Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I didn't choose the color of skin to be born with,

didn't pick the family to be born into,
neither did I pick the first school or church to attend,
nor pick my siblings, 2 came before me and one after, I never had a say.
But time changed everything.
As the hands of time moved, I had the opportunity to choose.
I picked a major and a university to attend,
selected friends, made enemies and savored different music genre.
Lived my life the way I wanted within the boundary of my power,
fell in love, proposed, and married the woman of my dreams.
If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Life dealt me a good hand...

I saw a little girl running in the afternoon heat, a pair of tattered flip flops on her feet, held together by strips of rope. She had a rapturous expression on her face, unfazed by the burning heat. She had barely any clothes on save for a pair of old frayed panties. You couldn't tell what color it was, it had aged gracefully but even the fabric couldn't withstand the harsh conditions it had been subjected to. The little girl didn't seem bothered by her near nudity as she ran up to an old woman laboring under the weight of  a basket, bursting at the seams with cassava stems.

The basket was old, very old and worn. You could almost hear it sigh with every step the woman took, the silent complaint of an inmate who had given up on the possibility of parole. Baskets may be inanimate but they groan too, their lifespan wasn't meant to be this tough. The white man coined a term for it,"MTBF: Mean Time Before Failure." The basket had served its time, failed, been patched up, died and resurrected by prodding fingers that wouldn't let it rest peacefully in raffia paradise. But it's plight didn't seem to bother the old woman who had loaded it full with cassava.

She grinned as the little girl hugged her tightly around the waist, balancing the basket deftly by shifting her feet so the cassava stems wouldn't spill out. The woman's face was weather-beaten, her skin stretched tightly across her face, barely covering her jaunt bones. On closer inspection you could tell that the woman wasn't old at all. Her eyes were still young, but her bones creaked and ached like a rusty machine pummeled by the hardship of a struggle-filled life. The woman's smile revealed a pair of gleaming white teeth in sharp contrast to the dull glow of her skin. The woman had never been to a dentist, toothpaste was a luxury she had never been exposed to. All her life she had relied on her chewing stick and it had never failed her. She looked down at the little girl's hair,  trying to decide if it was due for plaiting, her face creased with concentration. The little girl's voice snapped the woman out of her reverie. "Mama, nnoo! Ka m nyere gi aka..." (Mother welcome, let me help you)

The little girl didn't pick the family to be born into, life had dealt her a tough hand. Only time would tell the choices she would make...

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Tale of 2 Cities...

It is rumored that Las Gidi is the city of the gods, positioned not so far from the exact spot that once held the foundations of another fabled city, Babel, a city whose link to fame traces its history to the pages of the Bible. If you remember the story, you would recall that the residents of Babel sought to build a bridge to Heaven, but fell short. A testament to their failure was the vast number of languages that set in afterwards, the harbinger of confusion as their descendants were scattered all over the face of the earth.

What the historians failed to mention was that the exact coordinates of Babel were never known, but rumor had it that the builders complained of the tremendous heat. It almost felt as if the angels were ironing their heavenly garments, transferring the full brunt of the galactic juice that powered their steam irons to the mortals on earth. The tower had sought to create a hole in the bowels of heaven for man to ascend, in retaliation, the angels had dumped buckets of hot water on their heads. But that remains a myth, for all we know, the residents of Babel were scattered across the face of the earth, each speaking a different language, unified by their stubborn resolve to succeed wherever they went…

Las Gidi

The young man stood in the middle of the road, clad in a pair of well worn dirty blue jeans and a threadbare t-shirt that had the words "BABEL" emblazoned on it. The sun was relentless, the heat overbearing and intense, the sweat trickled down his face in steady rivulets, tracing a grime path down the side of his oily skin. He yanked the formerly white colored face towel out of his back pocket, and wiped his face furiously. He took a glance at the crumpled cloth, his face grimacing at the dirt stains etched all over the previously pristine white cloth. He sighed deeply and stuffed it back down the throat of his pocket, pulling up his trousers slightly as he did so. There was no reprieve in sight from the heat, so the only viable alternative was to soldier on and bear it, everyone else was in the same boat. He continued his duty of controlling traffic, his mind focused on the wad of notes he would receive from the compassionate motorists.

People milled about with aimless purpose, footsteps crisscrossing the landscape of the dusty terrain, phones glued to ears like extra appendages, the human traffic akin to the sluggish movement of a centipede. The roads weren't any better, the tranquility of the day had long been murdered by the incessant sounds of blaring horns, frustrated drivers yelling and gesticulating angrily at each other in different languages as they sought to maneuver their vehicles out of tight spots, whilst the poorly maintained cars groaned with the effort of twisting and turning their metallic frames at angles they weren't designed for.

The potholes belched contentedly as cars sank into them, the jarring impact on the car unabsorbed by the shocks and struts that had long since lasted beyond their expiration date. The jolts were transferred to the passengers cramped up in the back seat of the beat-up commercial vehicle, their complaints muffled by the loud arrhythmic horns blaring in the sun-baked air. The driver wiped his face with a dirty rag that substituted as a handkerchief, his face not betraying any emotion or cognizance of his passengers’ complaint. The taxi driver glanced at his once clean handkerchief which now bore no resemblance to its original color and muttered curses under his breath, "Lagos na wa".

Up in the skies, the angels kept on ironing their garments, oblivious to the mortals below. Babel or Las Gidi, it made no difference, the cycle rolled on…

Thursday, May 9, 2013

American Wonder

Chukwuka had never been to the USA before, infact he had never breathed oyibo air before. The closest he had come to travelling 'abroad' was his visit to Ghana and Cotonou, which couldnt be really classified as travelling 'overseas'. It was common knowledge that any flight that lasted less than 2 hours could not be graded as an International flight. But if you heard Chukwuka speak, it would never occur to you that he had a green passport. The fact that he even had a passport was like magic to his friends, a passport was the license to enter plane overseas, that was what they all believed. His regular convo was packed full with American lingua, and it was common to hear him refer to his friends as 'dudes'. "Dude, you gorra be tripping", was his way of questioning your opinion. Most of his friends had no clue what 'tripping' meant, but since Chukwuka was viewed as an 'yankee' boy, they grinned foolishly each time he lapsed into his americana accent.

What they didn't know was that Chukwuka had burned the proverbial midnight oil studying and learning every single detail there was to know about the US of A. He could sing the American national anthem backwards and could tell you exactly what MLK wore on the day he gave his "I have a dream" speech. His knowledge of american affairs gave him leverage over his peers and everyone assumed that his yankee nature had been acquired from frequent travels abroad. After all, it was well known that Chukwuka vanished regularly for weeks in a year and each time he came back from one of his mysterious trips, he always had a new story to tell.

"Nah men, I was gone for awhile, I was kicking it with my dudes in the Bronx"

"The Bronx? Is that in America too ?" they would ask.

"Dude, you gorra be tripping!"

He would point to the tshirt he was wearing, which had BROOKLYN etched on it, and explain how the Bronx was just a stone throw from Brooklyn.

"Datz where my nigga Jigga grew up!"

This never failed to excite his listeners. Chukwuka was on first name basis with all the celebrities they heard about on TV. Last December, he told them that he had spent his holiday with "Jigga and Bee". To think that a young boy from the village could be rubbing shoulders with the beautiful Beyonce was simply amazing.

"Nna, did she sing or dance for you?"

"I hear her hair is like mammy-water"

"Shebi they said her husband is a cultist. Did you hear her praying while you were there?"

At this point Chukwuka would raise his hands and stop the questioning with a "Dude, you gorra be tripping!". A hush would descend on the gathering, and everyone would wait for him to reveal secret details of the lives of Jigga and Bee.

"Look, you gorra go easy with these questions men, Jigga and Bee are my niggaz, I can't be gossiping about them behind their backs. You gorra be tripping to think I'm gonna do that. Even Kanye doesn't talk about this stuff..."

The eyes of his listeners would bulge at the mention of a new name.

"Kanye West? E kwu zi na (you don't say!), you saw Kanye West too?"

Then the chorus of voices would clamber over each other

"Hmmm, that Kanye West sef, is he not a cultist too?"

"Who is Kanye? Is he from our village? His name sounds like an Igbo name"

"What do you mean? Is Kanye West not friends with D'Banj?"

"But D'Banj is one of us, is he not osi-na-nwata-buru-ogaranye-1?"

"Stop advertising your ignorance my friend, do you think he is a trader's apprentice like you?"

"You are the fool. Have you been to America before? Common Lagos, you have not visited"

"I don't blame you, ewu (goat)! Just because you mistakenly travelled to Sagamu, you think you have arrived?"

"Guys, you gorra be tripping! What the fuck! Shit men!"

Chukwuka's angry voice would snap everyone back to reality. Amidst the angry looks being cast around, he would announce that he had to rest, and then escape further questions.

It never occured to anyone to ask Chukwuka why he always came back to the village after his trips to America. The fact that someone who was friends with Jigga and Bee could sit around with them and play cards was fascinating. They held tightly to their sole link to America and didn't want to risk his anger by asking questions that seemed pointless. After all, when the famous americans came back from the moon, no one asked them how they got there and who they saw. Some questions were best left unasked, for all they cared. All that mattered to them was that they were friends with someone who was on first name terms with Jigga and Bee. Maybe, someday, Chukwuka would invite one of them on his trips, and they too would have stories to tell their mates. American wonder!