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She dipped the kitchen towel in a bowl of hot water and placed it on her hand. She winced as the heat seared through her tender flesh. There was a cut and several small injuries on the back of her hand and she couldn’t let anyone see it, especially the people where she was going.

She placed a band-aid and covered the small cut around her knuckles with foundation, she was wearing a long-sleeved gown to shade her wound from prying eyes. People, always trying to establish your life is not perfect like theirs.

She wasn’t going to address the cause of her pain until she’s back. He was probably on their matrimonial bed still asleep, but she had to get up, because she had to work, because she had to feed the family while he slept like a bunch of rotten bananas.

She checked her watch, frowned at how the small hand had ticked clockwise faster than she had wanted and hissed. The lecture wouldn’t deliver itself, she said to herself. Domestic violence, it seemed was a much sought after topic. Battered women where having none of the bullshit anymore, and she was proud. She stared at her bruised hand, she was proud of them.

Iridescent flowers that have already started darkening by the edges, that was what they looked like. Their faces lighted up in understanding and agreement as they stared ardently at her, eagerly sucking up each word like a child with an insatiable appetite of milk.

She shivered slightly at the sight of the innocence painted on their faces, innocence that for some, has already started getting tainted with a dark paint. She needed to save them; from themselves and from the others be it their parents, partners or the society… or all.

And so her voice got stronger with each word, with each message, with each example stating a hundred and one reasons why a woman is the owner of her body and why no one, can take that away from her.

‘The word ‘woman’ has, for a long time been taken to be synonymous to ‘weakness’, and that is why the girl child has been conceived of weakness, birthed by weakness and brought up in weakness. It has been drummed in our brains for so long we begin to believe in that and that is why when our husbands batter us’ she cringed at the thought of that ‘it is taken for granted and blame is heaped solely on us, the weakness’ her voice dripped of passion. She needed them to understand that they needed to stand up for themselves, she needed them to understand there in the grand looking assembly hall of the school of the elite children before it was too late.

‘But not anymore’, she went on. ‘The modern woman is strength and power. She understands that she is human before woman, she understands that she is woman and therefore priceless, she understands that dowry is not a ticket to torture, she understands that she is the owner of her body and she will fight to see that every other person accepts same’. She concluded.

The thunderous applause made her jolt a bit in fright. She stood stunned as the crowd of young secondary school girls and teachers stood up and cheered.

It always happened like that and that was why they scouted lectures so much from her for whenever she was delivering a lecture on violence against women, she was never herself. She was a woman from fifteen years ago who had been dragged and man handled, slapped across the face and told to shut up or the knife glistening in the dark will be buried within her. And she had to stifle her scream and lie for hour-like minutes until the deed was done and her innocence, gone. The most painful part being she knew who it was, and she knew he was a coward as only cowards hit women.

She smiled and lowered her eyes as if shy. The rage of being a victim had subsided and she was back to herself.

The admiration in the eyes of the female students and the profusely stated appreciations were enough for her. Her job was done.

She didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t want to face him or anyone. She just wanted to drive away, far away, but she knew she couldn’t, she knew she had to face her worse nightmare who shared her bed every day for 5 years.

The moment she pushed the door open and heard the sound of feet shuffling, she knew he was home. Where else would he be? Useless man.

‘Come here’. Silence.

‘I said come here’. Now with obvious annoyance.

She felt the rage creep back in. He always had that effect on her ever since he decided it was a good idea to rape her. Little did he know, he fucked with the wrong girl.

10 years after the rape, she had bloomed into a beautiful woman,and he had thought that she had forgotten as it happened a long time ago. And so when she did everything young ladies were prone to do to get the attention of men they liked, he had succumbed and had fallen prey. Some months later, they were married, what he will come to discover was her plot for revenge all along.

She had made his life a living hell from the first year of their wedding. She had made him lose his job, distanced him from family and friends and basically made him dependent on her so that all the power were in her palms, the palms she used to batter him all day as she relieved that dark night that awakened the monster in her.

Her fists were still sore from the punch she had given him last night and she could see him visibly shake as her palms curled to fists.

‘Bloody coward. I hope you tell this story to your fellow weak men who hit women’. She spat out in disgust and landed him another punch.

The relationship between myself and I is a love-hate one. I love myself, I absolutely do but there’s this lady, her name is ‘I’, she resides somewhere- I’m not sure where but I think it’s either my brain, my mind or my body. Sometimes I think ‘I’ is my shadow but then she lingers even after I can see no visible shadow. ‘I’ is more than the physical or tangible, in fact the fact that she’s not tangible makes her more powerful.

‘I’ is annoying, she annoys me to no end because she is too dauntless and daring and adventurous and she lands me in trouble all the time. Are you looking for bad advice cookie? That’s ‘I’. And she nags so much I find it hard to ward her off so to make her keep shut and have her off my case, I just go along with it… bad decision.

I want to lose weight so I try to cut down on food portions and avoid ‘bad’ food and even when I see a super juicy and cheesy chunk of junk, I direct my mind away by myself, but not ‘I’, ‘I’ redirects me. She comes with this super therapeutic voice and goes ‘do you really want to do this to yourself Hafsah? Do you really not want to indulge in this piece of edible luxury? You only live once you know’ and she is sooo good like an expert siren, I usually end up trailing her demands.

And later when I’m drowning in the guilt of it, she sits cross-legged on a plush chair by the side of the grey cube room that’s my mind and smirks to herself. She’s usually writing on a notepad- that’s one thing myself and ‘I’ have in common- and I think she’s scoring herself. By now it will probably read: ‘myself’ 7- 10834893 ‘I’.

‘I’ doesn’t like letting go of people so even when I have a crush on a guy and I want to move on, ‘I’ pushes me to just check his Instagram page one more time for updates, ‘It helps with the healing process’ she says. But she’s lying because I end up stalking him for three more hours….unhealthily.

‘I’ is (am) a hoarder. Like when she tells me I need stuff I don’t need. She’s like ‘Hafsah we are going to need this in the future, keep it’ and the future comes, and it goes and we never need it but we’ve kept it.

And she even hoards memories, some good ones- I must give her credit- but she hoards even the unnecessary, bad ones and that makes her hold grudges like an expert in the field of grudge keeping (there’s a pun lying here somewhere).

For example there’s a family gathering yeah? And I see that cousin and I’m approaching her because I want to catch up and… ‘I’ actually stops me. She says ‘remember when you were 4 years 7 months 1 week old and this cousin flicked a lit up match at you and it burned your arm? You still want to talk to her after THAT?!!! And the memory comes back anew, I feel the pain of the matchstick sizzle on my arm and I make a 360 turn away from the cousin. ‘I’, you are here on banned from interfering with my family life ever again.

When I learn a new song (which is usually some few lines), I don’t like letting ‘I’ know. Because when she gets hold of those lines, God in Heavens! It takes the whole spirit of the Earth to make her stop endlessly chanting them like a breathing mantra. And it annoys me because it’s stuck in my head every moment! But ‘I’ enjoys it. She just loves tormenting me.

You think you have naysayers? Mine resides within! This lady is my worse critic. Everything I do is subject to judgement. I can’t try to look pretty in front of the mirror, ‘I’ will start dissing me. And if so help me God I try to dance or worse sing, ‘I’ contorts her face like she’s smelling poop and grimaces, I’ll have to shamefully stop. That’s why I don’t like taking pictures because ‘I’ calls each of them ugly save one or two. Because of that, I may take 100 pictures and two days later, I’ll delete the lot to one or two. The ones approved by ‘I’. I hate her guts.

I know you are thinking I should let go of her and I’ve thought about it but even as I’m typing this right now, she’s in here laughing her heads off (wickedly) because she knows she’s here to stay. She knows she’ll outlive me, because I know that house, my mind will breathe and exists even after my body gives up the ghost.

And I can’t mute her because in between it all, she drops the most amazing writing and story ideas. She’s my perfectly ever-engaging muse. That’s where our love relationship comes in. I love her for the endless supply of stories she provides. Ever wondered why my stories are usually sadistic? Well….

And she’s my gossip partner, who else will I laugh about my boss with? Most times when you see me laughing to myself, it’s myself and I sharing an inside joke. And she spins the most romantic stories when she’s on her monthly’s. And she can be sweet in a mean way. She comes up plenty horrible ways to get back at people many of which I thankfully forcefully dismiss.

‘I’ is (am) a creative fellow, sometimes mean but usually to me and generally, there’s not a single dull moment between ‘I’ and myself.

Once upon a time, even though I’ve never counted, but I was reading an average of 3 books a week and almost a hundred a year.

I was a chute sucking up all the wordings and meanings and at that time, reading a 200 hundred paged novel a day was a small task. I didn’t care what genre or age group or era it was from, I just read everything. But even then I was also a fiction person. I had tried to read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and it did not seem significant to my life in anyway. I could not read inspirational books or biographies/ autobiographies, still can’t. The closest I’ve read was the ‘Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck’ which was a very good read. (Books about creative writing are exceptions)

Then as I grew up, I started getting picky. Some books like Animorphs disgusted me. Some books like high school love stuff became too childish, some Mills and Boons book were too unrealistic, some science fiction books made no sense, some bippity bappity boo books were just lazily recycled narratives. I’d read the first 3 pages and dump the book without ever looking back. That is something I never did during my book gouging stage; in fact at that time I’ll probably start liking a book well into the 100th page but I’d still drag on and read on because well, It was a reading sin to dump a book.

It was that time that I discovered that I’d rather read Sidney Sheldon’s books than John Grisham even though I want to be a lawyer because it wasn’t ‘adventurous enough’ for me. And that I’d still rather read Sidney Sheldon than Jeffrey Archer because his books are so long you’d probably get lost in the narrative half way (except his short stories which I love).

I discovered my love for fantasy books and Sandra Brown over any romance writer. I discovered I liked mystery and suspense but didn’t like the suspense and the waiting period; always leaves me physically tired.

I discovered one genre that not many people know or worse appreciate but I like it because it is so easy-going and fun and some are actually funny- Chicklit.

I love reading the imperfections of the characters of Chicklit novels most of which are by Marian Keyes or  Sophie Kinsella (Chicklit novels adapted to movies are Diary of A Shopaholic, The Devil Wears Prada, Beauty and the Briefcase etc).

I like Fantasy, the Harry Potter kind and Percy Jackson kind. Zarah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor was the first book I read in that genre by an African and it’s still my favorite .

I like books like Divergent and I usually read the books before the movies are released as soon as I watch the trailers. Because the books are usually better.

I love action books  and horror but please don’t disgust me with scenes too grotesque to incite any fear… thank you. To think once upon a time my idea of a horror book was Goosebumps.

Wattpad spoiled many genres for me like Vampires and werewolves, I don’t take them serious now because I feel it’s just another unreadable Wattpad something. Fanfiction is the wooorrsseee *Harry Styles* 😭

I love unconventional books like Alif the Unseen, it’s tech with a touch of Jinn- really unexpected.

Unpredictable books in a good way? Sign me up. Because some authors in a bid to be unpredictable just do the most.

Generally, the books I’d love to read are the ones I’d love to write. So when I don’t find what I want to read on the shelves, I write one.

He was having a very bad day. He wasn’t sure the day could get worse but if it did, then he might completely lose it and breakdown. 

His landlady sent him packing so that the meagre clothings he had were thrown in a worn out, shabby backpack, along with his last money, some measly six hundred and fifty naira. His phone had been stolen a day ago else he could have probably called his rich Aunt to appeal for some funds and Binta had broken up with him because he couldn’t send her the 500 naira recharge card she had demanded for. 

She had already had enough of his bullshit according to her and he had tripped his last card. 

But that wasn’t the worse thing. The worse thing was that he couldn’t get any pot to smoke. The six fifty could sustain him on garri and some moldy bread sold at a cheaper price for some days but that was it, his weed funds were out.

He would have to resort to the job he had rejected, manual labour. He hated working and the only reason why he wasn’t in a gang of thieves was because his late mother had made him promise her he wouldn’t do anything illegal as a source of income. Sometimes, he hated himself for promising her.

He was tired of walking, he had to trek the length of the city to locate his friends house for temporary asylum. A lone shade offered some solace to his lonely self and he walked towards it already sighing in anticipation of being away from the scorching heat.

The shed wasn’t empty. It was occupied by an old man whose wretched possessions were scattered all over. His face contorted in annoyance as if he had found someone taking up his personal space.

He lowered himself and sighed. He was thirsty. He had no water to drink and there was no shop in sight. In fact, the place was partially deserted as it always was. There were just a few houses scattered around, everyone avoided the area because of the rampancy of rascals.

He glanced at the old man who looked creepier than most haggard homeless old men and hissed. He didn’t know why the old man was consistently staring at him. 

He arranged his bag beneath his head and placed his hand on the side where his last money was. Then he dozed off.

He jolted with a start, he had slept off apparently without realizing it. He knew something must have woken him up but he wasn’t sure what it was. He hissed again and readjusted his head on his bag- on the place where his bag was meant to be – because his head lay rudely on bare sand.

He sat up with a start, eyes wide searching for his bag. The old man looked at him keenly as if he was an interesting thing, chuckled, then laughed.

‘Why are you laughing old man?’ he asked still dazed. ‘Where’s my bag? You stole my bag you crook’. 

He held the old man by his worn out lapel. 

‘It wasn’t I, it was some kids. You were sleeping like a log, didn’t even feel them take it from beneath your head’ he shook his head ‘ lazy children of nowadays’.

He wasn’t even sure what to do to the man. He was super annoyed. 

‘ And you let them? You didn’t wake me up?’.

The old man shrugged ‘ Better you than me’.

He was furious now, and since he couldn’t be furious at the culprits, he directed it towards the old man. He balled his palm to fist and knocked the old man right in the middle of the head. Then he snatched the cap the old man stored his begging loot in and rushed away with it leaving the old man to clutch his head in pain.

For some reason, the sight made him laugh. He laughed so hard he doubled over. The old man deserved it for being a silent party to the theft. And what he did wasn’t stealing, he hardly thinks his mother would mind.

‘You know what they say boy’ the old man said between gritted teeth ‘ he who laughs last laughs longest’.

That made him burst into another fit of laughter. Silly fool. He had lost his few belongings but at least he was having a good laugh out of it. If every loss will make his spirit dampen he would have been in the bottom of a river by now.

He walked off still laughing. He didn’t know why but he couldn’t stop laughing. He didn’t start noticing something wrong until when he walked on for three minutes and he was still laughing.

Okay that’s enough laughter for one day you can stop now, he told himself. But he couldn’t. He kept on laughing even as he tried to close his mouth and stop emitting any sound.

He laughed on even as panic rose within him and set like a pregnant cloud full of terror. He laughed on…

The old man had cursed him. The sudden realization gave him an adrenaline pump and he turned and ran back towards the shed. 

Ever seen a man running and laughing like his life depended on it? Well he did. It wasn’t funny to him but to anyone who might be watching, it was a funny sight.

He arrived the shed, the old man had left, no traces of his footprints were visible, all the stuff scattered around where gone and in their place, his bag lay. He didn’t want his bag, he though in annoyance. He wanted his sanity back. 

‘He who laughs last laughs longest’ the words of the old man rang in his ears as if he was just an inch away from him.

Kaduna was honoured to have hosted an event which is foreseen to be a milestone in the political, social and economic awareness for the progression of Arewa.

It is no secret that the people of Arewa have a fiery spirit of nationalism, leadership and of survival burning inside of them. 

It is no secret that a set of people instrumental to fighting for Nigeria’s independence and in fashioning Nigeria to become a great post-colonial country are majorly from the North. This much is evidenced in books of history and auto-biographical recounts of those who witnessed the birth of the nation.

But it is equally not a secret that that spirit of doing greater things innate in the heart of the North has fallen into a grave coma which threatens the stability and the core elements that make up the Northern part of Nigeria.

The 5th and 6th of July, 2019 marked the much anticipated maiden Northern Youth Summit themed; ‘Awakening The Arewa Spirit’. A product of the Northern Youth Initiative, the Northern Youth Summit was organised as a positive energy to jolt awake the otherwise comatose Arewa spirit.

I was privy to the first event, a networking and marketing program which chiefly featured an exhibition of a variety of wares, products and food from vendors from all over.

It was an event which fed the eyes on plenty colourful people some of whom were familiar social media faces, tickled the nose with wafts of sizzling aromatic chicken and other assortment of delicacies and gave a sense of delight with fragrances from different incense stands.

Many other things on display were clothings, accessories, arts and craft and other wares. 

If you’ve stopped by a stand were the most otherworldly and fragrant incense in glass where displayed for sale or you’ve seen two ladies going around (several times) with incense pots, chances are you’ve indulged in our decadent fragrance and if you’ve not bought it then you have a chance to redeem yourself by requesting below. 

All shameless advertising aside, it was a good way to network.

In recounting the 2nd day of the summit which was tagged “The Talk” (I wasn’t opportune to attend as I was socially unavailable), Architect Hauwa Musa, the CEO of Tahmys Spices and SOVs and a volunteer said ‘it was an insightful event that went for the jugular’.

‘It outlined the problems facing arewa: laziness, poverty, illiteracy, lack of discipline, lack of self reliance and poor knowledge of the institution of marriage as well as entitlement.

It was divided into three panels : 

Changing mindset’ which focused on the laziness of the arewa youth and our reliance on hand me downs. The proffered solutions were : The establishment of an all inclusive entrepreneurship program and center with satellite campuses in each arewa state so youths can learn skills that will benefit them, and a monitoring of these youths to ensure continuity and success.

Another action call is the creation of the Northern Hibiscus app to register and monitor arewa businesses to protect them from social media scammers and also help businesses save money (adashe), all for the betterment of the youth.

She highlighted the The 2nd Panel : Entrepreneurship from Zero to Hero where they talked about the steps leading to success in the entrepreneurship world. The panelists advised that there is no easy way to business and that steadfastness and patience pays.

And that entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs should refuse to give up and accept defeat in any chosen field of business they venture into.

On the last panel: the decay in our marital institution moderated by Ali Amin discussed the rising rate of divorce in arewa, it’s causes and probable solutions.

They discussed issues like : unrealistic expectations (fake portrayal), forced marriage, cheating and lack of preparedness of the youth for the institution of marriage and the patriarchal lifestyle of the north.

The rhetorical questions like “is the institution failing because woman are beginning to speak up?” were asked.The panelists pointed out that there was no full proof solution to this problem and different solutions for different problems and individuals but these solutions can go a long way in dealing with these problems.

Keeping God close and your family close, maintaining fidelity, mutual respect within the marriage, communication, constant feedback within the marriage and most importantly, knowing who you are marrying and expecting a spouse to change after marriage. They implored on individuals to understand the institution, the person’s vices and bring back the concept of marriage contract and also gain understanding of one’s rights and responsibilities towards a spouse.

Umar Buhari Ali summarised the whole Summit beautifully.

‘The Northern Youth Summit was organised to draw the attention of the youth with a view to reawakening the Arewa spirit. 

His Excellency, Ahmed El-Rufai , the Governor Of Kaduna State, happened to be an accidental guest at the occasion. Highlights of issues discussed include poverty, almajiranchi(bara), drug abuse, broken homes and marriages, gender molestation among other ills. It is very clear that the time is high for the Northern Youth to rewrite their story.

Gov El-rufai admitted the fact that the youth will have to get on the stage and pointed out how he has been encouraging and bringing a number of them on board in his government. 

Hon Abdulmumini Jibrin, a Kano state Lawmaker who was the main sponsor, in his keynote address emphasised the need for us to stop living in our past glory and face the future with courage and determination.

Hajiya Aisha El-rufai noted the unfortunate incident involving a Northern Youth Senator that has gone viral and offered some words of advice while the DG NBTI commended the governor for his bold initiatives .

Maryam Lemu other guests and panelists all made their contributions.

A member of the Local Organizing Committee and founder of Arewa’s top Instagram blog, Muhammad Awwal of Hausa Fulani said that been the part of the LOC is a huge accomplishment for me and for all. 

‘We all appreciate Aisha Falke for bringing this amazing idea of awakening Arewa to the table. Northern Youth Summit 2019 was indeed a glamorous success! 

The Summit was about changing our mindset for the better and how we can come together as a unit, empower, support and promote ourselves. It also highlighted how we can revive our values as a society and much more.

We need to start talking to ourselves about the series of problems  affecting our society; issues of insecurity, drug abuse, Almajiri, marriage problems, etc.

I strongly believe that this summit will surely bring positive changes as long as we can come together and work as one. 

And I’m certain this summit shall continue annually In Sha Allah.All thanks to the entire officials for this incredible event’ concluded Awwal.

With emphasis on how the Northern Youth Summit personally impacted her, Dr. Bilkisu Yusuf Yakubu had this to say, ‘The Northern Youth Summit was an amazing experience. I realised that Northern Nigeria has what it really takes to be a great place not a place where we are meant to suffer.

The third panel made me discover that we have a lot of work to do in the aspect of marriage. Parents don’t prepare their children for marriage and a lot of couples don’t really know what they are up for so most marriages are based on what people see on social media not knowing no two marriages are identical.

By and large I have been motivated beyond my imagination to pursue my goal of combining being a doctor , a housewife and an Entrepreneur In Sha Allah. DOCPRENEUR’.

Personally, the highlight of the event I attended physically was not only when we made sales or business contact but the interaction that came from it.

The highlight of the event I attended virtually was the impromptu visit of the most proactive Nigerian Governor and his wife Hajiya Aisha Ummi Garba who is easily the most stylish First Lady. Her dressing for both events were my favorite. 

So all said and done, a question still nags the base of my brain, what does this summit mean to Arewa as a whole, not to the organisers only, not to the attendees or participants but to the common man. The ones on the streets, the ones who had no idea the summit took place. Will it be a catalyst to a domino effect of restoration of the Arewa glory or a talk that was heard, applauded and photographed whose lessons are frozen in time and left in the venue of the summit.

Will it be the genesis of an annual awakening till we wake up from our developmental hibernation? Or will it be a written achievement attached to a paper stored in the archives of a passive history?

One thing is for sure. The summit happened, impact was felt, it is left for the ones imparted with the tools to make a change to do so. Because all talk and now work is a cause that has already been lost.

A suggestion I’d like to make to the organizers for the next summit is to work under the umbrella of the organising initiative, Northern Youth Initiative and not as a personal cause because the success of the initiative is a success to them and to all. I suggest they be more in the shadows, that will be more appealing to even international communities because NGO’s always attract more than individuals.

Another is to diversify the speakers. Get more speakers who are less in the public eye but equally, if not more experienced. And for the sake of inclusivity, people from different backgrounds , works of life and beliefs because what we lack more than anything is an understanding that the world is wider than our immediate and environment and that there’s a lot to learn from others than we realise.

Luck or lack of it comes in different forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of a pretty lady you meet during your close friend’s wedding.

Zainab was the friendly and chatty but unimposing type. I didn’t appreciate her friendliness at first, but the more she spoke, the more I became acquainted with her humor, she had that kind of effect.

She did not only have an alluring personality she also looked like riches, it drew the ladies to her like a moth. Her father had to be someone, no questions asked.

I noticed she was different. She acted different, she dressed different (she wore no asoebi, in it’s place was a lace that could rival the brides) and she spoke different. I’ll ask Anisa, the bride where she knew her from, I mentally noted.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that Zainab was a resilient entrepreneur and even has blood relations with the Dangote’s, she had a picture of her with a group of women at Halima Dangote’s wedding as backing. She was a little perfect woman in her perfect world  and I could see a reflection of my awe and envy in the eyes of the other brides friends. 

‘All these business women be intimidating us with their big life’ Our friend Amma said after we had snapped over 50 glorious pictures on Zainab’s IPhone XS Max. I nudged her with my elbow. Amma is the I-say-whatever-is-on-my-mind-and-i-don’t-care-what-you-think type. 

‘It’s true now’. She said as she munched on a cake. ‘Which business do you even do like this. Because I feel it in my veins that I will soon become rich too. Let’s gist rich girl to potential rich girl’.

Zainab threw her head back and laughed heartily. She wasn’t at all pompous or offended by Amma’s innocently careless words.

‘I see it too honestly. You have the look of a great entrepreneur in your eyes. Always searching for new opportunities’. 

What Amma? The makings of a great entrepreneur as untactical as she was? Call me Bill Gates. 

Amma turned and smirked at me. She had already started playing rich. Not one to be left behind especially since there’s a prospect that the secret to Zainab’s riches were about to be leaked and I could also have a chance to connect with this Dangote blooded woman, I also scouted closer and opened my ears.

‘I deal with everything a woman may need ranging from lingerie, to kitchen stuff, to adornment, to furniture to clothings, to beddings… just say woman and I’m here. Sometimes I venture into houses, cars and electronics’.

I looked her over. She didn’t look stressed out at all. She looked like ‘yar hutu, a typical spoilt child who cannot do a days work to save her life. 

‘How do you manage all that?’ Aisha asked. Zainab’s audience had multiplied to 5 and I hadn’t even noticed.

‘I have connections on both ends, the sellers and the buyers. You think I source for all those goods myself?’ She said with a small smile, scanned our eyes to make sure we were fitfully entranced, then continued, this time dropping big names that usually ended with Dangote, Dantata, Indimi, Dankabo, Chachangi and Azman.

‘Anty…. is a dealer for Prestige products while Uncle…. has a huge shop filled with the latest Super Waxes, Anty…. is into cosmetics , Brother… has a car company, …. is into real estate ‘. Names and money rolled off her lips like they meant nothing.  In my mind all could think was I want to be like you when I grow up.

‘So what I do is called drop-shipping. I advertise for them, get a buyer, send them the money, hold my commission and have the product delivered to the buyer, ’. Easy peasy. 

‘Wow!’ I breathed out. No wonder!  ‘So you are like the marketer, advertiser and middle man all in one?’.

‘Exactly. It will fit you’.  She said while regarding me. I practically glowed, I knew I had a sleeping entrepreneurial streak in me. Wakey wakey.

‘So if you are interested I could hook you up with them. I could deal directly with you but I honestly am so busy with what’s on my plate. I’ll just give you their numbers and vice versa, you see what they sell, negotiate your commission and you advertise. They usually don’t care how much you add to the price as long as you sell’.

‘Sign me up!’ Aisha said with a raised hand. Aisha is over ambitious, I bet she can sell a house in a few days just so she can have money and belong to the riches crew.

‘I’m definitely interested’ Ibtisam declared.  I rolled my eyes. Ibtisam is only interested because she can have contacts of men from big families, she is currently actively husband hunting. Which may not be such a bad idea. 

So that was how 7 of us got into drop-shipping with Zainab, kin of the Dantatas.

I was so excited. Especially when I started communicating with the big named, big business people who always spoke busily like you were interrupting a million dollar sale so you have to round off quickly with whatever you were saying. 

The first I spoke to Muhammad Tijjani Dantata, my insides became a puddle. His tush tone and polished British English just flew away with me. I was calling him husband in my head.

I got my first customers the first week. Everything went according to plan. Shoes,bags, makeup stuff were delivered within a few days of transaction and I got some money from it. I didn’t even spend a kobo. I just took my profit, sent the money and the goods were delivered. I started aiming higher especially since Aisha just sold a TV.

Soon, we were all actively seeking bigger things, bigger commission. Aisha was negotiating a car sale, I couldn’t be left behind. My brother-in-law wanted to buy a new car, he had finally decided to change his tired looking car and my sister suggested my services. See me, my family members have moved from mocking to patronizing me. Money is good.

Then my boss wanted to get a house for his newest bride -to-be and he fell in love with houses up for sale. And that was how I was head locked in a car and house deal. Ecstasy had nothing on my happiness.

The prices where very good. My commission was enough to get me second hand small car and the customers were happy.  My boss had gone to see the house with an agent, it was perfect.

I sent the deposits of the money, millions of naira and the car was on it’s way, my boss’s house was sold.

I called Amma and I swear I could smell her jealousy through the phone. It was my turn to smirk. She had ordered for her cousins entire kitchen utensils including some electronics. It was huge money but it wasn’t hefty millions of Naira worth of house.

My bother-in-law called me a week later.

‘Has your car arrived?’ I asked him excitedly. 

‘That’s what I wanted to ask. I’m yet to get it. They said 4 days max’.

‘Okay I’ll call them’ I said and rolled my eyes. He is such a nag.

I called the car dealers office. They said the rains had made them stall off the delivery from Lagos. But it’s on the way.

Barely 5 minutes later, Aisha called me. The car she had finished all negotiations and payments on 3 weeks ago is yet to come. Zainab is not picking her calls and she sounded like she was in tears. 

My heart skipped a beat. Worry not…breathe…false alarm. I tried Zainab’s number, she assured me that everything was under control and Aisha was unnecessarily panicking. I breathed. I knew there was no cause for alarm.

I called Aisha and told her what Zainab said. She was silent for a while.

‘Have you spoken to Amma?’ She asked.

‘No, what happened?’.

‘Her cousins wedding is in two weeks time and the kitchen stuff has not been delivered.’ Aisha said and sniffed.  I was momentarily blank, then confusion rolled in and fear eventually bubbled. 

I felt faint, like the ground I was on was paper thin and It could cave in right away. 

‘Ibtisam and Fatima have not received any response either’. Aisha’s words buzzed around my head.

Before I could say a word Aisha continued ‘I called Anisa and asked her if she could get through to Zainab and she said she had never seen her in her life. She said she thought Zainab came with you because you came in at the same time’.

She’s fraud Ummi, Zainab is fraud and we just entered one chance’. 

 It was too much, the phone was burning my fingers like her words had caught fire.

I threw the phone on the ground like it was the source of my confusion. I could hear it ring but I couldn’t move to answer it.

An hour later, maybe less, I picked the phone up still dazed. My boss had left 12 missed calls and a message. ‘The house you sold to me is currently occupied by people claiming to be the owners. CALL ME ASAP’. 

‘No!’ A whimper escaped from my throat. No this is impossible. I couldn’t even cry real tears, tears, it turns out are a privilege.

I sat huddled up in a corner, dialling Zainabs number, I knew the response I’ll receive ‘Number is currently switched off’. And I understood, there and then, I understood why people will want to take their own lives.

Honestly that confuses me too. I dream for myself a good life, I never dream small. Inference: I dream for myself a big good life and that requires happiness, contentment and money so I look for it the halal way because I believe that if it’s haram, remove contentment out of the picture.

Sometimes all I think about is how to make more money, be financially independent, make enough to explore the world so when I’m in that phase, I’m all money, money, money.  But some people don’t appreciate that, to them, I just love money too much and it’s unhealthy… especially for a girl (how my gender has anything to do with that baffles me) because apparently guys are intimidated by rich ladies. Okay!

When people ask me why I want to make money or what I’ll do with it I always say it’s because I want to be comfortable.

I want to be able to do stuff for myself without begging for it. I want to give out to others, I want to buy what I want without fear of running dry. I want to live knowing I can sustain myself and those around me for a while without running out.

I want to travel placessss; Italy, France, Beverly Hills, Qatar. 

I don’t want to live in rented places,I want to own it. I want to just halal-own my stuff. Is that me being over-ambitious or realistic “especially for a girl”.

People say ‘kadan mai albarka’ meaning ‘a few blessed coins’ but how about ‘plenty blessed coins’. Islam said nothing about having many properties except the fact that you must account for it and that is scary yes but better to have a good account Alhamdulillah than the other option.

They say you shouldn’t be too ambitious, you are not married and I’m just even taking baby steps now, what will happen when I decide to soar?  I’m sorry if my quest for a good life is off-putting to you but you either join forces or stay away because I’m not putting my life on hold nor will I hibernate my dreams. I mean it’s one life for Allah’s sake, why so uptight?

They say you shouldn’t be more ambitious than your husband but now that isn’t my fault is it. Besides I think my ambition is standard I’m just willing to push it where many aren’t. So if my husband-whosoever that may be- is or wishes to make it in that aspect of life then fine, let’s keep moving, but if he doesn’t, just support me and don’t stand on the way. As long as you try, I’ll appreciate it. 

Besides in case I’m richer than my husband, he will never ever know it. I know how the ego of men work and to make peace reign, unless it is unavoidable, you are richer. I’m not one to flaunt money and wealth, I’m one to use it.

Finally, money is NOT everything. It’s not even half of everything in life honestly so if I put so much effort in making money, then that means I put more effort in making other things work. So why is this one now chucking your eye?