Friday, 8 December 2017

PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: THE LITTLE COMEDIAN

She was bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked with skin the color of dark chocolate.  She had mischief stamped onto every tiny feature and she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and more than a little of that mischief peculiar to children her age.

The driver, as is common with greedy Abuja drivers, had ruthlessly squeezed four grown adults into the back seat of his tiny car and our little comedian was perched onto the legs of the young man seated beside me.

She was three years old if she was a day, with a voice as clear as bells as she made repeated demands of her weary minder.

As the taxi passed underneath the famous Apo bridge,  she suddenly shot to her feet, her eyes scanning the environment while her chubby cheeks danced as she murmured to herself in childish gibberish.  She was so cute.

"Seat down," the young man carrying her ordered, trying to get her to seat back down.

She ignored him.

"Police will catch you ooo," he lied baldly.

Apparently for the Nigerian child, the fear of police is the beginning of wisdom.
She hastily sat back down and proceeded to hide her face in her hands; evidently if her face was covered so was the rest of her little self and the police wouldn't see her. I hid a grin, willing myself not to laugh and ruin the young man's good work.

Few minutes later, just as we were nearing Apo roundabout,  our little bundle of mischief surged to her feet again,  eyes as bright as stars as she looked around.

"Why are you standing up again?" Her minder demanded.

She turned to face him, her expression very adult and wise as she declared in a voice as clear as church bells, "I WANT TO SEE POLICE."

THE entire occupants of the taxi roared with laughter.

Evidently she had decided she had had enough of being threatened with police and was now her own one-woman liberation squad; facing down her fears in the back of a crammed taxi.

Morale of the story? Most children do not truly know what fear is and in my book, that's the best way to live. Preserve their spirit and their innocence for as long as you can. 😘😘😘

Monday, 4 December 2017

A TALE OF SEVERAL DOLPHINS AND A MINNOW

So this evening yours truly had a poolside to-do and while we were seated, I couldn't stop my gaze from straying repeatedly to the pool. It was filled with dozens of little kids splashing around,  shrieking and laughing as they tackled one another in their little watery paradise. A couple of adults were also in the pool and I don't mind telling you, they seemed lip-smackingly happy to me.

I jerked my gaze away, trying very hard to force my attention back to the 'weightier' matters being discussed at my table. Unfortunately, my attention kept wandering right back to the pool because, hey, I love swimming okay?

Anyway, mild interest soon turned to an almost jealous desire to join the happy folk in the pool and I ruthlessly squelched the green-eyed monster when he made an appearance.

Few minutes later, a man showed up dragging his son  by the hand. The boy had reluctance stamped all over his petrified, little features and unfortunately Daddy dearest didn't seem to know how to talk his son out of his reluctance. He apparently wanted his son to join the frolicking kids in the pool; and why not? Every parent wants to watch that carefree, happy abandon on their children's faces right?

I didn't need a fortune teller to tell me we were about to be treated to a scene. The child was clad in a pair of over-sized 'shorts' that came almost all the way down to his ankles; he had on a thick tee-shirt and his googles.

Other kids kept diving into the pool in relentless search of fun whilst screaming at the top of their lungs in sheer excitement. They kept diving in and surging to the surface in wide showy arcs that I couldn't even dare for a fee. They were as attractive as dolphins, I mused in admiration of their water art.

Reluctant boy's dad grabbed him by one hand, lifted him, and placed him in the pool. He stood at one corner of the kiddie pool, fright making his eyes wide as saucers as he gawked at the other kids.

His little size as well as his obvious fright made me think of the little minnow in the midst of dolphins.

His dad smiled with joy that his son was finally swimming (even though I'm yet to see anyone swimming,  successfully by standing upright in one corner of a pool). As Daddy made to step away, one overexcited kid gave a mighty roar and tossed his float in the air. That did it; the dam burst!

Reluctant boy opened his mouth wide and began to wail his hands stretched out as he signalled to his father to pull him out of the pool. He sobbed so hard I was almost afraid he would make himself ill.  His dad pulled him out immediately and wrapped him in a comforting hug while other kids in the pool began to apologise politely for scaring him.

I hid a grin as I watched Reluctant Boy demand an ice cream in a shaky voice. Minutes later, he was also as happy as the kids in the pool but the difference was he had an ice cream in his hands and he was on dry ground. The happiness on his face and the chagrin on his dad's told its own story; he had not wanted to swim but his dad had insisted, thus earning himself a tantrum. Reluctant boy got an ice cream out of the whole ordeal and I guess in his book that wasn't such a bad deal either.

Morale of the story? Kids have a mind of their own. 😘😘😘

Learn the lesson and share the story

©2017 by Sherina Okoye

Thursday, 28 September 2017

SHERINA AND THE LAW-ABIDING OFFICER

So Tuesday evening, I got proof, as if proof were needed, that God has a sense of humour.
Few days ago, I wrote Esprit de Corps  (part 1) about the military-checkpoint-rule and its application to "bloody Civilians" it was a veiled urge to security persons to uphold the law they are sworn to protect.
Well on Tuesday I had a church program for 4pm somewhere in Piyakasa, Abuja. I was undeniably late because it was already 5pm when my taxi dropped me off at Dantata bridge. I immediately looked around for one of the trusty motorbikes usually stationed at the bridge to convey people to Galadimawa roundabout. To my consternation, for the first time in living memory, not a single bike was in sight!
I was beside myself.
I couldn't handle the long trek to Galadimawa roundabout from that bridge because of the sweltering heat and honestly I was a bit under the weather. And even minus both of those factors, I was exceedingly late.
If you live in Nigeria then you probably balk at flagging down private cars because no one knows who's who right? Same here.
Well while I was standing around, waiting for the never-arriving bike, it occurred to me that with every passing second, the program I was rushing for was fast coming to an end.  
I swallowed my wariness in a hurry and proceeded to study passing cars, willing my mind to accept any one of them. Finally I saw a silver-colored, somewhat decrepit car approaching. I was going to let it pass, but at last, I summoned courage and flapped my hand as eagerly as a chicken's wing at the sight of breakfast.
The car hurtled past me, obviously intending to ignore my signal. I quickly dropped my hand, smarting from the affront. To my surprise, the driver pulled over just a little ahead. I hurriedly dashed to join him, my pique forgotten as I clambered into the front seat and  smiled my gratitude.
My buttocks had barely touched the seat before he snapped at me to fasten my seatbelt.
My mouth puckered in silent protest as I did as I was told. I HAD been going to do just that, I mused mutinously. There hadn't been any need to bite off my head.
Anyway as soon as he began to drive again,  my ire vanished as though it had never been.
Unfortunately, rush-hour traffic was already building as we neared the roundabout. Traffic was heavy and of course the impatient drivers that ply Abuja roads kept shoving and thrusting as each tried to overtake the other. Curses rent the air. I choked back a horrified giggle as one Igbo brother crudely invited fire to roast the driver of the car behind him who was tailgating him. "Chineke gbaa kwa gi oku!" He yelled. 😂
As I watched the drama all around,  it belatedly occurred to me that my driver was the only person who wasn't trying to cut the line. He joined the very end of the longest of three queues, his face calm as a lake.
I shot him an alarmed glance from underneath my lashes. I was normally all for being law-abiding but today I needed a 007 driver in my boat... er,  car if I was to meet my program. My driver was no 007; he was the very soul of patience and I reasoned mournfully that at this rate, I would be lucky if I arrived the church in time for closing prayers!
A sharp guy to the right of us suddenly swerved roughly and overtook five cars forcing his own vehicle through a narrow opening. All five cars plunged in after him at once thus opening up a wide stretch of road ahead of us. My heart lifted and I shot an expectant look at my driver. If he took that route, I could be out of this traffic in five minutes and on my way to church, I thought happily.
The man  kept waiting patiently at the back of the line. He didn't even move a muscle. 😩😩😩
Other drivers from behind immediately dived into the wide open road ahead of us and my heart sank in consternation.  What was he? New to the country?
I turned to urge him to mosey on just as he leaned out of his window and barked at the drivers on his side of the road, "If you don't take your time, I'll book you."
I did a double-take. Book kwaa?
And that's when I saw it! People of Zion,  yours truly was riding shotgun with a Road Safety officer, Special Marshall. I stifled a groan
He was the law itself! He kept so much space between him and the back of the car in front that several other hopeful drivers kept trying to edge in; he wasn't in a hurry to cut corners and escape traffic and he certainly wasn't going to drive above 20km or so per hour.
By the time he finally escaped traffic, I was fighting back tears of frustration. I was so late I doubted I would even meet anyone in the church apart from the security men.
I weakly motioned to where I wanted to alight.
He informed me that that was not a safe spot. He needed to "clear properly."
Suffice it to say, by the time he finally found a good spot to park, my eyes were red. I exited the vehicle with the little grace I could muster, thanked him through my tear-choked throat and finally began the five minutes trek from where he had stopped me back to where he SHOULD HAVE stopped me so I could finally pick yet another bike to church.
I was too weak to fume; I just wanted to seat in a corner and pout.  In the end, I realised God was listening when I lamented that officers made the laws and expected Civilians to obey while they broke them.
I'd met a law-abiding officer for the first time in a long while that Tuesday, just when I didn't need one; and I wasn't amused.
Morale of the story? Be careful what you wish for coz apparently the Fates are always listening.

Learn the lesson and share the story
©2017 by Sherina Okoye

Sunday, 24 September 2017

ESPRIT DE CORPS... PART 2


Our driver was recovering faster than anticipated. The cool, Abuja air gushing in through the open windows assured him that he had indeed escaped frog-jumps, delays and probably a night or two feeding some mosquitoes in a guard-room somewhere.

He sped down the freeway, his thoughts obviously in a whirl as he snuck repeated looks over his shoulder at phone lady AKA Civil Defence Officer. I could practically hear him wondering if he could get away with giving her a piece of his mind for scaring him like that.

 In the end, he was too chicken-hearted to dare: she was a woman in uniform after all and she had indicated that her bus-stop was Sauka. For those who don't know, Sauka is a bus-stop located around airport road in Abuja and it is directly opposite a Civil Defense office which means it's always teeming with officers. He didn't want to try rubbish in case he got to the bus-stop and she called the calvary.

The other passengers seemed to be in a similar quagmire.  They wanted to also give phone lady a piece of their collective minds for the HBP and heart palpitations she had caused them but they managed to restrain themselves; again, because of her uniform.

I'm fairly certain I was the only person grinning in the entire vehicle; I caught a few evil eyes cast my way in proof of that fact. Civil Defense was probably having a good chuckle too but she wisely kept it on the inside. As we crossed airport enroute Sauka, it was as quiet as a church in the taxi.  Given the continued grin on my face,  I'm sure everyone thought I was in cahoots with Civil Defense. I wasn't,  I didn't know her from Adam.  Anyway, try as I might, I couldn't stop smiling Coz I'm one of those people who enjoy watching high drama with a happy ending.

One time the driver cast an evil eye at Civil Defense via his rearview mirror but she pretended not to see. She wasn't looking around anymore but staring straight ahead. She seemed comfortable meeting only my gaze; her only fan.

The driver maintained his cool, and the effort visibly cost him. Apparently as he replayed the events, he became more pissed by the way he had been reduced to begging her to end her call. Why didn't she save his ego by informing him of the Esprit thingy? He probably felt she had tampered with his masculinity and machismo in some way. 😎

By the time we reached Sauka, his jaw was clenched with impotent fury and he was quivering again; this time with ill-suppressed ire.

Civil Defense alighted from the car and blithely whipped out a thousand Naira note which she proceeded to wave under the driver's nose.

The man was beside himself.

"Oppicer, but how you go give me N1,000? Your money naa N50!"

The woman looked down her nose as she informed him in the haughtiest tone I had ever heard; "That's what I have. Unless you want to leave the money for me."

I lost my smile at that one as her ajebo certificate was crudely ripped in two before my eyes.

"How you go say make i leave money for you? No be work I dey so?" He shot back. His wariness and fear of her uniform had evaporated at the thought of losing his hard-earned N50. Yes ma'am, the hustle is real. Don't mess with a taxi driver's take-home.

I cheerfully offered the driver two N500 notes to change her money, smiling like the good girl I'm not. He collected it with a grateful glance.  Two other passengers immediately gave him smaller denominations as well. In less than five seconds, he had N950 which he handed gleefully to her through his open window.  

Civil Defense glared at me quickly realising she had been betrayed by her only fan. I wasn't fazed. I gave her a blank stare that would have done Barbie doll proud. If you know me, then you know injustice gets my back up. I could see humor in scaring the driver at a checkpoint but I failed to see the humor in cheating him of his money especially since I had seen a N200 note sticking out when she pulled out her ID Card earlier.

Seeing she hadn't managed to cow me, she turned and sauntered away.

As our taxi pulled away from the curb, our driver launched into a tirade about bullies in uniform.
Other passengers had apparently recovered their powers of speech.
"Naa waa ooo. The woman been get plan," the man in front began.
"So she want make driver dash am N50?" Someone else asked rhetorically.
"Her plan no go work," the other passenger declared.

I silently listened wondering all the while why uniforms seemed to protect their wearers more than the public.

The morale of the story? When it comes to his money, the "bloody Civilian" will often quickly forget his fear regardless of what apparel you have on. The common man will fight for his money more than for his human rights.

Learn the lesson and share the story
©2017 by Sherina Okoye

ESPRIT DE CORPS... PART 1


She was fair-complexioned with a face ravaged by pimples and tribal carvings; the unfortunate heritage of most African children who had no one to defend their cause at birth. She was remarkably pretty nonetheless. She was dressed in a black tee shirt, simple gold watch faded to a dull silver by constant exposure to the harsh sunlight, she also wore a pair of navy-blue cargo pants (trousers) and she had short hair plaited in braids and done up in a modest bun.

As the taxi careened merrily down the highway, she kept a calm watchful mien, her eyes swinging this way and that in spite of being quashed in the back seat with three other passengers, myself included.  Given that I was seated right beside her, I kept an eye on her, observing her out of the side of my own eyes. I mean I figured it was my civic duty to keep an eye on her while she kept an eye on everything else.
As we drew even with a military checkpoint, she absently whipped out her phone to receive an incoming call. The driver jolted with fright, almost losing control of his steering as he realised one passenger was about to earn him a few frog-jumps and several hours cooling his heels at the military checkpoint while other commercial drivers sped past to pick up passengers from the busy streets of Abuja.

"Madam no fhone call! Naa army check foint!" He whispered urgently, fright and an Hausa accent causing him to mispronounce his words.
The lady jerked,  hurriedly took the phone away from her ear, then apparently recalling her 'status', she returned the phone to her ear and continued her call, leaning back lazily as she deliberately prolonged the call. By now, the other passengers had joined the driver in frantically urging her to end the call as we were a mere three cars away from the lone soldier inspecting passing vehicles. I could sense the palpable tension and fear; who could blame them? Apparently in Nigeria the fear of the military is the beginning of preservation of your basic human rights.  Just ask communities which saw pythons come out to dance in the village square. 🙄

Anyway, phone lady continued her call until we drew even with the soldier. By now our driver had shrunk in on himself and was now so tiny in his seat that I could barely see his head above the headrest.

Everyone probably thought I was either a stranger to Nigeria or recklessly unconcerned because I was the only other passenger at peace in Zion. I didn't tell them but I knew what the phone lady knew; I knew what she had recalled before she got courage to continue her call.

The gallant soldier waved us on and as we drew away, he shouted, "Stop!". Obviously he had belatedly sighted the phone pressed to her ear.

Our driver was a shivering wreck by now shooting impotent glances of fury and accusation over his shoulder at phone lady. The soldier strode up to the car but before he could get a word out, phone lady tossed the magic words at him, "Esprit de Corps."
He wasn't impressed. "Who are you?" He barked, veins standing out on his forehead while sweat glimmered on his craggy face.
She lifted her buttocks to enable her reach for her ID Card.  The motion drew the soldier's attention to what I had already noticed: Her navy-blue pants screamed 'Civil Defense'.
He didn't bother to see the ID anymore; he just ordered us to "Carry on".
I could almost hear the palpable sighs of relief in the minds of the other passengers as visions of frog-jumps and guardrooms vanished.

I smirked.

As we left I reflected that the military probably created the draconian 'law' banning phone calls at checkpoints because to the best of my knowledge there is no written legislation to that effect. And apparently,  the law only applies to "bloody Civilians". 😂😂😂


Morale of the story? Sometimes all you need to create the law is a uniform and all you need to break it for free is yet another uniform.

Learn the lesson and share the story
©2017 by Sherina Okoye

Thursday, 10 August 2017

CONFESSIONS OF A BOOKAHOLIC: FLASHBACK


(Recollections from Law School Days) Something I've never confessed to a soul:


“You’re a bookworm,” my roommate accused as though she’d just had a major inspiration and invented the word.
“No I’m not,” I protested, tossing my sixth novel of the week back into my wardrobe and away from her eagle eyes. It wasn’t even Wednesday yet and already I had gone through five novels. The sixth was the guilty evidence I had just done away with.
I sat restlessly for a few minutes and then I leaped to my feet, grabbed my backpack and headed for  the door.
“Where to now?” she called. “The library?”
I had actually been about going to the library but seeing as I had just vehemently protested that I had a life outside books, I couldn’t very well say I was, now could I?
“I’m just going out,” I mumbled and fled.
My mouth was turned downwards at the corners until I entered the library and felt all those law reports calling to me from their shelves. That’s the weird thing about me; I would read anything so long as it consisted of the twenty-six English letters. 
The Bar exams were coming up and I was so pumped and psyched to make a great result. I flopped into a chair and promptly got lost in a Company Law text, headphones covering my ears, music blaring into my eardrums as I read.
I was so immersed in my studies that I lost track of time and didn’t notice when people gradually began to file out of the library. I read until the very last person had locked up for the night and strode out the door. It wasn’t until the light was switched off that I looked up with a jolt and noticed that I was all alone in an empty, dusty library.
I urgently stumbled and crashed my way to the front door in the dark, hands stretched blindly in front of me, heart thumping desperately in my chest as I yelled to get the attention of the woman locking the door. She looked up with a yelp of fright.
“Who are you?” she demanded from behind the safety of the iron bars separating us.
“I’m a student,” I responded, pointing at the ID Card around my neck. I would have added ‘duh’ but right then I was a touch too upset to be sarcastic.
“What are you doing there?”
What was it with this woman; wasn’t it obvious what a student was doing in a library? At any other time, my foot would have been tapping impatiently but I was half-afraid she would also wonder why I had shoes on; she was that exasperating.
“I came in to study,” I got out. “I didn’t realize it was closing time,” I shot back.
She was eyeing me suspiciously, her gaze searching the empty library behind me as though she suspected me of some truly dubious and dangerous activity like ... reading? My hands were laden with books and no bag in sight so where would I hide whatever it was she was so scared of?
“Why didn’t you leave when others were leaving?” she demanded, brows furrowed in more of that lovely suspicion.
I shrugged and explained that I had lost track of time and I hadn’t looked up and noticed people leaving. She lovingly caressed the key in her hand, stroking it as lovingly as you would say a pet dog, or something else less innocuous. I could see the wheels turning as she considered if she could get away with leaving me locked up until morning.
Then with a weary sigh, she opened the door, all stern frowns and head-shaking.
“Don’t do that next time,” she called as I turned to leave.
 Like I made a habit of going around getting locked up in lonely libraries? I cursed under my breath when I saw the time was already 10:30pm. It didn't help that I had forgotten my backpack in the library locker.
As I headed towards my hostel, I reflected that for some people, stating the obvious was an art form; a painfully annoying one, I concluded in exasperation.
My roommate’s eyes popped open the moment I came in as though she had been watching for me, “You came back late.”
I didn’t respond, just rolled my eyes as I flung myself wearily atop my sheets, shoes and all.
Lord deliver me from people with a love for stating the obvious.


Learn the lesson and share the story
©2017 by Sherina Okoye


Sunday, 30 July 2017

WHEN PARENTS BECOME CHILDREN

So we were driving through Benue state the other day, when I spotted something that brought nostalgic tears to my eyes.

A little girl of about 15 years old was perched precariously atop a motor bike with a little goat clutched in her hands and held protectively against her mid-section. But no, that was not the tear-inspiring part. Between the driver, the girl and the goat was
another passenger; a rather old and wizened woman who had to be the teenager's grandmother.

Granny was so old that her veins were spidery and very visible through the thin paper her skin had become. She had a completely grey head of hair and her eyes had lost the lustre of youth and become completely dimmed with age. She clung to the bike man with both hands childishly tucked underneath his armpits while her grand-daughter sat confidently behind her providing a human shield to keep her from falling off.

That same day, I walked into a restaurant and a man had taken his aged mother out to lunch. She was bent with age and her hands shook as she tried to carry each spoonful to her mouth.
He had ordered her a plate of jollof rice and some fried goat meat. Mama couldn't eat; she kept picking at the food like a bird and scattering rice all over the table. His eyes met mine over her head and we shared a speaking look and a grin. It was another nostalgic moment. When he was a child I would bet everything he was the one who had a small appetite and a tendency to spill his food.

Now the tables had turned. My eyes filled with tears as I watched him pick a spoon and proceed to feed his mother.

Nature always has the last laugh on all of us.

I couldn't help thinking, when we were kids if we ever had to board a bike we would be protectively wedged between the bike man and an adult. I'm willing to bet anything  that this was probably the case a few years ago with the teenager and her grandmother but now she had gotten so old that she was the one in need of protective positioning. I am willing to bet the young man in the restaurant had done more than his fair share of spilling food in the past as a kid too.

The lesson? The dynamics of relationship in a family are always changing. As the age winds down, the parents who were once in the position of authority and in the position of protectiveness find themselves needing protection from their kids. As the age winds now the parents who used to be the breadwinners may have to depend on the kids who used to be the consumers.

The little child you bully today may wipe your ass tomorrow when you lose bladder control. The child you refuse to train today may be the reason you have  a roof over your head tomorrow.

Life is fickle; age comes with vulnerability and makes the adult a child. So use your time wisely and help those weaker than you.

The child of today will be a parent tomorrow. The parent of today will be a child tomorrow. It's a circle, so whatever end you find yourself, play your part with a good heart, a kind smile and an eye on tomorrow. 

Learn the lesson and share the story
©2017 by Sherina Okoye





PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: THE LITTLE COMEDIAN

She was bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked with skin the color of dark chocolate.  She had mischief stamped onto every tiny feature and she was bu...