THE MEMORIES WE LOST…the genocide in Nigeria


In our village, the news flashed in snippets with the usual identity of a truthful lie. It breezed through our nonchalant ears like a hasty wind. The story jumbled from one narrator to the other and soon, wore a regalia that matched the inner perspective of each narrator. It was a long tale of a ruthless animal. It had a thirsty urge for not leaving any carcass behind. It fed virtually on everything. Its bloodthirsty spree had no match. It is easier to say nothing satisfied it. It was difficult to tell the height of its ruthlessness because only the younger generation spoke of it. You would think their young imaginations presented clearer pictures of the horrors of this beast. The old folks in the village only sighed. The sigh usually left you puzzled as though a rhetorical question had shown you a mild countenance of this beast. You could see in their reluctance to talk, the very irritation that shaded their memories. It seemed like a lost cause telling of this impending doom. You could almost think they are scared of this beast. But truly, they only betrayed our naive and curious imaginations. It was such that you couldn’t see beyond the scrambled details your little box of memory carried. Only, the horror caused you to wonder.
The news soon faded into rumours. It hardly sounded more than whispers when spoken of. Some simply joked about it while others carried the distilled suspense about their daily lives. It came to pass when on a certain night, my bosom friend, Aklo, scared the ghost out of me. It was on a night mama sent me to get some malaria drugs from Banda. I walked briskly under a clutter of breezing mango trees. The heavy December winds made the trees restless. It was as though they were roaring. They simply were, as it was difficult for my terrified nerves to think otherwise. Rotten mango fruits also conspired against me. They kept dropping from all angles. It was then that the image of this terrific beast became more real than ever. It made me shiver at punctuated intervals. My eyes wouldn’t stop flickering around to catch any prey in the darkness. As though a divine eyes watched me ridiculed in my sympathetic state, the trees gradually calmed down momentarily. I could see the end of the trees open into the mild rays of the moonlight. My fears grew lighter as my legs became almost steady in their steps.
My boldness was itself consumed and short-lived. As I walked past the passage which formed a gate out of the dark trees, Aklo simply killed me. He dashed out of the bush like an unchained mad dog, idiot! I hardly had the chance to analyse the form of danger. It was all about saving the last piece of life left in me. Amazingly, my legs were steadier in their speed through the opposite direction. I ran through the dry grassy plains, finding the least passage to safety possible. Every part of my body sought to save my dying breath. While my panting breath parted my widening mouth, my voice called out to my aged mother back at home: “Mama Yo…Mama yo!”. My hands only responded to the orders of my legs. I had not run more than a distance of about a hundred metres before Baba Akandi called out to Aklo . “Aklo! Aklo!, you little rascal, where is the pack of cigarettes I sent you to buy?” It was then I stopped abruptly; paralysed in disappointment. Breathing heavily, I could not do more than stare at him on a bended back with my hands glued to my knees. I was mad to fury but had no strength to chase him. The mockery from his laughter forced me to laugh too as I forced my weight on our corrugated metal door. “Why are you panting like a dog?” mama queried but I had no strength to answer. I simply passed her the drugs I got for Tamen, my youngest brother. “Dr. Kyobok said he has not received new deliveries of malaria drugs, all he had was paracetamol… he said this would calm her temperature for the night”.
It wasn’t long after I finished eating that I began to feel the weight of my adventure with Aklo come hard on me. Every part of my body was weak. My eyes blurred and threatened to sleep on their own. I bade mama goodnight as she lay beside Tamen’s feverish body.
“Don’t let the cock wake you up, there’s a lot to do on the farm tomorrow.” “But mama, Aklo and I have agreed to work on their farm tomorrow and then in turn, work on ours on Wednesday.” I opposed, springing my head half way up, leaving my chest glued to the mat.
“You only play when you are with that friend of yours, I need you on our farm tomorrow, and you know the cows will soon start grazing on that path soon.” “Yes ma’. I couldn’t argue more.
I tried to dim my senses to sleep and almost felt like I was dreaming for a while. Only, the growing roar felt too real for a dream in a sleep so short. And so I opened my eyes, for the terror in my mind became too dark for me to sleep in. My late father taught me to wake up from whatever nightmare I saw in my sleep. His words were clear: “you always have at your discretion, the liberty to suffer a terrifying nightmare for the pleasure sleeping brings, or awake from it and hope to find sleep again. And so I escaped the creeping nightmare by forcing my eyes wide open.
But the terrifying sounds from wailing people in the village grew louder. Each second that ticked by, forced a higher pitch on their voices. It was as though all their mouths were collected in a trumpet aimed at our house. Mama wrapped her arms around us in our single bedroom. Beyond our living room, the warmth of her embrace was our final bunker and fortress. Under her panting breath we all prayed in shivering voices. The trembling whispers from everyone came clashing at each other. God would have to be God to understand what we prayed for.
Like a steady ship on a turbulent water, mama only sobbed with her arms wrapped firmly around us. With her face gazing up to heaven, her tears cascaded downwards. They were too heavy to travel the distance, so that, they only lined down her cheeks helplessly. I felt their warmth as they trickled on my neck consistently.
Trapped in the cloak of our consuming fear, we waited more for the worst, than for any answers to the prayers we had said. It isn’t the nature of man to seek genuinely for God’s benevolence in times of adversity; he only fears more for the pain and misery, than he glorifies the power of God to save. Suddenly, Mama’s arms griped tightly as if to suffocate us in love. The loud bang on our neighbour’s door pricked her into a shock. I saw for the first time that she is human after all; just the lioness that never wails. The loud wailing in the village was now reduced into our neighbour’s house. Like a ravaging tornado, it had swept everything in its path.
There was nothing left for even the dogs to bark with. The mother screamed first and mysteriously vanished. The same fashion followed of her three sons, until the crying of a baby became the only human voice in the village. Even that too, found no soft tissue of sympathy in the heart of this beast.
Back in our home, the roof above still covered nonchalantly. The ground beneath our feet was firm, in fact, the earth watched it all in silence; the earth simply watched us die. I imagined what they say about how night does not cover the earth in a single moment. I saw in the blurriness of my teary eyes, the possibility that other people around the world basked under the rays of a rising sun, while we languished in a horrifying night. It was easy to see that the sun forsook the part of the earth where we inhabited. The darkness was too long to remember whether or not, any rays of light parted one night from the other. While other children around the world simply woke up on each day to live, ours was one long night, punctuated by servitude, savagery, betrayal and wickedness. For it was difficult for my young mind to understand, how man killed more people than God’s appointed time ever guaranteed. Yes, in the hands of cruel men was the timing of innocent men, women and children; with it they gruesomely decided who lived and died. They threw their lots upon us whether we watched or not.
Our house, the bed and every property in it were calm except for us. Life and humanity fell before my very eyes. It was such that I could easily negotiate for the role of a non-living thing, for even my breath; the only symbol of life I had left, became such a burden of pain and terror to bear.

ALPHA E. Y. ©2020
(In memory of all those who died untimely, for the simple crime of being Nigerians)

THE FALL

“I need to work on myself Oziemi,” Taffy pierced his heart with a sugar-coated arrow. “I am not sure I want this anymore; see Oziemi, you are such a nice person every woman would want to go to the end of the world with, but,.. but,” she stammered. On the other end of the phone, Oziemi grew impatient on the next words she would say. The next three seconds of silence that ensued were long. His heart pounded heavily, it was at the finish line of a disappointing race. He raised his head to the wall up ahead. Markings of red x symbols blurred on a wide paper. It was like a calendar battered by a barren woman expecting a baby. He gazed steadily to identify where to mark out her name. On the paper was the list of women he never found the joy of a happily ever after with. While he was eager to mark out some, there were others he left unmarked for weeks. When he finally found the courage to let go, he crossed it with the heart of a man who hoped to find in the ashes, what he had lost in the fire.   

Oziemi walked grudgingly to the wall. With the phone glued to his ear, his right hand threatened mutiny. And then came the brief beep from the phone. It became apparent that he had slipped back to where he started. The only supporting poles on this slippery path would be the courage to hold on. He gave it all up, until a certain day when his phone’s vibration sent it falling from the table.  

      The fall: it came at the ninth time his Uncle had called in the same day. Oziemi wore a boldness of disrespect when the phone rang ceaselessly. Being a rooted African, such an attitude is just a face off, you don’t really wear it from deep within. His arrogance died down to a solemn sigh. His feelings, entangled, pushed his attention to the quivering phone. He felt great respect and sympathy for his uncle. On the other hand, his heart swelled to firmness for whatever choice they’ve made for him back at home. “She is a wife material,” the voice at the other end rushed without courtesy for pleasantries. “Oziemi, she is gentle and very respectful,” the voice added. Seeing the futility in any refutation, he rushed out a trembling acceptance on the account of his uncle’s testimony.  

Oziemi was closing in on his mid-thirties. A dark fellow, strongly built on every tendon; he was the yearning of every woman. At that age, he had his life cladded with what you would call a fulfilled man. He paid his tithes and had a good rapport with the catchiest. He earned his money legitimately and cooked his meals. As a half-baked seminarian, his grandeur and knowledge always left his feet some inches above the ground. “I have it all Dielo,” he would brag to his friend, who cared to listen about his contentment in life.  

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Quite disturbing for his people back home was that, at that age, Ozieme was not in the league for any matrimony. He had sworn not to soil his life into the mire called marriage; so much stickiness to deal with, he always thought. Chastity was not the thing; of course he lost that courage when he absconded from the seminary. From his youthful exuberance, Oziemi only developed a kind of admiration for ladies that would last around the beauty. He never felt any more passion. For most of them, nothing ever proved otherwise to him. The falsity in the beauty is to say the least. They all had a disposition for ambivalence. One minute they want castles in the air and the next, they want it built on the sinking waters. They never lasted long to build anything. This was a cowardice that irritated him the most. 

The courage he gathered to accept his uncle’s recommendation was concretely choked by his will to understand every situation. Not in meekness but a practical application of his knowledge and experience of life. He will certainly be an understanding father and husband. After all, understanding widens the tiniest passage into the hallway of happy marriages. So he thought.  

Three thoughtful days passed and the water round his feet was swelling. He was like Jack, trapped to some metal bar in a sinking Titanic. The biggest challenge as one would have thought could have been choosing from an array of western oriented ladies in New York. But here, he is stricken by the mystery of being with a woman from his village. 

He opened his eyes halfway to the mild light that was becoming obvious of a new day. He glared continually at the ceiling with the thought on his mind. It pulled its heavy weight on him, so that, he could not find the strength to get off the bed. Until his uncle called, Oziemi had no blueprint with which to map out the successes of any marriage beguiled to his heart. The challenge now dares at him in the face. “I will do it” he muttered. “No! I won’t, if she is replicated by western thoughts. “Yes I will tell uncle to his face that I cannot cope with falsity all through my life. God, she better be a real woman,” he hoped. 

Oziemi arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe international Airport at 7:00am- just early enough to meet the city in her sleep. As the plane descended in its bowing majesty, he could see the perfectly-designed city of Abuja, painted still, like it appeared on its initial sketch pad. The roads, each perfectly lined to their junctions did not show any sign of life on them. Just flashes of red, yellow and green lights to show the traffic lights still worked. The nation’s capital still slumbered. However, the airport, as you would imagine, was in full expectations of her passengers arriving. As he observed, he also thought about the hectiness of the journey he will undertake from Abuja to Kogi State and further to Okene, where his ancestral abode laid flat its vastness on the west of the Niger River. 

The rites were all performed rather smoothly than Oziemi had expected. The blind fold fell off by the light of a new day. His biting expectations, somehow yawned to an accommodating sense of the whole awkwardness. As he hoped for the best, he still recalled flashes of his uncle’s call, a conversation that would redesign his life. Whether it works for better or worse, he has on his palm, the narrative of his follies with vanity. He has seen it all, the end of beauty; it is arbitrary.

   Alpha E. Y. 

DIALOGUE at the GRAVE

Terungwa, his little brother cries out to him from behind. The helplessness from his younger brother’s voice pushes his face to the distant skies, as though some answers awaited him. Mocked by the vastness of the empty space above, Sesugh bows his dolorous shame to the dampness of his shirt. The shirt will soak every agony from his heart, for as long as his eyes can pour. “I’ll wipe my tears with my left hand and hold you tight with my right,” he said with a broken voice. He stammers more words, not quite clear this time, just in symphony with his brother’s wailing. “don..t wo, wo… rry”, he forces out the words but Terungwa cuts him short, “Baba yeee, Mama yeee” he wails, wagging his mouth wide to divert the cascades of tears from his cheeks, lining down his little jaw.

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Sesugh holds his brother tight as they force their way through the mammoth of crowd that gathered round the grave. He needs to make it to the frontline, in order to identify the remains of his parents to his younger brother. He owes his little brother the allegiance of reconnecting him with their parents, though lifeless. It could be a family reunion of some sort. He cannot tell if they will hear him or not, but his sweat, mixed with tears will ascend to heaven. When it drops on the earth, a seed will surely germinate. For such are the significance of children.
The news of the attack had flared like wild fire in the village. With no such civilization as a morgue anywhere within miles from the village, the burial had to be done to rid the village of unpleasant odour and gory memories of the deceased. It is easy to observe that it isn’t just solidarity for the bereaved that has pulled out this much crowd, but everyone who is affected has at his disposal, the last pass to see their beloved. Such is the mission of little Terungwa and his elder brother, Sesugh.
He manages to jostle through the crowd but could not progress in his quest. The pile of corpses appeared too numerous for his teary eyes to seek through. The dark and thick blood clothed over each dismembered body part created more blurriness to his sight. As if to understand his predicament, little Terungwa forces out curiosity from Sesugh’s back, pushing high his neck to see which he can identify for himself. He gazes confusedly at the lifeless bodies but found no traces of his parents. They are all scrambled to be formed into any human identity; the only depiction of such reality for Terungwa and Sesugh would have been at the abattoir where animals are butchered without regards.

Alpha E. Y. 2018 ©

Vuli Ndlela

                Life never chooses when to start nor stop. It goes on and halts just when no one is watching. It tells you there is a solid ground beneath your feet and the next minute, you are sinking in your own carelessness. A faint instinct tells you to beat your chest with a braggadocio of ‘no regrets!’ but somehow, your hand freezes in the air. It sees through your ribs, the weight of the shame you inherited, growing at the expense of your dying breath.

             I see it clearly in the darkness, as it strangles his neck into dark scattered wrinkles. He is breathing heavily but not so fast. I hear the heavy tick of each second parting his next breath. Each pause, comes with a sniffing silence that closes the distance between him and breathlessness. Staring at him now, gradually being stolen by the distance to eternity, no nostalgia of his agile days could beckon out to him, make him turn to the widening distance between us and look at me. If it were possible to have him turn, I am sure tears of regret would line down every trace of his wrinkled face, consumed by an endless queue of choices he would have made otherwise.

            The cocks are crowing already and he has been lying down in front of me since the chimes on the clock jingled 12 A.M. Faced up, his legs spread apart on the dusty mat almost loosed to shreds. The horizontal lines appear slacked from their fittings. Only the vertical lines stretched, so that, the mat’s length is still noticed.

             He raises his head slowly to see my dark image buried in the night. ‘You don’t have to say it out, it is all over now.’ I broke out courageously and nodding my head in conformity, all in a bid to man up a little hope in him. He must not know my tears betray me too. Fruitless as this proved, my heavy sniveling punctuated the silence that filled the dark room. ‘Dear Lord! Vuli Ndlela,’ let him rest, I whispered, splashing out little drops of tears that now lingered on my lips.

 

Alpha E. Y. 2018

Recycled Life

Tabwal stands staring at the big yellow sun, splash into the western clouds. Whatever ran through his mind, one could tell from the solemn looks on his face that, conscious satisfaction breaths far from him. He is empty of any manliness. The sober fall of the sun which greets the evenings of Wamba, forges newer generations of tragic heroes. The early appearance of the moon is an ordeal to many survivors. Perplexing is the unfair treatment it inflicts on many like Tabwal, in a town, not big enough to contain the dreams they could work all day to have come true. This pricks one with a thirsty enthusiasm to seek and unveil the cockroach nature has in its cupboard, for having the same people of like fate exist in Wamba. A life you can call a recycled one. Nothing went straight developmentally. In fact, the few iron-shit roofs sitting flamboyantly at Ago Hills are canopies of a shy mirage. Not a proud story to be told nor a beauty to behold. For the few houses that succeed in crowning their mud bricks, corrugated shits, have in them the usual bamboo and raffia, resting on each other, so that, a moderate level is formed for a bed.

Tabwal waves Akumu goodnight and sets upon his usual lonely road. He staggers lackadaisically, dragging his loaded financial trauma along the grassy plains which leads to his home. This added load of misery is heaped upon him by the deflated tyre of his wheelbarrow; a factor that consistently denies him a full-day work. It goes flat any time he sets for the biggest deal of the day. He has to do something about it, if he will one day, stand the rating of the male gender. Yes, he has to fix it, else, he would not get to the People’s Republic today. The People’s Republic is a popular eatery which has grown to be the comfort zone of Tabwal and his contemporaries. They yearn for the satisfaction of the food, and dream of the varieties of locally brewed drinks it offers. Factor, they consider in maintaining their culture. In fact, they equality and reverence of voice it liberates to them replaces the dead people they are.
Pulling a sharp stop, Tabwal turns the wheelbarrow to the ground so that the handle is facing where he headed. The pan lies flat to the ground and pointing the devil-born tyre to the skies. He unties the screw between the shaft and the wheel but could not get a good hold of it hence, he bends his right knee to the ground so that his left leg is some inch before it. Frustrated by the trickles of salty sweat from his face now streaming down to his mouth, Tabwal pauses to wipe them off. He wipes his face severally with his wrist, hissing out all forms of lamentation; his usual saying: “we won our freedom but lost our people… even more, we’ve bread leaders ordained on alters coated by our bloods.” This further leaves him wondering if being a well-fed slave is a more honorable dignity than being a hungry free man. A question he would ask God if he makes it to Heaven.
Tabwal has his locomotive back on its wheel again just in time to catch the moon on the brink of chewing the last remains of sunlight for that day. Pushing through a light bush swaying dancingly by the gentle air breezing, Tabwal makes it to the People’s Republic to meet Birabi, Audu and Aklo all seated and munching what their toiling for that day could fetch. “All hail the Republicans” Tabwal salutes from the corrugated zinc-coated entrance. Without hesitation, he grabs a seat and calls out to Pam, the waiter. “Four parks of noodles, one boiled fish and three fried eggs.” He ordered without mincing words.
“I tell you, that greed-filled pot belly is our major barricade to success.” Aklo crunched out the words with particles of biscuit from his mouth. “I dare you to break it open and you will see that, it is that gluttony that has reaped us of our destinies.” He added. Pam chuckles while pickling Tabwal’s eggs. “You fat lab rat, keep laughing like that and all you will end up with from this falling shop of yours is a rusty, yet guarded relic. Your son will hand it over to his son with no electricity in it.” Birabi, haven listened to a perfect introduction to his seminal essay continues from where Aklo stopped. “We’ve got all the fortune to change us from ordinary wheelbarrow pushers into bus drivers or perhaps, attendants to some government busses.” He hisses out loudly and waving his right hand in the air, as if to signal a crowd out of his sight. “I hear there are a lot of them parked in Maitama. They were bought to convey the civil servants who now own cars. Who would drive in them anyway?” He concludes, with his eyes now gazing at Tabwal. “I tell you faithful republicans that, this is the reason to why the margin between us and freedom is like from the solid earth to the fairy skies. Who the hell named the word “democracy” into existence? God is the only government I know.” “Birabi, you sound as if God is a place we can go to after tonight, because I don’t want to see the face of tomorrow. We are all pathetic to think a divine hand would lift and fly us somewhere other than earth. The only place where true freedom can be found is the space between heaven and earth” Tabwal suggests. Banging the empty calabash on the table, he stands “You know what? Nothing can feel better than a second chance that would accommodate me as a major character. The current plot of life we are in, needs to be looked at again by God.” He says this with all seriousness this time, pulls his old coat from behind his chair and heads towards the door. He was losing his temper amidst his turbulent senses and eyes. That would mean too much to handle. Tabwal’s words came hard upon the republicans like a gavel smash the table. So that, the house falls under the spell of a bewildering silence. Their thoughts must have been sent on a wild quest for answers beyond God. Tabwal bangs the door behind him. He raises his arms to shoulder level to rest on an imaginary support as he struggles to find the slightest sight to his next step. “Fools, they will never learn” he condemns, as he staggers into the night, fairly lighted by the moon.

Alpha E. Y. 2017©

LIQUID THOUGHTS

Afandai sat still for about thirty minutes glaring at her son, Aku, as he struggled to bring the Grain Mill back to life. She thought she enjoyed watching her son put to practice, his four years of apprentiship. I am proud of you Aku. She whispered slowly in her mind. She couldn’t tell if he heard her or not, but of course she is. It didn’t matter if he knew about it. For a moment, her optic nerve couldn’t collect anymore. There were no newer images to fascinate her. Only the broken Grain Mill lingered before her sight. For her son, he is just a drenched blank paper, upon which no story would be written nor read. He will certainly grow to be nobody. She could do her best to teach him the basic ethics of life, but how that would mean a capital for life’s enterprise remained perplexing. Her eyes swelled with tears. She could cry it out loud, if only it would change a thing. They only flowed with no obstacle nor voice to echo the agony from her heart. Will she ever be able to explain the meaning of the statement “I am proud of you?” His father said that once when he was born but never lived to explain it in full. Maybe, he only said it to show the ecstasy of surviving the stigma of childlessness from the society. He was a certified father by the order of Aku’s birth. He never intended to stop there, until he created a significant chain of bastards. Children that would have to start their lives on their own. Fight their way through the harsh realities of life. On Afandai’s part, her husband could do whatever, for all she cared, but she could not vindicate herself from being a cohort in wasting this boy’s life. She was part of the plot. Even though she never knew about the end.
Her pains would have been balmy if Aku’s failure to be useful to his generation remained her only duel in life. But she is also broken afar from her wants. Her first union with Aku’s father faded away like the morning stars. For the second, she can’t really explain why he vanished. It was again on an attempt to see the crest people say is greener on the other side. She wanted it for herself and Aku too. Having failed, she only blames herself to have ever asked from life again. She is obviously part of a generation marooned in a world in which heart desires become the very means of a person’s bondage.
Her second attempt at happiness still lingered in her memory cogently. She still burnt with fury at the deception he wore on the first day they met. She could feel her bare foot being willed into the labyrinths of destitution. If only she knew he was a married man, or perhaps, if she was still married to Aku’s father, the Solomon of their days… She wondered if there was a better wisdom God ever gave to man.

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On that day, Afandai had watched the two basins of her cassava flour, sit on the table like pyramids of Egypt all day. No transaction reduced them, except the adventurous eyes of tourist which her customers had imbibed lately. On that day, even Mother Nature swore a siege against Afandai. Day-light bowed in respect as the clouds roared in labour at the final minutes of their ninth month. She packed in her pyramids of “Alebo” quickly and was soon on her way home. She lifted her legs fast. Forcing them to move at an unusual pace. She had not gone far when a black Camry (2008 model) drove slowly beside her, so that, they were parallel to each other. She kept a mindless attention at first and continued home. This time, at a breezy pace. The car was not the type to give up easily. Not when feminine passengers are involved… “Madam, permit me to put an umbrella over your head through the rains,” came a gentle-manly voice out from the car. She knew she needed an umbrella for the rainy weather at hand, but hardly saw the umbrella willing to cover her even through sunny days. Hesitation at that point was not necessary, hence it gave way for urgent familiarity. “But sir, as much as I would appreciate your kind gesture, I refuse as well, any inconvenience I will cause.” She said, with a cheerful smile. Men hardly knew when not to strike, not when you announce your willingness through such a smile as one Afandai showed. “With great pleasure madam, I wouldn’t mind carrying a real umbrella through the rains for you, better still, I think the car makes it much easier.” The man replied. And so it began. A journey that led her to nowhere. He couldn’t just stop visiting, and sometimes, made of flowery gifts his accomplice. Desecrating gifts that could be used to paint lifetime joy in some cases. He held Aku by the hand and talked to him about how special he was; making it clear when necessary that, it is only one who is void of senses that could abandon such a set who needed the best of all attentions. Anytime he did that, he made sure Afandai watched with thoughts through her mind. He could imagine her thinking about how angelic he is, what a benevolent life saver he is. Coincidentally, he was right. All her thoughts, whatever they were, practically culminated into the popular axiom: “you don’t know the value of what you have, until it’s gone.” He confirmed this in her readiness to start a new life for herself and offer to her son what she considered to be the best. True enough, Aku needed a father and a family. On Aku’s part, agreeing with the situation at his disposition became paramount. He couldn’t imagine the ecstasy of having to wake up one morning with a father. He had always envied the children in school, whose fathers made it a duty of making the fatherless, such as him, feel less cared for by coming to pick their children from school every day of the week. Now he has a father, he will not ask a silly question such as “which market was he bought from?” no one in his shoes would.
Looking at Aku now, Afandai couldn’t lie to herself that Aku is a symbol of her error in life. She sobs. He is innocent and deserves more to his life. He is intelligent and hardworking, but it couldn’t do more than give him a very good jamb result. The admissions shut their gates at him. It was the biggest stride she fought, but it only mocked at her from afar. It became apparent that he needed someone to go with him and see a person or two, to identify with him and say his life could also be useful to the development of the nation. This alone can make solid her liquid thoughts.

LAILA

Life would not find completely its essence if it does not explain cogently to Laila what justice meant. How and where her birth stepped wrongly on the order of existence is what she could not decipher. She was a blessing to her parents for being a fulfilment of their union. But the torments she grew with over the years would clearly mean she is just but a missing link between a child and the result of an underserved pleasure. God should not have permitted children to be born from every fertile ejaculation. All these clouded Laila’s mind as she leaned by the wood upon which the lingering kitchen rested on as a pillar. The night breeze was restless so that it flung the kitchen’s corrugated  sheets clapping, and extending their duties to her young dark skin. It penetrated underneath her half sown wrapper, parting open the torn part and swaying dancingly her follicles. She stood patiently and darting her sight to the pot as the blazing flames flicker round it. The water would soon be ready she wished, or perhaps, would soon hear Aunty Wiki’s tormenting voice, instructing her to come and clear every crumb on the mat for her dinner. Washing the mat after Aunty Wiki and her two children finished dinner was the only duty Laila did with every passion. At least, her stomach at that point had records of food particles drop in it, like pebbles settle calmly on the floor of a sea.
“Laila!” Came Wiki’s shrill voice. “Infidel!” she re-echoed. Laila’s heart sprang like a pendulum so that she answered twice at a time. “Aunty, Aunty.” She cried. Trying to catch the pace, her flappy wrapper ran through a nail on the cupboard fixed beside the outer passage of the kitchen, so that she jolted slightly. It threw her rapidly to a bucket whose mouth was open to pay her for her wrong steps. Gathering every strength she could, Laila limped into the room. She stood coiled to herself like a hen that just escaped the torments of the rains. Her limbs danced as water escaped their way out of her wrapper, and forming  streamlines down to her feet. “Infidel, how long does it take you to answer me?” Wiki thundered. “Sorry aunty, I fell to the ground.” Laila’s teary voice jostled out advocacy. A voice that should say how much she wished to have arrived early enough. One that should drop an ice on Wiki’s fury, and just say to her, she is also a daughter and aught be acknowledged as one. The cascade of tears on her cheeks, her running nose, wriggled lips and the emptiness of life she wore, could tell that Laila’s heart crawled out to her face. She wished to say more.

However, she was wrong, for Wiki was quick to refute: “Shut your mouth! You are only lazy and you deserve nothing more than where you belong right now.” It appeared clearly to Laila that her voice could push not more than empty echoes of justice. Not when an infidel like her remained her own attorney. And so she bent to gather the plates. She picked Pipi’s. Her tears trickled into it but she tried to hold them back by sniffing them through her nostril. She turned round to pick Wiki’s plates, but it was no use obeying now. Clemency was never Wiki’s ally. Not when it concerns voiceless non entities like Laila. All they deserve is penury for their parent’s misdeeds. Parents whose long-professed love withered at the sight of its test. It was never meant to stay longer than the wedding day.

Wiki swung her hand rapidly like a crashing plane and made of Laila’s cheeks the impact point. It sounded loud so that Pipi, the youngest, fell sideways to the ground with her hands on her ears. Okinwa, Wiki’s son, only stared with intense admiration at the exposed part of Laila’s young thighs the incident exposed. Pipi opened her hands slightly and pointed at Laila’s right leg. “Mummy, Laila’s leg is bleeding.” she cried! “Oh darling” wiki responded quickly. “She is only excreting waste blood.” Pipi stared at her in amazement. One could tell from the expression on her face that, she found it hard to chew her mother’s response. Perhaps, at four, her incisors were not strong enough. She threw another question that would confirm what her mother said. Any answer she got, would remain in the never-fading side of her brain. “Mum, are you sure it doesn’t hurt?” “Don’t worry dear… never mind.” Wiki stammered. “Ok mum” Pipi concluded and stood to retire. “Laila, don’t worry, you will be fine.” she consoled. Laila gathered the plates into a bowl, wrapped the mat carefully as she struggled to avoid the scornful and lustful looks that came from both Wiki and Okinwa respectively.

Soon, she had finished all that was left to be done for that day except for the waiting-for-her-mat thing which often ushered her in to the house for the day. The December breeze had intensified in its assaults. The rough sounds from creaking iron sheets could confirm it. She leaned upwards in order to prevent her tears from falling, but it was unnecessary as they only found paths down her ears. The stars discharged every light directly at Laila as she glared to catch every ray from where it shone. She dazed to the skies to see if her mother’s words were true, or if the God people say exist could lift her hand off this boiling crucible. She could hear her mother now, comforting her with her usual tone of regret “I wish it did not happen my daughter…”

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Her mother’s words became a resounding gong on Laila’s mind since the day they ushered her into the flames of hell as a saint. Yes, she could see her resilient mother whom God did not allow to live longer than she prayed. She knew for sure that if mortality could fight its helpless nature against the scourges of death, her mother would choose to watch her grow forever. For it was in a bid to bring this to fulfilment on a day that her mother went out but never returned.
That faithless morning, upon which clouds without rain engulfed her young sunny life, Laila waved her mother continuously as the road down the street stole her visibility away. Her right hand grew weary, yet her left hand offered a great help. She made that a duty whenever she didn’t go to school. For some time now, it had become her perfect obligation. She has been home from school for two months already. Her fees have not been paid.

Laila felt she could go out to do whatever, just to help her mother. Disappointedly, her mother wouldn’t let her. “I will do my best for you Lai” she always said. Laila had always believed in the good judgements of her mother. And so she resolved to pray for her each time she went out. Whenever she swung to the right, the prayer that went with it is: “God Bless mama today”, to the left: “God please keep her safe today” again to the right “God keep her safe please”. And so on that day she waved with pride filled in her heart. She hoped that her mother was just leaving for some hours and would be back to her by nightfall.
The breeze gradually died into a tranquil calmness, so that only crickets creaked. The perfect solemnity that filtered Laila’s senses could confirm aunty Wiki and her family were fast asleep. She folded her mat carefully as she sets to retire for the day. Aunty Wiki had just three rooms apartment in which two served as bedrooms for herself and her children respectively. The biggest served as the sitting room in which Laila finds a corner for her bedroom on faithful nights she is not asked to sleep outside. And so today marked one of those. She settled her mat behind the three sitter cushion and laid gently on it to allow her young bones smile in their weariness. The night’s dark hardly had the strength to dim her senses. Nothing could sleep her mind. Not even now, for her eyes were forced slightly open by the stream of tears from within it. She could hear Okinwa crouch closer. Amidst the heart of the night, she could feel his hands gradually slide apart her wrapper. Her tears intensified with no voice to go with them. She only sobbed without struggling as he parts her legs. Her tears were enough blows of struggle to his conscience. She wished. However, she was wrong, Okinwa had not a drop left in him. He carried out his course whenever he had the chance. Laila’s case was a minor issue. She should be used to it by now he thought.

By Alpha E.Y .  2017 ©