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By Mr Ben “You are a nice person. Don’t let them take you for granted.” He halted at his door and faced them, “Thank you for your concern. Have a good night ladies.” “Good night doctor,” they sighed heavily and returned to their flat. Chinyere looked him up and down, folded her arms across her chest and stood in front of him like a stumbling block. “Chinyere, Chinyere, Chinyere!” he waved a pointed finger at her. She pursed her lips, “I am only looking out for you.” “Who made you my guardian angel or my bodyguard?” his tone of voice rose a notch. She grimaced. She didn’t like the fact that he didn’t appreciate her gesture of care. He looked up at her, “I am old enough to be your father.” “You are not my father,” she hissed and stepped backwards. He heaved a sigh of distress, “Regardless… look young woman; I know you like me…” She lowered her gaze. She had fallen for him since he moved into the compound but, he had always related with her like a child. She had hoped that he would see her like a grown woman and learn to love her the way she loved him. “Look… you are a good girl… but, I cannot go out with you,” he searched her pale face. She bit at her lower lip. His words wounded her pining heart. “I am not a pedophile,” he hoped he would be able to get through to her that night. She looked into his honey coloured eyes, “I know that. It doesn’t matter what people might think… it is ‘you’ and ‘me’ that matters,” her eyes pleaded for understanding. He raised his head and looked upwards. Why do teenagers have such thick skulls? Nothing ever got through to them. Lord Jesus help me out here. She is not listening to me. “Listen to me,” he gave her a long steady look, “I don’t love you, I cannot love you and I will never ever love you the way you want me to.” Colour drained from her face. Wet dark eyes probed honey coloured firm ones. She gulped spittle, turned around and fled. “Chinyere!” he took some steps forward, and then exhaled loudly. He ran his fingers through his brown cropped curly hair and stifled a yawn. He backed up and pressed the door bell. He saw Misi standing at the doorway clad in a knee length straight brown dress with a pink bow at the waist line. The colour blended with her chocolate brown skin, making her look fresh, clean and desirable. Her dark brown shoulder length hair was curled at the tip, giving her a stylish look. “Welcome…” she felt uncomfortable under his gentle scrutiny. There was a gleam in his honey coloured eyes as he stared at her. “Evening, how are you doing?” he stepped into the apartment. “Fine,” she closed the door and followed him into the sitting room. “Evening everyone,” he met his sister and the Philips watching the television. “Welcome,” Eno winked at him. “Evening doctor,” Mr. and Mrs. Philips greeted him. “I hope there is food in this house,” he directed his gaze at his sister. “Yes, I will set the dining,” Misi responded. “Good, thanks,”he glanced at her and headed for his bedroom. She hurried into the kitchen and brought out his bowl of ogbonna soup and a plate of semovita out of the microwave. She and Eno had made soup and stew that evening. She set it on a tray and carried it to the dining. She returned to the kitchen and brought out a pack of fruit juice from the refrigerator and picked a clean glass cup in the cupboard. She arranged it on the dining and dashed back to the kitchen. She filled an empty plastic bowl with water and reached out for one of the napkins hanging on the window. She took it to the dining table and joined Eno on the settee. She and Eno had hit it off that day. She found out that she worked at Wazobia radio station and coincidentally, they needed an accountant. Eno called her boss that noon and an interview date was scheduled for her. She believed that she would get the job. God had turned things around for her family and everything was working out for their good. She noticed when the doctor started eating. He was in his boxers and a white singlet. His fair skin made him to look like a half-caste. She wondered if his curly hair was natural or in perm. There were times when she was tempted to run her fingers through it. How will it feel like? She cleared her head. It wouldn’t be wise to develop feelings for someone that had decided to help her family with no strings attached. Relationship was the last thing on her mind anyway. Her last boyfriend had broken up with her when he got an opportunity to travel out of the country. He didn’t want a long distance relationship and he wasn’t ready to get married. Her family situation had also killed any desire to get involve with someone else. She might be ready to date again once they were back on their feet. She saw him leave the room. He must have finished eating. She got up and walked to the dining. She cleared the table and carried the empty dishes into the kitchen. xxxxxx Eno left everyone in the sitting room and went to one of the guest rooms to sleep. She had told Misi to be ready early the next morning so that she could be interviewed by her boss and hopefully gain employment at the Radio Station. She liked the girl, despite her family’s financial condition; there was still an air of affluence about her. She had a calm and peaceful aura. It had been a while since she had met someone who was so full of gratitude and had a firm faith in God. If she was in her shoes, she wasn’t sure how she would have reacted or coped. The Philips had stood the test of time. They were an encouragement to all that God never failed. Misi came in and joined her on the bed. Her parents and the doctor were still in the sitting room watching the news. She needed to wake up early the next day. She couldn’t afford to sleep late and risk waking up late in the morning. In a minute or two, they were both fast asleep. Bassey called Tomisin aside and they spoke in low tones. His wife discerned that they wanted privacy. She bid them good night and left the room. “I have secured an accommodation for you and your family.” Tomisin gaped in surprise. He prayed within that God would bless the young man. The Lord had used a perfect stranger to rescue them when friends and family turned their backs on them. “It is a two bedroom apartment right here in Ikeja.” He clasped his hands together, “Thank you, thank you so much.” “You are welcome sir.” “God will bless you,” his eyes glistered with tears. “Amen. My parents and siblings donated furniture, electronics, kitchen utensils, food stuff, provisions, and a host of other things.” “Wow!” his excited gaze held the younger man’s happy ones. “You can move in tomorrow if you like.” “That is good news, thank you so much.” “I am happy to be used by the Lord to help you and your family… just thank God.” He nodded in appreciation. He couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. His heart expanded with joy, “God will bless you and your family beyond your wildest dreams.” “Amen! Amen…” Tomisin looked heavenwards, “Thank you so much Jesus. Oh God thank you.” Bassey excused himself and went into his room. He would speak to his parents about how they could integrate Mr. and Mrs. Philips in their work force. They had an outlet in Ikeja. The couple could work there and spend less on transportation. His brother had not given him feedback concerning vacancy in his place of work. He needed to get Misi a good job too. He had an accountant already in his clinic. If not, he would have employed her. He lay on the bed and soon drifted off to sleep. His dreams were completely taken over by the Philips’ daughter. She was singing and dancing. ******************************************** Stay connected for another fresh episode, click on our ads and follow us on facebook, twitter and instagram.
Reviewer: Yamilenu Bamgboye Release Date: March 15, 2018 Genre: Spoken Word Poetry Artiste: Yusuf Balogun Gemini It’s not unusual for people in this part of the world to take so much delight in lip service and worse off, celebrate dead people who were probably their contemporaries and legends that gave their all for the advancement of one humanitarian course or the other with vain words just because. It is bad enough to see these legends toil with so much passion in their life time for the things they believe without being celebrated but, isn’t it excruciatingly painful to their loved ones when they are laced with so much hypocrisy that could even make the dead cringe and perhaps, spin in their graves? The celebration of epicals isn’t restricted to formal recognition by some organised persons or groups or being placed on some elevated platform before a multitude, nah! It involves acceptance, sincere words of appreciation and handouts of few kobo when their lives depend on it like Enebeli Elebuwa, OJB Jezreel (before Rotimi Amaechi came to his rescue), Olumide Bakare and even Dagrin (according to a reliable source). No wonder Munachi Obiekwe died without asking for help but couldn’t stop the usual hypocritical accolades at his burial. With this consciousness, Yusuf Balogun Gemini, a young scholar and a budding poet refuses to be part of the bandwagon of a bunch of hypocrites involved in such practices with the sleight of hand. Instead, he decides to document the exploits of a legend--Pa Akinwunmi Isola--for today, tomorrow and maybe, forever by mourning his exist. Until his death on February 17, 2018 in Ibadan, Oyo State after an age-related illness, he was a professor of Yoruba at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University and a visiting professor at the University of Georgia, U.S.A. In year 2000, in recognition of his efforts and dream of making Yoruba the language of instruction in schools, he was given the National Merit Award and the Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. His notable works before he broke into broadcasting and established his own production company that has turned a number of his subsequent plays into television drama and films include Efunsetan Aniwura, his first play in his undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan in 1961 and O leku in 1986 (Wikipedia). In 1997, Uncle TK (Tunde Kelani) of Mainframe Productions adapted the novel into a television drama or feature movie thus, giving fresh breath to the novel and unconsciously sparking off the revival of certain practices like the fashion trend of the 1970s. Agbe translated as woodcock in English is a kind of bird in the genus Scolopax of the family Scolopacidae. Simply put, it’s a brown bird with a long straight beak, short legs and a short tail, hunted for food or sport (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). Being a popular gamebird, the rarity of this specie is felt due to ‘overhunting’ and it is this rarity that really affords Gemini the opportunity to depict Pa Akinwunmi Isola as agbe-- that uncommon specie of legend that has been hunted by iku-- death. In this igbala whose English equivalent is dirge: a sorrowful or lament for the dead, Gemini identifies himself with the biggest dream of the icon (to see Yoruba language become the language of instruction in schools in the South-West) especially now that he has become engrossed in documenting and reviving Yoruba with poetry dipped in ancient tales, incantations, myths, adages, idioms and analogies. As customary of his poems and many Yoruba speakers that make reference to things that connect to certain metaphysical elements, he opens by paying homage to God (Edumare), the creator of all things and many lesser beings with different ranks and file in the spiritual realm: Ogun (the god of iron), Esu laalu (the Devil or Satan) and Awon Iya (the ethereal motherhood): Mo se ba Edumare, atiwaye ojo, atiwo oorun, iba kutukutu awo owuro, ganrin ganrin awo osan gangan, wirin wirin awo oru, a ti okuku su wi, awo oganjo, Iba Elewu Ide, Iba Elewu ala, Iba irawo sa sa n be lehin f'osupa, Afefelegelege - awo isalu aye, Efuufu, awo isalu Oorun, Iba Ajagunmole oluwo ode Orun, Iba Aromoganyin onibode aye oun Orun, Iba Awonamaja babalawo tii komo ni IFA oju Orun, Iba Esu laalu, Iba eyin iya mi, Afinju eye ti n je loju oloko, afinju eye ti n fiye sapa ti n fiko seyin, iba ile otete lanbua, Agbohun maa fo, abiyamo tooto, Iba Ogun, yankan bi ogbe, Iba otarigidi ti n se yeye Ogun, iba omobowu oun Ewiri maje, Iba IJA, iba osoosi ode mata, Iba Olutasin tokotoko bo Ogun, Iba ope ti a n tidi n be, tii n tori gbe ni. Aba ti alagemo ba da l'oosa n GBA, Oro ti akuwarapa ba so, ode Orun lo ti wa. In case you wonder why he has to go that way every other time, he says in his poem Ipado: the dangers of walking in an unsafe zone that discussions involving celestial powers usually have a repercussion when one shuns or undermines their terrestrial weaponry: Ore wa, ohun kekere ma ko ni ipa Amori. Oun oju agba rii loke oun lo je o so akobi omo re ni Olaniyonu. Sugbon Aja suwon deyin Agbo suwon roro Aja o ni roro Ka rele lo magbo wa bo Eegun ile baba eni. Opuro n gbin paki, Oniwayo n gbin Ila. Awon akumamoojudi eda po lo jantirere loke Epe. Gbi le n gbo, e mo ibi ti ibon ti n ro. And after his lament on the unfairness of iku-- death who hunted Pa Akinwunmi Isola at the age of 78 like a hunter would hunt agbe (woodcock), he ends with an incantation to ward him off his trail: Awon agba ti ni n pe bi mope n se pe laye, n dagba dogbo n o fi omo ewu ro ori. Iku, maa to mi wa, ota mi ni o mu lo. Won ni, Kii ma so pe, Okete bayii niwa re, o ba IFA mu le, O da IFA, Okete bayii niwa re. Otente, a o leke won, bi igba ba wodo, a le tente, otente a o leke won. Alasuwada, parada! Ojo ti mo da ko i pe, Ewe iyeye, igba ni... If, however, this constant practice of his (incantations and paying homage to celestial powers) wants to deter you in a way from becoming a language advocate like him and many others, not too worry. Just focus on the peripheral and let your words and referents be limited to your immediate environment and the world you know. Nevertheless, Gemini has done it again and this time, it’s simply for posterity. Do well to download and enjoy Yoruba poetry at its peak. Click here to...
One of Nigeria’s foremost dramatists, Oreofe Williams a.k.a Awo Jesu is organising a festival of talents tagged I am a Celebrity with focus on The Modern Youth in Nation Building. The event is packaged by Oreofe Multimedia Studio and is scheduled to hold on March 30 and 31, 2018 at The City of Talents, the film village of Oreofe Films and Theatre Productions, Ibadan. Being an all in all festival that features spoken word poetry, music, dance, drama, symposium and special appearances of Funsho Adeolu and Rose Odika, it aims not just at discovering new talents but nurturing them as well hence, the inaugural competitions of dance and drama. The first runner-up, second runner-up and the winner in the drama category will all secure film recording deals with varying cash prizes while only the second runner-up and the winner in the dance category will secure recording deals with varying cash prizes. The guest judges of these competitions include Prof Niyi Adebajo, Otunba Ayobami, Deacon Ademola Awokoya, Chief Gbolagade Akinpelu and Chief Tunde Bamgbode. So, if you have a drama or dance group that is up to the task, what are you waiting for? This might just be the opportunity you need to become celebrities. To register, call 08163195839,08066167503,09065013458 See banner for further details.
By Larry Sun Continue from the last episode. *********************** Then the journey began. Little did Saka know about the misfortune that was bound to inhibit the success of the journey. They'd barely travelled five bus-stops when they encountered another lone traveller at the side of the road. The man, who was of a receding hairline and pot-bellied, was visibly weeping. This sob wrung such pity from the truck-driver that he was forced to step on the brake and demand the reason behind the smartly-dressed young man's cry. 'I've-I've been waiting here for over two hours with no vehicle to transport me. It's so sad, so sad!' he continued wailing. 'Why didn't you return home when you couldn't find a vehicle?' 'You don't understand, sir. See, I have an interview to attend today; I've been jobless for years and today's interview is the first in years, I can't afford to miss it.' 'Where is the company?' asked the sympathetic driver. 'It's a cassava processing company in Ogbomosho.' Dawodu knew the company, it was a popular one named Ogbomosho Cassava Barns. 'Do you mind if I transport you there in my convertibles?' The driver's generous offer was not only the result of his kind heart but also because he was not totally comfortable with having only a coffin-maker beside him and a coffin behind. He felt like there was something quite ominous in this situation. Having the presence of a third party wouldn't hurt terribly. The job-seeker's joy was demonstrated in a rather uncommon manner; he flew on Dawodu like an elated beau and kissed him on one of the disfigured cheeks. Saka almost puked with disgust at beholding such an unsightly sight. The man climbed into the vehicle and perched himself jubilantly beside Saka. The odour that immediately greeted the coffin-maker was redolent; the man smelt of ginger. He extended his hand towards Saka in greeting. 'Hi, my name is Sule.' he smiled, revealing wretched gums in the process. 'My name is Saka. Do you know that there is a coffin behind this lorry?' The shock that came to the face of Sule was instantly replaced by a terror which could match the fear of someone who had come face-to-face with a ghost. 'The coffin is empty,' The handsome truck-driver quickly chipped in. He was sure the young man was ready to excuse himself from the lorry with a hasty retreat. But the assurance from his new saviour made the job-seeker relax back in his seat and a grin was perfectly plastered on his face. Then the journey continued. Hardly had they journeyed another fifteen minutes when another remarkable traveller was spotted trying to flag down the lorry. The man was not only perspiring like a swimmer but also strangely dressed; he was white-skinned and was donned in a white garment that was in that time popularly worn by religious fanatics of the cherubim and seraphim gatherings, but the white linen was already turning black with sweat. And of course, the truck-driver pulled over to help the angel out. Dawodu, on getting down, discovered a stranger thing about the stranger he was about to help; the albino was barefooted. When asked, the stranger replied that strapping any footwear while still in the cloak of purity was against their religious beliefs. This explanation made Dawodu wonder whether his newest host was wearing anything under the white robe. Even the lower portion of the dress was swollen in such a trigonometrical proportion that would make Mary Magdalene run for cover. However, because the pronunciation of this religious man's name tends to harden the arteries, the man told the driver to simply call him Sutana. 'Where are you going, Sutana?' Dawodu asked, evidently ready to help. 'I'm going to church, and I'm almost late. This fuel scarcity is something else.' 'Where is your church?' 'At the outskirts of Ogbomosho. I just wish this sun was not as honest as it was today. I'm being baked alive here.' 'Would you mind if I transported you there in my private jet?' Sutana stared at the driver a moment before staring at the 'jet' itself; then he said to Dawodu, 'The jet does not look like a private one to me, with those two marsupials perched inside.' 'But that is the problem, there is no more space in the front seat,' he thought about this and added, 'You'll have to use the back, that's if you don't mind.' 'I don't have a choice.' 'But-er, there is a coffin at the back.' The religious zealot's expression, on hearing the new revelation, suggested he doubted the driver's rationality, even his own. 'A coffin?' 'Yes,' Dawodu replied quickly, 'but it's empty. I'm only helping out that skinny man in my lorry. I assure you, the coffin is empty.' Sutana smiled broadly, 'That's not a problem; coffins don't scare me, neither do corpses.' 'Oh!' 'I work in a mortuary.' Now it was the turn of Dawodu to be scared. 'I see,' he said, though he was seeing nothing horror at what the man said. There was always something ominous in an albino wearing a white robe. Before he could change his mind about admitting the strange fellow in his lorry, Sutana had climbed the back, thereafter urging the driver to step in and start driving. A monkey couldn't have impressed Dawodu more than he was at beholding the acrobatic display of Sutana as he climbed the vehicle. The driver slowly climbed into his vehicle, and as he drove on, he wondered if allowing the white-skinned and white-clothed man in the back of his lorry was a clever decision. The journey continued steadily. Then suddenly, without warning, the sky changed, the clouds gathered, and rain was threatened to be released soon. At this time, the trio that occupied the front of the truck had totally forgotten about the fourth man behind them; the man who would not look good in church if he got wet now. Then the rain fell. It came very hard and loud; and within minutes, the road was about gathering potential floods. Sutana, however, could not help beating at the front for protection against the rising splats of the rain. His quest for help was rendered useless by the loud thunders that seemed not to take a moment to catch their breaths. There was no way anyone was going to help him out, he realised; the rain was going to bath him. But Sutana was a fast-thinker, unfortunately. Before the rain could entirely drench him he came about a better means to guide against the downpours: the coffin. He stared for a moment at the object; it was smoothly scraped and painted brown—the maker had done a good job at it. Sutana approached the coffin and opened; the insides were padded white and it was looking quite cosy. For a moment, Sutana envied the dead, and he almost looked forward to dying. Without much ado, the white-clothed worshipper took the place of a corpse and closed himself inside the coffin. This was the only way he knew he could protect himself against the element, considering the circumstance. But sadly, the comfort of the coffin was too warm that it caused a soporific effect on its first inhabitant. Before long, Sutana was deeply asleep. Less than half an hour later, the rain stopped and the weather became clear and cool. And as already mentioned, the lorry driver and his two passengers had totally forgotten the white-garmented man that had once occupied the back of the vehicle. While Sutana remained asleep in the coffin, the journey continued surely. Twenty and five minutes later, the kind motorist stopped to assist another stranded traveller; a tall fat man who claimed to be a prince of Ogbomosho land. The driver doubted the veracity in the robust man's statement, because very few people of royal status would dress like beggars. The fat man's bushy hair and beards were unkempt, and lice seemed to have taken dwellings deep in the thick shadows of his beard. The man, who also claimed to be named Kamoru, was dressed in an undersized agbada, and the pair of sandals on his feet screamed for salvation, for the once thick soles of these foot wears had been reduced to flat slivers as a result of numerous peregrinations subjected them by their master. Prince indeed! 'The king would be so worried about me.' lied Kamoru. Maybe he was really being honest when he said he was a prince, reflected Dawodu. He wanted to ask Kamoru if he'd been mad for many years and had just miraculously regained his sanity. He had learnt about so many witches and wizards that had pitched tents in Ogbomosho since the time the little village was founded. Suspecting that the reply he might get was inimical to his own safety, Dawodu swallowed his question. That was not the kind of interrogation you make with a recovering lunatic, if he truly were. The motorist wasn't ready to lose any of his teeth, not quite yet. 'Okay,' said the driver, 'Would you join my caravan?' Kamoru smiled, 'With all pleasure.' 'But the front seats are occupied. How about staying at the back? We're already half-way to Ogbomosho anyway.' Dawodu had totally forgotten about the coffin, let alone the white-garmented zealot who was still busy snoozing in the death mansion. With efforts, Kamoru managed to hoist his bulky self to the back of the vehicle, and the lorry had already engaged in motion by the time he sighted the coffin. The kind of horror that registered itself on the prince's visage was sensational. Kamoru, although gigantic and robust, was a helpless feretrophobiac (someone with little fondness for coffins). This fear had been made manifest in him since the day he was wise enough to know their use. His fear disallowed him even from attending funerals. He'd always believed since childhood that corpses were always after him, trying to get him to join them in heaven. He believed firmly that a corpse could rouse from a coffin and come after him because he'd dreamt about it many times than he could count; where corpses in large numbers struggled to pull his limbs. Each time that happened they were usually suspended between the realm of the earth and the underworlds. He was always waking up screaming and sweating and begging corpses that were not there to leave him alone. On beholding the coffin now, the beat Kamoru's heart skipped also skipped a beat. He prayed fervently that this was just another useless dream. Kamoru didn't know that if you were in a dream you didn't always remember to pray that the disaster befalling you in a dream was only a dream. Sweating even under the cool weather, Kamoru gave himself a tight pinch on the arm, expecting to feel no pain as a confirmation that he was really in a dream, but it was not to be; the pinch hurt as hell. The realization that what was happening to him was real brought him terror. He stifled a scream bobbing up from the depth of his mouth and what he was not able to control was the meek but innocent whimper of a kicked puppy. He was sure the coffin contained a corpse, and screaming aloud might wake the slumbering ghost. He wondered why the motorist refused to tell him about the presence of the coffin. Or was the motorist a ghost himself? And his passengers also messengers of Death? Were they trying to drive him straight to Old Salem? Kamoru quickly dismissed the silly ideas. Maybe nobody knew about this coffin. Maybe it just materialised there by sorcery. He kept as much distance between himself and the coffin as he could, praying that he might reach his destination safely before the deceased took a visit back to the land of the living. Each gallop the vehicle made as it plied the bad road was a significant bump in Karimu's heart. He also wondered why the vehicle was not adorned with an anti-ghost leaf at least. Then suddenly, there existed a movement in the coffin. Kamoru bolted upright in an instant; his mental pendulum began swinging from side to side at a breakneck speed. The volume of sweat that immediately oozed out from his skin trebled the initial. Kamoru was certain about the movement of the content of the coffin, but he still wanted to prove himself wrong; to know if, perhaps, it was his mind playing tricks on him, yet he dare not move closer to the coffin. And before he could dismiss the idea of opening the coffin the movement came again, this time more conspicuous than the former. A definite yawn came from within the coffin and Kamoru felt like fainting. 'Oh, I can't believe I slept off.' the occupier of the coffin proclaimed. Before Kamoru could collapse into unconsciousness, the lid of the coffin suddenly banged open and a very white man in white garment slowly came rising up from within. Most times in this case, fainting was never a wise decision; it could become just a one-way ticket to heaven. Therefore, anyone in Kamoru's shoes might deem it fit to flee - and flee was what Kamoru himself actually did. 'Ghost!' Kamoru screamed at the top of his lungs. He had never seen an albino before, until now. Then all hell broke free; the driver, on hearing the shriek, remembered the coffin and quickly stepped on the brakes. Dawodu, the wonderful driver, was the first person to break a fast getaway; he was a gifted runner. The passenger beside Saka did not take time to open the door; he made his own escape through the window. The beholder of the corpse - Prince Kamoru - ran like he was being chased by a cutlass-wielding masquerade; occasionally falling down and rising up with renewed vigours and the determination to slip away from the abomination he had just witnessed—a corpse had come to life to take me! Kamoru's survival instinct was undeniably the sharpest among the bolting trio. Sutana, just rising from a pleasant sleep, came instantly awake at seeing men running in such a maniacal frenzy. Suspecting that there was maybe a riot in action, he also scurried off without asking questions. But he was running in the direction the three men went. And when Kamoru looked behind him and saw the ghost bounding after him in his flowing gown, he ran with the speed of a bullet. As Sutana was trying to catch up with them, the three men increased their speed, as though they'd each been fitted with a gear mechanism. They ran, ran and ran! But Saka knew nothing about driving, so he spent the rest of the day with the lorry and his coffin as both ghost and men chased each other to the end of the earth. THE END
By Yamilenu Bamgboye Some years ago, Professor Ahmed Yerima argued very vehemently that poetry enjoys more social favours than drama and other genres. At first, that sounded too paradoxical to contain any element of reality. Today, considering how much spoken word poetry has begun to thrive in Nigeria and environs, I’m beginning to have a rethink. Poetry writing to some is a craft that is consciously learnt and developed but to some, it’s a talent that’s soaked in so much ability to project the thoughts that run wild in their minds. For masters like Folu Agoi, Niyi Osundare, Eriata Oribhabor, Romeo Oriogun, Chukwumerije, Fr33zing Paul and a host of others, poetry writing flows from within with so much secretion from the ‘gland’ that produces muse such that they have a hard time containing their thoughts else, they burst open. Lol! Theresa Lola (23) is fortunate to belong to that category. She is a fast rising poet whose exploits are sung like Davido’s hit tracks on different platforms in England including the prestigious BBC Radio 3 programme The Verb, Gal- dem Magazine, Brittle Paper, Girl Got Talent, Litro Magazine, etc. When we caught up with her at the 2017 Lagos International Poetry Festival, she was kind enough to let us into her world, her challenges when she moved to England, the awards she has won and her future plans as a writer. Do have fun reading Hi Lola, could you introduce yourself very briefly? My name is Theresa LOla (with stress on the first syllable). LOla or LoLA (with stress on the second syllable as typical of its etymology and meaning)? Whichever one, (laughs). Nigerians say LoLA which is why I like to hear it. And I am a poet, I am a writer, a workshop facilitator. I do many things though. With this Cockney accent of yours, I’m pushed to ask if you were born here. Of course I was born here. I lived in Nigeria till I was about thirteen. So, I left Nigeria at thirteen to be with my family. Let’s talk about poetry, how did it start? Poetry actually started here in Nigeria. Uhmm... so I loved reading, it was always, you know, compulsory in my house to read a book everyday. So, we had to read, we had to feedback the story to my mum because she loved reading. I loved reading so naturally, I wanted to recreate my own stories. So I started writing short stories, uhm... I started writing scripts just for fun. And while I was in secondary school, we went on a school trip to Lagos Poetry Festival. I met some poets there and I was like poets seem like cool people and I just started writing poetry. In the university, what course was it? In the university, I studied Accounting and Finance because at a time, though I love poetry, I was like how do I make a living off poetry? So, I did the typical Nigerian degree and I studied Accounting instead. I still do work as an accountant part-time uhmm... but poetry does add up. So, do you live off it? Yes, it is part of my income currently. But not hundred percent, right? Not hundred percent because I still choose to work part-time as an accountant. I still like to have that balance. Mentally, I’m a full-time poet but I like to do a lot of admin things. Does it mean you can’t do poetry full time? I can but I also like to be behind the scene. So, even if I’m not working in accounting, I’m probably working in publishing, working in editing. But if you mean poetry full-time as in performing, that’s not even my intention because I have so many other things in mind like programming events, poetry events and late show events. So, those are the things I have in mind. If that makes me a full-time poet, yes but I have other things I’ll like to do. You are from which of the states? I’m from Ogun State. I lived in Lagos but I’m from Ogun State. Have you won awards in poetry? Yes, in London. I was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize last year (2016) and I was shortlisted this year (2017). Uhmm... I was shortlisted for the London Magazine poetry prize, uhm...I was one of the winners of the Magic Words Seasons Poetry Prize, 2016. I also won the Hammer Tongue National Slam this year (2017). Did it come with some cash? Uhmm...when you are shortlisted, no. For winning, yes. I have to do a tour round the country so I get paid to talk. Yeah, you get some really good opportunities too. So, it’s good. Which poem of yours won you that award? It was three poems. The one I did about my grandfather How Time Is, one poem I did on post-traumatic stress disorder about soldiers coming back from war, and the one I did about women who are silenced in or whose quietness is mistaken for shyness when it’s actually they don’t want to speak about traumatic issues. But the main one that won it for me was the one I did about women. Can you say the lines or remember a bit of it? Honestly, no. Look, I was so nervous that day. I memorized it for that moment. After that, you know, it just disappeared. I used to memorize a lot but then, now especially as I’m writing my first book, you’re always thinking of how to write a poem so you try not to memorize a version of a poem. Ok, let’s talk about your book; what’s the title and when is it coming out? Oh gosh! I haven’t thought about it really. Before, I had Equilibrium as a tie up. I thought that’s going to change as the book is changing but the book... I’m just exploring death and the way in which it’s affected my life. So, I’m starting off talking about my grandfather’s death, issues surrounding it and a conversation about death and the many forms of death and things like that. Do I say it’s a project for your grandfather because you guys were close and you miss him? Uhmm...no. Yes, I was close to my grandfather. I lived with my grandparents while I was in Nigeria till I was thirteen but it’s about exploring death like I said. So, the book should be done by the end of this year (2017) or hopefully, next year (2018). Are you self-publishing or...? No. I’m going to get a good publisher in the process of discussing with different publishers. Apart from poems, do you do short stories or drama? Uhmm... not drama. The only other form of writing I have an interest in is screen writing. I love films. That’s what I started off doing. I started off writing scripts. I would pretend that I was in a film and I would write all sorts. Right now, I have a few scripts. I don’t know how many, I just kind of write and store them because I’m yet to prioritize them. What plans do you have for the scripts you write then? I definitely want to produce movies in the future. It’s just I don’t want to be a jack-of- all-trades-master-of-none. So, I kind of want to go one step at a time. Once I publish my first book which is a collection of poems, I will definitely move on to films and come back but my priority is to have the poetry collection first and then start thinking about how I can turn my scripts into films. Can you retell your early experiences in England? Like I said, I moved to England when I was thirteen and I remember really being excited like telling all my friends in boarding school that I’m moving to England. Back then, it was seen as such a big deal, everyone saw England as this ‘better life’ sort of thing. And it was fun at first but the first school I attended happened to be a racist school. Uhmm... and so, I ended up having to leave after a year because I experienced bullying, it was horrendous. Before that, I knew I was black but I lived in a country where everyone is black and race is not like a huge topic, do you get what I mean. So, there, I became really aware of it. But over time, I made new friends, met new people. I needed poetry because I was going through identity crisis and I was like why just being myself was a problem for other people. Like most of the guys who go over there and later come around to settle in Nigeria, do you have such plans? Hmmm... (laughs). I definitely want to come back but once in a while. I feel like I’ve lived enough here. I lived here for thirteen years so, I’ve paid my dues, you get what I mean. But I definitely do want to come back you know, more regularly and just try and build something here, maybe a publishing house in the future, just something you know. I really want to invest in the future of this country. So, no plans of you coming to live in Nigeria? No! I because I know why I’m in England and the reasons have always been the same. I think my destiny is in England (laughs). I enjoy living in England. I mean, it has its own downfalls but I know the opportunities I’ve been able to get. Where is home to you then? Home to me is family. Uhmm...by family, I mean like my mum, dad, siblings because they cross over the two homes that I have: Nigeria and England but I used to think home is Nigeria and all of that. But the longer I’ve lived there and the more I’m understanding identity, I don’t think home is a singular thing. I think it’s time to think home doesn’t have to be in one place but wherever all the major experiences in your life... all those places become home. It’s like a collation of things. So, when I think of home, I think of here (Nigeria) and England. So, all those things make home. I don’t think of it as a singular thing because I wouldn’t want to return if that makes sense. I feel like that’s in the past. I think of it through like the five senses, so uhmm...the things that you saw, the things you felt, the things you could hear. So, for me, when I think of home, I think of music, food which is more about tradition. I also think of home as where you are returning to when you’re overcoming trauma and sometimes, it’s both the same thing: when you’re experiencing or overcoming trauma. So, what do you hope to see around here in the festival? In the festival, I’m excited just to see communities, the merging of poets of different backgrounds: Nigerian, South African, etc. based in other countries and here in Nigeria just kind of sharing on the same stage and just being in one community. I’m looking forward to hearing many poets perform. I’ve never seen Wanna perform, I’ve never seen Titilope perform, Dami Ajayi, etc. So, I’m really excited to hear their works in person aside from via Skype or like searching them on the internet. I’m really excited to commune with other poets and the audience as well. I’m really into you know, getting to know the audience as well and not just the poets.