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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim



Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Ibrahim is the author of The Quest for Nina, his first novel. He is also the winner of the BBC African Performance Playwriting Competition and the Amatu Braide prize for Prose. His poems and short fictions have been published locally and internationally.



Sabo Dada died exactly thirty-six hours and fourteen minutes after his wedding. He was run over by a cyclist as he made to cross the street. He had gone out to get a phone card to call and thank those who had played a part in his wedding. He died instantly.

Forty minutes later, Barira, Sabo Dada’s older sister, breezed into his house. His bride, who had just been widowed, was on the sofa, flanked by some early sympathizers. She was yet to grasp the bitter reality of losing a husband she had for only a few hours.

“Did he sleep with you?” Barira asked, standing over the widow.

Sadiya did not understand. She looked up through tear-fogged eyes.

“Did he sleep with you, I said,” Barira repeated. “Did he make love to you? Did he consummate the union?”

Sadiya still did not understand. She looked at her sister-in-law, her serious face that had no hint of humour. That was when she noticed the stranger that had come in with Barira. He was a small-framed man, poised studiously with a camcorder to his eye. A little red light blinked on the small device that he kept pointed at her face. She was even more befuddled. Then she started thinking the whole thing was a joke; the death, this camcorder, everything — a very bad joke, but a joke nonetheless.

But Barira was in no joking mood. She roughly pulled the lens of the camera to her face and spoke candidly into it.

“Let this be on record: my late brother, God rest his soul, has had no carnal knowledge of this woman. He did not consummate his marriage to her before…” suddenly, she broke down and wept bitterly, stunning her audience the more. The miniature cameraman with his miniature recorder bent over her, focusing the lens on her bowed head.

Rakiya was disgusted. She was Sabo Dada’s maternal aunt who lived nearby. She was one of the first sympathizers to come by. She met some other women who had come as soon as they could. The widow would need all the comfort she could get, especially so soon after the tragedy. But this show by Barira was not what she envisaged.

“What on earth are you doing?” she asked.

Barira stopped crying as suddenly as she had begun. She rose to her feet and used the corner of her wrapper to wipe the tears from her eyes. “Aunty, I know what I am doing,” she said.

“What are you doing?” Rakiya asked again.

“Establishing the fact that Sabo did not consummate his marriage with her,” Barira replied. “It should be on record.”

“You impetuous bastard!” Rakiya stormed to her feet. “Your brother has just died and the first thing you could think of…”

“Aunty, the sooner the better,” Barira cut in. “Before we start hearing stories of a child coming from somewhere.”

Rakiya slapped her. It was swift and stinging. The room fell into a startling silence. She then turned to the cameraman and said, “Turn off that thing and leave this place, dan iska.

Haba! I’m just doing my job,” he said, stepping back nonetheless.

“Don’t go anywhere,” Barira ordered resolutely. “We haven’t finished yet.”

The cameraman repositioned himself and panned the room, halting briefly on each piece of furniture and fitment. Most of them were new, unused — some were still wrapped up. His lens rested on the tearful and baffled face of the widow and moved on to Rakiya. He zoomed in on her heaving chest and then her unbelieving face.

She charged at him and grabbed the camera. The cameraman held on firmly. He had spent a fortune acquiring the device and he knew she would smash it. Where would he get the money to buy another one, he thought. That, alone, made him hold on as resolutely as he could. They tussled fiercely. She was stronger and was triumphing but he still would not let go. Then she started biting and clawing dementedly.

Wayo! Wayo!” he wailed.

Barira jumped in on the fray, wrestling her aunt to save her precious confession.

Kai! Kai! What’s this? God! What’s this?” thundered Bala. He was a close friend of the deceased. He had come in with two others to see how the widow was coping. He was so shocked he could not move at first. Then he moved in and tried to put himself between the warring parties. Rakiya, seeing that she could lose hold of the camera, sank her teeth into the cameraman’s upper arm. He screamed and Barira held her aunt by the waist, pulling her away. With the help of Bala and the others, they rescued the cameraman and his camera.

Wallahi! I’ll kill you,” Rakiya swore at the cameraman. She was still bent on getting her hands on the camera and she had to be restrained.

The little man had fled to the door, where he stood and nursed his wounds.

“For God’s sake, somebody just died!” Bala shouted.

Rakiya looked down at the blue rug that still gave off the smell of newness. “What’s wrong with Sadiya?” one of the men asked.

Sadiya, forgotten in the excitement of the fight, had slumped to the floor. The sympathizers rushed to her. Rakiya tended to her, dabbing her forehead with a handkerchief.

Barira moved to confer with her battered cameraman. The cameraman nodded and started recording again. He focused on each item of value in the room. Everything was new and the smell of newness overpowered even the perfume and the air freshener. Having done that, he turned his lens on the men who were now trying to get Sadiya to the hospital. That was when Rakiya remembered him. She made to chase him again, but he was alert and dodged. She gave chase but he beat her to the door. Then she helped carry out Sadiya.

The other women rushed to the door, lamenting, supplicating and slapping their palms alternately. When the party departed to the hospital, they returned and stood in the middle of the living room.

Barira eyed them and hissed loudly. Suddenly, she burst into tears and wailed. It was so sudden the women were stunned. No one understood what she was crying about. She wept so bitterly and left, still holding the corner of her wrapper to her tearful eyes.


Sabo Dada was buried six hours afterwards. He was buried by those that only hours earlier, had been celebrating his wedding. His father was called to throw the first handful of dirt over the sealed grave. The old man did so, and then crumpled, weeping bitterly.

The old man had loved his son from the first day he was born. He never stopped loving him even when he was scrounging for a living as an engine oil peddler by the road side. Then the boy had made a stunning decision. He wanted to go back to school. Though the old man was glad, he had no means to sponsor him. But his son did not give up. He sponsored himself. He eventually got a job in one of the telecom companies and soon built himself a house. He bought a brand new car that was still parked in the garage of his house. The old man loved his son more when the son took most of the responsibility of the entire family off his shoulders and put a decent face on the old family house. But for most people, Sabo Dada would be remembered as the man who died hours after his wedding.

There were moments when silence was more eloquent than poetry. Sabo Dada’s mourning period was one of such moments. Sympathizers only held the hands of his grieving family and friends and bowed their heads. Days after the prescribed three days of mourning, more sympathizers still came to hold hands and bow their heads.

It was on one of such days that Barira lay on the bed with a novel in her hand. Her mother, Hajiya, was on a plush blue prayer rug, counting the beads of her tasbaha with muttered supplications.

“Must there be a taqbah?” Barira asked suddenly. She simply could not understand why the widow had to be accommodated for four months and ten days before the deceased’s property could be disposed of.

“And why mustn’t there be?” Her mother asked

“You see, Hajiya, since the objective of the taqbah is to allow for the manifestation of any child and the shedding of any blood ties…well, he didn’t consummate his…”

“Keep quiet, heartless child! All you think of is the inheritance. Have you prayed for your brother’s poor soul?”

“Why should I? Is he not in heaven already?” Barira shot back. Her mother was so stunned that she only gaped in shock. 'After all,' Barira continued, “is it not said that those who are murdered would go directly to heaven?”

“What are you talking about?” Hajiya asked.

“He was fine before he married her. She killed him.”

Her mother could take no more. She struck out with the tasbaha. It whooshed angrily through the air and whipped Barira’s back. The string snapped on impact and the decorated beads scattered across the room. Barira jumped out of the bed. When she got to the door, she stopped and rubbed her stung back.

“You are so heartless, that’s why no one has come to marry you!” Hajiya said.

Barira flung her novel at her mother. Hajiya ducked and the thick book landed clumsily on the bed, among some of the scattered beads of the tasbaha.




Sadiya sat on her tasselled prayer rug and leaned against the wall. Her long, mustard-coloured hijab covered her entire body and limbs. Her face was pale and her lips moved in silent prayers.

Her two sisters, Jamila and Zainab, sat on the sofa. They had moved in to keep her company through the duration of her taqbah. Jamila yawned and stretched on the sofa. Facing them and facing the prayerful widow was Barira. She had gone to the kitchen and helped herself to some steamed rice, taking care to pick out the choice pieces of meat from the stew. Standing guard on both sides of the loaded plate of rice were two bottles of soft drinks. There was also a packet of juice by the side. She smacked her lips as she ate.

Sadiya prayed. She prayed for the man who dated her for three years, the man who had been her husband for thirty-six hours, the man who had never known her as a man should know his wife. He had wanted to make love to her on their first and only night, but she had lied to him. She had told him she was having her monthlies. And being a gentleman, he had groaned in disappointment and rolled off her. He had kissed her lips and lay besides her, breathing heavily until he fell asleep.




He had come close though. Once, before their wedding, he had kissed and caressed her until she was feverish. His fingers were magic, roaming her body until she was panting and her body was quivering under his touch. She had not wanted to utter a word because her voice would have betrayed how much she wanted him to take her. But when his adventurous fingers reached beneath her wrapper, gently pulling at her pant, she held his hand.

“No,” he had groaned.

“Not like this,” she had breathed with effort. “Not here. There will be time.” She had hated herself for saying those words but it was the right thing to do. She had half-hoped he would disregard them. His hands slackened and he collapsed on her, kissing her between her naked breasts. He laid his head on her heaving bosom.

“I am sorry,” he said, pulling up her dress to cover her body. “There will be time. I’m sorry.”

Now, she wished she had let him, she wished he was not dead; she wished he was lying on her bosom now, having made love to her.

“Is that lipstick on your lips?” Barira’s voice broke into her reminiscenes. “Are you supposed to wear make-up during taqbah?”

“She is not wearing make-up,” Jamila answered curtly.

Barira eyed the sisters and tore at the chicken. “But she plaited her hair,” she observed, her mouth full.

“And what is wrong with that?” Zainab countered.

“Who is she making herself up for? She is supposed to be sombre. Or are you so anxious to get another husband so soon after my brother?”

The sisters kept quiet.

“You know, some women make a living out of marrying and killing their husbands to inherit their fortune,” Barira said.

“Did you want to marry your brother?” Jamila asked.

“God forbid!”

“Then what is your problem?”

“You people can’t come and make away with my brother’s hard-earned fortune,” Barira said. She chewed nosily, adding as an afterthought, “His car is still new.”

“Go and marry your own husband,” Zainab snapped.

“That’s enough,” Sadiya said. Tears streamed from her eyes. The girls all kept quiet. Barira eyed the sisters and put a bottle of soft drink to her lips. Jamila glared at her as she drank.



As Sadiya’s taqbah drew to an end, Barira’s frustration grew. She had learnt that the widow’s percentage of Sabo Dada’s fortune would not be affected by the fact that the deceased did not consummate his union with her. She was still entitled to 50%. The other 50% would be split between his parents. Barira, as his sister, was entitled to nothing since both her parents were alive.

In the last three days of the taqbah, Barira moved into Sabo Dada’s house.

“I know you will start sneaking some valuables out of the house before the inheritance is sorted out,” she explained to Sadiya. The widow said nothing.

On the final day of the taqbah, friends and relatives of the deceased and the widow gathered to usher Sadiya out of her days of grieving. They plaited her hair and decorated her with henna. For the first time since Sabo Dada died, she applied make-up and was encouraged to put on a fancy dress. They advised her to be patient and have the courage to face the future. Finally, they offered prayers for Sabo Dada’s soul and left.

His immediate family agreed to convene the following morning to settle the issue of the deceased’s possessions so that Sadiya could start her life over again. Barira insisted on staying. 'To keep an eye on things,' she said.

Sadiya explained to her sisters that she would be fine and asked them to return to their parent’s. They did not understand, but she insisted. They packed their things in a bag and made to leave.

“I knew it!” Barira exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew your plans right from the start. You wanted to sneak things out!

“God, you are such a witch!” Jamila cried.

“I have every single trinket that belonged to my brother on tape. I have recorded everything.”

“Don’t say anything, just leave.” Sadiya implored her sisters.

“Not until I search that bag,” Barira declared.

“Try it!” Zainab said combatively, holding tight to the bag. Sadiya seized the bag and threw it at Barira’s feet. She bent down and rummaged through the contents – clothes, underwear, packs of sanitary pads, sponges and a feminine wristwatch. She roughly shoved the things back in the bag.

Oya, you can go. You have eaten enough of my brother’s food anyway,” she said. Then suddenly, she started crying bitterly. Jamila and Zainab hissed, picked up their bag and left. Sadiya watched them through the curtain.

That night, while Barira slept, Sadiya rose and locked all the doors and windows. She then drenched the furniture and curtains with fuel from the generator and set the house ablaze.

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