Dear 6-month old me

Dear 6-month old me,

Ezinma Ukairo - Dear 6-month old me

You look rather chubby today; probably because I have been rubbing my eyes lately. Something is in my eye again. The right one itches all the time. I might get an infection if I don’t stop soon.

But I’m not writing to talk about my eye. I have some questions for you.

You don’t know it but it’s 2015. Yep! You turned 20 months ago. It’s an age I know you really looked forward to. You must have felt you’d be sure of everything by now – what you want and don’t want. But I am sorry, because things haven’t panned out the way you expected.

Okay that’s a lie. You are where 9-year old us wanted to be – third year law student who is taking French classes to fulfill what 14-year old us came up with. You made plans when you learnt what plans were. You had dreams as soon as you could. At each stage, my darling, you came one step closer to fulfilling what you want. So thank you! Thank you for being you.

I am sometimes confused. But most days are better than the rest. It usually helps when I make a list – oral or written – of things to do. I equally question life. Always. I wonder, ‘what is the end to all these?’ It is not all rosy, you see. But I remind myself and I want you to also remember that “you have a purpose and that is the end to all these”. Nope, I’m not telling you the purpose, you figure it out.

Losing weight is the rage now. It is crazy considering we have always been big. Almost everyone who can afford it is wearing a corset. I have tried dieting, I even checked out a gym the other day; I think I am just not motivated enough. I’ll just eat healthy and work out. It would be suicidal for me to regiment my meals now; we like food, the healthy kind of course. Lol, do you know the meaning of suicidal? Well, it means when someone feels like ending his or life. Why would someone want that? I know, right?! Life is so beautiful ish. Well my darling, people do. But do not be perturbed (don’t worry, I will explain all the big words at the end) because I’m not suicidal … yet. Trust me, it is fun being you.

So before I ask my questions, let me tell you a little bit about 20-year old you – us. Sweetheart, you are tall, beautiful, smart and intelligent. Girl, are you wonderful at speeches! You are gap-toothed though; you didn’t like it the first time you noticed. But your smile is beautiful. People ooh and aah every time you smile. Hehehe, okay, I’m exaggerating … a bit.

You still walk like a soldier; don’t even think of learning to walk ‘girly’, it’s sooooo sloooow. Errrr … I don’t know if it is alright to tell you about our love life, you are just 6 months old ba? Shaa, I shall tell you anyways, so that as you grow you can try to make some things right.

You have dated some, and no you haven’t been overtly free with your emotions but you could have been more careful. Just remember that you should not date until you are ready to say “I do” in charge of your emotions. Please, only get into a relationship with a man (please, man not boy) when you are sure of what you expect both from him and from yourself. When you are everything Beyonce described in her song “Grown Woman”, then you can date. Be a big girl, know what you want. Wait until you are a strong lady with clear-cut principles on life, politics and love. Note that love came last.

When you get to 20, you will have a best friend who will mean the world to you. Do not lose her! She is amazing. How would you know her? Well, she is a year and three months younger than you, and she looks like a cute rat. Which reminds me, try very hard to convince Dad to let you live off-campus; the rats in this hostel are simply devilish. Devilish I tell you!

Now my questions … actually, just one question: What’s the weather like today?

With love,
20-year old us.

P.S. The 20-year old you got this letter when she was six months. I am simply doing the same thing for you. Remember to continue the tradition.

So, big words and their meanings:
Perturbed = worried
Lol = Laugh out loud; it is a cool way to show you are laughing while texting.
Ooh and aah = sounds people use when they are amazed
Amazed = errr, when people are just thrilled about something
Thrilled = errr….???
Nne ehn, you know what? You will learn English Language in nursery school, so don’t worry.

By Ezinma Ukairo

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Letter to Chimamanda

Letter to Chimamanda

Dear Chimamanda,

RE: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS

I love your first name. It is very beautiful and unique and I think you are very beautiful too. Maybe I will name my daughter after you someday, if I have a daughter or any child for that matter. Why ‘if’? Well because the world is bad and full of surprises; it is not the same world I was raised in so I am scared of bringing an innocent child into this world. But worse, I am scared I will never get married (please don’t tell my mother), not because I am ugly or un-homely or un-womanly; I guess it is just because I am me.

See, I am a feminist. Probably not as hot-blooded as you are but one nonetheless. I am that person who believes in smoothing out the odds between the so-called genders. In this case, not by fighting for equal rights with placards – I am not so politically inclined, but by acknowledging that something is just not right somewhere and deciding to fix it starting with myself and my relationships.

As a child, I unconsciously imbibed feminist traits from God-knows-where. I found myself saying things like “I don’t want a man to control me” and I fought boys a lot, not physically most times because I am quite a girl, but I never let a boy walk all over me for no reason. My best cartoon TV program was and still is Mulan. I attended a ‘Girls only’ secondary school and that must have just fuelled my passion more.

Presently as a student in the university, I still do not like guys disrespecting me or disregarding my opinion simply because I’m a female. But because guys are ‘chyking’ me now, I am supposed to reflect the image of girlfriend or ‘wife material’ they expect me to be. So I have to cook every day and feed some guys too so that the testimony of my culinary artistry is spread abroad. The penalty for defaulting is an alarming reduction in my yards of wife material. Also I must stop paying a part of the bill when I go on dates, because it emasculates the guys. If I persisted, I have been warned, it will only make them less gentlemanly towards me. Lastly, I must put a stop to both loving and declaring my love for you, Chimamanda. Because if I continue to be so daring, I will never get married.

Chii’m (biko allow me to Igbolize your name), does it matter that I spend my meagre student allowance buying megabytes to download your YouTube videos? Or is it wrong that I have re-read all your books but one more than five times? How does appreciating a married woman make me less of a woman? I think what hurts most is that my friends do not understand. They tell me that women have a ‘cooking gene’ simply because we are nurturers (a fact implied from the fact that we breastfeed). Well, I don’t know how true that is but I doubt I have it – the gene – because cooking is not my hobby.

Letter to Chimamanda 2

Please before all my prospective suitors run away, let me be clearer: I can cook, I can even enjoy doing it in comfortable environments, but cooking is NOT my hobby and I definitely do NOT have a cooking gene.

Even though many people disagree and say that your idealisms of feminism are unrealistic in Nigeria, and that you’re alienated from African culture because you live abroad, I disagree. I believe you are smart and always make a lot of sense. So Nne biko answer, is it true all those things they say about me? On a serious note, Amanda, I relate with your talks especially, your TedX talk, We should all be feminists, and I wish more people, male and female alike will watch, hear or in the very least, read it. It pricked my heart to realize how much we have accepted and unconsciously imbibed certain traits and are teaching it to the next generation.

As an aside, thank God for the invention of mirrors and front camera phones; if I need validation, I simply take a selfie to remind myself of how beautiful I am or better still, I read Songs of Solomon in the Bible and pray. Simply put, I do not understand why I need a man in my life to validate my living or my existence. It hurts me to see many women seeking validation from men or rotating their lives around a man, sometimes a hopeless one. The stereotype that a woman must always be under a man is another amazing one; as an undergraduate hustling for a better future, I often meet the occasional human being with Grade Point Average multiplied by two equalling one or zero, that calls himself a man, telling me that “after all it’s a man’s world, you will still end up in a man’s house and along with all your struggle, certificates and titles, you will belong to him” or “whether or not you are a Barrister or Doctor, as far as your husband is only Mr, all you’ll ever be is a Mrs”. And this height of stupidity in a university community!

I once told a male friend my life plans, they looked something like graduate, law school, youth service, masters, travel, work, PhD etc. and after I chirpily listed all I was excited to stay alive for, all he asked was, “what about marriage, where does it come in?” to which I replied, “well, anywhere. It’s really not a prerequisite to my fulfilment in life.”

Now Amanda, this does not mean that I do not want to get married. It simply means that I do not want to live my life ‘waiting for the right man to find me’. I plan to build myself into the right woman for any man willing and daring enough to support me and my feminine ideals and well, if this does not work out then so be it; I will die knowing I lived a life fulfilling to myself and God.

Finally on the marriage issue, people tell me “keep doing Chimamanda, she’s married and abroad making her money while you are here, unmarried”. Chii’m please should I stop ‘doing’ you just so I can get married? I don’t want to spend the rest of my teenage life and early twenties aspiring for marriage by practicing compromise in relationships where I will be treated as a lesser mortal; by having “ambition but not too much” so that I do not intimidate the man who will be gracious enough to marry a lawyer like me. All of this is just very confusing to me, and bothersome. I need a reply from you ASAP so that I do not become totally unmarriable, especially before I start pursuing my Masters and PhD. I still have a million questions to ask but I will wait till I meet you in person. Please greet Uncle Ivara for me and take care of yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Ada bekee

P.S: I agree with your definition of feminist: “A man or woman who says, Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better”.

P.S: Please don’t tell my mum. P.S: I also love make up and girly dresses and African culture, does this make me less eligible in the race for feminism? Will I be respected in all my femininity and lipstick or do I have to wear ugly pant suits without bras? Just joking, I know your reply here.

P.S: Really, don’t tell my mum.

Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa is a Christian Igbo Nigerian African female. She loves, as wholly as possible, and looks to make a difference no matter how little. She is sarcastic and shy, a bold feminist currently studying to become a lawyer

…if we have a country

thinking man

Dear Suzzy,

Contrition overwhelms me as I pen these words. I am ashamed of myself because I lied to you and made a promise I knew would be hard to keep. On a second thought, I forgive myself because you pushed me. You pushed me when you kissed me the other night and made me promise to take you to Nigeria on Valentine’s Day.

I must have been hypnotized by that kiss or the food we ate afterwards.  I am certain that I wouldn’t have made such a weighty promise if I was in control of my senses.

I hate to disappoint you my dear but we have to cancel the arrangement. We cannot spend Valentine day in Nigeria because my country will be at war on that day.

I know how eager you are to visit Africa and Nigeria. I know how much you look forward to meeting the nice people and seeing the beautiful places you have read and heard about. But your curiosity can wait another year my dear.

If you don’t want to have Valentine memories tainted in tears and blood then we should remain here and cuddle on that day. With the super-fast internet at our disposal, we can watch the madness in my country from a distance. Our love is young and sweet but I fear it will never be the same if I take you home this Valentine.

Suzzy my dear, you are probably wondering why I am so scared when all that is happening is just an election to decide who will be president of my country. But you won’t understand. You have lived in these peaceful climes for too long and you think elections in other parts of the world are the same with what you have here.

But you are wrong my dear. In my own part of the world, elections are like war. We go to the polls afraid of what will happen when the results are announced. However it turns out, tears, blood and wanton destruction of property are normal features of elections in Nigeria.

You ask why it is like that?  It is because politics in my country smacks of desperation. Those who hold power sit tight even when they have performed below expectations and those who want it will throw everything including the kitchen sink to actualize their ambitions.

My dear Suzzy, we can’t make this visit to Nigeria because the forthcoming elections may be bloody. Everyone is afraid the country may go up in flames regardless of the outcome.

Have you forgotten what my friends in Berlin said when we visited for Christmas? I mean, you saw the trepidation in Timi’s eyes when he told us his parents were planning to relocate temporarily from their home in the Kaduna because they fear a riot might start when the results are announced.

Joe my friend in Lagos, said some people were already planning to go to Ghana, Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries during the election. That’s what happens every time we go to the polls in my country. Those who have the means run away until the madness abates. The poor and innocent ones are always at the short end of the stick. Some die. Others lose their homes and means of livelihood while another group of survivors will spend the rest of their lives nursing physical and emotional wounds that will never heal.

Suzzy, do you know what is really annoying this time?  We are to choose between two men who probably don’t deserve to be president of any country in the world.

Unlike your own country where you have to choose from a pool of brilliant minds, with enviable track records, election in my country is based strictly on ethnic and religious sentiments.

My dear, do you know how difficult it is to choose between an incumbent president who has failed in many areas and a 72-year old retired General with a questionable past?  Joe says it is like standing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

You know another annoying thing as we prepare for this election? It is the fact that no one is asking the fundamental questions. On Facebook, Twitter and other social media platform, the re-packaged General is portrayed as our knight in shining amour.  To his teeming supporters, it is a sacrilege to express contrary opinions about him.

They sound as if this man who overthrew a democratic president some 32 years ago has the magic pills to cure all that ails Nigeria the moment he becomes president. As though voting for him will instantly mark the end of the epileptic power supply, equip hospitals without drugs, revamp universities of shallow knowledge, fix blood sucking expressways and better the lives of millions of impoverished citizens in one day.

As for the incumbent President, the cookies are crumbling around him with every passing day. They say he is weak and inept to rule a complex country like Nigeria and he is not doing much to change that opinion.

You know what is most funny about his re-election campaign? His followers compare him to Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew and other famous leaders and then urge us to give him more time to transform our country.

So Suzzy, do you see why we can’t go to Nigeria for Valentine this year? Let’s just watch from here and pray God and the angels protect our loved ones who can’t get out of the country.

I know how disappointed you feel right now but I promise you in the name of our love that we will spend the next Valentine in Nigeria…if we have a country after 2015.

With love, now and forever

Veen

Vincent Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany

Dear future me…

dear

Dear future me,

WHO AM I?

That is the question I was born with this morning.

In between puffs of cigarette smoke, our mutual friend asked, who are you? You should remember…I laughed, loud and hard, and opened my mouth to answer – but nothing.

I did not know. I do not know who I am.

You know me very well, brother, so you can understand why it came as a shock that I couldn’t answer that question. Shouldn’t I have had it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have had for an answer, words of wisdom, with fancy conjunctions stringing together their exquisitely-woven philosophies? I should have, right? But I did not. And I can‘t help but wonder if that is an answer by itself.

I do not know how long it has been for you since we wrote this letter, but I hope – I really hope – that you have an answer by now. There is also a lot more that I hope you are by now. There are some I hope you aren’t as well.

I hope our family is a huge part of who you are. I hope our parents are alive and aging well. I hope Poppa hasn’t gone bald (for both our sakes) and he still enjoys walking around the house in baggy Ankara trousers and looping singlets. I hope he still derives pleasure in swinging that broom – to rid cobwebs from a corner – or machete – to trim those flowers – or whatever equipment it is he is besotted with at the moment, with which he tends the house. I hope he has a lucrative line selling in Onitsha or Nnewi and that the umunna meetings he attends these days are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than anything else. I also hope he now has time to sit in the garden at night, surrounded by luxuriant grass swimming in a flood of garden-light, sipping something healthy and reading books. Somehow I know the dude is a reader, he just had to give it up even before he had the chance to choose it.

I hope Maama is old and agile, like granny; I hope the calls are less frequent, where she narrates her dreams and prescribes the bible verses that would cure the impending doom. I hope she still calls to pray for you and run her business ideas by you. Even though you do not need it, she probably tells you about every new job opening in the Federal Ministry because “government jobs dikwa very reliable”; I know you know to pretend to listen every time and say you’ll think about it. I know she’ll probably never be worry-less but I hope she is very happy, and that she got that doctorate degree she always wanted. I hope she has a horde of grandchildren whom she can fuss over, and worry over, and whom she can tell more of those folktales we heard very few of.

Talking of grandchildren, I hope you contributed – maybe even still contributing – a sizable chunk of that lot. I hope our siblings are well and alive, and still bound together by the laughter and unpretentiousness that made our childhood memorable. I hope you and Piro found a way to buy more land in one place, so that you built your houses within walking distance of each other, no gates or fences in between. I hope the girls visit during Christmas with their families, and I hope you all stay awake long into the night, gisting about nothing in particular, reminiscing and playing video games. And when the kids fall asleep, I hope they can do so easily and stay till morning regardless of whose house they are in at the time, Poppa’s, Piro’s or yours.

Fiona thinks what I just wrote doesn’t make any sense – yes, she’s reading over my shoulder; the woman never learnt either of courtesy or coyness. You know how big and chummy a family she comes from so she can’t possibly understand why I would, in her words, “make something so little to coman be looking imirimious”. This woman i

It’s been six hours since I typed that last ‘I’. After Fiona yabbed what I wrote, I shot back – I called her Phyno and told her to go collabo with Wande cole if she had nothing better doing. She hates it when any reference is made to the straggly hairs that occasionally sprout on her chin but I have boyfriend immunity so I call her Phyno. When I hit her with the line, she smacked me over the head; I spat chewed gum at her, and she started a pillow fight. We went through the throw pillows in the sitting room and went on to the large-size fluffy pillows in the bedroom and then…why am I recounting this? You know exactly what happened afterwards.

Anyway, Phyno is asleep now and I hope you married her. Because she’s a great girl. She says I only say it to get in her pants but you and I know I mean it when I say that she makes imperfection look perfect. I hope you married her and if you didn’t, I hope you married a truly beautiful woman who is your best friend. And I hope she married a man who loves her even more than I love her now.

Because you married her, I am sure that you love your wife with all that you are and will ever be (if you still have time left). I hope that she loves you just as much. I hope your dreams and passions align so that neither of you has to die so that the other can live; movies make those sad endings look sweet but really, man, the Word says that God gave us the earth and its fullness for a reason – to savor it!

I hope you know the Bible well enough now to know what verse it is I just quoted…and I hope you just smiled because there is no such verse. Or is there? Anyway, I hope you love our God nearly as much as I try to and I hope you worship him in the people whose paths cross yours every day.

I hope the future isn’t as shitty as we fear it will be. If it is, I know you have found a way to be happy while keeping life sane and productive in your immediate environment. I hope you have not given up on hope of a better future too; tell the children the lores of how we right now live in fear and suspicion of our own kin; use characters like the tortoise and the lion to relay to them how we in their past, go to bed afraid we’ll never wake only to wake wishing we never did. Don’t scare them oh, you bully; okay, scare them a little if you must, but let them learn the lesson – they must learn to live together like brothers or they will perish together as fools. For the adults, the ones with whom we dreamt big, drank down and pissed it all away, tell them you lot haven’t failed yet. For as long as you breathe and your hearts thud, failure cannot laugh in your faces yet. Don’t let him.

If it isn’t – if the future is not as shitty as we fear it will be – then I am glad I was one of those who hoped. I am glad that somewhere along the line, we did something right, something different, and turned it around for better. And I hope I played my part.

I read Long Walk to Freedom again today – don’t bother saying it. It’s just that I am constantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sacrifice he and all those other good people had to make for the prize of freedom. There are times when I find that I am all fired up about the good fight – like two days ago when the members of parliament ‘turned up’ in full glare of the public eye, or that time Piro was arrested and detained for not giving up his seat on the bus to a uniformed man. Times like that, I see thorns, red thorns.

But there are also those times when I think about the ‘goods’ of my life, and I find that I am not fired up for any fight whatsoever, good or bad. Like yesterday, just sitting, all snuggled up and watching Chioma Jesus music videos with Fiona; and that time last week when I stumbled upon that video clip from last Christmas, of mum dancing Alanta while we cheered. Times like that, I see roses, red roses.

I hope having to worry about such is already in your past. Because it would mean you survived it all. Evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing – true; but it also thrives in a society where the good men are in a hurry to be good and get themselves killed off. There is a reason martyrs never get to laugh last.

I hope you never have to choose that path; I hope you never have to choose between the people or/and the things you love. And if it ever happens that you have to, I hope that somewhere in the life I have already lived, the life I am living now, or the life I will live before I become you, we learnt something that will help you make the right choice.

If you kept your part of our bargain, then it’s our birthday today. As you celebrate, I hope you have grown – not just aged – but really grown with every passing second of this shy but ruthless fellow called time. I trust that you are not worse, neither are you the same person I am right now; you are a better person. For that reason alone, it’s a pleasure knowing that I’ll be you.

Happy birthday.

Yours,

Me.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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