Writer’s Edition: S. V. AGEMA AND AMINA ABOJE WIN MANDELA DAY COMPETITION ALONGSIDE EMMERGING IDP WINNERS

The writers, Su’eddie Vershima Agema and Amina Aboje have been announced as the winners of the new Mandela Day Competition. The winners for the new Mandela Day Short Story and Poetry Competition organised by the Abuja Writers’ Forum in collaboration with the South African High Commission were announced on Saturday 30th July 2016 in Abuja at an event to commemorate Nelson Mandela as part of activities for the 2016 Mandela Day Celebration in Nigeria. S. V. Agema won the star short story prize with his short story, ‘Washing the Earth’; while Amina Aboje won the poetry category of the competition with a long poem entitled, ‘Alone’. John Bosco Ezenwa’s ‘Prince of the City’ came as first runner up in the Short Story category while Ololade Oye Ajayi’s ‘The Allocation’ and Su’eddie Vershima Agema’s ‘The Three Sides of Confinement’ clinched the first and second runners-up position in the poetry category. Other honourable mentions for the poetry category include Olumide Olaniyan with ‘One Sojourn of the Moon’ and George Ndukwu with ‘My Whole Year.’

In addition to the poetry and short story categories, there was a special IDP category for children in IDP camps. One of the judges for the competition, Mr. Friday Inalegwu Ejilogo, noted that there were two main categories, based on age and classes, and two special mention categories for the girls. The winners in Category A (16-19) Years are Bishop Philemon (First Prize), Andrew Isa (Second) and Abubakar Abdulraman (Third). The girls in the special mention for this Category are Patience James (First), Rakiya Simon (Second) and Hauwa Ibrahim who came in third. For Category B (3-15 years), the winners are Ashifa John Musa (First), Ibrahim Simon (Second) and Rakiya Simon (Third). The Special Mentioned writers are Rakiya Simon (First), Hauwa Ibrahim (Second) and Ladi Emmanuel (Third).

The President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum, Dr. Emman Usman Shehu mentioned that the competition was envisioned to encourage the celebration of works that are relevant to society and show the need for good leadership, which Mandela epitomised. The Coordinator of the IDPs Skills Acquisition Centre, New Kuchingoro Camp, Lynette Johnson, who also partnered with the Abuja Writers’ Forum for the IDPs writing contest noted that it was the first of many steps in recognising areas where children in the camps could hone their writing skills.

Speaking at the event, the competition’s short story category winner, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, a past winner of the Association of Nigerian Authors prize for poetry, who has also been shortlisted for other awards including the Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Stories, noted that while he was happy at the award, he found pride mainly in the IDP winners who showed that above their struggles, they had great depth. His words had been: ‘I am sure the awards will encourage them to do more. I have great faith in them and we will see how to work to support this effort while creating more avenues to improve their literary lives in what ways we can.’ On her part, Amina Aboje who won the poetry category said she was honoured by the prize and hoped it would inspire others.

In addition to the awards, earlier there had been a talk on Mandela by the South African Envoy Mr. Lulu Louis Mnguni. There were also performances by David Adzer who sang great tunes including a touching version of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and Nkemneme Andy Chukwunonye who read from his poetry collection, Letters to Mandela. An excerpt from the Australian author, Margaret Hepworth’s Clarity in Time was read by her representative, Mrs. Nwanneka Nwala. The award winning poet and founder of Words, Rhymes and Rhythm Publishing and College of Poetry, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS) performed three short but deeply felt poems about Mandela. He read the last ‘Not Before the Flashbulb Crew’ in collaboration with Su’eddie Vershima Agema to applause by the audience. Kukogho noted that ‘Not Before the Flashbulb Crew’ was written in celebration of the year when several pressmen had gathered to get the scoop of Mandela’s death in 2012 but were disappointed as the leader defied death till a year later.

The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Nelson Mandela foundation and lovers of literature and the arts. Writers at the well-attended event include the award winning novelist, editor and publishing partner of Paressia Publishers, Richard Ali; Saraba Manuscript award winner, T. J. Benson; multiple award winning writer and critic, Mike Ekunno; Didi Nwala; Chioma Ogbu, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Iyanu Adebiyi, Aidee Erhime, Gabriel Agema; and the journalist, Ibrahim Ramalan.

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Hello Child, Happy “you” Day!

It is the 27th of May today, children’s day.

Earlier today, my big sister called me to wish me a happy children’s day. In fact, more aptly, my nephew had been the one to chant the very words: “happy children’s day Rofiah”. I was stunned and amused! My first thought and of course, response was: “no darling, I should be the one wishing you that.” And my sister interjected: “what do you mean? As far as ‘m concerned, you’re still a child. In fact, whether we like it or not, all of us remain our parent’s children. Even parents and grand parents, and the great grand ones and…” Those final words cracked me up, but they are no farther from the truth.

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How many more of us think we’re no more children? Because we’ve got responsibilities and grown-up thoughts? For sake’s sake, this is our day! Our moment of celebration! And we oughta be popping Caprisone, and Bobo, and Nutri C like booze. Today is when we call our friends up and remind them of “catcher” (hide and seek), and “ten ten” and “suwe” and “after round one” and “brick games” and “Mario” and “Dangerous Dave”; and laugh silly like bloated children on thanksgiving day. Yet, I wish that even if we would not go to all that trouble today, of memories and amusement parks and hopping on “jangolovas” (swing), that we at least take a moment to say a prayer or two for our parents who brought us on, up and through– from children to men and women; and a prayer or two for ourselves for being a parent’s child, and a word of gratitude to God for what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, and all that we’ll be through.

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If only today, feel like a child again; don’t fret about tomorrow. Here’s me saying Happy Children’s day to every one of us. Because we are babies, before we become dames and gentlemen; and we are children, before we become mummies and daddies. ❤ ❤

**

© The Short Black Girl, 2016.

Away.

You check the weather forecast that morning before leaving the house. Yesterday, the wind had started out so fiercely and forcefully– without warning, when you had been only halfway home from your unsuccessful Interview at Hardwick. Its might teased and tossed you mercilessly, sent you crashing into objects and people, and when you got least lucky, crashing into trees. Your younger brother had once told you matter-of-factly, that the wind in Countries uptown would almost blow people away but you had not believed. And as it happened, you had felt wrong, ashamed, alone and wanted to cry. But when you saw the tall thin white boy whom the wind almost lifted from the ground, you laughed. It was a moment of homophilic epiphany.

The weather forecast looks good today: slight drizzle and a drop of sunshine, it says. You smile, your mind eases into calm. You used to hate rain. That was before you won the Scholarship to travel. It cast darkness upon the sky and that always dampened your mood, but not anymore. Now, it’s winter that irks you. For months now, Rain has become your new Sunshine. You straighten your black Jacket, and plug in your headphones to a soulful rendition from Indie Arie. Then, there is Adekunle Gold, and Simi, and Tekno. Your face splits into a wide grin when Duro starts to play, and you dance in your head; stopping every now and then, to change your steps to fit your imaginary dance moves. You love music and a good dance.

You reach your destination, the Post Office. You are applying for a job at a Youth Centre in Luton– your fifth application since the past month, but you persist in hope and faith. You fumble for some seconds at the do-it-yourself machine, and breathe a sigh of relief when the Middle-aged Brunette comes around to help you out of your misery. “You alright?” she asks, in the usual British style. You nod your approval, and smile your thanks to her once she’s all done. She is either nice or just doing her job, but you don’t really care, at least she has a job. You shove your self-pity away, quickly; and as you make to head home, you hear the Sky rumble. The wind, the wind is coming again, you think in fright. And curse the weather forecast silently in your head. Then you remember Asa’s song “No one Knows”, and you smile– then you frown again as your stomach constricts in fear. You hate Winter. You hate the blooming wind!

You head back home, half- running, half- jogging, half-hoping, half-praying; too distracted to even dance to Lil Kesh’s Shoki, one of your favorite Nigerian Jamz. Eventually, you make it home and collapse on your bed. The quiet around enshrouds you in a familiar mood. Melancholy sets in. You begin to cry. Your body erupts into schisms of nerve-wrecking sobs, you can’t control it. Your soul is unhappy, and you don’t know why. Maybe you just miss home: the bland Lagos Sunshine, people and car clogged streets, the echo of Up Nepa’s or Power Alarms in the neighbourhood on Friday evenings, the unsuspecting heavy- downpour, the lousy marketplace and umbrella stalls, breakfast of Yam and Geisha Stew and dinner of Poundo Yam, and Ogbono soup with Vegetable and Okporoko. Maybe, or maybe you just hate that the wind mocks your light weight, and even after spending half your monthly student loan on McDonald’s Burger as one of your course mates suggested, you’re still as thin as a broom stick. Loans and debts. The Government have defaulted on allowances for three months now, and you are running high on debts. You remember the last time you called Mama, and how she had shrieked in excitement, drowning the background chatter of her fellow market women, as she told you Mama Chima, and Mama Adaobi would not believe when she told them you had been sent to Cambridge to get a degree. Her voice laced with pride, leaving you in a cascade of fear and sadness. How much longer till the Pride lapsed, you wondered. She had asked “Bawo ni, Oko mi? (How are you, my child)” and you had said “Alaafia ni maami(I am fine Mama). You had lied. Then, she told you about Funmi’s graduation from the Hairdressing salon she had been training in before you travelled, and about Tunde’s preparation for his SSCE exams… among other things– but you had not told her about you despite having so much to say, because you knew she would worry. You hate to see her worry. You owe Mama one, maybe two even. But before then, you need a job, and you need a miracle, you decide. Fresh tears break out, and you know at once that it is not the home you miss, or mama’s dues or the job and miracle you need, or your untold stories that worries you. You know, you realise at once, that it is you… the days are fast getting spent, and the road stretches farther ahead, but you don’t know, you just don’t know. Yet you remember Asa’s song again, “No one Knows“, and that makes you cry even harder, even longer.

“There can be no greater agony, nothing can be more painful than the not knowing, which will never end.”
Paula Hawkins

**

© The Short Black Girl, 2016.

The art of Be-dazzling.

A lot of us Nigerians might well be familiar with the delectable VicO. As it stands, one of the most impressing moments of my life would always remain the day my very darling Lisumi and Weng (amazing company, those two), shared his hawt tech video- After Party- with me. I remember my reaction had been one of disbelief at first, then disgust, then wonderment, and finally a laugh fest. Like boy, what?! Days after that, I had come across his interview on Toke Makinwa’s show, and it left me sore from even more laughter and shock. Now imagine my near-nervous-wreck when I heard he did a cover to Adele’s Hello. And ‘m like what-the-hell-next?! I thought he had to be delusional, or downright crazy, or just a freaking comedian on an April Fool bout that won’t cease in the nearest future– whatever it is, I couldn’t pass up on following his Twitter and (more recently) Instagram accounts. I had to be kept up to date…

It is one thing to dislike a musician’s genre of music, another to dislike the personality of the musician, and a totally different thing to dislike the music of the musician. With VicO, I am not quite sure, I can’t quite figure… it might well be a total package, or not? I mean — After Parry, Why Evils, Hello (Cover), instagram jabs at Kemi Adetiba and just recently a skit featuring Woifadada— mbok, you see why it’s difficult for me to take a stand with him? You see, I hate to delve into controversial issues, but this one time, I would hold no thoughts back. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, and unapologetically, this is mine…

I find that in matters like this, it is easy to catch the humour and miss the point. And just as easy to cast aspersions, and miss the lesson being taught. Everyone gets criticised (or midly put, talked about), damn right! In fact, as Tuface and MI rightly put it– if no one talks about you, then you are nobody. But I find VicO’s case particularly interesting and thought-provoking unlike any other– not even nearly as much as Jumoke Orisaguna’s (the bread-seller turned model). In more lucid moments of my life, I see VicO as a force of nature; a teacher. In him, I see someone imbued with guts that talents cannot buy. That shii is copyrighted, yo! In moments of truth, I realise how much I respect him– maybe not him per se; but his tenacity, drive, un-ignorable-ness. The lovers of good music are furious! The promoters of talent and originality are fuming with rage! While a lot of endearing soulful original musicians abound without support, without recognition, or even a shred of awareness of the truth they possess in the voice from their mouths; or the words from their pen– there goes a VicO, doing absolutely nothing right, yet living so many people’s dream. I mean, how can we miss the point? It is not much as what you sell, or half as much as how you sell it, but how much you believe in how you do what you do.

In fact, before now, I thought it was clear– the lesson I have learnt from VicO over time; but now, it seems not. Because I find it difficult to put it into exact words. You see? You see what he does to me? Having the quality of unsuredness and undecidedness— so much so that people are not sure whether to hang you just yet, or give you another chance (to make a fool of yourself or prove them the heck wrong!). That, that… maybe that is it– if you can’t convince them, confuse them. Gem factor! You see how VicO has left my thoughts scattered all over the place? That is a rareness you find only in great achievers. It isn’t about what you are doing wrong or how many things you are doing right, it is the guts, the effontery to have your way against all odds. It is the might of confidence in yourself that leaves everyone somewhere between being amused, bedazzled and irate.

My point? Talents are admirable. But Confidence takes you where talent won’t. Simply put, never underestimate the power of your belief in your own self.

**

© The Short Black Girl, 2016.

Thursday Musings: The famous Dealbreakers!

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There are a number of things you would do on a first chat date or any chat for that matter, that would give me the worst impression of you ever and always! Mind you, these are just my thoughts based on what I perceive the words to mean. I would totally love to hear your take on them, so maybe I can make an informed re-evaluation or re-think. So here goes,

1. “Sup”: “Sup”? Like really? To think that it is the supposed lazy and short hand form of “what’s up?”, it is not a phrase for every chat… more especially, not at the beginning, middle, or end. Basically, it doesn’t fit anywhere, in some kind of conversations. You can’t ask me “what’s up” if I don’t owe you any gist, or feedback… it just doesn’t sum up. Worse still, when you “sup” on a first get-to-know-you chat, I think it sends a lot of wrong vibes!

2. “Dear”: Now, I know ‘m not the only one that feels some way about this word, and the numerous other endearments that abound. You don’t “dear” someone you are chatting with for the very first time, especially when it is someone of the opposite sex! Even worse (and this is for the ladies), someone of the same sex. I mean you never know who is who. Accessibility is a gift, don’t misuse it! Endearments are just what they are. Words you use to show that someone means something to you. Mother/Father to child; Mentor to Mentee; Padi to Padi. I mean, relationships go through stages. And there are do’s and dont’s at every stage. You don’t go using words of comfort with someone who is just tolerating your presence. Really. Some people are in your life, just because. Keep it simple, straight-to-the-point, and done with!

3. “K”: You can do a lot of things with me online, use stupid smiley faces, use shorthand texts… but please, not “K” or “KK”. Mbok, why?! Hahaha! At the very start, I used to get really mad over this shorthand form of the word “Okay”. I mean, it is a mood-killer; a total deal-breaker. And it gets worse where you’ve typed in a very long and interesting epistle, say to your boss at work- giving him feedback on some errand he sent you-, and he replies with a “K”. How would you feel? Irate? Exactly! Me too. I just would never understand who, what and why this word exists in many chats these days.

Now if you use any of those words in the afore-mentioned contexts, say “Present”!

There’re more words that just outrightly annoy, irritate or dampen my mood; but these are the few I can think of now. I don’t understand what the problem is, or why a lot of us no longer find joy in going the extra mile to communicate as correctly and clearly as possible, simply because it’s the online space; and it affects us, consciously or unconsciously in other spheres of our lives… I imagine that back in the days, our parents took the pains to be eloquent even as they inked their words on paper, sending news to loved ones at home and abroad. But it’s not the case these days… our messages lack content, and the contents lack coherence; not because we don’t know how to go about these things, but more because we are lazy about it!

It’s fine to be funky with words, and get creative… but essentially, if it’s worth doing at all, it’s maybe worth doing really well. Maybe it’s just me, but I imagine that the manner and structure of words sometimes, goes a long way to express how genuine the message is.

Instead of “Sorry”, why not “I’m Sorry”
Instead of “Sup”, why not “Hey/Hello/Hi”
Instead of “How far!”, why not “How do you do?”

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for every kind of word; and even the slangs and colloquial terms. All ‘m saying is, understand the timing and space— and more, appreciate the person, and occasion. You don’t have to be an award- winning author, or Nobel laureate to do that… all it requires is “awareness” and “consciousness”.

**
Drops her pen, and resumes her breakfast of Akamu and Bread.
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© The Short Black Girl, 2015.