BOOK REVIEW: A READING OF KHADIJAH JAGABA’S ‘MY VIRGIN EYES’Editor | April 12, 2018 | 39 | Book Review , Reflections , The Wonder of Books
Khadijah Sa’eed Jagaba (pictured below) has made a remarkable attempt at expressing her imagination on a surface. With six beautiful short stories that eventually culminated into a book, ‘My Virgin Eyes’ (also pictured below), published in February 2017 by Polasphere Books, we may well say that Khadijah has finally joined the clique of female writers from Northern Nigeria. At seventeen years of age, she has so much prospects in the years ahead.
About her book ‘My Virgin Eyes’, the titles inside include; ‘The Contract’, ‘The King’s Pronouncement’, ‘Just Deserts’, ‘Perfect Imperfection’, ‘Sweet Façade Bitter Taste’, and the lead story from which the title of the book was derived, ‘My Virgin Eyes’.
In ‘The Contract’, the story of Laraba is told by a third person voice. The education of Laraba was sponsored by Haruna under the tacit and unwritten understanding that after the completion of her secondary school she would marry him. Unfortunately, Laraba refused to marry him.
“Look at me. Do I look like i want to get married now? I want to further my education and get a job in the city. I wish to marry someone as educated as I am, maybe a doctor or an engineer. Do you not realise that you are only a poor farmer? I am not for people like you.”
In this short story, Khadijah creatively brings to surface a challenge being faced by many girls in Northern Nigeria today. Where in the end most of them are forced to marry elderly men they don’t like, in Khadijah’s story “…Laraba ran to her grandfather’s house and was protected. The old man forbade forced marriages.”
However, at the end of the story, when all of Haruna’s efforts at getting the hands of Laraba in marriage failed, he attempted to rape her.
“His fingers were already on her wrapper and he yanked hard at it. It did not come undone. Laraba always tied her wrapper in a knot behind her…he pulled at the wrapper and it ripped.”
However, this attempt at rape did not end well, as Laraba was able to defend herself.
“…in a split second she raised the metal rod high in the air and brought it down hard on her attacker’s head….the blood came fast and rapid, drenching his white kaftan.”
And the story ended with a violent triumph of Laraba
“She turned once to look at the man lying still on the ground, then took at her heels.”
We were not told whether Laraba was a virgin or not, but it could be easily deduced that the despicable act Haruna attempted was alien to her virgin eyes. Although he was carried away by an obsession and lust.
Then the story of Chidallu is told in ‘The King’s Pronouncement’. Chidallu is a young girl who unfortunately became a thief in the village. And to stop her from stealing, it was prescribed by the village oracle that she must be married to him against her will.
Fortunately, on the day Chidallu was billed to be married off to the the oracle, a visitor came and interrupted the proceedings to reveal that the oracle had bewitched Chidallu and made her to be stealing so that he could marry her. The visitor demanded that the oracle swore before the king, which he did.
“If what I have said about the gods interpretation of marrying a maiden is anyway my thought then may Amadioha, the great god of our land cause something terrible to happen to me.”
However, after this declaration, the oracle became insane. And he was sentenced to be stoned to death. While the king apologised to Chidallu.
While in ‘Just Deserts’, a story is told of Uncle Makama, a geography teacher who flogs his students excessively and unnecessarily.
“When Uncle Makama flogged, he used all his strength and rage and some students have been known to faint.”
In spite of complaints by students and their parents, the school principal failed to either caution or restrain him. “We always wondered why the principal tolerated his excesses until the day we found out that he was the brother to the principal’s wife.”
Unfortunately, the day came when Uncle Makama flogged Amina. Amina is said to have ‘bori’ or jinns.
“…Amina jumped to her feet…dragged the long black belt from Uncle Makama’s hand…She raised her hand high and brought down the cane on his head.”
Amina beat up Uncle Makama to the extent that he had to be hospitalised.
“…that was the last time Uncle Makama flogged someone in the school.”
‘Perfect Imperfection’ narrates the story of ‘Miracle’, a rude girl who is always glued to her smartphone chatting with a stranger whom she has fallen in love with.
Her father is not at home most of the time, and she is left with her mother.
Then ‘Miracle’ and her WhatsApp guy fixed a date to meet. On reaching the rendezvous, she discovered that she has been chatting with her father all this while.
“My father and I would have explanations to make when we both get home.”
Then comes ‘Sweet Façade Bitter Taste’ which is a first person story of Desmond, a secondary school student who joined a cult group in order to achieve academic excellence.
However, his failure to provide his loved one for sacrifice led the cult group to torment him on his sick bed.
“You have just tomorrow…to present a soul, or else your ailment will remain a mystery to the doctors…”
In the end Desmond had no option but to sneak out of the clinic and run to the school principal to confess being a cultist.
Then the last story in the book, and from which the title was derived, is ‘My Virgin Eyes’. Here Clara returned home to find her mum and another woman in bed.
“I lowered my gaze and caught shot of Mama Shola squeezing mummy’s nipple gently and mummy sucking from hers, the attention they paid to their sinful act made them unaware of my presence.”
From the story, we are made to understand that Clara didn’t understand what she saw. Here her virgin eyes have seen a strange sight. Here I must say that Khadijah has been quite adventurous by giving a graphic description of this scene of an act that many writers from the North often shy away from.
Clara was confused;
“But mummy prays, mummy reads her Bible; she goes to the church…”
Amidst this confusion, Janet, a friend and neighbour provided a clear picture and ramifications of what she had just witnessed.
“…it is called lesbianism. it is a very bad sin!…even worse than sex; do you know thunder can strike people who commit such act?”
This rhetorical question posed by Janet deepened Clara’s concerns and fears over her mother. However, in the end we see Clara’s mother being quite remorseful and repenting to God.
At the same time Clara responded to Janet’s invitation to watch a sex movie, thus;
“My mum is changed. And I am glad about that. I turned hurriedly on my way to learn more about sex. Off I went to the extrovert [Janet].”
Such kind of story may not be welcomed by the Northern reader, especially, for children and teen audience. But it raises a valid question on sex education and the role that parents could and should play. Here Clara’s mother might not be in good position to teach her daughter about sex education, going by the ugly act she has been caught engaged in. However, at the end of the story, it could be observed that Clara has chosen to learn more about sex from her friend and neighbour. In the end she may not get the right information, and she may end up in the same mess she caught her mother, God forbid.
Finally, I must commend the efforts of Khadijah Sa’eed Jagaba for successful weaving such intricate and intriguing stories. These stories have been primarily centred on the experiences that Nigerian teen-agers go through on daily basis. It is particularly interesting for the fact that such stories are coming from the creative imagination of a teen writer.
Now Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation, Niger State, has also done a wonderful job by bringing just a great talent and many of her likes to limelight. I am privileged to have met Khadijah and some of her colleagues from Hill-Top at the recently concluded 36th International Annual Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors held in Makurdi, Benue State. They were brought to the Convention by one of Nigeria’s leading contemporary writers, BM Dzukogi, who believes that it is high time that the young ones took the centre stage of Nigeria’s literature and art.
The culture of writing would never die as long as giant writers like BM Dzukogi continue to lower their shoulders for young ones to climb and touch the sky.
By Musa Kalim Gambo
About the Author
•Musa Kalim Gambo is a poet and sketch artist, He is also the Assistant Secretary-General of Creative Writers’ Club, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. You can Contact him via: +2348172698195
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