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 Day He Showed Up

Nikki2

Nikki ran a few paces after the bus, “Ole! Thief!” She looked for something to throw, and found nothing. “Thunder faya you dia. Oloshi!”

The bus conductor had just hopped on the bus and told the driver to drive away, with her ten Naira change. Mud spewed from the tires of the fleeing bus and Nikki reflexively raised a hand. She was just in time to save her face from the mud, but her dress wasn’t so lucky. The blue and black woolwork – one of the only two dresses presentable enough for her to wear on jobhunts – was now artlessly crisscrossed by slimy brown mud.

Nicki sucked her teeth. “Wicked people,” she exploded, “e no go beta for una. God punish you!” Ignoring the placating pleas of bystanders, she continued screaming even after the bus had long gone. In addition to the ruined dress, she mourned greatly the ten Naira change she just lost.

It was her last hope, that ten Naira; she was going to use it for digestive biscuit. Four small circles of sweetened wheat that would be her last meal before death or a miracle, whichever came first. She sighed repeatedly, shaking her head as she walked to her face-me-I-face-you room. It was a tiny space that held her belongings – a Ghana-must-go bag of clothes and oddities, a mat, and a lantern. It struck her as funny that even that tiny space would soon be lost; she hadn’t paid her rent in six months, and Baba Jide would soon surely throw her out. She recently scanned bridges and shop-areas more attentively, because one of them might be her sleeping-place sooner than later.

“Sister Nikki, welcome oh,” Mama Aina greeted. Nikki swallowed as she passed by the elderly woman’s table of wares – where she would have bought her digestive-biscuit last supper. For the past couple of weeks, she ate those four circles daily to help ward off hunger and get through another 24 hours. It was like Mama Aina greeted to remind her to buy the biscuits.

Nikki thought about ignoring her, but then words rushed out of her mouth without her consent. “Mama Aina, good evening. How market?”

“Fine oh, sister Nikki,” she pronounced her name like it should have been on a biscuit wrapper, Nikki biscuits. “No biscuit today?”

Nikki smiled, “Not today jare, I don chop belle full for office.” And she walked off, effectively shutting down further conversation. She knew her lie was obvious, but she didn’t care what Mama Aina thought. She felt bad enough as it was; not because she had lied about eating, but because her ten Naira would have helped Mama Aina feed her six children. The thought was crazy – like TEN Naira, seriously? But Nikki believed it. She really wished she had the money.

She walked on, negotiating the puddles and make-shift bridges with an ease born of familiarity. Her sandals weighed more and more with every step she took, lifting them became harder. All this poto-poto everywhere; no be say person get food for belle to do this kind hard work.

She continued along, doing her best to rid her feet of fast-caking mud and grumbling for all she was worth. To her right, a Christian fellowship was singing and dancing. A wry smile curved Nikki’s lower lip. Where did they even get the strength?! Everywhere she looked, the stink of poverty ruled supreme; here, people suffered for a living.

Nikki was one of those who believed in God, but a lot of times, she wasn’t sure. She hoped He existed, but it did not make sense that He let people suffer. It was better for her to assume He didn’t exist; then and only then did suffering make sense. But somehow, against her better reason, Nikki just believed.

She continued walking, her pace slower, praying for her room to get closer. The sting in her stomach intensified and she tried to suppress the thought of not having anything to eat anywhere. A thought crossed her mind, and the Ludacris of it made her smile. If to say you dey hear person like me nau, she directed at the skies, I for beg you fried rice and chicken with chilled Malt.

Immediately, she burst out laughing, a weak sound that echoed off the inner walls of her empty stomach. As quickly as it started, it died away. If only He was beside her listening, she mused and shook her head.

“Nikki, you don come?”

Nikki hissed. “I dey your front, you still dey ask if I don come. Kunle, abeg  I no get strength”. And she made to brush by him, but her ever-jovial next-door neighbor only laughed and moved to block her path.

“Nikki-lo-lo, Nikki-fire-for-fire,” he teased. “You know say only you ehn, na Anti-bomb squad!”

“Kunle,” Nikki was nearly in tears, feet hurting, head banging, tummy wailing, “what do you want, please?”

“Nikki, wait first jare make I knack you gist. For office today ehn, come see owambe. Babe, I chop scarra come carry take-away commot sef. But as I reach house na im my spirit just dey tell me ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’, ‘give Nikki’”. His rumbling laughter punctuated his theatrics, as he extended a bag to her. Nikki stood rooted to a spot, she was too dumbfounded to either be vexed or amused. Was this a joke?

She thought to lie at first, to just blurt out something along the lines of “oh thank you, I’m not hungry” or the Mama Aina line – “I don chop belle full for office.” But she couldn’t do it. She was hungry.

Her hands moved of their own accord. The warm feel of the nylon bag jerked her body back into consciousness – it was for real, FOOD. Tears sprang to her eyes and the ‘thank you’ she tried to say came out sounding like the final noise Kunle’s I-pass-my-neighbor generator made every night before all went quiet. The man himself, surprised at her reaction, immediately withdrew into his room. “Good night oh!” he yelled from behind his firmly shut door.

Nikki’s hands trembled as she fit the key into the door. Inside, she sat on the floor and opened the nylon bag. There was a plastic plate with yellow fried rice and a large golden-brown hunk of chicken. Something still weighed the bag down even after she had taken out the plate; Nikky dipped her hand and took it out – a pretty bottle of malt lay calmly sweating in her hands.

Nikky cried. He was beside me, listening.

By Winifred Adebayo

Roses and Angels III

roses and angels

…continued from here

Mama died on the second week of her mourning, and the villagers shouted hosanna. The gods had again shown their inestimable strength and had done justice to Papa.

Three weeks passed, and you joined Uncle Ofodili and his family to their house – a house which few weeks ago you shared with your parents alone. Your cousins took over your little fancy room, and you slept in the kitchen.  You hated the hardness of the floor, and the cold which could not be absorbed by the faded wrapper that had become your bed. But you were grateful for the privacy it afforded you. So, you spent the nights praying, dwelling on the life you had with your parents, and studying your old books with the hope that Uncle Ofodili will one day ask you to resume school again.

But even that was short-lived. Your privacy was cut short by Uncle Ofodili who sneaked in every night and persuaded you in his baritone voice to ‘open your legs’. You were not sure what he wanted with your open legs, but your instincts and that leer in his eyes told you that what he desired of you was bad, very bad.

A week passed, and Uncle Ofodili did not stop coming. He was even more forceful with every passing day. The last time, he struck you, and when Aunty offhandedly enquired the cause of your black-eye, you lied to her that you fell. You feared that the worse will happen if Aunty found out herself, so one morning, after Uncle left for work, and after you had bathed Chika and Ikem and made breakfast, and done the dishes and scrubbed the house and dropped the children off at school, you braced up, and confided in Aunty. 

At first, she was shocked. She struck you with the china ware in her hands, and further pummeled you with every item within her reach. You pleaded with her, you told her you were sorry, and you will not err again, but her beating and curses drowned your pleas. That night, she called you a cursed child, and sent you out of the house, wearing nothing but your open wounds and a broken spirit.

It was Madam Janet, your new neighbour who took you in for the night. You recounted your ordeals to her and she let you spend the night in her apartment. She cleaned your wounds and offered you her guest room. Though you could still feel the pains running through your body, though you were still shivering in fright, you saw a glimmer of hope in Madam Janet. Maybe she would take you in, you thought.

But the next day, she asked you to leave. She feared for her young marriage. You pleaded gently, tears flowing like a spring, she said no. So you left, dazed, weary and craving for death.

Years passed and something happened within you, strengthening you, and  drowning your past. Until today, you have not given a serious thought to your parent, home, poetry or music. But today, history has not only resurrected in your mind. Today, history has taken a bold step towards you, and Uncle Ofodili, who was only a figment of that history, had journeyed out of the past, and found his way to your bedside.

You are shaking. The lights are still off when Johnny walks in. He is seething with fury and with his eyes as red as palm oil. He has obviously drowned himself in Cocaine again. Chief must have told him, but you do not care.

“You,” he spits, “you’re such a pig”

You give him reasons, but he doesn’t hear. “He’s a dick,” Johnny retorts, “just as the rest. Uncle or not, since you had fucked him, you shudda got me my fucking balance”.

He is holding your neck with such force you think it might as well snap. You scream, desperately flailing your hands on his stoic face. Vexed, he lets go of you, but before that, strikes his heavy fists on your face. He has hit you many times before, but this time, your screams are louder and your thoughts are still hung on the past, refusing like your shadow, to let go of you.

That evening, you resolve to leave Johnny, and your wrecked existence.

You park your few decent cloths and tips you hid away in your old shoes, and you leave town. The taxi driver is running at dangerous speed like an angry cheetah. But you do not even notice, so you do not complain. Your thoughts wander again.

The very next morning, Madam Janet true to her decision, sent you packing. You were stranded, lonely, shivering and hopeless. You walked the streets until dusk came and you panicked, while hunger gnawed at the ligaments of your belly. Slowly, night drew its dark curtains over the firmaments, and full blown anxiety sank into your heart. You were a solitary figure, a poignant image under a rotting electric pole, watching the people walking back and forth to their waiting destinations. No one spoke to you. Their faces were straight, and their feet, eager with motion.

 Then it pulled over, a small gulf with tinted glasses.

to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

Reborn

reborn01

It hurt. The tightness in her back and leg muscles, it really hurt. She stopped in a semi-crouch, her knees supporting her hands while she gulped in loads of the cold night air.

Her vision was blurred by sweat, tears and grime. But still, she saw it – the light. Yellow and enchanting, it beckoned on her. Another round of pain tore through her. It streaked through like lightning, setting all her nerves afire. Her hands bunched the material of her gown in an effort to contain the pain. But it was in vain because a wail escaped her lips.

Somebody coughed, and another person laughed out loud. The old woman who sold akara in the stall by the side of the road slowly packed up her utensils. The man in the LASTMA uniform withdrew his foot just in time to avoid losing it to an onrushing taxi. Then he crossed the road, and hopped into the waiting maruwa which zoomed off, a cloud of exhaust smoke in its wake. The short girl angrily waved the smoke away from her face; she yelled expletives at the back of the commercial tricycle and even ran a few feet after it. But the empty tray clutched under her armpit was too heavy, and her skirt too tight; so she stopped and threw a pebble instead.

It was well past 9pm, but the slums of Agege was still milling with people, bustling about different businesses. Nobody noticed her; nobody spared a second glance for the pregnant woman in the dirty gown who slowly drew herself up to a standing position.

Her knees shook with the effort, but she steeled herself. With her eyes set on the light, she clutched the straps of her Kasuma hold-all tighter, and took another step forward.


Kalu reached over for her hand and squeezed it in mute solidarity. She looked at him and smiled. It was better not talked about, the indignities they had undergone in the past hour. The prodding, spreading, jerking and screening; they wouldn’t talk about it, not even when they were alone.

The inner door swung open and their heads snapped up to face him. The doctor took his seat and shuffled the papers in the file he had just walked in with.

Efe felt her heart drop into the gloomy depths of her belly. It was empty still, so there was room. She knew even before he said it, that he hadn’t found anything wrong with them. The doctor was, sadly, a good man. She watched as his finger twitched, then he shifted in his chair, tugged at his tie and cleared his throat. It was the same routine, every time he came back with her pregnancy test results.

Twitch…shift…tug…ahem! “I am very sorry, madam but…”

She didn’t wait to hear it this time. She dragged her hand away and burst out into the hospital hallway. Kalu was yelling for her to stop but she couldn’t. The tears dropped as she ran…


A party was in full swing. Shingles dangled from the roof onto the floor in front of the building, and there were cracks and crevices in the unplastered wall. It looked ready to collapse any minute, but loud music blasted from within it.

The words came to her:

…door, door, borrow borrow tux

Flawa wey I tief plus

A rickety boom box

Boom boom boom baby, boom boom box…

 

The other houses lining the tiny paved street varied in size, but were just as ramshackle. She walked on.

A bright-colored bungalow to her left had soft lights, and the music was slow. A couple skipped over the narrow gutter in front and walked into the building; the man had his hand on the lady’s bum. A young girl in a yellow gown stood off to a corner puffing on a cigarette. She didn’t seem to care that the strong night air and the sheer material of her gown united to keep her body contours on arrogant display. Another girl in a pink miniskirt was talking to the driver of a blue Volvo through the wound down passenger window. Her skirt had hiked up, the flesh of her thighs and lower buttocks jiggled as she shifted her weight from one heel to the other.

Nobody seemed to notice the pregnant woman who stopped suddenly on the sandy edges of the narrow road. Nobody saw as she dumped her black bag in the dust, and her face contorted into an ugly mask. The pain this time was murderous in its intensity. She tried to stoop again, it hurt too much. She tried to stand, but a sharp pain stopped her mid-move.

She felt wetness, cold and unfeeling between her thighs; she had to keep moving. The light was still up there, closer. She willed her legs to move, to take her there, but they crumbled beneath her. She fell on her belly, bounced once and fell over to her side. Still.

The prostitute in the pink skirt got into the Volvo, and they zoomed off. A brown Peugeot with Federal Government plate numbers rolled up in front of the other one. A motorbike zoomed by.


“Get out!”

Mama threw another handful of clothes at her. A belt buckle hit Efe in the jaw but she didn’t feel the stinging pain. She only had eyes for Kalu who stood by and did nothing. Chikaodi appeared at the door, half-dragging half-carrying another of Efe’s suitcases.

“What?” Mama yelled. “Chika, drop it immediately. Kalu, get that bag from her, or do you want to lose your baby?”

Kalu stood like a human statue. His hands were in the pockets of a pair of brown chinos, his back was against the wall and his head was bent. A grieving human statue.

Mama let out a loud hiss and snatched the bag from Chikaodi herself. The girl straightened, and walked over to stand by Kalu. Her gait was sluggish and her left hand moved in slow circles over the mound of her pregnant belly.

“Tunde!”

The gateman came fast. “M-m-maa?” he answered, his blue beret clutched against the chest of his white uniform shirt.

“Enhen,” Mama puffed, “take these bags, all of them, and throw them outside. Then come and take this woman too.”

“Errr…” Tunde stuttered, “you-you say…”

“Are you deaf? My friend, do as I say before I lose my temper.” Livid with rage, the older woman was scary and Efe couldn’t help feeling a tinge of pity for her loyal gateman. Tunde darted a desperate look at his madam but her eyes were on Kalu. Tunde looked at his oga. Kalu did not move.

“Are you still standing there?” Mama screeched and advanced on him.

“So-so-sorry ma,” Tunde yelled as the first slap connected with his bald head. He grabbed the nearest suitcase and turned it towards the gate.

Efe had seen a lot coming. She had long expected it before Mama came visiting with the shy Chikaodi in tow. Just for the holidays, she had said. Kalu swore the girl was his second cousin but Efe wasn’t stupid; she saw the gowns the child wore, how the tips of her breasts proudly challenged anyone through them, and how her waist shimmied from side to side every time she served her husband’s food. Efe also saw the effect it had on Kalu.

She had long expected it before she came home that night to the sound of banging and moaning in the visitor’s room. She hadn’t had the courage to look. She had also expected it before Kalu began to slip out of their bed in the middle of the night.

She had seen it coming long before Kalu came to her with tears in his eyes, blubbering about infidelity and the child he had lodged in his ‘cousin’s womb. She had no blames in her heart for him, only pain. His betrayal of their vows hurt her deeply, but what she mourned most was her inadequacy to give her husband the one thing they both wanted most. So they agreed to take mother and child in, she had expected that too.

But she hadn’t expected to return from the doctor’s to find she was being thrown out and Kalu standing by while it happened. He didn’t lift a finger, much less say a word. It was the only thing that kept her straining over her shoulders while Tunde led her to the gate.

Her purse wasn’t among the bags thrown outside. It contained her phones, money and the pregnancy test result she had just gotten. It was then Efe remembered that she hadn’t told him, he didn’t know she was pregnant with their child. Finally.

So she had gone back to pound on the gate. She had pounded and yelled until she heard the lock snap back. She was going to push past Tunde and run back in. But it was Kalu who appeared at the gate.

“Hi,” she smiled through her tears at him. Her heart pounded with hope, “I knew you would come…”

“Just go”

No, she hadn’t heard right. “What?” she rasped, “but I’m…”

“Just go, Efe,” Kalu said again. His eyes stared over her shoulder, “go please.”

Then he pushed her.


“Puuuusshhhhh! Come on madam, wake up!”

“Ahn ahn, suffri suffri joor. You wan kill am?”

Efe was numb with pain, all she wanted to do was coil up and go to sleep. But this other lady wouldn’t let her.

Madam Glad, she said her name was, and she ran the brothel. The man with them would have paid any price to be elsewhere. A respectable and well married medical doctor, he had been seeking forbidden pleasures in the wrong place at the right time.

“Calm down, doc,” Madam Glad soothed him. “Na just belle she get, no be kpuruke.

“Just take her to a hospital for Chrissakes,” he railed. Sweat ran down his face in rivulets, his starched kaftan was soaked through at the armpits.

“Time no dey again nah, you sef talk am,” Madam Glad countered. “Enhen see am,” she pointed, “e don dey show again.”

Doc took a look, and she was right, the baby was crowning even more pronouncedly than the last time. “Shit!”

He rolled up his sleeves and knelt before Efe’s open thighs. He was calling for hot water and more towels when she passed out.

***

“Girlie oh!” someone was yelling in her face. Efe cringed as a deluge of icy water rained on her face. “E don do!” she heard Madam Glad yell, “she be like fish for your eye?”

Efe opened her eyes. The light from the naked bulb was too bright so she shut them.

“Listen to me, young lady,” the doctor was saying to her, “what is your name?”

She opened her eyes. He was younger than she remembered from before she passed out. His handsome features were ruined by anxiety as he stood over her.

“Efe”

“Splendid!” He swept one folded sleeve across his dripping brows. “Efe, listen to me. You need to work with me on this so we can get you and your baby…” He was interrupted by some commotion at the door.

“Maama,” one of the girls yelled, “see this bros oh!”

“Wetin?” Madam Glad turned from her post beside Efe’s head as a figure burst forward into the room. He stopped just shy of the foot of the bed and Efe gasped sharply.

“You know am?” Madam Glad asked her.

He had lost an awful lot of weight, and his hair was unkempt. But it was him – Kalu – standing in the room. Efe hardly believed it.

Madam Glad asked her again if she knew him and she nodded yes.

He was sobbing like a child, “I’ve been looking, Efe…everywhere…”

Efe didn’t want to hear. In that moment, brimming with their child, nothing else mattered to her. All she wanted was to feel him by her side, the father of her child. She raised her hand towards him, beckoned. Kalu hesitated for a minute, unsure.

Shuu! Collect the hand ni,” Madam Glad bellowed, “fear dey catch you?”

He grabbed her hand, and held on gingerly. Efe squeezed tight. He was really here, in flesh. Kalu. He raised her hand to his lips and she felt a rush of strength.

The doctor still stood over her, as confused as he was agitated. Efe blinked away the last of the tears from her eyes. Then she pushed.

A very ‘WAW’ Christmas to you

– Chisom Ojukwu

This Thing Called…Marriage

marriage03

My father was wearing his trademark brown khaki shorts, it’s roomy pockets sagging at the sides, and one of those old singlets he loved but which every other person at home hated because they looked like suspenders. The memory stands out in my head, very sharp. He stood straight with his back against the wall, his hands – the only visible sign of his anxiety – busy doing nothing in particular. My mother stood in the space between my dad and I; her wrapper was tightly cinched just below her breasts and she had rolled up the bogus sleeves of the fading Hollandis blouse past her elbows. She took up most of the room in the tiny corridor, her back to dad and her face in mine.

“I si gini?” she asked, her voice a chilling ferocious whisper. What did you say?

I swallowed the ball of bile that threatened to clog my throat. I had thought this through, I was sure that it was what I wanted, what I needed to do. So I willed my racing heart to calm down, and I said to her – to them, “Acholum inu nwanyi kita a” I want to get married now.

I was just 16 years old when this transpired between my parents and I. If you are Igbo, or Nigerian, or human, then there is a 99.5% chance that you know exactly what my parents did afterwards. In fact, you all now have different versions of the ensuing events playing over in your minds but like Nollywood, we all know how it ends – I didn’t get married. Heck, it’s been a long time since then and I am still not married.

This Thing Called Marriage is a matter that will neither lie low for us nor our generations to come. An elderly friend of mine once said that even if humans evolved into giant clumps of metal eons from now, our hills of steel would still find a way to pair off with each other in marriage. It is so important to us that a lot of the time, marriage is the most important medium with which we classify adults, second only to gender.

Think: when you first meet that dashing young auditor who just started at your office, your first thoughts are not about her state of origin, or birth stone or the trait of snoring in her family history, are they? No. You want to know if she’s married. Or when you first see that hunky form from behind, all you want is for him to propose so you can hand over the children you already had for him in advance; then he turns around…and he’s wearing a priestly collar. Bam! And it doesn’t stop at adults either – even 5-year old Kamsi goes home to tell Daddy that he will marry Miss Tayo, his kindergarten teacher.

marriage05

Marriage – it’s the all-important issue. Question though is, why?

Some say it’s a holy order anointed by the gods of society: from ‘School’ to ‘Job’ to ‘Marry’ (S-J-M). Others, like my friend Paul, disagree. He believes that it subtracts from the beauty of the union when people say such things about marriage as ‘it is next on the list’. Paul does not think of marriage as a requirement for whatever accolades are given out at the Pearl gates; he thinks of it as a privilege, one he presently is favored by.

When asked about his partner, he gets all dreamy and emotional and starts to cry tears of love says “moments together with her are moments in bliss. There really is nothing more beautiful that when two people give themselves completely to each other. When we disagree, there is this lovable tension between us; the rest of the time, it is the legendary tale of love birds. Fight or no fight, the feeling is awesome. Words really can’t explain such feelings, neither can words describe how anxious I am to consummate it in marriage”

Then you think that it is all roses and chocolatey panty hoses…until you talk to my friend, Walter. In a recent piece, he recounted how in a moment of – I like to think – sheer bravado, he updated his Blackberry dm with the message: ‘I do not believe in the institution of marriage.’ Now Walter is past 25 and talented, so, promising, and he has a day job! So of course, “the aftermath of that declaration was a series of pings and phone calls from friends and acquaintances who wanted to know if I was suffering a fever or feeling inebriated, for me to have the temerity to say such a thing”

You’re wondering “but why” and I’m saying “Wyclef” “I wondered too” Walter stated as his reasons for his disposition, a compulsive nature and his penchant for lonesomeness. He had more to say – or more rightly, ask: “Why do perennial bachelors need to explain why they don’t want to put the ring on it? Does all of humanity have to want the same kinds of things? Must my happiness and fulfillment come from wanting to spend my life with someone, just like everybody else does? Couldn’t I simply live my life, putting out good stories, paying my taxes and occasionally traveling around the world, unfettered by familial obligations or spousal guilt?”

Then I wondered “why not?!” Really, why not? With the calls for equality and fairness multiplying faster than Ebola is spreading, one would have figured that if the married do not have to explain their reasons for marriage, the unmarried should not have to explain their unmarried status either. I remember one time watching Serena Williams claim another tennis trophy on television; I turned to my buddy and said how it was a shame that such a beautiful, strong woman with so much talent was unmarried and without children. Now I think of it, and the real shame is sitting on my head.

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The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect. Some of us confuse wedding for marriage and enjoy the breeze of the former only to wake up in the latter as…

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Even the internet is guilty; try googling the word ‘marriage’ and you’ll find yourself deluged by a litany of rings, white gowns and pristine wedding smiles. That is so wrong. Even for those who understand that the concepts of wedding and marriage are well and truly divorced, it is no guarantee that we understand This Thing Called Marriage.

As at the time I made my intention of marriage known to my parents – yes, at 16, I wasn’t thinking about a wedding. Neither was I thinking of conforming to the societal creed of S-J-M – going by the creed anyway, I wasn’t even half ready. All I was thinking of was the sweet girl (let’s call her Bimi) I was in love with at the time and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Like many of us, I was thinking of babies – how they would have my eyes, Bimi’s hair and nose, and a combo of both our lips, and how it would feel to sit in the evening breeze, with them curled up on my chest, making the cutest infant sounds.

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But I wasn’t thinking of children – the mess they can make, the noise which knows no seasons, the tantrums, the pranks, the school runs, the allergies, the grooming and the raising.

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Like many of us, I was thinking of starting small with Bimi – in a little bungalow in this polite neighborhood where the neighbors minded their business and the rain fell softly every Sunday morning; we would spend the days laughing and playing, I would let her win at cards and she would let me win at table tennis; and at nights, we would make babies.

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But I wasn’t thinking of money – the university degrees neither of us had at the time; the rent for that tiny bungalow which we could never afford without jobs; the PHCN bills, generator bills and water bills, and maintenance bills for when the roof leaked or when an errant child smashed a football against a window; hospital bills, transportation costs to wherever we needed to go, and food.

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I wasn’t thinking of Life – the food that would never come without money; the hunger that was bound to come without food; the attention I would need to pay to Bimi, and her hair and make-up – at 16, she had only just started experimenting with lipsticks; the clothes she would outgrow and the new ones she would need; the girl she would outgrow and the woman she would become; the boy I would outgrow and the man I would become.

The list is endless, and common among us, if we dared to be honest about it. We think of a lot of things, true, yet there’s a lot more we do not think of. And as if it isn’t hairy enough, reality is that a lot of the stuff we never thought of is still mysterious to even the married ones among us.

In correction therefore: The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect that all you can expect is to meet with the unexpected.

On this issue, I am neither for Paul nor Barnabas Walter; I am only that voice crying typing out in the wilderness, questions that you must answer for yourself: Firstly, do you ever want to be married? Why? After which you may then answer, what do you think of This Thing Called Marriage?

 

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

The Lectern: Freudian Theory of Psychosexual Development

This month’s feature on The Lectern is Dr Sigmund Freud’s theory of how all of your adult life can be traced to an unconscious sexual unraveling that happened in your wee years. I knew when I first heard it narrated – and I am more certain now – that this is a theory you want to learn of. So it was a great joy for me when Olamide finally sent that golden ping my way

A few of you might have heard just a little of, or maybe even know all about Freud and his theory of psychosexual development. Regardless though, you want to read it the way she has dropped it at ‘The Lectern’ today. What I find most interesting is that a lot of the scenarios described here are laden with acts we see – and overlook – everyday. A lot of us did these things as kids, many of us still do them, and even more of our children are doing them…and all of these add up to our adult identities? *shudder*

At worst, I hope this amuses you and at best, demystifies all of your life’s hidden crevices. My two-cents though, find some way to straddle the line…

I also hope this is the cue for a fantastic November for all of us.


 

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that we might be read

THE FREUDIAN THEORY OF PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT.

Do you suck on your thumb unconsciously? Or twist your hair or bite your nails? Are you known as the guy or lady who has the hots for ‘hot’ arguments? Have you ever wondered why you behave ‘strangely’ or have certain mannerisms which for the life of you, you could never explain?

Many times when faced with questions like these, we worry and wonder and ponder. But very shortly, you will be those no more. These behaviors – behavioral disorders – are not spiritual attacks like is oft diagnosed; many of them are explainable and – this is where it gets interesting – are firmly rooted in our sexuality, a mystery which is unraveled in the Theory of Psychosexual development posited by famous psychoanalyst, Dr. Sigmund Freud.

Before I go further, you should know this: every child is born with no knowledge of the outside world – tabula rasa. His behaviour or personality is based on experiences lived through from the early stage of life through several stages of development till age of awareness. It is this extensive stage of development that Freud divides into five:

  1. The oral stage which starts from birth to age one-year.
  2. The anal stage which starts from age one to three years
  3. The phallic stage which starts from age three to age five years
  4. The latency stage which starts from age five to about eleven years
  5. The genital stage which is the adolescent age upwards, usually from about eleven years upwards

 

ORAL

At this stage, the first sexual zone for the child is the mouth. This is the stage were the child derives maximum pleasure from using the mouth; when he is suckling at his mother’s breast, you will see that he has his legs up and bouncing in the air or twisting his hair due to the satisfaction, the sexual satisfaction being derived from the act. At this stage, occurrences like overfeeding or frustration of the child’s feeding will most likely lead the child to mature into an adult with affinity for some oral activities like smoking, kissing, gluttony, alcoholism, nail biting, thumb sucking, gum chewing, e.t.c. Frustration could also lead the child to develop an oral aggressive personality characterized by aggressive behaviours, arguments and exploitation.

A child could become fixated at this stage. Fixation simply put, means that a subject’s psychosexual development from one stage to another has been arrested. Usually for a child, this leads to either a surge or a lack of gratification manifesting as traits of gullibility, passiveness, etc in the child.

 

ANAL

The erogenous zone at this stage is the anus. The child at this stage enjoys the process of fecal elimination. He is taught management of his bowel movement by toilet training. Very significantly, he expresses his approval or disapproval over the amount of gratification allowed him at this stage by stooling excessively or too rarely for comfort.

Certain anal personality traits will arise as the child matures, hinging on the severity or lack thereof, of his toilet training. If he deserves pleasure in retention of feaces, he is said to possess anal retentive (holding-on) personality, the characteristics of which are obstinacy, defiance, stinginess, excessive orderliness and compulsive cleanliness. If the child on the other hand, enjoys expelling his waste, his is called a repulsive (letting go) personality. The characteristics of such a personality include disorderliness and destructiveness, also generosity, conceit, propitiation and ambition.

 

PHALLIC

The phallic stage starts about age 3 and ends at age 5 or 6. This is when the child develops pleasurable sensation from stimulating his or her genital organs. The child is said to have increased sexual intrest in parents of the opposite sex, as he or she is physically attracted to them. A conflict is hereby generated. The other parent – of the same sex as the child – is at the roots of this inner struggle, because the child fears punitive measures that can be taken against him or her.

This brand of conflict is referred to as Oedipus complex (after the greek mythology where a son, Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother). The male child notes that females have no Phallus and consequently is afraid that his father may castrate him so that he loses the object that makes him resemble the father. To resolve this conflict, the child identifies with his father; the boy copies his father’s words, postures and mannerisms, he takes on his father’s values, goals and arrogates to himself the qualities he sees in his father. The male child starts developing conscience with this identification so that sometimes we hear little boys say “you know daddy, I am like you – we are men”.

Electra complex is the female counterpart of Oedipus complex. The girl in this case admires and loves her father and thus enters into competition with her mother over him. According to Freud, another reason for this conflict the child brews with her mother is that the little girl feels that her mother deprived her of a phallus. Eventually, the girl child undergoes a process of reluctant identification with the mother, which Freud says, is gradual and uncompleted.

 

LATENCY

The period between age 5 and 6, and ages 11 to 13 is regarded as latency period by Sigmung Freud. According to him, there is no significant psychosexual development at this stage. Consequently, the period (which is really not a stage) is regarded as latent.

 

GENITAL

The adolescent stage starts at puberty which marks the beginning of the last stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development. At the beginning of the genital stage, there is a reappearance of sexual energies; and those conflicts which were not resolved in earlier psychosexual stages tend to reappear. This is one of the reason why the adolescent stage is regarded by Freud as a stage of stress and strain.
The genital stage culminates in mature normal heterosexual relationship.

 

By

Olamide Alo

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Olamide is a student of Psychology who loves children, teaching, singing and baking.

If you have a piece you would like to post at ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you want to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you.

“I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter”

THE LECTERN: MAY I HAVE SEX WITH YOU?

In this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, Tobe Osigwe writes about sex, sex education and where we have got it all wrong…as of yet. 

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That we might read…

Plato the classical Greek philosopher believed that dramatists should be banished from the society. His reason was that dramatists are imitators of reality; therefore they are liars, thus, removed from the reality which they try to imitate. I think of a truth that dramatists are imitators of reality but I doubt if they are removed from it. If there is any group of people in our contemporary society that are removed from reality I think its most clergies and fanatical Christians. These people are miles away from reality. Not because they don’t preach the truth but because they have mastered the skillful art of pretending away some truths.

However, if you think that our ever pontificating pastors are only those guilty of this habit of shying away from some truths, then you are sitting on a long thing. Topping the pretenders list are parents. Now, look at how our parents and pastors engage in this vocation of pretense. They will tell you things like, my dear fornication is a sin, don’t allow any man touch you, don’t have sex with any fellow that is not your spouse, keep yourself pure. While all these lines are true, the lie in it is, mere stating of it does not have power to stop one from abiding by it if the teller of the truth does not show how to uphold it. Rather, the teller of the truth has successfully aroused your desire and interest in testing the veracity of the truth.

I for one strongly believe that any problem you do not have a solution to you have no authority to shout from the tree top about the reality and existence of the problem. How can a parent tell the child or ward not to have sex while there is a sharp contrast if the child turns on the radio, TV, magazine, music, film? And, to crown it all, the parent is not curbing or monitoring the intake of such alternative agents of information. As if that is not enough, the child is shipped into a university, office, any other environment where the child is left in close proximity with the opposite sex and the hormones are all screaming and seething to be gratified thus placing the poor fellow in a hamlet situation of ‘to be or not to be’.

For those at loss with the point I am driving at, it’s simple: it’s not enough to say, don’t indulge in pre-marital sex; we have to go further by showing a practical and realistic way for one not to shine congo. In these days of intellectual enlightenment that people find it difficult to swallow axioms hook, line and sinker, one should not assert that something is bad and snooze off. Rather, there is a need to realistically explain why it’s bad and how to escape it for one’s warning to be effective and result-oriented. Failure to do this you have not solved any problem but you have succeeded in making noise and worse still, alienating yourself from such youth who will see you as an anti in the quest of having fun.

Sex is one issue parents don’t like to teach their children and when they do they simply gloss over with the hollow caveat ‘it’s bad’. Something so important and difficult to rise above its sweet temptation is funnily summarized in one straight jacket threat-loaded phrase: it’s bad. It’s bad and so what? Lie is bad and people still lie every day, so is stealing, cheating, fighting and other vices. Methinks it’s pertinent we admit that the reality of one not indulging in pre-marital sex in the way our society is presently structured is as difficult as a Fulani herdsman passing JAMB in one sitting. Let’s face and accept this reality then find out how to overcome it.

If the present foregoing is true, then it’s totally ridiculous for parents to expect their children to turn out good without showing or beefing them up with the required skill set and properly monitoring them. In the light of present societal realities parents need to take charge in overcoming of some moral codes. You can’t just sit down and expect people to remain chaste when there are overpowering modern day realities circumventing their power to remain clean.

Now let’s look at the following modern day realities; a full grown man of about 30 years is living in his own apartment, he pays his own bills and for reason best known to him he has been in an intimate relationship with a lady for two good years without hope of marriage and you tell them pre-marital sex is a sin.

Also, an unemployed youth who is sitting around at home is visited daily by a fellow unemployed youth and they gist away their unemployed time. I leave you to do the math of the end result of their unemployed gist. What of a lady who is in the university, her parents are no longer privy of her whereabouts, she feels she has fallen in love after some guy whispered some sweet nonsense into her ears and you think she will not…? *coughs*. Or a cute guy joins his church choir and at each rehearsal he sits closely with one beautiful church girl and they become brother and sister in the lord. And as we are all aware, hormones do not repent. Do you think they will not…? *coughs again*.

Let’s face it. So many things inevitably bring the opposite sex together these days. So many factors make people keep late night these days, so many styles of socially acceptable dressing, songs, films and activities, religious ones inclusive, make one think of sex every minute of the day nowadays. Also, it’s no longer a secret that parents no longer have a firm grip on their children or know their itinerary – no thanks to civilization. Trying to deny these facts is akin to denying that there is a mystery being who has a mind of its own in between your thighs. And, believing that people can behave modestly despite all these facts by mere warning that sex is bad is like keeping a yam with a goat and expecting the goat to be reasonable.

Trying to shy away from reality with some biblical truths minus sincere practical step is the staple product of most post-modernist day Nigerian parents or should I say Christians- I believe that’s why over -zealous church goers remain the easiest set of people to sleep with once the perfect opportunity shows up. Little wonder most randy pastors and some smart folks are having a field day sampling the Lord’s vineyard.

Parents should understand that helping their children to plan their future will help greatly in curbing pre-marital sex. If one knows that at the age of 24 or thereabout, he is sure to be financially and emotionally responsible, and therefore ready for marriage, I believe the issue of premarital sex will be history. After all, nobody enjoys doing bad, but one resorts to it when one runs out of alternative good deeds or when one is visionless, deluded and ignorant.

To this end, with my short experience, I think the only way one can shy away from pre-marital sex is to flee from it via avoiding intimate relationship, sexually suggestive films, songs, raunchy friends, profaned environment and less of social media. But the fact remains, the longer you run and flee, like every other race, the weaker you become. Yes, each time you add a year, your defenses against withstanding the enticing darts of sexual intimacy and gratification reduce unless you have tasted it and have grown weary of crossing the Rubicon. Or you have resorted to some other secret but perverse way of gratifying this legitimate desire. Or perhaps, the Creator has given you a special grace to withstand sexual urges. But such people are few and rare.

May GOD open our eyes of understanding.

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BY: Tobe Osigwe ()

If you have a piece you would like to post at ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you want to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you.

“I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter”