Saturday, 3 May 2014

Lost Home

Posted by Oyinlola Sobowale on Saturday, May 03, 2014 in | No comments

We weep!

Yet again for the hundredth time

Our sorrows and pains compounded, our fears magnified

“You say home isn’t safe no more,” I heard my brother’s sombre voice as the phone line crackled back to life.

“Haven’t you heard all the news Usman” I retorted almost angrily.  Sometimes my brother can like to form outdated, alien and not of this world, never watching TV, never listening to radio!

“I doubt a day passes bro, without a mention of Nigeria’s woes on international media. In fact, it must have been mentioned to your hearing by your few friends a couple of times”…I replied to his chagrin.

“Okay, enough with the words bantering Rashy, what will you do now”?

His concerns filtered through at the reference to my pet name. Only mama ever called me by that and it was this same name that began the gentle plea 10 years ago…


In my habitual chirpy manner I entered into the kitchen, hoping to find a plate of local rice as usual reserved for me at the top of the kitchen cupboard. I found the covered food alright, only this time there were two porcelain dishes….the ones I never see until Eid al-Adha, not even Eid al-Fitri!

Mama has outdone herself this time. If this sumptuous looking dish of Tuwo shinkafa and miyan taushe is mine, then she has outdone herself.

I delved in before any rational thinking of what could have prompted this special treat.

Maybe she is showing her excitement at the news of my acceptance into the prestigious Stanford University in America. Plus we are both excited at the prospect of the reunion with my only brother after many years of estrangement.


I remember the moment Usman stormed out in the dead of the night at the heels of my father’s vicious abuse.

“You useless shameless son of shaytan”. “I have never heard complaints about your younger brother in this kauye, only you! You steal, you fail in school, you smoke, and you rape all the girls in town”. “No son of mine will ever soil my name, no one!” disrepute

And that was how we lost our fourth family member. 

Mama and I stood cowering and crying in the corner. Usman was only a boy, just turned 18. Where would he go????

We never heard from him again. Until 10 years ago, almost 15years after Usman stormed out of the house that dark, starless night. Papa had long passed on, (God rest his soul). My undergraduate education had been completed and I already initiated a process to pursue my post graduate studies in Stanford University before a good neighbor mentioned to us that his first daughter (Halimat) living in Palo Alto had spotted my brother several times on her street.

A new beginning!

Halimat put in a good word for us and Usman agreed to allow me live with him for the period of my study before I could land a good job.


It was the night before I travelled, I ate the sumptuous meal. I should have known something was coming.

“Rashy”. “Rashy.” Mama’s voice filtered through in my sleep. “My son, wake up let me pray for you”.

So I rose, sat by my favourite person in the world to be prayed for. She did pray. We prayed for almost 2 hours, counting on the prayer beads. She then asked for one thing…”Rashy, promise me you will come back home. Home here to choose a wife. Home to spend all the good money you will make. Come home to help your fellow mu’min. Build your business here, let your children eat of the fruits of this land, let them grow to speak our dialectal freely without shame”.

And to all mama’s request, I agreed.


“Rashy,” he called again. “What will you do now?”

And my thoughts drifted again

Images of their smirks and their many “I told you so” came to mind, a deep sense of foreboding settled within me.

“Abdul Rasheed answer me!” Usman’s impatience is beginning to show. “I’ll call you back again with my decision brother”.

Well, so much for wanting to fulfil mama’s wishes.

I’ve been back to Abuja, Nigeria for just two years. Two horrifying years I must say. Yes, I have found a good wife. Yes, we have our 11 months old son, Azim. Yes, I have ploughed back most of my money into this country!


I ran from the white man’s land that I may take solace in the lush greenness of my mother land

Stay close to my roots and eat the edible, natural grown fruits from the woods

But home isn’t safe no more…

We can’t walk a mere 5metres without 100-glances over our shoulders

Insanity seems a close call, with everyday living in fright and worry

Bangs and crashes; bombs exploding everywhere!

Broad daylight kidnapping. No time is ever safe no more. Nowhere is either.

Our children disappearing in the multitudes

Strong men and women sent to the cold hands of unkind death

Oh! What agony! What anguish and torment riddles our souls

Sighs. A slight pause. A deep sense of gloom. How did we get here?

Is our home forever lost???

Writer's note- shaytan is satan in arabic
                   Tuwo shinkafa and miyan taushe are a special Hausa delicacy
                   Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitri are Muslim festivals succeeding Hajj&Ramadan


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