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BN Prose: Suleiman by AnuOluwapo Adelakun

AnuOluwapo Adelakun

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Suleiman made his debut appearance in our compound on the day Iya Bunmi died.

There had been a deafening scream that hot afternoon coming from the long hollow hallway where six little cubicles served as bathrooms for the innumerable tenants of our house. Fathers were away at work; well, all fathers but mama Ejima’s quarrelsome husband who tied a wrapper around his waist all day, sat in his white plastic chair and listened to BBC from his small transistor radio which was controlled by a broomstick that replaced its former shiny silver antenna.
Children were away at school and the housewives were either washing mountainous heaps of clothes, letting out different sensational aromas from their steaming pots, attending to crying or hungry babies or gossiping.
It was the typical afternoon in our compound until Bunmi was found shaking uncontrollably while pointing towards one of the cubicles where her mother lay lifeless on the floor.
The news had spread like an outbreak of Ebola in the slum of Guinea and people trooped in their numbers wearing different styles of long faces.
There were different shades of sympathizers- the professional criers (those who wailed and rolled on the floor yet managed to squeeze no tear out of their eyes), the local night watchman, family members, passersby, news gatherers; but mostly Iya Bunmi’s customers who paid a daily homage to the  pot of delicious stew veiled in overheated palm oil under which swam the exotic insides of a cow and the big bowl of hot immaculate white rice, guarded by smaller bowls filled with dodo, ewa and wriggly spaghetti (which they called “macaroni”).

They were all seated on the large wooden table behind which the ever cheerful Iya Bunmi used to sit on her high chair, dishing out sumptuous combinations of meals with her long silver spoons. They wept for their bellies’ loss. Some children sat together on the septic tank whispering excitedly and waiting eagerly for the slightest appearance of Jollof rice and Dr pepper; one of the privileges of being in an adult gathering. One of them wandered towards the idle pen which lay on the flimsy notebook at the feet of Iya Bunmi’s picture just beside a dusty flower vase that housed a limp bunch of cobwebbed flowers borrowed from mama Ejima’s parlour which now sat on iya Bunmi’s wooden table ; a table which had suddenly become a monument of condolence. He wanted to write in it: “Edet lives in Calabar” but the sting from a long whip that struck his powdered rash-infested bare back somehow aborted his noble plan.

Night fell so quickly. The moon looked down on our compound like a witch hunter on a duty to capture a wandering spirit. The air was still and in the usual manner, unpaid electricity bills made our house stand out darkly from other houses whose bulbs shone half-eyed. On previous nights, mats were spread in the compound and children slept off to Fela’s song “palaver” playing from the night bar down the street where the night came alive everyday while yawning mothers drove thirsty mosquitoes and hooligan rats away with their wrappers and stamps of their feet until fathers arrived from their various jobs or palm wine joints to either carry the little ones on their shoulders in to continue their sleep or urinate on them; but tonight none of those happened. The night watchman didn’t blow his whistle, everyone simply went to bed.

It was the perfect night to jump over the fence and into our compound with a sharp razor to tear open window nets that had been fixed less than a month ago and try to escape with the gold earrings  mama Ejima’s sister sent from Kano (so she said) when something fell off the window sill, waking mama Ejima up. She opened her eyes to a short arm with short thick fingers searching through the dark for a valuable to grasp. She quietly picked up the whip she used to wake her children up for school every morning from under her pillow, grabbed the blind arm and started whipping it screaming “Theeiieef! Theif ooo!!!” Her screams and the painful yells from the prey behind the ruthlessly tortured arm woke the able-bodied men in our house who ran out of their rooms leaving their trembling wives and children behind like a troop of army suddenly called upon to make war.

The next morning, there was a crowd in front of our house. People gathered around something,  murmuring, spitting or shrugging. It was something that looked like a hurried attempt at making  suya out of some animal except that it had some thin multilayered copper necklace covered in soot around its neck. It was Suleiman the local night watchman and he was dead.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)

AnuOluwapo Adelakun is a Women & Girls rights advocate, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker working on issues affecting marginalized girls and women in Nigeria. She's a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change and UK Chevening Alumna. She's also an ardent reader of African literature and an unrepentant fan of the BBC series 'Call the Midwife'.

27 Comments

  1. IamFavour

    October 6, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Lovely piece , I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Icey

    October 6, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Beautiful piece.

  3. Lapetite

    October 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Nice

  4. dee

    October 6, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Wow… the end had me sober. Jungle justice is never the way. Lovely write up.

  5. jasmine

    October 6, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Sule the night watcher was the thief? Lol

  6. miini

    October 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Love your way with words, beautiful!

  7. martinson oluwaseun

    October 6, 2015 at 9:19 am

    profound. I do hope u enter the commonwealth writers’ prize. u got talent….and skillz too

  8. Fissy

    October 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Lmao i love!

  9. Kofo

    October 6, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Beautiful write up, well done

  10. Oliver .O

    October 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Deeply thoughtful and scintillating.

  11. Mariam

    October 6, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Lovely piece…

  12. Mimi May

    October 6, 2015 at 10:32 am

    A beautiful poetry and a good poet I must say. Your words is best imagined. So real. The sky is your stepping stone. Keep soaring higher.

  13. Bees

    October 6, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Hmmm. You try sha, but work on your sentences. Getting from the first word to the last word in your sentences left me breathless – and not in a good way. Bravo!

    • tolulope

      October 6, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      What’s wrong with her sentences?

  14. Ese_sleek

    October 6, 2015 at 11:11 am

    He wanted to write in
    it: “Edet lives in Calabar” but the sting from a
    long whip that struck his powdered rash-infested
    bare back somehow aborted his noble plan.- this got me laughing uncontrollably.
    lovely write up
    sad ending

    • tolulope

      October 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thought that was funny too

  15. Lola

    October 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Whao! I enjoyed reading this. Well done.

  16. Hephie Brown

    October 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Gooo baby, as usual, another lovely piece..am i d only one who after seeing the ending and being sad for 3 seconds, burst out laughing? I am? Im weirder than i tot.

  17. Bookworm

    October 6, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Wow…I love this! You write so well.

  18. vee

    October 6, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Z she Abimbola Adelakun s daughter ? I enjoyed the story very much , bera dan last week s prose.

  19. Funmilola

    October 6, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Don’t play with that iya bunmi’s food ooo,I miss Lagos for that where spaghetti is called macaroni….lol
    well done adelakun,this is soooo cool.

  20. Tomifeoluwa

    October 6, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Anu has done it again! This piece is so deep and a delight to read. I like the theme of the story, Jungle Justice is really never the way to go.
    Keep it up sis, the sky is your starting point.

  21. Joice

    October 8, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Real indeed, sm watchmen are unspeakable.

  22. Nunu

    October 8, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Oh! I love this writer!

  23. Busola awan

    October 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Well done mate! Another well written piece. Was indeed captivating from the beginning to the very end. Bravo!

  24. okhai

    October 24, 2015 at 11:18 am

    The choice words was fantastic. I dare say intimidating. Loved every bit of it. Well done.

  25. Tobi Oyewole

    October 31, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Wonderful piece. Love love love it! I wonder why they didn’t allow that kid write “Edet lives in Calabar”, maybe that was his test the next day and he wanted to practice, perhaps? At least if Jollof and Dr. Pepper wasn’t coming, writing a line from his “reader” might have been a good consolation. 🙂

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