By Dan Hicks 18th February was the 124-year anniversary of the sacking of Benin City by a British naval force.Walk into any European museum today and you will see the curated spoils of Empire.They sit behind plate glass: dignified, tastefully lit. Accompanying pieces of card offer a name, date and place of origin.They do not mention that the objects are all stolen.Few artefacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes – a collection of thousands of brass plaques and carved ivory tusks depicting the history of the Royal Court of the Obas of Benin City, Nigeria.Pillaged during a British naval attack in 1897, the loot was passed on to Queen Victoria, the British Museum and countless private collections.The story of the Benin Bronzes sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums.In The Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks makes a powerful case for the urgent return of such objects, as part of a wider project of addressing the outstanding debt of colonialism.
By Ahmed Yahaya Joe
Sir Hanns Vischer
As they say; “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” Sir Hanns Vischer, was an agent of His Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service in Nigeria. He was referred to as “Dan Hausa” due to his mastery of the Hausa language which he helped in standardizing. He was also prolific in Arabic, Fulfulde and Kanuri in addition to Greek, French and German. Based in Kano from 1907 to 1919, his cover was head of the Education Department.
Gidan Dan Hausa, now a national monument was his official residence. The building had being in existence for about a hundred years before Kano was conquered by the British in 1903. It had previously served as the base of the overseer of the royal farming plantation outside the ancient city walls known as Rumada. Vischer rebuilt it from scratch making improvements in 1907.
The spymaster first came to Nigeria in 1901 and was based in Lokoja before he was reassigned to Maiduguri in 1903. By 1906, he crossed the Sahara Desert. He recounted his journey in a 1911 book entitled; “Across the Sahara from Tripoli to Borno” Another book he wrote is; “Rules for Hausa Spelling” printed in 1912.
Kano was crucial to the British in two aspects. First, in creating an elite that would oppose national independence. Second, it was a crucial cross roads in monitoring Francophone territories and the German colony of Kamerun.
According the historian, Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman;
“The Hausa-speaking people, not only do they have dialects, which were barely mutually intelligible, but they have no tradition of a common origin.” Hausa as spoken and written today was therefore a British project. Vischer was one of the arrow heads.
Vischer’s residence also served as a school for sons of emirs from all over the North. With his wife who joined him in 1912, the couple moulded the young aristocrats teaching them how to read and write in English and Ajami (Arabic in Roman script) The school started with 30 pupils in 1909. Their hostel was within the Nasarawa palace of Kano emirate nearby.
Enrollment increased to over 200 princes by 1913 from the 11 provinces of the Northern Protectorate. It produced the first Western educated elites in the North that eventually became the first members of the House of Chiefs and Assembly both in Kaduna. Vischer’s school relocated becoming Katsina College in 1921, which is now Barewa College in Zaria.
The Vischers had two children at Gidan Dan Hausa. Their photographs including that of their house maid still adorn the main living room of the historic house to date.
The British did not come to the colonial contours of what became Nigeria for sightseeing – they came to plunder.
To pull that off they needed to apply “divide et impera” – divide and rule. They ensured no level of national consciousness could develop eventually preparing us for national independence without economic freedom.
The likes of Sir Vischer were instrumental to Pax Britannica. Such people are described as “capax imperii” – capable of ruling an empire by understanding and study of languages;
“One had only to watch him in his daily avocations in those early days to realize how completely at home he was with every class of society—whether he was engaged in grave deliberations with emirs, viziers and other high personages of the ruling hierarchy, or whether he was chaffing the hucksters at the market stalls as he rode through Kano city. No less revealing was it to see him in his own home pick up a native drum and, squatting on the floor, croon local Hausa songs to his own accompaniment. So inimitably did he do it that, if he had been hidden behind a screen, one would have said that an African musician had been engaged to entertain his guests”
At Gidan Dan Hausa, Vischer reorganized traditional Hausa building materials of “Tubali” and “Azara” by creatively using “Chafe” for plaster and “Makuba” for relieve motifs retaining “Zankwaye” (the horns at the top) and “Dakali” (the horizontal platform at the base)
Vischer used local labor sourced within the ancient city of Kano from “Unguwan Gini”
The original inhabitants of Kano are the “Abagawa” of the Nok Civilization. The “Wangara” from present-day Mali conquered and incorporated Kano into the Songhai Empire. Eventually the Habe held sway before the Hausanization process that followed the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate.
It has been the southern entrepôt of the Trans Saharan trade for millennia. Arabs and Tuaregs have been part of Kano’s mosaic for centuries.
It provided the perfect cover for Sir Hanns Vischer, a spymaster par excellence according to Nigel West in; Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence (2014)
*Copied from Manchester United Website
13 December 2020 15:30
There are moments in your life when people say things to you that spur you on.
They are saying things that they believe, and that they think will help you, but their words also stoke this desire in you where you want to prove them wrong.
I still remember the time my Mum picked me up from school and I told her about my best friend, Deena, being picked for England Under-18s. Deena was a ridiculously good footballer. She was one of those naturally talented types, and mum just said: “Yeah, she’s good at sports, but you’re good at academic studies. That’s just how it is.” At the time that is how it was. I was good at school and she was good at football. But at the same time, it set something off in me.
I wasn’t like Deena. I was never one of those kids with natural talent and gifts; the ones you can spot a mile off. I liked taking part in lots of different sports – I loved gymnastics and trampolining from the age of three or four – but I wasn’t outstanding in one field. When you don’t have those gifts, your mentality becomes key because you need that hard work, that determination to prove people wrong. I didn’t even really have any interest in football until I was 10. My Dad and brothers kept going off to play, so I was jealous, I wanted to show I could play with them, so I joined in.
I loved it and played in all different outfield positions. I was in the girls’ football team at secondary school when my PE teacher, who also happened to be the England Women’s Rugby captain, took our team and entered us into a full-size, full-contact rugby tournament. None of us had ever played the sport before; we didn’t know what we were doing. She taught us the rules on the bus on the way there. We won the tournament without conceding any points. We were all quite athletic and coordinated, but I’m still not sure how we did it.
Siobhan Chamberlain says
“Her giving me that ultimatum really reinforced the desire to play football at the highest possible level.”Siobhan Chamberlain
After that rugby tournament, I remember my teacher asking me: “Would you rather play international level rugby or mediocre level football?” I remember thinking: international level football. There wasn’t the option of having a career in football at that time, but her giving me that ultimatum really reinforced the desire to play football at the highest possible level.
It was around that time that I volunteered to go in goal in my first ever hockey game (just because you got to wear all the cool padding), and that was that. Next time I played football, we were short of a goalkeeper and I volunteered. The rest is history. As a gymnast you’ve got to have an awareness of how your body moves through the air, you’ve got to have good flexibility and range of movement, all of which help you as a goalkeeper.
I was in year 12, first year of sixth form, when Fulham launched a professional women’s team. The Women’s League was a fully amateur league apart from Fulham. Deena signed professionally with them. I was already playing with Fulham and I don’t know if I would have been offered a contract, but I decided I wanted to finish my A-levels either way because that was important for me. I firmly believe that you should do your education regardless, even these days.
When I was 18 I was offered a scholarship at Stanford University over in America, but at the same time I’d just got into the England Under-18s setup and they wanted you to be visible and playing in England. I signed with Chelsea instead, and a centre opened at Loughborough University where you could combine full-time football training with your studies. That was perfect for me because I was able to do my degree in Sport and Exercise Science, do my Masters in Sports and Exercise Nutrition and I was able to do my football training there. I was at Loughborough for seven years in total. Everyone joked that I’d get married on the football pitches there, with the rubber crumb being thrown as confetti! Thankfully that wasn’t the case in the end.
During my studies, I changed clubs more than once. I left Chelsea for Fulham, moved on to Bristol Academy and ended up back at Chelsea, by which point I’d made my full England debut. That didn’t go as smoothly as I’d have liked – I ruptured the capsule around the top of my foot and had to come off at half-time – and then I wasn’t involved in the 2005 European Championships, which were held in England, but I went to our opening game against Sweden at the Etihad Stadium. We won 3-2 in injury-time and that was another moment when I just thought: Yeah, this is what I want.
After that tournament, I was in every single senior squad from the end of 2005 through to the end of 2017. I was second or third choice at times, and that was 15 years of your life committed to being away once a month and being part of a team without ever really playing. In 2007, after finally leaving Loughborough, I was picked for the second World Cup England had ever qualified for. It was huge. The finals were in China, and I never expected to play at that point. The first-choice goalkeeper, Rachel Brown, had been around forever. I was just there for the journey and to enjoy being at the World Cup.
The commitment you had to make as a female player, at that point when the game wasn’t fully professional, was huge. You’re working full-time, committing to training full-time, and you need a job that’ll let you take a week off once a month and have the flexibility to work around evening kick-offs, changed training schedules and so on. It’s very, very difficult.
I started teaching Sports Science in 2011 while I was in my second spell at Bristol and did a post-graduate course in that while also training, so it was a bit of a tight schedule. Some days I’d finish working at 4.30pm, do a goalkeeper training session for two hours and then immediately join in with a two-hour outfield session. I’d need a massive bag of Haribo between them to get me through. Teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it fitted in and paid the bills.
On the pitch, things went really well. Bristol got to the FA Cup final, got to the Champions League and lost to a Russian team later caught up in the Russian doping scandal. On that note, I actually played for England against Russia a couple of days after the documentary Icarus came out, and I watched that on the day of the game. It left me asking a lot of questions in my head while I was lining up beforehand. That was a strange experience. We won 6-0 anyway, so if there were any drugs involved, they didn’t work!
Siobhan Chamberlain says
“United was, by a million miles, the best organised, best run and most integrated club I’ve played for.”Siobhan Chamberlain
I played every minute of every Bristol game for the first three years of the WSL, was named in the PFA team of the year and came third in the voting for the POTY. Then I left for a new challenge at Arsenal, where I became professional for the first time. The problem was, I barely played, so it wasn’t a great time for me. I played every game of the FA Cup run until I was replaced for the final. We won it for the first time in my career, having lost the final twice with Bristol – both to Arsenal – but I value those loser’s medals more than the winner’s medal because I felt we’d really achieved something by getting to the final with Bristol.
The following year was the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Again, I was on the bench. I went to the World Cup in 2007, Euros in 2009, World Cup in 2011, Euros in 2013 and I didn’t set foot on the pitch in any of them.
Then it happened. Finally.
We were playing Canada in the quarter-final. It was at BC Place in Vancouver. I’d played in Canada for a while a few years earlier, when the women’s league in England had been rescheduled and I went out there to get some playing time during the lull in fixtures. While I was there, I’d played in Vancouver with quite a few of the Canadian team, and now I was back. Karen Bardsley, our first-choice goalkeeper, came in at half-time with a puffy eye. She’d gotten some of the 3G crumb in her eye and it had reacted badly. She went back out for the second half but it quickly became clear she couldn’t see and, after 51 minutes, she had to come off.
There was no way I was going to rush. I sorted my hair out, put my shinpads on, my pre-wraps, my gloves, and by this time the Canadian fans were fuming. It was sold out. They were booing and I was enjoying that. The moment was in my hands. I wanted to be ready, perfectly set. I was getting booed by 55,000 fans for time-wasting, but as a goalkeeper you don’t have to rush. That’s the one position where they can’t start without you, so everyone’s there trying to rush my gloves on, but I was just like: “Don’t stress. It’s fine.”
Siobhan Chamberlain says
“I’m someone that constantly needs a challenge, and that’s certainly what I’ve got right now… being a professional footballer was the easy part!”Siobhan Chamberlain
I was the calmest person in the world as I walked on the pitch with the biggest smile on my face. Everyone at home said to me afterwards: “Were you not nervous? You looked like you were having the best day of your life!” I’d done all the preparation I needed. If I didn’t go out there, enjoy it and trust what I’d done previously, there was no point. It was 2-1 when I went on and it finished 2-1, so we qualified for our first ever semi-final of a World Cup. That was a huge moment in my career – the kind of moment that nobody had ever thought was possible when I was a kid – and it was a sweet experience. In that tournament every outfield member of the squad had already played some part, so it was nice to feel properly involved.
Also, throughout that tournament, every time I’d done media interviews it had been about my wedding, because I’d gone off to play football and left my now-husband Leigh at home to plan the wedding, so I was waiting for any chance to talk about football. Finally I could talk about something other than the wedding!
Two years later, at the European Championships, I was no.2 to Karen again. Playing France in the quarter-final, she went down injured with a broken leg, so I came on at the same stage of the tournament for the same player. It was 1-0 when I came on, it finished 1-0, we qualified for the semi-finals of the Euros and for that to happen two tournaments in succession, Karen must have wondered what I’d done to her!
By that time I’d signed for Liverpool, but when the opportunity came in 2018 to join United, it also gave me the chance to play for Casey Stoney, who had been my England room-mate for a decade. It was perfect timing for me because I needed that move. It couldn’t have gone better. United was, by a million miles, the best organised, best run and most integrated club I’ve played for. You feel like you’re part of the club, which is huge. It feels fully like one club.
It was an interesting season because as a person and footballer, I fell back in love with football at United. After my time at Arsenal and Liverpool, football was just football. I loved the international side of it but had lost my love for the club game. I was just doing my job, but being at United, being part of something new with a great bunch of players and staff, with Casey, I fell back in love with football.
I was by far the senior figure in the squad. I mean, by far. There were a lot of kids in that team, so it was quite nice to have that role of trying to lead and guide and help them. It was a hard season as a goalkeeper barely touching the ball because we were winning so heavily, but to be part of the first ever Manchester United Women’s team to win a trophy is something that nobody can ever take away from us. Personally, being the first ever professional no.1 in the club’s history has great historic value. It’s big. It’s not a record that can be beaten. It’s just a fact and I’m so proud of it.
Then, at the end of that first season, things changed. For most women who have kids, life changes drastically when they give birth. For me, it changed drastically when I announced that I was pregnant because my whole career changed in an instant. My football had always dictated where we moved, my husband had always based his company wherever he’s needed to. Suddenly I was no longer the priority. It wasn’t just about what I wanted. It became all about Emilia, who was born in January 2020.
I left United a few months later and announced my retirement not long afterwards, and it was by far the hardest decision I’d ever taken in my life. United are, like I say, brilliantly run and every single player will tell you that Casey is fantastic. She’s honest, she’s ruthless when she needs to be, but she’s a good manager of people, so the club is in very safe hands. For me, life has changed dramatically. I absolutely love being a mum. I also enjoy watching the team now, quite often as a co-commentator with MUTV, and it’s great to see them doing so well at the top of the league. Personally, for me, as well as media work with MUTV, I’m currently studying for a Masters in Sports Directorship. I’ve learnt and experienced so much within the game that I’d love to be able to give back and help the game grow in the right direction. I’m someone that constantly needs a challenge, and that’s certainly what I’ve got right now… being a professional footballer was the easy part!
That’s just me, it’s how I’ve always been – especially if someone tells me I can’t do something!
By Ahmed Yahaya Joe
St. George’s: Some Historical Perspectives and Fundamental Issues
The recent furore over a reported notice for the demolition of a 111 year old Church building in Sabongari, Zaria is not only a direct consequence of the residential segregation that started during the colonial era but part of the collateral damage caused by the religionalization of politics in contemporary Nigeria. A Sabongari is defined as “strangers quarters” or literally new town in an emirate. It is normally a designed layout populated by persons not indigenous to the host community and predominantly from the Southern Protectorate and other West African colonies whether Christian or Muslim. Sabongaris blossomed with railway development. That of Zaria is no different. It fitted into the master plan of segregation to maintain inter communal harmony by the British.
What eventually became St. George’s Church started in 1907 at the private residence of Mr. CA Kasumu an employee of Loco (Railways) located at 22 Yoruba Street. He was a tally clerk in the construction of the Baro-Kano and Bauchi light railway lines. Services were conducted in English and led by Mr. J Mcla Slove and Mr. CH Crabb, a Sierra Leonian and Ghanaian (then Gold Coast) respectively. The growing congregation moved to its present site in 1908 but it was not until 1912 that an ordained priest Revd Victor Johnson from Sierra Leone was sent over to take charge. By then Igbo and Yoruba services were included. The Igbo however relocated to what is today known as St. Michael’s also in Sabongari in 1946. But before then a primary school was built by the Church in its vicinity in 1930. It is now known as Ja’afaru Primary School owned by the Kaduna State govt. That school was expanded in 1949 to become the Northern Nigerian Archdeaconry Teachers Training Center with an initial intake of 23 students. It was renamed St. Peter’s Teachers College and moved to Samaru. It eventually formed the nucleus of the Nigeria College which is now ABU, Zaria. St. Peter’s relocated to Kaduna and St. Faith’s for girls opened near. Both institutions are now owned by the Kaduna state located in Kawo behind the WAEC Secretariat
St. George’s Church is an integral part of the Church of Nigeria. From 1932 to 1980 it was the District Church Council seat of what is now known as Kaduna Province of the Anglican Communion covering the 7 states of the North West geopolitical zone current headed by an Archbishop Most Revd Dr. Ali Buba Lamido from Wusasa also in Zaria.
The Mission hospital in Wusasa was the first Teaching Hospital of ABU at inception.
The religionization of politics in the North started in 1953. This was when the first four Lagos ministers and the three in Kaduna were appointed. They were all Muslims. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa vehemently resisted entreaties by the North’s Governor, Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith for a more balanced and equitable representation (See ‘But Always As Friends’ page 237) Eventually an agreement was reached and Mr. Peter Achimugu, Mr. Micheal Audu Buba and Mr. George Ohikere became Parliamentary Secretaries. It was not until 1955 the first Christian minister was appointed in person of Pastor David Lot. He was however in office without a portfolio. By 1950 there were only 3 colleges in the entire North. Government College Zaria (Barewa) Government College Keffi and St. John’s College Kaduna (now Rimi College) There were however 12 Middle Schools owned by government. The Missionaries owned the rest such that by 1962 there were a total of 8995 learners in these schools. Only 3227 were in government schools. As far as teacher training was concerned as at 1956 there were a total of 540 teachers of Northern origin: 224 in govt and 316 employed by the Missionaries.
What is the way forward? Permit me to quote from Sir Ahmadu Bello’s assurances given when he became Premier of the North in 1957 – “I want to emphasize one thing our Government is a government of Northerners, both Muslims and Christians…..I am pleased to know too, that the relationships between Government and the Missions have been cordial, cooperative and friendly. We cannot deny that there have been differences from time to time, but such differences in our religions need be no bar to our continuing to work together for the good of our people”
Next Governor Nasir el Rufai must live up to his own words. One expects with his quest for national assignment in view he should have outgrown “body bags” grandstanding by showing the kind of maturity commensurate with being called His Excellency.
At 12.40 pm the Kaduna Governor’s official Twitter on Thursday, 11th April 2019 declared “In Kaduna State, the Indigene/Settler dichotomy has been abolished. Every person resident in Kaduna State would be accorded all rights as citizens and indigenes of the state”
Then all Missionary Schools seized without compensation under the Public Education Act of 1971 must be returned to their rightful owners. Under such circumstances the issue of demolition of St. George’s Church would be moot. All states in the South have returned such schools. None have been so far returned in the North. Worthy of mention are those returned by then Muslim governors of Lagos and Ogun states, Bola Tinubu and Ibikunle Amosun respectively. The objectives of the takeover was to not only standardize but accelerate educational developed against the backdrop of an Oil Boom. The exercise woefully failed as it enabled moral degeneration giving rise to widespread exam malpractices and scandalous spike in diverse immoralities. The rest is now living history.
The problems of Nigeria started with the confusion in speaking English.
Let me break it down for you…
While the British will say ‘Extreme’ & the American say ‘End’, the Nigerian will do the unnecessary & say ‘Extreme end’.
The trend continues…
The British say ‘Knicker’
The American say ‘Short’
But the Nigerian says ‘Short knicker’.
British : Salon
American : Barbershop
Nigerian: Barbing salon
Nigerian: Bending corner
Nigerian: So therefore
British: Tell me the reason
America: Tell me why
Nigeria: Tell me the reason why
British: Ten Pounds each
American: Ten Dollars each
Nigerian: Ten Ten naira each.
The American says ‘Completely’
The British says ‘Finished’
And the Nigerian says ‘Completely Finished’.
Now you can grasp where the Nigeria confusion stems from.
“The world is full of loud commentators, with deceptive commendations their many willful listeners obviously find aptly admirable and not coy. But I am an exception to the norm, among the few appropriating critics who equate affirmation of evidence with the clearly advertised ruse with serious concern,” Cyril started.
“You and I know that getting into Europe is the easy part. But living in Europe in the most sub-standard conditions, a far cry from illusions perceived, assumed, created and forwarded, is the real tough part. Africans integrating into evidently hostile economic and social European societies that segregate against foreigners, as they increasing learn to abhor migrants for clogging their systems and worsening their already precarious situations, is the reality of things. I will rather accept the fair situation I can manage right here, than pursue an elusive pot of gold at the end of some European rainbow.” Cyril was assertive and Mr Bill was impressed.
A fellow intellect, the English man thought. Then the elderly man tarried at the door to explain further. He felt Cyril has earned the right to understand why it is only fair that Africans escaping war torn regions or economic difficulties or simply seeking to better their lot, must get a chance to pursue a life anywhere they desire without any hindrance from those who seek to make choices for them, yet again.
“I am not doing this for the money,” Mr Bill said. “I am doing it because it is the right thing to do. For centuries European slave merchants own Africans and traded them across continents as they pleased. Everywhere they took them, the prosperity that was gotten through their unpaid work for centuries funneled into making these European nations the model economic and social communities they are today. Then there was colonialism, when European nations arbitrary siphoned the wealth of African nations for free and incessantly bullied them with the same effect, which resulted in making large economic powers of European countries.
“A lot of people consider the abolition of slavery and subsequent independence of the African nations as an act of charity, a favour granted the most belittled and unjustly treated people in all history. No it is not and any thing that remotely offers a whiff of reparations should be encouraged and milked till it is drained. What do you think the world’s racial history will be if the black man was styled as the clear antagonist? Just consider that before you write off your siblings.” Mr Bill ended.
“You should consider that most of those going over will end up as liabilities. The long established tedious ways for Africans to legally get into Europe ensured only the best Africa can offer do migrate. The new trend only dumps from the dregs of the continent. At this rate Europe will be full of the sort of people that it needs the least. It is like allowing locusts to rest on your farm because they also have a living right to feed. But maybe the English do not really care and it is a continental Europe problem, since England is still an old independent island, still on it own while playing to be part of Europe. Still with its currency in place, as the presence of the Queen imprinted on it.” Cyril remained every bit as steadfast in his opinion.
“Good people do bad things for good reasons, my friend.” Mr Bill said.
“I can easily say your state,
As only a child truly taste.
For love within is personal,
Our judges are then eternal.”
1st February 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
My mama tells me you will not get to read this letter of mine, but she suggested I made it very brief all the same.
I wish to prove her wrong, so please write back and say you got my letter. I promise to be your pen pal if you do.
14th February, 1992.
Dear Miss King,
We got your letter and we were quite glad to read from you. We are sure this letter will make your mother eat her words and apologise to you.
We will love to be your pen pal, so do please write us again and tell us about yourself, your family and your friends, your home and your country too.
We have very few real friends ourselves, and only get to meet mostly boring people who do not know how painful it is to keep smiling everyday of the year; especially if we do not really feel like it most of the time.
We are looking forward to your next letter. We hope you will write us very soon. Do please write your name on the top left corner of the face of the envelope your letter will be in. This will help us locate and identify your letter quickly.
1st March 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
My mum is seated beside me as I write you this letter and she is beyond herself with wonder. She gave me thirty naira to buy the stamps for this letter and has promised to correct all the mistakes I make in my letters to you. She sends her regards.
I was born on 15th April, 1980; which I’m told is a Tuesday. I’m twelve years old and I’m too short for my age. I like blue, sweets, cakes, cats, bicycles, comics and I am in class five. My first name is Titi but I love being called Miss King. I have one brother, he doesn’t have many teeth now though. He lost most of them somehow. He is still only six.
Daddy and Mummy are married. Daddy is a lawyer and mummy is everything else. She drives us to school and back, cooks, washes, cleans and even does most of the talking too. My friends are many but I’ll not tell you about them. You see, I’m punishing them for not believing I’m your pen pal.
I live in Northern Nigeria. They are always burning houses here. I live in Tudun wada. They are always shouting out of loud speakers in Tudun wada. My country is very big and we have so many states, but I do not know all of them now. Daddy says I should not bother to learn the names of the new state governors because they will change them again very soon.
I am of the country’s western Yoruba tribe. Last time when there was trouble we went to stay with my grand mum in Ibadan. When you write me, please tell me about London. Is it true that the people in London do not wear wristwatches because there is a big clock in the sky? My paper is finishing and I must stop now. Please write me soon.
14th March, 1992.
Dear Miss King,
We can understand your mother’s excitement and the disbelief in your friends’ attitude. It is not always that people so different, like you and we become pen pals.
We were very interested in what you had to say about your country, your home, your family and yourself. We assure you that we are not as tall as our age either!
It is easy to notice how you made your country appear rather unpleasant. We wonder, is it really? Do you always have trouble in your country? What kind of trouble do you usually have? Are you always is some sort of danger in these times of trouble? We do love to know more.
We do love to tell you about London. London is our very big capital city. It is very old in a quite modern sort of way. It is noisy in most parts of the larger city and that is true for most times of the days of the week and all year round too. It has lots of people living in it from all parts of the world.
We do not know about people in London not wearing wristwatches because of a ‘big clock in the sky’. We do know that there is an old big clock on a tower called BEN, which can be seen (and heard) from many places in London. The people we are allowed to see always have wristwatches on, but then we suppose they always dress themselves up rather well, to meet us.
We would be delighted if you will keep on writing us. Do not forget to write your name on the top left corner of the face of the envelope that your letter will be in. It makes it much easier for us to locate and identify your letter from the hundreds we receive everyday. Our regards to all you love.
25th March 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
Daddy bought me a new writing pad today and mum got me some more envelopes and stamps. So as you can see, I will never stop writing you until I die. I was glad to hear about London and BEN. Daddy showed me a picture of BEN. He says it also has some kind of bell. You make London sound interesting. I will love to visit it some day.
I did not wish to make my country sound so unpleasant but it is quite hard to write anything about my country without making it sound so. I know that there is always some kind of trouble everywhere else; it is human. Actually, I borrowed that last bit from my daddy.
My country is one; at least it appears to be. But even the number ‘one’ has its fractions, so my country also has its ‘factions’. These factions know they must agree, yet they do not agree always just like the fractions in the number ‘one’ don’t agree often, most of the time. I hope you understand all that numbers bit; I am not so good in arithmetic. Neither are most of the factions in my country, it would appear.
The trouble is mainly that of superiority. Each faction claims to be more important than all the others. Religion, population, tribe, politics, literacy and commerce are used as a yardstick to measure and establish the superior faction. It is a sort of social mathematics. This affects the weak oneness that we have amongst all of us and always causes lots of trouble.
At times of trouble, it is dangerous to stay on in the opposing faction’s town. They may burn down your property and kill you too, if you don’t run away. Daddy always makes sure we run away in good time when our neighbours are our current opposing faction, or there is a hint of any trouble.
My country is a beautiful place. There are many tribes and people of very different customs and religions. I think we are together because we had no choice. Daddy said YOU gave us no choice, but he didn’t sound sure. It is late and I must go to bed now. Mummy is breathing down my neck; after making me write most of her own stuffs too. Please write me soon.
1st July, 1992.
I’m Titi King’s mother. I must apologise on her behalf for her inability to reply your letters. In fact, I just discovered the last two letters and birthday card you sent her. You see, we were away in Ibadan with Titi’s grand parents. There was an ethnical and religious uprising in the town we reside in.
It started on a Sunday evening. Titi’s father and I were away, visiting friends in another part of town. Only Titi, her younger brother and our maid were left in our flat. The maid got out with Titi’s younger brother but Titi was burnt down with the flat by a mob and we lost her so painfully.
I am sure she would want you to know that you had made the last three months of her life so wonderful. Thank you so much for this and God bless you.
10th May, 1992.
Dear Mrs King,
We are so sorry.
I am so, so sorry.
“How do I tell how you feel,
Sitting on this height’s will?
Personal love trapped within,
Expectations curbing peace in.”
“I can easily say your state,
As only a child truly taste.
For love within is personal,
Our judges are then eternal.”