Tag: Social Issues

Death Or Insanity?

A society is gauged by how they treat their mentally unstable.

I once wrote this down somewhere in my notes and didn’t even think much about it at the time.

After all, thoughts would always be thoughts.

Well, today, I met a clean cut, handsome, smiling 66yr-old with dementia.

I didn’t even figure it out initially as I was caught up with how impressionable and overly affectionate he was with a neighborhood kid.

When it hit me, my face was like one of Martin Scorsese’s freeze frames.

Jaw drops. Click!

Memories came flooding back.

I tried to think of the exact minute you go from being all rational and logical to spewing incoherent and meaningless stuff.

The exact moment it clicks shut in your mind, and then you begin saying nonsense.

The exact moment your mind is broken.

And then, the forced smiles, yimus, snickers, and managed tolerance from people around you.

The loss of dignity. The shame. You go from being respected to becoming a mad man.

In a very superstitious community like ours, your case takes on a spiritual undertone immediately.

A mad man is never ashamed, only his family members are” – Igbo proverb

Why then would his family let him go about like this?

But then, there’s only so much caregivers can give and take.

People get tired.

Patience has an elastic limit.

People have their own lives to live, build and manage, and not let it peter out by being tasked with the burden of taking care of a family member, a mentally unstable one at that.

What about his country/community?

Which begs the question, aside ostracization, what does Nigeria do for its mentally ill?

Kesh just told me “They don reason us wey well finish before they start to reason craze people? Baba, you go wait tire o

In saner climes, mentally ill people are provided with robust options; quality health care system, accessible medication.

And so many of them even get to enjoy life, doing almost everything others get to do including getting an education and raising a family.

And though I have never been to a mental health institution in Nigeria, you just have to visit our prisons to understand what it means to be institutionalized in a country like this.

This is not one of those ‘everything wrong with Nigeria’ posts, rather it’s a reaffirmation of the maxim ‘Enjoy the life you’ve been given‘.

We could all die any day, worse is we could lose our minds any day.

And with a country as ours, we are always minutes away. Love yourz.

When we talk about the uncertainty of life, we almost always think of death.

I once got down from a bus at Marina, walked about ten steps, tried to shift for an aged woman walking beside me so she wouldn’t get hit by an oncoming vehicle and boom!!! I smashed the side mirror of a danfo parked on the side of the road to bits.

I had just the transport fare to where I was going on me, so when the conversation switched to “Bros, how we go do am naa?“, hard guy for start to dey cry sef. 😂

I thought about every decision I made prior to alighting from the bus when I did.

See me wey suppose stop on top bridge. Heiii God!!! 😂 Which kind calamity be this?

And then it hit me, someone once said that’s how the afterlife is/would be.

The one time you get to question every single decision you’ve made throughout your life.

That is if you refuse to live introspectively.

So do we wait until we die before asking questions of ourselves?

Funny thing is, death doesn’t even scare me.

However, yut you see dementia? Chills my bone marrow.

Mr Laz: A Biafra Story

A lot is going on in the world right now, and I’m rife with emotions this morning.

Chelsea won the Champions League last night.

But today is #BiafraRemembranceDay

At this moment, I don’t know if I should talk about my father who was born in the middle of the war.

Or I should talk about the constant persecution of the Igbos.

Or I should talk about the time when I was in Primary 3 when Igbos in Ikom, Cross River State were attacked, people maimed, their shops burnt, goods destroyed, families separated, people killed, lives never to be the same again.

This happens all over Nigeria every year.

But today, I’ll talk about Mr Laz.

In 2016, I was an intern at VON in Abuja when I met Mr Laz.

I was living with a relative who attended the same church as him. He came for oil prospecting and we all stayed in the same house for months.

I keep a lot of notebooks, jotters and diaries where I write about a lot of random stuff I’m thinking about.

Even my mother insists on taking jotters as souvenirs when she attends weddings, just so she can give them to me. Lol

Mr Laz was probably bored one day, and he started reading some of them.

I have no idea why.

I come back home from work one day and he tells me he has been reading some of my stories. I’m so embarrassed!!!! 😆

But then he starts lavishing me with compliments and telling me they are quite good, and he had no idea I had an artistic side. I start blushing ☺️

Over time, we bonded over stories and then one day he tells me a story about his childhood. A story about Biafra.

Mr Laz was born in the North (can’t remember the exact state). But he told me he was a child, say between 5 and 7 when the war broke out.

His mother was able to smuggle them out and they managed to get on a train headed to Igboland.

They thought they were safe and everything was behind them as they arrived Benue.

Benue is in the Middle Belt, and those who travel to the North from the Southern part of Nigeria know it’s a gateway to Enugu and Cross River.

But what they saw at Benue was unbelievable!

People were lying in wait killing every male that stepped out of any train coming from the North.

Imagine escaping the North and reaching Benue, only to be hacked to death. I mean, you can smell the okpa they sell at Enugu from Makurdi.

You could smell your home, but you’d never reach there. Onwu ejituogi n’uzo.

So, how did Mr Laz survive?

His mother had to dress him up like a girl.

Oh, it was easy.

Mr Laz is a very handsome man. You can only imagine how he looked like a child.

Add a dress, eyeliner and scarf, and you have a beautiful girl.

They hacked down every male – old or young.

Who knows, they might have found him out if some Biafran soldiers who heard about what was going on didn’t pull up at Benue with automatic weapons and dispelled the murderers.

That was the only way the rest of the Igbos running from the North could pass into Igboland.

Imagine a child living through these horror stories and having to remember and retell them every time?

They’ll tell you it was a civil war, but don’t let anyone fool you.

What they did to the Igbos was a GENOCIDE!!!

They didn’t kill you because you were successful or domineering or diligent or hardworking or an overcomer.

They killed you because you were IGBO.

They killed you because an Igbo is all of the above and more.

And even though I have certain reservations about the current state of the Biafra Movement, I choose to know my story.

Know your story too.

Because one day we’ll all tell our stories.

Maybe yours truly might even make a movie.

#Ozoemena But until then… #Echezona

PS: Who knows, maybe my father or Mr Laz might have been one of the children in this picture.

Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” – Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart)

What It Means To Fight The Government.

I remember my earliest football memory.

It was the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup. I was 7.

One of the World Cups with too many wonderful highlights: Ronaldo Da Lima’s haircut(I was rocking something similar, although less bizarre 🤣)
Klose scoring all of his five goals with his head. His HEAD only!!!

I remember that diving header against Saudi Arabia. How I described it to whoever cared to listen. I used to tell them he used his head to roll the ball over the line. Lmao

I even tried it a few times and thankfully never got kicked in the head.

But my most wonderful memory of that World Cup was the Turkish team.

That team had incredible ballers like Hasan Sas and Hakan Sukur.

I remember watching the third-place playoffs between them and South Korea at my Uncle’s house. Amazing stuff!

Their goalkeeper Rustu Recber (I didn’t even know his name till this morning) had anti-glare paint under his eyes.

It made him look like Oded Fehr in The Mummy. You have no idea how impressionable that meant to a child.

If you’ve seen The Mummy, you’ll surely remember a Samurai lookalike with pretty tattoos on his face.

So, I woke up last night and couldn’t go back to sleep again.

Somehow, my mind drifted to that team and I decided to do a quick Google search just to relive the experience.

That Google search led me down a rabbit hole and affirmed something that’s been on my mind for quite some time.

I started with Hasan Sas, but what I saw on Hakan Sukur shook me to the marrows!

From scoring the fastest goal ever in World Cup history to being the country’s all-time leading goalscorer to being named as the greatest Turkish player of the last fifty years, he built on that reputation and delved into politics becoming a Member of Parliament.

But guess what?

Nowadays, he’s wanted for arrest in Turkey after he was charged with insulting the Turkish President on Twitter.

It doesn’t even end there.

He’s being charged with being a member of a movement designated as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

According to his Wikipedia, Şükür fled Turkey in November 2017, taking up self-exile in San Francisco, California and planning to become a restaurateur in Palo Alto. He left this job because “strange people kept coming into the bar”.

In January 2020, Şükür told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag that he was working as an Uber driver and selling books in the United States. He also said that his houses, businesses and bank accounts in Turkey had been seized by the government.

Imagine going from the greatest player in a country’s history to being on the run from the same country. Alarming.

This post has nothing to do with Sukur’s political leanings, neither is it a demonstration of sympathy, but it’s always funny when people bash celebrities for not using their platforms to protest against the government, or not becoming the next Fela.

Fela was tortured and imprisoned repeatedly by different governments. His ageing mother was thrown from a balcony by soldiers, resulting in her death, just to prove a point to him.

Being Fela came with a prize.

Fighting a government is the hardest thing any single one individual can do.

It’s always an unending battle.

Ostracism, threat to life (yours and family), alienation, loss of money and property, and the list goes on.

There’ve been reports floating around already of DJ Switch being haunted for her Instagram Live broadcast of the #LekkiGenocide at the #EndSARS protest.

In certain quarters, DJ Switch is a hero.

In some, she’s the ultimate villain. And her crime? Exposing a government that opened fire on unarmed and harmless protesters.

At this point, being DJ Switch has a prize.

From Fela to Hakan Sukur to DJ Switch, the underlying theme is simple: fighting the government sounds easy in theory, but is not for faint of heart.

So, the next time you feel a certain urge to call out a celebrity for not speaking up with their platform, ask yourself if you’d truly do the same if you were in their shoes.

No need to rush into saying yes, self-awareness and soul searching doesn’t happen in a split second.

Were Our Parents Really A Silent Generation?

“I just need to clear my mind now/It’s been racin’ since the summertime” – Kanye West (Blood on the Leaves)

Our biggest rallying cry when these protests started was that we didn’t inherit the silence of our parents.

Maybe it was just plain narcissism typical of young people, or it was our youthful energy and enthusiasm, zero reluctance to speak truth to power, piled up frustration or our ability to crowdfund and support systems within a very short time and at scale, powerful acts of kindness over the last few days, all of these mostly possible because we had the Internet on our side, something our parents never had.

After an exhaustive call on Wednesday morning with my mother and then logging on to Twitter in the evening to see Oke with a bullet hole in his neck, shot dead by the Nigerian Police, his parents cradling their baby’s dead body in their hands – his mother screaming her lungs out. His father quiet, with pain written all over his face, the exact way men grieve. – probably thinking about how they failed him, I realised we were wrong all along.

It was from reading about Pericles from Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature that I understood that our parents weren’t silent out of convenience or because they loved the idea of a toxic relationship. They were silent because they had come to understand how the system worked.

A generation that experienced a civil war, military rule, coups and counter-coups, genocides, militancy, civil unrests, pogroms, insecurity, election violence, riots, broken promises, poverty, a rotten system, an irate military and countless of targeted killings.

I always wondered why my father always insisted on exercising restraint.

But for someone who was born around the time the first guns sounded for the Nigerian Civil War, experienced all the horrors of war, saw Ghana and many other African countries capitulate under bad leadership, heard about South Africa, saw people disappear and never seen again, now I understand.

They were broken spirits and their silence was just plain PTSD.

They were so used to bad things happening that nothing even remotely felt out of place.

The reason our parents held on so strongly to prayers and religion was simply to numb the pain from the trauma. It was opium and morphine to them. A coping mechanism.

I saw too many videos of dead people over the last few days, but nothing broke me like Lucy’s and Oke’s.

I really was sweating my blood pressure watching Chelsea in the UCL on Tuesday night not knowing a genocide was on.

Lucy was dancing hours earlier, laughing and meeting new people, only to have her face cut in half by bullets bought with her own taxes.

Cried like a child with snort running down my nose. Couldn’t work or work out. Couldn’t sleep.

I broke down from watching Oke’s girlfriend post pictures and talk about their dreams.

People who knew him called him a whiz and an overall great human being.

3 hours earlier, he posted “Nigeria won’t end me’ on his Twitter.

Nigeria ended him 2 hours later.

That boy was essentially his family’s breadwinner and Nigeria might have just managed to derail his family’s future.

That boy was going to be someone’s future husband and father. Nigeria just killed someone’s present and future happiness.

Nigeria ended that man’s dreams and whatever seeds he had inside of him, whether seeds of greatness or progenies.

Your government might have just killed the next Paystack.

I really used to think that this country was supposed to test you and make you prove your mettle – the same way fire removes dross from silver, heat purifies gold or pressure turns coal to diamonds. Isn’t that why Nigerians excel everywhere?

But nahhhhh!!! Our parents understood from the get-go.

This country was programmed to kill you, and everything you hold dear, your dreams, hopes and aspirations.

Our military came out and shot protesters in the full glare of the world and then went on to deny it claiming it was photoshopped. An event seen by over 100,000 people live on Instagram? Makes you wonder how much evil has been swept under the rug all these years.

Our parents were always right, and we really ought to apologise to them.

This wasn’t the Nigeria I grew up to love, believe in and be proud of. Maybe it’s better to be an alien in someone else’s country and killed by a white cop on the account of racism than being killed in your own motherland just for demanding for the right to live.

Whatever I felt for this country will never be the same again.

I’m done!