That Interloper is My Therapist!

My therapist is the most expensive meal that I’ve ever purchased in my life.

I mean, she’s the copy of my reflection.

I mean, she’s the only one that pisses me and I don’t care.

She has coffee breath.

My therapist says I’m negative,

But I told my therapist that my mind is a darkroom.

That I have a tough time explaining the pictures.

My therapist says that I have self-destructive tendencies,

That I take things the wrong way.

What she really means is,

The last time she performed a test on me,

She found an asylum of malignant explosions ready to destroy everybody.

I told my therapist that I’m very indecisive,

That I have a tough time making decisions.

That my mouth is a velvet rope for the things I can’t take back.

This velvet rope throws moons like a concierge for my regrets.

So I go to therapy because I treat silence as a first language,

But my therapist said I speak fluently.

What she means is,

I talk in small circles and by small circles,

She means I talk in big circles and by big circles,

She means targets and by targets,

She means I wear my victims like a brand new pair of shoes.

But I never told my therapist,

That I have to borrow my mother’s tongue to say certain things.

I have to set her tongue out of a pool of blood in liquor to say things like,

Depression.

Cherish.

Adoration.

Blood.

You know – synonyms.

I told my therapist that my dad had a thing where he stuff’s all of our bones.

In a bottle and he drank the spirits out of his family.

Why are you asking me about my family?

They are ghosts now.

They are gone.

They are surfing on my flesh,

And I’m on the shoreline waving them – “Hello!”

Bipolar depression is the birthmark I use to distinguish my bloodline with.

I’ve never told my therapist that I had polite suicide attempts.

I don’t leave cryptic Facebook messages.

I just cut my wrist and bleed poems.

I told my therapist that she said I have self-destructive tendencies.

So I finally decided what kind of combustion I am.

I am a controlled demolishing,

Cleaning my wreckage with a bucket of vodka and a mop.

I told my therapist that I’ve really had a tough time explaining my emotions.

She said, “but you’re a poet.”

I said, “just because I have words doesn’t mean I know how to communicate.”

Everybody needs someone to talk to.

IS ADULTERY LAWFUL IN TIV LAND?

What the world needs to know about Tiv People and their Wives

by S.T. HON, SAN, FCIArb.

It has taken me more than a decade to make up my mind on writing this article, knowing the passion it is likely to generate, no thanks to the sensitive nature of the topic. At a point, I even played with the idea of not doing any public write up on the subject matter. However, the sheer ferocity and consistency of the misinformation being peddled around and the risk of not standing up against this deliberate falsehood against my clan (and vicariously, perhaps, against me) while I am yet alive and the greater risk of going to join my Creator at His appointed time without countering this public lie have all made me damn the consequences and send this article for publication.
It all started in 1987 in a criminal complaint of adultery, in the case of Tofi vs. Uba (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt. 62) 707 C.A. In this case, the appellant had filed a private criminal prosecution for adultery against the 1st respondent in the Magistrate’s Court, contrary to Section 387 of the Penal Code. It must be noted that under this penal provision, a man can only be guilty of adultery if he is “subject to any native law or custom in which extra-marital sexual intercourse is recognized as a criminal offence.” This provision was one of the compromise provisions of the Penal Code at the time of its enactment, which balanced Sharia law with native law and custom, as both religions or customs held sway in the then Northern Nigeria.
When the charge against the 1st respondent came up, his counsel raised objection that the charge did not disclose any offence known to law, contrary to section 33(12) of the 1979 Constitution – the equivalent of section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. At that relevant time, the Local Government (Declaration of Tiv Customary Marriage) Order, 1985 was in force; and section 25(1)(f) thereof provided that “any person who detained a wife duly married under this Declaration for any reason or purposes whatsoever against the wish of the husband” was guilty of an offence.
In view of this, the learned trial Magistrate dismissed the objection and called upon the 1st respondent to take his plea. Rather than do so, he applied to the High Court for judicial review, pursuant to section 33(12) of the 1979 Constitution. The High Court granted his reliefs and quashed the charge. The appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed on rather technical grounds. That Court held that since the Local Government (Declaration of Tiv Customary Marriage) Order, 1985, did not prohibit adultery in express terms but merely criminalized wrongful detention of a married woman against her husband’s wish, section 33(12) of the 1979 Constitution was rightly invoked by the 1st respondent; because this meant adultery per se was not a crime in Tiv land. The Court of Appeal also rejected the need for oral evidence to be called.
It was this judgment that laid the unfortunate foundation for the scandalous, ever-blossoming and tendentious falsehood that adultery is lawful in Tiv land. This barefaced lie is even widened to include a very silly assertion that ‘when you visit a Tiv man, he will offer you his wife!’ What a monstrous and pith-of-hell assertion! Not even domestic or wild animals tolerate strangers or lesser males going near their female partners (and not even wives); talk more of the naturally well and strongly-built (chemistry-wise) and ultra-proud Tiv man!
Before I proceed further, I wish to submit that in the whole of Southern Nigeria, adultery remains a moral offence as opposed to a criminal offence. So, are we on this basis alone going to say adultery is not a criminal offence or is lawful in Southern Nigeria? I think not, with due respect.
In my mental agony of trying to repel this rapaciously-growing corporate lie against my clan (and vicariously against me), I dug deep into some fork lore and traditional songs. Two songs readily came to my mind.The first is this: “Aberanyi, ikurche, or van nya kpa ka gbidi nan; Ikurche, Terem O, or van nya ta abeda icul.” This, translated, means: “Aberanyi, let me give you information (ikurche”), even a visitor can be beaten; more information (“ikurche”) my dear father, your visitor tied your wife’s wrapper.” This is a clear indication that while Aberanyi the father was not around, the visitor misbehaved with the wife and there was need to teach the visitor the lesson of his life!
The second song goes thus: “Baba o-o, Baba u yem ke zende yo, or nyor sha yough i Aya la, or yav sha gambe u Aya; Aya ka a daa or; or a daa Aya, cho i gba ga Aya yav gadeaa, kwaghbo.” Everybody knows the meaning of “Baba.” The interpretation, therefore is thus: Father, while you travelled, a stranger entered into your elder wife’s (Aya’s) hut, sat on her bed and the two of them started pushing each other until after a while, Aya, the old women lay weak; it is an abomination (kwaghbo). Of course, the consequence of such kwaghbo or abomination could only be imagined!
My findings and views above were recently confirmed by no other person than the (Late) Tor Tiv, HRM Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, the paramount traditional ruler of the Tiv worldwide, in his book, The Tiv Woman: Challenges and Prospects, published by the Aboki Publishers in 2009, the foreword of which was written by no less a personality than HE Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam, the Executive Governor of Benue State, himself a Tiv. Writing in his capacity as the chief custodian of Tiv cultural values, HRM submitted on pages 21-22, under the banner FIDELITY, as follows:
The challenges of the pre-colonial Tiv woman were enormous. She had to be faithful to her husband at all times. Like the Idoma of Central Nigeria who dragged their wives before alekwu for adulterous confession, as reported by Shishima (2008), the pre-colonial Tiv woman faced the same situation … married women were subjected to periodic concoction-drinking rituals to determine their fidelity in marriage … It was an exercise in morality which brought honour, respect and good reputation to the husband on one hand and the parents of the woman on the other. Any adulterous woman who dared to drink the concoction risked instant death if relevant deities were not appeased or propitiated.
And concluding on the effect of Christianity on the moral life of the Tiv woman, HRM summed up on page 41 of the book as follows:
No less obedient to her husband, educated, feminine in structure, comely in looks, stately in gait, and faithful among other equals, more than any woman in Nigeria, the Tiv woman today yearns and aspires for the best that is available for the womenfolk…. Through evangelisation, her belief in tsav and akombo (wizardry) has been replaced by the Christian Biblical teaching of the Almighty God … The Christian God has become central in the belief system of the Tiv people as a whole.
What a truism! If over 95 per cent (by my estimation) of Tiv people are Christians, where then is the place for adultery?

My research has further shown me that a man reacts angrily, call it fatally, to infidelity of his wife or partner. The Tiv man is not an exception. Two recently reported cases will support this. In Sugh vs. State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 77) 475 S.C., the appellant, a Tiv man, murdered in broad daylight a foreigner for flirting with his Philippine girlfriend in Makurdi, Benue State. He was sentenced to death, which sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court. More recently, the Court of Appeal confirmed the death sentence of another Tiv man in far away Osun State, who had murdered a native of that State for flirting with his wife. This was in the case of Ahungur vs. State (2012) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1313) 187 C.A. Admittedly, every society has deviants, sinners and immoral persons. Tiv land cannot be an exception till our Lord returns in His Glory to take His saints to heaven. But I oppose the lie growing like wildfire that adultery is lawful or even tolerated in Tiv land. This is an intolerable lie. It must die a natural death. Now! God bless the Tiv nation.

 

Was originally published by The Nation of 29th October, 2013.

Last Night’s Dream

Take a walk down the street and discover a shop unique in all the world. This world, that is.

Image result for lagos street

Gbanger James was a very careful man. He always locked his apartment door. But before he would get halfway down the hall he always went back and jiggled the knob just to make absolutely, positively sure the door was, in fact, locked. Any time he awoke during the night he checked the alarm, to make certain he had set it correctly. He never married because he had been unable to find a woman who wasn’t “frivolous to a fault.” He never ate food he didn’t either prepare himself or watch being prepared because “you just never know what filth they might put in it.” He never drove in the rain, walked under a ladder, or went hatless on a sunny day.

One morning after brushing his teeth for the second time he felt a slight tickle in his throat and decided he was coming down with a cold. For most people, a cold is simply an occasional annoyance, but not Gbanger James. For him a cold is a crisis, an unwelcomed reminder that life is not infinite. A cold, after all, can be a precursor to pneumonia, and that is just a cough away from death. He checked his medicine cabinet and noted that the bottle of aspirin was half empty. If the cold lasted more than a week, that would never be enough, so he decided to buy some more at once, before the cold had had a chance to fully manifest itself.

It was a lovely cold morning, so rather than foolishly waste money on fuel, James wrapped a wool scarf around his neck, lifted up the collar of his coat, tugged his hat down tightly on his head and set out to walk the mile and a half between his apartment and the drug store. Walking was the only form of physical exercise he enjoyed. He doubted the physical as well as emotional benefits of jogging and lifting weights. The sweat, the pain, the huffing and puffing and groaning all seemed rather crass and undignified. On the other hand, the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other felt elegant and purposeful.

James lived in the low-cost area of a large city. When he walked, he liked taking his time and studying the people and places he passed. The city was an ever-changing tapestry of movement and colour and sound. It invigorated him and gave him a sense of renewal and safety. Being just one person among thousands made him feel less of a target for fate, the devil or whatever malevolent spirit was up there doling out misery and misfortune.

At about the halfway point of his walk as he was warily crossing a street, he glanced up and noticed a shop he couldn’t remember having seen before. It seemed odd that he would never have noticed it. It had a garish red and white striped awning flapping in the breeze above a heavy wooden door that had elegant carvings of cherubs surrounded by flower petals. A hand-lettered sign in the window read, “Ask About Our Ultimate Money-Back Guarantee.” There was no name on the shop window and no hint at all of what they might sell inside. Visiting new places was not something he liked to do, so instinctively he walked past. But then he paused, and turned around. For some reason he was intrigued. Intrigued enough to make what he would usually call a reckless decision. He took a deep breath, reached for the knob, turned it, and stepped inside.

An old fashioned bell tinkled, signaling his arrival. On the wall to the right of the door was a shelf full of very old magazines. On the left was a table piled high with used shoes. There was a sign on the table “Buy one get one free.” On the walls there were old photographs and crude childlike paintings. There was nothing he could see that would peak the interest of a buyer. He still couldn’t understand the purpose of the shop.

At the back of the store was a counter. From behind it an elderly man who couldn’t have been more than four and a half feet tall was smiling broadly and staring back at him. “Customer, good morning o,” said the man,“and how today na?”.

“I’m coming down with a cold.”

“Eyaa, that one bad o,” said the tiny man,“make you buy aspirin na.”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“Ah! Sorry o, but I no dey sell that one here.”

James walked up to the counter. “Are old magazines, shoes and cheap pictures all you sell here? Surely there can’t be much profit in that.”

The man laughed, in a way that told that he was Igbo. “I dey sell plenty things. No aspirin. But plenty, plenty things wey dey unique. My kaya na the ones wey dey fanciful, wonderful and beautiful. No other shop dey like my own for this world. And oga, the one wey you suppose know be sey everything wey I dey sell dey come with ultimate money-back guarantee.”

James studied the face on the other side of the counter. It was fair and round and trimmed with tufts of grey hair that peaked out from behind his ears and then disappeared, leaving behind a broad expanse of ancient scalp. The smile was warm and seemed genuine, not a typical shopkeeper’s nice-to-take-your-money smile. The pure brown eyes almost twinkled in the light. “Tell me about that,” said James. “What’s so special about your guarantee?”

“Very simple,” said the shopkeeper. “If you no happy with any thing wey you buy, just bring am back. I go refund two times the money wey you pay for the kaya.” He leaned back on his heels and puffed out his chest proudly. “And errmmm, I go kill myself add on top sef.” The wave of skepticism that James felt must have shown itself on his face because the man quickly added, “And no even doubt am, oga. I dey take my guarantee very, very serious.”

“I see,” said James, absently tugging at his ear. “I’m impressed. But how can you make an offer like that on used shoes? How can anyone be completely satisfied with a shoe that probably stinks with a stranger’s sweat?”

“Hehehehehe, good point, oga. The thing be sey, if I allow make people dey pick wetin they wan buy, e go become problem. But I no trust people, so I dey pick for them. And me I no dey ever make mistake.”

“You decide?”

“Yes nan! I no dey leave anything to chance. Not with this my ultimate money-back guarantee. You go like make I pick something for you?” The shopkeeper rubbed his chin thoughtfully and studied James’ face. “Hmmm. You know wetin?” He slapped his hands together and rubbed them excitedly. “I think I get wetin you go like. You go like see am?” Without waiting for an answer he disappeared through a door behind the counter. In less than thirty seconds he came back carrying a package wrapped in brown paper. “See am,” said the man as he put the package down on the counter. “I no dey charge for lookery,” and started laughing.

James picked up the package. The paper was tattered and very dirty. There were stamps up in the corner. The post office had cancelled the stamps on September 3rd, 1982. When James glanced at the delivery address his hands began to tremble and a prickly sensation shot up the back of his neck. The addressee was Gbanger James S. and the address was his own. He dropped the package back on the counter. “This is a very peculiar joke,” he said angrily. “Clever. But peculiar.”

The shopkeeper frowned. “Hm! Na joke?”

“This package is addressed to me. And it was mailed in 1982. I wasn’t even born until 1994. And I have only lived at this address for five years. This must be a practical joke of some kind.”

“I dey assure you, oga,” said the shopkeeper, “this one no be  joke. I no dey smart to dey joke. Wetin I do na to search wetin you fit like. You wan buy am?”

James stared down at the package. This must be a dream, he thought. It makes absolutely no sense. He ran his finger across the address on the package. It was badly faded and the brown paper was covered with a layer of dust. This simply cannot be. He looked back at the shopkeeper. “How much?”

“One hundred naira.”

“One hundred naira?”

“Hian!” exclaimed the shopkeeper, “I fit tell sey you hard man. Oya carry am for eighty naira.” He shook a withered index finger in James’ face. “But not a naira less.”

James pulled four notes out of his pocket and handed them to the shopkeeper. “Thank you,” said the shopkeeper. “I dey happy sey you like am.”

“I’d like to open it here,” said James. “Right now.”

“Sure! You be my customer. I go wan see wetin dey inside myself.”

James tore off the wrapping paper and revealed a cardboard box that was sealed with a cracked yellow tape. The shopkeeper handed him a pair of scissors.  James sliced open the top of the box. Inside was a wooden box that had been decorated with very intricate carvings of animals. They were animals no zoo on earth had ever seen. They were nightmarish animals with long teeth, sharp claws and menacing eyes. On the front of the box was a brass plate with a keyhole. James licked his lips nervously. “There is no key,” he said.

“Sometimes,” said the shopkeeper, “just to dey wish make something open dey enough.” Suddenly the top of the box sprang open. Startled, James dropped the box back on the counter. He took a step back and stared down at it. A long moment passed. “You no wan look inside again?” asked the shopkeeper. “No forget my money-back guarantee. If you no like am, I go owe you one hundred and sixty naira.” He smiled. “Even my life sef.”

James stepped forward and looked down into the box. What he saw took him back to his boyhood, a time of comfort and warmth and hopeful tomorrows. It was a very old rubber ball. It was white with blue stars. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. The initials GJS had been scraped into it with a rusty nail he remembered.

“You like am?” the shopkeeper asked.

“Such a harmless thing. In such a scary box,” said James.

“Yes,” said the old man, nodding. “Na so life dey.”

James turned the ball over and over in his hands. “I lost this many years ago,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more than five or six. I remember crying about it. I was sure it was gone forever.”

“But you don find am,” said the tiny old shopkeeper. “Na im be sey you dey satisfy? And I fit keep the money? Even my life ba?”

James nodded.

“I dey happy sey you sef dey happy. Because today for no good to die at all.”

“But how? How could you get it? How could a ball be mailed to me before I ever owned it?”

“If sey I fit answer that kind question, na im be sey I for dey more than shopkeeper be that na.” He lifted his hands, palms up toward the sky. “Sometimes,” he said, “e good make you no dey question. Just accept am.”

James nodded silently and walked slowly to the door. He opened it, paused, and turned back to the shopkeeper. “I may come back,” he said.

“Sure! If you fit find me again. My small shop get as e be.”

James walked out of the shop and into the cacophony of the city. The afternoon sun was warm. He turned the ball over and over in his hands and then bounced it on the pavement. He caught it, bounced it, and caught it again, just like he had done so very many times so very many years before. He felt flushed with an emotion that he had experienced very rarely in life. Happiness. Simple, sweet, childlike, almost giddy. He smiled and turned back toward the shop. The red and white striped awning and the wooden door had vanished. The sign in the window now read “Cheks & Sons Cleaners.” James opened the now-glass door and walked in. There was no tinkle announcing his arrival. There were no old shoes or magazines, or pictures on the walls. The sound of steam presses filled the shop. A middle aged woman stood behind the counter, sweat beading on her forehead. “Can I help you?” she asked cheerlessly. “You’re here to pick up your clothes?”

“No,” said James. “I think I have everything I need.” He waved at the woman who stood there stooped, weighted down with work and the world. “Good day,” he said, then turned and left. He forgot about the aspirin and walked home, whistling, almost skipping as he went, drawing stares he didn’t notice.

 

Now I need an interpreter.