My mother never


My Mother never told me about ever jumping off a moving train in hot pursuit of a thief.
Grandma Did you  know?
Ahn Ahn – did you not know?
Nooo! I did not know oh!
Mummy never said.
Your mother was a student at the time and was travelling to Yola from Kaduna. I told her to give me her school money to keep because they are many thieves on the train , she refused, and put it in her bag.

It was while we were arguing about it, that a thief snatched her bag.
Your mother wasted no time, she immediately took off after him. I ran after her screaming ‘thief thief’ Catch that thief! –
To avoid being caught, the thief jumped off the train as it slowed down,  but he had stolen from the wrong person, because your mother jumped off too, and so did I.

What! You too!
Ha, I was quite fit in those days my dear.

Your mother caught up with the thief and started fighting with him. I joined in, thinking that we could over power him, but he turned to me in the struggle and latched his teeth and bit so hard into my breast, causing it to bleed profusely.
That is how I got this scar.


And the man cried…


Slowly, as though in a dream, my vision at first blurred, focuses
on the wet red tomatoes across the roadside in front of me. I am fascinated by the
beads of water with tiny bits of sunlight glistening on them.  I stare at the woman screaming at passersby to
buy her tomatoes and ata rodo, she reminds me of a female Buddha, with her
slits for eyes and rotund figure.

I cannot remember how, and when I got here, I do not know
why I am seated here  on the pavement,
next to the gutter. My freshly starched white kaftan is smeared with mud, shit,
and all sorts of rubbish.

“Meeeeeriiiiiilllaaaand! Ojotajotajota”!

“Ojota –ketu-mile12”!

“Ikeja insideeeeee

It is rush hour and everywhere around me I see tired, angry
and anxious faces, impatient to get home.

Motorist blare their horns in competition, commuters stand
in endless queues waiting for buses.

I feel removed from the scene before me, I feel numb, I feel

Nightfall slowly approaches, yet I’m still perched at the
roadside, inhaling the pungent smell emanating from inside the gutter , I
glance in at  the thick paste of
blackened sand and floating pure water wraps, entangled with pieces of broken
glass, sticks,  and all manner of debris and
a blackberry…

As I stare at the blackberry, recollection floods my mind.

I feel  hot and cold
all at once, my pulse begins to race, my heart pounds like a samba drum.

I start to sweat, even though  it’s a chilly evening.

I remember how my morning started, bright and happy, a warm
kiss from Nkem , a hug from Obi and a cup of coffee -black, just the way I
liked it.

We made plans to spend the day playing football at the park.

I remember Nkem’s
tearful phone call.

I listened as her voice trailed off and my mind retreated to
that  place where everything is dark and
warm,  where’s  there is no pain, feelings or thoughts.

We will never play at the park.

I will never see his eyes squinting at me, or hear his
mischievous laughter.

I will never watch Ben 10, Samurai jack or Dexter’s

I will never feel him crawl into our bed at night because he
had a bad dream or was frightened by the storm.

I will never hold the warm body of my obi in an embrace or
feel  his wet sloppy kisses on my cheeks.

My Mother…


Mother died two days ago. I stood there helplessly watching
her as her breathing gradually slowed down and her heart stopped beating.

A strange calmness came over me, everything seemed to be in slow motion, and I took stock of the scene before me. Everything around me was chaotic, everybody was suddenly playing a role in this bizarre nightmare that had suddenly become our reality. Mother was on the hospital bed, suddenly looking like a peaceful child who had fallen asleep, her hair woven to the back in the exact same hairstyle I had on, her wrapper tied loosely around her waist, she had no blouse on. On her right side sat my sister Agnes, pulling at my mother’s hands, crying hysterically and asking her, imploring, demanding of mother, all at once to wake up so we could go home. Mother’s older sister, Aunty Helen instantly became a shadow of herself; she jumped up and slammed her head hard on the marble floor, twice.

I remember thinking at the time that it would be very bad
indeed to lose both my mother and aunt on the same day.  I calmly walked to my mother and began to arrange her clothes. I felt it would be wrong to cross to the next world with her wrapper tied on her waist, without even a blouse. I reached out and picked her blouse from the bed and set about wearing it on her body.  I reached out to my sister and held her close to my bosom as she wept hot bitter tears.


Its 5 am, we are all gathered outside at the Military Hospital Yaba.

We have come to take our Mother to the village to bury her.
Agnes and I as the first two are responsible for dressing our mother. Before we enter the Mortuary, the mortuary attendants ask that we wait while they go in to make sure “they” are ready for us. They knock three times and pause for some minutes before proceeding inside. We huddle together, cold and shivering as much from the morning air as well as the close proximity to the dead. After a short while, my sister and I are ushered in. We step into another world. All around us are people who have departed this world; many are naked, men, women and children of different shapes, colours and sizes. They are naked, their faces frozen forever in death. I am frightened, shaken to my core, but I know that being the Ada, I have to be brave and strong, even if inside me, I am shaking with fear and screaming for my mother to wake me up from the nightmare which I have found myself.

We approach the slab where her body lies, and I stare and stare. The person who lies here isn’t my mother. The body is hers, the hairstyle is hers, but her face is not my mother’s face. It has the same frozen frown, the look the dead wear. I touch her skin, and it feels icy cold, no longer soft and supple as I remember it to be, I try to lift her arm, but alas, it is terribly heavy. I am greatly disturbed. Up until this moment, the reality of her death hadn’t hit me. To calm myself down, so I can function, I start chatting with her, as though she can hear me. I believe in my heart, that she can. We finish dressing her up, I apply makeup on her face and by the time we were through, her face has a smile on it! In wonder, I turn to my sister and ask her “Is that a smile I see on mother’s face? Or am I imagining things?” To which she answers, “It is indeed a smile”