My name is Kalu O. Kalu, a native of Asaga Ohafia in Abia State, Nigeria. I hold a Bachelors degree in Agriculture and Economics, and an MBA in Banking and Finance. Presently, I am the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the First International Bank in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I have been a banker for over 18 years. I write poems as a hobby.

Poems by Kalu O. Kalu

Our First Day At The Beach

Kalu O. KaluJust back from the beach, at Kombo Beach area of Banjul
A normal Sunday past time in The Gambia
To us, it’s our first experience as a nucleus family
KOK, Chi, Gabriel and Comfort
At last we are together again
In spite of all the odds
The odds of the years past
A victory of sort

For us, the Kalu family
Our testimonies are many
Six years of childlessness, three years of unemployment
Debts in millions and the twin armed robbery attacks
All these, God saw us through
The experience at the Beach today is indeed a dream come true
Especially for me, the father and head of the family
Truly “He who feels it knows it”

Our dreams shared and dreams finally had
As I watch Gabriel and Chi stroll with Comfort towing behind
It reminds me of the faithfulness of JEHOVAH
He who promised to be our God of fulfillment
A promise God himself has kept over the years

And as the ocean water cascades at the background
An ideal place for surfing tourism
With the water chasing the tourist and beach combers in their ecstasy
And jubilation for the fun of beach life
The fun of beach visit it is indeed

The Toubab visitor and their appreciative smile of The Gambian
Old and young, couples with children also
And the adventurous singles looking for fantasy and escapades
Which only The Gambia can give, the pride of its tourism

Somehow I wonder what brings these tourists
The old Norwegian man, almost naked
Walking bare foot along the beach
What is he really looking for this time around?
For he confessed, this is not his first visit
May be nostalgia of the past and his earlier years in The Gambia
Keeps bringing him back to The Gambia
Like the other Toubabs crowding the beach

Banjul, The Gambia. 1/23/2000.

Comfort Nne-Orie: As I Watch You Grow

As I watch you grow Nne Orie, it seems so amazing
Yesterday you were my baby
With all the features of a baby: feeding bottle, pampers and crying
Today the features of a girl are so vibrant and eloquent
And you talk and sing so well even for your age
At two you show so much maturity that truly amazes

As I watch you grow Comfort, the character traits are so clear
You look like Sister Julie with your pointed jaw
And carry the aggressiveness of Sister Nelly
Somehow Mummy say you look even like Sister Florence
And your mouth shaped like that of Uncle Ifeanyi
Indeed Daddy’s family traits you bear
For blood is thicker than water

As I watch you grow Commy
You remind me of my mother, Comfort
You were aptly named after her in remembrance
For the love she gave in her life time
The great comforter indeed she was
To all who knew her and were touched by her warmth
Vibrancy was also her hallmark, cheerful and singing always
These qualities I see in you, even at two years old

As I watch you grow Ezi-Nne
Will you be there for us also, a comforter indeed?
For you demand too much attention, needing always to be cuddled
As you caress anyone close by, even in your sleep
Intimidating even my son and your elder brother, Gabriel
That fine gentleman, whose birth wiped our tears

And as we watch you grow Gabriel and Comfort
We are most grateful to God
For you came and brought us joy
Our tears you wiped and our joy finally fulfilled
A fulfillment of our life long dreams
For me, your Daddy and Chi, your Mummy
It has been dreams had and dreams being shared
Not only by the two of us now, but by the two of you also
For you are the products of our love, our bowels and our loins
As we watch you grow, may God bless and keep you, AMEN

Banjul, The Gambia. 25/1/2000.

Gabriel: As You Have Promised

You woke up this morning with self determination
Finally you want to quit that old habit of yours
Without Daddy or Mummy prompting you
Proudly you have declared to me
“Daddy I will not suck my fingers again”

Somehow I didn’t believe you
It has been part of you since your birth
For six odd years you’ve defiled all criticism as you continued
Sucking at your fingers as if they were dipped in honey
Not able to resist the temptation and satisfaction you derived
To you it was more fulfilling than food
A way of escape and self indulgence at being just you
Maybe it was for you, but we complained as parents

And from the blues you have decided to stop sucking
A promise I hope you will keep
And a window for me to observe and understand you as you grow
Determination I hope and pray to be rewarded
A determination you will like to be documented and remembered

Today 3/8/2000 you asked me to note for you the date
For it was actually Tuesday 1/8/2000 that you made the break
A date now diarised for you and your future
The day you became a man indeed
Your first action of being yourself
And I am very proud of you for that

As I watch you grow Gabriel
Amazing it has been for me and your Mummy
For you are the miracle baby from God
The fulfillment of God’s prophecy concerning your birth
The evidence of God’s answer to our prayers
Our tears wiped and our joy truly fulfilled
You opened the door the enemy shut for six years
And laughter you restored in our hearts and faces

Mummy called you Nkem to reflect the depth of her appreciation
For you are a special gift to her from God
I called you Victor because you brought me victory in my trying time
Towering over my enemies and the crises of middle age
In the battle of life and trying to become a man
And you are Okpo because you are my father in every respect
That great man of blessed memories
In keeping with the tradition of our forefathers

As we watch you grow Gabriel may you live and fulfill your destiny
May Almighty God bless and keep you
May you find happiness and joy in the service of the Lord your God
May the wisdom of God be your portion
And the peace of God shield you all the days of your life
May God bless you and give you the riches of the earth in Christ Jesus
And may God’s banner of love surround you always
May his Glory never depart from you and your household
As you multiply and extend the Okpo generation
I bless you as your father with all my love
For you are Gabriel Victor Nkem Okpo Kalu

Banjul, The Gambia. 3/8/2000.

Nma Bessie: The Harvest Of Our God

In my loneliness, sometimes I remember, the past
My forebears who are now departed
Departed to the great beyond, in eternity
Somehow it seems like a dream
That they are no more
Gone forever and never to be seen or heard
This is the harvest of our God
For death is a debt all humans owe
A debt that must be paid someday

Taking our loved ones
As if, in the harvest of fruits
Some ripe and ready for harvest
Others not too ripe
As they are plucked in their prime
Just when we needed them most
Nma Bessie, Nma Comfort, Nna Okwara, Chief Okpo Kalu Uzo, Nma Ogbu,

Nma Bessie was the first to go
On 25/12/1960 I recall as a child
Memory not blurred though a child I was
That cold morning of December
As the Harmattan North - Easterly wind blew
With it’s cold and dry dust in the atmosphere

In the village square, an assembly of sort
As men and children nestle around burning fire
Of twigs and dry grasses to warm their bodies
And the women in their huts preparing breakfast
Asaga Ohafia in December

With my bucket of water balanced on my head
I moved towards Ndia Obasi
To deliver my Granny’s water
As in previous occasions
Today was more special
It’s the Christmas day
For I hope to collect my Christmas present
And later eat rice at Nma Bessie’s house
That priced meal, eaten once a year and on rare occasions
In this part of the world
Our rural Africa village
Dream and hope that never was

From the distance I saw a crowd gathered near her hut
Suddenly my mother, Comfort, was crying from a distance
Being consoled by others, as they helped her to stand straight
And hot tears streaming down her chin
She became uncontrollable when she sighted me from afar

As I called out to touch her
Someone took my bucket off my head
And another restrained me
Then the truth came very strangely to me
Something must have happened to my Grand mother Nma Bessie
And they led me back to my compound Ndia Echi
I was told that angels have taken Nma Bessie to God
I will never see her again

But why should they take her away?
Don’t they know that she’s the one that looks after me?
When my mother goes to the farm?
And lures me with cooked eggs to stop crying
A priced delicacy for her favorite grandson
At the expense of chicks from her hen
And lost income in the months ahead

Later that day she was put in a long wooden box
And taken to the church
I was not allowed to see her
Our custom forbids children seeing a corpse
At the Christian cemetery
I was brought close to the dug up grave
And with a handful of red earth I said goodbye
To my first true friend and grandmother

Nma Bessie was my friend indeed
The first person to understand me in my restlessness
Restlessness that became my lot in life
Always paying off as I excelled in my quest for knowledge and fame

I had the privilege of eating from her “Ugbugba” pot always
I was also favored by her giving me eggs
A rare sort of enjoyment in the village then
For no one gives a child egg to eat, else he grows up to become a thief
But I was no ordinary child but her “Ekpo Kamalu”

Once I was so stubborn and restless
And Nma had a novel idea to keep me busy always in months to come
Since I was always strongly witted
Only a challenging task will subdue me
And she bought a whole coconut fruit with the fleshy fibre intact
With a machete for my age I was challenged to cut the coconut
A challenge which I took seriously with determination
As it kept me busy for many months to come
That way I was trained to look up to tasks
With the hope of accomplishing them
I will never forget those days at Ndia Obasi with Nma Bessie
For they hold the memories of my early childhood

As a child I could not understand then what happened to my grand mother
But over the years I began to understand
My lovely Grand mother died on that Christmas day in 1960
At her ripe age she went to be with her maker, God
God gives and takes life
At His own time he takes back life
In harvest it seem
Nma Bessie, Rest In Perfect Peace, AMEN

Banjul, The Gambia. 17/10/2000.

What are we eating tonight I asked
Rice and chicken my wife replied
No, not again I said
For this will be the fourth time of eating the stuff this week
Jolloff rice, Benechin, rice and stew with other varieties
Varieties developed to embellish and remove the monotony of rice
Rice, now disliked by me?

Yet in my life time
There was a time when I ate rice only on rare occasions
Rice the noble meal of Christmas day
In far away Asaga Ohafia
The symbolic meal of Christmas celebrations
In my rural African village

As a young boy then in Asaga
Christmas was a time of fun and great expectations

Expectations of loved ones coming home for Christmas
From far and distant cities
Lagos, Enugu, Portharcout, Kano, Kaduna, Zaria
Expectations paid off only when your loved one is among the latest cargo
Human cargoes in the arriving open truck
Singing and clapping to announce their stations of residence
As jubilant relations units in praise and thanksgiving
That they made the journey home safely without accident
As others look on with strain of frustrations
And jealousy too
Still expecting their relations on the way
For it’s a shame if a family does not have a returnee for Christmas
Asaga Ohafia, our pride and great home for Christmas

It’s unthinkable for a son of the soil to be absent for Christmas
Except if the year was so bad for you in business or trade
And you couldn’t afford even the cheap fare
On the arriving open truck of human cargo
For one year is a long period to stay away
Not drinking from the proverbial “ISI-AKWU” brook
With it’s magical potency of giving Asagans our unique dialect
Even for our children born in Diaspora

Christmas is also a time to bring back children to their ancestral home
And “captured” wives to show for your exploits
Coming home with a wife from far away land
A great achievement of sort
And relations are ever happy for the new addition
Of children and wives
To prolong many a lean family size
Blood is thicker than water

And everyone greets one another “KAA”
That unique greeting style of my people
For “KAA” is our universal and all purpose greeting style
A simple “KAA” settles it all at all times

And the greatest expectation?

Unlimited dose of rice at homes of relations
As we move from house to house sampling dishes of rice
Never satisfied until our stomach protrudes and aches
In protest and pains for our overfeeding
Resulting in embarrassing racing to the village toilet in the night
For what goes in must come out

And I have other expectations too

Maybe this Christmas I will be qualified for a new pair of shoes
Last year I was beaten and scolded for growing too fast
Papa always complain about my changing shoe sizes
Why did I grow so fast as to now need another shoe in 12 months?
It’s a drain on the his lean finances
The last one was bigger than my legs when it was bought
Stuffed with paper to fit then
And the paper gradually taken off as I grow
But there I was already grown past the limit set for me in twelve months
Who do I blame but myself?
Always eating up all the food in my plate and wanting more
Faster growth is the product of my gluttony
For what had gone in must produce result

But my children are luckier
Gabriel and Commy have more shoes in one year
Than I ever had
In all my life until I entered the University
And with memories of Christmas much better than mine
Time changes everything

Kokalu, Banjul 24/2/2001.

The Conflict Within

The drummer beats that familiar rhythm
The flutter blows in synchrony
The xylophonist adds his accompanying piece
As Nna Ngele calls out to me
“Ekpo Kamalu, Igiri-giri
Agbara Ofe nkwu- ire
Nwa Nne Orie, Amadi Umu Uyom, Okwara Nna Okpo
Nwoke Biasu – Nde ji ola aha Nmini”
All, my traditional title and exaltation names

Names that remind me who really I am
Laced up, to remind me of the great expectations from me
The first son of my family and lineage
Then the reminder by Nna Ngele, the praise singer
“A Lion does not give birth to a sheep
And the offspring of the snake must always be longish”

In acknowledgement, I raise my hand
And dole out a few crispy Naira notes
To the symphonic troupe
For that is the tradition
And I am well off to give
I must not pass by un-noticed

But I am not contented with giving only
For the rhythm permeats my blood
Reminding me of my tradition and childhood
Quite natural the urge to dance envelopes
And I take a few dance steps as is the tradition
For this is my heritage
Ohafia dance without the “war”

Then a nudge on my side
As Chi reminds
“You forget so easily that you are now a Born Again”
And I recoil in regret and shame
Stopping midstream in my dance

As a Born Again Christian
I’m not supposed to dance to worldly music
But this is my tradition, culture and pride
And the blood in my vein couldn’t resist
The music of my ancestors
And you call that demonic music?
Because it’s African?
Ohafia war dance from my ancestors?

Who will preserve our culture?

Sometimes, our faith, education and religion produce in us
The conflict within

Banjul, The Gambia. 24/2/2001.

Uneasy Lies The Road

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown
For me, I do not wear the crown at FIB
Yet my head is uneasy, for I wear a crown of sort
Representing the interest of the majority shareholders
Having the deciding vote at Board meetings
Deciding the direction and policies of the young bank
And carrying the dreams of the founding fathers
Great responsibilities and a humbling task indeed
Yet not being appreciated

For what do I have to show for my efforts?
Not the salary commensurate to my status and positio
As a reward for the turnaround time for FIB, a new bank
For a week I slept on the bare floor with my wife and children
The provision of furnished accommodation now a contentious issue
Not even a provision was made in the Y2K Budget for my accommodation
As the MD derides occasionally my contract terms
Sometimes almost asking for revision, with great conviction also
As I wonder. Where do we go from here?

With the expatriate staff being objects of suspicion
In the performance of their duties and staff interactions
As seeds of discord is sewn right from the top

But the monster must be confronted head on
We cannot be intimidated, though a serious task in a foreign land
Can we now leave our own investment for others to manage?
A stitch in time saves nine
Something must be done at the Board meeting of 29/1/2000


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