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Peace Habila Wins N100k For The #ValentineContest 

The brain is very good at finding reasons not to attempt. But if you don’t attempt you will neither fail nor succeed. Yet failure is an integral part of success. ~ Cmoni The winner of our #ValentineContest emerged with 6 nominations but I would like you to read my commentary first. Let me begin by saying that I’m enjoying our sessions more and I’m sure you may be wondering why this is so. I will tell you. Following Seth Godin has been transformative in many ways. I don’t miss his weekly Akimbo podcasts. Please follow this him and thank me later. Godin made me realise that plurality is a myth.  You don’t need the numbers to be good at what you do. All you need is the smallest viable audience and the determination to show up consistently for them, and yourself too. Yes, when you teach, you learn. This is why I enjoy a session with 2 attendees as much as I do with a dozen people. Of course, I know about the saying “the more the merrier” but sailors also say “the fewer on board the larger the loot”. In any case, what I’m saying is that like fine wine, we are progressing fine! I intend to hold at least 12 sessions/contests this year. But not without your support. It can be 24, 36 or more but at the very minimum, we should have 12. Ok, let’s dive in. Do you know the origin of the word essay? You can look up the etymology on Google. Essay derives from the French word essai. It means trial or attempt. An essayist attempts. We try to convey our thoughts, ideas, and opinions as the case may be. Of course, not every story can be described as an essay but even your best fiction or poem reflects your thoughts..or at least some of it. Now it’s sad to see that some works didn’t qualify for this contest because they didn’t fully comply with the instructions. Some didn’t meet the word count or deadline while others were either not published on a platform or included digital products from other sources. I encourage you to learn from this unsuccessful attempt. That is the essence of what we are doing. Learning from attempts, both the successful and unsuccessful ones, and building on the lessons learned. However, it’s important to emphasize this; Writers should be able to comprehend and follow instructions or at least seek clarification.  One of my lecturers, Prof Igbigbi used to say that understanding or misunderstanding the question is part of the exam. In the first case, you will pass if you know the answer. If you don’t have the answer you can say what you understood by the question and earn some marks. (Medical students can relate) But once you misunderstand the question, you have already started failing. So always read, understand, and comply with the instructions. Seek clarification when you think it’s ambiguous or confusing. Furthermore, we need to allocate adequate time to tasks, or else we rush through and commit avoidable errors. For instance, I was planning a joint project with a friend. and we were to launch this 1st quarter of the year. Well, I did some reflection and realised I was moving too fast. I work 30+hrs/week. I am committed to work-related training until March 29th. I’m also writing a book in a year. I remotely run 2 businesses. I have an ongoing building project. I administer 3 platforms including this one. If you add regular chores like school runs, walks, gym, etc..whew! I considered all I had on my table and realised how tough it would be to add more. Thus, I suggested that we use the first quarter of 2024 to fully conceptualise the project, particularly the revenue profile, before launching. So consider all your engagements and allow adequate time to achieve tasks. I wrote about this here. Don’t postpone until the last day because you will make mistakes. I have also repeatedly advised writers to use editing apps like Grammarly to correct grammatical errors. At our level, it is disappointing to see works dotted with countless red marks. As an editor your first reaction is to trash such drafts and I do that all the time. I only edit drafts with few pardonable errors. Again we also agreed to get our domains on platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, substack etc It is for our good. If you don’t get published elsewhere at least you can do that yourself. And in doing this you will learn more about publishing online. You will learn to hyperlink texts, embed images and videos and other skills that enrich your work. Now let me tell you this. I get a lot of joy from reading my old stories because they remind me of my progress as a writer. Improve your social media presence. And by this, I don’t mean scrolling and chatting away your time. Be productive, engage and follow those who post about your interests. My stories titled Digital Holy Grail did justice to this point. Moreover, it is a great way to build your platform as a writer. This counselling may sound elementary, but it’s worth repeating because we are never too big for small errors. The craft can be simple but not necessarily easy and we know this because we chose it. As I said previously I’m committed to this journey and I urge everyone to put in the extra effort. It is simpler when we navigate together. Recall that at the end of last year, we agreed to reward excellence. It is a step forward after a period of paying out tokens of encouragement to many. This is the right path for many reasons among which are these 3. We have passed the beginners stage. Yes, we are writing a book in a year and will also pass that stage soon enough. (More on this later) In addition to writing, we are learning other skills like publishing,

Essays, Writers

The Bad Waiter by Emmanuel Enaku.

Valentine’s Day meant nothing to me. True, it was seen as a day of love but as far as I was concerned, love did not exist. After a series of heartbreaks by those pretty offspring of Eve, or should I rather say, Delilah, I had made up my mind to play the field without any emotional attachment and no remorse, of course. I had become very proficient in the game of playboys and I had coined a name for myself which I made use of during action –Messidinho. That name, gotten from two of my highly viewed football players, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, speaks about my personality and how good I am in the field of players. I had been invited by Remi, one of my niggas, to fill up a vacancy in his boss’ hotel, a remarkably expensive five-star hotel that stood in the centre of the city like a treasure Island and only attracted the big boys of the town who had money to burn. Being a waiter was not much of an exciting accomplishment but I knew my lines well and was determined to make the most of my position, one which offered a good deal of exposure, ‘’new fish’’ and connections on Valentine’s night. I was already dressed and primed up at 6:00PM, in a resplendent black suit,  black trousers and black shoes to match. My white shirt seemed to work with the white fluorescent bulb that hung below my ceiling to illuminate the rather dim room I occupied. staring into the mirror,  I adjusted my red bow tie and waistband and gave a charming smile. Both had some diamond-like scintillating stuffs bonded all over them and with the fluorescent in the room, they sparkled excellently. I had a sinister smile playing on my face, revealing my deep dimples and the creases at the sides of my eyes, as I thought about what I was actually up to that night. Yes,  I was handsome, with the face of a demigod and a well-built body structure,  made even more alluring by my constant workouts and quite religious visits to the gym. I had a smile that could set a lady’s heart pounding and I took great advantage of this. Yet again,  I was smart,  highly intelligent and practical, the perfect man every woman wanted and,  sure,  they fell easily into my net. I adjusted my dark shades again and chuckled as the mirror reflected my action.  My phone buzzed then and I smiled as I identified the caller.  It was Remi. “Hey, Rasta!” I said as I picked the call.  I could hear the music blaring through the home theaters in the background  as Remi laughed. “My night!” Remi said,  I could tell at once that he was at the venue and enjoying himself. “Where are you at,  man?” Remi asked. “Hope you are prepared. I’m having so much fun already.  Just hooked up with a fresh chick here,  uhm… Veronica,  yea, she calls herself that. Man, she’s hot!” I chuckled as Remi blabbed out, not once stopping for a breath. “Get yourself over here quickly!” He said finally and cut the call. “Lousy son-of-a-bitch”, I said smiling as I put the gold-plated Samsung, the latest model in vogue, into my pocket and reached for my body spray on the cupboard. Smelling nice I went out through the door and locked it. “Bad boy”. I said as I spun the key holder with my index finger a few times before putting it in my pocket. The Valentine’s party was going smoothly and although the boss tried to keep us on our toes,  there were still opportunities to catch fun. I had arrived an hour earlier and had very little time to chat with Remi because he kept appearing and disappearing. My duty was to serve drinks round and I had done a great job. I also managed to draw attention to myself and did a little flirting here and there. Oh yeah! I watched as the bar boy poured the drinks into six elegant-looking glasses on a thin gold-plated tray I had dropped on the counter and smiled at him.  A hard-working lad he seemed,  staying behind the counter pouring drinks,  unable to go out and mingle like the rest of us. Just then,  Remi appeared with a contented smile playing on his face. “My paddy eh!” He said looking me over. “Why you just dey stand there dey look?  The river is already full for fishing.  Six already in my net!” Remi said drunkenly. I watched him laugh feeling very happy with himself. “How many you got?” He asked after a fit of laughter. “I don’t fish Sadines, man. I’m waiting for the sharks”, I said and gave a mischievous smile which Remi understood. “Ahh! Messidinho!” Remi hailed. He was just about to say something else when the door to the party hall opened and a silhouetted figure stepped in. Remi had his mouth agape and I watched, captivated as the figure moved gracefully into the gathering. The noisy hall had suddenly become quiet and lifeless as all activities ceased and everyone stared. It was just as if the graceful intruder had cast a potent spell on every individual in the hall. Step by step that heavenly being came in,  dragging all stares in the room. “Ahh, mogbe!” Remi exclaimed in his usual Yoruba fashion as the figure materialized out of the dark section of the hall into the brightly lit part where we stood. He had his hands on his head the way people do when in shock and in the silence of the hall,  I could clearly hear Remi’s heart pumping adrenaline-diluted blood through his veins. That creation of heaven marched towards me in a flamboyant manner.  The most beautiful entity I had ever seen.  My eyes caught the set of diamond earrings and pearl necklace that adorned its structure. A total figure 8. She was a captivating dark lady with bright magical

Blog, Poetry, Writers

Cupid And A Strange Town: A Poem by Victor Oladejo

I Cupid enters a town, today they celebrate love, his greatest weapon, On a corner of a street, an old woman seats on a stool, She holds a bowl in her hand, and her eyes hold a prayer, Her offspring smiles at a passerby, He is her friend and their angel, He sees the prayer on the old woman’s face, A rose blossoms at the left side of his heart, a fire grows on the right, He reaches for his pocket and his fingers dive into its fold, At the bottom, they meet a crisp note, stained with blue, The fire at the left side of the heart leaps at the flower and consumes it, He drops the blue paper and said : Allah bamusa! He shakes his shoes and leaves. The prayer leaves the old woman’s face, and enters her daughter’s face, The old woman drops the bowl. Cupid flaps his wings and leaves. II On n another corner of the street, Cupid sees a girl, She is seating on a stool, Her heart is a canvas with a masquerade painted on it, A steward hovers around like a lion, his eyes are a furnace, His heart is a canvas with an eagle painted on it, Cupid stares at the Man, at the canvas, at the eagle. Her lover arrives, and they open like flowers, The masquerade in the girl’s canvas transforms into a dancing woman, The lover’s heart is a canvas, A man beating a drum is painted on it. They start a song, it tells a strange story, It speaks about love. The steward leaves and returns with a tray, The girl and her lover make merry. The song stops, the merry ends, The lover’s hand dives into the fold of his pocket, They meet a brown note, He shows the steward, He shakes his head, The eagle on the steward’s canvas transforms into an eagle with its prey, The lover and the girl follow the steward, They enter a room filled with vessels, The lover and his girl bend over the vessels and begin to clean them. Cupid shakes his head and leaves. III In another corner of the town, cupid sees a man, His heart is a canvas and a cloud is painted on it, His daughter stands close by, Her hand is up, her eyes hold a prayer, The daughter’s heart is a canvas, a desert is painted on it He reaches for his pocket, his fingers meet a crisp note stained with blue, Cupid flaps his feathers “The love of a father is eternal!” His heart says, The cloud on the man’s canvas transforms into a man feeding his family, The man drops the note and leaves.

Blog, Creative Essays, Writers

Red Teddy by Victor Oladejo

1. Mary curled up like a millipede setting up a defense against a predator on the bed. Her eyes were red and heavy with tears and her heart was pounding heavily against the thin flesh that covered it, threatening to pop out if she continued to wail. Her friend, Modupe was seated on a stool close by, her face was drained of life too. She had tried to console Mary, but it was impossible to bring her out of the grief that consumed her. All she could do now was punctuate every surge of wail with “ Pele”, “ Small small dear”, “ it’s okay”. They received the news of Dele’s death earlier today. Mary was cooking their breakfast in the kitchen, and her music turned high as usual, filling the room and making the whole house vibrate. She had left her phone with Modupe who was playing Candy Crush on it. When the phone began to beep, she paused the game and went to the kitchen to give Mary the phone. After a while, Mary started screaming and she had not stopped since then. Modupe later got a call from Lawrence who told her the bad news. Mary stood from the bed and rushed out of the room. Modupe followed her. Mary could be up to some crazy ideas, she was unpredictable now. Dele was her childhood friend for christ’s sake, his death had overturned things in her head. Grief could make you mad! Mary rushed down the hallway to the Bathroom and slammed the door. When Modupe got to the door it was locked. Behind the locked door was the fragile girl leaning over the bathroom zinc, vomiting. Her eyes, a blurry screen, were darting about, magnifying things as they went in that endless circle. 2. I couldn’t believe the news when my mother told me over the phone this morning. I was writing the last part of an email when the phone icon popped on the left side of my phone’s screen. I pressed it quickly and regretted it the second after. “ Dele is dead ooo, mama Dele is at our house o, joor mabo nile” I collapsed against the table, the upper part of my body went limp and my leg treacherously became heavy, dragging me down as though someone was pulling me by my heels. This state was not strange to me, this was my body trying to react to the news. It happened for the first time when I received the news of my uncle’s death three years ago while driving and I had struggled to pack my car by the roadside and allow my body to return to its normal form. I wheeled on my buttocks to the only cabinet in the office and pushed my back against it. Now, a skull-splitting pain started to form at the back of my head. By luck, my secretary came in with a file she wanted to submit and it was she who helped me back to my chair and began to fan me till I could call Mary. 3. Mary was propped against a pillow in her bedroom after they returned the next day after Dele’s Burial according to Islamic rites. Her hair was scattered from constant scratching and pulling and an eerie silence enveloped her. Lawrence, Andrew, and Modupe were in the living room, they were silent too, and still like statues. It seemed that every one of them was in their minds, pondering over Dele’s demise. When someone close to you died, you mourned them because they are dead. Gone. But when they died a horrific death, you mourned their loss and an alien pain arising from pity settled on you as an additional burden. That was Mary’s state now, and her head was clogged with thoughts. The scene of Dele’s death, like a video on replay, kept flashing through her mind: Dele on his bed with a hole in his chest and a knife stuck in it, Dele’s face still and cold as though he were in a hangover induced sleep and a stupid fly clinging to the eyelid of his left eye. She regretted saving the pictures Lawrence sent to her Whatsapp, she would have to deal with it for the next few days before it would fade away. 4. When the police searched Dele’s room, they couldn’t find any trace of the killer, it was a smooth job. But they found something, a Teddy. It was nothing, believe me, it could be one of Dele’s girlfriends who dropped it there. But the police insisted that I ask around. Telling Mary about Teddy now would be quite insensitive and would pique an unnecessary curiosity which would further hurt her. Dele, Andrew, and I met at the University. We were studying the same course and we happened to be from the same town. It was a week before our graduation when Mary, who shared facetime with Dele every week, visited for Dele’s Graduation. It was pure Bliss after we met that day. 5. Mary was sleeping when Modupe arrived from the market. It was three weeks already and they decided to have a good meal for a change after endless watery meals Mary fed them. She opened her eyes when her friend shook her, jarring her from sleep. “ How you dey?”, She asked and set the nylon she was holding on the ground. “ Fine, you are back already?” “ Yes,” Modupe replied and walked to her section of their wardrobe and dropped an item in it. “ So what are we cooking?” Mary said and rubbed her eyes. “ Okro soup and eba”, Modupe replied and held her friend in her gaze, her lips pulled taut in a wild wan. “Ha, that one na bad combo, I won’t eat that one with you o” Mary replied and feigned irritation. Modupe stood still trying to maintain a straight face, then she let out her infectious laughter and Mary couldn’t

Blog, Essays, Writers

Invasion by Kenneth Nwabuisi

The armed robbers climbed through the high fence of No. 50 Ziks Avenue and jumped inside its premises. Musa, a long-nosed Hausa gateman, wasn’t at the gate. He had travelled last week to cast his vote, Hausa chaps liked travelling on time during election periods. Only the Igbo’s in Hausa land stayed, slept, woke up, pitched high tents and often ended up killed. The compound was calm save for a dog on a leash barking, stretching its jaw wide. Scorpion, Jericho and Spider were the three able-bodied, but hungry youths from the slums who had gotten information that the owner of the house, Chief Izegbe, had made a huge withdrawal of countless Naira notes at the bank earlier the day, despite the scarcity of cash that had ridden the economy for two weeks. Chief Izegbe, a man with a bushy moustache and scanty eyebrows, was one of the wealthy businessmen in Enugu metropolis. His wealth spoke for him. And he wasn’t one of those rich men who got their monies in an illegal manner. He toiled and hustled for his cash since his youth. His long years of importing electronic goods and countless consignments from China into the country were paying him off. In fact, his daughter, Mirabel, would always call him a business tycoon. Chief Izegbe had a distended stomach. He walked like one who was pregnant. His late wife, Rebeca had often teased him, when she was heavy with Mirabel’s pregnancy, saying that the nurses at the hospital might be confused on who was due for delivery between her and Chief. Because Chief’s large stomach could be compared to hers. The armed robbers shuffled their feet to the entrance door, the crickets chirping as if they were in a nocturnal contest. Scorpion, tall and with the face of a horse, pulled his mask firm on his face. Jericho the one with slender fingers like toothpicks, tightened his hand gloves, stretching it so his fingers looked like chopsticks. Spider, short and tepid, was running around like a cockroach, surveying the crew, making sure their guns and every other thing were intact. The plan was to go in, extort the money from Chief and scram. Boom! Boom!! The knock on the door sounded. Chief, who was sitting on the sofa in his agbada, flipping through the pages of his favourite newspapers: the daily sun, called on Chioma, the plump chef, who was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Soon, the dark-skinned chef showed up by the door. The eyes of the guns the robbers held gazing at her. Frightened, she shrieked, “Chim ooo.” She shouted, bending on the floor. Chief stood up, the guns pointed at him too. “Shhhhhhh. Lie down!” Scorpion ordered. Chief’s stomach was plastered on the floor as if he was sailing on cold water. Jericho stamped his foot on his back and he huffed. “We come in peace. We no go hurt any of you if una comply. Wey the money?” Spider’s voice melted into Chief’s ears. “Which money?” Chief said. “You dey ask me which money? You want make I waste your life?” Jericho threatened. “No, no,” Chief replied, shivering. “I’ll give you anything you want.” “Oya na, tell us where the money dey make we begin dey go.” Jericho lit a cigarette, each of the crew came forward to light their sticks. Jericho takes a whiff before he continued. “You know say town don red like this. The boys need to feel all right. POS dey collect 3k charge to withdraw 10k. Filling stations dey sell half liter fuel for the money wey suppose buy full liter. Wetin boys wan do? Boys gatz survive, shey you understand. Abi no be so?” Chioma was lying silent beside Chief. Jericho moved his leg on Chief’s body and Chief was roused. His brains seemed to have gone on an exile. “I say no be so?” Jericho repeated. “Na so, na so.” Chief said without bating an eyelid. A figure swished on the staircase. Spider was the first to notice. “Who be dat?” Spider asked. “Una get any other person with una for this house?” Scorpion asked, pointing his chopstick fingers at Chioma and Chief. “Ye—ess, Yes.” Chioma replied in quivering lips. “Who be that?!” Jericho’s voice rose. It didn’t sound twice before Mirabel came to the staircase, a piece of cloth tied around her face. It was her mother’s hair-tie, the one she wore the night she died during childbirth. “I’m the one.” Mirabel glided down the staircase, her legs moving slowly like a cat. “And who are you?” Spider asked, walking close to her. Mirabel was a smart kid. In her results in school, her teachers would always comment that she was as shrewd as a serpent, yet as slow as a cat. She knew exactly how to meander her way through thick and thin, how to push and pull her way out during difficult situations. Mirabel had once left her class boy in an unfathomable maze. One morning, the boy had stolen her pen. Since stealing was a law against the school, the proprietor sounded a note of warning to everyone, more directly to the boy in Mirabel’s class, who Mirabel had somehow found out had stolen her pen. After the warning, the boy didn’t budge. He was being hideous about the pen. The proprietor granted a search warrant to all teachers if the thief did not deliver the pen after school. The morning of the next day when the search was to commence, Mirabel endeavoured to come to class early. She sat bending her head on the desk, surveying the whole class through her eyes, waiting for her class members to arrive. The boy entered and saw the class was empty except for a class girl who was bending her head on the desk and, he thought she wasn’t watching, she could be dozing off or something. He stealthily withdrew Mirabel’s pen from his bag and stuck it inside a hole on the wall

Blog, Poetry, Writers

Canticles Of Love: A Poem by Chukwuemeka Oluka

                                   i To the one whose faults are small yet loud That makes my heart groan in loud solitude I let you wreck and deck me as you vowed You held tight to your dangling attitude Here and there, you swung me till I was lost Lost in the fold and mould of your true self Like a pearl left in savannas far east I was lost like a book that left its shelf But how much longer will this continue? How long will I stand and wonder and feign? Near, you are; yet far like the mountain dew In all, love threw me you so that I gain Glad I stayed with you and love is anchored Come pain, come gain, love came, saw and conquered               ii They may share agbado, cassava and maize Love we share is above a transient gift Their future is sold, lost and set ablaze But ours firm, affirmed and devoid of rift You by me, the future is not in doubt Love is the future that will never fade Like days the grasses were green upon drought Our love shone through never to ever cave Days the noontide wears a nightfall garment The days drought is hidden in a dark cloud Are days our love will glow on a parchment Obi m, we will stand tall to what we vowed In us, love shines bright in valentine’s sky It will not say goodbye, it will not die             iii Oh, love, who can tell in a haste your state? Some stroke for some folk I see you remain In all moments you maintain your estate You come through unshattered with enough thane Who can expose this hue using mere eyes? Even the kaleidoscope showing a guile Some say love is bright, dark or like an ice You are that hue; you are without a guise Some will say love is neither here nor there You are love; you have an identity You are love, you come with a shade so rare My love I adore with sincerity My love, you are never over the place In you, I will forever make a case             iv Nothing will cloud the love I feel for you Not the scarce naira of February It is clear to see; very plain to view The verdict beautiful, and flowery My dear love, when push ever comes to shove Let no one say I am just a pullet Let no one say I am just a mere dove Because for you, I will take a bullet You do not need flowers for valentine Yes, what you need is the garden instead My love, you cue a due essence of mine On your lush plain, I laid me on farmstead Obi’m, come serenade my gentle heart Come take these canticles of lovely art  

Blog, Creative Essays, Essays, Writers

A February In Crisis by Chukwuemeka Oluka

February is the month of love, and it is in crisis in Nigeria. Do Nigerians still know what love is all about? Many didn’t even realize the Valentine’s season tiptoed away from them unnoticed. Some would say love is bright; but today, love wears a dim and dull colour in Nigeria. Yes, the naira scarcity and the hike in fuel prices have painted love dark in the hearts of many. Nigerians seemingly did not know what it means to love or to be loved either. The phasing out of some naira notes took effect after January 2023 and the unfortunate economic crises it brought were situated in February — the season of love. Money became scarce. How do you even love when there is no money? So, it was pretty interesting to see how Nigerians expressed their love in the period. How the petrol and naira hardships altered the dynamics remained a wonder anyone would be in a hurry to know. Just like in the iambic pentameter of a typical Shakespearean sonnet, my feeble mind wobbled between bouts of rhythmic uncertainties. I brushed aside these uncertainties that hung lazily in the atmosphere like the harmattan haze. I was determined to begin preparations on time just so I could give my love a valentine’s treat that would live rent-free in the mind. Yes, the valentine’s season was gently creeping in. Banks had started sending me Valentine’s Day texts but wouldn’t give me my money. Yet as the crises generated by the naira redesign policy and fuel price hike deepened, my relationship with her was threatened. Communication between us gradually saw a decline. While I struggled to survive, I was ready to go against the odds to express love. The countdown moved from weeks to days. The love season should never happen to me out of the blue. So, discarding any negativity, I planned to defy the odds to visit the commercial bank in my area. I had heard unfortunate stories linked with the naira scarcity and customers’ experiences with their banks. But I needed money, so, I was to make a cash withdrawal at the automated teller machine (ATM). I knew the naira had morphed into a crunch state, but I was optimistic I would find the naira. When I got into the premises of the bank, I was greeted with a long queue. Everyone looked stressed and tired. Pockets of people were seen discussing as they waited for their turn to either gain access to the banking hall or make a withdrawal at the ATM. Some were on the premises as early as 5:30 am. By merely sweeping my eyes across their faces, I could read their body language. Frustration! Bank customers have stood for hours waiting for one transaction or the other. I learnt the queue had grown long enough before the ATM was eventually pampered to begin dispensing bank notes. I joined the queue notwithstanding. No sooner had I dissolved into the queue than a young lady walked up to me and asked how much I wanted to withdraw. At first, I didn’t give her a face. My mind sprawled through many spaces, racing through distances as I was lost in thought on the tragedies and pain the redesign of the naira notes has brought upon Nigerians. I was doing a mental calculation on how far a daily cash withdrawal limit of N20,000 would go. I needed to fuel my car, pay for some utilities, feed myself and have some reserved in preparation for Valentine’s Day celebration. According to some financial experts, the redesign of the naira notes was a policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to frustrate moneybag politicians who were set to buy votes in the coming elections. Others maintained it was to compel the Nigerian public into cashless transactions. But whether the country’s hugely informal economy will survive the cashless policy remains a topic for another day. Still standing in the queue, I didn’t give the lady any attention at all, not until she said, ‘I over withdrew money and I’m looking for someone to help with some cash in exchange for a mobile money transfer. I was supposed to withdraw N2,000 but I mistakenly punched N20,000 on the ATM button’ She would give me N18, 000 cash and I would transfer the amount to her account. I was shocked! I never knew miracles do happen. Without blinking an eyelid, I obliged her immediately and she handed me eighteen pieces of the newly redesigned N1000 bank notes. I took a dash immediately to the petrol station to fuel my car. I jettisoned other petrol stations for MMPC. They were selling at a far cheaper rate and the possibility of altering their metering unit was minimal. However, the opportunity cost there was a long vehicular queue. It was the weekend. This meant I had no official schedule, no appointments and no assignments of any sort. I had been condemned to spending my day chasing the scarce naira and exorbitant fuel. So, I had no option but to join the queue. Vehicles were moving languidly at a pace slower than a snail’s, with the queue stretching into the adjourning street. I wore patience like ‘agbada’ while I waited for my turn. Black market sellers had a queue as well for their gallons. Little wonder vehicles moved at such a pace. Finally, it reached my turn and the petrol nozzle was thrust into my car. I requested N10,000 worth of fuel and then flashed the attendant ten clean pieces of the newly redesigned N1000 bank note. I had started the ignition of my car when I was called out. My car tyre was clamped down immediately. What was my offence? I paid with fake naira notes. ‘How can…?’ I was ready to throw punches not until the station manager made me realize that all ten pieces of the naira notes I handed to the attendant had the same serial number. I froze! It happened at the banking

Blog, Poetry, Writers

Thorny Valentine: A Poem by Solomon Ekoja

Valentine An early Christian feast In honour of saint valentine Who was brutally martyred For his stand Century after century His legacy stands Like an iroko tree Upon the unmovable pebbles Of Udi hills In the heart of lovers His legacy is adored With red attires Bound by strong love chords Caressing the soul A season of love for many Except for Nigerians Which has spiced her sauce creatively With thistles and thorns Disguising as fuel and money scarcity Oh Oloibiri! How I long for 1958 When explorers played a novelty match Upon the discovery of petroleum With promises like honeycombs The stars glittered glow in hope But hope melted away Like the wax On a midnight candle I remember the good old days When our wells overflowed With pure crude When we refined at our backyard To the envy of the Western world Kit with pruning hooks To devour our wealth Warnings upon warnings On deaf ears they fell Till our refineries collapsed To pave way for our oil export Sold for peanuts And bought back with hard currency At the port Marketers hike prices In the name of subsidy Disguised to deceive The common man Its midday But fuel stations are locked Even without a whip Everyone’s coordinated As automobiles line on straight queues Without a metre rule After a series of gate banging Oga appears With an unperturbed look He whispers There’s no fuel As automobiles scramble for the next station At sun set Oga calls his black marketers For a night dispense Detrimental to the common man Across the road Lines yellow cans Laden with pms That can be accessible Only at hiked prices At the bank The ATMs are full With few dispensing And many out of network Unending queues await The daring Nigerian Charmed by his needs But resolved not to linger To access ones hard earned cash To settle lovers’ bills Money trade money Coz wicked bank managers Jeopardized the monetary policy For selfish gain Five thousand naira Echoes the POS agent To get fifty thousand naira As hunger bites Below the belt zone Drum pattern changes With dancing shoes on From aboki to meruwa Uchenna to Chikaodi And emi lokan Everyone’s dancing To this seasons beat Bankers are locked in By angry customers For kidnapping our naira Despite pleas upon plea There was no breakthrough Till security forces intervened To calm the raging storm In spite of the aura Naira and fuel Partners in crime Scarce pass argon and neon To celebrate without stress And leverage the season Maximise e-transaction Avoid unnecessary expenditures Live within your means Alternate public transport and cycling Let’s love purely Extend help graciously To ease the yoke and burden Anchored upon the biscuit scapular Of helpless Nigerians In this season  

Blog, Creative Essays, Essays, Writers

Bitter-Sweet Pie by Solomon Ekoja

There was a boy named Wazobia from the Nzaga-nyanga hills, about four thousand miles away from the capital city of Jos. The community was so hostile to the point that visitors who sought to introduce Western education were slaughtered once the news broke out. Many a foreigner tried to have access to this hostile group of people but all efforts proved abortive. Some who succeeded in visiting the community were killed to appease the gods of the hill. It was in this type of community that Wazobia was born but he chose to be different. The whole community was deprived of Western education because they held to some erroneous ritual beliefs that education was meant for those with mental illness. The low level of illiteracy took its toll on the members of the society, as they preferred wearing fig leaves to putting on clothes made from cotton or wool. Many a youth met premature deaths when they insisted on associating with modern trends. In spite of all the community was practicing, Wazobia was a very dogged and subtle boy. This made him come up with the idea of taking charcoal and slate each time he was about to go for his hunting adventure. While others were in the heat of hunting, he would privately retire to the top of a raphia palm and write down the names of some tree species commonly found in the forest. Among the numerous tree species, he saw in the forest, he took a keen interest in Anceistoclads korupensis and Prunus Africana because of the manner in which the fluid from these species killed pests on contact. After each hunting session, each youth was to take his kill to the village square for evaluation by the king. Most of his peers returned with large antelopes but Wazobia on several occasions returned with nothing. This made the villagers suspect he was involving himself in some illegal activities against their norms but no one had a piece of concrete evidence to lay the charge against him. His colleagues in society were entrusted with the task of monitoring his movements and the activities he engaged in during hunting sessions. He was nearly caught by a neighbour of his while he practiced his writing skills but he luckily escaped. Meanwhile, many a member of his community were exposed to deadly diseases as a result of multiple sex partners, dirty surroundings and drug abuse. This was a great source of concern for the young boy who saw scores die yearly from different ailments. One fateful day, while the rest of the villagers were conducting a festival, he sneaked out for his study. On his way, he discovered that a helicopter carrying some European researchers developed a fault mid-air and crashed near his village hill. The incident made him scared but he summoned courage to visit the site to see if he could render assistance to the victims. On arrival, the helicopter was on fire with all the passengers trapped. He forced his way through the window using his local hunting gun and succeeded in rescuing the crash victims. Being a member of a community that was hostile to foreigners, he quickly resolved to hide them from his fellow villagers. He fed them with green apples and lodged them at a cave, rarely visited by members of the public. The researchers agreed on taking Wazobia along with them but he resisted the offer at first. After a series of pressure, he succumbed to the offer. Two days later, the researchers recovered and established contact with a rescue team. The rescue team on arrival whisked the crash victims and Wazobia away without the knowledge of the villagers who were engrossed in a weeklong ritual to appease their gods. On arrival in the United Kingdom, Wazobia was flabbergasted at the site of his new environment. He even had to change his clothing from leaves to cotton to be able to cope with the harsh weather condition of Europe. While there, he enrolled at a foundation school where he was able to perfect his reading and writing skills. His seriousness earned him a scholarship exam, which was to be written a month later. He burnt his midnight candle to be able to meet up with the syllables for the examination. On the date of the exam, he was terrified by the number of students that expressed interest to partake in the exam, but that never dissuaded him from the “I can do spirit of a Nigerian”. In the course of the examination, the invigilators informed the students that only ten students out of the thousands sitting for the examination would eventually be selected. A few weeks after the examination, the scholarship results were released by the concerned agency and to the surprise of everyone, Wazobia was among the lucky students that gained a scholarship to study any course of their choice at Harvard University. He opted for pharmacy because of the interest he developed in some African tree species in the course of his hunting sessions in Nigeria. At Harvard University, everything from lectures to practical classes looked very strange to him but he was able to adapt with the help of a colleague of his named Kaitlyn. She was from a British ancestry that earned their wealth from the transatlantic slave trade. In spite of the efforts of her family to dissuade her from learning about the history of slave trade, she resolved to embark upon a secrete research at the national library to unearth these hidden history and understand the ordeal faced by her African brothers during that era. Her efforts to dig into history for instance led her to the story of Konta Kinte, a young boy from Sene-Gambia who was kidnapped from his village when he went to fetch some wood to make a drum for his brother. The pitiable condition in the castles where slaves were temporarily housed for months coupled with the devastating conditions faced by the

Blog, Creative Essays, Writers

And This Is You by Kenneth Nwabuisi

They say the devil attacks in strange ways, sometimes in concrete things that can be spotted from a distance. But yours does not strike this way. It starts with a primal knowledge, a knowledge that sets your whole body on fire; electric currents coursing through your body, an itch down your honeypot and a pair of bulbous boobs. This is the beginning of the things that will see you to ruins. You have a single parent; a mother, who prepares you for school every morning in front of an L-shaped building. She puts a stocking on your left foot. Your other leg bounces free. She holds you firm so you won’t fall. This is what she does to you every morning: covering your feet with white stockings, turning you around before her as she scratches your hair with the teeth of a comb, the comb warm on your scalp. She does these things for you because you are her precious egg, fresh and plum. Because you are in senior secondary school one and already late for school. You know fully well that Mrs B., your pigsty haired integrated-science teacher must be by the gate waiting to punish you. In a few minutes, she slings your school bag over your shoulders and you wave at her, she waves back. You leave. On the road to school, the ground is miry. There was a heavy downpour the previous night. The air smells fresh as you run. Your sandal soles catch reddish mud and you slip. Your hands flailing on air, your bag rotating to hit the floor when he comes by to grip your hands. “Thank you,” you say, after he takes you to an extreme, away from the soggy earth. “It’s nothing,” he says. His serpentine eyes are the first thing you look at, but deep down under his pair of ripped jean trousers, there exists a bulge. “I can see you are heading to school.” He beams a smile. You are breathless. This is the first time someone, except your mother, looks at you while smiling. “Yes. I am almost late,” you say, fiddling with your school bag. “I’m Kelvin, my friends call me eagle.” “Eagle? What does that mean?” You are confounded. “Story for another day, let me see you off to school.” He holds your hand, you clench his still. You both are on a swagger fit down the road. At the roads’ junction, under a huge tree where a woman stoops frying akara, he waves at someone; a guy with dreadlocks. “Who is that guy?” You ask. He is silent. You are sure he heard you, but ignored. His gaze locates another lad standing on a veranda of an uncompleted building upstairs, wreaths of bluish smoke emitting from his lips, dancing across his face. You watch as Kelvin takes in a breath, as though he longs to join the guy ahead. The next minute, he is waving at you and your footsteps bring you to the school gate. In the classroom, you are not concentrating. You are fantasizing on the fall. On his hands holding you, on his breath close to yours and you didn’t perceive a thing as insignificant as his tom-tom mixed with cigarette breath. You just cared about the walk, about you holding hands with him, walking down the road like couples. A question which has been revolving over the air falls on your head. Mrs B points at you and says “you at the extreme, what is photosynthesis?” You stand, sluggish. Your eyes dart over your friend, Jessica. She’s mouthing indecipherable words, cupping her palm over her mouth. Mrs B walks to your seat and you feel the whole class’s eyes on you. You feel ashamed. That’s how you feel these days since you began noticing the roundedness of your breasts. Later, outside the school field, after Mrs B tells you to pick pin in front of the whole class, with your legs trembling and hurting till you feel tears leak from the corners of your eyes, you will ask Jessica, “do you feel ashamed when people look at you?” Jessica clucks and says, “Yes, I do” “I felt strange today, with one guy?” “Hian! Which guy?” “One boy who prevented me from falling inside mud this morning on my way to school.” “Ok, how did you feel then?” “He was all over me. I couldn’t get enough of his weight, strength and masculinity.” You gasp. “I have never felt like this before, a sweet sensation on my breasts.” “Chai! My friend is crushing on someone, who is this fine bobo that my girlfriend is crushing on that even made her forget the meaning of photosynthesis?” Jessica rambles on. You wander off with her question again. The mango tree you both are sitting under blows fresh air, reaching your nostrils with a slight whoosh. At home, you try not to think about him. You fight so hard not to tell your mother about him, about how you felt towards the incident that happened earlier today. But soon, she notices everything from how you sing through your chores. How you shake your waist majestically, beaming as you sweep the compound. How you pause at intervals, gazing at nothing in the air. It’s in those little quiet moments of yours that her voice jolts you to reality, “Nneka nwa m, you are happy. Since you came back from school yesterday, I noticed you are happy.” “Yes mama, let’s say, I had a very fantastic day.” “O si no fantastic? Kedu maka cocastic? Eh nne?” You drop the broom in excitement and run to hug your mother. She sits on a wooden bench in your compound and you climb over her back, giggling like a little puppy. You meet Kelvin again in the evening of the next day, while you are returning with your friend from the market square where you went to get some egusi for dinner. Somewhere under arching trees, a place dark

Blog, Poetry, Writers

Bloody Valentine! – A Poem by Becky Peleowo

                 I Bring roses for my love, Scatter delicate Lilies so white, Moradeke, my queen, my dove, So now, why do we fight? Old naira notes squeezed into a bottle Were saved to pay your bride price; They’re moribund now, my petal All spent, my sweat, my sacrifice! Those queues at stations break a man, For the love of Valentine, think not of fuel. I’ll cool you, my love, with Abebe, the fan Come now to bed and let’s end this duel. Valentine is still red, Moradeke, be mine In this bloody valentine, let’s wine, let’s dine!                      II Moradeke, be not angry, my heart, The Amala, ewedu, the goat meat, Our once-perfect meal before dessert, Now, is the genesis of our rift. Cash in exchange for cash, Blows in exchange for fuel, You ignorantly don’t call them harsh But my penny-pinching you call cruel I’ll eat your amala with watery soup Skip ewedu, gbegiri, even the goat meat Moradeke, POS quick cash is such a dupe Let’s eat the meal and forget the treat. Ha! My love, the five-star hotel trip, Will only put me on intravenous drip!                      III Valentine, quarantine – call it by any name You want the moon, the stars, to dine in Mars But our income and my love remain the same Let’s cast our vote, let’s end this SARS! Moradeke see now, mighty men cry, Nursing mothers stifle babies’ cries with a spank. Full-grown humans bare bodies not batting an eye Angry neonates pull at the breast with a yank! Chained up for eight years of change, Many have suffered, died, committed suicide, We laboured yet in our pockets, no change Our youths on valentine consume insecticide. Let’s follow trends, let’s Japa! let’s leave town, Then you’ll marry me my love in a Chantilly gown.                      IV Bring sweet roses for my love, Bring the delicate lilies so white, Moradeke, my queen, my dove, Come to your dawn, be my light! Ife mi, a new dawn will come, Then, a new nation shall arise, Soon, you see, I’ll leave this slum; A new job; a decent pay rise Come, my love, let’s be a couple, Let’s kiss, let’s smile, think of the old times I’ll give you a ring, I’ll make it legal, Chill in my arms while I sing you love rhymes. Moradeke my joy, let’s make cute babies, For the love of you, I’ll clean cute doodies.                      V Valentine is still red, Moradeke, be mine Let’s marry, let’s wed, Let’s wine, let’s dine! White, red or black, blue, green or pink What colour love takes, I’ll wear its stain Our love’s boat sails, it will never sink You, be my wife, I’ll bear all your pain In life, in love, the drama never ends, No cash, no fuel, no…blah blah blah Your night calls, your visits on weekends Make these stay and I’ll leave you in awe Okan mi, let me be your hero, And you alone, my Naira, my Euro!                          


Valentine Competition.

Tilova For Africa, a US-based NGO supported us with 50k and another friend who prefers anonymity donated 50k too. So for 100k let us write in the season of love!

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