Saturday, 10 July 2021

THE HONEY THAT POURED AWAY


 Dear Ewatomi,

I must confess that along the way, I paused once or twice to wonder why I was telling this tragic story. What lesson could I possibly pontificate on from this story? Neither of us is a model, and I do not suppose that either of us intend to follow that path in the future, so why would I bring up the tragic end of a once promising young lady?

If you observed, over the next one month after the day you told me about your numerous suitors, the one thousand and one of them including Ali Baba and his forty thieves, Sinbad and the crew on his seven voyages, everyone of the soldiers packed in the Trojan horse, and the three hundred Spartans, I maintained a conspicuous silence with you made possible by a more conspicuous distance from you. The infrequent calls and chats were intentional. My mind and heart needed a new ecosystem in which my affection for you would not interrupt sound judgement. I thought about my place in the long term race for your love, and quickly convinced myself to seek out a new challenge which held less odds. This quick decision yielded the rest of the time for me to ponder on the quality of the men over whom you have mounted your love and marital future as a golden trophy. Now, out of the race myself, my bias did not accompany me on this reflection, if it did my recommendations obviously would be compromised, but I make bold to say that whatever I am saying here is purely based on the indifference of logic in which all emotions add up to zero, and of which one plus one would equal two. 

Mr. Harry of whom you have so well spoken is a fantastic lad, fantastic in the actual sense of fantasy;  something that is too good to be true. I would wonder if you are sure whether his 'Harry' is short for 'Henry' or short for 'Harold', but that would be to challenge your overall awareness which is a topic for another day, a day I intend to bypass. I would wonder if his oil company job is in an oil company or in an oil company, if the oil in question is crude oil or vegetable oil. Not that it would matter if love is truly unconditional. I would wonder if truly he lives in Malaysia, but was born in England and thus an Englishman of Nigerian descent. I would wonder how real his estates are and how true his huge pay is. Am I saying that he is not who he says he is? Not at all, ‘too good to be true’ is not necessarily ‘too good and therefore false'. Having considered the details of his story and put things in context, I dare say that some things if true make others quite unlikely. I may have met a Nigerian sailor in landlocked Mali  or a Nigerian chef in Italy, I might have also met a Nigerian firefighter in Antarctica, but a Nigerian oil worker in Malaysia? Well, you never can tell these days. And of course he is in Nigeria on leave, and has been on leave for the past three months. Do even maternity leaves last that long nowadays? I wonder if I intend to make any point with my skepticism here, maybe the point is that whether Harry is 'Harold’ or 'Henry’ he appears to be too enthusiastic to prove himself competent, and in my experience when people are too enthusiastic to prove unnecessary points quite often some things are either exaggerated or an outright falsehood. 

If my sentiments here are right then what I see here with his many claims about himself could be that he is desperate to come across as a man of legitimate means, and if that is the case the probability is high that his means are illegitimate. And if one detail is false, do we assume that some others cannot also be false? If a man would win you over with falsehood, how much falsehood would he employ to keep you?

Doctor Ben, as you fondly call him, appears to have a less suspicious profile. Faking one’s way to medical practice in a university teaching hospital is as rare as a rave in a monastery. As a medical doctor, I assume that his life would be as orderly as surgical procedure. Maybe he is not a heavy drinker, does not stay out late, watches his diet, and possesses all the details that make for a proper boring gentleman. I believe he is someone you can live with, but I doubt he is someone you cannot live without. He may have the things that can offer you a peaceful home but I am not convinced that he has what it takes to give you an exciting matrimony. It is good to know that a man does not shout at his wife, but it is not good enough that he has no sense of humour to make her shout in laughter. It is good to know that a man has a bright mind, but it is not good enough if his best idea of fun is the game of Monopoly. It is good enough that a man keeps to time but it is not good enough if he thinks that a romantic date is a waste of time. Again as with Harry’s ‘Henry’ and ‘Harold’, I would wonder if you know whether Ben is 'Benjamin' or 'Benedict'.

Age is just number, but I would be dishonest to pretend that the numbers between you and Kelvin are not too many. I admire his honesty in telling you his real age, it would appear rather more likely that in a matter as this a man of his age would rather lie about his age to come off as a younger man than say the truth and hurt his chances. He even has the looks to make a lie believable, and I have seen some men in their late twenties and early thirties who look older than he is. We must acknowledge his honesty. Honesty and good intentions aside, forty two and twenty two are even numbers but it would seem odd that a lady so young would settle for a man at the gates of midlife. If the love is there then I would admit that the next consideration is always about what people would say. You expect that typically younger girls do not get married to much older men without certain assurances. People believe that it is always motivated by money, and Ogá Kelvin is not deficient in that regard. If everything else is in order and public opinion does not fluster you, then I would say without holding back that yours is a match I would recommend. He is mature, urbane, a complete dose of humour, and not to mention that his importation business is as prosperous as stink to a warthog and as legitimate as the Obama administration.

While it is important to know how much you are loved by any of them, I want you to give as much attention to the profile or background of these suitors. I believe that I would be belabouring the point if I go ahead to write about Calistus the ex seminarian who claims to have found in you his new calling, or Mike the banker, or Odogwu the first of the two suitors in Dubai, or Martin his city rival. Look out for the silent and salient points beyond their fascinating stories. Check them out on their social media profiles, check their old pictures and posts. Get to know their philosophy of life and get to know who they are when they are not in love. Are they humble because they are humble or are they humble because they have nothing for which they can be proud? How do they speak to those they consider lower than themselves? Are they polite to you but rude to the waiter? These details slip out no matter how much one might want to hide them, and if you pay attention you would see them if they are there.

The world can be a dark and scary place. Sometimes grace is the illumination we need to go through dark alleys, and sometimes it is our wide open eyes. And It doesn’t get much darker than the choice of a life partner. Love, they say is blind, perhaps it is blinded by the darkness of these paths. But I like to think that love is not blind, it is drunk, it staggers, it trips, it falls, it belches, it gets up and it keeps moving. The blindness of love, to me, is but the blurriness of vision, a drunk driver seeing two steering wheels and four hands. It is at this point that you may be blind to obvious things, you may underrate his faults and overrate his strengths. When you are overpowered by emotion, your logic would be compromised. But as with drunkenness, you would eventually sober up and then see the things you could not see before. Maybe I am a timely voice of reason in these alcoholic times, and maybe mine are the sober eyes with which you should see clearly in this period.

I would call you ‘honey’, but you are meant for another man’s cup. Things are such that I can make recommendations on whose cup you pour into, so that in time I will be at ease knowing full well that you are not the honey that poured away.


Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.


Tuesday, 6 July 2021

THE NIGHT THAT HANNAH DIED (3)


The romance which began between Hannah and Osvaldo was more Eastern than it was Latin, the fondness and clingy attachment was as steamy as an Ottoman bath and no less sophisticated. Every fashion show in a different city was as much about business as it was about fun, they were like the honeymoon before the wedding. Paris, Milan, Rio, Tokyo, or London, Hannah toured the world but more than that Osvaldo toured her heart. More than winning her love, he won her trust. Hannah saw in him an infallible being with whom she could entrust her life. However, while we may say that a dog is man's best friend, it would be important to be sure that the man is the dog’s best friend. For Hannah love was so blind that she couldn’t see a lot of things, didn’t ask questions, and didn’t check if this man was actually a man or a dog, or rather how much of him was a dog. 
Like the moon of which we only see a side, the bright side, there was a side to Osvaldo which Hannah had not seen, the dark side. And more than that there were other sides to the fashion industry which Hannah had not been broken into. 
Trouble started when Pedro Morales called Hannah on the telephone inviting her for a review of her contract which would see her get an improved contract; better pay, better jobs, better shows, and bigger brands. He wanted to “take her to the next level”. Hannah would tell Osvaldo about it expecting him to share in her joy, but Osvaldo wasn’t delighted. He knew a lot about this ‘next level' being an active participant himself. Pedro Morales was a covert member of one of the biggest drug and crime groups in the subcontinent, his sojourn into model management was initially in his bid to find a decent façade for his illegitimate trade. Also, he had over the years used some of the top models under his management to move illicit drugs across the border. He would invite them for a review of their contract, introduce the topic of drug trafficking to them, and if the model agreed to play ball then the next level was on, she would get a cut out of the drug deals, along with an improved contract. But if the model would not play ball, having known this dirty secret, said models soon lose their lives under controversial circumstances. Osvaldo played an outfield role in these. Where the model would swallow the drugs before boarding, it was Osvaldo's job to prepare the drugs and make prepare the drugs and their human container would remain in good condition before during and after the flight. Pedro Morales had a number of agents who played that role but Osvaldo was his most trusted lieutenant. 
Also, there were two or three occasions on which the task of arranging a believable accident for a model who wouldn’t play ball was given to Osvaldo, and he delivered to a fatal perfection. But with the invitation extended to Hannah by Pedro Morales, Osvaldo had found himself in an entirely new situation. This was a girl he had come to sincerely love, he had even had the thought of marriage cross his mind in recent weeks. Don Pedro Morales obviously knew about their romance, but apparently thought it was a fleeting thing that would fade with time, Osvaldo thought that if Pedro Morales knew that he really loved Hannah then he would not have invited her to this next level. Hannah on her part could not think of a good reason why Osvaldo would not be in support of her coming promotion, where had he kept his “Congratulation”? What had happened to his cheerful words of encouragement, that reassuring speech that he often gave about how she was destined for the top? Hannah easily picked out the flat dullness of Osvaldo’s tone in conversations, his countenance was too colourless to avoid notice. Yet he wouldn’t open up to Hannah just yet on why he has maintained that mood ever since she broke the news to him. Telling Hannah the truth about that one thing would mean telling her the truth about everything. And with Hannah he was not ready to face the truth of how dark the hidden side of his moon was. 
Osvaldo took a bold step sooner than later, he met with Pedro Morales in private and requested that he make an exception with Hannah. That he, Osvaldo, would take it as a token of Morales' appreciation of his lieutenant's loyalty all these years. It was a smooth conversation and Pedro Morales acceded to his request on the condition that Hannah would then not be getting any improved contract. Osvaldo took it upon himself to explain Pedro Morales' change of mind to Hannah, but lied that the plan was temporarily withheld due to contingencies that needed massive funding, and that Hannah should expect the contract offer back in a short time. 
Now his smile was back, and hers too. On the spur of the moment Osvaldo would propose marriage, to which Hannah gladly accepted. She got her family involved and wedding plans began. However, as days and weeks went by something odd seemed to be happening. The advertisement jobs were no longer coming, the brands with which she had running agreements became increasingly uninterested in her, and the fashion shows which often took her around the world were no longer inviting her. Hannah was beginning to live not on her prosperity but on her reserves. Pedro Morales would not pick her  phone calls and he would not reply her mails. Osvaldo understood what was going on; this was Pedro Morales making a statement, he was obviously the one throwing the spanner in the works. Osvaldo tried to reassure Hannah that all will be well. His love life had come in the way of his work, and romance had soured his relationship with his boss. Hannah was not alone in this blackout, Osvaldo soon realized that he too was being shut out. Every attempt to get to Pedro Morales failed. Without a single word, Pedro Morales had spoken, and in clear terms; he no longer wanted them. To where would this intending couple now turn? Osvaldo had been with Morales long enough to know how everything was done, both in the fashion and modelling business and in the dark streets of drug trafficking. Perhaps this was time to go solo. First he used his experience in law to get the brands to pay Hannah off since they had made it clear that they no longer wanted her. What they got was enough to fund their wedding, and to raise the capital needed to float a new model management agency.
 In starting HANNOSVA Agency, a company name that he coined from Hannah and Osvaldo, Osvaldo Lopez wasn’t hoping to someday rival Pedro Morales. He merely wanted to put his experience to good use, and to get Hannah actively involved in a legitimate business. They scouted for little known models and worked with them from the ground up. Things were beginning to look good again for Hannah, within a year of breaking ties with Pedro Morales, she now co-owned a company, had gotten married, and not only had the freedom to pursue her career by her own rules, she now had the opportunity of mentoring and guiding younger models.
Bad habits live long in secret, and for Osvaldo his appetite for the drug trade was well and truly alive. He wanted back in it so badly that he left the day-to-day running of the agency to Hannah who was now pregnant, and invested much time and effort in re-establishing ties with the estranged partners of Pedro Morales. The Tigres cartel in Mexico were no longer seeing eye to eye with Pedro Morales after an ill-fated drug deal, aligning with them for Osvaldo would spite Pedro Morales. Spiting Morales was not his aim, he wanted a group that would take him as one of them, that would offer him protection along the violent and dark paths of drug trafficking, however, if spiting Morales would be a by-product of achieving that aim, he would not have any reservations whatsoever.
His new alliance with the Tigres  group was without hitches, he eased seamlessly back into the trade, and was now enjoying more freedom than he had with Morales. Still he managed to keep Hannah out of it, while making good deals, settling his dues with the bosses and being his own man all at the same time. It didn’t look like anything could go wrong now. 
As big as Pedro Morales' physique was his appetite for vengeance, and just about any form of hurt or spite against him was worth revenging. He would not take any prisoners in his dealings with anyone who dared challenge him, and there was a touch of finality about the thoroughness of his methods. He was not the sort of man who would hit his enemy and allow him enough strength to live to fight another day, rather he was the sort of man who would make sure that his enemy wouldn’t see another day, especially enemies that can’t match him in power or influence. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that in his philosophy of life he took Machiavelli too seriously. Had Osvaldo stopped at starting an agency of his own, Pedro Morales might not have bothered so much about him, but aligning with the Tigres cartel could not be forgiven. Also Osvaldo knew him too well to be allowed to work with a competent enemy, this latter  reason for Morales cancelled out any lean thought of sparing Osvaldo, he had to be dealt with in the most severe of ways. And in Morales' book only murder was severe enough. And it so happened that that timeless irony would be remembered again; that he who lives by the sword dies by it. Osvaldo had seen the intrinsic conflicts of this drug business claim the lives of others, but he could not have told that his life would end in the way that  Pedro Morales had so planned. 
Hannah was in the office when news came in that Osvaldo had died having been shot in the chest at close range in the subway. And in a mix of fear and grief she went into labour immediately. Her assistants helped get her to the hospital, but despite the best efforts of the doctors, nurses and midwives, even though the child lived, Hannah died.


Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

SINNERS OF WITTENBERG (Act 1 Scene 1)


The dark stage is covered in clouds of smoke, the only visible feature for sometime, as a pensive monologue lasts. It is the voice of a lady, waxing lyrical over the tune of an old classic song: 

'Alas, the time has come, judgement must start from the house of God, then to the house of thieves, brigands and whores. Who shall live thereafter to measure the rooms of Wartburg Castle? Who shall live to speak of his own nobility, of coins dropping in the coffer, of souls springing from hell, and of sinners who were once saints? 
Luther's smoke rises ever so highly, yesterday it was seen from as far as Bonn, tomorrow it would be seen from as far as Bucharest. And soon it shall be a story of saints who were once sinners. Maybe, he is right that we have lived a lie well-rehearsed, maybe he is indeed a wild boar out to destroy the Lord's vineyard. Maybe he is the judgement which must start from the house of God.
Alas, we are afraid of ourselves, we tremble now at our past, we hide from our sins, and we shiver at our guilt, one nail has held ninety-five charges to a door, another nail would soon hold more numerous names to more numerous doors. Now, arise, man of Saxony. Arise, Hans of Wittenberg, the night is spent, the morning is here and at your door are the feet of friends.'


As the monologue fades with the tune, the smokes fade too and the spotlight is focused on Hans who is lying on a bed at the center of the stage. He awakens suddenly to the consciousness of the room around him; an elaborate chamber which is now made more visible as the stage lights are turned on. Behind his bed is a long stretch of curtains running the length and height of the stage, at one side of his bed is  a desk and a seat, and at the other side is a wardrobe. 
Enter Jerome and Karl with a clatter to the displeasure of Hans who sits up on his bed immediately.
HANS: Have you two left behind your manners? No knock on the door?
KARL: Have you not awaken with your manners? No greetings for your visitors?

The two men sit with playfulness at both sides of Hans, and to cheer him up begin to sing a familiar rhyme.

KARL AND JEROME [singing]: 
'Lonely but saddled this donkey rides
Heavy and gladly his burden glides
Tic toc tic toc this clock ticks by
Many a friend would walk by, yeah
But too few good friends would stop by, Hans.

HANS [sighs, indifferent]: Is that why you are here this early? To relive childhood fun?
JEROME: Is that why you are waking this late? To ask questions?
HANS [pensive]: I had a long dream...
KARL [interrupting]: Of course, you had a long night.
HANS: And I would soon forget everything if you keep talking back at me. [Takes a deep breath and buries his head in his palms as one would do in meditation].
JEROME [passively pulling on his beards]: Now, tell, what was it you saw in this famous dream of yours?
HANS: Lots of wisdom and signs of discord. 
KARL: Wisdom? Not one of your strengths.
HANS [stares dolefully at Karl]: I saw a pillar of gold around which danced a fair maid. 
JEROME: What is the subject? The pillar or the dancing beauty?
HANS: Both were interesting to look upon. What attracted me to the maid was the rhythm of her dance; it was new and slow, almost sorrowful but still interesting. I noticed that as she moved her hands around the pillar, names appeared on the surface of the pillar. There were so many names, names of noblemen, of common men, of all estates of men.
KARL [stretches his hand to feel Hans' neck]: It is certainly not fever.
Hans responds with a dreadful stare.
JEROME: I struggle to find the discord between a dancing lady and a golden pillar, but even then where is the wisdom you spoke of?
HANS: A long counsel from a medium that I had gone to consult, her words have almost all flown away. I remember she said something of Luther's smoke rising so highly.
JEROME: Which of the Luthers? The Butcher on my street or Frederick's shepherd dog?
HANS: Luther; the wild boar.
KARL: Hmmm; indeed what fire he has started and how large the bellows of his smoke.
JEROME [scoffs]: Oh, Karl, do not breathe life into a mere dream. There is nothing to these words nor to Luther's waning influence. The peasants war has shown that he is just another scam. 
HANS: How do you mean that the peasants war has exposed him?
JEROME: Of course it has, when he nailed his lies at the door of All Saints, who were his first converts? Were the peasants not easily seduced by his questions and doctrines? But when they started a war, he betrayed them.
HANS: Truth is often the first casualty of reason when the man who reasons is insufficiently informed. 
KARL [nods in appreciation]: Hmm, wisdom.
HANS: You have left a lot of gaps on the way to your conclusion, Jerome. And I wouldn't breathe further life into your confusion.
JEROME: Of course, you retain a lot of sympathy to his cause. You always have.
HANS [In a fit of rage]: I am a daily communicant!...
JEROME: And so what? That doesn't and hasn't stopped you from finding Luther appealing.
KARL [intervening]: Alright, gentlemen. We shouldn't let the matter of a dissident sequestered in a castle somewhere across the world to come in the way of such a beautiful morning. How about we meet at my place in the evening, I will have a boar grilled and we would see what it tastes like when washed down with a jug of beer.
HANS: Sounds like fun to me.
JEROME [still seething]: Of course, of course.
HANS: I will be there, Karl. Hopefully, we wouldn't go on about Luther and misinformed people.
JEROME: Yes, Karl. We won't come telling dreams of dancing women and rising smoke.
KARL [pulling Jerome along with him]: We take our leave now, Hans. A breakfast awaits us at Frederick's. We merely decided to stop by.

As they leave, Hans lies back on his bed, and light fades.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN WUHAN


I know thy works, your strength and vigour, your courage and perseverance have not gone without notice. The incense of your life fills the portals of heaven at the hour of prayer.

I know your love, which the scribes of heaven have well written of. The accuser of the brethren, yes, protests that you have loved that your multitude of sins be covered. And to him have I replied once, and twice he has heard that I know all things.

However, I know also that you have fallen for the trick of Balaam, you have hidden in your heart a lust for want, and in your cupboard is found the ghost of Nimrod. Behold I have mocked you with your own donkey, it has spoken without a word, and you have heard his reprimand even without an ear. 
He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. You have embodied the pride of man, you have stood before the dragon's mirror and mimicked his lofty looks. I have flogged you with your colt's rope, nay, with the feather of a fowl. I have not assigned the host of heaven to fight against you, lest I should wipe off man who I have made. I have long borne the stench of man's incense, the odour of his boasts, his tricks, his politics, his unrighteous quests and designs. Did I not part the Red Sea by the blast of my nostrils? I made the magicians of Pharoah see my finger, and yet did not I show all of my arm against Egypt. Did the tower at Babel; the making of Nimrod's whims not fall by my counsel? I have drawn your ears away from flattery but you have again made your own praise to be your ears' delight.
If you have shaken at the sound of my footsteps, what shall you be when I stamp on you with the weight of my feet. I have against you what I had against Nebuchadnezzar, and I have done to you what I did to him. He repented after his malady had left him, would you repent after your malady leaves you, after this foul wind has ceased? He humbled himself, and gave honour to me after he had seen his vulnerability, would you humble yourself after this gentle fouled wind has shown you your feebleness? Would you return that which is sacred to its sacredness? Would you rebuild the altars of sanctity and cleans the sanctuary of justice? Would you repent of the foulness of the incense of your lives, and make clean the sheets of your beds? Behold you have been shaken by this mockery which I have allowed in a little measure, should you not humble yourself under my might and repent of your ways under the weight of my truth? 
The Jew has said of the Greek, 'behold a gentile', the Greek has said of the Jew, 'behold a Barbarian', yet has the world over which you have sneezed not united in fear of your cold. The days may come when I will dish unto you in full measure this bowl if you do not heed my voice. Now, let the preacher speak at the roof top, let the minstrel sing of the fear of the Lord, and let the ruler seek out the counsel of the godly, that you put me to remembrance in your days.

_Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

OUR COMMON BLINDNESS

There is only one thing we can say of some things. If a man should ask about what rice tastes like, we can only say that rice tastes like rice. There is only one thing we can immediately all say of some things even if there are other things that could be said of them. If someone should ask about fire, we would all say that it is hot, before we would begin to think about describing its brightness or form.
Several times our judgement of events and things is based on that one thing that could be said of things even when there are other things that could be said of them. If we only speak of man's inability to breathe in water, it would be ludicrous to call water evil without also speaking of its use in quenching thirst, washing, and cleaning. Well enough for the most part we do not limit to one what we think of things, neither do we shrink our sense of proportionality without which one might say that drugs are evil only because a patient had taken an overdose.
However, in life we are wont to make categorical statements on how bad a person is, or how terrible a consort one could be for another, just by the one thing we wish to say about them, even if that is not the most visible attribute of them. It could be true to say that your teacher nags, but it would be improper to allow your listener to assume that your teacher is a bad teacher if there are numerous redeeming qualities in your teacher more visible than the nagging.

We have demonized our brothers and sisters before our children (their nieces and nephews) on the premise of the one bad thing that could be said of them, even when there are numerous other qualities that would make them so proper.

This here is where we imagine the deaf DJ and the blind cook, each has a great handicap especially relevant in the field to which they claim expertise. How would the deaf DJ appreciate his own mix, so as to spin the right disks and make the best beats and tunes? How would the blind cook avoid adding inadequate or excessive amount of salt or pepper? The truth is that in our lives we are blessed with specific gifts and specific handicaps, I believe life is so designed such that the deaf DJ would hear with the ears of the blind cook, and that the blind cook would see with the eyes of the deaf DJ. I believe that life is set up to be a web of continuous co-operation where our weaknesses are neutralized by the strengths of others.
As long as we continue to denigrate the blindness, the deafness, the dumbness, the lameness and the one handicap of one another we might not understand the need to complement and to complete one another. We need this understanding in our homes, among children of the same parents, workers in the same office, husband and wife, the clergy and laity, among others, so that we can all see, so that we can all hear, so that we can all talk, so that we can all walk and rise to a more prosperous existence.

Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue is my name.

Friday, 6 March 2020

WEEP ON CHILD

Oh weep on, child
There is little hope on sea
Though now your squids little be
At midlife they are krakens, vile and strong
Play well, my child
Your toys are things of fun
Forget not to slip upon the spill
Yes nurse your wound in tears
The scratch the first of many

Oh the days of youth
When he spelled his 'Pornishment' starting with a certain 'Porn'
And his 'Deepression' starting with a certain 'Deep'
Blunt and short the arrows of the mighty man had made a failed escape.
Caged in freedom, in diverse lusts and quests
Life dealt its dose-only halfway- of leisure, pressure and warmth
Perhaps we have flattered the pain of youth
It is fat, though not fat as a lie
Sweat, blood and tears behind the veil abound

Weep now that it has no shame
And wait not till a man's tears near Haram drops
Though anxiety cleaves unto his heart
With the romance of thirst on a parched throat
He dares not cry
He heaves a sigh, signs a cheque, and checks his heart
Yes, he must guard, my child, against something cardiac,
fatality at times could come
Yes, from militant thoughts it charges

Few be Kings, few be mad, need we find a ruler?
What metrics measures joy?
To what end, dear man, were you born,
and to what escape would you die?
Yes, time did wait from eternity's infinite past
And now counts to eternity's infinite future
Man thus comes, my child, a recorder of naught
He spends in relative duration but a snap of fingers
Barely starting to understand himself
Or to pick his pen to write
He is old and soon dies
Weep on, my child
Weep on

_Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.

Monday, 2 March 2020

THE LAST OBOTEMAN (1)


The beams of his car’s headlamps pasted on the stained glass windows of the room, and it faded into darkness as the engine purred to a halt. It was atypical of his wife to not have come out unto the balcony after the noise of the car engine had stopped. He gave the electronic clock one last look at it blinked for the last time; 8:30pm was a little later than usual. The man walked calmly the short distance to the balcony, the path aesthetically flanked by a short wall of ixora was illuminated by a beautiful moonlight. There needn’t be a knock, disturbing his family’s night sleep would not be the best idea after returning home unscheduled. Such a complicated man he often thought himself to be, serving two masters at a time: a very demanding home and a very demanding job, to each he tried to give his best. On nights as this he would come home following the postponement of a scheduled night shift at the office. The man gently locked the door behind him, flashed his torchlight around the sitting room, a necessary protocol in his heedful manners, and walked into the passage. The ajar door of the children’s bedroom caught his attention and he had to take a closer look. Lutalo was wrapped in much of the blanket, leaving his sister, Kyagaza, out in the cold. The man didn’t bother covering them well, Lutalo would still pull the blanket away from his sister’s body. He gently closed the door and went into his bedroom. The torchlight found the exposed lap of Elizabeth, the rolling and tossing of a sleepy woman often unveils sensitive areas of the body. The man was staring at his wife’s laps, the much that was exposed below the twisted night gown. Much was left to the imagination and he imagined in silence. He swallowed hard as he dropped his bag beside the door with a light thud, and as he took dainty steps toward the bed, Elizabeth adjusted herself. He dropped his bag beside the door and swallowed hard as he took dainty steps towards the bed. Elizabeth adjusted her position and faced up as her husband sat beside her, in that moment he had to change his mind about sporting with a sleepy woman. He sat in silence removing his work clothes. A bit of memory flashed in his mind: he remembered that day in Memphis when Elizabeth agreed to marry him. For a romance story, love between a middle class Jewish girl raised on the broad way streets of the United States, and a melanin-rich boy whose greatest accomplishment for a long time was leaving his sleepy Ugandan village for Kampala seemed improbable, but such was their story.


In another part of town, Hidi Hamin, the nation’s military chief was hosting a nocturnal visitor. On the balcony of a well-guarded duplex overlooking much of the valley estate these men sat and discussed over wine.
“Singapore.” Hamin puffed a bellow of smoke, he had a cigarette in hand.
“A promising country, isn’t it?” Hamin’s visitor, Bob Carlton, a Whiteman, bald and short, and with a conspicuous moustache, asked. 
“Yes, Bob, and now they have one of ours, a hairy ugly one of ours. That should cut a chunk of their promise.”
“President Milton isn’t that ugly, you know. I would say he is of moderate appearance, a perfect balance of both sides of beauty.”
Hamin maintained silence as he gulped some wine. He dropped the cup with a heavy thud and stared vaguely at Bob Carlton, “Tell me whose side you are on, man. You shouldn’t try to sound good on a man we will push off this boat in the next tide.”
“You know, Hamin, you should be scared of me just as I should be of you; two men stirring the cup of treason, setting up the cauldron to cook the man that holds us in trust. Why should we trust each other after now with legacies of betraying trust?”
“I am not and will not be scared of you, man. And when I become the leader of the country you should be scared of me, sore afraid of me. But let’s postpone our fight till after we pull this off. And I do not want to think this a selfish ambition, I want to save my people from…”
“Is it my people already?”
“… I want to save this country from the misrule of that chimp.”
“And save yourself from time.”
“Excuse me?” Hamin was static.
“I know your grafts, Hamin,” Bob Carlton smiled smugly. “It would be only a matter of time before this information gets into the wrong hands and you come under the jury of public opinion; beer parlour politics, you know about it, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play coy with me, Hamin.” Bob Carlton scoffed. “I don’t traffic in metaphors. I have been clear here. I came across documents in your trashcan, how smart of you to not burn them.”
“What documents?”
“Can you explain to me how funds meant for the military end up in your fat belly?”
A look of intense unease came upon Hamin, he looked around the balcony as if to assure himself of their solitude. “The lion does not disturb himself with the beer parlour politics and the jury of sheep. Do not think that I will lose sleep if people eventually find out I abused this office.”
“Oh, yes, the people don’t count, but if my calculations are right, you would derive much of your legitimacy from the international support that would come your way, and now, name one country that would support the regime of a known thief?” 
“Hmmm,” Hamin sighed, “Whatever I have taken I have shared with those around me. If this information gets out to the public, Hamin would not be the biggest casualty, a lot of bigger men would come crashing down with me. And think, few weeks ago I gave you a car for your birthday celebration. They would trace that car to you and explanations wouldn’t help you.”
“Hamin, Hamin,” Mr. Carlton giggled, “I am not threatening you. What would I gain from pulling another man down?” 
“Absolutely nothing.”
“Good. So, you have nothing to fear. However, I doubt I am the only one that knows about your dealings.”
“Who else does?”
“It is funny how you Africans are so unaware of your environment. You lived with minerals under your soil and for centuries knew nothing about them until we came here to help you. Even now in your own country you know not what happens under your nose.”
“Enough of your racism. Who else knows about this?” 
“I saw a journalist at the DHQ on three occasions, and he was investing so much attention in some covert enquiries. He was going through records and invoices…”
“The journalist, the one with the scar?”
“Yes.”
“My men are on him,” Hamin said with a satisfactory smug, “soon you will hear a different story.”
“And by a different story you mean?”
Hamin brimmed, “We will get him to sing a new tune. There are so many ways to do that. But if he insists on singing a nasty tune, we will make sure he meets a listening audience in hell. What price is too high to pay for order?”
“Hmmm,” Mr. Carlton sighed, “so you intend to take an innocent man’s life? That’s so quick and severe, well quicker than it is severe.”
“So, I guess you have a better option.”
“The nation will soon get into a period of change. It will not be a time to afford such distractions as an enthusiastic journalist with his reports. Handle him now before the coupe, and by handling him death should be a last resort. First, reason with him, when that fails then threaten him to not publish his findings. The power of death over a living man is not in death itself but in the fear of death. I enjoy such scenes, it is fun feeding off the cry of a grown man as a red hot knife marks territories on his bare chest. I have never seen a man leave the dungeon the same. You wouldn’t need to kill him to silence him, just two nights underground and he would quit journalism for good.”
“You know, Carlton, I could use your mind more often. You will surely have a place in my government.” Hamin sank into his seat happily. “May I ask if you love black women?”
“Don’t be racist, Hamin. I find your women devastatingly attractive. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t suppose you are a man of matrimonial fidelity, are you?”
“Hamin, my friend, the libidinal instincts of man are as that of a pig, so savagely reckless. What can man do against such pressure?”
Hamin made a snap of his fingers and immediately two voluptuous women came out from the house to take Mr. Carlton.
“Hamin, Hamin,” Carlton laughed as he playfully struggled with the women. “Easy, ladies… This is half the reason I love Uganda.”    
“And after tonight, it may be the only reason, I am sure they will take you to places you never knew existed!” Hamin replied as they exited the balcony.
Alone, Hamin sighed happily. It still seemed to be a dream that he would be leading his country in a matter of days. From lowly beginnings to the corridors of power, it was a gradual climb to power. But what lay between him and political power would be a well-planned military coup, and with the tacit backing of international powers, everything was expected to turn out fine.

_Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.

Friday, 4 January 2019

THE NIGHT THAT HANNAH DIED (2)

The Milan Fashion Week came too soon, and she did not feature. A month after her contract signing, even in her wildest dreams she would not have expected to share the runway with Solena Del Sol, Antonella Marie and Sylvia Schiavonni, the biggest names in the business on the female divide of things, yes, there are two sexes and one sun. However, in a month Hannah was already in TV commercials, Delta Springs soap was the first group, and Osvaldo took care of the paper works. The pay was nice, and the bonus packages even nicer; a five year supply of toiletries, a car in each of those five years, and a special pay for her appearance in promo shows. She liked what she was getting, and how life was gradually changing for her and for her parents who had now moved to New York-into a more decent apartment befitting the parents of a would-be supermodel. She also liked her manager, Mr. Morales, and Osvaldo, her lawyer, who was now standing proxy. The working relationship with Osvaldo was becoming very good, and could only get better. He boarded planes with her, stayed backstage at every shoot and didn’t fail to proofread every agreement. It was only a matter of time before the colours would get more colourful, the birdsong get more melodious, the Manhattan sunset get more beautiful, and their eyes meet in realization of mutual fondness.
It was during a shoot for a toothpaste advert, the Advert director had complained about Hannah’s performance in the video, they had to repeat the clip a number of times, still the fastidious fellow found faults. Osvaldo had to step forward with some tips that worked out perfectly. As the director smiled satisfactorily and gave his approval to the next performance, Hannah hugged Osvaldo in blatant excitement. It was time to withdraw from the embrace and then their eyes met. 
“Sorry.” Osvaldo apologized in chivalrous politeness as he looked away, pretending to be shy.
“Oh, its nothing.” Hannah replied, looking away too in honest shyness. 
That night she was wrapped in a blanket of thoughts, the cute looks of Mr. Lopez in all its masculine glory appeared and disappeared in her mind like a phantom, and her heart twinkled with the excitement of a nun seeing a Marian apparition. She flashed back to when they first met, replayed the details of each succeeding event and wondered why she hadn’t liked him sooner. She had never been in love, and since early teenage had fought off the pubescent allure of having a lover. Mother had counseled that she was still too young to hang out in the rascally youth of millennial America. She was asked to focus and study for a degree; that a proper Hispanic Eduardo would come looking for her, then they’d get married in a Catholic chapel, and live happily ever after. However, it is said that the poor would seem to want nothing beyond his needs until he tastes the good things of life. Hannah had in a few months seen a bit of luxury, and had acquired a taste for the better things of life. Money was not a problem any longer even for the parents, and millennial America hadn’t been as bad as her parents supposed. Also, Osvaldo was Hispanic, if religious, would certainly be a proper Catholic, all the boxes ticked. It only remained to be seen if he would make a move. After all, it was now long overdue, she was now feeling the vacuum of a mate, someone aside her parents, with whom to share her joy and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses and fears and hopes. The vacuum had felt in its hollowness and nagging the tickling, nay, yearning of an empty womb. Yes, dear Ewatomi, there are a number of things one is not expected to do unless he does it well, such are flying an airplane or performing a surgery, but there are things one must do for himself even if he does it badly and such are wiping one’s bum or falling in love. Hannah thought that even for a first try she could hardly go wrong in love. She smiled to herself, and sighed happily at the warmth of her thoughts in this winter night.   

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

THE NIGHT THAT HANNAH DIED

Dear Ewatomi,

Time and time again I smile at the thought of you, and upon this fondness I always wish and hope that you are fine. Neither a strike of the foot against a stone or pebble nor slip off a banana peel, I wish for you, but that you should be in one piece, ever happy, and smiling. I often imagine that like Lionel Messi’s misfortune of not being able to watch himself play live, how unfortunate it is for you not to be someone else and to be able to admire the beauty that is Ewatomi. Well, enough said, and now I should ask ‘how are you?’ expecting that you understand it not to be a customary question to which one would throw out ‘fine’ like the blink of an eye. I ask it expecting that you tell me how things are with you in copious details.
How are you? Hope you are fine? Really fine? I believe that my amateur recommendations worked out fine with your stomach upset; and perhaps that you have learnt the lesson on staying faithful to one fruit at a time: and I guess that you would avoid fruit salad for a while or at least not try out weird combinations anymore. 
As I promised in my last letter I will tell you the story of Hannah, a young lady who got into a man’s life with the naivety of a wildebeest who, though seeking shade but having no idea how delicious it looked, wandered into the lions’ den. But before I get it on with, I would request that you pay attention to the details as I would try my best to make them as elaborate as possible, at the end of this story I would go ahead to explain why I have shared it. It is important that I started this letter extolling your beauty-it is so obvious that it has become boring lauding it-because Hannah Quintero is such a beauty, and her story parallels your circumstances, side by side, as lanes on a track, till just before tragedy. Hannah was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the only child of Pueto Rican immigrants, she received the best education her middleclass parents could afford. And though her brilliance was above average, her beauty, as you would expect, made all the difference and opened doors for her. Life really started for her on the night she won the local beauty pageantry. The stage was lit in pyros and the noise of camera clicks was swallowed up in applause and cheers. She could pick her mother’s tiny voice from the back of that hall; for her mother it was a proud night, but for her there was no surprise, she always had it coming, and this was only a start. She lowered her eyes against the flash of camera lights and rose them again slowly and enchantingly. She was sure her face would be on the front page of the local newspaper the following morning.
Now, something was beginning to get her attention, she stopped her waving momentarily to pick it; amidst the applause was the voice of a man joking in Spanish, he was right on the stage, at the door to the backstage speaking with the compere. They were speaking about her, Hannah knew, she heard the compere say that she was ‘one for the future’, to which the Spanish speaker replied that if she wasn’t the future of modelling, that there would be no future. Hannah had gotten the man’s voice, now she needed to get his face, especially now that she had also heard the man being called ‘Don Pedro Morales’. A friend had told her about a certain Don Pedro who holds all the keys to a successful career in modelling.
By dint of faith and fate, Hannah would get to have an audience with him only after a fortnight, and quite conveniently, upon the man’s request. The door opened before her to the sight of a huge fellow, bald, chubby faced, and a moustache trimmed within the width of his nose; the unmistakable Don Pedro Morales. He was sitting behind a busy desk; open files and scattered papers, records and journals. With him was a younger man, whom Hannah at once took for his associate. Tall and with shimmering black hair tied to the back like a ponytail, his eyes neatly roofed by a pair of bushy brows, this younger fellow was as handsome as a three piece suit David Beckham, cigar between lips, riding in a limousine and reading a Mandarin Magazine; basically the alternate James Bond. But Hannah was still too apprehensive to take stock of his statistics. 
“Welcome, welcome,” Pedro Morales rose to his feet beaming from ear to ear, his frame covering a better part of the huge window behind him which would offer a tourist’s perfect view of the famous Manhattan sunset.
“Thank you,” Hannah replied as she accepted the outstretched arm. Her eyes paced around the huge office as Mr. Morales made the introductions.
“This here is Osvaldo Lopez,” he said of the younger man, “my most trusted associate in this business. His looks ain’t worth a Peso but his mind… a goldmine.” And pointing to Hannah, whom he had offered a seat said to the younger man, “This here is Hannah Quintero, the hottest free agent in the business, the pick, the cherry on the cake…” 
“The cherry on the cherry cake.” The associate enthused, smiling at Hannah. “Nice to meet you.”
Hannah smiled shyly as she shook his hand, not understanding what he meant by the cherry on the cherry cake. 
Mr. Morales made a quick work of convincing Hannah to sign up with his model management agency, extolling with understandable bias the achievements and prestige of his company. Being a successful professional model had always been her dream, ‘the Latina Noami Campel’ was a name she hoped to be branded with someday, and on this day, in this elaborate office, on the twentieth floor of this tower the journey to that someday was just turning a page. Mr. Morales brought out a prepared document containing the terms of the agreement carefully drafted, he asked her to read through and recommend changes to terms she wasn’t comfortable with. Hannah read through the document, and smiled. 
“But am I not supposed to have a legal representation-a lawyer?” she asked upon looking up from the document.
“Yes, you are. Which is why Mr. Lopez is here; best lawyer you can find around. I personally recommend him, and I don’t think you’d refuse my recommendation this early in business. Would you?”
Hannah thought long and deep. Things were happening too fast, barely a month earlier she successfully passed through the audition for the local beauty pageantry. Two weeks after that, she won, and now she was about to sign her first professional contract. What could go wrong when others have gone right? What could go wrong in accepting Mr. Osvaldo Lopez as his lawyer? And don’t they say that it is a risk not to take a risk? She took the leap, shook hands with Mr. Lopez and signed the deal. Life for her would never remain the same.     

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

WHO IS A SAINT NOW? (2)

In all of these, you had said, nothing vexed you as much as how Chioma and I chose to rub it on your face. Why did we choose to take the best seats at the hall? Why did we choose to always sit close to you and Tameh? And how dare I now want to turn the story around by saying that you chose to sit close to us and that you were stalking us? And yes, you mentioned jealousy, how dare I suggest that you were becoming jealous of what was going on between Chioma and I? You wanted answers to why I cared to know whether or not you were jealous, and in a very bad taste, why I shouldn’t carry on with my ‘new lover’ and stop offending you with unnecessary bygones.
Now, dear Ewatomi, I wonder if I should placate you or douse rage in humour, however, there are times even in comedy-making when one has to be serious. I am not one to subscribe to that fabled ingredient of genius; the understanding of the margin between adequate and excess, but I believe that I have given you neither excess nor adequate information on the matter of which you have seemed to pick offence. Of what value then would it be if I should desire to pursue genius seeing what has become of an inadequate chronicle? All the same I would go ahead to spell issues out as they really went down.
From our correspondence, it is obvious now that we were victims of our individual pride in letting what we had going slip away. While you waited for me to act, I waited for you to do the same. And while we waited, life, which abhors vacuum couldn’t wait. Foremost, I would like to clear up what I believe to be your misconstruction of the person and intent of Chioma. Yes, how a known snub suddenly became radiant with conviviality, and shades of gregariousness is worthy of probe, and when a young man is by her happy side, love is right to be the first hypothesis. You, I believe, have not put her on trial for being a snub so long, nor for turning from that unpopular path, but for, as I perceive, breaking the girl code-an unwritten constitution that provides that a girl should not move in on another girl’s guy. On the surface level, I would agree, perhaps some inches deep too, that there was a moving in on someone. But the first question should be who moved in on who? It is as that aphorism of the yam that suffered a bad cut and the people arguing whether it was the knife that fell on the yam or the yam that fell on the knife. Note, that it is still debatable whether this cut did happen, because a slap on the back to one may be a pat on the back to another; or even more conveniently a kind attempt to kill another man’s mosquito-what one thing is to me may be another to Chioma. So, perhaps, until Chioma agrees that there was indeed a cut, this debate is not won or lost yet. However, if eventually the stars align and Russia and the US are in accord, and we all agree that there was a cut, I would own up to say that the knife did fall on the yam and that I am that guilty blade. Save for that long hug which served my purpose, Chioma did not press any buttons. I was the one moving all the motions as in plenary, and it is to her credit that some bills were not passed. Case in point, I mentioned in the first letter, in excusing you of fault in your continued attachment to Tameh that no one would refuse the invite of a soldier’s company in that camp where such a connection was an insurance against severity and stress. This point was originally not mine; Chioma had said it to me in assuring me that all would be well between you and me at the end. Yes, I had gotten enamored with her in the vacuum of your absence, but more than that I was amazed at her for always being there for you, coming in your defence at every juncture and not moving in with reckless abandon. 
My dearest Ewatomi, though we should agree that we are not all innocent of blame, but there are really no devils here-we merely reacted almost as perfectly as circumstances demanded. Nevertheless, all of these have channeled my mind to an entirely new path; and perhaps in the coming weeks I hope to reveal the details to you. Suspense ‘kills’ me, but I enjoy keeping others in it. In my next letter, my dear, I will tell you the story of Hannah, a young lady who got into a man’s life with the naivety of a wildebeest who, though seeking shade but having no idea how delicious it looked, wandered into the lions’ den. At least, I hope, another vitriol would not follow thereafter from you.               
Stay safe my dear Ewatomi. Like Jews greet over a festive meal, next year (we shall be) in Jerusalem. Bye.

Friday, 21 December 2018

WHO IS A SAINT NOW?

Dear Ewatomi,

How are you doing? I trust that things are going on well with you. I should ask also about your new workplace, how you are settling into the job, and how it differs from mine but I know that a future correspondence will contain volumes on our present job experiences.
I got your letter on the evening of September 20, and reading off the light of a dying candlelight I quickly saw that my letter had hit on some very strategic nerves. It was replete with intense and uncut vexation, so intense that I had to stop reading at a point, and finish it up with the first rays of the next morning’s sunrise. Yes, I have a low threshold for nagging, and though you did not nag, I squirm at the slightest suspicion of it.
Nevertheless, my dearest Ewatomi, I must applaud your unusual frankness, childish and naïve it would seem at first impression but such blunt sincerity is an invaluable virtue that our world with its emotional complications can do with more often. In that regard and in sharp repentance, I would in the course of this letter admit to and confess the various salient and tiny details which I, for cunny intents, omitted or at best diluted or embellished in the first letter.
First you admitted, with flowery descriptions, the beautiful first week we shared. You agreed to more than what I said that there was love in the air. However. In your words, it was only in the air and had not settled as dust in Harmattan. And how wrong it was for me to have begun counting my chicks while my mother hen was yet laying her eggs. Your dusty love, you said, was ready to settle but I hadn’t done enough to deserve it. Then, you rebuked what you called my ‘sense of entitlement’, how I expected you, with little endearment and persuasion, to follow me around the camp. Amidst the love in the air, you said, was a competing sense of ‘who needed who more?’ It seemed you had become my first conquest as I continued to ‘conquer’ in the inter-platoon competitions. You wanted me to show that I needed you as much as you appeared to need me. It was in this emotional wreck that Sergeant Tameh showed up. At first you would treat his advances with contempt though he had a fantastic reason for his admiration of you; as you said, that he had seen lots of beautiful girls, lots of timid beautiful girls, but rarely had he seen aggressive beautiful girls. ‘Aggressive’ was it for him, and you combined that value with remarkable beauty that specially appealed to him. One long week of careful study of you had convinced him to make a move. Yes I had seen you sink your head like a repentant prodigal at the parade ground while he spoke, but deep down things were not immediately as it seemed because you were laughing off ‘that dreamer’. But dreams do come true, and Tameh’s did with time. With his persistence tugging at your mind, his words soon began to tug at your heart. Also, you were soon beginning to think that this was the chance you needed, rather the chance I needed to prove that I needed you. You wanted to see me fight for you, you wanted to see me compete, like I had done for the platoon, but this time for you, and you hoped to see me win. What a victory it would be for me, rather for us, no; for our love-that I competed for and won against a soldier. But while you waited for me, I waited for you. You waited for me to compete, to call you more often, to tell you beautiful things and to follow you around the camp market in public glare, I waited for you to tell Tameh off, to prove that our one week was not too weak, to come back to me, to where you left me. But alone, while I thought you disappointed me, you too thought I disappointed you.
Giving Tameh a chance was not your earlier intention, it so happened that you grew into it. And seeing me moody, obviously at the thought of the new reality was an extra motivation for you to carry on. You had carried on gleefully, enjoying the various benefits of being the apple of a soldier’s eye, well protected and cared for against the tiresome drills and regimentations. You had carried on much like the first lady in a military caste whose jilted former lover was now only a labourer in the palace courtyard. Your joy had known few bounds until I began to take on a new comeliness. It bothered you that I was now happy without you, who could be making my smiles that broad and my heart that merry? ‘Chioma of all people’, was your first impression, and of that I am in accord. Chioma of all people; how could I have gotten along with a self-made pariah? How did I manage to get the famous snub talking and smiling, now not only to me but to others? How did I ‘manipulate’ her to a front row seat to cheer my onstage performances? Chioma had made me happy without you, life, for you, would never remain the same. Funny how you had thought you had the keys to the kingdom, only to see that the king had changed his padlock.         

Saturday, 8 December 2018

A SOLDIER'S GIRL



Dear Ewatomi,

Morning salutations are customary at homes, hugs and kisses are never in short supply, but for a vagrant boy on Owen Moore Street there is no home, no hugs and kisses, just sunrise and sunset interrupting his long walk to freedom. I trust that you are well at home, safe and sound in health and mind, and in no way like our mystery boy of Owen Moore. Yes, you longed to go home, who wouldn’t? Life in that vengeful wilderness was severe, and at a minimal dosage of its severity it was a struggle still. I recall seeing you cry a couple of times, I guess my covert glances went successfully uncaught. But your tears cannot be called an isolated case as many a comrade betrayed emotions under the famous severity, I saw most of them, thanks again to my famous glances. It is a good thing that those days are gone now, resigned and perhaps preserved and treasured in the vaults of memory, and it is even better that you are home now in the company of your loved ones; your father-whom you wouldn’t stop talking about in your moments of glee, your mother-a profile in courage, whom you said once slapped a soldier, and your younger siblings; Darrel and Celine, for whom you said you have borne the great weight of being a role model. With a deep satisfying sigh I would say that all is well when all that is bad is well behind us and nothing that can be worse likely awaits.
But what awaits, dear Ewatomi? Or should we start with what is behind us? What really is behind us? ‘Really’ denotes particularity; yes there is an aspect of our mutual past in which I have retained great interest and which my mind has held on to with the pertinacity of an asp. Now I would reveal that the mystery vagrant boy on Owen Moore is none other than my mind made flesh, for it walks to and fro, often times vainly in search of a satisfying course. You would agree that for such a wandering mind to have stayed this long on this particular course of our mutual past shows that this path needs further beating, perhaps a treasure lies further afield.
Recall the night of August 4, the first time we met. It was drizzly, cold and wet as an ocean floor; the vestiges of a very rainy afternoon. I had come into that café just before you. While I sat blowing off steam from my little white cup, I quickly took interest in a fair, voluptuous girl, a bit tall for a lady. Well, not for her fantastic details did my interest move this first time, because she wanted her coffee black-without cream or sugar. Such a rarity it is these soft-I wouldn’t say ‘effeminate’- days seeing people do ‘hard’ things. A cup of coffee, not besmirched, black and hot would not be a soldier’s delight but this girl, who turned out to be you, sat and, as though it was a sweet relish, emptied your cup in three gulps; I was counting. Was that an introduction to feminine guts? I had only been introduced halfway. And the other half soon followed.
Now, though we have since always differed on what he really looked like, I would stick to my favorite adjectives; tall, dark, and a dry smooth face, at best he is a man of moderate ugliness. His entrance was without a drumroll, and much less without a spotlight, but what was strange? It was at the interval of two thunderclaps. I took a better look at his face when the light from the hurricane lamp reflected upon his face. He had what seemed to be a permanent scowl about his face and seemed to chew painfully on swallowed words or planned vengeance. At once I counselled myself to avoid the gloomy fellow. On the spur of the moment my wandering mind scrambled for a choice, to stay with you and your hot cup of coffee heroics or to follow this latest entrant. It was then that you walked up to the narrow counter, where he was standing and ordered for another cup of coffee. He spoke to you with the deepest baritone that have fallen into my ears, it was a sharp reprimand. 
“You don’t barge into my space, woman.”
I remember the attendant, a middle age woman, slim as a polar bear and of a brief height, offering apologies on your behalf. But then you stopped her, challenging the dark man’s claim of owning the space. While further apologies followed on your behalf, you were eye to eye with the man, as two lions about to square off over the leadership of an unclaimed pride. This man, we would learn was about the most dreaded human in the camp, and though I still dispute that you had known this before your spat, it was gutsy all the same. His lonesomeness, perhaps with the permanence of a leopard’s spot, his dry and moody demeanor, and that scar above his left eye came about by his experiences at the war front. This I learnt from a source more reliable than beer parlour gossip. Once, said my source, after a bloody day fending off a routine ambush by terrorists at the mountain borders, he was said to have had violent fits of trauma throughout the night during which he would spring up from his sleep and shoot sporadically until wrestled to the ground, or stab the matress with his bayonet until he lost strength. Yes, he was verging towards a psychiatric patient, and why such a character was posted to a camp was beyond all the reasonable options that I juggled in my mind. Of this concern, my aforementioned source would say that law is powerless without a force to implement it. How can anyone possibly put this multitude of youth in order without a frightful man whose details Sergeant Manuel Tameh matched?
So, as I sat in that rusty café with the sugary dregs of my tea still fresh on my taste buds, I didn’t know that I had met the two humans who would most influence my camping; a beauty and a beast.
I hated the reveille, not that it woke me- I was always up before it sounded, but I couldn’t understand the concept of driving us to that chilly parade ground as early as half past three in the morning, under the open sky and the vengeful elements of a wilderness. The reveille was a loud and offensive reminder, and the bugler took the hate. At first, you would recall it was a tall order for those soldiers to ply our civilian ego into shape. A number of frog jumps was enough to convert majority of us into absolute obedience to instructions, but for a few ‘hard men’ I learnt that the infamous guard room played an effective role. In all of that you always showed your disapproval of that lazy administration of justice in which all were made to bear the punishment of a few. I was no less unimpressed with why a notorious noise maker would not be singled out and punished, but rather the whole platoon would go in for one man’s mischief. Long ago, I had been taught that not only is life not fair, nobody ever promised it would be, so despite our hisses and sighs I had to carry on.        
Now, it was after a few days that I began to have an extra motivation to show up for the morning parade. It was understandable that for the stress, many a comrade had devised ingenious ways of dodging the parade, perhaps I would have readily joined their ranks but for this extra motivation; the prospect of sharing the same square meter on the parade ground with you. This should not be a big reveal at this point, I don’t expect so, for certainly we have shared bigger secrets and confessions that this should only generate at best a little smile. Yes, a smile, your smile-a thing of beauty-was one of the things I looked forward to each morning. It had no dimples, but a brilliant way of parting each cheek in two; and that to me was cuter than any dimple would have made a woman’s face. You had also a sense of humour which I might have overrated because of my enamorment to you, but I didn’t miss to have a good laugh at your jokes. My admiration of and interest in you peaked at about the end of the first week. By which time we had begun to tag along, going as a pair to almost everywhere. I knew I was not alone in this admiration, your fandom which comprised officials and campers alike increased by the day and I knew I had to mark my territory. But what had I not done? To where had I not gone with you? How else should I mark my territory around you? Maybe it remained to ensure that you felt the same way as I felt about you; an emotional helplessness and vagueness in the absence of the other. I woke up on the first morning of the second week believing that things could only get better but how wrong I was. At first I waved it off as one of those things when I saw him talking with you while we left the parade ground for breakfast. Yes, the rising sun had left upon the couple of you more than just a spotlight. Upon that green deserted field you stood with him for the next half hour, and while he spoke atypically with a courteous demeanor, you uncharacteristically sank your head as a repentant child would who digested soberly the reprimand of the parents. At once I remembered the night at the café; perhaps you had decided to apologize and perhaps he had one or two things to say to you. At last peace was made and there would be no prospects of future vengeance. So I thought but so wrong I was. My discomfort began to grow as our distance grew. Life abhorred vacuum, you had no vacuum because my space was gradually being taken by the most unlikely of persons; Sergeant Tameh. The less people saw of you and me, the more they saw of you and Tameh. And I imagine that many a comrade would have wished to taunt me to my face; how I had been dumped by the most beautiful lady on camp. I tried to convince myself that all was still well between us; who would refuse the invite of a soldier’s company, especially in this camp where such acquaintanceship could save one some stress. But again I was wrong; time after time I could see that you two were very happy in each other’s company. In fact I had never seen you that happy, not at the café with your hot cup of coffee and not at the parade ground over your half-querulous jokes about camp officials. At last I had to concede that Sergeant Tameh had sparked a fire in you, a brilliant fire that flared throughout the campground and till the rest of camping. In an alternate universe and time, I had in my bile thought that Tameh’s would have been a Jurassic romance between two dinosaurs, whoever it was he loved. Now, he had broken through time and space and happened upon my Ewatomi. Life, for me, would never remain the same.    

       

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

ANATOMY OF THE FEMINIST MIND


   This is one topic in which you might not possibly fail to court controversy, it is a path of toes and you cannot walk without stepping on them, and since I intend to run here, surely toes will be crushed. Need I also say that diplomacy would demand that I say my mind without hurting anyone? The analogy of this would be to cut a pound of flesh and yet spill no blood. No, not with any surgical precision can this be guaranteed, and now I proceed in good company.

   Perfection does not exist in the same world as improvement, for one would always kill the other, more so in a topic as complex, maybe complicated, as to do with women. Here, I admit my imperfection, at best I am a decent improver.

    Long before Shaggy sang it, I had always thought that God was a woman. For the Jamaican musician, he ‘wondered’, but for me as a little boy whose definition of care, protection, fondness and warmth could hardly be found outside his mother’s embrace, I KNEW God was a woman. It presented itself as a rude reprimand when it began to get clear to me that God isn’t a woman (and isn’t a man too), and though my lifetime wouldn’t be enough a time to know who God really is, it has been a schooling knowing women all these years, but with knowledge, perhaps nothing can be entirely known.

   Women have held the world in place, birthed the home, the house and its builder, the porter and his clay, the artist and his brush. For every human who has walked this Earth, a woman pushed, yes, the pangs of childbirth, a painful experience some compare to immolation: women burn themselves to bear others. They are the first teachers of the child, the first guide of every human in this blind world. But soon this baby, a girl named Nnedi, is introduced into the harsh realities of feminine existence in our world... She is the first child, she sees her mother put to bed five more children in the next eight years, all daughters. she notices her father's increasing disappointment with the continued birth of daughters. On a very bad day, she comes home to her crying mother, the woman had been beaten for not having a male child. It is still not coming to this girl,  she has encountered boys at school and there doesn't seem to be much fuss about them, or such hype that her mother should be crying for not having a son. It hasn't come to her how much of no value her father held his six daughters that he is now considering getting another wife just to give him a son.
    Finally, her mother gets pregnant and over the next few months would go from one prayer house to another asking God for a son. Nnedi is growing bigger and is gaining the basic understanding that comes with age, so amidst the celebration when her mother put to bed a baby boy at the end of nine months, Nnedi is in much reflection and wonder. She is wondering why her father killed a big ram to celebrate, she is wondering why visitors wouldn't stop coming and she is wondering why none of these happened at the birth of any of her five sisters. Nnedi sees that the boy is treated with special care and honour, such that any of the girls isn't getting. Nnanna, the boy, wouldn't have to do house chores because they were meant for girls and he would just have to be groomed to inherit their father's legacies and wealth. However, Nnedi and her sisters wouldn't need much investment, as, in the words of their father, they would still be married off to other men, to breed and nurture children. He believed that his daughters should learn how to keep a home so that they wouldn't be problems to their husbands' homes.

   Nnedi is soon getting uncomfortable, she can't understand why she should one day leave her father's house to another man's house, drop her surname and pick up the man's, and live the rest of her life at his pleasure, subject to all his desires, demands, whims and caprices. She can't understand why even the reverend at Church would spend his sermon teaching women to be subject to their husbands and call them Lord like Sarah. She can't understand the profiling, why female sexuality is often the subject of ridicule: 'Beware of strange women, the daughters of Jezebel'. She can't understand why a woman's worth is sometimes screened through the lens of what value she adds to a man's life, yes, if she cannot cook she is not a wife material, if she can't do this or that she is not this or that, and if she is not married she is not complete.
   Nnedi remembers Linda, the senior business executive, a frontline entrepreneur who before her engagement  had been judged for years in the jury of public opinion and her only blemish was not having a man in her life. Nnedi looks North,  and sees Aishattu living with the other women in her father's harem. They are mostly covered up, and often denied education which is haram. And their entire existence is for the purpose of satisfying a man. Nnedi gapes as Aishattu is being married off at thirteen years to Mallam Nuhu, she whimpers as Aishattu puts to bed at fourteen and is soon down with VVF. Nnedi can't understand why this should be, why the men in Al Jannah would get seventy two virgins as reward: seventy two women whose eternal purpose would be to serve one man. Who would serve the women? Nnedi asks.

   Nnedi has a case,  a good case, a feminist case. She wants to see the dignity of a woman recreated. She wants the role and position of a woman redefined. That is as far as it goes with Nnedi.

  In several cultures, liberal and conservative alike, we would always find women who are dissatisfied with the status quo, women who believe that the stereotypes and profiles under which women have been made to live should be dismantled and a new framework established. Often times we find them engaging in different aspects of activism to demand for a better deal. However, method, is as important as purpose, and when undefined purpose cannot tell a spear from javelin, in method, sports becomes war. Here we find perhaps the biggest problem with feminism, no not the men, who are often erroneously considered the enemy, but rather feminism itself, what it means to one and to all. It doesn't need an extensive research to discover that many feminists do not even know what they fight for. Some are because their friends or heroines are, and when it is not mob mentality it is plain misandry.

   The problem continues, that even for those who believe they know and can properly define their own feminism, what feminism is to one is different from what it is to another to the end that there is hardly a consensus anywhere in the world on what feminism is just as 1+1=2. That is as far as theories go, but beyond theories, by their fruits we shall know them and we can see the invisible winds in the dance and sway of palms and branches. A person's actions speak volumes and so has militant feminism. There are some whose mindset empties entirely into actions that show more loathe for men than love for women, like in the words of Golda Meir, Arabs who would know no peace until their love for their children is more than their hate for Jews. This breed of feminists cannot differentiate between sameness and equality, and would oftentimes infer that women are same as men, consequently rolling over several fallacies as they try to argue out their points.
   The difference between men and women spread from emotional to physiological details and understanding and appreciating these differences have created high cultures where women are treated as ladies and men as lords. Yes, it is by understanding these differences that men open the car door for their ladies and walk them down the stairs. It is in that same understanding that we say 'ladies first' almost as an article of faith.
   Yes, chivalry isn't dead, and it was born by this understanding. Yes, ideally, men should treat women with such honour and respect that this understanding demands, and more importantly respect is reciprocal. But, somehow, a certain feminist orientation would rather have men and women struggle on the same queue for train tickets, or bread ration during a famine, bearing in mind the physical strength advantages that the man possesses over women and undermining them. Anything outside of this would suggest to her the obvious relative physical weakness of women, which is as clear as the sky on a bright day. At the same time, this breed of feminists would criticize the man for having no shame for raising his hands to hit a woman. 
'Coward,' they would say to the man, 'you dare hit a woman.'

   Talk about eating one's cake and having it back. It’s all militant feminism, all guns and thorns until it’s time to pee, and she says ‘ladies first’, or rebukes the man for being ungentlemanly because he didn’t open the car door for her, again we fetch the ground with questions; should women be relieved of their traditional responsibilities but men retain theirs and all the trappings of chivalry? Does the woman become a King (not Queen) and the man remain the King’s guard? If things change should things not change with them? 

   Another aspect of feminism found among another certain breed is a chronic victim mentality: the idea that the system has singled women out for mockery, marginalization and damnation. Why should women do the chores? Why should women be sexually objectified? Why should women drop their surnames for their husbands'? Why this and why that? And while some of these concerns are legitimate others are plain sick.
  I once came across a feminist who questioned why women should give birth, saying that child birth is rape, in her words 'the baby rapes the mother from inside out'. Such are the thoughts of these ones, 'We are victims, everyone despises us, everyone uses us, even babies rape us.' Just negodu. Of the legitimate concerns, it should also not be forgotten that men could ask 'Why should men work at the mines? Why should men pay the dowry? Why should, especially in the Nigerian context, a man be considered not fit to marry if he has no job but no one raises an eyebrow when a jobless girl walks into a wealthy man's house by the certificate of marriage?' For almost every legitimate feminist concern, men have got there struggles too. It is the system, it is the table bending here and there.
   However, truth must be said that this table seems to be tilted to masculine advantage. While chivalry isn't dead yet, male chauvinism is alive and well, and it stares us in our faces almost everyday. We are at a fancy Night club in Benin City, a group of boys walk in, rich and spoilt, they park their fancy cars outside the establishment and walk in with swag. Then they order for costly alcoholic beverages, and then one roars with a hoarse voice 'Where are the ladies at?!' Yes, there is that smack of entitlement in his voice, that arrogant exclamation at nobody. Soon a group of girls catwalk in, their skimpy clothes would go off one after the other till almost nothing is left to the imagination, each boy takes two or three of them for himself, he spends the night between gulping his wine, sucking his shisha and groping the girls' generous bodies. To him they are almost not human, they are almost the playthings of his hormones, almost as useful as a bottle of André or a shisha pipe, basically they are things to him.

   But who do we blame? The boys that need the girls to make their nightout complete or the girls that would so generously throw their bodies around the boys? Who should complain? Is it Iti Mpataka, who is typically minding his business or the feminist who is angry at the boys for having no respect for the girls and their bodies but would say nothing to the girls for having no self respect?
  Yes, we should talk of how Europe underdeveloped Africa but we should also talk of how Africa underdeveloped Africa. We should talk of male chauvinism but we should also talk of how women have helped it survive. How often in the university campus does a boy invite a girl over to cook for him and how often she doesn't say no? How often would he overtime make such demands? How often would he thus believe that he can always make such demands of any other girl? How often do girls get invited to hotels and they would gladly go, often times taking their friends with them? How often does this make the man believe that women are cheap and willing? Truth is ideas are fed by realities, and most women have not helped these realities. Most men believe in the superiority of men because most women have acted out inferiority.

  Here I should say that discussing feminism is very difficult when what it is is different from what it should be. Again I suggest that mission is as important as vision, and that the mission of feminism for the most part is deceptively detached from what the vision should be. The vision should be to balance the table and not to turn it. It should not be for women to have the table tilted to their advantage and to the disadvantage of men, that would be inheriting the load side on the lever of a skewed system, it would be a turned table but still a table. Yes under that system women would become kings and men would become palace maids, it would be revenge but like feminism now, it would be a matter of time before men start 'masculinism'.
    History has shown that oppressed puppies become the vengeful hounds of a turned table, imagine the early days of Nazism in Germany, or the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Fascists in Italy, the picture at the beginning often contrasts with the picture at the end. In all a turned table is bad news, a balanced table is not. Feminism should be able to design a vision and mindset that is realizable without man-hating. It should pursue a balanced table, a system that recognizes and respects our gender differences, it should pursue a system where men are lords and knights and women are no less ladies and amazons, not whores.

   In its mission feminism should love women and not hate men, it should work on the self-esteem of women. A woman who starves herself because she doesn't want to be 'fat', as defined by trend, is as much at home with low self-esteem as a woman who feels intimidated by a man, they are both the same all the same. Feminism should teach women to be hardworking and to strive to succeed on their own as it is odd putting on a pair of shoes, blouse and skirt, jewelry and undies all bought by a boyfriend or sugar daddy and remaining a feminist as we know it. Hardly would people treat you better than you treat yourself, thus feminism should also teach women to have respect for themselves first so that others can respect them so.

   Redefining the woman's position in society has gone a long way over the years, and this is an ongoing process which may never end. For example, in Christianity, for years women were not allowed to hold certain positions or participate in certain things, but the lively hands of continuous reformation have allowed women more freedom in Christianity, whereas two thousand years ago Saint Paul was saying that women should have no authority over men in the Church and should be in silence, two thousand years after women are pastors and bishops, presiding over men. Sudden change is often calamitous. Gradual change is often effective and with less casualty, but most times people are impatient to let a season run its course. We should all be patient as we seek a balanced table so that we may eat upon it with malice towards none and goodwill towards all.

   A question persists however, the sameness of man and woman has been addressed, but to what extent can we say that they are equal? I would say that they are equal and opposite like action and reaction, one the king of his world, the other the queen of her world, and both worlds existing together would always have clashes. My firm belief also is not that what a man can do a woman can do better, but that what a man cannot do, a woman was designed to do.

_ Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.