The Mind Factor: ‘Nigeria-Ebola’ play in perspective

The proprietress of the secondary school I attended in Aba had this saying she was very fond of and made sure we never stopped hearing. On many occasions while we were in class, or standing on the hard-clay assembly grounds behind the main school building, or seated in the large auditorium, she would face us in one of her uniform loose, short-sleeved blouses, knee-length cotton skirts and black flats. Her slouched shoulders would straighten a fraction of an inch, her amply dimpled chin would incline at a determined angle and set in her dark brown face, her black eyes would burn strength and hope into ours, while she said, “I can do it! You can do it! If I set my mind to it!”

Often she would ask us to repeat after her and most of us would attempt humorous mimicries of her American accent – I cain duweht…you cain duweht…if I set my mind tuweht! We would covertly snicker among ourselves and exchange low high-fives; and a number of our teachers would even crack tiny smiles at our juvenile mischief, but not Mrs Zoe. She would stand stern while we repeated those words and like her, gesticulated accordingly with our index fingers. And it worked because they stuck. The words didn’t just stick in our hearts and minds, they have rung true for me in all the years since then.

I CAN DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT! IF I SET MY MIND TO IT!

The best example that comes to mind is with respect to the emergence of the Ebola virus in Nigeria few months ago. The manner in which EVD was battled into containment in Nigeria reeks of ardent resolve, especially on the part of the health officials and government. The facts that follow establish this as concisely as possible:

Nigeria’s first reported case of Ebola was an imported one, borne by the 40-year old Patrick Sawyer into Lagos via a flight from Monrovia, Liberia. Fortunately, he was suspected of having the virus and was hospitalized on arrival in Nigeria at the First Consultant Hospital, Obalende. Mr. Sawyer died 25 July having infected healthcare staff that had had close, unprotected contact with him prior to realizing he was infected. It was imperative then to initiate containment action against the virus and Nigerian health officials promptly swung into action.

By the 17th of September, records showed the total number of confirmed cases to be 19 with 7 deaths. There were 4 contacts still under surveillance in Lagos and 344 in Rivers State. Over 520 contacts had been discharged from surveillance following a symptom-free 21-day observation window. And by the 1st of October, these numbers remained except for additional two cases – one infection and one death, both marked as ‘probable’.

As impressive as they are, these numbers barely scratch the top of how much work went into the fight to contain Ebola. A doctor’s strike that had been underway for more than a month was temporarily suspended in early August to enable medical personnel help with the outbreak. A State of Emergency was declared, discouraging large gatherings and asking schools to extend summer holidays. As the outbreak continued, the doctor’s strike was cancelled (instead of suspended) and school closures were extended through mid-October. Isolation facilities and centers were established in different parts of the country – one 40-bed facility in Lagos, one 26-bed centre in Rivers state, seven hospitals in Delta state, a quarantine centre in Niger state – along with elaborate plans ongoing to expand on the infrastructure. Volunteers were raised and trained to become primary screeners while physicians underwent training to become secondary screeners, and to distinguish suspected cases of Ebola from other diseases. Thousands of people were screened per day per point of entry – land, sea and air.

The result? There have been no new cases of Ebola in Nigeria since August 31, a strong indication that the virus has been contained.

While the aid of foreign institutions like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) cannot be discounted, most of the praise has reserved for Nigerian physicians like the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and the Nigerian Ministry of Health headed by Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. In the words of a doctor with the Atlanta-based CDC, Dr Aileen Marty, “”The Nigerian government was wholeheartedly into the process of trying to solve the problem”

Dr AdadevohProf Onyebuchi Chukwu

While the encomiums on the ebullient Dr. Adadevoh, who paid the ultimate price in the fight, and her colleagues are without suspect, much of those heaped on the Nigerian government are perhaps more in shock than anything else. Many have wondered at the energy that was mustered by the government in procuring and unleashing resources to fight Ebola; ‘the Nigerian government is incapable of such efficiency’, the disbelieving public has declared.

But is it really?

Dr. Marty of the CDC identified reasons which she thought aided the Nigerian battle against Ebola, and one such reason was that the disease was mostly limited to the wealthier population of Nigeria. “The person who brought the infection was a diplomat,” Marty said. “He was brought to one of the best hospitals in Nigeria, and the people who were infected were individuals who quickly comprehended the importance of following our recommendations.”

This train of thought was shared by a Nigerian who for the purposes of this piece, chose to remain anonymous. In his opinion, Ebola was battled so methodically and decisively because it struck at the heart of the upper social class of the society. “Otherwise why are lower class members of the society still dying daily from malaria and child labor?” he finished emphatically. Some other schools of thought would rather remain grateful – for the containment of Ebola – and hopeful – for the rest.

Whichever school of thought you choose to align with, one truth we can all agree on is that the Nigerian government has shown itself capable of excellence. Whether it was due process or a case of necessity mothering invention matters not at the moment; the country’s leaders have shown that if they put their mind to a task, they can achieve it. Much like the tortoise who claimed he couldn’t dance but was caught gyrating in the inner chambers of his hut to the beats of the moonlight drum, the Nigerian leaders must now dance the music of the gods in the market place. They must now answer a burdened people’s call to accountability par excellence.

But will they? Can they?

“I can do it! You can do it! If we put our minds to it!”

 

 

Extracts from:

How Nigeria contained its Ebola outbreak by Mark Gollom, MSN news.

International SOS report, October 2014.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

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UNFORGIVEN X

…continued from UNFORGIVEN IX

unforgiven

“What does this mean? Why would she have written this report? Are you saying she…” the import of what he was about to imply hit Ethel with a wave and she stumbled.

“Eth, you okay?” Amaka asked.

“No. No I’m not. That bastard had the guts to take me to the hospital his wife worked in! And what is this about an induced abortion?” the picture was coming together in her head slowly.

“Er…I don’t want to make assumptions but it seems you ingested a fair amount of Mizoprostol during your pregnancy which eventually caused the loss of your baby.”

“Are you saying my miscarriage was deliberate? I don’t understand, tell me!” Ethel was near hysterical.

“Calm down Eth. Tell me, did you take any medication at any point during your pregnancy?”

“No, I don’t think so. I…wait. Yes. Both times Charles gave me some prescriptions which he said…he’d gotten from his doctor…he said he was…taking care of me…” her voice shook as the tears pooled in her eyes.

“Eth, did you…check what the medication was? Did you even ask?” Amaka’s voice was soft.

“I trusted him! He said it would make me feel better. Take away the morning sickness…” she sank to her knees, hugging herself. “He lied…he lied…he killed my babies…my babies…no…”

Amaka knelt beside her and put her arms around her; not knowing what else to say to comfort her friend.

“He lied… murderer. My babies…my babies…”

“We aren’t sure yet Eth, it might have been something else,” even as she said it, Amaka knew it was a lie. Charles was the culprit and he’d used his wife to cover up his crime.

“No! No!” Ethel thrashed around, hysterical. “No, my babies!”

Tayo rushed into the kitchen, his eyes wide in alarm.

“Babe, what is it?” he asked as he surveyed the scene before him.

“Tell you later hon. Please help me get her to bed. She’s just had a bad shock and I don’t think she can stand; please babe.”

They both helped Ethel to her feet and dragged her limp figure to the spare bedroom.

None of them could tell what was running through Ethel’s mind because her eyes took on a glazed look as they lay her on the bed. She whimpered between intervals calling out to her babies.

Amaka was torn apart as she watched her friend. She wished she could help but knew that this was a battle Ethel needed to fight alone. She’d been through a lot; that much Amaka had figured out over the past few days.

Suddenly she got an idea; she picked up Ethel’s purse and fished out her phone. She scrolled through it, found what she wanted and made the call.

*******

Sleep evaded her like a thief on the prowl but she didn’t notice. Her mind seemed both dead and alive at the same time. The voices were louder and more frequent as she lay on the bed in a foetal position.

He killed them. My babies!

He saved you from being like your mother!

You would’ve been a terrible mother; the worst.

He never even gave me the chance!

You didn’t deserve one.

And as she lay on the bed struggling with her thoughts, her head began to replay the events of the years before.

Charles’ transformation from the angry boyfriend to an overly caring father-to-be, his constant waiting on her hand and foot. The insistence to take her to his hospital when she first began experiencing her second miscarriage.

It all made sense now; he’d planned it, carefully and without any mistakes. He’d cold heartedly taken away her babies. He hadn’t wanted to upset his wonderful, picture-perfect family so he’d taken away hers.

Damn him!

Will God punish him? Will He make him suffer like she had suffered, like she was, even now?

Or will he live life as usual? Leaving her scarred?

She didn’t notice when the room was bathed in darkness as Amaka left her, neither did she know when she drifted off to sleep with her tear-stained face.

******

When she opened her eyes, it took her some minutes to adjust to the brightness of the room.

“Eno, how are you?”

She jerked at the sound of the voice. Her mother. No one else called her that except her mother. What was she doing here?

She sat up, her head feeling heavy.

“What are you doing here? Who called you? What do you want?” she croaked, apprehensive. The memory of the previous night came flooding.

“Eno, calm down. I heard you were not…feeling too fine and I…” her mother reached out to touch her.

Ethel jerked away with a squeal. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“Eno, please…” her pain oozed out of every pore on her body. It was always a difficult thing when a mother was rejected by her child.

“Leave me alone! Get out! I want to be alone! Where’s Amaka! All of you are betrayers! You! Charles! All of you!” she was hysterical now; thrashing about, a near-crazed look in her eyes.

Mum stared at her, her hands spread out in a helpless motion before her.

I don’t need you anymore ma. You were never there when I needed you so get away from me! Ethel screamed aloud in her head.

“Amaka, I want to see Amaka,” she spoke out, “I want my phone.”

“Eno, she went to work. She asked me to stay with you because…she felt you needed help.”

“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help! You are a traitor! A prostitute! Don’t you see what you are?”

The slap was unexpected. Ethel couldn’t remember when last her mother had touched her – affectionately or otherwise. She was momentarily stunned.

“Are you mad? Or do you want to be? Nonsense. Don’t ever talk to me like that. I don’t care how sick you are. I gave birth to you and raised you so you better watch your mouth, young lady,” Mum said.

Ethel refused to heed to the tears that threatened to pour, instead she pulled herself up from the bed, picked her purse that lay on the nightstand and made for the door.

“Where are you going, madam?”

She didn’t answer as she stormed out of the room, banging the door behind her.

“Eno! Eno!” Mum called, rushing after her.

“Leave me alone! I hate you!” she screamed as she dashed out of the house and into the street, nearly running into a car.

In her distraught state, she flagged down a cab and jumped in, gave him her address and smiled in satisfaction as he zoomed away, leaving her mother waving frantically at her in the distance.

You’re crazy.

No, I’m not. She deserves it. She’s terrible.

You’re going to hurt yourself.

I can’t be anymore hurt than I am now.

The voices were at it again; louder than ever this time.

“Shut up,” Ethel whispered. She didn’t notice the cab driver glance at her in his mirror.

She rummaged in her purse and took out her phone and dialled.

“Hello Charles. It’s me. Oh, yes. Ethel. I..uh…decided to take you up on your offer. What are you doing right now?” She paused, listening. “Uh…can you come to my house now? I have something special planned for you. Oh yes, I changed my mind. Because I missed you…and I can’t take it anymore. I want to see you…in like, thirty minutes. Uhmmm…yes, yes…okay bye!”

As she hung up, she felt the bile rise in her throat. She was going to see him one last time and give him a present. She’ll make him pay for every tear he caused her to shed. And for her babies he took away.

Pay-back time, Charlie boy.

When the cab driver dropped her off, she rushed to her bedroom to get ready. Charles was going to be here any minute. She opened her box, the one she’d taken with her when she left her mother’s house three years ago. It was the box that Charles had left her when he’d thrown her out. She hadn’t opened the box since she came to Abuja and restarted her life. It brought back bad memories so she had kept it locked away.

Now, as she took out the red lingerie he’d bought her years ago, the tears threatened to pour. This man, who she’d given four years of her life to, had repaid her by taking away her babies. A man she had considered spending the rest of her life with!

The rage gripped her as she thought of the past. She slipped out of her clothes, slid into the lingerie and went in search of the handcuffs.

Charles had liked kinky sex. According to him, he never had that with his wife. So, he’d bought her cuffs and a few other sex toys which she’d kept locked away.

She’d never known she would need it again. Until now.

She stroked the cuffs, smiling at her plan. If God wasn’t going to punish Charles, she was. She wouldn’t wait till the judgment day and the Lake of fire. He deserved punishment now.

Her next stop was the kitchen. She retrieved what she needed from there and went back to the bedroom.

At that point, the doorbell rang. Charles could never resist a booty call.

 

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN IX

…continued from UNFORGIVEN VIII

unforgiven

She told how she’d met Charles, in a night club on the day she turned twenty-two. Her ‘friends’ had taken her out to celebrate and she and Charles had hit it off almost instantly. He had been wearing his wedding ring that night, which was unusual and yet that was what had thrilled Ethel. She’d long since made up her mind to live the kind of life her Mum did but in a classier way. She didn’t sleep around with every Tom, Dick and Harry who had money, she picked her men. Older, married and damn rich. She didn’t want love so she went with married men. At least those ones had wives to have and to hold; all she did was stroke their egos and satisfy them how she knew.

At the time she met Charles she’d been single. Just ended a relationship with a former lecturer who wasn’t ready to meet her financial needs. Stingy man and not so good looking too!

Charles had been it. Many married men took off their wedding ring when hitting on a girl, not Charles. He’d confidently struck up a conversation with her and eventually asked her to dance. Their first dance had been breathtaking and intense. Their chemistry was instant and standing so close to him had made Ethel feel like she’d explode with longing. And yet they had not touched each other that first night. Not even a kiss. He’d dropped her off at her hostel and requested a date.

“You sure your Missus won’t be mad?” she teased, drunk.

“Definitely not as mad as I am for you,” he’d re-joined.

One date turned into two, then three and finally their fifth date they couldn’t stay off each other anymore. They sat in his car, afraid to touch before the passion exploded beyond control.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“We can’t go to my hostel. We can’t go to your house.”

“A hotel?”

“No. I don’t want that. We have to reach an agreement.”

“I’m listening.”

“What do you want from me? A one-night stand?”

“Sweetheart, we’ve had one too many dates for this to just be a one-night stand.”

“Good. So you want more. And I want more too but not love.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I am not interested in falling in love with you and I want it to be clear. There isn’t going to be any love declarations blah blah blah. You have your life. I have mine. I will not sleep with anyone else while I’m with you, though.”

“Why not?” he was smiling, not believing that they were having this conversation.

“Because unlike some people, I do believe AIDs is real and I want to live awhile. Besides I will be too spent to juggle more than one guy, after I finish with you,” her voice was husky.

“So where’s the catch?”

“I want an apartment where we can meet. Then of course, my upkeep. I am, after all, to be your mistress.”

There and then the deal had been struck. The next time they met it was at Ethel’s new apartment and finally all their desires were sated.

Life with Charles was good. He treated her well; there was no time to fight because they knew nothing about each other to fight about. Everything about them was physical. Until ‘disaster’ struck.

Ethel became pregnant in the twenty-fifth month of their relationship. It was unexpected and obviously unwanted. A lot of blame went around; Charles blamed her, then she blamed him, he blamed her again until they realized they needed a solution.

Ethel didn’t want kids. Not with the kind of childhood she’d grown up with. She wanted a life free of encumbrances. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the thing growing inside her. Fear impeded her. What if she died? She’d heard stories of girls who went in for abortions and never came out the same. They were either dead or damaged. Did she want that?

She told Charles of her fears and eventually decided to have the child and give it up for adoption or something. She was that afraid to be a mother. Charles saw she’d made up her mind and stopped arguing with her and instead became more attentive to her. If she was going to be the mother of his baby, he’d better treat her right, he said.

It didn’t last long though because it was somewhere in her tenth week, she started having cramps and saw blood. She was alone at home that evening and had called Charles who immediately came over and took her to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that she’d lost the pregnancy.

It hadn’t hurt that much then. She consoled herself that it was answered prayers. She didn’t want the child in the first place so God had saved her and the child further grief. Charles spent more time with her as she recovered, treated her like a wife and not a mistress and it was during this time that Ethel realized she’d begun to fall in love with him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel like she actually belonged to someone. To him. She didn’t know whether it was the pregnancy that had made her go soft, all she knew was that she wanted more of him.

The second pregnancy had been planned by her, in the fourth year of their relationship. She’d done everything she could to get Charles to commit more to her; to fall in love with her but it hadn’t seemed to work. And truth was she’d begun to feel the pangs of motherhood. The first pregnancy had opened up something in her that made her rethink everything she’d formerly believed in. And it suddenly dawned on her that she wanted children, a family with the man she loved.

When she got pregnant this time, she waited till her twelfth week to tell Charles. She wanted to be sure that the danger of miscarrying the pregnancy had passed.

Charles froze. He yelled. He couldn’t believe she’d gotten pregnant again after the first mistake, hadn’t she learned anything?

She’d screamed at him too; excuse me for getting pregnant for you! I didn’t know I’d make such a terrible mother!

It’s not about you, woman! Don’t you get it?

Well, it’s my body and my baby and I’m having it. So prepare to be a father!

How far along are you?

Three months.

And you’re just telling me now?

I wanted to make sure it stayed.

How come I didn’t notice?

Because you were too busy admiring my breasts that had grown bigger.

The shouting abated and Ethel tried to convince Charles that this was a good thing. They could start a family together.

Maybe that would’ve happened if the pregnancy had stayed. It hadn’t. A week later, the cramps came in fuller force that brought tears to Ethel’ eyes. For the first time in a long time as she doubled over in the toilet, vomiting and losing blood at the same time, she prayed. She asked God to save her baby. Just this once.

He hadn’t. Like before she ended up in the hospital, worse off than the first time because she was broken in body, soul and spirit.

Charles had dropped her off in the hospital and disappeared. She later found out that he’d paid the bills in advance. Her recovery had been slow and painful and the cramps had continued for a week. At a point Ethel had thought she was going to die.

She cried day and night for her unborn child and eventually she’d been discharged. When she got to her apartment, she found that she’d been locked out and Charles had left her.

It was like another nail in her coffin. Her man had left her without a word. She’d swallowed her pride and gone back to her mum.

That had been the lowest point of her life. She’d fallen into a depression so bad that she’d once attempted suicide.

It was after her suicide attempt that she packed her things and moved to Abuja.

 

“That’s it, Amaka. Charles showed up in church on Sunday and he’s Pastor’s step-brother. I didn’t know what to do,” she concluded.

“That’s not important for now. What I want is to get to the bottom of this,” she waved the paper in front of her. “Who gave you this report?”

“I don’t understand what that means. I recently got a visit from…er…Charles’ wife,” Ethel shrugged.

“Why would she give you this?”

“She said something about it telling me the kind of man Charles is. Tell me what it is.”

“It’s a medical report. Look, it’s dated 2010. Do you remember the name of the hospital Charles took you to when you had your miscarriage?”

“Er…that was when I had my second miscarriage. I can’t remember the hospital’s name.”

“Okay, wait. Look at this. The signature of the doctor that wrote this report. It looks like someone’s name. Does it look familiar?”

Ethel took the paper and stared hard at the signature. It was difficult but eventually she made out the name.

“Felicia…Umoh,” she read out slowly.

It was only when the name had escaped her lips that it dawned on her.

Oh. My. God

 

To be continued next week…

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VIII

…continued from Unforgiven VII

unforgiven

“What on earth are you talking about Amaka?” the bewildered expression on Ethel’s face couldn’t be faked.

“You know how you promised to talk about Charles Umoh before you ran out on me that day?” Amaka was glowering at her.

Ethel nodded slowly, “I’m sorry about that Amy. I just…I guess I wasn’t ready then.”

“And now?”

“Now I just want to go home. I’ve had a long day and…what’s this about…an abortion?” the meeting with Charles had left Ethel in a disagreeable mood and really she didn’t want it to rub off on Amaka. Her sense of urgency, the need to get out of church to where she’d feel a bit saner, was increasing.

“I think you’re gonna want to hear this, so tonight you’re coming home with Tayo and I. This hide-and-seek you’ve been playing with me, ends now,” it was the sternest she’d ever seen Amaka and Ethel knew she wasn’t getting off this one easily.

“Amaka, please…”

“No. No pleases tonight Eth. We’re going home to talk about this.”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure you’re home early enough tomorrow to get set for work. Or better still, if you finish off your story early…we’d get you back home tonight. Capiche?”

“Yes ma,” she let the sarcasm creep into her voice.

“Now I think you’d want to look at what’s in that envelope before we talk. Tayo should be here any minute with baby Sharon.”

If there was anything Ethel hated, it was being put on the spot. She knew however that there was no hiding away from this confrontation with Amaka. She had to come clean about everything. Even yesterday. But would she be bold enough to tell Amaka that if not for the fact that she and Charles had wound up outside last night, she’d have willingly jumped into his arms, his bed again? What did that say of her? She’d been willing to give the devil a chance at her again!

Would Amaka understand that this thing between her and Charles couldn’t be salvaged by time and distance alone? Would she know what it meant to feel such a destructive love for a man? She, after all had the perfect life. Perfect husband and child, everything about her screamed perfection and sometimes it hurt Ethel that she couldn’t have a normal life like Amaka. Those were thoughts she didn’t intend to voice, though.

“Are you reading this at all?” Amaka’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

Ethel hadn’t realised that she’d taken out the paper from the envelope and had spread it before her. Her thoughts had been elsewhere. Now to read this mystery-something; she blinked, looking at the numbers, squiggles and letters. They were written in doctor shorthand. It was obvious it was a medical report. The only thing that made sense to her was her name written in the space provided for ‘Patient’s Name’.

“What’s this? I don’t understand. You know I can’t read a doctor’s report,” she accused.

“Well, good thing I can.” Amaka had done a stint in the nursing school during her earlier years. She retrieved the paper from Ethel’s hand and spread it out.

“Wait, shouldn’t we wait till we get to your house? I’m not comfortable doing this in church,” Ethel looked around nervously. She had a feeling Amaka was about to open up a can of worms and she wanted it done somewhere private. Although the church was almost empty now, Ethel couldn’t help feeling like God’s eyes were staring down at her, huge and disapproving.

“Let me get Tayo and we’ll leave. If that makes you comfortable,” she sighed as she stood. “If you like, disappear again. It is what you’re good at, abi? I’ll take this paper with me, as insurance.”

Ethel didn’t reply. Amaka had never reprimanded her in such a manner before and she knew she had a right to be angry. She’d behaved like a child to the only person she could really call a friend in this town. No matter what, Amaka deserved an audience and no matter how squeamish it made Ethel feel, she knew she couldn’t bail out on her again.

The drive to Amaka’s house was quiet except for bursts of laughter from baby Sharon and the occasional flippant question from Tayo. Ethel didn’t know whether Amaka told her husband everything and frankly, she didn’t intend to find out. Let him judge her! Let him look at her with pity, she didn’t care! None of them knew what she’d gone through so they had a right to their opinion! So she wasn’t perfect like them, she didn’t have the most spectacular Christian life but Lord knows she was trying. God, how she was!

So, go ahead and judge me Tayo. Look at me with those glassy eyes of yours and pretend to not feel anything, even pity. I don’t care!

The painful thing was that she did care. She cared what these people thought of her because she was actually making an effort to be a better person.
Stop making any efforts. Let me do that for you.
She knew that voice anywhere. It was coming from somewhere deep in her soul. It was different from all the other voices; calm, soothing and all-knowing. It was deep calling out to deep. This wasn’t her head talking or her mind rationalizing, this was better – a voice providing solutions.

Cast all your burdens on Me; no worries.

In the backseat of her friend’s Volkswagen, Ethel felt her heart begin to come apart. She wanted to do so many things at the same time. Scream, weep, go on her knees and even sing but she sat, still. Holding on to the cherished words of assurance.

When they got to the house, Amaka led her without a word to the kitchen after handing baby Sharon over to her husband.

“We can talk here but first let me say something,” she took her friend by the shoulders, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. I got angry that you left without a word that day and I forgot how difficult it must be for you to spill all those things about your life to me. I should’ve understood. It’s what Jesus would’ve done. So, please forgive me and if you don’t want to talk tonight, that is okay; I can drive you home now.”

Ethel responded by opening her arms and hugging Amaka. She was too overcome to speak. No one had ever apologized to her for something like this. Not her mother, nor Charles, nor any of the runs-girls she’d moved with, in the University.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, “I am ready to talk now.”

And she did.

“I was pregnant for Charles but I…” she began.
“You know what? Start from the beginning. How you met Charles,” Amaka prompted.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

EBOLA-RIOUS

Ebola01

The sky was a brooding blue-grey up above as I navigated the human maze of the popular Marina market in Lagos with Chidi. It was well into the rainy season so the atmosphere was more humid than hot; yet there was a cloak of heat that hung in the air, from the many human bodies around. Now and again, I felt it fritter over my skin. And every time, an involuntary shudder swept through me.

Some moments ago back in the car, we were listening to the news updates on the Liberian who had been diagnosed and eventually died of Ebola in Obalende. The newscaster ended on a warning note, advising caution as there was a likelihood that the virus had broken in the city. Marina where we had just arrived is in the vicinity of Obalende. As we parked and joined the traffic of human bodies brushing, shoving, milling in and around it, I whispered to Chidi that if there was even one person in this market infected with the virus, we were all dead. He laughed. And I laughed.

He told me that we should avoid skin contact with other people as much as we could. I told him it was easy for him to say since he was wearing long sleeves and mine were short. The words were scarce out of my mouth when something brushed by me from behind. I stumbled forward a few paces struggling to regain balance even as the young man who had pushed me sped past with a shoebox in his hand.

I felt the chill of it even before I looked down at my fore-arm and saw a wet smear of perspiration that was not mine. Heart thudding, I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped it off as quickly as I could. Chidi had seen it too; he shrugged, smiled a half-smile at me, and barreled on through the crowd of people. I followed, cursing my racing heart to calm the frack down.

“Anyi erugo” Chidi said. We are here.

And he turned left into one of those many half-tracks that served as in-roads to stalls. I followed him, angling my body so that I could slip through the tight enclosure, my left hand in front and my right hand behind glued to my right hip. There were wares all around us, hanging, sitting, sampled in various displays and traders stood by them calling our attention.

“Bros, shebi na me dey call you?”

“Yellow, see am here! I get am”

We studiously ignored them, in the way that every Nigerian who is above market-travelling age learns. Just as I made a right turn still following Chidi, I felt a hand grab and hold on to my right hand. In the split second before I yanked my hand back, my skin registered the moist texture of the palms and fingers like hooks that dug into the flesh of my palm. Pointed hooks injecting Ebola into my blood stream!

I saw red as I turned on the guy who owned the hand.

“Guy, no dey touch me anyhow” I yelled. “You no know say Ebola don enter Lagos?”

I do not recall now much of his features but standing out on his face, were his mouth which stood agape and eyes which vacillated between startled and wary, gauging my sanity. A palpable tension enveloped us as his fellow customer-hunting traders stopped to stare at me; other passers-by also paused mid-stride for the tiniest of intervals to look me over before heading on.

I spun around and stalked off, brushing past Chidi who had also stopped at my outburst. Shame washed over me like cool water of ‘the living spring’; it took a better part of my confidence to walk away without cringing. My eyes stared up ahead, and my hands stayed down at my sides, clenched into fists – just in case anyone else got adventurous.

Chidi – heavens bless his soul – made no mention of the incident as we meandered through Marina buying items. Interestingly however, standing just as tall beside the shame I felt was an indignant conviction that my actions had been justified. I mean, how dare he grab my hand like that! Hadn’t he heard of Ebola?

We bought all we had come for and were on our way back to the car when I remembered a certain tray of roasted groundnuts I had spotted on one of the major in-roads. I had mentally booked it for later, marking the location of the woman seller with Sweet Sensation, an eatery just a few meters away. Chidi waited for me in the car with our purchases while I retraced my steps.

Just as I remembered, the woman sat there in front of the eatery with her tray of groundnuts. The groundnuts also looked just as I remembered – dry and golden-brown with dark brown lines through each nut that looked like frozen chocolate.

“Mama, one bottle how much?”

“Nnaa” she greeted me, “sooso three-fifty” People could always tell I am Igbo just by looking at my face, bearded or not. It was a cross I had resigned to carrying with pride, after getting over the disappointing restrictions it placed on my mischievous mind-adventures.

I scooped some of the nuts, threw them in my mouth and crunched down. They were just as I liked them – crunchy, sexy, smack in the perfect spot on that wide-lipped precipice between burnt and succulent. I knew I would buy them even if they were double the price she had said.

“Nyenum ya one-fifty” I haggled. Give it to me for one-fifty. God forbid that I buy something without haggling.

“Nwoke o-o-ocha!” Mama sexy-groundnuts cajoled. “Mba kwa, price ahu m gwara gi ka ono” She wasn’t budging.

As is common knowledge, being Igbo is no advantage in business with a fellow Igbo. Also my batteries must have died because my charms were clearly not working. So I gave up and asked her to fill up a bottle for me. While I waited, I scooped some more of the nuts from her tray into my mouth.

I was turning them into my palm from the bottle and munching as I joined Chidi in the car.

“You saw them ehn?” he asked needlessly.

I flashed a gloating grin at him with teeth that still busily chewed. I offered the bottle to him so he could share of my treasure but he declined with a shake of head.

“Ichoro ita?” I asked, puzzled. Chidi loved groundnuts.

“Ehn-ehn,” he shook his head again. “My hands are dirty”

I froze.

Like of a horror movie in slow motion, my mind retraced my steps through the market – the hand that had grabbed mine earlier, and the ones that had followed suit afterwards; the items I had touched; the notes of currency I had counted, and received; the sellers whose hands I had shaken after a transaction. Then the tape slowly, very slowly rolled up to Mama sexy-groundnuts – the groundnuts which she peeled with her hands, winnowed with a flurry of breeze from her mouth and packed also with her hands; the man who had been leaving her stall as I arrived, and the hand he had dipped into the tray of groundnuts as jara; the same tray I had dipped my own hands and retrieved groundnuts; groundnuts which I had thrown in my mouth, savored and swallowed.

The formerly sexy groundnuts turned to ash in my mouth, as a funeral dirge began to play in my head.

Chae! E-B-O-L-A!

 


 

STOP THE PANIC…ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE INSTEAD AND APPLY WISDOM.

I found this on Facebook and thought to share…

US STATE DEPARTMENT EBOLA ALERT

In order to help our Embassy Community better understand some of the key points about the Ebola virus we have consulted with our medical specialists at the U S State Department and assembled this list of bullet points worded in plain language for easy comprehension.

Our medical specialists remind everyone that they should be following the guideline from the center for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.

  • The suspected reservoirsfor Ebola are fruit bats.
  • Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
  • Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
  • Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
  • Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.
  • The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
  • A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
  • Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
  • If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.
  • There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
  • You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.

 

Life is precious, and singular. Preserve yours.

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

THIS THING CALLED FEMINISM

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“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”  – Jane Austen, Persuasion.

“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The women above were expressing, albeit in the subtlest of ways, their dissatisfaction with some of the lowest forms of female-targeted gender discrimination – denigration and objectification. My immediate reaction upon reading these words is not just sadness, but also a fluid outpouring of sympathy, and shame. Because it is true that a lot of men see women not as humans but as appendages to manhood; appendages who have no business thinking or being intelligent.

What I however would like to dissect further in this post, is the rapidly-turning consensual presupposition that men are the one and only reason for denigration of the feminine gender and as a result, they must be punished so that total women empowerment can be attained. This line of thought leads us on to the popular and very controversial topic of Feminism.

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I have always held the opinion that what the majority of us know and practice as feminism is actually – and very ironically – a campaign for the continued denigration of the female folk. A lot of mothers raise their daughters with mantras such as, “Men Are Evil”, “You Are Better Than Them(men)”, “Never Let A Man Ride You” among others; and upon growing into adults, a lot of these women turn ‘feminists’. Their practice of ‘feminism’ is built on a coarse foundation of psychological self-enslavement, carefully disguised as a caring system which would have made all their dreams come true were it not over-run by these ‘evil men-folk’.

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From the start therefore, the girl sees herself as a victim and rightly so, acts like one; she cries foul at every slightest tip in the scale and yells “Me! Me!! Not them!!!”- like a victim; she fights rough, by hook or crook, fair or foul, demanding, beguiling, begging for rights, “the same rights they have”, rights which might have always been there for the taking – like a victim; and no matter how much is acceded, no matter how many victories she registers, she goes to her death whimpering about a world that always chose ‘them’ first and never gave her a chance – like a victim.

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Perhaps there is no better illustration of this psyche-malformation than in the July 8th article published in The Guardian under the title ‘Oscar Pistorius’ trial: Lessons for Nigerian Judiciary’. The writer, Bamidele Aturu cited one of such lessons from the conduct of the female judge who has presided over the Pistorius case thus far as follows: “…the lawyers freely referred to the judge as ‘my lady’ and she did not take offence as some of our female judges, particularly those at the Court of Appeal, do”, he noted. “In Nigeria…our female judges refuse to be addressed as ‘my lady’. They would quickly point out to you that they are not your lady in such a stern way that you would think that you had just called them, ‘my wife’”

Many lawyers in quick defense of this would quickly say that there is no ‘woman’ at the bar…really, there aren’t? Of course there are – if biological differences still exist, that is – women at the bar, so it is more a case of those women not wanting to be regarded as ‘woman’ than anything else. In that case, two options are viable: either ‘woman’ is now considered such a derogatory term that learned females abhor to be so recognized while in their official capacity or it is just a principle of the profession.

I am fairly sure it is not the latter because in addition to the example of South Africa cited above, other instances abound, namely: in England and Wales, judges are called ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’ and magistrates ‘Sir/Madam’; Male judges in Germany are formally addressed as ‘Herr Vorsitzender’ and female judges as ‘Frau Vorsitzende’, which translate as ‘Mister Chairman’ or ‘Madam Chairwoman’ respectively; and in Brazil, the judges can be called “Juiz” or “Juiza,” the male and female versions of judge.

Aturu went on to write – and I agree – that “in other countries, the shift to the use of ‘my lady’ to address female judges was the outcome of the struggle to treat women as women and to respect them as they are. It is therefore, demeaning of womanhood for a judge, for that matter, to stick to a mode of address that denigrates women and reflects a reactionary disposition.”

I have deliberately made this point as plainly and provocatively – if you may – as possible because only in starkness, will truth shine out in its most benevolent glory. As our people say, he is a dead man who hides a festering wound, untreated, behind swathes of fine dressing. The healing balm of truth in this case, is that obsession with the crucifixion of the men-folk for denigrating the womenfolk is no way to conquer gender discrimination. As clichéd as it is, two wrongs still do not make a right; the practice of a victim mentality and the incessant preaching to nail the ‘balls’ to the board, all in the name of feminism are in truth, anti-feminist.

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Eleniyan is a Nigerian who wrote a very difficult to read, but insightful article titled ‘The Need for Feminism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole’ which was published on www.nigeriavillagesquare.com in September, 2009. If it matters to you, I am unaware of Eleniyan’s gender but the writer’s views on feminism shed more light on this very unpopular view of mine.

In the writer’s opinion, feminism “…is not ANTI-MEN! The problem with the anti-men agenda cloaked in feminism is that, in its effort to subvert the order of things, wanting to take power away from men, they forgot the fundamental differences both socially and biologically, between men and women. By peddling their “freedoms” or “anti-men” agenda that are artificial, self-destructive, and merely allow women to have superficial resemblance of equality, they hurt feminism’s aim to improve emotional and psychological relations between men and women and cultivate a genuine respect for women”

He/she went on to explain that this retributive agenda directed at the supposed hunters in flesh of men, has been mistaken for feminism. AND this singular factor is responsible for the many “road-bumps” against feminism in our society.

Feminism is a political, moral, social, and even now religious movement which aspires for equal rights and all-round protection for women. And often, the misconceptions surround the many different definitions of the term ‘EQUAL’.

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According to Eleniyan, “Equality is not sameness in treatment, but fairness in treatment” The idea is that while differences in human compositions and nature make it impossible for everybody to be treated exactly the same, the same differences must discourage unfair treatment of one over another.

I am helpless before the veracity of these words because fairness does not focus on stamping down on one person for another to be raised up; it might be necessary in certain cases, that a head must roll for another to sprout, but the difference is that equality fights against an initial, obvious and compulsive obsession for this to happen, while accepting it when it does happen.

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Fairness does not discard the needs, wants and aspirations of one person in favor of another’s; it accepts everybody – male or female, hunter or hunted – for who they are and treats them with respect. And the achievement of that for women, I believe, is the mission of feminism.

Nelson Mandela did not attempt to victimize the supremacist whites in South Africa in order to free his people of apartheid; he would have failed. He rather believed and fought for equality and fairness. He once was quoted as saying: “Let there be justice for ALL. Let there be peace for ALL. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for ALL. Let EACH know that for EACH the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”

Even Martin Luther King Jr’s dream was not obsessed with demanding the heads of the white racists on spikes; his dream was “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL MEN are created equal.’”

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Equality. Fairness. Is the stuff it ought to be made of.

And now it is your turn to share, reader. Whatever your view is – hot or cold 😉 – pen it down in the comments section for us all to share. What is your view of This Thing Called Feminism?

 

 Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

UNFORGIVEN VI

…continued from Unforgiven V

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“Some men talk about their wives whenever they are with their mistresses. But…not you. Why?”

“I didn’t think my mistress would want to know my wife. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to know. Why don’t you talk about the Missus?”

“Well babes; I’ve long since learned not to mix my family and my extracurricular activities. We don’t want any mix-ups there.”

************

Unbidden, the conversation flashed in Ethel’s mind as she stood toe-to-toe with Charles’ wife. Why hadn’t Charles warned her about this? The woman looked intimidating and well…older, much older than Ethel and if she wasn’t mistaken, older than Charles.

But she was a beauty. In every aspect. And she was expensive. Everything on her reeked of wealth…from her finely starched designer shirt to her knee-length ash skirt that hugged her hips. Her make-up was finely applied and took away a lot from her age.

Why would any man want to cheat on this woman?

“Are you done analyzing me?” she sounded amused.

“I…uh…I wasn’t. I just…this is weird,” Ethel stammered.

“Meeting your lover’s wife?”

“You’re wrong. We are not lovers. We’re just supposed to have dinner together. I didn’t know you were in Abuja too.”

“He didn’t tell you that he accompanied me for a doctors’ conference. Typical Charles – chasing some bimbo while I’m working my ass off.”

“No. We haven’t had much time to talk. Believe me, there’s nothing between us.”

“Again?”

Ethel looked away. “Again. How did you know about today?”

“I’m not stupid. I’ve known about you for a while sadly I thought I’d gotten rid of you three years ago,” her voice was unsympathetic. “Charles has no idea I’ve got him within my sights.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Oh. When it comes to choosing between his family and extracurricular activities, Charles always chooses right,” sarcasm dripped from her words.

The words stung more than Ethel would admit. Extracurricular activities. Translation – you

“Madam, please explain what you mean by getting rid of me three years ago,” there was a tremor in her voice. She sensed that what she would not like was what she was about to hear.

“Remember the last time you saw him? That was my doing. I gave him an ultimatum,” she dipped her hand into her Prada handbag and pulled out an envelope, “he’s going to be here any minute. I’m glad we decided to have this talk. Meanwhile I’m sure you’d be pleased to know what information is in that envelope. It’d enlighten you about your err…relationship with my husband.”

“Why did you come?”

“Charles cares about his family more than he lets on. He was nothing when I married him but look at him now – every stray girl’s dream. No matter what happens he’ll always choose me, the mother of his children. Remember that when next you think of screwing him.”

Ethel was silent. She didn’t say a word as Mrs. Felicia Umoh dropped the envelope on the table.

“And oh…it’d be in your best interest not to mention our little meeting to him.” With that she stalked out of the house.

Ethel crumpled into the chair, her head whirling with thoughts. Her breakup with Charles had been painful. It hadn’t even qualified as a breakup because there’d been no teary-eyed goodbyes. He’d simply left one day without a word.

She’d been in the hospital; still recovering from her recent miscarriage. Her mind and body were affected and she had needed all the support she could get from him. The man she loved. But he’d been nowhere to be found.

The day she was discharged she’d rushed home to the apartment he’d rented for her, only to find it locked with a few of her things packed into a small duffel bag and kept with a neighbor. There was no note, no explanation and no way to get in touch with him. It had literally killed Ethel. The not-knowing, the silence, his unceremonial disappearance.

She had been left with nothing except a broken heart and depression. No home, hardly any clothes; so she’d gone to the one place she’d vowed she wouldn’t return to – her childhood home. With Mum.

Now what did this woman mean by she’d gotten rid of her? Ethel found herself too stunned to think. Had she had something to do with Charles’ disappearance from her life?

What did that matter now? Three years have gone by, Ethel. Just drop it.

She picked up the envelope. How was she going to face Charles today after such a visit?

Cancel the date.

Nah. Too late. You’ll suck it up and pretend he didn’t lie to you. Then you’ll get your closure.

At that precise moment the doorbell rang and, Ethel quickly tucked the envelope into her purse. She’d take a look at it later.

“Who is it?” she wasn’t going to be taken by surprise twice in one day.

“Charles.”

She glanced at the time, 7:45pm. He was forty-five minutes late.

“I’ll be right out,” she didn’t want him in her apartment. She picked up her purse, took a deep breath and went out to face him.

He stood there confidently, looking so sleek and irresistibly fine. He had an aura, a certain contagious confidence that threw Ethel off balance when she first met him. It always pulled her like a magnet.

“You’re late,” she accused.

“Had some car issues. I’m sorry. You look gorgeous. Well covered up, I see,” he smirked.

“Get used to it,” she snapped, shrugging off his hands that went around her shoulders.

“What? Now I can’t hold you anymore? You forget…I’ve seen some intriguing parts of your body,” there was a twinkle in his eyes as they walked to his car.

She hid a smile. He’d certainly turned the charm on.

“What are you doing in Abuja?” she asked, taking her seat beside him in the car.

“Work. But I had to see you.”

Liar, liar. “What about your wife?”

“Thelia, this night is about me and you. No third parties please,” his eyes were on the road as he drove.

Why are you here Ethel? Why are you here with this man who is a danger to you physically, spiritually and mentally? Why do you want to torture yourself?

“No, Charles. I’m the third party here. You’re one with your wife and I’m nothing but a passing fancy. That’s what I’ve always been to you.”

“Why are you talking like this? I thought tonight was not about the past,” he reached out and placed a hand on her knee, “besides if you were a passing fancy then you really did a good job because you kept my attention for four years.”

Ethel moved her leg away from his touch refusing to admit how much it affected her.

She couldn’t believe that she’d given four years of her life to this man.

“Why did you leave without a word, Charles? You left me stranded when I needed you most,” she needed to know.

“Let’s have dinner first. Then we can talk. I want to give you a treat tonight.”

**********

He stuffed her with food, spoiling her by insisting she take whatever she wanted. The evening was almost magical; it was like he was intent on stripping away the years that had separated them and bringing back the memories. Yet Ethel couldn’t take her mind off his wife’s visit.

Charles was nothing when I married him. He will always choose me, the mother of his children.

It was nine thirty pm when they arrived at her doorstep. As she stepped out of the car, Ethel felt a twinge of sadness at the thought that she might never see him again. She’d wrapped up this chapter of her life and it was over. The visit from his wife today had proved it.

“Won’t you ask me in?” he asked, following her closely behind.

“Of course not Charles,” she turned to face him, “before you leave I have a question.” 

 He was staring intently at her in a way that made her skin burn. God, why did the man have to be so damn attractive?

“Yes?”

“Did your wife have anything to do with the…way our relationship ended?”

“Family always comes first, Ethel, you know that,” his face gave away nothing.

 Yes, now I do. “That was my mistake, right? Falling in love with you?”

“No, no, no. We had an agreement, Ethel. Love was never part of the equation from the beginning. It was one of the ground rules you set, remember?”

Yes, she did remember. Oh she remembered so well. But what had she known then? She’d been just twenty-two, in her final year at the university and still very much in the claws of her mother. Meeting Charles had been like a miracle; he was older, charming, smitten with her and rich. What more could a girl like her want? She’d known he was married and it had added more to the thrill.

“Well I broke the rules at some point. Why couldn’t you? Was I that terrible to love?” she asked.

Careful, Ethel. Tread cautiously.

“No but I already had someone I loved. I had a wife! A family! I couldn’t risk all that for…for…”

“Say it. For me. I wasn’t worth it. I was always going to be the mistress, right? Not even when I got pregnant? What if I’d had your child?”

He was silent and unsure. He stood, looking at her, helpless. A first for Charles Umoh.

“Leave, Charles. Just leave. This is over. Thank you for a nice evening. I hope you have a nice life with your family,” she had to get away before she burst into tears.

“I’m sorry Thelia, I wish I could’ve been more,” he caught her hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “What? No hug or…even…a kiss? For old time’s sake?”

“No. Get out of my way Charles.”

“C’mon Thelia. Please. Just a goodbye hug and a peck on the cheek.”

Insane. Insane that she actually wanted his arms around her. Totally insane that she was actually thinking of hugging him.

“I said get out, Charles and let’s not make a scene.”

“You know me. I won’t leave until you give me that hug and peck. So how about that scene, Thelia? Please?” his eyes looked so beautiful when he begged.

“Don’t. Don’t call me that.”

“Why not?” he stroked her face.

Because it jumbles my head! Because it reminds me of whom I used to be! And I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m better! I don’t want to be here with you; feeling this way about you! The voice in her head screamed but her mouth refused to move.

How could she be thinking this about a man that just told her she meant nothing to him?

One hug, Ethel and get this man out of your front yard. And out of your life.

Too risky Ethel, don’t do it. Leave him standing out here and walk into your house.

Oh I wish. Just one hug and I’m outta here.

Forgive my weakness, Lord.

She let him pull her into his arms and envelope her. Ah…it felt so good. So right. So warm. She’d missed this, Lord. She really had.

Pull away now, Ethel. He’s feeling you up.

 Her head was obviously thinking straighter than her heart and her hormones.

She began to pull away but his grip on her was firm, caressing.

“A peck on the cheek please,” he whispered, huskily.

Ethel was afraid of what her neighbors would think seeing her locked in a seemingly passionate embrace with a man. Even though her front yard was dark she wasn’t too comfortable, so she reached up to plant a quick peck on his cheek.

And then he did something. He turned his head so slightly and her lips touched his. A shiver of apprehension sailed through her body as her lips began to part, slowly.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo