1st February 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
My mama tells me you will not get to read this letter of mine, but she suggested I made it very brief all the same.
I wish to prove her wrong, so please write back and say you got my letter. I promise to be your pen pal if you do.
14th February, 1992.
Dear Miss King,
We got your letter and we were quite glad to read from you. We are sure this letter will make your mother eat her words and apologise to you.
We will love to be your pen pal, so do please write us again and tell us about yourself, your family and your friends, your home and your country too.
We have very few real friends ourselves, and only get to meet mostly boring people who do not know how painful it is to keep smiling everyday of the year; especially if we do not really feel like it most of the time.
We are looking forward to your next letter. We hope you will write us very soon. Do please write your name on the top left corner of the face of the envelope your letter will be in. This will help us locate and identify your letter quickly.
1st March 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
My mum is seated beside me as I write you this letter and she is beyond herself with wonder. She gave me thirty naira to buy the stamps for this letter and has promised to correct all the mistakes I make in my letters to you. She sends her regards.
I was born on 15th April, 1980; which I’m told is a Tuesday. I’m twelve years old and I’m too short for my age. I like blue, sweets, cakes, cats, bicycles, comics and I am in class five. My first name is Titi but I love being called Miss King. I have one brother, he doesn’t have many teeth now though. He lost most of them somehow. He is still only six.
Daddy and Mummy are married. Daddy is a lawyer and mummy is everything else. She drives us to school and back, cooks, washes, cleans and even does most of the talking too. My friends are many but I’ll not tell you about them. You see, I’m punishing them for not believing I’m your pen pal.
I live in Northern Nigeria. They are always burning houses here. I live in Tudun wada. They are always shouting out of loud speakers in Tudun wada. My country is very big and we have so many states, but I do not know all of them now. Daddy says I should not bother to learn the names of the new state governors because they will change them again very soon.
I am of the country’s western Yoruba tribe. Last time when there was trouble we went to stay with my grand mum in Ibadan. When you write me, please tell me about London. Is it true that the people in London do not wear wristwatches because there is a big clock in the sky? My paper is finishing and I must stop now. Please write me soon.
14th March, 1992.
Dear Miss King,
We can understand your mother’s excitement and the disbelief in your friends’ attitude. It is not always that people so different, like you and we become pen pals.
We were very interested in what you had to say about your country, your home, your family and yourself. We assure you that we are not as tall as our age either!
It is easy to notice how you made your country appear rather unpleasant. We wonder, is it really? Do you always have trouble in your country? What kind of trouble do you usually have? Are you always is some sort of danger in these times of trouble? We do love to know more.
We do love to tell you about London. London is our very big capital city. It is very old in a quite modern sort of way. It is noisy in most parts of the larger city and that is true for most times of the days of the week and all year round too. It has lots of people living in it from all parts of the world.
We do not know about people in London not wearing wristwatches because of a ‘big clock in the sky’. We do know that there is an old big clock on a tower called BEN, which can be seen (and heard) from many places in London. The people we are allowed to see always have wristwatches on, but then we suppose they always dress themselves up rather well, to meet us.
We would be delighted if you will keep on writing us. Do not forget to write your name on the top left corner of the face of the envelope that your letter will be in. It makes it much easier for us to locate and identify your letter from the hundreds we receive everyday. Our regards to all you love.
25th March 1992
Dear Mrs Queen,
Daddy bought me a new writing pad today and mum got me some more envelopes and stamps. So as you can see, I will never stop writing you until I die. I was glad to hear about London and BEN. Daddy showed me a picture of BEN. He says it also has some kind of bell. You make London sound interesting. I will love to visit it some day.
I did not wish to make my country sound so unpleasant but it is quite hard to write anything about my country without making it sound so. I know that there is always some kind of trouble everywhere else; it is human. Actually, I borrowed that last bit from my daddy.
My country is one; at least it appears to be. But even the number ‘one’ has its fractions, so my country also has its ‘factions’. These factions know they must agree, yet they do not agree always just like the fractions in the number ‘one’ don’t agree often, most of the time. I hope you understand all that numbers bit; I am not so good in arithmetic. Neither are most of the factions in my country, it would appear.
The trouble is mainly that of superiority. Each faction claims to be more important than all the others. Religion, population, tribe, politics, literacy and commerce are used as a yardstick to measure and establish the superior faction. It is a sort of social mathematics. This affects the weak oneness that we have amongst all of us and always causes lots of trouble.
At times of trouble, it is dangerous to stay on in the opposing faction’s town. They may burn down your property and kill you too, if you don’t run away. Daddy always makes sure we run away in good time when our neighbours are our current opposing faction, or there is a hint of any trouble.
My country is a beautiful place. There are many tribes and people of very different customs and religions. I think we are together because we had no choice. Daddy said YOU gave us no choice, but he didn’t sound sure. It is late and I must go to bed now. Mummy is breathing down my neck; after making me write most of her own stuffs too. Please write me soon.
1st July, 1992.
I’m Titi King’s mother. I must apologise on her behalf for her inability to reply your letters. In fact, I just discovered the last two letters and birthday card you sent her. You see, we were away in Ibadan with Titi’s grand parents. There was an ethnical and religious uprising in the town we reside in.
It started on a Sunday evening. Titi’s father and I were away, visiting friends in another part of town. Only Titi, her younger brother and our maid were left in our flat. The maid got out with Titi’s younger brother but Titi was burnt down with the flat by a mob and we lost her so painfully.
I am sure she would want you to know that you had made the last three months of her life so wonderful. Thank you so much for this and God bless you.
10th May, 1992.
Dear Mrs King,
We are so sorry.
I am so, so sorry.
“How do I tell how you feel,
Sitting on this height’s will?
Personal love trapped within,
Expectations curbing peace in.”
“I can easily say your state,
As only a child truly taste.
For love within is personal,
Our judges are then eternal.”