The Awards Night

Award

Image credit: http://www.dcmsurfaces.com

It was the biggest party he had ever seen in his life. Not like he had attended so many in his time, but from all he had heard, seen, and experienced directly, this trumped them all.

The hall alone was the biggest room he had ever been in, and as far as he was concerned, stretched for miles and miles. Well, when you worked for the largest company in the world, what else was one to expect.

For the past 20 years, Stephen had worked for Noiz International Incorporated, a global conglomerate with interests in every imaginable endeavour across the planet and had offices, branches, and subsidiaries scattered all across the globe. He worked in the entertainment section of his group and over the years had risen, rather slowly, to a senior sales officer.

One thing was clear to him though and aroused his curiosity; this was the first time this party was being thrown on such a global scale. His curiosity stemmed from wondering why Noiz had never thought to do something like this in all the years he had been there.
All operations had been shut down globally because of the party and invitations had gone out to every employee to attend, all expenses paid.

He was completely awed by the decorations. It was a combination of brilliance and elegance without being overstated.

The food!!! There were tons of it. How else did you plan to feed that many people?

He looked around at the people who were present. The majority he had no clue who they were. He knew some of the ‘stars’ of the company though, after all, he had been there for quite some time. They all stood in cliques and groups, chatting away, and being merry.

There were some people he had expected to see as he strolled around the hall. Some of them were the really big superstars of the company. You could always tell when they were around. They were the life of the party, and with their charisma and charming personalities, drawing a crowd around them was easy peasy. Some of them were conspicuously missing.

The invitation card and email had said to be at the venue by 10 pm prompt. It had also stated clearly that no one would be allowed entry who arrived after then. No matter who they were. He had made it with minutes to spare. He had taken one look at the fierce-looking bouncers at the gates and had known that they would comply totally with the orders they had been given.

He was right. As he strolled towards the windows overlooking the gates, he saw a crowd of employees who had been denied entry, and were clamouring to enter. The guards were standing their ground and were physically repelling anyone who thought to struggle in. Phew! He let out the breath he did not realise he had been holding, and thanked the stars he had made it in. One more look at the crowd outside and he turned and walked away. It was really sad that they would miss an event such as this.

He turned his mind to happier thoughts and decided to mingle with the others and be merry. He found that some of his close buddies at work had also made it and he decided to hang out with them.

A very light jazz played in the background. It was also the biggest live orchestra he had ever seen. The music just seeped into his soul and had a soothing and calming effect. Waiters moved among the crowds serving all sorts of hors d’oeuvres. He snagged a glass of something he was not quite sure what it was, but a whiff and a taste later, all his senses came alive, and he really felt good with himself.

Suddenly, the tempo of the music changed to a brisk foxtrot. A huge hidden door smack in the center of the hall opened and the Chief Executive Officer stepped briskly albeit regally into the hall to a shower of confetti. He had a huge smile on his face and the crowd gave him a thunderous applause. He was dashingly handsome and looked fitter than many much much younger than he was. The office grapevine put him somewhere between his 70s and 80s. Despite his age, his hair was full and snow white in colour. He was dressed simply in a long-sleeved white tunic and trousers with a simple pair of sandals on his feet. His only other adornment was a silver chain with a lion’s head as a medallion. He had been CEO as far as Stephen could remember and was well liked by his employees, and had the grudging respect of the competition.

As the applause went on, he turned and nodded his head, and the Chief Operations Officer came up to join him. Between the two of them, they had built something formidable that few ever dreamed possible in their lifetime. He raised his right hand and the applause died down.
He started to speak and the hall went deathly still.

“Tonight has been a night that has been several years, even decades in planning. There are many who started this journey with us who are not here today to celebrate our huge successes. There are others who should have been here today, but because of their intractable carelessness, they have missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity and would remain on the outside for the rest of the night. If you are here in this hall tonight, I congratulate and celebrate you for being here. Tonight is your night and we are here to celebrate hard work and achievement. What you have achieved will speak for itself on your behalf. We took the time to analyse in great detail individual contributions to the success of Noiz and the results were amazing. There are some of you who went to great lengths, put in lots of effort, and made personal sacrifices to see to our growth and domination. Others, were only here for what they could get out of us. Tonight, we will make that distinction and it will stand through the history of this great organisation. Let it be clear and serve as a lesson to all who would come hereafter, we will always reward diligence, faith, sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment. One again, tonight is your night, and I ask you to relax and enjoy every bit of it. God bless.”

Once again, the room erupted in thunderous ovation as the CEO stepped off the Dias and into the crowds to meet and greet. He knew most of the people by name and that was no mean feat. Every hire had to meet with him at the point of entry.

The Master of Ceremonies (MC) took to the podium to announce that dinner was served, and the people were ushered expertly to whatever menu caught their fancy.

Stephen had never felt so hungry in his life. The sight and smell of the food alone was enough to have him salivating profusely. Tonight he was going to sample as many delicacies as he could hold.

It was really fun. He had the best food, the best drinks, some really good buddies, really good music, and the best atmosphere in the world at that point, what more could anyone ask for.

At about 1 a.m., the MC got on the podium to announce that the awards ceremony would be starting shortly. Everyone would be called up to meet with the CEO and receive his or her award. Stephen was a bit surprised at that. It was going to be a really long night then. He wondered how long it was going to take to get through the sheer numbers who had come in such a personalised award ceremony. He was also a little anxious trying to imagine what he would receive for the 20 years of service he had put in.

The awards started and as it progressed, his anxiety worsened. As your name was called, a citation of accomplishments was quickly read out as the awardee walked toward the stage. It started to get interesting when people who were little known within the organisation bagged huge gifts and benefits. Promotions, lands, houses, cash awards… Some of the company ‘stars’ got what was obviously their due as their hard work and sacrifices reaped huge rewards. There were some huge surprises there too. Some of them got very measly rewards in comparison to their star status within the company. This was interesting and disturbing. Now, he was really fidgeting and wondering what his case would be like.

He heard his name called and his citation being read. It had only one detail. That he had shown up to work faithfully and punctually everyday for the past 20 years. Some in the crowd giggled at that and he felt ashamed and almost tripped on his own legs as he approached the stage. Once there, he got a handshake from the CEO, a little box with a golden wristwatch inside, and a thank you for coming acknowledgement. As he turned to go, the CEO called to him to wait and bent to whisper in his ear.

“I have watched you all these years. When you came in, you had so much potential. There was a lot you could have been and done, but you became complacent and took things for granted. Even when I tried to push you, you were too stubborn and would not respond appropriately. This should have been your moment of glory, but this would do for now.”

Stephen felt cut to the heart. He had never felt so small in his whole life. The past 20 years flashed through his mind. There was a time working for Noiz had been his pride and joy. Those were the days he had been willing to do anything for the company. He had given his whole life to it then and had gone severally beyond the call of duty to get things done. As he started to settle into life, all that had begun to change. Marriage, kids, and a certain sense of comfort had taken some of the passion and he had settled into the routine and mundane. Distractions had also played a key role in his under-performance as he had introduced other pursuits that had helped kill the passion he once had for Noiz. To all intents and purposes, he had a good life and felt “blessed” but tonight had knocked all that semblance of having it together aside. Everything he had achieved in the early years had paled in significant insignificance compared to his under-performance of the latter years.

He looked at those he had mocked their persisting passion once in a while, they were all smiles. Their persistence had paid off big time and they were smiling all the way to the bank. Some of them had not spent up to five years with the company, but had achieved so much in so little time. He felt deeply ashamed.

He retreated to one corner of the hall and buried his head in his hands. He could not cry. The tears would not come even if he wanted them to. He tried to console himself though. After all, there were those who had not made it into the party. Some of them would never have the opportunity of the party, meeting and shaking the CEO like he had. At least in that, he was better than them. SELAH!

The Guardians

Image credit: Sina Pakzad Kasra http://www.pininterest.com

We stood on the high mountain ranges watching the horizon as the sun set.

It was not a good time for us. We had come so far, fought so hard, but this was not the outcome we desired.

Looking around, we used to be a lot more than were gathered this evening.

Not a word was said. There was no need to. Every face was grim. Eyes looking into the distance, lost in deep contemplation, but somehow, all thinking the same things.

The scars were rather evident. More than our fair share. More than any of us should have ever borne.

Yes, your curiosity is aroused now. You are are probably asking who we were. Let me help you there.

Hitherto, we were the greatest band of unknown warriors ever to walk the land. The very few who knew of our existence, called us Guardians.

We walked among men like ordinary people but there was nothing ordinary about the things we did and accomplished.

Ora was our pride and joy. Verdant and rich in every sense, and we kept careful guard over it. Nothing happened anywhere that we did not know of, and quite frequently, even before it happened.

Ours was a perpetual struggle against the enemies of life. Ours was a centuries long injunction to keep the peace and stability of the land.

Let me step back a bit to tell you about these men and women.

The slowest among us could outrun a stampeding herd of wild horses. The weakest had faced down giants three times their size and vanquished them.

We were all gifted with the sight and could see farther than any eagle. We heard things that normal ears could not. Where ordinary humans feared to tread, were our regular haunts.

By dint of extensive training and use, our senses and abilities far outweighed that of any human. Yet, you would walk past us on the streets and have not the faintest clue.

Most of our battles were fought when men slept. Every incursion, swiftly repelled. If you had ever faced us, you knew never to try it again. We were much more famous amongst our enemies than the people we protected, and were feared greatly.

How did we come about?

Some of us were born into it and carried on a treasured legacy. Some were chosen, and some, simply found us and joined up. It did not matter how you came about; none was considered less than the other. One fundamental stood though: you needed to earn the right to remain.

We were artisans, writers, healers, teachers, singers, musicians, fathers, mothers, and the like. We were in every sphere, in the shadows and hidden in plain sight, keeping watch.

We had One Leader, Olisa, and took our instructions from Him alone. There was no doubt who was in charge and in the many years of our existence, we had been conditioned to do His bidding.

We never went out alone. In every skirmish, every back was covered. We were taught that the rear was as important as the front, and so every battle plan took adequate care of that. To break ranks was to die and death was victory for our enemies.

For centuries we lived. Ages and generations passed us by. We saw kingdoms established, dynasties begin, and end; and our enemies grow even more cunning, desperate, and intense. Those who would do the land well, we stood by till their dying breath. Those who would not, were swiftly dispatched.

Okay, enough of my telling of what an awesome group we were. Why were we gathered in this somber assembly on a fateful evening like this?

Somewhere, somehow, something changed.

Looking back, it appeared we were too focused on guarding the land in which we dwelt and forgot to be guardians to ourselves.

As the centuries passed, our ranks began to swell. Not all who received the gifts and endowments we were bestowed with saw the need to use it for the purpose they were meant for. Not all of them saw the need to maintain the focus and discipline that had been our stay across the eons, and had separated us from being as ordinary as every other.

To them it was foolish to have such endowments without the accompanying fame and notoriety. And so the struggle started. And the lure was rather strong, and spread.

Gradually…

Assignments were dropped or not accomplished. Posts were abandoned. Sensitive tasks were handled with levity. Warriors hitherto unknown, were now the toast of parties and all manner of revelry. What we had for centuries kept as sacred, was now on open display. Men revered them as demigods and the adulation and worship was their greatest undoing.

Meanwhile, our enemy grew stronger and unchecked. The enemy that once dared not stand up to us, capitalized on our weakness and started making incursions.

Olisa’s anger was kindled and his rage was like a fiery volcano burning through the mountain ranges.

Foolishly, some of them, thinking that they still had it together, and with the praise of men ringing in their ears, started taking on the enemy alone. The paid dearly for it.

We started to die. That was the surprising part. Men and women who had not known the fear of death for hundreds of years, all of a sudden, were succumbing to an enemy they had vanquished severally in the past. It was terrible to behold. Those who did not die, were wounded like they had never been in the past.

We were gradually becoming too weakened to carry out battle strategies, and we failed miserably over and over again. With each failure, our grip over the land weakened, the enemy grew stronger, took over more and more territory, and men gave themselves up to all manner of foolishness. We were hit on every side and pummeled endlessly.

The ridicule of men was even more painful. Right before their eyes, much touted invincibility was shattered to smithereens. Gods were bleeding, and bleeding badly, and men scorned them. Songs were sung of their falling, but rather than honor, they jested. Men told stories around campfires with acerbic wit of how their dismembered bodies were brought back from the battlefront, never minding that it had all been a sacrifice in their defense.

Not one of those who had dallied with men had been spared. They were either dead or so badly wounded, they would never bear arms again. Olisa made sure of that.

What a shame!

There were those of us, especially of the old guard, who remained. Much fewer than we would have liked. We had kept ourselves from being drawn into the foolishness that had beset our fellows, as sore as the temptations had been, and had watched it all play out like some fable written by a drunken oracle with a toothache.

It was a big and bitter lesson. One we hoped that we had all learned. Many of us bore the scars of trying to fight battles with weakened warriors as companions. Some of us, would never stand to defend Ora again.

As we stood there that solemn evening, the only words that had been said were grunts of acknowledgment as each one of us arrived. There was a lot that needed to be said but could not be said. No doubt though, the looks on the faces, and the stooped shoulders, said more than any words ever could. At a point, we could not stand anymore. So burdened in mind and spirit, we clasped our hands and knelt together as waves of sorrow and remorse washed over us for the things we had done, and had been done to us.

There was one other thing though that was strongly prevalent in that meeting; anger, and loads of it. Unspoken, yet I could feel it rise like a river about to overflow its banks and flood an entire village. There was hell to pay!

Gradually, thinking as one, we each started to raise our heads to look up, and square previously stooped shoulders, and we stood. Hands gripped weapons tighter, as determination was etched on each face. Indignation was like fire coursing through our veins. Almost without knowing, we began to tap spears and other weapons on the ground to some frenetic tempo and rhythm. It swelled and swelled until it covered the whole mountainside. We had been decimated but we were not completely defeated. Those who had dared stand up to us, would once again feel wrath like never before.

We shouted! One huge sound that reverberated across the valleys and rolled down the hills. Let all who thought we were finished, hear, and know, that we were coming for them.

And as our shout rolled around the mountains, a string of fire traced its way across the sky above us, and lightnings flashed with great peals of thunder. A horn sounded in the distance, and immediately, every sound ceased, except the fading timbres of the horn.

As one, we turned towards its sound. It was a sound like no other. A sound that only we could hear. It was the Guardian’s call.

Warriors

Image credit: http://www.nexusmods.com

May your eyes be opened as you read this

Me, The Storm, and You

dsc_9653
Image Credits: www.dphotographer.co.uk/user/dannysantos

Closer and closer…
Persistently so;
Through the night thick with darkness;
As the heavens weep a mournful deluge;

Fears…
A subtle panic begins to set in;
Visions of possible outcomes flashing through;
Emotions completely roiled;
Coherent thought blindsided by the swelter of apprehension;
Long and deeply nurtured terrors swell to the surface;

Intensely ingrained responses…
Flight;
Through the blinding rainfall;
Then, anger;
Torrents of it;
Upsets worn like a coat of mail;
Lashing out;
Barbs a-plenty;
Offense rooted in weapons of life-draining substance;

On and on…
The story goes;
As though following some pre-ordained script;
Watching;
Wondering;
Waiting;
Face turned into the wind;
One eye raised to the tumult above;
Completely drenched;
But still there;

Knowing…
More like hoping;
One day, this storm will end;
I draw up the collar of my coat;
One more look beyond the turbulent canopy;
I turn and through the now persistent puddles;
Gently walk away…

To My King

my-king
Image credits: http://www.sikestonfirst.org/multimedia-archive

It has been years and years…
I remember walking down the street so many years ago
Thinking about how You had worked things out at that time
And marveling at Your ability to put things rightly together

You are the very substance of my existence
Master Orchestrator of all events
Closer than the air I breathe
You make my world full of meaning

You are my glory, my shield and because of You
I can lift my head and walk tall among the people

On occasion, it had been terribly rough and tough
But looking back, I realize that in those times, underneath me were the Everlasting Arms

I have not always been as good as I should
But not for once have You closed Your arms to me nor turned Your face away from my prayer

They say You are the fairest of ten thousand
But considering that the English language is limited
How could anything they ever say ever begin to describe You?

My deepest desires
My greatest longings
Yearnings that words cannot begin to express
But when placed beside You
Nothingness, emptiness…

In You, I find nothing lacking in myself
When I sense Your hand upon me
Nothing in this world is difficult to achieve

The joy You bring
I have not seen the like anywhere else
I know that for a fact, cos many a thing I have tried but…

My greatest pleasure is to kneel before You
Lifting a song that declares Your glory
Sitting behind the keys and gently playing an unwritten melody
That only You can provide the words for

You are the love of my life, Jesus
My hope in this life and so much more
My King, You make all the difference in life
To You alone, on this day
I pledge my whole existence

Ah, if not for You
If not for You…

The Dance

A big bonfire is lit and burning brightly in the village square. People milling about the whole place. Talking, laughing out loudly. 

A drummer sets up a rhythm and a dance begins. Young men come out to dance. Maidens join them.

The music picks up in pace and intensity. The dancing becoming more and more frenzied. Hoops, twists and turns, jumping with shouts of merriment, gyrations to and off beat. Sweat pouring off the bodies of the dancers.

With reckless abandon they danced. All decorum and control abandoned as they gave heed to the beat of the drums.

Other musicians joined the fray and as the melody blossomed, so did the dance.

She stood out among all the females.

Light skinned and lithe footed, she pranced around like an angry tigress, even though almost at the same time she appeared as graceful as a deer in her footing.

He watched her from across the fire.

His mind was too consumed with weighty matters to join in the dance. But watch her he did.

Something about the way she moved seemed to interfere with his thought patterns and break his moody reflections.

Watch her he did.

Oblivious to his intent gaze, she gave herself to the dance.

From across the fires, she held the fullness of his concentration. Every other thought was now gone. There he stood as though bewitched by some magical force exuding from her dance.

And dance she did.

He felt himself moving, drawing closer and closer to the fire. Trying not to lose any view of her. Closer and closer he came.

It was as though she sensed his coming. For with every step he took, the intensity of her dancing increased.

The closer, the fiercer.

He walked slowly as though in a trance.

She danced even more with reckless abandon.

The closer he came, the more aggressively she danced.

The heat was the first warning as he nearly stepped into the fire under the spell she had cast with her dance.

And as he cried out in pain, she suddenly stopped dancing and crouched on the ground on all fours.

Their gazes locked across the fire for time too slow to be counted.

She got up very slowly, still holding his gaze.

She turned and walked slowly into the village.

From across the fire he watched her go. His heart beating as though he was the one in the dance.

Inexplicably, He couldn’t move his feet to follow her.

Something he would regret till his dying breath.

Self-Inflicted: Nigeria’s Problems

Image credits: http://www.facebook.com/Office-Of-The-Citizen-Of-The-Federal-Republic-Of-Nigeria
There are many who agonize over Nigeria. Their agony arises from the seemingly intractable nature of the country’s issues. If you fall into that category, you are in good company. 

It appears that as our national issues have worsened, our collective behavior has taken a nose dive. 

I watch with sadness and sometimes amusement how people drive. Well dressed and likely very educated people, without qualms run red lights, drive against traffic, turn 2-lane roads into 5, and then wonder why the traffic is so bad. 

I see the recklessness, the carelessness, and more painfully, the selfishness that currently pervades our society. 

It is so easy to blame it all on corruption as though corruption was some nameless fellow that lives on some street down the road and is going about causing all the issues. 

When for instance a 2-lane road is turned into 5-lanes due to impatience and a total lack of common sense, and then at the outlet, the 5 lanes are trying to merge, and traffic is backed up for miles, please tell me, how did corruption cause it?

If we all had the sense to keep to our lanes, and the patience to follow each other, we would have a lot less traffic #JustSaying #ThinkAboutIt. 

Was talking with a lady who was telling me how she had been praying and God had been leading her; about 45 minutes later, I found out that she had been doing procurements for her organization and hiking the costs.

I have said that our public institutions started dying and crumbling when civil servants started stealing government money and having access to things they normally would not be able to afford, based on their salaries e.g. private schools (at all levels), private hospitals, treatment abroad etc. 

You steal money meant to repair roads or build schools, or hospitals, or do something for the public good! Then you buy houses that then lie fallow for years on end. 

You go to church or the mosque and you spend time praying for Nigeria. The following day, you get to work and then steal government money, or cheat the hapless customer who came to your shop to buy something, or you may even travel to China and deliberately bring in substandard materials and equipment for people to buy! Then you turn around and blame it on corruption! What fools we have become. 

We vote in elections for public office holders. Then they get into office and run us off the roads because they want to pass. With no care for law or order, then consistently drive against traffic or pay absolutely no attention to traffic rules. I will not even get into the issue of stealing money. 

Honestly, we have become a bunch of educated idiots. We need to take responsibility for our actions and pay the commensurate prices for our misdemeanors. Then again, our justice system is broken. 

In summary, the host of our problems are self-inflicted. 

So, this is my question, what is your contribution to this morass?

We really really need to do better than this. 

Of Etisalat Nigeria, Books, and the Next Generation

Stopping Etisalat Nigeria’s Misleading Advert on DSTv… #BooksStillRock

I do not know how many of you have seen or come across Etisalat Nigeria’s (@Etisalat_9ja) #CliqLite advert on DSTv Nigeria, and I do not know what you think about it. If you have not paid attention to it, I would recommend that you do the next time it comes on.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always been an early adopter of technology. I love tech and use tech, but something about this advert just niggles me. I have caught the advert a few times on DSTv (which for some reason appears to be the only place it is currently aired – I stand to be corrected), and every time, it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Maybe because of the way the advert starts. The advert has a female child talking about how books are this and that and mentions that books are heavy and complicated, and then here comes #CliqLite to the rescue to solve the issues of heavy and complicated books…

Like Seriously??? While the advert is a generally nice one, it is sad that that is what Etisalat’s PR strategy people could come up with!!! Come on guys!!!

While I admit that technology and the CliqLite platform have a lot of fun features to help kids learn and have fun, I think it is criminally insensitive to disparage books in a bid to sell/market a product.

I have children and frankly, I think today’s children have too much screen time. Years down the line, I believe our societies will begin to see a few health and behavioral issues associated with too much screen time (i.e. if they haven’t begun to manifest already). Enough said.

I think every child should read, and read books, real books. Call me a traditionalist, but turning pages to explore and learn is still a veritable way of learning and having fun. I have a bookshelf full of books that it is my hope that one day my children would all read, and then even read more than I have (especially the good stuff)…

What Etisalat Nigeria is promoting with this message is misleading and dangerous to say the least, especially to young and impressionable minds. Throw that message into a mix of children who are generally lazier than their forebears were at those ages. Throw that message into a society where you also wonder how many children have access to those nice gadgets and gizmos you see in the advert. How many of these children can pay you the N48,000 to get a #CliqLite Tablet with all the fun in the whole universe. To tell some of these children that books are complicated will only increase their aversion for reading and even when they have these resources available, will spend most of the time playing just the games.

We need our children to read books (real books and not just the digital ones). We need to show them how to turn those pages and then watch them do it of their own volition. We may get to eradicate the physical books one day, but in Nigeria, we are not there yet and need to pass the right messages across.

As a product of all the books I have read and I am still reading, I would like to raise a campaign to stop that advert on TV. I would like as many people as who have seen this advert and feel same, to raise their voices against such misconceptions promulgated because of marketing strategies. #BooksStillRock

#CliqLite may offer a world of fun and stuff for children but DO NOT create wrong impressions in their young minds because you want to sell a product (just in case you are wondering, it is not a free service).

So, will you join me in this campaign?? As a responsible company, Etisalat Nigeria needs to pull that advert and replace it with one that is more responsible to our children and teaches the right concepts. Somebody in their PR department did not do their jobs properly.

If you will, then either spread this message or create one of your own and let folks around you know.

 You may however choose to disparage this write-up and pass it off as one who is not in touch with the current trends… I can assure you that you will be very very far from the truth.

God bless…

From A Concerned Parent Who Loves Books

#BooksStillRock

Uncompromising!

oktionz

Several weeks ago while at work I called on a colleague . I was fed up. Our exchange went something like this

ME: I don’t care anymore. I’m tired. I’m just going to let them do whatever they want to!
Colleague: No, you can’t do that. You can’t compromise. You’re doing some good even though it doesn’t seem so to you.
ME: (pause for a while)… I didn’t see it that way but I guess you are right. I would be compromising my standards.
Colleague: Yes you would be and all the work you’ve put in so far would have been for nothing. You have to hang in there. Things won’t be like this forever. You’ll see.
We both work in healthcare, alongside a team and taking care of patients . I was about to quit. I was about  to compromise  and give in to office dynamics and pressures but…

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