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Onomarie Uriri: My First Valentine



It’s about 7.30pm. The weather is hot, there’s no electricity, and for some reason, we are in the hostel. I can’t remember why – maybe it’s a Saturday and there’s no prep, or maybe Matron has locked us in because it’s Valentine’s Day. They say she does this every year like clockwork – lock the girls in so that they don’t get “val’d”. It makes absolutely NO sense to me why she does that, but I don’t really care. Right now I’m trying to be cool and drown out Senior Chioma and her bunk-mate, Senior Deremi’s annoying chatter.

I’m not really thinking of Valentine’s day in that lovey-dovey sense to be honest, myself and Francis only started dating last October and we’ve talked like maybe only 5 times since then; I can’t imagine why he would want to Val me. I think about all those other girls who stand a better opportunity of getting gifts – Aisat, Kofo, Pamela – all those interesting ‘hot’ girls in JS3 who the boys seem to like; not flat-chested, skinny, extremely talkative and un-girly me. Honestly, I really don’t care; I just want Nepa to bring light so I can cool off this dreadful, dreadful heat.

Senior Chioma’s ceaseless babble is punctured intermittently with screams from other rooms – obviously, others girls getting val’d. When this happens she leaps off from her lower bunk, runs quickly with her K-legs to the door and peers down the corridor.

“Who did they Val?” Senior Deremi asks in her heavily accented Yoruba-laced English, so that ‘Val’ comes out sounding like ‘Faal.’
“One girl in Ijeoma’s room o!” Senior Chioma answers. They say it was a Sweet Sensation cake sef!”

Unintentionally, my ears perk up. In those days getting Val’d with Sweet Sensation cake was a BIG deal. A seriously big deal! But I am soon bored and strangely annoyed when they go back to their silly gist of girls who got Valed, those who didn’t and those truly unfortunate ones who received cabin biscuits or urine as gifts.

I must have drifted off to sleep, because I wake up abruptly to see Senior Chioma shaking me:
“Skela! (a hateful abbreviated version of the word ‘skeleton’). They say someone is calling you in front of Dining Hall.”
Her severely pockmarked face is scrunched up in excitement.
“Maybe it’s that your boyfriend that wants to Val you o!”

I get out of bed slowly, still a bit dazed and feeling as mean as a bear, because my precious sleep has been cut short. With little or no ceremony I slip into my housewear – a seriously ugly, red checked dress.

“Won’t you put lip balm and brush your hair?” Senior Chioma asks as I make my way to the door.

Gritting my teeth in frustration, I walk back, take my stainless steel 555 cup from my locker, dip it into the plastic bucket under my bunk, walk to the lawn, splash some on my face, gargle a bit and return to the room. I can’t brush or comb my hair because it’s all tangled in knots and I have no patience to sprinkle water on it to soften it. So I just tie a red scarf around my head, dab on Vaseline blue jelly on my lips and make my way out of the room… fast!

I’m still angry about being woken up suddenly, although at this point, I’m also a bit anxious. Who is calling me in front of the dining hall? Or am I one of those girls about to get Val’d with shit and piss? I set my mouth in a determined line. Any boy who tries that won’t have me running away in fright, I’ll dump his evil goods on him neat and square I vow.

Now my strides are longer and I arrive in front of the dining hall slightly breathless and already worked up. I stand around for a few seconds and then, quite suddenly, I spot him making his way shyly away, from his friends to where I stand. My anger dissolves to surprise and this absolutely debilitating shyness, I almost can’t breathe. Belatedly, I realize that I should have paid more attention to my appearance, but sadly, there is nothing I can do now.

He’s carrying a black rucksack with ‘Chicago Bulls’ inscribed in red on it. To distract myself, I keep thinking about how ugly the Bull’s nose is. As he moves closer to me, he opens the bag and starts to pull out stuff – a white teddy bear (those soft, silly, absolutely cute ones with an ‘I love you’ pillow in the middle), a long stemmed red rose (which smelled absolutely divine), a perfume in a white bottle (I forget the name now) and of course, the ever-faithful, ever-present bottle of Eva non-alcoholic wine. I’m not sure how I’m able to hold all of these things as I mumble an embarrassed and very quick ‘Thank you.’ Everyone is looking at me now as I scramble away quickly – this fair, skinny girl in Aduwo house wear and a beyond ratty scarf. This really unremarkable girl who has quite suddenly received her first-ever set of valentine’s gifts from one of the hottest (and most eligible) boys in her set.

Back in the hostel Senior Chioma descends on me.
“Yes you’re my girl now! I knew you were going to get Val’d.”
Of course I can’t roll my eyes or mention that I’m not really ‘her girl’ – since she’s one of the meanest seniors around. I just smile and make the appropriate sounds.

Much later when everyone is asleep, I look at my teddy bear, smell the rose and close my eyes. The weather is still hot, but I’m all of a sudden quite cool. Very cool as a matter of fact, because Francis Daniel Akpan Junior has become my first Valentine.

Beat that!

Photo Credit:
Onomarie Francesca Uriri is a graduate of English Literature from the University of Lagos; a marketing communications executive by day and a writer for the rest of the time in between. She believes in the power of words, the efficacy of prayer and the goodness of people.She has varied interests in writing, reading, travelling, meeting people and experiencing different cultures.


Francesca is the Head of Communications for West Africa at Uber. A Public Relations and Communications expert with 11+ years’ experience spanning corporate relations, corporate reputation management, event architecture, media management and content development, Francesca has worked on a broad range of projects and accounts, providing strategic communication and media engagement strategy for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, social impact organizations, and start-ups. She is also the Founder of Leading Ladies Africa; a women empowerment non-profit that celebrates the lives of African women, and promotes leadership, diversity and gender inclusion. Follow her @zanyfran on Twitter and Instagram Running in Heels is a (safe) place where we can have honest, heartfelt, “no-frills” conversations about being career women (and men) in the workplace.


  1. Dr. N

    February 15, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Beat that! I went to a single sex sch but my fave cousin filled me wt this kinda gist, it was like I was there wt her. Too cool for school. Yay to the tomboys! Lol

  2. Uby

    February 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

    The fact still remains, I have never been Val’ed and I will be done with Uni few months from now… 🙁

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      February 16, 2014 at 2:07 am

      Darling, I went through Uni having never been Val’ed, as it were, and when I finally got my chance with my first boyfriend ever, a year after law school (thanks to the “read your books, wait until after school to start a relationship” policing style of my parents), he gave me cash – dropped off by his driver, no less – as my valentine gift. After giving him a beautifully leather-encased pen set, because I knew how much he loved things like that and a bottle of perfume, accompanied by a card. I remember wondering what the heck was the point of us dating in the first place.

      So the moral of my tale is, all good things will come. Don’t let impatience or a sense you’re missing out on something, rush you into any sour experience of what should be a special day between couples. So that yours (because it will indeed come) leaves a lasting memory which is marked by happiness.

  3. Inem

    February 15, 2014 at 11:13 am

    awwwwwww… lovely. What a day to cherish. For me, I have never received any valentine gift before…and I usually feel lonely on those days even though I am always working. In High School, I used to exchange cards with my Val, yes! A day before Valentine, they’d be balloting, and you’d have to randomly pick a Valentine. I left High school 7 years ago and since then I haven’t experienced all that lovey dovey stuff on Valentine, it is usually normal. Maybe, someday I will…I hope so.

  4. Pat

    February 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Don,t worry ur time will come and it shall be worth it.

  5. ifeoma nwawe

    February 15, 2014 at 11:32 am

    in all my 20 sth years.. i have never been val’ed..School ends in 3 months and i will never have butterflies flapping in my belly.. *sigh*

  6. nkiru okoye

    February 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Aww! Onomzy. You are gangster o! Real names and all. Hehehe! I quite remember vaguely this particular valentine.. lol! Valentine was the ish back then in navy. Oooh! The memories! Nigerian Navy.. onward together!

  7. sηººÞ¬mιηι

    February 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    For me,i usually get gift frm my frnds many gifts,my broda told me i do get gift becos am handsum#

  8. Alero Mii

    February 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Nice piece Onomarie

  9. Eloho

    February 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Loved reading this! Well done Onomarie! Brought back memories. Had my first valentine in JSS 3 too – i guess my only till now sef! lool!

  10. Ritzy

    February 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Great write up. I was a Val’ ed a few times in school lol!

  11. Tabitha

    February 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Loved it! Nice piece. I had a val in JSS3 too. One of my lasts – i made effort that year sha. LOL!

  12. Dero Jr

    February 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Beautiful…. And absolutely funny!! I wish I could write half as good as my sister.

  13. Ivy

    February 15, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Lovely story! Never received any val in school, frankly was too absorbed in my books to care about my appearance and was a day student. But I always consoled myself that I would be happily married and would spend >40years getting valed by my darling husband. I’m happily married now, and dinner, the gifts and the kisses make up for all those lonely days, watching Onoms, Kofo, Pamela, Ramat, and all the other happening babes in NNS Ojo get valed..

    • Ono M Daniel

      February 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Haba, you had to add Ramats name on the list…Hahahaha….some love story back then in school. NNSS rocks…..Onward together truely…Onomarie… weldone and pray tell where is Francis Akpan Daniel..he used to be in my class sef….

  14. The Real Madam the Madam

    February 15, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    This was an amazing read. It really took me back to boarding school days and I was cheering so hard at the gifts. Great job!

  15. frances

    February 15, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Lovely write up!and oh, so sweeta story too..
    I also remember the valentine rush in my secondary school boarding house then. twas real o, if you don’t get a gift you feel BAD, as in bad..

  16. Alim

    February 15, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Nice. Being val’d in JSS 3 that is wow not to even mention the numerous gifts .That guy is really nyc most grown ups won’t even buy that much. I also love the fact that u believe in the power in words that power is 4 real. Great write up.

  17. Tammy

    February 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Awww…lovely write up my darling zanyfran.

  18. dee girl

    February 15, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Beautiful…..its a pity I have never been val’d too.

  19. bussie

    February 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Fantastic write up…d piece reminds me so much of happenings on vals day at navy and wen d writer mentions d red aduwo housewear, it cld actually be navy…great piece,very descriptive and brings great memories of boarding house

  20. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    February 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Aproco mode, what hapin between you and the boy after the fvaaal?

  21. amaka

    February 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Onoms o!lmao.u v finished me.I hope Francis reads this. Those days were crazy.I can totally replay this day in my head.great writing.

  22. Dami

    February 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    My first eva valentine was my first year i Uni, 2006…
    awww, it was so memorable, my friend, Laotan give me a very big Teddy bear and a cake in fron tof Moz hall, OAU. it was so sweet..

  23. Freggy

    February 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Nice one Onomzy waffi girl alway representing 🙂

  24. menoword

    February 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    My first valentine was when I was in JS3, through one of those “put names in a hat and pik a random one” processes in my church. My Valentine gave me a hand made card with a N1 coin in it. His cousin was in my year in school, so cue a full year of teasing and gossip and pretend love letters being read to the snickering members of my year. Let’s just say I lost my excitement about the whole thing after that.

  25. menoword

    February 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    *pick* pardon me

  26. seun onijamah

    February 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Wow!! Francisca, what a beautiful revelation and I am soooo glad I can relate with every bit of the story: the scenes, the character, the setting, the voice. I am tearing up in laughter, and yes, I must admit, you both really made the list of the top three hottest couple in our set. Those gifts seem quite childish right now but then, I remember they were like a million dollar. I know all that preparation that goes on in the boys hostel then. Its so good to finally hear your side of the story

  27. Stephanie

    February 16, 2014 at 1:02 am

  28. Mz Socially Awkward...

    February 16, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Onomarie, reading this brought back happy recollections of love and innocence in Secondary School. I smiled so wistfully at the end… nicely written.

  29. Freda

    February 16, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Onoms, once again you have wowed me with another wonderful write up, I’m so so impressed. I laughed all thru, I’m in London with Linda right now, can’t for her to wake up and read this. So funny.

  30. HRS_Cindy

    February 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    And I’ve never experienced how being val’d feels like
    great write up! took me 7 years back to secondary school…watching all my friends and enemies being valid. lol

  31. idara Umosen

    February 16, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Nice! Indeed FD Akpan rings the bell as a hott senior. Interesting write up

  32. Itse

    February 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Onomarie, sure did enjoy reading this, great write up.

  33. chizzy

    February 17, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Nice write up,thou ve never been val’d,i want to ve such feelin…

  34. Annie

    February 18, 2014 at 1:08 am

    my first val was in my second year in uni. got val’d by four different guys…lol….including the one i liked. it was sweet that the other guys made an effort but i had my eyes on only one person. 😀

  35. Ono M Daniel

    February 19, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Fun Memories of NNSS….

  36. FunkyW

    February 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Intelligent writer , beautiful write up, romantic ending… 🙂

  37. Her Excellency

    February 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Good ol’ Navy days, d preparation that goes into Val’s day in NNSS Ojo, the love letters carved in shape of airplanes that accompanies the gifts, the rep of the Valee n the Valor after Vals day, ohh the good ol Navy days when we were children and Matron was a witch…:)

  38. D'drim

    February 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Lol. not all the galz get val’d o. me sef get val’d by the girl who is ma gf now and hopefully gettin married. ts was a five alive tho! twas surprising and that z what made me to fall for her sef.

  39. Interesting

    February 26, 2014 at 10:32 pm


  40. neola

    February 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Francesca.. all the names of the girls in JS3 you mentioned… You went to Navy Ojo!!.. i didnt go there but i remember all the gist from my cousin kofo and she was certainly not flat chested:lolll..andim sure she has mentioned your name as well…..gosh im always tripped by my memories….

  41. Joe

    June 24, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Onomarie, i remember how Val used to be in NNSS Ojo. You used to be my neighbour in Navy Town, your brother Dero was my classmate.Many waters have gone under the bridge as they say, nice hearing from you.

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