Posted in A day in the life

Prescriptions for Anxiety

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”
“Little drops of water make an ocean”

The above quotes might remind the entire world about the reward of consistency but, these quotes talk me out of anxiety.

It was late afternoon and our conversation began over a simple photograph. “How are you?” I simply asked but our conversation went deeper than I had dug. Nights ago when the rainfall came and the rain drops sounded like drum beats on the roof over my head, I clutched tightly to my blanket because I was frightened even by the rhythm of the ticking clock. The questions popped up in my head, the what if’s, the why’s and their likes; that same night, I laid in bed without clarity or precision, but the inner turmoil and darkness forced me to write out my anxieties about life.

As humans we are consumed with thoughts on how to live our “ideal” lives; always looking for the right answers to the questions of “when” and “where”, yet we never seem to find the accurate answers. So the days of “I don’t know” gradually seep into eternity, leaving us empty with unachievable goals and unrealistic dreams.

The priority of satisfying our needs stems from the hope that joy will be attained at the end thus the inability to meet this goal results to psychological consequences like frustration, tension, worry and extreme apprehension.

Aside the initial urge to succeed and figure everything about life out, our social environment influences our needs and fuels the idea that we are expected to achieve certain things at a specified age or time of our life; this drives us to a state of comparison. The tendency to fence issues of our lives and approach the same around that of others is inherent in all of us; comparing our life’s journey with that of others whether or not we are doing “better” than them. However using other people as the yardsticks to measure our performances result in a collateral damage.

The direct prescriptions to anxiety are to live a day at a time and eliminate comparison from our lives. However, it is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than to achieve these. Although anxiety is a normal human reaction to stress or dissatisfaction, it causes panic. Therefore, self control skills are essential for our healthy development, engagement and well being.

Contrary to my previous thoughts, anxiety is not merely a phase in adulting that we outgrow when we finally become full grown ups, it is human nature and a human problem that we must deliberately exercise control over – suppression is not a way to snap out of it. Questions like what next? where else? how else? so what? will arise a million times over, uncertainties will create spaces, leave us confused and conflicted, life will pull us in different directions that we begin to feel our inadequacies supersede our abilities. So it is not a matter of getting rid of these things, but devicing means to surmount them.

The next ten years, five months, or one day could either be the greatest or worst of your life time but, what is this very minute about?

Anxiety makes us think more about what is missing rather than what is present, not only does it steal our happiness but it makes our dreams, aspirations and goals seem farther than they really are hence the panic. Anxiety grows from the side of us that craves perfection and views it as a destination instead of a voyage.

Always having our heads buried in the big plans, the ‘perfect future’ goals, the better tomorrows no matter how good the exercise, can rob us of so much. In fact we are swept off the present, deprived of living in and enjoying the moment, unaware of its own gifts and unable to discover its own graces.

Perhaps we could be optimistic about our own journeys and simply focus on it each day, exercise faith instead of fear, gratitude instead of grumble, hope instead of despair. Instead of worrying about the next day at nightfall, why not learn to reflect on the joys of the day just spent and lightly look forward to the next with more gratitude than fright or uncertainty?

The attempts to win over anxiety may seem endless but it is definitely worthwhile because constant practice leads us to an unwavering stillness like the mountain in every season.

To appreciate our lives, we must learn to love each moment and live a day at a time.

Doesn’t everything die at last as too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver – The Summer Day

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Posted in Seed To Sequoia

The Culture and The Unchurched

Jesus always had interesting answers for the questions asked by the Scribes and Pharisees whose intentions were to either corner or ridicule him and the gospel. Look what he said to them in the story of the adulterous woman:

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”(John 8:7, ESV)

They all turned around and left.

Can you imagine what would have happened to her if Jesus had said “Let him who is without adultery among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”?
This is what makes Christ different from us, instead of saying the same thing as him we choose the latter just to demonstrate our own righteousness.

The Pharisees and Scribes were self-righteous people who thought that they had achieved the fulfilments of their religious lives and did not need Jesus to tell them more but here we see them turn around and leave in shame; an acknowledgement of their guilt and unrighteousness.

What makes them better than us? Instead of dropping the stones, turning around and walking away, we create categories of sins and try to squeeze ourselves into the categories of “smaller sin”, “tolerable sin” “different sin” or “better sin” so that we can castigate and condemn the rest but isn’t the consequence of every sin the same?

Where did we even get this idea about categorizing sin?

How can we ever forget Romans 3:23-24 – we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, are justified freely by grace through the redemption by Christ Jesus?

I think that Jesus continuously calls us to a renewal of our fellowship with him through the lives of these “unchurched” people; our encounters with them should challenge us to be faithful witnesses but it is very easy for us to become self-satisfied or self-righteous in the process that we miss out on this call of faithful witnessing.

As people on this Christian Pilgrimage, comparison denies us the benefits of looking at our own lives through the mirror of God’s word, the absence of which makes us unchurch people.

Our tendencies to accept others as part of the body of Christ and saved by his grace (like we all are) can only come when we realize that the words of Jesus “I have come to call sinners” (Luke 5:32) is always directed at us and not the young guy who smokes or drinks, the lady who sleeps around or gossips, the man who steals or kills, the woman who lies or commits adultery, the student who cheats during an examination or the employer who does not pay salaries to his employees.

Weeding out the self-righteousness that lurks within us is so difficult but necessary in preaching this gospel of Christ we profess and believe. The way we can rechurch the unchurched isn’t by preaching repentance to them at all times but telling them how God’s grace and mercy lifted us from the dirt to a place of fellowship with him; how we also need Jesus everyday of our lives as we try to become holy like him; admit that in our days of rest and unwillingness Jesus gives us strength to yield to his “follow me”.

Christianity isn’t exactly about the one who is perfect or better than others, Christianity is about the one running the race, helping others who fall rise again, holding their hands and bringing them along; Christianity is about imitating Jesus who although was without sin, forgave the adulterous woman and in his kindness gave her a chance to repent.

Christianity is the culture of Christ.

I‘m really happy that you read to the end and I’d love it more if we build a community of God’s people by sharing lessons we learn as we journey through life with Christ as our anchor. Kindly drop a comment and help build another.

God bless you.

This post was inspired by a blog post written by Tsalla Emmanuel titled “You Made Them Unchurched” . Click here to read: https://tsallaemmanuel.blogspot.com/2019/03/you-made-them-unchurched.html?m=1

Posted in A day in the life, Story Story, STROKES OF BEING A CAREER WOMAN, Travel Diary

Forty Minutes of My Life

Some weeks ago I had an interesting trip back to Keffi from Abuja. I jumped into a bus instead of boarding a taxi from Wuse to the terminal in Nyanya because I prefer buses to taxis; thanks to my mother and her sisters for always preaching against one chance. Unknown to me the bus was already filled up, okay not entirely filled up because I took the last seat but that wasn’t really a seat! The seat is designed to accommodate three passengers, three slender passengers and perhaps just two passengers if they are plus sized because two big people were already seated and I had to squeeze myself in. I hung at the edge of my seat with one buttock, supported my body by leaning on the seat on the other aisle with my elbow and resting my heavy head on my palm.

The bus was totally discomforting, crowded and dirty but I didn’t notice all these before I entered. It seemed like the only El-Rufai bus leaving the park immediately and because I had to return to Keffi in good time, I hopped in like a kangaroo at 4:30pm. I had paid the N150 fare by the door and even though I was now sitting on one buttock, it was too late to consider my comfort because alighting would not only delay my trip to Keffi but would mean forfeiting the money; I wasn’t ready for bus conductor drama so with no other choice, I chose to endure the ride for the next forty minutes of my life.

‘’Wonders shall never end’’ I said silently to myself, ”so this bus that should carry only 54 passengers now has almost 70 people inside, na wa oh.”

I was a bit hopeful when the bus started moving but the breeze that came in was hot and breathing fresh air was almost impossible because the extra passengers standing did not only gain stamina by holding the racks of the bus thus obstructing the free flow of ventilation but were also very lousy and polluted the entire bus.

The trip didn’t start so well but my commuting experience turned out more interesting than I would have ever imagined in this state of management.

A while after the bus took off a young man arose and began addressing us:

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Mark and I am here to tell you how to take good care of your health. On this transmission, I will be giving you some information and after my communication, you can ask any question”.

He sounded like a typical Nigerian rapper but I must admit how intrigued I was by his rehearsed rendition. I expressed my approval with a quick smile and a nod as though he needed such signal to proceed. Afterwards he removed a bottle from his treasury of wellness and called the content Formula B Bitters; a herbal mixture capable of cleansing the system, causing quick erection, curing every sickness including diabetes Type A and B, hepatitis and “many other chronic diseases” he failed to list out. The next item he pulled out was a sachet containing what he called black seeds which according to him are well appreciated by customers because it makes dull children sharp, intellectually alert and with all certainty, guaranteed first position. One woman sitting behind me immediately shouted na wa oh in disbelief but went ahead to purchase two sachets. What hypocrisy!

The gentleman beside me was such a chatterbox; he tried persuading me to buy Formula B Bitters several times but I incessantly declined with a polite smile. He insisted my friend, mother or even neighbor would need it and his continuous attempt to coax me resembled a desperation to have a conversation so I obliged and not only said we didn’t like bitter things but explained how the side effects of these herbal drugs could be terrible especially because there’s no specific dosage and it is imprudent to buy drugs sold like this; a shop or an outlet was a better place to make such purchase. I was soon weary of supporting myself on the other aisle and battling with the conversationalist so I looked around for empty seats and immediately one woman alighted from the bus with her kids I quickly sneaked in to properly enjoy the N100 for the remaining distance and ran away from Mr. Chatterbox.

At the time Mr Mark began talking about the all-powerful NOBLE MAN NATURAL EYE DROP that cured every sort of eye problem “even the chronic glaucoma”, I was well balanced and could pay attention to his detail. He shared testimonies of a woman who used glasses for eight years but received instant healing after using one bottle of his eye drop; women who bought it for their blind husbands and was emphatic whenever he said they kept calling him for more or referred their friends from Kaduna, Jikwoyi, Gwagwalada and Kuje to him. According to Mr Mark, his nickname is Eye Doctor and opticians who even hold doctorate degrees recommend him to their patients. I was indeed struck by the certainty of his remark – ‘’e dey cure every eye problem’’

I took out my phone and sent a message to a friend who visited an optician few days ago narrating the wonderful things this eye drop was doing in the lives of people with impaired sight and asked if he wanted one but he replied “hmm, does your spirit agree with this man?” For this small sarcasm!

My eyes followed Mr Mark from the far left to the far right and back to the center. He pronounced pupil as pupit, iris as aris and cataract as catrat which seemed to mean an attempt to reproduce them phonetically; intelligent people (as he claimed to be one) wouldn’t belittle themselves to do such a thing but I understood the dire need to earn a living so I simply smiled at him.

Mr Mark maintained steady gaze and confidence on the unwilling commuters who stared at him in doubt of the authenticity of what he was selling; he said so many convincing things about all the drugs he sold until he got more buyers. Being one with a working experience as a marketer of herbal drugs, I understood the importance of detailed description and testimonies to persuade prospects. He was not just a medical man who traveled for public good peddling medicines at cheaper rates but a doubtless business man!

He soon alighted at Nyanya as he notified us earlier while encouraging us to use the opportunity of his presence in the bus wisely. The bus became quiet and for a while, I wished he was still there to amuse me. I guess I just had a charming admiration of a man who sold miracles in bottles, sachets and small bowls.

Some minutes later I arrived at my destination, descended from the bus and rode with my friend in an air conditioned car to Keffi. I drank cold water, breathed fresh air and felt great relief.

If we no buy the Benz, wetin we gain?


May all our dreams come true this month. Happy New Month!

Posted in STROKES OF BEING A CAREER WOMAN

Beginner’s Luck

In the city of Abuja ambitions are loud but impressions are louder; kindness and compassion almost unheard but audible enough for those who have ears.

Early to bed, early to rise, said my mother many years ago. I thought I’d be one of the few persons to arrive early at work but at 7:15am Adamu was already cornered at his duty post patiently waiting as we each sauntered the bridge in suits and ties, skirts and sleeves, uniforms and stockings wearing earth shiny shoes or nearly so but all colors to match our attires. We were all either rushing to our places of work or to meet up the early morning Monday assembly and Adamu did not want to get us dirty like himself so he was determined to wait just at his corner with his working implement until the bridge was empty.

Being the first working day of the week, the bridge was very messy; Adamu obviously takes the weekend off to rest or do something else but for the past twelve days I have watched him diligently do his job.

Adamu has a severe health condition but he doesn’t sit idle by one corner of the bridge and stretch his hands like an offering basket every morning to beg for tips or food from strangers as the others do; he earns a living by sweeping the pedestrian bridge.

This must be a very smart young man I said to myself the first day I saw him, it’s really a nice initiative, at least better than begging!

Every morning I notice how pedestrians find it easier to dip their hands in their pockets or bags to show Adamu some gratitude even though he’s simply doing his job. I think it is only because he isn’t idle or trying to rob any one by leveraging on his health condition. Through this simple act, Adamu adds value to our lives, directly or indirectly. We do not always have to worry about the soles of our shoes getting soiled by rubbish; the Monday morning glow is intact until we arrive at our the assembly grounds and places of work.

Adamu is committed to his job and this has earned him more money than sympathy from well meaning Nigerians who have placed him on their daily payroll to enjoy the benevolence of their generosity. This is all in exchange for the service he renders.

Perhaps he just thought of doing something dignified to earn a living. He tried and it worked. Last week Wednesday he wore a jacket as a staff of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board and behind his jacket was written “the cripple can work”.

Indeed like Adamu we have to take advantage when luck is on our side and do as much to help it as it is doing to help us.

Posted in Female Solidarity

GIRL CHILD EDUCATION; AN INSTRUMENT OF POWER

Education is a process of facilitating, learning or acquiring knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. It involves receiving systematic instruction; is a deliberate and conscious effort to acquire a wealth of knowledge in particular subject matters, improve the abilities of the mind and arm individuals to develop potentials that are of positive value to the society.

Girl child education in simple terms refers to the education of a girl.

Whether boy or girl, education is essential to every human since it bestows a disposition for an acquisition of knowledge, values, attitudes, competence and skills.

In earlier times, women encountered challenges in obtaining basic formal education; however the recognition of education as a basic human right since the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 has granted all Nigerian children access to education regardless of gender, religion and disability. This has allowed more young girls go to school and this transition over the years is certainly noteworthy. The society has evolved from beliefs and practices that render women subservient to their male counterparts and even though there are still grey areas and grounds to be covered, it is most beneficial for us to acknowledge the fact that men and women, boys and girls now enjoy equal facilities to excel, live happy and learn. It is even more important for us to draw strength from the many opportunities that now exist for us as young girls.

Girl child education plays an important role in women empowerment, has clear impacts on the skills, health and economic future of young women; grants women access to professional careers, advanced training and improved awareness. There are women not only actively participating in politics, business, science, technology, the academia and economic activities but are leading in these and other areas of their endeavors simply because of their productivity. An educated woman is of enormous benefit to a nation because she is equipped with skills, information and self-confidence to be a better parent, worker and citizen. When you build a woman, you build a nation; therefore education is not only a valuable tool to the girl child but is also an instrument we can use to tackle many societal issues.

Although there are still issues that are anti-woman and may pose as limitations to the heights we can attain but we can embrace one truth -success is not difficult or impossible because we are women. Constraints generally exist on the path to greatness for all and sundry but their existence should serve not as barricades but as reminders that open up channels for possibilities.

Motivation and reinforcement from the society may be lacking but we must not depend on it. The universe is only designed to respond and reward us according to the efforts that we make so you must resist the temptation of entitlement because it cripples. Again the world owes you nothing but on the contrary, you owe the world everything and that is the light dwelling in you.

The world is advancing hence, it is very important to get a good education; education makes you knowledgeable; knowledge empowers you to put yourself in better positions and make enlightened decisions; knowledge empowers you to influence lives, set priorities right, design and develop strategies. Opportunities are everywhere but can be created where they do not exist. It is education that gives us the power to create. Our lives are shaped by the choices we make; either good or bad and the choices we make can only be influenced by the information we have, our goals and visions.

According to Manly Hall, author, Philosopher and Mystic, ’words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad.’ This explains that the words we use to describe problems and situations relating to gender either unite or enlarge our differences. Stereotyping is a dangerous tool that sends across a message of generality which enhances preconceived misconceptions and notions that girls are not made to be exceptional in areas that do not involve domestic activities. Therefore, there is dire need for us to consistently raise fences, turn blind eyes and deafening ears to statements that suggest that people are only able to do things that are great, exceptional or commendable only because they are a certain gender or belong to a certain group; especially things that are ordinarily learned through training or repeated learning. We must focus on the importance of our individuality and make ourselves more accessible in the bigger picture on the basis of value without awaiting any form of special categorization or alienation that sends a message of gender.

As young girls, we must sustain positive social orientation and increasingly propagate positive narratives about women by demonstrating self-belief, strength and courage not in a way that is confrontational, condescending or dehumanizing but in a way that is subtle, respectful and empowering to the human race. Girl power is essential but human power is more beneficial to our society and as such, the education we acquire must be geared towards societal growth, development and impact.

Choose to be strengthened by the positive things that are happening and causing a paradigm shift from where we used to be to where we now are; choose what is relevant and not popular, refuse to be mentally impoverished and imprisoned by societal opinion and earlier preconceived ideas.

The future only belongs to those who put in the work today and every other day, if you do not take the chances, the world will leave you behind. Some women do not like failing but it is even worse that they do not even try at all. Excuses of cultural/religious beliefs are not going to stop others from doing things to succeed; it wouldn’t stop other women so you must build resilience, adaptation skills and techniques, go beyond your limitation and do those great things that you bear in mind.

Great things can be learnt by anybody who learns them, done by anybody who learns to do them. Stretch your mind, open it to every possibility, be versatile, leave your comfort zone, find new interests and try new things because we learn more about ourselves not in theory but in practical. Feed your mind, do not be afraid to have an opinion but also respect the opinion others may have even though it does not align with yours, speak out but politely and respectfully, do not shrink yourself to be likeable, do not compromise standards to obtain favours but you must be ready to work hard to excel. The price to pay is hardwork!

The world is full of so many things to be seen but while we try to see the world, we must focus on our primary goal, vision, purpose and responsibility in life. We must not be afraid to ask questions or ask for help; ignorance is dangerous and we must consciously avoid it like we would a plague.

Furthermore, do not be complacent; in other words, continue to strive for excellence in your classrooms, work place and amongst your peers. There is room to do and be more! Obtain the highest qualification in your field and as you climb up the ladder, remember the need to raise others. People spoke and that is why discriminatory practices like female genital mutilation, male preferences, early marriage, wife inheritance etc. have greatly reduced. People spoke and that is why you and I can go to school today, therefore we must raise our voices, stand up for other young girls and protect them from such discrimination. As we obtain education, we ought to advocate for other young girls to be given the same opportunities to receive good education and enjoy better privileges not merely by the things we say or the messages we promote but by the actions we take. We ought not only to inspire other young girls to be great but we must expand opportunities for them to thrive.

I see great women, wives, leaders and citizens seated here. If you are excited about a goal, dream, ambition or skill, I dare you to go out there and take it. It is time to change our thought patterns and make ourselves accountable so today; I indulge you to ask yourself what you want out of life, what to do with this education and begin to work towards it now. You can achieve anything that you want; if you believe it then it is doable and achievable!

Think different like Apple and if you are interested in doing or starting something no matter how ordinary or big it may seem, just do it like Nike. It is always worth it to try.

Above all, be the heroine of your life not the victim. Nora Ephron

 

This article was written for an event I was invited to by Good6 Empire Events to speak on any topic relating to Girl Child Education. Following the short notice I received, I came up with this within three hours.

What I wasn’t aware of until forty-five minutes to the time of the event was that my audience comprised of a group of young girls between the ages of 9 and 11. So in reality, this paper was not only full of grammar but also unsuitable for the young girls. I knew my intention to present the paper and talk for a very short while would not see the light of day since it efoso I needed to device a new plan that involved talking more and making illustrations.

I must confess how intrigued I was by the intelligent questions and contributions these young girls made. Amongst these ambitious girls were Lawyers, Bankers, Accountants, Engineers, Actresses and Dancers. For the first time in such gathering, I didn’t meet a Medical Doctor and I was really fascinated.

I thank my friends Samson, Isaac and their partners for inviting me to not only teach and but also be a part of something as significant as  reshaping the minds of young girls towards a promising future. Indeed this is a wonderful opportunity and I do not take it for granted.

 

Thank you for reading. I’d like to know your thoughts on Girl Child Education, kindly leave a comment to continue this conversation.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE

A great chunk of my early Christmas memories were remarkable and created in my hometown. It was the allotted time everybody returned home from far and wide to celebrate and bonding with relatives magically happened. Even though I always struggled with essay writing, I managed to articulately map the How I Spent My Christmas Holiday English essays I submitted in school around big morning fires made from dried guinea corn stalks, hide and seek games played at night by boys and girls my age, attending our local church, wishing people Happy Christmas just to get paid, the loudspeakers in the market square where we danced like mad people until we became white skinned and the rhythms produced by the drums in synchronization with the Mada songs led by women with tiny voices in front of the Chief’s palace where we also danced in dusty circles. Of course I wrote about my new clothes, the new relatives my mother introduced me to (she does this every darn time- come and meet somebody Cherry, he’s your father’s …. 🙄🙄 ) but never about the taste of my grandfather’s freshly tapped palm wine or the new boys I met and promised to return for, next Christmas.

In the city, Joy to the world became my favourite Christmas song as a primary school kid because after my younger brother learned it from his class Christmas party. He sang it everyday and I had no choice but to join him “repeat the sounding Joy” if I didn’t want to feel offended by his noise. However, years later See amidst the winter snow replaced it. I loved other Christmas songs as well but this one in particular because the choir sang it with great harmony to produce a sonorous Christmas jam. I mean, if you know the Louisville choir, you can bet it’s the best school choir in Jos( not to brag but hey, ask around 😊).

Secondary school gave me a different-but-in-a-good-way kind of Christmas through Christmas Carol experience. The hall wasn’t big enough to accommodate visitors and students so only students who played significant roles sat inside, the rest of us either watched everything from the window or better still, spent time with people who just came by to visit us and not necessarily enjoy the carol.

Saint Louis has a thing for perfection so Christmas carol decorations were top notch; paintings on the thin wooden walls erected on the stage and a beautiful thatched roof hand-built Christmas crib made from wood and filled with straw by one side of the stage with little Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in it and the magi at the doorway. The stage was beautifully illuminated with light produced from colored bulbs; Christmas ornaments, garland, tinsel and light hung from one edge of the hall to another.

Beyond the Christmas lights were the two choirs; the choral choir which was the regular choir and the mass choir which was the ceremonial choir. While the the mass choir dressed in Jean and sang urban jams (that was the funky choir. LOL!), the choral choir dressed in robes and sang traditional Christmas songs. Oh, what would Christmas be without classical carol songs rendered by the choral choir!
The Music Director at that time was very meticulous so you were either in or out. The year I joined the mass choir, he wanted us to be original so a few talented choristers wrote the carol songs. One of the songs even had a little rap in it, I guess it was everybody’s favourite because it had a different vibe that made us move our bodies and smile without being queried first. I was very excited to sing that year that I pressured my aunt and sister to come early so they could sit in front and watch me sing. I was really small so I was certain they’d see me since I’d stand in the front row. Unfortunately, a crisis began in Jos so we were dismissed from school without even writing exams.

Songs, drama presentations and cultural dance were the most anticipated activities of the night. My dream of performing during Christmas carol came true when I joined the cultural troupe and I remember how thrilled I was. The Oscar award winning Christmas drama of all times ended with the song “Christmas is coming, Baba buy me better oh”. The actors of that drama nearly never changed but there was always something different every time they acted it. Christmas carols were undeniably the highlight of the season!

One fateful year, our principal Reverend Sister Irene introduced a rite that made us observe advent: the advent wreath and singing during morning assembly. The wreath is a circle made with green leaves/branches and four candles; three purple candles and one pink candle. It was placed on a tray and carried from the office to the hall for morning assemblies. We performed the ritual by singing the song as the person leading prayers lit the candles (we begin with one candle in the first week and gradually light the rest as the four weeks of advent go by).

The song had three or four very long verses and the first verse began with “Jesus we’re waiting for you, to come and touch each soul today”, after each verse came the acclamation “Ma-ra-na-tha, come oh Christ the Lord”. There was a standard pitch for that song and if we ever sang below the pitch, we’d stop and start all over; we kept doing this until we got it right. Some mornings were too cold for long assemblies and we didn’t enjoy this arrangement sometimes but well, what could we do?

It’s funny how I can clearly hear Sister Irene talking to us about advent being a season of preparation for the coming of our Saviour; the significance of the advent wreath and Christmas – hope, peace, love and joy. On the early days of her sermons, we were sober and tried to meditate but over time things changed. Sister Irene made us reflect about every single thing, every season, every event, just everything even why you asked a junior student to simply fetch you water. Everything she said referred us to our conscience every darn day, required us to do some soul searching, urged us to turn new leaves and become obedient girls as she compared the goats with the sheep amongst us. One of the oldest saying in her book of wisdom was “the stubborn fly follows the corpse to the grave”, sometimes she made us chorus “follows the corpse to the grave”. Eventually, the talks relating to our conscience became cliche, tasted nothing like honey and reflection honestly became a tiring exercise so we only picked the parts we liked and left the rest either in the hall or wherever we assembled for the sermon. Ours became an obvious case of hearing through one ear and going out through the other ear. You can imagine her disappointment!

However, she didn’t give up encouraging us to repent from our misdoings or advising us to renew our lives in preparation for Christmas. The emphasis she hammered on the hope the birth of Christ brings to even the miscreants amongst us would drive a nail right out the wood in a second but somehow, we didn’t just get it. The temptations of teenage exuberance I presume.

The message of Christmas isn’t different this time, it still remains a renewed mind and spirit in Christ Jesus. In fact, the Priest in my local church during his Christmas homily yesterday said the same things; “even if you do not have new clothes, shoes, wristwatch or cap to wear, wear a renewed mind and spirit in Christ.”

As kids and teenagers/young adults, we were obsessed about new hair, new clothes, matching wristwatches,sun glasses and shoes; consumed so much food until we began convulsing and drank until our stomach looked like Santa’s jelly stomach. We wanted all the glamorous things but growing older, the traditional responsibilities of Christmas begin to climb our own shoulders and we realize how Christmas isn’t about the glam through the omens of time. What then is it about?

Traveling back to the village at the end of the year, new clothes and the large fire, the mass choir, assembly sermons and the rituals of advent became traditional. Any experience outside these didn’t give an authentic Christmas feel and made Christmas tales less adventurous or interesting. As I connect the dots and draw these mental pictures, Christmas traditions at different stages of my life have metamorphosed into personal spiritual exercises. The season has become more about loving, sharing, repentance and hope; Sister Irene’s advent wreath about the journey of prayer, penance, preparation and rejoicing at Christmas:
-The circle of the wreath signifies the love and mercy of God without beginning or end;
-The green speaks of the hope of newness, renewal and eternal life Christians have in God;
-The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son, Jesus.
This transition is an undisputed product of growth.

Jesus is a product of a lineage that wasn’t so pure but it didn’t change his assignment, it changed the entire story of humanity and his birth brought hope to the generations after him- Us. The birth of Christ reshapes our destiny, redirects our lives, renews our minds and spirits; that’s the joy we share with one another, the reason we celebrate this season. This is a traditional Christmas!

The season of advent may be over, the celebrations of Christmas may come to an end but we must not remain stagnant in our spiritual journey or growth.

May the season be full of love and blessings for you and your loved ones and may the love of Christ be shared abroad in our hearts.

Merry Christmas 🌲✨❤️

Posted in STROKES OF BEING A CAREER WOMAN

THE THIRD – THE THING KILLING NIGERIANS

The driver no longer seemed interested in the conversation with the first seat passenger. They had earlier been engaged in a robust discussion about greedy Nigerian politicians but from his countenance, he didn’t find the new dimension the discussion was taking interesting. The part where the passenger boasted about how well he knew one stingy Nigerian politician and how generous he has been to the relatives of this same stingy Nigerian politician who lives in Abuja, didn’t sound melodious to the driver so for the first time he wheeled the car with both hands on the steering without indulging.

As you may have rightly guessed, the talker didn’t shut up and without being asked, stated that he wouldn’t tell us the name of this Nigerian politician “for the walls have ears”. I didn’t know what walls he was referring to because we were in transit and not in a room with wheels but it wasn’t my cup of tea and nobody else’s.

In less than a second, the driver volumed up the noisy Wazobia fm and the news caster began reading the headlines. She spoke in pidgin English as it was their tradition:

“Train don kill 52 cows today”

“Fire explosion wey happen for Lafia, inside Nasarawa State done kill and injure plenty plenty casualties”

She said something something about politics, flood and sports that I didn’t hear clearly until she mentioned President Buhari and nomination form in one sentence.

Sandwiched at one corner in the taxi, I tried calculating how soon I’d get home while taking careful note of the landmarks and signs I used to measure the distance. By my measurements, we were still years away from our destination so it meant a longer time to endure opinionated Nigerians talk about the pressing issues of the country amongst which was the fact that Buhari was re-contesting as President of the country. Disgusted by this report, the man beside me hissed and rubbed his hand on his bald head as if to say without a voice, “we are finished”.

The other man well suited held firmly on to the other side of the door with one hand to gain balance since all of us were arranged like sardines in a can. He was more exasperated by the 52 dead cows news. “Instead of you to make the cows pass straight” he said while demonstrating with the other hand, “you will allow them walk on the rail, how will they not all die”, then he hissed. His eyes were fixed on the passenger in front so it was easy for one to conclude that the passenger was the herdsman but how could he be when there was a cattle man making a rendition of lamentation on radio? I suppose he got even angrier when he saw human beings neglect the pedestrian bridges just to fly over to the other side of the road. He hissed and shook his head in obvious disappointment.

“What exactly was the 19 year old boy doing by this time in prison few years back?” I asked myself. Was he seated by the window in a crammed corner like I now was, watching time crawl by, calculating the distance to freedom while inhaling the same air he exhaled or was he lying with his eyes closed awaiting the breaking of a new day that would be no different from the rest? The charge sheet records he was 19 when it all happened but remained behind bars for 842 days before meeting the Judge who held the power to decide the fate of miscreants or unlucky fellows like himself, on his tongue. He was already 21 by the time I punched the data into the computer earlier today. I noticed his jail term was lengthy perhaps because he pleaded not guilty to the offense he had been accused of. All those who pleaded guilty enjoyed between 6 to 18 months incarceration so I asked myself again, couldn’t he have done same if it proved beneficial? Why did he waste the time of the court? Didn’t the term “honorable court” mean anything more to him than just a repeated phrase chorused during his trial?

Maybe his lawyer couldn’t adduce sufficient evidence to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubts; he was allegedly in possession of four different substances. Or could it be that the Judge still believed children are the leaders of tomorrow so the five years sentence was an act of benevolence?

Apprehended at the main market, his mother probably didn’t even know of his whereabouts until months later. Did she cry when his sentence was passed in the courtroom or was he a recidivist so no reaction was more befitting than a deep long sigh and a rhythmic hiss?

What if his father had bothered to know exactly where he returned from all those early mornings he was home before the cock cleared its throat or woke to crow, would he have known better how to deter him from such misbehavior?

Interrupting my train of thoughts, the driver announced “Car wash” and I responded “car wash”. I paid my fare and alighted from the car, stepping into darkness with lights shining only from the burning candles of the Mallams and Madams who sold items at the junction. It was too late and I had lost my bargaining power an hour ago but 150 Naira was too outrageous a price to pay from here to there. I was being robbed of 50 Naira by a bike man at this time of the night but only those who hold guns and carry knives in their pockets are robbers. This is unjust! I cried to myself but too tired to be an activist, I hopped on the bike with more pressing things to think about-how best to enjoy 8 hours of sleep before 5:30am, eat breakfast and still arrive at the office a little earlier than 8:00am and before my boss.

Just to justify this tiredness, I do more than just sit behind the computer daily. I answer all the questions my Economist Intern-Colleague asks me – questions like “What is Allocutus again?” that are asked after “Why is there only one Judge doing all the cases?” or “where can I find the judgment now in this case?”. I drink coffee, write jargon, plan my future using boxes, circles and sometimes pipelines; check my long to-do list, yawn at intervals, listen to music, stop all these and then marvel at the alarming rate at which drugs have been and are being consistently consumed by young Nigerians – Cocaine, Marijuana, Indian Hemp, Diazepam, Tramadol/Tramol, Exol 5 and the likes.

Times are hard! Times are hard! It is not only the government that is killing us in this country. 😴😴😴

Posted in Tales From School

Last Thursday in Lafia Prison

Well rested and fully recovered from Thursday’s experience, I sat on my reading table the same night. It was 12:39am and there was absolute silence; the full moon resting on the clouds outside almost drove the darkness away. This time I wasn’t watching Chimamanda or listening to her talk about how skin color only became an issue when she first came to America or how condescending it is that the success of women is always attributed to their bottom power. I had books littered on my table; an outdated blue diary, a red pen, an old notebook and a gadget that helped me think clearly while sliding beautiful pictures of nature. I sat almost directly beneath the ceiling fan and tried writing under the reflection of the fluorescent light bulb hanging on the ceiling then I remembered how Evangeline introduced herself from one corner of the bus some weeks ago, not as a preacher but as one specialized in selling various textures of toothbrushes for various dentition and medicine for every type of worm: tapeworm, ringworm,small worm.

Uwais sat like that; compressed at the same angle Evangeline had sat weeks ago in the bus and the rest of us, crammed up like sardines arranged in a can. The journey to Lafia prison seemed increasingly distant but we all found a thing or two to keep us busy. While some had earphones plugged to their ears, others kept staring at varnishing vegetation; few people flipped over pages of new books that were not legal and the young lady who sat beside me maintained her gaze on the same page for eternity. It was obviously her first time of traveling with a team of Law students and now I imagine the cascading disappointment in her at the realization that it was practically impossible to learn Fallacy in peace with the “law students” who are supposed to be nerds and not chatter boxes even outside the classroom.

Instructions are always dished out in the most indirect and noblest of ways by the Clinic Head so he reminded us about having our notepads, obtaining all basic information, observing due decorum and the being highly professional while interviewing the prisoners. This wasn’t my first time of visiting the prison to fight injustice so I knew better to take my cloak of superpower along if I was going to play the messiah.

“Hafsat please you’ll write us a report after all these” said Basil, a very genuine gentleman and leader of the team then silence saturated the bus again.

Two hours into the drive, we arrived at Lafia Prison. We filed straight into the prison from the bus holding files like unemployed Nigerian graduates job-hunting only that in our case, we were neatly adorned in black and white apparel, holding blue files (not white files or long brown envelopes), walking the earth in well polished shiny shoes with NSUK Law Clinic identity cards hanging on our necks.

The reception of the prison had potholed cemented floors, large portraits of the President, Governor, Minister of interior and Controller of Prisons hanging on one side of its stained walls and a naked circuit box sitting inside the wall.

There were three offices outside and a long corridor by the left that led to the DCP’s office; the same direction he appeared from to address us. “The prison not a secondary school, the inmates are good and non-hostile. It is an interesting place to visit and you’ll encounter no problems if you play by our rules”. He said all these smiling at intervals. The other officers present were dressed in diverse shades of green uniforms and stood like mannequins in black coal shiny shoes while the DCP addressed us. A notice above the barricade separating the offices from the prison yard boldly read “PHONES ARE PROHIBITED INSIDE THE PRISON YARD” so we all dropped our phones and received the Visitors Cards to hang on our necks then were searched before entering the prison yard.

It was an entirely different atmosphere. There were tall full fleshed trees to aid ventilation but the atmosphere still smelled entirely different and even though the prisoners roamed about freely without handcuffs inside the yard, it didn’t feel the same as freely walking up and down the streets. There were rooms they slept in, a poorly maintained kitchen, a church and a mosque for prayers. An empty story building stood quite a distance from where we sat on wooden benches and the inmates came hovering around us immediately we entered, calling us lawyers in discreet whispers. Some of them wore uniforms and others did not but they all looked the same; desperate to leave the yard as the welfare officer rightly emphasized.

Before the interview began, we were notified that each team of two clinicians would interview four inmates each to make a sum of forty inmates at the end of the day. The guys who wore YARD POLICE uniforms went in to “bring all these people who no get lawyer, God don catch them today and lawyer don come”.

My partner fidgeted. It was obvious her heart was racing because she sweated around her nose and jaws but this wasn’t my first time of visiting the prison to fight injustice so I knew better to wear my cloak of superpower if we were going to play the messiah. I assured her it was easy and everything she needed was on the action sheet then she released a deep sigh accompanied with a large grin.

Our first client was a young man of 21, he narrated how he was arrested by police officers for murder and put in a van on his way to visit his friend with some other guys he didn’t know from Adam. He said they released the other guys in 2016 when they were arrested but his guardian who lives in Kano has failed to come and he has been transferred from one prison to another, finally landing in Lafia prison with neither a legal representation nor a court arraignment since the arrest. It’s been 1 year, 7months.

The second client confessed to being a cultist who gave his life to Christ before he was arrested and charged with conspiracy and armed robbery; a crime he claimed he didn’t commit but only got involved in the whole mess because the guy who killed his bosom friend over “the number one position” was also his friend and accused our client of being in possession of a memory card acquired from a robbery. He begged me to bring soap the next time I was visiting and showed me a paper titled Barrister with a phone number beneath then requested that I never relent in calling “even though the number no dey go since he come here. Mr. Barrister came just once; he never showed up in court the three times our client was arraigned and never returned to the prison either. I was moved by all two stories but the situation demanded professionalism so I kicked emotions out of the way and promised to do my best with a beaming smile they returned.

We didn’t get to interview all four inmates because they were all sent in at the clashing sound of the heavy metal hanging on the tree, immediately the cloud gathered. The DCP welcomed us into his office for a brief but very interesting conversation. He told us about the prison, the behavior of the inmates, activities of the prison and the mode of operation. Some inmates were students of the Nigerian Open University and received lessons in the prison. The challenge he lamented the most about was lawyers asking for too much money and abandoning cases of inmates in court; most inmates are still in their custody because they lack legal representation and even if the entire village contributes appearance fees, no lawyers to stand in for them. Fortunately for the inmates and the prison, more organizations have come to help and have made frequent donations since the procedures of visiting became less stringent.

The DCP, Mr. Godwin Ochepa commended our efforts and appealed that we return to finish what we have started since we reignited the hope of the inmates to leave there someday and reunite with their families. In his opinion, the Penal Code favors the men more than the women and the young female law students must unite and ask for a review when we become lawyers. He was very hospitable and his rich sense of humor eased all our tension.

The road home smelled of wet sad and the wind constantly blew cool breeze on my face. The rainfall must have washed away every old habit of excuses and now watered the seed of compassion that lived within to volunteer diligently in this project. The thoughts of what I experienced at the prison lingered on until the driver pulled over in the faculty. We arrived home finally and the second thing I still think about, is justice necessarily the truth or is it merely a question of procedure?

Posted in Poetry

GREAT ILE-IFE

Great Ile-Ife, the land of expansion

Ancient city, kingdom of myth and art history

Beautifully structured, decorated and built

With burnt bricks from clay placed one upon another

As beauty graciously resides in old buildings

And glory radiates forth from erected sculptures

Either carved from the finest woods or moulded baked sand

Great Ile-Ife, the land of expansion

So beautiful a sight of nature to behold

A rare see that bats fly at noon with their spirits free

As they move In troops chattering hymns only they knew.

Tall trees reaching sky move in slow steady motion

Driving low from the top hill, green vegetation

Drinking from splashes raising earth dust aroma

That travel like food scent sending hunger away

Bringing long-lasting joy which like the rivers stroll

Between timeworn rocks, old, rigid but not weary

Great Ile-Ife, the land of expansion

A cradle and fountain from which knowledge springs forth

In countless measures of over-powering showers

Reaching the roots of young hearts and elders alike

Friends or strangers visiting the ancient city

Great Ile-Ife, the land of expansion

Saviour to my wandering eyes and wondering heart

I might have thanked you well if I stayed one more night

But as I bid goodbye and travel past so fast

Your praise to my folks shall I sing and in books write

Posted in Story Story

The Arranged Marriage

Iyawo comes to our house every day even though she’s newly married. Her husband travels alot but she knew so why didn’t they make adequate arrangements for his travel days such that wouldn’t give her so much time to spend in our house? Since my aunt came back they have become so close because she equally has nothing to do aside dishing out orders and instructions to all of us one after the other.

They discuss alot of things ranging from school to work to events they have attended, business plans they never write down and wedding parties they need asoebi for. Iyawo’s husband is a rich man, not stinkingly rich but he drives three different cars and since he got married, two. Young girls in the area admire him alot and in one way or another, still look for ways to greet him; he usually responds with a warm smile and any kind gesture available to him. Thank God he has settled down.

photo-1503314885798-a70f8f9028d3People must always wag their tongues that is why even if there’s nothing to say, they must still find something. In my area, before you know what is happening to you, everybody else has known. Now rumour has it that Iyawo’s marriage was arranged but is that even a problem or anybody’s business? After all, in those days marriage was an arrangement made by two families who were conscious of certain things like wealth and farmlands. Men and women married for property considerations and few other reasons but love was not primarily it. The women for security and economic reasons, the men for the urge to reproduce their genes and get more hands working on their farmlands. Romantic love didn’t exist in all marriages but marriages still succeded. The arrangers of marriage knew better who rightly matched and who didn’t. Iyawo’s marriage must have been arranged but Iyawo is happy, at least she has never told my aunt otherwise. Her and her husband are happy individuals, he kisses her any time of the day on the forehead and it translates into “rightly matched”

My aunt says Iyawo is a good chef and her husband must be a very lucky man but she also says men are creatures to be feared. I still have to ask her why. Another evening, she told us Iyawo’s mother and aunties gave her instructions or better still, a recipe for a good marriage:

Step One :Do not let your husband eat outside or else you’d drive him   into the arms of another woman.
Step Two   :Wash his clothes, cook for him and clean for him.
Step Three :When he calls you in the night, answer him properly.
Iyawo is doing all of these and it may be working for her now but nobody warns you that at the end of the day, the man who goes into the arms of another woman goes there simply because he wants to go.
(the woman too).

Well, Iyawo’s marriage is succeeding. She is a very happy married woman but because people are human beings and where two or three are gathered there must be a story in their midst, an arranged marriage is now a taboo even if the married people have never had any quarell (or told us so).

Quick question. What are your thoughts about arranged marriages?