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

What If

pensive African woman

I was 18 when we broke up; 18 years, 11 months and 29 days old to be precise. He attacked my weight again, I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time he did it, I can’t remember what we were talking about but arthritis came up and he said I should watch my weight or something like that. Basically, “you are getting fat”. That was the beginning of the end because come on, he knew how sensitive I was on the matter.

Well this time, I decided, would be the last. If all his love did was make me feel wretched, then it was pointless loving him. So I called it off. I knew he would come back, and come back he did. Suddenly, my weight was not an issue anymore.

Anyway this story is not about him. This story is about another ‘him’; the kind of ‘him’ that marks himself.  You know…right up there. He is like that scar you alone know of, the one you often find yourself fondly rubbing your hands over. The kind of scar that makes you smile. This story is about him.

I was 18 when I met him; 18 years, 11 months old to be precise. Funny how ‘met’ as a word is now very subjective, what with social media and its array of networks. I remember it like it was yesterday. I commented on something, he replied, I replied his reply, he replied mine…and we got talking. You know how you meet a guy and unconsciously compare him with your father, and oh the joy it brings when he checks every box. If you have your dad as a benchmark – Daddy’s girl club – you’d know exactly how I felt. Because this dude checked every box and moved on to circles.

We did not date, it was not practical considering the distance. But oh my, the chemistry, it sizzled hot and fierce on both sides. I had hit jackpot and boy, did I have plans! I would graduate at 22 and go on to Lagos Law School so we can officially be together. Then NYSC, settle in Lagos and live happily ever after with four kids; three boys and a girl in a big house with…well, we could work out the other details later.

Then I turned 20. They say when you get older you have more answers. If that is true, something must be wrong with my growth. My birthday that year came with a lot of ‘what ifs’ – “what if I only get into Law School in Abuja?”, “what if I am drafted for NYSC in Sokoto?”, “what if his genes are allergic to mine?”, and “wait oh…what if he does not feel the same way?” And in all of these ‘what ifs’, there were no answers.

I have always wanted to be mature, to really live in the 21st century as a 21st century woman. Gender Equality! If you like him, tell him, et cetera. Anyway, I told him how I felt. And in response, he officially asked me out. Not the answer I was expecting but an answer nonetheless. It felt nice at first. I finally could call him “baby”…aloud – oh yes, I used to say it in my head – and I could end the calls with” I love you”. But distance, the witch that she is, refused to let it be.

I couldn’t kiss him or hold his hands; we couldn’t touch each other or “touch” each other. No dates whatsoever – forget all that Skype. There were no eye to eye declarations of love or playful tickling that ends in bed with panting and sweating and no clothes on. Yes, we connected intellectually. Yes, relationships go beyond physical needs but…I don’t know, it just was not enough for me, for us. And so we broke up.

Looking back now, I think we just missed being friends that we did not work to actually be a couple. We became just friends again and yes it was awkward – going back from “hi baby” and “I love you” to “hey buddy” and “guy, pack well”. But we got over it. We were die-hard friends!

I told you the first one came back, right? Not my ‘jackpot’ now, I mean the first ‘him’ with the weight issue. Yes, he came back and became a good boy, always on his best behavior. He was safe and secure – no sizzles, no hot and fierce whirlwind of emotions. It was not the same as with my ‘jackpot’ but it was something good. I was not lonely, needy or desperate. So I settled.

Sometimes, I imagine what my life would have been with my ‘jackpot’. “What if I had waited and kept my mouth shut?”, “what if I had met him at another time, under different circumstances?”, “what if we had held on to each other just a little longer?” Even at 32, I still ‘what if’; like I said earlier, something is wrong with the way I grow.

Now I look across the table at my ‘best behavior’, and I look at the little one we conceived on one of those rainy nights when holiness flees and everything is possible. And I smile. Yes, I lost my ‘jackpot’ and I settled with my ‘best behavior’ but this right here…this little man in the high chair, gurgling cute nothings and trailing cereal all over his cherubic face, this is my pot of gold.

By Ezinma Ukairo.

Ezinma enjoys good music, food, books and movies. She is currently in her third year at the university where she is studying law so that she can promote the beauty of womanhood, and end child marriage and world hunger. Ezinma is afraid of ever having to just ‘settle’ in a relationship, but she keeps a closed mind to all the ‘unwanted stuff’ and continues to believe in love.

The Love Story of a Unilag babe and Bus Conductor

I came across this story on www.storried.com, a site that is making new waves by telling stories and changing the world. They have this thing called the Storried Monthly competition and this story written by Roy Ofili won the maiden edition. They say it’s a love story…me, I think it’s a helluva lot more. A reminder too – I have to do a love story soon.

Enjoy!

 


 

Bus-Conductor unilag babe

Something interesting happened on my way to Oshodi this morning. At the park this rough mean-looking conductor also known as “agbero” in Yoruba was screaming for passengers, his vernacular oscillating between Yoruba and pidgin English.

“Oshod! Oshod!” He shouted angrily as I along with some other passengers scuttled for seats. There was this beautiful young lady who couldn’t throw caution and decorum to the wind but waited patiently until the bus was almost filled. Then she pleaded to sit by the agbero until somebody came down then she would pay for a proper seat.

The agbero didn’t even look at her pretty face, he hissed and shouted to the driver to move that why didn’t she rush when others were rushing. The girl started pleading in Yoruba and clean ‘oyinbo’ english; “please, ejó, help me out sir, I know you are a good man, never mind all this shout you have been shouting (people burst into laughter). Let me sit by your side please”.

Finally with much squeezing of face the agbero relented and she sat beside him. It was a tight squeeze but she didn’t complain but rather started praising the agbero. He in turn started teasing her, speaking (and sometimes spitting by mistake) into her face but the girl never looked away, she never let the smile leave her face. He asked her where she worked and she replied that she was a student in the University of Lagos (UNILAG) studying accounting. He teased her in Yoruba about her boyfriend and car (maybe asking why her boyfriend didn’t drop her at her destination…she laughed it off and continued to gist with the guy in Yoruba.

When she reached her junction the agbero alighted the bus for her to come down. She did and paid her transport fare, then the agbero told her to give him a peck on the cheek for being so ‘gentlemanly’.  At this point some of us became indignant, haba! He had been teasing her since, he should let her go. Another argument almost ensued between the agbero and the passengers although it was not as if the agbero was really serious, he told her to go. Then it happened! She jumped forward and gave him a peck on the cheek! We all shouted, the agbero was quiet out of surprise. She then waved bye and ran down to her street.

The driver and other people started to hail the agbero, see hailing! The guy was just forming boss, saying he knew he was irresistible etc and others were yabbing (taunting) him, some were yabbing the girl and we moved on and suddenly the bus was quiet, show over. Then the agbero put his head down and became uncharacteristically quiet. The driver soon asked the guy why he wasn’t calling out bus-stop abi the girl don do am jazz (cast a spell on him). The agbero said something in Yoruba I didn’t get and then his voice became emotional and believe it or not HE STARTED CRYING. Others were now consoling him in Yoruba. When I asked what the problem was, the lady beside me explained that the agbero said he just realised he would never be able to get a girl like that in his life because he’s an uneducated bus conductor and she was going to be a graduate. He was weeping because he knew no girl of her class might ever do to him what that girl just did, to touch a dirty person like himself; that the girl is nice and well brought-up and if he had money he would have chased after her. So the passengers were consoling him in Yoruba that he would go higher in life and be able to marry a girl like that. He should not cry because itwas not the end of the road for him.

That really touched me.

For a moment in that agbero’s life, his facade of a street thug fell away and he was a vulnerable emotional aspiring young man, just like everybody else.

 

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

RAISING THE BANNER

I miss the days I spent serving in Osun state as a youth corps member. I miss the anonymity of dissolving into the background amongst Yoruba-speaking people; I miss the special treatment being Igbo brought me, especially among the elderly female locales; I miss the palm wine and bush meat, and – even though I never thought it possible – I miss having bananas in every meal.

What I miss most of all, however, is the people I worked and became friends with during that year. Peculiar among the friends I had was this group of people who went by the name of ‘Grace, Vision and Unity (G.V.U.)’ Their motto? Working towards a better Nigeria.

I know, right? 🙂 First time I heard the full meaning of that acronym and the accompanying words, I thought it was corny too. But then I worked with them on a number of projects and this is what I now have to say:

 

Dreams grow every day in this country; many never see the light of day, many are beheaded upon first showing, some limp along to an eventual unavoidable death; and a few bloom to full maturity, showered by national and even global admiration.

The dream of G.V.U. has at least survived the first showing, give them that. They might not last even as long as Ernest Shonekan did as Head of State; maybe they are just another flash in the pan. Again, G.V.U. just might live long and strong like Nelson Mandela, and bloom before our eyes into a founding pillar of that Nigeria we all dream of.

Whatever the case will turn out to be, we cannot say now. So rather than attempt to predict the future – no one can these days, not even T.B. Joshua! – I choose to focus on the now, and on the ‘how well so far’.

So on that matter, G.V.U. is doing great. The brilliance of its luminescence is a streak of hope that invigorates the mind. We, you should agree, could do with more of that.

It is on the strength of this conviction that I present to you, my cherished readers, G.V.U.’s latest project: (drumroll pleeeaazze)…

Nigeria: Awakening Her Hope (NAHH)

NAHHIMG-20140910-WA0014

Theme: Raising the Banner of Integrity

 Oluwadamilola Oligbinde is the beautiful, lively coordinator of the NAHH project and a great friend; over the past week, we spoke about the project and by the time we were through, I felt nearly as impassioned about it.

In Dami’s words, “NAHH aims to reach out to our fellow youths and educate them, riding on the principle that by culturing one individual, one cultures an entire community.

When asked to elaborate on her use of the word ‘culture’, “the culture we want to teach here is HOPE”, she said. “In light of recent events, hope is required now more than ever in our country. If properly cultured into the energetic and enlightened minds of the Nigerian youths, the fire of hope will burn as strong as the flames that will rise when a lit match is dropped in the middle of dry shrubs at harmattan”

The event is scheduled to hold on Saturday, 4th of October, 2014 at the Yusuf Grillo auditorium, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. Time is 10am to 5pm.

While coming, you might want to come in attires primarily showcasing the THREE colors – green, white and green. The colors have been chosen for the day in honor of the nation’s 54th year of independence and as a show of good faith in our ability to ‘awaken her hope’

 

PERKS?

Interactive group discussions will be moderated by passionate YOUNG speakers like Kehinde Olanrewaju, Matthew Adedoyin, Mosope Opeyemi and Chisom Sam Orji. The way I see it, it’s time we had more discussions than lectures; NAHH brings that.

There would also be drama, dance, poetry and a workshop with training sessions on public speaking, photography & cinematography, graphics & animation, fashion designer, make up & modeling, baking.

According to G.V.U., the workshop sessions will not be vigorous but hey, it’s still a lot. Plus, it’s FREE!

 

For further inquiries about NAHH, send your emails to info@nahhng.com or orosschoks@gmail.com.

You may also call Dami on 080-9979-1370, Timothy on 081-3780-4939 or Oross on 07011673395.

 

 

Disclaimer: This is not a paid advertisement. Not that I don’t do paid adverts oh – CALL ME! 🙂 What it is is one way of reminding us all that “evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing”

 Prick me @ojukwu_martin on twirra

EBOLA SURVIVAL STORY OF DR. ADA IGONOH

Originally published on Bellanaija.com

As Nigeria battles with the outbreak of Ebola, we consistently commend the dedication and selflessness of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Lives have been lost, and families have had to undergo the trauma of isolation. The fear of the unknown even very crippling. We read about the numbers in the news, but when we put a face to the news reports, it brings it home. Dr. Ada Igonoh of First Consultants Hospital is one of the doctors who attended to Patrick Sawyer. She was infected by the virus and miraculously, she survives to share her story.

It is a long read but definitely worth reading as Dr. Ada details her experience. It’s a really gripping read which shows the story of strength, faith and dedication.

***

Dr Ada Igonoh

On the night of Sunday July 20, 2014, Patrick Sawyer was wheeled into the Emergency Room at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos, with complaints of fever and body weakness. The male doctor on call admitted him as a case of malaria and took a full history. Knowing that Mr. Sawyer had recently arrived from Liberia, the doctor asked if he had been in contact with an Ebola patient in the last couple of weeks, and Mr. Sawyer denied any such contact. He also denied attending any funeral ceremony recently. Blood samples were taken for full blood count, malaria parasites, liver function test and other baseline investigations. He was admitted into a private room and started on antimalarial drugs and analgesics. That night, the full blood count result came back as normal and not indicative of infection.

The following day however, his condition worsened. He barely ate any of his meals. His liver function test result showed his liver enzymes were markedly elevated. We then took samples for HIV and hepatitis screening.

At about 5.00pm, he requested to see a doctor. I was the doctor on call that night so I went in to see him. He was lying in bed with his intravenous (I.V.) fluid bag removed from its metal stand and placed beside him. He complained that he had stooled about five times that evening and that he wanted to use the bathroom again. I picked up the I.V. bag from his bed and hung it back on the stand. I told him I would inform a nurse to come and disconnect the I.V. so he could conveniently go to the bathroom. I walked out of his room and went straight to the nurses’ station where I told the nurse on duty to disconnect his I.V. I then informed my Consultant, Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh about the patient’s condition and she asked that he be placed on some medications.

The following day, the results for HIV and hepatitis screening came out negative. As we were preparing for the early morning ward rounds, I was approached by an ECOWAS official who informed me that Patrick Sawyer had to catch an 11 o’clock flight to Calabar for a retreat that morning. He wanted to know if it would be possible. I told him it wasn’t, as he was acutely ill. Dr. Adadevoh also told him the patient could certainly not leave the hospital in his condition. She then instructed me to write very boldly on his chart that on no account should Patrick Sawyer be allowed out of the hospital premises without the permission of Dr. Ohiaeri, our Chief Medical Consultant. All nurses and doctors were duly informed.

During our early morning ward round with Dr. Adadevoh, we concluded that this was not malaria and that the patient needed to be screened for Ebola Viral Disease. She immediately started calling laboratories to find out where the test could be carried out. She was eventually referred to Professor Omilabu of the LUTH Virology Reference Lab in Idi-Araba whom she called immediately. Prof. Omilabu told her to send blood and urine samples to LUTH straight away. She tried to reach the Lagos State Commissioner for Health but was unable to contact him at the time. She also put calls across to officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Adadevoh at this time was in a pensive mood. Patrick Sawyer was now a suspected case of Ebola, perhaps the first in the country. He was quarantined, and strict barrier nursing was applied with all the precautionary measures we could muster. Dr. Adadevoh went online, downloaded information on Ebola and printed copies which were distributed to the nurses, doctors and ward maids. Blood and urine samples were sent to LUTH that morning. Protective gear, gloves, shoe covers and facemasks were provided for the staff. A wooden barricade was placed at the entrance of the door to keep visitors and unauthorized personnel away from the patient.

Despite the medications prescribed earlier, the vomiting and diarrhea persisted. The fever escalated from 38c to 40c.

On the morning of Wednesday 23rd July, the tests carried out in LUTH showed a signal for Ebola. Samples were then sent to Dakar, Senegal for a confirmatory test. Dr. Adadevoh went for several meetings with the Lagos State Ministry of Health. Thereafter, officials from Lagos State came to inspect the hospital and the protective measures we had put in place.

The following day, Thursday 24th July, I was again on call. At about 10.00pm Mr. Sawyer requested to see me. I went into the newly created dressing room, donned my protective gear and went in to see him. He had not been cooperating with the nurses and had refused any additional treatment. He sounded confused and said he received a call from Liberia asking for a detailed medical report to be sent to them. He also said he had to travel back to Liberia on a 5.00am flight the following morning and that he didn’t want to miss his flight. I told him that I would inform Dr. Adadevoh. As I was leaving the room, I met Dr. Adadevoh dressed in her protective gear along with a nurse and another doctor. They went into his room to have a discussion with him and as I heard later to reset his I.V. line which he had deliberately removed after my visit to his room.

At 6:30am, Friday 25th July, I got a call from the nurse that Patrick Sawyer was completely unresponsive. Again I put on the protective gear and headed to his room. I found him slumped in the bathroom. I examined him and observed that there was no respiratory movement. I felt for his pulse; it was absent. We had lost him. It was I who certified Patrick Sawyer dead. I informed Dr. Adadevoh immediately and she instructed that no one was to be allowed to go into his room for any reason at all. Later that day, officials from W.H.O came and took his body away. The test in Dakar later came out positive for Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. We now had the first official case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria.

It was a sobering day. We all began to go over all that happened in the last few days, wondering just how much physical contact we had individually made with Patrick Sawyer. Every patient on admission was discharged that day and decontamination began in the hospital. We were now managing a crisis situation. The next day, Saturday 26th July, all staff of First Consultants attended a meeting with Prof. Nasidi of the National Centre for Disease Control, Prof Omilabu of LUTH Virology Reference Lab, and some officials of W.H.O. They congratulated us on the actions we had taken and enlightened us further about the Ebola Virus Disease. They said we were going to be grouped into high risk and low risk categories based on our individual level of exposure to Patrick Sawyer, the “index” case. Each person would receive a temperature chart and a thermometer to record temperatures in the morning and night for the next 21 days. We were all officially under surveillance. We were asked to report to them at the first sign of a fever for further blood tests to be done. We were reassured that we would all be given adequate care. The anxiety in the air was palpable.

The frenetic pace of life in Lagos, coupled with the demanding nature of my job as a doctor, means that I occasionally need a change of environment. As such, one week before Patrick Sawyer died, I had gone to my parents’ home for a retreat. I was still staying with them when I received my temperature chart and thermometer on Tuesday 29th of July. I could not contain my anxiety. People were talking Ebola everywhere – on television, online, everywhere. I soon started experiencing joint and muscle aches and a sore throat, which I quickly attributed to stress and anxiety. I decided to take malaria tablets. I also started taking antibiotics for the sore throat. The first couple of temperature readings were normal. Every day I would attempt to recall the period Patrick Sawyer was on admission – just how much direct and indirect contact did I have with him? I reassured myself that my contact with him was quite minimal. I completed the anti-malarials but the aches and pains persisted. I had loss of appetite and felt very tired.

On Friday 1st of August, my temperature read a high 38.7c. As I type this, I recall the anxiety I felt that morning. I could not believe what I saw on the thermometer. I ran to my mother’s room and told her. I did not go to work that day. I cautiously started using a separate set of utensils and cups from the ones my family members were using.

On Saturday 2nd of August, the fever worsened. It was now at 39c and would not be reduced by taking paracetamol. This was now my second day of fever. I couldn’t eat. The sore throat was getting worse. That was when I called the helpline and an ambulance was sent with W.H.O doctors who came and took a sample of my blood. Later that day, I started stooling and vomiting. I stayed away from my family. I started washing my plates and spoons myself. My parents meanwhile, were convinced that I could not have Ebola.

The following day, Sunday 3rd of August, I got a call from one of the doctors who came to take my sample the day before. He told me that the sample which was they had taken was not confirmatory, and that they needed another sample. He did not sound very coherent and I became worried. They came with the ambulance that afternoon and told me that I had to go with them to Yaba. I was confused. Couldn’t the second sample be taken in the ambulance like the previous one? He said a better-qualified person at the Yaba centre would take the sample. I asked if they would bring me back. He said “yes.” Even with the symptoms I did not believe I had Ebola. After all, my contact with Sawyer was minimal. I only touched his I.V. fluid bag just that once without gloves. The only time I actually touched him was when I checked his pulse and confirmed him dead, and I wore double gloves and felt adequately protected.

I told my parents I had to go with the officials to Yaba and that I would be back that evening. I wore a white top and a pair of jeans, and I put my iPad and phones in my bag.

A man opened the ambulance door for me and moved away from me rather swiftly. Strange behavior, I thought. They were friendly with me the day before, but that day, not so. No pleasantries, no smiles. I looked up and saw my mother watching through her bedroom window.

We soon got to Yaba. I really had no clue where I was. I knew it was a hospital. I was left alone in the back of the ambulance for over four hours. My mind was in a whirl. I didn’t know what to think. I was offered food to eat but I could barely eat the rice.

The ambulance door opened and a Caucasian gentleman approached me but kept a little distance. He said to me, “I have to inform you that your blood tested positive for Ebola. I am sorry.” I had no reaction. I think I must have been in shock. He then told me to open my mouth and he looked at my tongue. He said it was the typical Ebola tongue. I took out my mirror from my bag and took a look and I was shocked at what I saw. My whole tongue had a white coating, looked furry and had a long, deep ridge right in the middle. I then started to look at my whole body, searching for Ebola rashes and other signs as we had been recently instructed. I called my mother immediately and said, “Mummy, they said I have Ebola, but don’t worry, I will survive it. Please, go and lock my room now; don’t let anyone inside and don’t touch anything.” She was silent. I cut the line.

I was taken to the female ward. I was shocked at the environment. It looked like an abandoned building. I suspected it had not been in use for quite a while. As I walked in, I immediately recognized one of the ward maids from our hospital. She always had a smile for me but not this time. She was ill and she looked it. She had been stooling a lot too. I soon settled into my corner and looked around the room. It smelled of faeces and vomit. It also had a characteristic Ebola smell to which I became accustomed. Dinner was served – rice and stew. The pepper stung my mouth and tongue. I dropped the spoon. No dinner that night.

Dr. David, the Caucasian man who had met me at the ambulance on my arrival, came in wearing his full protective ‘hazmat’ suit and goggles. It was fascinating seeing one live. I had only seen them online. He brought bottles of water and ORS, the oral fluid therapy which he dropped by my bedside. He told me that 90 percent of the treatment depended on me. He said I had to drink at least 4.5 litres of ORS daily to replace fluids lost in stooling and vomiting. I told him I had stooled three times earlier and taken Imodium tablets to stop the stooling. He said it was not advisable, as the virus would replicate the more inside of me. It was better he said to let it out. He said good night and left.

My parents called. My uncle called. My husband called crying. He could not believe the news. My parents had informed him, as I didn’t even know how to break the news to him.

As I lay on my bed in that isolation ward, strangely, I did not fear for my life. I was confident that I would leave that ward some day. There was an inner sense of calm. I did not for a second think I would be consumed by the disease. That evening, the symptoms fully kicked in. I was stooling almost every two hours. The toilets did not flush so I had to fetch water in a bucket from the bathroom each time I used the toilet. I then placed another bucket beneath my bed for the vomiting.

On occasion I would run to the toilet with a bottle of ORS, so that as I was stooling, I was drinking.

The next day Monday 4th of August, I began to notice red rashes on my skin particularly on my arms. I had developed sores all over my mouth. My head was pounding so badly. The sore throat was so severe I could not eat. I could only drink the ORS. I took paracetamol for the pain. The ward maid across from me wasn’t doing so well. She had stopped speaking. I couldn’t even brush my teeth; the sores in my mouth were so bad. This was a battle for my life but I was determined I would not die.

Every morning, I began the day with reading and meditating on Psalm 91. The sanitary condition in the ward left much to be desired. The whole Ebola thing had caught everyone by surprise. Lagos State Ministry of Health was doing its best to contain the situation but competent hands were few. The sheets were not changed for days. The floor was stained with greenish vomitus and excrement. Dr. David would come in once or twice a day and help clean up the ward after chatting with us. He was the only doctor who attended to us. There was no one else at that time. The matrons would leave our food outside the door; we had to go get the food ourselves. They hardly entered in the initial days. Everyone was being careful. This was all so new. I could understand, was this not how we ourselves had contracted the disease? Mosquitoes were our roommates until they brought us mosquito nets.

Later that evening, Dr. David brought another lady into the ward. I recognized her immediately as Justina Ejelonu, a nurse who had started working at First Consultants on the 21st of July, a day after Patrick Sawyer was admitted. She was on duty on the day Patrick reported that he was stooling. While she was attending to him that night, he had yanked off his drip, letting his blood flow almost like a tap onto her hands. Justina was pregnant and was brought into our ward bleeding from a suspected miscarriage. She had been told she was there only on observation. The news that she had contracted Ebola was broken to her the following day after results of her blood test came out positive. Justina was devastated and wept profusely – she had contracted Ebola on her first day at work.

My husband started visiting but was not allowed to come close to me. He could only see me from a window at a distance. He visited so many times. It was he who brought me a change of clothes and toiletries and other things I needed because I had not even packed a bag. I was grateful I was not with him at home when I fell ill or he would most certainly have contracted the disease. My retreat at my parents’ home turned out to be the instrumentality God used to shield and save him.

I drank the ORS fluid like my life depended on it. Then I got a call from my pastor. He had been informed about my predicament. He called me every single day morning and night and would pray with me over the phone. He later sent me a CD player, CDs of messages on faith and healing, and Holy Communion packs through my husband. My pastor, who also happens to be a medical doctor, encouraged me to monitor how many times I had stooled and vomited each day and how many bottles of ORS I had consumed. We would then discuss the disease and pray together. He asked me to do my research on Ebola since I had my iPad with me and told me that he was also doing his study. He wanted us to use all relevant information on Ebola to our advantage. So I researched and found out all I could about the strange disease that has been in existence for 38 years. My research, my faith, my positive view of life, the extended times of prayer, study and listening to encouraging messages boosted my belief that I would survive the Ebola scourge.

There are five strains of the virus and the deadliest of them is the Zaire strain, which was what I had. But that did not matter. I believed I would overcome even the deadliest of strains. Infected patients who succumb to the disease usually die between 6 to 16 days after the onset of the disease from multiple organ failure and shock caused by dehydration. I was counting the days and keeping myself well hydrated. I didn’t intend to die in that ward.

My research gave me ammunition. I read that as soon as the virus gets into the body, it begins to replicate really fast. It enters the blood cells, destroys them and uses those same blood cells to aggressively invade other organs where they further multiply. Ideally, the body’s immune system should immediately mount up a response by producing antibodies to fight the virus. If the person is strong enough, and that strength is sustained long enough for the immune system to kill off the viruses, the patient is likely to survive. If the virus replicates faster than the antibodies can handle however, further damage is done to the organs. Ebola can be likened to a multi-level, multi-organ attack but I had no intention of letting the deadly virus destroy my system. I drank more ORS. I remember saying to myself repeatedly, “I am a survivor, I am a survivor.”

I also found out that a patient with Ebola cannot be re-infected and they cannot relapse back into the disease as there is some immunity conferred on survivors. My pastor and I would discuss these findings, interpret them as it related to my situation and pray together. I looked forward to his calls. They were times of encouragement and strengthening. I continued to meditate on the Word of God. It was my daily bread.

Shortly after Justina came into the ward, the ward maid, Mrs Ukoh passed on. The disease had gotten into her central nervous system. We stared at her lifeless body in shock. It was a whole 12 hours before officials of W.H.O came and took her body away. The ward had become the house of death. The whole area surrounding her bed was disinfected with bleach. Her mattress was taken and burned.

To contain the frequent diarrhea, I had started wearing adult diapers, as running to the toilet was no longer convenient for me. The indignity was quite overwhelming, but I did not have a choice. My faith was being severely tested. The situation was desperate enough to break anyone psychologically. Dr. Ohiaeri also called us day and night, enquiring about our health and the progress we were making. He sent provisions, extra drugs, vitamins, Lucozade, towels, tissue paper; everything we needed to be more comfortable in that dark hole we found ourselves. Some of my male colleagues had also been admitted to the male ward two rooms away, but there was no interaction with them.

We were saddened by the news that Jato, the ECOWAS protocol officer to Patrick Sawyer who had also tested positive, had passed on days after he was admitted.

Two more females joined us in the ward; a nurse from our hospital and a patient from another hospital. The mood in the ward was solemn. There were times we would be awakened by the sudden, loud cry from one of the women. It was either from fear, pain mixed with the distress or just the sheer oppression of our isolation.

I kept encouraging myself. This could not be the end for me. Five days after I was admitted, the vomiting stopped. A day after that, the diarrhea ceased. I was overwhelmed with joy. It happened at a time I thought I could no longer stand the ORS. Drinking that fluid had stretched my endurance greatly.

I knew countless numbers of people were praying for me. Prayer meetings were being held on my behalf. My family was praying day and night. Text messages of prayers flooded my phones from family members and friends. I was encouraged to press on. With the encouragement I was receiving I began to encourage the others in the ward. We decided to speak life and focus on the positive. I then graduated from drinking only the ORS fluid to eating only bananas, to drinking pap and then bland foods. Just when I thought I had the victory, I suddenly developed a severe fever. The initial fever had subsided four days after I was admitted, and then suddenly it showed up again. I thought it was the Ebola. I enquired from Dr. David who said fever was sometimes the last thing to go, but he expressed surprise that it had stopped only to come back on again. I was perplexed.

I discussed it with my pastor who said it could be a separate pathology and possibly a symptom of malaria. He promised he would research if indeed this was Ebola or something else. That night as I stared at the dirty ceiling, I felt a strong impression that the new fever I had developed was not as a result of Ebola but malaria. I was relieved. The following morning, Dr. Ohiaeri sent me antimalarial medication which I took for three days. Before the end of the treatment, the fever had disappeared.

I began to think about my mother. She was under surveillance along with my other family members. I was worried. She had touched my sweat. I couldn’t get the thought off my mind. I prayed for her. Hours later on Twitter I came across a tweet by W.H.O saying that the sweat of an Ebola patient cannot transmit the virus at the early stage of the infection. The sweat could only transmit it at the late stage.

That settled it for me. It calmed the storms that were raging within me concerning my parents. I knew right away it was divine guidance that caused me to see that tweet. I could cope with having Ebola, but I was not prepared to deal with a member of my family contracting it from me.

Soon, volunteer doctors started coming to help Dr. David take care of us. They had learned how to protect themselves. Among the volunteer doctors was Dr. Badmus, my consultant in LUTH during my housemanship days. It was good to see a familiar face among the care-givers. I soon understood the important role these brave volunteers were playing. As they increased in number, so did the number of shifts increase and subsequently the number of times the patients could access a doctor in one day. This allowed for more frequent patient monitoring and treatment. It also reduced care-giver fatigue. It was clear that Lagos State was working hard to contain the crisis

Sadly, Justina succumbed to the disease on the 12th of August. It was a great blow and my faith was greatly shaken as a result. I commenced daily Bible study with the other two female patients and we would encourage one another to stay positive in our outlook though in the natural it was grim and very depressing. My communion sessions with the other women were very special moments for us all.

On my 10th day in the ward, the doctors having noted that I had stopped vomiting and stooling and was no longer running a fever, decided it was time to take my blood sample to test if the virus had cleared from my system. They took the sample and told me that I shouldn’t be worried if it comes out positive as the virus takes a while before it is cleared completely. I prayed that I didn’t want any more samples collected from me. I wanted that to be the first and last sample to be tested for the absence of the virus in my system. I called my pastor. He encouraged me and we prayed again about the test.

On the evening of the day Justina passed on, we were moved to the new isolation centre. We felt like we were leaving hell and going to heaven.

We were conveyed to the new place in an ambulance. It was just behind the old building. Time would not permit me to recount the drama involved with the dynamics of our relocation. It was like a script from a science fiction movie. The new building was cleaner and much better than the old building. Towels and nightwear were provided on each bed. The environment was serene.

The following night, Dr. Adadevoh was moved to our isolation ward from her private room where she had previously been receiving treatment. She had also tested positive for Ebola and was now in a coma. She was receiving I.V. fluids and oxygen support and was being monitored closely by the W.H.O doctors. We all hoped and prayed that she would come out of it. It was so difficult seeing her in that state. I could not bear it. She was my consultant, my boss, my teacher and my mentor. She was the imperial lady of First Consultants, full of passion, energy and competence. I imagined she would wake up soon and see that she was surrounded by her First Consultants family but sadly it was not to be.

I continued listening to my healing messages. They gave me life. I literarily played them hours on end. Two days later, on Saturday the 16th of August, the W.H.O doctors came with some papers. I was informed that the result of my blood test was negative for Ebola virus. If I could somersault, I would have but my joints were still slightly painful. I was free to go home after being in isolation for exactly 14 days. I was so full of thanks and praise to God. I called my mother to get fresh clothes and slippers and come pick me. My husband couldn’t stop shouting when I called him. He was completely overwhelmed with joy.

I was told however that I could not leave the ward with anything I came in with. I glanced one last time at my CD player, my valuable messages, my research assistant aka my iPad, my phones and other items. I remember saying to myself, “I have life; I can always replace these items.”

I went for a chlorine bath, which was necessary to disinfect my skin from my head to my toes. It felt like I was being baptized into a new life as Dr. Carolina, a W.H.O doctor from Argentina poured the bucket of chlorinated water all over me. I wore a new set of clothes, following the strict instructions that no part of the clothes must touch the floor and the walls. Dr. Carolina looked on, making sure I did as instructed.

I was led out of the bathroom and straight to the lawn to be united with my family, but first I had to cut the red ribbon that served as a barrier. It was a symbolic expression of my freedom. Everyone cheered and clapped. It was a little but very important ceremony for me. I was free from Ebola! I hugged my family as one who had been liberated after many years of incarceration. I was like someone who had fought death face to face and come back to the land of the living.

We had to pass through several stations of disinfection before we reached the car. Bleach and chlorinated water were sprayed on everyone’s legs at each station. As we made our way to the car, we walked past the old isolation building. I could hardly recognize it. I could not believe I slept in that building for 10 days. I was free! Free of Ebola. Free to live again. Free to interact with humanity again. Free from the sentence of death.

My parents and two brothers were under surveillance for 21 days and they completed the surveillance successfully. None of them came down with a fever. The house had been disinfected by Lagos State Ministry of Health soon after I was taken to the isolation centre. I thank God for shielding them from the plague.

My recovery after discharge has been gradual but progressive. I thank God for the support of family and friends. I remember my colleagues who we lost in this battle. Dr. Adadevoh my boss, Nurse Justina Ejelonu, and the ward maid, Mrs. Ukoh were heroines who lost their lives in the cause to protect Nigeria. They will never be forgotten.

I commend the dedication of the W.H.O doctors, Dr. David from Virginia, USA, who tried several times to convince me to specialize in infectious diseases, Dr. Carolina from Argentina who spoke so calmly and encouragingly, Mr. Mauricio from Italy who always offered me apples and gave us novels to read. I especially thank the volunteer Nigerian doctors, matrons and cleaners who risked their lives to take care of us. I must also commend the Lagos State government, and the state and federal ministries of health for their swift efforts to contain the virus. To all those prayed for me, I cannot thank you enough. And to my First Consultants family, I say a heartfelt thank you for your dedication and for your support throughout this very difficult period.

I still believe in miracles. None of us in the isolation ward was given any experimental drugs or so-called immune boosters. I was full of faith yet pragmatic enough to consume as much ORS as I could even when I wanted to give up and throw the bottles away. I researched on the disease extensively and read accounts of the survivors. I believed that even if the mortality rate was 99%, I would be part of the 1% who survive.

Early detection and reporting to hospital is key to patient survival. Please do not hide yourself if you have been in contact with an Ebola patient and have developed the symptoms. Regardless of any grim stories one may have heard about the treatment of patients in the isolation centre, it is still better to be in the isolation ward with specialist care, than at home where you and others will be at risk.

I read that Dr. Kent Brantly, the American doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown out to the United States for treatment was being criticized for attributing his healing to God when he was given the experimental drug, Zmapp. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the nagging questions of life. Why do some die and some survive? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in the midst of pain and suffering? Where does science end and God begin? These are issues we may never fully comprehend on this side of eternity. All I know is that I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and came out unscathed.

***

We’d like to thank Dr. Ada Igonoh for sharing her inspirational story with BellaNaija.

We’re hoping the spread of Ebola Virus is curbed soon, and we’re thankful for all the health workers and medical researchers around the world, who are working tirelessly to achieve this goal.

 

The Lectern: THE LAW OF THE ICEBERG

Hi.

Here’s announcing the start of a new series on Words Are Work. It is called ‘The Lectern’ and is really a column for you, all of you, to express those thoughts no one ever paid you a penny for. For family, friends, fellow bloggers, writers, and – I am really hoping – readers, everybody, The Lectern is a platform beneath your feet and a microphone up against your mouth, thus the motto: That we might be read…  

If you have a piece you would like ‘read’, send it via email to ojukwumartin@gmail.com; title the mail ‘The Lectern’. And for those of us who feel the need to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email and we can talk through it and select something appropriate for you. My editing and fine-tuning skills are offered free of charge too…(no cameras please)

We start off the maiden edition today with ‘The Law of the Iceberg’ which is courtesy of a colleague, Seun Abejide. Be kind enough to pen down your (chocolate-flavored) criticisms, comments and thoughts in the right sections below. Till later…have a WAW experience!

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That we might be read…

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

Ansel Adams

THE LAW OF THE ICEBERG

Bimpe is an only child, a teenager resident in Ikoyi, Lagos with her family. She very recently returned from a 3-month summer vacation in the UK – her first time ever to leave the country. While on the trip, she lived with her mum who has lived in the UK for over a decade now. Bimpe’s departure date was planned so it was concomitant with the commencement of her mother’s vacation leave, and when it came around, mother and daughter returned to Lagos together.

In the month since her return, Bimpe has taken on a superficial attitude that pisses everyone around her off. She refuses to play with her neighborhood friends because ‘they are local people’; she refuses to eat with her hands anymore and insists that her bread must always be toasted; and she skips and hops all around her house chores – ‘they could get dirt in her nails’.

One evening, her father returned from work to find Bimpe cowered into a corner by her exasperated mother who stood over her with a cane, yelling. Intermittently, she flicked the slender wood over Bimpe’s flesh in a visibly half-hearted attempt to discipline the errant child; and every time the cane brushed her body, Bimpe whimpered like a little scared kitten.

Flick! “Ouch”, she whimpered. Flick! “Ouch”. Flick! “Ouch! Mummy, you’re hurting me” she enunciated in a very nasal voice.

Now fed up with the child’s act, Bimpe’s father stepped up and took the cane from his wife. He flexed it once and let rip on Bimpe’s clothed back with the cane: WHACK!

For a split second nothing happened. Then Bimpe’s eyes widened, her face contorted into an astounded cum tortured mask and her back arched at an angle so acute that she should have cracked. Then she screamed, “CHAAAEEE!!!”

WHACK! WHACK!! came her father’s reply.

“YEKPAAAA” Bimpe yelled again, springing up. “E GBA MI OH!!!” And she raced off like an alaye cat whose tail was on fire.

MORALE: Pretend on the outside all you want, what you are on the inside will eventually, always, out-shine it.

And on that note, I present to you, The Law of the Iceberg.

Experts estimate that on the average, only 10 percent of the entire mass of an iceberg appears above the surface. What that means is that 90 percent of the mass is beneath the surface and is invisible to those above the surface. The Law of the Iceberg, as put together by Todd Duncan, states that ‘the truest measure of your success is invisible to the people around you’.

Your success as seen by people could be summarized by your income, official designation, accolades and material possessions, but the truest measure of your success, Todd Duncan espoused, lies deeper within you in the form of your values, character, passions, desires, goals and purpose in life. Most of the latter are hardly ever visible to the outside world, so that what the world actually does see is often – and should rightly be – the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case majorly among the young folks of the present society many of whom are largely empty barrels living off the cliché, ‘fake it till you make it’.

Party-pooper alert! You cannot fake it for long if you have nothing on your inside, which is why Kenneth E. Hagin said that “it doesn’t matter how beautifully you label a can if it is empty; a labeled empty can is still an empty can”. Robert Kiyosaki also intimated the ‘Be-Do-Have’ principle when he said: “Before you can have, you need to do, and before you can do, you need to be”.

Folks have tried to reverse this principle unsuccessfully. We think that if we have what certain people we term successful have then we can get to do what they do and therefore we could be like them. But we forget that we need to have roots. Deep roots.

How many times have we seen someone looking successful only to find out he was a hoax? Remember that musician who comes out with a hit song, causes raves and in six months, he’s gone? We hear nothing of the artist ever again. Also the young man who buys a new car, rents a 3 million naira apartment, marries a wife but is broke in four years, busted and disgusted begging for his next meal? Or the curious case of lottery winners?

On the other hand, there are people whose present positions in their lives’ journeys do not look like much yet they have a quiet assurance within them that makes them excel at most things. Because they have roots.

I am reminded of the very first time I watched the now famous Nigerian rapper M.I.; it was on the lunch hour show of the local television station MiTV some years ago. The little man looked tired and hungry in over-sized clothes which he probably borrowed from a bigger friend to make an appearance on TV with. He didn’t look like much. But when he went on to rap, I knew he was different; I judged him as a more than a flash in the pan. True to my judgment, M.I. has gone on to become “African Rapper No. 1”, the only Nigerian artiste ever to have sold one CD for 200 million naira.

On another pedestal, a lot of really wealthy people appear so simple that it is difficult to associate them with their great wealth. No wonder Poju Oyemade said that “highly successful people are masters of understatement.” Indeed, what we see on the outside is often not an accurate representation of how successful a person is.

Still on the earlier analogy around an iceberg, imagine sawing off the visible surface of the block of ice. What would happen next is the appearance of another tip, a dense substantial mass of ice which would float around for a while until the entire block of mass becomes stable again. in fact, a thin iceberg – one without a foundation – is more a slab of ice than an iceberg, and it would play slave to the ever-changing ebbs and flow of the tides.

In similar fashion, without a solid foundation beneath the surface of your life, the surface success may never be stable. What is on the outside is important of course – appearance matters – but it is not nearly as important as the stuff we have on the outside for many reasons, most relevant among which is the fact that the inside produces the outside.

If you are ever going to have or be anything, reader, it’s going to come from your inside before it can work on your outside.

Money on the inside, working on the outside;

beauty on the inside, working on the outside;

genius on the inside, working on the outside;

wisdom on the inside, working on the outside;

excellence on the inside, working on the outside;

success on the inside, working on the outside.

So says The Law of the Iceberg.

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By Seun Abejide

EBOLA-RIOUS

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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

The Medallion: Prize-giving ‘Ceremony’

Lately I’ve been having nightmares courtesy of some of my readers who are intent upon ensuring I do not renege on giving out the prizes for The Medallion Easter bonanza; in one nightmare, I saw a Bollywood williwilli growling “Meee-daaa-llioooon…PRIZE!” and in another one, I was arrested and when it was time for my hands to be bound, the cop pulled out a Medallion.smh.

So, I have succumbed (this one bad pass my village people abeg). As you know, we only have a winner for Prize 1, all of you go and carry last for the second one. My Prize winner though is Walter Uche Ude, better known in these spheres as Walter Shakespearean Ude (WaltShakes). It was a delight for me when I saw his entry as first commenter because I was already a fan of his writing and here was an opportunity for us to meet (oh, that was a clause for the prize I didn’t want to commit to from the start before some of you will go and pay one BH boy in Bornu to run and be first commenter).

Anyhu, Walter and I met up yesterday afternoon here in Lagos for the prize-giving ‘ceremony’. I’d like to tell you that we first saw ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ then proceeded to Kilimanjaro before doing KFC and Calabar Kitchen in one summary swoop. But we just sat and talked, and boy, was it more fun! It had just rained one of those muddy annoyances the Lagos skies are capable of on a bad day but after gisting and laughing so hard with Walter, my day was considerably perked up. Walter is gifted, funny and very ‘gisty’, a good friend already. He is also one of the few guys I know who are lighter-skinned than I am; at least the next time a conductor at Ojuelegba calls me ‘yellow’, I can say “wait till you see Walter!”

It was a full-blown ceremony oh! There was an intro, we both made speeches bordering on just about all topics from writing to modelling agencies in Okoko, then for paparazzi, we asked a good Nigerian (or was she Cameroonian, Walts?) to take a few pics. We finished it off Oscar-style on the way out when we took our own ‘celeb selfie’. For those of you who didn’t know, where two heads and more are gathered in a selfie, there a celeb selfie is; thank God for that unknowing gentleman in the background. 🙂

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Walter blogs at “My Mind Snaps” – http://www.mymindsnaps.com and you can bug him on twitter @Walt_Shakes. He graciously agreed to do the following review for The Medallion; I like to think I was so charming he couldn’t refuse but I’m sure he is just showing off ;). Anyhu…enjoy!

 

THE MIRACLE OF THE MEDALLION

You start out reading The Medallion, believing it’s going to be an Easter story, one that encapsulates the persecution of Christ, His crucifixion, and then His rising.

But then you follow the story, you trace the unraveling of the narration, and you’re drawn into the mind of this commoner – Rufus, an erstwhile Nazarene criminal, one who knows the wiles of the streets as an only way of life. You are led – as he is – to the acknowledgement of a mission. The hunt for something priceless. A quest that is on some level driven by a desire for the invaluable. A tar of self-interest tainting the otherwise incredibly selfless import of the story of Christ’s sacrifice.

And that is when you get distracted from your objective. Your focus is shaken by the intrusion of the persecution of the Son of Man. Those blood-riven scourges that mark the back of the condemned man. The cruel and jubilant delirium of the crowd over the man’s torture. The apparent seal of Heaven and Earth on his suffering. You are repulsed by it. Yet you are drawn to it. You fight your grief. You feel the weight of sadness. You share the aching pain of that mother who watches, helpless, as her child is mauled by the bloodthirsty soldiers and rabid crowd. Your heart cringes with every lash. Your fists curl at every taunt. You wish you didn’t have to witness this. You do not want to be here. You have the medallion to find. Your very own precious.

But more precious is He who bears the tribulations of the world up to the Hills of Golgotha, where He is nailed to a cross and bared to all – the glory of His crucifixion.

And with His passing, you’re right back on the scent of the mission – the hunt for the Medallion. Where might it be? The foothold of the cross that held up the King of the Jews? Perhaps hanging from the plumage of one of the formidable centurions? Or tucked away in the clothes that swaddled the afflicted body of Jesus as he carted off to His tomb. Aha! It just had to be in there – the tomb, nestled amongst rocks and pebbles, glinting softly in the darkness, waiting to be dug out of the slight rubble once the Roman guards were away and the soul was too far gone from the body inside to tell any tales of your invasion.

And then, Jesus the Christ rose from the dead, ablaze with His incandescent glory. A fulfilled testament of the prophetic words “…and on the third day, He shall rise.” And afire with the promise of the life that would be given to His ministry.

That is when you realize that you’ve lost. The find of the Medallion isn’t logical. It isn’t a consequence of reasoning. It defies all that. It is divine. It is magical. The miracle of Easter happened for the people who would later be called Christians. It also happened for Rufus, enclosed, a gleaming bundle, in the folds of his robes.

And it also happened for me, the one who was the first to drop a comment on the thread of the eventual episode of The Medallion.

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