Hello you!

Been ages! I’m sorry, and yes I missed you too.

A few things have happened in my life in the past three months, and I would share except I’m not sure yet if the changes will be permanent or if there are bigger changes in the offing. So maybe wait a little bit.

How have you been? My condolences to Nigeria and the shittiness that is our country at this time; only bright spot seems to be the Acting President and his strides across the economy, security, and national unity. There’s so much going on, rulers across federal, state and local levels perpetuating foolishness on levels I didn’t think were possible in 2017. Anyway, Nigeria, this post is not about you.

This is about my one-year-old niece Talia, and how she made me reflect on a few things today. So her older brother, my nephew is 5, but she sometimes believes she is older. Of course when she tries to lord it over him sometimes she ends up crying. Not because he hits her or anything, but because he stands up and runs walks away for instance. Or because she falls or in some other way, causes her own tears.

When she cries she looks for me, I comfort her, maybe give her a treat, and send her on her merry way. And then in less than 20 minutes I hear her voice (and it breaks my heart to hear her cry), and the cycle continues till she falls asleep, she’s distracted by something/someone else, or she comes and stays with me. Sits or lies on my bed for a good cuddle, some tickling, a snack, a cartoon, or whatever fun thing we decide to get up to.

After a particularly hilarious incident today (with plenty tears) I reflected on our relationship with God and how sometimes it is akin to my relationship with my niece. He keeps calling to us, and if you’re His child you know His voice. He doesn’t stop asking us to abide under His shadow where no one can harm us, to drink of Him because every good and perfect gift comes from Him, etc. But sometimes, we act like we know it all, like we created ourselves; like we have the manual for our lives.

And so He sits and waits because we will doubtless come back, bruised, in tears, in pain, everything He warned us about. But He takes us back, cleans us, heals us, and off we go again, like an unending cycle. But that’s not how He intends for us to live. His wish is that we prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers, but we won’t enter into that without Him. We cannot.

Are you tired of running around in circles? Just some food for thought.

 

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Just did a short form post of this on Facebook but the matter hasn’t fully left my spirit so I thought I would come here and elaborate a little bit. I’m talking about advocacy and how some people believe (obviously erroneously) that they have a right to your beliefs and consequently social media posts.

So, someone posts about something and instead of identifying with it and moving on, or disagreeing with it and moving on, you come with, “but you did not talk about XYZ.”

For starters, this is absolute nonsense. I have very little patience for it. Nigeria is beset with so many issues everyone should be speaking about stuff, and all the time too!

Like, who has the register for what people should speak up about? Who made anyone the keeper of advocacy topics? And how does speaking (or not speaking) about one issue take away my right to speak about something else?

I am one person. I am somebody, but I am not everybody. The issues that affect me or I’m passionate about might not be the ones that awaken your activist bones. That‘s fine. The issues bothering me today might bother you tomorrow, and vice versa. That’s fine too.

This entitlement to the content people post on their personal social media profiles is silly, and the reason why Nigeria is what it is today. We talk about social media giving us a voice, yet refuse the individuality and ripple effect it affords us when we speak up. So confusing.

So we consciously or unconsciously ‘select’ people who should somehow know what we’re interested in, and talk about only those things. Otherwise, we heckle them. We outsource our civic duties and responsibilities to a select few, then cry when the monsters we’ve bred come of age. Sigh.

I read about a person who started #DistractionFreeFridays with a friend to get people to commit to driving without their devices on Fridays. We’ve seen hashtags like #SaveBagega, #NotTooYoungToRunBill, #CommonWealth4Peace, even #BBNaija. Do we tell one set of people to stop using the internet because we don’t subscribe to their hashtag? No. Live and let live. Advocate and let others do so.

You want to talk about female genital mutilation? Do it. Child marriage? Already. ‘Grasscutters’ and the other aberrations going on in the North East? Make it louder for those in the back. Audu Maikori and Elrufai’s sudden preoccupation with him? Go for it.

Whatever you want attention drawn to, start it. Gather information, and share it in ways that will resonate with people. Create a plan detailing what message you want to get out, who your target is, and what you want them to do when they’re aware of your messaging. Craft your messages in simple language, think about graphics if you can (the diversity of content is great and images are awesome as far as shareability is concerned). Sell your idea to your friends and get them to put it out for you at times when you know your audience is online, and keep posting/publishing. As it resonates with people, they’ll like, share, repost, retweet, whatever. And hopefully, they’ll take the commensurate offline action.

Here’s to your success, and leaving others to use their social media the way they want to.

Early in October 2016 I spent the day with my day one girl, Francesca. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with someone who not only gets it, she gets me completely. She’s gorgeous in and out, and is one of the realest people I know. But this post is not about her, it was about a ‘meeting’ we went to.

We went as a group to see Fela Durotoye and it was one of the best evenings out I’ve had in a long time! Anyone who knows or has interacted closely with Fela Durotoye knows that he’s such a profound and prolific speaker. And when you add that to the fact that he’s a Christian and has the wisdom of God flowing through him, any/every interaction is one that’s sure to be a blessing.

And so it was, that we spent the evening with his beautiful family. One of the first things I said to myself after spending a few minutes was I would work very hard to raise children that would bring God, us, and their societies joy. Pure joy.

When we eventually got to chatting with Mr Durotoye, I started taking notes, and I’ve reproduced them as is, simply because I stumbled on them recently and I was so blessed all over again I wanted to share. Most of the talk was centred around relationships, marriage (in the 21st century), and pleasing God.

Ready?

  • Love (in addition to the many definitions that exist) – genuine desire and pursuit of the best well-being for another person. How do you measure love? Sacrifice
  • Honour – Recognition of the glory of God in another (to the maximum). How do you measure honour? Adoration

The onus of admiration doesn’t lie on the woman but in the man… he must be admirable.

You can decide to love a person, even in spite of themselves. But you cannot honour them in spite of themselves.

How do we build a generation of admirable men? How do we prepare men that women will honour?

Proverbs 12: 4 – A prudent wife is the crown of her husband. It is the man who bejewels his crown.

There are stats to show that the economic, social, and psychological values of a nation are tied to the family unit.

And then we moved away from family, love, and relationships into nation-building.

Any generation must leave three things for the next’

  1. Values
  2. Environment (that allows the values to thrive)
  3. A good name  (that opens doors of opportunity for the values to thrive)

If we’re going to build Nigeria into a desirable place to be and live in, we must fix the next generation of marriages.

The following are very key to passing on our values to the next generation

A. Transcend bias (religious, cultural, etc)

B. Show personal benefit

C. Be communicable (Messaging must be consistent)

D. Demonstrable

How could the devil who was described as perfect have pride in him? He discovered he was perfect, and his focus became in himself. That’s when he decided to ascend to the place where God was. It became about ‘self’, about ‘me’.

The mentality of ‘other centric’ – leadership… ‘self-centric’ – rulership

If you don’t frame and know your values, ou will acquire values as you go, and they could be positive or negative.

Every generation will have to explain why they ‘didn’t’ or ‘how they ‘did’ – which of them will we be?

Finally, Mr Fela talked about the tripartite, triangular relationship between vision/values, a road map, and people/projects, and how a mastery of all three will ensure you never have unfinished projects.

And then it was time to go home, because good things come to an end. Like this post. 🙂

 

 

 

Welcome to Day Three! Parts one and two are here and here. Not in the mood to muck about so we’ll jump right into the trip to Bama. Or a few things that happened before. Ready?

BAMA

Remember how I slept? I woke up cold, tired, and very angry. I was mentally exhausted from calculating all through the night how cold the room needed to be to stop me from being eaten alive by mosquitoes. And then, calculating how covered I needed to be to not freeze to death. Mind you, the air conditioning had no remote so I was standing up intermittently to turn it on and off.

A little note about the mosquitoes. They were massive. As in, really big. Not the “not seen but heard” type some of us endure everywhere else, these ones were massive. Like ‘I am a mosquito and I am here to suck (or drain) your blood’ size mosquitoes. I mean the insecticide of choice here is Rambo! Not Mortein, not Raid, not even Baygon. Rambo! Gosh! Meaning of course that except the room was icy, they were fully operational on the one human in the room – me.

By the time it was morning, I was sneezing uncontrollably, my eyes were puffy, and I had a headache the size of Africa. Did I mention that even though I asked (and very nicely) the hotel staff ended up not spraying any insecticide in my room? So I had bites all over as well. I swear I was a sorry sight.

Time check? 9am. We were at Government House, waiting for the Governor’s delegation so we could drive to Bama together. I remember being a little irritated that we’d been hurried out of our hotel in the name of “we’re leaving early” only to come here to wait. Plus, I was hungry.

Breakfast was digestive biscuits, a coke and some medicine I was given to ease my symptoms. I remember telling my best friend Wunmi I had been given a pink pill by someone on the team who was feeling sorry for me. I didn’t know what it was, and I was in too much distress to care to be honest. And it helped! Better yet, God had mercy on me.

An hour, some biscuits (thank you Alkayy) and a super cold coke after, we were ready to head out. I’d been on the phone with my dad and the deal was I would keep talking /chatting with him till we got out of service area and then message as soon as I could. Momma was in San Antonio at the time for my favourite cousin’s wedding and the general consensus was to not tell her I was not only around the North East but I was headed to the heart of the conflict and devastation.

We set off and the 3-hour drive (should be 90 minutes but the road is treacherous) was rife with the most reckless, dare-devil driving I’ve seen in my life! Gosh! There were about 32 cars inclusive of an armoured tank, a gun-carrier, trucks overflowing with civilian JTF armed to the teeth, soldiers, and then the Governor’s people. Everyone wanted to be closest to any vehicle with the armed guys. Alas! There was a very real danger of getting ambushed by Boko Haram so the racing was doubly inspired. At some point, I was more concerned about cars colliding about a tire bursting or falling off, or generally harming ourselves more than anything we were afraid of.

We were in a Toyota Hiace Bus, brand new and our driver was a veteran on that route. I imagine he had seen and heard enough to not want us to be a part of the number attacked by Boko Haram so he was as reckless as the others maybe even a bit more reckless than most.

Our route went from Maiduguri to Dalori, past Konduga, and then to Bama town, where IDP camp is located. From the minute we left the centre of Maiduguri town, it was an eyesore. Stretches of wantons’ destruction, nothing was spared. Banks, local government buildings, upturned cars. I saw a cap inside one of them and wondered about the thoughts were before the car turned over. Some buildings had massive holes like sequins adorning a dress. I must have asked a thousand times “what do these people want so bad they are willing to cause this much devastation to achieve?” God forbid.

Some photos. They’re all watermarked. Message me if you need a version that’s not watermarked.

We got to Bama safely (somehow my heart hadn’t left my body) and after some government talk, we went into the IDP camp. That’s a different story literally.

 

 

This is the second instalment of my Maiduguri trip tale. MTT. Sounds nice. Dope abbreviation. Sounds like something serious. This is serious biko. As serious as serious can get. But I digress. Part one is here. Let’s get on with it.

So! One of the first things that hit you once the announcement about the descent into Maiduguri is made and you look out the window might be that there is the Maiduguri we all hear of and the Maiduguri you meet (in person). Perfect opposition, especially if you’re besotted with foreign media reports.

It’s the red roofs and cream-colored buildings, the wide expanse of uninhabited land; it is the land itself. Green and luscious one minute, dry and scorched the next. This contrast presents itself throughout the duration of this trip exaggerated many times over by the insurgency.

Immediate thoughts on sights at the airport?

  1. Maiduguri international airport, like several international airports in Nigeria, is, unfortunately, international only in name. The absence of an arrival lounge reduced hopes for a carousel or conveyor belt to mischievous thinking. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for our bags, and it was off to our lodgings in a convoy dotted with an armed security truck in the front and at the rear.
  2. Decrepit buildings, chipped away at some corners, time, negligence, and incompetence ensuring that even the lettering on the building announcing the airport was barely visible. I confirmed the airport had never been attacked. What was the excuse for this eyesore then?

The second thing I noticed (or that hit me) was the heat. Dry, prickly heat, and yours truly was wrapped in a jalabia and head scarf. I genuinely thought I was going to have heat stroke.

So, we got into our cars and drove in a convoy to our lodgings, a place called Lake Lale Guest Inn. Here’s an idea of the sight I became accustomed to for the rest of the trip.

military

The first room I was given had bad locks and because I didn’t want any how stories starting from “while she was sleeping…” I asked and was given another room which was cleaned while I was there. Tut tut tut.

We were to have a team debrief at 8:30 pm. I had been warned that the restaurant was a bit slow but I forgot meaning that the chicken and chips I ordered weren’t ready before our meeting. By the time the meeting was done, I got back to my room and asked for the food. It was brought and the rest I captured on twitter.

borno-2016

Anyway, I ate it like that, spoke to Tata and my folks, and slept off, grateful for safety, a roof over my head, and the privilege to be on the delegation to a place I had only heard about. A few mosquitoes, but nothing the airconditioning wouldn’t handle. Or so I thought.

The evening and the morning, the first day. Tomorrow? Bama.

I was born in Kano, and raised (amongst other cities in Nigeria) in Kaduna and in Abuja. My mother says we spoke Hausa fluently at some point, and having lived in some western cities at some other times, we spoke Yoruba too. Matter of fact I vividly remember acting in Yoruba plays in primary school and coming top of the class in Yoruba. My parents are (still) fluent in three Nigerian languages, while I currently struggle with all three. Life isn’t fair.

Like every good student, I know the states and capitals and having the privilege growing up in at least thirteen locations in Nigeria cutting across most of the geopolitical zones, I have a fairly intimate understanding how people in these parts behave. Except the North Eastern part of Nigeria though – Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, and Gombe. My parents were never transferred there, and my travels as an adult never ventured there either.

From 2009, we heard bits of the North being famous for things other than agriculture, vehicles, fabric, or even cattle. Religious extremism (in various parts of the country), like a pot silently boiling over, peaked. Not the brand Kano, Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, and even Plateau had seen, a new wave challenging the tenets of Islam and more importantly, condemning everything Western, especially education. Say hello to Boko Haram.

With this sect came a wave of devastation and destruction I dare say Nigeria had not seen before, ravaging whole states, especially Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Fast forward to 2016, my work with a client focused on the reconstruction of the devastated areas, and therefore an assessment trip to Borno.

At first, I had said no as the trip coincided with another trip I was to make outside Nigeria. Fluctuating forex policies/restrictions, an agent with an interesting attitude, and a lot of back and forth communication after, it was obvious to me I wouldn’t make my flight date, at least not without spending approximately #150,000 more than the ridiculous amount I had already spent. I decided I couldn’t afford it, retrieved what I had already paid, and said yes to Borno. Note that three months after I made that trip out of Nigeria at about half the cost of the original ticket I initially turned down.

The next few pieces chronicle the trip with all the accompanying visuals; I hope it comes just as alive for you as it was for me.

DAY ONE: The Trip.

We start as always, with movement. I woke up on Thursday morning, first off smarting that I didn’t wake up in Frankfort connecting to Houston and then suddenly afraid of what Borno might have in store. I had read the briefing notes and known we would be going to Maiduguri and then to Bama, using the same route the UNICEF workers had been ambushed on a few weeks prior. Apparently, we were scheduled to visit twice: cue apprehension.

I cleared my movement with my family (sans my mum, lol),  and my dad’s excitement helped me feel a lot more positive about the trip. And then there was the dash to the market to get a jalabiya (outer, over-all type garment commonly worn in the North) and a veil. The plan was to blend in as much as I could.

Quick stop at TATA’s for Brunch, some goofiness and emergency Hausa lessons(lol) and it was off to the airport to catch 1.30pm flight which didn’t leave till 3pm. We will skip that point and talk about my intense feeling of nakedness when I met the rest of the team.

I had assumed (erroneously of course) that I only needed to don my extras on the way to Bama. The other females (mostly northerners) on the team, however, were dressed to the neck with veils, hijabs etc. – one person was even wearing socks. Yours truly was blissfully sporting my favourite pair of jeans, my sister’s pink and grey tee, and my favourite slippers. Guess who had to dig through her checked in luggage, retrieve her jalabiya and veil and become culture/religion complaint before we touched down in Maiduguri? Yup! Me!

As we took off I prayed a few prayers, especially for safety, strength (both physically and mentally), and the presence of mind to be able to get solid work done/think through creative solutions for my clients. I wanted to have an interesting tip too, something to write about.  And then I prayed for safety just a bit more.

One hour five minutes later, we touched down , Maiduguri International Airport. Nothing remotely international (or even national) about it, but we’ll discuss this and more tomorrow morning when the next instalment is up. Tomorrow.

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Max De Pree

Just some quick thoughts about the New Year, what we want to do/be/achieve and how quite a number of us erroneously believe that wanting a thing (even bad enough) is all it takes for us to do/be/achieve that thing.

I found this quote yesterday in the course of fulfilling a committment to an organization and it literally jumped out at me. How do you want to see different if you don’t do different? My dad says it’s insanity to plant corn and pray to reap strawberries. Lol. But really. Think about it.

*Let’s not be like the Nigerian government who want to increase the quantity of rice in the country and decide the best place to plant the rice is on rocks. Without irrigation or watering of any kind, fertilizers, nothing. Yet the plan is to increase the quantity of rice for everyone. Sigh.

So do you need to change a habit, eat better (read as less, lol), sleep for longer (or less), get a hobby (or hubby – gosh I’m so silly); do you need to get closer to God, hit some milestones at work, be a better friend/partner/parent, make money so good you’re not swayed by any of the exchange rates in Nigeria at the moment? Nice!

So, what’s the plan? What are the concrete steps to getting there? In a conversation very early this year I figured I have close to no knowledge of project management and it is something that can smoothen the processes for a number of things I am involved with. So, off I went to register for a course, classes start in a bit.

There are a couple other things I need to work on, sort out, and be better at, and we’re on the road to that. Amen to God’s help and strength, and grace to stay the course.

So, away from me, what are you doing? Better yet, what are you doing different?

Happy New Year.

2016 has been an interesting year for me like I can imagine it’s been for a lot of people. For starters, my niece was born in February so I’ve got two shining lights in my life now. My family is great, work could be better but it’s good too, and pieces of my life have fallen in and out of place at different times.  The vagaries of life, isn’t that what some would call it?

In the past few days, I’ve been reading a book by Jon Ronson, “So you’ve been publicly shamed” talking about the democratisation of public shaming ab how people online and offline have developed a voice, one empowered to dispense justice as occasion serves.

From Max Mosley to Justine Sacco, Ronson chronicles stories of public shaming, the manifestation of deindividuation and how shaming is becoming a form of social control. Deindividuation refers to people partaking of things in a group they probably wouldn’t pioneer if, they had to individually. A more relatable, somewhat simpler term would be ‘The Mob’.

The book was personal for me in several ways, explaining a few concepts I want to work on in the New Year. I thought about the relief that confessions bring, and even though I’ve never said “Father forgive me for I have sinned” in a booth, I have felt (and I imagine it’s the same for a lot of people) the relief that comes from opening to God, a friend, partner, colleague, or parent. The “I don’t have to carry this alone” feeling, the belly-deep peace, the flat feeling equivalent of ‘he who is down fears no fall’, ground zero. At that point, emptiness is welcome. Feeling spent is almost a positive.

Shaming as it applies to men and women is also something this book explores in detail, how sexual issues (impropriety, idiosyncrasies, and mannerisms) are more likely to taint and damage women than men. ‘Slut-shaming’ as the offence and the punishment, an interesting concept, is also discussed. For instance, a woman is involved in a sex-scandal with a man, and the commentary naturally weighs more on her end, as snarky as it is hurtful and unforgiving. The man is mentioned, but it is the woman whose story is told with relish, her person and career hacked into. Women rarely ‘come back’ from the scandal.

As the punishment – a woman is in the spotlight for something the mob sees as wrong, whether it be financial impropriety or the misspeaks that are all too common online these days. The responses most of the time will bear on her sexuality, prescribing some sort of sexual punishment that deviates almost completely from the crime. Blame patriarchy, blame globalised expressions of ancient practices, blame anything you want.

How do people recover from a shaming? The truth is some people never do. Some others take years to rid themselves of the stigma, and even then, never completely succeed; it resurfaces every time they do, a permanent reminder of a wrong decision taken. Some others ignore it, and in doing so ‘take the power’ away from their traducers. There is a Yoruba saying that goes, “You cannot remove a man’s cap in his absence”. Not that a person cannot be shamed in their absence, but they must mentally enter that ‘dock’ for it to have any effect.

It might explain the ‘lack of shame’ that we say is ostensive in Nigerian/African/fix in your country’s leaders; the mental absence from the ‘gibbet’ where the shaming should occur. Think African leaders who have buried their umbilical cords in their offices and refuse to step down or hand over. But, I digress.

There is also ‘disrespecting the narrative’ created by the shaming which was influenced by the narrative of the action by creating a third narrative. Stay with me. Let’s say Ada does something ‘bad’ – narrative one. The public shames her – narrative two. She can decide to curl up and hide, or completely ignore the shaming, or she can flip the situation and create narrative three, make it anything she wants. That narrative disrespects one and two and is where my interest lies.

There are variations to shame, and the trauma caused by shaming. Various things trigger this trauma, and it differs from person to person. Same way grief, its manifestations and triggers are personal and differ from person to person.

Perhaps this is a good place to stop and express the rest of my thoughts when I finish reading the book and reflecting. Perhaps a nice concluding statement would be to take an extra minute before losing ourselves in the mobs that play judge and jury online/offline. Even when we think we have all the facts. Even when we convince ourselves that the person is worthy of the vitriol. Wait. Think.

My mother loves eucalyptus oil. Like she loves it with every fiber of her being! And she, just like a lot of other moms, believes it is the answer to a multitude of illnesses/symptoms. So when we were younger somehow I believed eucalyptus oil was that panacea that could cure everything because momma had a different  method of application depending on what symptoms you presented. So cold/stuffy nose? Put some behind your ears, on your neck, pulse points basically. More intense cold? Use some for a steam bath. Period pain? Put some on your belly and massage it in. Tooth ache? Put some in a hanky and dab…okay I’m going to stop messing with you… momma I’m sorry, I love you! Ha ha ha!! I always had a good time teasing her about eucalyptus oil, still do! God bless you Momma!

For my late aunt, fried rice was the answer. Like, it was the ‘weapon’ of choice when the situation was mild, serious or grave/super, and the ‘application’ depended on that too. Ha ha! So, let’s say I had a bad day at work and I moaned about it a bit, we would buy fried rice and chicken wings from Southern Fried Chicken. When I got my heart broken in the middle of 2010, she bought me fried rice from Chopstix, an upscale Chinese restaurant. When I got my job at the BBC though, we cooked the rice in the house! 

The reason why buying fried rice was a smaller ‘medicine dose’ than cooking was the amount of effort that the latter came with! Proper labour of love. Like cooking fried rice in the house was an activity that EVERYONE partook in, from the nanny to the security man. Lol! I can still picture her sitting on the stool in the kitchen, mixing the rice. Wait, let’s even back up a bit. 

First there’d be the conversation preceding the “make we cook fried rice” proclamation. Boom! Then it would be nanny and driver to buy chicken, vegetables and whatever condiments we didn’t have (including a big tub of Blue Band butter), and then every soul in the house getting involved with chopping or peeling something. I remember that the guys were excluded, but not every time. 

I remember her micromanaging the process every single time, like each time was our first. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. If she didn’t ask, we would pile into the living room one after the other to ask questions, silly or relevant. Because aunty was the king and queen of the business of cooking fried rice!!

I remember us laying out all the blanched, steamed, chopped, boiled, plucked ingredients out in separate bowls strewn across the kitchen floor, surrounding the big pot (very big because everyone was welcome to aunty’s pot) with her stool there in the middle too. I remember her nonstop conversation as she mixed in all the ingredients, whether it was giving advice, singing, scolding whoever for whatever reason, or gisting us of a number of things, maybe even the last time we all cooked! 

I remember she would insist the onions be blended because she knew I can’t stand seeing them, and I remember her asking me to taste. I remember always scooping rice onto a plate just to taste, her protesting that, “na only this pikin must chop half the food to taste am”, and the laughter that would always ensue.

I remember the laughter. Gosh I remember her laughter. With her gap teeth, mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and absolute love of God and man in her heart. It was loud, it was rich, it was welcoming. Aunty invited everyone to laugh with her laughter, regardless of your state of mind. If she was laughing, even if it was at you, you would laugh too. I promise.

I remember sitting down to eat our finished work of art with her white tray, big purple cup of Fanta and ice. Aunty loved life abeg! And we would pair the meal nicely with a Yoruba film, because we could never eat fried rice quietly. Nah, it wouldn’t go down well that way, there had to be extra activity.

Meal over, your problems were either over, or in the midst of the preparation or cooking we would have discussed or agreed on the way out of the issue. And if we were celebrating, there would be a small, off handed prayer of thanksgiving for the joy, and a word (or two, or two million) of advice on how to manage it.

Meal over, it would be time to retire to her room or ours, to “fire sleep.” I remember her in any of her wrappers, room temperature mirroring the Arctic, and her giving any of us her phones so she wouldn’t be disturbed. Sometimes we would cook fried rice on a Sunday after church, for Easter, Christmas, any of the Muslim celebrations in a nod to her Northern upbringing, birthdays, or just because she felt like the whole house needed something to do. Lol. What a woman.

I would give anything to cook fried rice with you again aunty. Maybe because it’s Christmas, maybe because there’s so much to talk about, maybe because I miss you ordering us about, maybe because I want to hear you laugh one last time.

Sleep well aunty. I love you forever.

Maryam is a firebrand. Passionate about things she is passionate about, and it’s always very nice to see. She has a blog called ‘The Amba Imprint’, with an interesting meaning for ‘amba’. I like! Maryam takes the stage for the second instalment of the #31Days31Writers project, writing on “Things I am Grateful For.”

I believe that gratefulness starts from the heart, in the sense that even when you have very little, you can look at it and still realise it is a blessing. What reason do I have to be ungrateful? I think none. I’ve had an amazing 2016 and looking back, I am grateful for Rahama

I believe that gratefulness starts from the heart, in the sense that even when you have very little, you can look at it and still realise it is a blessing. What reason do I have to be ungrateful? I think none. I’ve had an amazing 2016 and looking back, I am grateful for Rahama Baloni, my dear friend. In 2016, she was someone who I felt confident had my back (we all need such people in today’s tough world) and I’m also grateful for the trust she put in me. She is someone I will always be grateful for, my confidant.

I am grateful for the things I can’t count. Like the warm hugs and kisses from my nieces and nephews, the amazing young people I have met who have inspired me to do more for myself and for others.

I must say, I am grateful to be a part of the Not Too Young To Run campaign; it has opened up my mind to another level of political consciousness and involvement even with life in general, it has kindled a fire in me. I am grateful for cake, for seeing my afro get a bit bigger and for hearing God whisper secrets to me along the way.

I have learned more than in any other year that I need to depend mostly on God and myself, every other thing or person can falter at any moment and that it’s okay for humans not to be completely dependable, we are all flawed after all. I’ve always been someone to speak up and make clear what I want and even go for it, I have learned how much more important it is to be a go-getter this year.

I have also learned to be less stubborn and more flexible. One must be pragmatic to survive in this world that is everything but idealistic.

I learnt that the land of opportunity would rather take an honest racist and sexist man than a flawed but experienced female leader. There are many angles that analysts have looked at to explain the situation and its causes but there’s no explanation for me. I guess I have learnt that some things will never have an explanation and sometimes that is fine, one must simply learn the tiny lessons from them.

If I could, I’d change the harsh way people communicate with each other if I could and I would start with Nigeria. I am never able to look at these Jungle Justice pictures that have been going around for too long. It breaks my heart that human beings can be so heartless. If I could, I would bring back to life Col. Abu Ali because he was a symbol of the hope against Boko Haram that many soldiers still held on to. Knowing someone like him is lost is tough even for many of us who never knew him personally.

Another thing I wish I could change that this world has held onto for too long is gender inequality. I wish, and also work, for a world where women are given the freedom to make choices, be free from oppression and violence and be given equal respect, pay and opportunities. Having that happen would be fantastic but the challenges are many and we continue to fight, speak and advocate for it. Realistically, it may not be a battle that will be won in my lifetime.

 

One Local/ Global Event That Has Shocked Me

So many wonderful and terrible things have happened all over the world in 2016 that have incredible shock value. Because so many of these events have been happening, it is really difficult to find anything so shocking now. Shocking events seem to be happening back to back and have for me resulted in desensitisation.

 

Finally, I asked myself what I would do for myself more in 2017 and I realised I am happy and I haven’t thought about any extra thing I can do for myself when the calendar changes. I have found myself asking- What More Can I Do … to make this world a better place? Maybe that is what I will do for myself. I will see what I can do to make this world a better place so that if I am blessed enough to be alive at the end of next year, the sense of accomplishment and joy from putting good out into the world will warm up my pillow as I lay down to sleep into the new year.

Fiery, passionate, but with just the right amount of warmth. Thank you Maryam, here’s to a 2017 full of everything your heart desires!