The Day He Showed Up

Nikki2

Nikki ran a few paces after the bus, “Ole! Thief!” She looked for something to throw, and found nothing. “Thunder faya you dia. Oloshi!”

The bus conductor had just hopped on the bus and told the driver to drive away, with her ten Naira change. Mud spewed from the tires of the fleeing bus and Nikki reflexively raised a hand. She was just in time to save her face from the mud, but her dress wasn’t so lucky. The blue and black woolwork – one of the only two dresses presentable enough for her to wear on jobhunts – was now artlessly crisscrossed by slimy brown mud.

Nicki sucked her teeth. “Wicked people,” she exploded, “e no go beta for una. God punish you!” Ignoring the placating pleas of bystanders, she continued screaming even after the bus had long gone. In addition to the ruined dress, she mourned greatly the ten Naira change she just lost.

It was her last hope, that ten Naira; she was going to use it for digestive biscuit. Four small circles of sweetened wheat that would be her last meal before death or a miracle, whichever came first. She sighed repeatedly, shaking her head as she walked to her face-me-I-face-you room. It was a tiny space that held her belongings – a Ghana-must-go bag of clothes and oddities, a mat, and a lantern. It struck her as funny that even that tiny space would soon be lost; she hadn’t paid her rent in six months, and Baba Jide would soon surely throw her out. She recently scanned bridges and shop-areas more attentively, because one of them might be her sleeping-place sooner than later.

“Sister Nikki, welcome oh,” Mama Aina greeted. Nikki swallowed as she passed by the elderly woman’s table of wares – where she would have bought her digestive-biscuit last supper. For the past couple of weeks, she ate those four circles daily to help ward off hunger and get through another 24 hours. It was like Mama Aina greeted to remind her to buy the biscuits.

Nikki thought about ignoring her, but then words rushed out of her mouth without her consent. “Mama Aina, good evening. How market?”

“Fine oh, sister Nikki,” she pronounced her name like it should have been on a biscuit wrapper, Nikki biscuits. “No biscuit today?”

Nikki smiled, “Not today jare, I don chop belle full for office.” And she walked off, effectively shutting down further conversation. She knew her lie was obvious, but she didn’t care what Mama Aina thought. She felt bad enough as it was; not because she had lied about eating, but because her ten Naira would have helped Mama Aina feed her six children. The thought was crazy – like TEN Naira, seriously? But Nikki believed it. She really wished she had the money.

She walked on, negotiating the puddles and make-shift bridges with an ease born of familiarity. Her sandals weighed more and more with every step she took, lifting them became harder. All this poto-poto everywhere; no be say person get food for belle to do this kind hard work.

She continued along, doing her best to rid her feet of fast-caking mud and grumbling for all she was worth. To her right, a Christian fellowship was singing and dancing. A wry smile curved Nikki’s lower lip. Where did they even get the strength?! Everywhere she looked, the stink of poverty ruled supreme; here, people suffered for a living.

Nikki was one of those who believed in God, but a lot of times, she wasn’t sure. She hoped He existed, but it did not make sense that He let people suffer. It was better for her to assume He didn’t exist; then and only then did suffering make sense. But somehow, against her better reason, Nikki just believed.

She continued walking, her pace slower, praying for her room to get closer. The sting in her stomach intensified and she tried to suppress the thought of not having anything to eat anywhere. A thought crossed her mind, and the Ludacris of it made her smile. If to say you dey hear person like me nau, she directed at the skies, I for beg you fried rice and chicken with chilled Malt.

Immediately, she burst out laughing, a weak sound that echoed off the inner walls of her empty stomach. As quickly as it started, it died away. If only He was beside her listening, she mused and shook her head.

“Nikki, you don come?”

Nikki hissed. “I dey your front, you still dey ask if I don come. Kunle, abeg  I no get strength”. And she made to brush by him, but her ever-jovial next-door neighbor only laughed and moved to block her path.

“Nikki-lo-lo, Nikki-fire-for-fire,” he teased. “You know say only you ehn, na Anti-bomb squad!”

“Kunle,” Nikki was nearly in tears, feet hurting, head banging, tummy wailing, “what do you want, please?”

“Nikki, wait first jare make I knack you gist. For office today ehn, come see owambe. Babe, I chop scarra come carry take-away commot sef. But as I reach house na im my spirit just dey tell me ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’”. His rumbling laughter punctuated his theatrics, as he extended a bag to her. Nikki stood rooted to a spot, she was too dumbfounded to either be vexed or amused. Was this a joke?

She thought to lie at first, to just blurt out something along the lines of “oh thank you, I’m not hungry” or the Mama Aina line – “I don chop belle full for office.” But she couldn’t do it. She was hungry.

Her hands moved of their own accord. The warm feel of the nylon bag jerked her body back into consciousness – it was for real, FOOD. Tears sprang to her eyes and the ‘thank you’ she tried to say came out sounding like the final noise Kunle’s I-pass-my-neighbor generator made every night before all went quiet. The man himself, surprised at her reaction, immediately withdrew into his room. “Good night oh!” he yelled from behind his firmly shut door.

Nikki’s hands trembled as she fit the key into the door. Inside, she sat on the floor and opened the nylon bag. There was a plastic plate with yellow fried rice and a large golden-brown hunk of chicken. Something still weighed the bag down even after she had taken out the plate; Nikky dipped her hand and took it out – a pretty bottle of malt lay calmly sweating in her hands.

Nikky cried. He was beside me, listening.

By Winifred Adebayo

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You steal a glance over your right shoulder at the door. It stays shut. You turn back to your laptop.

.xnx …

Your right pointer hovers over the next key. Your breathing slows almost to a stop; while your heart drums itself silly, you feel moistness form on your forehead. You fight it, with all the might you can muster. But it happens again: the thumps in your chest go up a notch per passing second; you are sure that in another minute, your heart will be lying on the bed beside you, wet, red and raw.

You know what will happen next if you let it, the visions will follow. So you do the only thing you know will take the pain away. You strike ‘Delete’.

And just like that, you are calm again.

***

The first time it happened was the week after that Saturday afternoon when you, Ebele and Kunle from next door lay huddled in front of your laptop. The three of you lay flat on the bed, elbows propping up your chins, as the unfolding scenes of nudity reflected flashes of colour on your enraptured faces. You called it a ‘porn stroll’, PS for short, and it was your ‘guy’ thing. Each of you was thoroughly engrossed, so you did not hear her come in.

“Chai!”

You jumped. Three arms stretched for the screen but in the jumble of limbs, a knobby elbow shot up the volume. For a split second, noone moved, as moans and shrieks of ‘do it, baby … do it harder!’ filled the small room. Ebele – or was it you – was the first to recover and slam the lid shut.

There were whispers in the estate that PQ knew what everybody was up to, especially the dark hidden things. Nobody ever figured out how come, nobody tried. Later when it occurred to you to wonder how she had gone past the gateman, dogs and into your room way in the back on the first floor – wasn’t the door locked? – you would be even more disturbed.

At the time however, the three of you stood in a short line before the intruder. You felt her eyes switch between the top of your bent head, and the bulge in your crotch you tried so hard to hide.

Tueh!” you flinched at the disgust laden in the gesture. “Children are dying of hunger in Chibok,” she said, “and you are here wasting precious MB!”

***

Frustrated, you slam your laptop screen shut. PQ has cursed you, you just know it.

Or how else would you explain the fact that since that encounter, the moment you so much as contemplated a porn-stroll, you got a panic attack followed by visions of hungry-looking children lined up with rusty bowls before a laptop screen.

And on the laptop screen, it always said,

“MB unloading

75%…”

“If internet data were food, a lot more people would starve … eat your MB today!”

Chisom

The Lectern: Africa is a continent, not a country

For us in Nigeria, this past month of May was very eventful – mosquitoes; fuel scarcity of such potency that saw prices triple, shops and services shut down; scant electricity; then NO electricity for days on end; more mosquitoes; and but all turned over by the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Riding with the optimism that we cannot help but feel in this new dispensation, Thia takes to ‘The Lectern’ with a message of identity, of pride and ultimately, of hope. She admits that this is no new subject for discourse, but she also insists that we must not tire of preaching it until we first, then the entire world, learns it.

And so, we welcome the month of June.

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


AFRICA IS A CONTINENT, NOT A COUNTRY

Africa is a continent

This topic is not a peculiar one.

The first time I heard of it was on a TEDTalks video of the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie titled “The Danger of a Single Story” where she jokingly recounted how a Virgin flight she was on mentioned their charity works “in India, Africa and other countries.”

The second time I heard of it was also on a TEDTalks video of another Nigerian, Cobhams Asuquo titled “The Gift of Blindness.”  He also mentioned again rather jokingly that an announcement on a flight he was on mentioned the charitable works the British airways was doing in the UK, Africa and other countries.

Until recently I saw this as inconsequential or rather just unnecessary. I am a fan of great music and one of the songs that I doubt will ever leave my playlist is “We are the World”, both the original and the remix for Haiti. I am sure I have listened to both of them over a hundred times.  Weirdly until recently I never really listened to the lyrics; I merely enjoyed the melody and the rare freshness of many celebrities coming together in one song.

So today I listened. Towards the end of this very awesome song I discovered something I am sure I will never forget:

“…remember Katrina, Africa, Indonesia

and now Haiti needs us…”

It shocked me. Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States of America. The earthquake in Haiti was another really horrible natural disaster. And at about that time in Indonesia, multiple earthquakes and a tsunami at the Mentawai Islands including volcanic eruptions at Mount MerapiI had shaken the Asian country. Seeing as it was a string of natural disasters that hit the above mentioned countries, I began to wonder what natural disaster has hit the whole of Africa.

In all my instances above, Africa was put on a list of countries. In the last one in particular, it was put on a list of geographical areas smaller than many countries. The whole of Africa is not sick. Africa is a continent not a country thus it deserves recognition as such. People make it seem like Africa is a country with South Africa as its capital because in pictures of Africa in most books and magazines, the Safari of South Africa is what is captured as Africa.

Komla Dumor in another TEDx talk stated rather brilliantly that we tell both sides of the story. Yes! Africa is rich naturally. Yes! Africa is still developing. No! We are a continent, a conglomeration of various countries spread across a wide geographical location with various value systems, cultures and languages interwoven rather very beautifully. The moment we start to appreciate this I think it will put things in greater perspective for those doing “charitable works in India, Africa and other countries.” Maybe then Nigeria as a country will become a beneficiary of their benevolence as well as Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Somalia and other AFRICAN COUNTRIES.

This seems confusing at this point and I am asking myself what the whole point of writing this is. Maybe my point is just that this message be passed along so that it is not said anywhere that xenophobia occurs in Africa. Nigeria is not xenophobic and I am sure Benin republic isn’t also, neither are many other African countries.

Africa is way too big to be disrespected so often. Even smaller continents get more respect.

Africa is a continent not a country

Proudly African! Proudly Nigerian! Proudly Igbo!

P.S: This is my identity not just a chant. I should be identifiable by my specific origin not just a random over-generalization. I feel we all should.

by Thia Mbajunwa

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Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa is a Christian Igbo Nigerian African female. She loves, as wholly as possible, and looks to make a difference no matter how little. She is sarcastic and shy, a bold feminist currently studying to become a lawyer.

Don’t forget to share with your friends and enemies; also take a minute to tell us in the Comments what you’re thinking about this one. If you have written something which you would like our readers to enjoy from ‘The Lectern’, attach and send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter, still reach out and we can work up something appropriate for you. It does not have to be right or left, right or wrong…only your opinion.

Chisom