“Change”

“Change”

I have decided to rage against the machine!
I shall no more be a conformist!
People say “Why cooked yam and okro soup”
I say “Why not?”
You ask what has that got to do with “Change”
I say “The journey of a thousand mile starts with a single step”
Let me start small …

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You (3 or 4 or whatever)

“You are leaving? Really? For how long? I am sure you will come back. But you have to do a threesome before you leave. It won’t cost you anything. Really. If nothing else, just watch them do each other.” He said to me.
And all I could think of was you. 

So I smiled and said nothing. 

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Leaders of Today

Leaders of Today

When I was in primary school, there was this marching song that had “we are the leaders of tomorrow” as part of the lyrics. My voice used to overshadow those of my classmates as that was my favourite part of the song, YES! I dreamt of being at the helm of affairs, I aspired to be a very powerful woman and that song always kept my hopes high. It gave me the assurance that my dreams would definitely be accomplished.
I never liked the way things were going on in the country: the bad roads, the poor infrastructure and poor electricity supply. I remember how excited we used to be any time we had electricity supply. The shout of “UP NEPA!” always filled the air especially from little children like me. Those were the things I could see and understand as the problems of the country. I never knew they were more than that.

My assumption of my future, my dear tomorrow, was a setting where children of my generation, strictly my generation, would be at the helm of affairs and occupying relevant and significant positions in the society. I felt it was “turn-by-turn” and I believed our leaders, parents, teachers were living their own future and probably in the next twenty years we would be given the opportunity to live ours. I heard stories about the military heads of state and how at thirty (years) some of them had already assumed office. All these further inspired me as a pupil and I believed if I worked hard I should also be in a relevant position before thirty. I should be a woman of my own. I saw in me a younger version of Queen Elizabeth, Helen Sirleaf Johnson, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Flora Shaw, etc. I dreamt of being greater and more relevant than these women.

Childhood was sweet and unique, the inspirations were perpetual. Things looked so easy and the future was equally bright, very bright! I really miss being a child, there was nothing to worry about.
I moved from primary to secondary school with my head still high. I always wore a contented smile anytime I remembered my dear tomorrow, I looked forward to the day when the reign of those old men and woman would pass away and another generation would be opportuned to display their potentials. I was in a hurry, I couldn’t wait for my turn to come. I waited patiently for the announcement day but unfortunately nothing like that happened. I still kept seeing the same faces on TV, I heard the same names. These are the people I have always noticed since I was in primary one and even till JSS2. Their names were still all over the place. Seven years and nothing like change! I was in a great labyrinth and I wondered if those people don’t allow others when would it finally get to my turn.

I got to SSS2 and it was still the same story. I was forced to ask my teacher why it was a particular caucus that dominated the important positions in our society and she explained to me that it was the kind of society we live in. The taste of power and wealth is so sweet that a particular set of people aspire to enjoy it alone. They keep passing the baton to themselves and the deserving ones are not given any opportunity. Then it dawned on me that the future may never come. My dear tomorrow might just be a fiction. I was very confused. My whole perspective about the future was wrong!

I used to think there was a regulatory body in charge of the future and after a stipulated time there was going to be something like a census. This would officially make the people in power/offices retire and give room for the competent younger ones. In this way, everyone would be allowed to live their dreams. I felt it was that easy. I was weakened and I told myself what I needed was to graduate with good grades, get a good job and raise a family. The tomorrow thing was all a fiction. I felt all schools should be banned from singing that marching song: it only deceives the students.

As I grew older, I started seeing what life really meant. The future is indeed real but there is no stipulated time for it. There is more to the future than just graduating with good grades, as a child all I understood was school and graduating with good grades. There is indeed more to life than being a doctor or lawyer. There is something called potential. You have to set goals. You can start living your dreams from today. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow, waiting for tomorrow is just a way of limiting ourselves, the tomorrow may never come, it is our responsibility to live our dreams, the government won’t live them for us.

As I write this article, I am in my second year in the University and I can tell you that the political, social and economic structure has not really changed. The same set of people still dominate everything and everywhere but surprisingly, we have people who have no popular background making it in life but these are people who made extra moves and who started planning their future a long time ago. There is more to life than waiting and procrastinating, we have our potentials, there is something built into each of us. Why not discover them? It doesn’t disturb school. Education is very important in life but there are a lot of things to be learnt outside school.

If you aspire to be a medical doctor why not make extra moves, discover! Explore! Launch extraordinary things relating to science. Isaac Newton developed the law of gravitation, calculus and three laws of motion at the age of twenty-three, all during two years that Cambridge was closed due to the plague. There is a little write-up that was sent to me by a WhatsApp contact which stated that a dropout of Cambridge or Harvard is equivalent to a PhD holder from a Nigerian university. I was totally devastated and amazed by that. Who says we can’t have a greater version of Isaac Newton, Bill Gates or even Mark Zuckerberg in Nigeria. We have subjected ourselves to limitations, but I refuse to be intimated. That is why I am writing this article.

Opeyemi Awoyemi, Ayodeji Adewunmi, and Olalekan Olude started Jobberman on the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Jobberman.com is an employment website and has beem described by Forbes as West-Africa’s most popular job search engine and aggregator. They were even recognised by Mark Zuckerberg for their efforts in the technology and employment sectors in Nigeria. They created an opportunity themselves and gave other people different opportunities; Jobberman has definitely contributed to creating employment in Nigeria.

Opportunities can be created by ourselves, we don’t always need to wait for them to come. Why not make a move today, sooner or later your moves would be noticed. About three days ago I read about DJ Obi who is set to break the record for the longest DJ set in the world. He believed he could do it and he set out to play continuously for 240 hours and I am positive he would break the record and for the first time set the world record for Nigeria.

We breed more youths with Facebook and Instagram swags than those with innovations. There is nothing that can’t be done in a new way, be you a writer, musician, model, actress, lawyer, doctor, blogger, fashion designer or make up artist. There are new ways things can be done, it just entails innovations and the ability to discover. Social media has even made things easier, but there is more to it than just chatting and monitoring other people’s progress in life. A lot of people make fortunes from this social media. Take a look at SISIYEMMIE, she is a lifestyle blogger and she made something tangible out of her life via social media. There are a lot of people like that who have used this ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

I think even our leaders don’t believe in this generation of ours and that is why we are always left behind. We lack active and sensitive youths, we breed a lot of those who are quick to laugh and make caricature of everything. We need youths who are active in political and developmental aspects of our country, we need youths who are assertive and are always ready to take up any challenge in the quest for what they really want.

The more we keep quiet, the more we portray ourselves as vision-less and dumb as they really think we are, things may really be difficult but it is 100% possible for us to solve our problems ourselves, we all have something built in us, we just have to discover them and start making use of them. No matter how difficult things may look, there is always a sweet side of it.

I am putting every Nigerian youth out there to a challenge. It is our time to make it happen, the future has come. The “tomorrow” is today, enough of the limitation and intimidation by our leaders. We now crave for what is truly ours, we want to be relevant and accorded our due respect. All this depends on us, let us keep our heads high, make good use of whatever is built in us. We are the leaders of today so let us take charge and help Nigeria regain her rightful place among the committee of nations. It is possible! Let us make it happen! It depends on you and me!!

BY: AGEMO, Oluwabukola Miriam (guest writer from UNILAG)
Founder, “Arise African Child” Movement

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How Reading Impacts Knowledge

How Reading Impacts Knowledge

Reading, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary, is defined as the process or act of looking at and understanding the meaning of written or printed word or symbols. The concept of reading is to learn; impact knowledge; to grow; to emphasise; to understand; to marvel, and to wonder. Reading is the root of strength of an individual even of a nation, hundreds of millions is allocated towards clothing and cosmetic just to take care of our outward and physical appearances. It is just a pity and very unfortunate that very little amount of Naira is spent on our inward strength which includes knowledge.

Reading really impacts knowledge. It helps in developing our cognitive domain which gives us the ability to solve problems and generate creative ideas. I personally, can now boast of a mind that can generate many thoughts per minute, per hour and per day. Not thoughts that can change my life alone but also of those living around me and my nation as a well. Reading also helps us in developing habits and virtues that can change our thoughts and help us live a life worth emulating.

Reading indeed is a fountain of knowledge. When we read we get unlimited knowledge and information. Continual reading is a major source of knowledge and information, it is something important in our life and our major key to success in life. Reading as a process and science has helped me acquire many forms of knowledge that has improved my personal thinking and enhanced my skills.

Reading also makes us conscious and it awakens our knowledge towards things happening around us which includes: political development, social and economic development, values and cultures of different societies and even contemporary social issues and how they can be curbed and tackled.

Readers they say are leaders. Reading has me helped me as a person in developing various skills which includes leadership skills. Being a great lover of biographies, inspirational books and spiritual books, they have given me a sense of leadership and empowered me with various skills necessary in helping others solve their problems. Biographies have helped me to know about people’s sojourn in life, the problems encountered and how to solve such problems. Inspirational books are awesome, they make me see myself as a character in the book and they also teach success and leadership strategies. Spiritual books help me grow in union with God and he uses me to impact other people’s lives and give them a good direction and sense of living. Therefore, having more clarity and understanding God’s purpose for my life.

Reading really feeds our minds. There is a saying that “you are what you read.” The type of materials you read has a great impact either negative or positive. The human brain is like a computer that is a continuous ongoing creative machine that never ceases. Our minds, like a computer, needs to be fed with information to keep it stimulated and reading is the best source of knowledge we can feed our brains with, because without information we become stagnant.

Reading helps in improving our educational standards, it also gives us higher knowledge and intelligence than those who do not read at all. Reading also helps in reducing stress, as a book can easily distract one from our burdens in the midst of activities and stressful days. It also helps in increasing analytical thinking, increases vocabularies, and in developing good writing skills and having prioritised goals.
In conclusion, reading for me is not all about escaping into a world of fiction, it is also about providing a context in our environment both real and imaginative. If we can breed many good readers in our country today, Nigeria would be able to regain her rightful place among the committee of nations because her citizens would have been fully equipped with the necessary skills for her development.
Reading is a real essence of living and a mighty fount of knowledge. It helps to be outstanding when others are standing and to stand out when others are outstanding.

AGEMO, OLUWABUKOLA MIRIAM (guest writer from UNILAG)
Founder, “Arise African Child” Movement

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Solitude

Solitude

For the last 24 hours I have neither eaten nor drank anything. I did not speak to a single soul. I set eyes on no one on account of being locked up intentionally in my room.
I read my SMS but responded to none. I had turned off my mobile data and done the same to the Internet service provider modems of which I had two. I had shutdown my laptop as well. I had unplugged the TV and DSTV.

I had set the status on my Whatsapp profile to “SMS only”. I have to remember to change it. So I have more or less been cut off from all social media.

On the table is a plate with 3 slices of bread which I kept just in case. There’s a bag full of 20 pieces of 50-CL water sachets just in case as well. I didn’t touch either the bread or water. There’s half a bucket of water which I finally dipped a small face towel into and used to wipe my face and torso sometime in the afternoon. Not that I was really uncomfortable or sweaty but it was something to do. 24 hours is a long time.

I had a fan running all day courtesy of the inverter. No AC since there’s no electricity supply from the mains since morning. I was loath to open the windows during the day even when the temperature went up. It came close to being unbearable at some point.

As at 9PM I had 49 missed calls. Probably from under 20 people. Most are probably work related. Most of the SMS are from automated systems at the various banks at which I held accounts. It’s surprising that even on our birthdays especially those of us who are naturally reticent the few number of calls we get. I suspect when I enable mobile data on my phone and put on my laptop, there will be plenty of impersonal one-liners from friends and acquaintances. We get what we sow. Someone who wants friends must show himself friendly or something like that so I cannot complain. On the other hand, the Yorubas say it’s impossible for the same 20 kids to remain close friends for 20 years.

I am grateful for the calls (apologies for not accepting them) and those one-liners. The fact that people even take the pains to write them means they spared you a thought even during their busy schedules. Thank you.

I have read a ton of Sherlock Holmes and come away with the believe that “The Yellow face” is one of the best of his engagements. I am sure it’s based on sentiments: especially the ending. I read most of the book “The Rhineland Mystics: an anthology”.

I remember for some reason that the word “interregnum” is one of my most favourite words.

I did a few other “things” while alone in my room of course. I tried to exorcise myself of some of my personal demons. I am not sure if how successful I have been but hopefully I am better now in all aspects than I was 24 hours ago.

At 9:44PM someone put on the generator and it was blissful to feel the first waves of cool air wafting from the AC.

A little “Sunshine” would have made a world of difference but she shines a long way away across the oceans.

I cannot say if I have achieved anything permanently positive by my actions of the past 24 hours though I hope so.

Final tally was 54 missed calls, several SMS and 119 new Whatsapp messages. I suspect most of them are from my secondary school class Whatsapp group.

Now that the “break” is over, I intend to take a proper bath and then go and indulge in something light. After all, it’s my birthday.

NB: apologies again to all those who tried to reach me. I will get around to returning the calls and SMS shortly.

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I prayed …

I prayed …

It was chilly
It was cold
It was bloody freezing
I prayed she would change: her mind
But “He” just laughed.

It was raining
It was wet
It was bloody soaking
I fasted: till I lost some pounds
But “He” wasn’t moved.

It was sunny
It was bright
It was bloody cooking
I thought I laboured: in his vineyard
But “He” saw my unbelieve

It was fresh
It was breezy
It was bloody leaves-dropping
I have never wished for anything: more
But “He” wouldn’t be “manipulated”

It was chilly
It was cold
It was bloody freezing
I prayed she would change: her mind
But “He” just laughed.

 

* First and last stanza are the same to illustrate life’s unending cycle – or maybe my mental laziness.

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Till we meet again

Till we meet again

“Afternoon. Are you going to Lagos?” asked the lady waiting her turn after me at the airline’s counter.
I responded with a tentative yes.
“Can you look after my daughter? Her father will come and pick her up at the airport.”
I found out later that she’s 10 year old. Almost 5 feet tall.
I laughed and asked why she was OK asking me to look after her daughter. “Do I look that trustworthy?”
“Don’t worry. It’s Nigeria” she said laughing in return.
Numbers were exchanged and the father called immediately to speak with me.
They said their goodbyes (the mum asking for a hug and then complaining playfully when she got an awkward hug from the girl).
We went through the scanner and sat next to each other in the waiting area. She’s very quiet which was perfectly fine by me.
But since we were going to be there for another 90 minutes or so, and she had nothing visible that might distract her, I thought I better try at least.
First few questions were answered with nods, and side glances. Then I put up a movie on my laptop and asked if she liked 3D movies. She told me she couldn’t quite see what’s on the screen. She’s had glasses for two years. But the glasses were in her checked-in luggage.
Our subsequent discussion covered lots of things. She used several “big” words and some of her ideas were beyond her years. Maybe it’s that 6 months of schooling she had in England when she was much younger …
She doesn’t watch 3D films because they are not realistic.
And no animated kiddie films either. She only watches mature films. She’s seen World War Z, all the Fast and Furious films, several movies that are definitely rated well beyond her age. She says she watches them with her dad.
She hates Sponge Bob with a passion (“how can a sponge ….”) and her school mates think she’s weird. I told her we all have our preferences. No 3D animated talking animals either because animals don’t talk in real life.
She doesn’t like corn flakes. But she likes cereal and oats. She likes golden morn because it’s made of maize. She doesn’t like wheat (meal) either.
She hates eggs, peanut butter, red meat (there are bacteria that can not be killed by heat. I suggested if it’s cooked long enough on high heat, all the bacteria would die. But she responded that the meat would become too soft and she doesn’t like soft meat), pounded yam, yam, broccoli (suggested by me). But she likes Egusi soup. I agree. I like Egusi soup too.

“Everything in this life is boring.
Especially all those Yoruba films! Eeew! All those Yoruba women. That come out in their wrappers. Just because they want to say bye bye to someone.”
She doesn’t like boring people.
Her grandma is boring. Always telling stories of World War I and this or that General.
I suggest those are the best stories. She insisted she has “current affairs” class in school for that.
She doesn’t like several tribes in Nigeria. One tribe is always fighting. Can’t remember the reason she gave for the others.
“Edo people are …” She started.
“Nice?” I attempted to complete the sentence for her.
“Noooo. My granddad is always “if you touch that thing I will flog you alive!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We are now on board the plane.
“This plain better not crash.” She says.
“Before I die I will kill the plane.”
“How?” I asked.
“I don’t know” she said. Then added: “I will blow up the engine.”
A child will always be a child (strange logic: blow up the plane before it crashes.)
There were other kids and several were somewhat loud. “That’s how they will be making noise” (she had mentioned much earlier that she didn’t like noise).
“Let me talk like the soldier in my school” (she mimicked the soldier):
“I hate noise. If you make noise, I will show you wetin you be!” (She’s a year one student in an air-force secondary school).
She’s cold. I said I don’t think I have anything that might keep her warm in my bag. Her pair of socks and her better sweater were in her checked in bag. She says she’s different (referring to the fact that she’s cold).
She wondered why I had a bag on-board.
“I didn’t check in any bag” I said.
“Why?”
“Because it’s small enough to put in the overhead compartment.”
“So a smart person can put a bomb in his bag and bring it on-board?”
“They still scan it. Remember when we went through the scanner?”
“Can the scanner see what’s in your body?”
“Yes. It looks like x-ray”
“So what’s private is no longer private” she declared.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We made it safely to Lagos. We got her luggage off the carousel. I offered to get the bag but she insisted that she can handle her own bag and that she carried even bigger loads). I had to smile at that. Her dad (a friendly Pastor) was waiting at “arrivals” with a lady. I tag along with them to the outskirts of the airport. I drop off because their destination is in the opposite direction to mine. I said goodbye to the dad and the lady that came with him, and as I closed the door, I said a final “Bye Bye, Jessica.”
Maybe we will meet again, maybe not. I had suggested it earlier and she said she didn’t think so. I think the reason she gave was something along the line of not being that regularly in airports or on planes.

I meant to take a cab. But the middle-aged gentleman I asked for directions at the bus-stop turned out to be a military officer (in mufti) whose first retort was “Why waste so much money?! See that pedestrian bridge over there? Walk across it sharply like a strong man. Take a bus going to Oshodi-under-bridge. It’s only 50 Naira. Climb to the top of the Oshodi bridge. You will get another bus going to CMS or Obalende.” I told him I could find my way from any of those two places. Thus my “Ijebu” kicked in and I had another uneventful trip switching buses 4 times before getting to my final stop. The whole trip cost 450 Naira instead of possibly 5,000 Naira or more (if I had taken a cab from the airport). I made a picture I took of both of us while seated in the plane my Whatsapp profile picture. A friend asked if she was my girlfriend. Another suggested she’s my daughter. I kept it up for the night and switched it out the following day.

I wonder if we will ever meet again. Maybe I should call the dad sometime and ask about those vicious German Sherpards (GSD) puppies she said they had. They are about 4 months old. I think I wouldn’t mind one if I got it for free.

I hope she grows up to be successful, and well-adjusted.

I don’t see why not.

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Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I owe God a question
And I know he will answer
I love it when it rains
I love the feel on my face
I love the thunder
I love the lightning
I love the crashing of the waves

I owe God a question
But first I will be refreshed by the heavens
I want to go running through the night
Free to shoot up like an arrow to the sky
Then fall like dead-weight back to earth
Turning and twisting at the last
Like a dragonfly skimming lightly over the waters

What is Liberty?
What is hope?
What is freedom
What is life itself?

I owe God a question
But I am distracted by the rain
I am back in my boyhood days
In my dorm lying on my bunk
Looking through the window
The heavens weeping for joy
While I ponder the sadness
That comes with the longing for home

I owe God a question
But I am busy listening to the rain
I like the music of the drops on the roof
I like the smell of the water in the field
I like the mud sucking at my feet
Like fairy fetters made of soil

I owe God a question
But that is for later when I see His face
Right now I want a pair of wings
To go skimming through the rain
Tattooed by the drops
Buffeted by the winds
Like a dragonfly on the wings!

4:04am 08-March-2016

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Reprieve

Reprieve

It was hot
It was dry
It was so humid
I could cry

It was Lagos
It was night
It was Jos
It was bright

He was sweating on the bed
She had rashes on her neck
He scratched till it bled
She opted for a trek

It was hot
It was dry
It was so humid
I could cry

It was you
Like Sunshine
It is me
Seeking solace in moonshine

It was thundering
I hoped it would rain
My mind is wandering
No reprieve from the pain

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Grey Matter

Grey Matter
Five hundred kilometers to Oshogbo and back in 24 hours. On my way back somewhere before Gbangan I wasn’t sure which turning to take at a fork in the road. The section of road was very quiet but fortunately, a couple of people stood by the roadside just before the fork. I pulled up, greeted them politely and asked about the turning. 
After answering my question, her younger male companion asked if the older woman could join me. Turns out she was going to Ikire which is after Gbongan on the way to Ibadan. I am not much of a talker so after some fairly mundane exchange, we settled into a comfortable silence with some news program on the radio providing the background sound. 

She had a relatively small basket with some bundles of what appeared to be spinach in it. I assumed it was for sale and it struck me I could buy a couple. I already bought some African snails and a well made vegetable soup with peppered snails suddenly sounded very appealing. 

“Mama. Is the vegetable for sale?” I asked, glancing briefly at her. 

“Yes my son. They are special though.”

“Oh. In what way?” Playing along thinking it’s a psychological move to increase the amount she’s going to ask for each bunch. 

“Ah! They are not for everybody” she says.

I smiled. 

“So who are they for then?”

“Special people.”

“Special people?” I asked. 

“Very special people.” she said.

“Am I special enough?” I asked joking. 

“It depends.”

“Really? On?”

“Yes o!” She said. 

I had to smile at her colloquial answer.

“I should think I am special enough.” I said smiling.

“Oh. Big man like you. You are definitely special. But not for this kind of vegetable. At least I hope not!”

“Ok ma. But I am a little confused. Isn’t it just spinach?”

“Yes and no.” she said with a smile. 

Her cryptic answers were starting to get a little old. I was considering dropping the whole thing when she went on.

“There’s evil in the world my son.” Something in her tone made me glance sideways at her. She was looking straight through the windscreen. The expression on her face a cross between sadness, loneliness and something I couldn’t quite fathom. I didn’t say anything.

After a minute or so, she went on. 

“Are you a good man my son?” This time she was looking at me in earnest. 

“I like to think so ma. But like everyone I have my issues.”

She nodded. That seems to pacify her a little as the expression on her face softened somewhat.

“Are you married?” She asked. 

“No I am not.”

“Why not?”

“Long story. Personal issues. Then there’s a girl. She’s far away yet I can’t or won’t consider anyone else”. I trailed off. 

“Is she that special?”

“Yes. Everyone else pales into insignificance before her.”

“Very beautiful?”

“Very very beautiful.” I smiled a little uncomfortably. The conversation was getting into painful territory. 

“And I bet light skinned as well.”

I glanced sideways at her. Was she perhaps a mind reader?

“Oh. No need for that look. Isn’t it what all you men are looking for?” She laughed. She went on before I could say anything. Not that I had a good response other than to agree. 

“Is she as light as I am?”

“Lighter.”

“Lighter ke? Is she albino or something? Very few people are naturally lighter than me o.”

“No. She’s not albino. But she’s still lighter than you.” I had to smile at her evaluation of herself. 

“Of course I am much darker now. It’s the sun. In my days ….”

She seemed to be lost in thought. The strange expression was back on her face and she was looking through the screen again at nothing specific. She just appeared to be gazing into the distance.

I kept quiet. 

“When you get married never raise your hand against your wife.”

I nodded my head.

I could sense she was going to go on. And I like a good story.  

“My husband was an evil man. He destroyed my life and the lives of his children. You won’t think it to look at me. I am not well read. I only finished primary school. I started trading after that. But like my mum I was industrious. I was quite comfortable by the time I got married to my husband. He was very charming when he was wooing me. But he became an animal after we got married. The beatings started. I even had a car and a driver at one point for my business as I was traveling a lot. He was stealing my profit and spending it on his girlfriends. Of course it took me some time to find out about the women. It affected me seriously. I couldn’t cope. And I think it was the day I confronted him that the beatings started. I tried reporting him to his family. But they took sides with him. My own family only cautioned patience. That I should keep my home together. I should overlook his womanizing. I should rest content in the fact that I am the woman at home. All the ones “outside” are transients. 

I was too independent and strong willed for that. It got so bad he would beat me not only with his fists and feet, but with anything he could lay his hands on. Slowly between his emotional and physical torture, stealing my money and my own inability to concentrate on the business, I started losing customers and made some irrational decisions as well. The long and short of it was that the business went down. It was gradual but before I knew it I had sold everything including the car just to survive.”

Silence. 

“The beatings only stopped briefly when I was pregnant. But started again not too long after I gave birth.

Even the baby in my hands couldn’t save me from his anger. Once or twice he hit the baby as well. I think that was when my feelings for him turned from indifference to hate.

* * * * * * 

The first time I met the old woman, it was completely by chance as I had lost my way while looking for a particular vegetable that was difficult to get when it was not in season. For some reason I had this unholy craving for it. The woman later told me nothing happens by chance. I don’t completely believe that. Nevertheless the sequence of events that followed shook my believe in ones ability to completely control ones destiny.

“Morning my daughter.” Her greeting shook me out of my reverie.

“Good morning, ma.”

“How are you doing today.”

“Ah mama. Life is good. All thanks to God.” But I wasn’t feeling good. We had been at it half the night and as usual I had borne the brunt of it. I was aching all over and it was all I could do to maintain a polite facade. 

“I understand my daughter. There’s I am alright and then there’s I am alright.” she looked at me with a cross of pity and concern in her eyes. I ended up spending the whole day with her. In between attending to her customers, I told her my whole story. She listened without a comment. It felt good to be able to talk to someone. 

She sent me away with some medicine for my pains and to let me sleep. Another round of beating was waiting for me at home of course, but I didn’t really care. Afterwards I took the drugs and woke up feeling better than I had in months.  

If anything my new found happiness just made the quarrels and beatings worse. But I took solace in my trips to the marketplace. Or to be correct, my trips to see “mama” in her stall. I became her unofficial student and assistant rolled into one. 

Before long, she started to leave me there on my own sometimes. I was to tell anyone who’s issue I couldn’t handle to return later. And those situations started to happen less and less frequently. 

There wasn’t a lot of money to be made in the trade. I guess she could have charged more, but she saw it as a sort of service to the community. Appreciative customers will from time to time go above and beyond of course. 

Things didn’t improve much at home. But I had become more patient and over time the beatings became less frequent. But didn’t stop entirely. By that time he had added drunkenness to his list of vices. 

I landed in the hospital the last time he laid hands on me. I was in a coma for a week. When I got out, I had a limp that became permanent. 

I went to the market when I was strong enough to make the journey. 

Mama was of course very happy to see me. She noticed everything and was quick to see the limp and healing scars. 

After fusing over me and listening to the whole story. She went silent then suddenly said “it is time.”

“Time for what mama?”

“Time for the sinner to get his just recompense and for the captive to be set free.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Now listen to me my daughter. You are not the first nor will you be the last woman to have violence perpetuated against her by the one person that should protect her from all harm. And once a man has raised his hands against you, it is the beginning of the end. Once, or even twice may be excused even though there’s no reason strong enough to justify violence against ones spouse. But usually in order not to hastily dissolve the union or in consideration of the children if there are any, the woman may be counseled to hold on. But more than twice is the end. It never stops. It may develop into cycles but it never stops. It usually ends with the woman either dead or irreversibly maimed in some way.”

“It is a man’s world out there. A woman has to look out for herself, and when she can’t do it alone, other women should help. I believe that’s why God made women develop emotionally faster than men. While young boys are still running around trying to break their necks (and sometimes succeeding) with dangerous pranks, young girls have already started behaving like young matured adults.”

She told me the plan in such a way that it sounded hypothetical. She allowed it to grow on me for several weeks before coming out to say it’s mine to carry out. It didn’t help or it helped depending on how you look at it, that my husband continued to beat me black and blue during this period. 

By the time she finally laid it on me in full, I was all for it with little to no hesitation. 

In order to allay suspicion, I was to go through a period of at least two months when I must move heaven and earth to ensure we don’t fight and put it out there that all is now right with the world. That is easier said than done of course. Because I rarely go two weeks without a beating. 

There were a few close calls but I did make it. He didn’t change. I just did the impossible and I tell you, it was stressful. You see the two months is to divert suspicion from myself. Humans have notoriously short memories when it comes to certain things. Like disagreements between couples. Once it stops, the talk is then about how devoted the couples are to each other. They quickly forget that a few months ago they were at each other’s throats. 

Then one sunny afternoon, she sat me down and told me what I had to do. The vegetable is potent when eaten within the first couple of hours. By the following day, the poison would have broken down completely. So even if you are forced to eat the same stew, nothing happens to you. 

I bought all the condiments, assorted fishes and meat and went home and prepared it just as instructed. I then feigned being tired. By the time he returned home, all I did was serve his dinner and return to bed. 

I should say I still had a little reservation about what I was doing even as I laid on the bed listening to him smack his lips and crack the chicken bones. He was even humming a tune under his breath. I guess it was the assurance mama gave that it was a painless death that made me see it through. 

By the time he came to lie down I was fast asleep. Which was strange but I guess I was too tired. I had thought I wouldn’t sleep a wink that night. 

I suddenly came awake in the morning at the first crow of some neighboring cockerel. It took me a while to remember what I was about but then I turned and looked at him. He looked as if he was in a deep peaceful sleep. But he was cold to the touch. 

I double checked to be sure but there was no sign of life. 

I laid back down and for some reason slept off again. 

The second time I came awake to the chatter of people passing by on the street. It was full daylight.

That was when I raised the alarm the typical way. Screaming and yelling for help. The house was full of people in a few minutes. After the initial commotion we managed to get him into a danfo bus and drove to the nearest hospital. He was declared dead on arrival. I joined the family in asking for an autopsy. The result of the autopsy was given as natural causes enervated by chronic alcoholism. 
I wondered around the house for days and observed my period of mourning after the burial which came up in less than a month after he died. I was too emotionally drained to feel anything.

There wasn’t too much trouble from his family as there was really no property or other valuables. We were as broke as they were. 
I started trading a little again but my heart wasn’t in it. It’s strange how my newly found freedom at the time left me feeling aimless and morose. I guess I wasn’t used to being alone. 
I think she knew from the beginning what would happen. That I would end up moving in with her. I learnt the trade. Including cures for many other ailments. 

When it was getting close to her time, she sat me down and in her usual direct and no nonsense way, she told me so. Then she divulged the formulas of even more special potions, and told me many secrets and even more cures. 

She said the work was important. 

I asked her what I should do when my own time comes.  

“Don’t worry my daughter. Your replacement will come well before that time. It is the natural order of things. Evil matches on without pause so the gods make provisions for good without ceasing.”

“I had many customers over the years before and after you. But they were just customers. But the moment I laid eyes on you some thirty three years after I first setup shop with the skills handed down to me just as I am handing it down to you today, I knew you were the one that would stay. When it’s time you will know in turn.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“My son. It’s a bad thing to take a life. Even today, I still get pangs of regret regularly when I think back to what I did. He gave me no choice. Because he had told me that if I ever leave, he would hunt me down and kill me. And I knew he meant it.

The act may be easy, but living with it is difficult. I have made my peace with God. Whatever is left, I will answer for it when the time comes. In the meantime, the work continues.”
I asked her how long she has been in the same trade. 

“Too long. My bones are starting to complain. I have a feeling that soon I will come face to face with my replacement. I intend to hand down the skills as they were handed down to me. I have modernized some of the cures. Made improvements to many formulas and potions by research and investigations. There are potions for almost anything that ails human beings. For even illnesses the Oyinbos think have no cures. There are potions that promote accord for example. What do the oyinbos have that does that without harm? Alcohol? Hard Drugs, sedatives? They appear to treat the symptoms but worsen the condition. All those things are all killers in the long run.”
“Is there a love potion ma?” I tried to sound nonchalant but the question came out of an encounter in my past when someone thought I might have tainted some “edibles” with it. I had laughed it off at the time because I didn’t believe there was anything of the sort.

“My son. Don’t let anyone deceive you. There’s nothing like a love potion. What you are doing is controlling the person’s mind via powerful forces. It is not love. The problem is that the mind is the person. It’s the seat of our soul. It’s central to a person’s personality. It’s not meant to be controlled by force. It’s meant to be controlled by persuasion. You see, when you hold a person’s essence bound by force in this way, even though they may appear docile or even happy, deep down a battle is raging. The subject is unwittingly permanently damaged. The end is always unpleasant. Some day the subject will break free. Depending on how emotionally stable the person is, you may get a person with intense hatred, or for people of weaker constitution, a mentally disturbed person emerges at the end.”

“You sound like it was your fault.” She said. 

I nodded.

“Life’s never how we want it. Yet we rise each new dawn – hopefully with renewed hope in our hearts.” She said. 

I nodded.

“Time truly does not heal all wounds. But it can reduce the pain to a dull ache that’s bearable.”

She laid a hand on my shoulder. I took a quick glance at her face. 

“The damage is done. But you should continue to do the right  thing.” She said. 

But what is the right thing? Silence? Distance? Distant silence?

The milk has been spilled and the jar has been shattered. The milk can no longer be gathered up nor the glass jar pieced together again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We were at Ikire. 

“Goodbye son. I don’t think we will meet again in this lifetime. But sometimes once is enough.”

“Goodbye mama” I said. As an afterthought I asked her for her number. She didn’t have a phone, but she said, “If you really really require my services, you know my name and where to find me.”

Even though I couldn’t see my own face, I was sure the smile that was on hers was reflected on mine. 

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