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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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Sabon Gari

It is not a street, Sabon Gari. It is more like a large, sprawling town in Kano State, almost unplanned, with houses sprouting up everywhere with the scattered random of weeds. The many streets in Sabon Gari are almost identical:  dusty roads, mountains of rubbish on the streets, smelly gutters with mosquitoes, and huge rats – the ones that my ajebo cousins call black rabbits.

Sabon Gari makes you think of a living human body, with its own palpable body and pulsating heart. You can even hear it hum, because the many voices – the laughter of kids and the quarrelling of women and the blaring of generators or grinders – merge into an almost fluid music. Sabon Gari leaves laughter bubbling in your throat, but it also gives you a punch in the face.

The many streets of Sabon Gari are interlinked, not just by the major roads plied by cars and okadas, but by many lungus. You can know a newcomer to Sabon Gari when you walk through a lungu, because he will cover his nose with his hands or with a hankie:  the place smells like shit.  In fact, there are many shits on the grasses in those lungus – sometimes you will find someone squatted beside a gutter, his black buttocks glistening under the sun, shitting. Once I was on my way to church, all dressed up, smelling like my mother – I had borrowed her perfume while she was not looking – and I decided to beat time by passing through a lungu, only to be rewarded  with a bucket-load of dirty water. I did not stand to hurl insults at the faceless tenant whose upstairs house had the lungu as a backyard, the way I had seen a man do one day when someone threw down pampers on him. I have seen junkies sleep in these lungus.

At night, people from Bompai and Badawa, and from all the quarters outside Sabon Gari troop into Sabon Gari. On most streets, these people pack themselves in motels and beer parlours, playing loud music and smooching in dark corners. Because there are no bars and brothels outside Sabon Gari – Kano is an Islamic state – every okada driver who wants to drink Star and sleep with a prostitute comes to Sabon Gari, so that at night, Sabon Gari resembles a Hausa dance club.

The flies in Sabon Gari come in droves with sunrise. They perch on your hands, on your head, everywhere – they even want to kiss you. Some people say that it is because of the Yoruba people who soak dirty clothes in basins for weeks, even months, and who empty rotten beans on the streets. When someone messes up the toilet, the next suspect is Iya Iyabo or Iya Adekunle. If you don’t have a Yoruba neighbour, you accuse a Bendel person.

But there are very few flies in Nomansland. My friends who live there say that it is not in Sabon Gari, that it is No Man’s Land. I think Sabon Gari is No Man’s Land: you can learn a dozens of Nigerian languages in Sabon Gari  if you want to.

Written by Arinze Ifeakandu slums-1

Leave a comment


  1. chika

     /  October 2, 2013

    Yuck! Almost threw up. Nice write-up

  2. Tosin

     /  October 2, 2013

    I luv u eeeeee(olamide’s voice)….well written….

  3. Edeeth

     /  October 2, 2013

    Sabon gari ke nan!! The igbo community there is LARGE!!

  4. CeeJee

     /  October 2, 2013

    *wipes tears off my eyes* Nostalgic. I missed Sabon Gari. One place so close to my heart. Great story.

  5. maryam

     /  October 2, 2013

    i can hear Arinze reading this out loud, Uche why don’t you post your workshop stuff up here?

  6. This is gross exaggeration. Hyperbole is a legal device in literature but this isnt hyperbole. Again, your mentions of ethnicity is almost debased.

  7. abikoye

     /  October 2, 2013

    Best established slum in Kano


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