Debug analysed by Zaynabtyty Quadri

OkadaBooks has been supportive of my writing and it’s both humbling and exciting. They reviewed my flash fiction “Debug” (published by Omenana) for their Literally…What’s Hot? series on Bella Naija. Here’s what Zaynabtyty had to say

This flash fiction about a Robin-hood house-girl who just happens to be a robot is a must read!

Debug is a sci-fi story that immediately establishes its author, Rafeeat Aliyu as eminently knowledgeable in using science fiction (aka sci-fi) to tell African stories.

Robot Mama Anuli has an unusual occupation. She was crafted and programmed to help mothers cope with the birth of their children. She was created by the system to cook centuries-old dishes, to bathe babies, to inoculate toddlers and register children on the CSN (the body in charge of human affairs).

Charged with raising baby Awele, Mama Anuli discovers that the baby was being abused and maltreated by her mother.

Knowing that the system will never punish the mother for its crimes, Anuli kidnaps the child and things go downhill from there.

The world the author Aliyu describes feels so close to where we are right now as a society and it just one small step further down the road we are currently travelling. Governments and big corporations run things with much greater control than they do now and the rich are allowed to do what they want while the poor are punished and isolated.

Debug is a laudable sci-fi afro-futuristic tale, it’s got style, wonderfully written characters and a great plot. Thoughtful flash fiction that is jam-packed with ideas and thoughts on motherhood, science, society and of course mankind itself. Easy reading, rewarding, un-missable fiction.

Aliyu’s writing is consistent and accurate, and I am eager to see more of her work.

A quick look behind the scenes

I believe the idea for “Debug” came about from a conversation with friend and editor Chinelo Onwualu. We were talking about the omu gwo and what it’d look like in a futuristic world. For those not in the know, omu gwo is the Igbo tradition of post-pregnancy care. Natural Nigerian writes that as part of the omu gwo tradition, her mother, ““bathed” me, cooked for me and helped care for my baby so as to give me some time to rest/recover and acclimatize myself to motherhood.”

I imagined a future where robot nannies perform omu gwo rites for wealthy families who no longer have the traditional relations as in the past but still want to maintain the tradition. In “Debug”, the robot nanny Mama Anuli believes the child she is caring for is being abused and pushes back against her wiring (hence, the debug) to save the child’s life.

Behind the scenes
Yoyin of the Captivating Form

One story of mine that seems to be quite popular is “Yoyin of the Captivating Form”. Published in Expound Magazine, “Yoyin of the Captivating Form” tells the love story of The Man Who Used to Be a Hunter and Yoyin. The reception and positive feedback this story has received really leads me to believe that my writing has improved.

This story is set in a time when hunting was the profession of choice. Everybody who could would send their sons and daughters to go and apprentice with the hunters, who were admired for the bravery they showed when they disappeared into the forest. Few hunters made it back from the forest alive, but when they did, they came back with wealth, both material and in the form of stories. The forest was a great equaliser; it did not care whether the hunter was the son of a king or the daughter of a farmer. Its creatures attacked at will and it was only the most skilled that survived to enjoy its riches. From a young age, children learned how to use the juju of the hunt and how to protect themselves when faced with creatures that were not human.

Hunting wasn’t simply venturing into the bush to find food; it was to return with tales of bravery and unimaginable riches.

So…what inspired this story? The Skull, that’s the answer.

The Skull

Amos Tutuola is a huge inspiration to me. His works haven’t just influenced me, they’ve also validated some ideas that I would have held on to because I thought they were “too weird”. While my favourite Tutuola books are those with badass heroines (Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle, The Brave African Huntress), it’s the story of The Skull from The Palm-Wine Drinkard that kept me up at night.

The tale of The Skull is about a young beautiful woman who falls in love with a monster. It’s a cautionary tale to women who are labelled vain, to me the moral of the story is; “be careful if you want to marry a handsome stranger because he could be a monster.” From the name, The Skull who the woman marries is just that (i.e. he’s only a head) but he appears to the maiden as a handsome man.

I didn’t like the original story and I wanted to do something about this folktale. It took years and countless discussions with friends over tea and coffee for the story to unravel.


What got the ball rolling was a comment I heard. IIRC, a friend wished she could remove and hang her breasts at the end of the day. Now I’ve typed that down, it seems bizarre (lol) There’s a scene in my story where this happens. Transforming The Skull to Yoyin satisfies my longing for women monsters in speculative fiction. There’s a fascinating spin to Yoyin’s name, it means “bring out sweetness” in Yoruba. Then months after the story was published, I found out that Yoyin has an entry in It states, “yoyin is a word to describe an awesome, African girl who is great at everything.”

One day I will publish that collection of short stories retelling Nigerian folktales with women monsters as central figures. Till then, I’d like people to stop calling me Yoyin.


Behind the scenes
Awure Iferan

My story “Awure Iferan”, published in Queer Africa 2 – New Stories is an excerpt from my novella about the consequences of love potions gone “wrong”.

Growing up in Nigeria, you hear stories about juju. I don’t recall if the idea for this story came from a story I heard or a Nollywood movie I watched but the plot goes something like this; a woman goes to get a love consultation, she’s told that the first person she sees is the love of her life and this person turns out to be someone she wouldn’t typically go for. Usually, her one true love is poor, or ugly or just not her type.

I was fascinated by this idea and one day while mulling over it I thought, “what if the first person she sees is another woman?” And thus a story was born. The novella follows Noura as she struggles to come to terms with the fact that her love potion doesn’t go the way she planned and the consequences/impact of this on her life and family. “Awure Iferan” is basically the first chapter of the novella.