COVID CONUNDRUMS

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COVID CONUNDRUMS

Covid-19 has created a whole new world; new language, new behavior, new businesses, new attitudes, new diets, the list is endless. One of the ways I cope with this Covid Conundrum, is to notice the way humanity has and is adapting and changing to our new reality. There are so many changes that have quite swiftly taken place that we might actually miss the fact that so much has changed. Some people too are more adept at evolving, others, not so much. So having examined the behaviour of those in my ecosystem, I saw that there are some things that really stand out. For clarity, I have subtitled these changes as they appear below, as what I term ‘new tribes’ that are within our old tribal complex. So here goes:

THE FACK MASK TRIBES:

Since the ubiquitous face mask became a part of the dress code, it is easy to see how ‘face mask tribes’ have coalesced. Within this tribe, we have broadly 5 main sub-tribes:

  • The Chin mask tribe: These people wear their face mask on their chin. Never mind that neither nose nor mouth is covered, they wake up every morning, strap their face mask around their chin (or beard) and set off. The whole day passes, and the mask is on their chin, where they put it in the morning, protecting their chin from the virus.
  • The Mouth mask tribe: These people wear their face mask to cover only their mouth. With their nose well exposed, they conduct their business all day long, making sure their mouth is very well protected, but also ensuring that their nose is well exposed and prominently on display.
  • The Hanging mask tribe: The members of this tribe always make sure that their mask is dangling from either right or left ear only. They never put the ear straps on both ears, no, for them, the protection from the mask is only vital from which ever ear the mask hangs from.
  • The Touching mask tribe: These mask wearers try to cover both nose and mouth as prescribed, but touch and adjust the face mask every second of the day. They constantly pull and adjust, remove and replace and play with their face mask so much, they hands are always on the mask.
  • The Mask Wearing Aficionados: The members of this tribe are the champions of ‘curve flattening’ everywhere in the world. They are the reason Covid-19 will be defeated because they are the ones who do as is prescribed, they are conscious of not spreading the virus or being infected.

THE HAND SANITIZER ACOLYTES:

When it was advised that everyone uses 70% alcohol based hand sanitizers, 3 tribes in this group formed. These are as follows:

  • The Baptizers: The members of this tribe bathe their bodies in hand sanitizer. They rub it everywhere skin is exposed. Even if a full bottle of sanitizer is put out in the morning, by evening it will be finished if one of the members of this tribe is around. Even where there are facilities to wash their hands, they rather bathe in sanitizer than wash their hands. They are partially responsible for the rush on sanitizer and its scarcity.
  • The Anointers: This tribe uses hand sanitizer like it is anointing oil. As soon as you come within reach, they have it at the ready and squirt it into your hands. They can also be identified by their constant use of sanitizer even when they have not touched anything. They have no qualm walking past a hand washing station for they are fully anointed with sanitizer.
  • The Sanitized: These people have understood that you can hand wash where facilities are available and sanitize where not available. They are the only tribe that will still have human hands after covid-19 as the other two will end up with reptilian appendages post covid-19.

THE SELF MEDICATORS

The members of this tribe have been quite troublesome; they have prescribed eating drinking and all sorts of food and drink as a way of not catching covid-19. They were principally responsible for the scarcity of anti-malarial medication, vitamin C and other routine drugs. They also prescribe the drinking of every bitter, algae coloured concoction known to man. Without any medical of Pharmacological training or knowledge, they have to their credit numerous traditional and Western medical preparations that they swear by, including drinking bleach, disinfectant, brine and other household cleaning fluids. They also advocate bathing in substances that have been used by the leather industry to prepare hides and skin for tanning.

THE FLEEING OSTRICHES:

This tribe is constantly on the move away from everywhere that they hear the virus is in ascendancy. They manage in lockdowns and closed borders to move to places that they deem are less infectious than others, all in a bid to outrun the virus, a virus that doesn’t travel beyond 2 metres by itself. They completely disregard the fact that it is people like them who move around, that give the virus legs and wings.

THE FERVENT SOCIAL DISTANCERS:

While social distancing is recommended and is a good way to flatten the curve, the fervency with which this tribe socially distances is remarkable. They shut themselves into their houses, closing every window so securely that even sunlight and air have a battle to get into their space. Even when the lockdowns are eased, they still do not come out of hibernation. This tribe will not be seen until mid-2022, if they ever come out at all.

THE FAKE NEWS DISSEMINATORS

This tribe has access to news that no one else has, even those in the Centres of Disease Control all over the world. How they get their news is a mystery, but they insist that it is authentic, even when it contradicts everything from every relevant institution. For them, every institution is unreliable, yet nothing they put out is verifiable.

Which tribe/tribes do you belong to and which tribes are prevalent where you live? One thing is certain, for most of us, this is our first pandemic. We can make it a positive experience if we think before we talk or act, verify everything we hear and let the experts do what they do best. If we support the fight against Covid-19 as a team, we will beat it sooner rather than later.

TOMORROW WHEN THE WORLD IS FREE…

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THERE WILL BE JOY AND LAUGHTER…

“There will be joy and laughter

And peace ever after

Tomorrow when the world is free…”

 

Every time we ended a Girl Guide’s meeting, over 30 years ago, we ended with a song, the rest of which escapes my memory, save for these last 3 lines. We sang this song just before the traditional ‘Taps’ of course. I always wondered what the author of this song was thinking when he or she wrote these words. I am not too sure, but I think this song was written during the First or Second World War…and that would make sense, because I can see how someone would write something like this during such an event. Except the world has never really been set free if you think of it; we are constantly in a battle over one thing or the other, in one or more parts of this world. Freedom, as beautiful as the word sounds, is not something that is truly within our grasp. We stare longingly at it throughout our desperate lives and imagine how beautiful it must be, but it is never really ours. Never. Why? Simply put, we are born to fight, we are in a battle everyday of our lives; we battle sicknesses and illnesses, we battle for financial freedom, we battle crime and violence, we battle for sanity, for morality, for truth, for love, for relevance. We battle for freedom from want, from oppression, from corruption, from all the terrible people and things that thrive in a fallen world.

On this day, 4th of May 2020, or if perhaps I can be so bold as to change the date from 2020 AD to 0001 AC, which is from Anno Domini to Anno Covid-19; the first day of my return to a semblance of ‘normality’ from a one month lockdown period. More than a lockdown, it was like house arrest, for I can count the number of times I went outside. Ironically, my own home was the jail. I wondered sometimes if anything would ever be the same again. Would we be able to gather again in church and sing to our hearts’ content? Would we be able to hug each other again? Would we be able to bump into each other and smile a quick sorry? Would we be able to dance at parties, go to weddings, queue up normally, push each other, even playfully? Would our children be able to go back to school and get on with normal school activity? Would we be able to throw away our face masks, or perhaps keep them in a museum to show our grand and great grand children as we told them stories about Covid-19? Would anything in our past lives ever be the same? Will there be joy and laughter, peace ever after, tomorrow when Covid-19 ends?

As I contemplate what my new normal will look like, I look back in history at all the times that something like this has happened before and yes, things pretty much go back the way it was before. This tells me that indeed, joy and laughter return, but only for an undetermined period. However, it is my opinion that we keep having these Covidlike issues because we always go back to the way things were, as opposed to changing the way things were and living in a way that Covidlike issues don’t happen. If for instance, we took better care of our planet, ensured everyone had decent housing, education, healthcare and food security, if we stopped all conflict and wars and lived with each other in peace, acceptance, tolerance, if we watched out for the vulnerable, if we ensured that people didn’t slide into crime or poverty, if we made the world truly a place of peace and laughter and joy every after, then, maybe then, the world would truly be free.

Maybe in a few months or years, Covid-19 will become history; it will join all the pandemics in the dustbin of the pandemic garbage dump. We will come out of our government or self inflicted/enforced quarantines. We will socially distance and wash/sanitize our hands for a while. The death rate will drop to zero, the infection rates will end, the almighty respirators will be warehoused, the tissue paper shelves will be filled again to the ceiling in all the stores. There will be joy and laughter and peace ever after when Covid-19 ends. We will go back to how things were. We will once again demean and pay our medical and front line staff badly and stop clapping for them. We will no longer give out consumables to the vulnerable. We will make profiteering the be all and end all. We will make healthcare inaccessible to all. We will continue polluting our planet, killing off other species of life, making the world a great spot for another pandemic. It is time to rethink our human wheel; this one doesn’t run smooth anymore.

THESE ARE THE DAYS THAT TRY MEN’S SOULS…

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THESE ARE THE DAYS THAT TRY MEN’S SOULS…

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value…”

Thomas Paine, ‘The Crisis’

I can’t imagine how Thomas Paine felt when he wrote these words, but I fully understand trials and tribulations, so I agree that there are times when a person will look up to the heavens with pregnant eyes and feel abandoned, misunderstood, maligned, alone and all the other adjectives that make one feel that perhaps not being born would have been a better option. Then of course, one would reach deep into one’s soul and be moved to write about the days that try men’s souls.

When Wuhan coughed, most of us didn’t even notice, when Wuhan sneezed, we probably said a quick “bless you”, and moved on with the silly busyness of our lives. When Wuhan lay sick, we probably thought, ‘Poor baby’, you will soon feel well, it’s winter, it’s the ‘flu, it’s normal’. But when Wuhan exploded, we took notice; this was not just the ‘flu, this was not normal, this was out of hand, this became a pandemic.

For my first pandemic, it has been both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, if that is possible. I have felt comfortably in pain, if there is such a thing. Perhaps I now know what it means to live each day as it comes, a lesson I thought I had mastered by now with all the times I have been comfortably in pain, which has been times without number. I have found out that I could never have been in healthcare; I have panic attacks when I wear face masks. This means of course, that I have discovered a new phobia. If wearing a face mask becomes the new normal, it means I will throw out more than just my lipstick, lip gloss and lip liners, it also means I will have to take anti depressants or some other medication with me, so when I flip out, I won’t get carted off to an isolation centre to decompress for 14 days or so.

I have also realized that housework on a daily basis is torture, there is only so much dusting, washing, sweeping, mopping and cooking a person can do without beginning to feel like they are leaning towards insanity. When I started having conversations with inanimate objects, I took the decision to stop my 12 hour day of chores. Now I can still smile when I see a mess and walk pass it without feeling like I am a failure.

I have realized that it is ridiculous to think that you have to keep to a routine. 24 hours are 24 hours, there is no such thing as morning, noon, evening and night in a pandemic. Do whatever your mind and body want to do, when you want to do it. In lockdown, you go upstairs or down stairs, if you are lucky enough to have stairs! Otherwise, you stay on one floor all the time, every time.

I have experienced my first pandemic with all my children; this is truly weird. I cannot tell them what to do because the experience is new to all of us. So for the first time, we are comparing our pandemic notes and advising each other on what we each think is the best way to go. On the other hand, my mother too, is also experiencing her first pandemic as well; it is also a learning experience for her. Three generations, one pandemic, these are truly the times that try men’s souls.

What has truly been painful for me is thinking about how this has been for the most vulnerable people in the world; the elderly, the refugees, those who rely on earning a daily wage, those with underlying health issues, the healthcare workers, the unemployed, those living with domestic violence, the imprisoned, the youth and so many others who are having a nightmare of a time. These are the days that will try their souls. Let us remember them with a prayer and whatever we can give.

Those who love bad news have had a field day; it has been an awesome time. Even the most ridiculous minutia has been dissected a million times. Those who love to peddle unverified information have been all over the place. They have spread every ludicrous supposition known to man. Those who love disasters have predicted woe upon woe upon woe; we are supposedly only going downhill from here, left to them, we should all just curl up and die.

My conclusion to this is a beautiful message I cut out of a birthday card about 10 years ago that I fell in love with and that inspires me always: “Live while you are alive and bloom where you are planted…” it is simple, it is doable, it is timeless and it is pertinent. Since we are in a time that tries our souls, let us live while we are alive and bloom where we are planted.

EXCELLENT IDEALS NURTURE GREATNESS

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EXCELLENT IDEALS NURTURE GREATNESS!

In this new world of social distancing and lockdowns, there is an even greater need to rise to the challenges of our time. 2020 might have started with the promise of new and wonderful things to come, but at this stage in our 2020 journey, the skies seem awfully dark. While we all long for the ease and carefree of former years, that life is gone, probably forever. Until the world figures out the Covid-19 conundrum and how we can thrive in such a world, we all need to remind ourselves that there will always be space for excellence, for service, for diligence, for integrity. So just to remind us of our obligation to live with integrity, the following should be our guide, our boundaries, our compass. Whatever we find is our responsibility, let us perform at our highest competence; let excellence help us nurture greatness in ourselves and our communities and our nation. And when our nation becomes excellent, we will take that message to the world.

  • If nothing else, always be kind. There is no better way to show good character and strength in who you are. When you have a choice to be right or kind, always choose kind, give up your need to be right. (Dr. Wayne Dyer)
  • Enjoy life and always live life to the fullest. You only get one life, so live it up.
  • Don’t lose sight of who you are to please others.
  • Create the life you want. You are responsible for what you end up doing.
  • Live your dream no matter what other people may think. Don’t be apologetic for it.
  • No matter what other people say, as long as you did your best and can look yourself in the mirror, you’re doing better than most.
  • Take a risk and go after your dreams. You don’t want to look back and regret not taking advantage of those moments when you could have taken the leap.
  • Courage is what courage does. No matter how scared you are don’t let fear immobilize you.
  • Be honest. Lying gets you nowhere but miserable. Cheating is a great stain on potential greatness.
  • Realize that everyone who walks through your life is there to teach you something. It might be good or bad, but you will be wiser for seeing a lesson in the experience.
  • When in a friendship, don’t ever make excuses for someone’s bad treatment of you. There is never a reason for someone to make you feel less than another.
  • Words have power. Use them with care.
  • You can have anything in life you want. If you don’t get it, you didn’t want it badly enough to work hard enough for it.
  • Forgive those who make a mistake, even those who take advantage of your forgiving nature. That is the way you turn the other cheek.
  • Be the person you want people to think you are. Do what you want to be remembered for.
  • No matter how bad your life is, there is someone out there who has it worse. Be thankful for what you do
  • You can always reinvent yourself. Age doesn’t matter, it’s only a number.
  • Always honour those who teach you, they are giving up a part of themselves and that is a sacrifice.
  • Never be in such a hurry that you do not first think of the consequences of your actions.
  • Always be humble. Humility is a sign of greatness.
  • Have a sense of history; ask yourself, “What is the call of my generation?”

RUNNING THE MARATHON OF LIFE (PART FIVE)

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RUNNING THE MARATHON OF YOUR LIFE (PART 5)

(In memory of Mr. Deji Tinubu, may you continue to rest peacefully, may your memory be a blessing and a joy.)

 

In this, the fifth year of the Access Lagos City Marathon, with a silver rating from the IAAF and four hugely successful years under the belt, Lagos will once again be flooded with runners, volunteers and spectators alike. Come 8th of February 2020, all roads will lead to National Stadium Surulere for the flag off of the biggest race on the African Continent, the Access Lagos City Marathon. Everyone living in Lagos is always astounded that the city will permit its streets to be shut down for any reason, Lagosians defy everything when it comes to their city being tamed, but in the case of the marathon…well, that is an exception to the rule. Early in February, the Marathon rules and Lagos, for once, listens and pipes down, that is for only a few hours. Once it is over, Lagosians rule the land, the water and the air, as usual.

However, when a marathon enters its fifth year, it is always a special event. Why is this fifth year special? It marks a point-of-no-return, it is here to stay. This is very important for a city because it shows that there is a will to continue and build on the lessons of a marathon. So to recap, these are the lessons of a marathon.

Firstly, it is about endurance. This is not a race for the faint hearted, lazy or fickle minded. It takes a particular kind of person to register, show up, run and finish. It takes a particular type of city to do this every year, even till the fifth year. It takes a particular type of sponsor to put down millions of Naira, every year, even in and out of recession and economic uncertainty. It takes a particular type of Management to handle the insane work load to pull this off year after year. If that is not endurance, then I don’t know what else is.

Secondly, it is about fitness. This is not a race for the unfit, no, not at all. It takes dedicated training to run a marathon. No one in their right mind wakes up one bright sunny day and decides they are going to run 42 kilometres. For four years, Marathoners, Sponsors, the Management Team has been training annually to be fit for the Marathon, physically, mentally and financially.

Thirdly, it is about discipline. This is not a race for those who have no discipline. It takes serious discipline to stay true to your race plan, to stay the course, to finish well. Marathoners display great physical discipline, Sponsors display great financial discipline and the Management Team display great administrative discipline.

Fourthly it takes integrity. This is not a race for those who have no integrity. There is a certain level of honour that serious Marathoners must have, same goes for Sponsors and the Management Team, as a lack of honour would have ended this marathon years ago.

Fifthly it takes valour. This is not a race for those who have no courage. Courage must rise in the heart of a warrior, just like those who are connected with marathons. Even if one starts out afraid, one must wear their ‘courage cap’, put their best foot forward, remember their past victories and rise to the challenge. Sometimes one loses a little battle to win the war, which shows valour lies in the heart.

A child that was born when the Access Lagos City Marathon started would be celebrating his/her 5th birthday; let us not brush this aside as ordinary. The Marathoners, Sponsors, The Management Team and the City of Lagos have stayed a noble course for the last five years showing endurance, fitness, discipline, integrity and valour, what a formidable combination! As Lagos gears up to run into a new year and a new decade, I wish all concerned with the Access Lagos City Marathon the very best.

Going forward, we should all try to take these marathon lessons into our daily lives; we should have endurance and not be tossed about by every adverse wind or foolish doctrine, we should keep fit always, we have only one body and mind to live in, we should always be disciplined, that is the only way to live a civilized life. Likewise, we should live with integrity, the coming generations need decent and authentic examples to emulate and we should be people of valour, always having courage and drawing on past victories to get the right things done, change our narrative for the better and leave a great legacy. Viva La Marathon! Viva Lagos! How are you running the marathon of your life?

CAN YOU BE DIFFERENT?

 

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CAN YOU BE DIFFERENT?

We are—all of us—born into a deeply dysfunctional world, a world conditioned by millennia of selfishness, cruelty, injustice, stupidity, and fear. This has created a poisonous atmosphere that conditions all of our thoughts and moves and actions.

-Bishop Robert Barron

The first time I saw these words, they leapt off the page…I read and reread them until I was sure that I understood the full significance of what they meant. As a student of history, a continuous student of history, I agree with Bishop Robert Barron. Although this is just an excerpt out of a beautiful write up on grace, when I got to this part, something unexplainable happened to me, I got an awakening to something I had wondered about for quite some time; an awakening to the fact that as a species, we, humanity, has not done well when it comes to being humane. We have done amazing things, we have many awesome accomplishments; inventions, breakthroughs, discoveries, great feats of courage and endurance, but with regards to being humane, we have fallen short time and again, for history is replete with our human failings. Some of the atrocities human beings have committed are so appalling that one can only wonder at the depth of depravity we can sink to. We have failed humanity, we have failed the animals, insects and all other forms of life, we have failed the planet, the only one that can support life as we know it.

I was touched by the stark honesty of the words, so succinctly put. How else can we explain what humans have visited on each other from the dawn of civilization till whenever it is that we decide to stop and recognize that we are, all of us, one human family, made in love, for love, to love and of love? If one dissects this statement into bits, it is my opinion that we will see the need to be different…different from what has always been. So here goes.

“We are—all of us—born into a deeply dysfunctional world”

Is the world performing functionally as it should? As the human race, can we say that the world is currently a good place for all human beings? Can we say that basic needs for a decent life are met everywhere around the world? Can we state categorically that all human life is respected and protected? Can we say that there is peaceful co-existence between all human beings everywhere? If we answer no to any of these questions then we do live in a dysfunctional world. If we answer no to all of these questions, that world is deeply dysfunctional.

“A world conditioned by millennia of selfishness, cruelty, injustice, stupidity, and fear”

Has there ever been a time where the world has been without selfishness? Has there ever been a time when there has been no cruelty whatsoever? Has there ever been a time where all have enjoyed justice and no one has suffered a loss of their human rights? Has there been any time when human beings have acted sensibly, have never caused others harm by stupidity? Has there ever been a time where human beings have lived without fear? If the answer to one of these questions is no, then human beings have indeed lived for millennia in a dysfunctional world.

“This has created a poisonous atmosphere that conditions all of our thoughts and moves and actions”

Do we currently have no biases towards others? Do we accept people as they are and respect them as human beings no matter the differences? Do we hate, dislike or disassociate ourselves from any set of people for any reason? Do we consider some people less than we rate ourselves for any reason? Can we live anywhere freely and happily? Do we have any considerations whatsoever about any country or culture or religion or gender? Are our friendships, families and associations as diverse as they can be? This calls for introspection; each must answer for oneself and be one’s own judge.

Can you be different?

Can you change your narrative? Can you decide to be a person without bias? Can you suspend all judgment and accept people as they come, warts and all? Can you give people the benefit of the doubt? Can you live peacefully and let others live peacefully? Can you look out for the vulnerable and be a champion of the weak? Can you stand up against injustice and cruelty? Can you make this world more humane, more livable, more comfortable? Can you start with yourself to make your corner of the world less dysfunctional? Can you be different? Can you help others to be different? To change the world is as simple as each person changing just themselves, yes, it is that simple. If, as we know, there are over 7 million people in the world today and all of us decide to change ourselves, that would equate to over 7 million changes! What a beautiful world that would be! What a great way to start a new decade! Can you find the personal conviction to change yourself? Can you be different?

BEAUTIFUL ENDINGS, BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS

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BEAUTIFUL ENDINGS, BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS.

“Do you see the way the water goes out and comes back every day? Day in and day out, it goes and comes, day in and day out, the sun rises and sets. Every day, someone dies and someone is born, why do you think that is? It is the cycle of life; whatever has a beginning, has an ending. Whatever goes up must come down. Whatever is born, eventually dies. So it has been and so it will be until the One who made it all will say ‘Stop! No more!’

-Chief Awoye Briggs

My beloved paternal Granduncle, Chief Briggs, (of blessed memory) was trying to explain the ebb and flow of the mighty River Sombrero and its tidal tendencies. We were standing at Briggs Waterside, waiting for his boatswain, John, to bring his boat alongside the wharf, so we could take a trip to one of the islands in the delta that he owned. I could never seem to understand why in the morning the walk on the wharf to enter the boats was longer than in the evening. It seemed as if the water had disappeared and reappeared. I likened it to having a bubble bath; one minute you could be submerged in delightfully scented and bubbling water and just pull the plug and it would all go gurgling away. The ebb and flow, the wax and wane, the come and go, the beginning and the end; all things that have a beginning, have an ending. 2019 was born 11 months ago, now in its twelfth month, it is going to the great place of blessed memory where passed years all go to rest.

2019 was a great year in many ways, it was also a year of infamy and suffering too. It was a year of sadness and tears and a year of fun and laughter. It had all the makings of a typical year, and yet for some it would be a year they would never forget. It’s funny just how subjective life is; we all see it through our own individual eyes, no two people see anything exactly the same. It had a beautiful beginning, it will have a beautiful ending. And that cycle of life? It will just keep going until the One who created it all says, “Stop! No more!”

Until then, we will keep being expectant, filled with hope that the next year will be amongst the best years of our lives. What does 2020 bring? That is anybody’s guess. The ‘Predictors’ will make predictions and those who hope will live in hope. However, no matter how great or small, happy or sad, fruitful or barren, good or bad, one thing is sure; 2020, like 2019 and all the other years before, will end too. This is sure.

My secret to every year being the best year of your life is simple; sacrifice, service and love. No personal expectations of gain, no lofty plans to dominate, no impressive targets to attain, no honours to fight for; those who understand ebb and flow, wax and wane, will understand that it is in giving, in serving, in sacrifice, in loving, in humility that one has and continually has the best years of one’s life. So that when the One who created it all says, “Stop! No more!”, one will be ready to lay everything down and enter into His rest. May His peace, grace and love, that passes all understanding, fill our hearts and minds. Goodbye 2019! Welcome 2020!

THE ‘WHAT IS’ SERIES (PART TWO)

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WHAT IS YOUR SUPER POWER?

Maybe your superpower is writing. Maybe you are a healing force in your family or circle of friends. Maybe you are able to alleviate suffering. Maybe you love with an open heart. All of these superpowers are huge, trust me. They are big. They change lives. Those running for president may get all the attention, but the ones who deserve it — the ones who are really wearing the capes and making a difference — are the warriors of love, forgiveness, healing, etc. They are the ones on the frontlines of humanity who are impacting lives, one by one.

– MARIA SHRIVER

We all know some pretty amazing people; I know I have met quite a few of them in my life. People who make you wonder about how they have been able to do what they have done. People who inspire, people who astound, people who seem so blessed, so clever, so fortunate, so awesome. People who forgive so easily, who help so enthusiastically, who are always there when you need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, some sound advice, a bit of money to tide you over, a strong arm to help you fight an injustice…the list is endless. Unfortunately, there are also just too many dreadful and surly people who use their office or influence to terrorize others. They forget that they are human and that whatever a person sows, that will they reap a harvest of.

When my boys were children, they always wanted to dress up as superheroes, one loved Batman, one loved Spiderman and the other refused to choose a particular one but claimed he had all the powers of all the superheroes rolled into one. I just could not get him to chose just one so I could have a tailor do him an outfit to wear and do his superhero thing. He approved of all the superheroes, but decided that he would be all of them. Instead of a cloak or cape or mask, he wore a battered, old, funny hat. He saved everyone in the world everyday with his battered hat and worked really hard as a superhero. By bedtime, he would flop into bed exhausted and recount to me all he had done in the world that day. In his mind, he always used his superpowers to do good deeds and fight the bad guys.

Sadly, as he grew into a teen, he got caught by the computer game bug and his work around the world went out with a whimper. One day I asked him about righting all the wrongs and making the world safer. By this time, at the grand old age of eleven, he sighed and told me he could no longer save the world, that it was everybody’s job to do the right thing and that God was ultimately in control of it all. I smiled.

Yes indeed, it is everybody’s duty to always do the right thing; wherever we find ourselves, we ought to do the right thing. And yes, God is truly in control. But what is your super power? Are you in a position to help others financially? Are you a great organizer? Are you an empathetic person who loves making peace? Are you a good teacher of truths? Do you have a special gift; singing, acting, writing, dancing that can be used to help people? Are you in a special position to right wrongs? Can you protect a vulnerable person? Can you speak out for someone who is being persecuted? Can you smile at a tired person who is having a rough day? Can you intervene to protect a subordinate from a senior? Can you buy a hungry person a good lunch or some groceries? Can you let someone ahead of you in traffic? Can you refuse to join ‘the dreadful and surly’ who delight in making others miserable? Can you do any good deed?

I believe we all have the power to do good; we are all superheroes, we all have a superpower. And guess what? Every day is ‘Superhero Day’; therefore, everyday is ‘Super Power Day’! Do we use this regularly to make a difference? The choice is yours, to use your superpower to do good daily, or to be a bad guy…a member of the dreadful and surly gang. My Dad would say, “Good guys always win in the end and fortunately, the bad guys always finish last.” I hope you will use your superpower today and every day. May the Almighty God, who fashioned you so uniquely and made you like no other person who has ever lived or will ever live, help you grow your unique superpower to the level where you positively affect the lives of everyone you meet; may He bless you to be a blessing and cause you to be an inspiration. Now wear your superhero cape with pride and go out there and save someone! Come on now, join the ‘ Good Guys’! Happy ‘Superhero Day’!

THE ‘WHAT IS’ SERIES (PART ONE)

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WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were the born and the day you find out why. 

– Mark Twain

Most, if not all of us, know when we were born. It has been over a century that births have been registered in Nigeria, and around the world, even longer in some countries. Even though there are still some who might not know the day they were born; either because they are so old that there are no records, their birth was recorded using an event, they lived in such a remote place that their birth was not recorded, or there was no responsible parent or guardian to get their birth recorded. Or in the case where there is conflict, records are destroyed. However, by and large, most people tend to know when they were born. Our ‘when’ is pretty much a certainty.

 The ‘why’ is usually the problem with most of us. We struggle with the why a lot because our why has to be discovered. Several times I wished that my why came with my when… how come my birth certificate didn’t come with a why? Life would be so much easier! Knowing your purpose in life would make life so much easier and straightforward. It would also save so much time. Imagine knowing from you were little that you were born to be a doctor; everything you do from then on would be geared toward becoming just that. Everything you learnt, all your experience would be tailored to help you accomplish becoming a doctor. You would walk in your purpose from day one. You would plan your mission and align your vision and create your networks and nurture your circles of influence to align with your purpose of being a doctor. But fortunately or unfortunately this is not the case.

We stumble and struggle through life, sometimes finding our purpose early, late or not at all, battered and bruised by the vagaries of life. We go down one route thinking our purpose lies there, only to come to a dead end and realize, we missed a sign post that pointed the way, or discountenanced a person sent to guide us. Sometimes we hijack another person’s purpose hoping it will be a ‘one-size-fits-all’, only to find that no two people have exactly the same purpose. Sometimes, people even have a gut feeling of where they should be, but refuse it because they want to do something else, coming back full circle later in life to where they started out from, full of regrets.

How does one discover their ‘why’; how does one find their purpose? If I knew the answer to this, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams! I could set up an office guaranteeing 100% effectiveness in finding one’s life purpose after one consultation. I can even imagine the adverts I would put out and the crowds that would come wanting to find out their purpose. It is a conundrum that all people would love to solve early. Given the nature of human beings and our need for personal experiences to shape our perspectives and decisions/choices, we really have to discover our purpose ourselves. No one can help you discover your purpose; that is kind of like someone living your life. The good, the bad, the ugly of your life all combine to show you where you ought to be. No matter how terrible, painful, distasteful or wonderful an experience, if one approaches it as a learning experience, one will be better able to extract the lesson from it and move on ever forward. Sometimes these experiences, especially the bad, may cause us to become so broken that we derail, rebel or desire to end it. Those are all wrong choices. Life is not cherry-flavored, pink, fluffy sweetness; it is filled with the good, the bad and the ugly, each providing us with lessons that make us the wonderful people we become, if we are able to learn.

Perhaps the key reason we need to find our purpose is that it helps us find ourselves. I believe that deeply embedded in one’s life, sits one’s purpose and one’s real self. Finding one’s purpose ends up with finding oneself. How sad it is to never really discover how strong, how competent, how resilient, how resourceful, how patient, how forgiving, how multi-talented or how generous one is? How sad it is to look back and see all the times victory was around the corner? How unfortunate it is to find out that one’s opportunity for greatness was sabotaged by oneself! I pray everyone comes to discover their why and by discovering your why, discover yourself.

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FIFTY-NINE AND COUNTING…

Just one year away from being sixty, Nigeria has been, is and will always be, the land that God made for peace and laughter, the land He blessed abundantly. From the swamp marsh lands of the south, to the arid semi desert of the north, from the rich forests of the middle belt to the rolling grasslands of the north central, from the mountains and high places that dot both east, west and the plateau, the whole country, yes, every inch of this land of Nigeria, is a treasure, a wonder, a living miracle, a blessed land, a fortune of great value. A haven of green, a land of abundance, she yields a king’s ransom in produce year after year, her waters full of life, her forests full of medicines, her people; strong, vital, virile, compelling, entrepreneurial and capable of greatness. Her earth, filled with an array of mineral wealth. Who can want anything more? What is it she lacks? Where is she deficient?

Fifty-nine years and counting from Independence, we are still waiting for real independence…still expecting to be free, still bound, still imprisoned, still captive, still devoid of true freedom. We are still in the struggle for true independence from want, from corruption, from nepotism, from greed, from mediocrity, from violence, from tribalism. We are still bound by the same ‘devils’ that replaced the Colonists, still held captive by a cruel and unrelenting evil. Some even wish the British could come back; I hear this tossed around and wonder, was Independence a mistake? Some wish they had never come; that our political systems, which were in place before we were a colony worked better than what we have now. Was development a mistake? Some wish the military were back; they feel politicians have failed woefully and the only thing Nigerians can respect is a brutal military regime. Was democracy a mistake? Some feel it is the fact that we are one country that is our downfall; we need to split up according to tribes, is unity a mistake?

Who has failed Nigeria? Who has made the most promising country in 1960 a sad shadow of what she should have been? The blame can only be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nigerians themselves, past and present. Yes, it was and is Nigerians that have and are failing Nigeria. Simple. Why are we sabotaging ourselves? It is a question that should lie heavily in every Nigerian heart, for if we are truthful to ourselves, we should realize that we cannot blame anyone else for what is now our reality. We have no right to lay the blame for what our country looks like today at anyone’s doorstep. We are culpable, we are responsible. Let the truth be told; we made Nigeria look like this.

We refused to believe the beautiful dream that the Almighty dreamt for us. He gave us everything to accomplish His dream; a strong, competent, wealthy, competitive, disciplined, fruitful, upright, innovative and inclusive nation with a diversity that stands out and a future that is assured. The truth is that we chose not to believe that dream, we decided to dream something else, something that looks like what we have now. To not take responsibility for where we are now is disingenuous, 59 years is a long time to be tramping around, going nowhere, with little to show for the amount of resources, human and material that have been consumed. In 59 years there is so much that could have been accomplished. In 59 years, Nigeria should not look like it looks, sounds like it sounds or act like it acts. If we ask the famous United Arab Emirates what can be achieved in 59 years, they would smile and show us an improved version of Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and so on. And it would look nothing like Nigeria.

It would be so easy to blame leadership, which is what we do constantly. It is they who are bad; it is they who have failed. That is just another way we refuse to take responsibility. No. It is everybody responsibility to build a nation, it is everybody’s fault that our country is like this. The moment we all realize that we have played a part in ruining our development that is the moment we will start getting it right. We want 21st century infrastructure without paying taxes, we want clean environments yet we make our communities and cities garbage dumps. We want first class education, but demand that it be free. We insist on first class healthcare, but won’t use public hospitals or pay the bills. We want great leaders but refuse to train people for leadership. We want free and fair elections, but rig the polls and become thugs. We want peace and unity but hate our neighbours and discriminate. We break every law we make, want continuous concessions, refuse any sacrifice for our country and beg foreigners to come and develop our country for us. It never happens that way.

A country is developed by its citizens being diligent, honest, selfless, law abiding, loyal, uncompromising, sacrificial, inclusive…I could go on and on, but that will suffice. A country is not developed by foreigners, not by aliens, not by religiosity, not by platitudes, not by sabotage, not by fraud, not by running away to other peoples’ developed countries, and then fighting from there. It’s hard work building a modern country; just ask Singapore or Malaysia, or any developed country. It takes so much sacrifice, especially on the part of those who are doing the building. It takes so much discipline, especially on the part of the citizens. When we are ready to build a modern Nigeria, we will take responsibility for its mess; we will jettison all our differences and put our country first. That is when we will build the Nigeria that God dreams of, a land that He made for peace and laughter, a land that is blessed abundantly. A land where the green and white mingle beautifully and where unity, faith peace and progress lives. Happy birthday dear Nigeria! One day you will be everything God dreams you to be.