By S. I. Ohumu


You want something moving. A piece that will shake every fibre of your being. So, the next time you hear of an Esohe, you think of doggie, only with an actual dog. You, who have read stories of desert treks and seen news reports on dead bodies washed ashore.

Unfortunately, Bini girls instantly bring Italy to mind. Italy stands for Europe, North America and more recently, West African countries. It’s what they have come to be known for.

A 16 year old living like a kwashiorkor-afflicted donkey with an eternal debt to a Madam is a heart wrenching thing to imagine. Know what’s worse than this? The reason why she’d knowingly go into such a life.

Forget all you’ve heard about girls being deceived, lured by promises of education and jobs. Granted that happens still, but mostly, victims know what they are getting into.

Osarhumwense knows as she bends down for the 7th time, while the white cockerel circles her head, that after this comes her testing. When her sponsor will sleep with her in every way unimagined for about a month in preparation. She knows, and she bends down still, because Amenze came back, skin unnaturally white, and sunk a borehole in their family house after just a year in Amsterdam.

Etinosa my neighbor has almost finished paying her Madame in just about two years, her mother proudly announces. She’s the one sponsoring her father’s burial next month. She was fucking the entire neighborhood so her mother took a loan and sent her to Rome to make a lucrative business off her favorite pastime.

The rise in human trafficking is what has come from the Bini mentality of ebo ma gbe, the superiority of the white race. The need, believe it or not, to see snow, and finally have the ideal weather to wear the ridiculous winter jackets shipped down by relatives. The trafficked girls want to be the ones sending down electronic waste, derelict freezers and tomato paste in haulage trucks for their people, defining I don arrive as a tiled house with all the latest niceties, a car, and the label of jando. The joy is in spraying dollars during burial ceremonies. Having mixed raced kids is the crowning glory.

The journey, being fucked with a pestle originally meant for pounding yam, is a necessary evil.

Or let’s assume you are in it for the right reasons. For example, you go first and then your guy stays back to build a house for you because you can’t trust family members nowadays. You’re standing day and night in translucent clothing, being fucked by Italian mobs so Osazee back at Sakponba road can use the money from his girl to feel alright.

Mostly these girls have very low sense of self-worth, having been molested by uncles, aunties, neighbors. Teachers in government secondary schools who taunted them with if school is not meant for you go to Italy and be useful. Then they had boyfriends who beat them and raped them. Parents unhappy with their place in life and looking to their kids to uplift them so they can join the coolest clubs, buy the heaviest void laces, and live in duplexes.

But it’s love and family, and the norm. Hanging like laundry, like fading panties on a cloth line, deliberately unseen. How do you then tell this person that going abroad to prostitute so as to send money back for her molesters is wrong?

I went to a party at Limit Road, Benin City during my months as a druggie. The house belonged to a friend’s uncle who made his money by sponsoring Osaretins and Johnbulls to America, carrying in their digestive systems, coke, heroin, meth. One boy, Ekenne cried out in his drug induced state: this nor be life! He was a student of University of Benin and had joined Aye fraternity. During a cult clash, our benefactor, the man whose house we were in, saved his life by hiding him. In return, he pushed drugs to foreign countries and into his bloodstream.

The system in place really doesn’t make things better. Kids grow up seeing thugs like Bob Izua and Kabaka celebrated and this fuels their desire to “make” it. It’s easy to blame the migration overseas for illegal work on the hardship involved in honest living in Edo State Nigeria, but that’s only half of the problem.

I live here and I see every day how they think. In small enclosures, fickle minded and petty. The churches praying for members to get visas to Italy, the shrines supplying charms against rivals, the Malams changing euros. Everyone here works hand in hand to support the thriving industry and then gossip together about whose daughter is where, whose son was a g-boy who had not hit in a long time so had gone off to Malaysia, peddling kidneys. The monarchy does next to nothing about it and neither does the government.

There are a few NGOs and programs for deported victims. But there’s a reason why they keep going back. There’s a reason why the parents condone it. Why the children see it as acceptable, as necessary. It’s the play of light. It’s their inability to see hues that are grey and calm. Constantly seeking vomit-purples and insane-reds of fast money gotten through dubious means.

So, if you want to stop the single story of Benin girls and Italy, because it is a dangerous narrative that taints every hardworking Nigerian living in these countries, you start at age 0 to educate and re-educate. In the classroom, in Oba market stalls while they shout aunty you wan fis your nays? Eye latch?

S.I Ohumu is a writer, blogger and radio personality with Rhythm 93.7 FM in Benin City. She blogs regularly at

From the special issue on Displacement