DISPELLING DARKNESS WITH LIGHT

Among the myriad of damages that have been caused by the sheer existence of the social media, one that stands prominent is the inordinate overstretching of the freedom of expression. This of course has led to more unfortunate events like cyber bullying, spread of fake news, explicit display of profanities and a host of others. In this virtual space, just like in real life, anything can happen, albeit in a largely lawless manner. 

Also, just like in real life, various news items make the round at different times. These are known as “trends.” Sometimes, these trends could emanate from online trifles. At other times, they could be based on actual occurrences in the real world. The current trend on the rape and gruesome murder of Uwaila Omozuwa is one veritable example. 

This sinister incident, like every other of its kind, has elicited various reactions from the teeming population of netizens. Many have reacted with utter disgust and shock, calling for justice to take its course. Curses have been rained on both the perpetrators and those persons who seem to make a case for the criminals, either subtly or – unashamedly so – explicitly. More pragmatic people have taken their anger off the social media by taking to the streets to register their undivided solidarity with the victim and her family and to ensure that this terrible act is not swept under the carpet, like many others in the past. In the midst of the present ruckus, there exists still that fraction of the lot who remain disinterested. After all, no be my babe or my sister. 

In the midst of all these reactions, I would like to state clearly that I for one am against this unholy act and sincerely hope that justice prevails when all is said and done. The shameful position taken by those who somehow try to justify the criminal acts and the snide position of the indifferent are both unenviable. However, my chagrin lies in how the majority of people who register their displeasure tend to do so. This of course is not restricted to any gender as any sane human should be pained by the unfortunate incident. These past days, I have seen all manner of comments on the issue. People have suggested that the death penalty should be meted out on all rapists. Some have wished that the genitals of all rapists would be cut off in the most horrific manner. Others have prayed “in Jesus’ name” for other unimaginable calamities to befall all rapists and potential rapists alike. 

Rape is no doubt a terrible thing and remains condemnable, regardless of the circumstances. And to make matters worse, in parts of the world like ours, rapists go scot-free all the time. Recently, a female friend told me about how two of her girlfriends got raped but couldn’t do anything about it afterwards. They remain helpless, with nobody around to ease their pain. However, sometimes, I wonder what the deal actually is. What exactly do we aim to achieve with our hateful reactions in situations like this? If it is to obtain justice, I think we need to do some reevaluation. We need to ask ourselves some salient questions and answer them truthfully. Can darkness dispel darkness? Can hate quell hate? Do we really think that expressing the highest level of hatred possible for these evil men would bring an end to their actions? 

One similar attribute of all humans is our shared brokenness. Some might be more broken than others but then, we are all in this together. Another similarity is the fact that no human being is completely evil. In fact, philosophers would tell you that there is no such thing as evil; it’s only a lack of good, they say. So, like a coin, we all have two distinct sides – one inclined towards the good and the other, prone to wickedness. The reason behind the human labels “good” and “bad” is no more than the fact that we tend to lean too closely towards either of these extremes quite often. It seems as though, in our outburst, we tend to forget that, no matter their crime, these individuals are still human beings and that by the virtue of their humanity, some good can still come out of them. Of course, justice must be served but then, not to the detriment of the human person. Condemn the evil deed not the doer. 

There is a man named Daryl Davies, an African American who has, over the years, befriended hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members. Many, of course, would – at first thought – write off his action as foolish, given the level of hatred members of that group have displayed towards his race from time immemorial. However, the result of this man’s seemingly strange action – the conversion of many former members of this pernicious organization – would immediately shut critics up. This exemplary attitude of Davies and its attendant effect goes a long way to show us the extent to which love can quell hate, no matter its intensity. Of course, I’m not in any way suggesting we go about making friends with known rapists and murderers. That might be suicidal. However, whatever action we decide to take in response to acts like theirs has to be as humane as possible. In doing this, we set an example for these persons to learn from and just maybe, they would turn a new leaf as a result. Any vengeful desire would eventually lead us to a dead end. As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. 

I don’t claim to have all the answers to questions regarding how we should respond to issues like this. Nobody does. Rape, just like other evils, have just happened to become a part of our human existence and will most likely continue to be with us for a long time, no matter what is done. However, what I do know is that love makes a whole lot of difference. Like the sudden presence of light in a dark room, love illuminates the heart and dispels every atom of darkness found therein. 

ONE COLD SUNDAY EVENING

Our Big Compound

Everybody in our big compound is fearing Mummy Dele. It is so funny, this fear that everybody is having for her. It is not as if she is big in stature like Mummy Toheeb, the woman that use to sell akara and bread in front of our house. She is not even tall up to Daddy Arinze, the former soja man that is living opposite us. If you are just seeing her for the first time, you will think she is one small sisi of like twenty something. You will not know that she have already born five children. 

People are fearing Mummy Dele because she have very sharp mouth. Chai! If this woman abuse you, you will go and think about your life. In fact, you will want her to beat you instead. There is one woman that use to live in our compound before. Her name is Aunty Nurse. It is Mummy Dele bad mouth that drive her away. Aunty Nurse is somebody that everybody in our area like. We use to call her that name because she have one small chemist in the area. People like her because she use to treat people that don’t have plenty money for free. She even use to dash us medicine sometimes like during Christmas and Ileya. Something me I like about her is the way she use to smile. Her smile can cure headache fast more than paracetamol. 

That day, the day that Mummy Dele abuse Aunty Nurse, I am not around. It is one Saturday evening like that and I have go and play ball in the public school field that is close to our house. It is my big sister Anabel that tell me the story. If my sister tell you story, it will be as if you are there as the thing is happening. Aunty Nurse was doing bai-day and she now invite all the children in the compound to her flat for one small party. All of Mummy Dele children, except Dele who follow me to the field, also attend the party. Mummy Dele is not around too. She have go to church for choir practice, as usual. 

When Mummy Dele finally come back, the party have already finish but her children are still eating the food that Aunty Nurse give them. My sister say that after she have give Ronke, her second child, a hot slap, she quickly rush into Aunty Nurse flat and drag her outside and start shouting on the top of her voice. She is calling Aunty Nurse “witch” and “mammy water.” Very soon, people gather, even people that are not living in our compound. Everybody is just shaking their head as they are watching the whole thing. There is no name in this world that Mummy Dele did not call Aunty Nurse. She even say that the reason why Aunty Nurse have not born is because she have use all her unborn babies to do Ogun owo, blood money and she now want to use her own children too. But that God in heaven will destroy her plan. 

For a long time, nobody among the people that gather say anything. They don’t want to collect their own share of abuse from Mummy Dele. And Aunty Nurse is just there, crying like a small girl. It is Daddy Arinze that now come and ask Mummy Dele to keep quiet and go inside. That night, as I lie down to sleep, I hear Mummy Dele loud voice as she is covering her children with the precious blood of Jesus. 

Aunty Nurse and her husband later pack out the next month. According to what my mummy tell me, Mummy Dele refuse to tell her sorry even when Oga Landlord and caretaker have already ask her to apologise. 

In my entire life as a ten years old boy, I have not see anybody that like church up to Mummy Dele. There is no day that she did not use to go to church. If it is not fellowship today, it will be Tuesday Revival or crusade tomorrow. She did not use to miss any Friday night vigil too. She will pack all her five children with her and all of them will be wearing thick sweater as if they are going to America. I don’t know how someone that use to go to church like that can still be very stubborn. Even my own mummy that use to go only on Sunday is not that stubborn. 

It did not reach two weeks after Aunty Nurse have already go that another tenant pack into the flat. His name is Chuks and he have not even marry. Everybody is wondering why Oga Landlord will rent a whole one flat to a bachelor. Some people are saying that it is because the man have plenty money that is why Oga Landlord agree to accept him. 

I did not like Chuks at all. It is not because he did not use to respond to someone greeting. It is not even because he use to play Akanchawa and Kene Onye Kere Igwe on the highest volume almost every morning. In fact, I use to enjoy hearing those songs. I can even sing some of them from A to Z. There is just something about him I don’t like, since the first day I saw him. If you ask me the thing, I don’t know. I just know that I did not like him. 

Someone else that did not like him is Mummy Dele. At least, that is how it look like. Whenever the two of them are around like this, the whole compound did not use to contain them. They will just be throwing abuse at each other anyhow. There is nothing that Chuks use to do that use to please Mummy Dele. One Saturday morning like that, Mummy Dele and her children just return from night vigil. It did not reach twenty minutes later that Chuks begin to play his Ibo gospel songs on very high volume, as usual. The thing really pain Mummy Dele that day and she started shouting very loud, almost more loud than the song that is playing. The only other time she use to shout like this is when she is praying in the midnight. It will be as if the house want to collapse. Since that day, Chuks stop playing his song on high volume. 

When we first park into the area, I use to wonder where Mummy Dele husband is until me and Dele become friends and I now ask him. He say that his father is working in Lagos and use to come home like two times in a month. The small times he has come back, Mummy Dele flat use to be on fire. Whenever the man is around, Mummy Dele will just be shouting on his head and the whole street will be hearing. But in the night, she will be making one funny sound, like someone is using needle to chook her body and she is liking it. 

The fight between Mummy Dele and Chuks continue for a really long time. They always use to discuss their matter whenever they are having landlord and tenant meeting. There must be one quarrel or another to settle. Sometimes Chuks will keep quiet as they are trying to settle the matter but Mummy Dele did not use to ‘gree at all. She will just be saying “no no no” like she is fighting with everybody. I know this because my daddy use to complain about it whenever he come back from the meeting. 

Then, on one cold Sunday evening like that, something happen. Now that I am thinking of that day sef, it is looking somehow in my head. How will very hot sun shine throughout the day and one heavy rain will now come and fall in the evening? You too, think it now. Is it not somehow to you too? 

That evening, Anabel is helping me to do my Quantitative Reasoning assignment that is very hard like mad. I should have do it since but I forget to show my sister on time. I use to like it when Anabel is helping me to do my assignment. Her brain is like computer. There is no question that she cannot answer and if she explain something to you, you will never forget it. 

We are doing the last question when all of a sudden, we hear one loud noise from Chuks flat. The noise is so loud that even though the rain is increasing, we can still hear it very well. It is my father that first go out to check what is happening. When my mummy notice that he did not come back on time, she now go too. She say me and my sister should not do mistake and go outside. Everything is just somehow in my eyes. 

When my mummy and daddy finally come back, they did not want to tell us anything. My daddy just enter his room straight and my mummy is just shaking her head and saying “na wa o.” The way she is saying the “na wa o”, I already know that something bad have happen. When me and my sister ask her what happen, she say it is not something that children is suppose to hear and that we should go and eat our food. 

The next day, the news is everywhere. It did not use to take time for news to spread in our compound. When I first hear it, I did not understand very well. It is Anabel that now explain the thing for me. Even after she have already explain, the thing is still sounding somehow in my ear. Chuks and Mummy Dele are doing mummy and daddy thing that yesterday. As they are doing it, Chuks man thing now refuse to come out of Mummy Dele woman thing. The word that Anabel use to describe it is “stuck”. She say that their two thing gum together and they try and try to separate from each other but it did not work. That is when Mummy Dele now start shouting. 

They say the thing happen because Mummy Dele husband go and do magun in Babalawo place. Magun in Yoruba mean “don’t climb”. The charm is a type of protection that will not allow any other man apart from Daddy Dele to do mummy and daddy thing with Mummy Dele in peace. The thing be like something that use to happen in Nigerian film. 

The next week, Chuks park away from the house. My daddy say that that is the best thing for him to do. The shame is just too much. As for Mummy Dele, since that very bad thing happen, we did not use to hear her loud voice in the compound again. 

SOME MUSINGS ON FEAR

Growing up, I was afraid of a bucketload of things. That which stood paramount among the lot was my fear of darkness. I was scared of being alone in the dark. So great was this phobia of mine that I never slept at the right side of the bed which my elder brother and I shared. Our bed was lodged to the wall so I always lay at the edge closer to the wall. I used to think that some nocturnal monster was always lurking around and that if it ever got access into our room, the person closer to the door would bear the brunt. So in a bid to stay selfishly safe, I would lie very close to the wall, my full frame almost entirely resting against my little fortress.

One fateful night, the mischievous spirit in my brother decided to manifest itself. He had gotten to the room before me and lay on my side of the bed. Rather than simply roll over to his place on my arrival (as he would usually do), he stubbornly remained where he was, pretending to be asleep. It was when I attempted pushing him and he stiffened that I knew I was in hot soup. I begged and cried, asking him to kindly shift to his space. I was damned, I thought. The monster would get me for sure. That night, I cried myself to sleep and from that day onwards, my fear of darkness disappeared.

I bet you have a similar story to tell – you had been super scared of something and then you have an experience that obliterates the fear for good. This teaches us some important lessons about fear. The more scared we feel, the scarier things will seem. And just like I learnt to stop being afraid of the dark after that transforming experience, fear (no matter the gravity) can be dispelled or managed at least. After all, the goal is not to become totally fearless – which is unrealistic – but to fear less. This is what the Bible’s injunction to us not to be afraid truly means. God himself acknowledges our natural tendency to get overwhelmed by the difficulties of life so He constantly enjoins us to, rather than wallow in fear, cast our anxieties and worries before Him and trust Him to see us through them all.

There are two basic types of fear – physical and psychological. More often that not, it is the latter that plagues us. It is what keeps us awake at night and gets us tensed during the day. We are scared of failing at something, not meeting up to some expectation, losing a loved one, the list goes on. If we are true to ourselves, we would notice a pattern of self imposed anxieties here. Just as my brother was not the least afraid of darkness as opposed to me, some persons are visibly scared of something while others are not. This clearly shows that fear is really a choice – it’s all in the mind. As the saying goes, “the problem is not often that we have a problem; the problem lies in the way we react to the problem.”

Also, it has been noticed that many a times, we get really scared of situations that are far beyond our control. This is pretty much a waste of time because really, what’s the point? Whatever happens at the end of the day happens! So, what we need to do at these times is to visualize the worst possible thing that could come out of that situation and get ready to live with it. The effect of this is that our fear reduces considerably and that which we had previously been so anxious about becomes not so terrible eventually.

At other times, we are scared to the marrow even in situations within our control. At times like this, what we need to do is to leverage that particular fear. Devise a way by which you can turn things around and make that fear a source of motivation. Let it spur you to greatness! For example, you’re really afraid of failing an examination you are about to take? Rather than waste time and energy worrying about it, pay more attention to reading harder and watch your worries dissipate gradually.

In all, fear is a necessary phenomenon in life. It’s one of those things that accentuates our humanity. It could be detrimental or helpful to us in our daily dealings. Our attitude towards it is all that matters. Have you resolved to allow it haunt you forever or to make the best out of it? The choice is yours to make. Cheers!

MY SECOND TEACHING PRACTICE EXPERIENCE: THE MEMOIR OF A STUDENT TEACHER

With Primary 2 Pupils. 😍

Everything happens for a reason. No matter how cliche or problematic you think this saying is, it doesn’t deny the fact that at many points in our lives, we have looked back at a situation that appeared seemingly incongruous but turned out just fine and became sincerely grateful for it. This perfectly describes what I felt after my last teaching practice exercise.

To start with, the exercise did not begin as previously scheduled. It was supposed to commence around mid-January and end sometime in February. However, with the subsequent announcement of a compulsory break by the Vice Chancellor which was to take effect by February and end after the Easter holiday, the faculty decided to capitalize on this and reschedule. Our teaching practice, which normally lasts for six weeks, would now hold during the two-month break which was meant for preparations towards the then upcoming National Sports Festival that didn’t eventually hold, thanks to Colodia Drivus.

Another unforeseen turn of events was the fact that accommodation would no longer be provided for those who wished to stay in the hostel during the period. This was bad news for those of us who have resided nowhere else but the school’s hall of residence throughout our stay in the University. I remembered my previous teaching practice experience vividly and how interesting it had been, staying in the hostel with a handful of Engineering, final year and fellow Education students. Coupled with our female counterparts, we had been the only ones on campus and we had rocked it like it was our birthright. So the thought of spending six solid weeks somewhere else this time sent cold shivers down my spine. But I was left with no choice but to go hunting for a roommate off campus and this became the starting point of my relationship with Gregory Onyema, a friend turned brother.

Few days to the commencement of the TP exercise, I still had no clue as regards the location of my assigned school. As though she had read my mind, a friend and course mate of mine who got posted to the same school gave me a call and asked that we go together to check the place out. Though she has spent all her life in the ancient city, she also didn’t know where the school was located precisely. Everytime snippets of that day’s experience comes to mind, I’m always prompted to laugh out loud or at least, chuckle. Our waka that day no be here. The evidence could be seen on our dust-caked feet. After walking the length and breath of Oluku and getting misled by people who confidently gave us directions to an imaginary school, we finally found the place. The school didn’t exactly meet the standard of an international school as the name implies but who were we kidding? This is Nigeria, the land of morbid ironies.

Christabel! 🤩

The teaching practice began in earnest and it was, in a lot of ways, not different from the previous one. Both schools have similar administratrative structures, are both faith-based and I was assigned to teach the same class and subject. What makes Jehovah Shalom stand out, however, are the people I met there, which includes the teachers, fellow student teachers and of course, my lovely students/pulpils. Two things make humans special among all of God’s creation. One is that we were made in the image of God and the other is the life-giving breath that He breathed on us. At Jehovah Shalom, I was not only entertained by the exuberance being effused by the people there, I also perceived God’s image distinctly portrayed in every soul.

One of the events that stood out throughout my stay in the school was the Inter-house Sports Competition. The school had started preparations weeks before my colleagues and I arrived so we were expected to catch up with the train. Immediately, we were allocated to various houses to assist the teachers already on ground. Soon, I saw myself fit so smoothly into the position of a march past trainer and a whistle wielder. One of the student teachers Kelvin made a joke about reporting the school management to our faculty for turning teachers-in-training into Sportsmen. It was fun all the way – the joy dervied from shouting “on your marks, set…” and then blow the whistle to children hungry for momentary victory; taking pictures and engaging in other shenanigans with my colleagues when we got tired of shouting “raise your legs” to lacklustre marchers; and the final preparations that involved sweat, laughter and tears. It is so funny how all of these ended on an anticlimactic note, with my mortifying fall while struggling not to come out last during the teachers’ race. But at least, I was pacified by the fact that my house, Green house did quite well and didn’t end up so badly.

After the Inter-house Sports came supervision. We had been expecting the supervisors for so long that when they eventually came, it was a mixture of mild shock and sweet relief. There were two supervisors. Both were cool but one was cooler than the other. That’s all I can say; I will not allow my village people get me and make me toy with my admission. My students were also wonderful – they comported themselves well and even the taciturn ones became surprisingly eager to answer my questions. Even though this wasn’t my first supervision, I learnt something during the episode that will stay with me forever: self-confidence is the foundation of success.

Second supervision! 😎

The week that followed that of the supervision saw a decline in the zeal of most student teachers. This was not suprising as some had previously announced that they would stop coming after being supervised. We didn’t see some persons anymore and even some of us who kept coming didn’t show up everyday. Mr Elvis, the principal kept threatening us with the talk of not signing on our logbooks if we didn’t turn a new leaf, as though his signature was all that significant.

With the increment in the COVID-19 cases in the country and the consequent closure of schools, the school had to go down the next week. They would have started their exams that same week. Who would have thought… I can only imagine the level of psychological and physical stress those poor students would have to go through when they eventually resume. God help them. So, that was how an exercise that was supposed to last for six weeks ended up being a four-week period well spent.

There are a lot of things about my second teaching practice experience that I will most likely never forget. These are the things, these indelible moments shared with amazing people, that will crawl into my memory whenever I think of Jehovah Shalom. The long treks my colleagues and I took to NITEL junction after school which often involved all manner of discussions ranging from the teacher everyone disliked to the growing fondness between two student teachers. The daily chanting of the school athem (I memorized it, by the way) and something else they call “Rhema for the Year 2020”. The time I spent as an assistant class teacher to Mrs Ikechukwu, the primary 2 teacher. And ultimately, the time spent with my lovely SS 1 students as both their English Language teacher and test invigilator.

Blessed am I… (Bundle of Joy with Christabel)

Added to these are persons in whose company I spent those four amazing weeks. Shout out to Mrs Ikechukwu for her warmth, Master Temi for his hardwork and Mr Elvis for his understanding. I will always remember the feistiness of Godwin, the student principal. I will never forget Samson for reigniting the love I have for reggae music. I will not forget the couple Kelvin and Valerie, the former for his doggedness and for being a pest at some point and the latter, for her Bohemian personality and her never ending nagging. Evelyn will always be in my heart because she taught me what it meant to be a passionate lady. By the way, did I say that she loved taking pictures!
Never will I forget Success for her calmness and the pungent aroma of her food. I will always remember Oscar for choosing to be an outlaw and narrowly missing getting into trouble for it. This is also to let him know that the drinks he shared that day didn’t get to me and that he should do the needful when next we see. Thanks to Martha for filling us with the idyllic presence of her little bundle of joy. Bee-Bee the anti-feminist, thanks for being such a darling and for waiving the money I owe you. And lastly, to my dear Christabel, thanks for everything you were and still are to me. Above all, I will always remember my wonderful students who taught me that being a teacher doesn’t necessarily require you to be a genius but more importantly, to be a father, a brother and a friend.

May we always remember.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Timely Lesson for Humanity

“In years to come when we remember the year 2020, I sincerely hope that what will come to mind is the fact that until then, we hadn’t fully realised how so unpredictable life could get and how the events of that long year changed our lives forever.” ~ Anonymous

It is quite pathetic that the infamous COVID-19 has barely lasted five months yet over a million persons have already been infected globally, with the number of deaths rising nonstop. Almost every country of the world has had her fair share of the pandemic since its outbreak in December last year, with many major cities currently on lockdown.  

Here in Nigeria, today makes it the 37th day since the virus found its way into our beloved country. Before its arrival into our shores, it was still at the level of an international virus for us here and even when the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced the first confirmed case, many still believed deep in their hearts that it was yet another political antic. I vividly remember our very own Obasanja taking a similar stance and even saying sarcastically that he wanted to contract the virus himself, just so as to ascertain the validity of the statement made by the Minister of Health. 

Fast forward to about a month later and the reality of the virus in our midst stares us coldly in the face. Before now, the terms “quarantine” and “self isolation” were only heard on foreign news as regards places like China, Italy and the like. Today, however, there is almost no informed Nigerian that has not used these words in the past couple of days. The effect of the virus is being manifested in the now ghost-like cities of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun, the ban placed on public gatherings in many states, the closure of local and international borders and indeed, the perpetual fear and uncertainty in which we currently live. 

Now, it doesn’t matter what conspiracy theory you have or have come to believe concerning the virus neither is the spiritual interpretation you give to the present predicament important. Apart from hoping that a vaccine for the dreaded virus is discovered as quickly as possible while staying safe, another thing that we need to do this period is to have some critical reflection and pay particular attention to the lessons that this pandemic affords us. 

In my opinion, I strongly believe that this crisis is actually a necessary evil and despite the great tension it has caused in our world, we shouldn’t for any reason miss the lessons to be learnt from it. Below are three imperatives we need to take away from this storm bedevilling us: 

  1. Life is Unpredictable

This is a basic truth of life that we all know yet we play dumb to it most of the time. A lot of events occur in our lives and indeed around us that points to the contingency of life. A man is stinkingly rich today and tomorrow, he plummets to the dregs of poverty. We have a wonderful conversation with a friend today wherein we talk about shared ideas and amazing future plans and the next day, we are met with the unbearable news of their death. 

I could go on and on but I believe you get the point already. Life is so unpredictable that we actually don’t know what will happen the next second, let alone the next day. Our continuous existence only points to one thing – the working of God’s grace in our lives. Who would have thought, some months back, that the world would be in this miserable situation that it is in currently, given the applaudable advancement in science and technology? But here we are! 

Thankfully, the virus is not a death sentence so when we recover from this, our approach to life should change for the better. In the coming years when we remember the year 2020, I sincerely hope that what will come to mind is the fact that until then, we hadn’t fully realised how so unpredictable life could get and how the events of that long year changed our lives forever. I hope we realise how very transient this world is and how even the next minute is not predictable. 

2. We’ll all Die Someday

I think this coronavirus crisis has made us realise, yet again, how so close death could be. Death is literally in the air! This is a fact of life that we also find very difficult to accept. We live so cautiously trying to avoid this ultimate end (at least, to our earthly lives) that when it finally comes, we realise how foolish we had been all the while – trying to escape the inescapable. 

So how should we react to this? With much gloom and despair? Well, if there was no afterlife, maybe and there won’t be any need for this article in the first place. But if we really believe death is not the finality of life, that there is another life after this where we’ll spend eternity with our creator, there is the need to keep that hope alive. There is the need to live fully like everyday was our last and come to terms with the inevitability of death so that instead of living to avoid death, we instead strive to animate the world around us.

#Stay safe

3. Let Love Lead

This appears so simple and clichéd yet many find it difficult to practise. A quick example can be drawn from recent events in our dear country. The number of persons infected with the virus in Nigeria began to rise like garri Ijebu and within a matter of hours, the price of previously rare commodities like face masks and sanitizers skyrocketed like there was no tomorrow. 

It is sad that times like this when what people need more than ever is the smallest act of kindness expressed to them, is when the Hitler in us rears its head. I hope that this period will be for all of us a defining moment when we get to understand what it means to be truly humane. 

A FIELD DAY FOR THE DEVIL 

It happened again. He had hoped and willed it not to, but it did happen. Infuriated and frustrated, he gathered his saliva-soaked books and threw them into his bag in a frenzy. He then violently unplugged his earphone from his phone and got up to leave. Sometimes, he wandered if he was normal; how could he have slept for so long and so soundly while loud music blared into his ears? This was not the first time Chidi would knock off and yield to the call of nature while reading at night. But this particular day came with an ominous undertone. His first ever examination in the University of Benin was to be written that day. The course was relatively easy for him but he knew better than to take any exam lightly, not even General Studies.

“The devil will not succeed,” he assured himself. 

Chidi looked around him. Some people were awake while others were fast asleep. He quietly walked out of the lecture theatre and headed for his hostel. As he walked towards his hall of residence, his mind went to work. He began to make plans for the day. On getting to the hostel, he would cook a quick meal of noodles, complement it with UniBen bread then make tea to wash it down. He would also have to call his dad later in the day to remind him of the money he promised to send the coming weekend. He planned not to spend much time in the hostel so as to hurry back to class for a last hour revision against his 10 AM paper. He also had a fellowship to attend that evening. 

The Great Hall 3

As he approached the hostel, he heard the heavy voices of a mammoth crowd drifting out of the hall.

“Is this another protest?” he wondered.

He quickened his pace and the voices of the advancing boys became more audible. He heard statements like “beat am well”, “give am better beating”, “una nor sabi beat person?” He sighed. Another thief had been caught. It was barely a week since one was caught and severely dealt with at Hall 4.

When he got to where the boys were, he couldn’t tell who the thief was among them for there were more people closing in on him. Chidi wondered how quickly such massive crowd had converged since it was barely six in the morning. Determined to have a glimpse of the thief, he moved closer. He eventually saw him, trying to dodge blows coming from various angry fists. He could not believe his eyes. “Oma, steal?” he muttered slowly. Instantly, a cold shudder went through his spine. Oma, who everyone called “Pastor Oma”, steal? Oma, whose baritone voice reverberating in the whole of Hall 3 every morning has become associated with the birth of a new day. Oma the soul winner, a pilferer? Unbelievable!

“The devil is at it again,” Chidi concluded. 

Totally shocked but determined not to allow anything derail his plans, Chidi hurried to his room. As expected, most of his room mates were out watching the unfolding scene so he had much space to himself in this tiny room where a fairly big box was able to swallow a chunk of space thereby, causing traffic most mornings. He went through his daily routine of preparations for class and was good to go in no time. As he stepped out of the room, within a split second, he was drenched in smelly dirty water. As he looked up impulsively to see the fellow who had been so stupid and blind to pour water from upstairs, just in time to land on him, series of apologies trailed his ears.

“Bros, abeg nor vex, I no know say person bin wan pass. Abeg, I no do am intentionally.”

Chidi was at a loss on what to do. He stood transfixed as though in a trance. The two reasons he did not beat the living daylight out of the boy who did this was due to the school’s penalty for any form of violence and also, he would have been late for his exam. Not yielding to the temptation of the devil to carry out his intentions and regret it forever, he quietly went to put on fresh clothes. The devil had done enough for the day. 

THE END.

Thanks for reading. Do well to drop your comments before you leave. God bless you.

FREEDOM OR “FREEDOOM”?

If asked what freedom is to you, what would be your reply? Many would define it in simple terms as the ability to do what one likes. For others, it could be the state of being unconstrained by either an external or internal force. Between the above definitions, even though it does not exactly encapsulate all that I believe to be freedom, I prefer the latter to the former the way a sane person would choose life over death. The reason for this assertion is my motivation for this writeup. It is quite worrisome that a lot of people harbour this wrong notion of freedom which I have chosen to term “freedoom.”

The word “freedom” is commonly used in different climes for divergent reasons and to create a particular effect in the mind of the audience. When we talk of political freedom, for instance, we refer to certain rights and privileges obtainable in the world of politics such as the right to hold political beliefs or ideologies. Social freedom, on the other hand, has to do with the right to join any association of one’s choice and behave in a way that is compatible with one’s personal values. Behind prison walls, freedom puts on yet again another unique cloak. Here, it becomes a symbol of hope, a source of strength and a reason to look forward to the next day.

In this article, however, our reference to freedom is to the general conception (or misconception) of the word, especially as used in everyday communication. To many, freedom is interpreted as the right one has to do whatever they like, to be set free from any constraint whatsoever, preventing them from acting however they wish to. Any person or authority that tries preventing them directly or indirectly from doing so is then tagged an “enemy of progress.” Whatever is eventually done by them that is outside their scope of preference is done grudgingly or just because everyone else does it. Even simple daily acts like getting up early becomes a problem. These people possess a pitiable notion of freedom, an illusion even. They think they are free but in reality, they are securely tied in chains. Those persons feel that just because they are answerable to no one but their ego-inflated whim and can do whatever it is that pleases them, they are free. This is a dangerous way to live. A lot of humans have trod this path in the past and the visible end result was inevitable destruction.

Life is guided by certain natural laws which, if broken, have their individual consequences. For instance, you can’t expect to get a pat on the back for willfully killing an innocent person. Just as life is guided by laws which make it (to a reasonable extent) worth living, so also, certain principles should guide our individual lives if we want it to be worthwhile. Principles are not meant to constrain us; they instead lead us to live fuller and happier lives. Those who live their lives without some guiding principles are no better than animals in the wild because like the latter, they are unthinking beings, just wafting through life like it were a dream.

One key reason why we really need to inculcate principles into our lives is that, most often, we actually do not know what we want. To prove this assertion, the movie Bruce Almighty readily comes to mind. There, we see how Bruce incessantly misuses his God-like powers after having blamed God previously for abandoning him in his trying times. Our wants are subject to our emotions which are ever so wavering. On the other hand, our needs are relatively stable, dependent on rationality. What our established principles does for us therefore is to help us know when to draw the line between our feelings and reasoning.
Also, it is expedient to note here that in life, we do not always get what we want. This simple reality of life should serve as a lesson to us. Since we can’t possibly get all that we desire, is it not foolish therefore to see freedom as doing whatever we want rather than as an opportunity to live a more meaningful life, guided by realistic principles? You should do things, not only because you want to do them (at times, you actually do not), but also because it is in perfect reconciliation with your noble aspirations in life. In the same way, you choose not to engage in a particular activity (even though your emotion is in conflict with you) simply because it is not in accordance with your core values and tenets.

Of course, our humanness will occasionally manifest and we will sometimes derail from some of our set principles. At times like this, we should remind ourselves that we’re only human after all, rise up again and continue in our journey towards true freedom. According to Elbert Hubbard, “freedom cannot be bestowed – it must be achieved.”

Finally, as Albert Camus would say, “freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” This clearly means that it is not freedom if it doesn’t transform you into a better version of yourself. So if you claim to be free, a self examination is necessary in order to confirm your claim. Be sure it is freedom you are enjoying and that you are not wallowing in freedoom.

PS: Feel FREE to drop your comment before leaving. Thanks for stopping by. God bless you.