She sent me the invite banner on WhatsApp but from then on nothing really happened, as there isn't a way to contact the organisers, apparently it's the first of its kind in Bauchi State. It wasn't until Saturday, a day before the event when I got to my cousin's house for a different unrelated issue when she insisted I follow up on them, we somehow tracked where the invite came from (whatsapp groups), and called someone, who directed me to the founder of the association, a Mahmoud Adam Imam. A young, chatty and straightforward fellow.
We met and spoke at length, and he interviewed me for a place to perform at the event. It was while I was at his home I realized there were prizes to be had. Now am literally oozing with interest.
I imagined myself holding up the trophy for the best poet award, cuddling it and hugging it tight, but just to be on the safe side I also imagined myself in third place, jolly and good. My dream is almost shattered even before it began when he told me I had to memorize my poem for the performance, I mean WHAT!! How does anyone expect me to memorize a poem in less than 24 hours to the event. The last I memorized anything was many primary-school-terms ago.
I somehow made up my mind to join provided I am allowed to read off of my phone, he said fine, and off I went.
I picked a poem of my mine that was popular with many people titled 'Story Of a Great Man', and right from the moment I left his house I began reciting it from my phone, trying to memorize it. I think I recited it like it was some form of prayer for the remainder of the day, before I ate food I recite, after I ate I recite, before bathing, when going to the mosque, after coming back, etc., till night approached. I really wanted to perform good. But despite that, I went ahead and attended a Polo match in the afternoon thus missing a few hours for practice. I learnt that the others had been practicing for the whole past week but I just got in so I hadn't had the chance.
I spent the better part of the night before the contest walking about my room mimicking a stage performance, as if everyone was watching me, with my SURE MEN deodorant can as a microphone. I dramatized my hand movements and recited the poem in a loud voice. When I was satisfied, I took a nice bath, ate, and waited for Sunday morning.
Come morning, I woke up with such spirit I could win the Olympics for poetry, I was ready, set, and good to go. Like any event in Nigeria it started late, but was worth the wait.
I saw little kids giving speeches and they were extremely good at it. The venue had youngsters from various age groups, there were secondary school students as well as University students, each ready to wow the spectators. I chose to not stand out too much so I wore my Batman T-shirt and strolled in together with Hamida my cousin and some of her friends.
A few motivational speakers and an opening poem kick-started the event. The first contestant was a sixteen year old girl named Amina, and if you think even for a second I had it easy competing against this little kid you’ve got it wrong, totally wrong, because she was terrifyingly good. So were the other contestants.
I wasn’t done admiring the sixteen year old poet when, “Our next person on the list is. . .” she hesitated, as if the name was difficult to pronounce, “Hafiz. . . Hafiz Mukhtar Mahmud”. I was not expecting to be called so early.
I strode to the front and took the microphone, cleared my voice several times, I raised the microphone like I was about to speak into it when I cleared my voice again, the next I raised it I told them “Sorry, but I have a terrible voice”, a few giggled. “Let me tell you a story. . .” I began, for real this time.
I recited the next few lines just as I had practiced, and ended the poem with a small bow like you see in the movies, spiraling my right hand in the air above my head and extending my left leg a little backwards. Apparently they liked that, because I ended up winning the contest, I won The Best Poet Award.
The sixteen year old came in second place, my points were 39 and hers was 38.5, that was dangerously close. A friend of my cousin named Zakiyya came in third place, I remember really liking her poem. It was nice. Everyone was surprised how I just came out of nowhere winning the title for 'best', and they said as much.
We were presented with our awards and prizes, and I totally fell in love with mine the moment I held the Award plaque. I want to give thanks to everyone who believed in me all these years, especially Hamida, who prodded, pushed and became particularly annoying all weekend long just so I join this contest, thank you for believing in me.
So basically as far as young writers go, I am technically, the best poet in Bauchi State.
Read the winning poem below.