Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Thing About Being Clexane's Sister

The thing about being Clexane's sister is neither here nor there. It is not a thing that can be easily summed up because it is this hydra-headed being that I have to live with. No, it is not Clexane himself that is the hydra-headed thing... no no. It is the several iterations of his presence in my life as my immediate older brother. All my life, I've had to look at him, and up to him as the example to follow. Even when he was not the best example, he was simply the perfect one for me. 

Today, my brother turns 40; and even though we were raised by parents who constantly drummed it into our heads "Birthdays are no achievements" I can't shake it out of my head that THIS is a frigging big deal. When one of your brothers dies at 37, you begin to see life in a completely different light. You start counting every second of your future because you know, I mean really really know, that there really isn't a tomorrow. So you treat every day like a gift that it is... But before I start sliding down that slippery slope of corny bullshit, let me tell you some awesome and not terribly awesome thing about my brother, Tunji, and why the fact that it's his 40th birthday makes me want to bust a move.

 One day, when I was a little doting sister, Tunji called me and said let's play a game. He held up two batteries and said, 'you lick one. I lick the other'. Simple game right? And I wouldn't have passed up any opportunity to hang out with my brother, but I was slightly untrusting, so I said, you go first. So he did - pressed his tongue. Nothing happened. So, I followed suit and stuck my tongue, without restraint or hesitation on the battery he handed me. The shot of electricity that went through me was unbelievable. By the time I recovered, I looked over at where my assailant was standing, (or rather, doubled over) in laughter. He laughed and laughed and laughed. That day, I learned two lessons. Don't just take anything someone hands you, hook line and sinker - ask questions, test it, check again, check again until you're absolutely sure. The second lesson was learning the difference between a 12 volt and a 9 volts battery.

The thing about being Clexane's sister is understanding that he actually cares. I can clearly state without a doubt that my brother loves me. As weird as it sounds since we fought all the time. I always believed he always had my back. I was so heavily reliant on him that the one time he didn't, I found myself drowning - saved only by the realisation that life isn't like that. Life is swim or sink. So, I swam, and he was there at shore, waiting to haul me in. Proud. But how did I become so heavily dependent on my brother? When I went away to Ilorin, he was there. At the time, he was doing a remedial program to get into Uni at my secondary school, so I got to see him regularly. By the time he got admitted to University of Ilorin, he always came to see me at the home I was staying. When he didn't get a chance to come to the house, he would stop by my school - armed with an envelope of crisp 100 Naira notes. My brother ALWAYS gave me money. Who shares their measly pocket money with a sister who was getting her own? Yup... Clexane!

 When I worried about the fact that I had not chosen the subjects to register for my SSCE, he swiftly advised me to drop Yoruba, and use the space for something more useful. At the time, there was a threat that if you didn't do at least one Nigerian language, your results won't be released. My brother told me (in less colourful terms) that it was a truck load of horse dung. He was right. I watched him graduate from University and get his Microsoft Certification in the most impressive way. He studied like he was being chased by the demon of poverty. He has this incredible thirst for success. I have never seen him fail at anything he sets his heart to. Engineering. Attempting ACCA, then Project Management. Haaa, he is dogged (and annoying) and... okay hold on, let me address the annoying bits.

Right after secondary school, I was enrolled for the Cambridge A-Level exams. When the results came out, I failed resoundingly. The failure was epic! I cried so hard that my parents said okay no point crying, come and attempt it again. So, they registered me in another prep school which was twice as expensive as the first one. I sat on my bed grateful for a second chance... just so grateful. Guess who came in to shatter my recently found peace? Yup! Tunji. "I hope you know the money they're using to pay for this your second round could have been used to buy Mummy a new car" Those words resonated through me that year till I passed the exams in flying colours. Talk about tough love.
But love me he does. As brash and as troublesome as he is. And he really is troublesome. I have just learned to tune him out when he gets too much. When people complain to me about how he stresses them out, or how he calls them incessantly to follow up on a project or an assignment, I laugh. They haven't learned the art of filtering him out. You take the good. You leave the wahala. You remember he has a good heart. Because at the bottom of all of his nuances, his crase, his dogma, is his heart. His good good, underrated heart. I have watched him grow into family life. Caring about his wife and kids and knowing that they come first. I have watched him change from a super arrogant, self-assured cocky "I can do it by myself" guy to this cool patient person who observes in silence. Recently he was in a group chat with some people and someone went off on him. When my friend told me about this encounter, I asked, "What did Tunji say in response?" Expecting to hear how he answered the person fire for fire, I was laughing. My friend said "Clexane didn't say anything". I didn't believe. Maybe she didn't know who she was talking about. So I asked him. "Ngbo, some Ilorin people were insulting you on WhatsApp. What did you say?" He said "nothing." Me: "Nothing ke?" Him: "Wo, I don't have time to be going back and forth with people who choose to revel in ignorance" I was shocked. Who was this mature guy suddenly taking the high road. Yup! Clexane!
So what is it about being Clexane's sister? It is knowing that you have this guy who is always there for you. This guy who has known you all your life - flaws, strengths, joys, who will always give you advice. (Whether I take it or not. Lol . He still gives it, because he just can't leave his baby sister to drive herself inside gutter.) I have met people who've seen me and screamed... "You're Clexane's sister" and sometimes I don't know whether to hide or to say errr, yes! But we look so strikingly alike there's really no hiding. I'm so happy he is turning 40. I am sure I'm happier than him gan sef... I have been waiting for this day for three years! In my head, if he can make it till 40... he would have done something magnificent for me. Because, after Sage died, I was on a permanent watch for Tunji's life. A few month's after Sage left us, I saw some pills on the counter in Tunji's kitchen and I went full panic mode. Google. Pills ke? Is he sick? how long has he been sick? Didn't he plan to tell me? Are they hiding something from me? Doctor Google didn't make it easier for me. I was afraid to ask the owner of the pills, because I didn't want to be called a worrywart. So, I started looking for excuses to visit all the time. I believed that if I had my eyes on him regularly, he won't just die on me and leave me empty. And he didn't die. He is still alive. And today, he is 40. He is alive thousands and thousands of miles away from me , with a 17-hour time difference. But he is alive. I can pick up my phone and hear his voice. I can call him on Skype and see his gloriously full head of hair (Which I remain eternally jealous of) I can pick up my WhatsApp and read his chats. And just knowing that he is there, as he always has been for me... is EVERYTHING.
Birthdays are no achievements, someone said. That person lied. Your birthday is a BIG DEAL! I love you to eternity, Adetunji TaiWAN! Lol Lol If I could choose another brother, I'd choose you over and over and over and over again. My life would be boring and uneventful without someone who fights with me, (used to buy me phone credit! Dammit! I hate being an adult now.) argues with me, worries about me, believes he always knows better than me, (lol even though I'm a pretty smart cookie) believes in me, and ultimately loves me.

Happy birthday, to the one who will never let us take pictures together without him scowling. Happy birthday to the one who derived joy from always scaring me shitless. Happy birthday to the one whose happiness over my successes fills me with so much warmth, I start to think, maybe I'm not so bad. Happy birthday to the 'tall' one in the family. Lol Country of the blind tingz. Happy birthday my darling. Words can never quantify how I feel about you. Crazy and all.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Summer Days and Dark Clouds

Atóké_faviconThe traffic on Ajose was murder. She left the office at 5pm on the dot and even though she knew that was the peak of rush hour she felt she had a head start. An hour later and she'd barely moved 10 feet past her office. She was frustrated. She turned on the radio but the noise from the radio advert jingles didn’t help to ease the tension she felt. This was not going well at all, she looked at the time on her dash board 18:15 and she was still heading to Oju Olobun. She had let the driver go today because she was meeting up with Dipo and they decided there was no point in having both drivers and both cars today since they'd be going home together. She kept punching at the radio dials and it was like the universe was somehow determined to make this trip to meet up with her husband hell. She got tired of looking for good music and slipped in an Asa CD. As the music filled the car, her mind drifted to her loving husband who was tired of the overly hectic schedule they both had.
"When was the last time we went out together, just us. No obligation to friends or family, just us having a good time".
"No time nah! When do we want to do that? “She had replied as she kissed him that morning and told him they would plan something soon.”Not this weekend though! We have prayer breakfast on Saturday morning and you know Iyke and Bimpe's baby's christening is in the afternoon. I don't want to become enemy of the state if we don't go abeg".
"Na wa oh! So we've become those people who just live under the same roof and don't spend time together. I didn't sign up for this oh" He was laughing when he said it but the way he avoided her eyes told her he wasn't happy. She wasn't happy either but they led busy lives. She walked back to where he was standing by the wardrobe and held him from behind "Darling, we can do brunch at Southern Sun after church on Sunday ok?" she pressed her cheek into the back of his crisp ironed shirt. He smelt so good. She knew she had to leave now or she'd be late for work.
"I really gotta go now. Speak to you later?"
So when he'd called to say they should meet up after work today, she knew it was important to him. All she really wanted to do was go home, have a warm shower, sink into the covers and sleep. She’d been having terrible stomach cramps all day and had winced in pain as she ate her lunch. This had been going on for a while now. The pain came intermittently but they always stopped after a while. They were akin to menstrual cramps but she couldn't be too sure since she didn't have them too often. She cranked up the volume of the music player and started singing along, something, anything to distract her from the sharp pain that was coming from within her. She was going to do everything within her to make sure this dinner with her boo was totally enjoyable.
They had been married for three years and they were like two peas in a pod. Sometimes their friends teased them that they finished each other's sentences, they didn't even realise how much in sync they were.
They didn't have any kids; but Kauna, her late cousin's daughter, often spent her holidays with them. Initially it was because they needed to solidify their financial base before they had a child. Now, they were just waiting for it to happen. The prospect of a baby tickled Hadiza to no end. To raise a family with her best friend, the man she loved and cherished so much. They agreed that if they had a boy he would be called Ethan, and if they had a baby girl, she would be called Emmanuella.
As she drove into the empty parking slot in front of Yellow Chilli, she looked at the clock 07.25. Over an hour just to get around the Island, her husband who'd come from the Mainland probably got here in 45 minutes. She sighed and wearily dragged her tired body out of the car. She felt the earth tilt slightly as she planted her feet on the ground but she held onto the car. She was dizzy. She needed to sit down and have a glass of water as soon as possible. She walked into the restaurant and quickly looked around for Dipo. She saw his head buried in a paper and smiled.
Life is a funny place. One minute it's a life of promise, hope and love; and the next it's dark and grey and bleak. At times, it’s like a roller coaster -- one second, you’re filled with excitement at the prospect of getting on; and the next, dread and trepidation fills your heart as you embark on the ride with its tumultuous turns and rapid bends. At other times it's just downright mean and vindictive, like surviving a plane crash and then being run over by a bus driver on your way home. If you were the praying sort, you prayed when the crisis hit and you wait for the avalanche of pain to pass, hoping that it leaves a minimal level of damage in its wake. Sometimes you look around you and it appears everyone else has it all rosy, but until they tell you their own story you don’t know they are on a life trip of their own, just masked as best as they can beneath pretty clothes and a beautiful smile.
He sat there in the waiting room, head bowed low. His face was buried in his hands masking the fear that coursed through him. It had been an exhausting 12 hours and he was not sure what lay ahead of them.
He had been waiting for her and the next thing he heard was noise, the restaurant peace had been disrupted. “Somebody get help, this woman has fainted oh!” He got up to find out what the problem was and to see if he could help. The feeling in his chest when he looked and saw Diza lying there was indescribable. It was fear, and concern and shock all rolled up forming a big lump in his chest. “Her name is Hadiza, and I am her husband” Nobody asked him, too many people were trying to help pick her up and put her in a car, any car to get her to the hospital, any hospital. He was nervous and it was hard not to show it. Someone took his keys from his hands “sir, I think you should just stay in the back with her, I will drive. Do you have a hospital of choice? Or should we take her to the general hospital in Marina”
“Our hospital is Reddington. Please take us to Reddington” The trip to the emergency room was a blur; he held her hand and kept praying, willing her to open her eyes. It didn’t happen. He felt for a pulse, it threaded weakly beneath her skin. He needed her to be alright, he tried to will her awake, he bargained with God, he needed her more than anything and he was willing to trade his breath for hers.
He had been there in the waiting room for 12 hours. Two hours after trying to find out what was wrong came back with their diagnosis. Diza’s uterine wall was lined with fibroids and she had also been pregnant. It was an ectopic pregnancy. They needed his consent to take out the fibroids and if they needed to, take out the affected tubes. How was he supposed to take a decision about her body without her? How was this fair? How ironic that they were trying for a baby and now they had one he had to make the decision to take it all away, even worse, reduce her chances of bearing a child of her own
“Save her. Do all you can to save her”
Tears rolled down his face into his hands. He was tired and exhausted, but he knew the road ahead was long and bumpy. They tried to get him to go home but he wasn’t going to leave until he could talk to her. As if understanding his misery and pain one of the nurses from the night before tapped him on the shoulder “Oga, I think she’s awake now. You can see her. She is asking for you”.
Wearily dragging himself up, he walked in the direction of ward. He lacked the words to tell her that he’d given consent for her tubes to be taken out. The extent of the fibroids was also bad but the doctor had told him that they didn’t need a hysterectomy. She had a tired smile on her face when he walked in, and in a groggy voice she said “Baby you look so tired”
The lights in the room were turned off but the glare of television kept the room dimly illuminated. She heard when he opened the front door and she knew from habit that he‘d go into the kitchen to look for food. She instinctively picked up my cell phone to look at the time. 11.50pm. She closed her eyes and hurriedly put her phone under the pillow to avoid the backlight bringing attention to her side of the bed. She heard him bang across the rug towards the wardrobe, he was hanging his jacket. He was going to turn off the t.v and slide into bed. She had an acute sense of his every movement.
"I left some food for you in the oven. There's chicken wrapped in foil in the fridge"
"Thank you"
There was an awkward silence. There was always an awkward silence between them, that is why she preferred having the TV on. Something, anything to dispel the discomfort that had settled in their home. He sat up on the bed and stared straight ahead.
 "Do you wanna talk?"
"No. I just want to sleep" He was trying to reach her and he was running out of ideas.
She had become so cold and distant. He thought staying away would help, it didn’t. She spoke little or no words to him at all. He was waiting for her to absorb the news, to fit it into their lives. He wanted her to become his once again. It was not happening. A week turned into a month and a month into two, and then a third. She blamed him; he knew she blamed him so he stayed away. Working as late as he could, knowing words failed him every time he tried. He wanted to talk to her, to tell her it didn’t matter, nothing mattered but her and their life together.
She heard the slight hum indicating he had fallen asleep and she opened her eyes. This feeling inside of her was not going anywhere; she nurtured it and allowed it to fester. It was the pain of loss and somewhere in here laid guilt. For the past three months, Dipo tried to reach her. He soothed her and she balked, he tried to calm her down whenever she got hysterical. He reassured her of his love over and over again.
“I love you with all my heart, baby or no baby. I swore to love and honour you, in sickness and in health. I love you, … you ‘Diza, just you”
Tears of shame filled her eyes; he was totally selfless in his love for her, she wanted to hold him but she pushed him away and went into the room. She could tell he was at his wits end but she had created the wall and she didn’t know how to pull it down. She looked at her phone again to check the time, and she saw the message icon. A message from her mother
“Deez my love, I think it is only right and proper that you tell him the truth. We have carried this lie on for way too long and I admit I am ashamed of my complicity in this matter. I don’t want this to break you, and so I believe you should talk to Dipo. Stop pushing him away. His only concern is for you. I love you and I am always here for you”.
She blinked as she read the message. Tell Dipo the truth? Tell him that Kauna wasn’t her late cousin’s daughter living with her mom but her own child? Tell Dipo that she lied for so long and even continued lying? How did her mother expect her to save her marriage by telling her husband that she had a child but she would never bear one for him? She pulled the duvet over her head and wept. The truth held no promise for her.
This story was originally written in 2011 and published on

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Glasses Wearing, Natural-Haired Lover of Small Chops

It wouldn't be accurate to say we became friends at the Fidelity Bank Creative Writing workshop. It happened after that.  How did it happen? Quietly and subtly... the way she approaches all things.
Mnena introduced herself as Jill to the group,  but when she wrote down her email address and I saw a familiar name, I asked her if she was Tiv. She said yes and I started noticing her.
Her stories stood out - well written and thought out, and laced carefully with delightful strips of humour.  When asked to analyse other stories, as is the norm at these workshops,  she would quietly state her opinion.  Never loud but not one to be overlooked. 

I would later discover that it was not a front. That was who she was, and that is who she is.
In a little over three years, Mnena has grown on me. She is ridiculously smart and witty.  And on a scale of 1 to Hulk Type Strength,  my friend is an Amazon.

Mnena is the feminist I admire and want to be. She isn't afraid to face her frailties and uses her strengths to her advantage.  You won't find her cowering in fear or self pity,  but she isn't one to deny the things she cannot handle.

Today, while chatting about someone we both make fun of, she said "Oh I think B* is very smart. She is just dumb". That cracked me up so much, because only Mnena would describe someone that way.
Mnena is selfless. There are so many times she has put other people before herself that I wonder if we who are in her life realize the privilege it is to have her.

Mnena quietness is reminiscent of a steel force. She uses it to her advantage too. You can never see her coming. She takes things and runs with it... not fussy and not dramatic. Mnena is who you should call if you need to bury a body. Her quiet strength is what will keep you from freaking out.
The only time I've seen her freak out is when she got the invite to attend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Creative Writing workshop in 2015. That was a collective best day of our lives.  CNA (or Shero as Mnena calls her) comes only second to Hadley Freeman on my friend's list of 'people to meet before I die'. So you can understand why my 'non squealing' friend nearly passed out from excitement. 

Mnena allowed me to share that moment with her and I am truly grateful. But I think the best part of my friendship with Mnena is our ability to argue, disagree seriously on issues and come back to a mid point. I don't love Mnena because she agrees with me all the time; I love her because I can count on her to tell me what she thinks.

I love her because she isn't afraid to take risks. I love her because she is brilliant and she takes impressive financial decisions. 

Mnena isn't afraid of her sexuality and owns her womanhood. She is a true representation of a strong, smart and staunch woman. She doesn't pander to the whims of societal expectations. In a society where everyone expects you to be of a certain religious inclination,  my friend tells you clearly - without fear - this is who I am. She isn't domestic and doesn’t pretend to be. Mnena does not like injustice and is very vocal about it.

She looks very nerdy and reads a lot. ALOT! No, I'm not exaggerating.  She reads a lot. It is no wonder that she is such a good writer... but she never believes me when I tell her.

And because this is beginning to sound like a eulogy,  I have to end this here.  But before I go, I must let you know that Mnena doesn't like talking on the phone.

Yeap, she's a weirdo like that. But she's my weirdo. Don't ask me for her number because I don't like to share my friends.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

How to Find Yourself a Good Woman... or Something Like That

I wrote this piece back in 2012 and it was published on WeRunThings. I was going through my portfolio of work and I found it. 
I'm not going to edit it, just so it can have a semblance of authenticity. 

I hope you enjoy reading it.

I spent the last week ruminating on the veracity of IK Osakioduwa’s TipsToGettingAMAn. I’ve also been trying to find a Nigerian celebrity, who is, prima facie, happily married with 2 kids (poster image of perfection), who would be willing to write Ten Tips To Getting and Keeping A Woman. The fact that you’re reading this now, means that I have been unsuccessful.
I believe that there’s no such thing as One Size Fits All especially with relationship issues because of difference in personalities and backgrounds/upbringing. If you don’t believe me, just check out the comments section of blogs and websites…. it’s a riot! There is a truth to every comment… as true to the mind of the writer as can be imagined. It might be a lie, but the person believes it to be true and that is enough for the person.I really didn’t want to have to write this because hey… what do I know about getting and keeping a woman? Nobody has gotten me or kept me for that matter. So what qualifies me to write this piece? I’ll tell you… NOTHING. Well, maybe not NOTHING! I have access to this medium and I’m going to use it. Here goes!
Atoke’s Tips For Getting A Good Woman
  1. Learn To Do Solo Trips: There are so many good looking guys with plenty “sweg” and a plethora of foreign accents out there; allow the woman notice you. Roll alone, allow her assess your qualities without all your men casting a shadow on your shine.
  1. Whether Na One Naira: Someone said all a man needs to have is money, to get a woman. Not entirely true, but no girl wants a broke dude! Whether na one naira, have it and let it come in regularly. Girls like to be pampered, whether with ‘Kristian Lobatan’ Shoes or by the real deal Red Soles.
  1. Reel In Your Relatives: There’s something to be said for a man who can protect his woman from the onslaught of relatives. A guy should learn to properly keep his nosy aunties and rude sisters away from the girl. Nobody wants to start dealing with the challenges of in-laws even before they get into the family. Massive turn off.
  1. Champagne Popping & Raining Benjamins: For some reason, men believe that this is ALL a woman needs to see. Wrong! The good woman wants a man who’s very good with managing his finances, she needs to know you wont leave the bills unpaid for a weekend of fun with your friends at the GrandPrix in Abu Dhabi.
  1. Be Neat & Well Dressed at ALL times: The whole cave man look is so 1942! Please take time to shave, wear antiperspirant and dress well. A good woman doesn’t want to have to deny knowing you when she is in a gathering of her friends. Don’t make it more difficult by being un-presentable.
  1. Be Respectable & Respectful: A good woman will have absolutely no problems submitting to a man who is respectable and respectful. The odds wont really be in your favor if you come into her house acting like an agbero. Picking a quarrel with your gate man/ maid or even worse, hers…will earn you NO points. Remember, respect begets respect (as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true)
  1. Learn to cook, Do yourself a favor and learn how to cook: No really, really do LEARN to cook. Because, assuming that knowing a woman’s knowledge of cooking automatically confers her with all the wisdom of world is failure. More importantly, a good woman becomes mush when her man whips up a meal. You don’t believe me? Go check out the comments section on Chef Fregz’ posts on BellaNaija. Dude gets women slathering after him every week.
  1. Have Standards & Keep Your Word: Nobody wants a man who says one thing and does the other. Really, have standards and let your word be your bond.. That is all.
  1. Read & Keep Yourself Well Informed: It’s not enough to be Tall Dark & Handsome, you have to have something in between your ears. Imagine being at a business lunch and the topic of the killing of the American Ambassador in Libya comes up and you have NO clue what’s going on. Ignorance is not bliss. Keep yourself abreast of what’s happening  around you. It’s the least you can do.
  1.  Remember your frailties as well as hers: It’s important that you remember that the same kind of blood that flows through your veins, flows through hers. Whatever inadequacies you have, and have to live by, the chances are that she has her own dose of inadequacies as well and it is only in the constant remembrance of these frailties can you get the girl of your dreams.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Atoke's Creative Writing Giveaway

So, I decided to do this giveaway as the first step towards my plan for building a formidable generation of creative writers.

Please follow this link to find out how to be a part of the competition

If you're not a writer but like to read... well, there something there for you too. Go read the stories and tell us the ones that work for you.


Monday, June 22, 2015

A Song for the Puppet

See how they cry out for me
Hear how they call my name
The look on their faces
Fear of heartbreak

My people are hurting
Their souls bleed
From longing and fear
Oh so desperate

Save us will you
Help us, you should
I shudder at the mantle
Office, staff, seal

The weight, the burden
Lead us, great one
Their voices raised
In adulation, nay, worship

Out of the murk and mire
Buried in corruption, steeped in poverty
Their eyes fill with hope
Mine, trepidation

100 days in office
Campaign promises lie still
Unfulfilled, empty, bare
Still I strive, pressing

My friends, officers,
Let’s move this nation forward
Not yet, the coffers need to be emptied
Personal gratification above all

This is not what we said
I look inwards
Nothing. Vapid. Puppet.
A leader must be something

A Voice for the people
Who called you to be that?
We installed you
Get busy. Dig. Empty the accounts.

The streets are empty but not quite
I don’t see them.
They cry for me, but not as before
Now they wail.

Sorrow, deep and piercing
My people have lost all faith
I hurt too. I am weak
We are all powerless