Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Death And The King’s Horseman

The title of this post was lifted from Wole Soyinkas play of the same name. I had originally wanted to call it, “Death & The Biomedical Engineer” but I believed this one to be catchier hence my borrowing it. My post however (sadly…sigh…) bears no implied connections to that great work…

If there is one big weakness I have in my character, it is my amazing lack of empathy when it concerns the sad news of Death. This weakness worries me endlessly.

It wasn’t always so. I used to be a very sensitive person once. But Death came along and changed all that.

Death, you see, is my friend.

Many people view Death mainly in line with the symbolic figure as painted by the book of Revelation and Hollywood. Some others see him as the hooded figure with an ugly black bulldog walking the graveyards at night or the pale figure in a black suit with dark eyes, long hair and fingernails who morphs into a black bird as portrayed in a Snoop Dogg video.

But those of us who know him as a friend know he is nothing like this. He is timeless, ageless. Of cruel yet wise, kindly countenance.

I remember the first time I got to meet Death firsthand. Before then he had been a rumour, a story told from the village of a distant relation now lost but whose burial ceremony, Tradition and my father compelled us to visit. (Little wonder that in my childish days I came to equate the wearing of native attire and a visit to the village with death, not Christmas). Or I heard of Death from a friend who had lost a father, a mother, a relation. Then I used to feel the pain, knew how to empathize.

Then Death came and took away my immediate elder brother.

I remember sitting in my Uncle’s house miles away playing with the kids and then all of a sudden, Death came and tapped on my shoulder and said “I have taken your brother”. Almost immediately the phone rang and a friend of our second born was on it telling me to come to their office for a fictitious purpose. He didn’t have to lie or try to keep up a cheerful voice when he told me something had come up at home so I better hurry back. I already knew.

I can’t say I knew for sure when Death took away my Aunty Mo but I knew she would go soon. The air of Death hung around her for so many months as he mocked all our efforts as we tried to keep her alive. I knew Aunty Mo could keep him at bay if she wanted to. And Aunty Mo was a fighter!

I still remember the stoicism on her visage and the twinkle in her eyes while laughing at my jokes as I put an intravenous needle in her arm. As I took out the needle countless times when I failed to hit a vein and reinserted it severally after each mistake, she would laugh and say, “You should have been a doctor you know, not an Engineer”.

And Aunty Mo laughed at each and everything I said. Even if I said the sun was shining, she would laugh at just the way I said it. Then it became a pain for her even to laugh and one day she gave up and stopped laughing. And Death and the disease took her. I guess that’s the day I lost my empathy.

For years I refused to cry - I never still do - blaming myself for the death of everyone close to me, marveling at the way each piece of bad news makes me even tougher to receive the next. I looked for ways to put my lack of empathy to good use. I could be counted on to be a cool head when everyone else was panicking in a Life-or-Death situation. I remember calmly crossing a road, strolling to a pharmacy and just as calmly strolling back after buying a drug that helped save a girl’s life. One of my friends still berates me for my seeming lack of concern that day. I told him that if I had panicked and run madly across the road, I could have been knocked down by a vehicle thus putting my life and the girl’s in even greater danger. He thinks I’ve lost it.

We all know that we will die. None of us - except probably suicides and condemned criminals and their judges - know the exact moment that Death will come. Some of us try to keep him at bay: exercise, proper dieting, medical check-ups, drive carefully, look left and right before you cross, home and personal security... For those of us who have been on first name basis with Death for many years now these things mean little.

I have lived with Death. Well, we all actually do. But some of us know his address better than others. An unpredictable illness means I have stayed up on some nights confident I won’t see the next morning. But Death deceives me each time. I see the dawn and I say: Ok, maybe you’ll come tomorrow. Early last year, strapped in a car that crashed and somersaulted across a busy highway going at full speed, I looked across to see Death sitting beside me. I asked him if it was time but he shook his head and said no.

I have worked in hospitals for almost a year now and nowhere is Death more familiar and even more welcome than here. I have seen all ages and sexes of people hanging on to Life but from a thread and a Doctor or nurse’s wise or foolish decision. I have seen Death waiting as accident victims are lowered onto the bucky table, decency and nakedness forgotten as an x-ray is taken that may or may not save the person’s life.

Death is my friend but he never lets me hang around when he comes to collect someone. I have never looked at a person and they just die in front of my eyes. I only see them just before or immediately after they die. At least I am spared that.

I know Death will come for me one day and I am very comfortable with this. I try to live my life without regrets but I know I will have them. Why did I say this? Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I get to know God better? Why didn’t I pray more? Why didn’t I turn out to be a better Christian? Lord, remember I begged you to make my Death painless…

I don’t think I’ll really care for any of the loved ones I leave behind. I’ll try to make sure they’re well taken care of and done well by but there’ll be nothing I can do from that point on. It will just be a matter of time: one day, one week, one year, ten years, fifty years but they’ll forget me all the same as surely as the sun comes up the next day. And I won’t even spare a thought for the enemies - few, if any - that I leave behind. I think I’d even wish Death on them too so they’ll leave my loved ones alone.

I have ignored the blood, the tears, the wailings and supplications of the injured and their relatives and friends as I coldly tighten a screw or check the x-ray tube temperature error codes. I have done equipment maintenance while someone somewhere has his or her life juice slowly dripping away just so that the machine may not break down when some other people are in the same need. Thus the one sacrifices for the many. These things don’t bother me. After all, I have taught myself to have no empathy. In all honesty, maybe I wouldn’t be able to do the kind of work I do if I had any.

I am one really cold, cold bastard. I guess the only time I might actually feel empathy is when I die…

PS: I no longer work with health-related institutions.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

And The (Projected) Naija Bloggers' Award Winners Are...

It’s official!!! The NBA votes, I mean… Was lazily checking out Facebook last week when I saw my homegal Ex-schoolnerd raving about hers.

If you didn’t believe it before, The Naija Bloggers’ Awards has already gone full speed ahead and the final nominees for Category A have been out for a while now so all those of you who did not nominate me, you can rest assured that not only will I torture you in your dreams, I will also find out your Google password and delete your blog. If you doubt it, try me. Chikena!

Anyways, between Vera’s convincing reasons why she should win all her nominations for Category A (my dear, you even qualify for all of Category B) and Miz Okpeke’s intriguing campaign video (don’t you just love techno-chicks!) I’ve decided to hook up my crystal ball’s USB port and upload my latest predictions for your voting pleasure!

(As an aside, do you notice everything comes with a USB port nowadays? Soon even babies will be born with one hooked to their dimpled behinds…)

Anyway, since the Category A’s are partly decided, I’m going to have fun with the Category B’s instead and though some of them were so hard sha, I just had to choose more than one winner.
And so after seeing visions and dreaming dreams I present to you the bloggers who’ll (hopefully) be the eventual winners of this edition of the Naija Bloggers’ Awards. Sadly I have no real say in all these matters so if you no win eventually, no vex!

Just blame it on my cloudy crystal ball…


Category A
Bloggers Choice Award - Vera (‘nuff said.)
Most Intellectual Blogger - Emm… Doug or Danny Bagucci?
Best Student Blogger - Emm… Ex-schoolnerd?
Best Political Blog - Nigerian Curiosity (she sabi wetin dey happen for Naija pass me wey dey live here sef)
Best Religious Blog - Rita’s EROlyrics (God + Brain + Beauty)
Most Inspiring Blogger - StandTall (Funmi Iyanda, Vera Ezimora, etc, etc)
Best Entertainment Blog - Niyi Tabiti’s Gistmaster (was rooting for NotJustOK though)
Best Fashion Blog - Honestly, dunno… Wanted BoobSistas though (una know wetin carry me go there, abi?)
Best use of Media - Fresh & Fab (still rooted for NotJustOK and Afronuts Kush Galleries)
Best Use of Theme - Nigerian Curiosity (preferred SSD’s Easier family theme)
Best Use of Visuals- Afrobabe (if y’all know what I mean…)
Best Literary Blog - 14th & Serenity (Ok, OK, Carlang instead)
Most Creative Blogger - Ex-schoolnerd (I’m still waiting for you and Teddy’s porn movie oh!) very close tie with FBA
Dedicated Blogger Award - Vera (Gistmaster suppose win sha, abi?)
Best Personal Blog - Hmm… Afrobabe? (would have chosen Charizard & Buttercup’s though because Thanks to their blog, I even know how many boyfriends BC has had and that they haven’t done it yet)
Best Everyday Read - Verastically Vera
Most Likable Blogger - Vera (sotey the like don over-mature to love sef. Why do you think I’m marrying her?)

Category B
I laugh in Japanese (Funniest Blogger) - Tough one… OK, na draw: Vera and XsN
Celebutant (Most likely to become a celebrity off blogging) - Lil’ Woman, Woomie O! (and Me)
Drama King/Queen - (Over)dramatic blogger - Rayo (she dey too happy, she dey too vex!)
Hot and Sexy! (Blogger you think is hot in real life) - Spicytee (yum-yum!), Lil’ Woman, Rayo, XsN (My other wives, sorry to disappoint all of una)
Fire in my pants (Blogger you'd hook up with based solely on the content of their blog) - Badderchic ( **singing** All night long…)
Grandma/Grandpa Blogger (Seasoned blogging veteran who still updates frequently) - Funmi Iyanda
Paparazzi Blogger (Always on blogville) - Niyi Tabiti
FIRST!! (Always first on every blog) - LG (1st), Temite (2nd)
Meme Addict of Blogville (Always doing Memes) - Emm… Doug, StandTall and Buttercup?
Most Scandalous/Controversial Blogger - G.G. Naija (no vote from me for you jare! Na me you wan take get cheap publicity?)
Blogger I would most like to meet - Ahhh!!! Vera, Afrobabe, LG, Temite, Oyin, Funmi Iyanda, Doug, Danny Bagucci, Buttercup, Bumight, Laspapi, Afronuts, Jinta… (abeg, una just too many)
Most Stalked Blog (People keep going back for updates, comments) - Fineboy Agbero, Carlang
From the Outside looking in (Non-Nigerian members of Blogville a. k. a Honorary Naija) - Oyin (a. k. a Kin’shar), James Tubman, Queen of My Castle, ShonaVixen
Blogville Celebrity/ Popular Jingo (Most popular blogger) - Vera Ezimora (1st), LG (2nd)
Blogville Magician/Disappearing act Award (Blogger disappears for long periods without any explanation) - Carlang, Esquire
Most Nigeriacentric Blog/Blogger- Blog(ger) reps Naija to the fullest - Emm… Solomon Sydelle?
(n)Oprah Award (Most likely to become a talk show host) - This one too simple… StandTall
Quiet Storm (Most likely to quietly take over the world) - , Lil’ Woman, StandTall (quietly? Hmm…) Ex-schoolnerd
Say What?! (Most confusing Blogger) - Doug (?)
Epistle Blogger (Blogger loves writing long post) - FINALLY!!! ME OF COURSE!!!
Most Creative Moniker (blog title or blog name) - Ok, there’s Me, Porter deHarqourt, Fineboy Agbero, A Black James Bond, Danny Bagucci (think Mafia or designer shoes), Atutupuyoyo, Rayo (all4words), Woomie O! (sosowoomie), ConfessionsOfALondonGirl (na complete sentence be that one), bArOqUe (unorthdoxdecorum), Original Mgbeke, LG (Lady Guide), FFF, Miss Definitely Maybe, H2O, -- Ok, e don do!
Blogville Tatafo (Best Gossip blog) - LG, Niyi Tabiti
So fresh and So clean [Best newbie blog(ger) 6 months and under] - Lil’ Woman (?)
Blogville Butterfly (Friendliest Blogger) - First, there’s Rayo (checks up on me, calls/texts me and everything), Woomie (sometimes) and then Vera (second reason we’re getting married)

PS: Typing this list no be beans men! By the time I finished, voting would have ended already!

PSS: Abeg, I don’t intend breeding enmity oh! If I no mention you for here, please forgive me. Believe me, when I start tormenting people with nightmares, leaving you out might eventually be for your own good sef…

Oya now! The medicine man has spoken… Now, let the juju, sorry voting, begin!

Take care and have a swell week (or what’s left of it)!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Greatest Woman In The World…

…doesn’t really look so remarkable actually. As a matter of fact, you could see her on the streets everyday and just pass her by.

She isn’t tall at all -- she could even be called short, coming up to a height of roughly 5 feet 2 inches, plus or minus a few inches depending on the hairdo she dons at the moment. She is a bit on the plump side though her weight also does fluctuate depending on her well-being. Considering that most of the problems in her life are almost over now, she should weigh in at her most impressive size in quite a while.

Her face is plain in that beautiful way that plain can sometimes be and the gentility visible on it is reflected in her demeanour and how she carries herself. If the world had much more of her, then the world would surely be a very peaceful place to live in. But do not be deceived by her simple looks into thinking that her life has been anything but easy-sailing because beneath the face of a lamb lies the heart of a lioness. This woman was born fighting.

Right from even her Primary school days growing up in Aba, this daughter of one of the most celebrated goldsmiths in the South-East was always known as a fighter. Despite her puny frame, she could take on any bully twice her size and still emerge victorious. So vicious was her attack that once, the parents of a fellow classmate of hers strongly refused to believe that the tiny runt summoned in their presence to the Headmistress’ office for punishment had actually been the one responsible for beating their daughter to pulp. Till they went to their graves, they were still convinced their daughter had been attacked by a wild animal and the school authorities had decided to cover up the incident by laying the blame on one of the tiniest students.

I do not know if this incident was responsible for her parents sending her to a girls’ school run by Reverend Sisters but I do know that the transfer did achieve its desired results except for the few moments when the fiery temper would occasionally flare up. However, by the time she entered into the Teacher Training College, she had completely mellowed into a very desirable spinster renowned as one of the youngest and most-liked Headmistresses in that area. Before that time, she was certain that only 2 paths lay ahead of her. She would either go into the convent and become a Reverend Sister or she would meet and marry Mr. Wonderful and together with her awesomeness, they would raise the most wonderful children in the world.

Then the Civil War came and things were no longer the same as they were. Her well-to-do family had to flee the shell-ravaged town of Aba several steps ahead of the Federal troops who would still later invade the village they had fled to. For 2 years she and her loved ones struggled to survive, always on the run, convinced that each day might be their last. It broke her heart to see her brothers roaming about in the bush looking to scavenge anything for their family to eat (a process called bush-combing) while avoiding conscription or certain death from the bombers that circled overhead.

It made her sad to see her father, once a very popular philanthropist whose clients brought gold from all around the country for him to fashion into jewelry that became collectors’ items now reduced to almost a nobody while his various houses were seized or destroyed in Aba (till now her family was never able to reclaim any of his property. Several tenants who stayed behind would eventually illegally take over the property as theirs in the aftermath of the war). His slowly-impaired eyesight and worsening health conditions didn’t help situations either.

And then the big blow came after she lost her elder sister to an air-raid when a shell exploded on their house. Rather than sympathise with them, the villagers did an about-face and accused her family of creating a trail for the Federal troops to track and attack them all the way from Aba. Hearing their taunts of “Serves you people right”, it seemed as if life had administered its final coup de grace.

By the time she met him, the fight had all but gone from her spirit but with the perseverance, charm and grace with which he wooed her, she became slowly convinced that maybe Life still had its merits despite the bleakness that surrounded her.

She thought she could dream again but it was not to be. Six kids, two miscarriages, countless occasions of adultery on his part and 24 years later and it turned out that Mr. Wonderful’s dark past which the rumour-mongers had always whispered of to her in the dark corners (and which she had vehemently refused to listen to) had become revealed in the starkest of lights for her and everyone to see.

It took all of those 24 years but the fire was reignited in her heart and this time she let it burn from her very soul, cleansing her from the pretences and guilt of the past. Despite her strict Catholic upbringing, she took him to the courts and before the church and got a separation from her marriage. Mr. Wonderful was all too happy to see her and her wretched children go since after all, he had been itching all these years to start a new family with one of his numerous concubines. He even went as far as alleging that his wife of 20-plus years wanted to poison him since he now had money -- an allegation that further convinced the judge and church to grant the separation.

As she looked at the ruins of her marriage, her six children some of them in various stages of University education and her pensioner status, she must have felt like she did during the war. She didn’t give up though. It was time for yet another new beginning.

She became the Principal of a private secondary school, she farmed, she traded in everything under the sun, she joined Co-operatives, she borrowed loans and repaid them till one by one all her children had completed school. When she heard the stories of her ex-husband’s rising profile, she must have cried herself to sleep sometimes. What had all their years of struggling to raise a family been for when she was the one toiling while he kept another woman happy with his new-found wealth?

This woman is still a fighter despite the fact that situations have never been kind to her, especially death. She has nursed and cared for her mother, her younger sister and a son all of them in various stages of ill-health at different times. She has stayed up for countless nights praying for them to get well and she has watched as the cold hands of Death has taken them one by one. She has plan and organised their funerals.

Even till today, as she’s just starting to enjoy the fruits of her labour, she’s still doing a nursing course overseas rather than sit at home, eat and watch TV. She can revel in the luxuries of her children’s homes, she can watch over and play with her grandchildren but her fire still burns on as if she still has a lot to do. Her quest for service to God and humanity still keeps her occupied.
She turned 64 a few days ago and as I look back at some of the battles she has faced and emerged victorious, I can only hope that when I turn 64 myself, I will be content in the fact that I - like she did- could still raise 5 wonderful children despite the trials and tribulations I face along the way.

The greatest woman in the world isn’t much to look at really but I am glad everyday that I know her.

She’s my mom…

PS: I’m sorry about the lenght of these things, I really am! I know Jinta said I made him dizzy last time but it’s just that this is my subconscious talking and when I started I didn’t know I’d just go on and on…

Pardon me, my subconscious just doesn’t know how to summarize that’s all!