Use your head, Sister.

Some days ago, I stumbled on a twitter thread about pharmacists and never finding a rude pharmacist. Despite the overwhelming support, something worried me immensely as I scrolled through tweets from young people from across Africa.

 

A good chunk of respondents- many of them women, agreed with the initial tweet but added a troubling rider- pharmacists are judgmental when they come to get contraceptives and morning after pills. While I am not the mouthpiece of pharmacists around the world, I can say without fear of contradiction that this is not true.

 

The implication of this thought process bothers me, many sexually active women already have a hard time convincing their partners to use the easiest method of protection- the condom. Yet, these women still leave the purchase of this contraceptive in the hands of people who do not want to use It in the first place and many joyful accidental discharges occur.

 

Even in a hyper-critical, hypocritical society like we find in the towns, cities and villages of Nigeria, the sexually active woman owes herself the duty to protect herself from Sexually Transmitted Infections and unplanned pregnancies by using the tools available. For the life of me, I can’t understand why women carry the burden of shame when they want to get protection. The average Nigerian man would walk into the store and buy his condoms and even engage sales staff on his choice(s) to be sure he gets the best for himself, while the woman he is going to use it with, is too shy to even look at condoms on the shelf?

 

Sadly, she is the one with the most to lose. Very few things are as terrifying as counting the days after Lady Flo delays her monthly visit or the horror of finding two lines on a urine soaked strip. So why let nonexistent judgement stand in the way of peace of mind? Terminating a pregnancy is still illegal in Nigeria and even if it weren’t, the process is not soaking garri in cold water with peak milk, sugar and groundnut.

 

I have had hundreds (yes hundreds) of terrified young women approach me with long stories that end with ‘I missed my period and I want to get it back’. Most of the time they are alone, carrying their burden while Bobo goes on with his life with some quiet concern about the whole thing- if she is lucky, she is more likely to be told to ‘carry your cross’. The babe would wander far in search of a solution and will end up spending at least ten times the cost of contraception on a termination. Let’s not even go into the dangers that can arise even when a professional is involved. Is the almost non-existent shame and a little (often imaginary) gossip worth the cost of it all; in money, time and mental well-being?

 

Anyway, anyone who sells/provides contraceptives would not think it is extraordinary that a woman wants to protect herself, emergency contraception (morning after pill) are fast moving drugs which an average pharmacy can sell at least two packs a day, while other contraceptives sell even faster. In one month, there would be at least a hundred purchases of all kinds of contraception per pharmacy/supermarket. Your purchase is not special, it’s not memorable, it’s not unusual, not even if you are the holiest Mary Nweje.

 

So dear sister, ain’t nobody got any interest in judging you. Nobody is smirking because you’re getting contraceptives, and if they are… So fucking what?

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Betrayed

She sat with her left leg tucked under her body as she read a novel she bought from one of the young men who sold novels beside the Edegbe park at Yaba, they all knew her name and knew to save the latest titles by Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and the Sheldons she hadn’t read yet. David Baldacci would be added to that list in the near future, but at the time she hadn’t seen Saving Faith in the hands of a certain Ekene. The year was still 2007 and she was in her second year at university. Continue reading →

Recycled Stupidity.

These days, writing dey tire me. But this thing I have to talk about.

 

I read Buchi Emecheta’s The Bride Price when I was in primary school, with Akunna, Ma Blackie, Nnanndo, Chike and the rest becoming good friends, and were realer to me than the people I attended class with. When the book ended with Akunna’s death, I wept. It was the first time I was crying over a fictional character, it broke my heart that she would suffer all that to be with an Osu man and not even get to enjoy the happiness that love offered. But it did not occur to me that the Osu in the book was a real thing.

 

Just before I resumed school to start JSS3, I was answering one of the past questions booklets of Lagos state JSCE that my father had furnished me with, when I saw a question that struck me, I did not know the answer.
In which state can the caste system be found.
a. Osun
b. Kano
c. Anambra
d. Taraba
I had learned about the Indian Caste system and Mahatma Gandhi in social studies class and in the books at the school library (that library was awesome), but I had never heard about caste system in Nigeria. That evening, I asked my dad about it and his answer shocked me, the answer to that question was Anambra and in fact, the entire South East.

 

Was he talking about Osu as I read in The Bride Price? He confirmed that he was. He went on to tell me the history of that pervading evil, the differences in points of origin- those sold into slavery and those dedicated to gods. Actions that were centuries old, marking generations with the invisible stain that cannot be washed off.

 

Hasn’t civilisation brought any change? I wondered. Not necessarily, was his answer. You couldn’t go about calling people Osu/slaves or you’d get fined heavily but marriage to ‘freeborns’ was still off limits and a person from an Osu family couldn’t aspire to certain positions in the land.

 

When I asked my mother about it, she flatly replied “It’s a stupid thing.” I did not press further; by the time I was five I already knew my mother never talked about anything she considered stupid. I thought it was stupid too, extremely stupid to judge and discriminate against a person because of what his ancestors went through centuries in the past. It sunk to the recesses of my mind, pushed down by the pressures of becoming a teenager and the general arseholery of life.

 

From time to time, something would happen to remind me of the idiocy of the caste system, from Nollywood movies, to my friend from Enugu state who told me that if a person from their hometown chose to marry an Osu despite warnings, that person’s family would organise an elaborate mourning ritual for him/her and would act as if she/he was a ghost if they saw them afterwards. It was perhaps one of the most terrible thing I had ever heard, what broke my heart was that my friend didn’t even see how evil it was. It was normal, just another day in paradise.

 

With social media came a window into the minds of people, that no generation in history has ever enjoyed, the hidden and open vanities, vapid inanities and the most puerile flights of fancy of the human mind; laid bare for anyone to wade through. Igboist group perhaps is the headquarters of everything social media is- the primus inter pares of modern-day interaction, the pulse of the thought stream of the Igbo youths in this age.

 

Whenever I find Osu posts on Igboist, I get terrified by the comments. The comment section there is generally terrifying, especially when gender issues and child rights are discussed. In the case of Osu, what terrifies me the most is that a people who have succeeded in throwing away most parts of their culture that are beautiful and inspiring, continue to hold on to evil with relish.
“It is our culture and there’s nothing you can do about it”
“Case closed.”

 

Today, someone shared the picture of a young man who was rejected by his intended in-laws because he was Osu. His picture was accompanied by his words in which his anguish shined through, stark in its intensity. I cried for this handsome man whom I did not know, for the young woman whose dreams for the future have been punctured by a cruel fate. I also wept for her helplessness, it’s easy to tell her to hold on to him regardless but how does one let her family and history go because of a man? The thought of it is an instant nightmare inducer for me.

 

I wasn’t disappointed by the comments on the post, I knew where I was and what to expect from Igbo youths. I just felt sorry for us. In a world with technological leaps occurring every five seconds, with the things our ancestors considered miracles, hell! Even the things we thought of as impossible ten years ago- have not only become our reality, they are rapidly turning into past triumphs as newer technologies spiral out of labs and company showrooms.

 

We do not even work on the old technologies our ancestors developed to adapt to an unforgiving environment or map and document the flora they used to heal themselves. Instead we grab their hate- the dregs of their vomit and lick it up. Who did this to us? Who did we offend?

 

Sometimes, I wish I could pump the words and music of the maestro Bob Marley’s One Love into the hearts of the stiff necked, to those pushing the agenda of hate and stupidity in the name ‘awa tradition and customs’. But it is Redemption Song that we need the most.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.”

 

Our forefathers built chains and bars and prisons in their ignorance, why the hell are we still clinging to them? Why do we forget ‘Onye aghala nwanne ya’ in the quest for money and yet remember to twist our lips in disgust and shout “Osu bu ajoo mmadu?” Christian and hip when it suits you and Traditional and rigid when it’s time to hate, umu Igbo ibem, I hail una.

 

Because I am Igbo, because my children will be Igbo- even if I marry a man from China. I will not be silent as we continue to recycle and repackage hate and idiocy to the ones coming after us. My children will not wonder if I tacitly support this or think it is even half sane to think this way. I will show them these words, a little over eleven hundred words, their answer will be there.

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We go dey Alright.

I grew up in the 1990s, in the heyday of Babangida and Abacha, when Nigeria rolled over and died. Because I was a child, I was insulated from the bleakness that hung in the air. While the terms SAP, DIFRI, Ogoni 9, attempted coup, annulled elections, PTF and military junta- I loved that phrase, were words I heard on the news, they had no real meaning to me until fuel scarcity joined the mix. Continue reading →

Tenterhooks.

December 6th.

The voices roused him from the fitful and deep sleep, he’d been dreaming of fried rice and dodo with spicy grilled chicken on a plate with his name engraved on it and of baptizing his throat with sangria laced fruit juice. He could discern snatches of Yoruba, Igbo and pidgin English swirling in a heated mix, an explosion was imminent. “What are they quarrelling about at 7am” he wondered aloud as he walked to his balcony to get a good view of the drama.

 

From his balcony, he could see the two gladiators- Iya Kasali and Iya Risikat shouting insults at each other from behind the people restraining them, he was momentarily irritated by the scene. If they wanted to fight then they should be allowed to, not that they’d even fight if you left them. He’d counted ten threats to “fun wan eleti” since he began watching the fight and he was sure he’d here at least twenty more. He wanted to shout at the peacemakers to leave the women to kill themselves if possible, the noise would end immediately. He scanned the crowd, to know who could give him the full gist about the cause of the fight.

 

He smiled when he saw Mummy Junior and Mama Chinedu pointing at the fight scene and laughing. This was ironic because they were the most notorious fighters on that street. Their fights were fierce but the next day would find them gossiping with each other again, they had the perfect dysfunctional relationship. He went inside to get a bench so he could be comfortable, on his way he met his father coming out from his room

 

“Good morning Dad” he said with trepidation colouring his voice. His father could find fault with the Hope diamond, nothing pleased him. His father’s eyes scanned him from head to toe, he steeled himself to avoid squirming.

 

What’s happening outside” the older man asked. The son could see the tiny vein in his father’s temple tick and he mentally wrote his will.
I think they are fighting” he replied while wishing for a dove’s wings for escaping or for his baby sister to appear at that moment, she knew how to diffuse the man’s anger.
His father eyed him, and asked if he knew the reason for the fight.
I just woke up, in fact they woke me. So I went to see what the noise was about” he replied
That’s what joblessness causes, if you hadn’t been jobless you’d have been preparing for work right now and not have time to be following everything that happens in the neighbourhood”

He wanted to scream out all his frustration, his father never failed to remind him about his joblessness. Every opportunity to rub it in was utilised by the man although he’d claim he was trying to spur him on, he was wearing him down instead. He’d become sympathetic to certain mass murderers who’d killed people in a rage, he could imagine his satisfaction at killing his father, the remorse would come later, much later.

 

He plodded his way back to his room and didn’t come out until nine am when his girlfriend came to see him. She was pretty, smart and calm, he liked to hold her close and claim she was his Gibraltar in a turbulent world. She was smiling as she flopped on his bed, he looked at her with baleful eyes. She was still smiling despite his fierce demeanour, the wahala girl probably thought she had odeshi.
Did you see or hear about the fight this morning?” she asked with a smile dancing or on her lips.

Falling in love with her was the most shocking thing he’d ever experienced or seen in others, not even R Kelly’s flipping and flopping into Christianity could compare. He’d thought she was too young for him, plus dating a girl who’d lived in the area was too much work. At the end, what brought them together was studying the same course but in different universities. She collected class notes and textbooks from him, and with his guidance she easily topped her class. After his youth service he asked her to be his girl and her reply was “It’s about time“.

She repeated her question and he told her what had happened with his dad, she tapped his shoulder and told him “it is well“. She then launched into the story of the fight, two young children Kasali and Nuhu were saying silly things about Risikat’s mother. It was popularly known as “mess”, you usually messed mothers, Fathers were never messed. they said her mother couldn’t cook or wash properly. Unfortunately for them, her mother came home early and caught them. She beat them throughly and even scarred Kasali. The next morning when his mother was bathing him she discovered the scars and the hounds of hell were released. They both agreed Risikat’s mother had taken things too far, it was a normal game children played.

 

Suddenly he asked her what she’d do if a much richer young man came to marry her, would she leave him? She smiled.
“Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring my darling, let’s live in the moment. Who knows you might get rich quickly too. I love you, always will even if we end up together or not. I even dreamt you got a job in NDS“.

He guffawed, “NDS kor, NDS ni. You know I did the aptitude test some months ago, they’ve taken the people they wanna take”
“If they eventually take you Mr Doubting Thomas, you must buy me a car” she pursed her lips.
NDS pays crazy money Oma, if I get the job my first month’s salary can buy a brand new car for you and I’d still have money to live on. Those guys are the biggest players in oil prospecting and drilling in sub-Saharan Africa”. “And it’s owned by a woman” she said with laughter lacing her voice.
I’m going to mummy’s shop, you know I need to be in her good graces so I can get enough money for my project“. He looked away in shame, he was an impotent boyfriend. She guessed his thoughts and told him not to be stupid. “Walk with me to her shop” she pleaded, “staying here with your thoughts won’t do you any good“.

After taking her to her mum’s shop and indulging in some small talk with her mother, he decided to talk a long walk to clear his head. He thought about all the paths life had taken him through and wondered if he should just end it all rather than continue at the mercy of his father and end up a mass murderer. Just then, his mother called. She’d travelled to see his elder sister and her children. She told him she had a troubling feeling about him and wanted to tell him that she loved him and he was her greatest treasure. He smiled a little, she told all her children they were her greatest treasure and favourite child. He turned towards home, his mother’s words bolstered him.

In front of his house he saw Kasali, Risikat, Biliki, Junior, Chinedu, Mariam and Nuhu playing ‘catcher’. The same ‘yeye’ kids who almost caused the second civil war were playing happily together. Soon their mothers would come home from various markets and the battle lines will be redrawn, they’d go back to being enemies. He decided adults were the trouble with the world, the world would be a much better place if no one lived beyond the age of ten.

As he opened his gate, his phone rang. “Are you Bolaji Chidi Taiwo?” The caller asked.
“Yes I am”
“I’m pleased to inform you that you did very well in the aptitude test for Nedima Drilling Services, your appointment letter will be sent by email and you are to resume tomorrow”. He was too stunned to be coherent, the man understood and told him he’d give him time to let it all sink in. He’d call back in an hour to give him more instructions.

For the first time in months, Bolaji laughed.

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Expensive Peace.

A Facebook post about dealing with a cheating wife vs nagging wife and the comments on that post reminded me of a certain handsome man I dated a long time ago.

 

I had just come out of a longish relationship and wasn’t looking for love but Bros convinced me that we could make it work and he definitely wasn’t going to be my rebound relationship but the one I’d cherish for the rest of my life. He ticked the right boxes- similar background, same denomination, handsome af, funny. Most important of all, he got along pretty well with my family. Continue reading →