Faces in the Garrison

Image result for deep eyes

 

By   Dominic Ayegba Okoliko

Keep your gaze on
and look through in the deep.
Let it run up the hill
and down the mountain trail.
See through the green leaf scale
and in the dewdrops on the field;
here and there is beauty unfolding,
a flower bud bursting.
Turn your eyes upon the wood.
Let it traverse the neighbourhood,
and sweep through every gate.
Take in snapshots of every face,
and hold tight every gaze
until beams of warm rays
water the dryness of faces,
of faces in the garrison

 

Dominic Ayegba Okoliko is a Nigerian writer from Kogi State. He enjoys stories and love spending time creating some. His other interests include poem and social science research. Some of his works have appeared in Words Rhymes and Rhythm, Nigeria News24, Poemhunters and on this site. You can contact Dominic on okolikoda@outlook.com or follow him on twitter @Ayedom01

LOOK AT “EAT”

By Larry Onokpite

Stare scares: it scarce
The joint of meeting espoused
For the lookout in the outlook
Simplicity is betrayed in stare
Yet exhuming the dried
Dried, fried, fresh: still edible.

Meaning negotiated for admiration
Matter arising in beauty
Hectic junction for a question
Looking incenses the unnoticed
Wind noticed; yet invisible
Smoke greeted; smelled in indifference

Visible indifference of differing
All interested in our disinterest
Wittiness is our goalkeeper
Shooting the ball only to logic
Damn logic! It is allergic
Unity appears in a scare

The questions your mouth query
Your Einstein require no riposte
The reply our minds will afford
Our mouth pretends with silence
Accidental invocation of awkwardness
Flowers plucked for our pockets

Invisible mystery
Brimmed and oozing with a story
Visible mystery
Truth canned to can’t
For my adorable daughter
Touch and taste twin

“The taste of the pudding
Is in the eating”
One of our unfinished truths
The tasting of the pudding
The death of the pudding
Craving and tasting in swiftness

The pudding should stay
The tension of trust
Creates the exhortation
The pudding is tasty
Taste-sense is last on the roll
Touch, see, smell, adore!

Destruction is colourless
It is filled with odour
I stare; We stare
Staring is consuming
We plea for its stay
Tomorrow we love to look on

Looking calls us to depth
Looking invites us to growth
Looking names our maturing
That which is eaten is destroyed
Your fate before you:
Look at “Eat!”

Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality. Larry previously published A Collection of Mantras and Ululating on Afreecan Read.

 

 

 

 

Python Dancers

By Nwanne Agwu

I’m sitting by the window, looking at my copy of Anne Frank’s diary. The sun has been drowned by the darkness of the early part of the night and the street is silent, save for the songs from the DJ at a night club down the street. Mama is downstairs, sitting beside the big radiogram in the dining room. She is listening to Radio Biafra. That radio reminds me always of Papa, the fragrance of his cologne, the roundness of his eyeglasses lying on the bridge of his nose.

I am trying to hear Papa’s voice. This is Saturday and he is supposed to be at home by now. The green Mercedes ML350 was in the compound on the Friday of last week, shinning and bringing the reflections of the Saturday sun into the kitchen. The glasses are always glittering, letting silvery tetrahedra move around the windscreens of the car with the sun. But Papa is not yet back. Ijeoma has already made dinner but we know that the food may not be tasted. My stomach is empty but my mouth finds it difficult to produce more saliva, my tongue suffers to pass it down to and through my throat and whenever my epiglottis shuts as I swallow the saliva, I feel some pain. A dry pain that hurts my nostrils.

I want to cry. I want to ask Ijeoma to get Papa’s blue shirt and trousers with yellow dots, the costume he wore at last year’s priestly ordination ceremony, from his wardrobe, and have them ironed. But I don’t know how to tell her. I couldn’t even say anything when she knocked at my door asking for clothes. First, I wanted to say yes. Then no. But I said I would not go to church.

Last Sunday, we were late to church because Mama did not know what to wear. She changed and changed clothes. And Papa was angry, angry-angry. He didn’t even smile in church. And he didn’t talk as he drove us home, only that he shouted at the okada rider who overtook him on the expressway.

Coconut head, he shouted. The windows were rolled down because the car was hot from the sun’s heat. Ignoramus, he added, as the final part of his initial statement.

Ekwensu, the okada rider shouted back. He hadn’t gone beyond the bonnet of our car. Papa said nothing. He was making as if he did not see the man cast his open palm and five fingers, in a cassava leaf shape, toward him.

Bastards. Harbingers of ill luck, searching for those to make victims. Papa sucked his teeth.

But he stopped being angry after his siesta. Sometimes, I want to think he is like my teachers in the kindergarten classes, always calling you a coconut head for failing to recognize letters and numbers. And counting to hundred. And identifying two and three-letter words. And reading the lines in our English textbooks, called ‘readers,’ which had illustrations of Ada, Obi and Musa and their parents, as well as monkeys and cows and goats. These same teachers will praise you for doing the opposite of those negative actions, for trying harder.

EEDC has not restored the power and everywhere is dark. It seems they have decided not to let us use their light this night. My phone’s battery is dead and I can’t check the pictures on Facebook or nairaland. Mama won’t talk. She won’t ask Ikenna the gateman to get the power generator on. Ijeoma can’t even iron the clothes if we had given them to her.

I’m just feeling tired. I want to remove my clothes and lie down on the floor and write. I just want to write because that is the only thing that can save me now, I think. But I don’t know what to write about. I don’t even want to write on paper. My phone has always helped. I’ve always written with my phone, listening to songs.

Now I want to hold my heart. I want to shave off this feeling of expectation. It seems my heart is hung on a stake. It seems it went on a journey and has not returned and now I’m feeling a bag of rice in its place. Heavy. Discomforting. And it is as though this room is compressing, coming together. The walls will hold me in their hands and crush me. I want to scream but my lips can’t even open.

***

On some Fridays, I’d hoped that Papa would not return. I hate the unease he brings with him. His presence makes me to not go outside or make calls to friends or chat with them on Facebook. All I do then is to sit down before my study table and read. And pretend to read. Papa will open the door and congratulate himself for having a responsible son. Sunday evening is for advice. After the advice he gives me some money.

This is a Saturday night and I’m wishing Papa is back. I’m wishing that nothing happens to him in Aba where the soldiers are dancing a dance on the heads of the residents. This dance involves guns and distribution of bullets, injecting them into people’s bodies. They say the Igbos in Aba are killing the Hausas and Fulanis, searching vehicles, bringing them out and shooting bullets into their foreheads, hammering nails into their heads, cutting their throats with knives. I don’t know why this should be happening. The python dancers are also doing their own. These dancers are the soldiers who have declared and commissioned the Operation Python Dance in Umuahia and Jos.

I don’t even know whether I love or hate this Biafra. But I know I dislike their leader. I dislike the whole belief that Igbos originated from Jew. The fact that we have similar beliefs and cultural practices or traditions should not mean that we are migrants who mistakenly settled here and a white man, with a bushy beard and moustache, joined us with our enemies. The fact that Nigeria is like a room shared by many wives of the same man does not mean we should call it a zoo. People still survive in polygamous homes. Children still grow there. And even if this house should fall, let it not bring destruction. Let’s do everything peacefully and have it burnt or bulldozed. I see a dictator in the leader of the Biafrans. I feel red teary eyes whenever I hear a policeman talk about Nigeria as a nonsense country. Whenever I remember that many families are looking for ways to leave Umuahia. Whenever I remember the children who have become and are becoming orphans just within this week. I feel nothing. I feel something. I feel sorrow. This is not only happening in Abia, it is happening in Jos, also. Sex always begin with foreplay. Wars always begin with riots, pogroms.

Papa’s phone is switched off and each time Mama tries his line, a woman’s voice tells her in a faulty, and assuming European accent that Papa’s phone is off, and that she can drop a voice message by hanging on, a little longer. The woman giving the instruction is slim, and dark, I think, because of her voice, because of the way each word sounds, crispy, weightless.

I don’t want to see Papa in my mind’s eye because I’m afraid I will see him lying on the road in a pool of blood, the glasses of his car broken. I’m afraid I will see a red hole in his forehead, a hole created by a bullet. And he is lying with his face on the ground.

I don’t want to see visions of him. All I want now is to see him physically. I want to touch him. To hold his hand. To hear his voice. To watch him walk to the altar to receive the holy communion. To watch him eat, and drink his tea on Monday morning. To sit with him in the front seat of the car and listen to him criticise the government. To wave to him as he drives out of the school yard, leaving me in Mama’s hands, letting me come to school in Mama’s car till Friday.

Papa was once a part of the government. And whenever I ask him questions relating to his achievements as the chairman of our local government council, he says nothing, then he says, finally. Nnanna, you won’t understand. It’s better for you not to know.

But he never tells me why I won’t understand. He never tells me why it is better that I don’t know about it. Now I’m thinking that I can understand. I think I am beginning to know, even though it is better for me not to know. The dusty and muddy road leading to our hometown tells so much of the story. The waving of hands to our car. The fallen parts of the school that was built during Papa’s administration. The darkness that comes upon the village at night because there are no wires or transformers or electricity transmission poles, lines. The darkness is only penetrable by the light from the generator in our home. Then, the yellow cone-shaped light from candles and kerosene lanterns from compounds, doors, windows in the village. Papa will not say anything. But everything talks about itself.

***

Now he is in Aba. Aba is in Umuahia. Umuahia is the capital of Abia. Abia is near Afikpo. Afikpo is almost my hometown – separated by a less than a half hour journey. So what if this dance and riots get to Okposi, my hometown? Will our home not be burnt? What if all those who misappropriated funds, packing public funds in private foreign accounts are killed? Will Papa survive it? Will we leave Abakaliki where we live now and travel outside the country?

***

Someone is knocking on the door. Heavy raps in quick succession. Mama is running, hurrying to open the door.

Welcome, she says. I can hear her heavy exhalation from my room.

Nwanne Agwu is a Nigerian teenager. He is the author of Nkem previously published on Afreecan Read. He has also published at Brittle PaperFlash Fiction Press and Pengician. His poem was among the top ten entries for the Chinua Achebe’s Iconic Ceremony, Awka, 2016. He blogs at nwanneagwu.wordpress.com

BLACK FRIDAY

By Udousung Blessed Abraham

The day seemed to go on forever, task after task kept coming. The sun was at its peak, its heat drenched her in sweat. The house was suffocating hot. The heat was unbearable. The noise from the moving vehicles and blasting speakers outside were driving her crazy too.

The near-absence of electric power supply which they were accustomed to, had become a burden. Power was being rationed and they got their daily share from 8pm of each night till 7am of the following day. The only consolation was that they at least got to watch Jenifa’s Diary every night.

Playful noise and rattles of kids filled the air. The boys were wrestling outside. She detested wrestling shows. She could never understand why grown men would sign up to get their asses whooped by other men; but her husband loved the idea. He even had a pile of wrestling DVDs neatly stocked under the sound cabinet, like trophies.

“From London, weighing five hundred pounds, the dead mann…. The… Undertaker!”

“From New York, weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, the you-can’t-see-me… Johnn… Cena!!”

She shook her head at the sheer folly, ‘they are at it again.’

She wished the children were at school. She loved it when they were in school, but today was a public holiday. She wondered how their teachers coped. Twenty-four hours with her children was enough to give an acute case of migraine to anybody. Her eyes drifted to Chioma who was standing on a stool, helping her with the dishes. A smile of relief crept to her face. She silently hoped that her wrestlemania boys would learn a bit of responsibility from their sister. With her subtle eyes still on her dish-savior, she mumbled that prayer in her heart.

Crash! The sound penetrated her thoughts.

A louder crash followed.

The shattering sound of metals and ceramics ended her prayers. Her stomach tightened. Instinctively, she ran towards the noise with Chioma trailing behind her.

She yelped, shocked. Lying on the floor was her husband’s favorite cutlery collection: ceramics and porcelain alike, the best of Chinese products. The ones they had intentionally never used since the dedication of Samuel. She felt a sudden surge of rage and pain rise in her head, as a throbbing headache beckoned. Yet she was unexpectedly calm. What ‘better way’ was she supposed to react?

The boys were safe. That was more important than the Chinese porcelain. But then the doctor-do-good was only a few steps away, and they needed to learn their lesson. She dashed for it. As expected, the boys took to their heels. Scattered like defeated soldiers retreating for safety, but years of chasing them had made her faster. She got to pelt them with few heavy strokes on their backs before letting out a confused shriek. She shut her eyes for a few seconds and rubbed her throbbing forehead.

“Children,” Her thoughts took flight. The memories of yells from her mum suffixed by “If your pikin do you like this, you go like am?” hit her like a thunderbolt.

Were those indirect curses?

Children! You make soup with the hope that it would last the week because recession had ceased from being just a dictionary word, but you end up finding the pieces of meat and fish reducing at an alarming rate. They leave debris in their wake. The marred sofa and missing decor pieces in the sitting room were testaments to their presence.

The psychological torture and frustration weighed her down, so much that her knees quivered. She reached out to the calling bed. It had never felt this comfortable.

••••••••••••••••••••

“Mummy, mummy, the rice have boil o. Come and check it,” her daughter’s cute voice sang in her ears, followed by a gentle tap from her. She shrugged and stretched. Just when the sleep was getting better, she thought. Her eyes opened, unveiling blood-runt pupils. She wished she could split herself in two and slump back into sleep even if it was just for a minute. Picking herself up, she dragged her legs languidly and made for the kitchen to attend to the boiling rice. She had become a superwoman.

“Mummy, I want to drink water.” Little Ike was up. Lines from sleeping on a rubber mat were imprinted all over his face. He would soon start crying for food. She scanned the house for the other boys; they were not in sight.

“Wait, I am coming.”  She hissed, shutting her eyes to push back the calling sleep. She entered the kitchen and made for the bubbly pot of rice. Turning to Chioma, she barked, “Go and bring the boys here! Tell them, if I open my eyes and they are not here, they will see what I will do to them!”

And then her head ached again, more severely this time. She shut her eyes tighter and rubbed the throbbing forehead. How could something be capable of causing overwhelming joy and overwhelming migraine at the same time?

She took down the pot, dished the rice into four plates, then placed the pot of soup on the burning gas. She wanted sleep badly. Finally done, she went to the sitting room in search of little Ike.

“Maybe he has gone back to bed,” she mumbled to herself. Her eyes fell on the Ragolis bottle that should contain methylated spirit. It was open and unexpectedly empty. A sudden wind of unease brushed her skin, cold went up her spine and goose bumps coated her flesh. Her head raced as her thoughts slowly became reality.

“No! No no no no no…”

Her pace increased.

“Ikem! Ikem!!” She froze, as color left her face. Sprawled on the ground like a rag was Ikem, the baby of the house, foaming in the mouth.

Her Ike was fighting against death.

“Ikemefuna!” She grabbed the boy and sprinted out of the house, into the open air, shouting at the top of  her voice. “Ikem o! Ikem o!!”

The neighbors rallied round her. The younger ones watched in confusion. The older ones grabbed the baby from her and ran inside.

“Red oil! Bring red oil fast,” someone shouted.

“Yes! Red oil go make am vomit wetin him swallow.”

Her mind went blank. Her brain logged off like a shut book. She rushed to the kitchen, grabbed the red oil and shoved it into the hands of the panicking life-savers.

She watched on in tears, with prayers in her heart. She could see them hold her boy and force the red fluid down his throat. She didn’t trust the old wrinkled women with her baby boy, but they were her last hope. She couldn’t wait to grab him and clutch him to her bosom; she would gladly give him water whenever he asked for it and feed him too.

She stared at him. He was barely conscious. Clenched teeth. Frail muscles. His pupils sunk into his skull as he vomited. Sighs of relief and smiles radiated the faces of the neighbors.

Then the air changed. The smiles faded to a frown as lines of confusion crept to their foreheads. He was convulsing again.

Large masculine hands grabbed him and turned him to the side. She reached out to touch her baby. “What is happening?” she mumbled.

“Wasn’t red oil supposed to help? What is happening?” She recoiled her hand, scared to touch him.

“Hold am, hold am. Rub the boy back.” “Bend the boy head.” “Find cold water.” “Raise the boy yansh up.” Different advice and instructions from different people. Despair beat their expertise and confidence.

“What is happening?” she screamed. Madness slowly descended on her as life ebbed out of him. She shuddered. Raising her head up a bit, she noticed her daughter running towards her, the wind slapping her tears to the back. Her entrails clenched, as she shook her head vigorously to knock out the dream playing before her eyes.

“Mummy, Mummy come o. Motor have jam Joseph.” The words rammed into her. For a millisecond blood seemed to leave her brains.  Her feet rose in action, with nothing but bewilderment trailing her thoughts. She fell to the ground and allowed the darkness in her soul take her away.

“Cut!” the director’s resonant voice boomed. Roars of excitement choked the air. The director was super impressed.

Udousung Blessed Abraham is from Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. Budding Engineering student of Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri. Writer and a lover of books.
His story has been featured on Tush Stories. He recently published his compilation of Short stories, “Spilled Hues”

 

THE GRADUATE

By Sunday Paul C. Onwuegbuchulam

Trudging tirelessly through the street dirt,
The sweat on his face drips down,
Soaking the sodden shriveled shirt,
The soles of his shoes have thinned down.

His tired face reflects predicament,
As a result of wasteful trials,
With his hard earned documents
He cannot be offered even a trial.

But so optimistic he carried on
Running after an escaping honey,
At that middle hour not yet on,
How could he? When he has no money.

Under the burning blazing sun
He continued his eluding fight
His dry spit disappears under the sun
His sunken eyes looking left and right

Alas! There an opportunity shimmers
The chalk board shouts: ‘vacancy’!
The hope of a menial job glimmers
Even that is okay for his fancy

Knock, knock, knock, do you have “pay-pass”?
The manager’s head like Olumo rock
‘Yes’, the graduate answered, I had a pass.
The manager’s face frowned at this ignorant muck.

‘Zounds! I don’t mean that rubbish.’
Eyes blinking blearily in surprise
‘Excuse me sir, did you say rubbish?
These, for my academic endeavors are my prize.’

The graduate could not believe his ears,
Even as he returned to the streets.
The manager ejected him from there,
What a country! He was in fits.

A country where a qualified graduate
Could not qualify for a job, however menial
So that he could his sanity protect,
Which he sought, but turned to denial.

Yes, the corrupt system had denied sanity
From a man who fought tooth and nail,
To secure a place for future identity
Like a failed warrior, his aspiration fails.

Where is the employment to give him mandate?
Where are the two-tongued promises made,
By the pot-bellied hawks scavenging mandate?
Theirs was given, his was already dead.

This is his fate and others like him
In a country flowing with milk and honey.
They are gradually dying alive it seems,
But slowly the politician’s ‘pay-day’ looms surely.

 

Dr Sunday Paul C. Onwuegbuchulam is from Imo State Nigeria resident in South Africa. He is a researcher and lecturer (International and Public Affairs). He has published peer-reviewed articles in journals straddling the areas of philosophy, theology, conflict transformation and peace studies and political science. Reading and writing poetry, prose and drama is a hobby and passion developed early in life to which he devotes his pastime. The theme that controls his poetic thoughts centres on human existential realities and the plight of the alienated in African societies.

The World Lies

By Samuel Oladele

They said, our hearts will always be an empty auditorium,
a void planet lost in endless darkness.
They said, our minds will always be a burning house,
a wounded confused soldier running in the wilderness.
They said, our hearts and heads will always be
Iran and Iraq, two brothers scuffling.
They said, our eyes will always be defected lights
bulbs left with little to behold.
They said, our faces will always be a stain on the
world, a dying lake.
They said, our bodies will always be a hut in the
middle of estate houses, a dirt the world dumped.
My grandmother has always told me that the
world will call the sun a graveyard because he
is a scientist who never admits to be fallible.
The outgoing doctor, my neighbour, says
lab coats are light blue.
The world is a colour blind doctor, too perfect
to get lens for its eyes.
I am a planet with two suns and an atmosphere
too strong to worry over a body of plausible words.

 

Samuel Oladele is from Ondo state. He is a student studying Applied Chemistry at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He loves to write and to read.

CROCO WORLD

By Larry Onokpite

I am never thirsty
I gave up that chance hastily
No regret on this sacrifice
Everything would suffice

King of fluids
High class residence of water
Peacefully inhale juice to a nap
Liquid plentiful: life beautiful

Satisfaction will remain our master
Mattering not you marine or earthly
We are slaves of incompleteness
At least materially

Self-acclaimed king of fluids
Never satisfy
Catching, crushing, masticating
Ruthlessly whipping to stillness

Weaker friends are my feeds
Point after point I spy above marine
Plotting my next feast
The king I am mostly wins

I began to brag in fullness
Carefully escaping that cheat of nature
Water commander; territory destroyer
Attacking slowly: devouring in speed

Seeds sprouting in my abdomen
They won’t survive in my giant kingdom
Need soil: need someone’s space
Before I kinged fluids; I begged soil

Who can be proud of a weak king?
Overthrow and death are near him
Pride is our most decorated vanity
Only if you knew how you became?

Should I really be king?
Pride blinds us once we become
Ungratefulness updated in our being
Drop that ego: your cargo will sink

I deposited my eggs ashore
Brilliantly sealed their tomb
A tomb-womb
Dying to live again

Not long enough though
But those days stole my good peace
I gallivanted solemnly ashore
Digging up my princes and princesses

Oh pride! You killed my children already
I didn’t even get the favour to teach
Bluntly refusing to thank the soil
They quickly travelled into their realm

Before I returned home
These tiny creatures were on already
Demanding power and dominance
Never to remember how they became

My feet itching: mouth shivering
But how much must we teach?
What can be learnt from silence?
We are beings patterned in experience

Age trapped me: my kids grew strong
They smashed well: I eager to teach
When a group of weaker friends appear
They were always confused and couldn’t kill
They found a way to burn their pride

I laughed at them skillfully
When they saw many: they starved
When our pride fails us
It doesn’t notify nor apologizes after

I remain king of fluids as I think
Perhaps a confused king
We are greatly impaired;
Kiss a healing humbly
The faith of fate!

Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality. Larry previously published A Collection of Mantras and Ululating on Afreecan Read.

A HORSE IN A BIRTH

By Dominic Ayegba Okoliko

The sunlight could be said to be angry. Earlier, it had stood high hovering like a hawk ready to take its pound on a prey. Although now the evening had crawled in gradually, the warmth from the day’s sun could still be felt.
“Áñyá bi ϙmá ki nà’godà, àgo ch’okàhàh!” Arome whispered to himself, or he thought he did.
“Ehm, Arome, come. You’ve started again eh!” Arome’s gaze was fixed on something both distant and oblivious to the other kids playing in the front yard, so he didn’t notice when his friend walked up to the balcony where he stood, leaning against the rusting protectors of the house. “Will you explain yourself?” Ayo said, patting Arome on the back. “And please come back to us here. Your ancestors aren’t ready to welcome you home yet.”
“It is a wise saying from the Igalas.” The words fell off his lips in an undertone. Then turning slowly in Ayo’s direction, he continued, “it means a horse gives birth so that it can stretch its waist but the waist has stubbornly remained strong”. They both fell into silence as if to let the silence speak more about what he had just interpreted. Arome’s eyes remained frozenly fixed; not on anything in particular though. “Talking about the saying reminds me of an incident with my Mama.” Arome picked up again. “You know how Mamas are concerned about their children. They can go a great length to ensure the faces of their kids beam with smiles as often as possible.” It dawned on Ayo that he was in for a reminiscent discourse. He had known Arome for barely six months now. During this short time, they have both learned to be fond of each other and could easily come across at siblings.
They both walked backward and slouched unto a bench that lined the wall. Ayo took a closer look at his friend again. He noticed his face beam with smiles as the fellow spoke in his usual bits and pieces, the way a hen eats. “There was this day. It must have been a holiday time; that period that is loved by most kids.” Arome lowered his face from the distance to hold his friend’s attention as he continued. “We had plenty of time for play and childhood naughty games. My siblings and I, together with other kids from our neighbourhood had taken turns to do unmarked and unmeasured relays around the house for a great deal of the morning. It was a glowing morning. However, as the noon approached, our tummies began to chorus with funny sounds. As if rehearsed, we all crawled at once to where Mama was in the backyard attending to her chores. She had been busy preparing her Akpo for sales at the Ede market the following day”.
“Ehm, Akpo. What is Akpo?” Ayo interjected. “It’s a cassava product used mainly in processing fufu. I know you go to Iya Oloja to buy it a lot these days.”
“Oh yes. What do you expect of a bachelor like me?”
“A poor one for that matter”, Arome added. Currently, both young men fed from little contract jobs they got once in a while in the Sogal city. Since they both returned from Youth Service in the South-Eastern part of Aboland, they had been in search of a good paying job. “Point of correction, a bachelor with swags. You’re looking at the next billionaire in Aboland”. Arome smirked at his friend, spreading his thick lips which allowed for a display of his teeth. These teeth had been his selling point, they made him very admirable.
“My younger sister intoned the hunger song”, Arome resumed his story. “We all joined her to complete the A Cappella: ‘we’re hungry Mama’. Mama quickly abandoned her work and brought out some beans, announcing: ‘we shall have moimoi for lunch then!’
‘Ehen! Moimoi, great idea’, I responded with the blush of a girl in love”.
“Yea, I can imagine that”, said Ayo. “This love affair between you and moimoi no be today oh”.
“Mama immediately put to task some beans she had collected from the storeroom.” Arome continued his talking, snubbing his friend’s remark and causing him to recoil back into his shell. “With serene dedication, she soon had it ready for the grinding mills. In those days, there were only a few of the mills in our neighbourhood and one would have to walk about 3 km to access the nearest. Mama called out to my sister ‘Ojima, please take this to Agbo’s compound and have it grinded’.
“Ah, mama, is it only me here?” Ojima replied grumblingly. OJ, as we fondly call her, later went for the errand while the rest of us kept other things going. About an hour later, all things were set awaiting OJ’s arrival”.
“Eish buddy, that’s a long time of waiting for your tummies’ love”. Ayo interrupted again.
“Ayo-mi-de!” He called out with a big grin on his face, giving each syllable its own weight. “Damn it. You don’t have to say my name as though you’re romancing the words” they both bursted into laughter.
“When she finally came however, our eyes could hardly believe what we saw.”
“Who’s it?”
“Ah, Ayo! OJ of course. My sister. She was all tears and had her whole body drenched in a mixture of mud and grinded beans. You could mistake her for a young lad out on a festival of colours. Upon seeing her first, I called out: ‘Ah, OJ, what’s it? What had happened to you?’ Mama soon sprang from her place in the kitchen calling out. “Ęnę lę ke? Ojima. ele le le le! Ę ñwu lę ke?” (Who’s it? Ojima! What happened to you?)
“When OJ became calm enough, we learnt from her that while she was returning, she had dodged a drifting Okada into a terrain of muds along the pathway and found herself tripped. At once, we knew our hopes for moimoi that afternoon were dashed. It was then that Mama heaved a sigh of disappointment, saying: ‘Áñyá bi ϙmá ki nà’godà, àgo ch’okàhàh!’.
“Ah! Ore mi! Sorry for your lossi-oh! But ehm, what has this got to do with the long face you had when I came by. You were looking 40 years older than your age”
“Hmm, my brother! I just got back from the bank oh” his cheeks flushed with worries.
“Oh yes. You told me when I rang you earlier. Isn’t it the Reyna Bank branch by Oribi round about?”
“Yeah. I was there to rectify the bank’s app on my phone – the one I had before was malfunctioning and had failed me in completing financial transactions”. Ayo who felt sympathetic for his friend said: “Eya! And I know how you feel about being up there, friend.”
“Exactly. But instead of giving in to that familiar hatred of being in the bank, I kept singing to myself while on the way, ‘it’s just a simple single issue. You should be out of there soon buddy’. Did I know that I was going to confront a pale drama that would make me sigh my Mama’s sigh?”
“‘Your account is frozen’. Those words shot straight from a girly lady across the desk pierced my loins too bad! ‘But how come?’ I reacted in bewilderment. I followed it up with series of exasperating interrogations that yielded back and forth responses. At the end, they left in me more cause for disappointment and annoyance.”
Ayo further learnt from his friend that the reason for freezing the account was because the bank could not verify his residential address.
“It is the usual practice sanctioned by Central Bank oh.” Ayo remarked.
“Ayo-mi-de. My worry was not about the Central Bank’s order or its application to me. It is about this particular bank and how it carried out the order without due process. Is this not a slap on Baba Due Process whose reign is doing everything to ensure discipline in all creeks of our land? Did you know that about a month before this incident, I had walked to the same branch of the bank to notify them of a change in my address and to request updates of my details with them? This was entirely initiated by me as a move to prevent any ugly episode arising with my account. The staff promised to have it verified and effected.”
“Ehm, maybe they tried to locate your place and couldn’t. You know how I complain about this our Sogal city. Authorities have done little to give proper identification to new suburbs springing up here and there. Ours isn’t left out you know?”
Arome was sweating and becoming impatient. “No.” He stretched out his hand and waved his friend to silence. “Not at all. They didn’t do any search. As they fed me, some contractors were used – isn’t it Sogal? Do you not know how this thing works? How could they trust some fellow’s words without checking it out? These guys could have been somewhere cooling off before feeding them the lie.”
“Ayo, the problem here is communication. What has come over our banks? They see no fault in sending you a text message whenever there is a bank charge to be deducted but not on this kind of issue. Did you know that the silly bank took in my deposit early this morning? So much of a frozen account! I actually did that to allow me to do smooth transfer into my little sister’s account for her school fees after I would have rectified my mobile app. Don’t I look like a horse whose act of giving birth had failed to ease its waist pain?”
“Man! I feel you. I do bro.”
“Come to think of it, Ayo. How much of ease has banking brought to lives in Aboland?
“Ehm, Arome. Sorry about your tit-for-tat experience with Reyna Bank, but surely, you can’t raise that question.”
“Ayo-mi-de, why not?”
“The Aboland banking sector has gone through lots of refinements that have made it a formidable force influencing social economic change at different levels today bro”, Ayo answered him.
“You remember Gov. Charlie Solugo’s recapitalisation and consolidation of financial sectors in 2004 right?” Arome listened on with a puzzled face. “Did we not learn that the exercise ushered in the emergence of stronger banking system in Aboland? The official account has it that by the end of the following year, the financial system which had about 89 fragile banks was forced to produce 25 banks positioned to serve Abos better. And you may recall yet another reform; the one which targeted corporate governance in the sector. E-ehm. It was undertaken by Gov. Salahu Lami Salahu, the now Tonga of Kario Kingdom. While the Soludo’s reform weeded weaker banks, the latter thrashed perceived ineptitude in financial corporate governance in the banking system.”
Arome briskly rose, took some steps back and forth. “I know about these reforms of course”, he vented. “I also know that some commentators have credited them for some improvements in the area of corporate governance and risk management, lending capacity resulting from the consolidation exercise, and the confidence level of investors and customers.” Ayo felt encouraged, and perceiving that he was winning in the debate, he spoke once more. “Even the e-banking of which you’re a fan; wasn’t it a fruit from the reforms? More people now use automated teller machines (ATMs), point of sale (POS) systems, mobile phones and personal computers for banking transactions.”
With a mischievous laughter in his voice, Arome responded: “you have your facts right friend. But there are not all that there is to an efficient banking system my dear. Despite increased presence of deposit banks in Aboland, a good number of the populace are still either wholly excluded from banking system or rarely utilise the system due to inconveniences associated with banking services in our country. Amongst many issues with the sector, inadequate coverage is a big one. On February 17, 2012, His Royal Highness, Salahu II revealed this in a lecture at the University of Warwick’s Economic Summit in the UK. At the time, he was still the governor of Central Bank of Aboland. He reported that there were about 24 deposit money banks with 5,789 branches and 816 microfinance banks in Aboland as at December 2011. This makes the total of bank branches in our country at the time to be 6,605. If you do your maths well, that leaves you with one branch to 24, 224 persons. We can safely assume that little has changed since that time really. If that’s true, there you have it bro; many banks in Aboland have their branches overburdened.” Ayo fell silent as it seemed to him that his friend had taken on a larger figure.
Arome went on talking about how it was still a common occurrence to walk into banking halls in Aboland and find pools of customers jolting, sometimes unruly to transact bank businesses. Often times the queues in the banking hall would snake around, curving many times before extending to the outside of the bank building. He considered the weight of loss of labour hours for the numerous able men and women who were often trapped in the unfortunate lines. There are also personal queasy feelings that individuals experience under such ‘avoidable’ conditions. “Ayo-mi-de, this is where my aversion towards visiting the banks lies!”
“Ehm, Arome you are right. But is this not the reason why the advent of e-banking in the country is considered a wonderful relief? Now people can make financial transactions from the comfort of their homes, offices, playgrounds and anywhere using internet-enabled gadgets. Is it not awesome to be able to use ATMs 24/7 for business transactions without having to face banking hall nightmares? My dear, we’ve made progress oh.” Ayo felt his voice again but his friend would not let him speak further.
“You are right friend. After all, e-banking has become a global picture of banking system today and we ought to be proud of the feat Aboland has made in this regard. However, these hopes you painted earlier are poorly met in our country. Consider the ATMs. They still enjoy limited distribution across the nation and this causes almost a replication of the exasperating queues in our banking halls. In cases where you have two or more of the machines, only one is made available to serve customers no matter their numbers. Is it not safe to conclude then that the banking halls have lent their nightmares to the ATM stands?”
“As a matter of fact, I’ve added it also to my list of ‘places to avoid’”.
“Ehm, in that case, you’re left with internet and mobile banking then?”
“That’s correct Ayo. And it was the same reason why I went to rectify my mobile banking app with Reyna Bank. But you are not to think that we’ve gotten internet banking alright yet. Internet usage is limited by internet subscription, IT skills, including mobile phones, remember? And on both areas, many Abos are still disadvantaged.”
“Even if those things are there, Arome, I won’t trust the internet for any financial transaction. I don’t want someone to milk my account dry in a blink eh.”
“I know that fear Ayo. But trust me the security issue isn’t as you fear. Rather, the problem I have observed with some of the bank apps concerns policy frameworks that create bottlenecks for end-users and poor technical designs that sometimes make banking apps very user-unfriendly.”
Ayo exclaimed, “ah, you sef! you have become too critical of everything in Aboland; give them a break abeg-i! We are getting there oh!”
“If we are to get there, Ayo-mi-de, I am convinced; our banking sector still requires attention especially as it is a focal economic institution with enormous influence on the wellbeing of our ailing economy. The banking hall decongestion is crucial but so also is finding effective means of making various e-banking services endearing. We need our ghost ATMs too; they are not supposed to dress bank premises like corpse on a parade. Make deposit ATMs more widespread. Sort out mobile and internet banking to become more user-friendly and develop POS to be readily available at point of sales.”
“Now that you mentioned the POS”, Ayo re-join his friend, “I was shocked to learn from a cashier at a private hospital I visited recently that I must pay N 2,000 to use the device. If the service cost is that high, very few people would want to use it I suppose.”
“That’s what I’m saying ore mi”.
“There’s more to be done really.”
“E don do Arome. No finish the small garri wey I drink with this your talk talk jor.”
“It’s OK. Now that you talked about food, let me go in and do some quick fix before I lose my stamina.”
“Now you’re talking, I’m right behind you buddy”.

Dominic Ayegba Okoliko is a nascent Nigerian writer from Kogi State. He enjoys stories and love spending time creating some. His other interests include poem, humanitarian work and social science research. Some of his works have appeared in Words Rhymes and Rhythm, Nigeria News24, and Poemhunters. Dominic works with Human Rights and Conflict ‘Resolution Centre in Abakaliki and can be contacted via okolikoda@gmail.com or on twitter @Ayedom1

BURNT BREAD & SURVIVAL SONG

By Abeiku Arhin Tsiwah

You always ask, why is life
An olden photograph
that evolves with time and gives away
her innocence to sultry, to little things of colour
when life itself is a cosmic writer of poetry
denied of ethereal exploits in space.

Blue flames are hard to light in the heart
so is an unattractive thigh difficult to please
the eyes that sleep with the morning sun.
And life itself is a dwindling tear of a dead child
staged by coups de’ tat and mobbed by silences.
The soul faces time with a piece of hook
like a fisher-boy seducing a mighty ocean.

You know how to survive a rapturous sin
like apparitions do to living bodies who
Prevent them from returning to their beloved.
But if bread is life for survivors in turned memoirs
then is smoke for believers
Who swim the present to childhood
to learn lessons forming
Skeletons of their new age

Abeiku Arhin Tsiwah performs poetry with The Village Thinkers, Ghana and serves as the poetry editor for Lunaris Review, Nigeria. Tsiwah, an international award winning poet and author of Afro-conscious heritage writes from his fatherland – Cape Coast, Ghana.

Painted Lady

by Onuora Ilodibe

Vanessa Cardui
Sometime in July noticed her presence
Upon blooming verdant lush thistles
Like thoughts prickles
Morning dew glisten off rising sun
Some things are natural as they come
Aesthetic and fragile
A touch of spectacle to reflect upon
Abreast with nature you will hear her call
Clicking sounds and whistles
Unspoken words but sounds mellifluous
Strumming every cord to piece-up a song
Morning she comes painted lady colourful on thistles thongs
As a boy she snapped my love
Playing in the tropical woods
Little do I know of her life cycle
She would last a day or two
Floating beautifully the thin air
Her multi-coloured wings.

Onuora Ilodibe is poet, MC and a writer from Nigeria. He has a BSC in Geography and Meteorology. He currently works and resides in Lagos, Nigeria. His love for poetry dates back to his childhood days, and has written ample of poems which include Uwa Abiara and Long John.