The Boy Almajiri


Yanju’s day started with his bicycle. He rode it all the way to Ilupeju where his mother owns a small kiosk. He helped her get ready everyday before he goes to school. Today was no different. As he rode in the early morning traffic, he steered expertly away from motorists most of whom were already familiar with the boy as he pedalled, sharing a wave here and another there. His cream-coloured school shirt already taking the colour of the sand gathered on the side of the road.

***

Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!..

It was the call to prayer from the main mosque loudly breaking the silence of dawn as Ahmed grudgingly roused from sleep. The night before, Alfa had decided the boys weren’t bringing in enough for their keep. He had threatened to hand over a handful of them to Alhaji Sule if they didn’t come back to the school at the end of the day with enough money for 3 days’ upkeep. Ahmed had been scared. It was open secret among the boys that Alhaji Sule used boys as a man would use a female. The boys who had been unlucky enough to experience it had not remained the same ever since. Something was just off about them, something Ahmed couldn’t exactly put into words.

Ahmed was one of the older boys in the Goje Arabic school. With the announcement, he had gathered a few of his friends and some of the more industrious younger boys and one by one, they had disappeared into the famous Suleja market. The Sun had risen with intensity. Sweat was soon streaming down their backs and it wasn’t even 7:30 a.m yet. They had agreed to start there at the market. Begging, harassing, threatening and if it came down to it, stealing. Anything so long as they escaped Alhaji Sule. Alfa had told them it was haram to steal. But didn’t Alfa also say Allah’s curse is on the man who commits adultery? Perhaps it’s not adultery if it’s a man and another man doing it.

“Astaghfur llahi”, Ahmed whispered. He didn’t want to commit sin with his thoughts. Thoughts of going against Allah’s will must be a sin. Allah sees our thoughts. “Astaghfur llahi”, Ahmed said again, this time loudly.

*****
Yanju soon noticed the sky. The Sun which had been fierce earlier that morning was gradually receding behind a film of clouds in the distance. It was going to rain. He pedalled at twice his prior rate. He needed to get to the kiosk and then, school before the rain poured. The wind was gathering.

******

The Goje boys were having the time of their lives in Suleja market. While walking through the throng of shopping crowd, Ahmed had pushed a woman mindlessly . The woman had turned around sharply and confronted him. It was obvious she wasn’t from around. Her uncovered hair and caramel-coloured skin stood her out like a sore thumb. How dare she confront him? Wasn’t she supposed to lower her gaze? If she had would she have known it was he who pushed her?

The ruckus had grown fast. Like wildfire. The boys had gathered round the woman and begun taunting her. A crowd was looking. The woman looked angry and kept speaking in that language Ahmed had heard Alfa speak sparingly with visitors. She kept pointing fingers in his face as the taunting continued. But something happened with her face – a dawning. Soon Ahmed saw her running so fast as if chased by a ghost, out of the market. She had dropped her purse in the hurry. It wasn’t stealing if the owner dropped the purse. Or was it? Ahmed quickly picked it up before any of the other boys found it. He counted 3 One Thousand Naira Notes. That’s the largest amount he had ever held in his hands. Alfa would be really proud.

****

The rain was pouring now in torrents. ‘Yanju had found a shelter to wait the rain out. the shop looked like its owner hadn’t come around that morning. ‘Yanju was late for school. He could tell by the dwindling number of cars on the road. Earlier in the mornings meant more traffic. The later in the day it gets, the fewer the vehicles to be seen, until the early or late afternoons when it’s rush-hour again.

****

“Ahmed”, Danjuma called out as Ahmed ran to cross the road…

****

‘Yanju heard a voice call out. Thunder rumbled as he heard the name “Ahmed”. The voice came from very close to him, like the caller was standing right beside him. Yanju looked around to see if someone else was hiding in the shed. But he was alone. Yet he had heard the voice loud and clear. It was an unfamiliar voice, yet it sounded familiar. And he had heard it loud and clear. He saw the boy Ahmed as he made to cross a road. The road was strangely unfamiliar. Thunder struck this time. He saw so many boys on the road, all dressed in tattered clothes, which they had obviously outgrown. They all held out a bowl, approaching people he did not know. Except the boy called Ahmed. He didn’t look any different from thing e rest. Only he had no bowl in his hand…

****

Ahmed told Danjuma about his early morning find with excitement in his eyes and together they went to find food. The money was enough to buy both of them a week with Alfa. Ahmed could not stop talking about his find. the boys looked in envy at the huge fortune that had smiled on Ahmed.

****

The rain was subsiding. Yanju decided to wait a few more minutes before he continued on his way to school. Thunder struck again.

Some boys gathered round the boy. He saw them make for his pocket. He saw the boy try to fight. Another boy was with him. Fighting. Yanju saw nothing else. The group of boys started walking away. Behind them, two boys stayed unmoving.

He recognized the boy Ahmed. A piece of paper flew through the wind. It was a Thousand Naira note. The two boys held something in their hands. A Thousand Naira each. The rain started again.

****

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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?

Monday Gone Wrong or Just a Book of Subs


I woke up this morning all shades of blue, never mind that that’s my favourite colour and it’s what I’m wearing at the moment. Music is not helping either as Fisayo has been on the Monday morning flow with his playlist. So maybe I simply need to rant. So here I am, trying to rant.

My Keni and Basi told me I give off different vibes to different people and as such it’s easy to misunderstand the kind of person I am. So this is about clearing doubts, in case you have some. Soyinka once wrote that a Tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. It pounces. Sir, I disagree. In today’s confused world, sometimes a tiger has to announce (shout sef, in case the jungle no wan hear) its tigritude.

So here goes.

I am a home person. I too like house. So night clubs, house parties, night parties are not my thing. You will not find me there. Except the house party is not the 18+ kind and the invitation is from someone I trust explicitly. For those that think being homey is equal to Cook. Big lie. I cook for only two reasons. One, I like food and that includes knowing what goes into my food. You will rarely find me eating junk (Pizza is the exception sha) Two, there’s a joy that comes with keeping bellies full. I like that feeling. But this second reason is on rare occasions. So if you ever come visiting and I offer you food (something that is not noodles), you are special.

That said, I know we all have our troubles and demons and fears. Some of us are quite adept at keeping them under wraps and when they hit, we crawl up somewhere to sort them out before we re-emerge again. and that’s fine. Some look to other people to help them figure things out and keep them on the straight, and that’s fine too.

However there’s a problem when people think being your friend is a favour or that friendship should not be mutually benefiting. Some will ‘flash’, and while you’re thinking what could be wrong, and you call back,  they go “Mo ni kin ki e ni” (I just thought to say hello). A flash passes that message how precisely? One thing I’ve learnt, if someone really needs something, they will call.

To everyone out there pulling Machiavelli stunts, una sef follow. If you are the kind that notes how many people buzzed you daily, you’re part of the problem. Then there are the ones that change DP and tell their friends, “You’ll see now, so and so person/people will be the first to ping to ask what’s wrong. Just watch.” Just because people care doesn’t mean they want extra something from you. For some of us, it’s just being nice. You know how they say “be nice to people, you never know who is contemplating suicide”? Ehn oh, we are simply trying to save you from killing yourself. But if for that reason you’re getting the I’m-Obama vibe, please don’t let us stop your greatness. *In Sound Sultan’s voice* Na only you go teach yourself.

Then there are those who keep their mouths shut about what’s going on with them but when it comes to you, they want to hear everything. The moment you hold back certain information, they go begin vex. Some will even say you have Igberaga (pride). You no talk but you want make I talk. How na? Where that one take dey happen? In this world, you get as much as you give. And sometimes, you don’t get anything. Sometimes there are no returns on investment.

I’ve been told I’m the most boring person alive even though I’m nice. Always in my comfort zone, very private yet quick to make friends. Those close to me know I can gist from now till tomorrow. But the moment you start feeling important, all the best fam. Iss nor fight. Who I am is dependent on you. If you’re boring, I will be boring. Ati bee bee lo. But note, I will not go out of my comfort zone to please you if I know you will not do same for me.

Shout out to everyone who has been keeping it real from go. The ones that when they buzz or you meet, even though you haven’t talked in a while, you talk like the last time was just yesterday. I’m happy just knowing you all are doing great wherever you are and that’s more than enough. Keeping daily tabs on people is not my thing. So that the once in a while I check on you, it’s really sincere.

Anyway, it’s the season of change. Change for the better. Don’t be left behind.

PS> Part two is coming. Time to correct certain attitudes and social behaviour.

Oh finally, the Lunch lady is here!