That morning, Salewa logged in to her twitter account to find another tweet of a missing 16-year old girl. This time it wasn’t the usual stranger asking everyone to Retweet until the missing girl was found. This time it was her friend @niniayo who posted that his younger sister was missing. He had gone ahead to include his phone number for anyone who might have any information about the missing girl. Already the post boasts over 500 retweets and Salewa realized her 2-day hiatus made her miss the post. Lately it had been the norm – missing teenagers, kidnapped school children, residents killed in their houses. Salewa hurriedly took her mind off the recent happenings to concentrate on the post staring squarely at her through her phone screen. She did the needful by quoting the post “She’s my friend’s sister. If you’ve seen her please call this number”, posting it and then retweeting the original post by Niniayo. It was Tuesday morning.

The alarm on her phone subsequently went off. It was lecture time and she was still at home. She contemplated calling Niniayo first but decided not to. After all, there was a chance they’d meet in one of the classes holding that day. “Wasn’t Fiction class holding today?” She asked herself. Everyone called Niniayo “Ayo” because “Niniayo” sounded like a name one’s parents would give a daughter. Salewa hurriedly went into the bathroom she shared with about 50 other girls on the first floor of Queen Amina hostel at the University of Lagos. The day was going to be a tight one. There was still that quarrel to settle with Titi her best friend. Salewa had told Titi that her (Titi’s) boyfriend was cheating on her. The matter had led to a row and Titi’s boyfriend had accused Salewa of being lesbian who wanted Titi for herself. “Funny matter,” Salewa whispered to herself, smiling in that smug way of hers. She definitely was no lesbian, especially with her here-and-there relationship with Ayo. She and Ayo were not close enough to be called an item, but they were close enough for something to be brewing between them. However, Salewa sometimes gets the feeling she’s misreading signs from Ayo. “Time will tell”, she mused. Their friends knew they were just really good friends or worst case scenario, friends with benefits. She never bothered with what people said. There was class to attend and the thesis supervisor to meet after. There was also the school Library to visit as well.“One at a time”, Salewa said to herself as she headed out of the bathroom to get ready for school and face the business of the day.
“How long are we supposed to keep her?” Awele heard the-man-with-the-slur ask. By now she knew there were three of them and she’d come to identify them by their voices. The men never call each other by name when with her. There was man-with-the-slur, man-that-stammers and man-with-the-calm-voice. Of the three, man-with-the-calm-voice scares her the most. Something tells her behind the calm is a devil she wouldn’t like to meet. Awele has been held for so long now that she could have lost count by a few days. However the rise and set of the sun which she peeped through her not-too-tight blindfold helped her keep count. It’s been no more than three days.

Awele knew Ayo would be blaming himself right now. She was supposed to wait for him to get back from class the day she was taken so he could drop her off at boarding school but Awele had wanted to see the latest Spiderman movie at the nearby Ikeja City Mall. She knew Ayo would never let them watch it, he despised Spiderman. Ayo’s said there was nothing unique about Peter Parker. That he was just a science experiment that bit into the wrong hands. Literally. And as a rule in the house, Awele was never to go anywhere without Ayo. She could not bear going back to Queen C, the nickname for the prestigious Queen’s College situated at the heart of Yaba, to tell her friends that she hadn’t yet seen Peter Parker’s latest antics. It would only confirm everything they think of her –Daddy’s girl.

So immediately Ayo had left for class that day, Awele had snuck out of the house and joined a cab from GRA to City Mall. She had done it several times with Ayo she could have done it so many times in the past by herself. But that was the first time she will be doing it.
Ayo was shouting at Charles in front of the faculty – something about grown men acting and talking like women. He kept shouting at the poor guy who stood bewildered at the rage. Everyone knew Ayo had been temperamental since his sister went missing. There was a bond between Ayo and Awele which many do not yet understand. Not even their parents. So his mood was explainable. But why Charles?
Mr. and Mrs. Ofure had been with the police trying to find their missing girl while their home was swamped with sympathizers. Ayo stayed away from home more, avoiding the pitiful glances of sympathizers especially with the continued absence of his missing sister. On one of such days, Mrs. Ofure had walked into Awele’s room to ensure it was in order. She wanted to stay connected to her child. She walked in and found a couple of lipstick stains on the dresser as if someone had left them there in a hurry. She looked around the house hoping in her heart that the girl had somehow returned home. The lipstick stains. She wondered at the lipstick stains.
“Hiya! Thi-th-this world dooooon spoil o. Wha-wha-wha-what is-this world co-co-ming to?” Awele heard the man-that-stammers say to man-the-calm-voice.
“How caaaaa-an man be slee-slee-slee-slee-ping with man, Ngwanu?” He continued. “Tuuuuu-tu-fiakwa”. Just the, music credit from Fox’s Empire series filtered in through the room where Awele was being held. She instinctively knew that whatever man-that-stammers was about, Jamal Lyon was right at the centre.
“Thiiiiiis Oyibo peo-eo-ple dey ma-ma-mad I swearrrr. H-ha-how pikin go for front of hiiim Pa-pa-pa talk say na-na man li-li-like am him dey like kp-kp-kpansh? I tr-trust my Papa. Pa-pa-pa…”

Shhh”, man-with-calm-voice cuts in in that commanding tone that lets you know who’s in charge.

“Guy abeg”, man-that-stammers retorted. “I-i-i-magine say for that yaaaaa vil-lage, your wife tell you say sh-sh-she born man. As in ma-ma-man wey strong, man wey-wey be say if your wa-wife born as first pi-pi-pikin, other men go-go-go greet you Twa-le! Say-say you do-do-do well. Ma-make that man com-co-come say na fe-fellow man e wan-wan dey follow”.

“But na true dis guy talk”, says the man-with-a-slur. “Our people talk say pikin wey go be man, na from how him stretch him small manhood we go take know. This kain one wey dey wear girl cloth, e don already dey show where him manhood dey.”

Again the man-with-calm-voice said, “pikin no go bad sote we go carry am give lion chop. As pikin don say na man im like nko? Nna, no be that one we come do for here. After all, this thing na film”

As snippets of the conversations got to Awele, she again remembered Ayo. As a child, she always went in search of the next toy to play with – from Barbie Dolls to neighbours’ children to classmates. She always wanted more playmates. Being the only girl, she even begged her parents for a sister but their parents already had a plan. They would not have more than 2 children. And Ayo already came first. Awele didn’t mind that. Only that sometimes, she wished Ayo was a girl so they could both bond in a way only sisters could.
It’s been three days since Awele went missing. Whenever Ayo had been home, he’d go straight Ayo to Awele’s room but no one knew. He missed Awele greatly and holidays when they could both hang-out were his best. Awele was a great listener and very intuitive. She understood him and could almost read his mind. Every minute with his little sister felt like she was put in the family to be his guardian. Even though she was younger, sometimes Ayo felt she helped him keep his sanity amidst all the expectations their father heaped on him. When they were younger, their father had put him in boarding school just because he was playing dress up with Awele and had dressed up as a girl. He didn’t understand it. It was innocent child’s play. Ayo knew how deeply Awele wanted a sister and how much their parents wished he were a girl, their-mother-come-back, they’d mentioned countless times before. So in that one instant, he thought to himself, “let me be a girl just this once. Let me be her sister just this once”. It was an instant that changed everything.

Ayo had pleaded with their father to let him remain at his former school and promised never to dress up as a girl again. Their father had been adamant. His reason: Ayo was supposed to be the elder. Why should an elder dress like a girl to make his sister happy?
Ayo had resumed his new school a sullen child. Gone was the care-free Ayo. Awele became his only connection to the life he was once a central part of and only when he was with her would anyone find a smile on his face. By the time she was completing her primary education, Ayo was getting ready for his senior secondary education.

Not long after, she had been enrolled into Queen’s College which was a far distance from his secondary school. He realized he could no longer sneak around to see her in school as he had done in her primary school. But his admission into the University of Lagos changed that. It meant he could always stop at QC to see Awele.

Then Ayo met Salewa and he could see everything his sister was and more. And again a lot changed with him. He had found someone outside his sister who could understand him. Someone who didn’t have to wait for him to say anything to know what he was thinking. They were really good friends, at least that was the front they kept among their other friends. However only he and Salewa knew there were sparks in there somewhere. His friendship with Salewa changed a lot of things. She knew he was carefree but the expectations from his father put pressure on him and on some days his smiles were far. But with her and Awele, it was easier for him to laugh.

No one knew he and Salewa were more than friends. A lot of times, he had overheard friends and class mates saying that Salewa was a lesbian and that the only man they ever saw her with was Ayo. He always laughed when whispers like that came to him. Salewa was a voracious lover. He knew that for sure. This time, a big smile came to him. It was an easy laugh. He let it out just as easily.
His mind went back to another time. He was nine. He had returned from playing football at the field just opposite their home when he overhead his mother speaking with his father.

“You know Osaron I had wished Ayo was a girl when I first held him. I so wanted Mama to come back to us.”
“Our mother returned to us, Omo”, he replied. “She only came as a boy”.
“If he were mother, she wouldn’t come as a boy”, she replied.
“He is such a handsome boy. I think we should have given him a name of his own, instead of imposing Mother’s on him”, his father affirmed.
“I agree, we should”, his mother replied as if reading her husband’s mind.
It all made sense to Ayo then. The jokes Ayo’s classmates made of his name. How they said it was a girl’s name. They made fun of him. And one day, when he had had enough, he changed the name on his notebook to just “Ayo” and he had punched anyone in the face who so much as snickered behind his back. But that day, he realized he was not the child his parents wanted. They wanted their mother back and he came. He was supposed to be a girl.

A week later, he had found Awele crying from her favourite toy missing an arm. In no time at all, he had her laughing again. Their father had walked in on them. “Abomination”, he had shouted as he looked disdainfully at Ayo who was in one of their mother’s clothes which they had both made into a cropped top over his chest. Two weeks later Ayo was on his way to King’s College and it was the last time Ayo ever played dress up.
It’s been two weeks since Awele went missing. Four days since she was put on a bus along with 12 other girls to begin their trip to Europe. She had been sold to a prostitution ring and her new buyers will hear nothing of calling her parents for a ransom. She would work her way to freedom, they had decided.

For Ayo, it’s equally been two weeks. Two weeks since he decided, until Awele returned, he would be the daughter their parents had always wanted. The daughter Awele would have been if she was home. Mr. Ofure had denounced him immediately, refusing to habour an abomination in his home. “No son of mine will live in my home a girl”, he had announced furiously. Their mother had been inconsolable.

Salewa had gone back to Twitter and posted “My boyfriend is now a girl. His sister is still missing. My bad, make that “her””. Already she boasts of over 10,000 retweets with even more mentions and replies. Retweets are still counting.

Written by Taiwo Odumala
©July 2017


A Different Kind of Fall

“I wish I was 16 so I can know what it feels like to fall under anointing too” I hear Biola say in that childish grating voice of hers. Gradually, I stir from my fall, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the sunlit room. Biola is my 14year old younger sister. I hold my head gently as a wave of headache slammed me. Slowly I shake my head trying to recollect what happened and how I came to be on the bare cold cement floor of our new church.

“You were in a trance,” Biola says as she looks down at me from her upright position in front of me. “What does it feel like?” “Did you see Jesus?” “What about those Ogbanje spirits? Mummy said maybe they are the reason you talk in your sleep on those days we played much.” “Does this mean you’re no longer one of them?” On and on came the battering questions as I try to shake off the ache pounding the back of my head.

But what I really am is hungry. I hear my tummy sigh in agreement as Biola runs towards the back of the church building to get my parents. You see it has been days I had any real food as the last 6 days has been about our yearly Family Restoration Week. Usually during this week, the entire family engaged in series of prayers to ward off evil, pray for blessings and do things together to strengthen the family bond. I particularly like the Restoration week because it is that one time when we children get to eat anything we like.

But this year was different. Mummy said it will be an entire week of Fasting; the first three days without food and water. Fourth and fifth day, we will have water alone. By Day Six, we’ll have fruits and on the seventh day, we’ll have family prayers in church which will mark the end of the Week after which we can go back to our normal diet.

Usually we children were not involved in Fasting. However when I went to the kitchen the morning the Fast began, I couldn’t find my food. Mummy said I’m a big girl and only Biola and Segun would not be allowed to Fast. Biola said she didn’t believe I’ll see the Fast through as I love food too much and she dared me to prove her wrong.

So here I am, six days later with only two days of water and one day of fruits in me, ready to let my parents believe I fell under the intensity of prayers rather than tell them I fell because I hadn’t had food in six days. I look up to see my parents approaching, Biola is right behind them. I hear Pastor Sola shout Hallelujah in that frenzied way of his, praising God that the demon has left me. I close my eyes in exasperation as I hear mummy say; “Oh! God you are great. Thank you for saving my baby”. At that, I slowly let myself fall back to the ground.

The Things You Thought You knew

As Bayo left the house that afternoon, you saw the spring in his steps as he headed towards the Red Toyota Camry packed just outside the building. At first glance, you saw a gentleman. Another look at him didn’t tell you he has a wife and two beautiful boys at home as he wasn’t one to put on a wedding band. Many a time, you’ve seen ladies stare at him with hearts in their eyes. You noticed that Bayo wasn’t extraordinarily good-looking with his thin lips, large nose and squinting eyes. But when he smiled, he could be the most beautiful being as the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes beckoned you to just live in the magic of that radiant smile.

Unhappy woman lying on a couch
Unhappy woman lying on a couch

Everyone called him a wife beater. You too have heard the screams and shrieks coming from the room he shared with his wife. As if those weren’t proof enough, almost every other day, you saw telltale signs on his wife, Teni. The black eyes ill-covered by layers and layers of concealer, the almost blackish two lines that seemed a permanent tattoo on the side of her neck as well as the obvious limp in her step all of which weren’t there before.
But that afternoon, all you saw was the good-looking Bayo in a deep-blue Polo shirt with matching shorts and nice brown sandals. His appearance was of someone out for a fun afternoon. You saw him debate with himself for a while before he went back into his apartment.
Earlier you had seen his wife get back from her mother’s place where she had gone visiting. She had told you she was visiting the night before when you met at the supermarket.
What you however didn’t see was Bayo coming back out of the apartment and sneaking back in through the Kitchen which was at the back. You didn’t know he had to quietly sneak into the room he shared with his wife to get his wallet from the pair of trousers he wore the day before. Neither did you hear Teni call “Bayo” as she entered their room in that graceful way of hers- the one that bellies her limp. You didn’t see him almost jump out of his skin in surprise while he watched her pick up the vase by the bedside, testing its weight.
You didn’t hear her ask “Where are you going, Bayo?” without a trace of emotion in her voice.
You didn’t hear him say “Oh Teni, not today please”, almost pleading in that sultry alto voice that reminded you of melting ice cream.
You didn’t see her eyes go darker as he said that. You didn’t sense him quickly gauge the distance between himself and the door knowing only by sheer fate would he reach it before the vase in her hands sought him out.
You were not there when he gently walked towards her, choosing his words carefully as he said, “Teni, it’s just a hangout. You can come too, if you want. But it’s…just a hangout.”
You were not there when their 4-year old son walked into the room, crying; giving Bayo a chance to escape.
What you also didn’t know was that Teni wasn’t the victim. Bayo was. Bayo was the one who almost got scarred with a steaming Iron because he didn’t pick her call while in a meeting. He was the one who had narrowly dodged the kick she threw his way, dislocating her knee in the process. Bayo was the one on the receiving end of a thrown knife that had chipped the wardrobe door and one of the pieces had flew back at her, almost blinding her in the process.
Bayo was the one who had learnt to run when Teni was overcome by the very thing she had sworn not to be- a woman who beat life out of her husband like her mother did.
But you only heard the noise from the room and saw the scars on her.

Thursday Shenanigan: Is Your Daddy’s Money Yours?

Here’s a scenario. Two friends are discussing plans for a friend’s wedding whose Aso ebi costs 20k. Friend One says, “I don’t think I’ll be paying for Aso ebi because what I have is money saved up for school”. Friend Two says, “How much is 20k that you can’t pay”. Friend One says “20k is much o. I’ve been trying to save up for fees since last year and even though I met the mark some months ago, I don’t think I want to spend the extra on Aso ebi I may never wear again”. And Friend Two goes “How come you’re the one paying your fees? Can’t your dad pay? Tell him na. Why are you stressing yourself when he can easily give you?”. Oh, and the issue of Aso ebi, that’s matter for another day but I digress.

So I begin to think. This person has attended primary school on parents’ money. Secondary school on parents’ money. University, parents paid. Then post graduate, you expect them to pay again? It’s not the expecting that’s baffling, it’s the sense of entitlement that comes with that expectation. Aye ma le o… Did your parents come to the world to live and die for you? Yet people like that start working and only send their parents a token of what they get. Some mosques/churches even get more from most people than parents of those people do. Or how many of us really send 10percent of our earnings to parents every month? But we’ll eagerly do so for churches or mosques because “Tithes are a must”.

Growing up, my parents always made it clear; whatever money you didn’t work for, is not your own. Our money is not your money. If we give you, it’s because we want to. Not because you are entitled to it. I guess the definition of work in their time and mine are two generations apart. I think 50 Cent’s “Have a Baby by Me Baby, Be a Millionaire” predicted a new kind of profession for this generation. Or how else can one explain the Baby Mama profession of most ladies this generation? You should listen to that song again.

Moving on, I can only think of one, two, maybe three people who ever ‘dashed’ me money. In fact, my father is a staunch believer of whatever life you want to live, you should pay for it. Bills, lifestyle, the whole hog. So till date, if I get a money dash, I find it weird. Like in my head, I’m thinking, did I work for this? How much help have I offered this person to deserve this? Oh, before you start thinking, “this one no like money o”. Please I like money, I like it better when I’ve earned it. And before you think I’m rich, that’s not it either. (it’s been years my parents gave me anything that can be converted to liquid cash). Like you, I dey hustle. Besides, there’s nothing sweeter than spending money you worked for.

I know sometimes you’re fresh out of University and your parents decide it’s not yet time for you to join the workforce as they’d love for you to go for a postgraduate degree, which they’d gladly pay for. That’s fine. They chose to. But when the child’s attitude to that is the feeling entitlement and being unappreciative, then that’s just bad behaviour.

In my opinion, to raise kids with the idea of parents’ money is theirs is us not preparing them for adulthood and all its messiness. For one, these kids because they know Mummy or Daddy will always pay (or be there) will have little or no idea about money management. Then as a parent, you work all your life so you can retire and leave your kids well-off only to realize later in life that they had squandered everything because they didn’t know how to manage their lives without you.

I think parents should once in a while give their kids a long rope so they can begin to make certain decisions themselves. That way you begin to prepare them for a future of true independence.

So what do you think; is your daddy’s money yours?

#StoryTime: Joy At Christmas

“A bi olugbala kan fun wa…,” the children sang happily and Caroline watched with pride as her son, Dimeji presented his gift to Baby Jesus in his school’s Christmas Play. “He looks just like his father,” she thought. If only he were here to see him.

Dimeji’s father, Dare hasn’t been to the school carol in years. Truth be told, the family had grown distant in the last few years. Dare was always either out of the country on business trips or he was busy supervising the Real Estate contracts that his company managed across the country. At least, those were his excuses. Either way, Carol made up for his absence by being there for Dimeji.

But Dimeji wasn’t the only one in need of attention. Dare, the few times he was home, rarely noticed Caroline. Four years ago, she went natural with her hair. He hadn’t noticed the change, something he had wont to in earlier times. He hadn’t looked at her as his love in years either. Now, they’re just strangers living together. She knew a woman was involved but she wasn’t one to bring up the topic. Until last night.

“Who’s she?” she asked him as they both prepared to sleep.

“Who’s who?” he asked. It was the third night in a row he had come home and early too.

“Clara.” She continued

The answer came enclosed in silence. At first, she thought he hadn’t heard her. But his voice came up just then.

“She’s someone you shouldn’t know about.”

Her head erupted in steam and her heart broke at the confirmation. Clara was the reason Dare had no time for their family.

She looked at him with eyes glistening with tears. She should be throwing things at him, cursing him. Instead, she said calmly, “I still love you, Dare, and I’m willing to fight for us, to make it work even but I can’t do it alone. I can’t fight for two.”

Dare was lost for words. How could she be so willing to forgive? To give him a second chance?

“You don’t have to say anything now, tomorrow is Dimeji’s school play. If you come, then I’ll know you still want us.” With that, she bade him goodnight, even though sleep was far.

Now, she’s holding her breath. It’s make or mar. This play is the deciding factor. Just then she felt someone slip into the seat beside her. She looked up and a big smile appeared on her face. It was her Dare. He had come.

#StoryTime: A Hand From Within

It was a hectic day at work for Ade who is a Senior Manager at an Integrated Marketing Company in Lagos. Despite the stress, she made it back home early enough to catch her daughter, Princess, finishing up her assignment while her older cousin, Seun, monitored her. It was 7:30pm.

Seun being an ultimate poster child, always did what needs to be done without being told. In fact, Ade knew that if not for the presence of the young teenager in her home, she would have had to pick up her daughter every day at her mother’s because she was averse to the idea of housemaids. And since her schedule is most of the time unpredictable, that meant not seeing her child days at a time and she wouldn’t have any of that.

“Sade is good with Princess”, she thought as her eyes watch both girls; one older, the other with worship in her eyes- the way a little girl can only look at an elder sister. “As if she were my own daughter”, Ade mused.

Like a cat catching the scent of Fried Fish, Ade perceived the scent of Fish Pepper-soup wafting out of the kitchen which Seun went into just then. She blessed the day she ignored her friend’s advice to get a maid to help in taking care of her child. Instead of having stranger in her home, she’d rather have family.
“Family is worse, it won’t be easy getting them out of your home when shit happens”, Yinka told her when she mentioned it last year at one of their weekly catch-up.
“Family is everything”, Ade replied Yinka.

Just then, she heard her husband’s car enter into the premises. Soon enough, he came into the house with his keys dangling in one hand and his bag in the other. “Hi darling,” he beamed in that way he does with her. She blushed and moved right into his arms to give him a quick kiss on the lips. He didn’t linger as he hurried into their private bathroom to wash off the grit, and of course, road rage, which has become the new deal in Lagos. His mother always said there’s nothing a cold shower and good sleep can’t fix. She was right.

That night after dinner, they all sat as one big happy family watching TV. Usually, at that time, Princess would be asleep, even more so if the next day was a week day. However that night, she was up- bright-eyed too. Not like most kids are when they are trying not to sleep so that their eyes were half-slit. Ade soon asked Princess to go to sleep but Eze urged her to let her be since the next day was a Saturday.
Just then, Ade caught a scene in the movie which was showing on TV which she hadn’t really been focused on as she lay half-awake half-asleep with her head snuggly resting on Eze’s lap. Seeing Joy Bryant and Michael Ealy in explicit sexual position in About Last Night, she promptly whispered to Eze to change the channel.

Princess spoke up just then, “Mummy, so white people do that thing too.”
“What thing, darling?”, Ade asked absentmindedly as she concentrated on the news station, Channels, trying to catch the details since Eze just tuned in.
“That thing that Aunty Seun does to me in Church, every time she takes me to pee, or when we are alone at home.”, Princess replied.
This time, it was Eze who asked in that firm husky voice of his.

“What thing, Princess?”
Princess stood up, walked to the table at the centre of the room, picked up the TV remote and changed the channel.
“That thing”, she replied innocently pointing at the screen.

Ade and Eze both looked at the screen, to the scene unfolding before them, where Michael had his head between Joy’s leg while she writhe in ecstatic delight; slowly dawning on them that their daughter had all the while been left in the hands of a teenager who has been touching her in all the wrong ways.


If na you, wetin you go do? *Let the comment section overflow*