AKE FESTIVAL 2016 – THE EXPERIENCE (DAY 4)

This was the day we’d all been dreading. The day the curtains are drawn close on 4/5 days of book and art festivities. It started off with a Book Chat with Professor Okey Ndibe and Alain Mabanckou. This session was hosted by Kola Tunbosun. The conversations lingered around Ndibe’s book “Never Look An American In the Eye” and Mabanckou’s “Lights Of Pointe-Noire” which were centered on biographical themes about Africans adapting to life in the western world. Both books had been written from the perspective of foreigners arriving in a strange land for the first time. It was a really interesting session with attendant questions and responses.

I particularly loved Prof. Okey Ndibe’s tale of how he came about the title of his novel.  He had been warned by his Uncle (who had sojourned to America for a bit before returning home) before leaving Nigeria for the first time many years ago,  that he should never stare an American in the face or he would get shot. So off he went to the “white man’s land” with that advice ingrained into his brain. For a few months he had indeed not looked any white man/woman in the eye. He always lowered his gaze during conversations.  And then, out of nowhere, he braced himself and began to gaze upward and the first time he did look an American in the eye, nothing happened. No gun shoved at the centre of his head or heart.

Then it was time to hear Ngugi wa Thiong’o speak at his very first session at the festival. I read Ngugi’s “Weep Not Child” about age 9 or thereabout. A book I’d culled from my Dad’s archive of texts and books he’d used in primary and grammar school. At that point I hadn’t really understood or appreciated the power and intensity of the book. Until some years later when I picked it up and read it all over again with a better appreciation. So in awe of the author was I.

My parents knew who Ngugi was and I could detect a bit of longing in their reaction when I informed them that he was coming for the festival.

Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the other speaker, Kunle Ajibade had both at a point in time been imprisoned by the governments of their countries (Kenya and Nigeria) because they were perceived as opposition forces using their pens to cause havoc and mutiny against the rulers. Both were released from prison with mind and soul full of inspirational tales to be moulded into books in later years .

I was able to catch some part of the session on “Horror Fiction in Africa”. Not so bad as well.

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Pemi Aguda, Geoff Ryman and Chinelo Okparanta

And it was time for my midday nap (How bland would a vacay be if you are unable to sleep through the afternoon).  Amusingly,  I was yet to get a taste of Ofada rice which my darling Abeokutarians have managed to claim for themselves the way Ijesha people have the copyrights to pounded yam.

I ventured into the cafeteria not to get food but to cop myself one of the novels on the Etisalat  longlist which were being sold for a discounted price of N1000. See rushing sha….we can like awoof. As your girl is not a dulling person, I always managed to get myself a book on the days the discount sales were on despite the long queues and mad rush. Maybe not the ones I would have wanted but I sha benefited from the 1k sales.

So I get my book and I’m about to leave when I perceive a faint smell of Ofada stew. Tracing the path through which the smell was wafting from, I discover to my amazement that Ofada was being sold for the very first time at the canteen. The stew smelled so good but was shockingly bereft of the usual shaki, pomo, edo, and other “orishirishi” that you’d find swimming in a regular pot of Ofada sauce. A piece of chicken served as substitute for the “orishirishi”. I was flabbergasted. Say what now????

A little inner dialogue and I decided I could overlook it. Meat is meat. So I proceeded to the Ofada stand and asked if they had a takeout option and I was told the same thing, third time a row – “we don’t have takeaway”.  I was expected to sit in a hot cramped room and enjoy a meal of meatless Ofada rice and sauce. Nope. No way Jose. I vexed, walked out of the venue, called a bike and specifically asked him to drive me down to anywhere he knows in Ake town where good delicious ofada is sold. He does and I buy myself ofada rice with complementing sauce abundantly garnished with orishirishi in a plastic takeout bowl. Alas, I spent less than 400 bucks. Just imagine!

I head off to my hotel room, balanced well and enjoyed lunch. Disappointingly, there was no electricity in the hotel as the generator was undergoing extensive repairs. Midday siesta was thus cancelled. I chilled for five to ten minutes and I was out the door.

Got back to the venue in good time to join the Book Chat with Teju cole, Yewande Omotosho and Sarah Ladipo Manyinka, all three with roots in Nigeria and other parts of the world. It was an interesting session about finding home: a sense of placement and displacement. As a writer, where exactly is home for you?

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From L-R: Sarah Ladipo Manyinka, Wana Sambo, Yewande Omotosho and Teju Cole

Next up was a Life and Times-cum-interview session hosted by Prof. Okey Ndibe. The honourable guest was none other than Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Copies of his new book were up for sale and autographs were promised. This was definitely one of the best sessions. Here, the literary giant went from demi-god status to a down to earth grandfather figure who was having an interesting conversation with his children and grandchildren alike.  Would we forget so soon the recitation of a part of Ngugi’s novel in seven different African languages. Of course Nigeria had about five in there.

The book signing moment was a joy to behold from my corner of the cozy auditorium. Sold out in minutes and every buyer got an autograph and selfie as complimentary gifts.

Did I buy the book? Well…….. I couldn’t get the book. I’d already spent all my cash on books earlier on. Didn’t think I would have needed to save for Baba’s new book. Neither was I forewarned to. 😦

Next up was the Palmwine and Poetry session. Beautiful poems recited by six poets. One was of particular interest. A certain Titlope Sonuga who had done a poem recital  at the presidential inauguration in 2015 (a first in the history of the country). It wasn’t just the poem that was striking, her rendition of it was exquisitely and tastefully belted out. I was awestruck.  South African Lebo Mashile’s poem stood out too. Hers’ was an unembellished R18+ poem with no cares to give.

As for the palmwine, I didn’t taste a drop of it. Walahi, I wee not lie. It didn’t go round. This session ended at 11pm and there was still a closing party to attend. Boy at this point, I knew I had “overstayed my welcome”. But I could not resist the small chops and chapman that Lola Shoneyin had promised would be served at the party.

Left: All six poets that performed 

Right: Titilope Sonuga

The venue was the exhibition hall which had been transformed into a disco-lit arena with great jams bouncing off the loud speakers. Did I wait for the party? No, sorry. Got my small chops, wrapped it up and tucked it in my bag, guzzled the Chapman and was out the door. It was sad leaving because the party was only just kicking off and I was painfully aware of the amount of fun I would be missing out on.

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(Mehn this  year, I don’t care how much the hotel accommodation will cost, I must stay close to the venue. Even if it’s expensive “luxurious”  Park Inn. My God shall surely provide.)

I walk out of the venue gates, and as usual there is no bike in sight for close to 30 mins. Paranoia begins to set in.  It’s 11:45pm now. The few that stop seem not to have ever heard of the name of my hotel in Ibara before. I wait for another 15 minutes before another bike stops. This is one unkempt, agbako-like looking fellow but I couldn’t be picky at this point. Anyone would do. His price is thrice the standard fare at a rate of N300. No problem as long as he’s assured me he knows my destination. The journey starts and then we get to a bend which I recognise as the second to the last bend that would bring my hotel into view and he fails to turn into the bend.

“No, no….go back, that’s the way,”  I tell him.

“That’s not the way,” He responds.

Tendrils of fear begin to creep in. He drives me some distance through unlit roads and streets. He stops at various junctions intermittently and it slowly dawned on me that this guy does not know the location of my hotel. My first instinct is to scream and hurl a handful of insults at him for lying.  But I remain calm, realizing that the streets are deserted and it is dark. So I started describing my hotel to him softly, trying to get him to remember what the hotel looks  like and some seconds later he responds with “okay okay….. I don know am now’.

Off we go and Okada guy takes me to Royal Green. My hotel is Royal Pavilion which this guy claims he knows but he stops in front of Royal Green something. Royal Green Shrine, School, Pharmacy, Hospital , I have no idea. I’d had enough at this point. I raise my voice and scold him for lying to me all along. He mutters under his breath and proceeds to drive me around the sparsely lit town again and stops at another junction, clueless. I had to hold on tightly to the tiny shred of calm left in me because i was starting to lose it at that point. Lost in an unfamiliar town, some minutes past midnight in the company of a disheveled and incompetent transporter???? Would definitely make a good storyline for an Oscar-winning horror movie. I describe the hotel to him again, speaking wafi-like pidgin this time around. I try to describe the landmarks around my hotel, the colour of the hotel,  the number of storeys it has, the colour of its gate, e.t c . And then he goes yet again “Oh, I don remember am”. This is after 15 minutes of “touch and go” inside dark and ominously quiet Ibara. We are on our way again and this guy dares to tell me that I would have to pay him an extra N300. I want to slap his head in from where I sit but I quickly remember my predicament and knowing I had no alternative means of transportation in sight, I acquiesce.

A minute or two later, I watch my hotel come into sight. I’m almost about to jump off the bike in excitement and relief.  He drops me in front of my hotel was gratefully well lit. I climb down the bike and give him one last scolding. Aware that the hotel’s security personnel would be at the other side of the gate, I raised my voice and told him point blank that I wasn’t giving him one extra kobo. I walk away half expecting him to come after me but he didn’t and as I reach the front of the gates, they open quickly without a knock from me as if automatically. The security guards had apparently been listening to the conversation. I did not care. All the better.  I rush up to my room, fall on my knees and thank God profusely.

I knew then without a doubt that for the next edition of Ake, I had three options; get a place close to the venue, come with my car or not bother coming at all. The fun events are slated for the evenings.  So what’s the point of coming for the festival, if you’ll miss the fun events or risk putting your life in danger if you decide to stay back and leave really late when your hotel isn’t a walking distance from the venue.

I did avail the persons behind the twitter handle of the festival a polite piece of my mind the next morning which I coated as advice without actually going into the grissly details of what had happened to me the previous night.

Whether the advice is adopted or not, I would definitely be sorting myself out properly next time.

THE GOOD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

  • The fashion statements – Mostly African themed. The dresses, tees, blouses, bags, shoes, jewellery e.t.c.
  • The hair – It would be downright impossible to believe a memo on acceptable hairstyles at the Festival hadn’t been sent out to the female guests and participants. 98% of the ladies were either rocking their natural unpermed hair, braids (kinky, crotchet, wool, synthetic hair attachments), low hair cuts e.t.c.
  • The concert, the filmshows, the play, the trip to Olumo Rock, the poetry session
  • The Volunteering Team  – All well-mannered young people, kind and always willing to help.
  • Lola Soneyin – The pillar behind Ake Festival. Strong woman, that one. I call her Principal. She is not sitting mute at the “high table” as per CEO. Leadership and ownership has never looked so good on anyone. She’s up and about. In and out of everything, ensuring things get done right.
  • The Guests – Celebrated in their own rights yet humble. No false airs and “pinch-nosed” manners. Willing to engage in conversation, sign a book, take selfies, join in the fun. Awesome stuff.

The atmosphere at the Festival was generally laid back, mellow and soothing. For me anyways.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD AND NOT-SO-BEAUTIFUL

  • The food – Of poor quality and I still can’t get over why packs weren’t made available for those who didn’t wish to sit and eat in the uncomfortably small canteen.
  • African time –  This was constant. I really can’t decipher which logistic, human or otherwise caused this but it would be nice if this isn’t made the norm at the next edition.
  • The Cinema Hall –  Majority of the events were held in here and for the first three days, it was not conducive. You’ll observe people (myself included) occasionally leaving their seats to go stand by the opened doors just to inhale some fresh air. Did the Organisers know about the state of the hall beforehand? Can’t say. Was it unforeseen due to a sudden electrical glitch? Don’t know either. But a back-up wouldn’t be out of place at the next edition.

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CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! YOU MADE IT TO THE END OF MY JOURNAL. SEE YOU AT AKE FEST 2017. 🙂 

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DAY 1

DAY 2

DAY 3

 

AKE FESTIVAL 2016 – THE EXPERIENCE (DAY 3)

This was the day we would journey to Olumo rock. So my choice of outfit was important. No uncomfortable outfit or shoe. I got to the venue in time for breakfast. The breakfast menu was Agege Bread, scrambled eggs, stew and a cup of tea or yam, scrambled eggs, stew and a cup of tea. Sounds divine right? You’d think, the caterers could have at least tried to make provision for some other breakfast options. Felt like boarding school all over again. I had ignored the rich N2,000 breakfast at my hotel because of “aroro”. Dissatisfaction regardless, i gobbled down my N500 breakfast quickly and found my way to the first event of the day, a book chat with Sarah Ladipo Manyinka and Yewande Omotosho speaking about their books which had closely related themes on cantankerous elderly women.

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Next up was a Panel Discussion about Sensuality in New African Writing. This was one of the most interesting sessions I attended at the festival. The truth, the bluntness, all too real.

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I travelled back to my hotel room for a nap. Went back to the cinema hall some hours later to see two short films; A Mother’s Journey which had  its storyline bordering on post-partum depression and Salt with a storyline bordering on the tales of the rumoured healing and preventive powers of salt during the Ebola phase in 2014.  The directors of both films were present for a Question and Answer session after the viewing.

Here’s the amusing part, while some of us were chilling watching “feem” and asking “kweshun”, people had started moving down to Olumo rock with available cars and buses, some provided by organisers of the event. So by the time the small lot of us “feem watchers” came out of the Cinema Hall, everywhere was virtually empty. No means of “awoof” transportation in sight except we had to go get a cab. But God in his infinite mercies, made it possible that some guy with a nice lexus jeep shouted out from where he stood just beside his car that he still had space for 5 people who were interested in  going to Olumo Rock. Trust your girl now. Not a time to be dull. Got into the car with the speed of lightning. (thanks to my Lagos danfo-boarding skills). Six of us were able to camp in the back of the jeep. Good company I must say as the journey was filled with gists about the visitors, guests, books and the festival events. By time we got to Olumo, the throng of people that had gone ahead of us were already mid way up the rock. We rushed out of the car to join them.

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Unfortunately, an announcement had been made about the time I went back to my hotel for a nap that each person would have to pay an entry fee of N500 at Olumo Rock. I didn’t know about this and I had left my purse in the good Samaritan’s car which was parked well away from the feet of the ancient edifice.  Good Samaritan himself had gone far up the rock. He wouldn’t have been able to hear me call out. Was this the end of my Olumo quest? I decided to take a shot, screamed out to the GS, hoping he would hear and come down to open his car, so I could get my purse. He didn’t hear me call out. By a stroke of luck,, one of the guys I’d entered GS’s car with, saw my predicament and was willing to loan me N500. I thanked him profusely and started my climb.

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Up and up we climbed, stairs on stairs and stairs. The supposed elevator which was meant to make the journey upwards faster and smoother had become a cultural edifice itself, lifeless, non-functioning, stagnant and abandoned. It was trying to share the spotlight with Olumo Rock.

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Allow me state at this point, that even before getting halfway, the view starts to get interesting and breathtaking.

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I was able to catch up with the throng of two hundred and something individuals, guest and visitors alike that had come for the excursion.

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There were some significant spots that the Tour Guide gave some lectures on. The hideout of the Egba warriors and their families, the small sized wide holes that had been made as makeshift food grinders, an unmarked grave where a former king was buried, wooden head images of war lords who had been victorious in their battles.

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20161118_181107That’s my boo Tendai Hitchu grinning in the distance 😉

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And we came to the Healing Tree. A leaf from the tree could be used to make an “abiku” child stay. The child would be bathed with it. Same way the leaf is not meant to touch the baby’s head or his/her head would grow big and shapeless with the baby ending up dead.

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We climbed up to the place where the Rock’s Priestess lived. They say she’s over 133 years old. Didn’t see the Priestess herself but we saw some other old women.  “Assistant priestesses” probably?. We were able to take some shots of the shrine and its surroundings surprisingly. Thought it would have been deemed sacrilegious to take photographs there.

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Upwards, we climbed until we got to the point where you either had to climb up to the peak of the rock through a narrow steeply and jagged path or go through about 12 flights of stairs (depending on your foot wear and how courageous you were)

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Well yours truly here, “jejely” climbed the stairs and actually got to the peak of the Rock way before the camp of the “Bold and fearless”. The view from the apex point had me speechless on arrival. Never seen anything like it before. ASTONISHING!!!!

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The Tour Guide showed us some “hot spots” in Abeokuta from the top. A grammar school, the first church in Ogun state, the Ogun river and other relevant sites within Abeokuta that could be viewed from the hilltop. And we all sang along to “mayo mayo mayo mayo oooo, lori olumo”

It was already 7:05 pm at this point. I believe the trip would have been much more enjoyable if it had commenced way earlier in the day and not 5pm. Anyway loads and loads of selfies and pictures took I. Being without friend or Personal Assitant there, having journeyed to Ake all alone, front camera selfies were the order of the day. An extra bit of dilly-dallying and we  climbed down to start our journey back to the Festival grounds.

20161118_183203      Hope y’all can peep those gentlemen still struggling to get up the rock “James Bond” style..lol

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The next event was the sage play “Iyalode of ETTI”. We thought we’d just come back and delve straight into the play but it started 2 hours after we got back by 9pm. Somehow another programme,  a book launching had been snuck into the schedule of events.

I had to keep watch of the time (nice pun). The storyline is about an Iyalode, her brothers, requited love and intertwinings with betrayal and tragedy. I would recommend this as a must see if it’s ever showing anywhere around you. Great story, talented actors who knew their stuff and optimal stage usage.

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Some minutes past 10pm, the curtains closed on the first half of the play. Sadly I had no other choice but to pick up my bag and head on home. Same as the day before, everywhere was already dark, little to no vehicular and pedestrian movement. Got a bike about 15mins later with the usual doubled asking price. Arrived at the hotel safe and I made a decision there and then that after the festival, I’d find a way to convey my opinion on the timing of the festival’s events to the organizers, which I eventually did. And I also decided that whether my advice was be taken or not, I would do better next time by getting an hotel close to the venue even if I had to start saving from now.

It’s still paining me that I didn’t get to see the end of the play sha.

DAY 1

DAY 2

DAY 4

AKE FESTIVAL 2016: THE EXPERIENCE (DAY 2)

Woke up the next morning revitalized, the knowledge that I was spending my last minutes in the dingy room giving light to my steps. Got myself ready for the day. There was going to be an opening ceremony that morning to officially open the festival. Went downstairs and met the manager at the makeshift reception who informed me (thankfully) that someone had been found to take my space and I would be getting my refund so long as I checked out before 12:00pm to enable the new guest move in.

Off to the venue I headed. The opening ceremony started later than envisaged. Thirty minutes and I was out in search of a better hotel. Checked out some hotels along the Ibara end of Abeokuta, found a pretty decent one with a great discount offer. Got back to the other hotel in time to check out before 12:00pm, luggage and refund in tow. I was unburdened. I was happier. Now, I could actually enjoy all the festival had to offer.

Went back to the venue some some hours later after napping in my new room. Though there was an ongoing Book Chat at the cinema hall I chose to go explore some works of art at the exhibition hall. Beautiful artworks titled “Dysmorphia and Other Thoughts” by Ayobola Kekere Ekun were spread out.

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Fatima Abubakar’s catalogue of photographs was spread out as well.

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I fed my ravenous eyes, had a chit-chat with Ayobola the artist. She was welcome to all questions. Got in a bit of an interview and a selfie to match.

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Later on, I sat in on a Book Chat that had Toni Kan and Leye Adenle talk about their books which had closely related themes. This was moderated by Tendai Hitchu.

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At the close of this, I did a bit of window shopping at the Ake Festival Bookstore with novels from all around Africa and a bit from outside the shores of the Continent.

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Meals were being sold just a few feet from the Bookstore. Decided to get myself a bit of food before the next event which was a film show. The space made out for visitors to have their meals was small and yet there was no take-out option. I was famished. No other choice but to sit, eat in that small cramped atmosphere. There really wasn’t any other option at that time of the night.

I trudged back to the cinema hall after the sub par meal to watch a documentary titled “Hissene Habre – A Chadian Tragedy”. I was seeing and hearing for the first time stories  about a military dictator in neighbouring Chad whose reign had been filled with terror, torture and enough human rights infringements that would have made Idi-Amin cower in fear. I was just learning about this vital part of Chad’s history. In silence and eye-popping astonishment, we all watched on as the film fed us with stories from people who had survived something similar to hell under their president’s regime between 1982 and 1990. Graphical drawings as shown in the documentary helped to create a deeper understanding of what the victims had been subjected to.

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After the documentary, there was a chat session with one of the victims and survivors of Habre’s terror reign, Clement Abaifouta  who was also a leader of the movement that had sought justice for other victims and survivors of Hissien Habre’s regime. It was a sober session as Clement recanted the horrors he had gone through and how those years changed him forever.

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20161117_213818Pierre (left), Clement Abaifouta (middle) and Olaokun Soyinka(right)

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All of this came to an end some minutes past 10:00pm. The distance between my hotel and the venue was one that required a means of transportation. All hotels that were walking distances to the venue had been fully booked even before the commencement of the festival.

I stood at the gates of the venue waiting for a cab or a bike. The atmosphere within the venue which was charged and filled with life was different from that outside the walls of the venue. Everywhere was quiet. No cars in sight, no street lights, no ware sellers. After some minutes, I eventually got a bike that took me back to my hotel at twice the standard price.  After a 10 minute ride through dark, unlit streets interspersed with bushes, I got “home”, entered my room and uttered a prayer of gratitude for an event-less late night trip in a strange land.

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DAY 1

DAY 3

DAY 4

AKE FESTIVAL 2016 – THE EXPERIENCE (DAY 1)

The intention to attend the 4th edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival wasn’t a decision I’d sorted and settled way before the festival taking into consideration the publicity and social media frenzy surrounding it. I did not think it expedient at the time to spend some days off my coveted annual leave days at Ake. I encouraged and told myself that there should be more interesting places to visit in the Country e.g Yankari Games Reserve, Erin-Ijesha waterfalls, Ikogosi Warm Springs, Obudu Resort e.t.c.

However, after re-assessing my “predicament”, from the cost and excitement perspective, I discovered that Akefest actually offered all the fun I would need as a blooming writer and a visit to the legendary Olumo Rock which had been included in the schedule of the festival’s event was long overdue. I loved what Akefest stood for, a gathering of renowned, accomplished and upcoming Creatives in the arts, books, music, poetry e.t.c spheres of human interaction. And for the very first time, there was going to be a musical concert. So what was there not to look forward to? The decision to attend was made just a week to the commencement of the festival.

I will be sharing my journal of the days spent at Ake from the vantage point of a first time attendee, curious, excited and longing to inhale the scented wind of creative inspiration Akefest would blow my way. Snapshots have been inserted to avail you all an interesting read. Enjoy  🙂

DAY 1

Day 1 for some started on the 15th of November, 2016 when Akefest commenced with a fiction writing workshop, while Day 1 for some was the 17th of November, 2016, when the opening ceremony was held. Day 1 as it applies to me was the day I got off the Bus at Ita-Oshin park in Abeokuta i.e the 16th of November, 2016.

My initial plan to commence my journey at the break of dawn was hindered by the fact that my annual vacation started that very day. Thus, the things I needed to have put in place to actualize this plan were only being sorted that morning. E.g. My hair. Horrid mess! A trip to the salon could not be ignored. What to pack?  Outfits. Shoes. Though I’d never attended Akefest, I undoubtedly knew that African print i.e Adire, Anakara, Kampala would be the unanimously and instinctively agreed dress code.

“What else will I need?”

“Hope I’m not forgetting anything.”

These and more roamed my mind as I earnestly prepared for Abeokuta.

I was set and ready to leave by 12:45pm. The 15-seater bus took off from the garage by 1pm, fortunately. Apart from this being my first time at Ake, it would also be the first time in Abeokuta. I could remember family and friends alike claiming that the distance between Lagos and Abeokuta was less than an hour’s journey. Thus, I expected that by 2pm, I would have landed in the ancient city. Alas, that was not so. The journey seemed to stretch on for eternity – through a straight road, some parts rough and jutted, most times smooth. We spent two hours on the road, getting down at the park at Ita-Oshin by 3pm. More perplexing was the complaints made by passengers who had travelled down this road before about how the journey seemed to had taken too long. Was it another factor then? The bus probably?

We were greeted at the park by sweaty drivers with green and yellow striped cars that had lived well beyond their years, pushing themselves in our faces with entreaties.

“Aunty, where you dey go, cab dey ground.”

“Mummy, e jen bayin gberu, shey Kuto le n lo”

After a small moment of inner deliberation with the aim of deducing which driver looked the most decent among the lot, I eventually settled on a driver who seemed to be in his mid-thirties. I told him my destination.

“It’s 800 naira ma”.

“800Naira ke???” I replied in utter stupefaction.

Alas, another Abeokuta myth set to burst. The story I had been sold was that taxis in ancient towns like this could give you a ride to the moon and back for just N200. I was about to find out that was far from the truth. I tried to haggle the price but his defence was that, his car, on every trip ferries 4 passengers at the rate of N200 each. Thus if I couldn’t wait for other passengers to fill the cab, then I’d have to pay the full N800. I tried the discount plea. But he wasn’t having it. He even motioned a few of his fellow drivers over to where we stood to verify his position about the price which they did of course. (I couldn’t help a vicious eye-roll at this point). Like they would have refuted his claims.

With no other available choice in sight, we commenced the journey to Kuto Cultural Centre, the venue of the Festival. We got there about 3:50pm. I asked the Taxi Driver to wait a bit while I got my registration pack so he’d drive me to my hotel.  I went in, registered in good time and off we went trying to trace the Lodge (yes, Lodge not hotel). I could tell it wasn’t a popular place because we spent ample time asking pedestrians for directions, making calls to the Lodge before finally discovering it within Obasanjo Hilltop Estate. As he got my luggage out of the vehicle, the driver requested for an extra sum of N1,200 as payment for waiting for me while I did my registration and for driving me around town looking for my Lodge. We argued and haggled before I eventually parted with an extra N500 which I wasn’t too happy doing.

Through the gates of the IVD lodge facility I went. Not as fancy as I’d expected but the environs wasn’t so bad – trees, plants, relative “country-side” kind of quietness. There was no electricity. That added more effect to the serenity. Got to the reception which was a bit shabby, introduced myself and was led to my room, oblivious of the fact that I was in for a bit of surprise.

When I made reservations in Lagos, I had been sent pictures of what the room and the bathroom looked like. The pictures had been taken from different angles. And I liked what I saw over the phone. But the reality was nothing like the online shots. The room looked tiny with a bit of forced coziness to it. The Receptionist who tripled as the Bartender, Assistant Manager, Caretaker e.t.c., brushed off dust that had settled on the bed, showed me how to turn on the lights , the AC and left. It felt surreal somewhat, taking into consideration the size of the room and disappointed expectations like I was a prisoner being led into her tiny cubed cell. I picked up the dingy looking brown-striped blanket on the bed. It was dirty, dusty and torn in several places. Was I expected to cover myself with this? Hell no!!!

I rushed down immediately and complained to the Receptionist. He delved into a rant about how that was the only room left and there was no other blanket to replace the one in my room. When he perceived I had no intention of  budging from the spot on which I stood, staring at him, arms akimbo, he followed me up to the room and appraised the blanket.

“ The blanket e dey okay. They have not stayed in the room for long time. So that’s why e look dusty. He clean oh. You fit use am. And even if we get another blanket, we no go fit change am, because we dey do color matching for the bed and the curtain”.

He proceeded to point to the brown curtains shielding the sanctum of the room from the sun.

“You see say the curtain brown, so that’s why the blanket it have to brown too because it have to match.

And I stand there stupefied, trying to subconsciously trace the whereabouts of my jaw on the floor. A duvet is not sanitary enough for a dog to cover itself with and I’m getting a lecture on colour combination. I tried harder to get him to see my point of view, all to no avail. He eventually offered to get me a bedsheet as a replacement for the blanket and I gladly accepted same.

The bed apart from being so tiny and unable to comfortably accommodate my frame as lean as it is, was harder than a rock. Movement within the room was constrained. I felt choked and small tendrils of claustrophobia began to creep in in.

Well, time did move fast and before I could utter “Jack”, it was 6pm and time to start prepping for the Concert. Since it was too late in the day to start changing hotels, I knew for certain that was going to be my first and last night in that Lodge. Not only would I leave but I would take along with me, the refund of all the other days I’d paid for in advance.

Whilst reserving my accommodation, I had been informed or rather “pre-warned” by the Manager of the Lodge that the generator was switched on by 7 pm and would be turned off at 7 am. The information hadn’t really sunk in until that evening as I got dressed in the dark.  Five other Ake visitors and I were shuttled down to the venue in the Manager’s Space bus for which we had to pay a small fare.

Time to put all worries aside and enjoy the concert. It would be first time seeing all the artistes perform live.

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Venue of the Concert

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Waiting for the Concert doors to open (Yeah, some doses of lethargy had set in at this stage)

The programme started way later than the stated time (this was to be the norm). But when Falana got on that stage with her guitar, all restlessness was forgotten as I listened to her sing in that beautiful richly accented voice of hers. Song after song, she had us all spell bound and the performance with the Cajon, a box shaped percussion instrument was enthralling.

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Next was Adunni Nerfretiti. A group of women dressed in priestly attires with beautiful voices to match. The lead singer was quite the charmer with her sense of humour that came to play in small speeches in between their traditional music renditions.

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And finally, there was Brymo, who thrilled and hyped the crowd with song after song  that had the crowd dancing and jumping in ecstasy.

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New songs, known songs, old songs. And as he commenced his final rendition of the night “Arambe”, Falana and Adunni Nefretiti joined him on stage to perform alongside him. Falana with her Cajon, and the female musical troupe as backup singers. The crowd lost its marbles at this point. I screamed and shouted in pure joy until my voice went hoarse. Gosh!

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It was heavenly. The mix of all their voices as one singing that one song. As I write this, I vividly recall that moment and I still can’t help the goosebumps. Beautiful moment that was and sadly the show came to an end.

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The artistes take a bow while Lola Shoneyin proceeds to close out the show

Lounging in the euphoria of the performances, I only remembered my predicament when I entered my room.  I went in search of the Manager just before he retired for the night  and told him about my plan to move out the following day and how I would require a refund. He initially came at me with talk about how hard it would be to give me a refund since there were no rooms to let out and they had turned back every other visitor that had come calling after I moved in blah and blah blah. I stood my ground and reiterated that I would be leaving still and I would need my money. The conservation ended with a shaky assurance from the Manager that he would try to see if he could find someone still interested in staying at the Lodge.

I returned to my room, thoughts of sleeping in a better hotel same time the next day making it easier for me to sleep through the night.

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DAY 2

DAY 3

DAY 4

Silas’ Silence

Hello guys. Been a while, innit?  😀

Below is a story depicting one of the many ills ravaging our society. Whether rich, poor or middle class, anybody’s son,  brother, nephew, cousin e.t.c can become a victim. The boy child needs attention just as much as the girl child requires it. We need to move out of the stone age where issues like this are exclusively aligned with the female gender alone. Be vigilant, be accessible and listen to her and/or HIM. Read and please share. Thank you. 🙂

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Blackened walls, dirt marked, spittle and stale sweat drenched, lower parts adorned with fading traces of fecal stains. Lean fingers trailed their path along the edifice. Back and forth, from one end to another. He is absent minded. The boy. The memory was there of that one time when that mother had forced out mucus from her child’s nose and rubbed it off on these very walls. She had rubbed and scraped the walls with her mucus-filled hands until they returned to their pre-fluid state. He vowed then never to touch these walls. He would never forget the blatant assault that had been forged on them.

Right now, his fingers had at some point caressed those very forbidden spots and he had not known it. He was numb to sight and sound. Anxiety ridden, tendrils of terrible hurt and ensuing dread was all there was to feel. The pain was taking over the very depths and enclaves of his mind. It was the pain that mattered now. Only the pain. It filled the pores in his skin and watered the very core of his soul.

The only succor he had was just behind the door he had walked past five times as he paced the dank corridor in that constant unco – ordinated, unthinking zig-zag motion.

Jimoh.

Born months apart, they had both been birthed in the very bricks on which this place they called home was moulded. A year less of a decade they both were but he had found himself of late envying his friend’s yet untainted childhood. He should probably warn……….

The thought had barely formed in his mind when he heard a loud snick in a latch from one of the doors standing guard to the corridor. He didn’t jump nor fret. This was a good sound. The bad one was the one he never heard.

He never did.

He walked over to join Jimoh who stood grinning at the entrance to his home with one foot atop his pseudo leather football. Jimoh had already sought his mother’s consent for their tryst this evening. Jimoh’s mother watched over and doted on Jimoh more than a mother hen. If one strand of hair atop Jimoh’s hair fell out, she would notice instantly. Nobody could hurt Jimoh. Silas had not too long ago started wishing she was his to call “mother”.

“Guess what?”

“Kodjo is coming today.”

Kodjo was Jimoh’s cousin. The few times Kodjo was dropped over by his dad for their barely regular threesome playdates were always memorable days for Silas. Where Jimoh’s physical features were in total contrast to Silas’, Kodjoe had a remarkable resemblance to Silas. Both boys were dark skinned, lanky and looked older than their number of years. Jimoh was great but adopting Kodjo as a brother was another item on his wishlist. He had a fantastic image of what his family should have looked like.

His number two wish.

They two boys continued their whimsical banter about football and other nothingness.

Silas suddenly felt the shadow of his misery’s source hover before he even noticed his friend lift his gaze slightly upwards. He couldn’t turn around. He had the sudden urge to run into the one bedroom apartment Jimoh shared with his parents and elder brother and never ever come out. But he didn’t have the nerve to. His fears had him rooted to the spot.

And then Uncle spoke “Hello little friend, I’ve been searching all over for you”. Uncle’s baritone voice sent waves of tremor coursing through Silas’ body. He was perspiring profusely. He wanted to use the toilet. He wanted to urinate. He urgently needed to vomit. He wanted to lay down right there on the dirt worn cemented floor. He wanted to scream. But he neither moved an inch from the spot he stood nor turn back to face Uncle.

Jimoh noticed Silas’ discomfort but stared at him askance wondering why there seemed to be a glow of apparent discomposure suddenly enveloping his friend.

As if by a stroke of meticulously planned plot, Jimoh’s mother peered partly through the curtains that stood between the door and the safety of her home at the unfolding scene. “Good afternoon Uncle”. In the same breadth in which she uttered those words, she pulled Jimmy forcibly amidst mumbled protests into their home and slammed the door shut.

The click of the bolts being harshly forced into place at the other side of the door brought with it a terrifying dusk of reality. Silas turned abruptly, false bravado taking hold.

“Good evening Uncle”.

Uncle was a 5’6 man with a skinny frame, clean shaven, intelligent and kind eyes, a full mane of hair on his head and a warm smile. But Silas knew better. The same features had lured him into a place of darkness so pitch, he had contemplated trying what he had seen that Actor do on TV.

The Actor was a pastor who had lost his wife and five kids in a car accident. He had survived but was miserable. Faith had dealt him a cruel blow by taunting him with life while the essence of his existence had been snatched from his grasp. In the pre – concluding scene of the 73 minute movie, the man rolled and coiled a large rope around the ceiling fan in his room, placed his head in the noose and kicked the chair away from under his feet. The police had later on in the final scene of the movie called what the man did “Suicide”.

Yes, he had envisioned himself lately trying out the same thing but he was terrified. He really wanted to be as brave as the poor Actor in that tragic movie but he wouldn’t see jimoh again. His mother, had blurted out, eyes glued to the screen, whilst caressing the rosary around her neck that the Actor would go to hell because he had committed a sin. He didn’t want to go to hell.

That had been one of the few nights he had felt and enjoyed his mother’s company even though she was always present yet unavailable and oblivious. He had promised to remind himself later on to ask Jimoh’s mother if that was true.

Uncle’ s baritone voice brought him out of his reverie. He was handed the usual foreboding N1,000 note.

“10 pieces of fried yam, 20 akara and five fried fishes. Tell her to keep the change”.

He didn’t ever say more than that. He could remember exactly what the list had been like five days ago, a Sunday afternoon precisely. He watched Uncle’s back as he walked to his room. Silas dragged his feet ever so slowly. He walked along the corridor towards the dimming sun. He couldn’t help but notice that Uncle hadn’t turned the key that would have signaled a shut door. He noticed the little details now. The little details within and outside Uncle’s abode. The little things helped during the sessions.

Silas repeated the very same things Uncle had told him to the woman that sat just in front of the unpainted building with its spacious unleavened ground. The white flakes, being humorously flighty escaped from the large flames that burned from the wood giving fire to the big black basin and found solace on the woman’s clothing and her face. This was the only job the woman had. She didn’t “go to the office” like Jimoh’s mother did. She was here in the morning for three hours and from the evening hours till the last of her produce finished depending on when they did.

So why hadn’t she ever noticed? He had a slight limp now. She must have observed that by now. Why wasn’t she asking? Why wasn’t she bothered? Jimoh’s mother was worried enough to ensure her son stayed as far away from Uncle as possible but this woman……. She pushed him farther away from her and further into Uncle’s 212 Men embrace. The grey bottle with its bold inscription did nothing to make itself less conspicuous on its permanent space on Uncle’s shelf.

The little things he now noticed. Like the barely visible hole that rodents had dug into the corner of the wall which was 6 feet from Uncle’s bed. Or the train of little ants that picked up crumbs of sweet food and other dead insects into another microscopic hole they had dug into the wall. Concentrating on these little things helped push the sound of Uncle’s grunting and guttural sound out of his head as he lay on his stomach, bent over, with his shorts pulled down to his knees.

He would tell her. She had to know. She could not hide from it. These thoughts roamed his head as he took the meticulously wrapped local snacks from her hands and just stood there. He stared at her sharply. She had to feel something was wrong. He begged her to feel. It would save him the difficulty of putting his fear into words.

“Allow that thing may e cold, the thing wey I go do you, e go be like say no be me born you”.

Silas felt his heart plummet to the bottom of his stomach. She hadn’t even turned to spare him a glance.

He had expected a bit of feeling or something more. Just this once to notice and be aware. She was however concerned about a customer who had bought a lot and left a lot of change. He was angry, disgusted, frightened and helpless. His eyes welled up as he walked away, trying to trace his thoughts back to where he had seen Uncle keep the long cord he unoften used to connect his stereo speakers to the 16″ inch TV hanging on the wall of his one bedroom apartment.

That would suffice.

The woman stared at the boy’s retreating form for a while before she turned around to attend to the next customer who thought it weird that this woman, famous in the community for her delicious produce, whose eyes should have become one with the smoke oozing forth from the flames would right now have the strangest tears rolling down her face.

The Coke Crisis of 2015 A.D

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“I can’t find my name on any bottle of Coke, so I’m not buying Coca-Cola anymore”

This is a friend, Seyi , expressing her acute displeasure that a name as common and popular as Seyi hasn’t been found on a bottle of Coke (by her) yet. She is distraught, perplexed and bewildered leaving her with one question in mind. Does Coca Cola truly care?  Oh trust me; there are many others like Seyi out there in the cold dreary unloved world of fizzy drinks.

The Coke company first launched its personalized brand campaign tagged “Share a Coke in Australia in 2011. Coca-Cola replaced its popular logo with the common names in that region, which led to a considerable increase in Coke consumption. Over the years the campaign was filtered out to other countries, getting to Nigeria in late 2014. But judging by the grievances of many Nigerians, the success story recorded in other countries might just be in doubt in the most populous black nation on earth

The campaign tag ‘Share a Coke ‘in its realest, truest literal sense is a pole apart from the message being received. The perception is that the drink has taken on a personal outlook with consumers having their names branded on the bottles and cans. Coca-Cola also drives this home with their social media frolics where fans are asked to share a shot of them holding a bottle of coke customized with their names.

So where in this whole fuzzy grey realm does the word “sharing “come in? If I’m to share a Coke with Adaeze, would it not be more realistic to have Adaeze seated across me while we derive sweet pleasure from that one bottle of Coke. It’s pretty evident that the ‘sharing ‘tag was added to dampen the dissatisfaction of certain addicts cum fans who aren’t (YES, NEVER!!!) going to find their names on any bottle of Coke no matter how hard they search. Even the concept of virtual sharing lends no credence to “Share a Coke”. Coca-Cola should kindly miss us with this entire wily ‘care-bear’ stunt.

The campaign essence serves to create a theoretical subjective connection between the brand and its consumer’s thereby increasing revenue margins for the brand. Astonishingly brilliant move right there! Currently, one of the top five good feelings an individual might align with this very day is to see his/her name on a bottle of Coke. Believe it or not, this place, these days, as a Nigerian, the little joys do go a long way. We won’t deny the fact that there’s just this feel-good special candor to it.

The consumer will be eager to go all lengths to find that one branded customized bottle but would the seller be willing to go that extra mile. The market environment in Nigeria is an endless power tussle between the buyer and the seller, a competition to see who is the most aggressive or intimidating.

“Eze walks into a shop to get a bottle of Coke; the seller gives him an Iyabo – branded bottle. Eze declines because Iyabo was his first love who later dumped him for his best friend. Given a pole, he’d still not touch it. Alright, Madam Coke shoves an Usman branded bottle in Eze’s face. He declines still because Usman was that classmate in primary school who included his name in the list of noise makers. More bottles are brought out, yet Eze can’t find a relatable bottle. On the other hand Madam Coke is  livid, impatient and suddenly she’s had enough. She snaps at Eze, there’s an exchange of bitter words, Eze leaves angry, Madam Coke with fumes proceeding from her facial pores is poised and all coiled like a cobra for the next buyer who would regrettably attempt that same drivel.

Amusing scenario right?  A multiple incidence of which there can be no denial. Now what becomes the fate of the not so few folks who can’t connect with that feeling? Who or what do the abandoned run to for succor? Let’s not repudiate as well the mental import that comes with knowing that cherished name of yours is not just good enough to be branded on a bottle of Coke nor shared with anyone. Until you make an effort anyway. Yes, there’s actually a site one can log on to order for specially personalized coke bottles. But why? Why do we have to throw ourselves shamelessly and wantonly at Coca-Cola to be loved, while others have it so easy? Who possesses the time for such? This is prejudicial, discriminatory, inhumane and unfair.

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Gist is the campaign would only last a few months before Coke brings back its logo which is just as well *shrugs*. But if the reverse is the case, well ladies and gentlemen, we just might have an impending Coke crisis on our hands. The COCAPOCALYPSE I call it. Allow me break this down.

There it is a bottle of Coke with the name Orienoghenewhogaga (insert extraordinary ethnic name herein) on it. Not Oghene, not Orien, not Gaga, but ORIENOGHENEWHOGAGA. There are five Orienoghenewhogagas in the room, there are husbands whose wives are Orienoghenewhogaga, there are mothers whose children are Orienoghenewhogaga, present are aunts, uncles, fiancés with the same peculiar interest in that one bottle. So who goes home with the bottle bearing in mind that this apparently might be the only Coke bottle branded with that name in the country.  Does it go the highest bidder? *smirks* Nah! Not in my beloved fatherland. Sharp dives will be made for the bottle. Legs sprained, teeth leaving bites marks, head gears flung into the distance , total wretched pandemonium everywhere until this poor bottle is smashed or split open and none gets it. Only workable solution. The only. And this is just the mildest COCAPOCALYPSE depiction.

A trip to the vast marts and malls in Lagos should give one an inkling of what is to come. Persons of all ages rummaging through Coca Cola shelves which of course the malls were wise enough to set up in separate corners.  Is it gold, white diamonds or the elixir of life my fellow brethren are searching for? No! Coke it is. And if you still think it’s not that serious, then you my friend should ready thyself for a shocker.

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This is not a Nigerian thing but a human element. Nevertheless when viewed from the Nigerian aspect brings the point closer home and the typical Nigerian is weary enough as it is without adding the thoughts of a customized Coke bottle to his list of unresolved, disconcerting issues. Coca-Cola addiction is not a new experience for many and the personalization element flings the baton further.

I ask again, does coke truly care like Maltina or Gino? And if there are people out there who have found their first names, second names, third names, nick names, surnames on bottles and cans of Coke, well blessed are you for ye shall be called “Beloved”.

P.S: How much would you be willing to pay for a customized bottle of Coke with your native name if it came at an extra cost???

Photo Credit: www.twicsy.com, www.memegeneration.com

Heartbreak Motel

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Hello guys. 🙂 Yes, i know it’s been ages since i strolled around these parts. I should blame that on life’s hassles. Lol. So i came up with something fresh to restore some life back to this page. The inspiration behind this story is early teenage exuberance and innocence. That time in our lives just after adolescence and some few feet away from full blown teenagedom. A time when feeble hearts get broken every other day by the wicked hands of unrequisted infatuation. And crushes, the daily bread through which all energy, thought and infantile yearnings were dissipated. Relax, read, enjoy and thank you in advance for leaving a comment

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His skin was a creamy shade of mocha and in unison with the short slightly wavy curls on his head. Of medium height with a strong jaw and beautiful deep set brown eyes that crinkled at the corners. He was undeniably bi-racial and his kind were popularly called half castes.  His nose was finely shaped and slightly crooked like a Grecian’s. I could see his lips move but I was deaf to speech, enraptured with his perfect ivory teeth.

“Do you live here?” He repeated slowly with almost perfect British intonation whilst waving his finely manicured hands in my face.

Who was this man? Why was my pulse racing so dangerously? He must have walked out of the flat opposite mine on the landing above. Was he a relative of Aunty Romoke’s? Was he here for her traditional wedding holding the day after tomorrow?

“You’re quite the shy one aren’t you?” He remarked laughingly, intruding on my shambled thoughts.

Apart from the motionless effect his presence had on me, there was another reason why I wasn’t in control. Anger! Seni! Foolish Seni, my childhood buddy who had suddenly developed the courage to write me a cheesy love letter just because he had two or three strands of hair growing out of his chin. An act I found completely ridiculous.  I was turning the big FIFTEEN in a few days, becoming an adult. Love letters were for kids. I’d gone ahead to confront him some minutes earlier at our community’s water site. An argument had ensued and the words ‘snob’, ‘brat’, ‘immature’, unworthy’, ‘ugly’ had been exchanged. But here I stood, bucket of water in hand, my shuku cornrows half loosened, Nixoderm on my face , standing  with this lovely( not immature and definitely worthy of all my love) stranger, who I’d nearly bumped into on the stairway leading to my family’s two-room flat.

I was usually quite the bold and brazen one even at my young age, but this…… this  impromptu flirtation with this demi-god who looked at least twice my age had totally caught me off guard.

He was staring at me now inquisitively. Arms akimbo, silent and just staring with those gorgeous eyes. Butterflies and silly tremors coursed through my being.  Though young, I was not lost to the effect my prime body had on men. Fully developed breasts, well rounded bottom and finely shaped hips were physical assets my 5’2  full figured, bow legged body did a terrible job of concealing. As for the bowed legs, I’d read something excitingly descriptive about those somewhere. I suddenly got hold of myself before I made a fool of myself some more and walked past him sharply. He gently grabbed my elbow and spun me around.  Pause! Was he… was he going to ……… The thought sent my heart into a jig of sorts. My first kiss just a few days to my 15th birthday? Was it going to be like I’d seen it done in movies and read about in the cheesy romance novels I usually hid under my mattress?

To my chagrin he grinned and introduced himself as Timipre and fortunately I was able to find my voice though slightly laced with just the barest tinge of disappointment and replied “Bamidele”.

“Nice meeting you Bamidele. Should see you around sometime.” he winked and disappeared down the flight of stairs.

I held on to the banister to steady my wobbling knees. At that same moment, the door to my flat opened and out came my brother bouncing his brown (once sparkling white) football.

“Why do you look so pale…….” he paused for effect with the most annoying smirk spread on his face. “………iyawo Timipre”.

I rolled my eyes in disgust, walked past him and slammed the door in his cheeky little round face.

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The morning air here and as far as 200 metres from my home was rent with the aroma of wood, fire, and food. The mixture of which always signalled the beginnings of an owambe. I looked out the window in my mother’s room at the throng of women (most of them residing in the vicinity) gathered around giant pots and fires, all busy with one meal or the other. My mother dressed in her Ankara kaba was busy turning amala in a pot big enough to feed 100 guests. It was some few hours to Aunty Romoke’s (or Ronnie as she’d rather be called) traditional engagement ceremony.

Satisfied that my mother was busy, I brought out her make-up purse from her drawer and perched comfortably in front of her vanity mirror in my beautifully sequined undergarment.

The memory of the brief encounter I’d had with the man on the stairs to my flat two days ago lit up my face like a Christmas tree.  No better sign to prove that we were meant to be than our names. They both ended with the letter ‘e’ and rhymed as well.  “Would our age difference constitute a hindrance to our already blooming romance?”  “Would our kids look half as good as their father”? I shook this and other questions from my thoughts and concentrated on properly applying my mother’s beauty enhancers on my face although I knew she strongly disapproved of me using them.

Ronnie though way older than I, was to me the elder sister I never had. She lived in the flat opposite ours with her parents and siblings. She had been my school mother through primary and secondary school. We were more like siblings than neighbours. It had come as no surprise when she informed me months earlier that I would be the one to read her engagement letter today and had gone ahead to buy for me the same exclusive aso-ebi her family would wear. It was only natural therefore that I looked my very best. I had a strong hunch Timipre would be around because I was quite certain he was either Ronnie’s colleague, friend or  relative. This was an opportunity to make a better second impression not as a painfully shy and confused teenager but the grown woman I was.

The bedroom door suddenly swung open with a soft snick from the latch. I nearly broke a leg whilst jumping up and away from the mirror, my ‘painted’ face an evidence of my tomfoolery. My mother squinted at me and didn’t utter a word for seconds (tick….tock….tick). Seconds that felt like eternity before she finally smiled and said   “You should try adding some tiro to your eyelid”.

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“ Iyawo a bi beji t’oluwa ba fe, iyawo a bi beji t’oluwa ba fe…………..”         

(The bride shall birth twins if the Lord so desires)    

The alagas are usually a joy to watch at weddings. Their intrinsic ability to easily break into songs and the stern yet mischievous methods they applied in draining the purses of the groom’s family was pure gold.

I would be called in soon to read the engagement letter. My eyes scanned the perimeter of the ceremony grounds. Six big canopies were filled to the brim with guests. Earlier I’d heard some women discussing in my language about how Ronnie had   sensibly “taken her eyes to the market”. I looked to the couple’s alcove to see just how true that was. The groom’s head was bowed as he busied himself adjusting his agbada and though I couldn’t see his face; I had to admit his traditional attire blended beautifully with his physique. Just as I turned briefly to re-tye my wrapper, my name was announced over the microphone. Ushered in by the bata drummers and alagas, I danced like it was my last remembering my mother’s advice that I would be sprayed money and the amount might very well depend on how well I could komole. She had even given lessons for effect. I danced in swaying and swinging to the sound of the drums, while i instantly got showered with twenty and fifty naira notes.  And then I saw him. It took all my willpower not to stand upright and remain transfixed to the spot. Timipre looking the part of the handsome devil wasn’t a relative, neither was he a guest. He was the groom. Ronnie’s groom. The drums, beats, music had all faded into some vacuity in my head. I watched feebly as he whispered into his bride’s ear, making her giggle. I bowed my head and kept on swaying maniacally and only paused when one of the alagas stood in front of me with the letter in hand. She was staring at me oddly. Apparently the music hadn’t faded into some obscure part of my mind, it had stopped and I hadn’t noticed. She handed me the letter and made a quick joke to the crowd about how I couldn’t stop dancing because I enjoyed having money sprayed on me. There was an almost superficial uproar of laughter which I found profoundly infuriating.

With a calm and clear voice that hid the raging emotions within, I delved into the task.

“From the entire family of Dr and Mrs Idowu Osho to the entire family of  High chief and Dame Bassey Tonye,………….” He had winked at me hadn’t he? There had been chemistry between us hadn’t there? Heart broken, legs trembling, mouth quivering, I concentrated harder on the letter.

“…..we are delighted to acknowledge receipt of your letter, intimating us of the love existing between your son, Timipre……”. I faltered a bit. “…. Alexander and our precious daughter Romoke Oluwabusolami, furthermore seeking our consent that they be………………”.

I caught my mother smiling and giving me the thumbs up sign far across the arena. My brother seated beside her was comically blowing kisses my way. I smiled back and concluded the letter which had seemed to stretch on for eternity like the national budget. Before proceeding out the hall I tried throwing a baleful glare Timipre’s way but my view was obstructed. What right had he to take my heart, squish it and throw it to the dogs? I walked far away from the tents and the noise to sob a bucketful and maybe calm my nerves in the process.

I couldn’t allow Ronnie marry that pervert, that liar, that paedophile. Yes! She needed to know her beloved Timipre had made advances towards me just two days ago. Was that even his real name?  Convinced of what I had to do, I marched back to the hall. I would spill everything to her and then she’d get mad and feel the sting of betrayal just like I had some minutes ago and angrily call off the wedding while I would stand back and relish his public humiliation and rejection.  Oh, the joy! I was in the tent now and continued marching on, the object of my intent in view. He wasn’t deserving of my ‘sister’ or I. She should know the sort of sick man she was marrying. The worst kind who had…….  Some ten feet away from their beautifully decorated alcove, Timipre looked my way, saw me and nudged his bride to look in my direction also. They both smiled and waved with Ronnie beckoning me to come over. She had never looked more stunning. I stood rooted to the spot. Who had what really?  Made small chit-chat with me and walked on? How did that translate into an affair? Oh My God! My hand automatically flew to my mouth. The enormity of what I’d been about to do and the series of cataclysmic events that would have ensued made me gasp. I maniacally waved back, an artificial grin plastered onto my face and lunged out of the marquee as fast as I could. What I’d been about to do and the fact that I had modelled an innocent simplistic conversation with a stranger into a relationship in my head revealed the simple incontestable fact that I was still a child. A child who had nigh lain to waste another’s happiness. A child who would have made a complete fool of herself and her lineage (this being the best case scenario). A child who was foolishly trying to live out her Harlequin fantasies.  I’d even begun to plan our wedding in my head. (Timipre Weds Bamidele, or was it ‘hooks’ they used these days). I urgently required my mother’s trademark abara to restore me back to my senses because I was without an iota of doubt, nuts.

Lowering myself onto a white plastic chair nearby, my thoughts a rollercoaster of shock, incredulity and stupefaction, I felt a stream of cold water being sprayed onto my neck. I turned around infuriated and there stood Seni, my estranged friend and my brother giggling a very safe distance from me.

“You can’t catch us.” they bellowed as they stuck out their tongues and took off.  I instantly grabbed some half full bottles of water laying on a table some spaces away from me, my roguish, tomboyish nature already kicking in whilst also pulling my damask wrapper up to my knees.  The gele my mother had taken adequate time to artistically style some hours ago already hanging halfway down the back of my head in the most grotesquely misshapen state. Those miscreants would learn today. I made quite the sight that fine afternoon as I ran after my assailants, laughing and hoping to half drown them, my dangerous crush on Timipre already fading into distant memory.

A GLOSSARY OF YORUBA TERMS

Abara (n) —-An heavy painful slap on the back

Agbada (n) —-Native outfit worn by the men folk in all parts of Nigeria.

Alaga (n) —-Master of ceremony (especially at a traditional engagement     ceremony in Nigeria.

Amala (n) —- A meal made from cassava

Bata (n) —— Talking drum

Gele (n) —— Traditional head gear worn by women in Nigeria and other parts of Africa

Kaba (n) —–A loose fitting gown

Komole (v) —To dance all the way to the ground whilst  maintaining a steady   unfaltering stance

Shuku (n) —-Popular native hair style in Nigeria.

Tiro (n) ——Locally made beauty enhancer usually applied on the lower eyelids

Photo Credit: http://www.minneapolis.com

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The Rippling Effect

Hey, in case u were wondering, this post is an entry for the open post competition “The Naked Convos” blog is presently running. You can check it out here http://www.thenakedconvos.com/two/. I saw a tweet about it two months ago but i had a lot on my plate then. So i didn’t pay it any attention. Then some days ago, they tweeted the links to the entries that had already been submitted and confirmed the competition was still open. So i just decided to take a leap at it. Yeah i had fun writing this though i constantly had  to remind myself there was a word count limit.  I hope y’all really enjoy it 😀

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Aigbe smiled callously as he watched Esosa tumble backwards onto the floor. He thought to himself that she quite looked like a fish out of water flailing about, reaching for support that would not be forthcoming. His smile very quickly evolved into a cruel laugh as he watched the back of her head crash onto the cold, tiled floor with a sickening, wet sound. Leaping astride her semi-conscious body, he rained three solid blows onto her torso, working his way from her lower ribcage to her sternum. She yelped, shook and choked with each blow, unable to fight back.

You are the one that will die, not me, Stupid Harlot!

He spat into her face as the last blow landed and she choked violently, jerking with the impact of the blow and recoiling from the glob of projectile spittle that had hit her face.

You!  Are! A! Mad! Dirty! Prostitute!

Each word was punctuated by a slap that sent waves of pain coursing through Esosa’s head. She could barely speak or shout or scream in protest, much less move. She felt herself start to slip into a numb blackness but she tried to hold on.  Aigbe wrapped his hands around her neck and muttered.

Witch! Harlot! Your plan has failed!

Esosa closed her eyes and let the numbing darkness take her as her husband choked the remaining life from her, his wedding ring pressing against her carotid artery.

**********

2 hours earlier

 

Esosa smiled to herself as she poured the brown powder into the bottle of Merlot. She re-corked it and shook it violently until the powder began to dissolve. She knew Aigbe was already on his way home. Her plan was foolproof. He had once been a victim of fate and had survived. But he wasn’t going to be so lucky this time around.

This thing wey you see soo dey work sharp sharp oooo. Na one time e go peme all the rats them wey dey disturb you.

She smiled as she remembered the words of the man from whom she had purchased the rodenticide. Oh she was definitely getting rid of  a “rat”. If only he had known what she intended to do with it. She took a quick glance at the grandfather clock by the corner of the room. Aigbe would be home soon. Everything was set. All she had to now was wait.

**********

2 days earlier

 

Aigbe knew he was stretching himself beyond his limits literally. He was trying to hang the tiny modern gadget just above the painting that hung high on the south wall of their living room where it would remain conspicuous and still work perfectly. 

He climbed down gently from the table already feeling a jab of pain in his right thigh.  He had defied all odds and could walk again but with a pronounced limp. He had gone through the healing process secretly hoping to surprise his wife. “So you can walk now, hmmmmmm.” That was all she said. His heart had sunk to the base of his stomach. Well he was going to surprise her again in the next two days with news of his appointment as technical engineer at Russell Gadgets. The baby cam he had just installed depended on it but he knew without a doubt that by the end of his presentation, he would get the job.

**********

Aigbe tried to think back to where he had gone wrong. The accident hadn’t been his fault. But still he had tolerated his wife’s loathing and uncaring attitude towards him. A lovely pregnant wife, the peak of his career and it had all gone downhill.  Even though he could walk now, he was sterile still. The accident had caused that. His wife had also lost the baby but thinking about it through a mist of anger, he knew with a certainty that she had gotten rid of the baby. The murderous bitch.  His only chance at being a father, and now she wanted to get rid of him too. Weaving in and out of traffic, he was a man ready to exact vengeance.

**********

 2 months ago

She couldn’t believe the contents of the mail she was reading on her PC in her cubicle at the office. She had been promoted to head of regional services. Yes she had put in her name for consideration even whilst she knew she didn’t possess the necessary qualifications. Apart from the promotion, she was also getting transferred to South Africa. She knew without a doubt this was Mr Lawson’s handiwork. He was the head of human resources. They had gone for dinner a couple of times. She knew he liked her and she liked him back. She had just mentioned her application to him in passing not knowing he would get involved. She also remembered him informing her he was getting transferred to SA. So this wasn’t a coincidence. He had planned it so they would be together. He had no idea she was married because she had made sure of that. The problem now was getting rid of Aigbe. The divorce route wasn’t going to work. There would have to be another way and she had to act fast.

*********

Aigbe as angry and betrayed as he felt was in the mood for a little drama. As he walked into his home, his eyes strayed to the painting behind which was hidden the baby-cam that had saved his life. A final check on the gadget and its condition before going in for his presentation, and he had been in time to see his wife plan his death.  He called out “babyI’m home.” Aigbe moved over to the bar and poured himself a glass from the bottle of Merlot. He drank the whole glass down and poured another knowing she was looking in on him through a crack in the door. Esosa stood there watching as her husband guzzled down his drink. She held on tightly to the door knob, her knuckles turning white as she waited in anticipation. An onlooker would think she was the one about to die and not the man standing some feet away from her. At that moment, Aigbe clutched his stomach, fell onto the ground and went into a spasm of sorts. A few seconds later, he was still. Esosa could feel her breath coming in rapid spates. She stepped out from behind the door and probed him with her right foot just to be sure. Finally she took a deep breath and sprung to action. This had to look like a suicide. She grabbed him under his arms and sat him on his favourite chair in front of the TV. She pulled him to a sitting position, head tilted to one side. She placed the poison on a table in front of him, and then went on to get the bottle and the glass. As she picked them up she thought, the next two weeks were really going to be tedious, pretending to mourn, receiving visitors, planning the f…….. it took a split second for her brain to register that there was another bottle of Merlot up on the shelf that hadn’t been there before. In that same instant she felt herself being lifted off the ground and flung dangerously to the far corner of the room. She looked up and saw her husband smiling sinisterly down at her. “But….. But…. you’re…….” Esosa knew even in her semi-conscious state that her husband  had found out somehow and had been drinking from another bottle he had brought with him. She wasn’t going to live to tell this tale. That much she knew.

**********

2 years ago

 

She listened on in shock as the doctor told her Aigbe’s chances of walking again were slim. She had married him for the comfort/luxury he could provide. Love hadn’t been a factor.  But she knew this accident would change everything. She had to flee this nightmare and the first way was to remove her four month old pregnancy. She loathed him for this but she had to do what she had to do.

**********

Mr Lawson had gotten Esosa’s address from the office and knew he should have called before coming over but he wanted to surprise her and celebrate her promotion and their transfer.

Aigbe heard a car pull up and checking through the peep-hole in the door saw a man walking towards his doorstep with flowers. “How doth luck smileth upon thee.” Aigbe chuckled wickedly. This was definitely the reason why his wife had tried to murder him and thinking he was dead, her lover had come to celebrate his demise. Well they would be celebrating together alright. Aigbe  left the door  slightly ajar and stood behind it with a sledge hammer. He was a man acting out the anger and pain he had bottled up. The stranger knocked and after a few seconds walked in calling out “hello.” Aigbe stepped out from behind the door and whispered “hey there.”