PONMO ALATA II.

Hello reader! How’s your day going? I hope I’m about to make it better. Before you read this post, it is highly advisable you read the first part here. Enjoy!

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“Seeeeuuun! Segggguuunn! Seeeeyiii! Shoooogo! ”. The four boys were rudely yanked from dreamland by the sound of their mother’s loud voice as it reverberated throughout the whole of No. 33 Adefila Street. Seun’s eyes lazily drifted to the wall clock. 6:24. Haba! Today was Saturday, the only day of the week they were allowed to be in bed till 8:00am. He looked at his brothers, they were no longer asleep, neither were they fully awake. They were waiting for somebody to get up first.

“Ooooh God! This woman should allow somebody to sleep now,”
Seun grumbled under his breath.

“Ahn ahn! Are you counting my voice? Before I count to three all of you appear inside this kitchen now! OOOOONE…”

All four boys scampered to the kitchen. There they found their mother scowling; her hair bound in a black hairnet; a green “Mama-is-60” wrapper around her chest.”

“Which one of you entered this kitchen last night?”

Shet! Seyi thought. It took all of his will power to stay calm.
“See them looking at me like basket of tomatoes. Da mi lohun jare!” They all looked at each other confused and shook their heads.

“Nobody abi? Ehh hen. So it was a ghost that entered my house, turned up the lantern to highest,” she pointed to the lantern now darkened with thick soot, “and now carried it from the left side of the entrance to the right, abi?” Her tone going up one tone as she said ‘abi’.

Seyi gave himself a mental knock. In his hurry, he’d forgotten to turn down the lantern knob. Stupid mistake. He would never steal at night again. He continued to act as confused as his brothers.

“I know that it is one of you. Me and my husband were in our room throughout the night. There’s kuku nobody again in this house. Since nobody wants to confess, gbogbo since ma je gba.”
“Ahhh! Mummy, please, please ma.”

She ignored their pleas and continued speaking, “Not only is this person lying , this person also stole. The ponmo in my pot is now twelve instead of thirteen, abi you think I won’t know ni? Ehn?” She glared at Segun, the usual culprit.

“Yeeehh, mummy, I swear to God Almighty. Emi ko.” Segun said touching the tip of his tongue with his finger and pointing to the ceiling.

“C’mon. Don’t swear in this house!” She rebuked Segun. In a much calmer voice she continued. “Don’t worry. We would soon know today. Shogo. ”

“Ma?”

“Lo gbe Mr Bulala wa.”

Segun was the first to go on his belly, Segun and Seyi quickly followed suit. ” Ahhh..Yeeh…Mummy E jooooo. E jo Ma. Mummy it is more blessed to forgive than to punish. Maami E jo.”

Shogo stood still unsure of the most appropriate course of action, to join his brothers or to bring the cane as his mother asked.

“Go and bring the pankere for me, my friend!” His mother shouted. He scampered away “And don’t disturb your father.” She called after him. She turned to face the others.

“So after all my preaching to you. You boys are still stealing. I thought you have stopped. Do you want to go to hell fire? The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should grow and when he is grown he shall not depart from it. The same Bible says, “spare the rod and spoil the what? ””’

They all chorused somberly, “The child.”

Shogo returned with “Mr Bulala”, a one feet long cane as thick as a thumb. At the sight of it, Seyi began to tremble. Regret filled his heart. He considered confessing. He looked at his brothers. Segun was already crying. Obinrin. Small cane you cannot chop. He couldn’t blame him though His mother looked like she was ready to flog the life out of them. If none of them owned up she would punish all of them. He knew it didn’t matter at the end of the day, confess or don’t confess he would be beaten. His conscience however would not let him be. Your brothers are innocent, don’t let them pay for your sins. Do the right thing. Remember what they taught you in Sunday school. His mother’s voice jolted him.

“Seyi, do you have something to tell mummy?” She asked, eyebrows raised.

Voices began warring in his head. Just confess, don’t commit two sins. No shebi nobody saw you. But God saw you oh. SHUUT UP.

“Seyi?’

“No ma. Nothing ma.” He looked down at his feet.

“Shogo?”

“Mummy, it wasn’t me.”
“Toh! In that case.” She collected the cane and dropped it on the kitchen table.

Seyi wanted to cry, for himself and for his brothers. This was it, the part where she’d tell them to present their bumbums. He had koba’d his brothers for nothing.

“All of you go to your room.”

Ehn?

None of them moved. It had to be a trick.

“I said go back to your room!”

Was she serious? This was new. Why was she looking at them like that? Seyi felt like he was under a microscope.

“Go before I change my mind!”

She wasn’t flogging them or punishing them? Ha! Ope o <

“Oluwaseyi come back.” His heart stopped.

“Why were you smiling?”

Had he been smiling?

“Ma?”

“Ki lon pa o lerin? Wa n bi. Come to my front.”

She bent over at her waist till they were eye to eye and placed her hands on her knees as support.

“My mind is telling me that you are the one. I know you did it but I will not force you to talk. Do you want to be a devil’s child? Don’t you want to be a Jesus boy? Oya, look at me and tell me the truth.”

He looked into his mother’s eyes. They were searching his face. There was no fire in them again, instead they looked kind. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t lie to her face. His heart was pounding with fear.

“Mummy, please I’m sorry.” He began to weep. The rest of his apology was muffled by his crying. He watched her through rheumy eyes as she straightened to her full height and adjusted her wrapper.

“Ha, so you were…” one of his brothers had started to say but was silenced by one glance from their mother.

“Why did you lie? Why did you have to wake up to steal?” Her tone was a mixture of concern and disappointment.

“The rest of you, no more sleep. Go and do your morning duties.” She turned to his brothers who were standing in a corner of the kitchen.

They began to grumble.

“If I hear Kpim!”

The grumbling stopped.

She turned to Seyi, who was still crying and sniffing. “Oya follow me and bring that cane along.”

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TRANSLATIONS-
Da mi lo hun jare – Answer me
Gbogbo yin ma je gba – All of you will be flogged
ki lo n pa o lerin – What is making you laugh
wa n bi – Come here
Obinrin -female
Ponmo Alata – An local yoruba cuisine of cooked peppered cow hide.

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I hope you enjoyed it? Please let me know if you did by expressing yourself the comment section. If you didn’t, do send all your accusations, allegations and aspersions to the comment section. Please pardon my grammatical errors, feel free to kindly point them out.
Let me give a quick shout out to my Mama, Mrs Oj! (No, this post wasn’t about her) You are the best Ma, You are just too wonderful. I hope to continue to always put a smile on your beautiful face. So help me God. Amen.

To all MOTHERS out there, we appreciate you.

While I’m still in this mushy mood, thank you readers for your time. Oya, why don’t you like my Facebook page and follow the blog . You are too musssh. Take high five!

DAY 22: ASMAU

night fire

 For the first time, Asmau saw the beauty in fire.  Seated on a stool, alone in the backyard, bent over the fire; she watched transfixed as the orange flames devoured the rags she had dropped in its belly. She picked another rag from the small heap of rags  beside her and fed it to the fire. She watched as the flames leapt up and burned brighter, blackening the rag and quickly turning it into ashes, a few escaping into the night carried away forever by the night breeze .  She liked the way the light of fire clashed with the dark of the night.

The fire cast an eerie glow on Asmau’s gaunt face.  The sound of shuffling feet approaching turned the mild fascination on her face to a frown.  She had expected all her neighbours to be asleep except for the mothers who had to wake up occasionally to attend to their crying babies. One of the tenants, Iya kike, appeared at the corner of the backyard. She stopped as soon as she saw Asmau. Her gaze moved from Asmau to the little fire burning at Asmau’s feet and back to Asmau again. Iya kike opened her mouth to speak but immediately closed it and went into one of the bathroom stalls shared by all the tenants in the compound. She came out some moments after, turned to leave but not before casting a puzzled glance at Asmau. Asmau acted like she wasn’t aware of the anyone’s presence.  Iya Kike adjusted the wrapper over her ample, saggy bosom, made a loud “hmmmph!” sound before shuffling away armed with fresh fodder for tomorrow’s gossip.  Asmau wondered what name they would add to list of names they already called her.

She didn’t care anymore; she had stopped caring a long time ago. She didn’t blame them, it really wasn’t their fault.  It was only natural for them to avoid her and say unpleasant things about her.  But was it her fault too? Was it her fault that until two weeks ago she had always carried the pungent of urine around with her?  Was it her fault that no matter how hard she tried, urine never stopped dribbling between her legs?

They took the child that she had brought to the world after almost two days of excruciating labour away from her.  They said they didn’t want her to transfer her smell to the child. They gave him to another wife to nurse and locked her up in a small room. The doctor had told her that her pelvis had been too small for baby’s head to pass through so she had had an obstructed labour.  But was that her fault too?

Her father had married her off at 15, immediately she finished form two.  She had gotten pregnant at 16 and was happy and terrified at the way her tummy swelled and swelled with the promise of life, only for her body to betray her in the end. She was sent away from her husband’s house with only a few of her belongings.  Her parents refused to accept her because she had brought disgrace on their heads, she was a taboo. For the past 12 years, her body had betrayed her. Daily begging paid for food and a shabby accommodation in another part of town.  For the 12 years, people had covered their noses when she huddled past. She talked to no one. No one talked to her much. She knew they all wondered what was wrong with her, why she stank all the time. They weren’t curious because they wanted to understand or help her; they were simply just curious. She tried to do them a favour by ridding them of the taboo that was her, but she never able to go through with it.

Her nylon bags and rags took away some of her shame. They didn’t work as effectively as the urine bags and sanitary pads which she couldn’t always afford but at least they made sure her clothes and beddings weren’t wet from urine all the time. She had folded them, wore them, changed them and washed them and used them again and again. Now, there wouldn’t be need for them anymore, because a kind group of people had found her and took her to the hospital and made sure that she got the appropriate treatment. She didn’t believe it would work; she had waited for two weeks to be sure, so far, she wasn’t leaking again.

She squeezed the rag in her hand, it was the last one. She had decided not to burn them all at once. She wanted to say goodbye to them one by one. She held it up to her nose and inhaled, the faint familiar smell of urine brought a sad smile to her face. Her shame was gone, finally. She dropped the last rag into fire and watched as the fire reduced to a smoulder.

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Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) is an abnormal connection/hole between the vagina and the bladder resulting in leakage of urine into the bladder. This causes urine to leak uncontrollably from the vagina.

According to statistics, Nigeria has the highest prevalence of VVF in the world (400,000- 800,000 cases). About 95% of these cases occur in Northern Nigeria.  55 women are infected and 18,000 cases are untreated daily.  The most common cause is prolonged obstructed labour.  Other causes include advanced cervical cancer, Gishiri cut, caeserean section, and uterine rupture.

 VVF is a common picture in Northern Nigeria because of the high prevalence of child bride and also because of unskilled birth attendance .  Asides from the problem of struggling with issues of hygiene and other complications of VVF,  many patients suffer from stigmatization  and great psychological trauma

The good news is that VVF can be surgically repaired with very good outcomes. Because most women with VVF can’t afford surgery, foundations have been set-up to assist with financial aid. Individuals have also helped in providing assistance. Most recently, Nigerian actress, Stephanie Linus, partnered with the Extended Hands foundation at the General Hospital, Ogoja to help 22 women with VVF. 

Stephanie-Linus-in-Cross-River-BellaNaija-December-2013-01

To find out more about VVF, check out the following links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesicovaginal_fistula

http://www.rcog.org.uk/book/their-own-words-12-stories-vesicovaginal-fistulae

http://www.rooseveltcampusnetwork.org/blog/life-social-outcast-story-vesico-vaginal-fistula-girls

http://allafrica.com/stories/201306171128.html

GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND! 🙂

DAY 21: GUTTERS LIKE AQUARIUMS

                “That’s a pipe dream!” I retorted at Bernard’s optimistic opinion about Nigeria. That was on a really hot evening in my scantily furnished room where Johnson, Bernard, Prezzo and I lamented over our unpalatable status quo. Perhaps the sultry weather exacerbated our already depressed moods. Putting blames couldn’t stop, at first it was the government, we bemoaned bitterly the issues of corruption, unemployment, inequality, to mention but a few; as though those in power would readily hear our cries. We went on saying the country’s misfortune was caused by habouring too many witches and wizards, and thus got us all jinxed, how ludicrous of us! Crystal clearly, I remember Johnson shouting rather annoyingly in pidgin “ No be my fault, na my Papa wey born me for this accursed land”. He seemed to be the most disgruntled of us all, but hell No, he wasn’t! I was only being reticent, he couldn’t be half as frustrated as I was.

After about half an hour of our tireless, fruitless lamentations we found some peace in believing that we weren’t just destined to make it in Nigeria, after all we had mates that rode oppressive, success-provoking jeeps already. No one would have thought otherwise anyways, being a second class upper civil engineering graduate who had sought job for four years but to no avail, made me feel pathetic. Although I had had few undeserving stints at the seaport, a block industry and garment factory, they all offered me lilliputian income that barely afforded me good food. I knew my family members had lost considerable amount of hope in me, even though this was never voiced out, actions spoke louder.

Saying I was unhappy would be under-descriptive, I was utterly disheartened, yes I was! Suicide could have been an option, but where was the nerve? As I lay on my bare foam- [one of my most valuable asset] with my face glued to it and my legs flexed, trying hard to insulate myself from my friends’ grumblings which I was already getting tired of. I had taken enough alcohol to get me inebriated but it only kept me pretty calm. After heart-sinking thinking, an idea came up; one that was going to leave an indelible mark in my years of human existence.

The thought was that I should leave Nigeria. But how, when? The questions beclouded my mind with feelings of impossibility. Granting visa to an individual without prospect like me was something hugely burdensome. Even if a miracle happened and I was granted a visa, ticket fare was financially unattainable for me. My 5 years savings would hardly accrue to half the ticket fare.

During my stint at the shipping port, I worked for the white man in cleaning some of the vessels in which oil was kept. At such points in time, the thought of smuggling myself with the ship never occurred to me, as this was done only by the intrepid desperados. Choicelessness brought me to resort into such despicable means. But I had no other hope of getting to my greener pasture.

To my progress, I had made quite a number of friends at the seaport which  I owe to my friendly disposition and I strongly believed one, If not more would be instrumental to my illicit emigration.Without  further waste of time, I discussed my intentions with Boniface the chief steward of the ship. In about   two weeks the ship was to leave for Spain. I tried hard not to say goodbyes because I wanted my intentions to be as clandestine as possible, I only suggested the idea to Johnson who showed outright dissatisfaction at it and I never bothered coaxing him. Time flew incredibly fast and the two weeks was soon over. I was one of the first persons to board so as to be out of sight. The steward hurriedly led me to the starboard where drums of oil were kept. On reaching there, I met another die-hard like me, kado by name. Of course this gave me a bit of relief, having a partner-in-crime makes it easier.

The first three weeks of the voyage wasn’t bad at all, we had food to eat twice a day as brought by the steward or any of his sub-ordinates.

Things began to go awry on the twenty-fifth day of our voyage when the captains had to go round for inspection. The steward having heard this, came to fore-warn us. Consequently, we had to hide somewhere they wouldn’t reach, otherwise we were going to be caught and most likely thrown into the sea.

Even though the practice of throwing a person into the sea was declared an offence by the then government, the ruthless white captains wouldn’t adhere since the government authorities wouldn’t get to know. We had to go to the propeller section of the ship, we weren’t oblivious of how extremely dangerous this was, but we’ll better try that with the hope of a survival than being pitilessly thrown into the sea. Even though I was prepared for the worst, the speed at which the propeller spun got us so frightened. Making matters worse, there was no place to sit or rest one’s back owing to the waterlogging;more so the propeller section was also of impenetrable darkness. We had to hold on to a horizontal pole that travelled from one end of the ship to another and we tried to hold on as firmly as possible, the slightest slip-off would cause us to be severely blown over by the propeller. Hunger was a serious problem, but this was subconsciously relegated to the background as a greater challenge of not falling from the pole faced us.

As the days went by, hoping to arrive soon and free ourselves, our pain threshold was being surpassed    and the water level seemed to increase. Kado couldn’t bear it any longer, and involuntarily, his hands slipped. I Instantly heard the sound of the propeller change from  “woo woo woo” to ‘whew whew whew” ,caused by Kado’s flesh obstructing the movement of the blade. I knew it had happened, the propeller chopped him so badly, worse than the way a poor Yoruba woman would share a small piece of meat among a family of seven.  I smelt blood, I tasted it. It was gory! The propeller was cruel, it couldn’t be more unforgiving.

At this point in time I knew death was an inch away; I cried and cried until tears in my lacrimal glands got vexed and stopped to roll down. Even though I had never really taken my spirituality serious, I believed in life after death, fear coerced me into asking for forgiveness of my innumerable atrocities. Only if I knew we were just 14 hours to arrival, I could have begged Kado to live, as though it was his choice.

As soon as the ship disembarked, Boniface came down to the propeller to check. He asked of kado and I told him the sad news, he didn’t seem to be worried, was he used to seeing people die? All of these ran through my mind. Before we left the ship he gave me some pieces of clothing so I could appear as if I was a worker, contact of a friend of his in Spain and some money. I got ashore and rather surreptitiously walked out of the seaport.

On getting out everything felt different, even the air breathed in! It was absolutely fresher. The ground wasn’t what I was used to, this one was clean, everywhere was superbly scenic. I was ineffably joyous I finally made it to Spain, but I had to swallow my erupting joy lest I call for suspicion.

I had barely walked a stone-throw when I saw this good-looking young man, he was a black man . He wore a pair of blue jeans and he walked rather swaggeringly with his earpiece tucked in his very oval ears. I approached him for some help as to getting to the address the steward gave me. His response was very ready and he told me to come along with him. Mesmerized by this uncommon hospitability, I followed him to his car, parked some metres away. As he drove, he asked me questions about myself and why I liked Spain, and I made sure I promptly answered, he reciprocated by introducing himself, even though I never asked him to. I felt really lucky seeing someone else that was going to be of help.

To my utmost chagrin, this supposedly friendly chap drove me to the Spanish immigrations office. The moment I was bundled into the office, I realized he was an undercover immigration officer who was one of those assigned to apprehend illicit immigrants that found their way out of the seaport. My heart sank, the disappointment was colossal, and the betrayal was inhumane. Why was it done by someone of the same colour?

As if I was a liability already, I was to board the next flight to Nigeria which was in two days time. I was deported, I couldn’t even brag of bringing home a nice pair of shoes from “obodo-oyinbo” land. I shared my sad story of how my desperation did me no good with people. I wanted a place of endless opportunities,  a place of infallible  aesthetic sensibility; where I thought they had gutters that were  like aquariums.

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This was  written by Emmanuel Daniel and sent in by Adeniyi Marcus. You guys are awesome! Thank you!