An African Sunset

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Chapter 10

Submitted: February 08, 2018

Reads: 20

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Submitted: February 08, 2018



‘Dear Sumayya,

Today I met a woman. There was something about her that struck me with awe as much as it aroused my sympathy. She came from a village faraway. She came to this city to find her son. The child was brought to Kano by his father and was entrusted to a Malam as an almajiri. She was apparently lost because it appeared that she doesn’t know where to begin. She had braved all dangers and uncertainties to come here. She was quite alarmed by the horrendous environment she found herself yet you could see that, to find her child, she was determined to overcome all odds. She has defied the wrath of her family and the scorn of her village to brave the monstrosity that is this metropolis. In the face of that small yet formidable woman I felt lost, never has it been more apparent to me that something is dead within me until today when it arose. I was moved by that selfless affection of a mother for her child. I am also host to an old friend who is like a brother to me and whom I have not seen for three years. We were friends at the University and at the Law School. We were inseparable. He knew me almost as much as I know myself and he reminded me of everything that I used to be. I remembered that I was a lover, a passionate one. I remembered that I was loved, that I was hurt and that I needed to love again. All these have helped me realise that something is changed in me, that I am dead within.

If I was made a Judge on the man that is Mustapha, I will not find it hard to condemn him. I will condemn him for perhaps somewhere, in a bearing on the compass is a lovable woman that Mustapha has wronged and Mustapha ought to deserve no more chances at love. Still I hope that someday I will find my redemption, in the little things that I can do, by helping a woman who risked everything for love or hoping that love’s vengeance comes down upon me so that I can pay my penance and perchance my heart may start to beat again.

I hope that you are fine. Extend my regards to your father. Do inform him that I have found the woman he instructed me to look for. We await his further instructions. Also extend my regards to Malam Rabiu but only ‘for example’.

Signed, Mustapha Ahmad Galadima.’

He read the email as he typed it and he sent it to her. It was after several weeks that she replied him:

‘Dear Mustapha,

I have received your email but I have not been able to reply you until now. I am fine, thank you. I have since travelled back to Abuja but I have relayed the information to my father. He was quite happy at the news (I wonder why) of the woman (who’s she?). He asked me to inform you that he will be in Kano soon. I have also conveyed your regards to Malam Rabiu, ‘for example’.

Mustapha, sometimes we make mistakes in life that we often regret but that doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us human. The fact that we regret it and seek to redeem ourselves is what is beautiful about the mistake of a good person. I hope you find your redemption soon. By the way, as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, I am of the firm opinion that your heart has not ceased to beat (laughing). It is probably just burdened by guilt and remorse. It’s up to you to unburden it!

I am moved by the plight of the village woman and I earnestly hope that she finds what she is looking for. I am confident that the man who found my lost father will help that woman find her child. My regards to your friend.

With love, Sumayya J. Bello.’


He no longer feared the Malam’s whip, he’s used to it. He was not afraid of hunger anymore because although the almajiri is always hungry, the almajiri does not starve. There was always food at odd times of the day, usually very early in the morning before wives cook fresh food and need to dispose of leftovers and also at around those times when people have finished eating and have leftovers. Food was eaten whenever it was gotten not when one is hungry. Food that was getting bad does not taste so awful when it’s the only food found. There was only depreciation in the quality of taste and the mouth soon gets used to it after repeated trainings. He does not miss home either. The garage of Alhaji Ibrahim’s house was home and the rubbish heap in the city was its distant toilet. The 38 boys in the garage were family. Most of them are friends too and he does not miss his friends in Gano anymore. No one has to bath if he does not want to except on Fridays when it’s compulsory and then bathing becomes a pleasure after a week of sweating and accumulating dust and dirt. He does not remember his family in Gano quite often. He fell sick with malaria and the Malam gave him a bitter concoction to drink. Later, he learnt that the concoction was made by boiling the leaves of some plants that he had seen growing around filling stations and some rich people’s houses, plants that don’t seem to bear fruits or serve any useful purpose. Musa told him they’re called filawa and they’re not grown to be consumed. He resolved never to fall sick again and if he did, never to drink the bitter concoction even if the Malam would kill him. It tasted very awful but he did become well soon after. The city was becoming less monstrous too. With every daily expedition they undertook into the city, the city shrank into streets, markets, GRAs, motor parks, rich people’s districts, poor people’s districts and very poor people’s districts. The only thing he vehemently detested was having water thrown on his face to wake him from sleep. Amina had often threatened to do that but his mother will not allow it. One of the seniors, Aliyu, likes to do that. He found it funny and he liked to laugh at the startled reaction of his victims.

He had learnt the first five parts of the Qur’an and he could read some written ajami words. He no longer needed the seniors to write his Qur’anic texts on his slate. The children in the neighbourhood also attended the school at 4 O’clock in the evenings of Saturdays to Wednesdays. They cluster together on a different space on the mats and sewn maize sacks, away from the almajirai. They show a reverence for the almajirai who were the rightful occupants of the school. The boys sat separately from the girls and the older ones separate from the young. Some wives in the houses on the streets became ‘mothers’ to the young almajirai too. They gave them regular lunch and sometimes dinners in alms and the almajirai ran errands for them and take care of small chores for them.

The almajirai roamed everywhere but they were always heading towards the City’s centre. Sabon Gari is in the City centre. There are many churches and brothels in Sabon Gari and Balarabe explained to Isah what happens in both places. In one, people worship God in a sort of collective frenzy with dancing, drumming and music and in the other men pay to have sex with loose women. He showed him the Yoruba and the Ibo. Murtala explained the difference between the two. The Ibo own shops, they sell beer, electrical appliances, books and motor spare parts.  Ibo men are hostile looking. The seldom give alms. The Ibo women who often wear clothing that appeared to be too small for them are friendlier. The Yoruba have a very loud language and there was a joke where a person was asked ‘how did Malam Wane become deaf?’ and he will reply that ‘Malam Wane sat between two friendly Yorubas having a conversation’. Some of them are Muslim and they have a big mosque where both their men and women jostle in to pray unlike real mosques that Hausas attend where only old women may attend and only during Friday Prayers too. The streets were busy and noisy. The buildings are storey buildings with overcrowded families of tenants. The gamblers, just like the prostitutes are from many different tribes. They sat around on mats and plastic chairs and played cards, drank beer and shout obscenities. The prostitutes smoked white cigarettes and bleached their faces and they often give alms generously.

“The Hisbah use to come and round them up,” Murtala said.

“Where do they take them to?” Isah asked.

“I don’t know. But they often come back again. I think there are too many of them,” Murtala replied.

“Do you think they will go to hellfire?” Alolo asked.

“Yes, if they don’t repent,” Murtala answered.

“I heard Dan-Zaria and Dan-Tala talking about an almajiri who use to come here and sleep with prostitutes. They say his name is Audil,” Musa said.

“He is no longer an almajiri. He works here now. I use to see him sometime. He has disgraced us,” Murtala said.

Isah felt a soft hand on his head. When he looked up, it was one of the prostitutes.

“What is your name?”  She asked.

Isah does not know what to do. He does not know whether to answer the question. He looked at his friends. Murtala does not look disapproving so he answered.


“Where are you from, Isah?”


Her friend came closer and touched him on the shoulder too. Isah knew that been the newest almajiri among the boys, he was considerably cleaner although he knew that he was very dirty too. Yet, he does not want to be touched by a prostitute. Having two of them touch him at the same time made him want to push their hands off and run away.

“He is handsome. Why would anyone send a child like this to be an almajiri?” The second prostitute asked the first.

The other held and examined the talisman on his neck. Isah wondered if the talisman will lose its potency because of that. It was given to him by Inna to protect him from cold (because he once suffered from it) and the other one to make him immune from the evil sorcery of enemies. She walked off into one of the canopies and placed another cigarette on her lips before the one she threw away was completely finished. The other one left in the opposite direction. Isah looked at the faces of his friends to see their reaction. Murtala was grinning while the rest have only the usual look of hunger on their faces. Isah does not understand why only ugly children are supposed to be sent to become almaijirai. The fact that he is handsome and his father still brought him anyway made him remember that he wants to go back home.

School children poured into the streets at 2 O’clock in the afternoon at the close of school. Some were taken home in cars and some in school busses. They knew that they were going to grow up and become doctors and teachers and civil servants, to become rich people like their parents while the almajirai knew they will memorise the Qur’an and become Malams in their own right, teach the Qur’an and receive unruly children from everywhere across Hausa land and in turn, turn them into almajirai. They looked forward to the Ramadan when every Muslim is fasting and equally hungry and when there is a lot of food at sunset when the fast is broken. They go out to beg at dawn before the fast begins for their suhr. There are songs to sing and drums to beat when the moon is sighted that signals the beginning of the fast. They will stop at the door of every house with a bachelor in it and taunt him.

Gwauro, Gwauro


Tashi gari ya waye


Mai azumin jemage


Mai sahur da Qarago


Tara kudi kai aure



They always remembered and laughed at an incidence at the last Ramadan when at dawn, they were singing the taunts and the targeted bachelor suddenly came out of the house and chased after Alolo. It was obvious that the young man wanted to get hold of one of them only and beat him for the rest. Alolo took flight with the young man on his heels. Alolo’s trouser was held up by a rope and when he ran, the trouser slipped down so he had to hold it up with his right hand to keep it from falling while he held the jerry can he was using as a drum with his left. He ran with all his might and with the agility of a hare and escaped to safety. The incident reminds Isah of a proverb that says, nature has not meant for one to flee and scratch his buttocks at the same time. It is used to describe the doing of two things at the same time in a way that makes both look clumsy and ridiculous.

They also look forward to the Eid celebration after the Ramadan when there is a lot of meat and the almajirai are given alms in meat which they cook and roast over a fire. They look forward to the Hawan-Daushe and Hawan-Nasarawa, two Durbar festivals during the Eids when the great Emir of Kano comes riding with his courtiers and princes on adorned horses, his dogarai wearing their bright red and indigo babban riga, the gunners who shoot very loud guns that makes one’s stomach churn, and the people of Kano who line the roads holding out their fists with their thumbs sticking out to pay homage to him. The Emir’s nobles and their sons galloped all day on the roads paying homage to him on their well-groomed horses.

They told one another the story of Barbushe, the brave and fearsome giant and Tsumburbura, the spirit oracle that used to live on the Dala Mountain several centuries ago. Barbushe founded the Kingdom of Kano as a community of blacksmiths at the foot of the Dala Mountain and he was the priest of Tsumburbura. Tsumburbura was worshipped by the early inhabitants of Kano and on certain nights, she rests on one of the gates of the Kano City Wall. No emir of Kano dare pass through that gate, Murtala told them. The Emir’s Guards are so protective of him that they will catch and eat any lizard alive that approached him, Iro told them. It was Iro who told them also that the Emir eats chameleons and it enables him to transform into a younger man during the Durbar. Isah once ate a lizard too, the big blue male ones. He went to hunt the swift creatures with four of his friends in Gano and after several hours they caught two. Amina cooked the lizards in a small tin because Zainab will not let them cook them in her pots. The meat was supposed to cure severe cough. He and Abba ate the fleshy part of the legs only but he swore he will never eat the sluggish and scrawny chameleon.

There were times too when one feels like a man and not an almajiri. One day, he was about to cross the busy road close to Kwanar-Tudun Wada Cemetery and he felt a little hand slipped into his. When he looked down, he saw a little girl who was about the same age as his sister, Dije. She wanted to cross the road and he was standing by the roadside.

“Take me across the road,” she said to him.

She asked with an air of assurance that he was going to do it and she asked with such innocence that it was neither polite nor rude. He held her hand and took her across the road then she let go of his hand and ran off to her errand. He stood there and watched her run and he felt like holding her hand and taking her to where she was going and bringing her back home safely. Her mother must have told her to find an adult to take her across the road and not to cross alone and she chose him.

While in the markets, they had time to listen to clever vendors who employ their voice and wit to sell stuff.

May God save us from three types of climbing and three types of squatting

Climbing atop the clouds of insanity

Climbing across your neighbour’s walls

And climbing atop your neighbour’s wife

Squatting before your in-laws and insulting them

Squatting before a Judge and divorcing your wife

And squatting to sweep your empty silos in the middle of the dry season

May God save us from three types of death

The death of the eyes

The death of the heart

And the death of the penis

But you see, good people, when you find yourself around a lot of maidens, plenty of blind folks and very rude people, then behold, you are in Hadejia

Go and see how dogs are eaten at Zuru

Meet a storm of divorced women in Kazaure

To meet people of crude manners and unbelievable idiocy go to Bauchi

Go seek women in Mubi

Whoever says there is no witchcraft, should go to Langtang

The wealth of this Nation is in Dala and Gwauran Dutse

To see how the religious sleep with their neighbours’ wives, go to the City of Zazzau

Read the Holy book and fornicate nonetheless in Maiduguri

To see a parent and a teenage child sharing a cigarette go to Katsina

Daura: Home of the rude father, impolite mother and the legendary well of Kusugu

There’s Mambila, the land of the majestic mountains and beautiful women

See Hausa men wearing turbans and farming tobacco nonetheless in Sokoto

Disputes and quarrelsomeness is in Kwantagora

Go and see numerous lunatics in the streets of Biu

Home of the anointed thieves, that is Abuja

Arrogant people are in Gombe

Infernal mosquitoes are in Baga

To know how to ride a bicycle without brakes, go to Dambatta

Go to Jigawa and play the gurmi harp

To see youths wearing suits of poverty, go to Bichi

Witchcraft and Juju is in Bida

To see people who will watch and never separate a fight, go to Zungeru

For insolent manners go to Umuahia

Kill a man and mutilate him in Port-Harcourt

Ragged and vindictive people are in the City of Lagos

Women with plaited hair, men with plaited hair, go to Wukari

For promiscuous women go to Panshekara

For cheap women, go to Maganda. Son, pay no penny, and you’d still touch a pair of breasts

To meet short women selling bananas go to Bele

Go and see women carrying loads and fending for their shameless men in Lafiya

Hoard of reckless drivers in Soba, when you talk you will be warned:  it’s our town!

Go to Dutsen-Wai and see women who can’t tie their wrappers well

Whoever wants to court misery should gamble

Whoever wants conflict should slap a blind man

Whoever wants to be famous should steal a goat

Whoever wants to see the Messenger of God should fear God

And whoever wants medicine for pile, jaundice and impotency should come here

Marrying a beautiful woman is an investment, when she delivers a baby you gain

Marrying an ugly woman protects you from been a cuckold

Marrying a woman without legs prevents Yaji

Marrying a lunatic is better than sleeping in a bachelors’ apartment

The herbalists sold medicines that can cure numerous illnesses while unleashing their gramophone to contribute to the market’s noise. There were many traders who sell the ‘male drugs’. Isah remembered the story Adam told his friends, the senior almajirai when he thought the juniors were asleep. They were actually sleeping except Isah who was learning how to cope with sleeping on a mat. ‘Two co-wives bought the drug for their husband. The herbalist warned them to dip it into a bowl of water and remove it quickly. Instead of following the herbalist’s instructions, they soaked the drug in water for three days instead. The husband drank the concoction and all three of them ended up in a hospital the next day.’

Soon things began to change with the almajirai. It started with Murtala. The almajirai have a code, the code of honour that all must keep even as they climbed up and down mountains of refuse, collecting usable things and things that in the right quantities can be sold for a little money. It’s a code that all must uphold even as they roam through the streets of the residential areas begging. In Sabon Gari the most important code to abide by is to eat only the food which they are reasonably sure has not come into contact with alcohol and has no dog meat in it or pork.

Murtala sold out. He sold out his services, washing plates, to a restaurant and from which he was to be paid in leftovers. In any other place it will be good news for him and his friends. There was an endless supply of leftovers for almajirai who wash plates in restaurants and their friends as long as they keep a distance so as not to irritate the owners and their customers. The restaurant belonged to the Yan-Daudu.

The Yan-Daudu are men who dress like women. They wear a wrapper on top of their trousers, a scarf on their heads and grow their hair long and relax it like women. They talk and walk like women. Many of them own restaurants and they spend their time coquetting with the men who come to eat at their place. It’s funny seeing them imitate the way women walk and talk and slap their thigh and support their lower jaws with their thumb and index finger to show surprise or dramatise a gossip. Their customers indulge them their silliness and they tease them and call them female names but they never get tired of the act themselves and they never seem to drop it. Isah suspected that they genuinely believe themselves to be women. Working in their restaurants is unbecoming of an almajiri.

Murtala lost out from the group very quickly. Balarabe was too frail to be the new leader, Duna was too dirty and roguish. Musa was timid and given to brooding and Iro likes to join other groups of almajirai often. Alolo was rumoured to have been once raped by a man and the almajirai made fun of him. Isah was the apparent choice.

Several months after, Balarabe was killed by a tipper on the Maiduguri by-pass. He was standing behind the tipper when the driver reversed it and crushed him. The boys stood and watched in horror as the remains of their friend got scraped from the monstrous tyres. People stood around and watched, shaking their heads and exclaiming: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihir raji’un’. When they were done shaking their heads, they blamed the whole community of almajirai in Kano for not been mindful of the road. Some blamed the lorry driver for not looking back. Some others defended him because he couldn’t have seen Balarabe at the back. A few blamed the parents of the almajirai for sending young children to the city to beg.

Isah led the men carrying the remains of Balarabe back to the school. The Malam came out of his Zaure and saw the mangled corpse. He said a lot of prayers. The corpse cannot be washed and it need not be because Balarabe died a martyr. He was wrapped in a white funeral cloak for burial. Men on the street assembled in rows to stand for his funeral prayers. Passers-by too stopped and join the prayers and the almajirai formed their rows behind them. He was carried to the cemetery and buried. People came to sympathize with the Malam at the loss of ‘his son’ and the Malam told them the gory tale of death. He told each person who comes how it all happened; what parts of Balarabe stuck to the tires; what parts of him was scraped off the road and the possible parts that were left behind, so much so that Isah wondered whether the Malam was there when it all happened. It is required in Hausa land, that the bereaved, usually in between sobs, narrates to every condolence visitor the fine details of his loss, the story of life just before sickness, the story of pain and sickness and the story of death and what the bereaved thought of death so that by the time the day is over the bereaved should have told and retold his sorrows to exhaustion. The Malam stopped hissing at the loss of his son and recovered from it and may have stopped mourning for his son on the third day. Dan-Zaria called the boys together and warned them to avoid busy roads and to be mindful of traffic.

Balarabe’s father came a few days after. From his clothes, he looked like a rich trader. Dan-Zaria took him to the Cemetery and showed him Balarabe’s grave. The death of Balarabe shook the boys. He was their voice and he led them in the begging songs. They will never forget his quaint voice, the way it rang with appeal and destitution. When they go begging, they talked about him and remembered what he said in what place he said it and to whom he said it because Balarabe, when he is not singing, speaks very little.


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