My Humble Beginning (Video)

It took me time to discover what i really wanted to do. I always knew i wanted to be great. I feared being ordinary and whenever I prayed as a younger woman and even as a girl, I asked God to make me a household name. It was important to me that my name be heard. I knew that much, but I had no idea how to get there and for years I thought, worried, prayed and wondered at what it was I had to do to get there and what career path I had to pursue to get me there. Continue reading

To Wait Or Not To Wait

In all my years of writing I do not remember talking about relationships or giving relationship advice. First, because there are already more relationship advisers than the assorted meat in a Yoruba woman’s soup pot and I don’t like to dabble into what everybody is doing. Secondly, because in relationships there is no advice that is all encompassing.

I have observed that one quarter of social media users and radio presenters have turned to agony aunts and we see people sending them messages about their relationships, asking for help from people who do not know the first thing about relationships and advise you with bias. Quack love doctors everywhere. Continue reading

That Borrowpose Life

One of the advantages of having siblings of the same sex, within the same age range and body size is that you often get to flaunt more clothes than you really have. When you have someone like me in your family it means it doesn’t just stop at siblings, this ‘Olivia Twist’ goes as far as borrowing from her mother.

ọgọdọ nṅuṅu ejighi ya agbasi egwu ike. You should not dance your best with a borrowed wrapper, my mum would warn before she lends me anything that belongs to her. I don’t fail to tell her the same when she comes to borrow my makeup or purse too.

Whenever my mum buys something new for herself I admire it with her and begin a mental calculation of how the item can be of use to me. From a time when my mates were still wearing flat shoes and I was already standing on borrowed high heels – who cares that my aunty said I walked like a willowy tree blown by the wind in them? – till now that she has to hide her perfumes and jewellery from me, though she knows it’s a waste of effort, I have never stopped seeing the personal property of every female in this house as public property.

Early in the year 2010, we had one of our usual ASUU strikes and I came home with only the basics. One Sunday morning, wearing a new dress, the ashoebi for a neighbour’s thanksgiving, I looked down and noticed the flare of the dress was very transparent. My underskirts were in school. Black tights didn’t help. My sister was in the North, serving. Last resort was my mother.

“Mummy biko give me your half shimi. See.” I show her how exposed I am through the gown. She didn’t bat an eye at the request, just reached out and gave it to me.

Who among those who praised my style that day would have known that beneath the lovely dress I wore was an oversized underskirt, worn as a tube from chest to knee, rather than from the waist down? Which of them would have guessed that the fine brooch nestled to the left of my bosom was there, not just for aesthetics, but to pin the underskirt to my bra and gown so that my Garri would not pour and expose me in public?

The things clothes can cover ehn. The Yoruba people say; A she o pọ to yi, asọ lo fi bo. So it’s plenty like this, na dress you use cover am.

In the spirit of borrowing, I was in my mum’s room to steal ulor (Bentonite clay) from her stash when I noticed something colourful catch my eye. A new jacket. I think it is lovely and it would go well with my yellow hand bag. I am upset that it cannot be my size then I remember Rihanna wore a similar oversized jacket and we all called it fashionable. I know I am not crazy enough to wear it out but who says I can’t take a picture and save for posterity?

In the past, oversized jackets were fashionable. This fashion seems to be creeping back in, if it does then my children can look at this picture tomorrow the way I looked at a secondary school picture of my mum in a modern ish top and trousers and say “So mummy was this fashionable in the olden days when this type of fashion was not even out?”

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But is that all there is to this post? No way! Now, I want to tell you a story. Sit back and get your popcorn ready.

Some years ago, in year two thousand and eleven precisely, a certain young woman went to a volatile state in the Northern part of Nigeria to serve her country. It turned out she enjoyed it more than she anticipated. Close to her lodge was a church and in the mornings she went for morning mass. While returning from mass one morning a certain good looking young man approached her. Though he was cute she scrunched up her nose at the thought that this one was going to try to woo her that early in the morning, but on getting close he said something along the lines of “Hello dear. I don’t know why but God has been troubling me to send a message to you.”

She felt special. It was not the usual generic message of “Sister, God loves you.” This one was a personal message sent from God specifically for her. It gave her joy all through that day. Subsequent mornings she would meet this same man and he would always have the right Godly thing to say. One morning he was waiting for her with a book. A book with the title ‘Unleashing your potentials’ by a very popular speaker.

“God has very big plans for you,” He said “but you have to prepare yourself for it. Read this book.” Though she had a professional exam at about that time she read every page of that book and returned it.

On the day she was to return it though something unusual happened.  This man of God relayed to her a very heart touching story, kind of like I’m relaying to you now, but its content was different. His money was tied up in a very big business, his pastor who would have given him the physical cash he needed to live on had travelled, so he needed the help of this corps member regarding raising funds. She wasn’t stupid, far from it, but she also had a conscience. Her conscience and her sense fought a serious battle so she sought the advice of a fellow corps member who was also into all those church things. Eventually she gave him the money from her meagre government allowance. Afterwards, I’m sure you are not surprised to hear that the story changed.

First, by chance or design, he quit running into her so often, then when he did, rather than discuss the money, he proposed marriage to her. Yes he did!

Gradually the end of her posting and the time to leave the North came. She hadn’t seen him in weeks. Whenever she called he had an excuse ready. The night before she left she called again and he showed his true colour, it was the same hue as the angry flames seen in those pictures of hell; Red and black. The morning she was to leave the North he switched off his phone. She sent text messages which were not replied and calls which went unanswered. And that was the end of her money. But did she learn? No.

Some years later, she got a call from someone else who hadn’t called her in years.

“Please I’m on site, there is no bank around and my pastor asked me to send him some money. Can you help? I’ll pay you back the Monday after the presidential elections.” The word pastor rang a warning bell.

I’ll take a break from this story to warn you. Whenever anyone asks you for money and puts in the word pastor in same sentence they are manipulating your conscience. Don’t do it!

Now back to the story. She warred with her conscience again, but chose to help. One week passed, then months. He wouldn’t pick her calls, wouldn’t reply her texts or Whatsapp messages, but when she called with a different line he picked and rather than sound repentant went on the defensive.

I’m sure this isn’t a peculiar story. We all have met such people who borrow then will begin to avoid you when it’s time to pay up. When they run into you, the sky will suddenly look too beautiful to ignore and they get lost admiring it they fail to see you or acknowledge your presence.

No one has it all. Every one of us will have that moment when our Shimi is unavailable and we will need the help of our neighbour to cover our nakedness, but there is an implicit rule to borrowing.

Do not wait for the lender to call you. Be the first to call and let them know that you are aware you owe them, express your remorse for being unable to pay up just yet and promise to pay up as soon as you can. And by all means try to pay up, even if it’s just half! You are soiling your good name if you owe people and go about living large while ignoring them.

Uzọ di nma a ga ya nga n’abọ. If a road is good we take it twice. If you destroy the road you took earlier how do you plan to pass next time?

Don’t be about that borrowpose life except you are borrowing from your nuclear family.

Preserving the Family Jewel

Humans are not equal, same for body parts. Some body parts we can survive without, but the loss of some we perceive as a loss of one’s identity.

This is why certain parts are treasured enough to be given endearing names. Lots of men name their genitalia. One calls his AK47. Family jewel is a well known title.

Nothing scares a man more than becoming what is commonly called a “Vegetable” or losing the potency of his balls. But it isn’t only the men who dread this disaster, their women dread it almost as much.

Doctor: Madam we are sorry your husband’s accident caused him to lose his memory.

Wife: (Hands on head) Mo gbe! Memory loss ke? But can he walk? Can he still function?

Doctor: Yes.

Wife: Ahh, Ope o. Memory can come back later.

In this part of the world we value a man’s ability to be a stallion. After all we do not want our women to carry placards like the women in that other African country and begin to protest their husband’s inability to be ‘men’ and satisfy them.

That I do not believe a man’s worth is tied to his balls or he is any less of a man if they do not function is not the topic of discourse for now. There are needs and the channel to fulfilling those needs have to be kept in good working condition.

Health professionals have warned that letting the testes get too warm or tight can lead to Erectile Dysfunction. Our men have come to take this warning seriously. Never mind that they have also warned that persistent alcohol use can do same. At least one of the warnings is being heeded.

It becomes a problem though when in public spaces, especially in Lagos buses. Lagos drivers and conductors are experts in maximizing space, so that a space meant for four average sized people will suddenly be expected to fit five people.

“Four lepa, one orobo. Shake body o. No be your papa house you dey.”

What can we do? It is their office and we have to obey, right? You can choose to revolt but only if you have enough money for a taxi or are not afraid to be late.

Unfortunately while some people have only one aim; to get to their destination in time, some have multiple; get to your destination in time but make sure the boys do not get cooked in the process. This is when preserving family jewels becomes a problem.

I am all for keeping safe and healthy that which is important, but there is a line between health consciousness and selfishness. This line is crossed when you pay for one space and while others are yet to get half their behind into a seat you are manspreading. Those who do not take public transport will never understand the injustice of this.

A plea to adjust usually results in varying outcomes; the ‘nice’ ones will wiggle and pretend to adjust without actually moving from their spot and with their legs still splayed, while the other more troublesome types will either ignore you completely or start a confrontation.

I agree jewels are worth protecting at all cost and that includes paying for the next space if you are going to take up more than half of the space paid for by another. Let’s stop this selfish behavior. A woman’s jewel needs air too.

Sitting cross legged looks responsible
Sitting cross legged looks responsible

In related news, above are our counterparts in other countries and how they sit. Some would argue that is why their divorce rate is high, because their women are dissatisfied, but that too is debatable.

PS: in case of any grammar error, biko gbaghara, oyibo biara abia (please forgive, English is foreign to us.)

Corper Charles Agu: Where is Chidiogo?

A man’s name precedes him long before he makes an appearance. For the new corp member who was posted to our school, terror went before him. His name was whispered with fear among the students who had had the ‘misfortune’ of being tutored by him and those who were lucky enough to have never met him shook their head at tales of him and hoped their good luck would remain.

 

It was the worst luck when we heard he would be our new computer teacher. Asides him being a man to be feared, he was also said to take a favourite in each class, though no one knew on what basis he chose.  I shared my hopes with my best friend then that I would be his favourite. She hoped so for herself too and we kept our fingers crossed.

 

The much feared day came and as I think back now I remember noticing the countenance of most of my class mates was subdued as one teacher left and we waited for computer period to begin.

 

No one is born scared, you learn your fears, they say. The previous year, while we were still new students in J.S.S.1 we had this business studies corper whose name I don’t remember but whose face never leaves my mind. I particularly remember the tattoo he had on one arm of a skull above crossed bones. He was rumoured to have been a cultist while in UNIBEN and there was no reason to doubt that.

 

His “I’m gonna” and “wanna’ way of speaking might have been amusing (actually it was afterwards) but for the threats that came with it. “I’m gonna fucking mess you up” he would warn and never were they empty threats.

 

As way of punishment he would ask an erring student to remove all the books from her locker, squeeze herself into the locker and be locked in. We were pretty little but not small enough to fit into a book locker.

 

Having gone through these, our fear was understandable. We were not ready for another nightmare of a teacher just one year into another class.

 

“Class stand greet” The class prefect banged her hand against her table and we stood.

 

“Good afternoon sir, we are happy to see you. God bless you. Amen.” It was obvious we were not happy to see him, even he couldn’t be that dumb to believe that, but it was the standard greeting so we said it anyway.

 

As we took our seats and began introducing ourselves, I wondered why he had to be yellow like our former business studies teacher. When it got to my turn, I introduced myself and rather than move on to my partner he smiled for the very first time since he came in and began asking me more personal questions. I couldn’t believe it. I was freaking John the beloved! The chosen one. I looked at my partner with whom I had made the wish and with our eyes we spoke. ‘Can you imagine’ my eyes communicated and in hers I read ‘lucky you’

 

And so began the roller coaster ride of being corper Charles Agu’s favourite. He invited me to come visit him at the computer room whenever I was free and as I took up his offer he introduced me to an entirely new interesting world that was previously unknown to me, a world he was passionate about and without reserve passed down to me.

 

The first time he took off the trampoline that usually covers the computers and asked me “do you know what this is?” I smiled.

 

“Why won’t I know?”

 

“But have you used one before?” We were never allowed to use them. He encouraged me to put one on and I’m sure my eyes must have grown to twice their size. With as much reverence reflective of the way he was treating the precious computer, I put one on carefully.

 

Some things we never forget. I remember his exact words “Don’t touch it like it’s going to bite you” and he took my hand passing it properly over all parts of the computer and telling me the function of each. The computer which had always been boring now had become my best subject.

 

During his classes, if he punished the rest I was exempted. He sang my praise always though I have no idea what for and whenever he punished anyone they were released only on the condition that I pleaded on their behalf.

 

I would not lie and say I enjoyed that part. It was a bit uncomfortable, but who will have sugar thrown into their mouth then choose to spit it out. When I am not diabetic.

 

I became the topic for every class and one particularly diligent student, Ayobami, who couldn’t do without taking notes actually began taking notes about me with the date on the left hand column, then topic “Chidiogo” taking the centre page. I had no idea until the day I fell sick and lay back in class while others left for computer class. He sent some students to come bring me to him else he wouldn’t teach and when I finally made it to computer class with them and asked Ayobami for her book to copy what I missed there it was.

 

‘Where is Chidiogo?’ I opened to previous pages and my name was in all of them.

 

While I enjoyed the highs in class it wasn’t so in the hostel. Usually while getting ready for morning classes or prep I would brush my hair, my eye brows, my side burns, apply lip gloss on my lips then with a bit of gel  pat down my eye brows and side burns (Lol. Mgbeke behaviour I know, but it was cool back then). While doing this one afternoon before prep a senior came up and with such force rubbed her hand across my face smearing my makeup.

 

“Small girl like you, who are you doing all this makeup for? So it is true what they say about you and that corper?” To say I was confused was an understatement.

 

I was as innocent as they come and when in J.S.S.3 my mum had my baby brother and Yolanda said to me “So your parents had sex ehn?” I argued with such conviction telling her my parents will never do such.  I didn’t know how babies came about so it’s no surprise that in J.S 2 I also didn’t know why I couldn’t be friends with a man.

 

Being loved by the corper meant being hated by the seniors, so to survive I began ignoring him as best I could till he left.

 

Years later I couldn’t stop wondering why he chose me and curiosity got the better part of me a few weeks back and my fingers (not me) typed Charles Agu on LinkedIn. There were too many people with that name so I narrowed them down by complexion to 3 then sent invites with the message;

 

Hello Charles,

Did you do your NYSC in F.G.G.C Oyo between 1999 and 2000?

 

I got a reply from one.

 

Yes I did. Did you serve there too?

 

It wasn’t long before he recognised me, but before I could ask that which had plagued me for years he sent another message saying;

 

Wooooo Chidiogo, how are youuuuu?  I remember you very well, you were about the smallest in your class then and so sharp, that was why I liked you.

 

Such innocent reason, as innocent as I perceived it to be then.  For some reason I felt some satisfaction finally knowing the reason. I wanted to tell him a lot; how that computer that was such a big deal is now everywhere. How good I had become with operating computers… Then when he asked me;

 

Where are you now and what do you do?   I quickly recollected myself and remembered I am meant to be a big girl now, not that little girl he knew. But deep down that little girl is excited to meet him a second time. The difference this time is that there will be no seniors to come and spoil my happy and perfectly healthy friendship with corper Charles.

Seed of Infidelity

“Why will I want a second wife? What is in their body that is different?” I had said to my colleagues who seemed to think that being a Muslim, I will want to exercise my freedom to more than one wife. That was two weeks to my wedding.

Five months down the matrimonial road, all was bliss like I expected it would. My wife was cool-headed, respectful despite our being only a few weeks apart in age and really economical with the little salary I earned.  I had no fear about the new addition we were expecting to our family. She will be the perfect mother.

There’s nothing like a wedding to bring old friends – and foes- together.  A married man for six months and my first time attending a social engagement without my wife due to her pregnant state, I saw her again; my ex.

It had not been a nice parting. How could it be after ten years together? The last we saw she came to pick her stuff from my house, a month to my wedding, and we barely acted in a civil manner towards each other.

Now, she looked to be doing well, though the way she painstakingly ignored me proved she was still affected by our break-up. Deciding to be the bigger man I made a move to be civil.

She was reluctant for a long time. I suggested we bury the hatchet. She looked at me with disbelief.

“Bury hatchet? You are one to talk when you have moved on! Ten years of my life is what I gave you. For ten years I refused every marriage proposal and what do you do? You replace me easily.”

Funny how the guilty can suddenly become the accuser. We had met soon as I was wrapping up my HND programme.  She was yet to get into school and with my paltry salary then of NGN 20,000 I paid her school fees all through school.

My friends saw it as a bad idea. She was in school in a different state from me. Anything could happen. And something did happen. While I was meeting her financial needs and preserving her virtue for marriage, she had a course mate meeting her physical needs.

On finding out, I pretended not to know then when she came to visit while on holiday I did what no Muslim brother should do; I seduced her. I consoled myself that it was the only payment I was to get for my years of sacrifice on her. “She wronged me first” was the reason I gave when my conscience worked overtime.

I would have straight up reminded her all the ways she was the reason for her own misfortune but I noticed for the first time, or just now chose to accept, that I still cared about her.

We are mature adults, surely we could sort out our differences and be friends. Upon further inquiry I discovered our offices were quite close and I suggested we met to smooth things over.

I never hid anything from my wife and when she asked me how the wedding went, I told her all save for meeting my ex. I didn’t want to trouble her, I rationalized. As she inquired further about the wedding and I answered distractedly, it registered that this time last year my wife and I were total strangers. To the surprise of my wife, i got up rapidly in search of a calendar. This time last year was the exact date I seduced my ex then asked her out of my life. Allah blessed me a few weeks later with a virgin maiden, Aisha, who is now my wife.

I began calling Hadiza again. In the office only. No need to trouble my pregnant wife.

“Does your wife know about this?” Nneka, my favourite colleague asked.

“No she doesn’t, but she will once I have made peace with Hadiza, that’s the only reason why I call her”

“OK o, just be careful” She warned. But that was not necessary. I trust myself and love my wife dearly.

Some phone conversations later, we agreed to meet and since I could not confide in my wife I told Nneka about it.

“Nooo Way!” She objected loudly.

“Yes way” I countered smiling. “Remember I promised I will never marry a second wife?”

Nneka continued shaking her head and did everything in her power to prevent me from going.

“Will you be happy if your wife meets with her ex?”

“Ahn ahn, why will she? See, it’s different. I just want to clear the air, that’s all”

“That’s how it starts.”

Very early Sunday morning, one full month after we had met again at that wedding, I met with Hadiza at her house.

She asked why i treated her in such manner. I explained that I found out about her unfaithfulness in school. She was shocked that I knew and explained that it all happened at a time when I began acting indifferent towards her. The guy was very attentive and she was vulnerable thinking I was not interested in her anymore.

I remembered that during that period I was really busy at work because a colleague resigned and I had to handle two people’s job till we got a replacement. I apologized for being inattentive but told her that wasn’t still a good reason to lose her virtue. She explained she was sorry about it and that she had no real feelings towards him.

But she had also become rude towards my family and when I brought that up she explained that she felt like the outsider amongst them because she had not been properly married into the family and hoped I would ask her the reason for her behavior and try to remedy things.

She cried. I cried. We apologized and I realized I had never stopped loving her. She begged me to take her back; Two wives was not unheard of. We talked till seven in the evening before I left for home.

 

“How did it go?” Nneka asked in answer to my “Good morning” on Monday morning.

I refused to go into details about all that transpired and said simply “I still love her. She was my first love.”

“Well, what can I say? Congratulations on your next wedding Fatiha.”

As I opened my mouth to remind her of my vow never to marry a second wife she interrupted me “And don’t feed me that ‘no second wife’ story because the first seed has already been planted and you are doing a good job nurturing it. I just regret that I didn’t make a bet with you when you boasted never to remarry, I would be richer in a few months.”

She sounded so certain that i will be getting married soon. I wonder if it is so. How can one love two women so intensely?

Writer’s Note: This is a true life story; the story of a close friend. Names have been changed and i am ‘Nneka’ in this story. It has been tweaked a bit though and i had to leave out some really personal stuff.

“Is it OK to stay friends with the ex?” That was the discussion on radio last night and as i listened i decided to write this story.

So i ask.; Is staying friends with the ex a sign of maturity or courting trouble? To what extent should one be civil towards their ex?

 

The Holocaust

Since Jesus of Nazareth is the king of the Jews why did he stand by and watch the Jews, his own subjects suffer the Holocaust for 12 years? This is the question that plagued me as I watched the survivors tell their story on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Amongst the names being mentioned in relation to the holocaust two names stand out; Adolf Hitler and Dr Joseph Mengele, the Angel of death.

Continue reading