brown concrete cathedral


by Nicksha T. Mwanandimayi

According to the Oxford dictionary, ambivalence is the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone whereas equivocation is the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself. I think it’s fair to say that if you have read a couple of John Grisham novels,  watched CNN or Fox News since Donald Trump became the American president, you would be aware of phrases such as “Separation of State and Power,” “The First Amendment,” or “ Bill Of Rights.”

On the other hand, if you have lived on the African continent like I have for all my life, unless you studied law you would probably have no clue regarding the extension of power between the Church and State. What about Bill of Rights? In Africa, depending in which state you are in, the law and religion exist parallel with each other.

The state’s treatment of the church the world over is ambivalent. Routinely sidelined but recognised in the middle of a crisis especially when all hope seems lost, the church is like the bastard child in medieval England. Historically, the bastard was commonly referred to as a whoreson under normal circumstances. However, when the conditions required it, a post factum legitimisation of the whoreson would be convenient. The state’s treatment of the modern church isn’t much different from the way England’s history views William the Conqueror. With deaths and infection rates skyrocketing I read the following from the Vatican News, “Prayer is our greatest weapon against the virus.” Well, you had me fooled; I was convinced that someone said, “Science was our greatest weapon.”  People better start making up their minds. A month later after prayer had seemingly tarried against the virus, despite it being our “greatest weapon,” in the British Journal of General Practice, Charlotte Sidebotham had this conflicting attestation, “In the COVID-19 battlefield, language is our greatest weapon.” First prayer, now language? What is our greatest weapon against the virus then?

In a world void of absolutes, it’s easy to get lost and be blown aside by every wind of doctrine. On 8 April 2020, despite the Namibian Constitution unequivocally declaring the nation as a Secular nation, President Hage Geingob called for a day of prayer for the protection and welfare of Namibia against Covid-19. Having put the country under lockdown prior to a declaration of a state of emergency President Geingob requested, “churches who wish to participate, to ring their bells at 12h00 Noon on this day. All Namibians who wish to participate must unite in faith, humble themselves and lift their voices to pray for the protection and welfare of our country.”

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

What about the world’s greatest superpower with its infamous “Separation of State and Power?” On 13 March I found out there was such a thing as a House Chaplain when I watched a C-Span broadcast of Rev. Patrick Conroy leading the House in prayer primarily in response to the corona virus. Post factum legitimisation of the bastard child again? It seems as if the state had a love-hate relationship with the church. Not that the church hasn’t had its fair share of global dominance in years past. I always choose to live by the notion that you never judge a doctrine based on its abuse.

Everyone says children are sweet and cute, yet you would be considered a sadist if you were to judge a child based on their weak moments. The slimy vomit, unashamed excrement and yes, they intentionally wet their pants but for the better part they are the source of inexplicable joy. In our children we see a hope for a better tomorrow, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail for that whimper snapper. We endure sleepless nights through tantrums but giving up on a child isn’t an option. 

Unlike any child, the church is less than two millennia old and has made its fair share of mistakes. An orphaned child who had to watch the brutal and gruesome murders of her family, the church through faith, zeal and tenacity defied these odds to become a powerful domineering force to reckon with. However, the church erred along the way. In the modern world, if a church were an individual, they would be an inspiration to many, a yard stick of endurance. I dare say if the church was a child in the United States then they would be classified as the typical success story of the American Dream. Enduring beatings, hardships and historically verified persecution; the church also erred in its conduct. In society very rarely do we judge individuals based on their weaknesses but their strengths. We remember Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and all great men for their great accomplishments even though statistically speaking they failed more times than they succeeded. However, their successes outweigh the sum of their failures. At the onset of the COVID19 Virus, the church was a haven and believers and nonbelievers alike found common ground through prayer. Some prayed out of fear, some out of faith, some did not have a clue, however people were united through faith against a common enemy.


Remember how in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in the United States when an old school evangelist, Billy Graham was called upon just three days after the attack to bring hope to a nation and a world gripped by fear? Addressing millions of Americans and hundreds of millions the world over at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Graham an embodiment of the values of the church and its teaching, quoted the Bible, Psalm 46:1  ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Hope restored a form of closure to believers and non-believers alike, the church was a unifying force on this fateful day.

In times of crisis when all hope is lost, the law seems prima facie and with death staring in our face in the brink of extinction, humanity seems to always call upon the church.

brown concrete cathedral

On March 14, 2020, President Donald Trump in his speech cited 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  He further went on to say.’ “Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.” This calling on the church is bipartisan in the United States of America and in countries with a faith-based majority. The ambiguity though is in the detail. If the church is deemed to be the key cog when in crisis, why is its position in politics and in society ambivalent? If the church is essential amidst tragedy, why is it deemed a non-essential when it is time to rebuild? Often relegated to the back burner and ridiculed, paraded and deemed a necessity when the enemy strikes.

As we head towards the re-opening of the economies the world over, the very church which was called upon to fast is seeing hordes of individuals celebrating the reopening of restaurants and pubs whilst it’s deemed nonessential? If our scientific innovation mixed with the “weapon of prayer” were essential to the little progress we have made, why do restaurants and pubs supersede churches in the hierarchy of essential services?  One could even say to deny the church as an essential service is a disregard of human rights. Interestingly enough, people can be entrusted with going to the gym, attending pubs but are denied to gather in places of worship under conditions that are more favourable. 

History teaches us that for better or for worse, every time the church experienced persecution revival broke loose. The church is far more intricate than what people think. Whilst science offers tangible solutions and seeks corporeal answers, to most people in society the church is the source and nourishment of the incorporeal. The church isn’t as archaic as most progressives and liberals seem to think. The church didn’t catch up to science but science to some extent caught up to the church. The church knew, as evidenced in its earliest texts that our existence had a beginning and that space, time and matter are interwoven after all “In the beginning God created.” With a “scientific solution” to the current COVID Pandemic insight, the bastard is relegated to the pastures with the sheep whilst the legitimate sons ponder the future of the kingdom. As the prophet seeks to anoint the incumbent king, the bastard watches from a distance awaiting his time because as history continues to teach us, his time will yet come again. The bastard may yet be called upon to play another ballad for the incumbent king with his harp. The legitimate heirs will continue their equivocations. Regardless of the law’s ambivalence on the importance and role of the church, whenever a crisis arises the church owes it to itself to be a source of hope and throughout history when calamity strikes and the shepherd boy is called upon to play his harp and lyre, seldom does he remain silent.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


NICKSHA T. MWANANDIMAYI was Born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1985, a recipient of the Junior Budding Writers Association Award, he was featured in local magazines and was editor of The Johnian Echo. He published “Epitaph: Memoirs of a Cymbal,” which was ranked 16th in the Poetry genre on Amazon on 6 January 2020.

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

hallway with window


by Aisha Mohammed

Sometimes, I remind myself that I am only 18, that I have an old woman’s mind. That the spirit living inside my body is too impatient as it waits for my age and spirit to align. I know I am old. I accepted it a long time ago and this coronavirus pandemic has aged me even more.

My brother and I spent the first weeks in oblivion, unaware of what was to come. Zaria is a place frozen in time. I guess this is how local governments in Nigeria are supposed to be. Growing up, my life was woven around state capitals — Lokoja, Benin and Abuja. It explains why my hometown feels out of sync whenever I am in it.

COVID-19 was still a western problem. Esther and I would laugh about it with the rest of the members of the study group we joined at the beginning of the semester. We would mock the people of the west, their panic buying of tissues and their hysteric rants on twitter. We reduced their pain and the deaths the virus caused to mere hysteria. We did not care, we referenced the Ebola outbreak, the west didn’t care about it then. That’s what we were made to believe. It was easy to believe this. How could the descendants of colonizers care about Africa? It didn’t make sense to begin caring for somewhere you perceived a waste land, only good for raw materials.

Three weeks pre-COVID-19, I volunteered for the first-ever university SDGs summit in Nigeria. It had been a success. I was happy I got to be a part of it. Just after I came back from the mid-semester break, my lover called after deserting me a few days before valentine’s day- the worst day of 2020 I had ordered a cake and wanted to pay for it, only to find out my bank account had been wiped clean of all of the money in it, including the poetry prize I won. I would spend the rest of the year wondering and questioning bank records and my memory on how I could have spent 20,000 Naira in a day. Then, there was the two-week strike, a needed break from the overwhelming schedule of the third-year law schedule. My old spirit was as free as the wind. I attended Open Mics in Samaru, ate ice cream and walked barefoot to my hostel from the gates of Kongo campus on some days. I watched the third season of “Stranger Things” with my brother and befriended solitude. It was a strange friendship because I never thought I would experience such faux happiness. My small room on the second floor of hostel 3 became my haven, although solitude held me prisoner I never wanted to leave. I could move in and out of the room whenever I wanted. My spirit was able to fill up my emptiness with new experiences.

hallway with window

The coronavirus arrived in Lagos on the second day of the USDGS, a day after Murkthar said,

“Coronavirus coronavirus that’s in Lagos already, it’s on a danfo bus to Zaria sef” and we all laughed, we didn’t talk about the magnitude of damage it would bring in, perhaps some of us thought about it, but we assumed it would be another Ebola. It would remain in Lagos and become a Lagos problem. But the virus didn’t stop in Lagos, it became our problem, the federal government shut down schools and places of worship and I had to pack my purple suitcase to prison. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Kaduna with my lover. My father called, and I had to travel on Friday, no farewell ceremony to Kaduna or the lover.

Prison (Abuja) is a soulless place. Its tall skyscraper towered over the hills, and the rocks bordering its edges, serving as walls around the sprinklings of shrubs and greenery spread unevenly between and around the clusters of buildings and hills. I did not like what this place did to me and so I hated coming back to it, but it was home. This place ripped a hole in my chest with its smooth roads and pristine buildings. This time though, I came back slightly excited, resting from my busy schedule seemed nice at the time, the good sleep and proper food I had access to, was something my weary body needed. But two weeks in prison, I no longer had the choice of leaving my house to eat ice cream or visit any of my friends. I was forced to learn to distance myself from people. To be alone occasionally. February whispered to my spirit that my mind wasn’t okay. I began to relapse. Up until then, I never thought I had an anxiety disorder. A school counsellor once told me that I might have one, but I never gave it much thought. I would spend the days after in the pool of frequent panic attacks and finally, I would agree with the counsellor.

I eventually found a way to sate my spirit. I got a new counsellor; I got her contact from a friend on the team of She Writes Woman. A movement created to give safe spaces. I told this one everything- the pregnancy scare that almost became an abortion and my abuse at 13. I started praying properly again. Luckily, I started this during Ramadan, and I could no longer procrastinate and push Fajr prayer to 12 o’clock. My spirit stopped craving freedom; it came to terms with sitting in the semidetached flat on Chingola Street for long periods. It wasn’t easy sating my spirit, it didn’t like mingling and preferred solitude and being in the same house with 5 other people 3 younger than I am didn’t give me this. I had to always be there. I was responsible for everyone’s wellbeing; food, emotional support and my father’s daily fresh ginger tea. Controlling my spirit made my mind more stable I worked diligently to sew up its loose ends. One night amid the rising COVID-19 cases and insomnia. I realized what had broken my mind in the first place. After five years, my mind was no longer a puzzle of unnaturally scattered pieces.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


AISHA KABIRU MOHAMMED is a law student who spends most of her time writing and volunteering. She is the 2019 winner of the Andrew Nok Poetry Prize. She enjoys literature and watering her plant, Godiya.



Notes on Craft: Writing Habits

by Olakunle Ologunro

Dear Writer,

So, I am here again. This time though, feel free to whip me because what I am writing about, Writing Habits, is a principle I don’t even follow myself. Okay, maybe I used to follow it, but life got in the way. But then, should life get in the way of something you love?

From what I know of them, habits are a routine of behaviour that has become a part of you such that it occurs subconsciously. Here’s a story from my childhood. A woman in my area had a child who was fond of sucking her thumb. It was supposed to be a temporary behaviour, the way children pick up things and then discard them. But this child continued. On and on until she made a habit of the thumb sucking. She would sit alone and the next thing, she’d pop the thumb in her mouth. On her way to school, she had the thumb in her mouth. Sometimes, she fell asleep with the thumb in her mouth. Thumb-sucking became a habit for her.

You’re probably thinking, thumb-sucking and writing, what’s the connection? Well, the connection is in the habit, the constant repetition of it until it becomes something you cannot break.

A lot of people who are writers have writing habits. My friend, M, for instance, wakes up at dawn to write. I’m not sure if I can do that. I sleep too often and too much to wake up and be reasonable enough to write something readable.

For you as a writer, I don’t know what habits you have. But a common one often touted is that a writer must write everyday. Well, I found something interesting in the form of a Facebook comment which I’ll paraphrase: You don’t have to write everyday. I don’t know about you, but I find that my life as it is does not give me room to write as much as I want to. Besides, I procrastinate a lot which is quite shameful, but let’s give God the glory. Anyway, the comment continues: The idea that one can write for hours a day does not apply if you’re not a rich American novelist with a wife making your sandwiches. Thinking about your work is writing time. Reading is writing time.

I hope this comforts you. At least for a while.

I said at the beginning that I used to have writing habits. I’ll tell you about them now.

  1. Journaling: You know, keeping a diary and writing in it things that I found interesting. Or scenes from life and other things.
  2. Recording people: I used to own a small book with a brown leather cover. In it, I would write sentences I thought interesting, either something I thought up or one I encountered in a book. I would observe people too: how they spoke, what they wore, their carriage, their mannerisms, etc and record these things. For example, the sister in my church who punctuated her sentences with ‘like’ (I’m like no need because, like, children anniversary will soon come and you know, like, the children they em, like); the woman whose earrings were shaped like semicolons; the man who, when he spoke, always had a reason to run a hand across his head. I recorded bits of conversation too. Like that time when an announcement came up on the radio from a man who said he needed a God-fearing wife and my uncle said, “Person wey no fear God dey find God-fearing wife.” And sometimes, I recorded my environment too. The colour of the sky, the shape of a particular tree, the sound a particular thing made. If carried into the world of fiction, these things make your work true to life, honest. Here’s something from Teju Cole: It might be hard to believe that these things are interesting, but that is what your writing talent consists of: to make the ordinary interesting. In a field of unexceptional events, zoom in on the pungent detail.  
  3. Reading: There is no shortcut around this thing. You cannot be a writer without first being a reader. Read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. Read good books and bad books, because only then can you decide what you like and the things you don’t. And please, read interviews too. Interviews are very important, and I honestly find it sad that I don’t read enough of them. In interviews, one is exposed to the author: their opinion about certain things, but more importantly, the principles that guide them and their craft.

Many years ago, I was at JazzHole with M when this man came in. The details are foggy now, but when this man found out about our love for writing, he went out of his way to suggest things for us to make a habit of. I remember he said to read at least one short story per day, at least an article from a reputable magazine, an interview, and to write down things that we’d learned.

I will stop this letter here.

Do you have any writing habits? Do share them.


Olakunle Ologunro is a Nigerian writer. His work has been published in Brittle Paper, Agbowo, the Queer Africa anthology, and the Gerald Kraak anthology for work that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality. He is an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop and a finalist for the 2020 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship from One Story Magazine. He won the inaugural Kreative Diadem Prize for short fiction.

Photo Credit:  Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels



Africa Dies Each Time She Fails to Own Her Stories

by Karino Emmanuel

Not long ago, I was talking to a fellow writer from Nigeria, an astute lady with beautiful brains; that is if her works of art are anything to go by. Since I was the one who initiated the conversation, I had to start somewhere and with something that connects us as Africans. Although I admitted to her that there is something about being African that I haven’t quite made out that connects us from North to South, East to West, regardless of whether we have met or not, I came to know better in the course of our conversation: the arts.

We started off with books and she asked why I like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. With little or no thought, I told her, in its protagonist Okonkwo and the other characters around him and the situations that befall them, Chinua Achebe paints the real picture of Africa back in the day. And it is written in a simple language. And the thought of it being the archetypal modern African novel is inspiring especially for an emerging writer like me. When it was time to talk about film, we lacked these straight answers. We turned taciturn and chose to channel our thoughts elsewhere because there is not so much to pride ourselves in film. She seemed to sum up her thoughts about film in the title of a book – Nollywood: The Creation of Nigerian Film Genres by Jonathan Haynes – that she asked if I had read while I, before digressing, quickly mentioned that my thoughts on the same were being expounded in something that I was writing, a piece that would become this essay.

The arts – art, music, theatre, film, and literature – are like children responsible for putting their mother, Africa, somewhere on the global map. Except for film, the other arts have considerably made the motherland continent proud, especially literature and music. In no particular order, among others in Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, Mariama Ba, Nuruddin Farah, Aminatta Forna, Alaine Mabanckou, and Dinaw Mengestu, we have African literature rife with diversity and well-crafted stories: in Fela Kuti, Lucky Dube, Salif Keita, Brenda Fassie, Angelique Kidjo, Hugh Masekela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Franco Luambo and Oliver Mtukudzi, to name but a few, we have had works of music that speak the language of a global audience while at the same time oozing African authenticity. And even though the works of this generation’s artists are worlds apart from most of the artists’ I have mentioned above, the voices and sounds I read and listen to now is an homage that bridges the generation gap hence telling the African story in a fresh way but one which still resonates with the global audience. These two groups of artists have done something that we haven’t borrowed whenever we write a typical African film. Film, like a troublesome rebel teenager, has refused to tap into the success of its brothers, making the same success they have achieved look like something that is not in the realms of possibility.

I am afraid that whenever we talk about the African film industry, we have to bring in the West. It is inevitable, because Hollywood, the world’s most successful film industry, is the ultimate standard. It is one which anyone who wants to partake in the eating of this cake that is the film industry, wants to break into.

For an industry whose stakeholders hold such profound devotion and respect for the arts, take these two thespians, for example, Anthony Hopkins and Bradley Cooper, ineptitude is our undoing, a chance for this industry to keep knocking on our doors and, sadly, most of the time we open these doors. Known for his Academy Award for Best Actor winning portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the screen version of the protagonist in a series of bestselling novels by Thomas Harris, that once signed on a project, Anthony Hopkins goes over his lines in excess of two hundred times until they roll off his tongue, and; Bradley Cooper spent close to four years learning to sing and play the guitar and piano, and an additional eighteen months to train his vocals for him to sufficiently embody the character of Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born, a film he produced, co-wrote, starred in, and helmed in his directorial debut. This film was released to critical acclaim and went on to receive multiple nominations at the 91st and 76th Academy and Golden Globe Awards respectively. Giving credit where it is due, Hollywood is at its best when it tells the American story, but everything falls flat when it tries to masquerade as the spokesperson for the African story.

I have heard good things about films like Hotel Rwanda, The First Grader, Sometimes in April, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela, Blood Diamond, Half of a Yellow Sun, Sarafina among many others, some of which, to some degree, I have enjoyed watching. The common thing about these films is that they are our stories. The events depicted in them happened right under our noses but somehow, someone from outside had to come and tell them for us. Sprinkling black actors like Idris Elba, Djimon Haunsou, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Naomi Harris and Whoopi Goldberg here and there with an excuse of a joint production between Hollywood and our studios, something which ends up compromising our creative control, doesn’t make them our stories anymore.

Is any person of colour considered African? Not in my opinion. To me, Charlize Theron with her whiteness, born in Gauteng Province, South Africa, is more African than Naomi Harris with her melanin-rich skin born in London, United Kingdom. Of course, Charlize Theron has a better idea of what being African really means. Although it makes no sense, Charlize Theron is just a white African and Naomi Harris a black Briton. Regardless of their skin colour, what matters is the place where someone is born and spends their formative years. There is something to write home about being African – we all go through a kind of struggle from the moment we are born, and we traverse through the streets of life trying to triumph over it. It is this triumph over our struggles that animate us into telling our stories and therefore, to bring our stories to the silver screen and have actors who aren’t native Africans and ones who know nothing about these struggles personate our heroes, is the biggest injustice of our time.

For example, what is so hard to get to the point of casting Naomi Harris in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, one of the most important biopics in the history of Africa, when as general knowledge, the character profile of Winnie Madikizela clearly states, South ‘African’. On Half of a Yellow Sun, a film adapted from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel of the same name, Nollywood Reinvented critics: “The movie builds on amazing sets, actors, supporting actors and music, but the characters lack depth”. Like in many Hollywood films about Africa, the lack of depth is a problem that could easily get solved by letting the owner of this story tell it. You can have the looks – black – but being African is something you can’t drive into yourself with a hammer. You must live it.

It has been the same old story: We will finance this project. We will involve you. But what is the point of playing second fiddle in telling our stories? How can we tell our stories when we are shoved in the background, away from the ostentatiously beautiful frames? Passion and truth precede the need for any amount of money to produce any kind of art. To achieve aestheticism, especially in our genre films, sometimes what is needed is an attention to detail, a claustrophobic premise, a clever contained script, a minuscule budget, and a minimal crew and cast. Some independent filmmakers across the world have achieved this and we, too, can. The perfect examples of these kinds of films whose high production values belie the finitude of the things aforementioned are Buried and Primer.

Although inspired by some of the darkest moments in our history as a people and continent like the South African apartheid, the Rwandan genocide, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and atrocious governance in most African countries which over time has healed even though the scars still etched deep on the walls of our hearts are constant reminders, in a sea of sloppy productions, we have been able to make films with production values that are grounded in meticulousness if not pedantry, films that have garnered continental acclaim and won awards. At least with some of these films – ’76, October 1, 93 Days, Amin: The Rise and Fall – we owned and told our stories to our future generations, we took control of our destiny, for what good is living in a future without having any knowledge of the past?

I have always echoed acclaimed writer-filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s thoughts on sincerity and ambition in filmmaking, that: “Films are subjective – what you like, what you don’t like, but the thing for me that is absolutely unifying is the idea that every time I go to the cinema and pay my money to sit down and watch a film go up onscreen, I want to feel that the people who made that film think it’s the best movie in the world, that they poured everything into it and they really love it. Whether or not I agree with what they’ve done, I want that effort there – I want that sincerity. And when you don’t feel it, that’s the only time I feel like I’m wasting my time at the movies”.

This lack of sincerity in Hollywood films about Africa leaves Africa as a shadow of her real self, a depiction that Soek in her essay, Hollywood’s Strange Addiction to Bad African Accents, terms as: “Hollywood imagination, divorced from reality”.

We don’t tell our stories to seek validation from the West. But whatever the thing that is in our music and literature in its crude African state that the West can’t help but love, we definitely should hit that same spot with our films. Do you know what that thing is? Truth. Honesty. Sincerity. But how can they love something that in its making, we have always let them keep messing up with, allowing them to create their own kind of truth? Isn’t Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart, the first original film from Nigeria to be acquired by Netflix, evidence enough of what sticking to our truth can be a boundless factor of places our stories can traverse?

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


KARINO C. EMMANUEL who for some reason he doesn’t know, chose to write his poetry under the name KC Manuel, is an emerging Kenyan writer and poet, and student at Kibabii University whose works have appeared on The Kalahari Review, Kreative Diadem, Praxis Magazine Online, and Ghana Writes Journal. His piece, ‘The Rough Ride Home’, was shortlisted for the Igby Prize for Nonfiction. He’s currently working on his first novel. He believes that there’s timeless magic between the tip of a pen and the face of a paper, and that’s why early drafts of all his works are written longhand.




by Opeyemi Adebari

6th August, 2017

Ibadan to Abeokuta is not much of a distance. With a sensible driver and a vehicle in excellent condition, one should make the trip in 90 minutes at most.

We had just crossed over to the other side from the car park. We had stopped about three cabs before getting one going our way. “150 ni onikolobo oooo” said this elderly driver authoritatively as we walked briskly to enter.

We quickly made ourselves comfortable before giving baba an idea of a reasonable price, jokingly though. Since I was born and bred in Egba, I am no novice to transport pricing. 150 naira was fair for our destination. Furthermore, I do not like bargaining much. It often leads to unnecessary exchange of words.  Forgot to add, if you are too much of a bargainer, you might be plastered with so much insult and would have to wait for someone whose hobby is carrying people for free to their destinations.

My sister and I were the two passengers at the back seat with a young man in the front seat. Just moving a little bit, a passenger waved calling, “moore junction!” She entered making the backseat filled up. On reaching Salawu Abiola Comprehensive High School, some women waved down the car. I can’t even remember where they said they were going because my mind was calculating the extra seat that would be manufactured as the driver stopped to pick them. Before the women got to the car, they had chorused “awa meji ni o”, meaning we are two! This elderly driver told them to come because moore junction was just one more zoom and that the lady in the backseat would alight soon. I was greatly angered as the driver told the three passengers to adjust to accommodate an illegal fourth passenger as well as a second passenger in the front seat. I was furious and became the spokesman for the all passengers in the bus, telling this Baba that it was not possible for us to adjust as the seat was made for three not four. I guess my words had no effects in him, as he replied, “ti o ba le sun ko bole. If you can’t adjust get down’’. Angrily, I told my younger sister that we should alight. The two illegal passengers started pleading that we should not be angry. Well I didn’t care much about the woman who was to seat in front but that fourth passenger at the back was enough to make me mad. Without fear, I told this Baba that he should not use his old age to cheat younger ones so that his respect would be intact. I am not sure if it had been men of his age sitting at the back, he would have taken such a selfish decision!

(7TH August, 2017)

We had reached the tail end of Challenge to begin our journey to Iwo Road when, suddenly, this young driver who had been a good boy since we left the Panseke Garage in Abeokuta blew the remaining passengers in the car a kiss of surprise, as he parked and asked us to board another vehicle to Iwo Road, which on agreement, was supposed to be our last bus stop from Abeokuta. I said, to myself, as he parked, “hope he is the one paying the fare down to Iwo Road?”. I stylishly voiced it out as I got down and my seat mate responded, “of course, awon lo ma san wo, he will pay!”

To my surprise, and displeasure, there were already two passengers at the back seat, and we were three that alighted from the space bus, and our driver had paid this Micra driver. The Micra man said “o ti pe be yen, sister e wole si waju pelu mummy, enter and seat in front with her’’. I told him I didn’t want to seat in front with another passenger; besides, this mummy was two times my size (I said this last part in my mind ooo and of course it was obvious). By this time, my smart, lepa co-passenger had made herself comfortable as the third passenger in the back seat. Eventually, she was called upon to come and seat in front with me. My heart agreed that I could manage with her, but my head disagreed. I remember this lady telling the driver to watch her leg and avoid the gear from violently romancing her thigh at intervals. To compensate my heart, I decided to start a conversation with this driver on our way. I asked him, in Yoruba, why they always carried two passengers in the front seat, and whether they are not aware that the white man made the seat for just one. He responded, “Nigeria lawa, this is Nigeria’’. What an amazing response! I was not surprised, after all this is Nigeria where standards are disregarded. I told him that it is wickedness and greed that make them carry two “incompatible” people in front. He responded, in Yoruba, that drivers can’t force people to share the front seat, if they don’t want to. He added jokingly that if people were also to seat in the boot or on any part of the car they will still pay. For me, the conversation ended there, because if I did not stop the questions, my heart could explode. Soon a passenger alighted from the back seat and I relocated. My heart smiled again. Before I forget, he also said if the opportunity existed, they would carry four people at the back and if we want them to start carrying just one person in front, the road transport officials in “white and green” should stop collecting levy at every bus stop.

I used to be the second passenger in the front seat for many years, and this was more pronounced during my five-year study at the University of Ibadan (UI). The only time I was freed from being the second passenger in the front seat was whenever I boarded a cab at the university car park. In UI, it is an offence for both the driver and the drivee (lol). Okada riders in the University do not take more than one passenger on any trip. Thumbs up for the transport Administrators for this because I’m sure if stringent rules were not laid down, there would be no sanity in the university transport system.

In March 2017, I decided that I was going to stop being the second passenger in the front seat. I had taken a cab to visit a brother of mine and his wife for the weekend. I must say the journey from UI to Total garden was an inconvenient one, talking about the forceful romance of the gear with my left thigh at various intervals. Of course, the driver was less concerned. He felt I should be the one adjusting to give way to “Mr. Gear”. The pain I felt in my left thigh, the following morning, reminded me of several discomforts I felt in times past in my left thigh which I didn’t trace to being the second passenger in the front seat. That was the end for me! Of course, my convictions were tested several times, but I always refused to exhale my conviction because change truly begins with me. I must be the New Nigeria I want to see by refusing to be exploited in the front seat.

Wait a minute! It seems to you that my reason for retreating was a selfish one, right? Far from it. When you refuse to do what is right, you will learn your lesson the hard way. Whatever is not right will eventually bring pain and regret, it just a matter of time. I decided to take an inventory and I realized that I didn’t learn my lessons early enough by buying into such unhealthy norm.  It is only in Nigeria that unhealthy norms are stronger than written laws.

In March 2015, the University had just resumed for a new session.  On this fateful morning of March 24, I had gone to Guaranty Trust bank, Mokola, to collect a new ATM card due to the expiration of the old one. Upon collection, I used the ATM, withdrew the amount I needed for my school fees. Transaction successful. I crossed to the other side of the road to take a cab back home. It was an unfortunate afternoon. There were four passengers in the supposed cab; three (all men) at the back and one in front (female). I was the second passenger in the front seat they were waiting for. I entered the front seat and tried to close the door but it was difficult. I tried it several times. The lady tried offering me some help. She held my bag while I kept trying to close the door. Suddenly, a forgotten past of when I was much younger came to mind. My mother sent me to deposit some money in the bank. After the transaction, I took a cab straight home. I remember that at the point of dropping at the junction of my house that there were just three of us in the cab; myself in the front seat, the driver and a supposed passenger at the back seat. I tried opening the door forcefully when the man wasn’t stopping at my destination. Alas, the locks were released and I made my way out of the car. I was scared. They thought I had money on me or probably saw me as a potential ritual sacrifice. (GOD ALWAYS SAVES HIS OWN!).

Back to the Guaranty Trust bank, Mokola, I shouted, “leave me, I am not going again!”. I snatched my bag from the lady holding it for me, as the driver shouted at me, “be going!”. I quickly checked the smaller zip in front of the bag to confirm that my money was intact. It was.  I made up my mind not to take a cab again, but bike. I walked some distance away and hopped on a bike after proper scrutiny. I didn’t know my heavy cute bag was empty. As the bike was almost approaching Elewure, I felt the urge to check the main compartment of my bag, only to confirm my fear, my Samsung galaxy tab was gone! My spirit was at rage as I removed the heavy papers and books used to stuck the pouch of the tab. My very being cursed those wicked souls. It was one experience I didn’t get over in good time because my mother gave me the tab after much pestering. It was a big one for me. Above all I thank God that I am alive to share my experience. The lesson I took away from this experience was that you should never take transport directly in front of the bank, and one should watch carefully the cab to ensure that it is a registered cab having the NURTW sticker at the top right of the front screen with the correct cab painting. These bad guys are everywhere, so know your God and walk closely with Him.

For personal security, no one should agree to seat with another person in the front seat. It seems to me that money is more important to Micra drivers than the security and convenience of passengers.


Opeyemi Adebari is a law graduate from Nigeria’s premier University, the University of Ibadan. She is a passionate writer and poet. She believes in equity, justice, and value. Her works focus on correcting ills, Revealing injustice and promoting value on every possible plane. She is equally passionate about entrepreneurship.

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