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THIS IS HOW YOUR CELEBRITIES OBSERVED INDEPENDENCE DAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

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Today, Nigeria got a year older since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1960. And to celebrate that, Nigerian celebrities joined the very day people to share their thoughts on various Social Media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. Below [with pictures] are the moments captured for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy, please!

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Osas Ighodaro Ajibade went about her Independence Day message all inspirational, writing on Instagram “Through it all; even the storm… We will and always will stand tall!!! Happy Independence Day Nigeria. #God Is Great.”

Tope Tedela kept it simple and short saying “May all be well with her. Amen.”

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Meanwhile, Iyanya prayed a lot, writing-“On this Independence Day, I pray for a speedy recovery from recession. I pray for the safe return of the Chibok girls. I pray for peace and prosperity in our father land. I pray for long life for you and I so we live to witness our dear country achieve her full potentials. Amen. God bless Nigeria. #Proud Nigerian.”

Genevieve Nnaji wrote “That’s how we stay surviving. #HappyIndependenceDayNigeria”. She then added a Nigeria emoji, a palm emotion and a heart emoji. Lots of emojis, girl.

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TY Bello wrote “Happy Independence DAY Nigeria. May we add new feathers… Let it be said that we found new ways to move forward… That we shook off every heavy weight and learnt to fly beautifully again.” She added lots of hashtags afterwards.

Also, Kehinde Bankole wrote “Happy Independence Day Nigeria. You spirit will expel the bad worms eating you up. Ase! Thankful for my motherland…#ProudlyNigerian”.

Others kept it simple, including Enyinnaya Nwigwe who donned a fancy heart with an obvious  Nigerian touch and simply wrote “Nigeria lives in me”. Rita Dominic also expressed hope, writing on Instagram- “A nation that will be great. I believe! Happy Independence Day Nigeria.”

There was also a touch of comedy in the entire felicitations with Falz Da Bahd Guy writing “#istillblieve in a better Naija! Eez juz a mattalov patient.”

ON MY WAY HOME LAST NIGHT…

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Imagine a tired young man leaving the office after several hours of serious work. That’s me, tired and spent as I was. But at least I looked forward to having a great weekend as I walked towards the bus stop, leaving behind the deluxe estate where my office is located. It was already past eight in the night and there was a long journey ahead of me; two bus drops and of course the unpleasant traffic I would surely encounter. Poor me indeed!

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I got through the first half of my journey quickly enough and before long had managed to get into the next bus that would convey me home. The rain was threatening to pour down and I didn’t want it to pour on my body. So as I sat in that uncomfortable space, I wanted more than anything for the bus to start moving already. It did, but unfortunately we came upon a heavy traffic on the main street soon enough. There were yellow buses, tankers and private [fanciful] vehicles all moving bumper to bumper. And even though the rain was yet to start, I knew it was sure to rain down.  I wished more than anything to be in the comfort of my bed before it started to rain. If only I could evoke some supernatural powers and perhaps fly home already. But then wishes aren’t horses, so I remained sat in that cramped up space with the bodies of total strangers pressed against mine.

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The bus was so cramped up so much so I could hardly even move freely much less observe those behind me. But I could clearly see the driver, a middle-aged man who was so focused on the road with his hands gripping the steering as though everything depended on it. Beside him were two individuals I immediately assumed were a couple.  The man was sitting right next to the driver with his right hand draped around the woman’s neck. Yet, as couplie as the two seemed I couldn’t help but notice something rather odd about them. First of all, the woman appeared a lot classier than the man. She even donned what appeared to be gold jewelries. And then I noticed how she seemed uncomfortable with the man’s hand resting on her. But then strange things happen in marriages all the time… I ignored them.

As the traffic stretched endlessly along the road, the driver suddenly decided to divert the course of our journey by driving off the main street into a strange neighbourhood. Nobody in the bus said a word because we figured that bypassing the gridlock was better than being stuck in it for hours.  For a while, we drove freely, passing different kinds of neighbourhoods until we came upon traffic once again. How unfortunate!  We were back to moving at a snail’s pace. And by this time I had no choice than to resign to fat. Blocking my ears with my earpiece, I pressed play on my Play Music and was soon listening to Tekno sing Pana.

The bus kept moving slowly. And then all of a sudden the supposed couple beside the driver began to alight. At first I thought they had gotten to their destination but then I realized their journey wasn’t over. While the man ran across the street as though he was quickly going to see someone or buy something, the woman paced along with the bus while waiting for him to return.  Later on I learnt he had gone to ease himself, but surprisingly he spent nearly seven minutes doing that. No thanks to the traffic, we literarily remained in the same spot waiting for him until he was back. And when he did return, both him and the woman returned to their seats just as traffic coincidentally eased up and we drove along.  For a while we just drove on freely until suddenly I noticed a major drama unfolding in the front seat. The man who had gone out earlier was frantically searching for something. He was sweating as he searched everywhere- his pockets, his bag, the dashboard and even the belongs of the woman I thought was his wife. He then demanded that the driver stop the bus and he [the driver] quickly obliged, parking by the roadside just as I watched other vehicles pass us by. At this point I was beginning to wonder what sort of hellish ride I was in just as I removed my earpiece to learn what exactly was going on. Much to my surprise, the man said he had lost his sixty thousand naira. He said the money was in his wallet, resting on his laps just before he went down to ease himself. And the he couldn’t find it. Some of the passengers suggested he should go back to the place he went to ease himself to look there. Quickly he dashed off there but was back soon enough, saying he didn’t find a thing. His hysteria attracted a little crowd and I imagined the situation could be dangerous because after all this was Lagosians where people are famous for erratic behaviour and mob actions. Moreover, that neighbourhood I suddenly found myself stuck in wasn’t the best of them and the possibility of touts overtaking the situation abounded.

    Meanwhile, my logical mind was already piecing the man’s narrative together and instantly I saw a lot of loopholes in his account. First of all, it is utterly impossible for a wallet to contain that amount of money; too many notes. Moreover, what sort of idiot would carelessly keep such an amount of money on his laps in a bus full of strangers and then leave to urinate without holding tightly to it? By the way, how come it took him so long to urinate, and upon his return never noticed that the money was gone? And then the most important question of all- where in the world could the money have gone to since nobody had left the bus yet asides the man? As he kept on screaming, going short of calling all of us suspects, I wondered whether I should ask him the questions on my mind.  I could tell even the other passengers were suspecting him but being rather careful about what they said. Yet the man went on rampaging even accusing both the driver and the woman of stealing the money just as he tore apart the woman’s bag in search of the non-existent money.

It wasn’t until a long vehicle plying the road nearly knocked the bus and all of us off the road that we all became agitated. The passengers screamed at the driver to move the bus already. It was late and the rain was about to fall. No single individual should ever have to keep almost twenty people stranded for so long. But the man insisted that the driver was not going anywhere until the money is found. This prompted me to address him. I told the man that if indeed he lost his money, it was unfortunate. And as sad as it was, he should be considerate for those of us who were late from work, tired and needed rest. In response he screamed at me for being heartless and said he prayed I lost something valuable soon. According to him, he was the one who deserved all the considerations he lost seventy five thousand naira. Immediately he said that, most of the passengers have noticed the inconsistency in his story and began to shout at him. They questioned how he had suddenly gone from losing sixty thousand to seventy five; who did he think he was fooling, they asked him. As we screamed at the driver take us away from the place or refund our money, the man finally mellowed down and suggested that we contribute anything we can for him as compensation. But people told him sorry that there was recession in town. And just like that, we left him as the bus finally moved.

As we proceeded without him, the passengers began to analyze the incident. Everybody agreed the man was an amateur criminal. Several of his kind exists across the city of Lagos, but we were lucky we didn’t find ourselves surrounded by them all.  Anyway, the bus soon rejoined the main street and thankfully the traffic was no longer as bad. We drove for a few minutes before some passengers began to get down at their respective bus stops. And just as we were nearing my bus stop the controversial man reappeared from nowhere with another man, both jumping into the bus as it moved. The man was beside the driver once again and was threatening to maim the man if he didn’t return his money while the other fellow sat beside me. At this point there were just a few of us left in the bus and the stranger sitting beside me just kept staring at me with those drugged out eyes of his. There was something evil about him as I managed to look into the eyes it was though I was looking into the eyes of Danger. Unfortunately, he knew how uncomfortable he made me feel and had seemed to be really enjoying the moment. So I sat still and pretended to ignore him until luckily for me, we came upon a little traffic jam and without thinking twice I quickly pushed past the stranger and jumped out into the middle of the road. And as I quickly crossed to the other side, I noticed the strange man alighting and following me and so did the other one who allegedly lost his money. Thankfully, there were still people out and about on the main street so I walked briskly in a bid to disappear to my neighbourhood. But it seemed the individuals were intent at keeping up with me. Nobody had to tell me I must not let that happen.

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As soon as I left the main street and walked down the street that led to my apartment, I became instantly aware of how very desolate everywhere was. The impending rain had caused people to get behind the comfort of their doors. Moreover, it was really late by this time. So I kept walking as fast as I could as those two kept following me, and just then the rain began to fall. Perhaps it was fortunate for me that it began to rain when it did because it was the perfect excuse for me to run. And run I did, quickly diverting to ensure the creeps didn’t follow me home. My heart was pounding heavily against my chest by the time I got home and somehow I knew I had looked into the face of danger and yet escaped its harm…

~Emmanuel Benson

*These were true events.

THE CHARMING, COMFORTABLE AND PRIVILEGED LIVES OF NIGERIA’S AFFLUENT ONES

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Let’s be clear about one thing- wealthy people get away with many things in this Nigeria. What can I say…theirs is a privileged kind of life! It only goes to show how some people are indeed above the law and as a matter of fact use the constitution as their foot mat. But then again they are the privileged ones! Imagine that while some of us have to attend grammar schools, others are flown in private jets to exotic places like the Swiss Alps to attend private schools. Even those whose parents’ are “patriotic enough” to let them study here end up attending schools where a term’s tuition for a single student can pay the salaries of nearly one hundred [UNDERPAID] civil servants. That’s not all. Have you [yet] heard the story about some rich  Abuja kids who literarily fly from Abuja to Lagos everyday to attend school? I mean, they fly into Lagos every morning, get chaperoned to the school  and then fly back to Abuja by the end of the day… under-aged school children those are! It’s almost incredible, right? Well how about those fancy men and women who simply cannot “risk their lives” by taking local flights from Abuja to Lagos;  so they fly to London instead and from there head to Lagos!

In the world of Nigeria’s super rich, life comes with less worries. Everyday is like Christmas, and no place could be better than home. These super rich black humans would rather do their shopping in Paris than actually live there. And the reason is not farfetched- there are numerous privileges they enjoy by being rich in Nigeria which they cannot enjoy elsewhere. Therefore, they travel often but always return home. Home sweet home, they say as they touch down at MMA. The ladies  among them, (who are fanciful by the way and consumes the latest high fashion items from the best designers) have just flown first class from Europe where they shopped  for lipsticks and luxury gowns at Chanel and other well-lit stores in the main streets of Paris. The men on the other hand are good money spinners themselves. They would always import the latest cars and purchase properties in choice cities across Europe, the Americas and of course Dubai. Also the extremely wealthy ones  acquire private jets to be able to fly around, in most cases either borrowing or stealing to do so. All of these things keep happening in the very  place where most people  find it difficult to buy yellow garri and cook okra soup for dinner. Sad stuff!

Now just so we are clear again, I actually do love rich people. I know a couple of them personally, and I’d love to be so fucking rich myself when I grow up. *Winks. The problem I have with the privileged ones however is that most of them get away with serious offenses! You are probably familiar with the likes of Obanikoro, Stella Oduah, Allison Madueke, Bode George… I mean, the list is endless. These people stole billions of naira and never got to face the full weight of the law. But then again there are other stories of crimes committed by wealthy Nigerians we don’t get to read in the dailies. Sometimes last year, a friend of mine in Abuja was walking home from work (because he couldn’t pay the bus fare) when he got knocked down by a fanciful middle-aged rich woman. She simply carried him to the hospital, dumped his a** there and ran away. But that incident was one that ended nicely because a similar incident (also in Abuja by the way) ended tragically. This man was crossing the road when another fancy car crushed him to his death…

These crimes never get investigated. These wealthy people (some of them), they abuse their employees and their house helps and nothing happens. They are the MDs who receive fat salaries and give peanuts to the ones that actually work hard for the money. And when serious economic recessions loom, they quickly sack thousand of employees so that they may continue earning fat salaries. For their crimes they get nothing near a reprimand. Their stories are unlike the petty thief who get cut to pieces and burnt for stealing petty stuff like bread, transistor radios, cheap cell phones.

I am speaking out on this topic because I believe there needs to be change in our justice system. But most importantly, the impoverished masses must be enabled out of their penury. The time is now!

~Emmanuel Benson

THE GIRL WHO RAN AWAY

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She was from a really small town in Northern Nigeria, fleeing all the way south, away from the dirty old  man she had been betrothed and away from all the chaos and the hardhsip she had known her entire life. All she had with her was her little savings from working on people’s farms the previous year, the money she made from selling fura da nono, and of course the dowry money  Alhaji Tanko had paid to her father which she stole! But more than that, she  had a wishlist, top of which was to visit a beach. She had only heard amazing tales about oceans, saw a few pictures of beautiful beaches but never got around seeing one in real life. Good thing she was finally escaping to a place where the ocean’ waves lapped against rocky cliffs; a place where pretty girls wore bikinis and strolled on the beaches without molestation! She was fleeing to her freedom, or at least so she thought!FATIMA

At the age of twelve, Fatima was the only girl (of all her mates) who was yet to get married. Her situation had become so scandalous to the extent that it brought shame to her family. Rumour had it that no man wanted to marry her because she was too wild and wouldn’t remain in a husband’s house; her mother hadn’t raised her well, they said. Well, the little girl was okay with being labelled “wild” as long as no man thrice her age and more had to force his way through her young man one horrible night. She was satisfied with being “untrained” as long as she had the opportunity to be a child. She could not understand why her childhood should be taken away from her so forcefully. But most importantly, she could not understand why her parents “especially her father) would want to put her in the same condition as most of her mates who were forced to marry before her. Each time she saw them carrying their frail-looking babies with flies trailing them, she never understood why they usually had that horrible urea stench about them. But whatever the cause of them, she didn’t want to get married if that was what marriage was about.

But her parents never listened to her pleas. They were too eager to get rid of her in order to stop the rumours that were making the rounds due to her continued stay in the house. But more than that, they wanted to earn an extra income for the family through the bride price they would certainly receive on Fatima’s head. Consequently, the moment Alhaji Tanko came along with his money and his disgusting self,  Fatima’s parents jumped at the offer and readily decided to give their daughter to him. The bride price was hastily paid the following day. And that night while everyone slept, Fatima made a drastic decision in a spur of the moment to leave her family and escape from her house. But before she did, she stole the bride price from her father. This was to spite him, but more to support herself as she journeyed to the unknown…

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Ten years later after young Fatima made that drastic, almost dangerous decision to save herself, she had become one of the most important humans in her circles. Her story was nothing such of a miracle-  a beautiful, disadvantaged girl who was opportune to have caught the attention of a good human somewhere in Abuja while she languished under the heat selling  fura da nono. Yes, she never made it down to the south until seven years after initially setting out to the place. But ending up in Abuja had paid off big because that was the place she got discovered and made a local film star…

~Written by Emmanuel Benson

*This story is not entirely fictitious and the issue discussed is real…

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UNRAVELING MYSTERIES

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At first I felt him staring at me in the dark and later  I saw him in brief flashes, eyeballing me as I would walk along the streets. And then he was everywhere- at the supermarket and the library, always staring at me viciously and  seemingly vanishing into thin air whenever I tried  approaching him. This most certainly drove me crazy, for I thought I was hallucinating. And just when I thought I couldn’t have it worst, the most bizarre part of the drama unfolded unexpectedly…
I got home that evening to find a huge surprise; somebody uninvited had made dinner for me while I was away. As I stood in the middle of the kitchen letting fear grip my heart, I puzzled over what was happening to me- who was stalking me enough to have access to be apartment; could anything be creepier in the world?! But then discovering the cooked jollof rice on the stove wasn’t the shocker of the night because as I tiptoed upstairs, I found a man on the floor of my bedroom, still. With my hands shaking uncontrollably, I turned on the light and beheld the man who had been stalking me,  covered in his own blood and obviously dead! Yes, the fellow who stalked me for weeks was dead on the floor of my bedroom. His head had been smashed with some hard object, braking the skull open and causing some grey [matter mixed with blood]  to ooze out…

As I stared at the sight horrified, I could see it wasn’t long before life was snuffed out of the man. The wound still oozed fluid,  the blood smelling strongly fresh and nauseating. My mind was confused, thinking several things at the same time but never considering the possibility of the killer still being in the building. And just then my cell phone vibrated in my pocket, startling me as I answered with my shaky voice and listened to a rather cold female voice address me.

“You have three options: either you report the crime to the police, dispose of the body or you disappear tonight. If I were you I ‘d disappear because when you do, the authorities are going to believe  you were the victim! That will enable you unravel this entire mystery, with my help of course. You have five minutes to call me back with your decision. Don’t call back if it is a stupid decision!” Click.

I stood in shock, the phone held to my ear as I stared at the dead man on my floor. For the first time since he mysteriously showed up in my life, I could see that he bore an uncanny resemblance to me; almost as though we were twins. Without thinking straight, I immediately redialed the unknown female caller and told her that I was ready to disappear. And two hours later, I was in a bus bound south, heading towards Calabar.  According to my unknown guide, the first step to finding out what had happened was to be on the bus heading to the beautiful city; nobody else must know I was on that bus.

The following day it was reported in the dailies that I had been murdered in my apartment- High-profile Government Official Found Murdered in  Lagos Home.The news said the police was working hard to find the killer. But of course the  mystery was mine to unravel, at least so I had been manipulated into believing…

Story by Emmanuel Benson

*Emmanuel’s debut novel in development. Kindly anticipate.

A DAY IN LAGOS TRAFFIC

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Sitting beside the smelly bus driver, I observed the traffic through the cracked windscreen. The vehicles were assorted- old, new and the rickety, all  stretched out along the pothole-filled road while moving at a snail’s pace. It was almost a beautiful sight, and even though I was too frustrated to dwell much on the aesthetic perspective to it, I could not help but notice the yellow buses. I just was fascinated by those buses! Ever since my relocation to the city, I always observed how the yellow buses typically define the roads here. They make up a major means of transportation in Lagos and as a matter of fact I was commuting to work in one of them…

This was Lagos; the fast-paced city with crawling traffic! It was early morning rush hour on a Monday morning, the worst time to be on any road and more so a Lagos road. Already the sun was out and the heat radiating from it caused many in the bus to sweat profusely. Of interesting note was the man sitting by my right; he was completely distressed as he fanned himself furiously with a newspaper. He appeared to be some kind of executive considering the fancy suit he wore. And despite looking very good in the cloth, he cursed incessantly while struggling to remove it. But cramped  in the bus as we were, all his efforts were futile. All he could do was keep fanning himself while sweating and cursing. Luckily for us the traffic finally eased up a bit just as the breeze came through the windows. This breeze did not come alone however because it came accompanied by dust and exhaust fumes of different kinds. We all hissed simultaneously, some with relief while others were simply  disgusted by  the dust. A few windows were slammed shot behind me in desperate efforts to  to wade off the fumes. Meanwhile, I finally heaved a long sigh, exhaling the driver’s odour had been  hitting directly at my brain. I could not wait to get off the bus! Just unfortunate it was still a long journey no thanks to another traffic jam we soon came upon another traffic jam.

This commute was supposed to last [at most] thirty minutes. Sadly, I already spent nearly an hour and  was nowhere near my destination. It had been a slow ride during which I had witnessed different kinds drama. For one, there was the bus conductor who exchanged angry words with two passengers over change. While we were boarding at the garage, the ugly, hairy bus conductor had loudly announced in his loutish manner that  bus fare was a hundred and fifty naira each. He forewarned every passenger to  ensure they had the exact denominations to pay with as he did not have assorted denominations for change. But  despite this announcement, everyone did not take him seriously. Two of the passengers he fought actually gave him a thousand naira note each; this greatly pissed him off. Consequently,  an argument ensued and soon escalated to a heated quarrel that almost saw the two passengers thrown off the vehicle. But at the end they managed to sort out the disagreement just shortly before we encountered our very first traffic jam right after Dopemu bus stop…

Prior to moving to Nigeria’s big apple, I heard several stories, some of them even scary. These stories agreed that Lagos was indeed a place to achieve one’s dreams, yet it was also a highly chaotic place. I had even sworn  (at some point in my life)  that nothing would ever bring me here. Funny how quickly I moved as soon as I got a job. I came ready to face/conquer.  But the situation I met upon arrival was almost discouraging. Having been used to the calm of a University Community most of my life, being here was like my first taste of the Nigerian reality.The traffic was my biggest challenge. I encountered it every morning on my way to work on while on my way back home. And even though I often deprived myself of needful sleep in order to beat it, I usually always got late to work and got reprimanded for it. The Lagos traffic was many bad uncomfortable things jammed into one- one must have to struggle to board the bus and in most case these buses were cramped and utterly uncomfortable. Let me not forget the different kinds of pollution- smelly drivers, dust, fumes and of course the noise. Sad!

Interestingly, despite the many things wrong with taking a bus ride in the city, I did enjoy being in Lagos traffic. It was a good way to observe the city because each time as I sat by the window, I always observed the different faces of the humans of Lagos. There were the kids on their way to school, the embittered house girl knocking their  heads as she tugged them along the road. There were also the many workers stranded at bus stops as they waited for the BRT buses going to the Island. And of course there were the  yellow buses and their drivers…those deserve an entire story dedicated to them alone. Meanwhile, there are many more interesting things to observe while in a Lagos traffic. For any fashion-inclined person, the traffic would be a good place to feed one’s eyes to different kinds of fashion statements. I for one have beheld all sorts, from the beautiful, simple to the wacky and outright outrageous.

Meanwhile, on a more serious note I also observed the level of poverty in the city. There were the many road hawkers who were present wherever there was a traffic jam. The heat of the sun never deterred them. Instead, they ran after vehicles, thrusting their goods in your face as though forcing you to buy it by all means. The disheartening aspect of the scenario is that most of these hawkers are young people of secondary schools ages. They couldn’t stay in school because they are poor. I couldn’t help but imagine the possibility of them hawking by the road side for the rest of their lives…Perhaps the hawkers’ plight was nothing compared to the two beggars I always saw at a particular spot each morning. Their location was shortly before the Ikeja Along bus stop, around an elaborately-constructed roundabout where vehicles went in different directions. There was always a terrible traffic jam at this spot, and these beggars (male and before) got to utilize the opportunity to attract enough sympathy and often money. They suffered the same polio related deformity which crippled them, but for some reason they always avoided each other. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was; could it be class or just competition? I mean, the female beggar was in a wheelchair while her male counterpart wasn’t. Moreover, she was pretty and interestingly dressed okay unlike the man who was always in the same cloth. But while their levels were apparently not the same, the male beggar always had upper hand attracting alms because of his ability to meander through the vehicles, unhindered by any wheelchair. The female would simply sit in her wheelchair aloof, with her stern-looking  countenance… I was busy observing her face that morning when I heard a passenger screaming.

“Ikeja Along dey nah!” she shouted at the driver who was almost about driving past the bus stop. I looked at the driver and could instantly see that he was intentionally trying to ignore the lady. He didn’t want to stop over at this particular bus stop because coming out from it could be pretty hectic no thanks to the gridlock they always stretched from it every time.  But left with no choice, he cursed under his smelly breath and finally maneuvered the bus  off the road, parking it. Angry, he shouted at the passenger to hurry off the bus, turning towards me as he did even as I finally grabbed my face towel and quickly held it across my nostrils. He took note of what I was doing and had stared at me viciously, but I looked right ahead at the road through the very dirty windscreen. It was apparent he had neither taken a shower that morning nor brushed his mouth. He probably even slept in his yellow bus at the garage in order to load the first set of commuters by 5 O’clock that morning. For him, life was always on the road. I  understood his struggles, but what I could not understand was why my oxygen had to be polluted by him…

-Emmanuel Benson is an aspiring Nigerian novelist. Thanks a lot for reading.

FORLORN GAZE (The Funny Sample)

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As a young boy, I was quite stubborn. After my mother died while birthing my brother Okorie, the only way I knew how to grieve her loss was to be stubborn. My uncle’s wife (Ahudiya) who took custody of my brother and I tried her best to cope with my stubborn ways yet I couldn’t make it any easy for her; exposing myself and others to danger in the process. I remember when my little brother was learning how to walk, Ahudiya stopped taking him to the farm as she usually did, making me take care of the boy all day instead. I would take him along to school every day and upon our return I had to stay with him and Nmecha (Ahudiya’s daughter), babysitting. I hated that task and the fact that it denied me the opportunity to play with my mates who ran around the place unknowingly taunting me made it most difficult for me. I knew I had to solve the problem, so one afternoon I resorted to tying a rope around my brother’s little neck and dragging him outside, joining the others to play hide and seek while dragging him through the neighbourhood. He crawled on all fours, following me like a dog on a leash. It must have been a funny sight, but what was most seriously wrong with the sight was that Okorie ended up with severe wounds to his knee caps and other parts of his body. And for that I received the beating of my life.

 

The next day Ahudiya took Okorie and Nmecha to the farm and I had the afternoon to myself. I spent it at my friend’s house just to observe their glowing electric bulb. Theirs was about the only house in the entire community that could afford electricity at the time and the phenomenon was simply mind-boggling for a ten year old boy like me. As I stood there in the middle my friend’s sitting room gazing at the yellow light, I soon let my curiosity take the better part of my judgment as I found myself dragging a table to be able to climb and touch the bulb. My friend Ndukwe was busy in the kitchen dragging food with his sisters and had no idea what was happening. Before long, I had climbed on top of the table and was finally able to touch it, first cautiously and then firmly. I had feared the bulb might burn my hand just like the charcoal did severally. But surprisingly it did not even though it felt hot, but not burning hot. So I cupped it in my palm and was truly fascinated, using a whole minute to really observe it. But merely feeling the bulb and staring at it closely it wasn’t enough for me as I soon removed the bulb and without caution had inserted my finger in the whole from which I just removed the bulb. What happened afterwards was beyond shocking- the current jolted me before I found myself flung against the wall. As I hit the wall, I landed on a makeshift shelve (where some ceramic wares were packed) and it tumbled over as we both went kissing the floor. By the time I realized what was happening, I was lying in the shards of the broken ceramics, my head throbbing and several cuts on my body. My finger felt numb, and for some seconds it felt as though my world was still. And then I saw Ndukwe and his sisters standing by the door and peering at me in utter bewilderment; I realized what trouble we were in…

 

Despite the near-death experience, I was on to my next adventure barely a week afterwards. Having always been interested in knowing the neighbouring towns and villages around us, I decided it was high time I explored! Ahudiya always told stories about those from Abiriba and Ohafia, how they were all kidnappers and wouldn’t hesitate to snatch a child off a lonely road and use or her as pepper soup. She told those stories to scare me from wandering off alone because she knew I was capable of it. But that afternoon as I sneaked out from school and headed towards Umunnato, I could care less. I told myself that if I followed the untarred road that led to my town, it would lead me outside of it; and Umunnato was the very next town. According to stories, the place was closer home, and had a clinic, a morgue and a police station where all the bad guys from my town were taken to. So I trekked towards it, along the untarred road surrounded by the beautiful environments. The plains were luscious with green pastures and the cashew trees were sparsely scattered across it. Yet this environment was eerily desolate just and my little self was exposed to more dangers than I could imagine…

-Emmanuel Benson

*Forlorn Gaze is a draft manuscript in the works. Opinions and constructive criticisms are welcome. Thank you for reading.

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