INCONVENIENT HELP

At about 4.30am Monday morning, a friend of mine called me. He was carrying some property belonging to another friend of ours and the police had stopped him. He needed me to speak on his behalf. My primary thought was irritation: How could this dude be calling me by this time? Didn’t he know I had to be up by 5? Why didn’t he call the other friend? Why the heck did he think I’d be able to help anyway? And what on earth was he doing roaming the streets at 4am in the morning?

I wish I could say I put these thoughts away and spoke for my friend. This is where I shamefully confess that I told him that since I had no knowledge of the item, I couldn’t help. He said “Ok” and hung up, and I spent about 5 more minutes being irritated at his “self-centeredness” before closing my eyes in my warm bed and trying to make good use of the 20 minutes left before my alarm rang.

It was when I woke up that the guilt got to me and I started to think about what had transpired with a slightly more coherent point of view. While I was busy being irritated at being put out, my friend was on the streets, probably under risk of arrest for being in possession of a stolen item (you know our Naija police). He had called me because I was his last option…and I let him down.

To make matters worse, I’m in the middle of a beginning of the year fast. A fast where I’m supposed to seek God’s face and hear His direction for the rest of the year. Isaiah 58 talks about the Chosen fast, about fasting that goes beyond the mechanical and into helping the people who need our help. I’m so ashamed of myself right now I tell you.

I realized this morning that help is not always wrapped up in a cute pink box with a bow and a “pretty please” sticker attached to it. The need for assistance is not always from  people whom we have rolled with since infinity past. Help does not always check my schedule to be sure that it is a good time. Sometimes, it’s inconvenient – as simple as that.

I’m a pro at self flagellation; it doesn’t take much for me to feel guilty and so I’m very tempted to go find some sackcloth and ashes and beat myself up with a verbal/spiritual/emotional stick until my psyche is simply unable to deal. However I’m going to use this as a lesson instead (self flagellation is very tiring) and ensure that I don’t make this mistake again.

I’m glad this happened; not because my poor friend might have been arrested and has probably deleted my number from his phonebook, but because I know I will do better next time. Mistakes happen so we can learn and be better, and so, I will use this as a lesson point to be a better person and a better friend…even if (and it truly hurts me to say this because I love my sleep) it means a phone call at 4.30 in the morning.

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THE 5 KG MIRACLE AND OTHER STORIES

I’ve gained 5 kg in the last 6 months. Yup! It’s a miracle; let me explain why. I’ve been basically the same weight for the last 13 years. There have been minor fluctuations – 2 kg gained, 2 kg lost…but I always go back to my equilibrium weight; may I add that this has usually happened without any effort of my own. (Allow me to take a minute to bask in the wonder of my miracle metabolism)

This is why this weight gain is a shocker. How do I now gain 5kg in 6 months? What on earth is going on? So yes I’m taking multivitamins now, and yes I tend to eat more regularly…but still, 5kg???

I should be elated, I’ve been attempting (rather half heartedly I must confess) to gain weight for years; however, when I finally weighed myself and saw the weight gain, my first thought was that I had an unknown metabolic situation that would now proceed to turn me into a butterball in the nearest future. I saw myself becoming one of those cheerfully round women who always used to look at me and say “I used to be skinny like you you know, then…I got married/had my first child/discovered pounded yam…etc”

I dashed off to the Auntie in the kitchen to share my concerns about the weight gain. Auntie chuckled with joy, waved my protestations aside and then told me to “let the will of God be done in this matter”…there was no non-blasphemous way to respond to that so I left quietly.

However, I’m still contemplating this gain…it looks good on me I’ve got to admit, but if I continue at this rate, by the end of next year, I’ll look like a basketball…that will not be good for business.

Well, for now, let me enjoy this, but I’m only allowing myself one more kilo before I will have to hold a strategic meeting with my metabolism.

 

POKO TINS

So Tonto Dikeh was the cause of most of the furore on the internet last week. Now, this is not a critique of her songs (I haven’t heard them), neither is it an opinion piece on the trend of actors becoming musicians (their lives, their business). What did get to me about the whole matter was the ease with which random people suddenly decided it was perfectly acceptable to rain so many insults on one human being. There were some funny jokes, but there were some very cruel comments, and it was a bit scary. Cyberspace grants us the relative anonymity to express ourselves without the usual societal constraints. However, it also makes it possible for people to register completely unwarranted cruelty on other people. It turns people into bullies, plain and simple.

From all I’ve heard, Tonto is someone people love to hate. She’s laughed at for her tweets, no one knows what POKO means and not everyone believes she should be acting. Nevertheless, she is still a human being, exhibiting the same world as we are, making a decision to live every one of her dreams. I don’t know Tonto personally; on twitter she comes across like she couldn’t care less about the comments people make about her, but even the most thick-skinned person in the world would surely have had one moment of hurt for all the comments she received.

Even if her singles were a massive flop, at least that’s one thing off her list of “Things I’d really love to do before I die”. Was her only failure in not being afraid to share her journey with the rest of Nigeria and the world? The rest of us have been blessed to make our mistakes in privacy, or within a network of family and friends…that is for those of us who are making an effort to live our dreams. There are still too many of us with cool stories of “if I just show you how good I am at …” who will never take the step to see whether we actually have a shot at the things we dream of doing. We will never take that step, but feel content to hide behind a computer screen and mock someone else for not being afraid to fail.

I hope I don’t sound combative, but I feel really deeply about this. At first I laughed at the jokes, found myself looking for the next comment; but then I found myself thinking…what are all the things I’ve always wanted to do but have always been too afraid to try? What am I doing to live the life I dream of?  How am I stirring up my gifts? It hit me pretty bad because for the last few weeks, I’ve been dealing with so many internal, external and supernatural pushes on using my gifts. I’ve had to admit that I don’t give my writing as much space and attention as I should; I still treat it like a hobby, writing when I’m in the mood; but expecting it to become a force of its own and earn me the recognition that I think it one day can. I’ve had to confess my laziness and carelessness to God and myself, and ask for help to discover, harness and release everything I have within me.

Tonto’s songs may never make a top ten list; but for one afternoon, Tonto Dikeh was probably the most talked about person in Nigerian cyberspace because she decided to take a chance. When are you going to take yours?

PS: By the way, Steve Harris teaches some very important life lessons using Tonto Dikeh’s foray into music. Check him out @iamsteveharris or search using the hash tag #LessonsfromTontoDikeh. You’ll gain a lot; I promise.

God bless.

 

A LITTLE BIT OF A RANT

I’m truly sorry that I’ve been away for so long. I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. Hope you and yours have been well

I’m deeply unhappy as I write; I’m almost heartsick. Nigeria is trying to break my heart. Over the last month or two, people on Twitter have been asked to raise almost 20 million Naira for 4 different people with different ailments. First it was #SaveOke, then #SaveFunmi, now we’re trying to #Save both Meka and Debbie; and all I can think is, where does this end?

For every Funmi or Debbie or Meka or Oke with enough media savvy friends to work to raise money to save their lives, there are millions of other Nigerians, suffering agony from one ailment or the other, waiting for death, with no one to start a #Save campaign for them. Where does it stop?

Why is it so hard for us to develop basic healthcare in Nigeria? Going to the hospital is no guarantee of a diagnosis, much less correct treatment. We have people in charge of this nation’s health, people whose jobs it is to craft policies that will make good quality healthcare available for all. Where are these people? How many Nigerians will die before our health sector gains the transformation it needs? How many more will we lose?

I was chatting with a friend about Debbie and she told me something that shocked me. She carries out a specific medical test routinely when she travels to the US for check-ups –I don’t remember the name, but it is a routine test for her age. She couldn’t travel for her check-up at some point and so went to a “good” hospital here in Nigeria to do her tests. Upon scanning her list of required tests, she noticed that this routine test was not on the list. When she asked her doctor why, he said to her “but you don’t need it, you’re ok aren’t you?”

I avoid hospitals like the plague. On one trip, I was admitted with a very bad migraine. The doctor did a blood test and prescribed malaria medication. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if the nurse on duty had not come in 5 minutes before to tell me that there had been no malaria parasites in my blood. On another occasion, I went to a hospital suffering an allergic reaction. I was prescribed malaria medication “just in case”, despite my assurances that I knew I didn’t have malaria. I endured 3 days of itching like a nutcase and liberally coating myself in calamine lotion till I looked like a Nollywood ghost. I count myself lucky. People have gone in for routine issues and did not come out.

I’m not here to claim that all hospitals in Nigeria are bad. There are several gifted and dedicated medical professionals and institutions that pride themselves on a job well done. But I must be honest; it seems to me that they are in the minority.

I’m tired of hearing that so-and-so equipment is not available in Nigerian hospitals. I’m sick of hearing that people are admitted for malaria and don’t come out of the hospital alive. I’m tired of hearing about misdiagnoses and various forms and variants of medical malpractice. It breaks my heart.

Our healthcare is one aspect of our inadequacies as a nation. We have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. People still die of cholera. Ghana has started to ask for yellow fever cards. Where does it stop?

Everywhere I look, I see disillusionment and cynicism from my compatriots and disregard from foreigners. I don’t know how to fix our healthcare system; I don’t know what it will cost, or what it will require. What I do know is that there are people who do know; where are they? There are people who can afford to set up world-class hospitals in Nigeria; where are they? Where are our NGOs and health advocates? Where are the people who know what is wrong and how it can be repaired?

President Obama believes we are the world’s next economic success story, and so I look around me – at bad roads, at epileptic power, and hospitals with neither doctors nor medication, at the waste of our natural resources and policies that no one bothers to explain to the average person.

I look around and fight the urge to weep. It’s hard to keep believing in the possibilities of Nigeria. It’s so hard.

How long will we #Save people? Until we become jaded and stop caring? Until someone decides that it would make a good scam and spoils it for everyone else?

How long will we continue to patch what is very obviously a very broken state of affairs?

When will we start the process to #SaveNigeria’s healthcare?