Dancing to the drumbeats of war. 1

There was a song they used to sing in those days; it goes something like this:

Ojukwu wanted to scatter Nigeria!

Gowoni say Nigeria must be one!

We are fighting together with Gowon!

To keep Nigeria one!

It was a song about the Nigerian civil war and kids marched to it during and immediately after the war. But I don’t remember singing it, or any other song during the war. Because I was a baby. I didn’t know what war was, nor what it meant for people to fight and kill one another.

But I do have a clear memory of the war. At least, I recall one period that had a direct, lasting impact on me. The memory is of us-my Mum and siblings- in my maternal village; everyone seemed to be there, although I don’t quite recall seeing my father. He may have been in his own village, a few kilometres up the road, or maybe he had remained in town, working in his office, where he had some strange machines, including one that made squawking noises all day, with people shouting, “something, something over!” which I would later realize was the equivalent of a telephone system.

Anyway, I don’t know if my Dad was there or not, but I know my numerous uncles were there, as well as a lot of other people. Baba was there, as was Nene, the matriarch of the Ojo clan. And though it was wartime, the emotions I recall clearly were happiness and a deep sense of peace and security. Strange that I would feel a sense of peace and security in the midst of war, right? But honestly, that was what I felt.

And I remember a day during that period that I cannot forget. It was the day Apapa was bombed. Apapa was the name of a neighbourhood in my hometown where Mobil, the oil company, had its Tank Farm, or whatever name it was known by. They had these huge silo-like things that were used for storing petroleum products, and till this day, I do not know who did the bombing, Biafra or Nigeria. But I remember seeing a huge column of black smoke rising into the sky from the relative safety of my village, several kilometres away. I remember the shouts of “abombu Apapa, abombu Apapa!” (meaning: “Apapa has been bombed” we like to repeat things for emphasis where I come from!)

I don’t know why that incident stands out of all the wartime experiences, but somewhow I remember it clearly. When I recounted it to my Mum many years later, she was surprised at my ability to remember, but I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with my memory; it’s just one of those things that the brain of a child holds on to. So I remember that one incident, clearly. But there was no fear. And I think I know why.

You see, fear and insecurity are twin brothers. Siamese twins to be precise. One does not go without the other. No matter how much we deny it, our deepest fears are fueled by a sense of insecurity. And that period of my life was as secure as could be. I knew I was loved, deeply and totally, by the people around me. There was my Mum, first child of a doting father and a fierce but equally loving mother. There was my grandmother, who was a lioness, a tigress and a mother hen rolled into one. And there was my grandfather: tall, light-skinned, handsome, with a deep baritone and a confident gait. He was ruler of all he surveyed and there was such an aura of peace around him that it spread to all and sundry. The food was plentiful, play was undisturbed, school was an unknown in the future and I had never been flogged or severely scolded. I was safe. And I knew it. So I didn’t care that whether or not Apapa was bombed. War held no meaning for me. I was safe as could be.

to be continued…

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Nigeria @55: 55 Nigerians I admire and respect.

When I first came up with the idea of this article series sometime last year it seemed like the most ridiculous thing anyone could think of doing with their time. A number of my friends told me I would never be able to find as much as ten untainted Nigerians to write about let alone 55. I was sure there were more than a few people who had not bowed their knees to the proverbial Baal. Men and women who had excelled at whatever they were doing without looking up to the government to skew things in their favour. I was not wrong.
As I did my research I began to realize that the project was a bigger one than I first envisioned; I began to see that indeed, there are people worth celebrating in this seeming non- nation of ours. People who had made tenacity and a strong love for the fatherland ( or is it motherland?) their very raison d’etre. And in my heart I feel glad that I took on this private project. This series is about celebrating all that is good and praiseworthy in us as a people because, believe me, there is a lot.
Nigerians are a unique lot. They are funny, loving, hospitable, industrious, and believe it or not, trustworthy. Granted we have our flaws, but then which nation doesn’t have its share of the good, the bad and the ugly?

This series is a deliberate effort to focus on the good rather than the bad and ugly; we have enough people telling us how crazy we are, my aim is to let us know that in the midst of the craziness, there is a bunch of very ‘correct’ people…
We shall continue our series from where we stopped..

WE ARE NOT DOGS (1)

 
 
The Urhobo people have an adage that only a dog watches silently while his meal is prepared amiss.
I am not a dog and I will not be silent.
What I am is a Nigerian with a major stake in her country and the power to do something about getting it on the right track and getting it to remain there.
 
It is no longer news that the Country seems to be on a downward spiral and it appears to be unstoppable. It is no longer news that the majority of Nigerians are unhappy with what is going on around them, and rightly so. What is surprising and therefore, newsworthy, is that it appears most of us, myself included, appear to be floundering; we are going about like a people without the power to decide how we want our food prepared.
We are behaving like dogs~watching while our food is prepared in a way our food is prepared in a way we thoroughly detest, and doing absolutely nothing about it!
 
I hear you protest loudly that you are not a dog, well, prove it!
 
Stop sitting silently while the only thing that truly belongs to you and your generations unborn is rapidly being shredded to pieces!
 
Stop twiddling your thumbs rather than putting your hands on the proverbial plow; don’t remain at the bus station hoping and praying that someone else will decide when you get on the bus; you get on it and tell the driver where to go!
 
I hear Christians complain that Buhari will Islamize Nigeria; of course he will and with good reason too!
I hear them complain that he has taken Nigeria to the league of Islamic nations and I say, ‘so what?’ Why should he not take us there to seek solutions to our seemingly intractable solutions?
 
Buhari will do all that and more, and you know why?
 
• Buhari is a Moslem
• Islam is his culture, it is what he is most familiar with and when people are faced with problems they first look to the most familiar in search of answers.
• He has seen a model that appeals to him in other Islamic nations
• Islamic nations have extended to him the right hand of fellowship and a drowning man doesn’t care who is trying to save him; all he cares about is getting out of the water.
 
So yes, he will Islamize Nigeria and I have no problem with that.
 
Am I saying I want Nigeria to become an Islamic country? Far from it!
I am a Christian and I grew up in a secular nation and I desire with all my heart that it remains so. I desire a Nigeria where people are free to make the choice about who or what they worship.
I worship a God that has offered one and all the opportunity to freely choose what is best for them and I want my country to remain so.
But here’s the point: Buhari cannot and will not do what we do not permit him to do!
There is a beautiful scripture in the Bible that we frequently misuse or “underuse” if you will.
It is Proverbs 22:6 and it says
 
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Well guess what? Our leaders are our children and we have “trained” them in the way they should go and believe me, they are finding it very difficult to depart from the way we have trained them to go.
But we are not dogs; if we do not like what we see, we can do something about it. We can make a difference if we choose to. So long as there is life there hope and there is still a spark of life left in Nigeria. The Bible says that to him that is joined to the living there is hope…to be continued

Enjoy the present on the way to the future.

Yesterday morning, I was hand washing my “unmentionables” and I noticed my daughter had left one of hers in  the bucket to wash later. I decided to be “generous” and wash it for her. As I did, I thought back to when she was a tiny baby and I had to do all of her laundry. I thought of the loads of laundry she generated and how frustrated I often felt because I never seemed to be on top of the situation. My life seemed to be a combination of dirty laundry, dirty diapers and crying babies. I thought of the many sleepless nights as I struggled, seemingly, without success to take care of my little babies. I thought of the helplessness I often felt as I struggled to make sense of my life as a young mother with a career. Not much made sense then, I just wanted it get better quickly. By better, I mean I wanted my babies grow up and maybe start helping out around the home. I could hardly wait for the day to come and quite frankly, I could not imagine it.
But guess what? That day is here. My daughter is a budding, beautiful teenager with a mind of her own. She’s now doing her own laundry and sometimes helping with mine. She’s cooking, cleaning and doing  a myriad other things around the home, often without my prompting. Those stressful, never-ending  days are gone for good, never to return. But ironically, now that I’m here, I can’t help but wonder what I missed on my daughter’s journey to adulthood. Did I miss out on some special moment while I was losing my cool over some childish prank? Did I hurl a hug out of the window with a tired excuse?  Those days are gone forever but what about right now? What am I missing while waiting for my teenagers to grow up and leave home? Could I even now be missing out on what’s important?
Right now our nation seems to be under siege; like me feeling overwhelmed by my daughter’s dirty laundry, our leaders appear overwhelmed by the amount of ‘dirty laundry’ they are faced with. We have bucketfuls of stinking laundry: insecurity, unemployment, poor infrastructure, corruption, falling education, poor image, the list is almost endless. We wish the problems would go away quickly. Like me wondering when my kids would be all grown and I would no longer have to do their laundry, we are wondering when our nation would be on the same level with other nations and we no longer have so much dirty laundry.
My life as a writer often requires me to shut out the world and live inside my head but the danger is that I could miss out on some precious moments that can never be recaptured. Living with four teenage children is often be tasking and frustrating but it also  has lot  of special moments. I must make a conscious effort to catch those special moments and hold them as the precious keepsakes they are.
In the same way, I feel that there precious moments right now in the life of our nation that we must hold dear and enjoy. There are real values that are unique to us as a people. All is not as we would like but let’s not forget that dirty laundry is produced by pretty babies who grow up to become beautiful young ladies. Some things cannot be rushed,  my daughter grew day-by day, one dirty diaper at a time. It may not look like it but Nigeria is growing too, one blunder at a time. It may seem like nothing is working now but twenty years from now we will look back on these years with nostalgia and we will see things differently through the prism of time. I wonder what the view will be like then?
I know Nigeria will grow because my daughter grew and it is the nature of things to grow, the change we seek is inevitable but in the interim let’s find a way to enjoy the present on our way to the future. Shalom!

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