not limited to– colleagues, classmates, neighbours, family members, church members, gym acquaintances, and exes.

You might also reach people online: Twitter followers, Facebook friends, Instagram fans etc.

Celebrities, Radio/On Air personalities can be a great help here.

As well as Facebook Groups, Alumni, Mailing lists etcetera.

10. Mobilise

Even if you get just your entire family’s devices to vote, it will be a step most welcome. Depending on your location and setting you might also mobilise your classmates, youth group, writing group, co-workers or fans.

All it takes to give them the message and take them through the steps. Thanks in advance.

You can support by using your time and talents to help reach more people with the ‘Dressed Like A Prince’ story.
For instance

11. Taking photographs that relate to to the story.

12. Drawings or art that depicts scenes in the story.

13. Graphics that do same, including DPs, Banners and cartoons.

14. Songs/Recorded readings of the story for sound cloud.

15. Jingles and Video Adverts put up on Youtube.

16. Modelling: Face of DLAP

17. Hosting: you can host a reading or a rally or a seminar near you.

18. Playlets: Short skits around the theme, filmed for Youtube.

19. Make souvenirs: T-shirts, Mugs, Biros, Key rings…

And whatever else your gifted mind comes up with. 🙂

20. Contribute
Lastly you can contribute by sponsoring a contest or sponsoring any of the supporting items listed above.

Special thanks to
http://www.twitter.com/@iudofa
Uncle Taiwo
Magic
The Akpans
Aunt Praise

And other anonymous donors for the support and contributions received so far. God bless and Keep you, more and more. Amen.

Plus, pray for us too. We need all the goodwill, good Karma, Best wishes, prophetic prayers and love bombing we can get. Thank you

If we left you out by mistake, please let us know… so we can fix that.

Thanks for reading, what other ways can you help the campaign? Let us know! 🙂
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Please read ‘Dressed Like A Prince’ here http://www.etisalatprize.com/dressed-like-a-prince

Vote under the story and give all the love you can. 🙂

Thank you.

My Dear Mufutua, (A Most Robust Response)

1. #LongRead

2.This article contains Pidgin English, Broken English, Street English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ibibio and Urhobo.

3. To be read in your best Akpos voice, with your best Waffi accent.

My Dear Mufutua,

How you dey? How body? I know say you don enjoy sotay, hehe. No wahala, I happy for you. Make you dey enjoy beta tins wey dey dat side, in short, carry go!

As tins be, I for no bother to write dis long tori give you. After all, wetin self? Wetin dey for this earth? No be just to come, eat, work, die, go give account? Where me and you from sabi self? Wey I go come wan talk plenty for your matter? Abi na just dis yeye tin wey dem call Twitter? mbok, no be government work.

The tin be say dis tori don dey worry me tay. I don try hide am, try forget am, try sub-tweet am, still, the tori no gree me rest. Na im I say make I write am, at least, even if you no read am,

1. the thing go comot my mind.

2. Me go fit rest.

3. Other pipu dem, wey read fit get one or two tins for inside am, as our fathers talk, person no dey wey sabi every, na share and learn we all dey.

First of all, I wan yarn about the magic wey you do, as you Block and Unblock me so. Tuale. Congrats you hear? Just dey continue, your reward dey. Liver nor gree you make you block am keep am like that. Enjoy, just know say as bird fly for sky, im leg, dey look ground.

Second matter, I wan tell you say you no try. Me. And you. We dey for inside domot dey discuss matter, you talk say you no dey do, before I fit open my eye, you don submit your tori already.

Dat one never still do, as me self dey try tink wetin to write, you don start to campaign. Your babe dem don dey announce am for Facebook, cold and fear don dey catch me gididgba for heart. No be clear eye I take scramble submit. At least, make we see as e go be, na so I tell myself.

Next ting, your babe start to talk wetin me no fit understand. See ehn, dis world we dey, na just waka pass we be o! E no good make you dey take trouble follow people wey take beta mind follow you. Even Bible take am say : Person wey carry bad tin repay who gi’ am good tin, na so-so bad tin go dey follow am. And na true talk, if you carry bad tin pay back person wey do you good tin, na kasala you dey plant.

Finally, I wan make we talk about dis Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize matter. Onto say, the wahala don already reach international community dem. Pikin wey im mama born am for in front of CNN camera, na to open de mama leg well make camera man film am clearly as e dey commot.

Mufu, na me and you dey lament as nobody dey send writers. Airtel own na to dey throw Big Brother Africa party.

MTN own na to dey dash people private jet or do competition for pipu wey dey sing or dance.

Nobody send writers.

If dem mistakenly remember us, na so-so condition go follow the award.

If na Caine prize, you gat to dey published already. And no be all that sme-sme wey you dey do with Ani, na better publishing we dey talk, for obodo oyinbo magazine dem. Magazines like Granta, Guernica, Transitions etcetera.

If na LNG, you know na. First, as you go take find who go publish you na wahala. No be person tell Amu Nandi make she go self publish her poetry. On top say dey the top three for this year’s $100,000 (N16,500,000.00) short list, nobody fit give am book deal. A word is enough for a lagos bus driver. Owa!

if plenty condition no follow, then prize money go dey less than wetin de company dey share as free recharge card, dat kind $60 (N10,000.00), before VAT tins.

Otherwise, na state of origin sure pass. (I think I don tell you say I don see wife? Her name na Chimamara, she from Anambra. We go yarn later).

In short, for we ‘unpublished’ writers? Country no good.

Then Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize come show.

My own be say, make Baba God bless the Etisalat people wey tink about ‘unpublished’ writers.

Like say dem give this marketing job– sorry eh, competition, to another group of artists like ‘undiscovered’ artists, or ‘unrecorded’
Musicians, we for no cough.

No be say the prize dey perfect or wahala no full am. But at least, e don set leg for we side. If we no ki’ de Prize with our bad belle talk and paralogism dem.

First, first , dis go be the roughest £1000 wey the winner don ever make for im entire life, I tell you.

By the time e don comb 157 countries,

Communicate: Speak 1111+ languages,

Campaign : Beg, ask,solicit, bully, coerce pipu make dem vote.

Advertise: tweet, share to Facebbok, Whatsapp,BBM…

Mobilize: host rallies, do readings, do advocacy, do community literacy programs.

Invest: buy recharge card, buy phones for pipu wey wan vote no get phone, sponsor competitions dem to increase awareness, buy shacks for guys make their ear take clear first.

Pitch: explain the matter give Mama and Papa, say all this 24 hour waka na on top money wey no fit buy keke.

Connect: re-establish all the broken friendship and membership links with long lost cousins, exes, alumni, phone book contacts, unfriendly neighbours, snobbish cousins etcetera.

All, to find votes.

No be person go tell am, e go sabi for body.

Except if im hack am. For which I gats to pause say — Holy Ghost Fire!

Ehn-he, so no be say na pure water, indomie noodles or moi-moi to win this thing.

The competition no dey perfect. We no dey perfect. Life self no dey perfect.

Important tin be say, make we dey chop sugarcane, comot sugar, throwaway cane. Make we dey try look the beta tins wey we fit accomplish with the competition…

For where? You no gree.

You dey follow people wey no get literary destiny play with your life. You dey form elitist give people wey no sabi the difference between Munro and Morrison. You dey form hard man come dey carry last.

Mufu, I shame for you.

No be de tin wey me expect say you go do be dis o! I talk true. You wey at least you don win voting competition before, no be now wey you gon get followers small, dat time your followers no reach 200, yet you still win abi na hack you hack am?

Small pipu like us just dey warm up say we go dey dey dub your maps, at least at-all-at-all na im be winch. Na im you cross your entire answer sheet for the middle of exam, squeeze your paper, throway. Na wa! Mufu, why?

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Follow us to get the next cum concluding part of this letter in your mailbox or leave a comment to be contacted on Twitter.

Thank you for reading The Naija Writer.

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Please support my Dressed Like A Prince bid with a vote. Voting is free and easy.

Open: http://www.etisalatprize.com/dressed-like-a-prince

Read: Dressed Like A Prince

Vote: Click the ‘Vote For Me’ Banner below the story, wait for a tick.

Share: Facebook Twitter, BBM, WhatsApp etc.

Thank you for supporting literacy in Africa.

Thank you for supporting the Dressed Like A Prince campaign.

Sagay’s Twitter Beach Party 1

When he followed her back in a blink she felt warm all over– a pleasurable sense of being desired. She had a crazy mental picture of the tall well built guy snuggling behind her, warming her back, and cupping the curve of her bum like a spoon. She cast the thought away. Newly wed women weren’t meant to think such things.

In the days that followed, she read his tweets like a self-help manual, trying to get behind the brown eyes and the bright smile. She soon learned that he loved fast cars, rooted for Manchester United FC and hated indomie noodles. She also learned that he lived in Lagos, was single and liked Jazz. They were a match, so far.

Pius wanted to know why she was always smiling when she fiddled with her phone.

“Nothing dear, just these silly http://www.thenakedconvos.com readers. Gosh! Honey can you imagine there’s another list on http://www.connectnigeria.com!”

Pius would walk out in a huff. She would stretch and zoom Dafe’s latest avi.

It would have gone on like this forever: she, a secret admirer, Dafe, another tall muscular guy in aviaspora, Pius none the wiser, but Sir Sagaysagay ( http://sagaysagay.com ) had to host a Twitter party, fifteen minutes away from her house. And Dafe had to ask her to come with him.

She couldn’t of course. What woman in her sane mind sneaks out of her home to see a stranger? On her honeymoon? Especially after the Cynthia incident? Her marriage was just four months old, darn it. Yet, a plan to attend was already born.

It was a simple plan. All she had to do was get her hair messed up. Pius couldn’t stand unkempt hair, he would be the one to chase her off to the salon. She would get neat Ghana braids done while he was at work and then dump a old wig on it. On her way home to the party, she’d discard the wig and viola! New hairdo. Yes, that would work.

That would work just fine.

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Thanks for reading the intro. Book your copy of the full story for just N100 now. 😉

Dodgy Deals 4

Warning: R21, contains scenes with sex, nudity and violence. Reader’s discretion advised.

Nma looked Jim in the eye and smiled. “I would love to stay. The thing is I have commitments that need my attention. Sharing a drink was me trying to keep calm; to avoid panic in crisis.”

“Of course. Allow me to compensate you for your time.” Jim said as he got up and walked over to his laptop. “Can I have your bank details?”

She gave them to him and moments later an alert for N100,000 appeared on her phone. She could feel her resolve wavering like a reed in the rain. The voices in her head were yapping again.

“Ehn, at least we have something. Let’s go abeg.”

“Mumu. Hundred k na money?”

“Thief. I no blame you. If them shake you upside down, how much go comot?”

“It’s about the principle of the matter. Really. The man needs a lesson in ‘Respecting artists and paying them’.”

“Hehe. If kasala burst here, I no dey o!”

Jim was saying “…it’s not much but I hope it helps. I could give you more though. If you would… let me explore some sensual possibilities with you.”

…explore some sensual possibilities with you.

Nma nearly choked on her drink. He made her sound like an adventure, a territory, an expedition. Anything but a living, feeling, breathing human. in that instant she disliked him immensely. She was going to carry out her plan. She was going to teach him a lesson; one he wouldn’t forget, ever.

She held her breath and exhaled.

“How much?”

“Another hundred for the afternoon. Three if you stay the night.” Jim said.

“That’s generous. You are a very rich man Mr Newton.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. I manage my father’s estate and I get paid to consult on a number of culture and tourism projects for the government here.
Nigeria loves her expatriates, doesn’t She?” He said, erupting into a riotous laugh.

“Yes She does.” Nma replied, dropping her half full glass. “We should get to it then. Time waits for no man they say.”

“Sure” Jim answered, smiling his most disarming smile.

He held her hand and led her to his room. It smelled of mint and jasmine, there were two large paintings of idyllic landscapes on the walls. The floor was covered in an onyx and beige rug. An old fashioned king sized bed with metal head and foot rests sat in the centre like a obese czar.

“You smoke?” Nma asked, gesturing at the pack of cigarettes by the headrest.

“Sometimes. When I am stressed.” Jim answered. “But now, I want to smoke you. Inhale you, exhale you…”

Nma moved closer and kissed him. She had to control the tempo, be in charge, if this was going to work. She pulled his T-shirt off and felt his bottle smooth chest.

“Eww. This oyinbo body be like wet bread.”

“Shut up wetin you know?!”

“Nawa o. Hian! I no dey o!”

The voices chirped in her head,like an opera of canaries. She paid them no mind.

” Would you like to try something?” She asked Jim between breaths.

“Of course, anything.” Jim gushed.

“Where are your ties?”

“In the wardrobe.”

“I’ll be right back. You might want to get out of those shorts.”

She watched him scramble out of his clothes with a smile and fetched some ties from the wardrobe.

“We’ll have to manage these.” She said teasing him with her eyes.

“Wow, sure.”

“Jim, you’ve been such a naughty boy.”

“I am sorry, ma, please …punish me.”

“I will.”

She fastened his arms to the bed post using the knots she had learnt from her ex boyfriend Mike. Mike was a sailor. He knew just how to tie a knot. She had learnt in jest, now she was glad she had.

She tied his legs as well kissing, gliding and teasing as she made her way down. She had discarded her clothes and all she had on was black lace lingerie. She tied his feet to the bed posts and gave him a lewd wink.

“There we go.” She said looking up from her task.

“Come and sit on me. Please. I am bursting.”

“In a minute.”

She stood up and removed her bra. Her breast sprung free: full,brown, big and beautiful. She heard him suck in his breath and knew she was getting the response she wanted.

She walked to her bag, picked up her camera and put the video on.

“Wait. What are you doing? Put that away! What is this? A con?”

“Shhh, Jim, relax. This is going to be fun.”

She toyed with the angle for the camera while Jim screamed and swore.
When she got the right spot, she propped it up and returned to her prey.

He was well hung, with a splash of brown hair at the base. His erection had deflated a bit with the turn in events. She decided to do something about it.

Taking him in her mouth, she closed her eyes and imagined herself licking a giant lollipop.

“Nma, no. No. No! Stop! Don’t stop. Please. Faster. Harder. ArrRrrrgh ‘;#*!;.!”

She ignored him. A change of tempo in his thrusts warned her that he was almost gone, so she stopped.

“Why? Why are you stopping? Babe please. Don’t do this. I’ll give you 300. 400. Stop this. Un-tie me. Please!”

Without a word she rose and fetched a belt. He was a pitiable sight. Red around his wrists and ankles where he strained against the knots, faint beige above that, up to his knees and elbows, then cream thighs, belly and chest. That an a turgid penis glistening and wet.

She put off the camera and picked up a belt. The crack of the belt as it hit his thighs, belly, and chest made her giddy with glee.

He grit his teeth and bore it without a sound. His erection deflated and tears were streaming down his eyes. Nma smiled. Yes, this was definitely looking up.

She got lipstick, blush and eye shadow from her bag. Walking over to him she dusted on the blush.

“Nma, please. I am sorry. You don’t have to do this. Forgive me. I will pay for your work. I’ll buy the entire collection. I am so so sorry–”

“Shut up. You are interrupting my work.” She sat back and admired his make-up. “You make such a pretty girl Jim.”

She sashayed over to the drawers and searched them. Soon, she found a pack of Rough Riders. She picked one and tore it open. She was dripping wet already. She intended to enjoy this.

Walking over to him, she took him in her mouth again. Soon he was as hard as a rock. She slid the condom on him with a fluid flick of her wrists.

He was sobbing now. Soft silly sounds that made her want to bitch-slap him. The camera was on, though,so she had to make things look as mutually pleasurable as possible.

She climbed on him and his sobs became moans. Her hands were caressing her breasts. Her hips were rocking to a timeless rhythm. Soon she was spent and she rolled off him.

“What? Why did you stop?” Jim yelled.

She grabbed her clothes and tiptoed to the bathroom without saying a thing. Minutes later, she emerged, fresh and innocent-looking.

“That will be 500k.” She said.

“500 what? Are you crazy? For what? I didn’t even come! You should be paying me!” Jim said, his face a mask of incredulity and pain.

“Naughty Jim.” She whispered, as she walked over to him and traced patterns on his chest. “How does it feel? How does ‘this’ feel? To be trapped, in your own home, bound with your clothes, enslaved by your desire, humiliated by your lust ?

How does it feel to be used? Made a slave for another’s satisfaction, lusts and rage?

Jim, how does it feel to raped?

To be continued.

Dodgy Deals 3

Jim tried smiling but failed. He felt stretched to his limits. He really liked this feisty female artist’s work. He found himself responding to her as a woman too. It wasn’t hard peeling away her snug blue jeans and lavender blouse, in his mind; it wasn’t hard seeing himself with her, in her.

It had been three months since he’d had sex. Two since he had bothered with some self service. He felt desire pool in his loins and a kick in his pants.

He had to be careful though. This broad looked ready to slap someone. He had seen women act that way only to become a catalogue of smiles when the right buttons were touched. The problem was, he had no idea what Nma’s buttons were. Considering her last phone call, her ‘pay artists’ tirade, and her hasty exit, however, he imagined offering her little money wouldn’t be too far off target.

She had a call and he watched her answer it.

“Hello?” She said, cocking her head with a frown, giving him a great view of her smooth sepia skin, the arch of her neck,her luscious lips, the pinpoint birthmark on her cheek .

“Please tell them to give me more time. I will have the money next week.” She said, her lips twisted into a knot, her eyes misting over.

“Okay, then. Thanks.” She didn’t looked at him when she spoke. “Power cuts at my flats. I need to get to home now. Thank you Mr Newton. All the best with your exhibition.”

“Hey, you are upset now and you need to cool off a little. How about some juice? Hmm? You don’t have to worry about getting home, I’ll drop you off myself.” He said in a rush. He was aching with desire, a desire to taste her, have her.

She exhaled and closed her eyes, “Okay.”

Her shoulders were stooped and her eyes had a look that made him want to hold her. He wanted more than to hold her. He wanted to get to her core. To discover what made her laugh, moan and coo. He wanted to do that right there,but he had to be careful. Very careful.

He led her past the parlour to his lair. There the seats were coffee brown and the rug a robust olive green. He got pineapple juice from the fridge and poured glasses for both of them.

“To the beautiful Nma.” He said, giving her a glass and lifting his.

“To dignity in labour.” Nma replied, eyeing him with an upturned eyebrow above the glass.

“Nma, I like you.” Jim said, the words tumbled out of his mouth before he had a chance to push them back in.

“Really?” Nma replied, “How beautiful.”

“I’m serious. I haven’t met any girl as funny, fine, gifted, exciting and witty as you are.” Jim said, smiling. “I would like to us to get closer. Get to know each other better. Explore possibilities. Share. Love.” The desire in his eyes was as a naked flame.

Nma looked away. Blood rushed to her face in a wave and she didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It wasn’t enough that the electricity company was disconnecting her. It wasn’t enough that her trip here was a waste of time. It wasn’t enough that she hadn’t figured how to get Dibaal money for Mama’s medication. Now this. This man wanted to get into her pants. How dare he? Was he crazy? He wouldn’t buy her art now he was hitting on her? The nerve of it. The ugly reality, that a woman’s worth was primarily her body. That a man could dismiss a woman’s talent but chase her body. It filled her with anger. She wanted to show this man that not every woman was that cheap. She wanted to punish him for wasting her time and raising her hopes only to dash them like a squashed roach. In the dim room, with the cold glass of pineapple juice in hand, a sinister plan began to form …

Fire On The Mountain

Sound City, Southern Nigeria 06:45am

I jump off the bed and scamper to my prayer mat. My journal and Bible lie untouched. I rush my prayers. I have 5 minutes for everything: thanksgiving, for all the goodness I have received; prayers for my pastor and the church; prayers for God to raise godly leaders for Nigeria; prayers for my family scattered around the world, the new babies we have, and their mothers; prayers for wisdom, grace and favour; prayers for patience, lots and lots of patience.

I read just a verse of the Word today.

“There’s a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction.”

It gives me shivers.

6.55 am

I dash to the bathroom. I brush my teeth while doing squats. Brown love handles wobble and wriggle by my sides, I ignore them and keep squatting. I bath in two, dress in three. Ten minutes later, I am guzzling down cereal like a refugee. My wife, Mfoniso looks at me, snorts and shakes her head. I focus on the food, on making sure it doesn’t go the wrong way.

“Is the commissioner coming again?” She asks.

“Maybe.” I reply.

She walks over to me and gives me a peck. “Take it easy soldier. This too will pass.”

“Amen.” I say closing my eyes, drinking in her lavender and mint scent.

In a blink it all comes back to me. The life I led before everything imploded.

Snapshots of : lounging around the house in boxers, tending my plants, reading the papers, flick past like a pantomime. Those were good days, good times.

Everything changed when the fire nation attacked –sorry– health commissioners were swapped.

I want to hold her closer and get a full kiss. I want to drink the mint and lavender in, but my eye catches the clock on my phone and I grab my keys and run. I jog to the car, tucking in my shirt while I am at it.

7.10 am

I take deep breaths as I ease my Benz 190 down the street. The potholes are craters that I sink in and out of; sometimes I imagine I am driving on the moon. Soon I am on the dual carriage road that was resurfaced last week. It’s only in Nigeria that some roads get ‘resurfaced’ six times while some others are made of mud and craters.

I fly past the serene green of the playgrounds. Egrets jostle atop dying palms, white rollers in a balding black woman’s hair. Three black birds cackle among them and I wish I had the time to stop and stare. I wish I could google them, these three brave black birds in a gaggle of white.

7.15 am

I am almost at the crossroads. I have to think fast and decide which route I’ll take to CassavaLand. It takes forty minutes to get to CassavaLand if I drive through Obasanjo Way. CassavaLand is an ancient semi-urban town. I work as a medical officer in its general hospital. I apply for transfers every year. The director of medical services just laughs “All of you doctors want to stay in Sound City, the capital, ehn?” He says and tosses my letter  back in the file, transfer declined.

Goodluck Way will get me there in thirty minutes, the road is new, dual carriage, made by Julius Berger. When I’m on it, I think of Germany and the autobahn; and making a giant I love Julius Berger billboard. I am tempted to turn left and blaze down Goodluck Way like a Jason Bourne clone, but I don’t. It’ll gulp more gas and there’ll be less to see: just coal tar and grass. Obasanjo Way is where the fun is, and I know it like the lines that criss-cross my palm , so I head straight on.

Obasanjo Way has also been resurfaced. My tires roll on the uneven lumps and I almost regret choosing this route. I imagine the millions of Naira that this will cost the state coffers, it nearly screeches me to a halt.

Soon we are at the flyovers, another Julius Berger marvel. We never had theses sort of wonders in my part of the Niger Delta. God bless democracy.

A red Kia Picanto zooms past me and my eyebrows flip into my hair.

“You are losing touch man.”

It’s Alan. My ‘other self’. He’s silly like that. Sometimes you don’t hear a thing from him for days then when you least expect it he pops out and starts prattling.

I keep my eyes on the road while I answer. “What do you know about touch. Loser.”

That keeps him quiet for a while. He thinks he is something special. Just because he can bake and play professional chess and write novels. When we were kids, he wanted to go to Russia and become a real grandmaster, West Africa’s first. Somehow Mom got wind of it. That was the end of that.

“Akan, don’t say that to me that again. I am not a loser. I have dreams and I get joy out of what I do. You and your World champion worrier mother wouldn’t let me live them but they are still here. Soon I will find a way to make it happen. What can you brag about? Bottom cadre doctor in the civil service. Ha! The civil service Akan. I thought you were better than this–Watch it!”

A motorbike swerves across the road, inches from my bonnet. The rider makes a face that says, “What are you looking at? Are you blind?”

I exhale through clenched teeth gripping the steering wheel and quelling the volley of abuse that is at the edge of my lips.

Alan starts laughing and holding his sides. soon he is breathless and tears are streaming down his face.

The irritation I feel morphs into cold white anger.

“Oh lord, oh dear,did you see the guy’s shoes. Lawd have mercy! He must have stolen them from a museum.” He giggles some more and I find myself chuckling. The anger ebbs, I realise he isn’t laughing at me.

Ahead there’s a crowd in a circle. Young men form the core, women and older people are at the fringes craning for a better look. A young girl’s corpse is on the ground. Her pink dress is soaked with blood. We all slow down. Everyone. Even the commercial drivers that act like they have appointments in Heaven. The wreck is grotesque, metal mangled into a steel tomb. the carcass of an orange tricycle peeps out from the belly of the ex-Jeep. The ex-Jeep is empty. The driver must have fled for dear life.

In a moment, someone fetches fuel and a match. The young men work in tandem like they have rehearsed this; like it is just normal, setting a ten million Naira SUV ablaze. Maybe they have, it is the norm here, once a car kills someone it has to be burnt, preferably with the driver in it.

Billows of black smoke rise into the air and vultures begin to circle. I look away from the rear view mirror. I want to shout at the young men to stop. I want to take the other victims with me to the hospital where they can get help. I don’t do anything of the sort.

I look at my dashboard, it’s 7.40 am.

I bear down on the throttle and keep a straight face.

7:47 am

Relief settles on me like dew. I am going to make it. I won’t be late. The odd of queue of vehicles jostling along on the single carriage way isn’t bothersome anymore. I take my time to savour the rustic beauty of shops, shrubs and mango trees. Then Kuku the lunatic floats into focus and my spirits dips again.

It is hard to ignore his state of total neglect. The clumps of congealed hair that flap behind him, his dirt brown clothes, the ever-present vapid smile that dances around his lips. Kuku is a nickname; something I made up on one of the more leisurely drives before the madness began….

“Crazy isn’t it.” Said Alan with a smirk on his lips. “One would think science would have found a cure for manic schizophrenia by now. Or a vaccine. All they care about is beauty products and performance enhancing drugs. Viagra and stuff shame. That Kuku would have made a fine athlete.”

It is true. Kuku has the build of an athlete. His illness causes him to pace without rest. Morning noon or night, if you drive past that bit of the road you’ll see him prancing along the edges with his high stepping gait, like a gazelle. Or like model on a runway.

7.50 am

My trusted ride eats up the miles. I am making good time and I am sure I will be there before Dr Eduwem draws the red line.

He never used to do that before. But since the commissioner paid us a surprise call and someone told him he was being considered for a promotion, everything changed. Now he jogs across the road from his flat at exactly 08:00 to draw the red line.

Some people like Dr Akpan don’t care. He still saunters in by 10:00. Sometimes he signs 08:00 under the red line. Other times, he finds a spot to squeeze his name in the early bird section. Folks say the governor is his in-law. I don’t have any influential in-laws. I step harder on the gas.

7:52 am

I am cruising past my favourite stretch of the road. Four other cars bop ahead looking like they are heading somewhere important. Everyone knows it is a ruse. Unemployment level are higher than 30%. It is part of our national culture– struggling, we are used to scarcity and it shows in our driving.

“Don’t” Alan says.

“Why not.” I reply

“Cos you don’t need to. You’ll be there on time.”

” Yea, but this is more fun.” I say, slouching in a corner of the seat, a pilot about to take off.

Then we soar. It is dizzying, whizzing past the other cars, gauging their speeds, keeping an eye ahead. It’s a lot of mental math, but the thrill is electric. Beside me, a woman ferries a cage full of dogs, I wonder if they know they’ll be dog meat within a week.

7:55am

I drive into the premises humming to myself. Then I discover I have forgotten my tie. A low groan fills the car and for a moment I don’t know what to do. I scrap through my pigeon hole and find a wretched one with pink boxes. I toss it back it. I’d rather look casual than stupid.

I walk-run down the corridor to the Medical Superintendent’s office where the staff time book is. You can’t trust Dr Eduwem. Even though his car isn’t there he might be at the muster point: red pen in hand, trousers hoisted to mid abdomen, spectacles dangling dangerously close to the tip of his nose.

That’s when I notice the nurses. Gathered around the empty table with their arms folded making clucking noises like hens.

The time book is missing.

Alan starts laughing again. This time I know I am the clown.

Cupid’s Assistant II

A cool breeze swept through the grounds and Kendara shivered. Her eyes narrowed and she felt a muscle twitching in her thigh. In her mind a voice kept saying:

No, I didn’t hear him right, no…

She remembered the first time they met. She was an intern at the government hospital pharmacy. She had been rounding off her shift when he walked in with his security detail. He waved them off and came over to her.

“Hello pretty lady, do you happen to have anything for a sore throat?” He rasped. She smiled at him.

“Yes sir, I do.” She replied. Darting across the pharmacy she had helped to get him losenges and a pain reliever. “Take one each thrice a day.”

“I will…. What is your name?”

“Kendara, sir.”

“So, are you ‘always rejoicing’? He asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“I do my best.” She has responded, wondering where the exchange was going.

“Good. Then you must be at my birthday party next saturday. Here, this is my card. Write your phone number on my receipt so I can send you a formal IV,” he said.

“Oh no sir. I couldn’t.” She gushed, painfully aware that her supervisor was glaring at her.

“I insist.”

She scribbled something on the receipt as fast as she could. He won’t even remember this she thought. What were old men turning into these days.

“Thank you,” he whispered as he breezed out with two mobile police men behind him.

She had forgotten all about it when a young man walked up to her three days later.

“Are you Kendara?” He asked.

“Yes, I am, how may I help you?” She replied.

“I am Etiebet. My father sent me. Chief Essien. We couldn’t decipher what you wrote. I came to get your number and to give you an invitation to his birthday.”

“Oh. I couldn’t … ” She didn’t know what to say.

” You must.” Etiebet said. “Here’s your IV. Now say your telephone number slowly so I can dial it and be sure it is real.”

She gave him the number. He picked her up for the party. He liked her and wanted to marry her. Things were happening too fast. Eight months they were married. It was a good marriage. Etiebet was all the things she had ever hoped for in a husband. They disgreed sometimes and rubbed each other the wrong way. But it was always brief. And making-up was a passionate renewal of love. Everyday she thanked God for her marriage, her man. Now, that thankfulness was on trial.

Pa Essien seemed oblivious of this as he sat back and folded his arms behind his head.

“I am an old man. 75, most of my mates have gone. Etiebet is my favourite son. My Benjamin. Son of my delight. I wish you would reconsider your ‘trendy’ decision to have two children but I can see your minds are made up.” He smiled and took a sip of wine. “How rude of me, what would you like to drink? Juice, tea, wine or water?”

“I am fine Papa.” Kendara said. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Was the man senile? Who asked his daughter-in-law to go wife hunting for his son? Irritation grated on her nerves like sandpaper on glass. This wasn’t what she had in mind when she drove the twenty odd kilometres to this place. Coming here was a mistake.

She could hear he mother’s voice in her head. “Be careful with your in-laws.” She had said, “they might laugh and smile but no one knows the heart. Remember, you are not form their tribe. Ibibio men don’t treat Annang wives the way Annang men treat their women. Laugh and smile but be careful.”

At the beginning she had been careful. She had avoided visiting her father-in-law and stayed silent gazing at her toes when he visited. Pa Essien would have none of that. He doted on her openly: sending the driver over with the largest , juciest fruits in season, planting herbs around her house by himself, climbing a coconut tree to get her coconut water when she couldn’t keep food down in her first pregnancy. She found herself responding to his affection. Now many people thought he was her father, not Etiebet’s. He called her Akemi. My own. The daughter he never had. Now, this…

“Very funny,” Pa Essien said as he walked over to the mini bar and fetched a bottle of wine from the fridge. At zero percent alcohol, it was grape juice, but everyone called it wine. He got a glass from the rack and came back to sit opposite her.

“I can’t watch my progeny dwindle. If you and Etiebet won’t have anymore children then at least I should have grandchildren from my other sons. I want you to find a wife for Ime.”

Kendara dropped her glass and some of the wine sloshed on the table.

“Ime? Papa tell me you are kidding.”
She said.

“No .” Pa Essien said. “I am dead serious.”

“Ime? The same one that hasn’t been able to keep a job? The one that sold off your Benz? ” Kendara asked her eyes wide with disbelief.

“I am sorry Papa. I can’t do that.” Kendara said. With that she got up and said. “I have to go now. The kids are through with their class.”

“Wait. Hear me out.” Pa Essien replied. “I am going to make it worth your while.”

To be continued.

Cupid’s Assistant I

She drove to her father-in-law’s house deep in thought. Why had he sent for her? Her heart-shaped, beniseed brown face twisted into a scowl. Ugly thoughts assailed her from every direction. Did he want another grandchild? Had she done something wrong? Had his blood pressure soared again?

She eased the sturdy Toyota RAV4 SUV past the gate with a perfunctory nod at Sebastian the gate-man. If her father-in-law, Chief Essien, wanted another grandchild, then he would have to adopt. There was no way she was ever getting pregnant again. Not after the near death experience she had the last time. The memory brought a sad smile to her face. The agony of developing every ailment in the book: hyper emesis, bloating, insomnia and finally gestational diabetes. Through it all she had prayed desperately for a girl; a replica of herself to dress up, make up and confide in. She refused to ask the baby’s sex at ultrasound visits. She was having a baby girl and that was it. Instead she had Duke, another son.

The moments she saw the boy, she felt resentment flip up her chest and chill her heart. Why? Why did she have another boy? Who would wear all the dresses and ribbons she had bought for her daughter? Over the next few days, the feelings of resentment receded. Duke was such a beautiful child. It was as though he knew that he hadn’t been wanted and made up for it by being so cute and well-mannered.

Before marrying, they agreed to have two kids. Her husband, Etiebet, had been particularly sad when he heard they’d had another son. Coming from a family of four boys, he wanted more than anything to have a girl. Sometimes she still saw a faraway look in his eyes when they talked about people having large families they couldn’t care for. He still wanted a baby girl and so did she, but another pregnancy was out of the question. Adoption in Nigeria was such a travesty. Everyday, there were stories in the papers– Baby Factory Busted, Private Clinic Caught In Baby Selling Scam, Teenager Sell Baby For Iphone. The legal government owned facilities were corrupt and inefficient. Thinking of the adoption quagmire gave her shivers.

She got out of the car and Joy, Pa Essien’s cook ran over to embrace her. It was hard to tell how old Joy was but Kendara guessed she was in her mid forties. She felt embarrassed to have an older woman treat her this way. She liked the way a friend put it: in Nigeria, behind every successful young lady there are women older than her calling her aunty. There was no use, best to play along.

“Aunty Welcome!” she said curtseying and smiling.

“Thank you, Joy. Is Papa in? Is he well?” Kendara asked, searching Joy’s face for clues.

“He is fine, Aunty. He said you should meet him at the backyard, by the fish pond.” Joy answered still looking very pleased.

“Thanks, dear. Here, have this for a little treat. I was in such a hurry. I didn’t remember to get you any bread or meat pie.” Kendara said

“Oh, Aunty, God bless you! You are too kind! ” With that she curtseyed again took the money and disappeared into the house.

Kendara strode to the backyard still trying to guess why she was summoned. She passed the main building, a large cream duplex that spoke of old wealth and good taste. Behind the house was a large garden, a playground and a fish farm.

Chief Essien was a retired civil servant and one time commissioner of Agriculture. He had reinvested the money he made while in office and was quite wealthy. He was a widower. His wife had passed on before Kendara and Etiebet were married five years ago. Now he spent his time overseeing his vast farms, resting at home and travelling to the village to settle petty disputes. Anyone could see that he loved nature. His spacious grounds were a buzz of flora and fauna. To her right lay large mango trees spotting swings from their lower branches. Ahead there was a large lawn; it’s grass so well cut it was like a giant green carpet. Flower bushes punctuated the lawn giving it an air of intrigue. During parties, anyone who went policing was bound to catch a young couple or two in various states of misdemeanour.

Chief Essien’s favourite part of the grounds were the fish ponds. They were dug in the ground designed to look as natural as possible. Pa Essien was beside one of the ponds, his ubiquitous glass of red wine in hand. He looked up when he heard her coming and smiled.

“Papa, good afternoon.” Kendara said as she gave him a loose embrace.

He held her to himself. Then let go to study her with obvious interest. “You look lovelier than the last time. How are my grandkids? I hope Etiebet isn’t giving you any trouble. Has he changed that old Rav4 of yours yet?”

Kendara laughed. “Oh Papa! It is a good car. Maybe next year. You know he has his hands full with the company. He is still awaiting payment on the consulting jobs he did for government last month. Also his oil servicing firm is just taking off so we need to stay as liquid as possible.” She kept her voice as gentle as possible, Chief Essien didn’t like being opposed.

Chief made a face. “Nonsense! That’s your husband’s problem. He is always planning and plotting and arranging. Life is to be lived! Anyway enough about him. How are you?”

” I am fine. We are all fine. I would have brought the boys but they had music lessons. Etiebet travelled to Port Harcourt yesterday.”

“Well, come then, let’s find some where to sit.” He led her to a large bamboo hut near the ponds. It was an Efe. Every chief had one. It was a hall outside his home where he received strangers and held meetings.
Chief had improved on the older functional design adding a minibar by the side, tables and fold-able seats, and an over head television. Clearly, he was a man that liked the finer things of life.

They sat down and he dropped his glass. Without preamble he looked up and said

“I want you to find a wife for my son.”