Fiction, Musings

Lights and shadows

My friends on Facebook put up all sorts of posts. I thought to share two of the best marriage posts I read some weeks ago –

sometimes we get crazy at each other instead of being crazy about each other, yet we soldier on as God’s grace sustains us. Need to believe there’s God? take a look at us. (Darlington Iriogbe on his first wedding anniversary)

… I PRAY that God continues to bless us (would have said ‘you’ but we are one now *winks*). (Georgette Ezechukwu on her husband’s birthday)

Life is not perfect – thanks Oluoma Udemezue for the reminder. But I’m pleased to add this opinion that we both share – that there are many, who like my friends, give their best to make their marriage work.

But then there are some who don’t. Sometimes not out of bad will. But because life is richer than we can ever imagine and sometimes things don’t just work out despite everything. Oluoma sent me a well written story that kind of illustrates this. Or maybe not.


Enugu was lonely at that time, and a handful of cold-dry wispy breeze charmed the dust off the earth to a revolt adding some verve to the lonely road. It was New Year’s Eve. A time to discard stuffs you don’t intend to carry into a new year: sins, guilt, long-suffering, burden….

A 2016 Range cut through the cold unnoticed; it made straight for a restaurant down the road.

The scarcity of life on the road gave Chioma food for thought; she roamed in her deep thoughts, of what not to carry along too, into a more promising year; she kept on rubbing at her silver and gold crested wedding ring, as though they weighed down on her searching thoughts. It was a wedding that drew reputation to the open. No, she didn’t want to think straight; to think straight is to make her a rational being and to become a rational being is to be human. No, humane. Yes, that was the right word; to become what she wasn’t would only cause her to forgive, but could she afford to forget? She gazed upon the band that had fisted on her finger: ‘ten years was no common joke.’ She remembered the stern look her eccentric mother spat at her before she walked out on her decision. She wanted only one thing out of the present: to feel her own presence beside him.

The ride from Agbani road to Nise suddenly turned pale orange –just like the street lights of Lagos. Lagos was a dreamer. She felt hot and nasty all of a sudden and gazed out through the clear glass, while the space between them itched to be filled by some soothing. She left her ringed finger, and led the idle hand to her right ear lobe. All of a sudden, she turned pink and felt some flakes of guilt, and suddenly returned the roaming hand where it belonged, on her laps; covered by a short shimmering silver gown; it came home in a gift pack, back with Obi in order to spoil her silly. A shy smile lit up by the corners of her red lips, but her eyes caught the stained back seat, through the review mirror and the smiles indulgently faded away the way they came. Little Kodilichukwu would have been eight that day, had she not been in so great hurry to get to work. The truck would have got her, and not him. She died each time her eyes caught that spot and Obi knew it, but he had decided not to change to car seats, just to punish her.

Obi had already hit the headlights on: it was as though he was not present. They threw silence at each other with uncanny circumstances. He had his full weight on the car seat, too comfortable in his red and white isi agu –his people had given him a title after helping out with a bore hole, one out of too many attentions he had gotten that year. His sight was fixed on the road, but less, fixed on her. But those firm hands he gently placed on the steering wheel could be quick tempered at times. They bumped into a pothole; he grunted and finally slowed the car in front of Calabash restaurant. She couldn’t actually punch a fist at what impregnated the silence between them; nurtured it and purged it out to haunt their marriage. They actually existed in a lake of purgatory, paying for what they actually have no idea about. Obi was different, but she couldn’t let go. Lagos; the subtle memories wouldn’t go away –it stuck close like a bad smell, a bad old habit. But Obi; through his rimmed double lenses, couldn’t see the guilt that was written all over her; the moment she stepped through the door, after Lagos. Or did he? The sea salt mixed with champagne and the luxuries of his yacht still hung about her; the feeling repelled and rebelled everything that walked in her way since she came back, but Obi.

They stepped through the door of the restaurant after Obi locked the car door. He smiled down at her, a quaint smile –Obi was much taller– before they jammed hands to service stray eyes.

Luxury was the best word to describe the restaurant. They walked into a band led by Oliver De Coque junior; he delighted the guests with Biri Ka Mbiri, it was as though they were the ones the music was meant for –Obi just received a transfer letter to Paris from the oil company—so, it was their music, the others knew he got the transfer, including the smudge of red lipstick on the collar of his white crispy shirt that bade her welcome immediately she walked through the door from Lagos. So, they couldn’t wait for her to turn her back before they went in for the kill: creeping mice.

Obi knew virtually all who seemed too eager to meet his handy wife while they had cleavage display icons by their sides. While he generously made his way around their tables, she felt out of place as always, drew back and left him on the spotlight, the way it has always been. Later, a very young waiter –she noticed for the first time in ten years- led them to a quiet corner, presented the menu in a thick leather bound file and waited with a generous smile that smeared all over them like hot butter on bread. Chioma gazed through the menu, but all she saw was the guilt of Lagos. Obi held the menu in his hands: those hands that cut through wood to see him through the university, it was still those hands that plotted the proposal that won him a good position at the oil company, those hands held her fingers –when he went about in a pair of woollen shoes– while the other made her wear a diamond stud for ten years and counting. Her hands went back to her ear lobe, but this time, it could not miss the spot, the one very close to her ears, where she had to mould with unending Mac foundation, in order to hide her blood that already congealed. It hasn’t gone down yet, she thought. It would have been nice to stay back in Lagos: on Yinka’s yacht, his mansion and his world, where they could do nothing, but frolic on old school days. She had only gone to visit her sister, but he appeared, out of nowhere and swept her off her feet.

“You are not hungry?”

She was gently snuffed away from her day dream by Obi’s concerned voice. She looked at the hairy hand he casually placed on hers –they were cold and strong. Cold from working too long and too hard at the rigs, his wife had to make do with the overflowing and suffocating benevolence of the oil company. She looked at the raised knotted inquisitive browse of a total stranger: Obi.


At that instance, they heard loud crashing of plates held by a waiter that even interrupted the band that played.


She said again, but this time around, it was forceful, not like the first time. It was as though air was trapped in her tracks, but she forced herself to push beyond it. Her mother’s stern look came at her for the last time, but she found the will to brush her aside, because she knew that theirs was a family, broken.


Little things

Hangout with dodo

Assina and Java

Hangout – to spend time doing nothing in particular.

I challenge that definition. My hangout was very particular. I spent it dodolising! Assina had invited me to an ‘African’ lunch. Normally, I’m ‘allergic’ to the word African. It brings all the ‘horrors’ of the generalization to my head. Like; I’m going to Africa or There’s an African on the queue, Anyway, I have decided that anyone who still generalizes like this is not updated and it’s up to me to add to their cultural knowledge.


For eg. – Nigeria vs Italy.

So it’s usually a smile and a

‘Oh really. Which country in Africa?

‘An African? Does she speak English or French? At least if she speak French, that leaves us with 31 out of the 54 countries in Africa.

Back to our lunch o jare. Assina is Congolese and she was going to introduce me to two Congolese friends. So when she said African and added lunch to it, I packed up my fight and left it at home. Let’s eat lunch in peace o. Fight will come later.

Assina Kahamba, Congo JAVA

That’s how I arrived there to find my friend bustling around in the kitchen – heating up the chicken, frying the dodo, making some salad. Oya now, where are the two friends? Friend ni, friends ko. I was transported to the biblical parable where the King’s guests turned down the invitation to the royal wedding for unreasonable reasons.

One friend had just woken up. Eh, we’re in summer and it’s a Saturday. Agreed! The other had forgotten the directions to Assina’s place. It’s alright. Two’s company and three is a crowd sometimes. So we consoled ourselves and sat down to the plate of dodo made for four. And we gisted – about moving our respective countries forward, of Assina’s job in Congo as the Director of Formation in a school in Kinshasa, of the joy of living and of cooking, of eating healthy, of my sister Oge who’s expecting her third baby, of my summer plans, of everything! Did we have a swell time? You tell me!

Dedicated: to the two dear Congolese who couldn’t come. Ope o! Thanks for not showing up. See you some other time.




Waste disposal

Garbage collector beautifully walled – in in Makoko, Yaba, Lagos.


The environment is a gift as well as a responsibility to all mankind. It is a gift of the creator who designed its innate order and has thus given us guidelines which we as stewards of his creation need to respect (Benedict XVI, 2008). Man has gone a long way in exercising his role as a co-operator with the creator. The advances in science and technology tells its own tale in the environment – a tale both positive and negative.

The haphazard industrial revolution has contributed a great deal to a degradation of the environment. With continuous and not – so – careful exploitation of the earth’s resources, the balance in the ecosystem has been altered thus giving rise to the incessant problem of waste.

Waste has not always been a problem. There was once a time when there was ample space and resources due to relatively low population density, less exploitation of natural resources and less consumption of goods than today. Presently, with over 7 billion people seeking the habitable space on earth, one needs to be conscious about how much waste and what kinds of wastes one generates.

Some wastes are hazardous (both domestic and industrial) while some others are more benign. Some wastes are reusable – biodegradable, transformable, or transferable to another use – while others are end products that need to be discarded, with limited degradation possible. Due to these different properties of wastes, different methods of disposal or management have been developed and adopted in different parts of the world. Implementation and effectiveness of any one method or combination of methods depends on the waste management bodies in a country, the resources available, and most importantly on the individual’s willingness to comply.

Lagos State being the most densely populated state in Nigeria, due to its commercial activities, generates a very high proportion of waste to which household wastes constitute about half of the solid wastes generated (Adewole, 2009). The Lagos State government via its waste management authority as well as other private sector agents has recently contributed a great deal towards ensuring proper waste management for a cleaner environment. Their activities include increasing the number of waste management personnel, waste collection vans, pollution control equipments, waste storage bins as well as several waste recycling initiatives.

Despite these laudable efforts in disposing, treating and recycling waste, the problem of waste management still persists. Some studies have concluded that some of the perceived causes of this intractable waste problem include the waste disposal habit of the people, corruption, work attitude, inadequate number of plants and equipment among others (Adewole, 2009).

The irresponsible attitude of some individuals cannot be overlooked; it is common sight to find a fashionable lady throw out a cob of maize through the window of her jeep or to sit by a young lad who thinks it normal to ‘decorate’ the route of his long trip with his banana peels until he exhausts the bunch. In most cases, the norm is to keep ones’ immediate environment clean but that which is not clearly defined as personal can be a dumpsite.

This paper aims at studying the waste management habits among Lagosians and to verify the impact of education on the individual attitudes to waste disposal. It will also serve to advocate for more enlightenment programs towards a safer environment and to emphasize the need for a genuine knowledge of ecology which implies respect for nature as well as respect for man.


Several studies have been conducted in different parts of the world including Nigeria, to determine the causes and problems of waste management and a number of them have identified personal attitude to waste disposal as a major contributory factor.

The massive build up of waste in Nigeria is as a result of, among many other reasons, the negative posture adopted in managing wastes from urban communities in the country. Wastes are regarded as non resources which at best are regarded as having a nuisance value (Nze, 1978).

According to Ekemini (2012), the thrust of the problem of waste includes ignorance, lack of waste management facilities and the nonchalant attitudes of residents towards a clean environment.

Fafioye and Dewole (2013) in a study aimed to critically examine the problem of solid waste management indicated that there were significant relationships between the problems and the educational background of the city dwellers, nonchalant attitude of the inhabitants, lack of adequate environmental health personnel and good operation equipment to work with. They recommended adequate orientation on waste management for the residents as well as more efficient contributions by the government.

In an article, Mr Ola Oresanya, the Managing Director of Lagos state Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), identified the biggest challenge as the waste from markets to highways as well as bad attitude of the road users. He stated that there’s only a 50-55% environmental awareness among the people of Lagos state.

Adewole (2009), in his paper reviewed the waste management practices and the issue of sustainable development in Nigeria. He found that waste disposal habit of the people, corruption, work attitude, inadequate plants and equipment among others are militating against effective waste management. He proposes that if there is to be sustainable waste management in Nigeria, the availability of land, human resources, plants and equipment, including capital, must be readily available.

Some more studies have shown thateducation and the general creation of awareness can bring a solution to the problem of poor waste management practices.

O’leary and Walsh  (1995) in an article proposed that to maintain long term program support on waste management, the public needs to know clearly what behaviours are desired and why. Involving people in the how and why’s of waste management requires a significant educational effort by the community. They went further to recommend that successful education programs must be consistent and ongoing. Ekemini (2012) also proposed a key solution to the problem as education.

According to the Compendium of Social Doctrine, a correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited. It also states that there is need to place ever greater emphasis on the intimate connection between environmental ecology and human ecology.


Literature review, content analysis and focus groups interview formed the basis of inquiry for the study. Articles on the trend in waste management and disposal in Lagos state were obtained from waste regulatory sites. Relevant information was analyzed and, consequently, two groups were sequentially erected.

Students of the University of Lagos [UniLag], Akoka, and residents of the Makoko community of Lagos state respectively constituted the groups.

In UniLag, interviews were conducted and a seminar was held titled ‘Waste: two sides of a coin’, which emphasized the idea of the environment as a gift and a responsibility. Participants were enlightened on the ecological consequences of improper waste management, and, on the other hand, the benefits –ecological, economic and health-wise- of proper waste management, with emphasis on recycling. Among the speakers were an environmental biologist and a waste entrepreneur. A baseline survey was also carried out to ascertain the effect of the seminar on the participants. Refreshment, in paper packs, was served and a big waste bin was put in one corner of the seminar hall to check participants’ adherence to personal responsibility in waste disposal.

At Makoko, a focus group discussion was held to discover the precise challenges of residents in proper waste disposal. These challenges were noted and practical solutions and follow-up strategies were proposed.


During the seminar, the questionnaires – made up of open ended questions – were administered to 40 UniLag students. They all agreed that Lagosians litter their environment. The tables below give an insight on their responses.

Table 1: Reasons for littering the environment

S/N Response Frequency Percentage*
1 A result of bad habit formed by living in a dirty environment 13 20.00
2 Inadequate number of bins 19 29.23
3 No laws to punish offenders 3   4.62
4 Poor hygiene / ignorance of hazards posed by environmental littering 19 29.23
5 Laziness to use available bins 11 16.90
  Total 65 100.0

*Multiple responses

Source: Field Survey

Dividing these reasons into two broad sub groups, we have –

  • Personal factors – 66.15%.

They consist of lazines, bad habits and ignorance

  • And impersonal factors – 33.85%.

Dead – letter laws and inadequate bins make up this category.

The greater percentage of the sample population (66.15%) say that the reasons for littering – bad habit, ignorance of hazards, laziness to use available bins – lies with them, the people of Lagos State. This implies that the measures put in place to reduce / prevent this problem in future must be interiorly accepted by Lagosians; the measures should not be merely external like provision of more bins and enforcement of laws. This position is seen even more clearly in the solutions proposed by the students and in the case of the visit to Makoko.

Students –

Table 2: Personal Contribution to Effective and Proper Waste Disposal

S/N Response Frequency Percentage*
1 Keep the litters in hand until you find a bin 7 10.45
2. Education of the Populace 20 41.79
3. Teach others by example; practice 17 25.37
4. Provision of more bins 9 13.43
5. Make laws to punish offenders 3   4.48
6. Recycle 3   4.48
  Total 67 100.00

*Multiple responses

Source: Field Survey

The solutions proposed are in line with the causes – direct / indirect; personal / impersonal – which were earlier identified. The advocates for the ‘education’ of Lagosians amount to about half of the sample population. Almost all the respondents also advised that the populace be educated to help in changing their negative attitudes towards the environment in general. This confirms the study of Ebong and Bassey (2004) that a key factor in solving the problem of waste littering in Lagos, and in Nigeria as a whole, is not only the enforcement of laws. Nor is it just the provision of bins or the allocation of more resources to waste management agencies in both the public and private sector. The key lies in educating (or re-educating) Lagosians to change their attitudes and to cultivate environmental friendly values so that the generations to come will meet a clean environment, a clean state, a clean country.

In educating or re – educating, we must realize that ‘old habits die hard’. It won’t be enough to just hand out the theory – seminars, speeches, etc. It should be an education in virtues; virtues in the sense of good habits which with time, will replace the bad habits accumulated over years or even generations. Lagosians are generally clean but they need to realize that it’s not enough to keep just their “personal space” clean. Streets, buses, yards, garbage bins and garbage areas, the air, etc. needs to be clean also. If they see these places / things as part of their personal space, the re –education would have met its objective.


The seminar on “Waste: Two sides of a Coin” organized for the UniLag students was open to all; there were presentations on valuing the environment as a gift and a responsibility, on recycling and on attitude change – responsible personal waste disposal. There was ample time for discussion between participants and the facilitators. A positive result was recorded when the students left at the end of the event; the trash bins by the sides of the hall were used and the hall was left unlittered save for a crown cork on the floor.


Also, in the discussion with residents of Makoko, Yaba, a host of reasons similar to those above were given for their littered streets and dirt-filled open drainages. The residents were quick to complain of inadequate number of bins and infrequent visits by, the Lagos state Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) trucks to remove accumulated waste. On speaking further with them, they readily agreed that they also contribute, a great deal, to the problem of waste. The onus does lies on them as it does on everyone else to curtail the problem of waste disposal. The government and her officials must also aid the people to solve the problem.


We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason, we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us to enlarge the human family. (cf Compendium of Social Doctrine, point 467).

This study concludes that solid waste littering is a problem among Lagosians. Prominent among the various causes of this problem are ignorance of the hazards posed by the litters and a nonchalant attitude towards the environment.

There seems to be a norm of caring solely for the ‘private space’ – one’s immediate environment, but, as public domains belong to ‘no one’, it’s not so common to see anyone willing to take responsibility for it. However, it is precisely the public arena that determines, to a large extent the identity of a people, making a favourable or unfavourable first impression.

To arrest this trend, people should be educated and encouraged to embrace environmental-friendly values and the Government should also play her part in bringing efficient trash systems closer to the populace.


To individuals and families:

The family as the first school must play its role in educating and forming its members on a sound knowledge of ecology. Each one must see the issues of waste management as a collective responsibility and make the necessary effort to imbibe good waste disposal attitudes. Children deserves good examples from their parents and older siblings.

To educators and Non governmental institutions:

Priority should be given to education and re- education through workshops, enlightenment programs, practical examples, rewards for cleanliness [which should be properly assessed], etc. which should include grassroots participation.

To the government:

There is need for purchase of updated equipment for managing waste as well as an urgent need for well trained staff, vehicles, trucks, tippers, pay loaders, bulldozer and road sweeper, which must be backed up with well stocked maintenance store provided for spare parts for all equipment.

The government at local levels should also see to organized refuse collection both from residential and industrial estates. There must be a disposal site in each street and avenue nearest to the sources of waste, which must be accessible to everyone and the refuse collection should be regular. It’s very discouraging to see an over – flowing street garbage.

Also families, schools, educators and non – governmental organizations should be aided in the efforts to solving this issue.



 Adewole, A. T. (2009). “Waste management towards sustainable development in Nigeria: A case study of Lagos state”. International NGO Journal Vol. 4 (4), pp. 173-179.

Fafioye, O.O and John Dewole, O.O (2013). “A critical assessment of waste management problems in Ibadan Nigeria. Greener journal of environmental management and public safety.Vol 2 (2). Pp 060-064.

Navez- Bouchaive, F. (1993). “Cleanliness and the appropriation of space, refuse and living habits in large Moroccan towns, People’s Mediterranean, Morocco”.

Nze, F.C. 1978. Managing Urban waste in Nigeria for social and economic development. Journal of management studies Lagos. Vol 5, Nigeria.

O’Leary, P. and Walsh, P. (1995). Decision maker’s guide to solid waste management Vol 2

Benedict XVI, Address to the members of the Roman Curia for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. 22nd December, 2008.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church Chap 10, p.286, points 463 and 467

Internet articles.

Ekemini, I. (2012). “Problems and prospects of waste disposal in Port-Harcourt metropolis”. Retrieved Oct 22nd 2013 from

Mr Ola Oresanya. Press release. Retrieved Oct 22nd 2013 from

Freduah George: Problems of Solid Waste Management in Nima, Accra. Retrieved October 3rd, 2013 from www.

© 2017 Amaka Juliet Anozie

For Deutsche Welle Blogger competition



Musings, Poetry

I pine for You

When you leave the shores of your NAIJA, you can’t help but see your country with new eyes. You come to appreciate and love your nation as it is; or to reject it and call it ‘good-for-nothing’. Call me a dreamer, call me unrealistic, but even with the recession stricken state of my NAIJA, most days I can’t help but pine for it.


Dear Sir,

I suppose I can call you sir though it sounds so stiff – necked and boring … and oh so old fashioned to call the one you claim to love; Sir!

Well, dear sir. Here! I have written it again and I mean to stick with it, complain as you might. Katia has asked me to write you a – – – – letter. No, you don´t know her. She is my friend and sister from Eastern Europe. She herself is in love, in more than the widest sense of the word. She worships the ground where Anton Chekhov passed. She is in Dostoyevsky´s mesh and she has lost her head over Tolstoy. She eats him, has a never ending date with him and sleep – walks with him! Her kind are dangerous, I dare say; those in love with a phantom. I think of her and the intrigues of the ‘phantom of the opera’ comes before me.

Okay, what am I going to say? With all the sincerity I can muster – which doesn’t count for much as you know – I say that I have nothing to say. It’s a proven fact. Where best to establish it than at this very point, at the beginning. I wouldn’t want your imagination to fly, thinking of the rapturous love for you that I will profess. I will only rabble and gabble and from my nonsense, you will make great sense. After all, people in love just wink at each other and it’s enough. And as Nieves, my South American friend, told me the other day ‘where there is love (I think she said ‘trust’ but trust me, I don’t remember). ‘Where there is trust or love if you like, silence is not uncomfortable.

Back to Katia and the all-purpose – – – – letter. I think of you and the memories of my childhood come running in. My dear Ajayi Street in the New Benin area of the city of Benin. They call it the ancient city of Benin. Katia with her centuries old history will probably laugh at the title. But who says that the city is not as ancient as it claims just because we cannot prove its existence beyond the 12th or 13th century? Dear Sir, I haven’t come to start quarrelling over the age of a city with you. Life is much richer than that.

I think of you so much; so much so that I, who boast to have zero tolerance for sentimental bull shits, I almost feel nostalgic for you. For the days we spent together. From the New Benin markets to the dust coloured roads of Isu, Imo state. You remember the other time when we were planning a trip to Imo, I had my hair made. I was so excited to see you soon and to show you my new hair and clothes. I lost all sense. I never had much anyway. I started to spin endlessly on top of the septic tank just in front of our house. What started like an excited game with my feet on the tank ended with me, head down, apparently spinning on the ground. How you expressed concern for my ink stained scratches just below my eye! How you didn’t care to hear the story over and over again. How you gave thanks that it was what it was – just scratches – because it could have been worse. The thought of how big a fool I was then has got me in stitches. But it was all for you, for you my dear sir.

The other night while we were still in Amaizar. Ah! Amaizar. Just yesterday, I mentioned ‘my village’ while gisting with Jackie. She comes from the Big – Brother State, the USA. When I replied that my town was called Isu and my village Amaizar, she commented ‘I kinda like the sound of it. Amazing!’ My amazing Amaizar. That night, grandma and all the elders were having their evening chat. All of us young ones were in the living room eating akpu[1] together, the Ede[2] soup trickling down our palms to our elbows. You were there too. Where am I and you are not? Even when I’m so far away, supposedly out of your reach, you are with me. I carry you everywhere. Here I see many people who remind me of you. Though more than half of them have made a very bad reputation here, there is nothing bad or wicked about you. There are defects of course. I have mine too and I don’t pretend to be like the new wife who claimed her husband had no defects. No one makes such claims nowadays. People seem to glory in the defects of others. What does it matter if you have a pink stain and I have a dark blue one?

Where was I? What was I saying? Something about akpu. In Lagos, I barely ate akpu. They call it fufu[3] there. We ate it once to celebrate our country’s independence. Another time, someone asked for akpu and nsala soup for her birthday. Man! What a feast it was. I am still licking my palms though they had nothing to do with it. Chai! We dug into it with our forks and knives. Nothing like the joy of feeling the consistency of the akpu with your curved fingers, of digging into the fish and beef scattered in the soup, or of the good belch that Daddy usually makes after he has washed his hands at the end of a sound meal.

It´s worse off here. The other day, we got together from far and wide in the capital just to soak gari[4]! I will send you the pictures later of our Ijebu gari and groundnut feast. How those women in Ijebu land fry the gari, turning it over and over on the local stove. I used to like to visit them. Then our host would offer us gari, crisp and hot. And you would let the fine warm grains slip through your hand as you shovel some to your mouth, munching contentedly. The sweet sour taste which makes it Ijebu gari. I wish I have gari to slip through my cold hands now. You won´t believe me but you will. I now wear gloves and use hand cream each time I wash my hands; like a proper oyibo[5].

O my dear one, are you surprised at my nonsense? I am laughing again as your look of surprise floats before me. That day at Osisioma junction in Aba when you caught me in a stall eating a loaf of bread stuffed with noodles. Even the Chinese wouldn’t have gone so far. ‘Why not stuff it with egg?’ You had asked. And I replied that noodles was healthier and cheaper. Ah! The funny ideas I had and still have.

And now I have to go. Miriam is waving to catch my attention. She needs me. We all need each other. One moment Miriam.

My love, I don’t know what part of this letter will get to you. Katia has asked to read it before I send it and bring shame to the family. She would probably strike off some parts considering them unworthy. But in any case she would have caught a sneak peek at you and of how things used to be between us; of how things still are though they are changing fast. But her knowledge will be only a grain in my gari frying pan. A few places in a few cities and a few names are not enough to talk about the 36 states, the Federal Capital and the over 180 million people who make you up, my dear Sir, my Nigeria!


© 2016 Amaka Anozie

[1] A staple food made from cooked cassava. It’s called akpu in eastern Nigeria and fufu in Western and Southern Nigeria.

[2] The Igbo word for cocoyam.

[3] see foot note 1

[4] Another staple food, derived from fried cassava.

[5] The Nigerian slang for a European.

Little things

Cheers to the true polyglots

Pidgin, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Itsekiri, Edo, Esan, Efik, Gokana…; English, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, Tagalog… name it. My friend has a four year old niece who already speaks four languages. My friend herself speaks six plus Italian which she is learning in order to move around in Rome. And she’s not the exception. Or maybe, it’s just how I see it.


Theatre @Ostia Antica

Now that our world has become as small as my Amaizar village in Isu, Imo state, we have opened up. Being Nigerian, I speak English. And Spanish and Italian. Unfortunately I don’t speak French, very important to communicate with Nigerian’s neighbouring countries. Nor do I speak Igbo {I’m beating my chest as I write this}. What hope is there for someone like me who is convinced that ‘family is key; family is everything’ and yet can’t hold a five minutes verbal conversation with my grandma?

This is where the true polyglot thingy comes in. In In Nnedim’s hut, I wrote

Grandma was recovering from a fresh bout of tears when I entered her almost dark room carrying some live coals for light. I made out her shiny head as she sat on the bed awaiting my approach, and I went to her. She hugged me tight, and I felt her tears trickling down from my shoulder before being soaked up by my blouse. ‘mma ndo,’ I said softly, ‘mother sorry.’ My Igbo language vocabulary was highly limited, and she knew it. But she had not invited me to speak. She just wanted to see her nnedim with a head like hers. 

Sometimes, we are so open that we are closed. We learn the languages, we organize our ideas. I’m going to say this and this and that. We stop listening because we are constructing our reply. We pat ourselves because we have delivered the speech. But we haven’t stopped to consider the most important element of communication – the listening end. How has it been translated and received.

A colleague is late to work and we don’t stop to wonder ‘why’. We just throw the ‘you’re late again’ to his / her face and gbam! They are on the defensive and they spit out their reply also. And the tension builds up…

Perhaps, I’m exaggerating this. Maybe it’s not an issue at all. To those who speak as many languages as they can, I say kudos! But I have my glass raised to the true polyglots; to those who speak what I like to call ‘the language of the heart’ – those who listen and listen well. Those who know how to be there for the others without necessarily being there physically. Those who look into faces and into eyes and see the pain and/or the joy; who know how to mourn with those who weep and how to dance with those who rejoice.

I am not one. Many times I’m the harsh judge putting an ‘X’ on every action that I deem unacceptable. But I want to be among the true polyglots. You?