Category Archives: Life

Parenting As A Child – Welcoming Charles III

I recently had a child, a second and a boy. He came almost five years after the first, in spite of my dodging tactics. Now that he has come, I have been quite excited, the kind of tearful excitement you feel but cannot fully express. Somehow, the excitement is entirely different from what the majority of people might think. Several of my friends and associates decided to display their chauvinistic worldview with handshakes laced by “you’re now a man,” in reference to the male child. It was to spurn this chauvinism that I decided to name the first, a girl, after myself. Unfortunately, I am not excited – only thankful – that he is a boy. I’m thankful because I now have comparative basis to understand how male and female children act and I can do experimental parenting in some respects, trying to test some ideas I have nursed. My excitement about Charles III is entirely based on the reaction of his elder one, Charlene. Like true soul mates, she and I waited for the arrival of the newborn and when he finally arrived, those who had the grace to watch us reported that we acted as school children.

I approached parenting with trepidation. No matter how much fun lovers may feel towards each other, I think parenting should be approached with a great sense of reflection and responsibility. Deciding to get married didn’t come to me as a life mission. In fact, it was one aspect of human consciousness I never gave much thought about. I still remember vividly having to make arrangements to get married after the initial traditional requirements – paying for the wedding gown, the cake, ordering souvenirs, booking the reception venue and taking care of all other logistics. Then few weeks to the time, I called the prospective bride and told her I wasn’t sure I was meant to get through with the marriage. Maybe if I have the luxury of ever writing a memoir sometime in the future, I would tell the whole story; but suffice it to say that I walked away and didn’t look back, even amidst the tears she shed. I still remember a friend who hadn’t heard the wedding was called off going to the church and sitting through a wedding ceremony on the assumption that it was mine, until she heard different names of the couple being called out. I have been a misfit most of my life in many aspects, but this tag has helped me to know the things that matter. I can talk about it now because I ended up marrying the same woman I walked away from, though three years after. As part of the twist, I’ve been married to her at four different ceremonies. I must admit that experience has been a most binding force of our lives together than any other. So, it was not difficult to give in to her pestering desire for a second child.

I have been asked several times why I walked away then. My answer has been simple: I walked away because I didn’t know why I should stay. Over the past six years of being married, I have tried to pore through my subconscious to understand why I walked away. The closest reason I came up with has been fear of parenting. Getting married is the littlest of my concerns. Marriage is about companionship; same thing as partnership. My background in sociology has been helpful in making me see that when two people are involved in a harmonious relationship they form symmetric bonding and human energies, when well harnessed, can bring about healthier interaction. However, when you throw in a third party, things turn somewhat asymmetric. Now, you have people playing different roles, viz. the man plays husband and father in addition to plethora of other roles outside the relationship and the woman plays wife and mother in addition to several others too. The likelihood of role strain is very much near.

I decided to look too deeply into the decision to marry and focused, not so much on the marriage itself, but on the resultant condition of becoming a father at some point. I was brought up to believe, though erroneously, that having a child is a natural consequence of marriage. This erroneous content of our upbringing has robbed many marriages the joy of each other’s companionship as the society put so much pressure on the couple to deliver on their marriage mandate. Having watched marriages hit the rock and children grow up without bearing, I have been concerned about the task of taking care of a child in today’s morally tasking world in the face of pursuing a career. The crave of materialism has not also helped matters. I believe no child should be brought into this world without being given a good moral compass to navigate the poisonous waters of human choices and consequences. In addition to this moral compass, children must be provided for but never to be made to crave for money or wealth. The greatest wealth anyone can attain is containment. In fact, in these increasingly expensive educational times, having an insurance arrangements that would take care of one’s child in the future when your income or continued employment may not be guaranteed is wisdom. With life expectancy as low as 51 years in Nigeria, it is even more pertinent that our planned parenting be imbued with wisdom each step of the way.

I have been busy watching my daughter play the role of big sister. There is so much attention paid to the newborn and I have decided to let mine focus on the older child. I still remember holding her hands in the maternity section of the hospital that Sunday afternoon to offer prayer of agreement for safe delivery. Through my relationship with the young one, I have come to realize that we actively collaborate with God to bring forth children for a purpose, a process that builds our faith and teaches us so many things. I have adopted the approach that the best way to be a parent is to approach parenting as a child, freeing oneself of the adultness baggage we carry about. Children should be allowed to be children, given healthy worldview and opportunities to be fully that. Parenting as a child is adopting the worldview of the child to look at what the adult sees. For me, freedom of expression has been my primary commitment. I want to offer the children opportunity to say whatever it is that may be on their mind, without hushing them. It is only when I know these expressions that I can understand their thought processes and provide necessary guidance. In approaching this too, I am mindful that many adults need guidance and sometimes a child might provide a glimpse of a direction not thought of. So, I am choosing to be free-spirited, exemplary and loving in encountering the experiential learning process called parenting.

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Let Us Pray

A friend once shared an experience she had years back in Texas. She narrated how she attended a church, dominated by blacks, and I could bet by many Nigerians too, and the prayer point kept focusing on immigration issues. The pastor would call for prayer for those who needed their papers regularized, those who had overstayed their visa or smuggled themselves into the United States. She noted that it was a spiritually challenging situation for her, since she had valid papers and couldn’t quite fit into the community’s religious worldview. Her tale was reminiscent of when a family member came into the country and while sitting in a meeting where an event was being planned, he heard another family member interjecting the discussion intermittently with “I pray there will be light.” He couldn’t help asking, “What don’t you guys pray for in Nigeria?” And talking about light, the Hurricane Sandy which affected part of New York State affected a friend such that her house was left without light for a few hours and the land telephone line was out for a day. When I called her cellphone to sympathize with her, she sounded very worried as I laughed it off and told her to calm down, since it was a situation I was used to in Nigeria. When she responded that she could imagine what we experience in Nigeria, I advised her against deceiving herself, by asking her if she prayed for the light to come after it went out. The answer was obvious. She didn’t need to. She knew it would come on and sure, it did.

So, as I reflect on the above anecdotes, I’m moved to ask the question “What don’t Nigerians pray for?” As a pointer, I will briefly proceed to highlight a few of the things Nigerians pray for. Oh, you are already thinking Nigerians pray for electricity. Of course, we do. Why shouldn’t we? When we pray for electricity, we don’t pray that the lights should come on and stay all day and keep us company through the night. We pray for it when we want to iron our shirts or heat water to bathe in the morning, when we want to watch football match or our favourite soap opera on tv. We pray for light to cool our refrigerators or freezer, not so much to drink cold water under the scorching sun, but to preserve our food when we are too tired to pour the leftovers into the pot and rehash using firewood in the middle of the night. When we pray for electricity, we are mindful that we need it so that those who are better-off could pump water for us to buy and store for use, since the tap in the house hardly flows.

Oh, we pray for so many other things in Nigeria. We pray for the traffic to clear by some magical wand, and let us go home in peace. We drive through traffic lights without stopping, praying that there is no police officer around to arrest us. I was on-board a flight a few years ago from Lagos to Kano and somewhat close to descent, the flight experienced turbulence and landing was visibly difficult. It was a violent weather and though outwardly I was struggling to maintain my calm, my heart did actually beat faster than normal mainly because of the uproar from fellow passengers who were praying in different tongues. I could bet I heard Moslems calling on Jesus Christ, Christians invoking African deities and some others beseeching Krishna. Amid the din, the prayer of the young lady seated beside me was the most troubling. She was praying fervently, “God, please, I’m yet to be married o.” Yes, that was her prayer. Caught in the seriousness of the helpless reality and the humour of her prayer, I burst out with “Is it inside this plane you want to marry?” That is the kind of prayer some Nigerians offer. There is no doubt that praying for a life partner is a specialist spiritual activity in Nigeria. People fast for days, months and years in prayer pose for a life partner. I know many friends who have attended annual religious activities to “hear” from God about a life partner. Many have heard, and some are still trying to clean their ears to hear properly.

If you have watched public functions organized by Government such as inauguration of the President or swearing-in of Governors and listened to the kinds of prayers offered by the Imams, Babalawos and Pastors, you will hear them praying to God to make the leaders good, to prevent them from stealing money, to prevent them from being seen by their enemies, to give children to those in need. Even when the leader might have rigged election, you will hear some Nigerians thanking God for the person’s election and praying for the public office holder to be re-elected. Nigerians are so religious that it is not uncommon to hear someone praying that God should touch the heart of public officers to provide good roads, schools and hospitals in their communities. In fact, I have seen students praying to pass an examination even after they might have come out of the examination hall, in denial of the feelings their intellect tells them. Everywhere you go, there are prayers of all kinds: for a contractor to finish airport renovation on time, for Boko Haram not to detonate their bomb until one would have safely passed a spot, for the president or his wife to remain permanently quarantined inside their Aso Rock Presidential Villa so that the roads in Abuja would not become impassable due to closure. Last year, during the floods that overtook much of Nigeria, there were so many prayers for the rains to stop, for the drainage systems to work and all sorts. It is difficult to document the plethora of things Nigerians pray for because I will need to undergo months of prayer to be able to attain such aspiration.

Meanwhile, you might be thinking that so far, I have not focused on how Nigerians pray for money. Let me tell you how some of those prayers actually go. If you are working in Nigerian Customs Service, for instance, you are likely to wake your wife and children up around 3.00 am and cast and bind any spiritual forces that might be preventing your being posted to some specific national border spots or sea ports – rather than be in the office – so that you can make more money from fraudulent deals. If you are working with the Nigeria Police, you are likely to pray (while working to use all contacts at the Force Headquarters) to be posted to a state where the governor is engaging in shady deals so you can protect him at a price. If you are a female banker or financial services advisor in relationship management, you are likely to be waking up early in the morning and praying that God will lead you to a male prospect who would not ask for sexual favours before doing business with you. It is not beyond some Nigerians to pray that they will land a job they are not qualified for, or be blessed with a car they don’t need. There are some Nigerians who pray that the contract they have paid kick-back for and obtained would not be cancelled. Some pray that the contract they have executed and paid bribes for would be paid when they submit their bills for payment. Nigerians pray that when they fake academic qualifications to apply for job or some corporate documents to apply for a contract, the person evaluating the documents would not see that they are not genuine.

Prayer is a living art of communion which validates and reinforces our existence as spirit beings and focusing on the externalities of human existence makes the process of praying bereft of its essence. Most of the things I have heard people pray for have no bearing on their existence as spirit beings. Having observed the wide continuum of prayerfulness among Nigerians and the motley of themes and concerns that inform the prayer life of many, I think there is a valid need to be worried about the increasing abnegation of personal responsibilities. People should be held responsible for failures of the state or institutions, rather than just “pray” them out of existence. We will not need to pray for electricity if those given responsibilities and paid to provide this service are held accountable for the trust reposed in them. We would not need to pray for doctors to be dedicated to their duties in hospitals if those who have responsibility to hold them accountable do their jobs. I have often mocked the proliferation of places of worship across Nigeria because they have become physical spaces of human communion, denuding the individual of the grace of cultivating his or her heart and inward being for penetration of the redemptive light. The externalization and proliferation of prayerfulness in the form we know it in Nigeria tends to underline the systemic rot in the country. Ironically, it is a rot we cannot successfully remove with the kind of praying the country has gone berserk with. The prayer we need is one that redeems and renews the inward being; that nurtures love, dispels hate and engenders genuine smiles and trust.

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Four Freedoms

We were hungry, in want of food;image
And you told us we’d freedom from want.
We were fearful if we would die;
And you told us we’d freedom from fear.
We were speechless, without complaint;
And you told us we’d freedom of speech.
We believed poverty was our lot;
And you told us we’d freedom of faith.

imageAnd when we’ve come to self-discovery
Believing in ourselves and started talking
Refusing to give up until hunger is cured
You dared claim to yourself one more freedom
One we certainly do not desire:
Freedom to turn a deaf ear.

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The Police is Indo-Nigerian

India and Nigeria are very much alike in several respects. There is sprawling poverty across the two countries vis-à-vis the wealth of a few. The two countries have a problem controlling their population meaningfully in the face of dilapidated social amenities. In the two countries, there is widespread mistrust in key government agencies, especially the police. Among the various similarities, I would like to focus on public policing. This is based on the recent incident in India involving the gang-raping of a young lady. The lady’s partner just spoke for the first time since the incident and recounted what happened (here). According to his report, he and his girlfriend were dumped on the street from the bus after the lady was mercilessly abused. However, upon arrival of the police, they delayed taking her to the hospital for about 30 minutes over disagreement about who had jurisdiction over the area the incident took place.

The above situation is exactly what happens in Nigeria. If it were Nigeria, the police men would come after a long while, and thereafter haggle over who had jurisdiction, which Divisional Police Station should document the incident. But that wouldn’t be the only thing they would argue over. They would tell whoever is around that there is no fuel in their car to take the victim to the hospital and therefore would require someone, possibly the victim, to provide some funding for such purposes. If there is no ready cash, they would insist on going on bike with whoever would volunteer to go to an ATM to get money. This would have followed lengthy exchanges about how the woman had invited the rape on herself by going out with a man or dressing in a particular fashion, as though one’s dressing is the molder of another person’s animal instinct.

According to the reports, the Police Authority in New Delhi immediately rebutted the young man’s accusation, claiming that they arrived the scene within three minutes of receiving the alert and left for the hospital twelve minutes later. This is typical of Nigeria’s Police Force. They are always quick to put the blame on the citizens, but hardly accepting responsibilities. In fact, if it were Nigeria, the Police would probably have announced how they had to airlift the victim due to terrible traffic congestion as a means of saving her life. Though also injured during the incident, the lady’s partner was not considered as being in need of medical care. But, he was considered fit for continued police investigation. So, rather than let him be taken to the hospital, the police kept him in their station for four days. A very typical Nigerian situation. In fact in Nigeria his family would have had to come and bail him out, except civil society groups cry out and the presidency intervene through the Inspector General of Police. If he were a girl in Nigeria, it is highly likely that she would have been kept as suspect in the police station and duly gang-raped while there.

Like in Nigeria, there was public apathy towards giving help to the victims after they were dumped. No one wanted to play the Good Samaritan because in the face of inability of Police Authority to make headway in a case, they are likely to drag innocent citizens into the web of lengthy legal cases. That is a commonplace experience in Nigeria where we have had experiences of illegal arrest and accidental discharges. If the Police don’t get the suspect, they are ready to lock up his aged parents, pregnant wife and even infant child. If they don’t get any of these, then the neighbours – far and near – are likely victims. In the face of such threats, people who would otherwise offer timely life-saving help are cowed and become apathetic in responding to situations of emergency. It takes more than a casual disposition or desire to help to provide adequate assistance during such critical moments.

I’ve experienced the corruption of the Indian Police at the Mumbai airport during the process of declaring foreign currency in my possession and I wasn’t surprised at all because I had a baggage of similar experiences by the Police in my own country. That was in 2009 and since then, I knew that India was no different from Nigeria. In fact, I have come to know that the police in both countries have dual nationality – Indo-Nigerian. Nigerians may be heading to India on medical tourism, but I have also realized that funding of some of the medical trips by public institutions have been characterized by corrupt practices involving Indian health consultancy firms and Nigerian agencies. No matter the level of technological development or economic growth, the people must remain central to every society. The recent rape incident in India juxtaposed against Nigeria’s widespread sex crimes is a reminder that we live in unsafe world and that women are being constantly abused and then blamed for the abuse in addition to inadequate justice system to protect those hurt.The culture of silence engendered by hostile male-dominated environment has made it even difficult for women who are abused to seek justice or even come out to talk about their experiences. Many of them choose to suffer the indignation with attendant trauma all life-long.

Just while the world vents its outrage against the sex crime that is common in India, the Child Protection Network (CPN) in Nigeria has released a Report that chronicled 95 child rape cases which have been recorded in five northern states of the country. Guess what? A police officer couldn’t miss being among those indicted. Unfortunately these cases involved mainly minors, some as young as 14 years. The incidence of women being gang-raped eats at the core of survival of a society and it is of such hurtful nature that were the women to push for castration of the male folk, they would have sympathizers. It is bestial to inflict such violence on others and also painful when this is perpetrated by young persons or those who have to been placed in positions of trust. We have a duty as individuals to watch and act, because those who perpetrate these sex crimes live in our midst. We must also support organizations, especially credible civil organizations that have taken over the fight to stop these abuses and seek justice for those affected. Beyond the actions of individuals and civil groups, this is the time for leaders to demonstrate their will and take actions that are necessary to give justice to those affected and promote the rights of the vulnerable, whether they are women, children or men. This is one way to guarantee the sanity and health of the society we live in.

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Husbands Wanted: Apply In Person

A romance with poverty is an intriguing and debilitating experience. It’s a romance that could either generate the humorous or bring one to a vegetative state. I’m talking about material poverty, inability to survive on your own without dependence on kinship or the state. In such a state, your ability for independent choices is dependent on your inner wealth and strength. But that isn’t what is common among women in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria. Demographic studies have highlighted the cultural subjugation of some of these women, many of who are neither heard nor seen. They are behind-the-scene attendants, with their needs dictated to and provided for by others. It was news last year when Kano State Government organized a mass wedding ceremony for about 100 widows and divorcees in the state. It smacked of a carnival. One would have thought that perhaps the women and men so married had chosen themselves, but lacked the financial resources for a ceremony. After all, mass weddings are widespread in Nigeria. The churches do it, so why can’t the state governments do it as poverty-alleviation projects? The difference lies not in the conduct of the ceremony by external parties like church or government, but in the decision of the marrying parties.

Vanguard Newspaper of today (January 5, 2013) has published Zamfara State Government’s announcement of plans to find husbands for about 2000 widows as a means of curtailing the rising numbers. I read the news and began to wonder what underlines this act of charity. As I read the online comments that followed the publication, I found that to be more intriguing than the news report itself. One of the most worrisome questions that emerged was “How did this large number of women become widows?” In trying to wrap my head around this, another post gave suggestion as to possibilities, suggesting that many of them may have been wives to late terrorists who have been killed within the last three years following the intensification of attacks by state security agents. That might be over-generalizing as the attacks have been more in the North East and not the North West where Zamfara State is. But, with the possible homogenous nature of the North, who says a widow in the North East cannot relocate, with clandestine state assistance, to the North West for purpose of swelling up their ranks and justifying the allocation of financial resources? Nigeria is a land of absurd possibilities. Nevertheless, if that line of reasoning is valid, then we are having a situation of indirect state-financed terrorism in the country. But I will let the state intelligence agencies do their work.

Now, back to the marriage arrangements; I’m wondering where the husbands will be sourced from. Will they be sourced from within and outside the state? Or will the search extend to outside the country to neighbouring Niger Republic and even up to Libya and other North African countries? Inter-marriage between northern Nigerians and citizens of Northern African countries is common and with the large number of women involved in this case, this wider search might be necessary. Anyway, come to think of it, only 500 men are needed actually. Since Zamfara is a Sharia state, a man is allowed to marry four wives. So, if the 2000 widows are distributed among 500 men, they would have been adequately taken care of. That will, however, be dependent on the State Government’s ability to source for and find willing single men.

Exploring the above further, there are several other concerns about this arrangement, unanswered questions. What are the qualifications for the husbands – cultural, religious, citizenship, psychological, etc? Are they going to be economically active and independent men? Are they going to be single or widowers? Are they going to be healthy enough such that they don’t die too soon and leave these widows widowed again? Are they going to be given employment to enable them to provide for the new wives? Will the women be given a chance to choose among the assortments of men that are going to be lined up? Have they discussed with the widows their specifications in terms of the kind of man they want? I would expect that in collating information from the widows, they were asked to fill out a form or one was filled out for each of them and in that form, they were asked adequate demographic information as a basis to match appropriate men.

There is another question that stands out. What is in this for the State Government? Is it part of their social security/development arrangements? Is it so difficult for the government to execute interventions that would make these widows economically independent on their own? I want to believe that many of them have children and these children have a right to grow under conditions of appropriate care and provisioning. I know in certain cultural settings a woman is denuded of her humanity to the extent that she is not given a voice to choose her partner or spouse, but should this be accepted as the best solution? As is common in Nigeria, it may not be surprising to find out that these “widows” are really not widows, as it could just be an arrangement to syphon money from the state treasury through some phony means. If the basis for this “project” is to address the perceived deprivation these women are exposed to, then it is hinged on the erroneous assumption that marriage is an empowering institution. In fact, marriage is a subjugating institution, especially when the basis for entering into it is not negotiated in some form.

It is my assumption that many of the said “widows” have children of varied ages and their peculiar needs may not be addressed within a marriage context. It is my reasoned opinion that the needs of many of these children may be addressed through their mother’s economic independence. These children should be situated within the entire project as the most vulnerable group; not the widows. They are vulnerable to all kinds of abuse – physical, moral, sexual, psychological, economic, etc. This is a task for the civil society groups who have a mandate to protect rights of children. There is need to understand the basis and dynamics of this project. If the women have chosen to subject themselves to this experiment, how have they factored the helpless children into the whole arrangement? It is even worrisome that the announcement was made by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, who incidentally is a woman. In a cultural setting characterized by complementarity rather than equality, we are facing a situation where new organic problems are created by trying to solve existing ones.

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The warmth and simplicity which Sue exudes in her writing made me consider this piece a befitting tone to begin the New Year. It is truly a year with variegated colours and opportunities and I invite you to come embrace the mosaic. Enjoy. Happy New Year.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

It is New Year’s Eve. Everywhere are posts about the year in review or hopes for the coming one. It’s sort of obligatory.  A mini rite of passage as the old year fades and the new comes to birth. So instead of jumping on that particular bandwagon today, I decided to write about painting. A voice from the past, words from the present and a hope for the future.

For myself, I have always scribbled and drawn. One of my earliest memories is of a very childish picture of Pearl Bailey in Carmen Jones… chalk on small blackboard in Grandad’s parlour. Of course, the film was in black and white on our TV back then, but the colours were vivid on the blackboard… I remember I drew the dress blue. It had felt blue.

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.~ Vincent Van Gogh

I lack skill…

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Beyond the Choices

I love happy endings, be such in relationships, lessons or activities. I’ve been a student of the past one year, opening my heart, eyes and ears to every anecdote, word, idea, gesture and unaltered silence that came my way. From each of these I’ve learnt a lot, enough to prove the maxim that “some things in life are caught, not taught.” I’ve felt deep emotions about things and people and I’ve kept my eyes focused on seeing the beauty life has blessed me with. I’ve been worried about the sprawling poverty around – poverty of basic needs, of commitment to service and also poverty of values. I still remember the most popular axiom while growing up: “children are the leaders of tomorrow.” I took this literarily and reasoned that, if this must come true, one must weigh the consequences of each action as deeply as possible before deciding on a course of action. Now, what I hear is complaint from the elderly ones: “children of these days are too ambitious,” as though being ambitious makes one a misfit.

I write this post out of concern about the values that seem to be pervasive in our society, values that are worrisome and anti-developmental. I have been blessed to know and work with wonderful people with strong values, ideas, leadership potentials and love for humanity. In spite of this, I feel saddened when I come across an outstanding breach committed by a young person. It’s as if such has not generated enough anger against the disappointments of the elderly ones who have plundered our collective resources. When that happens, I know the person has been an unfortunate mentee. One fortunate thing in our world today is that it is suffused with positive mentors with commitment to values that are timeless and priceless. One unfortunate thing in our world today is that there is also copious supply of negative mentors. The difference then lies in the choices we make. Making the right choice is never an easy task. You have to constantly fight against yourself, and sometimes against a group you belong. The self-deceit lies in telling yourself you have to be better than someone else or meet a certain ideal set by someone else. In the race towards the Truth and the Best in human existence, we run against ourselves. Some choices bring about immediate consequences while others have deferred consequences. Positive choices are like deferred gratification, but they yield immediate peace and lasting reward.

Following on the heels of all that I’ve said above, it’s time to bring the illustrative case which informed this post. I recently came by a young man, under thirty, who lost an opportunity of an interesting career in one of the prime institutions in the country. He joined the organisation a few years back on a comfortable income and good working conditions, but decided to exploit the trust of his colleagues and got caught up in a series of fraudulent activities. He spent the yields from the fraudulent actions on “financial terrorism” – living ostentatious lifestyle, intimidating others and employing personal chauffeur under claims of being financed by his “wealthy parents.” When his cover was blown and investigators pored through the books and his background, he became an inmate of a police detention cell. As he confessed to the numerous frauds he committed, investigators wanted to know what moved him to such ignominious end. He admitted it was caused by greed and when he saw that he was trusted by his colleagues, he abused the trust.

As I watched his broken family struggle to come to terms with the son they thought they knew, it was clear his choices didn’t affect him only. The casualties were many; among them were his parents, siblings, pregnant wife, and most importantly, the expected child who might come forth from the womb to find the father in jail. I’ve been deeply saddened by this incident, trying to understand the weight of the greed that drove him. Was he ambitious? I can’t say. I would think ambition is guided by a well thought-out set of priorities, guided by values that engender their full realization. I’m wont to think this was a case of misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, he is not alone. I’ve heard and read about young people who have expressed readiness to seize similar opportunity and walk same path, with same choices. In most cases, they stop at the choices, not on the consequences, often rationalizing ethical dilemmas to avoid a feeling of cognitive dissonance. Even when the world is replete with stories of unwholesome consequences from bad choices, they rationalize themselves away as being smarter. It is the reasoning adopted by those who believe they can buy their freedom from the law, should they be caught. It’s a saddening reality.

In spite of the fact that in our country, we may have some bad people, be sickened by hate and divisions, squashed by poverty and hemmed in by corruption from all sides, our spirit can still aspire towards purity. It has been proven timelessly that the man who strives against greater opposition obtains greater victory. I’m thankful for those who have chosen to act wisely and with the consciousness that every negative act or thought breathes negative energy into our lives. They have taught us to believe in the best, work for the best and expect the best. I’m ending the year with a reinforced lesson: making the right choice brings about positive consequences in the short, medium and long term. Having watched how the mighty have fallen in spite of their wealth, making the right choices sure gives peace of mind. They keep the police away too; and when the police do come, they come for the right choices one has made. Making the right choice builds our mentoring integrity as well as a worthy heritage, solid and unassailable.

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The Animal Instinct

It’s just one of those moments when my mind spins on its orbit and my heart traces and retraces varied paths my consciousness has travelled. Now, I’m wondering what constitutes the subsistent element of human life. Though I wonder about this, I let not myself wander much into the abyss. It’s because I love life and its potency in bringing forth beauty, growth and life. I’m not surprised that blood remains life’s precious fluid. It might not be subsistent, but blood is certainly elemental to life, whether it’s human or non-human. Looking back through history, blood has always been viewed as being coterminous with life, and rightly so. It is not surprising that blood is shed during the birthing process in order to bring forth life. This is in spite of the fact that recent statistics point to hemorrhaging as the commonest cause of death among pregnant women in Nigeria. Shedding one’s blood to give life to another is an altruistic act which has sustained the human population all through the ages.

On the flip side, however, so much blood has been shed in Nigeria, deliberately and carelessly. When we talk about the shedding of human blood, I’m referring to the senseless murders that have taken place across this country in the past one year? I don’t mean only acts of terrorists who bomb people dead or slit the throats of innocent citizens as though they were readied for suya meat. I also mean the murder that bad roads have committed, because those who have responsibilities to repair them have embezzled the money with impunity and got rewarded with juicier positions in government, leaving the pot-holed roads to the recklessness of drivers and siren-blaring public officials. It feels as if there is a god-goddess enthroned somewhere, whose delight is to feast upon gourmet blood. When I talk about blood-letting, I’m referring to the hospitals, where the voiceless and poor are legally murdered due to lack of adequate equipment and competences. I’m also referring to the extra-judicial killings by agents of the state and the attendant reprisal killings. I’m thinking if all the blood that has been shed in Nigeria this year were collected and contained in some form, they would sure sail a ship steadily from Lagos to Maiduguri.

The country is soaked in blood and this is not good for true development. When bloodletting is not curtailed, peace is endangered. Our search for solutions through political correctness and maneuvering will lead us along a path that is not sustainable. I’ve often wondered how people feel when they take human lives, directly or by proxy. Thinking about this now, I remember a discussion I had some years ago with a retired Colonel of the Israeli Army. He happened to have been one of those who, as a young officer, carried out the Operation Entebbe of 4 July, 1976 during the reign of Idi Amin of Uganda. Knowing him to be a veteran sniper and blunt too, I believed he would be sincere with me. We were discussing his various engagements in the military when I asked him, “Looking back, how do you feel recollecting those moments when you had to aim the gun at someone and then pull the trigger?” The retired colonel looked me intently in the eye and responded “Charles, I’ve never let my eyes look into a man’s eyes when I pull the trigger. No true human being does that. At the point you pull the trigger, you must submit yourself to the animal instinct.” I was subdued by his frankness, but I learnt something deep.

Recently, a colleague’s brother was coldly murdered in Bornu State and months ago a video of communal homicide was posted on the internet, of how four young men were murdered by a community in Rivers State. During the year, there was also the circulation of a video of children, mainly under six years, who were murdered by some terrorists. All through the year, we hear stories of deaths, of carnage across the land. Going by the bloodletting that has become pervasive in Nigeria, I truly believe that it takes becoming an animal to kill a human being. Respecting the preciousness of human life and its sanctity bestows some form of purity on the human soul. Our land needs healing, as the cries of the innocent resound across the space and those they have left behind bewail their suffering. The healing must start from our hearts, as we seek peace, breathe peace, speak peace and work for peace. Each positive action we take to stop a human life from being a victim of the animal instinct is a valid action that contributes to our collective and individual healing and sanity. We need this healing to grow, to overcome the hurdles politics, religion, greed, hate and egos have placed on our way.

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Filed under Death, Life, Politics

a grateful spirit

I’m grateful for the tears of the year
They’ve proven I’m human after all;
I’m grateful for successes attained,
They’ve strengthened my faith in me.

I’m grateful for friends that stayed
There’s some purpose in our bond;
I’m grateful for those that fell aside,
Our purpose had run its course.
I’m grateful for new friends found,
They prove that help is always around.

I’m grateful for each word I’ve crafted,
They’ve been my sublime guide.
I’m grateful for all I’ve read and learnt;
They’ve enriched my dance steps with life.
I am grateful for family, near and far;
They’ve remained great pillar of strength.

I’m grateful for the air and its breath,
The conveyance of life and freshness;
I’m grateful for the Truth I seek,
The embrace of my soulful dance.

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Filed under Life, Poetry, Writing

Beyond the Routine

It was Boxing Day and I’d woken to a rewarding time ahead of me. There were some messages still coming in with wishes of goodwill. I needed to send some out too. So, I settled for sparing some time to chat. The lot fell on a pediatrician friend I hadn’t heard from for quite some time. I wanted to find out how she was doing during the Christmas season and to express my good wishes. She was about 300 miles away, in Calabar, where so many activities were taking place during the season.

“Christmas? I’m not the best person to know how it is. I’ve been busy in the theatre resuscitating babies.”

I was quite thrilled, though I could read she meant she wasn’t in the usual Christmas mood that characterized Calabar at the moment. The reality was that I wasn’t interested in finding out how Christmas was in Calabar; I was interested in knowing how her Christmas season was.

I needed to let her know, so I replied, “That is the real Christmas. I’d give up what I’m doing now to be in that situation.”

“Really?” Her response smacked of surprise.

“Sure. You’re doing something really worthwhile, building and mending lives; giving hope to people. That’s the real Christmas.”

She dropped a smiley face before adding, “Thank you. You know, one does this so often that it becomes a routine and one hardly sees it any differently.”

She was right. But, I wasn’t going to accept that as the way it should be. So, I took her through the experiences. I wanted her to feel the freshness in her efforts, the love that throbs in the moments and the transformation that takes place through her routine. I reminded her of the panic that parents express when the children are brought in and the debilitating conditions of the children, sometimes too weak to eat, cry or even talk. Then I contrasted these with the calm and radiance that shine on the faces of the parents after being attended to and noticing the child’s emerging smile and playfulness. I reminded her that her efforts contribute to the transformation. That is infusion of life, a rebirth of some sort. That is what we are called to do, to be co-creators by creating and re-creating conditions of better wellbeing, love, happiness and peace.

Isn’t that the way many of our lives are? Getting so caught up with the routine that we fail to feel the essence in our daily engagements? Aren’t we so often bugged down by routine that we hardly see the beauty in our activities? I’ve noticed how parents feel obligated to love their children and care for them that they see and feel only the routine in the expressions of love, oblivious of the uniqueness of each moment and the life it breathes. I’ve seen workers approach their jobs as drudgery, compelled by financial need to stay on it without appreciating the lives it touches or the fun it should bring to their lives. Routine should not make our lives any less interesting, especially when we can relate with the purpose inherent in it. Focusing on the purpose rather than just the activity of our engagements or activities can enrich our perspective of life, our relationships and our overall wellbeing. This, I think, should be the Christmas gift we should gift ourselves.

Well, I ended the chat with my friend by reminding her “each mother, each child may take it that you’re doing your job, but your work breathes positive energy into life – your life, their lives and the world. This, for me is the real purpose of work.”

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Filed under Health, Life