ANEESAH by Sobur Olalekan

ANEESAH by Sobur Olalekan


by Sobur Olalekan

Aneesah – Second Runner-up of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

When I had my first daughter, I saw Aneesah in my sleep for seven days.

Sometimes she was a child of six or seven, fashionably dressed in a pink gown that stopped at her knees and gave way to a pair of black leggings.  For her wrists, there were always a plastic bracelet and a pink watch. In the last image of her that’s left in my memory of her childhood, of our childhood together, she wore that same gown, she wore the watch and the bracelet. I remember. It was at an international airport and only a pair of toy glasses that made me laugh so hard at her were missing in the dreams. Sometimes she appeared as an adult, as the beautiful adult I had only seen on Facebook. And because she always stood in total silence, her sad brown eyes staring at me with an unblinking stare while her eyebrows slowly reddened until the they became like a lump of solid blood, both of her appearances were equally scary.

Both of her appearances – as a child and as a beautiful grown lady – made me break out in sweat and on waking up, drained of all energy. Both of them made my fingers tremble so fast I had to muster all the energy left in me, ball them into a fist, sob uncontrollably into the pillow, and wait for my late father’s voice saying “The greatest sin in this world is the theft of all things that cannot be returned. A man’s life, his honor. Anything that cannot be returned.”  

I stole things that cannot be returned. Her name was Aneesah. I was nine, she was four. Then, ten and she was five. Then I was eleven and she was standing with me, her mum and my parents at the departure longue of an airport, holding her mum’s hand – my aunt – while she laughed and said to me “Baba Aneesah. Aneesah doesn’t want to leave you. Thanks for being a good cousin to her. I hope we can always visit Nigeria. We’ll miss you.”  

The therapist watched me as I sobbed into my hands and choked on my words. She waited patiently through the silences that came between my words, silences cold and hollow, dense with a special kind of guilt, of shame. Silence, icy cold and heavy against my chest, in my lungs, on my tongue. Silence like a cloud filled with rain that never fell. Sometimes, the psychiatrist asked a question or two, carefully, and I had to ask myself in my own words, to feel the trembling of my voice as I scavenged tiny moments from my memories to find answers.

When I learnt that what I was doing was wrong? When did this guilt start?  Had I seen her in a dream before I had my daughter? I didn’t know it was wrong, or didn’t have time or a reason to think about it until the guilt started, until I saw her again ten years after she left. I saw her on Facebook, and by the time I saw the third picture, I couldn’t look any further. In the following days, the shame washed over me like some warm sticky liquid – it still does. Some days, I can feel the guilt rising from me, like steam, and forming a cloud around me. A cloud I can never find my way through. This is the first time I would see her in a dream.

Sometimes she nodded – the therapist – said I didn’t deserve the shame, I didn’t deserve the guilt tormenting me, I was only a child, but I was sure she didn’t believe herself. That was only what therapists are supposed to say. I thought about all the sexual abuse victims who would have sat on the seat I was occupying and now, here was the kind of human who caused their suffering. I searched behind her glasses and I thought I saw hatred, disgust. I think I saw what I expected to see. She finished “You’ve been this way for five years. I do not think you can possibly forget this part of your childhood anymore. This would take a lot of courage, but I think, at this point, that you need to see her and talk to her. It could help you. It is evident you can’t forget.”
I do not want to forget.



I saw Aneesah for three days after I saw the therapist. And in those three days, after I had woken up and finished sobbing silently into the pillow, I remembered the therapist’s words and planned my escape. I would write a book. I didn’t know about what, or how I would, but it would be for children. For children who would not have known what abuse was until they had their daughters, until they had their guilt, had their own dreams like mine. Then I would call Aneesah. I would tell her I needed to talk. I would still my body for whatever came after then.

On the eighth day, I held my daughter and brought her to my chest, sobbed silently into her shawl and gave her my cousin’s name. I called her Aneesah, and repeated my final words to the psychiatrist: I do not want to forget.




by Angel Nwobodo

Girls like you have no history – Second Runner-up of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

Women like us carry shame in our names – mother.

Your mother shows you pictures of her – the honey-gold beauty that is her skin, the thick docility tucked in her small body and your Father’s gaze lost in the fiery brown pits that are her eyes. You trace the line where their hands fold into each other, their bodies enclosed in a familiarity that confuses you, bewilders you. Your Father whispers something in her ear and she lets out a shy, mechanic laughter, something that rings in your ears later because you keep comparing it with the unrestrained summer that is your mother’s. Your mother sticks a knife where her mouth opens and you know she is carving a home for silence.


You see the next picture as you head to her shop at the mall, the one Father pays for each month with a cheque addressed to the manager, the one she pays for with his cooked meals and his starched suits and her wild-summer laughter behind closed doors. You see them with little moving pictures of themselves, three little boys with her honey-gold skin and her fiery brown eyes and your mother looks at you with regret because the image stuck to your body has no claim of her, you are all your Father.
This is the new woman in our lives, Ada. This is the solid proof of my shame.
Her voice is a deep shade of sorrow and you realize she has lost this war even before it started.

You will learn that girls with no homes tucked beneath their skin are like birds who never learnt to weave nests. You will learn it from your Father and you will learn it from your mother. You will remember this on days you crave for the laughter in your father’s voice and find nothing but empty memories.


You will learn that the truth changes nothing- each day your mother will appear with his cooked meals and his starched suits and a smile on her face like old paint peeling from walls because any fire can be quenched by the silence of a man’s face.

You will learn that you can surrender your consciousness for the taste of a man’s mouth, for the feeling that loving gives you, like your mother did.

You will realize that girls like you were not made to find love, that they are like ghosts, looking for love and for names and for histories in strange faces just to come to life. That your mother was one of these girls. That like you, she has no claim over your Father. That like you, she was only meant to fit her body in small spaces of light to get rid of her own darkness.

You will realize then, with grief so palpable your chest splits in two, you are the echo of your mother’s shame.




by Abu Bakr Sadiq

She forgets she’s a woman – First Runner-up of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

I’ve watched her body grow in leaps
Breaking the boundaries of sins unseen
Where women are forbidden to dream
Of stretching the cries on their hands to
She forgets the songs carved into her body
Hates to be reminded of the broken choruses
Her tongue had drawn her mind to death
Trying to keep to memory

She forgets she’s from a land of ashes
Where women are unfinished novellas
Written without titles
By sages who only spoke in silence


Some days, she unfolds into a song
Empties the gray haired lyrics
Bottled deep in her throat
On the circled edges of my heart
Until her voice is the only tune in my ribcage

She forgets the names tied to her neck
Answers to every noun too strong for vessels like her
Weak; she forgets her shadows in the kitchen
Allows her body to freely entwine
With the frozen smokes treading the skies


Some days, I want to envy her
But envy is not a song for men like me
The boys who taught me how to be a man
Said men are rap songs

With sounds of gunshots of their hooks
And lyrics jiggered by the rhythm of their messages
Who forget everything their bodies
Were never meant to be, and go chasing after
Women who’ve forgotten they are women


Some days, she cries her body to sleep
And calls it an act of bravery at dawn
Says that’s how women become men
Without asking who took the who


Out of the who whom their womanhood
Was ought to be defined by
A lot times, that’s how she forgets she’s a woman




by CJ Onyedikachi

My Father Hew Out Himself on My Skin – Winner of the 2018 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

& my body like the blue bed—called a man
to existence. My father’s mouth’s the size
of a Song thrush—I linger for his morning rhapsody.
The third time, in a year, he marks my body.
& he says these spots are love. A father’s
way of burning the little leech.
I wear his brooch of forms while I grow like a weed on a fence.
He says, sometimes, I am as mild as the sea
& haunting as Chucky. I relax
and days after it falls out like a nail unstable.
My father is a chap with grass blessing his
bed of pink flesh. He buys his seeds with naira notes
given. He blisters the nipples of
a female—not mother’s—& cast a joke about it like
a clown on a pearly stage.
He pours gin on a skull; he prays I find myself in a net.
He prays to his roots, but I’m clay in feet.
too much eyes on a fem boy.
It feels like night in my body. My father dies
in one of our conversations.
He’s like a child with fairy gifts. I turn out
like Blacks on a ship sailing to America.
My father builds dreams on a rainforest
like drought it dries.



Imole by Olakunle Ologunro (1st Position – Flash Fiction Category)

Imole by Olakunle Ologunro (1st Position – Flash Fiction Category)

Imole by Olakunle Ologunro (1st Position – Flash Fiction Category)

Flash Fiction Category

1st Position –  Imole by Olakunle Ologunro

Here you are, on a mat in your mother’s small, dark living room, wet with your own sweat, burning with an interminable fever. But it doesn’t begin here. Not really. So how does it—this dampness in your soul, this fading of your memories, this pain—begin?
Let’s say it begins your mother. Your mother, belle of the ball, wanter of things your father cannot provide. If it begins with her, then it must include your father, too. Your father, acquirer of things beyond him, husband of an exotic woman whose maintenance tag his clerk salary cannot settle.
Your parents said that it was love at first sight, that they met each other at the lobby of a banking hall in the nineties and had simply fallen in love with each other and married months later, but you learned later that this was not totally true. “It was your father that fell in love with me first,” your mother told you when you turned fourteen, when she flung a bowl of soup at your father because he could not buy her the imported Carossi shoes that was the new craze among Lagos socialite women.
She held you as she wept for the things she could have had, things your father could of course never afford, your father who answered Yessah! to boys he could have given birth to if he’d married early, your father who owns three shirts, two trousers and one tie, clothes he wears with the pious devotion of a Jehovah Witness persistently knocking on doors that were slammed shut in his face.
“You are the light of my life.” Your father’s first words when he held you the day you came into the world. But you did not know this, little baby that you were. You did not know that you were, to your father, everything your mother never was.
You, named Imole seven days after your birth, were an avenue for your mother to need more, to stretch your father thin, like elastic. Baby clothes from Macy’s or Kingsway, or nothing. Thirty thousand naira to buy diapers and wipes, or nothing. All these your father provided, sinking steadily into debts.
And then your father, neck-deep in debt, could not afford Carossi shoes to make your mother stay, your mother who was already one leg out the door. So she left, with a bag full of the things she’d bled your father to buy. With you.
End of your father’s chapter. Now, your mother’s.
To leave a man because of a pair of shoes was silly, yes, but your mother didn’t care. She’d always wanted to be set free, to fly, like a bird. So she flew, with you in tow; mother hawk teaching her daughter to walk. She flew straight into the bed of Alhaji Owoseni, pot-bellied, with rings of fat for a neck. And you followed her choicelessly, like a lady-in-waiting for the queen.
Alhaji was, as they say, rich as sekere, and this he clothed your mother in: Yards and yards of expensive lace. Imported hair so soft, so out-of-this-world. Jewelry enough to tempt a robber. Brassieres and panties so flimsy it seemed cut out of mosquito nets. And all these your mother soaked herself in, while your father pined for you, his happiness. And for her, the love he never stopped loving.
And then, Alhaji died while in bed with your mother. They had been going at it that afternoon, your mother yes-yess-yesssing, Alhaji ah-oh-ahhing. All of a sudden, Alhaji began to shiver violently, foaming at the mouth, white froth of saliva and things unknown. Your mother’s scream called you in, to see Alhaji’s penis, short and fat, standing up, like David on a fallen Goliath, to see her too, naked, her vagina fenced with wisps of curly black hair, her breasts already taking the downward slope home.
Your mother picked the nearest dress she could find: her boubou, and fled. The rest of the news you heard in bits: Alhaji was epileptic. Alhaji almost died. Alhaji’s wives would rip your mother apart if they ever set eyes on her. Your mother with her vagina like burial food. Ashewo olobo saara.
One question: How do you come crawling back into dirt after months of affluence?
Your mother swore she would not return. Never. So she became a street light, heavily bright by night, and sleepily unadorned by day. Your mother became a woman who pleasured other women’s men. With the money in her account from her time with Alhaji, she got herself a small apartment in town. This you stayed in and waited while she slept by day. And at night when she morphed into a streetlight, you began your own dreams.
Now, you.
You, sweet sixteen, with breasts as round as sweet oranges. You, flower-pretty, a carbon copy of your mother. You swore you would not be her, but would go out and, like your name Imole, be a light unto the world. You would be an actress or a singer or a writer. You would have fame and money so much that even a wave of your hand will rain money. You would bring your father back, make him become the man he had always wanted to be. You would fix your mother too, seal up the hunger in her belly with enough money and she would have all the things she wanted. You would be a light.
Until Sir.
That was what your mother called him the day she brought him home. This is Sir, she said simply. You thought she meant Sa as in Samuel but she said no, Sir as in Yes Sir.
Sir had legs as thick as tubers of yam. On his chest and up his neck was hair so dense, you could make wigs out of it. Sir enrolled you in college, paid your school fees and bought you underwear and earrings that brought out the glow in your eyes. Sir called you Delight and when you complained, he said that Light, which was the English form of your name was still there. You liked Sir. At least you thought you did, until the day your mother told you while Sir was out that Erm, she needed a car and Sir had promised to buy it for her, but … but he wanted something else in exchange.
Of course, you would not do it, you said to her and walked away, angry. But your mother, wanter of things beyond her capacity, never take no for answer. You ought to know this.
It happened while you slept. Your mother herself ground the tablets and poured them in your soup. And when you woke up to the sharp pain between your legs, dried semen on your thighs, you felt your light begin to dim, to fade.
Your mother got the car and you, a pregnancy. All of a sudden, the car didn’t seem to matter anymore. Your mother wept and tore at her braids and said, “Yeh! Temi baje.”
You wanted to stab her with a kitchen knife until your fingers were sticky with her blood.
Afterwards, Sir came and said he was sorry, that perhaps the condom tore or something. Your mother screamed, a scream that died when Sir wrote her a cheque. Minutes of whispered discussion passed, and then, Sir said he would be back. Your mother cuddled the cheque. You waited. One hour later, Sir returned with another man.
He smelled like stale bread, this man. He pulled down your eyelids and gave you a multicolored selection of drugs that looked like sweets. You swallowed, and while you were resting, lumpy blood ran down your legs. Pain shot up your belly and you screamed. Your mother herself drove you to the hospital, where it was said that Sir’s man gave you an overdose of the wrong drugs and these drugs would begin to corrode your womb. They would try their best, they said, but if only you’d not taken those drugs, perhaps things might not be complicated.
A medical way to say: begin to make funeral arrangements.
You lie on a mat in your mother’s house now, your belly too sore to hold anything down. Your dreams are slipping away. You are your own light, but in the harshness of your pains, the world is too dark to see anything. Beside you is your mother, you know that. Your mother, belle of the ball, root of your calamity. “You will be fine, my baby,” she says. You know you won’t. She has called your father, the same man she once swore she would never go back to. Your father will come rushing in thirty-eight minutes from now, eleven minutes and two seconds after you are dead. Your father will not meet any light. He will, instead, meet nothing but darkness.

Racing Stars by Okhuosami Umar (2nd Position – Flash Fiction Category)

Racing Stars by Okhuosami Umar (2nd Position – Flash Fiction Category)

Racing Stars by Okhuosami Umar (2nd Position – Flash Fiction Category)

2nd Position –  Racing Stars by Okhuosami Umar

For as long as I can remember, my mother had two wishes; to hold my hand on my wedding day and marry me off well- preferably to Abubakar; our Imam’s first son. Humble, handsome Abu who always had on giant specs and stood so tall, most people had to raise their heads to make eye contact.
By all definitions Mama was extra; her happiness as infectious as her anger, terrifying. She and Papa were on first name terms and spoke to each other only when necessary. She complained about everything; money, food, clothes, even his family. In times of anger, the veins in her neck popped up and her facial wrinkles deepened. Papa knew then to be quiet. As I got older and understood biology, I often wondered how they managed to make me; this frigid mismatched couple.
That Abu and I end up together was desired and ordered. As often as she could, Mama admonished me to pay greater attention to make-up and house-hold chores. “Bend properly and hold that broom. Your waist is not made of iron is it?” Other times, she’d look me over and take off my wrapper, retying it to the left: “It goes to the left. Nobody can say I did not teach you.” My complaints against this odd betrothal got weaker with time until I was wholeheartedly enthralled. Every Friday with a fast-beating heart, I wore one of my favorite jellabas and stayed behind for Muslim Students’ meetings. With all my heart, I wished someday, Abu would notice me even with as little as a nod but repeated stolen glances confirmed my suspicions. He did not fancy me.
Papa died in his sleep on a cold September morning two days before my fourteenth birthday. A vicious sandstorm caused formalities to be postponed till the next day. I don’t quite remember which was worse; the whirling, blinding haze or Mama’s insufferable theatrics. We had to show a proper level of grief. “Bring my scissors and mirror Hafsa” she ordered. I sat on the tiled floor between her corpulent legs, eyes shut and careful not to enrage her by any form of disobedience. Masses of rich black curly hair caressed my face as they fell enveloping me in an aura of what I considered naked ugliness. Quivering with sobs, I took off my pink flowery gown and covered the thin frame underneath in an oversize wrapper. Waves of hot harmattan air blew into our dimly lit room provoking a cough spasm and leaving brown dust on Mama’s favorite blue coverlet.
“Allah, be quiet. Your hair will grow back.” she hissed with disgust. Dry weather always put her in a rage. “You should be angry with your father, not me. What did I ever do to make him treat me this way?”
The words hung on my lips. Did she really expect him to defeat rabies? If she had not demanded pap at all costs that night, Papa would not have jumped our new neighbor’s fence and bang repeatedly on the deaf trader’s door only to get bitten by her mad dog. She should have insisted on taking him to the hospital even when family and friends said native herbs worked best. Dying is better than ceaseless barking anyway.
“Your classmate, Amina is getting married this weekend” Mama said shifting her stool so she could face me square, her face enclosed in a frown. I was home on holiday from university. She continued the speech, apparently reassured by my silence while I chastised myself for not making my visit shorter.
“Her mother invited me last week. I have sewn my aso-ebi and told my union people to prepare, that you and Abu are next.”
I grunted okay but my mother will never back down.
“Everybody is already talking about it. I keep showing up for people. When will they show up for me too?”
“Mummy I will not marry Abubakar.” I stared hard at her, eyes narrowed to slits.
If my warning was perceived, it had no effect as she simply ignored it. “And why won’t you? What is wrong with him? He has graduated, is working and Muslim.”
“Why? Perhaps, you can force him to marry me” I shouted, angry in spite of myself.
“Who do you want then? It is not as if you tell me anything. I have not heard you on the phone with a man since you came back despite my careful watch. Nor has one come calling. Do you think it is your books you will marry?”
This was my cue. I returned to school and cannabis. I was no addict. Only a little now and then to keep body and soul together.
Mama was ecstatic when she learnt I had graduated with my mates. She hugged me, crying and laughing at the same time. Her old, puffy cheeks against my youthful skin felt made a dream of heaven. For a moment, I imagined what it would feel like to stay this way forever; this old woman happy because of me. “You get your brains from me” she repeated over a dozen times. We invited friends, hired a caterer and bought souvenirs for the induction party. A night to my big day, Mama threw herself into hysteria.
“It’s nothing my dear” she said wheezing while I pleaded with her to confide in me.
“Your father should be here. First your brother- Ismail was stillborn and Mama had never mentioned him, now him. I cannot do this.”
“You can’t what ma?” I could hear my heartbeats and the unsolicited excuses I’d be making to friends on her behalf with a fake smile the next day.
“Sorry Hafsa but I am too tired. I must be ill. Oh, I am so unlucky” she wailed.
Nobody whistled loudly or clapped too long when the Head of Students called out: “Yakubu Hafsa.” That day marked a turning point in my relationship with Mama. We wouldn’t talk for years.
Time flew by and in June 2000, she texted me her diagnosis. We had a cold, formal relationship in place by then. I journeyed back to meet a withered lady in dirty, tattered clothes. When she smiled, the mouth sores were painful to see. The stench from her diabetic foot ulcer gave me goose bumps. Massive cobwebs dangled from the ceiling everywhere in the house. Rodents lived amongst her unsold wares.
I cleaned, burned the stock, washed Mama’s clothes, cooked her a healthy meal, dressed the wounds and drove to see a specialist. The town’s general hospital offered me a post which I accepted. At first, I missed the hustle of the big city terribly but soon came to appreciate the ordered, predictable nature of my work. Mama stayed on admission for four months. Following her discharge, we sat on the porch every evening and gossiped; about Abubakar and his three wives, the new set of stalls being built for which she will be named: “market Chairlady,” my promotion to Chief Laboratory Scientist and my future husband- our Imam offered his hand and I said yes although, Mama thinks he is too old.
The wedding held two days before eid. My friends from the city attended. I asked for the Qur’an as dowry. Mama wore a flowing brown jellaba and matching silver shoes. Her grey hair rolled in a knot, uncovered. I wore a maroon-purple jellaba and veil encrusted with tiny, shiny stones. My unruly hair was carefully oiled and combed into a bun. Black medium heels completed the ensemble. We did our make-up, she designed shapes with red henna on my fairish skin and held my hand as we trekked to the nearby mosque in a small group of family and friends. I became a married woman within minutes.
At the outskirts of our village far away from areas inhabited by men and crops, accessible only through a narrow path lined on both sides by frightful shoulder-high weeds, lies a patch of land ever so slightly undulating. There are no visible markers of any kind but my cousin swears he can point at both spots blindfolded. It often worries me that I will never know where Mama and Papa rest in their final sleep. I supplicate to The Merciful One on their behalf as I hope somebody would for me, when my turn comes. The moon will be a silvery orb tonight, glimmering from its fortress in the sky. Who knows, I might see those two chase each other again; the twinkling stars I can’t help but think, are Mama and Papa.


Okhuosami Umar Faruq is a biochemist who has a passion for writing fiction and essays in his spare time. He sometimes writes for microcosms fic and has works under consideration across several journals/magazines.

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