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Features

Tolu Akinyemi was born in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria and currently lives in the United Kingdom. Tolu Akinyemi is an exceptional talent, out-of-the-box creative thinker, a change management agent and a leader par excellence. Tolu is a business analyst and financial crime consultant as well as a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) with extensive experience working with leading Investment banks and Consultancy Firms.

Tolu is also a personal development and career coach and a prolific writer with more than 10 years’ writing experience; he is a mentor to hundreds of young people. He worked as an Associate mentor in St Mary’s School, Cheshunt and as an Inclusion Mentor in Barnwell School, Stevenage in the United Kingdom, helping students raise their aspirations, standards of performance and helping them cope with transitions from one educational stage to another.

Tolu has headlined and featured in various Open Slam, Poetry Slam, Spoken Word and Open Mic events in the United Kingdom. He also inspires large audiences through spoken word performances, he has appeared as a keynote speaker in major forums and events in the United Kingdom and facilitates creative writing masterclasses to all types of audiences.

Dead Dogs Don’t Bark is the second poetry collection from the acclaimed author, Tolu’ A. Akinyemi. With a similar tone and style to Dead Lions Don’t Roar (Tolu’s first poetry collection) this follow up masterpiece is nothing short of pure motivation.

The poems speak to all age groups as they feature finding your inner talent, celebrating your individuality and distinct voice. The poems cover a range of topics that many in life are aware of, that the Author himself has experienced and that we all, whatever our age, need support in. The poetry collection has didactic elements for evaporating the effects of peer pressure and criminality amongst many others. Also covering mental health, relationships, career focus, and general life issues, the poetry is bitter sweet, amusing and thought provoking in turns. This collection is poetic, soul-stirring and yet accessible and will appeal to fans of poetry that speak to the heart and social causes.

This is what Tolu Akinyemi had to say about the new collection…

“Dead Lion Don’t Roar is a collection of inspiring and motivating modern day verses addressing many issues close to home. The poetry is reflecting of today’s struggles and lights the way to a positive future, and the book will appeal to all age groups, anyone going through change, building or enjoying a career and facing day to day struggles. Many of the short verses will resonate with readers, leaving them with a sense of peace and well-being.”

“I hope my poetry collection inspires people to find their unique roar, bark and spark and challenge readers to do more and not settle for mediocrity.”

When asked about his writing style and influences…

“I would say the environment influences my writing in a way as I might not have been able to write about some events and places “In the abroad” without having first-hand knowledge of those situations. However, I always try my best not to lose touch with my base, as much as I write about the culture of others, I also try my best to connect with my root through my writings and more of this will be done in my next collection.”

In December 2017, Tolu donated £1,000 (One Thousand Pounds) from the proceeds of Dead Lions Don’t Roar to support AgeUk Northumberland’s loneliness campaign. Having sold thousands of books, Tolu’s goal is to someday attain the status best-selling author. However, his aim right now is to keep writing and get better at it.

Tolu’s books are available to order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, eBay, Waterstones, and his personal website www.tolutoludo.com. In Nigeria, you can order purchase from Roving Heights, Patabah Books, Buboox and the Okada Books App.

** This is part organized virtual book tour organised by BagusNG with the eclectic writer Tolu Akinyemi.

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Fiction
Everything reminds you of him.It’s not funny anymore. You realize this as you stare at a pale, pretend version of yourself in your tiny hanging mirror. You are about to leave the house for work, and you would really be better off buried deep under the duvet, slowly morphing into a crumpled bed sheet yourself. It has been long enough. You smile ruefully because you keep asking questions about your feelings for him, but it never helps, the questioning. Instead, memory blurs around the edges and you wonder if you didn’t just dream it all up – maybe you were in a coma the whole time, and it never really happened. Today you went to the salon to get your hair done. The hairdresser opened up a bottle of hair oil, poured some into her cupped hand, and rubbed it all over your head. The perfumed scent of the oil filled your nostrils, and choked you with memories of him. Babyyyyyy What now? You left your scent on my pillow yesterday. I can smell you everywhere, it’s driving me crazy! Aww, but I didn’t use any strong perfume or anything… I know, but I can smell you. And there’s this other smell… on the pillow… Oh, maybe that’s my hair oil… I miss you, baby. I wish you were here. READ ALSO: KARMA You snap to as you realize the hairdresser is done, and has moved on to another customer. Hastily you pay up and leave, hoping the madness you fear lives within you has not begun to manifest in public. The following day, you are in the bathroom, your phone blaring from its spot on the bed. The song you are squealing along to comes to an end, and another one starts up. It is Robin Thicke, swearing he is lost without her… you rush out, soap suds dripping down your face, your bare feet almost slipping on the tiles as you rush to snatch up the phone and change the song. It used to be his ringtone, that song. It was how you felt about him then. You can never quite make it through to the end of that song, but you can’t bring yourself to delete it either. That song is a metaphor for your love life; you are done with him but can’t quite let go. So you vacillate between telling yourself you are over him, and wondering what he did that was so terrible. You remember the year when you were pouting and sniffling because, hard girl that you were, you didn’t know how to handle him travelling out of town and being away for months at a stretch. You recall him scooping you into his lap, telling you it would be okay and he’d be back for you. It was the cheesiest line ever, but somehow he made it okay when he took a short video of both of you kissing. It was a deep, clingy kiss and you were still pouting when it was over. It is Saturday night and you are perched atop the decking of the uncompleted building close to your house. You have your earphones firmly planted inside your ears, there is an empty bottle of Matelot not too far from you, and you are clutching a chilled bottle of Romero in your right hand, left hand alternately wiping your wet cheeks and ferrying a slim menthol cigarette to and from your mouth. You think of all the guys who could have been good to you, if only you hadn’t been blinded to their advances. You had saved yourself for him even while you were broken up… Flicking the cigarette butt away, you look up to see the ripeness of the full moon and for a little while you are humbled by the knowledge that life will always go on, the world is full of underrated beauty and hope, and you are but a tiny speck of nothingness in the grand scheme of things. You scroll through your music playlist and get to Robin Thicke – Lost Without You. You take a gulp of the red. And hit delete. And it’s not so bad after all. Joy Mamudu writes in her spare time and whenever she is not too worn out from her day job. She blogs onmissmeddle.wordpress.com. twitter: @msmeddle
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Interviews, Series
Long before Celebrity Interviews and decades before Twitter blurbs and Polls; likes and dislikes, teenage author, Marcel Proust, answered a series of questions asked by the  Daughter of the Future Prime Minister – Felix Faure, while playing a parlor game. The responses and question seemed normal at the time, but has since taken a life of its own. Posthumously coined the Proust Questionaire, it has become a way for great luminaries to ponder life’s greatest notions – love; hope, happiness and even the essence of life itself. These questions are simple, yet revealing; and although on first grasp might look quotidian, a little introspection would reveal layers upon layers of sensibilities. The Proust Questionaire remains a timeless reminder of the caprices, appeal, and innermost self of the creative spirit, and a tunnel through which masters and literary greats continue to whisper to us through the ages. Centuries later, the questions remain a direct, yet subtle probe of consciousness and complexities, usually part revealing and part funny. When asked what his current state of mind was, David Bowie replied – ”pregnant,” and when Proust was asked where he would like to live, his reply was: “in the realm of the ideal, or rather, my ideal.” Not known to allow themselves be penetrated, writers and creatives generally, are known for elaborate masks, built with beautiful wordplay and grand illusions, but  we are at least given a fraction of the simple, yet profound intricacies of a brilliant mind and the strangeness that allows a person gaze into the unknown to create further unknowns. This is how to question the creative at heart, and dreamers by rote. We pose these questions to the author of our February book of the month, Amaka Azie.
Amaka Azie is an author of romance novels set in Africa, and a part-time family doctor.
A twin, she is one of five children born in Lagos Nigeria.  She considers herself a bona fide  Nigerian having lived in the three major regions of Nigeria: she grew up in Lagos and Abuja, attended secondary school at Onitsha, and went to University in Benin City. She currently resides in England with her husband and daughters.
Her titles includes “Thorns and Roses,” “Melodies of Love,” and “Starting over Again” among others.
  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Relaxing on my day off with a good book and a glass of wine.
  2.  What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I’m too blunt. I tell it as it is, sometimes without tact. My husband keeps saying, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts.” I’m learning.
  3.  Which talent would you most like to have? The ability to read minds. Won’t that be great? To know what everyone is thinking? I could rule the world with that.
  4.  For what fault have you most toleration? Tardiness. I’m sometimes late myself, so I can forgive lateness, as long as it comes with apologies.
  5.  What virtue do you most esteem? Honesty. I dislike two-faced people.
  6.  What is your idea of misery? Living one’s life to please others. My uncle Anozie says, “the true state of happiness is being oneself and not giving a (swear word) what people think.”
  7.  What is your motto? Never give up.
  8.  If not yourself, who would you be? The woman engaged to Idris Elba…I’m just joking. I won’t trade myself with anyone. I love myself far too much.
  9.  What is your favourite colour and flower? Red. And Lilies.
  10. Who are your heroes in real life? My younger sister, Ogo. She never lets circumstances interrupt her zest for life. I admire her. My mum. She is ever optimistic. Her faith never wavers. I wish I could be more like her.
  11. Who are your heroes of fiction? Jack Bauer– All that stubbornness and zeal to save people’s lives. If I’m ever in trouble, I’ll want him on the case, that’s for sure!
  12. What is your favourite virtue? Generosity. Giving without expecting anything back. I admire people like Oprah Winfrey. She gives with enthusiasm. I want to tap into that spirit of open-handedness.
  13. What do you most appreciate in your friends? Honesty. I surround myself with friends who tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear.
  14. What is your greatest extravagance? I’m a gadget freak. I have three laptops and 3 tablets. I don’t know why I can’t stop buying them.
  15. What virtue do you deplore in yourself? Honesty. I’m too honest. Even when I should tactfully not be. I’m learning there are times to withhold my opinion to spare people’s feelings. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting better at it.
  16. What virtue do you most deplore in others? I don’t think self-righteousness is a virtue but some people do. I despise people who are judgmental of others because of either religion or personal achievements. I think everyone has a story, even the person who you believe is the scum of the earth, deserves to be heard before judgment.
  17. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Fela. I love how he spoke the truth without fear. He didn’t care how many times he got locked up. He criticised the government in his music boldly, and continued to do so till he died. I wish I could be as brave as he was.
  18. What qualities do you most like in a man? A supportive man. A man who knows when to listen and when to act. A man not intimidated by a bold, confident woman.
  19. What is your current state of mind? All I can think about now is the current novel I’m working on. I’ve been editing and re-editing. There is always something I want to change. At some point, I’m going to just have to let go and trust my instincts.
You can get her books through the following links: Amazon page: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzie Okadabooks: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzieOkadabooks Goodreads: https: : www.goodreads.com/amakaazie You can also get in contact with her through her Facebook and Twitter handle: Facebook: http://bit.ly/AmakaAzieFacebook Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmakaAzie
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Fiction
Present day – 17/5/2008. It’s your birthday today and you are 25 years old. It’s a Saturday but you woke up trying to remember what day it is. You don’t easily remember because you are weird. You are weird because you don’t like birthdays. You don’t like birthdays because your life has been a sour one for the past 15 years. Your life has been sour because you always lose something so dear to you, on your birthdays. ‘’Today won’t be an exception’’, you say to yourself. You are about to walk to the bathroom when you hear it, that familiar knock which you always hear on your birthdays. That knock which belongs to nobody and to somebody. Knock… Knock… Knock… You walk apprehensively to the door and open it but see nobody. You quickly step back in and close the door with a bang. Then you hear that tiny voice, tiny but very clear, ‘’I told you i would come back, didn’t i?’’. You then realize that it’s about to happen again. You are going to lose a part of you so dear to you, again. It has been like this with you For the past 15 years. You fall to the floor with your back to the door and cry yourself to stupor. 16 years ago – 13/9/1992 It’s your best friend’s birthday today and she is 9 years old, same age as you. Excitement is in the air as the birthday party has begun. Everything is in order; the food, drinks, and the cake. Your friend looks so beautiful in her knee length pink dress with a white bow tied to her hair and her white flat shoe with pink dots on it. She walks around with smiles on her face, greeting her friends. Music is playing and everyone is showering the birthday girl with gifts and birthday wishes. The MC invites her to come and dance. She is not shy at all as she steps on the dance floor. You stand at a distance and watch. You are supposed to be happy for her but you are not. Because, jealousy. Because, anger. ‘’Why should she have all the good things?” you ask yourself. ‘’What is so special about her?’’ Impulsively, you walk into the house to ‘’deal with her’’. Everybody is outside dancing, so the house is empty. All the gifts that she had collected earlier are sitting on the floor of the sitting room. You go into the kitchen, get a box of matches and a gallon of kerosene, come out to the sitting room, pour the kerosene on the gifts and set it on fire. You quickly run out of the house to join the others outside. Moments later, the shouts of ‘’Fire! Fire! Fire!’’ rend the air. Your friend’s house is on fire. Everyone is running around trying to put off the fire. You spot your friend in a corner crying and you smile with satisfaction. Her birthday has  been ruined. The house was not completely burnt but the gifts were. It became obvious to everyone that someone set fire to the gifts. Your friend is shattered and inconsolable. You are there pretending to console her when she says, ‘’Whoever it is that set my gifts on fire and ruined my birthday will always lose something he/she loves dearly on his/her birthdays until the day he/she dies’’. You knew not that her words were serious and that bad karma would come after you. Present day. Those words have been your undoing until today. You have tried so much not to love anyone or anything for some years now because you don’t want to lose them to the cold hands of death. You’ve lost everything. Last year, on your birthday, your house mysteriously caught fire and you managed to escape from it unscathed. Everything got burnt including your younger brother. Karma has really dealt with you. You lie on the floor pondering on the words you just heard, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t i?’’. This is strange, because for the past 14 years the words had always been, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t i? Well see you again, same time, next year’’. Today, why doesn’t it say ‘’See you again next year.” Maybe             it is because there is nothing to lose this time. Happiness which has eluded you all these years begin to fill your heart. ‘’I have lost everything. I have nothing else to lose. I am free!’’. You get up from the floor with agility, ready to go about your daily business. You enter the bathroom to take your bath, but in the twinkle of an eye, you step on water, slip and fall hitting your head hard on the tiles. You hear it again before you finally welcome the darkness, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t I?” Little did you know that today, you’ll lose one last thing which you love so much – your life. Egbo Precious Nzubechukwu was born on 3rd August 1996 in Enugu State Nigeria. She is from Umuagu-Obeagwu Ozalla in Nkanu West LGA in Enugu State. She is the last of five children. She completed her secondary education at Federal Government College Enugu in 2014 and is currently a university aspirant who wants to study Medical Rehabilitation. She lives in Enugu state. She loves writing, reading, singing and listening to music
1

Fiction
Ray’s submission was as expected. Having contributed several short stories to Jaguda Quarterly, the young writer’s love for blood and gore had become familiar. A cursory scan of the opening paragraph once again proved the genius with which the writer curated devastation. However, there was something unnerving about this entry. A sinister veil clung to every word, and line after line, the tale built to a tempo too haunting to dismiss. The editor reached for a cigarette, lit up, laid back on the recliner, and began reading the story a fourth time. The mandate was clear: they were to bring his head. The Hyenas understood the task. The legend had been told from generation to generation. They were the privileged ones; the ones chosen to add another glorious chapter to the legacy of the Society. The six of them waited in silence. In a few minutes, they would earn their spots in the Hyenas’ Hall of Fame and become part of the Hyenas’ thriving folklore. The would be immortalized. This was the day the Hyenas had chosen. They would rejoice and be glad in it. Church bored him. The rites and rituals were a drag. For many years he avoided any kind of congregational worship. But this day, he was left with no other choice. He had asked the hand of a retired Archbishop’s last daughter in marriage. There was no way the renowned clergyman would give his blessings anywhere else but in church. “If anyone has any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, please speak up now or forever hold your peace,” the officiating Bishop announced unrushed, each word reverberating off the cathedral walls. Having never witnessed such an objection he adjudges this portion another banal requirement that ought to be done away with. He desperately wants to yawn, but he puts up an attentive veneer, an art honed from years of practice. After all, he was going to be an Archbishop’s son-in-law. “If there is no one, then we shall proceed,” said the Bishop in a manner which showed he had done it by rote many times. “Before nko,” the groom muttered to himself as the Bishop launched a brief sermon e about the sanctity of marriage. He heard without really listening and waited for the only part that mattered to him. “Do you, Adeagbo David, take Ilekhomon Elizabeth, as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” “I do,” he answered with a depth and fullness in his voice, as he looked into the eyes of his pretty bride. She blushed, and cast a glance at the diamond-encrusted ring resting on her fourth finger. The Bishop turned to her and repeated the same lines. “I do,” she replied and the church came alive with a standing ovation. “You may now kiss the bride,” the Bishop shouted above the thunderous applause. That was the sign they had been waiting for. Six of them got out of the mini bus and jogged towards the east entrance of the cathedral. They approached with axes in hand, chanting the Creed of the Hyenas in unison, “…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me, even the ultimate price, to defend the honour of the Hyenas worldwide.” Sighting them, congregants seated close to the entrance sprang up in a frenzy and pandemonium ensued. Soon, the hysteria spread across the massive cathedral like a tidal wave. Horror had come to church. He heard the familiar chant from afar. It was something from his past, from a dark corner of his life he never wanted to relive. He saw them as he turned towards the exit. They look like a Nollywood version of The Expendables: purple bandanas tied across prominent foreheads, taut biceps encased in snug black T-shirts. They look exactly the way he must have looked that Friday afternoon fourteen years ago. Akeem became the Amir of the Muslim Students’ Society, Federal University of Lagos in the latter part of 2002. Smallish and whippet-thin with a brush of goatee on a narrow face, the Amir was respected by his ummah but fiercely avoided by the rest of the student populace because of his aggressive views on campus gangsterism. Sermon after sermon, he berated the evil and swore that given the chance he would do everything within his powers to rid the institution of the menace. That vehement commitment had compelled him into the student union, where he was eventually elected President of the Students’ Union Government; thanks to the massive support of his course mates in Mass Communication –the largest department on campus- and the Muslim student society. It was then they began to call him Alfa Aluta. He couldn’t have asked for a better nickname. Alfa Aluta went after known and suspected cultists with cut-throat ferocity. Many were arrested, some were dismissed from school while others faced legal prosecution and ended up behind bars. Many more were forced to publicly denounce their membership. In one semester, the university was purged. Fellow students cheered him on and the authorities applauded his quest. He became a hero. But he had made enemies amongst the various fractured confraternities. Only one cult group mustered enough leverage to take him on. They called themselves the Hyenas. The rumour mill had it that the Brotherhood of the Hyenas sought to avenge the ridicule their members had suffered at Alfa Aluta’s hands. From a different campus, they set up a strike force of six and went after the unionist. One Friday afternoon, as he left the mosque after juma’at, Alfa Aluta was shot dead. Two quick fire shots to the chest brought him down. The riots that followed his murder were unprecedented in the University’s history. Property belonging to suspects were vandalized and or looted. Cars were set on fire. The halls thought to be housing the culprits were burnt down. Those believed to be girlfriends of the cultists were publicly assaulted. Anarchy was set loose. To arrest the tension, the Vice Chancellor announced an indefinite closure of the campus. And everyone went home. Days later, it was announced that the 6 suspects had been rounded up across four different campuses and taken into police custody. Five of them died while in custody. Only one escaped. Word got around that he was escorted out of the country by a team of police officers. It turned out he was the only son of the State’s Commissioner of Police. It didn’t take long for the Hyenas to gather that it was the boy who ratted them out. The Brotherhood declared him persona non grata amongst the rank and file of confraternities and a pledge was made to ensure the renegade paid for the breach of trust with his life. The editor rubbed his eyes as the familiarity of the story hit home. Memories flooded him with astonishing clarity. He got up from the recliner and peered down the length of the swimming pool. There was no soul in sight. But he knew he was not alone. He could smell death, like the smell of a decaying rat in a stuffy room. “Hi, Davo,” a voice came out of the gloom. The editor froze and peered into the darkness. No one had called him Davo since he had been smuggled out of the country years ago. And no one had, since he returned some 8 months back. “It’s been a while, brother,” the voice said. Six silhouettes stepped out of the shadows. Five of them held small axes, while the sixth was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. David could barely make out the bandanas on their heads. Hyenas! “Guys, please. Don’t do this. Please my brothers…” The eerie slide of metal over metal stopped him as the one with the pump action readied his weapon. Ignoring his growing panic, they began to recite the Creed. “…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me…” He had forgotten all about the finality of the Creed. In that instant, he broke into a run. The pump action went to work. The bullet carved a fist sized hole through his spin and slammed his fleeing form forward against the tiled floor. The shooter stepped close to the fallen man. Ignoring the feverish twitches of his victim’s body, he pulled back the barrel, chambered the next cartridge and pumped another round of shots into the editor’s forehead, splattering his brains all over the floor. Satisfied, they faded into the shadows. They had earned their legend. The text message had just one word: DONE. Fourteen years of pain and vengeance had been finally put to rest. Rasheedah rose from bed, and did ablution. She then threw her hijab around her head and rolled out her prayer mat. She would make prayers for the repose of her dear brother’s soul,the one they called Alfa Aluta, the one who first called her Ray. “Inna Lillahiwainnailaihiraji’un,” she began. A dam of grief bursts giving way to streams of tears. Bankole writes to live. Winner of the Christmas Nostalgia Contest (Naija Stories 2012); Finalist, Farafina New African Writing contest (2013); Gold Winner, Young Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (young LAIF 2012); Winner, Miami Ad School Scholarship competition (2014); he currently works in Corporate Communications of a foremost Insurance Company. His short stories have been featured in a couple of anthologies including the ANA Review (2013), Of Tears and Kisses, a collection of short stories on Naija Stories (2012), A Basket of Tales, a Benue ANA publication (2015), amongst others. twitter: @banky_writes
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Fiction
Her husband’s dirty clothes from yesterday are still unwashed. The children will soon return from school and lunch is not ready yet. Mama Osas picks up the match box from the trolley close to her television, the cellophane of salt, her container of Maggi and another of ground pepper and heads towards the kitchen. Maybe I go just make yam for them, or small concoction rice. I no get power to cook another thing. She has been sleeping since everyone left the house. Rest only comes in snatches when her husband and children are out. The kitchen is located at the back of the ‘face me I face you’ house, not far away from the toilet. “Mama John, good afternoon o”, she greets her neighbor who is engrossed in the song as she washes the mountain of clothes in front of her, her movements synchronized to the song. Her stove is on a cabinet for easy access because of her condition. Her hand impulsively caresses her baby bump and she smiles. She is carrying a messiah, a savior, the son who will remove suffering from her life. Everything suddenly has been good for the past few months. Her husband refrains from hitting her, scared that he might hurt his son. All he does is throw insults instead of the blows that had been her portion during the other pregnancies. This boy is special, and is to be protected from harm. Someone touches her lightly on the arm. It is Mama John asking if everything is fine. “No mind me jare. I dey fine, I just dey think some things.” She picks up a tuber of yam and starts peeling. “You see as papa Gift take beat mama Gift this morning?” Mama John says. She ignores her. “You dey hear me so?” “Me? Na wetin you talk?” “Where your mind even dey sef? Na wa o. I say whether you no see as Papa Gift take hammer Mama Gift this morning?” Mama Osas rolls her eyes and replies, “I hear o, wetin happen sef?” “Wetin happen? Wetin dey happen for that house wey pass Gift? Me I no even know who that man marry sef, whether na Gift abi na Mama Gift.” “Ehen? So na Gift make am wan kill him wife this morning?” “Yes na. Gift been dey complain say she no wan go wan go school, naim her Mama beat am. Papa Gift wey no know wetin happen for the matter, just hear him pikin dey cry, e no even ask wetin happen, e just give the wife pow for face!” A sudden stab of pain makes Mama Osas drop her knife. “Yes o, na so the surprise sef take catch me. You dey drop knife, me wey almost drop my pot of soup nko? I thank God sha say e nor fall, because for this economy, my husband for just kill me throwaway!” Another stab of pain hits. Experience from having three children tells Mama Osas what is happening. She picks up her knife and continues peeling, faster now. “Na so o. That girl ehn, as she small so, every time her mama go dey cry because of am. Na everything wey she want the Papa dey give am.” Mama Osas grunts. “I even hear say Papa Gift dey touch him pikin,” Mama John whispers. “Na die that man dey find so. Him go just die throwaway. Tufiakwa!” Mama John moves a hand in a circular motion round her head and snaps her fingers to express the abomination. Mama Osas stops peeling suddenly. Athink they tell me say make I begin come hospital once I smell labour make my pikin for no die? She packs everything including the yam peels back into the cabinet. “Mama Osas, wetin you dey do?” “Nothing o.” She remembers that for some reason Mama John is always around when she’s having a baby. She won’t let that happen this time. “This one wey you dey squeeze your face so…” “Na nothing o, na so I dey do my face sometimes o, I no even know why.” Mama Osas returns to her room with hands still dirty from peeling yam and picks up the nylon bag holding her delivery items that had been carefully arranged for more than a month. Minutes later she walks out of her room and jams the door shut, then walks out the compound. She bites her lower lip from groaning aloud as she waits for an okada. One stops for her after a few minutes. “Madam you dey go?” “Yes o. Fate Hospital.” “Hope everything dey ok.” “Just carry me go,” she says. “Na one fifty o” he says, his face changing from concern to annoyance at her tone.” “Ehn? 150 ke? Wetin them dey carry fifty naira?” “You dey go abi you wan talk story?” “Oya make I give you 100 naira,” she says. He kicks his bike in preparation to zoom off.” “Oya carry me make we go.” In ten minutes, they are at the hospital. Mama Osas only finds a two hundred naira note in her wallet and hurries inside without waiting to collect her change. Immediately she enters the reception, she screams, “Labour o! Labour o!” nurses come to her aid. “Na our patient she be?” the younger nurse asks. “Yes, she register for here.” “You no serious o. So if I no register for here nko? You no go answer me abi?” Mama Osas raises her voice, releasing some of the pain she has been suppressing for almost an hour. “Madam no be so, na new nurse be this,” the other nurse says. “She just start work yesterday na im make she dey ask. How your body?” “Na im you dey see so o, make this boy comot for my body make I rest.” “God go do am for you, na small small,” the new nurse says. The doctor on duty came out as soon as he was informed about Mama Osas’s presence. She screams immediately she sets eyes on him. “Doctor my boy wan come out o.” The doctor smiles. “Take her to the labour room and get everything set. Call me when she is ready.” Dr. Esele walks into the ward. Inside, a woman sits on the edge of her bed staring at a newborn inside a crib just beside the bed. She turns when she becomes aware of his presence and looks up at him. He nods in answer to her unspoken query. Everything is fine. *** Mama Osas is tired from pushing for so long. It has never been this difficult for her. A part of her mind reminds the fact that this is a boy, and she relaxes before summoning all her strength for a mighty heave. “I see the head,” Dr Esele says. “Keep pushing.” A baby wails. She’s done it, finally. Her son is here, her world will change for the better. She watches as the doctor takes the baby from the nurse who is going to clean him up. “I’ll handle this myself. This is one special baby.” Mama Osas smiles. The cry of a baby snaps Dr. Esele to the present and he looks at the child being stretched towards him. “He’s yours now, thank you for this precious little girl,” the woman says with a British accent while staring at the baby who is now in the crib the boy once occupied. Dr. Esele starts rocking the boy in his arms so he can stop crying. “Hope she’s fine? No complications?” “She’s fine,” he assures her. “We need to leave now because the new mother will want to see her son.” “Of course,” she says. She retrieves a suitcase from beneath the bed and drops it on the bed. “This is yours, five million naira cash, as agreed.” Dr. Esele drops the baby on the bed and opens the suitcase. His eyes widen at the number of freshly minted one thousand naira notes in one place. “Thank you for doing this for me,” the woman says. “It means a lot.” Gently she lifts the little baby from the crib and cuddles her. “What can I say?” Dr. Esele asks. We thank God.” He locks the suitcase with care and picks up the baby, dressed in a coverall that isn’t part of the things Mama Osas brought. Of course he has an explanation for that already. “This is it then. We part ways to never see again.” “Of course,” he answers. In his mind they have never met. He doesn’t even know her name, she never told him. She walks out of the room and with the baby in one arm and her bag in the other, looking back one last time to ensure she’s forgotten nothing behind. Never again will she go through the ordeal, this is her last child. Never again will she care for a child only to have him die in her arms. One is better off with a healthy daughter, than a sickly son. Linda Orajekwe is a graduate of English language and literary studies from Lagos State University. A social media manager and a Journalist with a certificate in public relations from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. She promotes the African culture and literature through her blog www.linorajj.com. When Linda is not writing, reading, beading, sewing or talking, she’s definitely watching a movie or looking for shadows to chase. 
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Series
This series takes a keen look at Nigerians, home and abroad, who have made a name for themselves in any particular endeavor that relates to art and how their arts impact popular culture.  The portrait of President Barack Obama will soon go up in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and the former president personally chose Nigerian painter Kehinde Wiley to paint him. Kehinde Wiley, who painted a lot of the arts found in popular series “Empire” took up the paint brush at age 11 when he enrolled in an art class and frequented Museums. His regular visits to the Museum made him conscious of the lack of representation of brown faces in the portraits, and even at that young age, his keen sense of self built in him an understanding of the role of power and privilege or its dynamics in art.  Kehinde Wiley’s Art is bold, very colourful and tries to present comtemporary culture in a backdrop of classic art, all in the quest to open the door into a world his likes were never invited to. Kehinde Wiley’s Mother is an American woman who met his dad, a Nigerian, at UCLA. Kehinde Wiley, obviously, is a twin (Kehinde is the name given to the first child of a set of twins by the Yorubas). He was born in South Central L.A and earned his B.F.A from Yale. As if that isn’t improbable enough, Wiley is one of the most commercially successful artists of his generation. Wiley’s Art is a history Laden representation of the present, with insights from popular culture. Some of his subjects are popular black individuals that includes MJ, LL Cool J, Biggie, Eto’o amongst others, painted on a backdrop of decorative patterns; arts and crafts; fabrics and floral designs that are sourced from all over the world. He is also known to do ‘street casting’. In Wiley’s arts, the ‘very’ white Kings and saints of Classical protrature are reborn as Blacks; possessing the same pose and dignity, but with modern attires to represent contemporary culture. The thrones and crowns are replaced with blings and Nikes. 20150220161406-EL137.63 His work has been likened to that of Markelene Thomas – the Brooklyn based painter whose complex rhinestone and acrylic paintings of black women draws heavily from pop culture, and the late Jean Michel Basquat who reconstructed arts by pulling strings from his origins. But Wiley’s Pastiche paintings bear more resemblance, theoretically, to the controversial works of Barkley Hendricks in the 70’s. Like Hendricks’, Wiley’s work is also deemed controversial by some critics. They are quick to point out that his paintings, especially the inclusion of designer labels, are too pop culture infused to be regarded as high arts. In an interview with the New York Times, Wiley answered: “Fashion is fragile and fleeting, but it is also an indicator for the cultural and social appetite for a nation.” He went further in an interview with NPR, “Why take it out? The brands people wear are serious business.” But the issue or question as regards the measure of his assistants’ involvement in his paintings are not so easy to answer, and won’t go away anytime soon. The patterns in his works, a mainstay of his style as much as anything else, are painted by these assistants in a studio in China. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the involvement of outsiders in his art, and the quality of the patterns sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. And while Wiley has chosen to paint the everyday, or the powerless, the fact he is set to paint a former President, especially one as iconic as Obama is a testament, not only to his talent, but to his unwavering and triumphant believe in the inclusivity of art. Western Arts, Wiley believes, has ignored brown faces and he sees it as as a duty to change that history, until blackness or brownness is as much a thing in Museums as whiteness. And it has to be said that he is succeeding, and in doing so has become one of the influential artist of the 21st century.
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Series
This is a weekly feature where we take a look at someone, something or a period that has changed humanity. This week being Stephen Hawking’s birthday, we look at his Ted talk, which seems like the perfect culmination of both his life’s work and his ubiquitous scientific mind.   Sometimes – oftentimes infact, the best way to move forward is to question our answers, even the most mundane and assured. Having an open mind illuminates a path that leads, not only to self discovery, but also to an understanding of the future. Stephen Hawking was a brilliant theoretical Physicist, who, even at 76, had possesses one of the soundest minds in human history, and that, despite a body riddled and made helpless by Lou Gehrig’s disease. Yet, he still manages to put his best foot forward in his inquisitive quest to not only ask the difficult questions, but also the unanswerable. He once surmised: “My life’s work has been to unify the theories of the very large and the very small. Only then can we answer the more challenging questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from?” Stephen Hawking, who was Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge was born in 1942 in England, and spent his life trying to answer the ultimate question – “Why are we here?” and “What does the future holds?” No one knows why we are here, and the tale of the beginning of life, while traced to the big bang – an expansion of the singularity that exploded and expanded the universe – part of which our planet is, hasn’t really resulted in answering any of the questions. That didn’t stop Stephen Hawkings though. That answer and many more are found in his brilliant Ted talk where he tries to ponder the answers.
This brings me to the last of the big questions: the future of the human race. If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. 
You can watch the TED Talk below.
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Fiction
It’s been one of those days. The kind of day that leaves me feeling undervalued, undermined, and feeling that I deserve better than what I’m getting from the tyrants who call themselves my employers. I’m wondering whether I’m actually cut out for the career path I chose, or whether I missed the call when it came to determining professions. I am scared of failing, scared of ending up as an also-ran, scared of letting down my family and myself. I could end up choking to death on these depressing thoughts if I remain seated behind this office desk, so  I decide to take a walk to clear my head. Hands in pocket, earphones plugged, playlist swinging from John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” to The Script’s “Breakeven”, I look for a different perspective, a new distraction, something to save my mind from the drudgery that is paid employment. “Okpa di oku. Okpa di oku!” The call pierces through my earphones, and ultimately interrupts my thoughts. She is selling a meal which is a distant cousin of moin-moin though made from a different plant, and more filling. I stand and stare at her and my eyes meet hers. She walks in my direction, assuming my interest is in buying what she has to sell. A smile finds its way to my face as I inhale the steamy aroma of her stock. It reminds me of the city to which the meal is indigenous, of a phase in my life and of a girl named Oge. I first ran into her three years ago at a students’ conference; one of those conferences where youths gathered for purposes other than the central theme. I needed the distraction; I was in my final semester and my project supervisor happened to be competing with the villain in Maleficient to see who was meaner so I took the trip to ease my mind. Then again, the host university was located in a city of which I knew nothing about except its popularity for coal and limestone and I wanted to find out more for myself. I had been drawn to her wit, and despite her attempts to ward me off, finding my overconfidence annoying, I found ways to bump into her for a better part of the three days the conference lasted. I was in a camera-happy moodand even when she did not want to, she ended up in my phone’s photo gallery. My stubbornness ultimately paid off, and by the time I made the return journey to school, my contact list had a new addition. The four-hour trip from coal country to Ancient sands had Oge’s image dominating my thoughts, and while I faced the last lap of my undergraduate sojourn, I longed to see her again. There was something in those eyes that reminded me of Nse Ikpe Etim, there was the nose I wanted to rub with mine, and there was all the sarcasm I could not get enough of. As Fate would have it, we had a chance to choose the location for the next phase of our academic pursuit, in our quest to become lawyers. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity; I chose Coal City. I got what I wished for, and while that branch of the Nigerian Law School was not the most conducive in terms of infrastructure, there was something to look forward to on weekends. My first official weekend in Coal City had coincided with Oge’s birthday, and I remember telling Clara, a friend whom I had accompanied for shopping at the city mall, to help take my purchases back to school, as I had something ‘urgent’ to attend to. “If I don’t return by 8pm, something is wrong,”I told Clara. I met with Oge at a secluded area of the city mall upon Clara’s exit, and she told me of how her birthday was shaping up to be a bore-fest. I took a ride with her on the mall’s roller coaster and gave her a treat, all too glad to save the day. I returned to the campus by 9pm that day, Clara and my other colleagues wearing huge cloaks of worry on their faces. I was right; something was wrong. Oge was what had gone wrong with me. More trips to the heart of the city on weekends followed, accompanied by long phone calls, but while I flashed all the signals, her heart refused to switch from red to green. I eventually poured out my feelings in black and white, but my application for admission into Oge’s emotional space was turned down. As is the usual reaction when a man’s love is unrequited, I withdrew, cutting off all forms of communication. This did not last long though. Just when I thought I had her out of my head, text messages with the words “I miss you” flowed in. I began to hope again, and laced my love-boots. In my opinion, there was still a chance of being Oge’s significant other. My fondness for Oge began to reflect in my attitude to the city. The “okpa” began to taste better, especially when washed down with a 35cl bottle of Coca-cola. The city lights became brighter, the roads appeared smoother, I fell in love with music from Phyno, and places like Trans-Ekulu, Nike Lake and Independence. Layout began to appeal to me. Heck, I even joined in fervent prayers when the governor of the state was away from the country, unable to perform his official duties due to a mysterious illness. In spite of the long nights out however, red light never turned to green, and in time, I threw in the towel, channelling the energy to my academics. I was however civil enough to provide room for one last rendezvous; after my make-or-mar professional examinations, I delayed my journey home by a few days, agreeing to spend time with Oge in one of the city’s half-decent guest houses. It was in one of those suites that I found out the reason why she had refused to grant a lease of her heart: someone was already in residence. Twenty-months have passed since I last set my eyes on Oge. Communication is infrequent, but nothing, nothing beats physical contact. Technology can only do so much, and phone calls don’t give me the chance to stroke her hair. I miss her to bits, and the feeling is mutual, but circumstances are a lot different now, and wishes remain wishes. Now I don’t plan to steal love away from anyone, but I am just saying that if Oge opened even one of her emotional windows, I would jump right in. I know her heart is someone else’s, but I wouldn’t mind being allotted just a corner of the room, with a little mat to lay on. I get curious;I want to find out just how her brand of lipstick tastes, how flexible she is and how fast her pulse can get. “Okpa di oku! Oga, i-nwe-ne?” I look up. The woman’s eyes nurse hope that I will buy from her. I shake my head and smile, not because her okpa is inferior or not steamy enough, but because I fear that after eating, I just might be tempted to board a bus to Coal City, just to get a chance to rub my nose against Oge’s. This first appeared on Kalahari Review. Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke is a lawyer and freelance writer who lives in Lagos. A foodie and enthusiast of the Fine Arts as well, Jerry’s works have been featured on Brittlepaper and The Kalahari Review
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