A woman speaks: on ancestral legacies

Molisa wa NyaKale

Our real talks are like ‘a wom(b)an speaks’

(blood memories bout where we come from to dis’ days we live in and what is destined with the paths we’re on), in the spaces between honouring our ancestors, our children, and the future generations.

“It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community, be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time! ~

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its own destination. ~

The Elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads…

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Truth, Corruption & Consequences in Nigeria

There’s an old Bedouin story I heard or read somewhere that put some perspective into our culture of impunity for me. Its goes like this;

An rich old Bedouin lived in the desert with his eight wives, twenty sons and 44 daughters. He had many camel, sheep, donkeys and horses. His wives had many fowl and wore much gold.

One evening the old man was lounging in his tent when his sons ran in.

“Father, father. Big mother just reported that one of her chicken went missing. What are we to do?”

“Go find the chicken” the old Bedouin told them. But they didn’t find the chicken and soon enough forgot about it. After all it was just a chicken.

It was evening a few days later and the old Bedouin was again longing in his tents when the sons rushed in.

“Father, father. A dozen sheep are missing”

“Go find the chicken” the old man told them. But they had forgotten all about the chicken and already given it up for lost. They looked at the old man like he was crazy. “But father the chicken is lost. What should we do about the sheep?”

“Go find the chicken” the old man told them.

A few more days passed. It was evening and the old Bedouin lounged in his tent sucking on his shisha when his sons ran in.

“Father, father 18 donkeys are missing from the herd! What should we do?”

“Did you find the chicken?” the old man asked them.

His sons looked at him like he was insane.

“Father why are you still asking about one chicken when 18 donkeys are missing?”

And they went away shaking their heads. They never did find the donkeys and soon enough they stopped looking for them.

A few more days passed and it was evening and the old Bedouin lounged in his tent watching a belly dancer when his sons rushed in.

“Father, father 40 horses are missing from the herd! What should we do?”

And the old man asked “Did you find chicken?”

His sons got really upset.

“Why are you asking us about one chicken father when 40 horses are missing?”

And they walked away shaking their heads. After a few weeks of search they gave up looking.

A few weeks passed and the sons forgot all about the one chicken, the dozen sheep, the 18 donkeys, and the 40 horses. There was so much other more important things to do.

One evening the old Bedouin was lounging in his tent listening to a band of travelling musicians when his sons rushed in.

“Father, father” they shouted in panic ” a hundred camel are missing from the herd! What should we do?”

“Have you found the chicken?” the old man asked?

“Father you’re still talking about one chicken? A hundred camels are missing!”

They really thought their father was going senile. They walked out of the tent shaking their head. They looked for the camels for awhile but soon enough they were once again so engrossed in their lives they left off the search and forgot all about it.

A few moons had passed and it was a fine evening and the old Bedoiun lounged in his tent eating figs with his youngest wife Fatima when his sons rushed in very distressed and crying. Outside women and children wailed.

“Father, father!” they screamed “woe is us! Our sisters are missing? What should we do?”

“Did you find the chicken?” the old man asked.

“Father how can you be asking after one chicken when our sisters are missing?” his sons wailed and threw themselves on the ground. “How can you be asking of one chicken at a time like this?”

“Because if you had found the chicken you wouldn’t be missing your sisters.”

I like that story. It illustrates how important it is to stop small transgressions before the thieves become bold enough to commit big ones.

In Naija the tendency is to forgive all transgressions like Zik said, we’re conciliatory. Catch a thief and we collar him with a tyre but if we catch someone cheating we are reluctant to punish. ‘Don’t destroy his career, his marriage or whatever’.

I heard the tape of Farouk Lawan has been made available to various agencies yet no one is showing it to the public. No one is even leaking it. By now there should be a bootleg copy on YouTube. Or is there and I just haven’t seen it?

They’re still protecting him shielding him from the consequences of his bad behaviour which of course is why impunity reigns in Nigeria. We’re all guilty too. I know the Bible tells us forgiving is divine and a virtue and it is but people need consequences. It really is like training a dog. Reward good behaviour, punish bad behaviour.

We didn’t do anything when they stole a little so they just keep getting bolder and bolder. And by doing something I do not mean writing editorials or holding press conferences or protests. We didn’t gather the evidence and prosecute diligently. We turned a blind eye, even shared with the looters. Till they over ran us.

Give an opportunist an inch she’ll take a couple thousand miles. A study I read last week in the WSJ online suggest only one per cent of the population is honest all the time no matter what and only one per cent is dishonest all the time no matter what. The 98% of the population that is in between these two extremes will be dishonest if they feel they can get away with it and are kept honest by deterrence.

We Nigerians know we can get away with pretty much anything especially if you have money. There has to be consequences to bad behaviour. Most people will not be good just because some authority figure or the paternalistic government said so.

In my years working with the organised sector I have consistently preached this message. We the people must hold the elected representatives accountable and must make them feel the consequences of their actions.

I did just that in my places of work and I wasn’t very popular for it. As a matter of fact I’ve been asked by my line manager not to fire a troublesome and obviously corrupt employee out of consideration for his dependants and family.

I’ve always faced the consequences of my actions squarely. After all, I did it knowingly and willingly, right? An apology or an atonement is better than continuing the injury, right? So I’m really scandalized to hear Farouk Lawan claiming he will be vindicated. He’s still denying the charges. I guess he can. After all the PDP government has buried the video of him collecting the bribe. He’s probably still waiting for the balance of the $3 million before presenting it as evidence. I heard he was demanding Otedola send a private jet to bring it quickly.

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Coping With Depression in Nigeria

I’ve experienced symptoms of clinical depression on and off since I was 9. Sometimes it was just benign blues other times it was sever enough to paralyze me. I would stay indoors and pine away for days. Getting up, having a shower and going to school or work would be a massive chore. Sometimes the work wouldn’t get done at all and I would fall behind. I declined or passed on invitations to go out and be with people.
For a time I just thought that I was an introvert or shy.  As a young girl in the village I read compulsively to escape my overwhelming misery or played really loud music to drown out the sound of the miserable voice in my head. My constant companion was the radio. I would fall asleep with the late night music show on. Barry White and Isaac Hayes crooned me to sleep. Then as a teenager I discovered rock and roll. It matched my angst perfectly. I used to think like an ogbanje child. “If I die they will all be sorry.” Maybe ogbanje is just how my father’s people described dissatisfied/depressed children.

When I moved to Lagos at 21 I became ‘a club girl’. No, not that type of club girl, I just went to the club every night and danced all night. I loved to dance; music transports me totally and has a profound effect on my mood. I wanted to be a dancer once upon a time but growing up in 70s Nigeria the only professional dancers I knew were Fela’s girls turned wives.  I did not find it an inspiring picture.

I’ve also used alcohol, food and a variety of drugs to anesthetize my feelings.  Valium and Librium used to be available without a prescription. Prozac and Zantax still are. Sex is also a common escapism to depression. Makes you feel something other than your misery for a little while. None of it is a cure for depression, I know. Hell I didn’t even recognize what I had as ‘depression.’ I just thought I was really really really sad and I thought that living in Nigeria was what was making me really really really sad. Maybe that is a part of it but it’s not the whole story. I’ve had depression while away from Nigeria too. Depression comes and goes or just gets chronic. When the episodes pass it’s as if they never happened. The sun comes out and all is well with the world.

No one wants to admit depression, you just know that the natives won’t get it and will probably make you feel even worse. So why am I admitting it now? Because there is someone else out there feeling just the way I do and I want to reach out and say ‘Hey, I get it.’ We can support each other even if we can’t get professional help around here. Admitting it is also so liberating. I’m not going to walk around making excuses for my life because of it but I feel better knowing there is a perfectly good scientific explanation for what I feel sometimes. I can forgive myself.

I’m compiling a list of resources in Abuja. If you know any, counselors, shrinks or sufferers get in touch.

Love and power beautiful people.


The Five Stages of Grief – You Will Go Through Them

Whether you lost your youth, your health, a parent, a friend, a job, your home, your cat or your dignity you will go through the 5 stages of grief.  You’re only human. Your judgement will be impaired because of your emotional liability and your instincts muddled.

The five stages of grief are;

Denial: This can’t be true. It’s not happening. Its a mistake.

My friend died in the Dana Air crash. I spent all the next day calling his mobile number. I had read his name on the passenger list. He told when he came to Abuja on Friday and called me Sunday morning when he was leaving for the airport. When I heard about the crash I knew there was a high probability he was on that flight. I wasn’t surprised when I read his name. So why did I call his number half a dozen times the day after the crash? i was in denial.

Anger: Why did this happen? Who or what let this happen?

Our collective anger was directed at the government and the airline. The government is a convenient target for our anger.  Some people direct their anger at God. “Why did you let this happen?!”. Some direct it inward. I was angry at myself for not seeing my friend on Friday night like I told him I would. I was too immersed in my work. I missed one last chance to see him and say good bye.

Depression: That made me really really sad. I moped around for a while.

Bargaining: then I started ‘talking to him’. Apologising for not making more of an effort to see him because he was a very dear and valued friend and I wanted him to know that. Promising him, myself and I to tell the family and friends I love and value  just how much they mean to me every chance that I get.

Acceptance:  He’s gone, like all of us will go and truly none of us know the day or the hour when we too shall face ‘judgement’ day.  For what more is death that each human’s judgement day.

Someone once said ‘live each day like it was your last’. Someone else replied ‘treat each person like its their last day’. You may never have another chance to say – I love you friend.



Why Are We Part of the Women’s Liberation Movement?

Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we’re the first to get fired and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it’s our fault and if we get beaten we must have provoked it and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos and if we don’t we’re frigid and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a “real” man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy and if we expect childcare we’re selfish and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and “unfeminine” and if we don’t we’re typical weak females and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man and if we don’t we’re unnatural and because we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion and…for lots of other reasons we are part of the women’s liberation movement.  ~Author unknown, quoted in The Torch, 14 September 1987

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