Nikai in the Forest


There was no escaping, there was nowhere to hide, I couldn’t be a wall flower today, I had just found out that today was day I was to be signed over. I called my other, she did not come. There was no taunting today, no Sleeping beauty to my Cinderella, today was the day to let down her hair and come save me.

One of the older sisters had summoned me after Morning Prayer, she asked me to sit on a low stool and began to paint intricate designs in henna on my feet and hands, her designs were basic, I could do better.

I asked her why, she smiled and said,   ‘Your time has come’.

‘Time has come for what’ I asked, ‘am I to be released, am I to be killed or what?

She smiled again, fake smile, the kind that showed your teeth but never reached your eyes.

‘Abdul Rahman has chosen you, you are lucky’

And so it dawned on me, I was to  be married to Abdul Rahman, a man child  I had never met, I had heard the other women say he was one of the mean young ones, he was assured martyrdom, a chosen one, he tricked some of new the girls into speaking English and got them punished, western education, western languages were banned, in defiance all my thoughts were in English, I prayed in English, I sung to myself in English, I counted  each day in English, they could steal my freedom but not my thoughts.

And so I waited for my turn, I was told by one of the older girls that it was to be between Zuhr and Asr prayers.

‘It won’t be that bad’ she said,

‘Just think of past good times, at least you will belong to someone’.

I can’t imagine why she thought it was a good thing, may be the sun had got to her head, she’d been here too long.

The call to prayer went out, we washed and prayed… and then it started, I and five other girls were ushered into a room, the youngest was 9, I knew her, we lived on the same street, her parents were rich, they had the big house with a bore hole and would open their gates to let people fetch water for free. They were nice to me when my other decided she had had enough, the world was too cruel, people were too cruel, she was the smart one and I was the beauty. What does beauty do for you when you’re trapped?

‘I told you to come with me, but you wanted to stay’ she whispers.

She has an annoying habit of whispering.

‘Mum and dad would have got over us, they would have had more children, now they don’t know whether you alive or dead’.

We were each given a clean Hijab,  a pair of new shoes and a gold bangle, the  older sister  rubbed  my feet with camwood  and cheap perfume, the smell made me  gag, throwing up might put the Nikai off for a day or two, but would also get me punished. The Imam called my name – the new name.

‘A Muslim husband must look after his wife, she is his property and he is her property, she must do everything he says without question’….

She who submits to Nikai is truly blessed and highly favoured

 And he went on and on quoting made up verses, while dabbing his forehead with a dirty handkerchief

I was led over to Abdul Rahman, dressed in a flowing white Kaftan with a black skull cap, he didn’t look at me, I doubt whether he knew any more than I did about marriage, his beard, which all the men were encouraged to grow was a sparse as the hair on his head, he couldn’t be more than eighteen, I doubt if he knew one end of a women from the other. He looked familiar. The Iman asked if  he was willing to marry  me  he said, yes,  I was not asked for my opinion.   I looked at him again  and understood why he couldn’t look at me, what holy book says that a man can marry his half -sister?…

‘Be quiet, don’t say a word and you will go home soon’.

Maybe there was light at the end of this dark tunnel, maybe the parents will get one child back.


Short Story day Africa – Writer Prompt 13: Pink Bubblegum

Short story day Africa writer prompt 

What a web we weave when we seek to deceive. I’d heard that many a time and now I was caught in it.
Her tone went from annoyance to disbelief. She was looking for me, she must have found him.
How stupid were we? I thought he liked mama, she always went a bit overboard when he visited. Preening and pruning, Ama and I just laughed at her attempts to wax her hairy legs. Why bother?
He had tried it on before, I told her. She did not believe me.
Uncle Stephan bought us gifts, he looked after us, he fixed the car, he bought me my first phone and he bought me packets of pink bubble gum.
No, don’t be silly, she said. I had misunderstood. He’s French she said, they’re always kissing and hugging.
There was a lot to eat when he was around, mama bothered, she cooked, and she showered. he said my behind was getting bigger, mama said I took after her. I didn’t know where to look.
The veterinary clinic was open, people came, animals were treated mama made a living and everyone was happy.
That day started with a pinch, a swipe of my behind and what he called his daddy bear cuddle. His spidery hands invaded me. I was enveloped in fumes of Marlboro lights, gin and bubble gum.
‘I’ll jab you with this’ I said, waving the stun gun in his face.
He laughed. More fumes.
‘You wouldn’t dare’.
And so I did.
The tranquilliser dart went in like a hot knife in a slab of butter. He legs turned to jelly, his mouth went slack and that was that.
Another scream. Yep, she had definitely found him..
‘Savannah, what the heck have you done?’
It’s funny how she knew who’d done it, but yet, she never believed me.

What are the odds?

Hi, this is my contribution to a Short Story Day Africa prompt.

Short Story day Africa – Writer Prompt

Zaina glanced at her sleeping husband and then at the bulky belt she was to wear to Jumat prayers, eyes closed, praying seemed futile and sleep wouldn’t come, it was as if sleep knew that something was going down today.

Adamu began to stir, he always woke up a few minutes before the muezzin called the prayer, sixteen months old and his body seemed in tune with life in the bush, she smiled at him as she pushed his thumb back into his puckered mouth. The one good thing to come out of this mess. Gosh, she thought, I’m a 15 year old mother, what are the odds? That was her father’s favourite phrase, said solemnly when anyone was fretting about anything. When mama thought the rains wouldn’t come, “what are the odds that we’ll all starve?” he said. When her sister Felicia had refused an arranged marriage and mama began to wail, throwing herself on the floor as if someone had died. Papa calmly said “what are the odds that her life is over? I’m sure they’ll be others.

Husband was awake.
“Make we do am one last time before you go see your friends for Janaa” he said chuckling.
“Yes sir,” she said fingering the object concealed beneath her hijab.

It went in like a hot knife in soft shea butter, he let out a gurgle as life and air rushed out of him.

What are the odds that I’ll make it home? She thought strapping Adamu to her back.

Short Story Day Africa: Writing prompt

Hi there, this is a story I posted as part of a short story day Africa prompt of an owl in flight.

Short story day Africa

Bobby hoped every night would be his last. Mama twins, his father’s second wife had threatened to leave him in the forest, she said he was a bad omen.

She blamed him for everything, his mother’s death, Taiwo’s convulsions and his father’s latest bout of malaria. He didn’t have the guts to tell her that his mother had sickle cell disease and his father was drunk. How was he going to convince her that at nine years old he couldn’t be held responsible for the family’s misfortunes?

He would have pointed out that her twins were the strange ones. Four years old, they spoke a mixture of English, some secret language that no one could understand and baby babble. He’d seen them talking to the blue eyed owl, it always seemed to be perched on the bougainvillea tree outside their bedroom window. The tree shed every day, he got a beating if a single leaf was found under the tree, blue eyes laughed at every stroke.

As he swept up the leaves for the nth time he noticed the twins playing catch with a stick. Old blue eyes began to flap and hoot. It swooped down and grabbed the snake as it leaned in to take a bite of a small chubby leg.

Kenny began to cry,

‘Where sticky gone?’

Taiwo joined in.

‘Wetin you dey do to my picken?’ mama twins growled.

‘Nothing oh!’ said Bobby as the owl flew off with its prey.

Bobby sighed, ‘thank you mama’.

H is for Hypocrisy #atoz challenge

Hi, I have met a number of church leaders that are so inspirational that I could listen to the word all day long and a few that have the gift of the gab – saying what you want to hear and behaving totally different in private, I know that they are just people and people are fallible, but the hypocrisy of some church leaders really gets on my nerves.

This post is a slice of pure fiction.


‘No perfect people allowed’ – screamed the inscription above the church door, it seemed to mock him, he was not perfect, he was flawed, and defective and yeah he knew it.

How did he become someone he despised? did he really have an alter ego? was his mad bad self a figment of his imagination? Did he have some mental block? when did he became so unrecognisable from the cool Mr Do-good exterior he portrayed to the world?, was it being an only child?  a high achieving only child whose parents gave in to his every whim, or was it his good looks? well that wasn’t his fault? but it very much to his advantage, a combination of German and African genes had given him a six foot frame, caramel skin, a perfect nose and green eyes – yes, it was his eyes that did it, they got him everything he wanted, the eyes definitely have it!

He got our of his car and walked the short distance to the church, a few of the regulars had arrived and were chatting about football as usual, they turned to welcome him.

“Good morning pastor Martyn” they chorused, like little children saying good morning to the head teacher, he grinned “Good morning, what a lovely day, made even lovelier by seeing you all here so early to hear God’s word!”

She walked in, she had worn the long sleeve blouse he had laid out for her, it would cover the bruises, it was her fault, she asked too many questions; where was he going? Why did he always have to solve other people’s problems? He was a pastor not a member of a peace keeping force, she went on and on until he snapped. She nodded at him, he could see the hurt quickly replaced by disgust and then the calm, welcoming face of a pastor’s wife.

“Good morning, welcome to Baruwa Baptist church, how are you?” she turned to welcome a group of over dressed women.

“Fine thanks” said the lady in the tight yellow dress.

She had worn it, perfect, he thought  – things were looking up.

G is for Grey #atozchallenge

Grey afternoon in London@image credit


A little bit of fiction on a grey afternoon in London.

Three o’clock in the afternoon, Nira stood outside the Holloway prison waiting for her to come out, she had had to park a least a mile away, the 30 or so visitor parking spaces had been taken, 30 spaces! What a joke, the prison had probably been built in a time when no one had cars! She read the plaque on the wall, built in 1852 as a correction facility for women of disrepute and then rebuilt in 1971, surely they had cars then.

Harry and Rabi had  refused to come, Rabi mentioned something about a bad hair day and Harry said  he had to study for his exams,  as if one day away from his books would diminish  his chances of getting an A * in whatever subjects  he was studying.  Nira had lost track of who was doing what, it wasn’t easy paying the bills and making sure her siblings were fed and watered.

Muma – as they all called their mother – had been in lock-up for four years, aunty Sheila had moved in with them for two years – then on her 18th birthday, she declared:

“Nira, it’s time for you to step up, your useless father is nowhere to be seen, but your mother has taught you well, it’s time for me to go.”

And with that she handed everything over, made sure they had enough money for the next three months and said good bye – and that is how 18 year old Nira became the lady in charge of a household with two sulky teenagers, it seemed great at first, but then reality began to bite.

Nira checked her grey suit again, as she knew Muma’s first comment would be about her clothes.

Muma was always done up, Papa used to joke that when she was expecting and her ‘water’ broke, the first thing she asked for was her lipstick and then the hospital bag, “One must look good no matter what the situation is!” Yes oh, Muma always looked good, it was her reason for being, looking good, but never actually doing any good, or caring about the 3 children she left behind in her quest for fast money and a fast life.

She was supposed to be let out at 15:30, thirty minutes more to wait, people were looking around but not at each other, it seemed that everybody was trying to avoid looking at the other person, who wants to run into an old friend at the prison gates and admit that you’re here to pick your mum up. The whole neighbourhood probably knew what she was in for, people had often asked what her parents did for a living, some kind of business she would say, something in import and export she’d quickly add when she got a funny look.

“You’re a bit young to be a solicitor, said the lady at the reception.

“She’s not, this is my daughter”

“Hi Muma, you look well”

“What are you wearing? How many times have I told you to wear more colour?

“Grey on a grey rainy afternoon is just too much, let’s go shopping”.


B is Brassiere

Shopping in Balogun Market @ image credit

Ten o’clock on a Friday morning and Balogun Market was teeming as usual, there were hordes of people in every direction moving like worker ants on a mission.

Nearly every 5 seconds someone would thrust something in your face.

A boy of about 10 who should have been in school showed me an array of phones attached to his clothing.
“Sister, make you look, I get latest design iPhone” he pointed to an iPhone 4

Another teenage lad came up: “Sister, make you watch ya bag, professional people dey operate for this area oh, pounds dey, dollars dey, I give you good price.”

And on it went, the hustle to make a buck amidst the chaos that is, and will always be Balogun market, Lagos Island. You either loved it or hated it; it was the only place to get everything you needed at a good price.

As a child, I’d fake an illness to get out of going – in the rainy season especially, the market would be dotted with the pot holes of rain, mixed with the contents of the overflowing gutters whilst the smell of the open sewers wrestled with barbecue beef and chicken.The aroma of fried bean cakes and plantain would make your stomach rumble – although common sense told you it was not the place to eat, your stomach thought otherwise. Mum would feel my sticky, sweat-slicked forehead and declaring that I had malaria, would promptly prescribe chloroquine – I’d pretend to swallow and spit it out as soon as her back was turned – anything to get of trudging pot-holed roads when I could be watching MTV.

“Sister, you want buy brassiere?” said another and shoved a few undergarments in my face, bringing me back down to earth, I stared.

“I get Wonderbra, latest design, make I bring size 36 for you?”

He/she was clearly a man in a dress and a push-up bra that would have made Eva Herzigova jealous.

“Wow,” I said. “Are you for real?
“Yes oh, dem dey call me Jordan”

Gosh, this is progress I thought, a man dressed as a woman walking the streets of Lagos Island and no-one bats an eyelid.

It’s a marketing ploy, my cynical self said.
It’s a jolly good one, thought my optimistic self and promptly bought two brassieres from Jordan.
She thanked me and sashayed away, jumping over potholes as you do in Balogun market.

A is for Afro


I did it, I cut it all off!  Me and my teeny weeny afro will be going walkabout with Storm Katie!

I put on my hoop earrings, did my make-up and headed to work.

‘What happened to your hair?’

‘G’morning Mark,’ I said.

‘No, really what happened?’

‘Nothing!’ I said – and hurried away before he asked to touch it!

Why, you might ask? Well, I thought I’d get there before the chemo does, I’d show it who’s boss and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about the fact that I have spent a fortune buying someone else’s hair.

Smile, it’s selfie time for me and my teeny weeny afro.


An arranged marriage

They were arguing again, papa shouted and paced, mama cowered in the corner, watching, ready to run if he moved an inch closer, he slapped her and said she deserved it.

Papa thought it was time, mama didn’t agree, so she said I was 12, I was 14, she said I was yet to be circumcised, she had promised me she wouldn’t, she said I was too skinny, I needed to be fattened up, there was no way I was going to be kept in a room, pampered day and night and fed cholesterol inducing foods just to up my bride price.

Another slap, mama began to cry, ‘get her ready, you have two years from today’

‘Sidi – come here! Write this down – Sidi will be married two years from today’

‘Yes sir’, I said, as I hurriedly wrote down the date.

I silently thanked my mum, she had just bought me two years and a stint in the fattening room, I hear things have changed and they teach girls how to cook and please their husbands, maybe it won’t be so bad after all, maybe we’ll get a good price and my mother’s pain won’t be for nothing

Mad John the traffic man

Mad John the traffic man

If you ever walked down Bode Thomas street, Suru-lere, in the late seventies, you’d see a man  in rags,  a bit mad directing the  traffic, nothing   new about this,   there are many lost souls walking the streets of Lagos, some madder  than most, some high on  something or the other , some  had just lost the  plot and taken to rambling and   hassling people to   get a bite to eat, some were said  to be cursed by someone  or had drunk a poisonous concoction of herbs and stuff!, some were just pretending and preying on the sympathy of people, But this  one was different , very different, he was sun burnt   beyond recognition and  his  once  blond hair  was  more  dreadlock than a Rastafarian, he chewed a pipe, his clothes  were torn and dirty, he wore shoes fashioned  out of  car tyres caked in mud, he wore what had once been some unnamed army clothes and some occasions he would wear an Agbada and stroll around, on the Agbada days he did   not direct the traffic, but weaved in and  out of the cars, saluting and praising the  Shell club lot  as we called them, the  ones  who were in the with in crowd, the  occupants in cars with the   tinted windows were mostly  likely to take pity on a mad white man,  they would wind down slightly and toss a few Naira. And the other white folk in their 4 by 4 and SUVs, well, they would stare straight ahead or read the paper –who would want to be associated with  the  crazy white man directing the traffic  in 82 degrees heat, not many! but I  was curious.

He was quite good at what he did, cars never bumped into each on the Mad John  days, the go –slow that Lagos  is famous for seemed to melt away   when he was in charge. We named him Mad John the traffic man – it had a ring to it!

No-one knew where he came from or what Nationality he was; he spoke French, English and   Italian!  He was so good at fooling  the   various  officials that came from the Embassies, rumour has it that when people from the   UK high commission came he spoke Italian, when the   Italians came he spoke French and   when the   French  came  – he decided on Finnish and   claimed he was from Belgium,  so they all left  claiming  that  they could not take responsibility for him as he was not one of theirs,  where in the world did he come from , how did he get there and   why did no-one care?

No one did   until me and my two brothers decided  life  in Suru-lere Baptist school was getting a little   tedious   and   we needed   some excitement, the teachers were more interested in their little side gigs, selling one   thing or the  other or arguing over  whose  turn it was to get the money  from the current pardner scheme they were  operating. Well we needed a project our own side gig, why? I hear you say, didn’t we have anything to learn in the 70s school system in Lagos, were we also a little mad? Well may be, we were bored, mad and in search of Adventure and a money making venture. We came up with the idea that if we could find out who mad john was, his family would give us a   reward, we might even get a trip to wherever   he was from.

‘London, USA or America’ said   Bode the  youngest of my brother, ‘stupid said the other, USA and America   are the same place!

May be letting 7 year bode was a bit foolish, Taiwo and  I would just have to find out who mad  – John was

back in the day there were   two  school sessions, morning and   afternoon, we   were in the  morning   session and finished  school around   13:00, just in time  to  see Mad John the traffic man   direct the afternoon rush. kids from the  Baptist school on Modupe Johnson just stood and  looked  at we’d ask him  questions  about his day,