THERE IS ALWAYS A FIRST TIME: the dearth of fear

“It’s OK to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave” – Mandy Hale

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around” – Richie Norton

 

It was the D-day. I am not talking about the 6th day of June in the year 1944 – the day of the allied landing in France, World War II. No, I am talking about the day ChuChu, my younger cousin, would make a speech (we had prepared together) on his graduation day. As the best student for the academic year, he was chosen to make the speech. It was meant to be a summary of his stay in high school, his experience and then, whatever he felt like saying. Actually, this would be the first time he was going to stand on stage to address an audience of such magnitude. The first time he ever made a speech to a group of people was on his nineteenth birthday get-together. My uncle, David, asked him to explain to everyone gathered, how he felt leaving the ‘teen age’ for good. Well, his performance wasn’t bad though.

I could remember the first day I delivered a lecture on stage. I was meant to talk on an issue I knew next to nothing about – The history of the Ibos: A ruined people with a bleak future. Gathering the necessary documents and materials was never stressful; the main task was preparing a juicy lecture, candy-coated with humor that would be both appealing and educative to the audience. At last, the weeks of sleep deprivation and spending endless hours in the study room came to an end, paving way for the D-day, when my efforts would be judged by people of different cultures.

On the fateful day, I woke up at about five o’clock in the morning to the harmonious notes of birds, said my morning prayers (specifically mentioning the event of the day to the Almighty) and spent the next few hours going over the prepared document. At about eight thirty, I arrived at the obi – the town hall where I would either be declared a great orator, a good-for-nothing copycat (by the sadists, of course) or a guy that still needs to improve on the skill with time.

The compère called me up about thirty minutes after the guests were seated. Slowly, I walked up to the podium, taking care not to miss any step because it would spell disaster. On the dais, I removed my handkerchief from my breast pocket (with my head still down) and cleaned up the sweat on my forehead. My knees were jerking at the same time. On lifting my head high, I almost fainted. Everyone’s eyes were on me; a mean-looking lady (I guess she was a trader) with a thick snout and fat chin was looking piercingly at me, as if saying: “Young man, be fast and get out of here so everyone could go have lunch”. On the left side, a light-skinned man was looking directly at me and all of a sudden, his serious mien gave way to a broad smile. Immediately, I found an inexplicable refuge in the man’s smile, like the harmony of the cool oceans. The smile wrapped around my heart with the comfort of innate acceptance. At that instant, I made the conclusion that even if my appearance was not accepted by some people, there were still others who would never judge me by my appearance (back then, I was spotting beards that would make Bin Laden envious). And with that, I set to work with the introductory part of the lecture and the remaining part followed. In between sentences, I would take time to look at the audience and discover how keen they were to hear the remaining part of the discussion. At the end of the lecture, everyone stood up to offer high ovations (except the ‘fat-chinned’ lady). Well, I wonder what I did to her. Maybe she saw me in her dreams with a cutlass in hand, chasing her around the village square.

I could remember the first time I smashed a girl. She was a neighbor’s house help. I literally spent the whole day, pacing up and down the balcony, ungodly thoughts racing through my mind, hoping I don’t bust my nuts too fast, and hoping my erect ‘man shaft’ would occupy ‘the whole territory down south’. Well, all I could remember now was there was virtually no foreplay, and with my ‘gun’ in hand, I headed down south and within five or six minutes, I made a pigeon sound (or was it a squirrel sound) and my gun shot up the whole place. Kai! Tragic!

I could also remember the first time I had a Greek cuisine: Ground beef gyros with spiced sweet roasted red pepper (na wa o…see long name sef) for lunch; when I had the privilege to dine with my parents in a five star hotel. As my folks were making their orders, I was busy spying on a young girl with blonde hair. I winked at her and she blushed. I was called to order by the waiter as he presented the carte du jour to me to make my selection. I decided to impress the blonde-haired girl so I shouted aloud: “I would like to have the ground beef gyros with spiced sweet roasted red pepper”. Lord knows my countenance when I had my first taste of the dish and the embarrassing laugh from the blonde-haired girl.

In life, there is always a first time for every activity; the first day at school, first day for a child to act a play and first day for your kid to say ‘daddy’. There’s also a first day to get a job, first day to propose to your lover and first day to hit a million bucks. Of course, there is still another – the first day to die (just kidding). Really, foundering in any ‘first’ performance is not something to be ashamed of; it has happened to almost everyone.

But whenever you find yourself in a ‘first-time’ situation, just keep your head up, brush your shoulders off and enter the act with boldness. At the same time, close your eyes and imagine the unrivaled acclamation that would follow. The very thought itself evokes images of attention-grabbing greatness and sparkling glory; it is these thoughts that burn in the heart of every great achiever. And all these function together to bring about a spectacular feat on your ‘first-time’ performance. But remember, don’t let these thoughts transform to pride because pride certainly goes before a fall. Na so!

THE LAST WEEK OF CHRISTMAS: A sideline story in 2006

On Monday, the 25th day of December, I woke up to the early morning harmattan chills, with my teeth clanking together and my skin as white as Snow White’s. Our neighbors were preparing for church service while Christmas songs blared loudly from their stereo systems. Suddenly, I remembered it was time to set off to my hometown. Some weeks ago, I had discussed the best and most suitable destination to spend the Christmas holiday with my elder brother. After a few days of serious arguments, we finally decided it would be the village; after all, that was the only opportunity to visit home throughout the whole year.Traveling on the bumpy road that leads toward home had always been a bad experience for me. I realized that the solution to this persisting problem was always to keep myself busy; so this time, I loaded songs of different genre into my iPod (omo, this gadget chop my pocket moni no be small) and placed the ear phones firmly over my ears. I guess the trip was better than before!

As we entered our hometown, we could sense Xmas everywhere; the nicely decorated shops, the well dressed kids in their ‘Christmas clothes’, the smell of fresh air and the masquerades trying to scare everyone. All these made one reminisce on the memories of past yuletide seasons. Soon, we beheld the sight of our old uncle, Dee Gregory. He had worked at the railway corporation and always tried to reflect the lifestyle of the colonial masters both in the way he dressed and in the way he spoke. We genuflect on approaching Uncle Gregory and he gushes out the yearly utterance, “You guys have grown so big, welcome!” I shoot a disapproving glance at my elder brother. For God’s sake, we knew we had never added an extra pound since we saw Uncle last. Anyway, we forcefully smile and walk home with him while inquiring about his health, chickens, goats and everyone at home.

On Tuesday, the swooshing sound of the harmattan wind wakes me up yet again. Nobody needed to remind us to cut down the overgrown grasses, clean the hall for kindred meetings and buy some fresh palm wine for the elders. Of course, we’ve been doing these ever since we were young; it’s a pity we didn’t have any sisters to take over the tasks. In the afternoon, we had many visitors and Uncle Gregory called us to say hello each time a visitor came and also to say goodbye when they left. In some cases, we would be summoned to partake in the traditional breaking of kola nuts. In the evening, we finally had an excuse to go visit some friends and eventually chilled at a local bar.

The next day seemed as long as the word ‘Wednesday’ because we had a lot of activities lined up, both tiresome and interesting ones. We visited our mother’s town, watched local matches, and eventually attended the local church bazaar. The church officials mistook us for some rich fellows that came back from ‘overseas’ and called us up to the‘high table’. Thanks to God for eventually providing an opportunity for us to sneak out of the premises undetected (after wining and dining with the rich) without donating a dime.

On Thursday, we literally spent the day resting at home and deliberately didn’t entertain any visitors. But we didn’t miss the ‘custom’ of hanging out with a few friends in the evening. On arriving at the local bar, we discovered a lot had changed at home. Instead of enjoying the tingling taste of palm wine while watching the theatrical displays of the local artistic dancers, we found ourselves watching a bunch of rapper wannabes as we were served bottled beer.

Friday ushered in a new and better day. A friend of Uncle Gregory’s got some bush meat minced into small pieces, together with a local delicacy we’ve never tasted. As it was the custom, the man tasted the meat before anyone else. We waited patiently for any sudden jerky movements and the screams that would follow. Eventually, nothing happened so it was safe for the others to do as he did; we all partook in enjoying the lavish meal.

Saturday was nothing compared to what it would have been in the city; it was just like any other day in the village,characterized by hard work and visitors trooping in to say us well. A lovely lady came to our house in the company of an elderly woman and we all spent the next couple of hours discussing different issues, together with Uncle Gregory. Before they left, uncle (in his sly manner) called the lady aside and did an‘extra introduction’ between the two of us. I understood what the ‘extra introduction’ was all about so I complied by collecting the lady’s mobile number, with the promise of calling her and probably taking ‘it’ to the next level. After all, I was an eligible bachelor and she was single.

On the final day of the year, we all prepared for the traditional ceremony of ushering in the New Year. The kids were busy breaking their piggy banks and buying fireworks with the money, the women were preparing the food and dishes, the kinsmen were holding meetings for the welfare of the kindred clan and the young men were buying the drinks for the ‘ichu-afo’ ceremony. In the evening, the merrymaking commenced amidst fanfare. Enemies rejoiced with friends, mothers hugged stubborn children and fathers shook hands with ‘godless’ sons. The celebration lasted well into the night and at twelve o’clock midnight, the sound of firecrackers, bangers and gunshots were heard in the distance. It was another year.

A few days later, we packed up to leave for the city. Uncle Gregory was at hand to offer an impromptu advice to my brother and I – the type a father usually gives a child he won’t be seeing for long. At that instant, it crossed my mind that a lot of families across the nation would be doing same as we were doing; leaving their respective villages for the city. Soon, the whole villages would be left desolate, like war-torn areas.

I never regretted the time I spent in my hometown. This particular yuletide season could be termed my best because I really came to terms with my people’s tradition. Exposure to the city life at a tender age and the stress associated with work doesn’t allow one time to ponder deep into his roots and traditions. But this special season made it possible for me to do so.

Most Africans do not realize that part of civilization, refinement and development is in coming to terms with their traditional values. A person’s tradition is his, no matter where one finds himself and nobody would perform another’s traditional duties for him. Indifference to one’s traditional values is a never ending character that eats deep into a lot of lives. Someday, the necessity of coming to terms with one’s traditional values would be glaring and obvious to everyone. It is therefore in every individual’s interest to make sure that the day would be a remarkable one.

A BRAND NEW YEAR…BRAND NEW RESOLUTIONS!

“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed” – Cavett Robert

“I know. I’m lazy. But I made myself a New Year’s resolution that I would write myself something really special. Which means I have ‘til December, right?” – Catherine O’Hara

 

Its 2015 already. A brand new year. A new beginning. By now,the various Pentecostal churches in Nigeria (and in other nations) must have come up with their respective themes and slogans for the New Year. In 2014, my church’s theme was: ‘a year of overflowing grace: operation kick out the devil’. Two years ago, it was: ‘a year of ceaseless breakthroughs: operation death of my enemies’. I think I already have a clue to what it would be this year. Last sunday, the Senior Pastor was repeatedly telling us, the loyal flock, that “our God would disgrace the bucket with a basket by fetching water with it”. Alright then, lemme put that on my to-do list. I gotta buy about five baskets on the next eke market day and throw away the two buckets loitering in my bathroom.

Every new year as individuals, we are bound to make a list or two. Or even three. We write our different New Year resolutions, wishes, expectations and whatever we deem to term it. My cousin, Mina, has already made two. Luckily, I saw one:

Title – 2015 is my year of unending testimonies;

Content –

Number One: Marry the man of my dreams (tall, dark, handsome and God-fearing, doesn’t lie, doesn’t drink, doesn’t womanize…). I had to stop at that point because it felt like I was reading an unrealistic romantic fantasy novel.

Number Two: Add about three inches to my height (she is about 5ft 4inches tall)

Number Three: Shed about 30kg in two months (she weights about105kg). The last time we hung out at a local joint, she had 3 plates of cow meat pepper-soup plus 2 bottles of orijin

Ok, that’s enough. I’ve had enough. At this point, I had to stop reading. Just like her, a lot of people (young and old) make such lists.Call me an unbeliever if you wish, but some management lessons I was taught made me understand that when making plans, they had to be realistic, feasible,attainable…bla bla bla. But most of us are caught up in this yearly drama of making New Year resolutions that would take ‘centuries’ to achieve. Well, miracles do happen sha. After all, the good book says if our faith is as small as a mustard seed, we could command mountains to get dumped inside rivers and it would be done. And that I believe. Honestly, I believe that. And that’s why I believe that my cousin would get such a man as she wished for out of the heavens on Valentine’s Day. Can I get an AMEN!

And I’ve sworn not to be left out of this drama. So I spent the evening making my own list (its only one list sha…e no pass one) and here it is:

Number One resolution: No more Nollywood movies. I’ve had enough. Seriously, I am done with Nollywood movies. The last one I saw about a week ago (title withheld…but it’s the usual funny title) was meant to last about an hour and thirty minutes. I spent twenty five minutes (yes, I was checking the time) watching adverts and trailers of other movies, then ten minutes watching the princess walk around the village in search of a lost item, another ten minutes watching the Queen scold the palace maids and fifteen watching a scene in which the king was shouting at his cabinet members that they’ve not been able to find the ‘missing’ prince. At that point, PHCN struck. I never bothered to put on the generator neither did I watch the remaining scenes when power was restored.

Number Two resolution: Hookup with a politician’s daughter. Be it the daughter of a Local government chairman, a councilor, the personal assistant to the governor’s wife, village king or a minister’s daughter, e no matter. I need am. I’ve got a lotta business plans and proposals structured properly on my PC. But the big problem is CASH. Yeah, right. CAPITAL. So I need me a ‘cash cow’ as soon as possible to be able to execute the plans in 2015.

Number Three resolution: No more suya. And I mean am. Kai, my night rest about two days ago was interrupted intermittently by nature’s call to the loo. I had too much suya earlier that day. And no be small shit o. My neighbors mistook each drop of shit for gunshots. Thank God they didn’t call the local vigilante on me. So this year, I am done with suya. Even if dem garnish you with onions, tomatoes, cabbage…mba. Suya, u no go get me again.

Number Four resolution: Get a pet. Not a cat. No No No. I heard they are usually vessels for demons. Hahahaha, no mind me jare. See as I dey sound like one Deeper Life guy. But seriously, I heard stories that at a family prayer meeting, they exorcised a couple of evil spirits from their pet cat. Not one. Not two spirits. It was up to six. And it happened in a town in Benin kingdom. So on that note, I am getting a dog. A bulldog. And while walking down the streets with it, I would picture myself in a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, a bottle of 40 oz in my other hand, jeans sagged, wearing a pair of Air Jordan sneakers, acting all gangster. U can’t tell me nothin!

Number Five resolution: I won’t vote at the upcoming elections. Yes, na me talk am. It’s not as if my vote would count sha. But I’ve made up my mind. The reason is this; none of the presidential candidates would bring the change I desire to witness in my country. It’s like old wine in a new bottle. The same song and dance. That’s my opinion though. So I’d rather stay indoors on that day, with my bottle of ogogoro , ‘anu nchi‘, and poker cards and literally waste the whole day.

Number Six resolution: I won’t pay tithes anymore. Well, I’ve not made up my mind yet. I started having these ‘ungodly’ thoughts when I spotted my pastor in a brand new Land Cruiser jeep last month. About two months ago, the church council got him a brand new Toyota salon car. Now I know where my tithes have been going.

So on that note, I drop my pen and stare at the list once more before I fall asleep. I hope to add more to it before the year runs out. And hope I am able to fulfill these resolutions, as my brothers and sisters all over the world hope they do so too.

 

PS: RIP to the victims of Air Asia Flight QZ8501 disaster. May God console the families of the victims and we pray no more planes would fall off the sky this New Year.