"But a Poet, not so straight" by Fatima Salihu

The Poet

Fatima Salihu is a writer and an activist who has been described as a hurricane in her passion and dedication to literature and Arts. In activism, her role as the Secretary, ArewaMetoo Minna branch movement contributed in domesticating the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Acts (VAPP ACTS) in the State.

A Graduate of Mathematics from Bayero University Kano, she is carving a niche for herself in Tech and has interned with the renowned Tech Company, Steamledge. 

A two-time Tedx performer, Fatima has also published a collection of poems, Sketches . 

She is a pioneer Student of the School of Politics, Policy and Governance. She's now serving under the capacity of a Capstone Mentor to Subsequent Cohorts in the School.

A one-time Fellow at Ebedi International Writers Residency, she has also moderated the Famous Hilltop Book-Chat Review. As the Deputy Editor in Chief, Literature Voices, Fatima has interviewed notable names in the literary and Art scene some of which include the Kenyan Sensation, Mbunge and the Late Biyi Bandele.

She's Presently Pursuing a scholarship with Dataquest On Data Analysis and simultaneously working on her debut Novel in Crime Fiction. 

Reach her on:

Email- salihufatima3@gmail.com
Facebook- Phateema Salihu
LinkedIn- Fatima Salihu

The Poem 

Sometimes when the dead wish to communicate,

They do so without mincing words; an epiphany 

But a Poet, not



When a poem loses its meaning to you

It does so in a provocative way, in stages

You enjoy reading it

But are engulfed with guilt afterwards

you seek light and the dead are  dead again, 

You seek terror and your anger frizzles  out,

You seek love and  your  uncle sends  you

Pictures of his gun. here, keep this, 

they might ask You for it, someday   

You shouldn’t have laughed, No perhaps,

Laughed a little, but You shouldn’t have asked 

for 20 pictures that held  his smiles,

One you thought, for each day he spent away from home

In the jungle

                     or forest

                     or whatever new name the afterlife takes shape after

For each day the war mined him away from himself

Unnoticeably… Provocatively like an idea of a poem

It shouldn’t have surprised us when the news

Eventually fell on our ears and when realization came, 

it bared us to the lies we’ve become acquainted to,

And yes he was shot

And You kept waiting for someday

Waiting for them to ask you about his gun

And return your Uncle to you

Only the dead, when they wish to communicate

Speak honest poetry

But a Poet,




The Story 

The inspiration for this poem was the death of my uncle who was posted to Maiduguri and was killed along with 7 others during an ambush by the terrorists.

I remember the day he was posted to Maiduguri, it was barely a month after my Dad's death so when he came around to offer his condolence, he pulled me aside and told me the sad news:

That he is not going back to PortHarcourt from here but rather, he's been transferred to Maiduguri and he doesn't want my mum or his other siblings (My Aunts) to know. 

He was very young, older than me with probably 5-6 years, so he was like the elder brother I never had. He joined the military at a very young age too so he wasn't married yet.

I bade him farewell and when he reached, communication with him became difficult.  He only reaches out through chats or when we are lucky, he calls when the network is strong for calls. 

On this particular day, we were on call and I asked how he was doing, as usual, he said he was doing fine. But I didn't believe him so I asked him to take plenty pictures of himself and his environment and send to me. After some days, he sent about 20 different pictures. He was smiling in all and I thought he actually looked good.

He spent about 5 months there and with time, my mum and the others were told where he was.

One day, I logged in to see just a picture from him, a picture of his gun with the caption "Help me keep this, they might ask for it someday".

I didn't probe him further maybe because he has shared more personal and disturbing details with me so i just laughed and sent a funny reply. Something along the line of him paying for storage space or so.

Anyways, on the day it happened, they were coming to town to take their Leave and come home but were ambushed and you can tell what happened afterwards. I don't know why this incidence keeps replaying in my mind but few months after his death, we were told that it was a set up by one of the Generals. He was the only one who escaped unscathed. We followed the investigation and found out he was silently relieved. Or Not.

So in this poem, I am wondering the plenty 'what ifs' I kept asking myself after everything happened. Could be nothing, could be something. I would love to hear from others who might have something similar to share. Is it human nature to question and scrutinise the last moments with people we have lost or it's just me?

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