Saturday, February 11, 2017

CITY OF STORMs - PART TWO


A frosty morning in Jos; it was still dark when Tolani Philips had alighted from the luxurious bus into the dark quiet terminus, the cold carving out a chilly welcome. It was 3am in the morning. As she dragged out her luggage, her teeth chattered with cold and something else: fear. Fear of the unknown. Nervous, she sat on one of her boxes and waited.

When she received her NYSC posting letter few days earlier, she had panicked. Lots of gory tales had been told again and again about the old North and its violent tendencies; about Christians and settlers gulping the red every now and then.  Her mother had tried everything to make sure she served in Lagos but all in vain.

“Tolani, I am scared,” her mother had said, finally putting words to her fears. “I don’t want you to go. It is dangerous.”

“I thought so too, mum,” Tolani had replied. “But what can we possibly do? I have to go, otherwise I will never get a job. I need that NYSC certificate.”

Her mother hesitated for a moment and then said “In that case, I will go with you…”

“No way, mum!” Tolani protested, her face split with shock . “Am an adult, not a child.

‘Not a child? We are talking about serious stuff here.’

‘I know but I am not a kid.’

‘Yes but you are still my kid.’

‘Mom, I need to do this alone.’

‘I know but I lost my cousin to the slippery hands of the north.’

‘Yeah, yeah. You already told me that a million times. But I am not your cousin.’

‘Because you are untouchable?’

‘No mom, no one is untouchable. You need to discard your fears. Besides, people are out there and they are okay. Beside, this is the right thing to do.”

“Yes but I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

“Don’t worry. I will be fine. I promise.”

Now in Jos, and as she waited in the motor park for daylight, fear nibbled furiously. The park was littered with young travelers, most of them on their way to NYSC camp. To while away time, they chatted, shared nervous laughter and formed alliances for the future. But Tolani was a loner. Her fear of the future paralysed her need to socialise. There was one image she couldn’t get out of her head, though: cousin Olu, in his starched corper uniform, fleeing from a throng of angry youth, chanting allahu akbar and wielding all kinds of weapons. According to her mom, cousin olu had taught in a village junior secondary school and he was loved by everyone. But two months before the passing out parade, something happened that turned his national duty to a nightmare.

One of his fellow corpers, Uche Okoro caught a student reading the Quran during class and seized it. He took it home, planning to give it back the next day. But fate was against him, for that night, at the corper’s lodge, rats invaded as usual and did justice to a portion of the holy book. Uche gave it back and tried to explain what happened but in vain. Three days later and in the middle of the night, they came. They grabbed Uche, tortured her and finally killing her. But they didn’t stop there. They rounded up the rest of the corper and did to them what they did to Uche. Olu managed to escape but they haunted him and didn’t stop until he was burning orange.

Tolani shook off the image but at the same time wondering if she was going to end up like cousin Olu, cooked alive.  But then, something magical happened as soon as the city shed her dark cloak and daylight came with promises. Face-to-face with Jos, the glowing capital of Plateau, the fear gave way to pure delight. It was love at first sight and she gave herself up to be completely seduced by the sound, the colour and the charm of that little paradise. The city pulsed with light and morning. The streets were crowded with people on their way to work and they all looked wonderful, vibrant and eager to be on their way. She breathed in a crispy air and soared gloriously.

On the street of Jos, she saw people who were like her and so many others who were unlike her.  People who she thought she knew and had judged all her life. In close proximity with all that she had feared and despised, her prejudice drained away and she knew she would be fine.

Out of the three-week compulsory orientation camp, and the regimentation associated with military camps, the Oliver Twist in her asked for more. For more hallowed hills and glittering peaks; more hillocks, fascinating gorges and volcanic table mountings; for more of the gentle roar of nature and the swansongs of the famous River Pai; more and more of the ancient Wase Rock as it stood guard, watching over the town of Wase, and browbeating stubborn climbers into defeat; more of Pandam wildlife park and its cross-like bay, more of the ancient Kaura falls, liquid magic falling down the throat of a goddess. She asked for more and got a mighty more in return.

Courtesy of the old Corp members already serving at the University of Jos teaching hospital where she was posted for her primary assignment, Tolani and her mates were hosted to a small welcome party. It was during this party that she met the tall Hezekiah Garuba.  She could not hide her intention to explore her new-found love and he offered, like a true gentleman to be her guide. And truth be told, he was a perfect guide and it was natural for them to fall in love. If they were not busy attending to patients, he would be out there introducing Tolani to the singsongs of nature and nature to the beautiful Tolani.

Once, the adventure seekers had wandered to Wase town. At the foot of Wase rock, Tolani shrieked like a baby, her excitement overflowing.

‘Look!’ she crowed. ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’

Hezekiah laughed. ‘Yes it is.’

And indeed it was. The first sight of Wase rock and its intimidating poise always held any visitor glued to his feet in wonder.

Her eyes glowed as she stared at the rocky height. ‘Has any climber made it to the top?’

‘I am not sure.’

‘Really? Then, let’s go.’

Hezekiah arched her brow, wondering if she had gone mad. ‘Go? Go where?’

‘To the top. Let’s climb this giant.’

‘Are you out of your mind?’

‘No, I am not. I have to do this or I won’t be able to forgive myself.’

‘Come on…’

‘I am serious!’

‘Really?’

‘Please, don’t mock me.’

‘That is not what I am doing.’

‘This is really important. When I go back to Lagos, I should be able to narrate my unforgettable romance with Wase rock.’

‘I understand but there is no way we can make it to the top.’

‘We can’t know if we don’t try. Please….’ She pleaded.

Hezekiah gave in and up the rocky height they went.

Determined to conquer nature, Tolani kept going, pushing harder and putting every challenge beneath her feet. Several times, she led and Hezekiah had to do the catch up. But after one hour of nonstop climbing, it began to tell on her. She breathed heavily and her legs ached all over. She tried to force her muscles to action and this put a serious strain on her body. What came next happened in a blur. She suddenly blackened out, her legs caving in.  She could have tripped had Hezekiah not supported her from behind. He guided her to a square-shaped rock where she sat, catching her breath.

‘Are you okay?” he asked, worried.

She forced a smile. ‘Yes I am. Thank you.’

‘You pushed yourself too far.’ He brought out two bottled water from his rucksack and offered her one. She took a gulp.

‘Don’t mind me.’ She said, taking another gulp. ‘This city is having a serious effect on me. I want to explore her completely but that is almost impossible.’

Hezekiah smiled. ‘Maybe it is not that impossible. Why not stay after your service?’

‘I can’t do that.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because my mum will have a heart attack.’

‘Oh your mom.’

‘Yeah, my mom.’

‘She really must hate The North.’

‘You can say that again.’

‘That is understandable, though.’ He said. ‘This country is suffering from what I call national suspicion. Each ethnic group is always suspicious about the other ethnic group. And suspicion breeds fear.’

‘And fear breeds something else quite fatal.’

‘Exactly.  But I blame the colonialists.’

‘Why? They have been gone for a while.’

‘Yes but they brought together more than two hundred ethnic groups with diverse cultures and religion and expected them to leave together in harmony. If you ask me, the colonialists set this country to fail’

‘Maybe we need to prove them wrong.’

‘Yes but how do we do that when our so-called leaders are busy fanning the ember of divisions just to acquire political power?’

‘Do you think things will ever change?’

‘Yes, I believe so. If you ask me, we the youth can change things, we can do things differently.’

‘I agree. I am going to miss this city.’

‘Not if you stay. You want to stay, right?.”

‘Yeah.’

‘Then talk to your mother. I am sure she would understand.’

‘You don’t know my mother. She would never understand. Her cousin was killed in Maiduguri.’

‘Oh. What happened?’

‘It is a long story. If I really want to stay, I would need a justifiable reason.’

He smiled. ‘Maybe I can find you one.’

“How?’ she was curious

He flashed his white teeth once again. ‘By asking you to marry me.’

Right there on top of the great Wase rock, he proposed. She said yes. Her mother went ballistic.

‘Are you out of your mind?’ her mother had roared when she travelled al the way back to Lagos to inform her that she was getting married.

‘Mum, stop. You are overreacting.’

‘Overreacting? God, I can’t believe this. While am here praying and fasting for your safe return home, you are out there, playing dangerous games with a Northerner!’

‘Mum, this is not a game. I love him.’

‘He is a Northerner!’

‘Yes but he is a Christian too. A Christian like us.’

‘He is not like us.  A Northerner is a northerner and I forbid you to have anything to do with him.’

‘But I love him.’

‘No, you can’t! You do not have that luxury.’

‘Mum, this is what I want.’

‘And what exactly do you want?   To die before your time?’

‘Mum!’

‘Look here young lady, if you know that I am your mother, you will listen to me and come back home after your passing out parade. There is no way I will allow you to marry a northerner.’

‘Mum, I love him!’ Tolani insisted. ‘He is the one I want to marry.’

‘Then you may have to do it without me. There is no way I will be part of this suicide mission. Never!’

Unyielding, her mother turned a deaf ear but then, Tolani was in love and could not be stopped. One sun-soaked weekend, Hezekiah took her to the registry and in the presence of ten witnesses, they became husband and wife.

The new couple headed to church that beautiful Sunday morning to celebrate their union. As usual, the church was boisterous. In their large numbers and colourfully attired in their Sunday’s bests, the congregation sang and clapped, completely drunk in the spirit. It was in the midst of this spiritual frenzy that Tolani had the sudden urge to throw up. Feeling sick, she silently left her husband’s side and moved out of the main auditorium towards the ladies. Behind, the atmosphere was charged. Brethren were high in the spirit, singing and dancing, blabbing away in unknown tongues.

She spent at least five minutes emptying her bowel. Satisfied, she cleaned up and then stepped out. However, instead of going straight inside the auditorium, she stepped out of the church compound in search of something that would quench her hunger. She bought a bottle of coke from one of the hawkers waiting in front of the church, drank it and then retraced her steps towards the church.

All she took was three steps.

Three steps towards the church and then it exploded!

The blast was so powerful that it threw her backwards. When she regained consciousness, fire was everywhere. There was pandemonium: people were screaming, and a few people limped out of the burning church, ablaze. A crowd had gathered. Stumbling, Tolani scrambled to her feet and rushed towards the raging fire. People held her back -She begged them to let her save her husband but they would not let her go.

The crowd kept growing but no one knew what to do.  Suddenly, a group of gunmen appeared from nowhere, shooting sporadically.  Curiousity turned to terror and the crowd fled. There was a stampede as bullets flew. People were screaming, others crying but everyone was running. Bullets kept flying. People kept crying. To escape, they stepped on one another, punching one another, killing one another!

Somehow, Tolani managed to escape with a broken leg. With no home to return to, she flowed with the fleeing crowd.

Friday, November 4, 2016

CITY OF STORMS - PART ONE


Though asleep, Pangshin was wide awake. The little village was agog with muffled voices and whispers in the wild dark. Squatting at the edge of a bully of a mountain and inhabited by five hundred simple-minded Biroms, most of them hardworking farmers and all of them Christians, the village was still miles away from civilization. People here lived simply, life was ordinary and quiet. Tonight, men snored loudly and their women, dangling between sleep and wakefulness, stirred gently. Wandering in familiar dreams, little children wet tattered mats, while older ones muttered senseless words. The moon was awoke too-hallowed goddess of the blue shrine. Surrounded by the stars, she toured the dark-infested land with her bright all-seeing eyes, giving the village a taste of her fertile goodness. She was still in her gushing element when she saw them and gasped. The gentle moon saw them, and became the first witness to the rage of men playing gods.

But while the hyenas were still circling, Ruth woke with a start. She breathed heavily like a marathon runner, her hands moving quickly around her big belly protectively. She felt the baby kicked and heaved a sigh of relief.  Her baby was safe. Weak and heavy, she was lying down on a tattered mat, spread across the small jagged altar, her folded wrapper serving as a pillow. Groaning softly, she sat upright with some difficulty and her gaze wandered around the small mud church. Lit by the kerosene lantern pastor Gyang gave her and which was hanging on the pew, the church couldn’t have housed more than two hundred worshippers and because it was the only church in Pangshin, it catered for the Christian community. Long wooden benches were arranged in two rows, one for the male worshippers and the other for the female folk. Beside the altar, two long benches marked the choir section. Ruth was one of the five members of the church choir. She had taken a break when her belly was getting too big for that station.

The walls were red and wet and depressive, the floor jagged.  Ruth released a deep troubled sigh, her heart sagging with loneliness and uncertainty.  The anointed Christian church had been her home for a week now. Suddenly, she felt a jolt of sadness and fear. Two weeks earlier, before things went haywire for her, her doctor at the two-room Pangshin clinic had told her she was due in two weeks. At the time, she had been excited with the news. She couldn’t wait to see the child she had carried and loved and had for ten years hoped for, for more than ten years. Now, that her miracle baby was on the way, she knew she was not ready to introduce the little bundle of joy to a world imploding. And it was all her fault. Because of her inability to accept what she couldn’t change, her child was going to be born in a church and surrounded by strangers and not family. But then recently, the word family had taken a different meaning. Silently, she prayed to God for a miracle. She prayed, hoping it would help banished her fear and uncertainty but it didn’t. her fear blossomed like a daffodil.

She hated him for doing this to her, that backstabbing serpent who had pretended to be her faithful husband and while she was not looking, had her stung. He hurt her pretty bad and to exert her vengeance, she had hurt him pretty bad too. She had several ideas, like looking for a younger girl and allowed him to have a taste of a pregnant woman. But she didn’t have the heart to go for that and the ones he finally settled for, proved quite effective. First, she had gone  to see the parents of the sixteen year old he was banging late at night in the classroom, where they both taught secondary school students , resulting in him getting mud wrestled by the girl’s father, and hit with a pestle by the girl’s mother, bringing the fight summarily to an end.

Ruth was not done, though. She wanted to show the world what a jerk he was. So, she went to pastor Gyang, the firebrand founder of the anointed Christian church of God and told him that his Sunday school teacher was a serial adulterer. With holy anger, pastor Gyang had him suspended as the church worker, insisting he confess his transgressions in front of the whole congregation. Ruth’s husband, rather than humiliating himself in front of fellow sinners, left the church instead. And angry at his wife for her betrayal, he kicked her out into the waiting arm of the church.

Ruth snapped out of her head as nature beckoned. She grabbed the lantern and shuffled out of the church into the bush behind the church. It happened while she was peeing; mad gods, shrouded in darkness and wielding guns and cutlasses surrounded the slumbering village, waiting for the ample feast of flesh and red. The mercenaries, who posed as Fulani herdsmen, were more than two hundred. They were an army of bloodthirsty hyenas with sharpened fangs ready for the kill. When the chief killer gave the signal, his foot soldiers set the village ablaze, turning rest to riot. The villagers woke up in hell and tried scurrying to safety only to be confronted by the beasts lurking in the shadows. Heads rolled and their bodies fell again and again, creating a sea of gushing red.

A middle-aged man who was trying to get his pregnant wife to safety was stopped by a gunshot. His wife was still running when a flying arrow pierce her from behind. A fragile old woman begged and begged for mercy and their mercy roasted her in the fire.

Yet, the cutlasses never stopped chopping, the guns never stopped growling, the arrows never stopped flying and heads never stopped rolling. They never stopped until the horror reached a natural climax. When the hounds left, their patched throat was well saturated.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

GIRL AND THE DARKNESS


I saw it all.

 I saw the frightened little girl dashed inside the room, pursued by darkness. She tried to lock the door but she wasn’t fast enough. The darkness crammed the room with his dread and the girl screamed, praying to the universe to help save her innocence. But the universe   was deaf that night and God was miles away.

So she begged.

‘Please don’t. Please, don’t hurt me.’

‘I don’t want to hurt you.’ said the darkness. ‘Just want to have fun. Trust me, you will love it.’

‘I don’t want to. Please go away.’

‘No, not going anywhere.’

And so, she fought the darkness.  Alone, she fought.   She was a warrior, that girl was, biting and scratching, hell-bent on tasting dark blood.

But she was just a little girl. And little girls are no match for a demon possessed.

He punched her in the face, broke a rib or two, reducing her to a bloody mess. Then he dragged her on the bed, pinned her down and started working on her clothes. When he was done, she was stark naked and this pure angel drove the darkness mad, his loins on fire. And so it was that the mad darkness entered the little girl, giving pain and taking pleasure. Broken, the little girl wept, her tears a river of flawless grief.

I should have saved the little girl guys but how could I? Like you all, I was just a hungry rat looking for food.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Clitoris Clean

Darkness deep, haunted dreams
bastards bleeds treasury thin.
Sugary lips, moisten pit
trickers lick clitoris clean.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ajayi and God


 At ten, Ajayi wanted to be a millionaire.
At twenty, the richest man in Africa.
Now at forty five and seriously jobless, he is about to jump down the bridge!
Everywhere, the world is dark and cold; on the deserted bridge, he perches dangerously on the rusty rail, ready to be drunk in the chilling death below. Down, way down, the water is waiting, its hidden claws, sharp and ready. Hilarious enough, the man of the moment decides to count one to ten before taking the fatal dive. He is still counting when an eerie but majestic voice booms, cutting through the dark like a faceless dagger.
‘What do you think you are doing, you moron?’
Ajayi freezes!
He surveys the environment. Nothing!
‘Are you deaf?’ the voice persists. ‘ I say what are you trying to do?’
‘Who are you?’ Ajayi screams, his eyes searching.
Silence.
‘Where are you?’
‘Up here.’
‘What is this about? There is nothing up there!’
‘Look harder and you will see me seated on my throne. I am God!’
Ajayi shudders.
‘Is this a joke or something?’
‘No, son. I molded your ugly face in my palms. Constructed your foolish tongue.’
‘You… you really are God?’
‘Yes and you are a foolish son.’
It is not everyday that you get to tell God how you really feel about him. Ajayi maximizes the opportunity.
‘A foolish son is at least better than a senile old man.’
‘Blasphemy! I should turn you to a pig right now.’
‘Who cares? Tell me old man, why are you here? Tired of slumbering on your lazy throne or is it that you can’t wait for me to come to you?’
God seems to find that funny. He booms with holy laughter.
‘And who says you are coming to me? jump down that bridge and you will wake up on a bed of nails where vampire will bite your fat behind every second.’
‘Are you trying to threaten me? Sorry old man but that won’t work. Tell me, what could be more frightening than living in this land? Hunger everyday, toiling every night. As a dedicated civil servant, I served the Ministry for twenty years and at the end, they kicked me out without a dime. And what is my crime? I got a non-refundable loan from a contractor.’
‘In that case son, you should be grateful. If you are in China, you would have been hanged.’
‘Don’t embarrass me old man! I did nothing wrong. How do you expect me to feed my battalion of a family with the stipends I got paid as salary?’
‘And how many battalions do you have?’
‘Ten hungry looking children!’
‘Ten?’ God is astonished. ‘I thought they are seven.’
‘Old man, aren’t you suppose to know everything? Well… my mistress mistakenly gave birth to furious looking triplets last night.’
‘What!’ God roars. ‘Ten children, jobless father. Are you mad?’
‘Don’t blame me, it is not really my fault. This country is bad. That is why I have to kill myself. I don’t want my children to start cursing me to my face.’
‘That is already too late, fool. I curse you each time I can’t eat good food, curse you when my underwear is patched a million times. Even this morning when you borrowed fifty naira from my pocket, I curse you!’
Ajayi looks around frantically, his eyes bulging.
‘Ojo!’ he screams.
‘Yes?’
‘Is that you?’
‘No! I am God! And son, there is something you have to do before jumping.’
‘What?’
‘You have to pay my school fees!’


Monday, April 11, 2011

Song of Ghadafi

I will seduce the sun, mount the moon

I will rape the rainbow right in her room

I will silence the sea, bribe the blue

I will rig the races freely for the flu

I will burn the bridges, blast the bliss

I will weary the waters with my fist

I will tender terror for a tea

I will bless the brothers with the bee

I will flare the fear, feast on their feet

I am the fury of Allah, I am Ghadafi

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Goal

One goal, one laughter from the lore
One flow, one swansong from the shore

One smile, one cuddle from the sun
One dance, one salute to the dawn

One day, the green will be watered and poise for a kiss
that day, the children will dream and dream for a bliss

One touch, one caress from the hue
One wing, one soaring to the blue

One giggle, one chuckling of the rain
One future, one budding of the brain

One day, the young will find their voice when we give ours
the morrow will look its best when they get the hours

One goal, one laughter from the lore
One flow, one swansong from the shore