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My father never smiled. He was a disciplinarian. We called him “Baba mi”. He never wanted us running around the house. We were always in our room. It was a very small room. Baba mi was not the man in the mirror. The man in the mirror had the face of a gentle and kind man. The man in the mirror always had a warm smile. The man in the mirror was a good man. The man in the mirror was handsome. The man in the mirror was a good father. The world only saw the man in the mirror.


The man in the mirror…Baba mi was not the man in the mirror.
Baba mi was a gentle monster. He was a disciplinarian. He was never concerned. He was that man that would ask for the other 20 per cent if you scored 80 per cent in your exams. He was that man that never wished you a happy birthday. He was bitter, not bitter like the cola nut. He was that kind of bitter that lingered on your tongue when you drink water after eating a pineapple. He was a complete stranger to the man in the mirror. How was he so different from the man in the mirror? It was a mystery.


We only came out when he had to lash out butts. He said it was a reminder. Reminder for what? He never told us. My name is Kofo Ajani. My younger brother is Jinadu Ajani. We lived in Lagos, Mushin Olosha to be precise. Our house was a two bedroom flat. We hardly came out of the house. Baba mi never wanted us going out; he employed a home tutor for us. We only went out of the house when it was necessary. All we knew about the world was revealed to us by Mr Isqilu, our home tutor. He was a different man from Baba mi. He was kind and gentle, he never lashed our butts. He always had goodies for us. He was a good man.

Today is Monday; Baba mi never went to work on Mondays. That was strange. Mr isqilu had told us that Monday was the most important working day in the week. If you had to stay away from your workplace for any reason, it shouldn’t be on a Monday. Baba mi is a strange man, I wonder where he works. I was lost in my thoughts…

The voice was loud and distant. I wonder how he did that. Baba mi was calling, I raced to his room. His head was buried deep in a newspaper. It was Alawiye. A Yoruba gossip paper. The sun shined on his head, I could see strands of grey. The man was getting old. He wanted a cup of Lipton. I headed to the kitchen. Panic stricken. Why did he do that? It was not necessary. We were good children. We never disobeyed him. We never told lies. He was just a wicked man. A wicked and lonely man who took out his frustrations on his children. Thank God our thoughts were private. He would have killed us a long time ago. He was going to lash our butts after he had the cup of Lipton. That was his daily routine.

I dropped the hot cup of Lipton on a stool beside him. I hurried out of the room and went to Jinadus room. “Jina Jina” that was what I called him, he never liked the name, but I never stopped calling. “You had better get out of bed and come for today’s lashes, Baba mi is having is Lipton now, and you know what follows after that.” I pitied Jinadu, he was just 8, and he shouldn’t have to be subjected to unnecessary lashes of “Pankere.” One day I promise, one day I will put an end to all of this. “Oya get up and let us go before Baba mi calls, you know how terrible that can be.”

He was still turning and tossing. I carried him. We made for Baba mi’s room.” Jinadu had a small frame, so it was easy to carry him. Paarh, Paarh, Paarh, Paarh, Paarh, Paarh. Paarh, Paarh, Paarh, Paarh…It was six lashes for me, and four lashes for Jinadu. I had gotten used to it already, for 13 years of my life the pankere had been a loyal punisher. I didn’t see any need to shed tears again. For Jinadu, it was a different story. There’s only one abbreviation to capture my reactions to his display of emotions.

L.O.L -Laugh Out Loud.
Mr isqilu used it whenever he wanted to express laughter when he was chatting on his blackberry. One day I will own a blackberry.


“Amrica,” No, it’s A-M-E-R-I-C-A.
Repeat after me, “Amewica”…Jinadu, its A-M-E-R-I-C-A and not what you are calling it. Repeat it for the last time.
“Amewica.” Ok, we will continue from here tomorrow. Make sure you read the passage on “Public Opinion” …Yes sir. Jinadu had finished his session with Mr Isqilu. It was my turn. I had an opinion about why my younger brother could not pronounce “America”; I decided to tell Mr Isqilu. Mr isqilu, I think Jinadu has “R-factor” he cannot pronounce the letter R. Mr isqilu agreed with me, I felt like an “Efiwe” but then, he went further to explain. He talked about Linguistics. He talked about an International Phonetic Alphabet chart. He talked about the place and manner of articulation. I always enjoyed his lessons, even when I didn’t understand what he was saying.

Baba mi had told us that maami travelled to America and would not be back in a long time. I miss maami. I wonder if she still remembers us, she never calls.
Would I even recognize maami if I saw her? I wondered.
Mr isqilu rounded up his session with me talking about menstruation. He said I was going to experience it. I wanted to ask questions, why would I bleed? How long was I going to bleed for? What are ovaries and eggs? So many questions, but Mr isqilu had other pressing issues to attend to, he promised to answer my questions the next day.


The room was dark and big. It was endless. I was running out of breath, it was still chasing me, I wanted to scream, but I felt a big lump in my throat. I stopped to catch my breath. Oh my goodness, is this the end? It was catching up with me, I started running again with double speed. How come there was no one around to help me, Where is Baba mi? Where is Jinadu? I kept on running, I was getting tired. I was losing hope; the life was slipping out of me…
I said a little prayer. Dear God, forgive my sins. Bless “Baba mi.”Give Jinadu strength to endure Baba mi’s lashes. Open the gates of heaven for me. Amen… My eyes remained closed. Suddenly! I heard a voice.
It was loud and distant! I wanted to open my eyes, but the strong rays of bright light that hit my pupils made me close them slightly, I could see a very bright light ahead, it reflected from a man in white, the light was so bright and blinding. The man was moving closer, the light was shining brighter, and he called my name “Kofoooooo.” He was my saviour. He was the son of God. He held out his hand, I reached for it. I was going to heaven.

“Paarh, Paarh, Paarh”
The sharp pain from Baba Mi’s pankere brought me back to the world of the living. I coiled into a tight knot and screamed with all my strength. It was the first time in years that the pankere would put my lips apart. I was dreaming the whole while, and Baba mi was the man in my dream. I managed a silent laugh. “I’m off to work” he said, as he walked out of the room. I was about to get out of bed when I felt a sickening moist in my pant.
My hands probed the area. I thought I had bed-wetted. I was wrong. I stopped wetting the bed a long time ago. This was a different moist, it was a red one. I was bleeding. “No more pankere from Baba mi, no more lashes.” I’m going to fight back if he tries to…I’m going to protect Jinadu.

I just became a woman!

Story continues….


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