I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I’d been in that service the day before where the pastor talked about losing his wife of 41 years to cancer, and I felt so sorry for him, I’m sure I was tearing up. To be honest, I was thinking about a relationship I was in at the time, and while not expecting either of us to pass on to cancer, was wondering what we’d say of each other in 30, 40, 50 years.

I remember I refused to think about the purpose God had even in his wife’s passing – I didn’t even want to hear of it. I remember my mind drifting to the letter I’d written my Aunty Pat, seeing as I’d been unable to speak to her in about a week. I’d written it in both pidgin and in plain English, and pretty much done a roundup of gist on everyone we knew… Aunty loved tatafo, the good kind.

I got home, had lunch, day went on pretty normally, but then I couldn’t sleep. Anyone who knows me knows I have the worst sleeping patterns every side of the universe but the night leading into the 22nd was different. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t figure out why. Didn’t quite have pending work, I wasn’t upset, or hungry; I just couldn’t sleep. I tried, but I was bored with the movies I tried to watch.

About 5am I got a text. “The doctor said she’s gone”. Didn’t register, and I didn’t have the number stored, so I rang. And then I screamed. And then…

Apparently she’d passed on @ 6.55pm, exactly one year today.

I remember collapsing in Olamide’s arms when he got off the train at our stop, remember him? The one you’d call ‘ajebo’ because you couldn’t get over a grown man having a water bottle!

I remember begging God to bring you back, I remember promising to be a better person, anything. I remember asking my dad one month after at your funeral if you could still wake up. I promise I wouldn’t have been scared, I would have hugged you!

I miss your hugs aunty, you always had one for me. You always had one for everyone.

I could talk with you about A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G, anything on the face of this earth. you were the perfect mix – heaven bound yet earthly aware; super ‘churchy’ but in touch with the earth and the inhabitants thereof.

Aunty also had a laugh (with her tooth missing on the side), she always had a word of encouragement, a prayer, and she never delayed to put resources in things she believed in. So if you met her (and this could be random people), she’d talk, pray with you, then deploy money towards solving whatever the issue was.

And she was so discerning! She could tell just by looking at my friends which of them would screw me, and 11 times out of 10, she was right. I remember Skyping with ‘a potential’ one night and she was watching tv close by. She said, “I have no faith in that person, his voice doesn’t sound right”. That relationship never took off, lol.

I miss you aunty, this past year has been incredible. Everyone has grown! The kids, the adults, true natures have risen to the surface, there have been births, progress in different areas, and some places have been just a bit dodgy. Everyone misses you though, that’s one constant in all of this. The number of times I’ve heard ‘why did she die’, ‘if to say Pat no die’ (and other variants), I’d be a millionaire if I was stacking coins each time.

I’ve missed you everyday since you passed – God I miss you. I feel alone sometimes aunty, wish I could borrow you from the angels just to play catch up a few hours each month. I will never understand why you left aged 41, I’m done trying to understand it.

I miss you. I love you, forever.

 

When I put out the call for writers, Abimbola said she was up for it, and promptly sent in an entry. For some reason, I didn’t find it, and so I emailed two weeks after asking if she was still interested. Right after I sent it I found her piece, and I apologised (truth is I’d had a really dodgy day), and somehow we exchanged emails that told me her piece would be perfect for today. Today, the 21st of July, 2014.

Thank you dear for writing in, and for taking the time to email back and forth the other day. You don’t know what it did for me. Hugs!

When I started writing this, the rains had just emptied out in a ferocious, torrential display of annoyance. Another Nigerian had just died; my aunt and the downpour reflected all that no words could say yet. Getting the email from Chioma around this time I could only think “what the heck, not like I’ve got any business to promote?” and the still small voice reminded me “what about the message burning in your heart?”

I am Onaoluwa Abimbola, 100% Nigerian and Health Care-for-all Advocate.

Despite the disparities or perhaps because of it, disease and death is definitely a leveler. Everyone dies and diseases do not discriminate these days. Previously labelled “big-man’s” diseases are now rampant in the general population no thanks to GMO foods (if you believe that propaganda anyway).

This first half of the year has been an extended period lesson on the importance of appropriate health care access for all regardless of class or personal station. Watching mothers cry on two occasions now and lament the wickedness of the “doctors” who kept on treating malaria for two weeks without benefit of a monitoring electrolytes screen till a patient crossed over into renal failure; I felt the weight of the system failure. Perhaps with regular laboratory workups on hospital visits (which incidentally was one of the conclusions of my project thesis at UNN), Mama Wale would still be with us. At the time her doctors ordered an Electrolytes /Urea/Creatinine test, her blood urea levels had already hit the roof and she was referred to another hospital for every other day dialysis. Referral Thursday evening, dead Saturday morning! She had shown no physical signs of kidney disease, no edema of limbs, no swollen belly; even in death, she had remained her ultra-slim beautiful self.

Still I am grateful to God, who always loves us, providing the right help at the exact time of need; a smile, a word – ‘hello’, a text message, sometimes comments by complete strangers on social media and a life is renewed. We die daily and that which reawakens in us the urge to keep fighting is aided by the love we get from wonderful family and friends; found even in unexpected places. That has been my testimony from late last year… an unexpected hospital admission far away from home, mismanaged Malaria and the sequelae of drug side effects that followed inspired a post on HAID Initiative’s blog.

What’s left of 2014 and beyond? I look forward to a Nigeria where force no longer wins rights, where violence and anarchy are not the ready tool for making demands.  As a corollary to that, a beautiful dream of mine is of a Nigerian health sector where the key players recognise that a team made of only a lead horse tied to several others behind is more prone to accidents: a united team of horses in their majestic beauty does the job and excellently too. When Presidents, Ministers are able to trust our hospitals again, the man on the street will no longer feel that where healthcare is concerned ‘OYO’ is the buzzword. Perhaps, even our beloved Dora would be here, as regular checks in the land where she lived and worked would have meant an earlier detection. A first sign that this dream will become possible for Nigeria, would be the suspension of all strikes in the public Health Sector henceforth and hopefully a renewed willingness by all involved in the business of healthcare provision in Nigeria to bury the hatchet and begin to chart a new course – forward.

I remain unapologetically Nigerian and the task of ensuring Nigeria trumps all her teething problems is our collective responsibility.

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Kindred spirit!

Olamide is one of those friends that I cannot do without. Does he drive me up the wall? Absolutely. Is he one of the closest friends I have on earth today who I can go to with anything and not feel judged or looked down on? Absolutely. Is he one to uphold his friends in prayer, with words of encouragement, with love, and with physical manifestations of that love? Yes Sir!

I love Olamide (lots and lots), and can I say congratulations on your engagement? She’s a gorgeous lady (in and out), and I wish you both all the joy possible.

I give you @RevDrCraig!

A few days ago I got a surprise call from a friend from school I hadn’t seen in many, many years. That call birthed this piece you now read.

This week I met up with that old acquaintance, a lady whose exceptional beauty back in high school made all the boys go gaga.  She was vacationing in the capital and wanted to know if I could show her around. After picking her up at Euston station, we went to Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tussauds, Westfield Mall, and goofed around like tourists taking pictures of everything and anything that caught our fancy. As we caught up on the 15 years that had gone by, I couldn’t help but wonder where the ‘wow’ factor went. She was still quite good to look at, but the exquisite beauty she once had seemed to have faded away, or at least paled into a less blinding glare. For the first time since I’d known her, I actually saw who she was, talked to her, wasn’t carried away by her looks, and realized that there was more to her than was so obviously apparent. I wondered how many people, like me, had missed out on seeing a wonderful person simply because all we saw was ‘a fine face and a hot body’.

I really enjoyed spending the day with her and as I walked away from the platform at Euston, I pondered at the absurdity of our generation that ubiquitously employs beauty as the foremost yardstick in the selection of a potential mate. This absurdity was first made apparent to me when, after I announced my engagement a few months ago, an associate of mine clapped me jocularly on the back exclaiming, “You’ve done it bro! Congratulations! You have finally found a woman finer than you who has agreed to marry you”. You see, I met my fiancé last year, just when I was coming out of an extended period of deep self-reflection following a string of very bad decisions. For months, I had been acting out of character and ironically chasing after beauty, weaving in and out of fragile relationships with some of the most beautiful women I had ever met; tall, short, curvy, straight, dark and fair. It took falling in love with this one to make it clear to me that the true worth of a woman is vested, not in the beauty of her face, or the curves on her body, but in the depth of her soul.

When pictures of my fiancé and I emerged, the most frequent comments were those praising her beauty and what a beautiful couple we made. One friend asked jokingly, “Did you conduct a beauty pageant and then propose to the winner?” LOL! Sure, most of these comments were made in good faith and were not in the least bit intended to offend nor did it mean that those who made them were shallow or anything of that sort. They were merely commenting on what they saw weren’t they, admiring a beautiful couple that were sure to have a beautiful marriage? Maybe it was all harmless banter, simple admiration, and unveiled praise.

Unfortunately, the reverse might also be the case. I know this because I too was once stuck in that place where deep in my heart I held to a primitive notion that the more beautiful a couple are, the more likely it was that their marriage would succeed. Perhaps the Disney fairy tales of beautiful princesses and handsome princes that ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after had fatally tainted my view of reality?  I know for certain, that a handful of those reading this now also share this view I once held, for it seems to me that the Ovation wedding culture of the past, once the preserve of the super rich has trickled down and has become the BellaNaija wedding culture of today. It is no secret, however, that some of the most celebrated high-profile weddings of the most gorgeous couples do not even last a year!

So to answer Chioma’s question; “What have I learned?”

I have learnt again something that I should never have forgotten. It took talking to a woman whose beauty once mesmerised me to remind me of a truth I used to know; Indeed, Beauty fades but character is enduring.

To all the beautiful girls out there who have character but are only sought after for their looks, I apologize on behalf of all men. But remember, if that’s all you put on the table, then perhaps that’s all we are inclined to see.

My name is Olamide Craig. I am Nigerian.

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Aunty, do you remember when we signed up at the gym in Bolingo Hotels for a year?

Lol.

It was good fun! I remember heading there early in the mornings, and then stopping at a random ‘Mama Put’ on the way back to buy rice and beans with all sorts of meat. Whether we cancelled out all the hard work at the gym or not, we didn’t care!

Ha ha ha… You this my crazy, super incredible aunty. I miss you to pieces! What didn’t we do together?

I remember you coming into my room (or your room – cos it was yours) without knocking, and when I screamed, ‘I’m dressing up’, you left, knocked, came in, and then said, “as if wetin you carry reach even half of my own”. Lol…

I’ve got stories for days aunty… You made sure of that.

You taught me that hired help can become family – who else keeps a driver and a nanny for 12 years? Everyone was welcome, everyone felt at home.

Remember that time when it seemed like all of us in the house were falling ill? You called for family prayers that evening, including the Muslim nanny. When she protested, you said, “abeg come let us pray jor, as if you’re not just recovering too. You no go come make we beg God?” Lol.

Incredible woman.

I miss you. I love you. Lots and lots.

When I saw the title for her piece, I must confess I was a little puzzled. ‘Do it afraid’ ke? Especially for people like me who underneath a strong exterior are ‘soft and fuzzy’ on the inside. Lol. 

But then I read the article, and I went, ‘Yes Sir’ (which is what I say when I’m super impressed with anything)! And this is special, because it resonates like she read my mind!

I met Jola in October last year, in Djeregbe, which is a town in Benin Republic. Feel free to catch up on that series here, I called it #TalesfromDjeregbe. Jola is gorgeous, a hard worker, and there’s something about people who ‘mix’ professions  that is really inspiring. She’s a lawyer, photographer, and a writer!

Enjoy this really deep piece ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be glad you stopped by today!

 

The trick is to do it afraid…

The most important thing I’ve learnt this year is to do it afraid. My name is ‘Jola Sotubo and I am a writer, a photographer, a lawyer and a Nigerian.

I’m no stranger to fear and I’ve come to realize that, hate it though we may, fear could be one of the greatest things that could happen to a living thing.

I recently made a very big change in my life, the kind of change that could either raise you up to success or leave you down and out. The kind of change that everyone around you says is a crazy idea and tries to talk you out of.

I’ve made a form of reputation out of doing things afraid; I went to law school and decided afterwards that I was not going to practice law like my proud family members expected. Instead I bought myself a DSLR camera to explore my love for photography and then I took up a writing job. Was I certain I was on the right path? No. I was afraid, as I almost always am.

Fear can be either good or bad, depending on how you react to it and what you let it do to you. You can either use it as your springing step or let it paralyze you. If your dreams do not strike fear in your heart, then they are not big enough.

This is why I wake up afraid and I go to bed afraid, not shivering or shrinking up like a wilted lily but rather filled with adrenalin knowing that I can either fight or flee but I have chosen to fight. I fight for my place at the top and the great destiny that awaits me and for this, I must stay afraid lest I become complacent and accept what the world believes is my due.

I am grateful for life and the privilege to wake up with a purpose and with zeal to do the things that I love and live the life that I deserve.

And as for the rest of this year, I have no worries, for I intend to seize every bull by its horns and face every challenge head on, albeit with fear in my heart but it shall be my strength and not my weakness.

Have a great rest of the year loves and stay afraid…

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I’m horrible with writing about death, but then I guess everyone is, and at some point or the other in life, we will have to do things we’d much rather we didn’t. Even the death of an enemy leaves a sour taste, talk less of a friend, family member, or in this case, someone I really admired and would have been super privileged to meet.

I watched a TedTalk at the end of 2013 Mr. Dumor gave on reporting stories out of Africa, and he should know, he’s been the face of BBC’s Focus on Africa from the inception of the programme in 2012. Everyday. His talk was so funny! Beyond the laughs, I was totally smitten by his confidence, his eyes, alive with excitement and maybe mischief and I was upset when it ended.

I told myself that I would meet him in the New Year, and even though I didn’t immediately have a plan to do that, I purposed to try.

On the evening of the 17th, I was chatting with a much older friend of mine, and Komla came on. I mentioned I was a massive fan and I wanted to meet him, and this friend said they’d been in the same class at Harvard and sure, he’d facilitate an introduction the next morning. I was super excited, and the only thing that stopped me from insisting on an introduction there and then was the fact that it was a little late, and I was literally on my way home.

And then about midday the next day, I saw on Twitter that Komla Dumor had passed. What??? “Cruel jokers”, I thought, racing to BBC’s website to prove they were wrong. BBC didn’t carry it immediately, but staff were already tweeting condolence messages.

Just like that, he was gone. Aged 41, Komla Dumor passed of a suspected heart attack. One day on TV, gone the next day. The uncertainty that this life is.

I grieved like I had lost a personal friend – because it was yet another reminder that life is short, and we must do whatever we need to do as soon as we can. Grieved all the way to Instagram.

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And so today, exactly six months after, somehow I can now write and bid him farewell, hope he’s in a better place, and tell him he was a shining light for us young uns.

More importantly, I pray for God’s great comfort on his family.

Rest in peace Komla Dumor.

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Video  —  Posted: July 18, 2014 in DAY 2 DAY
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Every time I put out a call for people to write in (for whatever reason), I almost always believe that it’s only people I know I’m going to get responses from. And so I am humbled each time when people read whatever I’ve asked for, and deem me (and my blog) worthy of their experiences and stories. Really humbling!

Chidozie is one of those I’m super grateful for, and he has a really interesting story too. I’m humbled (again) that this series inspired him to start his, and I wish him all the best with everything! Enjoy it! 

2013 ended with a punch on my left ear, I had concluded my compulsory youth service scheme in Ekiti state as a corps member of batch C 2012 with the mind-set that I would get a job and start making some money ‘sharp-sharp’, but I guess God had a better plan ahead. 2014 was ushered in as I led the praise and worship section in church, and when the time came to make the prayers for the year, I spoke from the heart and boom, July is already here!
 
Oh, where are my manners, my name is Prince Chidozie Okechukwu Nwachukwu, emmm, there is no space to put the Nelson, a.k.a, NELLYDOZZY. I am a Microbiologist, a Production Executive/Quality control personnel at Beloxxi Industries Ltd, a blogger/writer  (my sweetest hobby), a lover of good music/singer and most importantly a Nigerian to the bone marrow.
 
Sincerely speaking @chiomachuka, if I had to detail (in detail), elucidating each event that occurred from January 1st till June 30th, I’d be writing a book, but I will play by the rules (600 words). January 2014 saw me going from one aptitude test to another, from Access bank to NLNG to Ernst and Young, to PZ, to Unilever, kai, I waka no be small! You need to see the multitude of people seeking for jobs or better offers. Truth be told I passed all their tests, but one way or the other I just didn’t make the final lists (shakes his head); it got so serious that a friend of mine said “Guy, you sure say them no dey pursue you for ya village ni“. It taught me something though, to never despise small beginnings.
 
I started small as a primary school teacher, I taught Computer studies, and Physical and Health Education, sincerely I put in my best in that job, channeling my time and love to make my students future leaders of Nigeria. Remember it is the foundation of a house that determines its durability.
Maybe that was why God put a smile on my face around April – yes, I initially thought I was being ‘April fooled’ but lo and behold, it was real. Today, I am most grateful to God that despite my going late for the aptitude test and doing an interview with other four candidates, I got the job with Beloxxi Industries Ltd, Nigeria’s number one producers of cream crackers biscuit as a Production Executive, it could only be God.

In the second part of the year, I look forward to concluding my project #31Days31Epistles (inspired by @chiomachuka) on my blog (www.generaltatafo.blogspot.com and www.nysctatafo.blogspot.com). I also intend to conclude my plans to study for a Masters in the United States.
Most importantly I look forward to finding my other half; I really wonder why it is looking difficult (hisses), “abeg make una help me tell am say where ever she dey make she cross my path o, after all if Mohammed no gree go mountain, the mountain suppose locate Mohammed na, abi no be so dem dey talk am?”
Finally, I intend to join forces with like-minded people to organize a youth empowerment camporee in August; I guess that’s the little way I can give back to my community.
 
Shalom.
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Whoop! Thank you Chidozie for sending this in! Here’s to finding your better half, sorting out your Masters, and a truly productive second half of the year. And, I love Beloxxi biscuits!

Do you remember, when the family was everything? Do you remember, it was so long ago, and so much has changed.. I wanna go back… wanna go back to those simple days… I wanna go but now we’ve grown and gone our separate ways..

John Legend. Bliss.

Not like we grew up and went our separate ways (even though in the last year I know I’ve grown in leaps and bounds), but you went on to heaven aunty. And that’s ok, God knows why he took you so early, and I’ll be a good daughter and not question too much.

But I miss you, lots and lots. Hasn’t gotten any easier since the day I heard.

I wonder if things would have been different if you’d stayed with me in London, if you’d still be here. I wonder if you stopped fighting, or if God told you something He hasn’t shared with us yet.

Sleep well.

I love you. Unconditionally. Everyday.

I’ve known Tilly since 2008, that day I walked into Aso Radio thinking, ‘what on earth am I doing here’? I’d been posted there to serve (this thing we call the National Youth Service Scheme), and I was as bemused as I was unamused with the place. But, God knows how/why He orders our steps, and He knows I’m super grateful for that opportunity, and all the others that came from it!

I met Tilly that first day, and somehow we’ve been pals since then! Ride-or-die type chic, even though now that I think of it there was that period where our friendship lulled a bit. 

Tilly’s passionate about her work, always giving 110%, and is one of the most versatile media people I know. We’ve covered each other’s backs at Aso Radio, planned charity events together (won’t forget you played Santa at the ‘Do They Know’ Christmas party for orphans in 2009), braved locations for the BBC World Service Trust (now Media Action), and even partied together (with our own crazy dances)!

Tilly’s up today, enjoy!

At the start of the year, I was in a job I loved but under working conditions I despised and looking to get out, the prospect of unemployment was scary-seeing as I had been there in the not too distant past-but not enough to faze me and I opted out.

I was also in a relationship with a man I believed I’d walk down the aisle with when boom! before the 1st quarter of the year was done, I found myself single and back to ground zero. Was I devasted?! Maybe not but I was truly pained that time/emotions spent building the relationship was lost like sand slipping out of a crack on an hourglass.

Whilst fighting bouts of depression with the help of #FriendsTurnedFamily whom I lived with, I got a call from an old employer offering me a job I’d always wanted. It was even under better working conditions than when I left, only snag was it was in another city than I was currently resident in which meant a fresh start in an old environment. House-hunting wasn’t a thrill I wanted to experience and having sold good ol’ Louis, my car in the last year, mobility didn’t look certain, infact every other thing save the fact I had a job offer, was UNCERTAIN!

And move I did! Not only did a long time friend take me in-no questions asked, help  came from unexpected places -strangers even, whilst people I listed as friends fell short as push came to shove (I won’t bore you with the details). I was also privileged to travel out of the country within my first few weeks of resuming my new job and upon my return home, I had made valuable friends I’d love to keep for life.

I have learnt that there will always, ALWAYS be dark and gloomy days with several hurdles thrust in our way at certain points in life, but I have also learnt that living one day at a time and holding onto hope will bring a ray of light. Hope is surely a good thing.

I am a Nigerian who works in the media by name, Ogunleye Matilda Olusola and I am ready to LOVE again! :)

My super gorgeous friend!

My super gorgeous friend!

I met Kalat (we preferred to call him ‘Dale’ then sha, sounded very posh and all) on the NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) camp in Abuja. There was a bunch of us who would hang around together, Simi, Ini, Dale, David Barau, someone else who’s face I can see but whose name I can’t remember, and myself.

Camp got done with, and Dale was in my Community Development Service (CDS) group, the one and only Editorial Board. And the camaraderie continued, I remember the park at Area 1 where we’d have CDS meetings, and the awesome support Dale and our other friends gave. Super people!

Dale is married now, with a gorgeous baby girl, and I’m so proud of what he’s become!

Enjoy!

My name is Kalat, I am Nigerian and I practice Law in Abuja.

I started this year with a decision, a resolution really. I resolved that this year I was going to be more together, more competent. Half way into the year I’ll have to say the biggest lesson I’m learning is to take one day at a time.

Multitasking. Pulling everything off seamlessly and coming out of it all looking unflustered without a hair out-of-place. Some people seem to have that gift. Not me. It seems like I’m always busy, juggling 101 things at the same time. Sometimes I feel like such a scatter brain.

I have found out I’ve rediscovered that life’s going to keep throwing curve balls at me and the best I can do is plan and prepare for what I can foresee. For everything else, take it as it comes. So for rest of this year, I’m still going to keep crossing all my “t’s” and dotting the “i’s” as much as is within my power. For everything else, I’ll do the best I can and won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t go as I planned.

Recently I posted this piece on my blog, it’s called “Just for Today”. It has helped me put a lot into perspective. Don’t know who wrote it but I’d like to share it with you. Please take a look if you have the time. I hope it helps you as much as it has me.

What am I most grateful for? I’ll have to say love. The love of my family helping keep me sane, a lighthouse in this treacherous storm called life. The love of my friends who put up with all my foibles and my constant abandonment, and the love of a God that I will never understand.

Love keeps me humble because I’m convinced I hardly deserve any of it, so I’m grateful and constantly looking for a way to pass it on. Not to earn it mind you, but to show love to someone else who may feel as undeserving as I do in the hope that they will do the same. Love might just change the world.

Kalat is on Twitter as @talakbags. Thank you Dale!

Just look and remove your eyes, I told you he's married!

Just look and remove your eyes, I told you he’s married!