Two days ago, I took my children to school.
I parked behind a line of vehicles and opened the door for the boys to step out onto the kerb.
As the boys came out of the car, a white girl that had gotten out of a large black truck four vehicles away called my older son, saying “Hi”.
I am sure she is in the same kindergarten class as he.
My son responded by calling her name, saying, “Good morning. How are you?”
Something made me look up from grabbing the boys’ backpack from the car,
And I saw the girl’s mother forcefully turning her in the opposite direction from us.
Then she crouched by the little girl, talked to her for about a minute, and thereafter marched her down to the school entrance.
As she was returning to her vehicle, the boys and I were approaching the school entrance.
The moment she saw us, she turned her gaze to the ground and walked in a wide berth from us.
I shook my head, and I said to myself:
This is how they corrupt the minds of little children.
This is how they perpetuate generational prejudices.
This is how they breed racism.
He woke up at 330 am to get ready for another day. By 430 am, he was out of his house in a God-forsaken part of Mowe to navigate his way onto the main road that will take him to his workplace in Apapa.
There were few vehicles on that inner road in the wee hours of the day. Nevertheless, what should ordinarily be a 15-minute drive from his house to the main road would take the better part of 45 minutes.
Years of government (both state and local) neglect have given birth to treacherous inner roads, worse than the terrain off-road vehicle manufacturers put their products through, to test endurance and stability.
Yet, he and most folks in such Nigerian neighbourhoods can only afford cars meant for paved roads.
As we commenced our journey, I winced in pain, not for myself suffering the slamming and dunking of being thrown up and down within the vehicle, but for the saloon car he was driving, which was constantly taking a battering on its underside from the unforgiving terrain.
Eventually, at about 515 am, we found ourselves on the main road. Traffic was already built up. The second hurdle of a regular day began for him, with the hope that it would be one of those lucky days when traffic would be forgiving enough for him to get to his office by 8 am. A journey that should be less than an hour has routinely turned into a minimum of 3 hours.
The same infrastructure meant 40 years ago for a population of less than 3 million, now caters for over 25 million people. The money that ought to have gone into new infrastructure to cope with the increase in population has found its way into pockets of individuals – looted and embezzled.
Five days a week, apart from the stress of his work, he endures the harshness of commuting for 3.5 hours in the morning and between 4 to 6 hours in the evening.
The day he is lucky enough, he gets back home at 930 pm. When he is unlucky, it could be 11 pm or 1 am. That is when he would have dinner, catch a few hours of sleep, to wake up again at 330am, set for another iteration of what late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called “suffering and smiling”.
Families of many contemporaries of his, have one day received the news that their breadwinner slumped: was rushed into a hospital where for many days, in ignorance and incompetency, leprosy was left to treat eczema; and sadly passed away before attaining the young age of 40.
This is the tragedy of living and working in Nigeria for most of those who call Lagos and its’ environ their home.
This is Nigeria, where self-centred, looting, and cursed leaders have made death at a young age, ten-a-kobo for the citizens they are meant to cater for.
It was the wilderness years of childlessness. A colleague who heard our story of losing our first child at 14 months, followed by miscarriages, invited us to a night vigil at his church.
Following the service, he told me his Pastor would like to see us, and we obliged. After some prayers, the Pastor began to explain what, according to him, he saw in the spirit.
I was born into and grew up in The Apostolic Church. I was immersed right from a very young age in a spirit-filled and prophecy believing environment. When you hear the words “Bayi Ni Oluwa Wi” (Thus Sayeth The Lord), you know the Lord is truly speaking. Those who know me in my younger days, people like Stephen Kosh with whom I was active in both the Choir and Youth Movement, would sometimes allude that leaving Nigeria stopped me from becoming an ordained minister in God’s vineyard, even though I do not believe that is in God’s plan for me.
One of the gifts of the spirit is the discernment of tongues. Even then, in those days of real men of God, there were crooks trying to masquerade as prophets in The Apostolic Church. It was not unusual for the bell to ring as soon as such false prophecy starts, to stop the man or woman in his/her track.
Back to My Story
I listened with rapt attention as my London-based Pastor reeled out what he claimed to have seen in the spirit. 1, 2, 3, 4… By the time he would get to identify what he saw as the root of our predicament, our childlessness, I already knew a fake, and a quack was in front of me.
When he asked me to go and bring my mother as the root of our problem – a woman that was already at the bosom of her saviour, a woman whose physical and spiritual sacrifices I know first-hand, a mother that every single day I cry for because she never enjoyed the fruits of her long-suffering as well as labour over her children and many others – it took a lot of calmness and lack of facial expression to hide my disgust.
Many families, many marriages and many lives have been ruined by Tifunloran fake prophets masquerading as ‘men of God’. It is your responsibility to ensure you are not part of that statistics.
I Remain A Christian, But I Use My God-Given Brain.
In 2008, I took some time from employment to finish writing up my doctoral thesis. During this period, I was a frequent visitor to a cousin’s office in London. One of those days, there was an ongoing discussion between the company’s staff, who were all Nigerians, about applying for land allocation in the Federal Capital Territory.
I was asked if I had an interest. I inquired about the process, and the explanation was like this:
- We fill an application form,
- Pay some processing fee that came to about £250 per plot,
- The FCT administration would process the application,
- If the application is approved, a letter of allocation/allotment will be issued, and
- Full payment for the plot would be made.
I responded that I was interested. My brother and I completed the forms, and I gave my cousin’s partner, who was facilitating the process, the sum of £500 as a processing fee for the two plots.
About two months later, I was in my cousin’s office when his partner informed me our allocation letters had been sent to him. He gave me the letters for our two plots and demanded that we make available full payment for the plots within a week.
My official engagement before the period included instructing barristers to act on behalf of my employer. This entailed scrutinising regulations, legal documents as well as providing advisory opinions.
When I was handed the allocation letters, my cap as a certified paralegal went on.
At the first read, I could not find anything untoward in the content of the letters. However, with a second review, I noticed that the date on the allocation letter was many years before 2008.
When I asked about the anomaly, I was told that is the way the system works, and I should not worry about the date since the letter had our names on it.
I was uncomfortable. I went home and slept over the issue. By the time I woke up in the morning, I was convinced my parents would count their years of sending me to school wasted if I agree to continue the process of land allocation with a letter dated 199* issued to me in 2008.
So, I called my cousin’s partner, told him my brother and I were no longer interested in the FCT land application.
The guy was furious. I was the only one, out of many applicants he was facilitating the process for, who raised an eyebrow regarding the date on the letter. He called me all sort of names, including too educated to know how things work in Nigeria. He told me I would not get my £500 processing fee back.
I have put this story in the public domain to show that the rots in Nigerian society go deeper than anyone can imagine.
You apply for your Nigerian passport but end up paying up to N30,000 to uniformed immigration officials in their office before issuance. You go to the FRSC for licence renewal and end up paying N25,000 for something that officially is N9,000. You import a used car into the country and pay N2.5m as a clearing fee to customs, but the official documents you get issued show a total sum of N1.3m going to the government’s coffers.
When you gloat over Kemi Adeosun’s resignation, remember any of us can be caught inadvertently in the web of corruption that pervades the Nigerian society from the bottom to the top.
I believe that Nigerians need to take more seriously the responsibility for their personal safety and those of others they may be directly and indirectly in charge of.
When my parents built the house we live in about 38 years ago, concrete stumps were placed at the entrance of each room. This was done so that when a door is closed, it is flush against the stump and leaves no gap for a rodent to get in.
About 15 years ago, I was home briefly on vacation. I had barely gotten indoors when I asked my father to send for the bricklayer. When he came, I instructed him to remove all the internal concrete stumps. My father looked at me as if I was crazy. There I was authorizing alterations to the house he built without his express consent. Seeing the look on his face, I told him that apart from the fact that there has not been a single incident of rodents entering the house, the stumps were a hazard, particularly for him and my mum as they get older.
Three years ago, when my Dad became ill and his movement was slightly impacted, my instructions to make flat access to all the rooms made sense.
During many of my short trips, some for less than 12 hours, I have made more alterations. I had added smoke/carbon monoxide alarms to the house, which on many occasions had become lifesavers when food items were forgotten on the gas cooker. Since 2006, sequel to increasing incidents of slips inside bathtubs resulting in terrible injuries and sometimes outright death to the victims, the rule for me has been “shower cubicle only, no bathtub”.
Anyone in my house three days ago and visit today would wonder at the constant changes to the layout of my sitting room and study. With young, restless and inquisitive children, I have to do risk and safety assessments many times a day. In the morning, the items I thought they could not reach, by the time I get back in the evening, they have figured that pushing their scooters and standing on them provides an easy reach.
Dear friends, given recent domestic tragedies that makes one’s heart bleed in sorrow and anguish for those involved, I beg you to do a risk and safety assessment of your environment constantly. Not only for the sake of your children but to ensure the well being of all those who might have access to such a location.
Please, walk around your house and office. Identify items that pose a risk to your safety as well as those of occupants and visitors. Install smoke and fire alarms. Put high locks on entrance doors to prevent children from easily gaining access to the outside, to the extent that they slip out and wander into the road or places they should not be without guidance. Do not place items in locations where they can become injurious or trip hazards to you and others.
May the Lord comfort all those in mourning. May such tragedies be eliminated from our midst.
During her review of my father’s autobiography in March 2017, my sister Bamidele noted the old man’s ability not only to recount events as well as names but to keep records. To those who know my father very well, her observation is not strange to them. For any project my father handles, if you want the types of nails used, the exact number of every kind of nail, the unit cost and the total sum expended, he will whip out the records for you.
Since my mother transitioned to glory in 2008, I have endeavoured to spend as much time with my father as possible. In our conversations, particularly when putting the finishing touches to his autobiography, I will talk about some occurrences in the past and seek clarification on aspects that I did not understand. For an 80-year-old man with terrific memories, my father would look at me shaking his head, and he would wonder how I have lucidly remembered such an event that he had forgotten about until I brought it up.
Growing up, one of the new-year phenomena in our house was a torrent of calendar and diary gifts to my parents from families, friends, associates, and former wards/students. My parents would keep a few for their use and give the rest away.
When I got to the age of writing well, I became a yearly beneficiary of my father’s disposal of the extra diaries he was gifted. My late mother’s preference was the pocket diary. My preference, from unconsciously studying my father, was the desk diary. From that time until the year 2007, I followed my parents in keeping a detailed record of daily events in a personal diary.
Two days ago, my father and I had a lengthy discussion on an issue that took place some twenty years ago. Even though he knows the kind of children he has, that we have strived to live a life of integrity as he and my mother taught us, as a just man, he did not assume anything and still sought clarification from me. My lucid memory of the issue concerned and other events I had never spoken to him about were not my convincing points, but the fact that I possess diarised records of the periods in the discussion.
The Yoruba have a saying that “Ẹni tó su ma ngbàgbé. Ẹni tó ko, kò le gbàgbé láíláí”.
The person that fouls an arena with excreta will forget. The person who had the inglorious duty of dealing with that piece of shit will never forget it. That is how powerful memories can be.
My dear friends, beware. The worst man to mete any form of injustice to is the man who possesses the uncanny ability to recall events as they happened with all the actors involved and documentary evidence of what transpired.
Do you keep personal diaries? Do you have accurate records? They are not just valuable tools when you start putting together the story of the course of your life. In my father’s life, I have learnt that at the appropriate time, they become the ultimate tool to silent naysayers and those who deliberately set out to distort history for selfish reasons.
Thank you for the sacrifices you made, and the moral values imparted to make us who we are today. You bestowed us gifts that all the money in this world cannot buy.
You taught us the value of integrity, to know and do what is morally right. You constantly reminded us of contentment being the ultimate expression of good character and that a good name is better than gold and silver.
You preached God, and you showed him in how you loved and cared for others, even when some derided or took advantage of you.
Mum, we continue to strive in abiding with all you impacted to us not just orally but in your daily living. Every time events or circumstances cause me to remember one of your Yoruba admonitions, the love for you grow stronger despite your eternal physical absence.
Mum, if you can, look back and be proud of your accomplishments. You have done excellently well.
As I was responding to numerous comments on my post regarding my family’s love affair with Renault vehicles, something struck me. It became obvious to me that parenting is the strongest way or process through which we pass the right kind of value to our offspring, regardless of our state or status in life.
I can never forget the day I drove into the AP filling station in Ife University Campus, 20 years after leaving Nigeria. I asked the attendant to fill up, walked into the maintenance bay, with folks around looking at me curiously. I sat on the bench next to the elderly man in overall who was fast asleep. After a few minutes of musing to myself, I tapped him on the shoulder and called his name. He woke up, looked at me, screamed my name and we embraced each other in a bear hug despite his dirty overalls.
Not a single soul around could understand what was going on – who the man corporately dressed who had stepped out of a nice car was, how he could sit and then embrace without any care in the world, a man in a dirty overall.
They could not understand that the older man, was for many years the one that I took my parents’ car to for wheel alignment, even before he got the workshop space inside the campus. When I left the country, my younger brother took over and we had all become like one big family.
Thinking about it, it became vivid how as children, my siblings and I unconsciously copied traits from our parents.
During the presentation of my father’s autobiography in 2017, I publicly acknowledged how my parents built long lasting friendship and relationship with classmates over 40/50 years.
“Those parents of mine that I asked to stand up earlier on are epitomes of very close relationships my father and mother were able to sustain for more than 40 years. Dad and Dr Kolade have known each other from his Oduduwa College days and Chief Mrs Akande happened to be my mother’s best friend growing up while her late husband was also one of my father’s closest friends – a tale of two friends marrying two other friends. There was a friend of my father. They became friends in 1972 during their postgraduate diploma course in education. Until he passed away a few years ago, you can be sure that on his way to Ibadan or from Ibadan back to Akure, he would stop by to see my Dad. As he drives into our compound, you will see my mother get up, go into the kitchen, followed by a pot of water on the stove to prepare Amala. As his friend comes through the front door, a constant was an affectionate shout of Oje Mi Oje followed by greeting my mother and the question ‘Se omi amala mi ti wa l’ori ina?” Today I remember with fondness Dr. Babasola Chris Ogunfuyi of blessed memory.”
My parents did not just build relationships with those of their educational and/or social standing, but even those others would consider lower – artisans, mechanics, drivers, etc. I am constantly amazed how a call from my Dad would make many people to leave what they are doing because ‘Baba’ wants to see them.
The Yoruba have a saying “Ò nwá owó lọ, o pàdé iyì l’ọ́nà, tóo bá l’ówó ọ̀un tán, kí lo ó fi rà?”
It is not about you having money or being wealthy. It is about establishing and nurturing relationships, which in corporate parlance is called ‘networking’. There are places your wealth will not be able to reach, but I am yet to know places that the right relationship cannot explore.
If you do not know how to nurture relationships across different social strata, go and learn. It pays.
I was pruning my digital archives and found this picture of where my life as an employee started.
It was 1988. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife students had an unforgettable altercation with the federal government. As a result, the university was shut down for 3 months. By the time we were allowed to resume studies, our originally scheduled final examination dates had passed and we were no longer able to join the September batch of National Youth Corp Service (NYSC) for the year 1988/89.
Consequently, we proceeded as ‘spill-over’ corps to orientation in December 1988. I was posted to Plateau State with Simeon Babasola, Abdulsabur Bello, Kunle Alabi, Nnamdi Ojei, and a host of others. By the time we completed orientation, it became apparent that there was a dearth of places for corps members to observe the compulsory one year national service. Most of us needed to search for prospective employers that would officially allow us work for them exclusive of their obligation to provide accommodation and other conveniences.
As Kunle, Nnamdi and I began to rationalise what to do that would align with our educational backgrounds, Nnamdi remembered that in 1985, the Department of International Relations at the University of Ife had a youth corps member that he was reliably informed works for Standard Newspaper Jos. In a jiffy, we were off in search of him.
We got to Standard Newspapers and luckily found the man we were looking for. He made us understand that the organisation had no vacancies for extra youth corps members because accommodation and extra allowance provisions had already been soaked up by the September batch. We told him we would find our own accommodation, take care of ourselves from the NYSC allowances of N250 per month. All we begged for was ‘a place to lay our national service heads’ for the one year duration. With this plea, further discussion was held with the management and we found ourselves absorbed to observe the national youth service at Standard Newspapers.
I enjoyed my stay in Jos surrounded by other wonderful youth corps members. Jos was peaceful. As strangers in the land, we had no concern for safety at that time, wandering around from one friend’s place to the other at 1am.
Within a short period of time, not only did management felt we deserved to be given accommodation and paid some stipend, I was tasked with setting up and manning a regular weekly column for Foreign Affairs. Kunle Alabi in his own right ended with a weekly Arts column through which we met many lovely folks including the cast of the famous soap ‘Cock Crow At Dawn’. The day late MacArthur Fom (Nosa in the soap) came visiting the two of us in the office is etched in my memory forever. Staff members could not contain their bewilderment at two young southern chaps who not only shake hands with the bosses that they were unable to look in the eyes, but got a celebrity of Nosa’s status to come down just to say hello.
Significantly, I do not know what my bosses saw in me. Assignments that usually would be given to trained and tested hands in journalism started being handed to me. I hope to write about some of those experiences another day.
I cannot forget Senator Solomon Ewuga (former Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State and former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory) who was the General Manager of PPC. He took me like a younger brother with a standing instruction to his secretary that I must be allowed to see him whenever I stepped into his office.
I am grateful to Senator Joshua Dariye (former Governor of Plateau State) who was then the Chief Accountant of PPC without whose financial authorisation I would not have been able to carry out the assignments entrusted to me. He had confidence in my ability to deliver quality projects every time apart from accountability on how funds allocated were spent.
I am eternally grateful to Rima Shawulu Kwewum (member of the House of Representative) for what he did for us in getting us a place at Standard Newspapers / Plateau Publishing Company (PPC) Jos to observe the NYSC assignment in 1988. He was the one that further took me under his wings in the features department where he was Editor, and gave me the foreign affairs column assignment.
When those close to me marvel at how I approach tasks and assignments for which I have little training or not enough time to prepare for, yet making good success of them, I owe the foundation of that daredevil confidence to my Standard Newspaper years and the three people acknowledged above.
God bless my Mama’s soul.
Growing up, my mum will question any new material she finds with or on you. Woe betide you if you are unable to explain, rationally, logically and truthfully how you came by the item. I left home at the age of 23, and until I got married at the age of 36, any expense of mine (even on the family) that is not in line with my parent’s knowledge of my financial ability had to be thoroughly explained. For instance, in 2004 when circumstances dictated that my brother and I replace the car my parents were using, I had to show both of them documentation of how we took a loan in the United Kingdom to cover the cost of purchasing, shipping and clearing the vehicle, as well as the laid out plan for repaying the loan.
March 2017, we had just completed the public presentation of my father’s autobiography. Guests were gone and it was very late. We were having a discussion when my dad changed the course and the following dialogue ensued:
Dad: Omo (My Child), thank you so much for all you have done to make today’s event a success. However, please do not be annoyed. I wish to know how you have been able to meet the various obligations financially, including the organisation of today’s event, given the challenges you have faced in the last 18 months which I am partly aware of?
Me: Dad, it is true times have been challenging. Nevertheless, God has been our sufficiency. As I have always told you (and Mum before she passed away), God has a way of making interim provisions which I can refund later, apart from surrounding me with men and women who would gladly fill the gap in many ways until I can do so. In regards to today’s event, the cost of printing the books was from my credit card which I will pay back from sale proceeds. As you know, Seyi in his usual magnanimous way brought most of the books to Nigeria at his own expense. ‘Uncle A’ gladly gave me a loan to cover the arrangements for hall as well as entertainment which I would refund from today’s sale. That is why the unit price was fixed to cover all our expenses, and not for any profit to be made.
Those who know my parents very well will attest to the stuff they are made of when it comes to discipline. Their strong-handedness in bringing up their children and wards was complemented by that of many non-biological parents, uncles and aunts. Until recently, there was no time I visit my father, retired Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, that on my departure, he will not remind me ‘Ranti omo eni ti iwo nse. Oruko rere o san ju wura ati fadaka lo”.
When a society loses its moral values, anarchy will set in and places of reverence will get desecrated.
Against the backdrop of the sad and tragic incident in Ozubulu where innocent people lost their lives because so called ‘men’ of God could not stand for the truth by rejecting gifts of questionable means, where did we lose it as a society?
What is our pathway back to the ethical and cultural fabrics that once held our humanity as Nigerians together?