Today is my Mom’s birthday.

And more than anytime else, today, I realise how much she means to me; how much she has done.

My brother won something for his school recently, he told me on WhatsApp. My mother called me later and said in jest:  You haven’t congratulated me for your brother’s success, me who was you all’s first teacher.

She wasn’t lying. She wasn’t entirely joking either —my mother says, in jest and play, therein lies the truth.

But she was my first teacher in deed. She homeschooled me such that I did not need to do kindergarten and started school from primary one. Such that at four I could read and write two languages fluently. Mother who drew, to illustrate for me things I appeared not to understand. Mother who taught me how to ride a bicycle at five—a sport for which I would have great love, love so great that Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace would be personal grief.

Mother who went to Lagos and returned from Oshodi every other day with Ghana-must-go’s of books and toys. Toys with which I told my first stories, and learned my first stories. Toys so much that whenever people came visiting at our house with their children, getting the children to follow their parents home was a struggle. Eventually, she’d give one to the crying child so they could leave with the parent. Mother who filled my world with charts upon charts, that from the top of my head, I could tell you countries where you would find a goldfinch.

Mother who first taught me about the continents, named for me all the oceans and told me that if you pushed it hard enough, Africa would fit into South America, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mother from whom I learnt about Fela Kuti, that weed-smoking Afrobeat maestro whose excoriating discography and frenzied stage dance I would come to adore.

It was she who introduced me to poetry: from One Two, Buckle My Shoe in the many books of nursery rhymes she bought, to Shel Silverstein’s Ations, to Wole Soyinka’s Abiku in West African Verse. Abiku —I doubt she understood the poem apart from knowing it is about child-spirits caught in that limbo between here and the hereafter (or is it the Great Before?), because she would listen with rapt attention years later, after coming into the great light of poetry myself, as I explained to her the meaning of the poem, line by line. Yes, I came into the conflagration of poetry and its sheer fieriness washed over me, but it was she who put the first flame in my palms —solitary and promising.

Mother who would tell me to read a book, and whenever I asked “what is it about?”, she would say “I can’t really remember but it is a good book” or “your dad gave it me to read a long time ago but I don’t think I finished it, but it’s a good book”.

It is always a good book.

Mother who bought me a computer the price of which was five times her original budget because “you said it’s something you need for your work”. Mother who took time off work at my request, to accompany me to buy my first camera without even knowing what a shutter button was (she does now, I think), because I lacked the guts to pay $1500 for something I love.

Mother who, just this month, sent me money to order a dream lens and never stopped calling until it got into my hands.

Mother who prays ceaselessly, but thinks she doesn’t pray enough. Mother who would enter your room at 3am to anoint your forehead with olive oil, and even though awaken by the exercise, you would feign deep sleep so you wouldn’t join her in prayer.

In church, we were told that it is canonically and spiritually wrong to say another prayer after saying the Grace, and I held onto this —in those days, I held onto a lot of things. My mother has this habit of saying a prayer after the grace, because there’s always a distant relative who was left out of the main prayer, there’s always someone who has an exam the next week and needs the excellent spirit of Daniel to pass in flying colours. Once, I reminded my mother of what they said in church about saying a prayer after the Grace, because the habit annoyed me. I can’t remember what she said, but she never stopped, and I doubt she ever will. It reminds me of Chris Abani’s poem where he wrote:

                            For is prayer not disobedience?
                           The questioning of God’s order?

Mother who has always been for the good trouble, the good fight, the one that sets things right, or at the very least establish that they are wrong. If your ox is gored, then serve you right for letting it charge full tilt at her blade.

To anyone who cares to ask, I say my favorite name is Nneka. Mother is Supreme. I think I saw that first in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, when Okonkwo flees to the welcoming earth of his mother’s clan because he desecrated his father’s clan’s. But isn’t existence plagiarism?

I say Mother and mean bulwark. I say Mother and mean sacramental font rimmed with chrysanthemums. I say Mother and mean guiding thread in the labyrinth.

As I write this, I have Novo Amor’s “Repeat Until Death” on repeat because this, all of it  —the undying devotion, the unchecked readiness to sacrifice —repeating until death, repeated until death.

Mother, from whom a lot of things beautiful about me came, happy birthday.

The Dummy’s Guide To Post-Covid Resumption

Covid Greetings to you and yours, I trust you are doing great. If you are not, there is nothing I can do, but jokes apart, I want you to be doing great. I mean, you are a ‘Great Nigerian Student’, so it is just fitting that greatness should be yours, though your country begs to differ.

Most universities already have their resumption dates slated for this month or early next month and expectedly, students will be back on campuses and academic work will begin immediately. This development prompted me to compile this short guide—call it a survival kit if you wish—to [looks at title] post-Covid resumption. The times we are in, sadly. We have never had something like this—resumption in such circumstances—and it is just fair that you should have someone throw a tip or two your way, and if that someone is not me, then who is? The government who does not give two flying flamingoes about the education sector? The SUG of your school whose stock-in-trade is being a yes-man to the government? Your National Association of ‘Nigerian Students’ whose members ride in Mercedes while you sweat it out in stuffy, badly lit lecture rooms? Your civil servant parents who are busy looking for alternative sources of income to pay your tuition because they are being owed fourteen months worth of pay? Since we have established that I am that guy who has your back—come rain, come shine—let us move.

Wear a Mask: This should be a no-brainer, but of course, the title of this piece exists. Aren’t you supposed to have like, five of this? You would probably be too caught up with schoolwork to do laundry every day after lectures, and it is just appropriate to have a fresh one every morning. If you wear one mask for five days of the week, what exactly are you planning? The third wave? In most countries, biological warfare is a criminal offence, even in wartime. You probably think that this doesn’t even need to be told since the university will enforce mandatory masking, but let us see how that goes after three weeks. Mandatory masking or not, you owe it to yourself to keep you safe in a system that doesn’t care whether you sink or swim. Safety aside, wearing a mask is quite economical: apart from costing much less than a ventilator, a mask would do a great deal in concealing your identity from guy men who might want to boss and chairman you to death to drop something for the boys. There is also that guy from whom you borrowed one quick 2k before school closed last March. Masks are also stylish, and can be a nice fashion statement.

You Cannot Resume With This Brain: Omo, you have to wisen up, especially if your brain has been on hibernation since last year. The torpidity of this very vital organ will not help your education, let’s be truthful here. Scrape away rust off the thing, lubricate it, tighten a nut here, a screw there, and get it up and running. How you will do this exactly, I do not know. Maybe read your favourite course text thirty minutes every day? See a mechanic? I don’t know, but you get the point. You know, it’s not that your brain hibernated, it just strayed very far from this whole school business. I mean, Bitcoin kept you up several nights during the lockdown. And na who get brain, dey do Bitcoin. So, gear that brain towards this.

Keep Your Mouth Shut; No, this is not because of the virus, even though I heard this reduces the chances of infection. Don’t resume and start to run mouth, e get why. You remember Anonymous Messages? Good. You see, when school resumes, some Children of Perdition will tell their padi what they wrote in Anonymous Messages, and their padi will tell his padi, and then violence. You are not a Child of Perdition, you do not dine with Satan and his Host, and you are a child of Light, which is why you should keep your mouth shut. You wrote what you wrote; you said what you said and you do not regret it. It was smooth; you enjoyed it—it would be an absolute shame if you set yourself up to fall because you do not know how to keep your mouth shut. One or two Children of Perdition might want to foment trouble by peddling rumours that so-so person wrote something about so-so person, but you don’t have to get involved or put out rebuttals, even if you are the so-so person. You do not owe anybody an explanation. Just lean back and enjoy the violence that children of darkness have brought upon themselves, because the Lord will always bring the counsel of the enemy to nought, and those who built walls have now fallen prisoners behind their own walls.

Resist Oppression: It is not impossible to have two or three guy men in your department roll in Benzes, with even more having Ashluxe and Palm Angels in their travelling bags, but you are not to be dismayed. All these are temporal possessions of but fleeting moment which the Preacher calls vanity. Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity–forget the grave for a minute, these guy men will scramble for seats in lecture theatres like everyone else. Haha, equality. Forget all those babes in your hostel who will resume with bone straight, shey their GP straight? The bearers of temporal glory will flaunt their vain possessions in your face but when they see it unfazed, they will GTFO. It is not impossible that once in a while, the oppression gets to you, but you owe it to yourself to keep your game face on especially when with company—a tear and two sighs in the secrecy of one’s room never killed anybody, but not in public, and remember, never more than a tear. Resist oppression and oppression will flee from you.

Nigga, Mind Your Speesh; Nigga, Wash Your Words: You don’t have to resume and make comments on anyone’s weight or appearance, it’s unnecessary. You should be trying to get lecture schedules, register your courses and all that, because there is no time. This year won’t be the most fantastic of years as per school—last year did a lot of damage already—which is why you should channel all your energy into facing what faces you. Someone who was dark last year now fair? None of your business. Someone who was fat now slim? Totally not your business. You run into a popular campus queen on a bus but she has a baby? Listen Tochi, it’s people who are supposed to have human babies, and not polar bears. Someone said they saw a senior member of the university senate rocking a fellowship coordinator in Cubana? You never heard, you were not even there when it was said. It is important to keep your mouth shut and even more so to mind your speesh. Snitches end up in ditches, they say.

Nigga mind your speesh…

Seize Opportunity: This one is exactly what it is—seize opportunity. A tutorial you think can help your grades? Attend it. Someone is organising a get-together and there will be food? Go for it. Getting free food is one of the best ways to cut down on expenses since food is ridiculously expensive. A plate of fried rice, two meats and a soft drink and before you know it, your bank account is bleeding. Sometimes, I ask why we didn’t come with charging ports and then I remember I am a Nigerian living in Nigeria, and thank my stars for the existence of food. Imagine just falling down in public because you haven’t had power to charge for two days. May God take power from the devil. Meanwhile, as last year robbed us of chance to fraternize, this year will be good to build networks.

Still on seizing opportunity, if you read the handwriting on the wall and realize that the LOYL’s lover is slacking, then by all means, do the necessary. Let me tell you a secret: The lockdown-strike took its toll on a lot of relationships and right now, they are on the verge of collapse. It is up to you to give it that last shove that will send it crashing so you can take your rightful place as your LOYL’s LOML. You dig? Meanwhile, be careful as you do this lest you get bathed in acid. It is advisable to gauge the lunacy level of your competition, juxtapose it with yours and check if the odds are in your favour before striking. Fortune favours the bold.

Put The System To Shame: Earlier on, we established that the system is ruined through and through and represents the interest of no one except those who benefit from its unending ruination. The system is designed to put you to shame but you must be prepared for it— if you can’t take active steps to put it to shame in return, at least ensure it doesn’t put you to shame first. As we approach the dry season, the heat wave will become stronger and lecture halls will compete with Hell’s ninth circle. Rather than whine about how lecture rooms should be air-conditioned, why don’t you get yourself a reliable hand fan or one of those little battery-powered table fans? The system made you sweaty and all that in order to end your drip, but here you are, armed with a hand fan to thwart the devices of the enemy. You know your university has water shortage because some person(s) ate the money allocated to sink a borehole or because of some topographical reason, and will you fold your arms? No, you won’t. Which is why you will come with jerrycans and buckets to store water under your bed. Aside the fact that these proactive measures will arm you for the many tortures your hell offers, student politicians would have to think harder about what to distribute during election campaigns.

This is pretty much everything I’m saying here, you’d have to wire me 2k to tell you the rest. You can also tell me below anything you think I missed, and we’d work out how to wire you 2k. And remember, apart from sharing, you don’t have to talk to anyone about any of these: keep your mouth shut and mind your speesh.

Religion & The True Nature of Bigotry

The reality of religion—most major religions—is the constant denigration of other religions

The indignation a lot of persons feel about the ruling of the Kano Sharia court as regards Yahaya Sharif Aminu, the ‘blasphemous’ musician, isn’t righteous. Certain persons who are not Muslims feel it is wrong because “Mohammed is not God, the Virgin or Jesus” & that says a lot. This is not about protecting fundamental rights or warring against religious bigotry, it is bigotry against bigotry. Mike Bamiloye and Oreofe Williams have been making Christian movies portraying African beliefs and gods as nonexistent/ powerless for years and Christians have been & are still okay with it, because religious bigotry is fine if we are the ones doing it (don’t mention the outrage about Netflix Jesus). You might have the inclination to concur with this postulation on religious bigotry & opine that they could have produced their movies without their unrelenting denigration of the African Traditional Religion. But that’s a lie.

Continue reading

Is This Your Face?: Speaking My Name In Another Tongue

Yorùbá people calling my name has to be one of the things that amuses me the most.

The other day in the market, I saw a woman i knew from my erstwhile local church but she was far, three stalls away, chatting animatedly with a woman selling nylons for wrapping eba, in a certain way peculiar to Yorùbá women. I turned my attention to something else—a man with dreadlocks eulogising his rat poison as he dangled a dried rat in the faces of passersby. Yes, the woman was faraway, but I wasn’t in the frame of mind to exchange pleasantries too.

“Oyeka, seé ojú ree re? Mo sá n wo pé eni tó wo face mask yii jo Oyeka. Ah! O ti gerun e”, she shouted loud enough for all of the meat sellers section to hear her.

These people who take a word from another language and hammer it into a form fit to flow over their tongues

Here’s what she said :

“Onyeka, is this your face? I thought to myself that this person wearing face mask looks like Onyeka. Ah! You have even shaved your hair”

<No this is not my face, it’s a mask I wear occasionally and I left my hair at home>

I smiled, caught in that limbo between amusement and embarrassment. I just couldn’t get angry at these beautiful people. Beautiful who wear colourful dresses more than any other ethnic group, beautiful people who tread the path between diplomacy and deceit, beautiful people who drop their H’s and pick it up at random, beautiful people who call bread bùrèdí, beautiful people who call Enugu Enú ń gun, which literally means his mouth hurts him.

How could I be angry at them? How could I be angry at these people who call every Igbo person Omo ína— child of Nna?

These people who take a word from another language and hammer it into a form fit to flow over their tongues with river-like grace in a way suggestive of flexibility, rather than erasure. Ah, add indifference to flexibility, maybe laziness.

People who speak to you in their own tongue—you not speaking their language nonetheless—until the words begin to form in your mouth themselves. Until you begin to sing Lèke lèke bà mì lèke…when you see cattle egrets.

How could I be angry at them? How could I be angry at my own people? Does a little child get angry at his mother? If perchance he does, does he stay angry at her?

Anonymous Messages: Breaking The Boredom, Breaking Hearts.

The present lock down across the country has seen the birth of different activities–challenges, dares, online courses and quizzes just to mention a few–all in a bid to fight the boredom.

For persons born into a mismanagement-plagued African capitalist society that has perpetual engagement, slaving, drudgery and toil as the hallmarks of success, young people in the universities seem to be the most hit by the boredom and they have taken up these anti-boredom activities with such vigour that can either leave you amused or disgusted–depends on who you are.

Send me an anonymous message, I won’t know who wrote it.

As extreme as this sounds but it calls for concern if there is anyone who is not familiar with this sentence by now; if you weren’t previously, this lockdown has made you. Kubool’s anonymous messenger lets people drop you “a friendly message” or at most tell you stuff they don’t like about you—if they don’t tell you how much they want to fuck you and spank your ass, that is. Yes, e be things.

And of course, it was is fun.

Like most simple initiatives and ideas, this also got taken to the next level by the innovation of some person who dared thinking outside the box—whether this was out of boredom or genius is not in question.

Send me our class an anonymous message, I we won’t know who wrote it. Same game, same procedures, but different purpose. You send an anonymous message about your class—observation, suggestion, grievance and confession of affection and subsequently the answers get posted on the class Whatsapp group.

Close your eyes. 

Open them. 

Everyone is now talking about who they want to fuck, whose work they want to eat, whose nipples they want to feast on, who has a killer ass, who likes to fuck both men and women, who fucked who behind an abandoned building, who doesn’t care who they fuck, who should fuck off, who is hypocritical to the point of feigned disinterest about this whole business of fucking, who they won’t fuck even if the firmaments fell, who needs mouthwash, who needs to have a change of trousers, who needs to get a thorough bath, who needs a good fucking, who should get body spray(even if it’s the Hausa variety), who needs to stop wearing that underwear, whose mouth they want to stick things into, who isn’t as cool as they think, and all those trappings that come with internalized misogyny, objectification, homophobia, envy, incertitude of the self, malice and toxic masculinity.

This little-dance-on-the-cliff’s-edge of a game has brought folks to the harsh realisation that because people decide not to talk about a thing does not equate being ignorant that it went down. And of course, people are bound to fall into different categories based on reactions and response.

The Shocked

These persons are shocked by the brazenness and ‘vulgarity’ of the messages either out of their religious disposition or a strong sense of moral obligation to civility and courteousness. Sometimes, it is neither; their shock can be a direct result of finding such bawdiness alien—you know, having gone to a nice private school with lush green lawns and students who speak supri-supri English about how their summer in London ‘was lit’, coming back home to lunch on a dining table with a frilled table-cloth holding a two-course meal and getting tucked in bed by 8:30 after being read Snow White. You get the picture. 

The Falsely Shocked 

They are shocked but all that shock na jonzing. Unlike the sincerely shocked, the falsely shocked are, because they are supposed to be shocked. These set of people reply each anonymous message with a message expressing their shock because they have sighted one or two people from their campus fellowship who would be proud of them for that public show of disapproval and [unrighteous]indignation. Outside Whatsapp, they enjoy the view from the moral high ground and are gifted at guilt-tripping other persons into the admission of wrong, often publicly. They may or may not be actively involved in the business of fucking but they enjoy the accompanying gist when other people are on the line and they often nurse perverse passions in the secrecy of their hearts and hostels. Hell, they author some of those messages.

The Free-livers

They are not concerned about whatever hurt anyone is going through because of anonymous messages. They love the anonymous messaging game not because they attach any intrinsic value to it but because they find it all fun, exciting and boredom-breaking. They are quick to break into a laugh over the faintest shades. They don’t care when they get shaded; more fun if the shade thrown at them reveals the most scandalous of their escapades. Na fuck we fuck, we no kill person is their mantra. In fact, they savour the fact that their body counts and prowess are brought to light and they secretly hope that their street cred gets a boost. Most of the lecherous messages are authored by people who fall into this category; they are perpetually on the prowl. No scruples.

The False Free-livers/ The Hit Who Get Hurt

Upon surface examination, you would mistake them for free-livers because that is what they strike you as until they get hit and subsequently hurt. It is all fun and jonzing until an anonymous message comes for them detailing what they did in night class the previous semester. Unlike the free-livers who get hit, laugh it off and make jokes out of the hit, false free-livers burst into tears visibly or internally in their houses; how would you know when they have released a rain of laughing emoji in reply to the message in question? These persons mask their pain with all na cruise and are quick to call anyone who gets offended by the anonymous messages immature. They neutralise their hurt with pretend emotional maturity and false open-mindedness.

The Tremblers 

<p value="They enjoy the banter and the <em>jonzingThey enjoy the banter and the jonzing half-heartedly because they fear that some not-so-good deed of theirs in the past might be brought to the light of the present by some tattletale who may or may not have been hurt directly or indirectly by the deed in question. They read the messages and mask their anxieties with laughing emoji or alternately just read in silence, hoping against hope that the storm doesn’t blow their way. They read all messages with fear and trembling as they promise God and all the hosts of heaven that they won’t ever get fucked on the tennis court or anywhere else for that matter.

Perhaps not being wanted to get fucked by anyone hurts more than getting fuck threats.

The Bulldogs

When these people get hit, they throw tantrums much to the amusement of everyone. They resort to lame-ass tactics like sending incantations- and cuss words-filled voice notes, threatening arrest or rustication(just imagine). Sometimes, they double as meddlesome interlopers and carry the matter for head when their friends get hit; they insult everyone and are often too blinded to see who is on their side and who is not. Their measures are quite counter-productive which makes it all the more hilarious because more messages just keep pouring in about stupid, ugly, swellheaded and stuck-up they are. That is if someone doesn’t chip in how they know who they are fucking lowkey. And how the person is such is an unbalanced bastard. It is important to note that they are not averse to the concept of anonymous messaging, they are enraged by the fact they didn’t hear what they wanted to.

The Unnoticed Matadors

Like the real matadors, they wave red flags—laugh at every shade, assist every act of savagery, draw people out on the group chat, suggest people who should get written about, tell everyone times and times over how they are enjoying the evening—just to incite the bull called ‘anonymous messages’. You don’t get it, do you? This set of persons want people to write an anonymous message about them, so they try their best to tacitly, and through their speech, say “I’m here, write about me please, someone please write about me now” but unfortunately, they are rarely found interesting enough to be so honoured. Lmao, someone came to your mind.

The Shepherds In The Wilderness

These are the ones who feel extremely offended not because they were hit or anything but because of quite the opposite—they were not hit. In some cases, these people are on the fine line between faux intellectualism and self-styled nerdiness. Everyone knows them, everyone looks at them, everyone talks about them but no one finds them interesting enough to write them an anonymous message —people don’t find the need to tell them anything beyond asking them for things they need and the value they add as per school matters. They tend to grow aggressive and generate strong damaging blasts of incel energy when they feel their self-perceived importance is but a farce. Like the shepherd in the wilderness, no one remembers them. Unlike the false free-livers, you can call them the un-hit who get hurt.

They tend to mask their indignation and loss(sort of) behind facades of moral uprightness, intellectualism, disgust, disinterest, intellectualism and sometimes, political correctness. Perhaps not being wanted to get fucked by anyone hurts more than getting fuck threats.

The Quarry

This is the person everyone wants to get down with. Quarries react in the following ways:

1. Revel in their desirability and the fact that everyone drools over their ass.

2. Get apprehensive about the whole thing because since the days of John the Baptist…

3. One and two.

Needless to say, a person can fall into two or more categories. I think we forget those persons who thank their stars the wind didn’t blow their way; we live to die another day.