Introducing The Gospel According To Lesley – Talking About Beauty

January 8, 2017

Sisi Eko, Digital Art by David Osagie Dot Com


I just turned 51. I’ve been told often enough that I do not look my age and asked just as often how do I do it. I shrug it off, blame it on gene’s or one way or the other avoid the topic. I feel uncomfortable talking about it. A lot of women are. Even Chimamanda used to be.

The other day I was talking to a young woman about how I protected my skin from dryness during the UK winter. I described abhyanga, ayurvedic oil massage for her. I always used an oil massage before a shower during the winter never soap. And when I soaked (once a week maybe less) I dumped a bottle of Johnson’s baby oil in the tub with the bubble bath.

“So after using that sisal brush on your skin you took time and used oil to give yourself a massage? Hmm. You dey pamper yourself.”

I guess you could say so. (I’ve used a sisal brush to dry brush the skin before bathing in the every morning for more than ten years. Read about it in Vogue back in the day.)

“I’m just trying to keep my skin supple. I’ll always been obsessive about my skin even as a child. What was  an unhealthy obsession then is just what I need now. ”

I’ve also used Boots ‘Glycerin and Rosewater Tonicto clean my face everyday for over 20 years. Never soap and water. It suddenly occurs to me. I’ve had a very sophisticated beauty regimen all my life. I do pamper myself and take care of myself. No small thanks to My Evil Step Mother who tried to make a lady out of me. And curb my vanity. Was she successful?

In the tropical heat I always use a loofah and a gentle soap or shower gel. Currently using PH balanced Sebamed. And last last I will use Dove or Pears. Gone are the skin punishing days in the village when Dad bought me Tetmosol or Dettol soap. And Vaseline. And I would run around at high noon like one of my dark skinned brethren. My Father tried to make a revolutionary ought of me. And curb my vanity. Was he successful?

I’ve also used a body scrub at least two three times a week for well over 20 years. St.Ives Apricot Scrub used to be a favourite. It was always available in the market sha. At reasonable price too. Then I when I started to travel plenty I got into Soap & Glory. Now I am in love with Lizzy Ab’s All Natural Sugar Body Scrub. All natural ingredients. Leaves the skin feeling baby soft and smooth. It even taste’s good. I really take time when I’m scrubbing. I put all the attention into it I once put into bathing my new born babies.

I don’t let my skin feel tight. If it feels tight I know I need a moisturiser.  I use coconut oil daily right after a bath or shower and Jergen’s Ultra Healing lotion during the dry months. I apply as often as necessary in between to relieve the tightness. And drink more water. Till I am peeing every hour or two. Dry skin has to be attacked from the inside too. I eat right and take my vitamins. 

I take care of my skin because I figure clothes are disposable but I got to live in my own skin for my whole life. So I might as well keep it healthy and looking great. I mean if you can do it for those Blue Suede Shoes you can do it for your skin right? It just another piece of leather. Just that its still ‘alive.’ Can you relate? No?

Don’t worry about it.

I treat my feet well too. Notice how the feet do so much work? Show them some appreciation. Give them a massage with the nicest smelling richest cream or lotion you can afford. Pamper your feet. Wash and pamper them when you come home from the market square. Appreciate the work they do. The intricate engineering that keeps you upright all day long.

Say ‘Thank you.’

A proper pedicure once in a while would do. Not the road side kind. I swear I judge a person by the state of their feet.

And how they smell.

I get complimented a lot that I smell good. Thank you. I appreciate the effort that goes into smelling good. I make a lot of effort to smell good. My revulsion at unpleasant smells is primal. I think its evil to assail your fellow human beings with funky body smells. Or any other kind of unpleasant smells. Like cheap perfume. Cheap perfume smells cheap. I do not use it. I’d rather withdraw from polite society.

I  frequently do.

Let’s see. What else do I do to stay healthy and strong? Let me think about it and get back to you.

Chao bella


Chimamanda, Digital Art by David Osagie


Are You Required to Produce Husband’s Consent For Passports?

January 7, 2017

The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt decided you did not when they gave this judgement in 2009 in Dr. Priye Iyalla_Amadi vs The Director General of the Nigeria Immigration Service.

I think the NIS said they appealed the matter. I wonder where they are on it so far. Can’t find anything about the status. Whats the composition of the appeals court and the supreme court? Just thinking out loud.

The defendants did not really dispute the facts adduced by the plaintiff in their counter_affidavit but sought to justify the requirement of a letter of consent from the husband of a married woman who wants to be issued a Nigerian passport on the basis that Nigerian married women are classified alongside with minors by the government as persons who require consent from the head of the family. NIS argued that the requirement for consent was put in place to perpetuate the authority of the man over his wife, no matter the status she had attained in society. It also stated that the requirement was set to avoid unnecessary breakdown of marriage institution in the country.

Its important to pursue legal precedents expanding women’s rights all  the way to the Supreme Court. And those cases should attract support from women, women’s groups and women’s funds.  If you have any current information about this case could you drop an update for me? Or steer me towards someone who knows? I’d appreciate it.



Yay! It’s Official. And I Am Celebrating!

November 22, 2016

First morning I woke up dreaming I’m a caterpillar in a pupa becoming a butterfly. This morning I woke up I was dreaming I’m a lady iguana about to make a mad dash through the valley of snakes to my bae.

It’s the powerful drugs they have me on. They’re treating me for malaria, thyroid and food poisoning. The drugs are so powerful every time  I close my eyes I feel I’m in some sort of vortex doing back flips with dolphins, swimming with mermaids, or dancing on the water in the moonlight with Ganeesh

It all started on Friday. I had a really bad tummy ache Thursday night. I knew it was the dinner I ate but optimistically wished it was just indigestion and did some yoga breathing exercises. I was exhausted from the battle in the morning. By noon I was in agony.



“Eddy. You got to take me to the hospital now. This is it. I’m dying” I moaned to my bewildered and now alarmed son.

He is my angel. Somehow he has been with me during my last two medical emergencies and the look in his eyes makes me fight to stick around, if you know what I mean. Yeah. I know, I’m a drama queen. And pain brings out the drama.

In my head I’m thinking – ‘I’m dying! My bad habits have caught with me there is a god and he is punishing me with a slow painful death” (because hey that’s what they taught us in Sunday School. Nasty shit)

Anyway we get to the hospital and they give me those kinda pain killers that make you feel goofy while they start diagnostics. I’m super relaxed by now so I let them prod and poke me without too much drama wondering what they will find. Cancer? HIV? Multiple sclerosis? Death?

During the abdominal scan they check my liver

“Liver is fine.”

“Right kidney is fine, no stones.” (Most of my abdominal pain were coming from that side and the provisional diagnosis was possible kidney stones.)

“Gall bladder is distended,” says the sonographer.

Alarm and panic.

“Have you eaten?” he asks.


“Ok, thats it then. Gall bladder is in a state of fasting.”

Alarm subsides.

“Spleen is normal. Do you have ulcers?”

“Why? Do you see any?” I’m alarmed again.

“No,” he responds. Alarm subsides.

“Left kidney looks fine. Wait a minute. It looks bigger than the right kidney.” Alarm as he and his assistant measure and compare both kidneys then decide the variation isn’t abnormal.

“Ok, now lets look at your womb.”

Why? I wonder but what the hell take a look.

“Womb is ok, proper placement and size but no endometrial tissue growing.”

“Whats that?”

“The tissue that grows and sheds during your period.”

“You mean I’m not going to have a period?”


“Good. I’m fifty.”

He does a double take.

“You’re the second woman I heard say that.”

“Say what?”

“That she’s happy her period has stopped.”

“What do they usually say?” I didn’t ask. I’m sick. I’m high on pain killers. Who cares right now.


“We can’t find anything else wrong with you.”

“I don’t want you to find anything.”

“Sounds like you had food poisoning,” he concludes and sends me back to my drug filled drip in the ward while they run blood and urine tests.

Food poisoning, my addled mind observes and wonders if I can produce a poop sample but no one asks me for one.

I doze off.

So that’s how I found out that I am officially menopausal.

Now that I’m feeling better I want to celebrate.

Its been more than two weeks and I’m back to wondering. Are there women my age out there that don’t feel happy that there period has finally stopped? I’ve been buying Tampax and bleeding every month for the past 36 years. I’m a mother and a grand mother. Hell yeah, I am glad its finally over.

No, I do not feel my usefulness as a woman is over. Because I never saw my utility as a function of my reproductive capacity anyway. And no I’m not scared by the rumoured side effects. I’ve had none so far or they have been too mild for me to notice. Then again that could just be because when I had thyrotoxicosis those symptoms were so bad they make everything else seem mild since then. Or maybe it’s the ayurveda lifestyle I use to manage my auto-immune thyroid.

So I can now consider, what does menopause mean to me and how does it change my life?  Trust me, its going to positive and fun. First of all I will fear no pregnancy. Hopefully my anaemia will abate. I guess I’ll have to watch my weight even more religiously but I’ve been doing that since I was 40 anyway which is when I noticed that I couldn’t eat like a young adult anymore ( and that basically means you can’t eat what you want without consequences.)

In many cultures menopause is a significant and positive change of life, like puberty and marriage and childbirth and parenting. In India women that have entered menopause can finally come down from the women’s quarters and talk with men for instance. And there is a significant body of research that suggests the severity of symptoms is directly linked you cultural expectations and values.

Since I create my own expectation anyway I think I’ll be fine.

Bring on the KY Jelly!  We are not afraid.

Interim Child Custody Order Under Matrimonial Causes Act in Nigeria

November 22, 2016

Section 71 of the Matrimonial Causes Act is clear that the ‘courts shall regard the interests of the children as the paramount consideration when awarding custody of children in a matrimonial cause under the MCA.

This is supported by extensive case law.

The Supreme Court in WILLIAMS V WILLIAMS (1987) LPELR-8050 set out the principles on which custody is decided clearly;

“(1) Where in any proceedings before any court the custody or upbringing of a minor is in question, the court in deciding the question shall regard the welfare of the minor as the first and paramount consideration and shall not take into consideration whether from any other point of view the claim of the father in respect of such custody is superior to that of the mother or the claim of the mother is superior to that of the father.

In Nwosu v. Nwosu (2012) 8 NWLR Pt 1301 – the court of appeal further held –

On the right of parents over custody of children of a marriage

The Court held both parties have equal rights in matters of custody of the children. In other words a mother has equal rights with the father over the children. In the instant case the appellant had equal legal interest in the children of the marriage and a right to protect that legal interest.

On Equal Rights of parents over custody of the children of the marriage

In regard to custody or upbringing of a minor a mother shall have the same rights and authority as the law allows the father and the rights and authority of the mother and the father shall be equal and exercisable by either with out the other.

One of the questions that the court of appeal considered was whether or not the appellant (mother) had a right to take the children away from the matrimonial home before a formal order of custody made by a court of competent jurisdiction to determine the issue of custody.

The respondent (father) had asked an Owerri High Court to declare his wife did not have the right to remove the children from their school and relocate then elsewhere without a prior order of the court. The court of first instance sought to compel the mother to return the children till a determination of custody.

The mother appealed the judgement and her appeal was upheld. The court cited the previous Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Williams (1987) that held both parents have the same right to custody of children pending a custody hearing.

“The law would be an ass indeed if a parent who has inherent legal interest in the children can’t do something to protect the children before the law can take its course” said Ogunwumiju JCA in his lead judgement in Nwosu v. Nwosu.

The court upheld a mother’s right to remove herself and her children from the matrimonial home in the event of  breakdown of the marriage, threat or fear violence and maintaining status quo ante bellum pending matrimonial proceedings.

Counsel for the respondent (father) went on to argue the children of the marriage were of ‘Igbo extraction’ and their father ‘rich and willing to have them around’. The court held that “the reasons given by the learned trial judge in arriving at the conclusion that the appellant (mother) had no legal right to take the children from the matrimonial home were unconstitutional”

“I have no hesitation in arriving at the conclusion that these declarations of the rights of the parents in relation to these children were based on a wrong premise which is that the rights of a very rich father are superior to the rights of the less affluent mother who is from a different tribe. There is discrimination on the basis of tribe, sex and financial means.” – Ogunwumiju JCA

In Tabansi v. Tabansi (2009) 12 NWLR Pt 1155 the lead judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered by Alagao JCA held that

“Except the conduct of the wife is morally reprehensible it is better in an estranged marriage for the child of the marriage, more so if that child is a girl of tender age to be left in the care and custody of the wife.”

A party to matrimonial proceedings can simultaneously file an ex parte motion for interim custody when filing a petition under the MCA under Order 14 Rule 23 (1)(c) which provides that;

23(1) “Where proceedings for ancillary relief have been instituted  seeking an order with respect to the custody, guardianship, welfare, advancement or education of a child of the marriage pending the disposal of proceedings , the court may in a case of urgency, hear the proceedings, and make an order in the proceedings, ex parte.”

When filing an ex parte motion (which basically means that the applicant is asking the court to make a ruling without notifying the respondent, the other party in the matter) support it with an affidavit of urgency and also file a motion on notice with the same requests and arguments that will be served on the respondent while the interim order is in effect. And interim order will last for 7 days and within that time the court will want to invite the respondent to come and give his or her side of the story too. If the interim order lapses before the motion on notice is heard or decided the applicant’s lawyer can and should make a further oral application to the court to extend the life of the interim order.

This interim order will provide the legal basis for the applicant to retain custody of the children pending hearing of the motion on notice which will decide custody pending the resolution of the substantive suit which may be for divorce, nullity or judicial separation. The interim order will them be served together with the notice of petition and the motion on notice on the respondent.

Once an order is secured give the applicant the original copy and they can move with the children without fear of the other party taking them away or causing other mischief (like reporting to police they were kidnapped as some parents erroneously do) The applicant can prevent the respondent, the other party in the suit from taking the children forcibly away from him or her and should that party do so they will be in contempt of a court order.

My Type Of Feminism. It Has To Be Fun. 

October 24, 2016

Michelle is the star of the Obama’s last weeks in office. The media focus has been on her.The accolades have been perfuse. I’m not sure how I feel about her image tough.

“(S)he had to flatten herself to better fit the mould of first lady.” Chimamanda Adichie says.

“Because she said what she thought, and because she smiled only when she felt like smiling, and not constantly and vacuously, America’s cheapest caricature was cast on her: the Angry Black Woman. Women, in general, are not permitted anger — but from black American women, there is an added expectation of interminable gratitude, the closer to grovelling the better, as though their citizenship is a phenomenon that they cannot take for granted.”

Michelle is my Stereotyoe of the Cool Mom. She’s cool like that but she’ll NEVER get drunk and dance on  the table at your 21st birthday party (thank god!). Or do anything to shock your friends like walking around the house in her lingerie or bringing out a bong when your friends come over. She cast herself as the Black Mother – solid as a rock. Even with the world on her shoulders. She’s got a strong back. And she has fun doing it.

She is so different from the stereotypical White Mother. And the White Feminist. Whose feminism is a performance. Black women never had to perform feminism.

‘Ain’t I a woman?’ Sojouner Truth asked.

Michelle is everything I fantasise a Black Madonna to be. I can’t help think of the Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’. A vegetable garden in the White House? How much more Black Mother can you get? Thats the sort of thing your Aunty Ngozi or your Aba grandmother did when they visited you in America (Much to your mortification. Gardens are for ornamental flowers. Duh.) But it’s poignant to see a vegetable garden in the White House built by slaves. The legacy that black Americans have to live with is heavy indeed.

Will Obama be the 44th President of the United States of America or will he be the 1st Black President of the United States of America? In 100 or 200 years time what will that mean? How will we keep score? Who will keep score? Why must we keep score? Because if we don’t we will be excluded again? Is that like saying that breaking the glass ceiling really doesn’t break anything at all because you have to come back next year to break it again? Why do we still have to fight for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th – black, female, or gay CEO/president/princeling?

Is there a point at which we’re good and have achieved the equality we seek? Then what? Consolidate? Hold on to gains and ground? Sounds exhausting. And never ending. If we were hoping to reach a tipping point of enlightenment by now Buhari’s and Trump’s emergence as leaders proves that there are still way too many ignorant mischief makers in the world.

Suddenly this whole fight within feminism seems tedious. Why are we differentiating feminisms? I love Chimamanda but as soon as I read the headline of her other story – My Feminism Is Different From Beyonce’s – I skipped the article. And didn’t come back to it till it had caused a shit storm online.

‘Feminism is the belief in the equality of men and women.” – Chimamanda Adichie.

It doesn’t matter if we preach this equality in the 20% of the moment we are not talking about men. It doesn’t matter if we do it while showing our crotch to a room full of paying gawkers or wearing elegant  block colours and addressing the UN. Nobodies feminism is the same. Even our personal feminism can and should change and evolve during your lifetime.

I’m also ambivalent about this new ‘feminism lite’ category that apparently puts men so centrally in women’s lives. My own brand of feminism used to be ‘feminism lite’. When I was 15 in between reading of James Hadley Chase all I could think and talk about were boys. (And the sort of bad boys I was reading about in James Hadley Chase. They just had to have that attitude.) And when I wasn’t thinking about boys I was thinking about sex.  (It’s what teenagers do, including your own.)

So I educated myself about sex. I read ‘Every Woman’ by Derek Llewellyn-Jones. Some progressive student sneaked it into my Catholic  boarding school. It made the rounds, it was so dog eared. I read it twice. And then bought my own copy. Boys and sex were about growing up and we were all in a hurry to grow up. The principal, Mrs Okonkwo, heard about this subversive book and gave fire and brimstone lectures during morning assembly on its dangers, the dangers of sex and especially the dangers of mkpokopi (homosexuality).

In my 20’s I got my sex education and feminism from Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan. You could describe it as feminism lite but it helped me negotiate the demands of my emerging personality.  I knew I had to work, no question about it. And not just anyhow work. Ambitious change-the-world kinda of work. I wouldn’t even think to be with a man that thought otherwise but even the most progressive men I met wanted to be ‘cared for’ – it was their definition of ‘love’. And whats wrong with that? I wanted to feel ‘cared for’ too. Who doesn’t? Its our most primal need and goes back to infancy.

In my 20’s and into my early 30’s I also spent a whole lot of time resisting all attempts to brand me a feminist. I was increasingly being called a feminist, usually by men that felt disturbed by something I had said or done. I didn’t know that much about feminists except the stereotype that they were butch, didn’t wear bras (Abomination!) and from some of the pictures I saw didn’t wash very often. So I always denied being any such thing. I had been a tom boy but now I wore bras, I had manicures and pedicures, I wore make up, I wore sexy clothes. I objectified women including myself. I was having fun discovering myself, exploring my femininity.

Then one day soon after the advent of the internet into Nigeria I decided to google feminism. I was 35. Wow. What an eye opener. Fortuitously I lived in Owerri at  the time and had access to two outstanding Igbo-Nigerian feminists – Rose and Catherine Acholonu.  Not only did I discover that indeed, I was a feminist, I discovered that feminism existed in Nigeria and in Africa long before I made that discovery.

Apparently I been a feminist since I was a child. The memo I got said “ Anything boys can do girls can do better.” I believed in male female equality with all the simplicity of a child. Even as a 5 year old I climbed trees, swam the deepest part of the river, did wheelies, jumped off cliffs, rode down impossibly steep hills and generally risked life, limb and sanity to prove that “Yes I Can”.

I took that attitude with me into adulthood. And met real social resistance to what I could or could not do. As a child I just did it, no one stopped me.  As a woman I was suddenly blocked in every direction. What I now heard was – “You’re a women, you can’t, and I won’t let you. Because I can stop you.” Like hell you can stop me. I used to fight a lot. ) You can see the type of problems this could present in a traditional relationship or marriage.

In my 40’s I lived feminism. I was a feminist. I performed feminism. I had a high flying job in international development he bastion of gender equality and evangelised across the globe. I wrote thoughtful posts about feminism and African feminism. I supported more women. Made more women friends. Even my style evolved. I started reading Esquire for fashion tips. Explored a more androgynous aesthetic.

Now in my 50’s I’m still evolving and so is my feminism. I’m back to that childhood attitude. We’re equal. Full stop. I’ll just sit over here and get on with it. And now I’m big enough you can’t stop me anymore. And yes, it still has to be fun, just like the rest of my life.

Sorta like I learnt I was a social entrepreneur from Ashoka. I’m just there being my awesome self and someone gives me a label and a roomful of theories and academic papers to study. Well it was all very empowering since I got to explore and test the boundaries of what that means. So it definitely broadened my horizons. Thank you. Now I’ll just go back to being myself.

I think thats why so many people got mad with Chimamanda. Women love talking about men. And sex. And heart break. Men ARE central to women’s lives. The same way men say we are central to  their lives. They are the reason we wake up in the morning put on our makeup, our heels and hustle. And build empires. And dynasties. And kingdoms. Some of us anyway. And maybe we used to. When we were younger. Maybe our biology has something to do with it too. Think about it, for 30 – 35 years the female body is primed for pregnancy EVERY MONTH. She is literally a walking talking hard on.

I do not believe we are or should be slaves to our biology. Our humanity is our capacity to override mere biological urge  (or you would still be a monkey, I promise.) But people must be allowed to make an informed choice, all choices have consequences. You can’t tell people what to do. You can’t make choices for them. What gives anyone the privilege? There are no hierarchies. Hierarchies and privilege are part the problem, not the solution.

So, yes. Chimamanda can say that her feminism is different from Beyounce’s, so is her lifestyle and probably her core values. People are different. All our individual feminism are different. But I’d rather she didn’t use the 20% yardstick. Or her feminism for that matter.

I’m a mother of men and a leader of men. And women. I say to girls and young women the same thing I say to boys and young men – don’t spend ALL your time and energy on girls/boys and sex, focus on career and life and the right girl/boy will come along. And if you decide to spend all your time talking about sex or marriage remember 1. you’re an adult and adults are self sufficient and can take care of themselves 2. the ability to take care of yourself is the highest form of good 3. co-dependency can be financial as well as emotional and 4. you can do anything you want but there is a price to pay.

Just be good at whatever you do. Be an Amber Rose, a Chimamanda Adichie, a Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, A Tiwa Savage, a Beyonce, An Okonjo Iwela. Just be your god damn self. Your authentic self. Just be your best YOU. Because that takes courage. It takes a ‘Yes I Can.’ And that makes it a feminist act.

Be A person. Not a woman. A spouse. Not a wife. A parent. Not a mother.

And that brings me back to Michelle Obama. That stereotypical Black Madonna. She reminds me of my Russian grand mother. She’s even handling the transition better than Barry. I detect a certain ruefulness in him, a disillusionment. And a nostalgia. She shows an appropriate measure of nostalgia and gratitude (very important for the niggers to be grateful) but relief the Road Show is about to end and maybe now she can go back to some semblance of a normal life. Barry looks like he’ll miss the attention but more importantly that he will miss the power to make things happen. I wonder what he will be next?

Michelle will continue being Michelle, Mother in Chief. Black women (like Russian women) don’t have the privilege of a nervous breakdown. We just get on with it.

Happy Independence Day Nigeria! 

October 1, 2016


I like this #HeroesandHelmets initiative. Its a feel good initiative. And we need some feel-good on this day that is the 56th year of our Independence from the white man in Nigeria.

Perhaps we have lost the real meaning of Independence. I have read curses on Nigeria, blessings, wishful thinking, deceit, lies and plain old grand standing.

“There is nothing to celebrate. We are hungry. We are angry. We are poor. We are BAD.”

We have forgotten the real meaning of our Independence. We have forgotten that what we celebrate is not the creation of a nation called Nigeria. (Techinically that was created in 1914.) We celebrate the formal end of colonial administration over the indigenous (black) peoples of Nigeria.

if you think that’s not something to celebrate think for a minute about the many black brethren gunned down like common criminals by the police in the United States of American – that flickering beacon of freedom and democracy. Black people gunned down doing things you take for granted here in Nigeria – selling bootleg DVDs, driving without a taillight, taking a corner without signalling, having a psychotic incident in the market place, walking down the street after dark.

In 2016, today on our 56th Independence Anniversary more than on any other day before I am soooooo happy that our forebears triumphed in their fight for freedom. Today more than any other day I am happy that my sons grew up free men in a free (albeit imperfect) nation. They’re not yet safe from institutional bullying but that is the fight if the NEW GENERATION.

We build a wall brick by brick and it is not any one person’s portion to build it all. We build on what’s come before.

Put this day in the context of slavery, colonialism and Jim Crow and then tell me again there is nothing to celebrate. Fifty-six years since Independence. ONLY. Less than a lifetime. Less than a lifetime ago our black and brown parents and grandparents were treated like a lower form of animals AS A MATTER OF OFFICIAL POLICY.

At least now we can resist such dehumanisation. At least now we can resist – at the UN, the ICC, at the ACHR, at the polling booth, in court. Whether they listen to us or not we can resist LEGALLY. And we can call upon the state to uphold, protect and enforce our right to resistance.

Who told you it was supposed to be easy?

The struggle did not end on October 1, 1960 when the Union Jack came down for the last time.

The struggle did not end in 1999 when we finally held held elections. The struggle did not end in 2015 when the party in power handed over to the opposition. The struggle does not end and each generation must inherit its own struggle. There is no UHURU. Except in Death maybe.

Happiness isn’t a state. Happiness is a fleeting moment of content in between depressingly mundane daily struggles. Happiness is stumbling upon a rose in the midst of thorns. It is festivals and dances in between reaping and sowing – rituals to remind us what we struggle for and renew our spirit.

Success is winning those daily struggles. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the tree. Do something inspiring. Go find one of our brethren in uniform and take a selfie. Support the troops. Hold the government accountable.

Good leaders will understand the meaning of this.

I would like to wish all of you a reflective and inspiring Independence Day.




When You Are Writing, You Are God & Other Lessons | A Farafina Workshop Memoir

September 15, 2016


When you are writing, you are God.
—Aslak Sira Myhre


June 21 – Day One

“Tell us one thing you like and one thing you dislike?” she said. I lied. I said I liked history, art and culture. Actually I like sex, loud music and dim smokey bars. But I wasn’t ready to say that to a room full of strange Nigerians. What if they misunderstood? Or laughed? It’s not the sort of thing a Nigerian woman my age says.

If it comes easily to you, discard.
—Chimamanda Adichie


Diversity and Identity

Age. I try not to think about it. Not in that I’m-this-age-and-should-therefore-behave-like-this-or-be-treated-like-that” way. I hate being called ‘ma’, ‘mommy’, or ‘madam’. I feel pressured to perform age. I do not want to perform age. But I do anyway. Another loaded feminist issue? Or a race issue? Or maybe a class issue? Or an intersection of the three? Someday I will write about it.

“Please call me Lesley.”

“You remind me of a South African woman I met at my last workshop,” one of the participants says to me.

And Aslak keeps calling me Sheila.

I really wish people would get to know Lesley.

The age of the Farafina 2016 participants didn’t cross my mind till I sat down with them and looked into their faces. Most of them are young enough to be my children. Some so young that I would have a word with my sons if they brought them home.

Listening to these young people reminded me of the obvious clichés.

‘Age should be a bridge,’ I think. ‘Not a gap.’

Nevertheless, the workshop is a safe space and we are asked to suspend our judgments. We name it Sacred. We also have a young woman that escaped the 2014 Chibok abductions with us. And an undercover reporter. Young people discovering their sexuality. People constructing their identities. Living stories about surviving, healing and becoming.

Go where it hurts because then it matters.
—Aslak Srye Myhre


Farafina Insomniacs WhatsApp Group Chat

Someone sets up the Farafina Insomniacs group on WhatsApp. It makes group communication more relaxed and open. I’ve avoided group chats so far. The constant notifications while I’m working and the drain on my battery were not worth the poor quality of conversation and information.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 12:37: Feisty: why are we starting a new group?

25/06/2016 12:37: Foxy: Touchy is in the other group

25/06/2016 12:38: Feisty: is it necessary?

25/06/2016 12:38: Missy: Feisty please it is…we don’t want to trigger her

25/06/2016 12:41: Sisi: Btw, Touchy is my friend o

25/06/2016 12:41:Sisi: She’s been so sweet all day

(12/07/2016 10:19: Squeaky: I’m realising I might never use the word ‘trigger’ again in anything I write because of you guys, and I kind of don’t mind.)

What isn’t made into narrative isn’t part of the world.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre


Karaoke Night Out

On Saturday night we went to a karaoke bar. Kunle sang ‘Stay’ with so much heart. I took a chance and sang the only song I really own, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I sing as if I’m a 7 year old standing on a stool, in front of the heavy dresser mirror in my parent’s bedroom singing ‘Fly Robin Fly’ into a hair brush. Or standing on the coffee table and singing along with Sony and Cher on the TV. As if no one else is there. This is how to write. Belt it out.

“You can’t pander to anyone’s expectation when writing,” she said.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 23:03: Feisty: Please who is singing and killing it?

25/06/2016 23:09: Titi: It is Lesley o.

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Lesley Yaaay!

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Mimi be killing everybody at the Mortal Kombat game!

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Cocky was the bomb too.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi Beautiful night.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Can we all go back to the hotel now, please?

25/06/2016 23:14: Tricky: Yes ooo

25/06/2016 23:15: Titi: Akintunde be scattering game anyhow.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: Oya come back home. I have milzed you all.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: I can’t sleep. I can’t write. I can’t eat.

Feisty stayed in to work on her assignment. It was the best at the next reading. Should I have stayed in too? Writing is always rewriting. Most of the assignments I submit are rewritten once or not at all.

“I know I can do better if I could just rewrite it again,” I think to myself each time I submit an assignment. The lure of the night life kept my performance average most of my life. Because excellence is about going the extra mile.

“How many times did you rewrite Half of A Yellow Sun?” I ask her.

“Seven times.’

To make it art, you have to rewrite.
—Chimamanda Adichie


How A Short Film Got Made by Farafina 2016

We talked about serial kissers, serial quitters and serial killers a lot. We even wondered if all the talk about serial killers might trigger the serial killers among us. You never know what baggage the people you meet carry. Nigeria’s first serial killer thriller is still waiting to be written.


WhatsApp Group Chat –

26/06/2016 10:26: Lofty: So guys, Aoiri wants us to shoot a movie.

26/06/2016 10:29: Lofty: “Let’s use the energy!” He said.

26/06/2016 10:30: Feisty Will there be blood? Can I shoot a gun or just kill someone?

26/06/2016 10:31: Feisty: Oya o. Ideas for script or we have a script?

26/06/2016 10:33: Ducky: If there’s blood, or a stabbing, count me in!

26/06/2016 10:44: Lofty: Keep in mind that we’re not making an epic. The fewer scenes and locations the better “energy” is limited…

26/06/2016 10:46: Mimi: Suggestion: why don’t we pick a ’round’ story or two of ours that we’ve written as assignments and work it into a script?

26/06/2016 10:47: Foxy: Maybe we could all suggest stories to act out during lunch

26/06/2016 10:47: Mimi: A story that’s short but powerful

26/06/2016 10:48: Foxy: So we can go through all that we’ve done so far since Umar mailed them to us. And suggest what to act at Lunch

26/06/2016 10:49: Foxy: But nothing too triggering sha

“Kuku Kill Me” an iconic two-minute Naija Indie blockbuster starred Ifeoluwa Nihinlola, Kunle Ologunro, Miracle Adebayo, Aisha Abiri, Abimbola Ige and Chika Jones. It was directed by Umar Turaki, written by Chika, Aisha, Miracle, and Umar, filmed by Aoiri Obaigbo and screened for a select audience after our last dinner together.


Kenyan Writer Binyavanga Wainana Was There

He introduced us to Kenya-American artist Wangechi Mutu. Wangechi explores the similarities between misogyny and race, and the hierarchy of race and gender through surreal collages and installations reminiscent of Picasso’s cubism. Her visual art inspired some of our most creative work.

Facebook Status: Akintunde Aiki June 27 · 

#Farafina2016 – Binyavanga does this to you: brings out the beast in your writing. The Final Ceremony.

“Technically the story is perfect, but I don’t feel her,” he says to me about Chidimma, protagonist of ‘Sunrise Hotel’, a short story I spent months writing. The same story Chimamanda enjoyed so much she invited me for this workshop. He tells me about a character he used to write when he was still in the closet. ‘Am I in the closet?’ I wonder. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

“You’re still hiding.’ he says.

Twitter @MzAgams Jun 27: When Binyavanga thinks about our submissions before commenting, he moves his lips & jaw like he’s chewing the words we wrote – #Farafina2016

Write what you know.
—Binyavanga Wainaina


That Bridge

In between writing assignments I sit at the upper deck of the Bush Bar of our hotel overlooking the lagoon, drinking coffee in the morning and beer at night. Feeling the ocean. And watching That Bridge. Watching people moving on That Bridge. On foot, in cars, on bikes.

Facebook Status: Lesley Agams June 30 

I took a walk on that bridge.

All the way till I could see my hotel then I turned around.

I do not jog. Who wan die.

As usual I found my self wondering about these people jogging on the bridge in the early morning.

I’m disappointed. The people I see up close didn’t look nearly as good as they looked from a distance. Their eyes are wary and cunning. Their expressions shielded. People drive from all over Lagos to jog on that bridge.

You either have to know a lot more or imagine a lot better.
—Binyavanga Wainaina



At The Closing Ceremony

As she gives me my certificate Chimamanda tells the world she will be the first one to buy my book. “Odogwu Nwanyi” she calls me. My only regret is I didn’t ask someone to take a picture of me with her on stage. And I didn’t bother to struggle for a vantage position during the group photograph so I got pushed to the back. If you don’t look well, you won’t see me. And in some pictures, at some angles, you don’t. That’s how I always got the bottom pot of the jollof rice in secondary school.

I’ve been writing since I was 10: journals, diaries, memoirs, poems, short stories, plays, movie scripts, essays, and cheeky articles like the ones in EsquirePlayboy and Cosmopolitan. I remember tapping out stories on my father’s old manual Olympian typewriter. I was even a reporter and women’s editor for a local newspaper once. As I collected the certificate, I knew in my heart this was the first day of the rest of my life.

The first rule of writing: to be a writer, you have to write.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre


That Was Just The Beginning.The Conversations Continued After We Left.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

06/07/2016 08:37: Lofty: The conversation in this group is like a stage play with different acts and different characters at any given time.

06/07/2016 11:55: Tricky: Phew. This is one group you want to read through the “one million unread messages”.

Drama isn’t just people talking.
—Eghosa Imasuen


The Heat Is On

06/07/2016 18:13: Bubbly: Meanwhile, Guys. Do you all feel pressured now? Like the writing community expects your texts to be top notch now that Adichie has taught you herself? Like is it just me. So many book clubs want me as “guest” and I am like why? One even said they will send a Limo. I just feel like the expectation and attention is overwhelming and I don’t really deserve it! What do you guys think?

Insecurity is very important for a writer.
—Eghosa Imasuen


Metaphor Is the Palm Oil We Eat Words With

WhatsApp Group Chat –

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Lol. My entire Farafina experience is down to music. A team reminds me of Nnamdi, Ama and the Karaoke Night. Strange songs remind me of Lesley. Panda reminds me of Aisha and Naza.

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Igbo songs remind me of Nwa Nsukka’s dance steps

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Metaphors are how I make sense of this world.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Some one hiding is pulling a Chisom.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A funny and curious person is pulling a Pamela.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A Lofty person is pulling an Umar.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone writing stories populated by fantastic characters is pulling an Aoiri.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: An Nnamdi is self-explanatory.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone who likes money more than life is pulling a Chika.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: An aspirational person wants to be like Monye, wants to cook with stove.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: A prim and proper person is trying to be Muna.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: We all know the Kunles in our lives.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Bestfren bestfren and Ama enters your life.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Someone who wants all the good men in a group for herself is obviously a Mimi.

12/07/2016 08:37: Ducky: Like snapchat and smile a lot and you are defined sharply.

12/07/2016 08:41: Ducky: All I’m saying is, I’m always making judgements, ascribing attributes to people. It’s dishonest to pretend like I don’t.

12/07/2016 08:46: Feisty Fierce as fuck, I think describes Lesley

12/07/2016 08:46: Cocky: Fierce as fuck

12/07/2016 09:03: Me: Ife is the Barb of Ogbomosho of No Internet

12/07/2016 09:05: Cocky: Aisha the goddess of Iwale

If you overdo metaphor, it suggests a lack of confidence. 
—Chimamanda Adichie

The Conversation Has All The Elements of a Good Story: Drama, Intrigue And Humor

WhatsApp Group Chat –

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: We can call it CHIPAM Investigation Services

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: Or maybe even CHIPAMA if Ama is down

11/07/2016 21:16: Squeaky: Please I want to join. Let’s make it CHIPAMABIM

11/07/2016 21:17: Lofty: I’ve registered.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: I can see where this naming thing is going, and it’s not good.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: Let Chisom and Pamela just have their company jejely.

11/07/2016 21:19: Snoopy: Bimbo why must you join everything?!!!

11/07/2016 21:20: Snoopy : Chisom I’m down for CHIPAMA lool

11/07/2016 21:20: Cheeky: CHIPAMABIMCHI

11/07/2016 21:21: Mimi: CHIPAMABIMCHIMIM

11/07/2016 21:21: Ducky: This is beginning to sound like a company of chipmunks created to form a monopoly out of nuts.

Comedy: an absurd unexpected outcome.
—Eghosa Imasuen


Bloopers Happen Too

WhatsApp Group Chat –

13/07/2016 12:21: Crusty: Les, of the fierce fuck

13/07/2016 12:24: Me: ‘fierce fuck’???? How would you know?

13/07/2016 12:35: Crusty: Nnamdi gave you the title na.

13/07/2016 12:36: Me: I don’t think he used it in quite the same way

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: Please o

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I said ‘Fierce as fuck’

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I’m innocent o

13/07/2016 13:39: Me: Thanks Nnamdi. Kinda like he said ‘children turn him on.’

Words are powerful. You need to be careful using words.
—Chimamanda Adichie



There are no rules if you can get away with it.
—Eghosa Imasuen

Originally published by Brittle Paper on 2016/08/15

The Only Time I Ever Played With Barbie. Once. Ever.

September 12, 2016
I was like 8 or something. I was not included in Barbie play previously because I did not have a Barbie. My struggling immigrant parents did not appreciate the importance of owning a Barbie for a child trying to belong in white middle America. My best friend at the time, Jill lent me one of hers.
So we’re playing Barbie and they make ME the housekeeper or maid or something. Now, I’m not sure if this was because I was coloured or if it was some sort of Barbie hierarchy I didn’t know about. Anyway. I’m pissed off to be the maid, see? Everybody else got to be something and I became the maid? Fuck no. I ain’t no maid. I even argued there are no maids in utopia. But they insisted.
So what did I do? I told those little bitches that they’re all too delicate and vulnerable to come out of their rooms, put them on a strict schedule so they can’t call me in-between and shut them up in the back room of the Barbie house. Then I toke over the rest of the Barbie house and played in it all by myself.
There were four other players all about the same age. At least one of them was a boy who had a Ken doll and liked to play with Barbies. I bullied them like an over bearing governess or nanny or something and made everyone do what I said anyway. That was the first and the last time they invited me to play Barbie.
I wish I could say I was devastated or something but quite honestly I found the whole experience unpleasant. And disturbing. I also felt that they’re insistence had more to do with the fact I didn’t own a Barbie (and must be economically ‘disadvantaged’) than my colour.
On account of incidents like this I hung out a lot with boys. And ended up doing mad things like seeing how fast I could go down the steep hill behind the mall parking lot on my bicycle. I was a sucker for a dare. All they needed to say was ‘girls can’t do that’ to make me go prove that, yes, girls can, even if I personally had not and didn’t really know.
The relief and exhilaration when I made it to the bottom of that hill. Going down my only stubborn thought was that I WASN’T going to crash and burn. I was going to prove that girls could do this. Alas. So young and already the weight of representing ‘girls’ upon my tender shoulders. Then someone would suggest something stupid like we go find the steepest hill in town.
So I mostly just hung out by myself. And read a lot of books. 
And Barbie became a symbol of a whole lot more than just unrealistic beauty standards.

It’s World Photo Day!

August 19, 2016

Yay!! World Photo Day.

Things worth celebrating

Morning beautiful people!

Did the sunrise meet you well?

Have you had your coffee?

Today I woke up with a craving for disgusting instant coffee

Now the only instant coffee in the entire world that gives me a kick is that local one – Nescafe. The one made in Nigeria. Not the one made in England. Not Nescafe Gold, Silver, Green or Blue. Not Nescafe Espresso. Not even the one made in Ivory Coast. Nescafe Classic Made in Nigeria.

I recall with nostalgia my blissful days of ignorance, the days before I had my first cup of brewed coffee. (Bongo coffee didn’t count. I never learnt how to make it anyway.)

I became a caffeine junkie in boarding school. I was 13. I tried someone’s Nescafe. Probably because my Pronto was finished. I couldn’t stand Milo and Bournvita or that awful one in the orange tin, what was the name? Ovaltine! Shudder. Meanwhile, Ovaltine was considered the Bentley of chocolate drinks.

Anyway. I tried someone’s Nescafe, liked it and bought it the next time I was buying provisions. I knew I wasn’t supposed to drink coffee YET. I knew my mother would never allow it but she wasn’t around and my father, well, what did he know about things like why growing children shouldn’t drink coffee. It wasn’t his field of expertise, lets just say.

I felt so wicked. And so grown up.

Within a year I graduated from buying the small tins to buying those big tins the size of my Nido. Back in those days I drank my instant coffee with instant milk and felt like a ‘big girl.’ Ewooo. I laugh in French.

I didn’t have brewed coffee till I moved to Lagos from my village in Imo State.

“This is Lebanese coffee. Its very strong.” my new friends warned and gave me a thimble of coffee. I watched them sip it delicately. They watched me as I sipped mine.

“Are you alright?”


I wonder what was supposed to happen? I waited for that caffeine buzz.

“Can I have another cup?”

I didn’t understand this drinking coffee in toy tea cups. I was more used to big fat mugs the size of teapots.

My host looked surprised. I worried I was being rude.

“You have a strong head” she laughed. I laughed. She gave me another cup. I’m still waiting for it to kick in. I wasn’t impressed. Next time they asked me “Lebanese coffee or Nescafe?” I said “Nescafe.”

I eventually figured out I need a whole pot of Lebanese coffee to get a buzz.

Then I finally had some good old percolated American coffee. It tasted like crap. It was strong but it tasted like crap. There were no coffee shops back then. Those were the Dark Ages in Nigeria. The only place you could get crappy brewed American coffee in Lagos was Eko Hotel and Sheraton. Ikoyi Hotel and Federal Palace Hotel served Nescafe. I kid you not.

They tried to teach me how to make Lebanese coffee. When I bought my first percolator I used Najjar the Lebanese coffee in it. Nirvana. Flavour, strength and volume. Unfortunately filters and coffee weren’t sold in my neighbourhood so I always had a tin of Nescafe too.

I used to drink up to twelve cups of coffee a day. I had long stopped taking it with milk. Then all those reports about the adverse health effects of coffee started coming out. Friends and family began to comment and throw around big words like ‘caffeine addiction’ and ‘intervention.’

So before they could organise an exorcism I stopped. I woke up one day and just stopped. Apparently my withdrawal symptoms were so bad one observer swore never to touch the stuff. I can’t remember.

Three years later during a routine medical my doctor tells me I have clinically low blood pressure and thats why I was always tired especially in the morning. He recommended I take a cup of coffee, just one cup, in the morning to ‘pick you up’ he said. I know.

‘A pick me up just when you need it most’ Nescafe advert circa 1980.


One cup? Well. I tried. But as I always say – my mother had two breasts. So I take two cups in the morning.

It was during my globe trotting albeit brief career with international development that I really got to know coffee. And as usual for me when something catches my fancy, I became quite obsessed for awhile with my new found love. And disdained and rejected my humble, ever faithful and beloved Nescafe.

Alas, how cold and cruel of me. Surely the god of Nescafe must be angry with me. I repent! I am full of remorse! I grovel and beg for mercy and forgiveness. Henceforth, let it be known that a tin of classic Made in Nigeria Nescafe shall always have pride of place in my pantry. Even if I don’t drink it every morning.

And as an eternal tribute the theme of my next photography project will be ‘Nescafe.’



A poster advert from Nigeria in the 1950’s


Golliwog drank Nescafe? Who knew? 


August 13, 2016


There is a hotel in the Village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a concrete courtyard.  A dented oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights.

Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings.  She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.

She asks her half-sister Eunice if they can stay there. ‘Only prostitutes stay there’ Eunice answers disdainfully. Chidimma read about prostitutes in the Bible, they are bad women that make men do bad things and go to hell.  She doesn’t understand what they do but she understands that they are paid to do it and they do it with lots of different men and that was really really bad. She’s been told that good women only do it with one man, they marry him and they never get paid for it.

Chidimma doesn’t want to get married. Married women always look unhappy. They talk different when their husband is around and they behave different too.  They look wary, like children trying to behave well in front of adults. And when they don’t behave well they get beaten or punished just like children too. Chidimma can’t wait to grow up, she doesn’t want to be a child and she doesn’t want to be a wife.  She doesn’t want to be a good woman.

Good women get up before sunrise to fetch water or strain cassava meal at the stream, sweep the compound, feed the men and children, weed the yam farms or go to the market to buy and sell with babies strapped to their backs or hanging on to their breasts. At sunset they come back to feed the men and children again and put everyone to bed. Sometimes there is a wedding or a burial feast to attend and break the tedium.

Chidimma feels a familiar wave of darkness threaten her as she imagines a life time of drudgery.  The darkness comes more frequently now.  She day dreams of life as a prostitute in Sunrise Hotel instead, of wearing nice clothes, of men who will love her, of sleeping in a proper bed, of having electricity every night, of watching television and having a drum full of water in front of the house.


Charlie doesn’t propose. He just starts calling Chidimma his wife every time he sees her. Soon everyone is calling her his wife too and she almost starts to believe them. He is a handsome and popular student at the only high school in the village. It is for boys only so Chidimma can’t attend and her father can’t afford to send her to a girl’s boarding school. The way Charlie looks at her and smiles makes her squirm but he doesn’t pinch her breasts or try to kiss her when no one is looking like some of the old men in the village.

Charlie and his brothers visit her brothers, their friends, often. Chidimma’s brothers make her sit with them while Anayo, a bus conductor, tells wild stories of the witches and magicians living in the cities he visits.

When the sun goes down they set up a portable turntable powered by a car battery and play music. They remove the speaker from the casing and suspend it over the mouth of a clay pot to make it reverberate like a woofer. A single bare bulb lights up the dingy room and their eager teenage faces. They sing along to Nico Mbarga’s ‘Sweet Mother’ .

Sweet mother 

I no go forget you 

For the suffer wey you suffer for me yeah


Chidimma’s mother died when she was born. She listens to the words of the song and wonders what a mother’s love feels like. She flips through her brothers record collection. He has about a dozen albums. His most prized possessions. He saves his kobos to buy records and music equipment. He’s in demand as a DJ around the Village and makes some extra money too.

Chidimma reads the names of the bands absentmindedly; Bunny Mack, Black Children, Ofege, One World, Wings, Semi-Colons, Comrades, Actions. The male bands look modern in afros, dark glasses, tight shirts, flared trousers and platform shoes on the covers. She flips to an album with a woman on the cover. ‘Nelly Uchendu’ ‘Love Nwa Nti Nti’ it says. The woman gazes into the distance wearing a traditional costume.

Anayo changes the record.

My sweetie my sugar my baby my lover 

So honey let me love you 

Let me love you forever wo yeah

Charlie comes over, sits next to Chidimma and holds her hand. Suddenly her father rushes in with a machete. He threatens to kill Charlie for defiling his daughter but everyone escapes through the window. A few days later her father’s half-sister Ahuekwe comes from Town and takes Chidimma away with her. She says Chidimma needs a woman to raise her now.  She promises to send Chidimma to high school and  to look after her like her own daughter.

Chidimma is excited. She’s never been to Town before but she’s heard it has tarred roads, electricity. and houses bigger than Sunrise Hotel. She packs her Sunday best in a plastic bag and waves good bye.

Chidimma is faintly disappointed to find Ahuekwe doesn’t live in a big house but rents a garage and two small rooms with a lean-to kitchen, a bucket toilet and a shower stall out back of a modest old building but its better than the Village. Ahukwe lives with her teenage son and daughter and runs a beer parlour in the garage. The garage is lit with red and blue light bulbs just like Sunrise Hotel. At night men bring beautifully groomed women wearing short dresses and high heels. Chidimma serves them beer and pepper soup.


It is late in morning and the rooms are stifling in the tropical heat. The beer parlour isn’t open yet. Ahuekwe has gone to the morning market to buy ingredients for her famous Chicken Peri Peri and Goat Meat Pepper Soup.

Chidimma sits outside and watches people go by on the busy street. The same people pass every morning. One is a young woman the street children call ‘Fela’. She is dark and skinny with a buzz cut. She wears chic clothes with flip flops and a mad expression on her face. They say she used to dance for Fela in Lagos. Chidimma saw a picture of Fela and his dancers in Drum magazine once.

Friday, Ahuekwe’s seventeen year old son comes home from school unexpectedly and calls Chidimma into the bedroom. He smiles, she smiles back. He’s a day student at a local high school.  She doesn’t expect him to pull her to him in a bear hug or to start grinding his erection against her.  She stiffens and tries to pull away but he holds her tighter. He only lets go when he hears Ahuekwe’s voice outside. Ahuekwe doesn’t ask why Friday is home from school or why Chidimma is trembling and shaken.

Every day after that Friday comes back from school when his mother is at the market. Chidimma tries to avoid him but he stalks her patiently. When she tells Ahuekwe she is accused of lying and punished. Anna, Friday’s sister returns from boarding school  and Chidimma tells her too but Anna just laughs. ‘Don’t you want to be a woman?’

The beer parlour is always busier when Anna is home.  She is beautiful with velvety chocolate coloured skin. She sits and drinks with the men that come alone.  Anna invites Chidimma to sit with them once in a while. Chidmma crosses her legs, smokes a cigarette like Anna and tries to look grown up.

Sometimes Anna leaves with one of the men and she doesn’t come home till the next morning. Ahuekwe doesn’t say anything till it’s time for Anna to go back to school and she asks her mother for money. Ahuekwe is livid. ‘Have you been sleeping with that man for free? Go and collect money from him. Foolish girl.’

Anna takes Chidimma with her to see him later and asks him for money but he says he doesn’t have any. They argue. Chidimma asks to use the bathroom. He gets up to show her the way. As soon as they are in the hallway he pushes her up against the wall and puts his tongue in her mouth. She struggles. Anna watches. When they leave he gives Anna some money.


Next time Anna comes home from school she has a new friend called Nkeiru. Nkeiru is very glamorous. She looks like the models in Ebony magazine. Anna begins to dress and look just like her. One day Anna and Nkeiru dress Chidimma up and take her out with them. They go to another beer parlour and meet a man. They drink lots of beer and pepper soup and then they all go to a hotel together.

Its not like Sunrise Hotel. This hotel has four floors and many many rooms. The wood panelled reception area is five times bigger than Ahuekwe’s two rooms and garage. A cheap dusty cut glass chandelier hangs in the centre of the lobby, only two out of 12 bulbs work. The carpet is encrusted with dirt, thread bare in high traffic places and frayed at the edges near the wall.

The cracks in the over stuffed imitation leather armchairs to the left of the entrance make them look like giant turtles in the gloom. Plastic plants and flowers sit on coffee tables. Chidimma looks around in awe. They go into the bar. Uniformed waiters serve them ice cold beer in tall fragile glasses that aren’t chipped.

Anna tells Chidimma to go upstairs with the man. She tells Chidimma he will give her money to buy new cloths. He is middle aged and fat. He lounges in an armchair like a toad. His belly sits around his large frame like a barrel. His lips look thick and slack. His eyes are flat and cold. His face gleams with sweat and grease. He breathes with difficulty. Chidimma shudders and looks at Anna with a plea in her eyes but Anna ignores her.

She lies frozen with revulsion under him on a bed upstairs her face averted while he heaves, grunts and sweats on top of her.  She doesn’t let him kiss her. She thinks of the money he will give her but when they leave he gives the money to Anna and Nkeiru. They don’t give Chidimma any.

Nkeiru knows a lot of rich old men. She takes Anna and Chidimma with her to visit them. A lot more men come to Ahuekwe’s beer parlour too. They buy lots of pepper soup and beer and try to get the girls attention. Ahuekwe smiles broadly as she counts her money. Everybody is making money except Chidimma.

Then Chidimma gets pregnant  and Ahuekwe sends her back to the village.


Chidimma’s father and brothers are mad. They beat her to make her tell them who got her pregnant but she doesn’t know and doesn’t say anything. Ahuekwe watches and listens, urging the men on. She calls Chidimma a stubborn, wilful and ungrateful child. When Chidimma, one eye swollen shut and bleeding from the nose collapses at Ahuekwe’s feet, she moves away with a scornful look on her face. “Stupid girl. I told you not to be moving about with men! Where are they now?” Chidimma tries to speak but Ahuekwe kicks her in the mouth.

Her father picks up a large log and takes a swing at Chidimma’s head. She scurries away just in time, gets up and runs out of the compound. “Don’t you ever dare to come back here again unless you are coming with the man that got you pregnant. Useless girl.” Her fathers words pursue her. She runs past a sea of faces gathered watching the drama.  Some came out of their huts to watch and listen, some stopped on their way to the market where they will tell the story later to those who missed it.

No one comes forward to intervene. No one wants their daughter to get pregnant before marriage. Its a disgrace, a sure sign of a bad upbringing and poor pedigree. So no one wants to interfere when a man disciplines his daughter when it happens. Within days Chidimma’s disgrace will be whispered all over the village as an example of what happens to bad girls that have sex before marriage.

Chidimma disappears down the footpaths that criss cross the village farmlands till she collapses near the edge of the forest that surrounds the village. Sobs rack her body for a while then she is still. She jumps when a hand touches her. A soft voice asks ‘What is it my child?’. Her eyes focus and she stares into an old woman’s kind weathered face. Chidimma recognises Alumma and collapses gratefully at her feet.

Alumma is a poor, childless spinster who lives in a small mud hut all by herself near the border of the village. Everyone calls her a witch. She is always quick to point out an injustice and she always knows whats going on in the entire village. She heard Chidimma’s story in the market.

Alumma takes Chidimma home and nurses her till she is strong enough to help her around the hut and on the farm. Four months later, just before the first harvest, Chidimma gives birth to a baby boy attended only by Alumma in their small mud hut. The rain hits the thatch roof and muffles the babies cries. Neither the spirits nor the people hear him arrive.

“The deities be praised. The vampire witches and wizards that prey on women at child birth cannot fly in the rain.” Alumma says as she cuts the umbilical cord with a knife.

Chidimma and her son recover well and quickly. She is so grateful for a speedy and strong recovery she calls him Ekene. No one comes to visit Chidimma and her baby. No one brings her fish and yam for her confinement. Soon she is back on the farm with Alumma, her baby strapped to her back.

Each morning when she goes to the stream she passes the Sunrise Hotel. Each night asleep on  a raised platform near the cooking pit she dreams of a big house, with a large busy kitchen, a tank full of water nearby, and plastic flowers decorating the coffee table in the living room.


When Ekene is 18 months old Chidimma weans him. He is a strong stocky baby and loves to run around kicking a football. He calls Alumma ‘Nne’ and she dotes on him. Chidimma leaves him with Alumma and moves into the Sunrise Hotel. It took her a whole year to save enough money to buy a nice dress and a pair of platform shoes.

Alumma doesn’t stop her and Chidimma ignores the sad resignation in the old woman’s eyes as she leaves. They don’t speak about what she is about to do. They both know it has to be this way. For Chidimma there is no other way. Her desire for a better life flares into an overwhelming burden of ambition each time she looks at her son.

At the Sunrise Hotel she quickly learns to please the clients and ignore the taunts of the self righteous and soon has enough money to move back to Town. She rents a room in one of the numerous brothels. She is popular, vivacious and kind, she builds a long list of regular customers and the other prostitutes come to her for help, advice and counselling.

She sends money to Alumma and Ekene regularly and lives frugally. When she opens her own brothel the other girls rush to rent with her. She is always fair. She takes in only the highest paid most popular girls. Business is good and she treats the girls well. They make her President of their association. Chidimma is a long way from Sunrise Hotel.

In a few years she builds a big house in the village where Alumma’s small mud hut once stood and buys Alumma a ladies motorcycle to replace the bicycle she bought for her earlier. Alumma never  actually rides the motorbike unless she goes pillion with Ekene. She says she’s too old to learn but she likes to see it parked in the hall way of her new concrete and zinc bungalow.

Chidimma threw a lavish feast for the house opening. Villagers and relatives came from all over the state to see with their own eyes the house that Chidimma built.


They all came back for her lavish Igba Nkwu wedding five years later too.

Chidimma met John at the Oriental Hotel in Town. She was sitting at the outdoor bar alone. Her pampered skin glowed in the light of the setting sun. As soon as John saw her he knew he wanted to marry her. John was a trader. He owned many shops in many Towns across the country and more than 150 apprentices and employees worked for him. He sold motor spare parts he imported from Taiwan.

He walked up to her and told her he loved her. Just like that. She laughed. ‘Love? I am a prostitute. Do you want to buy me a drink?”  He started seeing her every day, he paid to be with her all day and all night and wouldn’t let her go out with any other man. He bought her expensive presents. When he asked her to marry him she laughed him off but he kept on asking till Chidimma finally said yes.

But first she tells him why she didn’t want to be a wife, she tells him about the married women in the village. And he promises her they will never live in the village. He promises they will live in Lagos far away from the village. Then she tells him about her family. Her son, Ekene, Alumma, her father, Ahuekwe and her children. He promises to make her family proud of her.

The wedding party lasted well into the night. The whole village came to witness the nuptials and eat plenty jollof rice. A high life band played Ebenezer Obey’s hits. People danced in her fathers compound under the naked light bulbs strung across the fore yard for the occasion. He was the official host. And very drunk. He pointed at Chidmma with pride;

‘That is my beloved daughter. She is a great lady. She has brought great wealth into my compound.” he boasted with a wide toothy grin.

Chidimma and John, dressed in rich lace and brocades and traditional ivory and coral jewellery sit in plush winged armchairs on a raised dais at one end of the compound. John’s prosperous friends and business partners come up and present them with gifts of money, drinks, home appliances, fabrics and even a car.


Chidimma’s funeral is even more lavish than her wedding.

She was 57 when she died. John was inconsolable. Their five children were inconsolable.    Their three children-in-law were inconsolable. Their seven grand children were inconsolable. Alumma had passed away the year before. Chidimma had given her a befitting burial, feeding all the village groups and erecting a tomb stone for the old woman, something she was not  entitled to as an unmarried childless woman. She would have been buried in the garden.

Chidimma was buried like the grand lady that she was. She had made many friends and belonged to many social groups. In Lagos she had become a renowned business woman with John’s support and many of her partners, associates and clients, past and present, came to pay their respects and condole John and her family. Some just came to see the woman they had heard about. The great woman that was once a prostitute. They came in their colours. There wasn’t enough parking space and there wasn’t enough sitting space but the crowds kept coming.

“She died too young” they lamented “May those that cut short her life never know peace”

In the village her legend lives on and little girls still dream of being a prostitute and escaping to the city.