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.

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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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Goodness and Mercy

Goodness and Mercy
©Brenda Mangalore/Sashé Studio

“A man of faith does not live in anticipation of evil”… Dr. Okey Onuzo

When we pray (especially at meetings or gatherings or maybe even personally), we would usually conclude by saying the Grace and the last verse of Psalm 23.

It opens with, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

Been thinking upon this for some time now.

It is amazing how people say this so much and yet have a fear of evil/or bad things befalling them.

It says “Surely…” Surely speaks of certainty. It leaves no room for contest.

Our disposition to daily life should be rooted in this confession.

Expecting everyday that good things will happen to us.

Expecting goodness always, and mercy where we do not measure up

It is way way better to expect good to happen than live perpetually in fear of evil.

So, here is my own paraphrase of this wonderful verse of scripture:

“Surely, goodness (good things, people, news, circumstances, favours, tidings, opportunities, blessings and God’s inexhaustible supply) and mercy (covered by the blood of Jesus that speaks better things on my behalf) shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD (sheltered, fed and nourished, clothed, shielded and protected, rested, with absolute peace of mind) forever.” Praise God!

Feel free to add to the list.

God bless.

Cuddled in Heaven…

Jay2

On the 10th of June, 2016, my second son, Jeremy Chikasi Chinedum, went to be with the Lord after a rather brief illness. He was only 19 months old. I stood there and watched his transition. Never have I felt so helpless, so unable to do anything, so… As he struggled to breathe in those final moments, especially in the face of the gross inadequacies in our healthcare system, God knows I would have done anything to keep him here.

Pain!!! Soul-searing, heart-wrenching, mind-curdling pain!!! The tears flowed freely. It was not just my eyes crying, it was every part of me – spirit, soul, and body! So difficult to comprehend…

I said to myself in that moment, that this is not an experience that anybody should ever have.

Jay, as we fondly called you. You are sorely missed! It has been a month now but it all still seems like yesterday.

I was saying to your mum a few days ago that it was though you knew you were not long for this world and so your zeal and zest was to explore as much of it as you could in the time you were given.

You climbed everything. As long as it could be climbed, it had to be, and possibly sat on.

Jay4

All our barricades, even the ones that worked for your elder brother, did not work for you. You somehow found a way to get around them. For you, the television was one giant iPad, and I used to look on in amusement at the confusion on your face, when the screen did not respond to your little touches. The bookshelf was a wonder maze for you. You had learned quite early the art of moving side-stools to whatever was out of reach in order to reach them.

Here are the things I so miss…

The scream of ‘Daddyyyyyyy…’, when I get back from anywhere

The successive world wars that were each episode of trying to feed you cooked food, especially when you knew mum and dad were in the house.

The ‘Jay’ Dance. Ah, your feet were meant to dance, and dance you did. With little provocation and at the slightest opportunity, you were off in all sorts of jiggles, twists and turns, as far your little legs could carry you. You danced with glee and with the cutest giggles.

All your expressions: kikar (when you wanted water); caryi (when you wanted to be carried), yight (when PHCN decided to grace us with it), AC (the generic term for all switches), tanku (thank you), iPar (to indicate when you wanted the iPad) and then there is your favorite song, ‘I love you, you love me…’.

Ah, Jay!!!

You were the quintessential ‘gum body’. For you, body contact was everything; whether it was me, your mum, and especially your brother, once you were with any of us, you just had to sit on, lie on, or sit by the person. You also did not care whether your brother complained or not, as far as you were concerned, that was the way to stay.

The AC switch will definitely miss you. It was like a magnet for you, and the best of toys. Off on, off on, off on … you went with it at the slightest opportunity.

Like your elder brother when he was the same age, putting off the TV while we were all watching it, was a favorite sport. Picking up the remote control was essentially to change whatever channel anyone was watching. It was as though your little mind felt that staying on one channel for prolonged periods was bad for health.

Your brother is still trying to get to grips with it and misses you sorely. Sometimes, he inadvertently makes it difficult for us when he starts asking about you and wanting to see you. He and I were going out once, and it was about to rain. He said, ‘Daddy, it’s about to rain’. When I asked why, he said, ‘I do not want the rain to fall on Jesus’ head when he is bringing Jeremy back’.

You were everyone’s darling. Jerry Okoye was a popular appellation in Church. I still see you running around the whole place and being carried by everyone.

Jay, we miss you so. The last five words are a pitiful expression of the current reality.

I have never had to pray for your brother as much as I have had to pray about you. Some of the revelations concerning you were quite scary. There was just something about you that made the enemy so afraid, and he had tried to hurt you several times. It would appear that he has succeeded, but as usual, he cannot comprehend the big picture. Just like it was said concerning our Lord, if the princes of this world had known (fully understood God’s plan), they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. If only he knew… for I know there is always a plan. God does not do arbitrary things.

God has helped us tremendously through this time. He has surrounded us with love and people, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. It has not been easy. My heart still bleeds, the occasional tear still escapes, but I know it is gradually mending. More times now than in the past few weeks, I remember you and a smile comes to my face instead of tears to my eyes. I choose to focus on God’s grace to us this period, rather than focus on the pain.

I draw comfort from sensing that the Lord Himself personally supervised your passing. Your brother said a few hours after you had passed that he was happy that you are happy (how on earth he knew and sensed that, beats me). Jesus is taking care of you now. I sometimes imagine you playing with the angels and having fun exploring the reaches of heaven, frolicking on the streets of gold, having the time of your life and eternity.

A part of me is in heaven. I have one more reason to make sure I get there. A part of me wonders what you would look like when I eventually see you, if you would still be a little boy or a man fully grown, if you would still call me Daddy or (do not know what else), if…

You have joined the cloud of witnesses cheering us from the grandstands of heaven. Seeing you once again is a great impetus to run this race even better.

This is my tribute to the 19 months we had you. Left to us, we would not have let you go but this is the reality we now have to live with. If we did not have you, we would not have such pleasant memories.

Jehovah…, You are God and Father. I bow to you now and always. Though my heart and emotions feel like they are in shreds, yet I submit to You. Everything that You do is good (may be painful in the interim) and always works out for good. My trust is in this and that You are constantly with us.

For all who have stood with us during this period (family, friends (close and distant), colleagues, and  church members), may God be with you and I pray you never experience such pain. Your love and care is most appreciated. The title of this piece was taken from the title of the poem written by the Junior Church of The Stone Church, Abuja (which I must confess, I have not had the courage to read).

At the graveside, I said I will see you again… We may have buried you, but God has not buried you. How that will work out, only time and eternity will tell.

Adieu son. Sleep well. Have fun with Jesus and I am sure He is as excited to have you as we were when we had you.

Praise God.

Loved forever,

Dad

More Than Your Local Issues…

Many Christians know that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, but for most of us, the perception of that warfare is not really as it is. We think of it in the sense that the enemy, the devil, is out to stop our progress, to stop our prosperity, to stop us from being rich… This kind of thinking is so local to ourselves and our issues, that it fails in every way to represent what God wants to do in, and through us.

We forget that the primary reason the enemy resists us, is to try to stop the purpose of God from being fulfilled on the earth, from being fulfilled in our lives.

We need to understand that the first aspect of the purpose of God is that Christ be formed in our hearts and lives. Without this purpose being accomplished, every other one is moot. God’s primary purpose for us is to be like Christ, to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8: 29, Gal. 4:19). The enemy understands this also, so keeps us distracted with all sorts of pursuits, wrong teaching, wrongly focused spiritual exercises, essentially frustrating the grace and the purpose of God. In a sense, we have become like soldiers armed with sophisticated and deadly weaponry but shooting in all sorts of directions, with no coordinated fire, and making absolutely no impact.

We then spend our lives running in circles, not really making much spiritual progress, and essentially hitting our heads against the ‘wall’. Endless pursuits that offer no real spiritual advantage. Pursuing ‘enemies’ both real, contrived, and imagined, instead of chasing after God.

Till we realize that our most important pursuit is to be like Christ in all that we are and do, then we will never make the impact on our world that God expects from us. We will never be able to, like the early church, ‘turn the world upside down’ for Christ. We will always be the pursued not the pursuer. The victim, not the victor. The oppressed not the oppressor. At the mercy of the devil and his cohorts. Our ‘Christianity’ will never find the true fulfillment that God intended.

When this primary purpose of God is established in our lives, then all the things we seek and so strongly desire, become ours. They come into our lives with the ease and grace that God promised that they would. They come as a blessing that adds no sorrow. They come with much grace in a manner that preserves our lives rather than decimates it.

We need to clearly know and understand that as long as our purposes are not aligned with God’s, they fail to matter in the general scheme of things. God’s purposes have far-reaching intentions, way beyond our own ‘local’ issues.

So, focus on God. He will show you what to pray, how to pray, and what to do. This strengthens you to resist the enemy’s attempts to frustrate God’s purpose in and for your life. Focus on Christ. Everyday of your life is supposed to see something about Him birthed in your life. The Apostle Paul put it very clearly in Ephesians 4:13 as the purpose for God putting ministry gifts in the Church.

…Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:… (KJV)

This is God’s main purpose for us. This is the basis on which our Christianity will be judged. This is the pathway to continuous victory in life.

God bless…