Journal Stories 04: Carl Terver – A Backward Suburb

Photo credit: Oko Owi Ocho

7th Dec. 2014


A backward suburb is one that makes you feel you wake up on the wrong side of bed every day. It’s a place where the sun itself gets tired of rising and setting. It is a place where sighs hang in the air. Before you judge my being pessimistic bear it in mind that my judgment on what is a backward suburb is very subjective. I am talking of a place called Kuje; you can’t find it on the map except for the federal prison located in it. About being a backward suburb, there’s no recreational park, no cozy hangout, no book café or public library; just – preferably left undescribed – stretches of asphalt that ends at odd junctions.  There are two main entries to Kuje which also serve as exits. One, from Gwagwalada, and the other, when you take a turn at Giri junction off Umar Musa Yar’Adua Express Way.

Kuje is not a town you are so inclined to tell someone you live in, you’ve known this feeling and you shrug it off all the time. It is a place where thoughts of relocating invade your mind, it’s a place you feel so landlocked in, a place of the conformed.

journal, Carl Terver

A backward suburb is one where you are at a supermarket chatting with your boss, having snacks and drinks, and he says to you honestly: ‘You know, sometimes I feel like I’m on the wrong side of the planet.’ You swallow his commentary and you have, after that day, had indigestion problems.

A backward suburb is Kuje where mediocrity walks around in high heels.

And then you find yourself living in this place where effervescence is sapped out of everything. And you try hard not to conform; you try to live through it, not in it. And you thank God that you read, so you have an escape plan; you thank God you are a writer, so you spend strenuous time writing inglorious prose; you thank God that you have online buddies, so you pop-up your e-antennas from time to time to engage in e-conversations. Or you finally thank God there’s a video club you frequent in the evenings. No, you don’t watch EPLs and the like there; you’re not a fan. The video club is where you watch the complete seasons of one of those long movies like Lost without buying a single copy. And so on one of those uneventful days you head out to the video club. It takes about half a mile to get there from your house if you trekked.

You lately found out that taking a walk or rather trekking to the video club wasn’t so interesting – you saw the same things all the time, except that there was always bustle on the main road. You wonder to yourself: how a town that bustled this much was dead boring to its marrows.

journal, Carl Terver


I make it to Kuje town as they call it. Kuje town is nothing past the ordinary but a landscape of buildings punctuated by irregularities with no peculiar attraction in sight. All I hear is noise from generator sets, motorcycles and indistinct sounds from the uttering, bickering and conversations among men, converging in the air. Dusk is upon the town and traffic is rush hour. I reach a junction, the Secretariat junction so called. A police officer wearing navy blue makes all effort to control the traffic like a composer leading an orchestra. There’s reckless driving nevertheless; cyclists playing smart, honk-honk blaring. Near this junction is a rather awkward fellow, short as they come. He has arranged stands on which he displays his merchandise of Alaba music DVDs. With all the hullabaloo he busies himself throwing the whole place in a cacophony of unwanted noise called music.

I bristle from all these, hands in my pocket, till I make the next turn, right, to Jazz Glazed video club.

About author:

Carl Terver loves to listen to Bob Marley’s ‘Who The Cap Fits’. He’s in-house writer and critic at Praxis Magazine where he is also Assistant Digital Editor. In 2019 he led a review team at the same magazine, as Media Partner, to review the Writivism shortlisted entries. He is known for his criticisms on culture and Nigerian writing. He’s working on two projects: M.I.A., a novel, and a book-length essay on new school poetry. He’s @CarlTerver on Twitter.

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