Yinka Elujoba

The city begins slowly into the night if it is from Itam but its deception is quick, and in a sudden moment it may be the Ibom Plaza. You’ve learnt to ignore the falsehood that is the streetlights, watching out instead for definitive houses, and listening for the harmony of power generating sets. The city, fierce in its own right has learnt to fight back, alternating the houses on the streets so that you are forced to reconstruct the maps in your head every time you step down from a keke. You have learnt to win this war by setting foot on the ground, reducing Immapancy’s territory with every stride. The first day in a hostile rain—the city’s unwelcome embrace—a girl shivering beside you had said:

 “But they say Akwa Ibom ayaya?”



The city is a strange ally, teaching you its rhythms in generous chunks of sounds and appearances. It has taken time, but you have built an inner library of the soundscape, pulling out auditory impressions and familiar tones while walking the streets. The language does not play well with you, but your library manages to add layer after layer. You try at nights to grasp the words. You fail. A visit to Alheri and she had said: 

“I have been here for months and I can only speak a word: Mesere



The city is deceptive, spitting futile pleasures in plain sight. You are wary of its meals—strange stories lurk around its kitchens. Angela had touched your arm and said:

“You should not be so thin. This is Akwa Ibom—Food is Always Ready



The city reduces when you traverse its borders, but it does not forgive. Strange things may happen, like having to walk up to junctions to open a webpage on your phone. A 45-minute bike ride from Ikot-Ekpene to Mpkatak. Shekinah standing there, with a smile that divided the evening rain. She had hugged you and said:

“This is me. I am learning how not to be Hausa”


The city takes and takes but in unexpected moments it may give fine gifts, like two great neighbors—Miss B and Miss D, whose eastern stories amuse you. The city may also give you the gift of the Akpan Andem market alongside its great supply of electricity. But you remain watchful, waiting for the city’s next trick and finding none. Weeks after you first inhaled the graphology of the place, Chinazom had said:

“It will still be beautiful. Don’t you smell it?”



The city pushes you in your bed, forcing you to turn wide-eyed in the darkness. The gift of the Akpan Andem market—the electricity—is broken. Lines of code pile up in your head but cannot be written. The city pushes you, so you stand outside in the evening cold. You find Felix, the makeshift caretaker, and ask if there’s any hope with the electricity. He laughs and says:

“Dem go do am. E fit take time, but dem go do am” 

You return to your bed, wide-eyed in the darkness. The city pushes you but you push back. And the words begin to pour until the final full stop.

11:23pm on 16, October 2016


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