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Archive for the category “From where I sit”

School’s out: A lie-in, a lie.

The last few weeks have dragged on languorously. Temperatures on migration from the tropics have made a brief stop in the UK. Sweltering hot days and muggy humid nights. Our cries for respite from an unending winter have been heard. But we are unsure whether to grumble or be grateful. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as none of it.

Holiday. A welcome break. No school runs. No early mornings. No more after-school activities. Days out and trips away. Expectations of fun and laughter.

Day 1. Hopes for a lie-in dashed by whispered questions, are we going out today?, can I play your Kindle Fire?, when are you coming downstairs, Mama? Hopes for a day out at the splash park dashed by overcast skies. The sun peeps through heavy clouds, shy, reticent and non-committal.

Yet the boundless resilience of childhood will not be put off. That unquenchable thirst for adventure. 20130725_143603The buoyancy of childlike imagination kicks in. A living room is turned into a movie theatre, complete with drawn blinds, sound effects and popcorn. A back garden becomes an enchanted forest and they, dragon-slaying knights. Shrieks of merriment rent the air.

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They call me Mummy

Throbbing feet. Languid, aching bones. I feel the start of a headache coming on. But I won’t stop until it’s all done. The cooking. The cleaning. The picking up and putting away of little clothes, shoes, toys and books. The laundry. And all the other chores that make the home appear to run seamlessly.

Wincing in pain, I reach into the medicine cupboard and pop two analgesics into my mouth. I’m exhausted beyond words. I long for my bed. Or even a sofa. And a stool to prop my feet up and take a load off. Downtime. I’m almost there. The light at the end of tunnel is getting brighter. Just a couple more chores.

Super mumI stand back and survey the works of my hands. I take in the clean kitchen, tidy living room, bedrooms with made beds and everything in its place. Finally. I’m done. Dear sofa, here I come. As I make to lower myself into the waiting arms of the sofa and the stool sends my feet a ‘come hither’ look, “Mummy, please can we go to the park?”

Two tiny voices. Two earnest facial expressions. Doe-eyed, hopeful, expectant, barely concealed anticipation. “Please, Mama, we really, really, really want to.” One with hands clasped, the other tugs on my skirt. “We’ll be good, we promise. Please.”

I look at my sofa. With longing. I turn to the boys. They look at me. With longing. My aching bones creak in protest. My throbbing feet feel like my heart has relocated from my rib cage and made its new home there. That onset of a headache is now a full-blown splitting one. Everything in me is kicking against considering this request, much less granting it. On the tip of my tongue are a thousand and one reasons to say no. I quash them.

“Ok but we won’t stay very long…” Their screams of joy drown out the rest of my words. ‘I’m tired’ doesn’t get heard much less acknowledged. They are already putting on their shoes and arming themselves with all the paraphernalia that make for a successful park outing. Footballs, frisbees and food. Now dancing at the front door, giggling in excitement, waiting to be let out.

I look at the sofa again. Its forlorn gaze meets mine. But it understands. I am a mum. And this is what mums do. Tired is nothing when you have children.

At the lakes

 

Deconstructing the Gym Tribe

I go to the gym three to four times a week. I work out in order to keep fit as well as keep my weight in check. GymIt is hard work but it pays off and the endorphin high is simply worth the torture. As a regular at the gym, I get to meet and see all sorts of people who also frequent the gym. Many times it is as if I am watching an emerging tribe of homo sapiens, so fascinating. The tribe is made up of many interesting characters. If you go regularly too, I bet you have spotted a few of the ones I am about to mention and describe below.

  • The Gaggle – This category of gym-goers is mostly young, male and usually turns up in groups of three or four. Easily identifiable by their baggy trousers or shorts sitting halfway on their bottoms, showing their underwear, sagging pantsit is obvious that they have no clue what they are doing. To all intents and purposes, it would appear they believe the sole purpose of being at the gym is to impress their mates. You can spot them trying to outdo each other with heavier weights, faster runs, louder grunts and more reps, usually with bad form. I call them The Gaggle because it is military slang for an unorganised group doing nothing.

Note to The Gaggle: There is nothing wrong with having a training partner but going to the gym does not qualify as a team sport. Lose the attitude and stop showing off your ignorance. Instead watch some YouTube videos and learn how to do those exercises properly before you do yourself or someone else grievous bodily harm.

  • The Chatterbox – This person does more talking than actual working out. He comes into the gym, stops at the front desk to have a natter with the gym staff, guffawing loudly at one thing or another before finally making his way to a machine. You would imagine he would then get on with his exercise but oh no, you would be very wrong. He’s just getting started as he begins a conversation with the unwilling user of a neighbouring machine. Undeterred by monosyllabic responses, he carries on chatting away till the other person wanders off. He may or may not complete a few sets at his current machine before moving off to another having identified his next unwitting victim.

Note to The Chatterbox: Gym time is not Happy Hour. If you want to have a good natter, go to the pub. This might surprise you but some of us come to the gym to actually work out. Reserve the right to express your loquacity elsewhere.

  • The Groaner – Anyone who uses free weights knows that a grunt or groan may slip out every now and again. However, this category of people are in the habit of groaning out so loudly during their entire work-out that you would be forgiven for thinking you accidentally walked into a labour ward. You can occasionally catch them looking around to see if anyone is watching them as they exaggerate the effort they are putting in.

Note to The Groaner: Go easy on the grunts and groans. They are not only distracting but also quite annoying. Your noise does not make for an appropriate background sound track, that’s what music is for. And if you’re not careful, you will give yourself haemorrhoids.

  • The Fashionista – I don’t know about you but when I go to the gym, I wear comfortable, breathable clothes. I have no problems with people lookingSPL400935_003 good but this category has a completely different idea of gym fashion. The people in this group dress to the nines, colour-coordinating every item of clothing including their shoes, towel and water bottle, complete with hair and make-up. You will often notice them admiring their reflections in the mirror as they pretend to work out.

Note to The Fashionista: Perhaps you did not get the memo but this is a gym not a catwalk, people come here to exercise not to get fashion tips.

  • The Underdresser – This group is similar to the one above except that they wear too few clothes. Their tiny sports bras, crotch-hugging gym shorts/underpants and half-tops leave little or nothing to the imagination.

Note to the Underdresser: If you want to wear skimpy clothing, go to the beach. You are not here to record an episode of Baywatch. Put some clothes on!

  • The Sweat Factory – Most people sweat when they work out, however, this 20130508_102718group are rather generous with theirs. They sweat all over machines and free weights, then just walk away when they’re done not bothering to wipe them down. Yuck!

Note to The Sweat Factory: You are not an animal marking your territory. Stop leaving DNA samples all over the gym. It is plain disgusting. If you cannot be tasked with bringing a towel with you, then use the tissue provided by the gym.

  • The Show-off – You can spot this group a mile off. Their huge biceps rippling through shirts with the sleeves cut out are a dead give-away.Muscle man Some of them straddle the Underdresser and Groaner groups as well. They can often be found popping copious amounts of supplements and disgusting-looking drinks which could easily pass for cat puke out of funny shaped bottles called strange names like ‘Tornado Shaker’ between sets. They also love to strut around the place pretending to be moving to different machines when in actual fact they are giving us lesser mortals a chance to admire their toned physiques.

Note to The Show-off: We’ve already had an eyeful of your taut, tanned and toned muscles, thank you very much. Now, either carry on with your work out or go put your money where your mouth is muscles are and compete in the IFBB.

  • The Mobile Phone Addict – I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say much about 20130508_102804this group. It would require surgery to detach their phones from the ears or fingers. They are constantly fiddling with their phones, it’s a wonder they get any exercise done at all.

Note to The Mobile Phone Addict: Surely the world can survive not hearing from you, reading your tweets, Facebook status updates and text messages replete with emoticons and weird abbreviations for an hour or so while you concentrate on your workout. We all own mobile phones too but choose not to use them while at the gym.

  • The Loud Music Lover – You can hear this group even before you see them. Donning their ‘Beats by Dre’ or some other oversized headphones aka flying saucers, they might as well not have bothered for the ear-splitting sound coming out of their iPods, iPhones or whatever other device.

Note to The Loud Music Lover: You may go to Ibiza and impress the 18 – 30 crowd with your taste in music and spare those of us who want to work out a headache.

  • The Competitor – This is the group of people who have to run faster than you on the treadmill, lift heavier weights or do more reps than you as though you are competing. They can do everything better and faster than you and they are out to prove it. It doesn’t matter that you are not competing with them and, in some cases, don’t even realise what they are doing. They are on a mission to outdo you at everything. You may even feel they are stalking you as they follow you around to different workstations.

Note to The Competitor: As in life, working out is not a race. We are all at different levels, all have different goals. Work at your own pace and stop trying to outdo me. I don’t really care that you are faster or stronger. Go and sign up for a triathlon or Strong Man challenge and exorcise this competitive urge.

I could go on but I will not as the purpose of this post was not to bore you.

Do you fall into any of the categories? I reckon you are not about to admit it if indeed you do Open-mouthed smile. Do you recognise any of these people? I don’t recognise myself in any of these categories of narcissistic tribe members either but Mo Cushla snarkily says that I easily fall into the Mobile Phone Addict category. That is so not me, I check my phone for my work out programme. If in the process, I notice an email, Facebook or Twitter notification, it would be rather remiss of me not to quickly read them and possibly respond, wouldn’t it? I think he is just jealous that many male gym users are oohing and aahing over my well-toned muscles.

Please share any other members of this unique tribe you may have come across.

Tara for now.

14 Days of Romance

It’s February, the month of love. To celebrate, the Romance Writers of West Africa are hosting 14 days of romance between the 5th and the 22nd of February.

Check it out here. RWOWA

My book will be featured too. Head on over and see how you can get in with a chance to win a freebie or two.

Thanks for stopping by.

Criminal minds, unlucky in love.

When love is in excess it brings a man no honor nor worthiness.” Eruipedes, quoted by Gideon in Season 1 Episode 5 Broken Mirror.

I love Criminal Minds. Call it a morbid fascination or whatever you will. But I just love watching the BAU, short for Behavioural Analysis Unit, get into the mind of an unsub, (that’s criminal to you and me, short for unknown subject) and figure out what makes them tick. The BAU is a subdivision of the FBI based in Quantico, Virginia. They create profiles of unsubs based on clues they pick up from victims (who are, in almost all cases, dead) and the crime scenes or scene of discovery (sometimes the bodies are dumped away from where they were killed). It’s difficult to describe the sense of suspense I experience, heart in mouth, as I watch them put the clues together until they identify and locate the perpetrator, and they almost always do. As gruesome as some of the crimes are, I enjoy watching it because I am assured that the bad people will ultimately be apprehended or killed. Although, I have to say I’ve been caught out a few times when the killer has gotten away. However, they usually get their comeuppance episodes later, much to my viewing satisfaction but alas, usually after the unfortunate demise of several more victims.

The camaraderie amongst the team is quite endearing. Criminal-MindsIt’s interesting to watch the unique dynamics of the very different individuals who make up the team. The rather stern-faced and serious unit chief is Aaron Hotchner. I can count the number of times he has cracked a smile on the fingers of one hand. Alright, I exaggerate slightly, I know, but he most certainly does not buy into the school of thought which says it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. His smiles are few and far between. In spite of his seeming lack of a sense humour, he is a worthy leader. David Rossi, one of the original founders of the team, is the extroverted, rich, successfully published author and agent who takes a more laid-back approach to life but still gets the job done.

The sweet flirtatious banter between Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia is something I quite look forward to every episode. Their relationship is a cross between a mating dance in the wild and a deep sibling bond. Morgan can be quite aggressive towards unsubs but is fiercely loyal to and protective of his team-mates. Flamboyant and fun-loving Garcia, a reformed hacker turned FBI technical analyst, hates blood and gore so prefers to work behind the scenes and usually provides much-needed levity and comic relief for the team particularly with her know-it-all joking manner of answering the phone.

Dr Spencer Reid is the youngest member of the group. He is a genius, an autodidact with an eidetic memory and IQ of 187. He is usually the butt of Morgan’s ribbing and jokes but he takes it on the chin and has, on occasion, retaliated too. Over the years and as a result of working with the team, he has lost some of social awkwardness and loosened up a bit. Jennifer Jarreau, fondly called JJ by the rest of the team, started off acting as a liaison between friends and family of victims, the police and the press but is now a profiler.

I have to say I was glad to see the back of Jason Gideon. The man took life way too seriously, even when he was doing what should have been fun stuff like going a date or being holed up in his beloved cabin in the woods, you got the feeling that he was just going through the motions. On the other hand, I miss Emily Prentiss. I was sad to see her leave. She brought a balance to the team and got on equally well with every other member. I haven’t quite bonded with Alex Blake, Emily’s replacement and the newest member of the team, it’s early days but she seems ok.

I just watched ‘ Episode 12 of Season 8 Zugzwang’ and I have concluded that the employment contracts  of the team must state somewhere in the small print that members of the BAU are not allowed to have happy, trouble-free romantic relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I know real-life relationships are not trouble-free but my word, the kind of disasters that befall the BAU’s love life is nothing short of cataclysmic!

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched this episode yet and you are planning to, I would suggest you stop reading now. Just as I was beginning to get excited at the prospect of Reid finding love, his love interest is killed by her stalker in this episode. At first, I didn’t want to believe she had actually died but with Reid’s non-communicative hibernation in the subsequent episode, the evidence was glaring and I had to accept it. This is the latest in the long  and rather tragic history of the BAU’s personal lives.

In Season Five, Haley, Hotchner’s wife, was killed George Foyet aka The Reaper. Granted they were divorced but that was also because of the havoc played on the marriage by Hotchner’s work commitments. JJ married the father of her baby, Detective William LaMontagne in the Season Seven finale but only after he had been shot and kidnapped by bank robbers and their son, Henry held hostage by one of the kidnappers. Garcia was shot by a man she went on a date with. Rossi has been married and divorced three times. Gideon’s girlfriend was murdered by Frank Breitkopf. Prentiss’ death had to be faked in order for her to escape the attentions of Ian Doyle, a dangerous arms dealer, but not before he stabs her in the stomach with a wooden table leg. She had acted as his girlfriend years back while working undercover with Interpol and he was intent on revenge.

Morgan is the only one who seems to have avoided similar tragedy in his love life and that’s simply because he does not have one. He must know something the others haven’t quite cottoned on to – if you do not have a special person in your life, unsubs can’t get to you through them. This does not mean that he has not suffered personal tragedy. At the age of ten, he witnessed his father, a police officer, shot to death. He was sexually abused as a teenager by Carl Buford, a man who acted as a surrogate father to him. His cousin disappeared while relocating to another state, only to reappear years later, apparently the victim of severe domestic and psychological abuse by her dominant partner and kidnapper. I guessed he reckons he has had enough trouble for one lifetime and there is no need to invite any more.

Achieving personal happiness or finding love on this show is an asymptote. It is as elusive as Utopia. I have no idea how much more personal trauma and tragedy this one team can withstand especially considering the nature of their work. One thing I do know, having followed the series closely for eight seasons, is that there will probably be a whole lot more and I will watch every bit of it. It is, after all, what makes this show such riveting viewing. After each episode, I just heave a huge sigh of relief and thank God it’s make-belief.

“Robert Kennedy once said “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”” Gideon in Season 2 Episode 18 Jones.

Thanks for stopping by.

A day at TEDxEuston: Celebrating Unconventional Wisdom

Earlier this year, I got an invitation to an event on Facebook. It was for TEDxEuston and was set for the 1st of December at the Mermaid, in London’s Blackfriars. Though I’d heard of TED and even watched videos of previous talks including the very popular ‘The danger of a single story’ by Chimamanda Adichie, I had never actually attended a TED event.

Reading up on it, I found out that TEDxEuston, now in its fourth year, is an organisation which aims to reflect ideas and inspired thinking of a new generation of African leaders and they partnered with Shell International LTD, CDC and a few other companies for this year’s event.

At the risk of being accused of stereotyping, I must confess to being a bit apprehensive about an event organised by Africans, particularly Nigerians, as we usually exhibit a lackadaisical attitude in matters of punctuality and good organisation. However, I was pleasantly surprised and suitably impressed at the high level of professionalism and organisation evident in every aspect of the event right from the advertising, ticket sales, registration of delegates, the polite and helpful demeanour of the team and the smooth flow of proceedings on the day.

I have to say that after sitting for over 8 hours listening to 13 speakers including JepChumba, Amina Mohammed (Az Zubair), Jacqueline Novogratz, Queen Sylvia Nagginda Luswata of Buganda and Alcinda Honwana, my mind was reeling from the kaleidoscope of ideas and perspectives I heard. This post is an attempt to document what I picked up. I will paraphrase some of the speakers’ talks and then share my thoughts. Also, instead of introducing each speaker in fine detail, I will hyperlink their names to a site where you can read up on them (if I find one) otherwise this will be a looooooong post as some of their credentials will take up numerous pages.

South African judge Albie Sachs, in his talk titled ‘We are all leaders’ spoke of the spirit of Ubuntu and the soft vengeance of a freedom fighter. “It is more important to live in a country where there is rule of law than to put one person in jail,” he said, encouraging us to leave the past behind and strive to improve our world rather than seek revenge.

Dr Frank Njenga, a consultant psychiatrist, anecdotally mused on being a grandfather and how the changes in society will affect posterity. With the help of startling research findings, he talked about the marked increase in mental health issues in immigrant Africans living abroad. He called on leadership to ‘think like a grandfather, not a despot’ and design policy which will benefit generations yet unborn.

British writer and broadcaster, Faith Jegede told moving stories of her autistic brothers and what they taught her via video clip. You can watch the clip – Autism through a sibling’s eyes. She said her one request is, “Please don’t tell me I’m normal.” The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else. You don’t have to be ‘normal’. You can be extraordinary. The pursuit of normality is the sacrifice of greatness.”

Jason Njoku, CEO Iroko TV, talked about his phenomenal failure which eventually led to his success with Iroko partners, the largest distributor of Nigerian music and movies online. He said, “from 2005-2010 I was a complete failure. What is failure? It’s personal. People are afraid to fail, they fear the shame. Human beings have an amazing capacity to normalise things. If they fail, it becomes normal. I embraced failure. It became normal. I learned to live with it. With nothing to lose, I was unshackled from risk. Our culture, our parentage, discourages us from doing what we, as African children, really want to do. I’m a certified failure.” He ended his talk with this benediction; “ You are smarter than me. Go out there and be brilliant.”

Director of Sahel Capital Partners, Ndidi Nwuneli, told us how she used her anger to facilitate change in Nigeria via her not-for-profit organisation, LEAP in her talk titled ‘Rage for change’. Stating that we are the elite, among the 5% of the Nigerian population which has a university education, she challenged us to do less complaining on social media but instead to act by channelling “your rage and anger into positive change. How do we keep angry enough to want to change this country? By working together.” She rounded up by quoting her favourite African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.” Get angry, stay angry and let’s go far together.”

Trevor Ncube, chairman of Alpha Media Holdings in Zimbabwe, whose life has been remarkably unconventional, had us in stitches and tears all at once as he recounted his difficult childhood. His talk, ‘Life is uncoventional, embrace it,’ was replete with tales of the severe psychological abuse at the hands of some teachers due to his undiagnosed dyslexia and malapropism. He spoke about growing up poor; how being fired from work served as a catalyst, leading him to start his publication; of peddling the newspapers himself when the Zimbabwean government banned vendors from selling it. He concluded by highlighting that technology is presenting boundless potential for change in Africa now. Hear him tell it in his own words;

“I was consistently dull at school. When you’re dull, the teachers hate you. My teachers hated me. It turns out I had dyslexia and malapropism. Teachers matter. The words we say to others can build or destroy. We all need people who believe in us. It took two years of one teacher consistently telling me I had potential for me to believe it. Sometimes it’s important to get fired or deposed so that we can move out of our comfort zones so we can achieve. When we are going through tough times, like my daughter would say “it’s the worst day of my life” but guess what, there are worse times ahead. Right now there are over 750 million Africans with mobile phones – technology is a powerful vehicle for positive change”

Born blind, singer/songwriter and producer, Cobhams Asuquo had this to say;

“I am a dreamer. One of the things that has fuelled my ability to dream has been the gift of blindness. I was born blind so never worried about not being able to see. To a child born blind, blindness has no psychological or sociological meaning. However, as I grew older, I faced challenges as a sightless person living in a sight-ful world. People would have excused my failure on account of my blindness. Failure will come but the same way that it comes, we must see to it that it goes. We treat the African continent like a disabled child and are quick to excuse the failures of the child when we can’t afford to. DO NOT indulge failure. Three lessons I’ve learnt from blindness; 1) Do not excuse failure for any reason or any account. 2)Trust people, even when you have no reason to; 3) Sight can sometimes be a distraction, be ‘blind’ to be focused.”

The BBC presenter, Komla Dumor, led us in a spontaneous and rousing rendition of the Nigerian national anthem then proceeded to tell us he’s Ghanaian. He also regaled us with several anecdotes about being mistaken for Nigerian. Amidst the laughter, he shared some home truths.

“Yes, there’s a lot of good news about Africa, but there has to be balance, please don’t patronise. When in doubt, ask an African expert. You are now talented and enlightened enough to work anywhere in the world. You are no longer limited. There comes a point when you realise that Africa is not the same and the story cannot be told in the same way. The narrative will always glorify the hunter until the lion learns how to write. It’s not so much about what the international media does but about what you write about yourself.”

By the time the last speaker, renowned novelist and Orange prize for fiction winner, Chimamanda Adichie, came on, you could feel the buzz of excitement zinging around the auditorium. Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. In her signature conversational-style delivery, she spoke about issues surrounding gender inequality in Africa. Punctuating her speech with familiar Nigerianisms like ‘bottom power’, she said;

“We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them, to be macho! Then we raise our women to cater to our men’s fragile egos. Why should a woman’s success be intimidating to a man? A man who would be intimidated by me is a man I will have no interest in. Why do we put so much effort into preparing women for marriage, but not same for men? The problem with gender is that it prescribes who we should be instead of recognising who we are. Imagine how much freer we would be if we did not have to live under the weight of gender expectations. Culture does not make people; people make culture. A feminist is a man or a woman who says there’s a problem with gender and we must fix it.”

My first TEDx experience was truly heartening. I was equally encouraged and challenged to contribute; not just to the conversation on moving Africa forward but also to find practical ways in which to actually do so.

The TEDxEuston team set the bar exceptionally high with this year’s event and the mind boggles as to how they can top it next year. Whatever the case, God willing, I will definitely be there to see how they do it for myself.

T-shirts that tell it like it is

I spotted these t-shirts at a shop in San Antonio, Texas last December. I couldn’t resist taking photos.

Hope they crack you up as much as they did me. Enjoy!

IMG-20111228-00198       IMG-20111228-00200         IMG-20111228-00201

 

IMG-20111228-00203    IMG-20111228-00204    IMG-20111228-00205

 

       IMG-20111228-00206                      IMG-20111228-00207

                                                 IMG-20111228-00209

 

Thanks for stopping by

Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street | Daily Times Nigeria

My review in Daily Times Nigeria

Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street | Daily Times Nigeria.

A Sista’s Poem and a Brother’s Response

I found this in my email archives. It made the rounds about 10 or so years ago. I have no idea who wrote it originally but thumbs up to you, whoever you are.

Enjoy!

clip_image001

Do you qualify to be the man I need you to be?
Will you be able to recognize the things you
need to see? Will you be able to understand, that
I’m a good woman and in my life I need a good man?
Do you qualify?

Do you qualify to fertilize my unproduced seeds?
Can you fulfill, as I can, all of our needs?
Can you put me in my place if you see I am slippin’?
Can you talk to me, wholeheartedly?
Not constantly trippin??
Do you qualify?

Do you qualify to be called all mine?
Can you leave the other women and temptations
behind? Can you come to me with your problems and
not wait until it’s too late?
Can you stand up and admit if you made a mistake?
Do you qualify?

clip_image002

Do you qualify to be the honest ebony man I
would want you to be?
Would you be able to look me in my eyes and
admit your feelings to me?
Could you take me in your arms and make love to
me all night long?
Can you be sensitive and still be strong?

Do you qualify?

Do you qualify to be my friend as well as my
lover? Can you put our love before any other?
Can you cherish me as if I were Diamonds &
Gold? Can you make me feel like I’m the last
woman you’ll ever hold?
Do you qualify?

Do you qualify to be called a good man?
If I have doubts can you reassure me and understand?
Can your love intoxicate me as if I were High?
To be in my life, I need to know,
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DO YOU QUALIFY?
************************************************

The Brother’s Response:

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You ask, do I qualify.
Can I fulfil your needs and become the man you need me to be?
My sister, are you prepared for what you’ve asked for?
Can you handle the responsibility?

Can you accept that, by GOD, I am the chosen
one, the authority, the comforter, and the head?
Will you submit and willingly follow my path?
Or will you fight with me instead?

If I am your King, will you treat me as such?
Will I get the best of your beauty and poise?
Or will I be subjected to an appearance
neglected, and checked with some serious noise?

When I talk, will you listen?
I mean whole heartedly and feel me?
Or will you rush me just to make your point too?
Can I be the man at all times? Even when it hurts?
Or is it just when it’s convenient for you?

Can you love me for me, and not who you wish I could be?
Will you see the strong Black Man within?
Or will you always remind me of the all
the past brothers behind me and make me pay for their sins?

If I don’t send you flowers the day your co-worker
received some, will you know that I love you still?
Or will my good name be uttered along with those other doggish brothers?
Will you question if my commitment is real?
Will you be patient and teach me to understand you,
and allow my knowledge of your needs to grow?
Or will you shut me out when I ask, Baby
what’s wrong?
Or will you respond with, “Well a REAL man would know!”
clip_image005

When we first met, what was it that caught your
eye? Was it my mind, my heart, my personality?
Or was it my suit, or my job, or do you love
what I drive, instead of what’s driving me?

Yes I can, and I will, make love to you from midnight to the dawning of the sun.
But, if I tell you I’m tired, will you trust
I’m sincere or believe that there must be another one?
My sister, I love you and my heart can be yours. No woman could lead me astray.
But like you, I have needs, so I beg of you, please, in this love thang meet me half way.
clip_image006

In life’s tough times I’ll hold you, in the rough times I’ll mold you;
your simplest wish will be my command.
My life is yours if need be.
Yes you can fully bleed me, and when hell comes, in your place, I’ll stand.
A good relationship is a powerful institution that must be built on a foundation of two.
So to answer your question,
YES sister, I do qualify.
clip_image007

Now, more importantly…do you?

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Domestic abuse – when will it end?

Recently there’s been a spate of extreme domestic violence in Nigeria. I don’t know if  this is because there’s been a sudden increase in the incidents or they are simply more widely reported now. Whatever the case, it is an alarming state of affairs.

Reported cases that I’ve read or heard of include;

  • Augustina Jimoh who suffered second-degree burns when husband, a police inspector, set her alight after an argument.
  • Titi Arowolo, a banker and mother, whose husband killed her and mutilated her body.
  • Ogochukwu Onuchukwu who suffered many years of emotional and physical abuse, not just from her husband but his family too.
  • An unnamed friend of the well-known Nollywood actress and TV presenter, Stella Damasus of whom she writes about here.
  • And countless others who may or may not be known to us.

A common thread that seems to run through most of these cases is that when the victim reports it to their family, their church leadership and/or the police, they are told to hang in there. Their families do not want the ridicule and shame of having one of theirs a product of a broken home so tell them to be patient with their violent husbands and try not to antagonise or incite him to further violence.

Their pastors tell them God hates divorce and advice them to stick it out and pray for their husbands to change. The police tell them they cannot interfere as this is a domestic matter within which they have no jurisdiction.

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When we read these stories, we wonder why the women involved didn’t just up and leave. We ask ourselves how they could stayed and taken the abuse for so long. We blame them for not being stronger or bolder and for not having enough self-esteem to refuse to be a victim. We struggle to reconcile how it is possible to have remained so passive in such volatile circumstances.

It’s easy to sit in our comfortable homes and make judgments of a situation of which we have no personal experience but we need to try to see things from the victims’ points of view to get a more accurate picture. I doubt very much that any of these women was a masochist. They must have felt pain and discomfort from the repeated abuse and most probably sought to end it in one way or another.

However, we need to consider the other possible factors to these cases. If the people and organisations who should have provided these women a way out, a safe haven, a strong support system and an escape from their abusive husbands refused or shied away from doing so, how then could they have felt confident about walking away? If the justice system which should have offered them recourse failed them so miserably, how on earth could they have escaped, so lacking in the confident knowledge that their abusers would receive their just deserts?

I know there are two sides to every story. If you ask the men involved, they would probably recount a long litany of the wrongs these women did them. However, nothing can justify this total disregard for another human being, much less your wife, and probably, mother of your children.

Every time I read or hear about one of these cases, I’m overcome by a deep sadness. I mourn the loss of a young life, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague. I’m sad at the thought that this kind of abuse is still going unpunished in the 21st century.

It is alarming and heart-wrenching to know that in spite of these well-publicised cases, many men will continue to manhandle their wives knowing that the consequences are as elusive as the unicorn.

Some pastors will continue to dole out unbiblical advice and encourage battered wives to stay and pray. Some parents and siblings would rather hand their daughters’ heads to their violent husbands on a platter than suffer the ignominy of having a divorce in the family. The police will continue to refuse to intervene in domestic disputes whether they be mere tiffs or full-blown boxing training sessions with the woman being used as the punching bag. Our legislators will be more concerned with lining their pockets from the national coffers than creating and enforcing legislation to prevent such abuse at best, or ensuring the abusers are duly punished, at worst.

It’s time for us to take a stand against domestic violence. It is not OK for a man to hit out at his wife in anger irrespective of the provocation. It doesn’t matter who he is or what he does for a living. There is no justification for this sort of behaviour. It’s time we stood up to these bullies and start turning this trend around.

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Violent husbands, please deal with your anger management issues in less violent ways. It isn’t right to take out your frustrations, insecurities or whatever other issues you may have, on your wife. Get help. If you need to hit out at someone else to feel superior, you really are inferior and no amount of wife-bashing will make you any bigger. There are people you can talk to and who can help you. Go to them. If you cannot bring yourself to admit you have a problem, then you have an even bigger problem than you think.

Wives, if he’s hit you once, there is a very high probability he will do it again and that over time, he will get more violent. Seek help. Get counselling for both of you. If he won’t go with you, be prepared to vote with your feet. I’m not advocating divorce but I do believe desperate time call for desperate measures. It may not end up in divorce but you will also probably not end up as a statistic of domestic violence mortality.

Friends and family, don’t just sit and watch as wives are battered and bruised. Speak up. When you see your friend or sister with another black eye, don’t just accept the “I walked into the door” explanation. How many doors does she need to walk into or how many times does she have to fall down the stairs to get a reaction out of you? Surely she can’t be that clumsy!

Challenge the husbands. Let them know they can’t mistreat your person and get away with it. I am no advocate for violence but I make an exception in this case. If gentle persuasion doesn’t do the trick, give him a dose of his own medicine. Bullies usually back down when they are recipients of their own bullying tactics.

Policemen, I know you’ve got your work cut out for you in our dear country but you cannot keep hiding behind a lack of jurisdiction. It is not true. If a person is in fear of their life and comes to you, you have a duty to protect them. Pay the home a visit. Have a friendly chat with the fellow. If further reports are made, throw his sorry ass in a rodent-infested cell for a couple of days. He will come to his senses soon enough. If he doesn’t, get her to press charges and let it become a matter for the courts to decide.

Legislators, please create laws that protect women and children from domestic violence. Establish strong punitive measures for any defaulters and see to it that these are doled out duly, promptly and with no respect of persons.

Dear pastors and church leaders, please acquaint yourselves with the Bible. There is no portion of it which advocates that a woman remain in a potentially fatal situation whilst praying. That is suicide which it doesn’t encourage at all. On the contrary, it encourages us to be “as wise as serpents” while being “as gentle as doves”. It tells us to “wage war with wisdom” for “wisdom is a defence”. The Bible is unequivocal in demanding that men love their wives like Christ loved the church and laid down his life for her. It exhorts men to treat the wives with dignity and honour, preferring them in love.

If a woman comes to you seeking help from an abusive husband, please do not send her back into the lions’ den. Confront the husband. By all means, seek and facilitate reconciliation but please do not turn a blind eye and pretend that change will come to said husband overnight. Keep an eye on the couple. Make the man accountable. If he refuses these overtures and carries on in his evil ways, please remove the woman (and children) from the home.

We all have a responsibility to end this violence and it’s about time we took our duties seriously, onerous though they may be. For if we keep silent, we are only helping to perpetuate it as a large percentage of children from violent homes will themselves become perpetrators or victims of domestic abuse.

Let’s save the women of our and future generations the heartache and anguish of this great evil. Let’s end it. Now!

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