My Guidance Counsellor

Hi hi 🙂

To all of you who have called and texted, wanting to know why things have been very quiet around here lately, thank you very much for loving us and following so faithfully. To those who wondered quietly ;), we cherish you too for caring. The answer to your questions will soon be manifest, ceteris paribus. 

In the meantime, the story below is that kind that is both fiction and non-fiction, you know those greedy ones? Yes. It was inspired by a facebook post by one of my sisters from another mother. Please enjoy …

My counsellor

Years ago when I was in secondary school I went to the Guidance Counselor’s office to talk about my future. Two years earlier in SS 1, I had chosen the Science class over Arts without consulting anyone because at the time, it felt proper. And in the following two years, while things looked rosy on the outside, I agonizingly vacillated between my passion for the Arts and the career path I had chosen.

So when it was time to apply to universities, I thought ‘maybe … just maybe I can make it right’. I decided to do the first thing I had neglected earlier – seek coaching. And that was how I ended up in Miss Ugo’s office.

I remember walking into her ‘office’ and thinking that I just could not end up in one like that. It shamed me sometimes to think so lowly of my teacher but it was such an undignified workspace. It was probably 10ft by 5ft; a simple wooden table sat in the centre effectively dividing the space in two; two chairs on either side of the table and two shelves (of the same polished wood) were the only other furniture. Then there were books; makeshift mountains of books covering most of the table and floor, tomes that caused the wooden tiers of the shelves to curve, and were piled high along the cardboard wood walls, almost to the ceiling. She smiled when she saw me, and beckoned me in. I moved books aside to sit, trying not to think about how it felt like consulting a witchdoctor in a Nollywood clip.

As best as I could – and the words were not easy to find – I explained my dilemma to Miss Ugo. I told her that I was making very good grades in Science class and I even enjoyed some of the Physics and Biology classes, but I could not get past the feeling that I should be in the Arts; I told her how I loved my English and Literature classes to death, how I could swap my break-time for a debate on government and politics; I told her how this feeling grew steadily from SS 1 through SS 2 until the first term in SS 3 when I decided to make the move; I approached Ibechukwu in the Arts class and after listening to him and leafing through his Government and CRK notes (two large thick-covered notes worth of material EACH), I chickened out and stayed in the Science class. I told Miss Ugo that for the choice of a course to study at university, I wanted to find something which could leverage my sound Science background while allowing me explore my love for the Arts.

— Is that all? She asked.

–Yes

–Okay.

Still seated, she swiveled to her right, plucked a hefty book from the shelf and dumped it with an oomf on the mountain of books that was her table. I picked out one word – Architecture – before she slammed yet another large one over it, and another, and another. From all over – behind the door, against the wall, over my shoulder, beneath the table – she pulled out books with multicolored backs, all thick as bibles, and piled them on top of each other.

When she was done, Miss Ugo shifted in her seat and looked at me – I scraped my seat to the right, because I could no longer see her face over the pile.

–See this book here, it is for those people that like Fine Arts, like Mr. Umunna, those that like to draw and paint.

She handed me a volume whose cover read ‘Fine The Arts – choose right for college!’ in flamboyant colors. There was a –

— And this one is for those people that like Mathematics, like Algebra and small small calculations.

This one was thicker than the fine arts book, but surprisingly lighter, I dropped it on top of the first book, in my lap.

— If you like engineering, those people that fly airplanes and build machines, sometimes they even go to space; if you like that kind of thing, look at this one.

She handed it over. I dropped it in my lap.

— This one is for medicine and medical sciences, doctors, pharmacists, lab scientists and those people that do research for diseases and cures in big hospitals. You will see those ones here.

Hand. Drop.

— Do you like to read novels? If you like storybooks and all those figures of speech in literature, or even English, or Law, you will see many of that here.

Hand. Drop.

This went on until the entire pile of books had been transferred from the table to my lap. Then she adjusted her spectacles and smiled a very reassuring smile. Unsure of what to do, I thanked her.

— No problem, my dear. Just make sure you return them soon so that other people can also use them.

I staggered a little under the weight. Balancing the stack of books on my hands in front of me, I used the door. The day was Friday.

First thing Monday morning, I returned the books to Miss Ugo’s office.

— I hope they helped?

— Yes, they did. Thank you very much, ma.

— You’re welcome, my dear.

She smiled, and I used the door.

If she had paid any attention, Miss Ugo might have noticed that the thin film of dust on some of the book covers remained undisturbed, and that the books were returned stacked in the same order she had given them to me. She would have known that I never read them.

Share with us below if you had any Guidance counsellor experiences … have a fabulous day!

-Chisom

The sooner, the better

the sooner the better

As a kid, I transitioned through a zillion crushes, and the objects of my infatuation were often older and bigger females – don’t ask, I dunno why. In primary four, I did something she didn’t like to my ‘girlfriend’ at the time – don’t ask, I dunno what – so she chased after me, and I ran. As I reached the class door, I tried to execute a ‘drift’ but my momentum was too high and the sole of my sandals too weak to handle the traction. So I slid until I slammed into the wooden doorpost knee-first. Even before I got off the floor, the knee was already as large as a water melon.

After she heard what happened, my mother drove me straight to a traditional bone-setter in a part of town I had never been before. And thus commenced the torture. With every touch, the elderly lady tortured every nerve-ending in my body with heart-wrenching pain. I tried to run away, I plotted many escape plans but Madam WWD – wicked witch doctor – and my mother were always a step ahead. So I modified my plans.

I discovered that the worst pain I felt was to the right of the injured knee, just about the ‘dimple’ area. So every time Madam WWD massaged my knee, I would deftly maneuver my leg so that she was faced with the part that hurt less. Every time her hand strayed to the worst pain area, I clenched my teeth and – painstakingly – kept a straight face, but whenever she stroked an area that didn’t hurt at all, I yelled and screamed curses on her. Gradually, she started to concentrate on the other parts of my knee – all the parts except the part that hurt most. My plan worked!

With time, I learnt to endure the pain while walking, and even the worst pain area started to feel better. I was discharged less than a week afterwards, and the pain eventually disappeared.

Fast forward fourteen years and I had just discovered my passion for running. I was not fast, but I had a lot of stamina and it helped me think, so I jogged three times a week. After doing this consistently for a month, I started to feel pain in my left knee. I thought it was ‘good pain’ which would pass with more vigorous exercise so I continued through the pain.

Soon however it became obvious that there was nothing good about pain, and not long afterwards I found myself lying on my back in the doctor’s consultation room.

“Here?” he poked at my knee.

I shook my head. No.

“Here?”

Still no.

He clamped his right hand over the left and palm open pressed down on my right leg, just above the knee. “Try to raise your leg,” he said.

I tried.

“Any pain?” I shook my head. None.

He applied same pressure on my left leg, and asked me to try lifting it. Immediately, I saw a flash of hot white fire blast across the inside of my eye lids. The pain completely muted me, I could not even yell. My body recoiled and my hands ferociously latched onto his, wildly clawing them off me. After he stepped away, I dropped back, feeling beads of sweat form on my forehead as I struggled for breath.

His verdict was bad news for me. I had to stop jogging, not for a while until it got better, but for life. I told him it wasn’t possible, that there had to be something else that could be done. The physiotherapist said there was, and went ahead to explain to me the merits of other sports namely cycling, swimming and rapid-walking.

I didn’t want to cycle, or swim, and like hell, I was too young for rapid-walking; I wanted to jog, and I tried to explain it to him. But the doctor was adamant. He said they were all the same, all sports.

But it wasn’t just sports for me. For the first time in my active youthful life, I had come to love a sport, really love it. And now, I couldn’t do it again. I left his office pained.

I was speaking with my mother shortly afterwards and I mentioned the doctor’s visit.

“Left leg kwa?” she went, “the same one you broke in primary school?”

Gbagaam!!! Like a bad Nollywood movie, the memories came back to me: of injuring my knee – my LEFT knee – on the class doorpost, of the many sessions with the traditional bone-setter, and of my ‘genius’ plan which I had effectively employed to avoid the worst of the pain. I had gotten away with less pain, but even though I didn’t think of it at the time, I had also gone away with an unhealed knee. And all these years, the injury had stayed hidden, festering, and showing up just in time to truncate my joy.

 

Point:

Thanks to literature, movies and my imagination, I have ‘experienced’ the pains suffered by Igbo people during the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. I have also read several venomous posts and tweets aimed at Igbos on social media. But none of it had ever felt as personal, as demeaning, and as hurtful as reading @kunleafolayan’s Igbo-targeted hate tweets.

I might have taken it a tad personal because of my admiration for the man’s art, but beyond hurt, I am worried. It isn’t just the sheer hatred in the words that worries me, no, what worries me most is the realization that this hatred is not new-found. And this applies to the Oba’s tweets as well. While some see men yielding to the influences of chilled Orijin and piracy-induced frustration, I see prejudice that has lain for so long beneath an exterior of societal decorum. And as I read the ensuing e-warfare between supporters and protesters, I got even more worried.

We all pretend that the hurt of the Civil war passed away with the war itself but surely, recent events have proven otherwise. From the comments, one could infer the following as the summary of the present Nigerian state: while the Igbo man continues to exist in a bitter semi-auto defensive mode – seated with one buttock, as my grandmother might say, the Yoruba man merely tolerates him, the Hausa man wonders why this man has to always make everything about himself, and the Urhobo man waits to see what happens. And this is just when the Igbo man is the centre of discourse; insert the other 249 ethnic groups into that slot one after the other and the permutations will unfold like the Judgment scroll.

Like it or not, ethnic sentiments lie deeply ingrained in every Nigerian, be he/she Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik or Urhobo. While there are a number of reasons for these sentiments, an overwhelming majority stems from the pain of a war which was badly fought and too quickly discarded into the dusty cabinets of history.

The injury of the Civil war lies hidden and festering beneath this façade of ‘Allizzwell’ and like that lingering knee injury, it’ll never go away. We need to first uncover the festering wound so that it can be treated with some stinging disinfectant, and then we can allow time to lay its healing hands and complete the process. But first we must act. And the sooner, the better.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

A Nigerian Easter

The last time I attended confession, I was mighty troubled. It’s a miracle that in the midst of all my iniquities, my conscience somehow finds a way to remain alive. So, I was in turmoil over my own deeds and misdeeds, all of which I relayed to the priest through the dusty net at the confessional. I really put it out there…reeling out tapes and tapes of the times I fell, and how hard I tried to get back up, and every time it felt achievable, how I went crashing back down again. I ended by confessing that I had tired of trying; I saw no point in it if every time, I ended up hurting my Creator and disappointing myself.

When I finished, the good ol’ toughie – Monsignors are always the toughest – kept mute for a dozen precious seconds. I wondered if maybe he hadn’t heard me, or maybe my litany of iniquities had lulled him to sleep, or worse, maybe he had never seen that much filth all up in one man.

So there I was, on my knees, brow sweaty in the cold morning air, thinking of how best to escape quietly. Then he coughed. I heard his robes ruffle as he shrugged.

Then he said, “son, try again”.

This time last year, I wrote a six-part series following Christ from his condemnation, to death on the cross, and triumphant resurrection, and I called it ‘The Medallion’ (look HERE for a re-read or a first read).

I have never claimed to be the best Christian – unless in circles where I am the ONLY Christian 🙂 – but I am pretty certain of the fact that Good Friday is not a story of a second chance. Jesus, by bowing to shameful death on a cross, did not give me a second chance at doing good. No, His death gave me the grace of many chances; because of Christ, I shall never suffer the dearth of opportunities to get it right, no matter how many times I err, for as long as I live.

That is the joy of Good Friday, and the glory of Easter.

And THAT is the bane of the victory of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of APC in the recently concluded presidential elections. Some of the sweetest ones among you readers have asked why WAW was uncharacteristically mute in the middle of all the brouhaha before, during and after the elections. The answers to this will come in a future post, hopefully, but suffice it to say that a major reason was the painful manner in which I was disenfranchised. I still owe Oross that story.

Anyway, I stayed home, laughed my insides raw on social media memes, and drew up Excel tables and charts with voter results. For those who are still unclear about whose side I was on: I did this

mocking laughter

when Kano and Katsina happened; then I did this

high five

…when Buhari scored above 25% in Edo and in any other ‘unlikely’ state.

And when it became clear we had a new president even though Borno was yet to come, I did this…

dance African kid

So…

  • WHY APC, AND NOT PDP?

Tuesday’s victory was more for Nigeria, than any individual or political party. For the first time since we first saw democracy, we proved to the world that we count. More importantly, we proved to ourselves, the political parties and the men in power that we are still capable of democratic unity in the face of adversity, and that in our strongest elements, we are never to be taken for granted again.

I recently followed this sister on twitter, @KingUcheOdoh, and she pretty much summed it up as follows:

“Just so we are clear we didn’t say Buhari is our savior! We just voted out a government we were not satisfied with to give another a chance!”

Dazall!

  • WHY BUHARI, AND NOT JONATHAN?

I cannot tell you that I ‘voted’ the party and not the man – it would be a lie. If anybody says that to you, kindly ask them “if Atiku had won the ticket instead, would you have voted APC still?”

I am Igbo, a proud son of the Nnewi soil and so it came as quite the surprise to a number of Igbo brothers and even non-Igbo friends when I spoke of my support for the Fulani GMB over the Niger-Deltan Ebele.

Simply, I was dissatisfied with the leadership of President Jonathan. Beyond that, as the campaigns progressed, President Goodluck increasingly looked to me like a man who has had his fill of the Villa. The more I watched the news, watched video clips and viewed pictures, I had this nagging feeling that the campaign for reelection was being run more by the people behind the curtains, than by the man who wore the crown himself. Needless to say, the fate of a country in as precarious a situation as ours should not be combined with an unwilling or indecisive leader.

Buhari on the other hand is a man whose integrity and sense of discipline I judge to be well above most other Nigerian politicians’. Even the opposition with all their technological and pecuniary clout was unable to find any mud to sling at it. All I heard was talk about the General’s tribalistic tendencies and religious extremism. My views on tribalism and religion, especially in the context of government, are not secret. Suffice it to say that I’d rather not lend the matter any credence seeing as it deserves none. For my thoughts in detail, read “A Debt That Must Be Paid” and “The Nigerian State and Religion I and II

Many of the ‘Change’-opposers are genuinely afraid; while I do not dismiss the fears as baseless, I believe that as enlightened a country as we are, as diverse as we are and in a democratic dispensation, it will be difficult for one man or one religion to hold us to ransom.

I do not expect miracles from General Muhammadu Buhari; all I expect is that he acknowledges the sacrifice and immense trust of Nigerians, in actions, in Aso Rock. By merely assuming an uncompromising stance of incorruptibility, equity, fairness and justice, the General would have done most of the job required of the office he will resume at in May.

  • WHY 2015, AND NOT 2019?

Yes, I heard this argument as well. President Jonathan deserved a second four-year tenure, they said, so he could either prove or disprove our distrust. My answers?

Because as the president himself said while contesting in 2011, anything that cannot be done by a government in four years cannot be done by that same government, even in ten years.

Because I’d rather run a preventive marathon, than a corrective one.

Because maybe it’s too late already, and we may not even know it.

Because like Christians have at Easter, we have the grace of many other chances, not just one chance. If the new government fails, we will vote them out come 2019.

And because for the next four years, I’d rather have as my First Lady, this woman

Buhari wife

than this woman

11082544_10155371763255514_8708964379917998631_n

In the form of a new government and a ‘new’ country, this Easter is a gift to Nigeria…a Nigerian Easter.

Happy Good Friday, lovers…and a Merry Easter ahead!

Chisom

GBI Network

Disclaimer: the tale you are about to read is not entirely fiction. Keep your internet browser close by, you might need to verify.

images(2)

“Oloshi!”

You ignore the conductor and walk right on, a crisp fifty naira note in your hand, crisper than the one you had just now refused to take from him. He curses even more as the bus zooms off, but you do not spare him a second glance – he is the least of your worries.

Your pocket is your primary worry at the moment, it is empty. Not a komkom milo kind of empty, empty tins can at least make good music; this emptiness is more of an akpa asisa kind, an abrasive kind of empty. And it is all the fault of that stupid bank.

The old man from across the street waves at you and makes to rise from his perch beneath the shade. But your wave back at him is brusque; you slip through the gate and hurry towards your door without looking back. He will be disappointed, you know. Every evening as you return for work, he is seated in the same spot beneath that tree, fanning himself with a sheet of cardboard paper. And usually, you would stop to exchange a few laughs. But not today, not while your tummy and pockets sing a duet of dearth.

It was on a day like this that you walked into that fast-food place at the corner of Sanusi Boulevard and ordered a large meal of rice, beans, plantain and cow-tail. You were washing the spirited meal down with a coke when the waiter approached, bill in hand. You didn’t even look, just waved your Naira mastercard in the air. Get your POS.

It didn’t work the first time – typical. So you tapped in your PIN again. While you waited – you and the waiter, you downed another mouthful of the chilled coke which apparently, you were sharing with somebody named Ehi.

No vex, oga, let me bring another one. And she ran off, leaving the faulty POS on the table, your card still stuck halfway in it. She returned with a grey one and an outrageously brightly coloured one in either hand. You tried again. Again. And again. Still no show, so you finished your  coke, paid in cash and left.

You were seated in the conference room, opposite the Korean investors, when the first debit alert came in, then the second, then the third, then another…and the next. Six of them in all, your account balance read just below five thousand. Sure, you were concerned, but not really worried. These things happened very often, and you were certain that you would receive six reversal alerts before close of business.

But the end of the day came, and there were no alerts. You willed them to roll in so you would not have to call customer care – they took forever to connect and always ended with more promises than fixes. Noon came the following day and you still had not seen any debit reversal SMS. You checked online and your account balance was the same – 4,998.50. So you dialed Customer Care.

They promised to fix it; you really had no choice so you waited. Then you got busy, working hard, while living off your small stash of cash, and you forgot all about it. Until earlier this afternoon when you stood in front of an ATM machine reading “Insufficient balance” on the monochrome screen. You can’t believe you had forgotten to follow up, because who goes to sleep on the comfort of a banker’s word in this country?

As you now stare at the small bag of garri sitting on your kitchen floor like a fat toddler, you realize it is your singular sure means of surviving the weekend. You are angry, angrier because you are helpless. But you are also very hungry. So you fling the tail of your tie over one shoulder and stoop to pour some of the fine yellow flour into a bowl.

Your laptop is sitting on your dining table, lid up, as you left it before going to bed last night. And the sight of it reminds you of a conversation you had with your colleague, Jide weeks ago. He is a twitter-worm and apparently, a website had been the rave at the time, where people reported their bank troubles and they got resolved at no cost.

You pour some water into it and set the bowl of garri aside – given time, the mixture will swell to a quantity that stood a better chance of sating your hunger. As the orange, red and blue colours of your internet browser flood the laptop screen, you mentally pat your own back for subscribing to the monthly plan. The state of your finances at the moment place internet way above luxury.

All you can remember about that site Jide mentioned is that its name sounded like a TV news channel; and you are not very certain but it probably had the words ‘global’ and ‘bank’ in it.

A few minutes of Google later and you are looking at a large picture of the Dubai sky-line – “Dubai is where your search ends,” it read. Wrong one. You start to glide your pointer towards the ‘go back’ button at the top-left of the screen but some words stop you.

Global Banking Issues Network – GBINetwork

‘Our bank is here to encourage all banks to be more efficient and help bank customers blah-blah-blah…

You scroll down and spend the following minutes reading through a deluge of reports sent in by dissatisfied bank customers world-wide, and the responses to them. By your rough estimate, 70-75% of all bank troubles reported here is rectified, and the erring banks even wrote personal apologies in the Comments section.

There is a ‘Click here to post your complaints’ button on the menu bar. You click.

It is loading as you reach for the bowl. The garri has ‘risen’ enough now, nearly doubling in mass and flirting with the inner rims of the large bowl. You spoon a dollop of the sodden paste into your mouth, knead it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, and swallow.

With a grainy salt-sour taste in your mouth, you begin to type.

***

Y: “Oh boy, Jide, show first.”

Jide: “Wassup nah?”

Y: “Guy, that your link work oh.”

Jide: “Link ke? Which one?”

Y:“The bank one nah…GBIN.”

Jide: “Oh, you use am?”

Y: “Yes oh…my bank really messed up, I just use vex report them for the website.”

Jide: “Enhen…?”

Y: “They called me now to apologize oh, the bank people. I form small shaa, but the grammar just dey increase. Come see the sweet voice wey the babe use dey beg me nah: ‘We saw your report on GBIN, sir, we’re very sorry that you had to endure supri supri supri…’

“Omo, last last ehn, she asked some questions about my account details and the transaction wey cause the wahala, come talk say dem go fix am. As I dey drop phone, guy, alert dey enter my phone fia fia fia!”

Jide: “Wow, you mean am?”

Y: “Hian…see question oh. No be you show your boy the way?”

Jide: “Omo, I never used it oh. I just saw the gist on twitter, that’s how I knew about it. And I dey here since, my bank just dey misbehave…”

Y: “Oh boy, no time oh. Gee-BIN them!”

Jide: “Sharp sharp, bros”

 IMG_20150307_000052

Do not keep this one to yourself. Tell someborri!

Chisom

How to transfer your voter’s registration

vote02Following my Monday post about a certain protagonist’s experience while attempting to retrieve his PCV, I got some feedback. Many of us liked the story, and identified with it – thank you, always; a good number of us however did not, still do not know that it is possible for one to transfer one’s PVC from the centre where one registered to any centre in the country.

This wan no be hear-yarn, bros…I did it myself.

I registered to vote in Abia state and like the percentage of Nigerians who had relocated in four years, I was heavily vexing with INEC. Not only were they clearly intent on disenfranchising me, they were also in collabo with my village people to hinder my progress. Why else would they expect that in four years, I wouldn’t have moved to the big city?!

I was furious and made sure everyone knew who cared to listen. And it was while spreading this venom that a friend casually mentioned that one could actually transfer registration. He mentioned it very flippantly, I guffawed at it. Guy, go siddon jare, for this Naija?

But he insisted. He said that I could find the information on the official INEC website. INEC website is not as imirimious as NSCDC website nah, so I checked it out. This is what I found.

Procedure for Transfer:-

  • Step 1:

The person who intends to transfer his registration will write an application to  INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner of the State  where he is currently residing.

  • Step 2:

The applicant will attach his voters card to the application.

  • Step 3:

The applicant must apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner not later than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where he is residing.

  • Step 4:

The Resident Electoral Commissioner will direct the Electoral Officer of the applicants Local Government Area to enter his name  in the transferred voters list.

  • Step 5:

The Electoral Officer will assign the applicant to a polling unit in his constituency.

  • Step 6:

The Electoral Officer will issue the applicant with a new voters card

  • Step 7:

The Electoral officer will retrieve the applicants previous voters card

  • Step 8:

He will then send a copy of the entry to the Electoral officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered.

  • Step 9:

Upon receipt of this entry, that Electoral Officer shall delete the name from his voters list.

Note: Apart from  State Headquarters Offices of INEC, applicants can also submit their applications at the INEC Office in their Local Government Areas. The applications will be forwarded to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for necessary action.

Read more at http://www.inecnigeria.org/?page_id=2051

How I did mine

I got this information in the first week of January, right on the brink of the deadline, and I followed the instructions to the latter. I printed out a simple three-paragraph application letter, procured three passport photographs, and made photocopies of both the letter and my temporary voter’s card.

I was very meticulous with my preparation because I was not going to give ‘them’ any wriggle-room. I wanted to be able to say afterwards, that INEC really did – for censorship sake – play me.

I entered the INEC office at Sabo, Yaba at 9am and by 10:30am, I was on the bus back, my new temporary voter’s card was in my pocket and I was now one of those Lagosians waiting to collect their permanent voter’s cards. There was no hassle; the INEC officials were beautiful, jolly, young women who literally held my hand through the whole process of filling a simple form and having my bio-data captured.

If I had any idea how uninformed other people were about the existence and workability of this process, I would have written this immediately after I got back. Alas, the process was too seamless, so smooth that I was sure it was just me who did not know that transfers were possible.

For you who registered in Abuja or Aba or Kogi, now you know how to very easily get your PVC without having to journey back to your past. Sadly, you will not be able to vote in this election but you can at least try to see for yourself that it works. You who just dey bad-mouth INEC without making any effort to get informed, oya pim!

While mulling over the ‘I Will Vote’ post with a friend yesterday, we considered a number of possible reasons for the protagonist’s hope even in the face of disappointment: Is he a die-hard fan of Professor Jega? Is he relieved – even though he might not know it – that he now has more time to deal with the weight of a PVC on his voter’s conscience? Is he a believer, or just an optimist?

The pretty lady and I agreed to agree on all options, but I daresay that if that protagonist’s TVC-collection experience was anything like mine, then his hope was not an option. It was most likely an answer.

Chisom

I WILL VOTE

vote

It’s yesterday and I am going to get my PVC today.

Walk in quietly, greet the two ladies and the man in the office with a smile, “I want to get my PVC.”

“Where’s your temporary?”

I hand it over, take the only other available seat and proceed to dig into my phone.

Man shuffles through the stacks and stacks of plastic cards…once, twice. I am counting, spying from beneath lowered eyelids. When he starts a third time, I just know. Even before he says the words, I know…

“Oga, you no get card oh”

“Huh?”

“Your own no dey here,” he says.

Disappointment. First at myself because I have just realized that I expected to be told just that. And at INEC for proving my distrust well-founded.

“Okay,” I stay seated, looking with what I believe is a deadpan expression from one INEC face to the other. “So…” I try, “what’s going to happen now?”

Madam seated at the table seems surprised by my calmness; I can’t quite define the look on her face as surprise…I don’t know what it is but it makes me feel good…proud-good.

“Errr…oya bring his card.” She takes the laminated TVC from perplexed INEC guy and begins to write on an A4 sheet.

I am itching to see what it is she is writing, but I tamp down the urge. I sit still, harassing the touch-screen of my now battery-dead phone.

“Here.”

I stand, slip a lazy foot into one slip-on and take my outstretched TVC.

“Come back in three weeks for your card,” she says with a smile.

Jega postponed for six weeks so three weeks is ample time, I quickly calculate. “Okay thanks.”

I blast one grin at the trio and shuffle out in slow deliberate steps. I caught a glimpse of the A4; she’d written down the details – name, number, address, et al – from my TVC.

I know I’ll feel better coming for my PVC in three weeks than I did coming today.

Chisom

…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