Faith AdieleUSAWriting2004
UNESCO-Aschberg Fellow



May 1989

At 2:00 AM on Wednesday, 3 secret service agents sneak into the main men’s hostel of the University of Nigeria & upend a large, metal bucket over the head of the leader of the students as he sleeps. “Help! Help!” he shouts upon waking to the darkness of his iron mask. Thus alerted, his roommates spring up & dart out the door, zigzagging so that the agents can’t catch them. “They kidnap me with my own bucket—o!” The leader of the students, whose hands are now lashed together behind his back, bangs the bucket against the bedroom wall, beating out a tinny tattoo until the agents are finally able to subdue him.



All the university students sleeping 4 & 6 & 8 to a room, all the students squatting the night in classrooms & common areas, all the students who traded the previous evening’s supper for a corner to curl into, their heads nestled on cracked vinyl book bags, have been expecting something like this. They leap up, instantly awake & fully clothed in their snowy white dress shirts & dark trousers, & begin tossing anything that might be university property out the windows. They tear along the open corridors, waving electric torches in the thick darkness. They shove fists knotted in handkerchiefs through the glass louvered windows. They hurl the light bulbs from dusty fixtures to the floor, where they shatter against the cement with soft pings like tiny cries, ak-ak-ak.

23 November 1964

Warmest greetings to you from Nigeria! I arrived here in Lagos on Thursday, 19 November. Boy, Lagos is blazingly hot! The traffic jams, the swift changes, the milling crowd & the excessive heat—all this makes Lagos quite an exciting place. Indeed, this is the heart of Nigeria & one can really get “swallowed up”. In a few days the Nigerian Parliament will be dissolved. Politicians are busy with their campaigns for the coming federal elections. The pace is quick, upsetting & dangerous, as each political party & its supporters are hard put to big fights. One gets the impression that something is boiling & will soon boil over! However, the daily work & life still go on. It is indeed an exciting place to be! In March 1989, 25 years after my father’s return home to Nigeria following his own 13-year absence, I arrive in the country for the first time. Like my father, I am optimistic, armed with little: a research fellowship, the names of people to stay with, a binder of letters he wrote to my mother & me back in America when I was a child. I am twenty-six.