The Schemes of Audu Baduku by Umar Abubakar Sidi


The face of Badi’atul Jamal, maiden of pure incense, mermaid with the tail of the golden fish, lady of the lavender mist, princess of the light of the skies, queen plenipotentiary, invader of the hearts of men, of male demons, of male spirits and androgynous ghosts, pops up before you.

You stare. The tongues of your heart protrude like a chameleon’s, lick her smiles and kiss her dimples. A silent, invisible spear emanates from the heart of her eye and pierces your heart. The cast iron armour, a protective charm Audu Baduku, the half-demon, half-human, crippled cobbler wizard gave you, is helpless as the spear drives through your heart with the ease of a needle piercing a lump of wool. As the spear sears your heart, your countenance changes. You are surprised. A mere spear penetrating a charm of Audu Baduku, the interpreter of the language of the invisible spirits, guardian of the shrine of blood and skulls, the master, discoverer of the seventy-seven condensed mediums of sorcery?

Suddenly, tall shadows of soundless winds seize you, like a motherless chick in the mighty clutches of a hovering hawk, and fling you into the past.

“No substance, related, associated, connected to metals of old and new, past or present, dead or living shall—even in the turbulence of seas, quakes of earth, explosion of galaxies—dare, penetrate your heart,” Audu Baduku did whisper forcefully as he thrust the charm into your hands. 

“Go!” he said.

As you huddle out of the twisted stems of the baobab tree, the shrine of the wizard, an oasis in the middle of the Sahara, surrounded by seven oceans, seven wild forests, seven black skies, and protected by seventy-seven rows of Ifiritu, demons of the seventh grade, the voice of Audu Baduku rose again and thundered: When the wild whispers of whirling winds nudge stubborn eyes to sleep in the invisible receptacles of the tenth night of the tenth moon of the year of warring tongues…” He paused, inhaled a sea of air, then spurted: “Inhale the incense of tubarkal, place the charm on your chest, and recite a hymn from the invisible chapter of the book of sorcery, in the language of the spirits of the metals.” 

You stagger out of the Baobab stems like a drunk, swim across the oceans with the amiability of a dolphin, charge through the forests like a fiery wind, and pierce through the rows of demons, carrying about you a mountain load of fear, a load as heavy as a bad conscience and as mighty as the rocks of Kwatarkwashi.

You did not sleep that night; you placed the charm in your palms and stared at it in wonder and awe. How could this piece of worthless black, wrought iron protect me? But when you remember the ugly look on Audu Baduku’s face, his sullen, red eyes which, to you, resembled that of an Ifiritu, even though you have never seen one, the frightening faces of lifeless masquerades, the transparent ghosts floating in the atmosphere of Baduku’s shrine and the guttural rumblings that sent the earth vibrating in the name of incantations, you became a believer.

Your belief became steady, firm, fixed, and unflinching when a volcano of voices erupted like fast-flowing magma and solidified the barren fields of your mind:

He outwitted Sarkin Bokaye Ayyana, the chief of wizards, in a sorcery duel.

He commands the loyalty of seventy legions of Ifiritu, demons of the seventh grade.

He is the inventor of seventy-seven sciences of geomancy, sorcery and wizardry.

He is the father, husband, and mentor of Inna the wretched witch of witches. Inna the sorceress who sucks up the lymph of infants with her affliction, shan Inna, the suck of Inna.

But now, your belief begins to lose its grip and firmness as the spear penetrates the charm. It is not painful and there is no blood. The charm melts and the spear pierces your heart. Quickly, you rummage through your pockets and bring out a plain, light, silver ring. You insert it into your index finger. You remember, how the turbulent waves of black seas splashed against the banks, how the fiery bolts of lightning ran haphazardly across the sky setting it aflame, how the explosive rumblings of thunder clapped like the roar of a thousand devils, how the howling winds seized your fingers and tossed them into smokeless fires to burn for a brief eternity; a purification rite which prepared you and made you worthy of being the owner of zoben sihiri, the magic ring. The ring which enables you to commune with Audu Baduku at any given time.

You caress the ring; you love its smoothness. You admire its essence. You remember the simple rules of its use:

Rub your palms on fresh dust.

Blow a fresh breath.

Wait for the soundless rumbling of thunder and the flashes of dark lightning.

Then make your wish.

And it will be.

You extend your hands to the floor. Your body quivers and emits waves of shock. Your hand is wet and covered with mud. The floor is waterlogged. You become disturbed. How do you get fresh dust? As you ransack the holes, edges, columns, and spaces of the room of your mind for the availability of dust, the face of Badi’atul Jamal vanishes.

You jump up, tumble, somersault, dance and cry. Madness seizes you. Seventy local wrestlers led by Shago, the undefeated champion of dambe boxing, assemble in your medulla oblongata. They clench their fists, close their eyes, and lock horns in violent combat. Dan Anace, the legendary dambe musician, cheers them on. The pitch of his kalangu drum echoes into the distant skies. Seven legions of air-kicking, wild, ingarma horses formed up in the plains of your cerebrum for a durbar procession.

Your eyes protrude. You wail: How dare she vanish? But your voice is not heard. It is muffled by pangs of pain.

The Sword of Barbushe, the Lance of Yunfa, the Spear of Gandoki, the Axe of Abungulu, and the Arrow of Da’u Fataken Dare, all together strike the eye of your brain. You stand up, shake your body vigorously, and speak unintelligibly in the seven dialects of the language of silent ghosts. You bend down on all fours, like a gigantic spider, and begin to crawl, taking giant, slow strides towards the thin, narrow path of contaminated sanity.


Badi’atul Jamal is a damsel you met one cool evening, when the sun was being released from the invisible manacles of the sky and tears caused by smoke were flowing from the eyelids of cooking mothers, at the left side of your mother’s room, by the foot of a  broken porcelain. Hajjo, your house help, laid the porcelain to eternal rest three years ago. You still recall how your mother was enraged. How she charged at Hajjo with slaps and a downpour of salacious invective. You stood close to Hajjo that fateful day but you were too occupied to take cover, as your aunty did when the raging bulls of your mother’s anger were loose. The token you got was a bruised eye, a broken nose, and swollen lips. To console you, your father took you to Karaye Clinic where your face was stitched, your nose plastered and your lips painted with a bluish odd smelling liquid. Thereafter, you were taken to a supermarket where you made away with a green pack of chocolates, a slate consisting 27 alphabets, and a book which went by the title, Labarun Da Dana Yanzu, Tales of the Past and Present.

When you came back from the supermarket, you dashed off speedily to intimate your mother about your new acquisitions. You nearly forgot about the stitches, swells, and pains on your face. Your mother was not in the room. But your aunty was there, sitting crossed-legged, like a sumo wrestler, at the foot of the broken porcelain, forcing balls of tuwo down her throat. You showed her the gifts. She looked and congratulated you. She opened the chocolate and took a pinch. When she saw the book, her countenance changed. She became excited and bloated. She perused the pages hungrily. She said that the tales shone and glowed on the invisible mirrors of the sky, that the tales were scribbled on golden scrolls and narrated in the silent voice of the rainbow. That the tales reflected the thoughts of the sages of old. Sages who drank from the rivers of wisdom and munched the fruits of knowledge. She said the book was next only to Alfa Laila Wa Lailatan, One Thousand and One Nights. You begged her to read you a story. She read the love story of Saiful Muluk and Badi’atul Jamal. That was how your life changed. 

You did not sleep that night; you lay on your mattress under the darbejiya tree, your eyes fixedly staring at the sky. You saw a lone bright star, surrounded by several dark others. You saw when a single star emanated from the abyss of the sky and floated slowly with the kingly gait of a peacock until it positioned itself in front of the lone bright star. They stood there for a period which was neither short nor long. Then, their brightness melted and dissolved into each other. There was no longer a lone bright star and a single star. What you had was a wondrous creature, an image indescribable in words. You tried to capture a picture with your throbbing imagination: A spring of myrrh flowing down the waterfalls of jasmine or succulent maidens adorned in gowns of pearls. That was when the essence of the story dawned on you, that was when you understood its meaning and relevance. The lone star is Badi’atul Jamal and the single star, her bridegroom, Saiful Muluk. The creature from that union of light became a cloud and gently, like a leaf swooping off a tree, it descended and consumed you. You lost your stance, your rigidity, your composure, and sense of comprehension. From that day, you began to see yourself as a star, a Saiful Muluk seeking the presence of Badi’atul Jamal.


When you reach the end of the path of contaminated sanity, two transparent ghosts grab you and toss you into the valley of folds. You wriggle and shout, “Leave me alone! Take me back!” But nothing happens. You barge through the valley of the blind, the curtains of unconsciousness, and crash into the folds of sleep and slumber. You open your eyes as you hear “Who are you?” 

You sit up; a thick cloud of darkness embraces you.

 “Who are you and how dare you frighten me?”

You stand up; mighty receptacles of fear shackle your heart.

“Sit down,” you hear an invisible voice say. It smells of sadness.

Without thinking, you sit down and begin to shake.

“Calm down!” the voice thunders.

“Listen. I am Sagau jikan Tsagarana. Why have you woken me up from my slumber search?”

Slumber search? you think.

“I have been searching the invisible dark folds of sleep and slumber for the ring of Saiful Muluk and you worthless piece of shit dragged me out?”

You become frightened and begin to look around. You see nothing, no way out.

A horse whinnies. A mad cow moos. A cock crows. A wild cat meows. An unhinged woman laughs hysterically.

By now, you are huddled over four steps of faintness. You are a million miles away from the stream of consciousness.

A cold finger touches you and ignites a spark in you. You vibrate. You become alive.

The voice tells you. “

You must take me back!” 

“Back? To where?”  

“To the invisible folds of sleep and slumber. Make three wishes!” the voice thunders. 

You stare, more disorientedly. 

 “I have been in the folds for a long time, searching for my freedom. My contemporaries have withered away with the passing winds. I have lost count of the ages. And just when I began to smell the presence of the ring, you dragged me out, you dragged me out!”

You tremble. You expect to receive malicious spanks from invisible hands but nothing happens.

“Well, that is not the issue now,” the voice registers softly. “What is at stake now is that I am your slave and you are my master. You are to wish anything you like and that will be my command. After that, I will be able to resume my search.”

You summon a little courage and ask. “Who made this condition?”

“Master, yours is to make three wishes, I am here to do your bidding.”

Make three wishes; I am here to do your bidding. You jump into the air, make some obscene gestures, and begin to laugh. Make three wishes; I am here to do your bidding. You set up a scale in your mind and begin to weigh your desires.

What if I fly to Oz, swallow the courage syrup, so I can resist the bullies Audu Kiski and Ilu Bala’i, the two thugs in my school who slap me and refuse to let me cry. No, I won’t go to Oz; I will fetch Ruwan Bagaja, the Water of Cure, I will use it to rid Isuhu Danja of his ailment and cure myself of the ringworm on my left lap.

 “Make your wish, Master.”

“I am coming,” you answer.

You dismiss Ruwan Bagaja. You feel you should be part of Enid Blyton’s Secret Five Mystery Solvers. You will lead them to solve a logical conclusion the mystery of the disappearing cat, the mystery of the burnt cottage, and the mystery of the melting coin. A powerful arm of pain grabs you and throws you into the past.

It was your first day at school. You strolled innocently into your class. A teacher, a tall, skinny woman, called you, sat you down, produced a koboko, and flogged the demons out of you. Your offense was late coming. Later, she realized she mistook you for someone else. She cursed you for resembling a perpetual latecomer. You still feel the pelting pain of her koboko on your skin. A revengeful, murderous rage seizes you.

“Mrs. Fagbemi,” you called out. “Find out where Mrs. Fagbemi is.”

As soon as you stop talking, a whisper pops up. “She is a lecturer at Igbada College.”

“Find out if she is still cruel.”

 “She is a strong woman.”

“What is the source of her strength?”

“A mountain and a spear.”

I will crush the mountain and break the spear, you think. You think of how best you can punish her. I will apply the Kibro style. Kibro was your teacher at kindergarten; he did not carry canes like the others. He carried coins. Two black coins. He placed a decent amount of an erring pupil’s skin in between the coins, pressed the coins hard until blood poured and shrill cries of the pupil deafened all ears. The Kibro style. You agree, and after that, you will send the fleas of a thousand camels to infest her armpits.

“Take me to her.”  

Nothing happens.

“Take me to her!” Nothing. 

“Oh God!” You curse yourself for being so foolish. You just made three wishes and Sagau has resumed his search for the ring of Saiful Muluk. “Oh, God! Why?” You mutter over and over as you crumble to the earth.


The transparent ghosts at the folds of sleep and slumber nudge you into a deep slumber and allow you to descend into the dark folds to search for Sagau, now in possession of the ring of Saiful Muluk. You will beg him to give you the ring as it will lead you to the hidden fortress of Badi’atul Jamal. In return, you will give him Zoben Sihiri, the magic ring, a powerful charm from the sorcery chest of Audu Baduku. You descend deeper into the folds. You reach the valley of the dark where giant demons form up in infinite rows. Jabul, their leader, an old wizard demon approaches you and places a crown on your head. He announces that you are the ninth King in the order of child wizards. As you wear the crown, you become strong, all the veins in your body throb like snake hatchlings. You tighten your face, squeeze your fists, and gaze majestically all around. Far on the western corridor, you see swirling clouds of dust cover the horizon. You send Jabul to investigate. He returns with two captives in chains, the warrior Gandoki and his young son, Isa. You set them free and invite them for a feast in the red garden. Gandoki has fought many battles. He is known as, guguwa mai taron yaki, the dust storm that fears no one. He is now the husband of Almara, the daughter of the King of Jinns, and by virtue of this, he is also the commander of the seven legions of the black Jinns of Hindustan. Gandoki proposes that you and your army ally with him to capture the king of thieves, that infidel son of the devil, Da’u Fataken Dare, who is hiding in the Gundumi wilderness near the shrine of Audu Baduku. In compensation, he promises he will get you the ring of Saiful Muluk. Without thinking, you order Jabul to begin preparations for battle. 

In the distance, you hear a voice, “Wake up, wake up!”

You awake. It is your friend, Zayya.

He grabs your body and shakes you.

“Let us escape,” he implores.

“Escape? To where? Why?” you whisper.

“Oh, I see. Let me refresh your memory. This is the cage of Audu Baduku, the crippled cobbler wizard. This is where he keeps his captives until he is ready to fry and have them for dinner.”

Your stomach churns an ugly sound.

“The door is open and that foolish demon guarding us has fallen asleep.”

You tip-toe out of the cage and crawl through the ditch; when you reach the well, you both stand up and run. Zayya tells a story.

“When my father was crowned Sarkin Bokaye, chief of wizards, he assembled all the wizards, witches, spirits, sorcerers, and ghosts of the land. He demanded one thing from them, to stop casting evil spells. Many heeded this call, which is why he was able to unshackle the chains of Inna’s spell from Bawa mai Kusumbi, the albino hunchback.

“But Audu Baduku was defiant. He even challenged my father to a sorcery duel. They fought, sent black shadows to invade their households. They transformed into hurricanes and stormed each other's territory. In the end, Audu Baduku became a black cat, sneaked into my house, blew bad breath over my father’s bald head as he slept, and stole his powers. My father was captured and taken prisoner to the Gundumi wilderness where he makes compound spells for Audu Baduku, who has now become an all-powerful, unchallenged wizard and sorcerer.”

You stop running and begin to walk. You approach a house. It’s surrounded by music blasting high. P-Square’s “Do Me.” You enter, and a strong smell wafts over your nose. It makes you dizzy.

Audu Kiski and Ilu Balai your school bullies, stand, smiling. Their eyes look heavy and red.

You shake hands with them. Zayya drags Ilu to one side and speaks into his ears. 

“Wata gwan, man?” Audu Kiski utters, he puffs a cloud of smoke into your face.

You inhale. Your vision blurs for some time then becomes clear. You begin to see everything in twos. It confuses you. It is funny. You laugh, “Hehehe!”

Zayya pulls you to one side. He brings out a thick wrap of paper stuffed with a dry, leafy substance. “This is ganye, vegetable,” he whispers into your ear. “You may call it tabar jinnu, the cigarette of demons.”

“Do demons smoke?” you ask a hint of surprise in your voice.

“It is a powerful medicine, it will make you invincible,” he says, ignoring your question. “It will give you the power to see demons and all their evil intentions long before they are even conceived. It will enable you to break away from the grips of Audu Baduku’s spells.”

He offers you the roll. It is lit. You take a drag.

First, the earth begins to spin rapidly like a gyroscope. You become light and weightless like the wind. You break unseen barriers and penetrate illuminated folds. You see Sarkin Bokaye Ayyana in the Gundumi wilderness, covertly hunting for alligator flies, grasshoppers, and diamond ants—requirements for preparing a great spell that will dissolve the 7000 charms, spells, talismans, layas, and complex sorcery equations of Audu Baduku into lifeless liquids. You see Jane and Jack trying to solve the mystery of the disappearing cat, the rat-a-tat, the ragamuffin, and the rubadub together as one complex mystery. You offer them a helping hand. You see the Wizard of Oz waving a magical wand at the Wizard of Matsala and laugh at their foolishness. You see Mrs. Fagbemi on a mountain, brandishing a spear. You see the poet Okigbo scribbling in golden ink on the suspended scrolls:

You sent me swimming

In the silence of the song of the spheres

When you led me to the spring

Believing me a bard

Prince of the words of the world

And fed me sounds

In saucer strings

Spears of the light of the skies

In the majesty of the verses on the suspended scrolls, you see the face of Badia’tul Jamal.


You are still contemplating the face of Badia’tul Jamal which appeared to you in the majesty of the suspended scrolls when—

“I am sorry, madam,” a sharp, straight, unassuming voice says. “In point of fact, he was arrested last night, unconscious at the haven of the underworld Mandula Republic. He is being charged for juvenile delinquency.”

“Can we bail him, please, please, help us.”

“No bail, madam. In point of fact, his case is a little bit complicated.”


“Yes, it is far from juvenile drunkenness. In point of fact, on the advice of our physician, Dr. Zayya, we have decided to send him to the den of the local exorcist and disciplinarian, Audu Baduku. “Aha!” Suddenly, the voice swells up with excitement. “Look, madam, look, Sagau, Audu Baduku’s manservant, has already arrived. He is here to take him.”

A violent thunder explodes in your head. Coins clink and roll. Bells ring, like energetic madmen on the loose. Gigantic arms of silence appear, conquer your thoughts, and reign there for a long, long period, a period as long as the length of your thoughts.

*First published in Transition Magazine and then, Praxis Magazine

Umar Abubakar Sidi is a helicopter pilot with the Nigerian Navy. He attended the prestigious Nigerian Military School, Zaria, and the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. He is the author of The Poet of Dust and most recently, Like Butterflies Scattered About By Art Rascals.