Romance

DEAR FUTURE SPOUSE: MAKING A DIFFERENCE, CHASING GREATNESS

ascendtogreatness

Dear Future Spouse,

I admit this is spooky! Writing to you in public domain, not fixing your name in it, and allowing the rest of the world to see what should just be between us. Well first of all, though everyone can see it, this is STILL for you. I hope this sets you thinking as I unveil my heart; the brilliant part is you can always read this, as far as the Internet is still alive, you’re welcome babe! *wink wink*. Secondly, I want everyone to read it so people can think about these opinions. They don’t have to agree, they can pick one thing and ruminate over it, you never know!

I don’t know what advertising campaign I saw recently, but it said: ‘Made for More!’ That’s my guiding philosophy. Long ago, I concluded that one of the most boring thing that would happen to me was just to get married and have kids, just that. Oh wait, that doesn’t sound right; I mean getting married and having kids would be awesome but there’s got to be more to life.

There is this pulsating cry within me to make a difference, to leave a piece of the extraordinary in this world from within and to leave a mark for good on the footprints of time.

A good marriage for me is like a fountain, where both man and wife bring out the best in each other not for the benefit of each other alone but for the glory of God. And there is no glory of God, if others are not blessed. I feel like I am supposed to help you fulfill the reason for your existence as you help me fulfill mine as we create a nest full of love for the cubs, settle the bills and do the task of everyday existence with vigor and purpose. Sounds extraordinary, yeah?

Enter a calling! We were made, I believe, to do great things! And Greatness in itself has to be defined properly for it to make sense. Greatness and popularity are two different things even though many who have become great are popular. But greatness is not equal to a million fan page likes on Facebook, verified social media pages, a fat account in foreign currency (the Naira is not so great right now), or luxury, it is doing what you are called to do, with all of being. It might bring you comfort, it might bring you discomfort. However, let me warn you that a calling is expensive and it certainly will cost you something. Greatness will mean different things for different people, but blessing the world with who you really are will always be at the nucleus. I admit this is rather vague and introspective, but that to me is sweetest part. My quest to make sense of my existence has led me to make several detours but I am here now, and guess what, I’m happy.

The fulfillment of together forever is the relentless chase towards greatness, the relentless quest of becoming who God created us to be and unveil the best of ourselves until we leave this earth. Whether that ‘calling’ will make us stand on platforms or be in the shadows, just giving it our all, that’s fulfillment.

Time is running out, and every breath we take, brings us but one moment closer to leaving this earth, time though invisible is very expensive. I ask:  ‘What is greatness to you? Do you even think about this stuff?’

It was Jesus who said: ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. That was vague in the beginning but obedience to that simple statement allowed twelve ordinary men, okay eleven, if you remove Judas, to turn the world upside down with a supernatural assignment. Indeed, who you follow determines how you will be made. So, simple suggestion, let’s follow Jesus together passionately, we will be made! That’s greatness!

To greatness, our relentless pursuit of it and bitter-sweet memories on the footprints of time!

 

Tim!

Standard
fiction, Inspiration

Boarding Pass (3)

He has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

boarding-pass

IMMESAURABLY MORE

When Demi got to Lagos, Mike was furious. “Dude it’s like you missed a penalty kick in the 89th minute of the Champions League final. How did YOU let her go? Ke tu e se je” He said. The last question in Asaba genre of the Igbo language meant how did that happen, and Mike rarely spoke his dialect except in dire circumstances.

“What was I supposed to do?” Demi responded raising his voice slightly.

Ikeja Electric restored power. The humming of a freezer in the background was a delightful soundtrack.

“What you were supposed to do? Jump on the plane. That’s why you have money. Jump on the plane or the next one. You should be in the US now tracking her down. You have money, you have a visa…” Mike reclined in a chair to calm down. Above him was a picture of himself, his wife and his daughter. Demi stared at the picture for what appeared to be eternity.

“There is a company to be run. I barely know this chick. I can’t justify jumping across the Atlantic for a girl. Yuck.” Demi was trying to sound tough.

“Can I sincerely ask you if you are crazy? Do you have mental issues, do you smoke crack in your spare time? Don’t you remotely think this chick might be THE ONE and you didn’t fight?”

“Pardon me but I am not a hopeless romantic like you. America is a faraway place….” Demi got out his phone, he could use a distraction right now.

“…..nowhere is that far, wasn’t it Westlife who said something about swimming across a river just to climb a thousand walls?”

Demi shot him a glance, stood up and once he was at the door he said disgustedly: “Did you just quote Westlife? Good evening?”

Mike stood rooted to the spot wandering what he had just said.

Like twenty seconds later, Demi resurfaced: “Yeah dude, that’s how stunned and rooted to the spot I was when Shade left me. I feel your pain.”

Six Months Later

Monday was Demi’s longest day of the week as interim CEO. The Board had agreed to appoint him CEO on an interim basis. The canceled wedding was proof that he had indeed made an attempt to meet the requirement to become CEO, or so they thought. His father had stepped down on medical grounds, and these days with more chemotherapy, although he felt better, he preferred to focus on his health than the business. Thus Demilade was in full control and under pressure to perform.

Meeting after meeting made Demi tired. He had yet another one before closing at 8:30pm. He was glad when he got a call from his Operations Manager canceling the meeting. Just as he exited the building, his phone rang.

“Hello?” He tried to sound alive. Leaders are supposed to be alert at all times. “Hello?”

“Hi CEO or shall I say interim CEO?” He knew the voice.

“Shade?”  Demi sat on the curb outside ‘Cobblers R Us’ unconsciously and the security men surrounded him in a rush to check if everything was alright.

“There you go. How are you?” She sounded excited, sweet and alive.

“I am fine thanks. I just sat on the curb, I am shocked.” The security men helped him to his feet, his driver ran to grab his things. He signaled for him to just bring the car.

“I knew you would be, I hoped I would get through to you. “

“For heaven’s sake where have you been? Your dad is the only way I know you are alive. That’s not good.” Now it was raining just like it had been on the night she left and he could close his eyes and just almost touch her again.

“Well someone asked me to get a job. I was busy doing just that.” She chuckled.

“About that…what I was trying to say was….” He scratched his head, and his driver wondered who it was that made his boss appear so ordinary.

“….You don’t have to explain Demi! I was just joking. Plus it was great advice. I have a job with a medical research firm in Maryland.” Shade was excited.

Wow there goes my dream of ever getting her back. “Congrats. I am happy for you.” He managed. Lord save me from lying.

“Thanks. Plus one more thing. I sort out started checking out church when I returned. Last Sunday I made a decision to be a Christian….”

“You are joking right?! Don’t play with stuff like that.” Demi protested, his heart beating faster than normal.

“I’m not. Check out my last post on Instagram, there’s a picture of me and my testimony.”

Demi grabbed a tablet and swiped as fast as possible. And He saw it.

“Oh God, you’re not joking. You aren’t joking. This is amazing!” His grin was as wide as ever.

“I said to update you about my situation. Thanks Demi.”  He didn’t want her to go.

“Um…You skype right? I’m home in thirty minutes tops.”

“Not while I’m at work. Maybe later. But I’m sure you’ll be well asleep by then. We are six hours apart remember?”

Homecoming

From thereon, Demilade looked for meetings that would take him to the United States. None came. The closest was three months away. He couldn’t wait. He took an early vacation.

A day before his trip, he got a call: “Demi, I’m coming back home.”

He was in the middle of some handover meetings with senior management. He wouldn’t have taken the call, but rules are often bended when people fall in love.

“Coming back home where?”  Nigeria was never home to her, at least that she said again and again. Demi’s question was valid.

“Nigeria! My company is launching out to Africa, and they want three of us to oversee the launch. I’m doing West and Central Africa, it would be a lot of trips, but I work from Lagos, my office would be there.” Shade said in such a hurried manner, she was running out of breath.

There was silence. Demi sank into the leather swiveling chair unable to say anything, too stunned. “Demi, you there?”

“I’m here. I’m too stunned. This is too good to be true.” He said almost whispering. She could only laugh. The day was brighter from thereon.

****************************

A week after the call, Demi was at the airport. Her plane had touched down. It was raining in Lagos as it had been all week. He adjusted himself for the umpteenth time.

Once she appeared from the door marked ‘Arrivals’, he was sure he had been smitten. She was as beautiful as ever. She was cautious herself. Nobody knew what to say.

When she was finally before him, he wanted to tell her a thousand things but only this one came out: “Did all your bags come?” That wasn’t what I meant to say, That’s not what I should have said.

She nodded. And they couldn’t resist the urge to go into each other’s arms. He lifted her up, well made a shallow attempt to, and she screamed.

Once in the car, Demi started the engine but he didn’t move. Then he stopped the engine and got something out of his jacket. “Last time, it was our parent’s idea. This time, can it be ours? Will you marry me?”

She looked at him. “ Gee,It’s been a long flight. If I say yes, would you drive me to my Dad’s and let me be?” Demi nodded like a child.

“Ofcourse yes. That’s the major reason why I convinced them to launch in Africa genius.” She replied with fatigue in her voice.

Demilade was elated. Shade was tired yet excited.

“Bae, I guess your dad still has the invitation cards for last year’s canceled wedding, could we perhaps just use a biro to change the date?”

She shot him the ‘You are joking, right’ glance. “Is the economy that bad?!”

He winked at her.

 

 

 

 

Standard
fiction

Boarding Pass (2)

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:26-28 NKJV

boarding-pass

A ‘Romantic’ Elope

Demi woke up with a very funny idea. It always amazed him how creative he was in the mornings. After a long hard brainstorming last night and some prayers (this he was learning, and so far, it appeared to work), he had a plan. He texted Shade, well he rewrote the text five times to arrive at:

Good morning Beautiful. Arise and shine. Call me when you see this.

She called back two hours later.

“Demi?!….” What kind of game is he trying to play?

“Hey you. Um…can we do lunch?” Was he asking her out on a date?

She agreed, they did lunch that afternoon. Over a steaming bowl of Amala and Gbegiri at Bukha Hut, Demi unraveled his mysterious plan: “…..And that baby is how we get out of this scheme.” He thought it was brilliant, she thought he was crazy.

But when she arrived home that night to see printed Invitation cards and her father signing them at the table, too buried in the activity to even return her greeting, she was irritated.

“Demi, uh….thanks for lunch today, do you think the plan would work?” She said with desperation when she finally settled in to make a call.

“Say what, Girl? The network over here is bad.” Demi replied with a chuckle.

“Do. You. Think. The. Plan. Would. Work?” Shade asked again.

“Ofcourse it would. Oh I heard the first time. Your American accent is gorgeous damn….”

She cut the phone, and put it down smiling. She couldn’t tell if it was the plan or the man that tickled her.

 

*****************************

Thursday afternoon, they were in Abuja. A delayed flight due to weather conditions meant that they had to spend three and half hours together before leaving Lagos’ MM II. Now they were a little more than just acquaintances.

Demi now understood Shade wasn’t obnoxious, and Shade understood that Demi was not a Lagos ‘player’ with a lot of money. They had exchanged stories.

The plan went sour the moment they found out that Shade couldn’t just buy a ticket to the US, just like that. Currency issues with the Naira meant the foreign airlines were quite hesitant with selling tickets, thus Shade was on a waiting list. If they approved, she would be given a ticket.

“You are always….always on the laptop.” Shade blurted out on Friday evening. Demi Shrugged. She wasn’t lying. “Let me tell you something Mr would-be CEO, the company would flourish in your absence, the world would move on if you God-forbid died. Take a chill-pill.”

Demi put down his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “This is why my father wants me to get married. Would you marry me?” He chuckled.

“Joker!” She smiled. “Hey, let’s take a selfie. If we are supposed to be on a trip shopping for the wedding, we have to make it appear so.” They took selfies: the smiling one, the pouting one, the crazy-faced one. Ten shots later, and three Instagram posts later, it was boring.

“I like this one, Bae and I…the world can wait…Are you always mysterious and introspective?” She asked curious as ever.

Truth was he just wrote something. “Um…I’d rather refer to it as being spontaneous.” his was a cheeky yet smart reply.

The evening wore on beautifully. They went to dinner, and just…talked! And with each conversation, they felt less vulnerable with each other.

“So….how does it feel to be a billionaire’s son?” She asked with a soft laugh.

“You tell me. Your father is a billionaire as well. Billionaires in Naira are just starting. When you convert the net worth to the dollar, it’s not so much anyway.” He shrugged.

“Oh please…..this is not an interview with the Financial Times, can you just be real?!”

“Ok…well there are two sides: you have a lot of fun because you can do almost anything, money is not exactly a problem. It can make you stupid because what others consider a blessing, you see it as a right. Then there’s the other side where you work crazy hard to protect your wealth.”

“….And you play hard as well?” She asked with a wink.

“Maybe in my early twenties. Straight out of college, partied hard, painted the town red. I almost got into trouble a lot. But God’s mercy, that’s what I call it, just helped me cos the moments of pleasure versus the long-term effects….” Is there something she wants to know?

Their dessert arrived just in time.

“So are there any liver problems, STDs or diseases I should know about?” They both laughed.

“Girl, are you like out of your mind? Oh wait you’re a doctor, I forgot that. I’m sorry I can’t provide my medical history….” Another laugh. “….But as far as I know, I had none of those. I consider that to be a miracle in itself.”

The marriage issue was the elephant in the room though and as they ‘washed down’ dinner and desert with a glass of wine. Shade decided to ‘hunt the elephant’:

“I have being dying to ask a question..” Shade started.

“Shoot.” Will the questions ever end? He played cool though.

“This marriage benefits you more than me. You become CEO, you lead a Billion Naira company into the future, and I give you kids. You can play along and have an affair outside, like some side-chick or something like most African men….why aren’t you going along?”

He sighed, and took a long sip from his chapman; The grilled Chicken was to die for!

“First of all, when you say MOST African men cheat, that’s an accusation without empirical evidence…..”

“….I apologize”

“…..Second I don’t want to do this to you to me, to us…this….arranged thing where we have no commitment, and we are almost being forced….”

“Who says we have no commitment? We’d say vows in front of a pastor or priest in front of God?!….” She protested.

“…more like lying. Because we haven’t made up our minds to…or more like I haven’t made up my mind to. I’m not sure this is how God intended marriage in the beginning.” Demi made his case with the most serious look she had ever seen of him.

There was a silence brief but meaningful and her next words came right out of her heart. “You are a godly man. Are you religious?”

He gave her a look that made her clarify her question: “Mercy….miracles…..now…marriage and God’s intention?!”

“Well I am a Christian…..” He replied afraid that all his street-cred was about to be burned yet at peace with his confession.

“Jesus-follower Christian? or Christianity as per religion?” Shade asked her voice slightly lowered.

“Jesus follower Christian!” Demi said even more sure this time. She was quiet. He did not know what to think.

“Karl Max said religion is the opium of the masses. Most people around here need God for blessings, miracles and breakthroughs, why on earth do you need God? C’mon you know I’m right.” She had to speak a bit louder above the sound filtering from a Jazz band playing on the hotel foyer across the room.

“Shade, the point of Christianity is not getting blessings. Man’s ultimate purpose is to worship God. Without it, life is empty and meaningless. This applies whether you are rich or poor.” Where did that answer come from?

“Wow, well I wouldn’t call myself religious. I am sure God would be very mad with me at the very least.” Shade forced a laugh. He was straight-faced.

“Why?”

“Let’s see…one….I partied hard in college, alcohol, some drugs in my freshman year. And oh…sexperiments in my sophmore year. I was sober in my Senior year” Shade winked. Demi mouthed ‘wow’. She laughed.

“….oh one more…” She looked away. “..Early on in my medical practice, I lost a child, a patient, due to neglect. I mean I misdiagnosed his condition, and prescribed a drug that killed him. My supervisor swept it under the carpet and the hospital paid a very heavy fine to keep the family quiet. I was fired to avoid the scrutiny of a medical board which could revoke my license. And to this day, I live with a guilt nothing can ever take away.”

“…..But the blood of Jesus certainly can! And before we had our crazy life moments, God was ‘crazy’ enough to send his son to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him via His son Jesus can have their sins paid for, thus they are forgiven and free. Nothing we have ever done is bigger than what Jesus did on Calvary. But we have got to accept and appropriate the grace freely given.”

There was silence! Like one where no one is sure exactly what should be said. He took her hand and squeezed it gently but firm. Are you even supposed to do that? Demi Focus. He cautioned himself.

The night was getting windy and it was their cue to hitch a cab to the hotel. “Demi, did you just preach to me?!” she said once they were in the cab. She had switched moods almost instantly.

“Yup. I think I might have. Was it good?” Demi replied attempting to sound upbeat.

“I don’t know…But if it was I’m supposed to be crying and converted. But since I’m not…oops sorry.” She laughed in a way that if he hadn’t known better, he’d call her drunk.

“You are evil.” He said with a grin.

“Sorry! But seriously I would think about it.” She said with a smile.

“I have to write that letter to my Dad tonight.” Shade said a few moments later, bringing their minds back to the plan. He agreed she should. They needed to stay focused.

The plan was for her to go to the US and email her father vowing not to return until the whole marriage was cancelled. Abuja was also Demi’s secret part to see if he was right to dismiss Shade. Only he knew that part though. So far, he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to let her go though.

It is so hard to say Goodbye

Saturday moved so quickly. In the morning, Shade got a call from the airline:

“Yes ma’am your ticket purchase was approved and we even have a flight to New York you can be on tonight, if you want?”

“I’d take it !” She replied quickly before she changed her mind. Demi wasn’t sure if he liked the plan anymore.

All afternoon, they shopped. She wanted to take away as many Nigerian memories as possible: Sandals, hats, hand-made shoes, books, Kilichi, bags, clothes, etc. By early evening there was a full box, scratch that, two full boxes.

In the evening, she was ready to go and when they got to the airport, neither wanted the plan anymore but neither had the courage to opt out.

She checked in and thereafter they had some time before she would finally disappear. They shared a Coke, just one can, with plantain chips. They were barely talking now.

“Shade, you are beautiful and smart. A doctor with prospects and a bright future…..”

Oh God please let him beg me to stay, not to go. I won’t even move. Wait Shade you’ve got to have a response. Focus.

“….Get a job in the US! You have lived your life with your father’s decisions, now you live! Live the life you have always dreamed and don’t you look back.” He closed his eyes meaning every word.

What?! Is he pushing me away? Is he even serious? “What?!” Shade blurted out.

“What?!” He replied. She stood up suddenly. “Are you sending me away? Demi? I live where I want, I do what I want! My decisions are my decisions. Yes my father has directed them, but I made those decisions. Don’t you tell me what I can or cannot do with my life!” Now Shade was raising her voice as tears welled up in her throat.

What did you just do Einstein? You just ruined a perfect moment Demi. Why are you just stupid?  “Shade please don’t take this the wrong way!”

“How am I supposed to take it?” He begged. This wasn’t happening. “I was…….” He was interrupted by the airport announcer.

“Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately! Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately.”

Shade turned and left. Demi stood wondering what in the world had just happened. It would be a long trip to Lagos in the morning. He would take the bus.

*****************************************

Somewhere midflight across the Atlantic, Shade recalled the entire situation and cried her eyes out. Did she overreact? Was Thursday, Friday and Saturday a romantic scam? For one moment, she had felt he was very sincere but why did he push her away? “Get a job in the US? Who is he to tell me where I am to live. If he didn’t want me, why didn’t he just say so..?” She gathered herself and she wondered if she hadn’t created a scene already. Thankfully she hadn’t.

Her eyes travelled across the aisle to a Hispanic couple. The man appeared to be in pain and what appeared to be a nebulizer on his nose. The woman, his wife seemed to reading to him from a tablet. Was she speaking English? Shade strained to listen for some reason:

She could hear the woman reading in English above her accent: “….I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”

Was God trying to talk to her?

Standard
fiction

Boarding Pass (1)

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

boarding-pass

As he adjusted his suit in front of the mirror at the hotel, he felt excited, ready for the next step, Shade was awesome, and he felt lucky. A year ago, he would have described Shade as everything but awesome. A year ago, he could have married her, however it was the least thing he ever wanted to do. But today….Demilade weds Shade!  Demi + Shade = Demshade?!  Does it even make sense? Whatever men…it doesn’t even matter. He smiled to himself.

“Demi, we need to leave now else we’ll be late to YOUR wedding.”

“In a bit, give me a minute!”

12 Months Earlier

“Demilade, I can’t lie, these are the most unromantic pre-wedding photos mankind has ever witnessed.” said Phillip as he went through a slide show of the photos taken only minutes earlier. Demi couldn’t agree more. The smiles were forced; the shot where the guy was looking into the girl’s eyes looked like they were rookies auditioning to play a role in a Bollywood movie, totally horrific.

Shade walked in and the guys ended the rant. “Awwwn just look at these. How romantic. Anyways Demi, I have to go. We would see tomorrow?”

“Yeah I guess. I would call you.” He managed a reply.

Shade walked away and returned in a flash. “I have your number right?” she asked half puzzled, half embarrassed. Demi was even more horrified as he scrolled through his contacts. How do you explain not having the number of the girl you would be marrying in a few days?

“Um…You know what? Can I have it again? 08…..” He said just staring at his phone. She obliged and left. There was an air of formality about her, her approach to everything was business-like. Hian, please what’s that?

 

Philip was seated sipping a coke, this he had to see.

 

“What?” Demi said, once he noticed the photographer giving him a ‘what in the world’ look. “I think the photos are great, we can use them for the souvenirs, right?”

 

Philip nodded and gave a shrug, it wasn’t his call. His was just to take the photographs and get paid, no questions asked.

 

However, that night after work when Demi met up with his friend Mike, reality came calling.

 

“Demi, let me get this straight. Your father has arranged for you to marry the daughter of his longtime business partner, to qualify you to take over as CEO so he can retire? Dude this is 2016 men!” Mike said having to raise his voice to be heard over the loud music at Shaunz Bar.

 

“Well that’s what it is.”

 

“And you are doing it?”

 

“Yup. I feel terrible but Shade is a great lady, talented, not drop-dead beautiful but just precise. She is smart, this could work, you know.” Demi was convinced himself he was saying nonsense.

 

They paused a minute to listen to someone do an Awful rendition of Chris Brown’s With You in a shallow attempt at Karaoke. It was good to laugh and release some tension. Karaoke was one activity that always thrilled Demi about Lagos’ night life. Maybe he could bring Shade one Friday night and they could do Lionel Richie’s Endless Love or Banky W’s Don’t Break What’s Left of My Heart. Whatever.

 

“Dude, COULD is not a good bargain for the choice of a lifetime. But how is this marriage even a criterion to be CEO? There are tons of single CEOs. How is being married even your father’s or the board’s business?” Mike’s piercing look drove home the question.

 

“When my father started out Cobblers R Us, he had a partner: Tega. Totally smart. He was the brain behind the designs for the shoes in the early days. It was his idea for them to even invest in Oil in the early days of the Nigerian oil boom. Tega committed suicide. A life of partying, heavy drinking and women, made my father deem him unfit as a business partner. So my father manipulated him to sell some shares, bought over those shares, and became CEO. Once CEO, my dad fired him as Head of Operations. Tega’s heavy spending made him broke after a while and depressed too. After the suicide, Dad put a clause for any incoming CEO to be married. My Dad has cancer now and wants to retire as soon as yesterday, therefore I, as anionted heir, have to be married before I become CEO. You see.”

 

“Hmmm.” was all Mike could say.

 

As He drove home, all Demi thought about were the words: COULD is not good enough for the bargain of a lifetime.

 

Daddy’s Girl

“This is like old times Daddy.”

 

“Like old times baby. You, me and a cup of tea before bed. I am glad you are back Shade.”

They savored the rich blend of Indian teabags in silence for a few minutes.

“Daddy, is this the way you and mum got married?” Shade asked with the inquisitiveness of a little child.

 

“How do you mean dear?” And now her father sat up.

 

“I have known Demi what? Two weeks? We would get married in what, ten days from now? I don’t even know if I like him and I can’t tell if he likes me, he is just bland.” now she was lamenting.

 

The great Chief Olopade laughed heartily and so long, he coughed. Ki’ l’omode mo?  He laughed again. He had always chosen for Shade. It was his idea for her to go to Queens College, it was his idea for her to study to become a doctor at Drexel University, Philadelphia; He was the ‘genius’ behind her majoring in Pediatrics in India and working for two years in Abu Dhabi. Now it was his plan that brought her home. It was time to get her married to a respectable young man.

 

“Shade….Do you trust me?”

 

“Yes Daddy.” Not exactly. Why do I always say yes to his schemes?

 

She liked pedatric medicine, she liked kids but not enough to hang around them all day in a hospital. She did not like Nigeria nor consider it home.

 

“Shade, Demi will love you. Chief Shonibare is my goooooood friend. We are like 5 and 6. His son Demi is like a son to me….”

 

“….then doesn’t this marriage become incest?” Shade cut in. Why did her funny American accent always creep up on her when she asked genuine questions?

“ba wun e ko ma s’oyinbo. Pschew… Your mother and I were third cousins…she was from my mother’s uncle’s second wife’s brother’s compound….Did it not work? Me I am going to bed.” And he left.

 

“Dad…I don’t think this African thing is such a great idea…?” She yelled as he climbed the stairs to his room.

 

“Odaaro…” He replied. Her Odaaro reply was as pathetic was her situation appeared.

To be continued

Standard
Inspiration

Roses, Chocolates & A Bottle of Wine

It’s Valentine’s Day again. That special time of the year where love is emphasized and red is the theme colour. No it doesn’t beat Christmas but it’s just a unique celebration (as all others in their own right).

There is the rush of valentine cards and gifts, probably a date or two. You must understand the adrenalin rush inside of you whether you are a giver, receiver or both in this context. The expectation and the endless wait to receive what you’ve been given or the reaction you’d get when the other person receives yours could be an ingredient for hypertension (no I don’t know anyone who died of valentine hypertension, not yet.)

Valentine is a good time to promote businesses: 50% off on items in the big stores – the shoprites, Game, Silverbirds and park n shops of this world would have an offer or a promo running. Even the Iya Basira food canteens are not left out these days: “just buy rice and stew, we go give you meat or se na pomo you want?” the woman would say.

“Wetin happen?”

“Today na Valentine, abi you no know?” she would reply with a smile. Now you know why she would still be in business come next year: cheap customer service!

If you’re driving today, get ready to be stopped by the men in black, yes the neighborhood friendly men of the Nigerian Police Force.

“Oga mi, happy Val.” The officer would begin go through your vehicle interior with prying eyes.

“Same to you, officer.” You reply.

“You no go do Valentine’s Day for us?” He would ask with a twenty-naira smile.

As old as Valentine’s Day itself, is the timeless question of what the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is. From the basics of greeting cards, chocolate candy and flowers to consumer electronics, mobile phones and automobiles (a car) to cash, everything (well nearly) has been suggested. I did see a picture on twitter at the weekend of a black Range Rover with a red ribbon tied around it. It was cute but I can’t say if the ribbon was truly tied around it or someone’s Photoshop creation (*coughs*).

It’s never about the gift as much as it is about the motive. And sometimes a small gift well-presented beats a big gift presented with less than a thought. The Chinese have a proverb that says: The beauty of a gift is in its presentation or something along those lines.

The best Valentine’s gift (I believe) is for everyone to make an individual commitment to be a better person. You can’t be a great boyfriend or girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, brother or sister, father or mother without being a good person.

People are imperfect, and love (forget Hollywood and the Mexican telenovellas) on this side of eternity is not perfect either. However we must give our all to it. This is why a relationship with God (through Jesus Christ) is great, inspired by perfect love from a perfect God I can find strength to love in as pure a form as I submit to His Spirit to enable me to.

My perfect Valentine’s Day evening would be a first date with a really beautiful girl. I’m a sucker for a good conversation; I’m just one of those guys that thrive on talk more than anything else as a great way to bond. So an evening filled with laughter and a good talk would be great, I would come armed with flowers (Roses), chocolates and a bottle of wine.

I often joke about my Grammy Award-winning (don’t take me seriously) voice. Okay I don’t have a very awesome voice but I would love to do a Karaoke with the girl, I’m thinking Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning, Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are or something from Savage Garden or KC & JoJo. It would round off an unforgettable evening for me. Hmm…..

It’s Valentine’s Day, whatever you do today and however you choose to celebrate, enjoy your day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.   

Standard
Inspiration, Leadership

A Tale of Two buses

One of the most interesting places in the world to live is Lagos, Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s commercial capital and as one financial channel on satellite TV would put it: West Africa’s Commercial Hub.

Life in Lagos is no stroll in the park; you have to be born sharp to survive the everyday intricacies of the common man. But we can’t afford to discuss Lagos and not discuss public transportation. Every mega city has its commercial lifeline hinged on the efficiency of public transportation, every city apart from Lagos that is. I cannot really say why but something along the lines of not planning the city properly by various past governments could be blamed.

Thank God for the Bus Rapid Transport, an initiative initiated in the twilight years of Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu but has risen on the wings of success by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. Every time I sit in one I enjoy sanity. Usually I like to take it from the outskirts of the city to Lagos Island and considering the distance, I do two things on the bus: relax and imagine. The relative silence allows me to do that. At least no one is preaching a half-truth gospel, or selling a drug that does everything from curing a headache to identifying your HIV status. Most thankfully, no elderly salesman is selling a quick action sexual performance enhancing mixture with tales of his own sex life, how he is fast becoming an outstanding athlete in bedmatics with a tired wife and a growing battalion of children as his medal of honour. The silence is supposedly golden until you sit with a fellow with poor telephone matters or a loud discussion is going on among some passengers.

The secret behind the success of the BRT is a completely franchised system from ticketing to employment of Bus drivers.Private enterprises run different routes, properly supervised by the government, call it a private-public partnership and you won’t be wrong.

The story of public transportation is incomplete without the ‘danfo’, those precious buses coated in yellow with a touch of black along the body symmetry. They’ve surely outlived the ‘molue’ the symbol of public transportation in Lagos in the not too distant past, but which has become very rare these days. A ‘danfo’ bus ride is anything but pleasurable, as many danfos are old with worn out engines and terrible upholstery. A vast majority of ‘danfo’ drivers and conductors have an attitude that presents a case study in terrible customer service leaving many commuters more tired and offended than before they boarded.

Today I boarded a danfo from Surulere to Ikeja, two popular suburbs in Lagos, midway into the journey the driver (who was without a conductor) began driving crazily, engaging many of us passengers in a curse-match when we cautioned him. The journey was darted with brief stints of insanity and mischief here and there including stopping to fill his radiator with water.

If you dey run, you no go drink water? If you go drink, motor sef go drink when ’im run finish.” He said justifying his latest stint of insanity.

Commuters like me have given up when it comes to the issue of Danfo buses, but the disparity between danfos and BRTs goes beyond a mere difference in service delivery or types of vehicles, it shows the difference in mentality and attitude between public and private enterprise in the Nigerian society.

In Nigeria, the word Public before anything automatically qualifies it for mediocrity, and poor treatment without a second thought. Just visit a public toilet, public school or board a public bus, you wouldn’t be shocked by how poorly maintained the facility or vehicle is. The same is the reason why many Federal and State Ministries around Nigeria are mediocre in terms of organisation, service delivery and strategic Management. Many Civil Servant arrive the office late, chit-chat away the day, deliver little and can’t stand a minute longer once it’s closing time. Who can blame them when their bosses are not any different and office equipment in many governmental organisations are out dated or non-existent altogether. We all don’t care: “This is government work, after all how much are they paying me sef?” the average civil-servant would say.

I was told by a friend of mine who was posted to a state in North-Central Nigeria to serve in a Local Government Secretariat during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme that the staffs in the secretariat do not show up at work at all until payday. On payday they come, form a long line, collect their pay and bid each other farewell until another payday.

For a little over a decade, my parents lived in a rented apartment in Bariga, Lagos. It was in that apartment, I was born and raised until we moved, when I was nine years old. In the compound, was a public toilet that served a barbing saloon, a rental shop, and a store located in front of the house. I do remember my mother always quarrelling with the barber for using the toilet without taking care of it. Not that it was her business after all we had our own toilet in the flat, but the stench sometimes could be smelt in our rooms. It was often a terrible scenario of ‘the evil that men do, lives after them’. The barber was just doing what the typical Nigerian does with anything public: do your bit, take care of yourself and get out without a second thought about taking proper care of the place for the next person.

Nigerians often forget that those in government are not aliens who invaded the nation, they are products of the society, it only follows that the average Nigerian attitude is carried into governance.

Officials elected and appointed do in public office, what Nigerians do in public toilet: get in, relive yourself, wipe your butt clean and get out. The problem with our nation is not limited to those in government, it’s a collective problem of the Nigerian society in the context of attitude and societal values and no election whatsoever can change it. It’s up to a national transformation sparked by Nigerians one by one.

This is not to say that private enterprises are perfect. There are many private companies that are landmarks of corporate corruption but a limit is placed because of the compelling vision and desire not to be swept away by the competition. Corporate governance, strategic plans and industry rules well adhered to, make private enterprises what they are and the Nigerian people as staff and customers comply well. You don’t walk into a banking hall and see a teller attempting to sell puff-puff and Fanta to a manager behind a desk reading a newspaper with legs on the table. Customers are not seen crowding the teller demanding money without a line, discipline and order is glaring.

Is the solution to Nigeria’s national dilemma to privatise everything? Yes, is the answer it seems but we are quick to forget that not everything can be privatised! Can we privatise the Nigerian Police Force? I wish we could. Can the Nigerian Armed Forces be privatised? It is obvious that The Office of Governor of a certain state or The Presidency cannot be outsourced. Privatisation while commendable and an important factor in National Development is not a total solution.

If this flaw in our thinking and attitude is going to be corrected, it’s going to take collective effort. Every individual is going to have to accept that Nigeria belongs to all of us. And anything public is something belonging to all of us and must be treated responsibly, efficiently, diligently and excellently from public toilet to public office. This is the new Nigeria, we seek and no amount of occupying would take us there if we don’t decide as individuals that it is up to all of us, one by one to begin this change in thought and attitude.

When all is said and done, it’s all a tale of two buses, plying the same road transporting commuters from one destination to another but we know which bus wins with commuters every time.

Standard
fiction

11:55

He had never thought the day would come when he would take his own life. He only began considering it the previous week, but with each thought, the idea began to solidify and sounded convincing as the way out of his dilemma.

He wasn’t sure how he would do it, but painless and quick would be good. He chose a quiet rainy day, and the timing was perfect: at noon, when no one would notice he was gone until he was on the other side.

He decided not to leave a note behind, or to prepare for his departure after all if death had come any other way previously he wouldn’t have been notified.

He emptied the sachet of rat poison into the glass of fruit juice and sat down waiting for the clock to strike noon.

As he closed his eyes, images of his life flashed before him. His parents and siblings, his two years playing on his school’s football team, the bitter sweet years of studying law at the premier University of Ibadan, his call to bar ceremony and his brief stint with the chamber he had worked for before he was accused of a crime he never committed. He had slept a few nights at kirikiri maximum prison, Lagos before he was charged to court.

The criminal was found miraculously and his lawyers (well colleagues) put up a brilliant defense and he was found not guilty but his license to practice law was revoked on grounds that he was an unintentional accomplice to the homicide since the accused was indeed his guest at the time the crime was committed. It was a harsh verdict which he appealed not once and not twice but each attempt fell through.  He was fired at work and life had gone down ever since. The case had been widely publicized by the media and his name and reputation had been badly stained.

It was 11:55am, he would have to wait five minutes. It seemed like the longest wait of his thirty-year life. It had stopped raining and power had returned. In those quiet moments he began to hear a piano piece coming from the next door. It started soft, but as it was played over it grew louder. It sounded familiar but he couldn’t place it, however he was not pleased. He wasn’t a lover of music and this noise would disturb the quietness with which he wished to transit to the other side.

He decided he would tell his neighbor to stop the music. He reached the door from where the music came but was stopped in his tracks by the husky baritone voice he heard.

Every day is so wonderful and suddenly, I saw debris. Now and then, I get insecure from all the pain, I’m so ashamed…..” and with energy the voice continued: “I am beautiful no matter what they say, words can’t bring me down. I am beautiful in every single way; yes words can’t bring me down so don’t you bring me down today.” 

 He was now in tears as he listened hoping the song hadn’t ended. He sat down on the floor and rested his back against the door as his neighbor continued to sing: “To all your friends, you’re delirious so consumed in all your doom. Trying hard to fill the emptiness the piece is gone, left the puzzle undone. You are beautiful no matter what they say, words can’t bring you down. You are beautiful in every single way, yes words can’t bring you down don’t you bring me down today.” As the chorus was sung again and again he wondered how the pianist knew what he was about to do. They weren’t on the best of terms as he had always seen the pianist as the wheel -chaired eccentric musician who made a living writing sad songs and a few jingles yet the man he had never been kind to, just saved his life without knowing it.

His name was battered but he could save it, yes he had been sacked but he could start over. He vowed to fight back rather than kill himself after all two wrongs never make a right.

“You liked my song?” asked the neighbor who was surprised to see the other man at his door.

“sort of….well….yes.” replied the lawyer now cleaning his eyes hoping no tears remained.

“it’s not my song,  it’s Christiana Aguilera’s.”  

“I know….well I figured so…..” said the lawyer as he stood up. And as he walked back to his door he said: “Thank you.”

“For…….?” Asked the musician puzzled.

“…..for saving my life.” The lawyer replied quietly as he entered his apartment and shut the door.

Standard