Thursday, 29 June 2017

SIX INCH HEELS AND THE RIGHT TO UNOBTRUSIVE SHOPPING


In a word, she was voluptuous!
She could very easily be any girl on the streets but the stares tracking her every step told a different story.
She was clad in a long white vest and a pair of ash-grey leggings that were so tight it seemed as though she had been poured into them.  The generous curve of her hips were sinfully outlined by the clingy material of her leggings; her straight legs which seemed to go on for miles were deliciously accentuated and her perfect hour-glass figure made an elderly gentleman's eyes almost pop right out of their sockets. Her skin was smooth as alabaster, the dusky, caramel color gleaming with good health. She had pouty lips done up in a bold shade of pepper red lipstick and her long braids rested atop her, um, rather pointed ass. She'd finished up the ensemble with a face cap that lent her an air of mystery and a pair of six-inch heels that made me break out in cold sweat just thinking about how her feet managed to gain traction in those on the uneven grounds of the market.
I figured Leggings Girl was probably used to people gaping at her with their tongues hanging out like labradors because she didn't display by so much as the flicker of an eyelash that the attention bothered her. She didn't seem particularly excited by it either; she just took it all in stride.
As she traipsed from seller to seller,  an eerie silence descended as everyone seemed caught up in gawking at her regardless of their gender. I don't mind telling you, I caught myself staring too; and I'm not a guy,  neither am I gay.
Belatedly, I recalled my manners and turned back to my own purchases. In less than three seconds an outraged yelp made me jerk around to stare in surprise as Leggings Girl muttered some choice expletives, gave one grubby-looking fella the evil eye, before turning on one six-inch heel and flouncing off, her buttocks bouncing as she left in impotent rage.
The trader she had been about to patronize rounded on Grubby Guy "But naa wa for you oo. Why you go do that kind thing? See as you pursue my customer."
Grubby guy offered a shrug and nothing more, his face wreathed in a dreamy, lecherous grin that made my skin crawl.
Someone else came to his defence, "Abeg my brother no blame am. Even if naa me see that kind thing near me I go grab am."
I noted that the new speaker was also another grubby guy; they seemed to be coming out of the woodwork.
Ribald laughter rang out and my fists tightened in anger as I realised what had happened. Evidently he had gotten so lost in staring at her ass that he had reached out and grabbed both globes as though he were holding a basketball.
I observed my customer laughing too and I retaliated by leaving without patronising him.
Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I don't believe any woman enjoys being mauled, groped, or touched by strangers merely because we seem to have a very lax law enforcement in Nigeria.
I was pleased to see that no woman in the vicinity was smiling. I felt like informing Grubby Guy that I thought he was a horrible so-and-so and lecturing him about respecting women. But I could see it would be a pointless exercise; he looked like a lost cause. My heart went out to the woman who claimed motherhood over this bit of humanity.
In case you didn't know, groping a woman could be construed as violence against the person in addition to sexual harassment. In some parts of the world,  those hands WOULD be cut off!!!
Morale of the story: just because a woman looks good doesn't necessarily mean she wants your questionable and disrespectful attention. Keep those hands to yourself!!!

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

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: WHEN WIDOWS SMILE...



She was completely grey with age; her entire head of hair didn't have a single strand of black in it. Even her eyebrows had flecks of white and her  eyelashes were completely white. Yet, despite her noticeably advanced age, her smile was as infectious as a baby's; her dark skin, smooth and unbroken; enticing dimples appearing in both cheeks, while her eyes glowed like twin jewels as she grinned at me, brimming with joy. Happiness was written all over her as she ran to hug me, dragging me into an impromptu victory dance right there in  the middle of a crowd of other widows and people milling about. It said a lot that for her seemingly advanced age, in that moment, she had more energy than me!

The woman with me in the picture is a widow, Mrs Florence. She and the other women depicted in the second picture are just a few of the widows registered with Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation. I could show you a thousand more pictures, but let's leave that for Facebook.

You wouldn't know it to look at them, but most of these women have battled poverty, suffering, loneliness, depression, and all manner of unsavory conditions that would make lesser beings cave in and give up on life.

In case you didn't know, widowhood is NOT a walk in the park. I never really understood the strength of a woman until I met and interviewed some of these women.

Women all over Africa suffer all manner of abuses, trials, inhuman treatments and even degradation for the 'offense' of being widowed; Nigeria of course, with her vast array of traditions and cultures, is no exception. Widows are made to feel like outcasts; sometimes accused of murder; sometimes physically and/or sexually abused; and often divested of their possessions by greedy in-laws.

Yesterday, 19th June 2017, an amazing and highly unusual man, Evang IG Newman, under the auspices of his NGO, Rock of Ages Empowerment Foundation, did something I have never seen before.He took empowerment of widows a step further in a laudable and absolutely innovative manner that brought tears to my eyes and left me breathless.

The foundation had already empowered most of their over 1,000 widows for small and medium businesses including agriculture by training them and also assisting financially when necessary. Then as if that wasn't enough, the Crop/Agriculture Trade Fair was created as a medium for the widows to showcase and sell their crops and products.

When yours truly ventured out among these women, the air was alive with energy, hope and joy. They were dancing as they sold and generally enticing customers with happy shouts and dance steps that would put Michael Jackson to shame: I KID YOU NOT!

The thought of financial independence would do that to you. For some of these widows, feeding every day is pretty much 50/50 and this Trade Fair is an unusual opportunity for these women who have been forced into the role of bread winner to provide for their families. It is also an opportunity for us, ahead of the International Widows' Day celebration, to show them that they belong; that they are still important to society. Everyone knows at least one widow; whether our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, or even friends.

There's a streak of independence in every human being; and that's why we take more pride in a salary than a hand-out; that's why we take more pride in money earned from honest work than stolen funds; that's why we take more pride in the N10 derived from your business than the N20 given to you by a kind benefactor. Trust me; these women would appreciate your patronage now way more than your hand-outs later.

For these women, the Trade Fair was a whole lot more than a group of women gathering beneath the sun to display their wares. For some of them, it is an opportunity to take back their dignity that had been trampled beneath the feet of thoughtless in-laws when they lost their husbands; for others, it is an opportunity to teach their children about the dignity in labor; and for yet others, it is an opportunity to finally put food on the table and pay that school fees. 

Nelson Mandela said something that has stayed with me for a very long time: when we fight poverty, it's not charity but justice because poverty is man-made.

I was personally very impressed with the rather festive atmosphere and also the rather cheap prices of their commodities. In case you're thinking it has passed, it hasn't: the Trade Fair runs from 19th-22nd June 2017. I don't know about you, but I would give almost anything to see that enchanting smile duplicated on the faces of all widows.

Just in case you're thinking of stopping by and making these women smile some more whilst getting good value for your money: the venue of the Trade Fair is Area 10, Old Parade Ground, Abuja.
You can thank me later. 😘😘😘😘😘😘

Learn the lesson and share the story

©2017 by Sherina Okoye

Thursday, 15 June 2017

BETWEEN TWO PARTIES AND A 'NOTICE TO QUIT'

So unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about the infamous "Notice to Quit" reigning all over the place.
Yesterday evening, I had to take a taxi and the driver and one rather vocal passenger had very interesting views on the state of the nation.

The taxi pulled up to the bus-stop, it's driver's hand signalling his route and passengers heading in that direction plied in at once. I secured the seat directly behind him and heaved a sigh of relief at finally taking a load off after what felt like hours of standing at the curb.  I mean I had only waited for a cab for 28 minutes... but who was counting right?

The driver was a rare breed; as he pulled into traffic, I enquired as to the price and he said N100. We all exchanged surprised glances knowing the route usually cost somewhat more than that.

Hesitantly, one overly-honest passenger -namely, me- apprised him of the usual price earning herself furious glares from other passengers.

The driver cheerfully informed me that he was aware; he just wanted to help out. Everyone heaved sighs of relief and stopped glaring at me.

"Kai, this our country sef, hardship just dey everywhere," the driver opined, blaring his horn as one crafty-looking old woman tried to speed across the road. She had apparently thought she was superhuman with Clark Kent-like skin that would survive been run down. At the loud horn, she hastily ran back to the curb.

The middle-aged man in front of the  cab picked up the conversation, "Na APC naa. Shebi una want change?"

The driver scoffed derisively.  "Nothing dey APC. I jus thank God say for my state nobody dey send APC. In short dead body go win election pass politician wey dey APC for my state."

I stifled a horrified laugh at that one.

The middle-aged man noted the PDP flag on the dashboard and he offered the driver a handshake, "You be correct man. You still dey fly PDP flag."

The driver nodded, "Even if dem defeat PDP one hundred times naa my party be that."

The middle-aged man grunted, "Naa so Nigerians no dey understand something.  Dem turn turn us to entertainment industry. One week one story. Shee they say naa Sai baba? Baba don come."

"No mind them."

"Everybody say Goodluck no good. Our people say naa when you marry two wives you how know which one good," the loquacious passenger continued. His veins were bulging by now as he nodded his head to emphasize his point.

"People dey suffer now oo," the driver said. "But that one no be for me and my family."

"My brother you dey Abuja oo. Try enter states. I go Adamawa, all man dey suffer. At least for Abuja person fit dash you N500. For states who know you? See even rice wey poor man dey manage. Now, if you chop rice you be proper big man. See EVEN GARRI WEY BE POOR MAN FOOD. NOW RICH MAN GO PACKAGE AM WELL, DRINK AM THANK GOD!!!"

By this time I was almost on the floor of the taxi howling with laughter.

They both turned to give me questioning looks.

"My sister you dey laugh? Naa true ooo. Rich man now wey see Garri drink dey thank God talkless of poor man."

They had me in stitches and they weren'the even done. The conversation inevitably shifted to the infamous "Notice to Quit".

The passenger raised an angry fist, shaking it as he said, "Dem think say naa before wey person mumu; carry pickin dey run enter bush? Make them come."

The driver was just as furious, "People don develop their land for them finish; invest finish,  naa im dem come dey get mouth. Yeye. No be only quit notice."

The passenger turned to glare at four of us seating innocently at the back, "I no care who dey this car oo. Nigeria don fail. This government many of im leaders go dey regret why dem join am. Naa me talk am. I no fear anybody."

Considering I was sandwiched between the door and a human being, I was much more concerned with getting off the taxi and saving my ribs. The other passengers were apparently eager to get home and not interested in who thought what.

As I stared at him, I could see that beneath the false bravado, he had become worried as to possible reprisals as a result of his views; some of which are too inflammatory to print.  😉

It all caused me to reflect. We are in a democracy; at least that what it says on paper. One of the tenets of a democracy is free speech.  So where does all this fear come from?

Simple: people have been maimed, wounded and/or roughed up for far less. Coming at a time when the economy is struggling, the so-called 'quit notice' has only served to worsen things, grinding everything to a halt. People are scared to invest in properties or other such things because of the uncertainty.  Who suffers when the economy is unpredictable? Northerners and Southerners alike!!!

Nigeria is not a nation on the brink of destruction: she is a mother to many talents and world changers; but until we learn not to cut off our nose to spite our face, it's uncertain how far we would go.


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

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: SHERINA AND THE HAPPY DRUNK

Work had been very intense and I had a splitting headache as a tribute to the various legal fires I had had to put out in the course of a single Monday morning.

As I dragged myself to the bus that promised a quick drive home, all I wanted were some minutes of relative peace and quiet and a chance to divest myself of as much of the stress of the day as I could before I got home.

As I waited patiently for the arrival of the bus, I couldn't help noticing one particularly chirpy looking man who was staring at me with worrisome interest. He was tall, dark, and lean as a whip. His craggy face was devoid of any moustache but his eyes had a hint of redness that I didn't pay much attention  to at the time.

I studiously avoided eye contact; something about his cheerfulness beneath the sweltering heat of the sun made him suspect. The fact that he was also probably older than my father made me all the more wary of him.

Happy guy was not to be deterred though.  He ambled over to me and smiled, "How are you doing young lady?"

Never let it be said that my mum didn't teach me to mind my manners. I pasted a saccharine sweet smile onto my face as I piped, "Fine Sir. Good evening Sir."

Just as he opened his mouth to respond, the next vehicle which happened to be a Sienna arrived and I dived in with a sigh of joy. I left him standing outside staring at the empty space where I had been standing just few minutes ago. I peered out at him with smug satisfaction pleased with my avoidance skills. I had also taken care to choose the seat at the very back of the Sienna. It was rather close quarters and I honestly didn't think Happy Guy was going my way; but one can never be too safe right? I was prepared to suffer the lack of windows all the way home too.

My phone beeped the arrival of an SMS and I gleefully dug it out of my bag, eager as always to read an SMS.

While I was distracted, someone inelegantly wriggled onto the seat beside me, moaning about the close quarters and his long legs. Two things hit me simultaneously: the STENCH of 'ogogoro' (dry gin) and the putrid smell of sweat.
I gasped as I looked up.

It was happy guy!

Suddenly his inexplicable cheerfulness made sense: he was drunk as a wheelbarrow!!!

I'll say this for myself; I steadfastly refused to wrinkle my nose in distaste at the paralysing odor of the cheap brew. I politely stared straight ahead even though my olfactory glands were threatening to flatline.

The smell of the alcohol seemed to be coming from his pores AND clothes as though he had bathed in the stuff. Or so I thought until he opened his mouth: this time, the emanating smell of alcohol was so strong it promptly took me from mere discomfort to sheer olfactory torture.

"Now we can talk all the way home," he assured me with a happy grin. " What's that on your wristband?"

I managed to gasp the words written on my band, "Supernatural expansion."
 And then I promptly began to think, my thoughts whirling furiously as I tried to come up with an escape route.

Quick as a flash, it hit me. I grabbed my phone and called the one friend I knew could always be counted on to provide an escape path. Everyone needs one of those.

He picked on the first ring, thank the stars, and in his usual manner, he said, "Fine girl, how far?"

"Okay are you at Berger?" I screamed like a market woman. My voice was so loud a few passengers winced.  I didn't care. I wanted the message to penetrate the drunken haze of the guy beside me. I was getting off that Sienna one way or the other.

"Of course not, I'm at home," my friend was saying.

I overrode him with an overly bright, " Okay, just park. I'm coming out of the Sienna now."

I hung up immediately and almost fell over in my haste to exit the Sienna. My drunk friend was still staring in amazement at yet another empty space.

I stood by the road, looking with focus and comical intent at all oncoming cars as though I were waiting for my imaginary friend. I stayed there until the Sienna pulled away with the happy drunk.

What can I say? A splitting headache was bad enough; I didn't need a flattened pair of nostrils to add to my woes. 😙😙😙

Don't get me wrong, I'm the last person to judge a man for drowning his woes; I mean the present economy HAS driven men of sterner stuff to drink! But at the same time, I'm not inclined to inflict suffering on myself either; and that's what seating beside happy guy and his oozing all the way home would have been. No one attained sainthood from unecessary masochism.

The morale of the story? Drink if you must but once you can't find your mouth with the bottle again, that might be a good time to stop.


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

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) a...