To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

I couldn’t help but reblog this. The act of kindness touched me beyond words. Sometimes we have been in a postion where what we need isnt the most expensive of things, all we need is the most basic of things get our day going again. To lighten up our mood again and believe that there is a drop of the milk of kindness in every human. The smallest act of kindness can put a great smile on people’s face again. When last did you help somebody without necessarily expecting a direct reward?

True Stories of a Midwest Yankee

Dear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.
You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of this.

What you do know is I tried to buy my kids some food and that the EBT machine was down so I couldn’t buy…

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Oh! Take Your Tarriffs And Give Us Our Books.

I read it somewhere – I cannot readily remember now- that writing is the hardest job you can ever do that does not actually require physical labour.  The act of stringing words together to make meaningful phrases and creative prose is no mean feat and those who have the courage to do it must be praised. You never know the arduous, onerous task required in producing great books until you start penciling down your thoughts for others to digest. I have respect for great authors and talented wordsmiths that can make you breeze through over a thousand pages or more without ever nursing the desire to put it down. That is an immense talent and it does not drop on you like what a Jinni will magically bestow on you. It is often a public manifestation of days of  private reading of copious amount of works by other authors and a testimony of long nights of nocturnal elucubrations.

I am a dyed- in- the-wool fan of such great authors. I admire writers that make you feel like an unseen companion. They explain to you lucidly and fluently connect you with various ideas in their mind  seamlessly, while preserving the beauty of the language. Those are the authors that you can never be bored with . No wonder the late Rohilala said the late great story teller, Achebe,  was a man in whose company the prison walls came down. That is one of the best compliments you can ever get from one legend to another. However, as the economists say,  ‘production has not taken place until it gets to the final consumer’. I believe the same can be said of books , a book has not been completely written until it gets to the intended audience. I will return to the reason I said  so in a jiffy.

I have always been an avid reader of books since my primary school days. I remember those days , when we are told to get new novels, as soon as I get mine I always want to finish it way ahead of the class.  I like living in another world. A world far away from the  military barracks I am used to seeing everyday. It is  a different world entirely,  where all it required was just to  bury my head in those books and  take trips at no extra cost. It was a great feeling. One I could not get enough of. I wanted more. The craving was insatiable. There was a time I always waited for an older cousin to return from Army Day Secondary School , just to descend on her novels. She used to have a lot of collections then.  She  took  Literature in English lessons as a commercial class  student.  I remember one of the first books I read was A Welcome for Chijioke, written by Helen Offurum.

 

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That book captivated my little mind. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey. I loved it so much that  I promised my cousin I was going to read all her novels. She dissuaded me that they were for junior secondary school and not for primary school folks. Sooner than I thought,  I found myself reading Ola Rotimi’s adaptation of Oedipus Rex, I mean the book, The God’s are not to Blame. The book was so  gripping that I stayed awake with hurricane lantern reading through the night just to get to the end. By the time I finished the night of the second day,  I had lost appetite for my dinner. My eyes were heavy with tears. I asked my cousin why the story had to finish like that. It was a pretty sad ending and I felt that the author should have changed the plot  and make the ending a happy one somehow. He  probably should have invoked some Deus Ex Machina  stunt and create a happy ending. Of course,  I got to know the meaning of Deus Ex Machina decades later. But that was the kind of intervention my young mind wanted at  that time. My cousin later welcomed me to the world of types of drama . She mumbled something like a  “tragic” play. I told her I was not interested whether it was tragedy or comedy. For me, it was a total opposite of what “A welcome For Chijioke “ promised me about books. However,  that did it for me. That was a beginning of a long interesting journey in the world of books, not even my engineering leanings have stopped me from savoring  good books with much gusto. I later fell in love with the Pacesetters series and discovered African Writers Series much later.

The first voyage I ever took in my little house in Kano was a tour around Nigeria at no cost to me at all. I was locked up in a room as soon as my dad bought my own copy of the now rested New Oxford English Course Textbook for class 4 . I usually finish reading mine in the first week or second . I loved my imaginary travels  with the Bakos while flipping through pages of my english language  text. Frankly, it is hard to be bored with good books around you. You are either reading or too tired to read, in that case sleeping. I have travelled to great places yet not paid flight fares.  All it cost me was the price of the book. I have learnt about people’s ways, culture and traditions. I have had a glimpse into the life of an American immigrant with Adichie’s Americanah. I once took a stroll with Teju Cole in the US while reading his Open City. I have walked around the slums in India with Salman Rushdie in my imaginary rickshaws while he narrated the story of the Midnight’s Children. I have had a peek into the Zimabawean life with Noviolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.

Films are good. They are a great source of entertainment.  But I do not think they are as mentally challenging as books. I am of the belief that, there is a certain joy that comes with reading the descriptive words yourself, digesting , understanding them and making inferences for yourself. It is “the journey is the reward” kind of experience. It is better than having the whole scenery and imagery digested for you in readymade motion pictures by some directors. And actually the director’s interpretation is subjected to his own understanding and some other factors such as time (duration of the movies), location and budget . Matter of fact, his own interpretation may not actually be the original concept the author had in mind.

Books open doors and make you walk into the mind of expressive and brilliant authors. It is that great imaginary carpet where there is no limitation to concepts that can be hatched, tinkered and brought into fruition.  A plane where there is no limit to the cross-fertilization of ideas. It breaks down the limit of things that ordinarily  would not have been made possible in our time space continuum. There is no limit to wonders that can be done in that imaginary realm.

George RR Martin puts it brilliantly in A Dance With The Dragons, ” A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen, The man who never reads lives only once.”

Interestingly, there are lots of shows and series that can be said to task the mind , but  none can test your ability to pay attention to a particular undertaking like reading great and fast paced books that are  full of twists in the plot. Daniel Ehnrefert puts it lucidly in The Last Dragon On Earth:

“Reading requires actual concentration. If you skipped a paragraph, or an important sentence you could lose the entire story. With most TV shows, though you didn’t have to concentrate at all. You could space out for a good ten minutes and, then come back and still figure out what is going on.”

The numerous benefit of reading great books cannot be exhaustively discussed in this piece. But to say the positive effects of reading great books are tremendous is not an overstatement. That is why I am sad that the Nigerian Government can just wake up one morning and decide to place a tariff of 62.5% on imported books where there was none before.  Not only is this a contravention of a UNESCO agreement signed in 1950, it is the first time Nigeria is doing that in six decades.  This is happening, just a few months after  it purportedly went on our screens telling us that it is trying to promote a book reading culture with its “Bring Back The Book Project”.

I mean,  if we  are honest  with ourselves,  how many good publishers do we still  have around today? Only a handful.  I am not talking about some hidden printing machines in a dingy shop that specializes in binding hurriedly stapled pages. How many books still carry the Oxford University Press logo? How many of Macmillan books that you see around today are actually printed by the firm  and not pirates?  Spectrum books,Cassava republic  and a lot of others barely have the might to overcome the scourge of piracy on their own. Yet you suddenly increase the tariff on books and printing papers? Pray tell, how are they supposed to survive in a frustrating industry like ours ? Rather than ameliorate their pains, we are exacerbating their woes and rubbing salt on the fresh injuries they are still battling to nurse. You can read more about the myriads of hurdles publishers have to go through in this country here.

The government must take urgent concrete steps and reverse this decision. It must not be seen as a duplicitous Janus-faced monster that is “bringing the book” on one hand and taking it with the other. If we really want an enlightened nation where ideas can be debated on their merits and demerits, where opinions can be expressed without resorting to vitriolic personality attacks, where issues can be discussed without resorting to brute and force, it starts with an educated and enlightened generation. This cannot be achieved without the presence of books for a country whose majority of its population’s purchasing power, hardly goes beyond a dollar mark for a day.

Perhaps, the most relevant quote is that by Barbara W. Tuchman:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasure of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

Need I say more? If you have the ears of those in the corridors of power, please do all the book lovers a favor. Tell them they should not deprive us of what keeps our fertile minds busy when PHCN fumbles daily like a toddler learning how to walk, and our fuel dispensers cannot be guaranteed to work when we want to refill our generator tanks. Let the written books get to the intended audience without much ado. Do not further impoverish our authors. Oh! Take your tariffs and leave our books!

I tweet as @shimoshi1

Of Anarchy In Unity School and Centenary Existence.

I was going through my FB wall some few days ago when I  had a first glimpse of  the wreckage that was left after the  FGC Buni Yadi  carnage, in Yobe state. An old teacher of mine uploaded some of the gory pictures.  Hell was let loose and the buildings that were torched told part of the mournful story. I had initially refrained from looking at  the pictures when they started  making the rounds on social media. But someone used one of them as a display picture on blackberry and I saw kids murdered in cold blood lying on the floor. Blood splattered on the floor while some bodies were wrapped in white sheets already.

Right there, my heart skipped and I was lost in thought   for a moment. I couldn’t do anything but remind myself that that could have been I and a few   other colleagues some  few years ago in FGC Kano.  You see, it is easy to live in the southern part of Nigeria and assume that some wanton daylight killing done by modern day wild savages will not reach you. But hold on, did you get the true picture? This act, after the numerous other ones   (which are in no way less malevolent than the current one) are actually targetted at  innocent children, the adults and glory of the future of the nation.  Are we even mindful of the fact that if some kids were lucky enough to escape after seeing this, they will live with the trauma for a long time. It is saddening again to note that while selected few were celebrating the centenary program,   souls were languishing and ruing the loss of their loved ones.

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FGC Buni Yadi . Photo Courtesy of Mallam Mohammed Ibrahim

Time and again when these gory tales  come to the limelight and incidents like this that expose how weak our religious and ethnic seams are, I struggle to have a firm grasp of how the minds of such callous individuals are wired . I wonder how deprave the human mind must be to think that human lives that are supposed to be sacrosanct can be wasted without second thought,  all in the name of making religious statements.

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Photo Courtesy (Mallam Mohammed Ibrahim)

 When General Gowon decided to increase the number of Unity Schools in Nigeria from four states to all the twelve states, he said he was inspired by the level of unity among students from different religious leanings and ethnic backgrounds he saw when he visited   FGC Sokoto. Thereafter, he ensured that the schools were created in the remaining other states. He had lofty dreams and the idea looked great that a child that grew up in the north could live in harmony with a child that was born in the eastern part of the country. The young girl  that was born in Lagos could also fraternize with colleagues from Port Harcourt . Through such ways they could cultivate cultural tolerance and understanding which will  ensure that future adult Nigerians could cultivate healthy interaction among themselves.  It is sad to note that Gowon is still alive to see that his brainchild to foster national unity has now  turned ‘war zone’  for militants whose  human feelings have long gone into extinction.

The anarchy is saddening. The chaos is pain inducing. The  gloomy situation leaves one with utter amazement  as to  how these elements still clutch onto their own lives  and summarily dismiss innocent children into the great beyond. I looked at the pictures and realized the entrance road looks exactly like the one of  FGC Kano. That could have been us about a little over a decade ago. We could have been heading to the school mosque or the chapel. We probably would have been heading to class area probably for evening prep classes.  I could have been in the company of others strolling around the school premises after washing our day wear and waiting for it to dry. It could have been anybody’s children. Unity Colleges have always been  melting point for  students from various  parts of the country. In our days , we had Ikechukwu from Ajegunle in Lagos, there was Emeka from Okomaiko in Lagos, we had  Madodo from Shiroro in Niger State, We also had  Sani Charanchi from Katsina. There was Yusifari from Yobe as clearly indicated by  his name and a whole lot others from various parts of the country.

The bond such school creates goes far beyond the four walls of the school. I remember meeting old students in my alma mater that were sets ahead of me in the old student association meeting in London. They made my settling down for my programme in the UK easy in no small way. London felt like a home away from home. Help was a phone call away , thanks to the FGCK  UK branch. That is what the bond is intended to be.  You probably do  not  know that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s friendship  with Bukola Saraki started wayback from the King’s College days where they were contemporaries.

Uncle Tunde Fagbenle in his Punch Column advocated  that since the government has realized that its fire might is now incomparable to that of the militants that now rule the areas by default . It should adopt the approach in the Niger Delta areas where powerful militants were given lucrative contracts to guide pipelines they were once vandalising. Hear what his friend said while they were exchanging jokes  :

“Recognising (and admitting) that our military forces, navy et al, were ill-equipped and incapable of protecting our oil, our president conjured up the magnificent idea of putting the area under the protection of the militant warlords over and above the amnesty already granted all the militants who had been making the steady flow of oil uneasy for the country.”

 He concluded with this submission,

“ And so, seeing how inferiorly equipped our armed forces are to the Boko Haram terrorists, a point already made by the fleeing soldiers in Adamawa, I propose that the government identify the Boko Haram warlords and cede the security of the “war” zone to them “with immediate effect and automatic alacrity. ”

Here is my worry; Yesterday it was Niger Delta ,today it is the north-eastern part of the country, tomorrow it will be somewhere else. So one wonders, if an area becomes a flashpoint and we begin to cede security to warlords, how long will it take to cede the entire country to gun toting , mean looking and fiery militants? How long exactly are we planning to exist as a nation before submiting the whole entity parts by parts to regional warlords? Where is the role of federal might in this? Is “One Nigeria” not just a cliche we hardly believe or live up to? How come peace eludes us so much despite being a self claimed deeply religious nation? How come we end up doing terrible things in God’s name?

I was discussing this wanton killings and gruesome massacre  when someone from the southern part of the country voiced out,  “Shebi na their North ? Make them continue to kill themselves na. When dem tire dem go stop.” I shook my head at such heartlessness and total disregard  for human lives. We are first humans before being Nigerians. Thereafter,  we can talk about being a northerner or someone who hails from the eastern part of the country. Killing in the name of religion in whatever guise must stop and everybody must speak against it . If all you can do is speak against it,  please do. If you can blog against, by all means do it with all your might. If you keep quiet for too long, it may be Yobe Today, it was Maiduguri Yesterday. It could be somewhere down south or the eastern part of the country anytime soon.

That nonchalant attitude about lost lives and innocent souls reminds me of a popular quote by Martin Niemoller, a prominent Pastor who was outspoken against Adolf Hitler;

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

If you think you shouldn’t worry about all the bombings in the north because you hail from  Lagos and you work in the Port Harcout peacefully then I have a Yoruba Proverb for you: “Oye ti o kan ara iwo , o nbo wa kan ara Ede”. It simply means that whatever fate befalls the Iwo folks will soon be knocking on the doors of the denizens of Ede. The Northeast is on fire as we speak but some of us will rather “See the silver lining  in the dark clouds’’ by celebrating centenary existence? Centenary of what exactly? Peaceful existence? Mutual harmony? Serene cohesion? Admirable progress as a nation?  Enviable signs of nationhood or industrialization?  Total respect for law and order? I do not think so. The elders say when a woman is frying beancake and a drop of hot  oil spills on her and the baby, she will first tend to her hurt before remembering the baby. Blood is thicker than water, they say. Those who lost children and loved ones in the mayhem surely knows what it means to grieve. Centenary existence means nothing to the mourning ones right now.

May the souls of the FGC Buni Yadi Students rest in peace. May their blood cry out and avenge their deaths. May those who hurriedly sent them to the great beyond know hell right for here on earth.

It is good to rain curses and believe that somehow karma will catch up with these evil perpetrators. But it goes beyond that. Nigeria must arise and do something for those who are vulnerable and cant defend themselves. It was John Dalberg-Acton that made that popular quote,   “The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer also said : “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. “

If we really cannot protect our children and our weakest, what exactly are we celebrating?  My heart is craving for answers.

The Kano Prince and The Nigerian Omerta Code

While my absence from this blog  lingered,  a lot of things have happened in the country. I once sat down  sat and told myself that you will have a hard time in this country if you decide to write about two kind of things in Nigeria. The first, trying to write about something good, and with that I mean something fantastic, cheering  and pleasant to the hearing. The problem with that is that you will have to search for materials endlessly within this clime.  You may be lucky when the football gods come smiling on Nigeria like they did last year, else you will have to look for microscope to magnify any news item with the slightest shade of something auspicious. You may end up settling for just  christening  or wedding ceremonies  between the daughters and sons of movers and shakers of  the nation. Good things and I mean good news worth celebrating is somewhat difficult to obtain in Nigeria at the moment. Heart gladdening  news are difficult to come by and that is why people resort to various distracting activities such as football, religion and  for the inclined, binge drinking.

On the other hand,  if you major in bad news or you are a such a strong critic of the social malaise and sleazy financial malfeasance we experience in the country , then you are going to have a hard time deciding what exactly to settle for.  The country churns out deluge of odoriferous (apologies to Obahiagbon) acts of corruption almost on a daily basis. If you are a columnist that is limited by the number of words that you can write, then you may have to ignore some of these unimpressive news items. You also run the risk of not even being up to date. This is because the rate at which these acts unfold is mind boggling. So,  just when you have concluded your piece and you are  planning to send it  off to the editor for publishing you will be stunned to hear in breaking news that another gargantuan show of the unscrupulous and reckless financial impropriety of the common wealth of the people is unfolding.

Corruption is a deadly , hydra-headed monster  that bares it fangs on whoever dares to drop the gauntlet against it. It doesn’t fight clean and it does not obey any rule of engagement whatsoever. It comes with its vicious sting against and will not retreat until it gets you down. That is the problem . Whoever has the effrontery to call it by its name and summon up initial courage to confront it heads on,  must be certain that his or her records are crystal clean and immaculate with no blemish whatsoever. Anything short of that is a postponement of the day of reckoning. On this side of the sphere, whistle-blowers get no love. As soon as the canaries begin to sing you will have ample and willing agents readily available to do the hatchet jobs. The seeming small skeleton in your cupboard will be magnified and made open for all to see. Before you know it,  your case will become the cynosure of all eyes. A calculated attempt to smear your image, reduce your credibility and eventually distract all and sundry from the crux of the matter will soon be in the offing.

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Mallam Sanusi is not the first in his travails. A lot of others have toed similar path. Some came out miraculously unhurt, some by a hair’s breadth,  others were not that lucky.  His case is still unfolding  and the last is yet to be heard.  The indicting document from Financial Reporting Council Of Nigeria  making the rounds about his sins and why he was “suspended” has been around since 2013.  If the suspension had no undertone,  one wonders  why the government could not wait for his tenure to  expire in June 2014 or why the other deputy governors were not sacked too as recommended by the report.  It is obvious that the government is up to something that it does not readily want to admit. It is rather obvious that this is vendetta for crying out too loud about the suspected financial cookery in NNPC books. I am of the opinion that there is something beyond our ken that certain agents are trying to ensure remain within their clandestine parapo precincts and not spill to the public at large.

Tales abound of those who dared to face the hydra headed, horrifying  monster and have terrifying  stories to tell. Honourable Godwin Ndudi Elumelu  tried it with the Independent Power Project Panel , he was consumed in his own purging fire when he was enmeshed in N100 million naira bribe saga. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Ethics Committee in the house. Corruption was not done with him as he became enmeshed in another scandal. Elumelu was later arrested by EFCC on the allegations of the mismanagement of N5.2 billion rural electrification funds only to be cleared much later by a court in Abuja.  Madam Adenike Grange, the former minister of health,  almost got smeared with the system too. Her sin was daring to work in the ministry and serving her fatherland in the process. Her name was cleared in a last gasp by the courts. Seems she won’t even touch anything politics with the longest pole. After her own trauma, her thanksgiving in church reminds you that she was lucky to escape by the whiskers. Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC czar’s tale is in the open for everybody to read. He literally had to go and seek for asylum in the United Kingdom.  There are lot of others that time and space will not permit me to discuss.

Frankly,  it does not look to me that we are ready to confront corruption heads on. What we are doing is mutual mudslinging, an open show of our filthy and unscrupulous sides. We are doing the hatchet job of attacking one another, claiming that the accusers are not saints either. It is reminder of the kind of trickery we partake in as kids in primary school,  where rather than admit readily that you are wrong  and apologise, you go on the attack and tell the accuser that he is also wrong not to be after his own business.  The exposee on both sides may be for the greater good of the masses  in the long run but it shows how dirty the government of the day can play just to achieve its own purpose.

Curiously,  the report used in “suspending” the exchequer boss has been around for a while. One wonders why now seems the ideal time to dust it up and act upon it. Premium times also reported that all the management of CBN comprising the various deputy governors were recommended for sack  but only Sanusi was booted out of the office. Some of the allegations were not only surprising but sounded spurious as if they were hurriedly put together. Akin Oyebode did a little explanation of  some of the unfounded allegations here.  The whole thing smells like trying  to give a dog a bad name because it must be crucified.

While I am not here to eulogise or do some modern day  hagiography for the Kano prince, I believe the timing of his suspension (read “sack”) leaves so much to be desired. It shows the masterminds are no novice in the game. They know what they are up to and what exactly they are trying to achieve. I am of the strong opinion that Sanusi should be given the grace to defend himself and if found guilty, he should pay for his sins. However, I do also believe that the government should reconcile the NNPC account and the exact whereabouts of the 20bn dollars (or whatever the appropriate figure is) should be made known to all concerned  Nigerians .  If agents that aided the siphoning of the funds are found culpable they should be made to face the music.

Sanusi might be the fall guy for daring to open up a can of worms about corruption in ‘oily’ places. He may have to pay for his own sins too in that process. But it must be noted that history will remember him for daring to speak out in a place where others would have been trembling with silence. I would end by reminding us of that Soyinka’s popular quote . I will tweak it a little for the purpose of this article: The Man dies in all who keep silent in the face of “financial” tyranny. Not being able to ask about what happened to our common wealth is financial tyranny.  Even though he may be paying for breaking the Nigerian corrupt cabal’s  Ömerta code, he  will be remembered for not “dying” in the face of financial tyranny.

Liverpool Waxing Stronger

The goals have ceased to flow for Suarez for a while now. One can’t wait for him to start banging them in again. It is so good to see my beloved team chasing the champions league spot again. I am beginning to imagine what Tuesdays and Wednesdays  will look like with Liverpool playing in the most prestigious football competition in Europe. To say Raheem Sterling has improved is an understatement. The young lad has been very impressive. Jordan Henderson has also upped his game.  His first goal against Swansea was a delight to watch as he calmly tucked the ball into the net. His double in combination with Daniel Sturridge’s brace took the fight away from the hard fighting Swansea side.  Sturridge has been very prolific in front of the goal after returning from  injury. He is the second player to score in eight consecutive games , a record he shares with the former United dutch striker, Ruud Van Nitstelrooy . It is a great feeling to be contesting for the Champions league spot again. Norwich’s defeat of Tottenham means my club has a six point cushion to relax on.  I cannot wait for the season to end.Meanwhile I will relish today’s victory over Swansea in Anfield. The 7 goals thriller finally ended up with Liverpool getting the long end of the stick

Sometimes Warri Dey Carry Last…

Enough of big big grammar abeg.  Today I no dey  yarn  English for this my corner jare. I just wan tok freely, bone dictionary matter abeg.  Sometimes Naija matter sef dey tire person jare.  Make I shun  Naija serious matter first sef today. So na so one parole just carry me go Warri  o. And I been don dey look forward to the trip to that side. E don tay wey I don dey feel  I suppose use my korokoro eye see whether all the yarns wey all these comedians dey yarn about these people na true.

So as I show that day for area na him I begin dey try look things wey dey happen around me as per JJC consaign.  I carry eye dey sample the light blue and white tricycles wey their governor arrange for them. Meeehn! I been think say Lagos drivers dey craze o, wetin I see that day as I enter the town no be small thing. People just dey drive anyhow. Some of the tricyle sef nearly park for centre of road dey carry passenger. Na him I look myself say ; “ Mehn this one na Areaaa! No be lie!

I been stroll go one construction site one day na him I jam one guy wey dem call Bobby. Bobby just see me start to dey hail me as I say make I buy recharge card. The guy pray for me no be small. The blessing wey him pour for me that day go nearly compete with father Abraham own. Na him I borrow myself brain ,I begin dey waka. The prayer no gree stop o! I remember one part wey him say ” Person wey say your water no go boil, na im own Kerosene go finish…” One of my guy wey de mey near  say make I just give the guy money. I come arrange small pepper for am make him free me. But  I ask am say see site na, why him no enter do small job like labour make small money.  The guy look me say : ” Bros we no dey like all this kain work abeg. Dem no dey pay . If  to say na Agip or Daewoo dey do something like gas plant now. Dem no dey tell boys before we show. Dat one, the pay dey make sense well well.”

Osubi Airstrip Warri

Osubi Airstrip, Warri (Credit : Skyscrapercity.com)

But me never still get the Warri feeling finish, I been dey expect their own type of  Gidi town agbero  wey dey get deep voice. I mean people wey go open their mouth yarn and everything go be “Upper case fonts”. I dey yarn about all those bros wey been say if dem raise voice e go be like say make you vamoose. Spirit of huzzle no be small for there!  Na for only Warri, ”good evening sir” girls dey huzzle runs  near one church for Ekpan along Refinery road. Police station dey near there , hotels and bars sef. Everybody dey run their own paroles side by side.

One afternoon like that, na im I remember say I need to get one small phone accessory  o, na him dem refer me to plaza. Me just find my way sha, na him I enter Keke as we dey  call am for yonder oo.  As we reach one place na him the road just block left and right. No way to go for the keke o, na him the guy say him fit follow another road wey go boycott all the traffic. Na him I tell am say no wahala o. Na so  we enter another  again oo before we reach another place again the road don block na him the guy say we fit come down for here say the Plaza no too far from here. I say make him point am for me na him say : “Just waka after that storey building wey you dey see so, after there na plaza be that.” I pay the guy come waka. Omo I waka  tire no be small after fifteen minutes I never still reach plaza! Haa! The guy not try at all at all.

Meanwhile the first day wey I show for Warri, I waka go one small restaurant na him I see one man dey swallow custard with soup in the afternoon, na him I come dey wonder say, wetin make am dey use custard  dey eat soup this kain afternoon.  Na him I ask the guy wey siddon near me say na which soup dem dey use eat this kain custard wey dry small. The guy laff me no be small come open mouth “ Shuo! rest your matter na. You wan tell me say you no know say na Starch be that?”  Oh ! Me I no know say na starch be that .  If you ask me say wetin be the colour of starch, I swear I go say na white. No be him wey dey use iron native wear way dey make the clothes straight wella. Anyway,  I make up my mind sha , say one day I go try use the starch and Banga soup hold belle since I like to dey sample all kinds of food.

Everyday when I enter restaurant na so liver dey fail me. I go don plan for house say today na starch day o. Once I enter I see them dey out am inside plate na so my mind go start Lord’s prayer. In fact that place dey make me remember that place for game of thrones wey  Syrio dey train Arya Stark wey gbege come happen , dem wan come kill them.   Syrio tell Arya “ What do we say to the god of death?” . Na him Arya Stark talk like him don teach her before, “Not today”. Omoh! You no go believe oh! Na so I dey tell myself everyday say “Not today… Not today”. But I been don  make mouth for my friend say no food wey people dey chop wey I no go fit wack. Why e go come be say na starch go fall my hand. E no go work. Lailai!

Na so I “determain”  in Papilo style one afternoon, say today na today oo, na me and that starch today. I know say that kain matter  no go dey possible except with fasting and prayer o. So that day,  I no too arrange breakfast, So hungry fire my quick in the afternoon. Na him I vex go enter that restaurant. As I enter, the woman don dey serve me my regular rice, I come say no say na Starch I want. She ask, “bros you dey sure?”. I say “Yes na, Put the the thing jor”. As I dey talk am I come dey pray small small inside my mind . At last I just console myself say If I no fit chop am, at least na only the money go waist I go arrange another food jare. The woman look me say no Banga soup today o, na Owo soup dey. Eeeh ehhn, Which one be Owo soup again? I just tell the woman make she nack two wraps for plate make I fire am.  Na so dem give me wey I start Bismillahi be that .

I chook hand inside plate make I cut the starch, na so the thing draw me back. I come  cut the thing in Yoruba white Amala style. I look the morsel wey I cut commot with my korokoro eyes come put am inside Owo soup come close my eyes as I wan swallow am. Na so I chook the thing for mouth come down am. My mind come coole for there. My taste bud just yarn me say the thing just carry colour e no too different from Yoruba Ilafun jare. But na that Owo soup I no come understand o. Whether na the woman style o abi na so the thing get pepper normally , I no understand. In less than five seconds ,the hair for the centre of my head don tanda one by one. Chai! My tongue come hot like say na dragon tongue. See, I swear ehn,  if you carry fuel near my mouth that time e go catch fire. Before I know anything , sweat don surround my nose. I come dey drink water like person wey dem use that Yoruba juju, Magun for. After sha I come calm down finish the starch but I leave plenty soup for plate and I be ofemmanu oo. Anyhow sha,  the starch experience no too bad I go eat am again. But that Owo soup?  Lailai ,  Abasi e kan idiok nkpo! God forbid bad thing!

I just happy say I conquer the starch wey wan spoil my record. As I finish,  na im I control my guy say I don add starch to my food conquest list o. I just try waka go house . As I dey pass near Effurun  roundabout na him I see refuse heap dey overtake motor for road o.  Na him I remember say the other  day wey I dey go Hausa quarters na so all the road sides dirty no be small plus including  many other places wey I no even remember the name o. Na him I shake my head come tell myself say “Warri no dey carry last ….except … well …..erm… you know if the competition na for the town wey clean pass”.  Areeeeea!  Una boy loyal ooo

If God Has Developed You, You Should Wait for Him To Fix you Too

About  two decades ago, black and white photographs used to be the fad. I am talking about the days you could hardly submit any formal document without a black and white passport gracing one of the pages of the enclosed forms. Those  days marked my early sojourn into the world of photography. Taking shots then required the mastery of focusing which demanded skill and dexterity -not these days that a lot of the focusing can be done automatically. Those days, Yashica,  Praktica and Kodak among others were the major camera manufacturers in the world. Then,  you do not look at the camera in the same direction as your object of focus.  You usually had to look downwards into the camera while it captures the intended image for you. But that is not going to be the crux of this piece of today, this is just to create a background to ease the flow into the meat of the matter.

Pictures looked great in black and white too. The beauty was in the contrast and more often than not, the quality of the prints were used to differentiate professional photographers from the rookies in the industry. The defining contrast between the different shades of black and white will fish you out if you are a genius in the art. Properly chosen background enhanced the contrast between the face of the person and other surrounding background features in the picture. In fact, simply because it was a world of monochrome or various shades of black and white did not serve as an excuse for not producing great black and white prints.

  I  remember for years,  I had always longed to accompany my mum into the darkroom to see how black and white prints were made. I often wonder how the small negatives developed  to something bigger and more beautiful. I usually ponder and found it impossible to understand how those tiny films could be used to produce multiple images and sometimes, magnificent enlarged prints without getting destroyed in the process. I kept disturbing my mum as my curiosity consumed me. I decided not to let her rest until she agreed to my plea.  After myriads of pleas and deluge of promises not to be meddlesome while in the darkroom, she finally yielded to my plea one day.

 On that fateful day  as soon as we were in, mum switched off the  white bulb and switched on the the red one with heavily reduced luminous intensity.  Initially I went blind and could see nothing. After a while , I could pick out the outline of certain objects in the room. I  learnt years later, in Physics class, that the eyes have their ways of adjusting to a varying degree of illumination. Hence, the temporary blindness we experience when we leave a poorly lit room and suddenly find ourselves in abundance of sunlight.

Enlarger

An Enlarger (Courtesy, Wikipedia)

 Okay, agreed I wasn’t going to be troublesome but I had a lot of questions to ask and mum should be ready to answer my barrage of questions.  Of course she was.  And  I asked questions before and after every process. I was young but my innocent but curious mind had an unquenchable  thirst for knowledge.  So I observed that at first, my mum brought light sensitive papers from a container. I remember Ilford was a household name in black and white photographic papers. Now the room is relatively dark but you can actually use a very red electric bulb whose illumination you have to reduce further through graduated electric light regulators.  Technically these electric bulbs are called safelights. They do not cause any visible change on the light sensitive photographic materials.

 So  she brought out the paper and  placed  it under an electrical device popularly  called enlarger. The enlarger houses an electric bulb which acts as a light source to illuminate a negative. A negative is a sheet of transparent film  through which lights are exposed on photosensitive papers. The darkest sides appear lightest   while the lighter sides appear darkest when printed on photographic papers.

Generally, it depends on the transparency of the negative.  The lighter it is,  the shorter it has to be exposed to light from the enlarger, the darker it is the longer it stays under controlled illumination to get the right amount of exposure in order to get fine prints.   I usually wonder how mum knows the right duration for each of the prints but over time as a result of her experience with these things she manages to produce wonderful looking prints.  Immediately after she is done with exposing the photographic paper to light, she dips them into three plastic bowls containing three different  fluids-one of which is water- in succession. The first fluid is a solution containing a chemical usually known in the  photographic  parlance as developer. The time of exposure of the photosensitive  papers in the developing solution requires not only  close  vigilance but  meticulousness and skill. It is the one that develops the image first. The paper is usually blank after the exposure but as soon as it drops into the developer it gradually begins to form until it gets to the right contrast. One has to be careful here and must be quick too because if the paper stays there longer than required the prints become darker than necessary. If the paper remains longer for a given amount of time, the paper ends up turning into black and the image is lost irretrievably.

  Now after you remove the paper  from developer , you rinse in water then dip into another chemical called the  fixing salt. The fixing salt is the one that perfects the image and ensures that further exposure stops on the photographic paper. Once the paper has gone through the fixing salt that is the only time the paper can be taken to normal daylight. Once the printing paper is fixed, the integrity of the picture is guaranteed and secured. The prints and image can be preserved now no matter the intensity of the light.

Now how many times do we allow God to develop us and when he is not through with us we are so much in a haste to go out to the world to show the world the stuff we are made up of. Often, we are overtaken by euphoria, swept away from logical reasoning by excitement heightened by adrenaline pumping in our circulation  system. We feel God is through with us , meanwhile he has the blueprint for our lives.  Our father knows how long we need to remain in the fixing salt. He knows that once we are exposed to lights we have not been prepared for we will be destroyed. So while we think the best has been done on us, he looks at us and shakes his head and says : “ I know you are beautiful the way you are son/daughter, but you are not ready for the world yet. You need to be fixed”

I have gone through many developmental stages in life. I have seen things I had concluded were certain and immutable becoming suddenly uncertain and some plans you thought were sure vanish into thin air like they never existed at all. Developmental times are the various phases in our lives that God decides to deposit gifts, virtues and talents in us. But once we begin to see vestiges of the manifestation of his glory in us we suddenly develop the spirit of haste. We are no longer patient. We begin to feel we cannot afford wait to manifest. Meanwhile God doesn’t reason that way , he is not only giving you the gift , he is also given you the grace to function with the gift and not to fall under the weight of the gift. That is why he will want to fix us.

 It is left for us not to get carried away by just a minor indicator of the fullness of his blessings. We need to develop patience and wait for him to fix us. We need to be ready to wait as long as he want us to be in his fixing salt. The question is how long are we ready to wait for God’s fixing?

NB: This is a post I stumbled upon in one of my long old drafts while looking for something to put up here. I do not know if it is going to make a meaning to someone out there. But it is here already. You have it. Apologies in advance for any typos and grammatical faux pas. Bon Weekend 🙂

Nigeria: Pressure , Pain and “Sperectomy”.

Whoever has gone through the surgical procedure of tooth extraction will be familiar with one of the basic explanations the dentist give to you before the tooth extraction process begins.  The dentist will likely explain thus, ‘ You  will be given a local anesthetic around the region of tooth to be extracted. However, the usual traumatic pains associated with the process may be gone you will still be able to sense pressure.’  I have a feeling  pressure has to do with our sense of touch, I am no physician I can’t give further details.  This means you can circumvent  the immediate agony but the pains may soon resurface once the drugs wear off if you do not take another drug before the local anaesthesia wears off. This mode which I call the “pressure but no pain” mode is what a lot of Nigerians switch to, by default, once they are bombarded with daily myriads of problems that confront the nation. People mentally change to the “pressure but no pain”  mode as a temporary panacea to the deluge of heart-rending  and traumatic problems struggling to snuff life out of the country and will not let go off her strangulation by the jugulars. They hold on to the “ pressure but no pain” mode so long as it affects none of theirs.  Once they do not feel the pain they can manage the pressure.

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  Tooth extraction (Credit: http://www.shutterstock.com)

When Boko-Haram strikes in the north and you live in southern part of  Nigeria, you are not budged because you feel the pressure but not the pain. When 40 students are killed in Damaturu by modern day, unexplainable, barbaric savages, and none of the victims happen to be a sibling or  either close or  distant relative, you hesitate for a while then move on because you feel the pressure and not the pain. When ASUU goes on strike for a quarter of a year, you feign concern albeit momentarily and move on since you can afford to send your kids abroad for a decent education. You feel the pressure but not the pain.  When hundreds die daily on our terrible roads while travelling on long distance routes along the length and breadth of the country, you scream that why should they travel such long distances on Nigerian roads thereby taking avoidable risks. You are not really bothered because you can afford to fly. You feel the pressure not the pain. And when breadwinners and  scions of notable families die in plane crash, you mutter to yourself , “Na rich people dey die for aeroplane, I no even get money for flight ticket sef ”. You feel the pressure not the pain. When people that are not fellow adherents of your beliefs are besieged with ailments that ordinarily would have been treated if the health system worked perfectly, you blame them for lack of faith in your God who cures all diseases. You feel the pressure not the pain.

In the midst of all these happenings, one thing isn’t readily clear to you. Pain isn’t entirely a bad thing. It is one of the signals the body use to inform you that something is wrong with a part of the body.  No true physician treats symptoms of a disease without finding a way to deal with the disease causing pathogen or try to tackle the source of the ailment, be it  pathological or psychosomatic. Pain may be a warning of a greater doom to come if urgent concrete and reasonable steps are not taken. Pain relief  drugs or analgesic are stop gap measures to the  threat we face in the body system. It is the same with the nation, “No pain but pressure” is just  a way to make your sanity thrive in the midst of the chaos. It is far from a permanent solution. That ephemeral defence will disappear when misfortunes that are avoidable if we had a working government,  comes knocking on your door. Did I hear you say ‘God Forbid ? ‘

Time it was,  that I believed so much in the lofty heights this nation could achieve. In fact I once blogged about childhood dreams for my nation here. But If i must be frank with you, lately, I have been having second thoughts about these dreams. In retrospect, I sometimes believe I suffered from what the character called Saleem referred to as ‘the disease called optimism’ in Salman Rushdie’s book titled Midnight’s children. I have been affected with that ailment for so long, I think I am just recuperating. I am taking the healing process seriously.  I must balance this overdose of optimism with a healthy dose of realism. I have given myself a target time  , where there will be signs that it will be well with the nation. I have shifted that target more than the number of times Vision 2000 that later became vision 2010 and have had other versions of disguised pseudonyms thereafter. It takes almost eternity to develop courage to hope in the country. Just when you think you have developed a healthy dose of optimism to battle what it has to offer, it comes up either with a scary story of wanton cold blood killings or witch-hunting of a whistle blower who leaked the story of a minister that approved N225 million for the purchase of 2 bulletproof BMW cars while her ministry was responsible for the death of precious souls  and narrowly escaped two air mishaps recently.  Some of the heartrending events it shoves down your throat are from the downright unimaginable to the absolutely incredible.

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       Map of Nigeria (Image credit: http://www.world-gazette.com)

I am not even done with what people go through daily in the country that sits on where the trigger stays if you consider the African map as a deformed pistol. Probably that is why it is such a politically charged country. I dont know.  A few months ago,  I walked into one of the  Federal Medical Centres in Lagos to see a  young boy, possibly in his late twenties, pleading with a nurse in the Accident and Emergency ward to accept his mum for admission. His eyes were deep red, face looked weary, trousers were folded a little above the ankle, he kept begging, “Madam I beg  of you, just give her a space, I do not mind getting a bed from anywhere else …”. The nurse looked at him with empathy and explained to him that the hospital had  exceeded the number of patients they are supposed to take into the ward and tried to further explain the health implications of not keeping to the recommended space between patients. The boy explained to her that if they were sent back home that would be the fifth hospital   they will be rejected  from due to lack of  bedspace to admit the mum. The faucet that held his tears back suddenly gave way and they obeyed gravity as they strolled down his cheeks. He turned and faced no one in particular as he screamed  “God why? Why? Where should we go to now? “, he asked rhetorically.   I wondered silently where I stood, the implication of coming to the hospital with an ailment only to return few days later for a treatment of another that was contracted within the hospital premises. I felt the pressure but I cannot pretend the pain I felt was anywhere close to his. It also occurred to me that I once discussed with a Pakistani friend of mine who believes Nigeria shares similar problems with his home country. He gave me an example of a working country; that his father in-law once had liver transplant in the United Kingdom and the cost was borne by the NHS at no extra cost. In fact, before he was discharged, an advance team was sent to his home to ensure that the sanitary conditions of the home were satisfactory before he was sent home. The Pakistani guy concluded that democracy run in both countries have succeeded in making a small percentage of the country richer while the greater percentage lives in abject poverty.

I remember, it was about the same time that Asari  Dokubo was threatening fire and brimstone in the north. He said that war will be ineluctable if President Jonathan does not return to Aso Rock by 2015. Professor Ango Abdullahi was firing salvos from the north that presidency is must  come to the north by the same year and President  Goodluck should be ready to leave the Aso Rock or the nation should brace up for full scale war. Such times, I sit down and wonder what exactly it means to be in war. I mean we are all surrounded by tell tale signals of war. What do you tell the parents of about 40 students that were hurriedly dispatched to the great beyond due to no fault of theirs?  What do you  tell the family of approximately 10,000 that have lost their family members to the menace called Boko-Haram between 2001 and 2013 according to Wikipedia estimates?  What logical explanation can we give to console those whose  loved ones were massacred in Ombatse, Nassarawa and Benni-Sheikh killings. Truth is we are not at war but to some of these bereaved families they have not only experienced some of the things those in full scale war experience. A lot of them have even suffered more than what some  lucky ones may suffer in the advent of war.  Families gone, house razed, source of livelihood gone with the wind, future generations wiped out of the surface of the earth.   If you think all the cities on the surface of the earth were bombarded during the World wars, then you need to think again. The whole of Nigerian geographical landmass does not need to be boiling before we know we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.  Our skies are not safe and our roads aren’t any better either. I recently spent 2 hours on a particular spot on Benin-Ore road .  The road pavement had failed and the gully on the road was almost becoming a crater. The other lane was totally condemned. That was a journey that was supposed to last four hours from Benin to Lagos.

I will conclude by referring to  Salman Rushdie’s novel again, I mean  Midnight’s Children.  Towards the end of the book, the lead character coined a word to add to the list of the possible surgical excision that can be done to the human body. To the list of hysterectomy, lubectomy, vasectomy , adenectomy, bursectomy, cystectomy  and many others he added another word he called “Sperectomy”, which he referred to as  the draining out of hope. If I still have an iota of  hope in this project called Nigeria becoming better in my lifetime , it is fast draining out. This country is fast taking it out from me without any form of anaesthesia.

I am off to buy fuel for my generator , I have not  seen electricity from PHCN in this house for  four days.

– I tweet as @shimoshi1