Finally it’s our turn to queue in front of the dogonyaro tree. The men did last week.

“Father’s name?” The Registration Man asks.

“Aliyu,” I say.

He frowns like it’s my fault he asked the wrong question. He ought to have asked for my husband’s name.

He asks the correct question.

I think: should I tell him my husband’s father’s name or the name of my husband’s father’s father? What concerns my life-history with election? My husband’s brother says we register to vote so the election will not be stolen.

“This election will be with computer, no paper, ba paper,” he says.

I tell the man: Dan-juma is my husband’s father’s name. Then he asks for my husband’s own name. I am tired: the ground is hot and I come from the farm. This man should ask quick questions and do my fingering. Will election put slippers on my leg? The last election: after queuing for six hours to vote, Senata brought borehole that we have to press and pull, press and pull for water to come out, water with shining oil that tastes like batteries. This election I will vote Alhaji Bala. He says there will be chanji. Everything will change: fertilizer will be plenty, electricity will come from the sun and our children will have free school. I asked: free school? Will I still buy books? Sew uniforms? Pay exam levies? What is free about the school? They say I will not contribute for Teacher’s salary. Toh!

“Age?” he asks.

“I donno,” I answer him.

He asks: was I born before free-Nigeria or after free-Nigeria? I tell him: I did not know Nigeria was not free before and is now free. They say election will be free and fair. I was already married when they first said it.

He smiles.

He asks: who was Emir of Daura when I was born? I tell him, and he writes something on the computer.

What month was I born, he wants to know.

“See problem,” I say.

Ba problem,” he says.

He asks: was I born before, or after, or in the month of Ramadan?

That is a very hard question, I say. But I think, and I answer him.

He asks: do I have wire?

I ask him: who does he want me to call? All my family and friends live in this Muduri Village and few in Daura Town.

He asks: what do I do for living?

I tell him: I’m a mother of mothers and former wife. He wants to know my work, but he should know it’s the men that show off their work on voting-card.

He writes something.

He snaps my foto. He tells me not to smile and not to pose. I think: he does not want to see my missing teeth.

He collects my hand and puts it on the fingering-machine. He takes my thumb. He press and press. He does it again and again. He checks my hand and says: ba prints, ba fingering.

I tell him: my hands may be old but they pound millet this morning. They make tuwo for afternoon-food. They bury husband and three babies. They take care of husband’s father and children’s children. They must have prints.

Ba prints,” he says. He says no fingering for me. He says he will do me special—the registration for people with no hands.

Ba special,” I say.

I lick my fingers and tell him to try again. He tries it and yowa! My finger show on the computer!

We smile.

He does fingering for all my fingers.

He says I wait for my voting-card.

He gives me my voting-card.

I ask: chikena?

He says chikena—that’s all.




Image by Anuradha Sengupta via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - AmatesiroThe short stories, essays, reviews, journalism and poetry of Amatesiro Dore has been published and forthcoming in Kwani?, Farafina, Chimurenga, Vanguard Newspaper, Brittle Paper, Bakwa Magazine, Kalahari Review, Ofi Press, Omenana, The ScoopNG, YNaija and Expound Magazine.


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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “Chanji | by Amatesiro Dore | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Toke.J 2016/02/15 at 6:37 am #

    Election period; the only time dead hope in a better life is resurrected by sweet campaigns.
    Nice one!

  2. Frances Ogamba 2016/07/26 at 10:07 am #

    Wow! Awesome!

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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