How to handle “democracy day” as an apolitical Nigerian(like me)

From the post title, you may have thought I’d give you alternatives to choices of entertainment on this public holiday. Not so, I’m afraid. I’m just gonna tell a sad truth.

A great portion of Nigerian Millenials are apolitical. We’re not to be blamed though, seeing as those who run the country we were born into have given us little reason to be impressed with them. That would mean that I subscribe to Chinua Achebe’s school of thought that believes that the problem with Nigeria lies in her leadership.

May 29th was a holiday meant to mark the peaceful transition to civilian rule after decades of military rule and all the crises associated with the time. The thing is, we simply moved from being ruled by the military to being ruled by retired military men. Of about two decades of civilian rule, almost twelve years have seen a government of retired military men. This isn’t the real problem. After all, the pureblood civilian rulers didn’t do much for us either.

The problem is that we complain of the leadership when one thing is obvious:

A leader was once a follower.

If we truly want change, we ought to be the change we want to see. That probably sounds like a well worn cliché seeing as many factors in this very peculiar country make it difficult to be completely honest and upright in one’s dealings, including leadership. I just know that while we await a national messiah, we can begin by doing the right thing whatever situation we find ourselves in: making money the right way; writing and passing examinations the right way; carrying put our responsibilities without expecting extra financial gain; seeing money as means to an end, not a way of manipulating our fellow man into doing our wish; and tolerating our neighbor regardless of tribe or creed. One day, an ordinary Nigerian like you and I will ascend the throne. If we start this change revolution , we wouldn’t have to worry about a government of lies and nepotism, of bloodshed and blatant ignorance of the cry of the common man. We would all be corruption free.

Finally and most importantly, get your voters card! Most of us get it as just a means of identification and that’s very sad. Just remember that regardless of what you may think, politics is responsible for the price of bread and rice and fuel and garri. Therefore, if you decide to remain apolitical, you have no moral right to complain about whatever brand of governance is shoved into your face come election year, or however high the cost of living in Nigeria might become. Have a voice and use it. Get your voter’s card!

Bad things happen not only when bad people do bad stuff, but when good people decide to do and say nothing.

Happy democracy day. We shall overcome. ✊

Sincerely, Chibugo.

Tattoos and piercings – are we right in condemning body modification?

According to healthline, a tattoo is a form of body art that is created when ink is inserted, using a needle, into the dermis layer of the skin. This changes the skin’s pigment and can be used to create almost any image imaginable.

Pemanent makeup is also a form of tattooing. This is when permanent ink is used to mimic the look of eyeliner, lipliner, eyebrow pencil, or other kinds of makeup.

Piercing is another popular form of body art. This is a type of body modification where a needle punctures a hole in the body. Jewelry is then inserted into this hole. Ears, noses, eyebrows, tongues, lips, navels, nipples, genitals, and other body parts can be pierced.

A little background:

The purpose of tattooing varied from culture to culture. The Greeks for example used it for communication among spies. Romans use them to mark criminals and slaves. Tahitian tattoos served as rites of passage, telling the history of the wearer’s life. Tattoos served as symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and so on.

According to some stats I found online, about 60% of people born after 1980 in the US have tattoos and/or piercings. Strange , isn’t it? Here in Africa, we’re trying to become civilized, hence giving children tribal tattoos as we used to is fast becoming a crime. While the civilizations we emulate are returning to what we’re leaving behind.

But I derail.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of getting a tattoo, or are trying to talk someone out of getting one, or just plain curious. Might as well know the health risks involved.

Health risks.

Allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, skin infections such as staphylococcus or tuberculosis, development of inflamed tissue(granuloma) around the tattoo site, formation of keloids, blood borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, burning or swelling at the tattoo site and interference with future MRI(Magnetic resonance Imaging) tests. Health risks of piercings include complications that may arise if the person has other medical conditions such as diabetes, allergies, skin disorders like eczema or psoriasis, or a weak immune system.

Okay, enough with the medical stuff. My initial response to seeing any tatted/pierced person was a mix of bewilderment and disgust. Like, why would someone hate the clarity of his skin so much that he would decide to draw a permanent image on it? Or love looking weird so much that he goes and lets someone punch holes in his body for jewelry?! It wasn’t until I saw a cancer survivor draw a tattoo over her chest where her breasts had had to be cut off, that I realised it might not be eccentricity that pushes everyone to go down this route.

Still…

Before you get that tattoo or piercing, think on it. Would you still want that tattoo on your body in the next 10, 15 years? Will that piercing make you progress in your chosen sphere of life without constantly having to fight to be taken seriously? If you’re in a professional field, are you ready to always have to find out first if they have a no-tattoos-or-piercings policy before applying to a new place of work? What exactly is the additional appeal you think you might have by piercing your nose or lip or eyebrow or having your arms or neck tattooed?

You might want to read this.

What I think.

If, after weighing the pros and the cons, you realize that that tattoo or piercing won’t help you progress at due speed in life, drop it like it’s hot. The truth is that most normal people wouldn’t want to be alone with a tatted or pierced person late at night. In all honesty, it’s not something that inspires trust. It would take an extremely liberal interview team to ignore a candidate’s tattoos/piercings and pick him/her above other applicants even if he or she were as qualified. Except of course, if you’re in a Muslim community where it’s not unusual for women to have nose piercings. Semi permanent henna tattoos are also quite common in such places, especially for special occasions. Young America may think otherwise, but tattoos and piercings do make you look irresponsible. People’s perception of those with such “body art” is “he probably does drugs as well” or “he surely moves with a crowd you don’t want to be around” or “she’s probably a slut”. It’s unlikely that someone’s first thought on seeing it is “he must have been in a bad place when he drew that one ” or “that lovely nose ring must be her best form of personal expression”. As with those with tattoos, according to a study I read, there was a strong association of piercing relative to alcohol and recreational drug use, jail time and lack of religious affiliation.

The fact is that most young people would pay a lot of money to get these things done, but still clamor for cheaper education and social amenities. Eventually in the future when they feel like they could do without it, they manage to save for painful and expensive removal processes which might not yield aesthetically pleasing results and may lead to yet more scarring. Something tells me that if these people were born with the tattoos, they would eagerly find find a way to remove them. The craze is simply a case of dissatisfaction plus enough spending money. Actually, scratch that. Even broke people will still find a way to do something to themselves.

I was once a kid, and I would have got lost a hundred times over before venturing to ask for help from someone with tattoos or piercings. They’re mostly scary to kids, and like I said, they do not inspire trust.

That said, not all tatted and pierced people are bad people. As a matter of fact many of them are quite great. The choice to draw on your body or punch holes in it is entirely up to you, but you have to prepare for people’s reactions to how you look, and try not to blame them. It’s not the norm after all, and never will be. People don’t take lightly to ideas or concepts that are different from what they believe in, or what is socially acceptable.

Now there are tattoos, and there are tattoos. A butterfly tattoo on the wrist may not be viewed with the same distaste as a long bible quote on the buttock area. An offensive image, no matter how small, will definitely put you on the “to avoid” list of a normal person. Earrings are generally accepted, but of course overdoing it by piercing a gazillion holes in your ear won’t likely win you normal people as close pals. I mean, I have two earring piercings in my right ear, and I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain how the maternity nurse got the first one wrong and had to give me another piercing, less than 48 hours after after my birth.

Why should ear piercing be seen as normal while piercing of other body parts is deemed abnormal? I think that since the wearing of earrings is a universally accepted way of life(for women), the piercing of the ear at birth has become one too, except for those whose religion forbids it.

Would I date or marry someone with tattoos and/or piercings? I’m 99% positive I wouldn’t.

Would I get a tattoo or piercing? No. Not even if I was offered money to get one.

Would I let my kid get one? Somebody better be kidding. Not as long as you’re under my care, you won’t.

Would I befriend one? Definitely. As long as there are no chances of my future kid suddenly wanting to punch holes in his/her body or getting stuff drawn all over.

In nutshell, it’s not up to anyone to judge others because of choices they have made Tattooed, pierced, scarified, one God made us all. The real issue is doing what you’ll regret later on in life. It might feel good to be seen as a cool dude right now, but if 10 years later you have a slight chance of regretting it, it would be wise to let that sleeping dog lie if you want to go far in life.

We all do things we desperately wish we could undo. Those regrets just become part of who we are, along with everything else. To spend time trying to change that, well, it’s like chasing cloud – Libba Bray

Sincerely, Chibugo.

PS. Let me hear your opinions in the comments!

Temporary romantic partners: to have or not to have?

While the term dating has many meanings, the most common refers to a trial period in which two people explore whether to take the relationship further towards a more permanent relationship

I got that from Wikipedia.

images-3

Now, the term “dating” is one of those terms that people seem to have different meanings for. I sensed this when I was told by a colleague, “Hey, you only live once.! This is your time to have fun! You’re so choosy at this dating thing. Seriously.”

Well, I’m sorry, but if dating means making out with every Tom, Dick and Harry I go to the movies with, then no thanks. *insert appropriate grimace*. I’m particular about those I let into my personal space.

Temporary romantic partners are people we date with no intention of settling down with them. Yep, situations like this exist. They’re even more commonplace than you could imagine.

I was shocked when I had a discussion with a friend and she mentioned the man she was dating. In my typical blunt way, I ask, “Do you see yourself spending your life with him?”

“No”. She says.

I am more shocked, if that’s even possible. “Why are you then dating him for Pete’s sake?” I’m perplexed. She’s pretty, not the kind that lacks male attention.

She gives me that “Don’t probe too much” look. I will not mention what she eventually tells me is her reason for being with him, but it does nothing to ease my perplexity.

It doesn’t help that most people who date in our Universities have no intention of ending up with the person they date. It has a name even. It’s called “school boyfriend or girlfriend”. It’s not supposed to be serious.  It seldom leads to marriage; as a matter of fact, of the many school boyfriend/girlfriend situationships I’ve seen, only one has ever led to the altar. Mind you, most of these relationships while they exist, bear every mark of “legally married”, while being everything but. Back in university, we actually had a “couple of the year” award. And no, the nominees and eventual winning couple weren’t married but they played their roles beautifully, playing husband and wife like their calling. That’s how normal it’s become.

Dating should be fun, shouldn’t it?

Of course. But that’s not all there is to it. Unless the world became full of selfish, pleasure seeking millenials while I was asleep. How do you explain dating a girl for years and knowing fully that you do not intend to marry her when you’re ready to settle down but want to have all the “fun” now in bed and out of it?

It’s different for the “modern” folks who believe that sex is like a meal you should eat whenever you feel like and move on. If both parties are aware that they’re being used by the other as a “fuck buddy” and they’re fine with it, then hey, whatever rocks their boat. Check out popular scenarios:

1. Girl and boy meet in uni, and decide to date exclusively. They become intimate by plan or by chance. One of them likes the fun and the ride, but knows he/she would never settle for current partner. Years down the line, one of them walks. Dumpee is shocked and wondering why. Dumper doesn’t give time for the dust to settle. Dumper’s next post on Facebook is a wedding picture.

2. Guy meets a pretty young girl and decides he wants her for his wife. She doesn’t love him but because he seems to hold the key to her family’s financial emancipation, she tells him that she has to finish school before they can take their relationship to the next level. He agrees and trains her through 4, 5, maybe 6 years of University. She has a plan all this time. As soon as she completes her program, she tells him she has no interest anymore(old news!) and takes a walk. *insert nollywood dramatic soundtrack*

3. Girl meets famous guy and falls hard. He has other girls but hey, he’s famous so she should be happy she even gets to be called the “main chick” and hang on bis arm at events. Eventually one of the “side chicks” bears him a kid and he has to let main chick go so as to do right by his child. Of course she goes. She must have known that with his roving eyes, their relationship was even less than temporary.

It all boils down to using people and loving things. We love what we can get from people: fame, financial security, perhaps even love(in some weird situations) , but we cruelly use the people themselves to get these things.

Ours is a generation of selfish and myopic cowards, pardon my French. Wanting everything but too lazy to get it the right way, and blaming everyone but ourselves when things go wrong.

Having fun with friends is a great way of building a solid support system, and by all means, experience all there is to experience. As long as it doesn’t end up with you having the body count of a public toilet, or a litany of broken relationships to spice up stories for your future grandkids. You don’t have to be your own Guinea pig. Learning from other people’s mistakes is usually the best way to gather experience without actually living the experiences.

The problem? We don’t stand for anything anymore, and so we fall for anything. If we weren’t such shallow minded pleasure seekers, we would “guard our hearts with all diligence”. Whatever then manages to get in, would be real.

The time to walk is before someone’s heart gets too emotionally invested

Be open and communicative! That way you know just where you’re headed in the relationship and you know when to stop the charade(if there is one)

Stop being a doormat and hoping your partner will change if you do this or that better. He/she probably won’t. Save yourself the hurt down the line and take a walk before you become too invested.

If you’re looking to “forever” and your significant other is looking to “live the moment”, you might just need to develop those leg muscles. Take a long walk.

I’m hardly qualified to speak on relationship matters, but these are truths that people are ignorant of in the search for love or anything that resembles it. The loveless world we live in makes people cling to unhealthy relationships that do far more harm than good.

Don’t cling to shit. It will only make you smelly. Don’t be shit either. You’ll only be flushed down.

Oh-so-sincerely, Chibugo.

 

The keke ride that woke me up

Right after the commercial motorcyclists “okada”, tricycles are next on my “avoid if  possible”  list. We all know how close to impossible this is, though, with the madness called Lagos. They are a necessity if  you don’t have a car. I jumped into one of those within the week as soon as I heard “fine girl, you dey go Express”? My bus rides are usually time for me to enter into myself. I’m usually deep in thought or as close to pressing my nose to the window to see the things speeding past me as possible. Some childhood habits just never die. Of course you can’t press your nose to the Windows of a “keke”  because there are simply no Windows!

images

 

” I love you!” This was the first thing that hit me when my bum had hardly settled in my seat. Goofing around, are we? Two can play that game. I played dumb.

He said it again, louder this time. I caught his eye in the rearview mirror. Without missing a beat I replied “I love you too” and looked away, hoping he got the message. He grinned instead.

Gawd no! This one seemed to be one of those long winded, ever cheerful people and I was not in a talkative mood. That didn’t deter him. “Will you marry me?” he asked. Without wasting a second I said, “of course”. I had hoped to catch him unawares by not trying to act coy. It worked. He was a bit startled at my reply. Then he laughed gaily and launched into the story of his broken heart. Even as passengers piled in, he continued  his story, occasionally glancing at me in the mirror to be sure I was still listening.

“Are you an Edo girl?”

“No”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m Igbo”

“Oh, you Igbo girls. The girl I wanted to marry was Igbo you know”

“Hmmm”, I say. I’m thinking “TMI?” But my simple response seems like more than enough fuel to drive him on. I needn’t say more. He just keeps on.

“Her people said I couldn’t marry her. Her mother actually told me she liked me and that was why she was advising me not to waste my time and money on her daughter”

Silence.

” I really loved that girl. Her name was Florence. ” At this point he smiles in memory of this Florence girl. I find myself cracking a small smile. I can’t help it. He’s a smiler .

“Her mother explained that she has just two daughters and wanted them to marry close to home”

Silence.

“She told me she would get pregnant for me so that her parents would have no choice but to give her to me in marriage. It was painful but I had to let her go. I’m not that kind of man.”

All this time, the other passengers are listening, but don’t get the full gist. I tell him I’ve reached my stop. Handing him the currency note, I tell him, “You will find your real woman someday, don’t worry.”

The fact that this taciturn passenger finally managed a full sentence seems to have made his day. He flashes  me a winning smile.

“Thank you sweetheart”

Ooookay, too much familiarity already. A simple thank you would have sufficed but anyway, I’m off the vehicle. As I cross the road, I think to myself, “This would be good for the blog”. Unlike the one million other times I’ve said this in the last four months, I actually go through with it.

Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them. They don’t expect you to  solve their problem, but just to listen. You never know when or where you’ll be expected to play the shrink to someone. Whenever that is, remember :if you must be anything, be kind.

Yay. We’re back.

Unceasing rain, an acute case of writer’s block and everything in between

A short while ago, I almost gave up blogging. I had got my custom domain name last year, which meant that I got rid of the wordpress.com addition to my blog name. Perhaps I had thought that the action would transform my blog into something better than the toddler it was/still is. In other words, I tried standing an adult on a toddler’s legs. I’d probably thought, somewhere in my subconscious, that a move in that direction would make me a wellspring of creative ideas on what to write about. The crushing disappointment shown by a cursor steadily blinking at you from your screen, is perhaps one of the most exasperating representations of writer’s block.

 

For people of my kind who fell in love with words at a young age, writing about the things that matter to us is, as I like to put it, like a wild bird in a cage,  flapping about and looking for escape. Writing, for us, is the key to the lock of that cage. The release felt from putting thoughts to paper, (or from keyboard to monitor) is pretty much indescribable. That people actually read what you write is the icing on the cake. Knowing that even one person, read your work and was influenced positively, (especially with  the population of clickbait swimming all over the ocean of the Internet) is the best thing ever. There has never been so much to read on the Internet as there is right now. It is a humbling realization knowing that: you have a gift, but so do others. There’s no rule that says your work must be read. I do not know if this helps the case of writer’s block, but it does help put things in perspective . I like to metaphorize writer’s block as many wild birds flapping in a cage, with you the writer and cage owner, frantically searching for the keys to the lock, and coming up empty regardless of the effort.

 

For seven days in a row, there have been rains in Lagos. Eight days, depending on your area. For Lagosians, this means traffic even worse than usual, runny noses and coughs every direction you turn, dreary weather and floods in differing proportions (the island is worst hit. All hail our government for trying to push water away to create land for more ridiculously expensive highbrow dwellings that get submerged every year. Well, the water is pushing back.).

Depressing stuff.

I do not work a nine to five job but rather do the field stuff and work from home a lot, making my earnings by way of commissions (which have taken a nosedive since the onset of 2017. Don’t mention the R word). Padding around the house in the complete home-high-fashion ensemble of sweater, thick socks and a blanket plus my (really dorky) glasses, drinking a hot beverage and reading two books alternately, I realize I cannot quit blogging. Not now, at least. While I might never write the great novel, this precious space gives me most of what I need to unclutter my cerebral apartment. There are so many beautiful, interesting, exciting, thought provoking, emotion inducing things to write about, so I’m not getting off this train yet. If I did, the wild bird might flap till it gets tired, starves and dies. That’d be a crying shame.

adler-589599_960_720

A great writer once wrote, “you can’t edit a blank page”. Reading that quote motivated me to put pen to paper, and here we are, a full page already!

 

It’s my birthday in a few days. Every year I unconsciously expect a new birthday to usher in a changed version of my person, but it’s the same face in the mirror and the same personality year after year. The main change, is a new kind of awareness, mostly in response to events, whether planned or incidental.

 

For those longest time, dating back to my teenage years even, I had regarded the sayings “you are as old or as young as you decide to be”, “age is just a number”, and “it’s never too late to start” dubiously. I felt like they were used by people desperately trying to reclaim a lost or misspent youth. Until I began to find myself feeling like a tired, world-weary 50 year old trapped in a lissom, 20 year old body; or a playful, fun-loving 10 year old prankster trapped in a 24 year old body.

I have done the proponents of these sayings a great disservice. I think I finally get it.

Here’s to being the best versions of ourselves. 🍸And to never quitting. 🍸

Love, Chibugo.

Bumped into old classmates? Shocking changes you likely came across

Whether it was secondary school or university, your last few days at school were likely filled with bittersweet partings and promises to keep in touch(which you probably broke after less than a year). At that point in time, you probably couldn’t imagine a life outside your current circle of friends. But, as time went on and everyone pursued their passions, life got in the way and your communication became limited to liking their pictures on Facebook. Pictures in which all was well with the world and they were leading perfect, manicured lives.

girl-882336__180

Perhaps they are. Perhaps they’re not. But I can tell you certainly that bumping into an old classmate whether from secondary school or university, is bound to hold a number of surprises for you. Key phrase : bumping into.

We know all about reunions, but everyone gets a period of time to prepare for that. Most want to impress, to show how far they’ve come. Not a bad thing, especially if you were seen as not likely to succeed back in the school days. In preparation, you could always lose a few kilograms, get an expensive weave installed, go for a facial and a full makeover, or get a shiny car to make everyone green with envy.

But it’s a different ball game when you bump into each other. You are unprepared, physically, mentally  and socially, except you had a genuine friendship with the person, or you really are just that kind of happy, open person. Changes are mostly physical (of course, duh) and career/success wise, and they come in  an expectation-versus-reality kind of comparison that leaves us either mightily awed or totally disappointed.

 

I couldn’t end this article without sharing a few experiences.

Physical.

It adds up: the years and the weight. A moderate number of us added a few kilograms here and there(secondary school classmates) which didn’t look bad in most cases, in fact they mostly look really good, while almost all my uni classmates have added obvious weight. I once bumped into an old uni classmate who had become so big(wide, more like), that for a moment I was actually scared of saying hi to him.  Seeing as skinniness is not particularly a desired trait in our society, I do not say this proudly but I am one of the few who remained almost the same. 53kg in my final year of secondary school, 55kg close to a decade after. Oh well.

Some become unrecognizable. I once saw a lady and wondered at how she looked so eerily familiar. By the time I finally realized who she was, I was shocked as well as curiously awed. She had gone from Viola Davis to Halle Berry within 7 years(at the time) and not in a very attractive way. I have always held a strange curiosity and awe for people who effect drastic changes in their physical appearance without feeling guilty or weird about it all. Of course it was normal for everyone to go one to three shades lighter, being that we were now mostly in control of our lives and hardly had reason to walk under the scorching 3 o’clock sun. We all know that Lagos sun has no pity on day students, especially if you walk to and from school everyday. But doing a skin tone overhaul a la Michael Jackson? Left me gobsmacked. So don’t feel bad if you actually don’t recognize an old classmate. I’ve been told this is the least astonishing thing to see. Imagine realizing that a former classmate had become a criminal. Yeah, I thought  so too. (I actually came up with the criminal part).

Expectation versus reality

Most didn’t turn out to be what everyone had expected. This made me realize that school smart doesn’t equate world success.

Some who we had expected some kind of high flying career from, those who had that lethal beauty+brains combo, ended up settling really comfortably into motherhood and family life.

Some who weren’t so pretty and were mostly invisible and shy, somehow went to the market and bought confidence. Yep. I’ve got one foot in this group.

Some who were super smart and who came from families with good pedigree to boot, ended up doing just, well, average.

Some who had been break-neck beautiful turned out really quite average too. Sometimes even below average. Can’t really understand this one.

Some got wild. I mean from religious or average moral young man/woman to promiscuous living-nightclub hopping-body piercing-tattooed-smoking and drinking-half naked pictures on social media-human. Shame.

Some actually turned out as expected and did very well for themselves in their fields. Vera Chika Ani, who always got almost all the prizes on  prize giving day, went on to bag a first class in engineering and is currently working comfortably somewhere in the United States. Ebunoluwa Taiwo, smart and quick witted, is currently a doctor. Modupe Ola, which most Nigerians know by her stage name of Mo ‘Cheddah, began showing what she would be from those days. Even being in a Catholic all-girls school didn’t stop that. There are many others, these are just a few.

Many, no, A LOT of us ended up practicing in fields as different from what we studied as Biology is different from Economics. Who would have thought?

It helps to know that, you are not alone in the struggle to be something in life. Seeing old classmates makes you realize how far you’ve come, or how far you’ve yet to go. But, never be condescending or overly awed, because in the race of life, overtaking is allowed. The way you look at someone who hasn’t quite achieved as much as you, is the way someone(in your set) higher in accomplishments than you are, will probably look at you. Over and above all, remember that your biggest competition is YOURSELF.

Like I always say, life is one well-spiced pot of jollof rice. 

Feel free to share your own experiences. I can’t wait to hear them all!

Sincerely, Chibugo.