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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!
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…
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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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.
Sitting beside the smelly bus driver, I observed the traffic through a cracked windscreen. All the vehicles in front of me were of assorted kinds- the old, the new/expensive and the rickety ones. They all made a long stretch along the pothole-ridden road, moving at a snail’s pace. It was almost a beautiful sight, although I was too uncomfortable to dwell much on the aesthetic nature of a gridlock.Yet, I could not help but notice the yellow buses. I just am fascinated by those buses! They are my favourite part of the Lagos traffic…
Lagos! The fast-paced city with crawling traffic! It was early morning rush hour, the worst time to be on any road and worst still a Lagos road. Already the sun was out, seemingly making a conscious effort to combine with the dust and exhaust fumes to make my life and those of the other commuters miserable. A certain fat man who was sitting by my right was clearly distressed even as he fanned himself furiously with a newspaper. I assumed from the way he was dressed in his fancy suit that he was some kind of business executive, although I couldn’t be so sure because all the executive people I know in Lagos always commuted in private cars; windows rolled up and air-conditioning on point. Sadly, the man beside me was so uncomfortable. He probably wasn’t used to riding with the “commoners”. Perhaps his car broke down or something… I listened to him curse repeatedly under his breath even as he struggled to adjust his bulky self into any form of comfortable position. But cramped in the bus as we were, all his efforts proved futile. So he kept fanning furiously while sweating and cursing.
Luckily for us, the traffic eased up just a bit even as the breeze came blasting through the windows, accompanied by dust and exhaust fumes of different kinds. Many people hissed at the same time, some in relief and others in disgust of the dust. A few windows were slammed shot in desperate efforts to to wade off the dust and fumes. As for me, I heaved a long sigh of relief, exhaling the driver’s odour which had been hitting directly at my brain. Goodness me! I could not wait to get off the bus! Unfortunately, it was going to be a long ride.
This was a commute that should have lasted at most fifteen minutes. Sadly, we were about thirty minutes in with no hope of getting to our destination soon. It had been a slow ride, one in which I was a witness to different kinds drama. The bus conductor had exchanged fiery words with two passengers over change. He was angry that despite him repeatedly telling everyone to board only if they had the exact denomination of one hundred naira, some stubborn people still boarded even though they had bigger denominations. And so when it came time to pay, he fired at them with his mouth. The man spoke fast, and knew just the right things to say to piss off the two passengers. At the end he collected their money and refused to give change to them. The quarrel lasted for long, stopping intermittently only to start all over again each time any of the passengers asked for her change…
I must confess that despite the many things wrong with taking a bus ride in the city, I do enjoy it nonetheless. It’s always a good way to observe the city. Each time I’m in the bus, I always take time to observe the different faces of the humans of Lagos. Every one of the faces I see fascinates me. There’re the children on their way to school, the embittered house girl knocking their heads as she tugs them along. There are also the many workers stranded at bus stops as they wait for the BRT buses going to the Island. And of course, there are the yellow buses and their drivers! Those ones deserve an entire story dedicated to them alone. Meanwhile, there are many more interesting things to observe while in a Lagos traffic. For fashion-inclined people like me, the traffic would allow you feed your eyes to different kinds of fashion statements. I for one have beheld all sorts, from the beautiful, simple to the wacky and outright outrageous!
TO BE CONTINUED…
-Emmanuel Abara Benson is an aspiring Nigerian novelist whose first novel will soon be self-published on Amazon.
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…
*Forlorn Gaze is a draft manuscript in the works. Opinions and constructive criticisms are welcome. Thank you for reading.
There is no doubt that our Vice President is an intelligent man; after all, he’s a professor of Law for a reason! This afternoon I was opportune to be in a town hall meeting organized by the United Action for Change at the Airport Hotel Ikeja during which Professor Osibanjo was hosted as the guest of honour. As typical of such events, the man was barraged with a number of questions (twenty difficult ones in total ), the responses to which this piece is about. Read through to see the efforts and policies this administration is making towards curbing unemployment, providing amenities and ensuring better lives for the Nigerian public as well as the encumbrances militating against the change agenda.
The Vice President had decided not to give an official speech. But in the cause of responding to the questions fielded to him by civil society groups he gave what is [perhaps] the most powerful speech of the year. Reiterating the present administration’s commitment to change (which he also posited as the Nigerian Dream) he declared that the need for change is imperative. Now is the best opportunity to change Nigeria he said, and nothing else occupies the Government but bringing about change in all aspects of Nigerian life.
He said the Federal Government is working hard to ensure a wholesome national health insurance scheme for every Nigerian and that a special security fund would enable the FG uplift about twenty five million poorest Nigerians out of poverty. According to the Vice President, there are two basic ways this administration intends to rid Nigeria of unemployment. The first one is through direct government involvement which will provide what he called “palliative measure “, including the much talked about 7800 teachers’ recruitment scheme. The second method is through intensive training in technology (especially for women) during which there will be “tech demos” by the students which will guarantee that the best of them [students] are given contracts and grants. He believes that improvement in technological know how is a must for Nigeria and that is why the Government is already partnering with an organization called CISCO to train these young people in technology.
Reacting to a question about the impact of religious differences in the Nigerian political space, the VP noted that religion is not actually the major plight of our polity. This is because for him Nigerians collaborate very well in every everything including corruption irrespective of their religious differences. He noted however that what we need in the country is collaborative effort for developmental purposes and the good of the country; putting aside our differences.
Meanwhile, moving on to the all-important issue of fuel scarcity in the country, Professor Osibanjo gave a reasonable [but not so welcomed] explanation as to what is causing the problem. He said that prior to this time, the importation of petroleum products into the country was carried out by both the NNPC and the private marketers. Unfortunately, due to the recent global oil crash and the subsequent negative impacts it had on Nigeria’s foreign reserve as well as Government’s restrictions on FOREX, the private marketers are unable to import the products as they cannot afford foreign exchange. This thereby leaves the bulk of importation of fuel on the NNPC who simply cannot handle it all. And to contribute even more to the challenge, the NNPC, (after importing the products into the country ) sells to the private marketers who in turn resell to the filling stations and often times even resell outside the country to places like Benin and Nicer where they reportedly make extra profits. But he gave good by saying that Government is considering ways to put a definite end to the challenge of fuel scarcity…soon.
One of such is probably by ensuring that the current refineries [and the new ones hoped to be constructed] become functional. But even at that, Mr. Osibanjo outlined the major problem facing the actualization of functional refineries to include the fact that they are publicly-owned by the state. As such he noted the need for privatization even as he pointed out that the private investors are reluctant to come into agreement due to uncertainty about how to fix the right prices in order for them to make profit as the current prices for the refined products will certainly not favour the private business people.
Answering a question about what the FG is doing about railway construction across the country, he reiterated the FG’s commitment to construct the Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar railroads in order to ensure easy transportation of goods and services. He also hinted on the agreement between the FG and the Chinese government to help in this regard.
Vice President Osinbanjo agreed with a comment that the Federal Government could make a lot more money from the Maritime sector even more than it makes from oil. However, he insisted that a lot of improvements in the sector will need to occur (especially as regards ICT) before that happens. He also agreed with a call for the incorporation of local engineers when carrying out major engineering projects instead of just contracting the jobs to foreign contractors. But even at that, he demanded that there must be standard on the part of the Nigerian engineers before this happens.
He explained the reason for shortage in power supply, citing pipeline vandalism and reduction in dam water as major causes. In the same vein he explained the need for the increment in electricity tariff, saying that it was to ensure sustenance as “the CBN does not have a limitless source of income…” This statement was also a reaction to a request that the CBN resort to pardoning old loans in order to encourage entrepreneurship as Malaysia supposedly did once. He noted that although AMCON had done this before, it cannot continue doing it as the government is nearly 3.2 billion (dollars or naira) in debts…
The VP then talked about the recent trade agreement between Nigeria and China, citing its advantage as the facilitation of Nigeria’s foreign trades especially during this difficult economic times as the country struggles with FOREX. Here is his explanation- the Yuan naira agreement provides a financial facility that enables the naira trade against the dollar without the negative impacts associated with such trades…
Finally, the VP agreed with musician Kenny Saint Brown and the master of ceremony Kofi that the entertainment industry in Nigeria (especially Nollywood) provides a lot of youth with employment opportunities. This should never be undermined, he said. However, he pointed out that the Government does not need to set up government agencies solely dedicated to entertainment matters in order to validate it’s efforts in empowering those in the entertainment sector.
The town hall meeting was attended by various dignitaries including the Convener of the meeting Dr. Muiz Banire (Senior Advocate of Nigeria ) Mr. Pat Utomi of Lagos Business School, Honourable minister for Solid Minerals Dr. Kayode Fayemi and others.
–Emmanuel Benson reporting.
*The authour chose to report this in a not so typically news format because this is not a news platform. The story will more appeal to the readers of this blog when presented this way…
But as bad as life was, it felt good not having to hide under the canopy of the forests. I no longer had to run for cover as I did each time the shelling began. The new found freedom felt good and so I dedicated my days to feeling good, playing [the entire time] with the other children in the open yards. We played football with the human skulls that littered across my community. Those were the skulls of the unfortunate people who were not fast enough to escape the village as the Nigerian soldiers advanced upon us, as well as those stubborn enough to leave. There was this story of Eze for instance, a brilliant Science teacher who ran mad because of too many books in his brain according to legend. He had just been brought back to the village to be cared for by close relatives when the war broke out. Every day he sat in his late father’s easy chair telling all who cared to listen that the Biafran warlord Ojukwu was up to the task of crushing the Nigerian military. The day the Nigerian soldiers advanced deep into Biafra down to small town Igbere, Eze remained seated in that chair and refused to run with the others to the forest; he believed Ojukwu would save Biafra. Months later as we returned from the forest, we met his skeleton on the easy chair in front of his father’s house, but his skull was missing. There was no doubt to me that his was one of the skulls my friends and I kicked around in the form of football. But then again, there were those who were courageous enough to return home [in search of food/valuables] before the war ended. Perhaps my father’s skull was among those; my young mind could never know the truth to that. So I kicked those bones while having my fun, disregarding the elders’ warnings that we could get seriously injured. We were young and free, never caring about the risks of life. After all, what more violence could befall a tween who already nearly escaped bomb shrapnel cutting him to shreds! We saw enough violence to last forever, and the risks posed by playing with those skulls (with their jagged and sharp edges) meant nothing. Unfortunately, in the end the older people’s warnings came to pass when serious injuries resulted in infections that led to deaths. And it wasn’t until then that the bones were finally gathered and incinerated…
Forlorn Gaze is a soon to be published novel by Emmanuel Benson. #Anticipate
He makes the ladies beautiful, literarily painting faces for a living! That’s Kilo Francis Abiola, one enterprising young Nigerian who decided to be his own boss instead of wallow in unemployment. I’ve known Kilo for some time now, right from the time he set out to conquer the Lagos makeup scene up until now that his startup employs others. He turned his passion for beauty into a business, and that is a success story that needs to be told. So I had a chat with the young man to discuss makeup, fashion and business. I can only hope that you enjoy this and be inspired to also turn your own passion into an enterprise especially during these difficult economic times.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Nice to meet you, Francis. Now do tell; how did you get your start in the makeup business?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Nice to meet you too Emmanuel. I’ve been reading your blog loyally for sometime now by the way. The thing is I never really planned to be a makeup artist. So I wouldn’t even recall how I started the business. It’s something I suddenly found myself doing and as the days got by, it became bigger and better.
EMMANUEL BENSON: So it’s more like a good story of passion turned into venture; yes?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Absolutely.
EMMANUEL BENSON: So what has been your experience in the craft so far?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : It’s been a ride with humps and free way… Just like any other occupation. It’s been majorly fulfilling for me and I’m not regretting making this choice. It’s even more beautiful as I am male in the beauty industry.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Exactly the next question for you- what is it like being a male in a female-dominated field like the makeup industry; do you encounter either special challenges or special privileges?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Special challenges are- 1. trying to break into the beauty industry as a male makeup artist. 2. the mockery starts when question like “do you have a girlfriend?” is asked constantly. It makes one uncomfortable being a starter. But as times goes on one gets used to it.
EMMANUEL BENSON: I learnt male beauty experts get lucky and often have more clients because the clients (who are mostly females of course ) are fascinated by them. Any truth to that?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : As for privilege for male makeup artists, the respect escalates after one has made a name for [themselves]. And this respect is mostly from people who have either patronized you or heard about you. So it makes it easier to market one’s craft being male. A lot of women find male makeup artists amusing too so they always want to patronize them believing the males in the beauty industry are perfectionists. So yes! Very correct…
EMMANUEL BENSON: Okay. So is the beauty industry in Nigeria booming at the moment?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Absolutely! Its good way to be self-empowered and not have to wait for a white collar job before paying basic bills.
EMMANUEL BENSON: So then you are making all the money in Lagos or nah?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Lol! If I’m making “all the money in Lagos” i probably will have my own fuel station by now and won’t need to go queue to buy petrol.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Lol. That’s right. But you’re certainly making money; no?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : If getting paid after doing my job is what you call “making money”, then yes I am.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Good. Would you ever consider doing something else?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Oh yes. i intend to switch to TV soon.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Really? As a presenter or what?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Yes…
EMMANUEL BENSON: Well then congratulations in advance. I guess there is really no need to put that International Relations degree of yours into foreign policy use of any sorts then…Lol
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Absolutely not. But for the records at least, i went to school. Lol
EMMANUEL BENSON: That’s right. So, your clients seem to be mostly high-society ladies. Are you even affordable to the average Nigerian woman?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : I have a budget package for every woman. Anyone contacting me can be rest-assured they will look beautiful with a budget-friendly package.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Budgets! It seems to be quite organized. Do you do all the jobs alone or have you assistants?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : I have assistants. Bookings gets over the top crazy sometime and I can’t do every client myself.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Just for the records, how long have you been in the profession?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: 4 years.
EMMANUEL BENSON : You have grown quite well in the craft. Congrats. But do you get to be a part of film projects or do you do mainly everyday facial beautification?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : For now just bridal and party guests makeup and of course photo/video shoots. I hope to go into film makeup in the nearest future.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Do you have anybody you look up to for inspiration?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Honestly no one! I’m my own inspiration.
EMMANUEL BENSON: I mean like other beauty experts… House of Tara madam for instance. No one at all?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : None at all.
EMMANUEL BENSON: Okay then. What is your assessment of the fashion industry in Nigeria?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : It’s been major source of employment for many. It has grown from a little baby to a grown woman and birthing means of livelihood to both old and young Nigerians. It’s amazing how one can live comfortably with just making people look super pretty for their events. So in all, I say the fashion industry right now is rewarding.
EMMANUEL BENSON: That’s correct. But what are some of the things you’d rather see done differently?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Well, not too much though. It’s just that some muas are abusing the makeup artistry. I see overly made-up faces and I don’t get why there should be tons of makeup on one face. I’d really like to see face look sultry and not hideous!
EMMANUEL BENSON: Like masquerades right? I’ve seen such faces too; trust me
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA : Lol, you bet! (Laughter)
EMMANUEL BENSON: Well it’s been nice having this chat. Any last words you’d like to add?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Thanks a lot. Having this chat is refreshing. Thank you again.
EMMANUEL BENSON: You’re welcome. Would you mind leaving your contact details so that prospective clients in Lagos may contact you easily?
KILO FRANCIS ABIOLA: Oh sure thanks. Instagram ID is make_upbykilo and contact number is 08033112726.