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who Would

Ibeh Leonard Chukwuebuka 

Ibeh Leonard Chukwuebuka was born in Nigeria in 2000.

His two oustanding shortstories, "The Power of a Rain in January", and "Like
Walls Crumbling
have been published by Tuck Magazine.

He sites Buchi
Emetcheta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as his models. According to
him, "'Second Class Citizen', and 'Purple Hibiscus', by two remarkable
African women I respect so much irked a desire in me, made me see the
need to pen down my thoughts". He has been described as 'a writer to watch out for'.

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"Shut up!” Zainabu scowled, almost reaching out to slap Aisha, her
daughter. "If I hear you utter such abomination again, I'll deal with
you. Stupid girl!”
The threat did register, as Aisha promptly shut her mouth up, and
instead, concentrated on drawing patterns on the damp floor with her


Zainabu exhaled loudly before she continued in a lower, calmer
tone. "Aisha, it's simply the way things are done. It was done in my
grandmother's time, my mother's time and my time. It should be done in
your time, and your daughter's time, and your grand-daughter's time".


Aisha murmured a quiet "Allah forbid it" under her breath.
Zainabu paused. "What did you just say?”
Aisha was startled. "Nothing".
"For the sake of your face, I really hope you said nothing".

Another light pause.

"Alhaji Mustapha is a good man..."
"But he's a widower!".
"And so? What if he's a widower? Is that a disease?".
"He's old enough to be my father". Aisha protested.
"In that case, he's very young. Look at Fatima, you are three times
older than her! But look at her husband Alhaji Kazeem, one of the
oldest men in our community, and she's living happily. That is the
perfect example of a girl who obeys her parents! A girl of virtue who
deserves to be called a daughter".


Aisha looked at her mother long before turning and biting down on her lips

softly in order to stifle the rage in her. How would mother know? She was only human,
an outsider like the others; sublime people who believed
and judged from what they saw. How would mother know that Fatima had
attempted suicide twice but had been rescued? How would mother know
that Fatima wept endlessly in private, bemoaning her cruel fate,
cursing her 'ancestor' of a husband?


 How would mother know that the
smile and laughter that always lit up Fatima's face was just a pattern
she adopted in public? A smile and laughter so false and so incomplete
that the mere flash of the smile irked something inside of Aisha.
Once, she had asked Fatima. "How come you allowed yourself to be
forced to settle down with that ancestor you call a husband? And you
smile so brightly in public as though you are comfortable with it".

Fatima paused, stunned for a while by the statement. Then she
turned and walked towards the window.


"Aisha, you won't understand".
"Yes. You're right. I don't understand. I don't understand why you
put up such a false appearance. How come you lie to yourself? You are
not happy, and yet you force yourself to be. It's so absurd...”
"Of course...I don't even know what is absurd anymore. All I know is
that I feel myself sinking deep into something that pins me down, and
prevents me from propping myself up. I am supposed to cry and fight my
fate, right? And then, what does the world tag me as? A stubborn girl,

a useless girl, a failure, a disgrace. And then what happens to my mother?

An unplanned heart attack".


She paused to catch her breath.

"The world expects this from me. I am not the first, and I, definitely
will not be the last. I will not let the world down, Aisha".
"Even at the expense of your happiness?".
"It's the world ahead of me Aisha".
"I don't understand all this Fatima".
"Yes. Don't even try to understand, because you never would. It's
simply the way things are done".
"It's unfair".
"It's unfair". Fatima repeated, smiling wistfully. "It's a norm.
No woman will ever change it".


In her voice, Aisha could
decipher a finality, hopelessness. Fatima had given up hope. Fatima
would now sit quietly and helplessly watch the world toss her about
anyhow it pleased. The thought of it alone filled Aisha with an aching

Now, Zainabu watched her face closely, as though searching for
signs of assents. "Aisha. What are you thinking?”
Aisha sighed. There was so much she wanted to tell her
mother. But when she opened her mouth, the words that eased out were
"Mother, I won't marry Mustapha".

The silence that followed was tense, mild, fragile, so many
unsaid things held in the air. Zainabu was stunned. She could
sense in the firmness of Aisha's tone a finality.


It reminded her of
Aisha's birth, when the fragile looking midwife had held Aisha's little
hand for long and told Zainabu "She will be different". Zainabu hadn't
fully gotten the meaning, didn't permit herself to think through it.

"’s the way things are done. You can't change it".
"I will, mother". She said, and even Zainabu believed her. Aisha
would. Aisha was the girl to create a way where there was no way. She
was the girl who would attempt the impossible, who would go to any
length just to make sure there was a difference, another pattern.

She was the girl who would not allow nature to intimidate or subdue her.
She would run away if she must, but would always return to fight. She
was the one who did not believe in impossibility.

She was the girl who


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