Come Back | Tega Oghenechovwen

Come back Tega Oghenechovwen Agbowo Art African Literary Art

(For kindred spirits who waved goodnight at dawn)


I tune in from old Warri because Nimisire is on air. She has just finished leading one of her marches in Ibadan. “So what do you want?” the lady presenter asks her. Silence. I lean over my radio. More silence. Nimisire says the most touching words ever: “We don’t want more people dying.” I weep inward. I tune out.


A call peels sleep from my body. “Did I wake you?” The caller’s voice is shaky, fruity and feisty. Before I answer, the caller informs, “It’s Nimisire.”

Nimisire is a big conglomerate of a young woman. Nimisire can host a world cup with her left hand. She’s a movement person. A movement person doesn’t just call. Why is Nimisire calling? What’s happening? What news have I been sleeping on? I take in the deep rhythm of her breath. It’s poised to give life, and give it abundantly. 

“I need a contact in Nsukka,” she says in a rush, “Please, it’s an emergency.” Okay! Click! End of call.

I dig into my Infinix phone, all the while thinking of Nsukka. The first person I call in Nsukka isn’t available. “I travelled to Owerri to cool off,” the person says. Who else is in Nsukka? Who can help Nimisire? I remember Chukwuemeka. Aha! Chukwuemeka is in Nsukka. I fly to Facebook to extract Chukwuemeka’s phone number. I land on his Facebook account. Chukwuemeka will help Nimisire, I assure myself. Chukwuemeka’s page is there but… my God! Chukwuemeka is no more. A suicide note shakes his wall, breaks his wall, even eats his wall. I gulp in balls of air. I scream them out. 


I am at my reading table. I stumble on Ademola’s tweet: “May death find us fully alive!”

I kill my reading lamp. I think of the tweet. Death… fully alive?


This is how I feel working this piece: Killed. Yet fully alive.


My neighbour has been fighting invisible hands. He tells someone on the phone that he could be diminished, smashed like a wingless fly because of his sexuality.

Sometimes, his eyes glitter with held back tears when he swings open his door, with Tu Pac asking from the boom box in his stuffy room if life is worth living or should he blast himself?

Sometimes, he becomes ghostlike and walks around the hostel, hands clasped at his back, glittering eyes pushing against the darkening skies, watching Jah.

One evening, my neighbour tells our old gateman he is going on an evening walk. He doesn’t come back.

I like to think that he walked until he found a secret runway, and he ripped off his shoes, stripped off his clothes, scratched at his hands until they turned to golden wings. And, flapping the golden wings, there was a golden wind.


You just never know, especially when there is very little cause for optimism nowadays.


We were kids in Aka Avenue, jumping and jiving to Brenda Fassie’s ‘Vuli Ndlela’ when Craig David broke our swing, all the way from Southampton. We were strangely drawn to his ‘Walking Away’. We shoved it to the floor, swallowed it head, shoulders, knees, and toes. We regurgitated it. 

We were kids yet we wanted to walk away from religious madness, from screams pinned to our ears, from hateful eyes crashing on our small bodies, from daymares that could animate the dead, from everything. We just wanted to walk away.


#depression #suicide #ErnestHemingway #SylviaPlath #KabeloSelloDuiker #GerardDeNerval #VirginiaWoolf #RomainGary #PhaswaneMpe #IngridJonker# DavidFosterWallace #EliseCowen #KarelSchoeman #ChukwuemekaAkachi #etcetera #movedon #walkedaway.

Flow gently kindred spirits.

Flow gently great responders of Art.

Flow gently. Love and Light!

Tell me all about it when you come back.


Favourite line ever: “O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again”—Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.


Flood visits my friend’s brother, flushes his job into a manhole, washes his wife into another man’s house. Flood mangles my friend’s brother’s soul.

“Before the sun woke up,” my friend says to me with flooded eyes, “he held his gun and hunted himself down. They will cane his body and fling him into the forest. They will leave him for pigs. My own brother, pigs.”


“Sometimes love comes around and it knocks you down…” Keri Hilson sings into this starless Eto-baba night.


Suicide: A stand-up button?


#shame #stupid #extremelystupid #weak #selfish #wicked #biglosers #coward #shame #shame #hotshame

Why do people judge what they don’t understand? People don’t sit in front of grand pianos to suck into their bodies the silent tunes of death.


Advice to world people: we need to start shaming the culture of shaming.


I am an Otondo at the NYSC Orientation camp in Wannune. It’s sugar night for Otondos. I am with Amaka at the back of a dirty dim hall. No be small thing for here. The deejay is slamming loud jams like say no tomorrow. The hall turns on its head when he drops John Legend. All the Otondos go gaga. They scream that their heads are ‘under water’ but they are breathing fine.

“I don’t like this song,” I tell Amaka.

“You’re crazy for hating on a love song,” Amaka says, burning her White London.

“I picture drowning people trying to sound dry, trying to be at their best behaviour, trying to—”

“Jeez! It’s just a love song,” Amaka replies, smoke pouring from her mouth and mixing with the music. “Besides, that’s what society wants,” she adds. “Who cares anyway?”

“Who is society?” I ask her. “Nonsense love song.”

“Phew! This crazy boy,” Amaka says, prodding to my chest, “why so sour, eh?” She slips away. Sugar night soars without me.


“No one cares if you’re happy,” Jon Bellion sings, “just as long as you claim it, oh!”


Dark atmospheres squeeze my throat. Someone says, “Brighten up, bro! Where are your balls? Breathe. Smile. Bye.”

Far from asking just how I am, Ifeoma asks how I truly am until I divulge my stomach. Until I tell her my mind is hungry for a new consciousness. Until I tell her I am not breathing fine, that I am trying to survive some savage choppy water. Until she makes me really smile.

 Ifeoma, I love you. You give me a century and a day.


Advice to world people: we need to sit and start having healing conversations.


We are in a yellow and green keke waddling up the hills of Bauchi Ring Road. The place is dark, choking, somewhat post-war. An angelic 4matic Benz overtakes us. In its wake, it leaves cool mountain air, ambition, and a rainbow. The keke rider stops the keke, says a rapid prayer in Arabic, turns to us and asks, “Una feel dat moto ne?”

Forty minutes on, we meet the same Benz off a twisted road in Naraguta Village. It’s belly-up, smashed, no longer angelic. People are gathered around what is left of it, wailing, elegising, gasping. A shirtless man is hacking the driver’s door with an enormous axe.

That’s what it is—depression. An automobile, custom jobbed, with black-tinted glasses. You don’t know who is in. You stop and twist your bones to worship it. You so love it. You so want to own it. It keeps going until it crashes and burns before your very eyes, with whoever is in. That’s what it is.


#Ukiri #I_seek_safe_passage.


“Suicidal thoughts are purely demonic,” Preacherman shouts. My fists petrify. “Depression is nothing but a demon from the bottomless pit,” his voice becomes deafening, depressing even. My ears beg to shut down. “We don’t respond to it by medical means, hallelujah! We take authority over the demon. We cast it out. Hallelujah, somebody!”

I want to scream at Preacherman to keep quiet. I want to scream that his demon gist is not working and that he should be schooled on mental health. I want to scream that it’s possible to talk about a thing, anything, without religion or ojuju tightly frayed along the edges. I want to scream at Preacherman, same as the thick madam with sleepy eyes by my left. Same as the big oga chewing his dry lips by my right. Same as everyone else in Preacherman’s auditorium. But when we open our mouths, we scream hallelujah and wave hands.


If you could communicate with people who killed themselves, what would you say? Hello from the other side?


Complications from mass poverty, mass joblessness, sexual and domestic violence, political upheavals, great expectations, patriarchy, deprivation, violations of human rights, corruption, failure of leadership, Nigeria—recursive steps backward.

Fela Kuti says we shuffer and shmile. But right here, right about now, some of us shuffer and shmile more than others because we are Queer.


You cannot hound people into your revelation of what their life should be.

Cc: Reno Omokri.


I am connected to you. You are not a small thing to me. You are not alone. An atom of creativity in you makes you my brother, makes you my sister. If you pour sweat and blood on words when you die, a part of me falls to the ground and dies too.


“We don’t want more people dying.”


Tega Oghenechovwen Agbowo Art African literary art Tega Oghenechovwen is an easy motion writer. He has works with the Rumpus, Litro Magazine, Black Sun Lit, AFREADA and elsewhere. He enjoys traveling in long creaky buses and looking at vintage pictures. He tweets @tega_chovwen.

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