A Happy Ending?


On a street not far from yours, lived an everyday girl, who also doubled as a slay queen and head turner. Under the fading light of the evening sun, with gentle breeze and childish giggles in the air, is a party happening. It is the celebration of a marriage, and there she was basking in the melodious tunes of the party band as it ascends to a climax.

At that same party was a young man who couldn’t take his eyes off the dancing Damsel. He was no prince but was fine enough to be a Demon. “Demon”, her brain screamed in acknowledgement of what she already knew. But her heart was doing the somersault. It was turmoil inside of her. Her feet kept up with the music, unbothered with the war inside. Her face remained lit. LIT!

He walked towards her, letting his feet speak the same language as hers. And together they danced the evening into the night. She kicked her shoes off in total abandon. They weren’t glassy like Cinderella’s; they were just rubber slippers – the kind that women are quick to substitute their heels for after wearing one for hours.
Party bystanders looked on, in enjoyment of the dance romance unfolding before their eyes. “Lovely couple”, they complimented in a wishy tone. A few women were seen throwing evil glances at them. She just stole another brother they could have hitched. She couldn’t be bothered.

As the music took a mellower tune, he looked at her in awe. He was marvelled by her open disposition and the make-up streaked happiness that brightened her face. “I’m Dotun”, he finally said, introducing himself. “Veronica”, she said in a whispery tone. Taking in the sound of her voice, its feathery sound, like gentle breeze on a Harmattan evening, he popped the question. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

The question throws her off-balance. Her heart skips as she gulps in air, stalling for time so she can find her voice.

“No”, she said.

He smiled as an echo of silence passed between them.

Her thoughts: He looks like he is scouting for a girlfriend

His thoughts: She is really beautiful.

Skeptical, almost unsure, like he needed to gauge her next reaction, he said “You’re really beautiful. Are you sure you don’t have a boyfriend? I’m asking for a friend; come, let me introduce you to him. He is a gentleman.”

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You Will Remember Me


I remember the first day I saw you. It was that day I had a big row with Anu. The argument had been over C. Ronaldo – Did Sir Fergie make him the success he is today or was he just a natural? Anu had insisted it was all natural talent. I stated it was nurture and nature else Ronaldo would have been ordinary. That Sir Fergie trained Ronaldo to demand a high expectation from  himself, to  live up to the heavy expectations from Beckham’s No. 7 shirt he got at United. initially the other guys took sides. But after heated minutes, they left us to it. By the time the episode ended, I was left very angry.

You had walked in just then. The proverbial cold water to calm me. Oh Jennifer, how pretty you looked. I wiped my face twice when you walked in. The guys thought it was from the sweat I had worked up form the earlier argument. But it was you.

Even then I knew you were off-limit.

I remember our first date. I had buzzed to check up on you. You said you were fine and mentioned you were seeing a movie that evening after work. I joked that hope it wasn’t The Wedding Party because that makes you a copy-cat. You laughed and said, nah, seeing as you mentioned the movies first, I was the copier. We agreed to meet at the mall at 6:10pm and watch together. It wasn’t a first day per se. It was just coincidence.

You were not so off-limit then.

We had so much fun at the movies, we decided to do it again. And again. And again. It’s been 4 months.

Limits? is that even a word?

I can’t take back those months. Oh! I wish I could. You’re still the prettiest girl I know. And the things your laughter do to me, if only you knew. Love found me in the wrongest of places.

OFF-LIMIT

Bode is on his way home now and you must be his wife again – the wife he left at home when he went off-shore. And I must be the best friend I was before that movie date – the best friend I’ve been since age 5. This time from a bigger distance – Sydney, Australia. Once again, I choose friendship over this pain in my heart.

The Smell of Sunday Morning


I had forgotten the smell of Sunday morning. It was the smell of dew and sounds of cooking pots in neighbouring houses as worshippers prepare for Church. It was also the not-too-distant sputtering of cars, an awakening sound from a week of un-use. There was the smell of freshly washed bodies as people made their way to bus stops in groups of threes and fours and fives where everyone eventually made their way to church in whichever part of the city that may be. There was the smell of perfumes preserved for special days and occasions pervading buses. It was passengers putting on their Sunday best to stand in the presence of a supreme being. It was the smell that enveloped the city just before it rouses from the sleep that marked the last day of the weekend. It’s been months since I perceived that smell of Sunday.

Usually for me Sunday mornings doubled as sleepy mornings and laundry days. It was the only day of the week I let myself sleep longer, stretch better, lazy around. But this Sunday morning was different. This Sunday morning I was out of the house not to make my way to Assalatu. Assalatus as with many worship centres lately have become places of show-off, no longer places to reminisce about the greatness of the Supreme Being. So lately, I’ve picked my Assalatu spot in a corner of my sitting room, saying prayers with the quietness of dawn. What got me out of the house this Sunday was quite different – even as I stepped out of the house in what a few might regard my Sunday best. This Sunday, I headed towards clarity, away from the noise that’s been screeching up and down my being lately. This Sunday as I joined tens of Sunday worshippers and a few Saturday left-behinds on a bus, I was reminded of what it was to be out on Sunday morning. Even as whispers from nearby loudspeakers from street preachers began to creep along, and the sounds from the Akara seller setting frying pan on an open fire pervades the otherwise quiet street, nothing could mask the sweet smell of Sunday morning.

Ramadan: Dressing for Work Without Breaking “Much” Rules.


Happy Democracy Day Nigeria.

So Ramadan started a few days ago and in a lot of ways, I’m still not prepared for it. But hey, we must Fast. So today I’ve decided to talk about Ramadan and dressing especially for those of us who work in places where there’s no room for the flowing dresses and Hijab that Islam mandates us to wear as females.

IMG_20170529_072139First things first. If like me you were totally unprepared for Ramadan and didn’t get time to shop for clothes right before, below are simple tips on how to rock the items currently in your wardrobe (at least until you can shop for a few new clothes).

These tips are however limited to head scarves, dresses and pants as they cover the core body parts in Islam.

Let’s begin with head covers. Yes, before Ramadan, you love flaunting those really nice weaves and wigs but how do you keep up with that in Ramadan where you want to cover your hair but you know covering weaves mean itching especially with the Nigerian climate. Well, I say go for braids or cornrows with extensions. They are easier to keep under a scarf/turban and even better with short/small scarves. You get to remain the classy, chic lady without getting your Boss worked up. For white scarves, to avoid hair oil stains, use a wig cap or small silk scarf before tying on the white scarf. It’s easier to wash after.

Again if like me, you’re wondering what to do about those short dresses in your wardrobe till after Ramadan, I say do a little mixing up. Wear those dresses over your pants (Jeans or plain). Try putting that really nice dress over a nice pant in another colour closer to it on the colour wheel, whip out your bag, sunshade, heels or flats and, hello workplace. If you are not really good with what colour goes with what, then stick with black pants or neutral colours underneath those dresses until you figure it out.

Looking for where to do a few quick shopping this Ramadan without going out of your way? Check out @fsquam on Instagram. She has really nice items. Also see below a few of her collections.IMG_20170524_204041

Remember, no matter what you wear, with the right accessories and the right amount of confidence, there’s no stopping you.

 

 

Strange Bus Fellows, Food and Love in Traffic


Throwing back this Wednesday…

So I was on the notorious Lagos-Ibadan express-way some years ago trying to make it to my cousin’s wedding in time. Alas, the road had another plan in mind. The traffic was mind-numbing. All the while, Olamide’s “Yemi my lover” kept playing in my head. I don’t mean, earbuds-music-playing. I mean the voice-in-my-head-singing-kind.

Just when I thought my head wont stop singing, after about 3hrs in traffic already, someone decided to start sharing traffic tales – of how one time, they were stuck in traffic at Ikorodu heading to one of the Ijebu towns when they saw a bride being whisked away on a bike so she wouldn’t miss her own wedding.

Another talked of how one mother of the bride had to serve the wedding meal to people in traffic when she realized she might not be going anywhere that day.

While this was going on, one woman began coughing excessively so much that the person beside her started adjusting on the seat to give her enough space. This was at the time when Ebola was said to be in Lagos. Everyone on the bus began eyeing the woman like “e fit be ebola” even when we knew coughing was not one of the symptoms of the virus. The space ehn, it would conveniently take two people. The fear of Ebola sha. Who wan die?

Oh and there was the tale of a man who shared with us how he met his wife on a bus trip to Benin. With nothing else to talk about, we decided it was time to talk about how a lot of travellers miss their buses on that particular road because they got tired of sitting in traffic and decided to take a walk. By the time the traffic starts moving again, they can’t identify which bus is theirs.

What’s your traffic story?

House Hunting in Lagos: Things They Don’t Tell You


First things first, Lagos apartments are OVERPRICED. If you think you will get value for your money, please get ready to be shocked out of your wits. What you will find is that rent property quality is not even at par with the cost placed on it. I’ll get back to this in a bit.

Source: Google
Source: Google

So January 1st this year I had a list of what I want in 2017 and top of that list was paying my own rent. Rationale: My dad retires this year and it was past time papa mia stopped footing the rest of my responsibilities. Then I thought again, Olodi-Apapa (where I currently stay) is too far. I’ll search for a place in a central location in Lagos and pay.

Thus the search began. First I learnt that what I have known as a self-contained apartment all my life is called the Mini-flat in Lagos. So by Lagos definition, a self-contained apartment is just one-room with bathroom and toilet carved into a corner of it and a Mini-flat is usually a room, sitting-room, kitchen and toilet facilities in it. For me and everywhere I have lived (Ogun and Ondo) except Lagos, what I described as a self-contained apartment will be regarded as just what it is – a room.

Source: Bellanaija

That understood, I limited my search to “Mini flat” in Ilupeju, Airport Road area of Oshodi, Gbagada, Yaba, Onipanu and Maryland. Budget: 250,000 Naira per year. Can I hear some short snorts, somebody? Google became my friend, that’s aside the BBM announcement I made about searching. The first few responses I got to this “advert” was “250k? For Miniflat in this Lagos? Make it 300 or worse 350 na”. At this, I get my small Nokia and put the calculator to good use. Let somebody not come and be counting bridges in Lagos abeg. After the calculation, I realised going up on my initial will put plenty pressure on my pocket. After rent, I will sha still pay bills and feed and look good; all of which also cost money. So 250k or nothing.

Between Jiji.com and Nigeriapropertycentre.com, I managed to find some agents. The first I met in Yaba, very customer-centric, was the one who taught me the difference between self-con and Miniflat according to Lagos. Then we (My twin and I) decided to go see the apartment and then he says we’ll be paying 3000naira for inspection fee. The Ijebu in me kicked in. I need to pay to check? What if I don’t like the place? Will I get refund? Answer: No. I calculated; if I saw five different agents to check different places, 15000 is gone? LOL! So I quickly told him I’ll call him later about it as we’re undecided as to whether we want Yaba.

Source: Google

My next stop was Oshodi. I saw two places there. The first place, if you have a car, you will be parking on the street. That told me one thing. The man who owns the house is not progressive. Is he praying his tenants never own cars? Did I mention the almost non-existent ventilation? Lagos is hot enough for one to add cramped apartment to the wahala. My answer, Mbanu! The second place had a very poor road network, and the apartment, two stories up, had not been connected to water. Again, no thank you. For both I paid 1,500naira inspection fee.

Please note that at this time, I hadn’t thought to ask my dad how much my current two-bedroom apartment costs. Next stop was Ogudu, this one was found by a friend. The sad part about that area was that both ways, I will always be in traffic: whether to work or from work. That’s like adding ten years to my twenty-something already. Still, let’s see the apartment. It was nice. The builder or landlord however made a mistake: the window of the sitting room and the stair outside the house are on the same level; which meant if it rained and water flows down the stairs, it will flood the room. Did I go in rainy season? No. How did I know? Chuck that to the few times my twin and I have gone to Popsi’s house while it was being constructed. The detailed eye helped where nice would have just been enough for some people.

Long story short, I found another apartment at Onipanu. 270,000 yearly as rent and 120,000 for “agency and commission”, the agent said. Total: 390,000 Naira in the first year. Note again, this is rent only. Then I called papa and he said “120k commission and agency? Isn’t it supposed to be 10percent of rent again? That’s what the law says. That’s too much to pay”. That’s when I decided to ask, “Daddy, how much do you pay for this our place?” Let’s just say the answer got me realising I can pay 1 and three-quarter year’s rent at my current place. Did I mention that my current house can comfortably park 10 cars, has steady water supply and is only “far” when you’re coming from after Oshodi (Ikeja, Ojota, Ketu, Ikorodu)? Also to and from work or anywhere, I’m always against traffic unless the Apapa traffic demons (oil tankers and freight vehicles) are out to play.

Source: Google
let’s just stop here please

Final decision: Rent paid and I will not be moving.

Lessons Learnt?

  1. Lagos apartments are priced based on Location. Please note, location doesn’t necessarily mean quality apartment. It only means you’ll be paying almost double the price of a Mile 2 apartment in Yaba
  2. Only you know your pocket. Don’t let your big girl/boy status be determined by those who think living in one area isn’t good for your status when they are not supporting you with a dime.
  3. That thing they say about Lagos and packaging, it’s true. Don’t let your need for a fine house take your eyes off the really important details. Go with a detailed eye.
  4. If you have a low budget like the one I had, look beyond the really catchy areas of Lagos. It doesn’t make sense to drive a Murano while living in one-room in Magodo when you can get a mini-flat or standard flat at the same rate in Okota, Mile 2, Palmgrove or Egbeda and still drive that Murano.
  5. Only you know what you want. Don’t let Lagos’ idea of what is good make you lower your standard.
  6. Most importantly, life is too short to be living to pay rent alone.

 

Thoughts on a Random Day


It’s Friday and there’s a party about to start. Drinks are showing up. Small chops are making mouths do the Skelewu. soon, feet will join the movement. You see It’s TGIF somewhere in the city of Lagos. but before i go join the party…

 

Dear Reader,
The gods of writing must be having the time of their life right now as they imagine the many stories that could win literary prizes if only someone will write about current happenings in Nigeria. In the same vein, these gods must be having a good laugh at the situation called Nigeria. Allow me to explain.
Until some days ago, I’ve been away from here. It’s hard putting aside the worrying state of things to put thoughts to text. In my defense, i want to say that the Muses deserted me but that is not what happened. “What happened?” You ask. The only answer: Nigeria. Well to be fair, Nigeria has always happened but recently, more often than not. Nigeria is renowned for its corrupt abilities and fraudulent nature. Cameron gave it a fancy name: fantastic corruption.

 

However lately, Nigeria has found more ways than one to remain the topic of the day internationally: the conspiracy called Chibok girls, the desperation called Niger Delta Avengers, the disaster called Nomadic farmers, the rising despair called saving the economy, The southward turn of the naira, the growing fear called depleting oil and the sad situation called job cuts and rising unemployment.

 

When you grow up in a country like Nigeria you come to expect anything.No matter how depressing the news, life goes on. You thrive on the belief that where life exists, hope abounds. You expect nothing from the government but understand that when your tide turns, the government expects everything from you. So you get used to the negativity and make jokes about it until then. So like most Nigerians out there, i take bad news like one would buy roasted corn at a street corner- in stride after only a slight pause or shake of the head. But in all the years of my existence, all twenty-five of them precisely, nothing came close to breaking me than accumulated events of the past few weeks. There was the fuel price hike, thousands of job cuts across the country, the back and forth in government (too many propagandas and too many of those who take a knife to Nigeria like it’s their family inheritance.)

 

There was a time when it-is-well was the statement that marked the end of every complaint but these days even that is no longer enough. To agree with Igoni Barrett, each of us has become Ministers in our own right- Ministers of power, works and housing, defence, youth development, education and so on. we provide these things ourselves.

 

Lately, many of my friends are leaving the country. Some for study, some for work but in retrospect, for many of them it looks like a permanent move. Of course, I’m happy they can leave this despair called Nigeria behind but I’m sad at the avoidable circumstances that prompted their decisions. Nigeria is a country that beats hope out of you no matter how much you try not to let it. Weeks ago, I found myself looking out too. I find I want to take a break from all the depressing news surrounding Nigeria especially as the Naira keeps doing a Hopfrog against other currencies. And when I think “Oh, that’s typical Nigeria”, this time it lacks the conviction with which I used to voice those words.

 

Therefore I came back here to the one place where I can write out my thoughts without losing them. When I first started this blog, the idea was to give relevance and meanings to the regular, the everyday. Now as much as I cannot term every post on here an everyday kind of story, I find that you relate to some of the stories and give feedback albeit privately. Perhaps this is not your typical everyday situation, it is slowly becoming mine.
Right now, I write not as one hiding behind the fictive creation of a story nor behind the condensed words of poetry. Here I write as one who needs to be reminded, why I should continue to love Nigeria despite all its madness.

How to Capture Ojuju Calabar


One day, you enter your house and drop your bag on the kitchen counter as your hands find the light switch on the wall. As the light comes on, you notice your things are everywhere. Slowly, you walk towards the sitting room. There are things on the floor, the chairs, ironing table. Piles and piles of them. “Who did this?”, you ask yourself as you trip over something. It’s a book. Then you walk into your room. Everything’s just as you left it. Except…Where’s the earring you wore at Seun’s birthday? You opened your wardrobe to find your blue sequinned dress has had a quick dialogue with invisible legs. Its empty spot on the wardrobe hanger tells you. You know it’s not among the pile you found outside your bedroom; you would have noticed. The Jero Plays. You had it by the bed. Now that spot is empty too.

You should call your siblings perhaps they came home in your absence. Your phone. Oh no! That too? Arghh!!! Now you’re angry. You go back to the front door and begin sorting everything. The clothes on the floor go in the laundry basket. The ones on the chairs go into the wardrobe. You pick up the shoes; one foot here, another there, you arrange them on the rack. The books are finally back on the shelf, now you can stop tripping over them. Then it came. BAM!!! You know who Ojuju Calabar is.

You remember when you came home yesterday and dashed into the visitor’s room because you were really pressed, you took off the sequinned dress and left it there. Then you entered your room and sat staring out the window at the moon? You left the earrings there too. And after your evening shower, you were reading a book at the ironing table? The Jero Plays. And the phone? If only you hadn’t dropped your bag on the kitchen counter when you came in moments ago.

 

For Lack of a Title


“I should have eaten”, Gbenle thought as he manoeuvred passers-by at Oyingbo market trying to get the heavy weight of foodstuff on his shoulders to a car parked somewhere on Apapa road. Behind him, an elderly woman walked briskly; tailing him to make sure he doesn’t run away with her purchase.

Gbenle is one of tens of young boys that live at Oyingbo market and who did anything and everything to make food money on the daily. Today he had decided he would be an *Alabaru. His friend, Wande, with whom he had arrived Lagos from their little town in one of the South western states had told him market sellers and their customers pay much to boys who helped them carry goods to and from the market. What Gbenle hadn’t envisaged though was the weight of goods he had to carry to earn it.

Gbenle had never been one to burden himself in any way, not with thoughts, girls, or heavy things. That was why he had chosen to be a bus boy in the first place. As a bus boy, he simply alerts passengers going the route of his bus by intermittently shouting “Yaba, wo le, Yaba” and gets paid a little sum for his efforts once the bus is filled. This helped him meet his daily needs with some extra on good days. But the last few days hadn’t been good as the bus he calls passengers for had developed faults.

So that morning when Gbenle had woken up to a monstrous hunger, he knew it was time to find an alternative. Even the worms in his belly seemed to have had enough as they bit unapologetically into his stomach walls. The hilarious comebacks he usually had for the other boys’ jokes didn’t come through either when the boys mocked every person who passed. “See her leg”, one boy said. “See that one, bringing children to market. Psheeaw”, another said. “Wicked woman, giving a pregnant Alabaru such load. Can’t she carry them herself?” went a third. “These ones are playing love in the market” yet another boy pointed out as they hurled at passers-by in raucous manner. Gbenle who was usually the gang leader had more pressing matters on his mind; food.

Gbenle had looked around to find Wande at an extreme corner of the group clutching nylon of Garri and another of Groundnuts. The look on Wande’s face indicated he wasn’t open to sharing but even if he was, Garri and Groundnuts didn’t count as Gbenle’s choice of recovery after days of feeding on water. His stomach growled as if in agreement. Wande had simply looked up as Gbenle’s shadow rested on him and said in unblemished Yoruba, “Alabaru is the job that pays now. Being a bus boy at this time of the day will only earn you promises of Lunch which may not happen especially if your chosen bus driver is the type that likes to collect his own money.”

Needing no further encouragement, Gbenle had made his way into the market, keeping an eye out for anyone who remotely looked like they needed a porter. Until he found the woman. She had helped him put the load on his shoulders, walked behind him at a steady pace as they made their way out of the market and towards Apapa road. Soon the sound of a car being unlocked remotely and an accompanying flashing set of taillights told Gbenle they are at the car. The woman promptly opened the car boot so he can deposit his burden into it, then followed through by digging out a dirty One Hundred Naira note from her purse which she handed to him.

“No more. No more load-carrying”, Gbenle decided as he headed back to Oyingbo to join the other boys.

 

 

 

*Alabaru- a market porter who carries commodities from or to the market at a pre-agreed price.