Friday, December 30, 2011

Nigerian Christians, Sell your Coats and Buy Swords

By NNOROM AZUONYE

 

On Christmas day, as Christians celebrated the birth of the prince of peace, Jesus the Christ, Muslims in Nigeria chose that day the bomb them as they worshipped. Nobody has been held accountable for this heinous crime. Nobody will ever be held accountable for it. That is Nigeria, where Islam has now become synonymous with senseless cold-blooded mass murders of Christians. The situation is so bad now that it is impossible to think about a Muslim without associating him with violence and murder. It is even more disturbing because the average Muslim walking the Nigerian street is now perceived as a murderer who will always get away with murder.

 

Some Christian thinkers have been hoping to tease sense and restraint out of the educated and possibly conscienced Muslim elite to speak up in condemnation of terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of their religion, to redeem the image of that religion and place the majority of possibly non-homicidal Muslims in good light.

 

Writing on his Facebook wall in response to Reverend Father Bassey’s assertion that "The majority of peace loving Muslims are powerless before this very powerful radical minority, and for the sake of their lives most prefer to keep quiet. But the agenda of Islamisation which is a crucial expected outcome of these radicals will be an outcome welcome by all Muslims whether radical or not." Dr Pius Adesanmi writes:

 

Dear Father Bassey:

 

Thanks are due to Oga Ojo for circulating your thoughts widely. I agree with his critique of same. I have also excerpted a curious point you make. I couldn't disagree with you more on what you state above. The majority of Nigeria's peace-loving Moslems are certainly not powerless before the bloodthirsty cannibals among them. The proper thing to say is that the rest of us, Nigerian non-Moslems, have somehow never held the Muslim majority accountable for their silence over these orgies of murder that come complete with the ability to tar-brush all of them and even their religion. I am not saying that we don't hear from a few courageous and progressive Muslims but the numbers are not up to the ten fingers of my non-leprous hands. Apologies for the hyperbole. It is for discursive effect. Just look at my constituency: how many Northern Muslim University lecturers have ever come out to denounce these killings? How many of them have ever thought of coming together in pressure groups and thinktanks - something like a League of Northern Academics Against Religious Violence - to mount pressure on Northern state governors, religious leaders and elders? How many of them have organized themselves in NGOs and sought funding from local and foreign bodies to mount public campaigns against religious violence in the core north? Don't we have colleagues everywhere from Usmanu Dan Fodio University in Sokoto to Bayero University in Kano? How many of them have you ever heard from? They don't have voices or they suddenly become too busy with academic work whenever these orgies of violence require their voices in the public space? I think the time has come when we must begin to make it clear to that Moslem majority that we do not believe that they are powerless to rein in the murderers who are giving their religion such a bad name; that, where we stand, their silence means acquiescence or indifference or both; that we are no longer satisfied with a handful of well-meaning Muslims and Muslim organizations coming out to apply medicine after death by issuing statements after every bomb blast and going back to sleep until the next blast - let them be proactive! Let them do the right thing with conscientization campaigns and other socially prophylactic initiatives in the warrens of radical Islam in the North, etc. We want to see them get their hands dirty in the trenches of the North, involved in very publicized and mediatized campaigns for religious harmony and against religious violence. That Muslim majority must be seen working proactively by the rest of us. Otherwise, the Sultan rushing to Aso Rock for a photo-op presented as a security consultation while we are burying our dead is cold comfort.

                                                                       

The problem of course is that the non-Muslims in Nigeria are relying on the handful of non-violent, non-homicidal Muslims to talk down their brothers and stop the murders of Christians. The other major unfortunate thing is that Christians are deluding themselves that the Nigerian government might find a way to deal with this problem. Some even feel that with a Christian finally in power, President Goodluck Jonathan (rumoured to be a Christian) might contrive to use the Nigerian Armed Forces he commands to wring peace out of the radical Muslim North. But the man has proved himself as hopeless in this regard as his mentor, Olusegun Obasanjo who was also rumoured to be a Christian.

 

This short article must not be misunderstood as a call to Christians to rise up and start killing Muslims, but it must be clear to all Christians by now that the enlightened, educated, non-bloodthirsty Muslim elite could do something about this situation, if only they would. It is also clear that the Nigerian government, supposedly led by a possible Christian, could also do something if it would. But there is no spirit, no desire or courage to do anything to stop these killings.

 

This is where Christians must be reminded that although Jesus urged them to turn the other cheek if one cheek is struck, the same Jesus also said in the book of Luke 22:36 “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” LET THE ONE WHO HAS NO SWORD SELL HIS CLOAK AND BUY ONE.

 

The Prince of Peace knew it well that this day would come when a people whose religion means ‘peace’ would rise against his people, and he charged them in advance to get armed and be willing to fight back. Christians in the Nigeria are now under siege by Muslims and must realise that it is not against the Christian faith to bear arms or to defend oneself. When Jesus said ‘buy a sword’ he also meant build a bomb. If the Boko Haram or any other branch of Islam continues to bomb Christians, then it is worth the while to bomb them right back. This is not something that is likely to annoy God. At this very trying moment, all Christians in Nigeria need to be vigilant and must commit themselves to prayer and seek God’s way in this matter. Victory against these forces of evil can only be achieved if Christians align themselves with the will of God. Everything from the acquisition of swords, to how to use them in defence of the Christian way of life, and the Christian life must be covered by the blood of Jesus so that in fighting the monsters, Nigerian Christians must not become monsters. TB


Please note: Bloggers & Media may reproduce this article in full or part. No need to seek reprint permission. Just give credit.

- Nnorom Azuonye.  


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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thoughts on Anti-gay Law in Nigeria

By NNOROM AZUONYE

 

The Nigerian senate recently passed a bill criminalising homosexuality in the country. If the bill is upheld by the House of Representatives, President Goodluck Jonathan may sign it into law and this could spell stints of up to 14 years in jail for the crime of homosexuality.

 

Naturally western leaders have risen in condemnation of the proposed law, with the American government threatening to cut or stop American aid to Nigeria, as surely other non-African leaders are wont to do. There is no shortage of voices rising against this move by the Nigerian government, including Amnesty International who in a statement suggests that if passed, the law "…would place a wide range of people at risk of criminal sanctions, including human rights defenders and anyone else -- including friends, families and colleagues -- who stands up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in Nigeria,"

 

Socio-political activism in Nigeria tends to be rather highly dramatic and some might say, even dangerous. However it is quite unlikely that Nigerian leaders could try to silence activists or political opponents by branding them gay or lesbian and stashing them away in jails for up to 14 years. An anti-gay law has never been necessary to exercise political intimidation in Nigeria. It is inappropriate to suggest that this anti-gay bill will feed a culture of witch-hunt. In fact, many Nigerians believe that it seeks to preserve the cultural and spiritual well-being of the society in an ill-advised manner. Besides, when viewed from an angle that a normal family setting is desirable, especially if children are to be brought up within them, a law prohibiting same-sex marriage may be necessary in order to prevent emotional violence against possible offspring. Many people across the world strongly believe that children should not be brought up by same-sex couples because such an environment would surely be confusing to them and will definitely set them up for ridicule in schools, which might damage them emotionally and psychologically for life. The wrongness of this kind of family building is clear in the marriage of celebrity musician Elton John and David Furniss. They had a child in 2010 through a ‘secret’ surrogate mother. Apparently their sperms were mixed up and used to inseminate the woman and it has been reported that they as yet don’t know which one of them is the father.

 

While there is a basis for understanding the reasoning behind putting a law in place against gay marriage, legislating against harmless, possibly transient romantic liaisons between same-sex couples cuts it fine along lines of violation of rights. The argument here is that if two adults wish to engage in homosexual activity that is harming nobody, they should not be prevented from doing so. However if they wish to get married and possibly proceed to acquire children, the society has a responsibility to protect those children.

 

Nigerians in Nigeria and in the Diaspora have widely different takes on the issue. For many, the feeling is of sheer incredulity that in a country where armed robbery and kidnaps are rife, in a country where terrorism is growing fast with bombings of public places claiming lives, in a country where unemployment is becoming unmanageable, prices are soaring, millions are starving and unsure of how they will survive, the law men have placed priority in criminalising homosexuality. There are others who oppose the law on the grounds that the government is trying to interfere in some basic human rights of the Nigerian citizenry. There are of course a lot of voices rising for the sake of it, who must always make propaganda of themselves by finding something wrong in everything the Nigerian leadership does.

 

As these voices rise against the impending law, millions of others are raised in support of it. From a cultural and religious standpoint, the majority of Nigerians will never accept homosexuality. This is the major problem that those who oppose the bill will have. Nigeria is not ready and may never be ready to embrace gay and lesbian activity in the country.  It just will not happen. No matter how hard people try to argue that they are born that way or have made a choice to live that way, it is nothing that will gain acceptance.

 

The major problem is religion. The two major religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam. More than anywhere in the world, followers of these two religions are overzealous and intolerant of opposing or dissenting views. Both Islam and Christianity deem homosexuality to be wrong.

 

Islamic.org.uk  for instance offers the perspective that “There is no doubt that in Islam homosexuality is considered 'sinful'. Homosexuality as far as Islam is concerned is a profound mistake (as are all sins if they are not intending to do wrong). Humans are not homosexuals by nature. People become homosexuals because of their environments. Particularly critical is the environment during puberty. Suggestions, ideas & strange dreams are symptoms of confused attempts to understand new and blunt sexual desires and are rashly interpreted as defining someone as being one sexuality or another. If these conclusions are accompanied by actual homosexual acts they are even more strongly reinforced. Human instincts can be subjected to acts of will. Sexuality is a choice of identity which follows choices of action which follow from choices of what to have sexual fantasies about. Human beings are especially able to control their thoughts, entertaining some and dismissing others.”

 

          Clearly, there is no chance of Muslims in Nigeria to accept what is not ‘natural’ with human beings. This is the same with Christians. The Holy Bible severally condemns homosexuality and lumps it together with bestiality and other perverse leanings. The aim of every true Christian is to be worthy of entering into the Kingdom of God. In verses 9-10 of the first book of Corinthians, chapter 6, homosexuality is listed as one of the transgressions that will prevent a Christian from inheriting the Kingdom; “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

 

          Nigeria may sometimes be dismissed as a place of over-church-attending, over-mosque-attending God-forsaken people where religious practices leave much to be desired, often coming across as borderline evil, but the Nigerian religious are a bunch of uncompromising zealots and will never betray their God by embracing gays and lesbians.

 

          There is also the issue of social and cultural perception. In Nigeria it is a shame to be gay or lesbian. This is why those that are known to be, never openly admit it. You find them in politics and literature masquerading as gay rights activists, but ask them pointedly on record if they are gay and you receive a very bland answer; “I don’t have to be gay to fight for the rights of gay and lesbian people” or “Why do I always get that question because I am trying to say stop attacking homosexuals for the way they are born?”

 

          If they are firm in their beliefs. If they are sure that they are simply wired that way. If they are certain that their rights ought to be protected, why is it that they cannot stand up to be counted? The idea of fighting for the faceless and the nameless is lame and will not achieve any results. All those people who are homosexuals should come out of the cupboards, wardrobes or wherever they are hiding and stand by their convictions and let us see if the Nigerian government will arrest them all and jail them.

 

          The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian society and culture frowns at homosexuality and the families of any confirmed gay people will have a hard time living down the shame. Nobody wants to be responsible for his old parents dying of heartbreak or even suicide.

 

          Nigeria does not need to make a law against homosexuality. This issue already is regulated by the country’s social and cultural norms. The only thing this law-making process will achieve is prove that the nation’s legislature are simply a bunch of overpaid clowns who don’t know what to do with their time. TB

 

This article was first published in Sunday Punch on 18th December 2011

 


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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Citizen Ikhide Ikheloa should leave Chris Abani alone.

After reading the latest Ikhide revelation of Chris Abani fibbing about how as an 8-year-old boy he toured Igbo communities with his mother and worked as her interpreter as she taught Igbo women catholic-style birth control and discussed menstrual cycles with these mothers, I decided that Abani is not the grand liar Ikhide is calling him, the guy is in gaga land and deserves our prayers and healing thoughts. Oh come on, man, an 8-year-old describing menstrual flow as waterfalls, rivers, and brooks with Igbo words Olu Oguibe, and I and not even Yvonne Chị Mbanefo know. Chris Abani is definitely not taking himself seriously, and he is probably laughing at us for taking him so seriously.
I suggest that Ikhide and everybody else leave Big Chris alone. It is to white people he is lying and they choose to believe him. The guy is so unreal I am surprised his nose is not as long as the third mainland bridge.
Nnorom
Read the ridiculous story told by Chris Abani here:

A Woman's Mission: To Teach Birth Control In Nigeria

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ojukwu dies, the sun rises again.

By Nnorom Azuonye

 

I mee la Ojukwu, i mee la…

On Saturday, 26th of November 2011, I was at the TEDxEuston event in London listening to thought-provoking talks on the redefinition and reimagination of Africa.

The day was going well. I had listened to Lola Shoneyin’s insistence that perpetrators of sexual violence must all be brought to book, and that our young must be made aware of the consequences of sexually violating another human being. Kwame Kwei-Armah reminisced about role models and spoke eloquently about how many of our role models were people who fought the powers that were, people who challenged the status quo; the Martin Luther Kings, the Stephen Bikos, the Nelson Mandelas etc. But he reckoned that what was more important was building something – building institutions that would endure. I became excited about the TEDxEuston event when Paul Boateng in his talk somewhat responded the Kwei-Armah by saying it was not a choice for Africans whether to fight or build because if you don’t fight, whatever you have built would come to nothing. In my mind, I became appreciative of my mentor Esiaba Irobi’s words in Hangmen Also Die that stated, “No matter what we do, no matter how high we aspire, there is something waiting in the atmosphere waiting to destroy us.” This is why we must not simply build, but why we must fight to protect what we have built, or it would not stand. Then we broke for lunch and I received a call that announced the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a man who not only fought the evil in the atmosphere destroying many Igbo lives, but a man who also built something that would never die. I excused myself from the rest of the talks at TEDx and went home.

I mee la Ojukwu, I mee la…

Today, I hear voices of powerful men and women, from the North through the South, they sing his praises. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has died. Everybody who is anybody rises to say Ojukwu was a dear friend. Ikemba Nnewi was a complex man, a great man, an imperfect man, but he was a hero of mine and a hero to millions of Ndi Igbo and non-Ndi Igbo across the world. He was a man who had the courage to stand up and say “stop killing my people”. There are some surely who write frivolous messages on the internet asking God to forgive Ojukwu for the blood that flowed through Nigeria and Biafra from 1967 to 1970, they must stop and ask, did Ojukwu do more than ask for the senseless killing of Ndi Igbo to stop? Was there anything agreed at Aburi that resembled baying for blood? Has the killing of Ndi Igbo stopped in Nigeria, even now? 44 years after Northern Nigeria drew the first blood the Northern Nigerian earth still drinks the blood of Ndi Igbo. Although one may stop and ask, why do Ndi Igbo continue to live in the north? Do our people not say that a war foretold does not reap corpses? Did Ojukwu not warn us about this many years ago?

I mee la Ojukwu, I mee la…

Ndi Igbo were forced into staying in Nigeria and have been screwed since then. They are still being killed in the North because they are too naïve to understand that they should not be living in the North. Inside every true Igbo person is a desire to be free, a desire to live in a country of his or her own where everything is a possibility. This is all Ojukwu wanted. This is what he lived for. This is what he died wishing for. It is right for every Igbo person to remember Aburi. It is right for every Igbo person to remember the events of May 30th 1967, July 6th 1967, and November 26th 2011. It is time for the sun to rise again in the heart and life of every Igbo person. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s voice rises from his yet-to-be grave, through every home, through village squares, through the social media, and through the church houses, he says, a sun sets but does not die, let the sun of Biafra rise again.

Sadly there are some Ndi Igbo and many Nigerians who pretend that Biafra was a fiction, or was a thing that occurred that should be forgotten. Avoiding to confront the ills Biafra sought to address means they will continue to eat at every fabric of the Nigerian society until it destroys Nigeria and Ndi Igbo within Nigeria. We must all look Biafra again in the eye, and answer the questions she raised in order to find our way and our children’s way into a safe, healthy and free future. There is a lesson in the timeless words of George Santayana, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I mee la, Ojukwu, I mee la.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mourning Ojukwu begins

I was born 6 days after the first shots of the Nigeria-Biafra war were fired. I am and will always be proud to say I was born in the Republic of Biafra. It is true that I have carried a Nigerian passport since August 1981, but that will only really have meaning if Nigeria stops killing Ndi Igbo, whether they are living and working in the north or serving Nigeria under the NYSC scheme. Holding a Nigerian passport will only make sense when Nigeria recognises the fact that Biafra was not a fiction and people should be free to talk about Biafra without fear of intimidation and jail by the Nigerian government who, by the way, must find a way to create a fitting monument and memorial for all those who lost their lives in that war. As Biafrans mourn General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu they must not be afraid to say their name.

http://theblogazette.nnoromazuonye.com/2005/10/biafran-babies-must-not-be-afraid.html

Nnorom Azuonye

Friday, November 25, 2011

Echekoba, Azuonye Art Exhibitions in London

Chike Azuonye and Mike Echekoba

All of this week I have been dreaming in colour. It is a pleasant and beautiful experience. My dreams have been fed by all the paintings I have been enjoying recently and will enjoy through this weekend..

On Monday, 21st of November, I attended the Winter Show - a group exhibition at the Commonwealth Club in London by the trio of commonwealth artists Michael Echekoba (Nigeria), Phyllis Dupuy (Canada), and Swadeka Ahsun (Mauritius).

red wine echekoba

Echekoba’s works capture images and sceneries that celebrate life in Nigeria and Europe. I particularly loved the picture of lovers strolling arm in arm, and the textured celebration of the red wine in the picture above. Quite a few of Echekoba’s pantings were about living life, about intimate moments frozen in beautiful colours. A beautiful collection this winter.

I did not have the opportunity of meeting Swadeka Ahsun, there were some really spooky paintings I wanted to discuss. That will wait for another time. Phyllis Dupuy is a great portraitist. According to her, she has been doing portraits for only about 4 years, but the photographic detail and atmosphere in those images were intriguing. I wonder what her portraits will look like in 10 years time.

portrait by Phyllis Dupuy

A bit of an exhibitionist myself, I could not resist a photo opportunity with the artist.

Nnorom Azuonye and Mike Echekoba

On November 26th and 27th, Chike Azuonye will hold a 2-day solo exhibition titled View Point – an exhibition of recent works at the WAC Gallery, 14 Baylis Road, Waterloo, SE1 7AA on Satuday 26th and Sunday 27th November 2011. The event will be on from 11:00am to 8:00pm on both days.

Aspiration-3

Here is a press release by Chike Azuonye:

PRESS RELEASE

Chike Azuonye announces new solo Art Exhibition

clip_image002London, 16th November 2011, painter and portraitist Chike Azuonye announced ‘View Point’ a new solo exhibition of new works to be held at the WAC Gallery, on the 26th and 27th of November 2011.

Azuonye is a Nigeria-born artist who has been active in the London art scene since the late 1980s. His works are remarkable for their depths of expression and thought. At first glance of Chike’s works, the viewer is presented with rich vibrant colours harmoniously orchestrated like music. Art to him is about celebration and immediacy: something to be enjoyed and appreciated. But on a closer look, Chike has always a message beyond the aesthetics; a narrative which delves into his African root, as well as his philosophical leaning and pursuits.

Chike acknowledges three prominent artists as having influenced his art today. These mentors are Gauguin, Modigliani and his university lecturer Prof Obiora Udechukwu, a lecturer at St Lawrence University in the United States of America. Chike, from his early years in the university, studied Gauguin and his palette and with the help of his lecturer, gained mastery in both theory and practical application of colour. The element of distortion in his work was inspired by Professor Udechukwu, especially, from his Biafra and Nigerian war-sketch diaries. Much later, Chike developed intense interest in Modigliani and his technique of elongation of the human form. Armed with these tools, Chike formally developed a style, which gives his work a unique and fresh appeal.

In the 80s, Chike, who is also a poet, had several exhibitions which he developed, based on themes and images from favourite poems. Later, those themes evolved into motifs that enabled him to explore his inner recesses and to produce outstanding surrealistic and mystical works.

In the 90s, there was sudden departure from his surrealistic approach to a more recognisable form. Chike started working on the numerous sketches of his Nigerian root, especially those motifs that provided him with a narrative about commerce, farming and cultural life of the people. Amongst his paintings were: the “Milk Maid,” a series on the “Market Women,” the “Drummers,” and the “Rites of Passage.”

From 2000, Chike began to explore abstract art and in the years to follows produced many abstract arts, notably, Mediation, Re-birth and Creation. During this period, Chike had numerous group shows and some solo shows.

View Point, his latest exhibition is a celebration of all these years, showcasing some of his themes, images and styles. Chike is eclectic in his work, and challenges himself with the mastery of various artistic media, such as Acrylic, Oil, Charcoal and watercolour.

For more information visit: www.chikeazuonye.com


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Goodbye Heavy D.

Goodbye Heavy D. Ride it. Ride it
smooth and banging to the other side
rappin’ poppin’ dancin’ all the way.

Trouble T. Roy’s waiting with Heavy Drums
rollin’ out hot hot hot beats perfect n’ rousin’
music gods from sleep deep and sweet.

He thumbs you up for makin’ it
exactly double the twenty-two he said goodbye
19 more than Tupac, but too too young, Heavy.

Party up H, you’ve got the groove. I’m blasting
your beats this morning, n’ even my 4-year-old boy
is feelin’ them n’ we’re sayin’ thank you & goodbye.

Nnorom Azuonye
10-11-11

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Excel for Charity - writing competitions in aid of the world's charities

Excel for Charity - International Writing Competitions Series in aid of charities. Current competitions: 1. The TRYangle Project Poetry (Judge: Gabriel Griffin) & Short Story (Judge: Kate Horsley) Competitions on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Closing 10-10-11 2. Stepping Stones Nigeria Poetry (Judge: Susanna Roxman) & Short Story (Judge: Toni Kan) Competitions on CHILDHOOD. Closing 31-10-11 and 3. Swale Life International Poetry Competition. Open theme. Closing 10-11-11 www.excelforcharity.com
Excel for Charity - writing competitions in aid of the world's charities

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011, judge - Roger Elkin

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011 | Closing Date: 15-Oct-11
Details:
For previously unpublished poems in English language up to 50 lines long, on any subject, in any style. Poems entered may not be under consideration for publication, or accepted for publication elsewhere. Prizes: £500 (First), £250 (Second), £125 (Third), 5 x £25 (Highly Commended). Publication in Sentinel Champions magazine #9, February 2012 in print and eBook formats. Judge: Roger Elkin, author of 'No Laughing Matter' and 'Fixing Things'. Results will be announced on 30-Nov-2011 at www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk
Entry Fee: £5 per poem (You may enter as many poems as you wish)

Contact: Send poems with Cover Note or Entry Form with Cheque/Postal Order in GP£ only payable to SENTINEL POETRY MOVEMENT, Address: Unit 136, 113-115 George Lane, London E18 1AB, United Kingdom.
Enter online or download Entry Form at:
http://www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk/competitions/sapc-2011/

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2011, judge - Roger Elkin

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition. | Closing date: Midnight 20th Sept, 2011. | Judge: Todd Swift | Prizes: £150 (1st), £75 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £10 x 3 (High Commendation) + first publication in Sentinel Champions. | Fees: £3 (1), £12 (5). Enter online now http://www.sentinelquarterly.com/poetry-competition-oct-2011/

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

About my Facebook holiday

I recently decided to take a holiday from Facebook and Twitter until the end of July. I also turned off the Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook apps from my phone and disabled my Skype. I reckoned I could still carry on blogging if need be, like I did on the unfortunate death of Amy Winehouse. What I forgot was that my blogs were networked, and Networked Blogs would always deliver every blog post to Facebook and Twitter. So even though I have been on holiday, Networked Blogs have undermined my holiday and many friends have written accusing me of being a Facebook and Twitter addict. I ain’t no FB addict. Well, I know this post will be sent directly to FB and Twitter, but that’s to reassure you, my buddies, that I have not fallen off the wagon so to say. Be cool and enjoy yourselves.

Meanwhile, check out the Sentinel website. Do you like it? Do you like it or do you like it? Lemme know. www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk

Big Rommy with a plan.

Sentinel ArtVentures: Amy Winehouse goes too soon.

Sentinel ArtVentures: Amy Winehouse goes too soon.: "Technorati Tags: amy winehouse , nnorom Azuonye , afam akeh , michael jackson , edward furlong , drugs , alcohol abuse , amy winehouse goes..."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

lupus-uk-international-poetry-competition

lupusuk
LUPUS UK INTERNATIONAL POETRY COMPETITION
CLOSING DATE (NOW EXTENDED TO) 30-JUNE-2011

Lupus UK International Poetry Competition 2011
This competition is administered by Excel for Charity in aid of LUPUS UK – a national charity helping people with the presently incurable immune system illness lupus. Lupus UK currently supports some 6,000 members through their Regional Groups and advise many others on the symptoms prior to diagnosis.
Open theme. Maximum 40 lines long.
Prizes: £150, £75, £40 and 2 x £10 Commendation Prizes. Plus publication in the Excel for Charity website.
Entry Fees: £4/1, £7.50/2, £10.50/3, £12.50/4 and £14.00/5 (a third of entry fees goes to Lupus UK).
Judge: Jim Bennett – award-winning author of The Man Who Tried to Hug Clouds, Managing Editor, Poetry Kit.
Go to competition page


lupus-uk-international-poetry-competition

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Esiaba Irobi, one year already

It is one year already since the passing of Esiaba Irobi. It hasn't been all fun this side of existence. Eni-Jones Umuko must have given him the report in person. I hope his journey continues to be blessed.



(excerpt from Irobi's Kingdom of the Mad)

I spit upon the laws that thieves have made
To give the crooked the strength to rob the straight.
I spit upon a country so full of wealth
Yet millions wallow in squalor and in want.
I spit upon the flag that flaps like a rag
On an iron pole planted on the vision of pregnant generals.
I spit upon rabid religions that defend a hell on earth
and preach a heaven beyond this mire
I spit upon the education that turns into stenographers
A generation that could have been philosophers
visionaries and revolutionaries. Upon this whole damned
nation of mine do I spit. And while I spit, I weep.
- Esiaba Irobi

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The “Anyway” Mindset

There was no room at the inn so to say, today, at our Trinity Methodist Church, Plumstead. Therefore we went to St Joseph’s Catholic Church instead. Father Jim Kirby was not there, but a visiting Father connected to the Columban Misssionaries, celebrated the mass. As we left the church, the Father handed me a copy of Far East – magazine of the Columban Missionaries. I turned the back of the magazine and saw what looked like a poem, titled “ANYWAY” - a version of Kent Keith’s “The Paradoxical COMMANDMENTS (1968); it is one of those things you are certain you know already, but you are glad that somebody else is saying it to you.  I hope you like it as much as I love it:

THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.


© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fear not, you are a God-protected child.

fear not

It is a hell of a tough time to be alive. Wherever you live now, you are likely to be looking over your shoulders all the time. It is pretty difficult to get on a bus or a train without it crossing your mind that it may be blown up by terrorists. These fears are real. As American and British forces continue to occupy and fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. As NATO forces continue to drop bombs on Libya. As American drones head for Libya too with their hellfire missiles. As Robert Mugabe continues to insist on being in power the way he knows how. As Muhammadu Buhari continues to disrespect the wishes of Nigerian people and continues to enjoy the support of mobs who see violence and murder of the innocent as a method of protesting election losses. Then every time we get on the public transport, we wonder if some avenging terrorist has made it on board with an explosive device. Every time we get on the street, we wonder if the mob will start killing again.

At dangerous times like these, it is difficult not to be afraid. It is even more difficult to say to your neighbour, don’t be afraid. He will think you are barking mad. He will wonder, what is there not to be afraid of?

The focus of the fear is loss of property, injury or death. Perfectly reasonable for anyone living on planet Earth. But are we focussing too much on these? What about the loss of our souls? If we refocused our concerns to fortifying ourselves with the Holy Spirit, our treasures will lie elsewhere and we shall not be afraid anymore, persuaded that “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

If we refocused our lives, such that we surrender completely to God and let him direct our lives, we can concentrate on doing good; helping those who can’t help themselves, clothing the naked, comforting the suffering, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty and other wonderful things. We will simply leave our protection to God, the impenetrable shield. We will claim the promise that if God be for us, nobody can be against us. (Romans 8:31).

It is a very comforting feeling to hold when you know that you are under the protection of the Almighty. This protection is best articulated in Psalm 91:4-8:

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Now that is what I call a promise.

- Nnorom Azuonye

Friday, April 22, 2011

THE HOMECOMING

A short story by Nnorom Azuonye        

        "Did we really waste our time on you?" Udediya asked Amara, sitting at the foot of her bed in the poorly lit room. For once, she kept her tongue from lecturing on the relationship between Satan and the hearts of people who live in dark rooms.
        Amara wept and unable to look her mother in the eye buried her face in her pillow, acknowledging with as painful sincerity and remorse as an eighteen-year-old could muster, that she had let her parents down.
        Udediya momentarily permitted her sobbing become an uncomfortable and indicting soundtrack to their lives, but suddenly she erupted like a satanic volcano, roaring, "Flee fornication. Flee fornication. We taught you that, Amara, is this a lie?"
        Not wishing to be wrong and strong, Amara only politely protested, begging her mother not to preach, but to help her mop up the oil already spilled. Udediya obliged her and did not preach, but asked if Matthew had any plans to marry her. With no response forthcoming from Amara, Udediya shifted restlessly on the bed, tapping the heel of her right foot hard on the floor, as she informed Amara that her father thought it might be better if she went away for a while, and had in fact spoken to a friend at Uzuakoli about the matter.
        Amara felt a deep slash of betrayal, sat up and asked her mother calmly, "For a friend at Uzuakoli to do what? Be my father?"
        Udediya hissed in frustration. Now irritated by the calm comportment of her daughter, she reminded Amara that if word about her condition emerged, her father's credibility would be completely destroyed. Amara then remarked that it was she, and not her father that was with child, prompting Udediya's facetious thanks to God that they did not have to deal with that abomination.
        A textured silence ensued, and after a short while Udediya took a deep breath and told Amara that it was her father's wish she must leave Aba at the first crow of the cock the next morning.
        A totally shocked Amara stared at her mother in disbelief for one second before she burst out laughing, dismissing the idea of her exile as a lousy joke, and told her mother she could not be run off her own father's house, not even by her own mistake. But of course her mother was not joking and explained the situation: It was a matter of honour. There was a motherless babies' home at Uzuakoli. Mr Ekong, her father's good friend would see that she was comfortable there. Money for provisions had been arranged, and after the child arrived, Ekong would arrange for it to be placed in that home, and Amara could return home and be a good daughter-of-a-priest.
        A tense pause gained life as Udediya fruitlessly awaited a characteristic outburst from Amara. Almost disappointed, she said rather unnecessarily, "May God forgive us for the sin we must commit for our honour" before another silence that seemed like eternity engulfed them.
        "And what is your wish, mother?" Amara asked as calm as a patient hour of death - a calmness that was becoming increasingly unsettling for Udediya who for two heartbeats or so appeared totally unsure of herself and whether or not she was dealing with the problem in an appropriate manner. Then her voice, heavy with emotion said almost inaudibly that her husband's wish was her wish. Thinking aloud, she mumbled something about how they might have considered a termination had they been of the world, and how it was better to live a lie than to soil their hands with the blood of the innocent.
        At this, Amara purred like a wild tigress, pointing a finger at Udediya, called her a two-faced witch, wondering aloud about the difference between killing an innocent and banishing it.
        "It will be a bastard child." Udediya protested.
        "Your Grandchild!" Amara pointed out.
        Udediya covered her ears with the palms of her hands. Shaking with rage, she pointed a finger right back at Amara, accused her of whoring with Matthew - the seventeen-year-old weed-smoking rat that Satan wanted to use to destroy her husband's work.
        After a while, Amara spoke slowly, and rather condescendingly to Udediya. "First of all, Matthew does not smoke weed. Second, I have no respect for a father whose priesthood is more important than his daughter's welfare. To burning hell with his priesthood! If he spent less time counselling other people on how to run their families, perhaps he might have found a way to run his own. He might even have been a successful father." Amara finished.
        Thoroughly scandalised now Udediya screamed at Amara to take her words back, insisting that her father had always been there for her. But Amara had stopped listening, jumped out of bed, stood beside her mother, said she would not have her baby in a motherless babies' home, but would rather go to Port Harcourt, spend time with one of her friends, and cut her own way into the world from there.
        She took her clothes out of the wardrobe and began to pile them up on the bed, as she spoke through heavy some soggy sobbing, "I don't want anything from you or that man that calls himself my father. I will leave this house tomorrow and I promise you mother, you will never see me alive again. Mother, I call this floor upon which I stand to witness against you and it shall speak someday and you and your husband will rot in hell for what you have done to me…"
        Udediya stemmed her daughter's tirade with one heavy backhanded slap on her mouth and a second on the cheek that dropped her on her clothes. Breathing heavily, fighting back her own tears, Udediya walked out of the room without uttering another word.


        *****


        For Reverend Obijuru Udeze and his loyal wife Udediya, the years roared by like a polluted storm. Constantly modifying and sweetening the explanation for their daughter's apparent disappearance from Aba, until the final official story became that she was studying for a degree in Theology in an American university, a lie that drew positive responses out of several people who agreed she was on the right path because the mamba afterall would not normally give birth to a python.
        Unfortunately for them however, when it seemed like they had tamed the storm, it roared back at them in the form of Matthew Obindueze and flipped their world over on its face into the mud of disgrace.
        It had all begun like every other Easter Sunday service. Convinced that Easter ought to be more significant than Christmas to Christians whose faith is anchored on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ - a chicken versus egg kind of debate really, Easter services were Obijuru's particular favourites.
        The service progressed wonderfully. The congregation sang a hymn with palpable joy at the end of which Obijuru stood up, as he had done for nearly three decades and began to deliver a carefully prepared sermon highlighting the unwholesomeness of a sinful man who walked in darkness. He implored members of the congregation to be at peace with each other, to bear no malice or swim in waters of bitterness, but when he said something about the unforgiving being like the Anti-Christ in the sight of God, Matthew sprang up from his pew and said, "I am sorry Reverend, are you saying you are the Anti-Christ?"
        "My son, what did you just ask me?" Obijuru asked.
        "I am not your son. To hear you talk about forgiveness, you - a heartless bull, makes me want to vomit. Are you the Anti-Christ?" Matthew asked.
        "My son - ,"
        "I am not your son, are you deaf? You viper!" Matthew snapped.
        "Praise God" Obijuru shouted, ignoring Matthew.
        "Alleluia" The congregation perfunctorily responded.
        Obijuru laughed, swaggered like a wise cow and told the congregation they were witnessing first hand the power of Satan. Desperately trying to play down the situation, he suggested that Satan was using the young man to disrupt their fellowship, an angle at which Matthew laughed, insisting that he had simply grown sick of hearing about forgiveness from the most unforgiving man alive.
        Obijuru, growing very impatient now, asked Matthew what exactly he was dying to say, and with a voice stained with pain, Matthew asked him about Amara his only daughter. Stunned, Obijuru wished to hear the question again, and Matthew was happy to ask again. Scandalized, Obijuru asked him what right he had to question him about his own daughter but Matthew chose to ignore him, turning instead to face the congregation, "The reverend pretends he does not recognise me" he began, "My name is Matthew Obindueze and I know the truth. Amara and I were young and in love. We were careless. Yes, but no matter what anyone says, our child was conceived in love. The reverend was afraid of the your condemnation, afraid of the judgment of men, that he, a man of God, exiled his own daughter and his unborn grandchild from his home."
        A gasp of horror swept through the church.
        "Shut your mouth this very moment, you little rat" Obijuru screamed from the pulpit.
        The congregation gasped again in shock, even more at the display of animal fury on the face of their priest. Matthew stood on his toes with triumph and called Obijuru a cruel, hard-hearted man, ignoring his animated protestations and fist raised in violent admonition. He tormented him, told him his granddaughter Uchenna had grown into a wonderful sixteen-year-old, and with exaggerated incredulity asked if he simply did not care? Obijuru was saying he did not care when he suddenly stopped, clutched desperately at his heart and kept trying to breathe through his mouth as he fell to the floor like a big bundle of firewood.
        Pandemonium broke out in the church as some members rushed to assist him. A doctor among them quickly took charge, stabilised Obijuru and arranged for him to be taken to hospital. The service quickly broke up. People gathered in small groups to talk. Eyes hot with accusation and disgust poked at Udediya, who stayed back with some elders to try to restore order and complete the service. But nobody would have it and people streamed out of Church.
        Obijuru survived the heart attack, soon returned to the pulpit and although things were never quite the same, he soldiered on for some time, turning his story into a positive one by trying to show that nobody was perfect. It worked on some, and did not work on others. Those it did not work on, left and either started their own churches, or joined one of the other churches in Aba, a town that probably has more churches per square mile than any other town in Nigeria.
        Three years later, Obijuru went into transition, and Udediya fell apart completely, attending church services infrequently and avoiding Easter services altogether.
        But one weekend was to both restore her joy and also destroy it. Incidentally, it began on a Good Friday. If Obijuru were still alive, he would on that day bounce his Easter sermon off her. Udediya say in her sitting room, in front of a large television, weeping and dying of aloneness.
        Outside the house, the wind raged. Pines whistled. Terrifying noises filtered into the house. An owl hooted without ceasing, and a whirlwind grooved up her street, picking up discarded cans, polythene bags, and take-away food wraps, joggling them like a possessed circus act in her cyclonic arms as she roared past a coconut tree outside Udediya's house just as an owl leapt off one of its fronds into the ominous darkness of the night.
        Inside the house, Udediya rocked in her chair, eyes fixed on the flickering screen of a large, loud, television. She turned towards the noise outside her front door, as it swung open, letting a blinding bright light into the room. A sudden chill descended on the room as flashes of lightening ripped through it and growling thunder rocked the foundations of the house.
        Udediya's cat, Olugo, leapt off her laps and stood between her and the light, howling at it until it retreated and the door slammed shut.
        "What was that? What did you see?" Udediya asked, tenderly stroking Olugo's trembling body. Soon after that, the room became quiet and Udediya drifted into a deep dream-locked sleep in which she journeyed back to a version of one of her husband's Easter services:
        She sat in the front pew at church. Her face was a picture of contentment and pride. Young and full of life, her sparkling eyes were fixed on her husband Obijuru Udeze, magnificent in his English suit and priest's collar. But as Obijuru began to speak, the church went suddenly dark, and out of the darkness, Olugo's eyes blazed like beacons at her, then faded away as the eyes of an owl took over their spots and its hoots charged the air, followed by the creaking of a door opening to her right. Udediya turned curiously towards the door through which rays of a bright light seeped into the church, making a silhouette of a naked woman carrying a crying baby walking towards her. The woman placed the baby on the floor and retreated into the light. Udediya jumped to her feet and coasted towards the baby, screaming, "My baby. Amara, My baby." But as she bent over and picked it up, Olugo came from nowhere, and pounced on her so hard that she dropped the baby, and screamed in horror as it fizzled out with the light.
        She woke up in a start, struggling for breath and covered in sweat. When she calmed down a little, she turned off the television and said to Olugo, "I am going up to bed. If I stay down here I will lose my mind."
        The following evening, Magdalene and Eziuno stood chatting outside Eziuno's house, next door from Udediya's. At a time in the past Magdalene and Eziuno were close friends who spent time with Udediya. However, since Matthew exposed her secret, they kept a distance from her.
         They ate groundnuts and bananas as they talked and laughed until they saw Udediya walking up the street towards them, so they began to talk about her, commenting on how sad she was, how she carried on as if she were the only widow in the world, and wondered why they, also widows did not appear nearly as dead themselves and reckoned she might be better off dead. Magdalene particularly spoke with a voice of hate, proclaiming that Udediya was getting her due recompense, especially after all the years lording it over them, being the righteous one whose sins eventually found out. But Eziuno was more charitable, and pleaded with Magdalene to give Udediya the mental room to bear her cross in peace.
        As Udediya came close to them, they stopped talking about her. She looked tenderly at her neighbours, greeted them warmly and asked about their families. They responded with equal enthusiasm and asked how she was doing.
        "God has been kind. You are alright I trust." Udediya said.
        "By His special grace, we have seen another Holy Saturday." Eziuno said.
        "Although we are yet to have any rain this year." Magdalene chipped in almost as if it were Udediya's fault.
        "Yes" Udediya said and looked up at the sky, "I wonder…" as her eyes came down, she observed Magdalene nudging Eziuno away from the little conference. She shut up, strode towards her door and in her smallest voice charged them to be gone to their covens.
        A listless Udediya idly cast a fleeting glance at the cobwebbed ceiling of her kitchen, jerked open the weary door of her refrigerator, scanned its shelves with tearful eyes for something dead and cooked. She took out a plastic food storage bowl, took a long look at the congealed oil on the face of the beef stew, and nearly got sick over the bowl, so she put the bowl back in the fridge and poured herself a glass of Orange juice instead.
        Olugo rubbed her soft furs against her shin as she sipped at her drink. Udediya cast a loving glance at her and wiped away her tears with the back of her wrist. Telling her cat that it was cruel to be alone and thanking God for her, Udediya picked her up, turned her around, face level, so that she could look into her eyes, asked if she was hungry and poured her a bowl of milk.
        As Olugo enjoyed her milk, Udediya turned to the sink to wash her hands, stopped by a framed photograph of Obijuru, eyeballed him in silence for a moment and asked if he ever missed her. She smiled a weak smile and confessed through a lump in her throat, "If it were not against God's law to take away his greatest gift to me, this very day, I would be by your side in your room in one of His mansions."


        *****


        The next day, on Sunday Morning, Udediya sat in her favourite rocking chair, eyes glued on the television. There was an Easter service going on and she labouriously sang along to the hymn: "Crown him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, come and crown Him the king of all."
        She was still trying to catch her breath from the strain of that hook when the telephone rang. She turned down the television's volume before she answered the phone. It was Nnaemeka, the reverend who took over from Obijuru as the local priest in her church.
        Nnaemeka expressed his disappointment with Udediya because she missed Easter service again. But she explained that Easter Services left a bitter taste in her mouth. Nnaemeka was saddened to hear this, and told Udediya that she was much missed in the church. He passionately reminded her that she had helped Obijuru build the church and must not run away from it.
        "But we betrayed our flock, Nnaemeka" Udediya protested.
        "So what? Don't you remember that we have an advocate with the Father?"
        "You are very kind, Nnaemeka, but I cannot bear the shame. I am not as strong as you all want me to be. I am just waiting for the good Lord to call me home."
        Nnaemeka laboured hard to get her to reason together with him, taking on board everything she said about her gossiping neighbours, and the feeling she had that even the songs of birds outside her window were nature's own way of mocking her but reminded her that Easter was about letting go of past sins and the pains they cause, he reminded her that Jesus took those sins away on the cross, and wondered why it was so difficult for her to forgive herself when God had forgiven her. Initially it was difficult for her to say it, but she finally confessed that she would never feel free in her spirit until she had made peace with Amara.
        "What then is keeping you?" asked Nnaemeka.
        "I would make peace with her, believe me, but I don't know where she is." Replied Udediya.
        "You told me that somebody once saw her at Lagos. If you wish Udediya, I could help you locate her." Offered Nnaemeka.
        "Please don't do that. Not yet - " she was saying, but was interrupted by the ringing of the door bell. "Someone is at my door, Nnaemeka. I will have to call you later. Please greet Lydia for me." Udediya put the phone down, got up and went towards the door. Olugo followed her and began scowling wildly at the door as she unlocked it.
        "Calm down Olugo, calm down. I know we are not expecting anyone."
        She opened the door and froze at the sight of the two young women smiling at her. An eerie silence ensued, punctuated only by the uncontrolled scowling of Olugo. Udediya tried to pick her up but she dashed past the visitors and out of the house.
        "Happy Easter, Mother." The older of the two visitors said.
        "Amara? Oh my God!" exclaimed Udediya and began to cry.
        "May we come in?" Amara asked, but Udediya did not respond, rather she turned away from her visitors, walked back to her chair, slumped into it and raised the volume of the television again. The visitors followed her in apprehensively, closing the door behind them.
         "This is my home. That is my door." Udediya mumbled, feigning anger.
        "Mother, it has been twenty years. This war has gone on long enough"
        "Has it?"
        "If you want me to go away, I will leave right now. Shame! Your own daughter shows up at your door twenty years after you threw her out, and you cannot even get yourself to hug her."
        "I did not throw you out, Amara."
        "Oh, was it Papa then? You did his dirty work for him. You did not fight for your little girl."
        "We were afraid. We were afraid, OK?" Udediya sobbed, "and we were blind." Udediya said and ushered an uneasily silence into the room.
         "This is Uchenna your granddaughter." Amara broke the silence.
        "Happy Easter Grandma" Uchenna said.
        Udediya threw a blank glance at her, said nothing and returned her eyes to the television. Uchenna advanced towards the TV set.
        "Don't turn it down" Udediya said urgently. "I like the television when it is loud." She paused for a heartbeat, and then asked them what they were doing in her house.
         "It is Easter Sunday, mother."
        "I know that. I am only sixty." Udediya replied.
        "So we are here to spend it with you. And you can at least look at me. I am your daughter, Amara, look at me."
        "I know who you are."
        "No you don't. You did not even know me when I was a child."
        "You could have called before showing up here. I am not yet ready for this." Udediya said vindictively.
        "Mother, I tried calling you, but your number has changed."
        "The old number worked for eighteen years."
        "I was mad at you and papa. I was betrayed."
        "Betrayed? Who betrayed you? I am your mother. What did I ever do wrong to you? Eh? You tell me that."
        "You threw me out"
        "I did not throw you out, stop saying that."
        "No, mother I will not stop saying it."
        "Good. Please yourself. You slept yourself out. We raised you to be an example to other children, but you passed urine in our eyes."
        "You and Father failed me."
         "Yes we did, by refusing to circumcise you."
        "My God! Woman, the rubbish you say! You hurt me. In my darkest minute, you turned your back on me." Amara said bitterly.
        Udediya, neither in the mood nor position to argue, fiddled with her fingernails and silently sat through Amara's monologue about her twenty-year exile. Afterwards she tried to change the subject by inappropriately complaining about Amara's failure to attend Obijuru's funeral.
        "Mother! You still don't get it? I swore that you would never see my face alive again." Amara said.
        "So why did you come?"
        "Because I made her." Uchenna cut in urgently. "She has grieved for the loss of her family for many years. I said to her, this Easter mum, let's leave yesterday behind." Uchenna finished.
        "Your mother disgraced us, you know?" Udediya asked Uchenna.
        "Am I a disgrace?" Uchenna replied.
        "If you are that child."
        "Yes, I am that child. Nineteen years old. Medical student at the University of Lagos. Big disgrace!" retorted Uchenna.
        "Don't take that tone with your grandmother." Amara admonished her daughter.
        "My what? Mum, I make this woman sick."
        "Uchenna!"
        "Leave her alone. She is your daughter isn't she? Why should she listen to her mother?" Udediya was triumphant.
        "My mother is a great woman. Her word is everything to me"
        "Uchenna, that is your name? Listen. Your mother, the great woman slept with all the boys in Aba to spite us."
        "But mother you are lying. I had one boyfriend. One!"
        "Okidi, Efele and Matthew were one person?"
        "Okidi and Efele were just friends."
        "Why didn't you wait until you were married?"
        "Easier said than done."
        "Well I did." Udediya snapped.
        "It was possible in your time, Mother."
        The silence returned and hung over them all like sin. Amara quickly broke it by suggesting to Uchenna to give her Grandmother her presents, but Udediya said the presents could wait, and then reflectively said to nobody in particular, "Obijuru never recovered from the shame you and Matthew brought on him. Spent the rest of his days feeling like a fake in the altar. You heard what that boy did to him in church?"
         "Yes." Replied Amara.
        "Where is Matthew now?"
        "He is at Benin" Uchenna said.
        "I thought he left Nigeria a few years ago."
        "Who told you that?" Amara asked.
        "His poor mother. I visited her when a tree fell on her house." Replied Udediya.
        "Yes, my father got a job with a Swedish company. He spent two years in Sweden, but he was returned to their Nigerian office in Benin." Uchenna explained.
        "You keep in touch with him then." Udediya said, not wanting it to sound like a question.
        "We are getting married. I am carrying our second child." Amara said.
        "Nothing changes!" Udediya grunted. "I never hated him you know. Never even blamed him for Obijuru's death. In a way, he saved Obijuru's soul from eternal condemnation. That young man reconciled my husband with God."
        "So we have your blessing then?"
        "Of course. When you fix the date, I will come. You can now give me those presents of mine." Udediya smiled.
        Uchenna packed the presents excitedly off the sofa into Udediya's hands. Their hands touched and Udediya withdrew her hand like somebody who had touched a live electric wire.
        "What is the matter?" Uchenna asked.
        "I don't know" Udediya said, "Somebody walked over my grave perhaps."
        "Come Uchenna, I will show you my old room" Amara said excitedly.
        Uchenna began to walk away with her mother.
        "Uchenna, may I call you grand-daughter?"
        "Please don't ask that." Uchenna smiled warmly at Udediya.
        "O my God! You have got my eyes, and Obijuru's fingers. Come here to Grandmother. Let me look at you."
        "Later mother, I can't wait to show her my room."
        "She is my grandchild you know, I am not going to eat her."
        "I said later. Now you know she is your granddaughter. Come Uchenna." Amara said.
        "You don't have to be wicked you know. I have paid enough for my sins. You don't have to be wicked." Udediya quipped almost inaudibly.
        "Don't worry Gran, we have the rest of our lives. I will be right down." Uchenna said with a reassuring smile.
        Amara and Uchenna walked off into the dark corridor as the telephone began to ring again. Udediya answered the call and listened. It was Matthew. He explained that he had obtained her number from the new Reverend Nnaemeka.
        "I don't know how to tell you this," Matthew said, "Not that I should care about how you feel. It is about Amara and our daughter Uchenna."
        "Don't worry Matthew. We have found our family again." Udediya replied.
        "What do you mean by that?"
        "By what?"
        "That you found your family again."
        "You wanted to warn me about their surprise visit, didn't you? You are late. They already came." She informed him.
        "Amara could never have visited you without telling me. When was this?"
        "Oh they came in about half an hour ago. They have gone to Amara's old room. She loved that room you know."
        "They are dead, Mrs Udeze. I don't know what the hell you are talking about. Amara and Uchenna died last night in Benin." Matthew said with anger and irritation.
        "You are indeed a wicked soul, Matthew Obindueze. You disgraced my husband. You killed my husband. Now you want kill me. I have a good heart. I am not like Obijuru Udeze. You cannot kill me with wicked words. You wicked mouse."
        "Mrs Udeze, they are dead." Interjected Matthew, "They were in a car accident."
        Udediya listened impatiently but curiously as Matthew recalled events of the previous day, how he had eagerly waited for Amara and Uchenna to arrive from Lagos. Touching on his story with Amara over the years, partly out of wanting to remember and partly because he thought Udediya might have wanted to hear about the years she missed. He talked about how Amara moved to Lagos to work in a bank, while he joined a Swedish petroleum firm as Public Relations Executive. Choking on tears, he talked about the fateful phone call from Onyeuwa - a close friend of theirs who lived on the same estate in Lagos as Amara. Apparently, Amara and Uchenna had decided to ride with Onyeuwa in his car, because Amara's old Nissan Bluebird was hard-starting that morning and she had been uncomfortable about travelling the distance with a less than perfect car. Onyeuwa was to drop them off at Benin before continuing to his hometown of Umuahia. But unfortunately, armed robbers pursued by the police ran them off the road just outside Benin City.
        "To cut a long story short, Mrs Udeze, within an hour of receiving that phone call, doctors at the Benin City General Hospital pronounced them both dead. I knew immediately that my next role was to make arrangements to take them home for burial, but then I realised I did not know where home was for my fugitive fiancée and our daughter." Matthew finished.
        "That is a fine story Matthew, but it is all a pack of lies. Amara and Uchenna are in this house, and I will get them on the phone for you if you like." Udediya said.
         "I don't care what you believe in that mad head of yours Mrs Udeze. They are dead. I just thought you should know, but I see your guilt and wickedness had already made you mad ahead of the bad news, you bloody witch."
        "It is you that have gone mad, Matthew. Please don't call this house again." Udediya slammed down the phone and rose to her feet, calling out to Amara and Uchenna, but they would not respond. So, she walked cautiously through the corridor to Amara's room. It was as quiet, empty and as undisturbed as it had been for twenty years. She reckoned that Amara and Uchenna might have gone into her own room, but when she opened the door, the only person in the room was herself asleep on her bed. She walked closer and studied the motionless mould of herself, eyes shut tight, with a terribly sad smile on her ashen lips. She shook her head, and gasped in horror as tears rolled down her cheeks, "Oh God! I have lost my mind."

The end.

©2002 Nnorom Azuonye. "The Homecoming" was first published in The Muse Apprentice Guild in the Summer 2004.