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Features
Just before the elections that brought in the current administration to power, Nigerians were told that the APC Candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari was not going to participate in any debate. Many were shocked; some saw nothing untoward about it, and even excused it. While the rest decided to ignore what it meant. Instead, the APC released a manifesto, that in hindsight, now looked more of fiction than words born of meticulous planning, and backed by research or serious political will. I remember watching events unfold with a palpable disinterest. We had been there before, and I believed, wrongly, that Nigerians had little to say in the political process that brought Politicians to power. And I wasn’t alone. And I have come to realize certain Politicians bank on such thoughts to win. They bank on our disinterest, which gives them the baton with which they control the narrative and subsequently, the results. Buhari, who had contested the Presidential elections three times prior to 2015 and lost all, won the APC’S primary by beating Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso, Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, and Rochas Okorocha, without much as  articulating his plans for the country. His biggest attributes were not his ability to sway with his words, or his intellectual sagacity, but the perception of him as a sort of savior, especially in the North. He was what you could call a populist candidate, adapted into Nigeria’s inherent peculiarities, and therein lied my scepticism.  Populism elevates the individual over the system; and tries to sell a notion of a messiah that is all knowing and who has the sole attributes to bring change. Buhari successfully styled himself as the man who was incorruptible and who has an active disdain for the elites who have been plundering our resources for the better part of the country’s independence. Even though it took a coalition with former PDP party members for him to stand a chance in the election, Buhari directed most of his angst against the same ruling elites, taking great pains to contrast himself with them. In a speech to APC delegates just before the election, he said; “while some who have occupied those same positions have grown mysteriously rich, I still live on my army pension. I own no companies profiting from government contracts.” “I am what you see before you – a simple man who believes in serving both God and his country. A man who is impatient for change, who loves Nigeria and seeks to serve it once again.” Buhari, rode on his wave of  popularity in the North, and then made the right coalitions in the south and West to win just enough to be declared President. It mattered little that for all his years outside power, he had little to show for it, and his economic policies while he was head of state was neither here nor there. Without much evidence to back himself up besides the cliche, he still managed to control the narrative that he was a savior ready to rid Nigerians of corrupt elites. In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan, then the Vice-President campaigned with something almost akin to his successor.  Even though he had been in around the corridors of power for the better part of the decade, and had benefited from it, he still ironically, and successfully painted himself as an outsider. He was obviously helped by the so called “Cabal” during the last days of Yara Dua who tried to stop him from becoming President, even though it was the constitutional thing to do. His viral campaign about having no shoes, and his journey from grass to grace had one end game – to make him look like the ordinary Nigerian who has but his dreams and hopes, and in Jonathan’s case, also a good name that brought him luck. Not to mince words, Jonathan was no outsider and the whole “no shoes” was to sell us a poor candidate. He had been deputy Governor and then later, Governor of Bayelsa State. Yet, somehow, they managed to control the narrative so much so that Churches and even Comedians started using him as an example of the will of God and the importance of giving your child a positive name. My thought then, and still my believe now, is that any candidate with his years in power who has little or zero tangibles to show, and still has to pander, mostly, to the emotional and intangibles, has to be questioned, vigorously. And I see us making the same mistakes again. One of the biggest mistakes we could make, is to allow those who colluded to plunder our common wealth and were rightly butted out in almost emphatic fashion, to reinvent themselves, not only as beacons of good governance, but as the only true hope of the common man. We should not allow them control that narrative. If not, then we haven’t learnt anything, and history will mock us, before repeating itself, loudly.
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Features
When an anonymous person paid the bail to grant David Henry Thoreau his freedom, the writer was angry, appalled even. A non-conformist and a firm believer in civil disobedience, Thoreau was in prison because he refused to pay his tax, in defiance over the American-Mexican war. Thoreau, a writer, poet, conservationist, inventor,you and surveyor was also a mis-normal in every sense, and had very few friends, one of which was the writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. When Emerson visited him in prison, Thoreau asked his friend why he wasn’t behind bars, too. Thoreau had famously said “for a Government that imprisons one unjustly, the place for the just man is also the prison.” Once released, Thoreau went on to write what is surely one of the most influential, politically at least, piece, of not only his time, but of all time. His “Civil Disobedience,” which states his antagonism for a government that uses his taxes to wage an immoral war still speaks through the ages, and remains one essay whose potency is as palpable today as it was when Martin Luther King took a page out of it during the American Civil Rights Movement. Or when Mohandas Gandhi read and was inspired enough by it to tailor Indian’s fight for independence from the British around civil resistance instead of armed Gorilla tactics that was the norm around the world at the time. Writers are the gatekeepers of an era – the foundation upon which the epoch of beauty and obscenity are laid – they are a reminder of our antiquity and renaissance – the human flowery of truthful rites, and sensitivity. “All writing are political,” George Orwell famously said. And he couldn’t have been more right. If you add the Bible and Quran to the long catalogue of writings that has changed our political society, then you see that the writer, consciously or unconsciously, are the real change drivers. But not always for good. While Adolf Hitler was serving a prison time for treason, he began writing what would later be called “Mein Kempt” – a poorly written tirade against everything non-German, especially Jewish. And once in power, he went into great pains to disseminate the book, compulsorily making it a gift to every newly married couple and soldier in Germany. Its wide readership and acceptance as a manifesto paved the way for Germany invading Poland. The book – a massive propaganda, was published at a moment when post WW1 Germany was uncertain about its place in the world, and this made it resonate with many and gave the Nazis some form of political authority, which they happily wielded. The written word first emerged in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) around 3500 – 3000 BCE as a form of marks on wet clay tablets. This initially was represented by signs, which primarily gave rations to be counted, but later developed into complex combination of word and signs around 2600 BCE. The later development allowed more ideas to be passed and made understanding them much easier. While the earliest form was developed to aid accounting, writing or literature in the Far East, China and Mesoamerica only developed as a way to record name of individuals, with an eye on the afterlife. The first known written word (not a sign) was “Meskalamdug” which stood for “Puabi, Queen,” on a stone seal in a tomb. This was meant to immortalize the deceased which in Sumerian culture meant a secured afterlife. But the written word has since taken more importance, especially in spreading awareness and changing the status quo – from the Magna Carta, and then Johannes Gutenberg invention of the Printing Press (1440) which was a precursor to Martin Luther’s 95 thesis (1517), which changed the face of religion forever, a lot of writing has taken political bent, and has tried to either change or promote the status quo. For most repressive Governments, the number one state enemy is the writer or the intellectual. Unlike the militias and the burgees, the writer has in her repertoire, a most potent of all weapons – a device, better than any in chronicling a people’s barbarity and displaying it in the light of history – a writer is armed, not with AK47, but with the ability to sway history towards the path of truth. The writer has the written word. Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience hinges on the principle of Moral Contagion – which assumes that civil resistance would have a moral impetus on the conscience of others and institutions, and that the individual is interrelated to the society, and then tries to raise the consciousness of every citizen to the later. Unlike his mentor, Emerson who believed a moral man is separate from the large society, Thoreau wrote that a just man is inseperatable from the society and that an injustice to one is a disservice to all. As a writer he tried to raise the consciousness of people, and in doing so, wrote his name into the history books. From Trump to the Kremlin; and from Iran to Nigeria, Civil disobedience has now become the citizen’s go to rite against oppressive governments or rules, while the oppressor have also discovered a most potent weapon – disinformation, or fake news. And it is also writers that are employed to create and pass the dis-information.  So the role of the writer, in our age, has become ever more critical – you can either inform or dis-inform. But the danger lies in the fact that shedding people from the truth dulls their consciousness, and ultimately, their political will. A writer should be a composite of independent thinking that strays not where the path leads, but where the pen tips.
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Fiction
Kanyinsola thought long and hard about it. There he was, long and hard. And fretful. And she thought about this fretfulness, his fretfulness, long, and hard. For the duration of a blink she panicked at the enormity of it all. What had she gotten herself into? Na mistake to get boyfriend again? True, a woman’s “nothing” can mask plenty. True, a woman appreciates a man who isn’t fooled by the cutaneousness of things. True, she appreciates, every now and then, the constant, genuine (from the looks of it)concern (unusual in men) for her wellbeing, as though her wellbeing were inextricable from his. But still. A woman needs her introspection every now and again, needs to live in the pond of her own head, unrippled by pebble boyfriends. Sometimes they need to understand the skies cloud over for the fun of it. She was furious and wanted, like an electron being slapped around by photons, to break free of her ground-state calm. She wanted to rent her tank top, beneath which she was naked. She wanted to fling at a wall something that could shatter. She wanted to burn things that could pop and whistle. She wanted to scream screams that each could lacerate a larynx. She did none of these, sorely though she was tempted. Instead she lay still, contenting herself with her ground state, the back of her head nestling in the weave of her ten fingers, staring up beyond the ceiling into something unknown. She had not imagined it was this pathological a need, this need for Lanre to seek a personal Nirvana through the Eight-fold Path of her psychological wellbeing. Or his perceptions of it. She had not imagined Lanre to be the kind of guy  who doesn’t feel in a relationship, feels less of a lover, is emasculated, if he isn’t putting out fires. But maybe it gives him sustenance. After all, did some fires no burn without smoke telling on them? Lanre is a first responder, his love as intense as the high sun at noon arriving hose blazing, many times at nothing. All it takes for the battery of questions to arrive is for her to drop the intensity of her liveliness (necessary every now and then; no one can be bubbly all their life). Are you ok? Ehn? What’s wrong? What is it? I’m here for you, you know? I’m your G (H,I,J,K ad nauseam, emphasis on the nausea). Talk to me baby. I can tell when something’s wrong with you. Talk to me. Shut up. Just shut the hell up. That, is what is now wrong with me. So what if they’d earlier done Tarkwa Bay in all its tranquil glory? It was her first time out on the sea, and those canoes with out-board engines masquerading as boats hadn’t helped matters. Not one tiny bit. She’d latched on to Lanre like a leech latches on to whatever a leech latches on to as the water rushed past, immediate and psychedelic in its terror. One by one, the horizon ate up Lagos Island’s citadels of capital. Sea-faring ships on the way to the high seas slithered past tooting gruffly their horns. God, they were slow. And gigantic! Oyinbos in sailboats sailed past. It could only be them. Oyinbos. Some daredevil boatmen went even faster than the boat she was in, jumping, borne by the unseen hands of giant waves. Then shore. Finally, shore. She got used to the water soon, egged on by Lanre. The receding water pulled the sand from beneath her feet. She giggled. They kissed. The salt stung her eyes and relented. She wandered farther from shore, farther into the turning and turning sea (this is the only beach at which you can try this and not become plankton, Lanre said). She jumped into waves, ducked under some. Some slammed into her. Sent her clawing and kicking to right herself. She shrieked with glee. They kissed – hugging tightly – as if to squeeze the life out of each other. She felt a oneness with this nebulous, endless thing. It was how omo omis must feel. It was home. She belonged here. Right here at the hem of this turbulent calm. It had been exhilarating. No, it had been exhilarating! So what? Back home, she’d retreated into her shell, for no reason really. Her mood had just called timeout Inexplicably. Nothing was going on. She wasn’t even tired. She just did not want to talk. Why would he not just get it? She’d told him nothing was wrong eight times now, EIGHT TIMES! But he still wouldn’t give her space to breathe (talk to me baby, he implored again, as if on cue, and she resisted the strong urge to exhale dramatically and roll her eyes). And this when he knows she isn’t the kind of girl to play girl with her feelings. But it never stops him. Perhaps his selflessness is a circular selflessness – an elaborate selfishness, a from-me-to-youback-to-me, a selflessness whose ultimate end was not her but him, a selflessness that was the ying to the yang of his turbulent mind. His inextricable linkage of their wellbeing probably made sense this way. They’d met at a training thing, one of the many things banks are obliged to subject their personnel to – not that you could tell that some of them had undergone any training at all. You naturally deferred to him. He exuded a centripetal influence. Things revolved around him and tended towards his centre. It hadn’t been a surprise when he was made group leader. She had woven scenarios in her head long before he came to sit beside her one training afternoon, her Arsenal key-ring the Judas who kissed Jesus. I see you around. You don’t say much but your face betrays you. What are you hiding… and you support Arsenal? Have you written your will yet? She learnt in two months. That, one – he was magnetic in public. That, two – he was an unsure, fretful thing in private. Just what the link was between these two personas was the e=mc2 she was searching for. And now he wanted a fire, firefighter’s axe swinging, waterhose raring at the orgasm. Fine. She would do better. She would give him a fucking inferno, something that roared and bucked and heaved, like Sango, or anyone who could be lord and husband of the mother of all things turbulent. She could go down the Biodun route. Biodun has been calling me, she could say, still looking beyond the ceiling. He would recoil slightly, even if he quickly gathers himself. They’d swapped ex stories in those early days, censoring just enough details, tucking backdated jealousies behind a veil of mirth that sometime slipped. She’d dated Biodun for three long years, till he left for England, too suddenly quickly, like, you know, a plane falling out of the skies. Not that she had wished him any ill. Biodun, who had been able to upset her equilibrium by the simple act of existence. And unbalanced, she had needed him—required him even—to sit ever closer to her fulcrum. Till suddenly he left her upended, clutching. Till he left her flailing wildly. She had since peeled a patch of bark from around the trunk of that tree of memory. She’d salted it, copiously. That tree had wilted and withered. She’d hacked the carcass into morsels which she fed into a funeral pyre. The ashes were loaded, meticulously, into urns which were swallowed by the sea, under the surveillance of dry, pensive eyes. It sounds straightforward now, but it had taken a whole lot more than five sentences to get over him. I’ve always believed it’s a waste of energy hating someone we once professed to love, Lanre would offer, joying in this new fire, pyrophiliac that he was. What’s the point? Well, here’s the real point, she would not reply, both love and hate are a misapplication of energy. A misplacement of priorities. He’s coming back to Nigeria, she could continue, tone as uniform as North Koreans, the implication so low-hanging he could gnaw at it with his teeth, because, why else would she be telling him? The silence would be one of those tense silences, a silence so silent you knew something shocking had to jump out of it. Out the corner of her eye she would see him squirm, unsure how to confront this new reality, this lapping fire, this impending loss. Or she could travel down that well-worn path, condoms not being one of Lanre’s favourite things. (To tell the truth, she couldn’t blame him – skinny dipping is just too good, too involved, too involving, too agricultural, to wrap-up in things inhibiting and plastic. Biodun had once compared it to eating a banana with the skin intact.) Lanre prides himself on control, keeping a tight rein about his wits. He reckons he knows just when to detach his module so things don’t balloon out of shape. And there is always Postinor, never mind the accusation in the eyes of those salesgirls. Never mind the conspiratorial whisper with which they suggest she put the pack in a black bag. Never mind that last time around it prolonged the Suicide of Spurned Eggs by two too many days, with the extra cramps and padding and all. But best laid plans also go awry. Safety itself has blind spots. Something could slip in and swim all the way. They say condoms aren’ entirely failsafe, that there’s always a smidgen of a chance something could squeeze through. The Postinor could be mere placebo, Postinor only in its nondescript whiteness, this being Nigeria after all. Or shit could just be written in your stars. All of which meant that one never could be quite sure what wasn’t what. Except you weren’t doing shit at all. And so Kanyinsola turned into Lanre, so she could look him not in the eye, but between the eyes, that point from where the nose grows down into a nose. Tongues of fire danced upon his face. The pyrophiliac brightened at the kindling of the fire he had always suspected was burning, hemmed her legs in with one leg, and pushed into her so she could feel the tautness, the alertness, of his body. I’m pregnant, said Kanyinsola, having arranged her face into the hangdog likeness of distress. His erection shrank instantly into insignificance (he was almost always erect around her, like she was a tarantula bite, and he unfortunate). She watched the fear jump into his serene eyes, watched the brightness on his dark face wither into dread. She heard his heart tumtum-tum like a big bass drum beneath a chest steadily going to fat. She saw his square jaw drop, saw the gushing stop, saw the limp hose fall to the floor from deflated hands, heard the clatter of its nozzle, saw him shuffle slowly backward. Wait, what? He said, his eyes two Os beneath bushy brows that now looked like drumsticks mid-beat. A millennium passed, in which it was found that Hitler did not expire in Berlin but lived on the fullness of Nazi gold and the odd Brazilian nymph near the expended Guyanan utopia of Jonestown, and in which the globe warmed so much fish learned the many joys of sand. I’m pregnant, she said, again. Seven weeks. At the corner of one eye a tear swelled into a globule and then ran, carrying with it mascara. A blur descended over the room, inserting itself into the machinations of clarity. She sniffled, tightening the act. He shifted away from her and sat up on the bed, back to headboard, legs crossed, gaze fixed beyond a blurry Henry frozen in full flight on the opposite wall. But I thought…, he started, one hand unfolding over itself, gesticulating. It couldn’t possibly be…She cut him off that path of suspicious doubt, beginning to bawl. She was a Hilda Dokubo, a Blessing Nwosu. The tears seemed real enough. No, the tears were real enough. His voice trailed off and fell. Then his hands fell too, having become tongue-tied. He couldn’t even look at her. She chuckled an inward chuckle. The speechless helplessness would eventually wear off to reveal a cold-eyed trouble shooter. That much she knew. The fire-hunting son of a Titan would return to the scene of the incident with a million fire trucks blaring their one million war-songs. When the fire-fighting effort was in full swing, she would reveal herself to be intact beneath the cgi. He would fume, his ears smoking like a Danfo’s silencer, like a character from a cartoon. She would kiss the birthmark shaped like Italy on his thick neck, and maybe cook him something nice. She was hungry, come to think of it. Kayode Faniyi is a writer and cultural critic. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the Obafemi Awolowo University. His work has appeared on the The Kalahari Review and Music in Africa. Twitter: @kxyde
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Features
On this day in 1955, the Civil Right Movement, a result of decades of brutality, segregation, and whole-scale inhumanity, was born. Martin Luther King Jnr, on the 5th day of December, 1955, just four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, started the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. At first, they just wanted respect, but quickly realised there could be no respect without human dignity and hope. Segregation, while a moral stain on whites in America, was a mental chain that crippled all blacks in the south; suppressed their dignity and took away any hope they had for lasting happiness, or even the pursuit of it. There was one solution, really. Segregation had to go. The rest, like they say, is history. History is never kind – it can even be unforgiving – but it is soft on those that stay true to the essence of our common humanity.  It sings well of the man that starts a movement – a movement to inspire – any movement that stirs us into outrage against the very things that dehumanises us.  History loves the women that bring hope; not fear. For hope is the thing with wings. Hope elevates the animal in us into the human we become.  Fear brings up the animal – where the survival instincts is the strongest. Hope bets on bigger possibilities, a change of mind, a flutter of the heart. Fear beats you up until you submit, and builds up a prison in your mind. Hope picks you up until you walk, and holds your hand until you fly again. Fear is like a bully that picks on the weakest and with clenched fists aims to break the small piece into even smaller pieces Hope, is defiance in the face of cruelty, love in the midst of hate; is an unclenching of the palms to let go of bias and prejudice cause only then can we reach for true victory.  Hope is the audacity to regain our rights – the consciousness to demand respect and dignity. It is the writing of our own history and the building of our own hallowed halls. Hope, like courage, is when you look your oppressor in the eyes and say: “No, you cant have my rights, I still need them.” Our right is like a car – it is helping no one in the garage – use it.
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Features
By Simi Oba-Pedro Four doctors and six x-rays later, nobody could tell Olori why her right knee hurt like it did. It started off as minor discomfort, then pressure and now, it felt like all the tendons were torn. It was why she always had to recline and stretch her right leg when sitting, like she was doing now in the middle of Murtala Mohammed Airport. Because of the angry, sometimes curious glances she got about her sprawling leg, she had ordered a knee brace from Konga. Olori was on her way to Abuja, and in another four days, Borno. She had been to sixteen Nigerian states in six months, and sometimes traveling by road was the only option. She had come to absolutely detest the sitting for long hours, not cooking her own meals, and even the sightseeing. She couldn’t wait to quit at the British Council in six months when she would have saved enough to open a small studio cum gallery and afford rent on her own apartment. Most of her belongings were stashed at her parents and she looked forward to having furniture she could call her own, a kitchen to beat eggs in and an internal environment she could control. Her flight was being delayed without explanation or apology and she adjusted her right leg and her luggage. Julia Michaels was on repeat in her ears and her chewing gum had lost its taste in her mouth. Water was dripping from the roof and a cleaner had put a bucket earlier to manage the leak. She sighed. This was the one of the main gateways to Nigerian’s economy, the nation’s busiest airport and the roof was leaking right in the middle. The airport was humid as the air conditioners were almost permanently off or faulty. The band of her shorts was damp and there was a fan in Olori’s left hand waving furiously at her face and neck while trickles of sweat slid down her cleavage uninterrupted.She had to come to the airport at least two hours before her flight and expected to leave the airport two hours after landing because it took forever to retrieve baggage and other checked-in items. The excuse was that the conveyor belt system was old and slow. The ethics of the uniformed officials was another shameful matter entirely. Olori’s tail bone whimpered from being stuck in the same position for two hours and she was shifting in her seat when she saw Chris. She had imagined this moment for seven years now, and it was happening on this hot Tuesday afternoon, her almost 33 years old, with rough braids and her top clinging to her body. All of her expectations – the eye contact, followed by stopping in tracks and a clap of thunder in the sky – were cut short as he didn’t even look in her direction. He was walking towards the entrance, dragging his box behind him and had stopped to make a call. He was less than four feet from her and he looked like he always had. He still used Power by 50 Cent, she could smell it. Inertia held her captive ass he watched him. His gestures were animated, his voice clipped as he spoke to whosoever was supposed to pick him. Olori had always expected him to call or at least mail her. She could not accept that he wouldn’t eventually. Hours turned into days, days into weeks,weeks into months and her tears continued to flow. She called him and he didn’t pick up. One night she got drunk and set her phone on permanent redial for six hours. She knew him to be impatient and irritable, but he never dithered. She wrote his parents and his parents wrote her back. She knocked on his apartment door, but it’s either he was never in or seemed to know that she was the one. She mailed him every day for 131 days. She told him about her day, sometimes attaching a picture of a painting she had done. She always apologised and reminded her that this wasn’t constructive; his attitude, his silence. He never replied. He didn’t block her, he just stayed mute. She went to his Faculty, his spot in the library, his favourite coffee shop, visited Francis in the hospital but she never saw him or bumped into him. Francis was in her corner throughout that period, with his left hand set in a cast because of an accident that was her fault. She liked telling the story of their relationship, about how they were friends throughout their four-year study at the University of Lagos, and how he had had a controlling girlfriend. That relationship ended during their National Youth Service Corps year and they became closer. She had been his breakup buddy and sounding board. At the end of service year, she had moved to Onikan to be near the art hotspots: Freedom Park, Muson Centre, Bogobiri house, African Artists Foundation, TerraKulture; and he had gotten a job in Lekki. They went exploring almost every evening and he attended all her Behance exhibitions. She never guessed how he felt about her until he kissed her on Oriental Hotel rooftop after a night of spoken word, barbecued goat meat and a bottle of Baileys. She kissed him back and it was magic. Three weeks later, they were in an official relationship and their happiness was unparalleled. When Chris got a scholarship for his Masters’ degree in Germany eight months later, it took her less than a minute’s deliberation to decide to go to Germany too. After all, her two preferences, Paris and Amsterdam were just train rides away. They could even go on vacations together, she reasoned. FreieUniversität Berlin quickly became home for them. In fact, being away from Nigeria brought them closer because all they had was each other. They both lived in the Student Village near the Schlachtensee Lake although in different buildings. Chris enjoyed his Physics and she breezed through Art History. Chris was the sanguine one, so he made friends and his friends became her friends. Life was perfect for them. Chris was her first boyfriend and he was perfect. He wrote with lipstick on her bathroom mirror whenever he slept over and had flowers delivered to her door every Sunday evening by 5pm. He bought her expensive white nougat chocolate. He was sensitive to her needs and moods, and was respectful of her space and time when she needed to paint. He had held her hand while her belly button was pierced and sat in the hospital reception for three hours when an infection ravaged the wound. He was embarrassingly honest with her, and all her complicated ‘onion layers’ as he called it faded around him. Olori dropped her hand fan as an air conditioner gurgled to life and brought her back to the present. Her phone beeped on her lap and someone bumped into her outstretched leg. She didn’t apologize. The insults aimed at her and the announcement blaring from the speakers about boarding for the 3pm Abuja passengers were distant sounds. Fear, anger and regret through her as Chris turned and met her eyes. She forgot to breathe as she looked at him. Nothing had changed. Chris’s family had come visiting for Christmas. He was born on Christmas day so it was a double celebration. She had met his mum before she left Nigeria and kept in touch. Meeting his dad, two younger twin sisters; Morounfolu and Eniola and his best friend and cousin, Francis was a bigger deal. The twins were 15 years old and the life of the party. Francis was quieter, easy going and pleased to finally meet his cousin’s girl. She ran around to ensure their comfort and planned an itinerary of events to make sure they had the right exposure to the beauty that is Germany and also that they were never bored. She cooked Nigerian meals and took his sisters shopping. One night during the first week oftheir 19-day stay, he had taken her in his arms and buried his head in her hair, thanking her for making his family her family. She cried. It was the day after his birthday, after a lot of cake and peppered snails and pounded yam, after sharing gifts and receiving them that it happened. On the itinerary for that day was a trip to the new Berlin Skyrider Park in Kreuzberg. Olori had been there a month before at its opening and had taken the roller coaster ride. She had put it on the itinerary immediately. That morning, Chris’s mum and dad decided to sleep in and Chris wanted to give her some time alone to bond with his sisters as they would be leaving in a week. Francis volunteered to drive them and it was settled. The thirty-two-minute ride to the park was full of tense excitement as the girls chattered away. The park was crawling with people and there were long queues at every turn. Not wanting to disappoint the girls, she ushered them to the inline tube water slide. Eniola was scared of large bodies of water and refused to go in. Morounfolu decided to be brave on the condition that Francis took the ride with her while Olori took a video with her phone. She had agreed and over forty people gradually teemed into the slide. Olori stood stunned, unable to move, still recording a video as the water slide collapsed twelve minutes later. There were screams from the pool and from Eniola who was standing next to her. She still had nightmares about that day; seeing people drown, seeing people being flung far and apart, seeing metal bend and thrust and slam into bodies. Eniola screamed and screamed. The events that followed happened in a haze. Emergency services went into action and closed off the area. She remembered being sent to the hospital with others for being in shock. Eniola had held her hand in the ambulance, crying and saying she had not seen her sister or Francis. Olori tried to call Chris but she couldn’t find her phone. He found them two hours later, in the hospital after Eniola called him. He rushed in with his mum and dad and Olori closed her eyes. Her hands shook, her skin was clammy as the build-up of emotion clogged her chest. She tried to sleep but the screams and the panic as more people were brought to the hospitals pierced her senses. She tried to remember detail by detail what had happened and yearned for her phone. She never found her phone but she saw the video she shot on the news hours later. After hours of lying still and pretending to be asleep, steady silence took over the hospital floors. A nurse had come to check her twice and she overheard her telling someone that she was still in shock and she needed time to rest. Tears slipped out of her eyes and she tried not to sniff. The cup of coffee she had in the morning continued to curdle in her bladder and the joints were beginning to rebel against the hospital bed. She sat up and was hit by a wave of nausea, she stayed still for a moment and opened her eyes to find Chris sitting in a chair with his head nesting in his palms. ‘Babe?’Olori called out tentatively, her voice shaking. This could only mean the worst. The Berlin Skyrider Park accident was her fault, their undoing. Chris looked up and she read his pain in his red puffy eyes. Chris never cried, this could only mean the worst. Olori recoiled and burst into tears. Chris sat and watched her. She needed to explain, to apologise, to do anything that would make it right but instead her words snuck out of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. A bitter taste rose from her throat to her tongue, her stomach contracted violently and she rushed through the door marked toilet in her hospital room. She dry-heaved over the toilet bowl for a few minutes before washing her face. She remembered to pee, wringed her hands and took deep breaths to keep dread at bay and face whatever had happened, whatever would happen. But Chris was gone by the time she came out of the toilet. That was the last time she had seen him. Till now. Morounfolu had died from crushed lungs and Francis had his left hand amputated because it had been affected by gangrene. The guilt started to eat at her as she stood at Francis’ bedside and it had not stopped ever since. Painting about it, writing about it, making apologies every Christmas to Chris’s parents and Francis didn’t stop it. Even Eniola hugging her after she was discharged from the hospital didn’t assuage her guilt. They forgave her. They told her it wasn’t her fault before they returned to Nigeria with Morounfolu’s body six days later. Francis had remained in Germany for four months and she visited him every day. She cooked him food, painted him and for him, and read him books. She was there for his physiotherapy and when his prosthesis was secured for the first time. She knew Chris was always around. His perfume lingered in Francis’ room and left her longing for him. Francis told her to give him time and promised that he would come around. Olori wrote his parents, apologising profusely for taking their daughters to the park, apologising for the accident and wishing she could turn back the hands of time. She always asked how Eniola’s therapy was going. She sent the paintings she had done in Morounfolu’s memory. They wrote back, asking about her welfare, telling her it was an accident, telling her to concentrate on her schoolwork and thanking her for writing. There was never any mention of Chris. She stopped writing them after a while. They were far too kind and that turned her guilt meter up a notch. She left Germany two years after the accident. She painted a series of gripping horrific images of that day which she called Her brush strokes told her version of events of the accident and immortalized the thirty-two people who had lost their lives. Her series had put on the radar of the British Council and seven years later, she couldn’t wait to fly under. Chris’s eyes fixated on her and he ate her up. He still hated her. She had killed his sister, and turned his best friend and cousin handicap. He still had not forgiven her and the tremor in Olori’s jaw assured her that he never would. Her phone vibrated on her lap and it was a welcome distraction. She had never learned to cry in style and she blinked back tears while clearing her throat. When she looked back up, Chris was hugging a woman. She was shorter than him and she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. She smoothened his ruffled hair and disheveled shirt. The ring on her left hand glittered.She also happened to be carrying a baby that bore a spitting resemblance to Chris. They walked out of the airport, hand in hand. He didn’t look back. ‘Last call for boarding Flight Number 2227, Destination Abuja.Last call for passengers boarding the 3pm Abuja flight. Approach Terminal 3 now.’ The blare of the speaker was like a drill in her cerebral cortex forcing her back to the present. She reached into her handbag for a handkerchief and blew her nose. She stood up and made her way to the terminal with her hurting knee and heart. At least, she hadn’t missed her flight. Writing has been Simi’s desperate act of sanity for as long as she can remember. She longs to quit her day job and make literature and photography the centerpieces of her life. This story first appeared in Issue 2 of The Mainlander Publication. You can download this and other stories featured on the publication here
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Downloads, Features
This is the second edition of the periodic Mainland Book Cafe publication (formerly known as Mashup) The Mainlander. This edition features a wide array of short stories and visual art, with contributions from Kayode Faniyi, Simi Oba-Pedro, Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke, Joy Mamudu, Linda Orajekwe, Bankole Banjo, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Mystique-Syn Osuchukwu, Abiodun Awodele, amongst others. DOWNLOAD HERE
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Features
When Eminem ripped into Trump, the world seemed to stand still. The world of rap at least. While Eminem was not the first rap rapper to do so (Chance the rapper, and even Kendrick Lamar were amongst those to have already dissed him), yet the echoes of his rhymes rang louder, and reverberated with more force than anyone else’s before his. Maybe because, like all true beef, he drew a line, asking listeners to either choose between him or Trump. Beef in rap music is a battle – fiercely competitive – with no middle ground, where respect isn’t part of the equation – the more the disrespect, the better even. But more than a mere speaking of truth to power, or just another voice in a long chorus against the perceived missteps of the 45th President of the United States, Eminem’s fire rhyme is a cultural note and reminder – both for its audacity – and for it’s echoing of what rap really is – a rallying cry invented by the unheard, mainly inner-city youth, to voice their opinion, and expose the grittiness of their surroundings, and maybe even minds. Yet, rap wasn’t always a medium for such, but in going through many metamorphosis and eclectic innovations, especially palpable during Rap’s classical period in the East Coast, it moulded into what we know today – part of it at least. If you haven’t seen or heard Eminem’s diatribe against President Trump, then you need to. Hip Hop was invented in South Bronx in 1973 by DJ Kool Herc – an 18 year old immigrant from Jamaica who isolated and fused fragments of older records with popular dance songs to create a continuous flow of music which he interjected with spoken words. Together with other DJ’s, notably, Grand Wizard and Grandmaster Flash, they created what is now known as Rap. After discovering and perfecting new techniques for turntable manipulation, DJs played their latest invention at parties and Clubs, and from there, contests between Rappers and Break dancers developed.  It wont be until the late 80’s that Hip-Hop/Rap would become more of a Producer’s medium than a DJ’s. In Busy Bee, who, stylistically modelled his performance and delivery after “Love Bug Starski,” the new genre had one of it’s best disciples. Known as Chief Rocker, Busy Bee as you could guess by his moniker, was all about getting the crowd worked up and having a good time in the club, which, truthfully, was what Hip-Hop/Rap was all about at the time. He was foremost an entertainer, with lyricism only an afterthought. He amassed a large following after winning many of the early rap competitions in and around New York, but also for his colourful personality. Known to brag, Busy Bee rarely passed any opportunity to remind people – anyone – of his ability on the mic; or how he rocked the party like no one else could. Many people, Kool Moe D included, all said he had the confidence and fast oratory skill which Mohammed Ali made famous. It wasn’t unusual for Busy Bee to show up at a competition and immediately go to where the trophy was and say: “…I’m knocking out all buns…this is my trophy….No one can beat me…I’m coming back to get this,” in his iconic, rapid and breathless fashion. Kool Moe D, a member of the rap group – The Treasurous Three, was more of a well known lyricist and a purist. Known as one of the finest lyricists of his generation, he was what many would describe as a “serious” rapper: he invented “the double time flow” and was also the first rapper to perform at the Grammys. In many ways, he was different from Busy Bee. But they had one thing in common they frequented Harlem World. Harlem World , was, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, a sort of Mecca for the budding new genre of music called Rap.  Originally opened as a Disco Club, the owner, Fat Man – a Black entrepreneur, known around New York for his street smarts and people skill, used to own a record label in Detroit before he moved to New York. Harlem World, now a famous jewel in Hip-Hop history,  was really an anomaly at the time. Zoned in a wrong place – a community where people lived,  it wasn’t allowed to carry the tag “Club”, and instead was called “Harlem World Cultural and Entertainment Complex”. It was a loophole that fostered it’s rapid rise, but also cemented its demise. Being in a neighbourhood teeming with teenagers and people in their early 20’s, who at that time were into the new cultural wave known as rap, Fat Man tapped into the new phenomenon, and swiftly shifted from disco to Hip-Hop, inadvertently turning Harlem World into a Hip-Hop haven for which it would later be famous for. It was a three-storey club with a lighted dance floor, mirrored walls, and a one of a kind hundred foot lightening bolt shaped bar. And more importantly, it could house between four to five thousand people at once. It was simply the perfect place in the East Coast to host rap competitions. Then, it wasn’t known as battles simply because it wasn’t about lyrical depth, or flow, but more about who could get the crowd going. They also gave out trophies. It was basically entertainment and fun. Before the Rap Attacks and the Ciphers, there were the Rap Competitions in Harlem World.  Until Kool Moe D and Busy Bee changed that. In the Christmas day Competition in 1981, Kool Moe D was the MC and wasn’t listed as part of the competition while Busy Bee was the star of the show, expected to win the whole thing. As usual, Busy Bee arrived with his entourage, in his usual braggadocios manner, claiming to be the best in the “place to be.” bouncing around corridors and the stage. Suddenly, an individual in the crowd screamed: “Can you beat Kool Moe D?” Busy Bee replied “I can beat anybody!” The same person shouted the same question a second time. Busy Bee, not having anyone question his skills, made it own he could beat anyone, for the second time. Meanwhile, Kool Moe D, as MC of the event was also on stage and he obviously took it personal enough to go an register his name, and asked to be allowed to perform immediately after Busy Bee. Not knowing what was going on, Busy Bee went on stage and rocked the party with his “ba-ditty-ba-da-dang-da-dang-dang” rhyme. The crowd enjoyed it.  He didn’t attack Kool Moe D, he just competed old school style – which were rhymes about his own skills. With the crowd still roaring, he left the stage and went backstage, obviously to pop some champagne and party with groupies. Then Kool Moe D took the stage. After the first couple of scratches from the DJ, Kool Moe D went in for the jugular, without preamble.
“Hold on, Busy Bee, I don’t mean to be bold But put that “ba-ditty-ba” bullshit on hold We gonna get right down to the nitty-grit Gonna tell you little somethin’ why you ain’t shit It ain’t a emcee’s jock that you don’t hug You even bit your name from the Love Bug”
The crowd were stunned – and were probably thinking – why is he attacking him like that? There was silence, but just for a brief moment, followed by a loud roar. They roared, screamed and egged him on. And then he went even harder:
If you was money, man, you’d be counterfeit I gotta give it you, though, you can rock But everybody know you’re on the Furious’ jock And I remember, Busy, from the olden-times When my man, Spoonie G, used to sell you rhymes Remember that rhyme called, “Ditty-Ba-Ditty”? Man, goddamn, that shit was a pity!
The crowd screamed louder. That was the point rap changed. The moment the crowd cheered on Kool Moe D’s vicious take down of Busy Bee was the moment rap had a change of guard: it went competitive, personal, and the ability to rap/rhyme well was suddenly seen as important. That moment redefined the trajectory of rap, and divided it into two distinct periods: rap as party music as the first and rap as competitive sport as the second. Like MC Shan once said “without Moe D, there would be no beef.”
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Features, Reviews
 “…Cosindas’s photographs and the weirdness registered by other artists is not a simple question of influence or imitation, or even a claim that magic of this kind always works in the same way, but rather that there are often similar intuitions between practitioners in this shamanic mode, all of whose work seems to be a bewitching murmur, always placid but glimmering with the possibility of ensnaring the viewer, a paradox that is true of Cosindas’s densely woven pictures, the assemblages that she spent days putting together and that evoke spaces redolent of complexity like the kitchens of great cooks or the laboratories of ancient perfumers, spaces in which unexplained things happen, exemplified in her…”
Teju Cole makes it plain  in his Essay in The New York Times, Still Lives That Won’t Hold Still – a masterful piece in praise of Marie Cosindas, the brilliant Photographer who passed away in May at the age of 93, that the evocative power of her work lies in its unabashed marshalling of elements into an hypnotic, almost mystical,  yet sensual form – freer, yet structured for masterful impact. Yet, on reading the piece, you get to see that the Essay in itself is an imitation of the Photographer’s colourful images – structured to emanate into a conscious flow that is so vivid in its description and alive in a way that grasps your breath, holds it, and takes you slowly on a seemingly never-ending literary Odyssey, as he pontificates about Consindas’ background and how her work compares with other greats. The piece, a long, single sentence, now regarded as the longest one ever published by The New York Times, is a wonderfully brilliant read in whole, and brings to the fore, not only Consindas’ soulful body of work, but also Cole’s deserved reputation as a master of his craft. You can read the whole article here  
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News
The 2017 edition of the Farafina Trust writing workshop will not hold following “abrupt” withdrawal of its sponsorship by the Nigerian Breweries. Chimamanda Adichie, the convener of the annual workshop, made this known in a statement on Tuesday. She said the company had withdrawn its sponsorship of the workshop, which would have entered its tenth year. Since April, there had been speculation as to whether the event would hold given that there had so far been no call for applications. The development, though, is a temporary setback.
My commitment to the growth of our voices has not wavered. Nor has the commitment of those who have worked to make this decade-long endeavour the success that it has been. We will take this time off to establish a new organisation and structure that will provide a more stable foundation for the workshop and other initiatives. From the initial reaction of potential sponsors and partners, we are optimistic about the future. My thanks and best wishes to all those who have made enquiries about applying for this year’s workshop. The workshop will be back next year.
She, however, promised that the workshop would be back next year.
I am sorry to announce that the Farafina Trust Writing Workshop will be unable to hold this year, which would have been its tenth year,” the statement read. Our sponsor, Nigerian Breweries PLC (NB PLC), abruptly withdrew their sponsorship due to a need to streamline their expenditure. NB PLC has had a half-decade relationship with the workshop and I thank them for encouraging the development of literary talent in Nigeria and Africa.
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News
 

Jowhor Ile emerges winner of 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature with his debut novel And After Many Days, thus making him the first Nigeria to win the prestigious award. The winner was announced at the award ceremony hosted by sponsors Etisalat on the 20th of May, 2017 at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island.

Jowhor Ile’s book, And After Many Nights, brings love’s fierceness and delicateness to the fore with emotion-packed punches that one is unable to ignore.
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