Live a little, and give life

‘Wish our weekdays away, spend our weekends in bed. Drink ourselves stupid, and work ourselves dead, all just because, that’s what mum and dad said we should do’. Those Passengers’ words were reverberating, and while they’ll remain subject to different forms of interpretation, because every work of art is, you could get a message of the way many of us live, and will live. Work and pay the bills, and do nothing else, because that’s what society demands. Live a life so run-of-the-mill you shouldn’t even call it living.
Shouldn’t life be more than that? Shouldn’t life be more than just working till death do you both part? Run through the forest, look at the stars, feel the rain, Passenger may or may not have said all of those words. Do something different. Do something you want to. Not something you have to. Leave a footprint, make an impact, even if sometimes it’s a struggle.
Which brings us to Readows Foundation and its MadeinMaiduguri (#MIM) project, an embryonic project with a Temporary Learning Space and less than 20 volunteer teachers working with over 600 children. Yes, that’s the definition of a struggle, but sometimes that’s what life should be. Life should be thinking of beyond you. Living life alone is as possible as cold fusion. So why not make an impact? Why not leave a legacy that people will benefit from? A legacy such as ensuring children get the best form of education, giving them, in Readows’ words, ‘a good shot at life…’.
According to the foundation, the teachers’ dedication is starting to abate, dearth of resources and lack of pay is starting to see to that, but again, the project is embryonic, hence problems shouldn’t be unexpected, heck, even when there comes a time that the project and foundation takes flight, there’ll still be reefs in the sea, but where aren’t there? What matters is ultimately sailing to a point of substantial success.
And where the foundation is aiming to sail to is a point where kids look back and think that they had a life to live, that they had people and a cause looking out for them, because they should have. That’s the definition of impact. The embodiment of a legacy. Not for you, but for them. Surely that’s better than just moving from paying one bill to the other, then second-guessing your entire life when it reaches its embers.
Is this a cry for help? Honestly, yes; let’s not kid ourselves. Readows and the #MIM need all the help it can get, in any form it can arrive. And of course it’s okay to be sceptical, to have a sense of ‘yeah but’; many projects like this have come and gone, and left no footnote – let’s be realistic, we’ve been burned more than once. But in a world, and especially a country, where everything is so dark, so wrong and nigh-on hopeless, a sense of trying of putting things right and bringing hope deserves weight behind it.
A sense of bringing the light, which, as Passenger said, ‘CAN SCARE AWAY THE DARK’.

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SALVATION

The sand bites into my knee fiercely. This exact scene, you would have seen in the movies. An onlooker would think it to have played out in a shrine, not on the tranquility of a beach.

I am the center of attention in a ring of seven people, in different colours of robes. I am in a red garment, with nothing underneath but a red rope tied around my mid-section, my dreads flying in the direction of the wind.
Though my eyes are closed, I know how this looks, a deliverance session for a mad woman. Just that I am not the one with the infirmity- it is my mother and these people that are mad.

I have gone through this before, six years ago when I had a seizure while playing with the other children in the compound. My mother hailed a cab and took me to church. The prophets, who were in church that evening, told my mother that I was possessed and needed deliverance lest I die on my seventh birthday and join my ogbanje mates. I remember it was a Friday because I closed early from school that day and was excited that we would have longer hours to play suwe and boju boju. The deliverance was not as dramatic as it was now, or maybe I wasn’t old enough to fully grasp the order of events then.

Today, before we got to the beach, a duck and pigeon had already been slaughtered, their blood poured into a bucket of coconut water and different spiritual perfumes mixed into it. One of the prophets; the one whose bleached skin which makes him look like a featherless cock with the way his neck is green, face red, and ears black, gave me banana leaves to use as sponge, and the perfumed concoction as bath water. He pointed at an abandoned shed behind the church where I was to have my bathe. The disgusting sight of the shed churned my stomach and I battled the urge to vomit. Dried sponges, different colours of candle stumps, coconut shells and palm fronds were strewn all over.

He stood there watching me as I bathed. He stared at me the way I and my classmates would often ogle chocolate candies from the windows of the exotic supermarket on our way back from school, savouring the taste from afar and relishing the day we would get to have one in our hands.

I was going to protest his presence while I bathed but my mother would have none of it. She would say the protesting was my ogbanje at spirit at work. I think, sometimes, that she believes the prophets more than she believes God. When I got so uncomfortable with his stares, realizing he wasn’t going to stop, I turned my back to him, now facing the green, slimy wall of the shed and continued the ritual.

This was the second phase, the loud-mouthed prophetess said. This was where I would be cut off from my mates in the other world and the third phase, which would hold tomorrow at church, would be slaughtering a goat and paying twenty-five thousand naira to feed the church.

A torrent of broom swipes on my body jolts me out of my thoughts. I feel my skin being pricked at every corner. I dare not raise my head to see what is happening for the fear of my face also being assaulted. The pain was enough to describe what was going on. I begin to scream and roll away, to escape the pains but I am in a perfect ring, they follow my movements and the beatings intensify.

When I realize that my scream fuels them to beat me harder, it is a little too late. My garment is already torn by the shoulder and at the back. Anyone who sees me now would have no doubts of my insanity.

Now I was whimpering and the beatings had quieted. I was bleeding all over- even on my face. They were now chanting songs and running around me like cultists run around a bonfire on initiation nights.

I spot my mother at a distance. Were you wondering where she was all these while? I was too. She was on her knees, fervently praying while holding a pack of lighted candles, the burning wax flowing down her hands onto the sand. I know she is aware of what is going on and she approves of it. Anything to rescue me from my ogbanje peers, she would do.

Now I believed what she always told me about having a sharp mouth, that my mouth would kill me one day. It was my big mouth that made her believe I was truly possessed, it was my big mouth that brought me here.

I remember how it happened. We were about to have the usual Sunday lunch- rice and fish stew, when she got a call. Aunty Ngozi, her younger sister had just been discharged from the hospital and she wanted to spend some days with us to recuperate. When my mother got off the call, we got into a heated argument on why Aunty Ngozi still stayed in her marriage despite frequent visits to the hospital from her husband’s beatings. She said I was a hot-headed child who knew nothing and I retorted: ‘Yes, I might know nothing but I am sure of one thing, I am never going to get married’.

The way her hands flew to her chest and eyes widened in shock, I knew I had made the greatest mistake of my life.

Life for Lease

If it is for you, it will come to you, don’t stress.

The above popular quote is an abuse. Can’t you see? It is an abuse of all the values and work and life ethics you hold dear. This quote rubbishes the equation of hard work, tenacity and determination. It rips apart ambitions and goals.

It says, don’t work towards anything, do not dream about anything. Everything that is yours in life will come to you. Just eat, drink, sleep and play. You don’t even have to work for food, manna will fall from heaven just like it happened during the days of the Israelites.

People have used this quote as an excuse to be lazy. Lazy and hopeful. Life is mainly about ripple effects. It is your current or past actions that will come through for you later. Even if they don’t come at that point the action was executed, they will come later. Most times, there is always a foundation for every deed that comes your way.

You don’t just sit back, do nothing and expect things to fall into your lap. So the people working day and night are fools? They don’t know that pre-destination is dominant? Maybe they just liked to work or maybe their destiny is to be poor so they are doing everything to avert it. People who believe this need not have gone to school- certificates would have fallen onto their laps.

Almost everything I have gotten in my life since I became an adult, it has been a ripple effect of one action or another. I pass my exams; most times it’s because I read. Even when I don’t read, I still pass. Just because, I have taken out time to understudy the course, lecturer and his preferences, as well as exposure outside the school world.

People who have made history; who we so easily celebrate today, and put their pictures and quotes up our social media pages, they worked. They worked the extra ordinary. They did things that the average men were not willing to do. You don’t dream of becoming a generational icon and believe in that shit up there.

I am not saying work yourself to death, just work for what you want and stop being a lazy ass hiding under some quote. Do, and be more than average. Put your heart in everything you find yourself doing. If it is a relationship you want to salvage, work towards it and if it doesn’t click, cry and move on. But work for it. If it is a job, study, study hard. Even if you don’t get it, the experience and knowledge you have gained while working for it cannot be erased and it will be useful for the growth of other things.

Nothing comes free, maybe easy, but not free.

Get up, and DO.

Faultlessly Unconventional: Review of T. J. Benson’s ‘We Won’t Fade Into Darkness’

Caveat: I feel this review won’t do adequate justice to this book. It’s herculean to describe such art.

Favourite Quote: ‘When he tumbled down past tree branches to them, he was already dead. They wondered why a man falling to his death would smile and close his eyes. But he need not open them for he knew the jaguar would win’.

When I read the first page, it wasn’t close to anything I was expecting so I put the book down and went to gather the artistic and cerebral part of my mind. ‘This isn’t your regular read’, I told myself.

The book, a collection of short stories is strangely beautiful and weird, unlike anything I’ve ever read. You have to be a very patient reader to grasp the beauty of each story. I had gone five stories into the book at my usual reading pace before I realized my err. I had to go back and start all over again.

Here was a mastery of creative imaginations I hadn’t witnessed before.
There are thirteen stories in total, some much shorter than others and some were intertwined but you had to be deep into the stories to make the connection. I loved the Killing Mountain and Alarinka stories the most.

The major themes are environmental pollution, technology, futurism and extinction. Set in a dystopian Nigerian/African age, each story depicts what our nation will likely become.

The Jidenna story would resonate with radical feminists and might delight them even; as it depicts a world that is ruled authoritatively by women, with every action geared towards the reproduction of a male child. Men were hiding underground so as not to be able to be captured by the government for purely reproduction purposes and the men who impregnated women who gave birth to girls often were killed. Yes, the men were killed.

In I Can’t Breathe, one cannot ignore the ‘prophetic’ undertones of acute environmental pollution due to crude oil hunting. My mind drifted to the Port Harcourt soot while reading and I realised the soot was only the minutest ‘reward’ of our carelessness and greediness in managing this natural resource. The presence of Nigerium, (a poisonous element that exists in gaseous form) in most of the stories bringing about the death of people just by exposure to air reiterates the danger we already have in our hands.

Technology! This book is so infused with tech that I had to make an alibi out of Google to understand some concepts.
When I read the last story; An Abundance of Yellow Paper and turned to the next page hoping for another story only to see ‘Acknowledgements’, I was devastated.

How do you criticise a work that smashes all boundaries and creates new levels on which to soar, for through which confines would you pass judgement?

T. J. Benson, I fear, would find no competition in the literary world if he glides on this tempo.

As with the Yoruba proverb that translates into: ‘When a man proves himself worthy of praise, praise him’, this book is art, in its purest form.

Book: We Won’t Fade Into Darkness 

Author: T J Benson 

Pages: 138

Publisher: Parresia Publishers

Patched Plantains

I see life in your eyes.

Yes. I see life in its lowest ebb. I see how you find it hard to dream.
You want to. Yes. You want the best things if the world. But you also crave peace. You think having the world will give your soul unrest.

So you just want a ‘good’ life. Or maybe it’s a lie. You feel if you dream too much and do not achieve them, you’ll never forgive yourself. So why don’t you just stay on the fence. You are fine. Your soul is dead. You really can’t fight with something unliving.

Or you are choked by your environment. Nobody in my generation has gone this far. Who the hell am I? How will I be different? I wasn’t exceptional as a child. How can I be different as an adult?

Or you think what the society proposes is enough. Companionship in form of money that just gets you by, a spouse, and children. But you haven’t weighed it in your head as you should. Would these things be enough? Or would you run to religion when you realise the huge void in your heart?

I know. You are afraid to look deeper. To question the usual. You feel the answers will leave you out in the cold. Empty and shivering. And you’ve always been sheltered. How would you survive?

I wouldn’t ask you to dream. Or ask questions. Or look deeper. It’s okay to stay on the fence. It’s okay to stay sheltered while rottening away. (Ask for the plantain story). It’s cool to let the society think for you.

It’s just no way to live.

We ‘Made’ It

Are we ever gonna be better than these???

The clock has been ticking for over an hour now. Staring at my booklet, I come to realise that I’m about rounding up the last question of my last paper in the last semester. ‘Cus you see, last semester was last semester and this new semester is my last semester.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

SUBMIT!

As I finish spilling thought to text, I look in time to see my mates scrambling for the door in excitation and joy, “YES, WE MADE IT“.

Strange though, as I’m supposed to feel the same way, instead I sense a stench of fear and horror hanging around my sleeve.

My countenance falls like the morning dew.

But for the sunglasses around my eyes, it’s hard to detect my mood as I respond to their “TO NO NEXT SEMESTER” message. I repeat the same words, but as comforting as they are, I’m beginning to lose the happiness I once felt hours ago.

Ahhhhh…

Expectations will be the death of me. Constantly ruminating over the laid out plans people have made out for me, battled with the reality of “What if…” will bring about my suicide one of these days.

At this point of writing, my fingers are numb with fear. I know I’m supposed to be good with words, but what the hell, this shit is fucking reality and I’m gonna be living in it months from now. I don’t even know where my life’s headed.

Am I ever gonna be better than these or am I just gonna be added up as more STATISTICS. The thought of poverty scares the living day out of me. What am I gonna do to change this status quo, How do I live the life I envisioned years ago?

How do I make it? Well, here is a tip for you: When you find one with an answer, do let me know…ahahh…

Wait, you didn’t really think I’d give…*smile*. Reality Check, no one knows, ‘cus no one is you. YES, YOU.

Find a passion and go for it, even if the world is saying NO. Find a strength and build a YES out of it. The world will change, just be YOURSELF and do great at it.

Now before I run off: finally, if we no get the dream house.

The family.

The benz.

The life we’ve always wanted.

Wetin we gain?

To my fellow finalists in the house, this is the best part, the best part of anything really…the moment before it starts.

Remember, you’re not a statistic. You are better than these…

Till “AYO” pulls me your way again,
Darmac.

Giving A Million x Zero Fucks- I

This post is originally directed to women. Not like men wouldn’t need the message but I have noticed a trend among women lately.

Should I first talk about the patronising statements I have been seeing about being a woman since the day I slipped out from my mother’s womb? Statements like;

Every woman is a Queen, respect her.’
‘A woman is a diamond, care for her’.
‘A woman is a pearl, cherish her’.

These statements have so gone into the deepest part of our brains and made us feel entitled without giving anything in return. You think you are allowed to be shitty yet still be treated like a ‘Queen”, just because, you have a vagina. I don’t understand this entitlement mentality.

How women are being under-privileged have flooded today’s media, so now I am going to talk about how you, as a modern woman is privileged, over-privileged even.

A girl goes to school in today’s society. There are a thousand and one initiatives she can benefit from over her male contemporary. Many of you can testify to those organisations that visited your school and said they were only interested in talking to girls and the boys should go play football. I am not talking about Always or Ladycare oo. I am talking about those organizations that came to say you are the salt of the earth and you are more of a super hero than Superman himself because you will grow breasts.

If you remember well, you collected more pocket money than your brother just because, your parents didn’t want you to fall for men because of lack of money. Most NGO’s today are established to cater for the girl child. We celebrate the International Girl Child Day about five times a year. I don’t see what is being celebrated in the girl child. Anyway, back to reality. Once a lady is in her final year in higher institution, she is being tagged to go and marry. Simply put, she can just find her way to the arms of a rich man, get married and voila! She becomes wealthy. If only it could be so for guys.

No, I am not trying to patronise guys, far from it. I am trying to talk some sense into our over bloated heads.

You will see a lady who has never worked for a dime in her life; try to embarrass honest and hardworking men on the basis of finance. The pressure on men to become wealthy is so alarming especially in this our entitled generation. But when the men also begin to state their preferences, the way you also state your preferences, you will complain of objectification and how a man has no right to choice.

You see most of the problems women of today rant about on Instablog and Joro’s page are problems that can easily be solved by having sense. A man slapped you, what should you do. Your boyfriend likes big boobs but yours are small, shouldn’t he love you like that? Last week, you slept with a guy that has been asking you out for five years and now he has stopped answering your calls. What should you do?

Pray tell, why are you putting to shame the excess investments the world deposited in you? They didn’t call you into separate classes from the boys during your secondary school days only for you to start having small dreams of how you want to be the only woman in a guy’s life. What keeps you up at night is thinking of how to overtake his main/side chicks and make sure you are the one he proposes to. Tueh. I am trying not to be disgusted right now.

When they ask you about your dreams, all your head can conjure is being dressed in expensive lace next to your rich husband and going for functions, flashing your diamond wedding ring to other ladies with your eyes saying ‘Bitches, he chose me’. OMG, if only those NGO’s knew you were going to end up like this.

Let’s tell ourselves the truth, if those boys got half the opportunities we got, they would have gone way farther than we have today.

The things I read nowadays, you are shitty; someone calls you out and you feel slighted. You say ‘How dare you call me an idiot? Are you not a woman like me?’ I don’t get it at all. I will respect you because you deserve respect as a human, not as a woman.

I really can’t finish talking about this issue in a post. We will resume some other day.

Just remember that while you are here thinking of how to be a good wife material by using 500naira to cook a pot of soup, our counterparts are breaking world records, making the country proud.

Live above average, woman. Live.