International Day Of Peace – Equality for All

One God, many faces.

One family, many races.

One truth, many paths.

One heart, many complexions.

One light, many reflections.

One world, many imperfections.


We are all one,

But many.”

 ― Suzy Kassem

Is this just a poem or wishful thinking? Are these mere words? Likely impossible or unconvincingly possible? Are we truly ONE?

It is a YES for me; and the time is NOW.

For so many years there has been declaration and resolutions on peace.

1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1978: Declaration on the Preparation of Societies for Life in Peace
1984: Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace
1999: Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace
2011: The Bruxelles Declaration, “Pledge to Peace”
2016: Annex to Declaration on the Right to Peace
2018: The Global Resolution for the Establishment of Infrastructures to Support the Culture of Peace (not a United Nations resolution)

In 1984, the year I arrived this world, the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 39/11, adopted the Declaration of the Right of Peoples to Peace, in which United Nations Member States solemnly proclaimed that the peoples of our planet had a sacred right to peace.

Let me rephrase this: We all have a sacred right to Peace; all species inclusive – not just peoples.

True peace dosen’t foster hostility and destruction but embraces mutual respect and win-win resolutions towards nature-wildlife conservation. True peace promotes coexistence and evades extinction – What is True Peace?” by Linda Etuk

Linda Etuk's Quote
The basis of world peace.

Previous efforts to achieve global peace have all been full of good intentions, but they resulted in too many declarations and not enough action. This is a historic moment, and if we do not seize it, maybe we do not deserve to survive.

As is the case when launching a rocket to meet the International Space Station in orbit, there is a very small window of opportunity to make world peace happen.

We must all understand that sustaining life on earth is the basis of world peace.

We must protect the existence of all species, we share the same ecosystems, surroundings and our dependability on each other. Every factor in an ecosystem depends on every other factor, either directly or indirectly.

There have been pungent predictions that future climate change will influence the spread of viral infections. This is due to the complexity of interactions between climate, nature, and human activity.

The most recent pandemic should open our eyes to the fact that we need to do more to understand the climate costs of the wars we fight, the discrimination in our hearts and the hate we speak all have adverse effects on us.

We can prevent the horrid homicides, horrors beaming across the internet, violent deaths from wars between states, Civil war breakouts, conflicts principally Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria, Yamen and now Ukraine, even Cold Wars that are fraction (in per capita terms) by changing the way we see each other.

We are more alike than different. We are one. Believe it or not we are all the same. Man, animals and plants alike. At the end of the day, it’s like water and rain. For this course, I do not rely exclusively on intellectuals or artists or politicians or peace activists or nature advocates like myself.

We are all in it—from the haves to the have-nots, from presidents of companies to presidents of countries.

Whoever understands the plan and the steps needed to be taken is welcome. I just want to communicate the idea to whomever this resonates with, whether that be the Pope, Burna Boy, Mama Emeka, a roasted corn vendor on the corner of Mushin. Aliyu the meruwa guy, the social media influencers, or any environmentalist and journalist. We are all in it.

Easier said than done? Hear me out. In order to achieve global economic stability and sustainable growth, we should look inward; balance equals peace among all species. Mother Earth should get real infrastructure that enables her thrive; so, viruses can be controlled or even better, they can be used as a vehicle for something good.

Imagine a virus that spreads knowledge, immunity, long life. This is the world we need. We do not own the planet Earth; we belong to it. And we must learn to share it in peace and harmony with all living creatures.

Above the Law

As a lifelong student of the martial arts and a movie buff, I’ve always been interested in martial arts films. One of my favorite is a 1988 action flick entitled, Above the Law, the film debut of aikido master Steven Seagal. The movie deserves attention, for its title and story that captures the symptom of our postmodern society that begs immediate intervention.

No one is above the law!

That’s the thing I’ve heard since I was a kid in school. It was one of the foundational principle of our country; our teachers told us, and the sort of thing that should distinguish our system of government from tin-pot dictatorships and authoritarian regimes we had experienced. It was supposed to be sacrosanct.

Supposed to be; but I no longer believe that’s the way it is. Just look around.

Let’s take the anecdotal evidence first.

About a year ago, the acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), slumped forward in his chair less than an hour into his session in front of a committee in the House of Representatives. The panellist put as much between the lines as they adjourned the sessions hurriedly asking that an ambulance be brought in to take the acting managing director away — cough … crook … cough — Since then, we are yet to know the outcome of the investigation and apparently no one was brought to book by the law over the alleged mismanagement of funds allocated to a development commission in the country’s oil-rich region.

The law did nothing.

But this isn’t just about politicians.

It’s also about some spiritual leader, those sexual predators who should have been jailed years ago for rape and human trafficking.

Instead, they got to victimize even more young women because a general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particularin theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.

But this isn’t just about #metoo, either.

It’s also about cyber crooks that  engage in fraud, money laundering and monetary tractions in property derived from specified unlawful activities in millions of dollars— and that’s only what was lost by some Americans, and doesn’t count for the ripple effects around the world. None of those guys did a day, either.

(Well, OK. There was one.)

But this isn’t just about scammers’ greed in array of exotic rides.

It’s also about business moguls who own legitimate companies, mostly money laundering and tax evasion.

A Lagos judge sentenced Wilson; my neighbour for many years to four years in prison — more than three years ago. He’s still out on an appeal bond while the Supreme Court tries to figure out a way to set him free.

But this isn’t just about Wilson, either.

It’s about the corrupt Nigerian justice system — a system filled with little investigators and prosecutors who find it’s easy to make cases against the poor while ignoring crimes committed by the rich and powerful.

But this isn’t just about weak-willed bureaucrats.

It’s about The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) who is often responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances every year. The majority of cases go uninvestigated and unpunished. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice or redress. Many do not even get to find out what exactly happened to their loved ones.

And yet, the perpetuators haven’t spent a day behind bars.

This isn’t cynicism. It’s not  my imagination.

Things really are different now, our justice system is supposed to send a message: to the lawful and the lawless, alike.

We’re sending a message, alright. Just not the right one.

Plenty of people are above the law.

Just not you and me. It’s time to puncture the myth we learned in high school civics. Lots of people are above the law.

Like a cancer invading the human body, it appears that more and more people, especially those who occupy responsible positions in both government and major corporations, believe and act like they are above the law. The culture of corruption that accompanies this insidious disease must be stopped “stat” and should never be tolerated. We shouldn’t feel above the law in any way. Be it breaking civil offenses like not wearing face masks at public gatherings,  zoning regulations, licensing requirements, traffic violation, illegal waste disposal and all sort of other things or engaging in  criminal  offense. We shouldn’t feel – that the rules that apply to others do not apply to me. – “exception-making.” Breaking the simplest of the law is an offence and should be avoided.  One of the features of a civilised society is laws or the rules and regulations which are in function for the smooth functioning of the society. A good knowledge as to why we need to follow and respect laws is very crucial for development of our society, we must know the adverse effects if we don’t comply with the set rules. These rules are in place so as to ensure harmony for all of us together, and if we don’t comply then it results in chaos.

How did I make the decision that truly mattered?

My journey to hell and back began over a decade ago when I was 22 and wild. I kissed Blake Buckner one night and was to be married to him when I was not quite 23. We had been out at a bar in San Francisco where you could smoke, and then we went to his apartment and drunkenly ate stale bread and butter, and then we made out. I had known him for several months in a friendly way — we lived near one another — but a few days before the bread and butter I noticed, out of nowhere, an insistent desire to be near him.

Everything happened so fast; I was at a short period in my life when I really felt like I had got my acts together. After a protracted gastrointestinal issue, I was finally the level of thin I always really wanted to be. I had two part-time jobs and a condo apartment to myself. I had absolutely no sense of consequence. During this period, I had always craved the attention of men, and it was thrilling to feel that, for once, in such abundance that I could take it or leave it. I was so fleetingly confident in my ability to bend a man to my will, in fact, that when I realized I was pining for the man I would marry, I invited Blake to my grandmother’s 75th birthday party — a bold strategy for courtship. By the time the birthday party came around, we had eaten the bread and butter; I think we were already in love.

Blake’s appearance was very deceptive; no one could ever suspect him to be violent, although he was sometimes plagued by intrusive thoughts and knocked constantly on wooden tables and doors. On a certain day, we went out with some of his friends and he had been drinking all day, and then his old girlfriend arrived. I was upset because she sat on his lap. Then she held his face in her arms tracing his cheekbones with her fingertips and kissed him while he wrapped her in his broad shoulders with me right there; he didn’t stop her so I went to sit in the car. He came bellowing over, so I locked the door. He put his fist through the passenger window then dragged me through it. After receiving a few punches in the head, one of his friends drove me home. At home, I tended to my sore head, scrapes and bruises, but what hurt most was that it happened at all. The next day when he arrived at the flat he was full of remorse – things would be different, he wouldn’t drink and he would never hurt me again.

I believed him; things did improve for a while. Soon I discovered I was pregnant, he seemed over the moon with the news. A few months later, we had a little argument over his leaving the front door ajar upon his return from his drinking escapades. During the argument he punched me in the stomach. I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst on my ovary. The baby was all right. Returning home I gave him an ultimatum – that if he ever hits me again I would leave him. He pleaded with me and agreed to all my terms.

However after our baby was born the drinking continued, and the abuse continued. I stayed, as I could not see a way out. Brief times when he was sober, things seemed pleasant. My way of life became moving from one house to another with him, as people became aware of my situation (the domestic abuse), although I had learnt to hide the bruises and he was good at not leaving them where they could be seen. Over the years I took out several Intervention Orders on him, which I then dropped when he made his promises and sometimes, even, threats against me.

On our child’s birthday he received a gaol sentence of several months for drunk driving and assault on a police officer. I still didn’t leave. During his time in gaol I visited often – he made more promises: no more drinking, no more abuse. When he left gaol, things were great for a while, and I hoped that his time in gaol had changed him. I got pregnant again, this time with twins. When I was pregnant we moved again, this time to be closer to his family, as I was going to need help and support with twins on the way. This was a move I should never have made. His father also had a drinking problem; they were a bad influence on each other. During my pregnancy he abused me again and again. Another time I pulled a kitchen knife on him and he laughed, as he knew I would not use it, then he spat in my face. There were times when he was at the hotel with his parents, I would pray that someone would knock on my door and tell me he was dead, rather than face him coming home. I was trapped; the only people I knew were his family. I had no way out.

Once our new babies were born, things remained the same. I looked after the children; he went to the hotel or to smoke dope with a mate. Life was tough and often there was no money for food. I stopped eating so what we had would go further. As long as he had his beer he didn’t care. He would complain when the babies cried and tell me `to shut them up or else.’ Every day I lived in fear, never knowing what his mood would be.

One day I left him to care for the twins, so I could collect our eldest child from daycare. I returned home to find one of the twins was cold and shaking, I was horrified. It turned out they had a dirty nappy and he had put them in the bath with a cold shower running, in the middle of winter. A few weeks later when i wanted to breast feed one of the twins; I went to her cot and found a blanket over her, a shirt was wrapped around her head and shoved in her mouth. Quickly I removed it and she gasped for breath. I was shocked and angry. How could he do this to his own child? I confronted him and rang his parents for help. When his parents arrived, his father was drunk, saying `it’s alright son, I know she’s bullshitting’. He swung a few punches at me, then left to go to his parents for the night.

I was distraught, frightened, and knew I had to protect my children. I found the phone book and looked under ‘Domestic Violence’ in the front. I got several phone numbers; I started with the first. The first few refuges I rang were full and asked if I could wait. Finally I rang a Salvation Army refuge, and an elderly man answered; I don’t know how he understood me through my many sobs as I tried to tell my story. He said `not now, tell me when you get here, do you need help, how soon can you get here?’ my reply was` we are on our way.’ I grabbed my box of photo albums, a garbage bag of clothes for the children and myself, and took my dog, which had been a loyal friend for many years, and we left.

Driving early that morning, I was a little scared of the future, but not like I had been every day for the last five years. The eggshells I had been treading on were gone, my children could cry and I didn’t have to shush them. I was determined to turn my life around.

I spent a week at that refuge before moving interstate. I changed my name, and began to rebuild my life. A few months later, I moved into a housing commission house, got part time work, and had started making friends for the first time since leaving school. Life was great.

Fourteen months later, after I trusted the wrong person, Blake contacted me. He pleaded with me to believe that he had changed, he been to counseling, anger management etc. etc. He was real convincing – the old charm was back. I agreed to give it a trial, but said that things would have to go slowly. He could not live with me. And no more alcohol. He saw us once a month to begin with as he lived a long way away. Soon he moved to the town where I was living.

One weekend he was staying with us, he started drinking. We were having a conversation and at some point it escalated and I asked him to leave. I walked over to the door, opened it and said we could have the conversation another day. He grabbed me by the hood of my sweatshirt, threw me out my door and got on top of me and started choking me. I managed to break away and ran out the front door. He caught up with me at our front lawn, pushed me to the ground and started punching and kicking me. I thought he was going to kill me. Our neighbour’s voice called out that she had called the police and he fled.

A few days later, Blake Buckner was apprehended by the police for assaulting his estranged wife. The only problem was that Blake had already been arrested for the same crime days earlier, and records showed that he was currently serving his six-month sentence in prison. They checked. He was still there.

Before the time-travel division could be called to untangle the apparent paradox, though, my mother in-law came and cleared everything up: Blake had a twin named Jake who had a habit of going to jail for his brother’s crimes. In total, Jake says he voluntarily served four sentences for Blake, simply because he loved his brother and believed he wasn’t ready for prison life. Since Jake was serving time for his brother’s crime I never met him.

She explained; “It all started in the ’90s when Blake signed up for the Army and went through months of training, only to decide at the last minute that he didn’t want to be shipped off to Iraq to serve as a helicopter mechanic. Jake said, “What the heck, I’ll go for you” — he’d fixed a few cars in his neighborhood, so how hard could a helicopter be?”

“Since no one caught them (Jake became a crew chief in Iraq), the twins kept pulling the ol’ switcheroo every time Blake got into trouble. Jake had some run-ins with the law himself and insisted that his bro was too soft and delicate to spend time in prison … despite the fact that Blake was a violent wife-puncher just like his dad who repeated abused his wife and children,” she cried.

When a judge told her to cut that shit out and sentenced Blake to six months in jail, Jake once again stepped up and turned himself in, pretending to be his brother. Apparently they didn’t bother to check his fingerprints because they didn’t know he had a twin, never mind one stupid enough to take his place.

Meet a serial investor, who plays the odds

Gambling, goes the consensus, is a mug’s game. Certainly that was my view. Apart from the annual raffle draw in the office where I worked, I steered well clear. Not least, having cleared the contents of my late uncle’s slum flat in Ashaiman, strewn with betting slips, I associated it with failure.

This March, marks my 10th year with Universal Merchant Bank in Accra. As a senior vice president relationship manager with a private bank, I have been working with many of the same high-net-worth clients for years, advising them through any decisions they must make regarding banking, lending, trusts, insurance, and investments – every financial aspect of their life.

At a business cocktail on a certain Friday, an age-long client introduced me to a cousin of his – Dr. Herbert Hansen; a Nigerian entrepreneur, philanthropist and   professional gambler, widely regarded as among the most successful sports bettors in West Africa, having a winning streak which extended for over a decade.

“I want to stop all gambling other than sports betting and returned to my roots in business; car dealing,” he announced while sipping his Martini on the rock.

The effect was immediate; two other men stopped their conversation and spun around to face Dr. Herbert. Then they all giggled like it was a big joke.

 “You are in safe hands,” his cousin responded; pointing right at me.

I was quite astonished because I had never associated gambling with success. When I think of gamblers, I imagine a different class of persons; the term “degenerate” definitely pops up in my head.

He winked at me, “I am a responsible gambler. I bet only on short odds. Never more than 1/1 (or “evens” as I learned to call it), but more often around 4/9.  I think like an investor. I never bet for emotional reasons,” he clarified.

 “I started gambling when I was 9 years old, when I bet the money I earned from my first garage junk sales on the Brazilian national football team (Seleção Brasileira de Futebol) to beat the French national football team (The Blues), in the 1986 World Cup Quarter Final. In terms of pure skill, this was the greatest World Cup game of all times,” he recalled.

“Wow! I remember that game; I had supported The Brazilian side too. It was the final World Cup for many Brazil legends such as Socrates, Junior and Zico. I reminisced -envisioning the game in our small 80s television box.

“In the scorching sun, Brazil roared into the lead through Careca and missed a number of chances to extend their advantage. France equalised through Platini, and both teams exchanged blows in a truly epic encounter. The Guadaljara crowd chanted Zico’s name so loud and for so long, demanding that the veteran was brought on as a substitute, Tele Santana eventually obliged. Zico rolled back the years, creating a penalty with a genius through pass. Zico stepped up to win the game for Brazil, but inexplicably saw his spot-kick saved by man-of-the-match Joel Bats.” He narrated.

“The game went to penalties after more missed chances. The two captains both incredibly failed – Socrates and Platini – but it was France who emerged victorious and I lost the bet, but it did not deter me from gambling. I was a losing gambler for many years. I had lost $50,000 by the time I was 22. I once lost my house in Nigeria after an English premiership match ended not in the favour of my bet. The winner did not take possession; we agreed that I pay off the debt over the next 18 months and I did.  So you see, I didn’t end up in the streets,” he continued.

“I am a millennial millionaire. My success changed in my mid to late 30s; over a period of 10 years, I had only one losing year, with a 7-year winning streak,” he expounded.  

Dr Herbert Hasen dalliance with betting was an interesting and profitable diversion, but for an estimated 500,000 people, gambling to improve their income I wasn’t too sure.  Gambling is like cocaine. Some can handle it. Most cannot.

I listened attentively to the gambling master but I was certain it wasn’t something I wanted to try.  I presented some business deal involving millions and billions of dollars that he was very interested in. He asked me to send the necessary details to him via email and we scheduled for another meeting in Lagos Nigeria.

 Dr Herbert Hansen, after taking the last sip of his expensive cocktail said, “Anyone thinking of emulating my years of betting responsibly is absolutely on an unpredictable yellow brick road. Sure, you might end up in profit. But personally I wouldn’t bet on it.” He gave me a firm hand shake and walked away with a smirk.

Dancing in the Rain: A Dream Deferred but not Denied

Abigail drove Jason to school on a Monday morning. Jason was excited and proud to have his grandma by him for his “show and tell”. His grandma was his most favourite person and he didn’t have a hard time telling his class that his grandma was a practicing nurse for thirteen years. Abigail enjoyed answering several questions from the children. It was so much fun. Finally she watched her grandson settle in his class. She had a cordial talk with Jason’s teacher, before she left to pick him up again at school closing time.

Abigail drove to the Crowell shopping mall, some distance away from Pearson Elementary School. As she was busy shopping for fresh groceries; moving up and down the aisles, she came across a very familiar face. The face hadn’t changed much. Abigail pushed her shopping trolley around and passed by the young man to be sure. He took no notice of her. She turned around again to see if it was really Onyeka; the nine year old boy she nursed many years ago at National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi. She hastened to follow him from behind, and overtook him.

“Are you Onyeka?” she said aloud. He heard her, and looked towards her direction. He took a closer look at her, and pointed his finger across to her, trying to be sure if she was the most compassionate nurse he used to know. “Nurse Abigail?” he asked.

“Yes, I am Onyeka,” he answered, with a loud shout. “Where did you go all these years? We wished to contact you, when we were told you left NOHIL, but we had no one to ask your whereabouts. My parents hated to ask anything about you from Nurse Rachael because we knew she didn’t like you at all,” he said.

“You did?” you were such an adorable boy back then, I am so glad you got your miracle,” she replied as she hugged him as firmly as she could. There was an explosion in her brain… the good sort… the type that carries more possibilities than she could be conscious of… but there were hundreds of questions there in that buzz of electricity… “I can’t believe this; you can walk now and you look great! How did this happen or is this really not Onyeka?

“Actually, I have been walking for over twelve years now. In fact, I had my spinal surgery a few weeks after you resigned with the help of Dr Willams Abade. He told us about his friend; Dr. Yasir Salimon; a renowned Nigerian-American neurosurgeon and academic who was starting out a healthcare development company with his wife, Perpetual. The company was launching out with free spinal surgeries to underprivileged Nigerians in Lagos state. That was my miracle! My condition fit perfectly with the description they needed. Dr Willams Abade provided them with all the medical history needed for the surgery.”

“Originally, Dr Willams Abade thought I would need two separate surgeries to complete the realignment. He also thought I might need to wear a body cast after the operation.

However, after examining my scans Dr Yasir  Salimon  was able to combine the surgeries into one and used only a brace on me. He came to Nigeria with implants and equipment from the US so that they could operate for free on people with spine-related problems like me. He was the lead surgeon and a couple of others assisted him at the time. They carried out about 10 surgeries and mine was one of them.
“I finally got to experience a completely unconscious ability to walk, stand, and chat with people without being reminded that I have pain to attend to and that’s what I call a medical miracle.”

Two months after my surgery and recovery period at home, I was ready to start the hard work of rehabilitation, which began with range-of-motion exercises, gait retraining and pool therapy. Rehabilitation was a slow process, it took 12 to 18 months; I underwent six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. After completing six weeks inpatient rehabilitation, I began outpatient rehab. I stood for extended period of time and practiced walking with a cane. After six months my gait and walking mechanics had greatly improved.

My parents, older sister; Ada and I were not discouraged, we had our eyes on the prize — numerous dancing at family celebrations, afternoons of sunshine and playing and countless years of active companionship.

Dissimilar to numerous others with my background, I received a scholarship to study medicine in Stanford through the Agency for External Aid, a Nigerian government program which is targeted at improving the quality of life for Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities.

I went on to receive a combined MD/MSc degree at Stanford Medical School, Stanford, California and  I have recently completed my post-residency fellowship training in complex nerve reconstruction at Louisiana State University and complex spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee; all in the States.

His narrative was quite unbelievable, shocking really. Abigail’s mind was sent reeling, unable to comprehend or process the array of achievements that he had grossed. She felt giddy with excitement. She wanted to run, to shout, and to tell everyone that her Onyeka had risen above his medical limitations. She felt pumped, excited, more alive than she had ever thought possible.

Over the years I have learnt never to cave in when bad circumstances occur. I realize that whatever happens to me only breaks the old me and build the new me. It’s my choice to stay down when things go wrong and never allow what happens to me, keep you down. I see every situation as a chance to become what I have always intended to be, hard times will not make me bitter but will leave me better,” he added with his trademark smirk  that Abigail recognized.

Dancing in the Rain: No Silver Lining

Whenever Nurse Abigail left the children’s ward at the end of a shift; she often told herself that none of the patients or their families existed outside of the building. It would be as though she’d walked out of a cinema, and she’d left behind all their tragic stories; but there was one patient who refused to cooperate.

Onyeka was nine-years-old, the same age as her youngest son at the time, which made it that much harder. He had been brought to the National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi a week ago after a sudden fall on a concrete floor while dancing in the rain. Nurse Abigail first nursed Onyeka after he’d been in the hospital a few weeks. Dr Willams Abade and his team had tried every type of non-surgical treatment including pain pills, shots, and physical therapy – all with little or no improvement. It seems that day after day, it just gets worse.

According to his MRI results, the doctors learned that his disc had torn between the L5/S1 regions of his spine and was no longer hydrated; not as a result of the fall but a birth abnormality. The fall only evoked the reality that Onyeka had a spinal deviation called congenital scoliosis. On the MRI image, his disc appeared as a black shadow; spine surgery was his best bet. His parent mulled over their two options: either to let Onyeka live with an excruciating back pain; whilst confined to a wheelchair forever or take a chance to restore his life through surgery. The first options seemed more likely because his parents had exhausted their possibilities to pay for his medical bills. They had already sold a few prized valuables and were now subjected to asking relatives and friends for assistance. 

Onyeka often needed to be catheterised; to drain his urine because he couldn’t do it himself and also needed help to clear his bowels. However he kept a positive attitude; holding on to his fond memory of being able to run around like a healthy child. He would zip around the ward in his wheelchair, visiting other children and sharing hope, always keen to meet the new ones. Every weekend his family would come in to visit him. His sister; Ada would rush up to him and shower him with hugs and kisses and tell him how much she had missed him. It was wonderful, but more than ever he wanted to be back on his feet. “I would walk out of this hospital unaided,” he said to Nurse Abigail each time she attended to him. His faith gave rise to the optimism that filled her heart each time she saw Onyeka.  

One afternoon shift Nurse Abigail came for her regular checkups and monitoring of the pain that radiated from Onyeka’s back. She gave him a second dose of acetaminophen meds and two spinal injections, then he told her he wanted to speak to his mum who had gone into the doctor’s office. She went on to get his mum. The door was ajar and his mother was seated next to her husband while the doctor addressed them. She listened from a distance.

 “Onyeka needs surgery urgently; he has a spinal disorder that could lead to a tumor that would trap his spinal cord, causing it to stretch as he grows; this could make him lose his mobility totally if not dealt with.” Dr Williams explained.

“The good news is that we can carry out an anterior/posterior fusion,” he continued, now pointing at a spinal anatomy chart.  We would make an incision in the front (anterior) of his body and enter the spine through his stomach. Through this incision we should remove the disc and attach cadaver bone to the front of his spine. Cadaver bone is used to help the spine fuse. Next, we would make another incision through his back (posterior), attach a piece of his hip bone to the back of his spine, and stabilize (support) everything using titanium screws.”

Listening to the explanation of the procedure left Onyeka’s parents afraid but also excited at the possibility of their child living life again. They asked for the price of the surgery and were told that the surgery costs 1.3 million naira, they were bewildered. There were tears in the room. Onyeka’s parents had known surgery was on the horizon for their son, but it’s never an easy conversation or decision. They obviously couldn’t afford the surgery.  Without surgery, Onyeka’s condition would continue to deteriorate. Onyeka’s dad explained to the doctor that they hadn’t the means to raise the money. He agreed to the sad options of Onyeka remaining in a wheelchair until a miracle.

They were expecting some money from the traders’ monthly Ajo- contributory saving scheme they were involved in. The money was to be used to clear-up the accumulated hospital bills and perhaps get Onyeka a wheelchair. The thought of that made Onyeka’s father stutter for a moment; every part of him went on pause while his thoughts caught up. “My only son!” he muttered. After a wash of cold they both got up from their seats, feeling new warmth to the day. He placed one hand on his wife’s shoulder, “It’ll be okay, it will,” he reassured his distraught wife.

When Nurse Abigail stepped outside at the end of the shift, she tried to pretend Onyeka was just a character in a film, and that his story had no life outside of that building, it didn’t work. When she looked at her youngest son, running around like a healthy nine-year-old, Onyeka came to mind. The thought that Onyeka would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life brought about a wave of sadness that pervaded her being leaving unbearable hollows. She was sure that Onyeka had a chance at walking again if he had the surgery. “Onyeka’s parents shouldn’t have had to make the decision to stop his treatment based on financial costs if good medical care was affordable,” she cried. “Such an adorable little boy with so much ahead of him shouldn’t the bound by a treatable medical condition,” Abigail was deeply saddened. When the thought of Onyeka came, her appetite was ash on the floor. The food would get stuck, four bites and she was done. It wasn’t until she developed stomach ulcers and almost had a breakdown, that a friend asked why she was putting herself through the emotional pain. “Just quit,” her friend advised, and so Nurse Abigail did. But then she missed caring for patients. She didn’t hate the job; she just found it hard to take in.

The next month she ended up back in a pediatric ward at a different hospital. Nurse Abigail thought she could do it again, but as she heard repeated horrid cases during handover, she buckled. She couldn’t cope with the challenging experience of sharing in the emotions of traumatized children and their families. She tries not to cross professional boundaries yet it seemed almost impossible, she walked out of that hospital and never went back. Now she owns a retail supermarket in the city of Lagos away from the complexities of everyday medical practice.   Her son is 21 now. He’s driving, has a girlfriend, plays professional football in Spain, and hangs out with his mates. She often thinks of Onyeka and wonder how he is at 21.

Dancing in the Rain

Children Playing in the Rain

You know you are in Lagos when clouds begin forming and winds start blowing with people running helter skelter – depicting signs of rainfall; unannounced rainfall mostly show up when everyone is busy going about their business.

It was about 1pm.  The street was filled with children in white-gray uniforms on their way home from school. They walked in pairs chatting, giggling and playing by the road side. The sky darkened with thick clouds. Most people picked up their pace, while some ran hastily holding futile hands skyward to fend off the worst. Onyeka quickly got on a motorcycle to take him to his mother’s shop in front of their house. The rain began to fall so thickly that there was an instant covering of water on the street; the city was cast into somber tones.  The roads were turned into small rivulets and street children were splashing and playing in the muddy, dirty puddles. The motorcycle driver slowed down; thick sheets of rain obscured the driver’s vision. He held the handlebar firmly as they lumbered pass; the saddle clattered as the wheels sloshed through the muddy potholes.

The downpour was so heavy that they were drenched to their skin. The sound of emptiness was disrupted by the loud gregarious boom of thunder. The cold rain pierced Onyeka’s pale and wet skin. He hopped off the motorcycle as he handed the driver a wet fifty naira note. He ran across the slippery path into his mummy’s shop.

His mother and his elder sister Adaobi had already covered their wares with large polythene materials to prevent water from destroying them. 

”Good afternoon mummy,” he greeted, now shivering.

“Welcome son, go inside and quickly join your sister in filling up all the barrels.”

“Ok ma,” he sprang off.

“Make sure you take off your wet uni…“ Onyeka was already gone before she finished.

All the children in the compound had come out with buckets to fetch water from the rain. They took turns under the roof top gutter channel – each person placed a bucket at the funnel- like faucet and watched the water gush into the bucket. When a bucket was full, the child carried the bucket of water into the house to fill up the storage containers. It was a lot of work and it required patience. Onyeka and his friends enjoyed this chore because it was a good excuse to jump in various puddles with their arms open wide and water running freely down their faces and already soaked clothes.

While Onyeka waited his turn, he joined his friends to dance to the beats and strums of the rain; each boy was out to show his unique afopop dance steps. One of the boys planted one leg while twisting the other leg on the ball of his foot to the beat. Once his basic stance was established, he added ridiculous hand motions and facial expressions to display his azonto dance skills. Everyone hailed him. There were various dance moves as the rain pattered. Ada also came out to shake her backside leaning forward with locked knees and lifting each leg up and down to initiate the kukere dance pattern. Her arms were in freestyle movements. It was becoming a rain dance battle. Another boy seemed to be the shoki master; his leg movement and the violent shaking of his head, biting his fingers and contorting his face into wild expressions earned him the master title. Everyone was excited. The wind howled as the water splashed in a repeated rhythm.  

Onyeka in the excitement began a backwards rolling of his shoulders with one arm continually extended and the other arm placed either on his waist and alternatively on his chest in a Skelewu movement – he tried to add a leg movement when he missed his step. He slipped, and fell hard on his back. As he hit the ground with a “thud,” at first he was just shocked. The children screamed and a thunder rumbled. Adaobi ran to his side. Then the shock turned to horrible pain, stinging his back and side. He realized he’d been badly injured because he couldn’t get up. There were several failed attempt to get him back on his feet.

Onyeka was rushed to a nearby hospital but was immediately transferred to The National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi. He saw two different chiropractors, both of whom told his parents he’d seriously injured his back and may need surgery. In the meantime, he was given a bed in Igbobi. He was always lying on his back for it hurt too much to sit upright. Onyeka remained optimistic about his recovery. He told everyone who cared to listen how he would be going back to school soon and how much fun it will be to dance at his birthday party in October. His mum enjoyed listening to his enlarged horizon of hope; it made her smile but she didn’t want to spoil his happiness. She knew they needed a miracle for Onyeka to walk again. The doctors were still evasive about his prognosis. The only sure truth was that Onyeka needed surgery and physical therapy afterward which cost a lot of money that his family couldn’t afford.

My Journey as a Single Dad

In April 1997, I lost the love of my life; I was forced to cope with not only her death, but the death of my newborn son, it was a tragic Thursday in TransEkulu, in the coal city of Enugu. My name is Chinwuba Nchedo, I was fondly called Chuchu by my late wife. I was left with the responsibility of raising our 4-year-old daughter alone. After the shock of my wife’s death, I became aware that I knew nothing about raising a daughter by myself.

During the grieving process, I sometimes wondered if the wrong parent had died. “Mothers raise daughters. Fathers are supposed to financially support the family,” I often thought. I was brought up in a patriarchal Igbo family where mothers were the only nurturers. I grew up as an only son among five sisters. Now, I had to learn a new role, one I hadn’t anticipated.

My daughter’s greatest fear initially was being left alone. She had already lost her mother. She didn’t want to lose her father as well? Who would take care of her then?

On one occasion she announced, “Dad, I know what you can get me for my next birthday present, and it won’t cost you one naira. You can find me a new mum.” It was too soon for me to consider taking such a step, but her question helped me to understand the depth of her need. She was hurting and she was scared.

After the initial shock, denial and bargaining phases had run their courses; I went through lingering anger and depression then I started to put our lives back together. For the first few months I sucked at been a single parent.  I failed at every attempt to make a meal. I consecutively burnt our dinner until I got my youngest sister; Ndidi to come over fortnightly to help me out with cooking, shopping and cleaning of some sort. She was a student at Enugu State University of Science and Technology at the time. She was very helpful and supportive although she benefited largely from the gratuity she received.

I am an architect. I have a Master’s degree and have been working a professional job in my field for eleven-and-a-half years.  Although I was passionate about my career and loved my job at Fusion & Fealty, I knew I’d to be part of my daughter’s life. Not just providing for her, but being actively involved in her life as she grows. 

I worked for 48 hours a week, I often found myself torn. It was difficult to juggle work life and raising my little girl.  In August that same year, I resigned my job and started out my private practice. I had time to drop off and pick up my daughter from school.  I also took up cooking lessons from my sisters. My daughter and I did life together; doing dishes, tidying up, solving math sums and visiting fun places.  I became my daughter’s “go to person”. I encouraged her involvement in church activities so she would be spiritually grounded. I enrolled her in charm school and we joined a sport club in New Haven to foster her swimming and tennis skills.   

For regular exposure, we visited our home town Ezeagu. It is renowned for its undulating plateaus, rich cultural diversity and scenic views. My daughter always loved it there. Her favourite site is the 30 meter high waterfall in Ezeagu complex and the 3-kilometre cave, as well as the lake, the cold and warm spring. Ezeagu Tourist Complex is our perfect place for picnics and several leisure activities. I tried to be involved by balancing my work and caring for my daughter.

So many memories: her first real date, graduations, tennis games at the arena, the first formal dance, her first ball dress, visits to the saloon, learning how to ride a bike, her cultural dancing. These are memories I hold so dear. One of my fondest recollections was…

On a certain morning, my daughter was taking longer than usual to get ready for school and we were running late. I went up to her room.

“Knock, knock, sweetheart are you ok? “  I asked from behind the bathroom door.

“It is so weird dad; I think I am really sick. I am pooing blood. And my tummy badly hurts.  Am I going to die like mum?”

For a few seconds I was numb. I wanted to freak out but I had to stay calm.

“What part of your bum is bleeding hon?”  I asked.

“Is it the poo part or the pee part?”

“I guess it’s my pee bum,” she answered.

Ok, sweet heart. “Wash up nicely with water and soap. Then stuff toilet paper in the back of your pants and come out of the bathroom.”  I had an idea of what it could be.

She did as she was told. When she got out, I gave her a warm hug. I confirmed from her stained underwear that it was her first period. Then I began to explain the menstrual process to my little angel in my best way possible. I also reassured her she wasn’t dying. She was so happy and relieved even though her tummy did hurt. 

We drove to the pharmacy to get her sanitary towel and some pain relief for the cramping. While in the car, I answered several other questions and clarified her assumptions.  I was so excited I was part of my daughter’s big day and that I got to be there for her.

My daughter went on to joke that she deserved a treat like when her tooth falls out, so I decided to oblige her with the Igbo puberty celebration.

We skipped school for that day; I nipped to the market to get fresh scent leaves (Nchawun) and a life local fowl to be used for chicken soup. It was a meal offering for my daughter – celebrating her womanhood and her advancement into adolescence as it is in our Igbo tradition. I never missed an opportunity to teach my daughter our rich cultural heritage.

My daughter is 23 years old now. Like any parent, I didn’t know it would turn out this great, until it did. I learnt this: Ultimately, the best gift I could give my daughter was my time, my love and my encouragement. Daughters need their fathers; one doesn’t have to lose his wife to be an active dad.  

What’s behind the ‘Agbero’s’ Mask?

Mafoluko- Oshodi — Lasisi Banjoko, 21, appears to have spent his childhood awkwardly, as reflected by his many scars mostly straight lines around his upper arms from street fights. At age 16, he became an ‘Agbero‘, or area boy, in local slang.

Here in Lagos, a coastal city in West Africa of over 20 million inhabitants, which is said to be the economic nerve of West Africa and the fastest developing city in Africa, there are still thousands of teenagers eking out an existence on the busy streets of Lagos.

Lasisi Banjoko was only 11 when he left his village; Tetede – 30 miles from Lagos by himself; in search of a means of survival.

“My father married four women,” he said, speaking in Yoruba. “I have 20 brothers and sisters. My father was a civil servant. But when he retired, he did not receive his pension immediately. When I saw young people from my village coming back from Lagos with fancy cars and a lot of money . . .  I wanted to be like them.”

When I got to Lagos, my first job was as a bus conductor. I would canvass for passengers for commercial bus drivers at motor parks. At the end of the day I earned some money to eat and survive on the streets. Two years after, I joined the company of money collectors. We position ourselves at bus stops, imposing ridiculous levies on bus drivers, tricycles and motorcycle riders. We imposed levies such as: ‘Owó weekend, Owó loading,’ ‘Owó olopa,’ ‘Owó task force,’ ‘Owó organizing,’ ‘Owó traffic,’ ‘Owó environmental;’ to mention but a few.  We were fierce and feared. I loved it.  We were often under the influence of alcohol and drugs; we were always brutal to commercial bus conductors, who hesitate to part with money we demand. I was the most diligent as I delivered over N80, 000 daily to our egbons (seniors). I went home with at least N10, 000 for myself.

My head was turned by the glamour of my egbons (seniors) who worked closely with politicians. I desperately wanted to grow in the ranks; I wanted to be a senior too. I began to supply my seniors with daily herm wraps for their pleasure to enable them buy into me. I did this for close to two years on my daily earnings. Soon after, they grew to like me so I was promoted into the political thug team.

The money started rolling in and I enjoyed the lifestyle. I suppose we were in a gang, but to me they were my hood peps; I loved them.

Guns were readily available as part of our day-to-day life. We were young and foolish, and a silly accident was bound to happen. One day, my friend was playing around with a gun, aiming it at me as a joke. He assumed it wasn’t loaded but there was still a bullet in the chamber and when he pulled the trigger, I got shot in the head. I was terrified, as was he. I was rushed to hospital and the doctors discovered that the bullet had travelled only a few millimetres inside my skull – they thought that because it was from a replica air rifle, it hadn’t made the impact a bullet from a real gun would have done. Amazingly, I was absolutely fine. After 24 hours I was discharged, with the bullet still in there – removing it may cause nerve damage, so it will probably be there for the rest of my life.

At the time, it didn’t really bother me. In my world I often came into contact with danger especially during elections and inter-party clashes so I’d learned not to let it wash over me. I felt fine and within days I was back on the streets. Instead of seeing my gunshot wound as a warning about my precarious lifestyle, I chose to carry on as usual. I felt that I was living the high life. My parents were devote Muslims and were very shocked when they discovered what I’d been up to, but I didn’t give it a second thought.

With hindsight, I realised that the future held only two options for me: death or jail. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decide my fate. Aged 21, I was the leader of the city’s most notorious ‘Agbero‘ gang. We were political enforcers – a free-wheeling gang providing security for our candidate at public meetings or intimidating their opponents. Occasionally we burnt houses and fought with opposing political parties’ ‘agberos’. Few months to the state election; we were given a task to take out our governorship candidate’s opponent at his family home in Lekki Peninsula.

We arrived at his apartment masked and dressed in black. We had settled the police in the area heavily. There we stood, for a second; vacuous men so deeply wounded who had replaced a need for love with a lust for money and acceptance. We called it “respect,” but that given in fear can never be such. Respect is given to the loved; a cowering deference is given to the ones who take by force.

So we are nothing but youngsters bleeding behind stoic masks. Yes truthfully we are not as strong as you think. Our weakness was masqueraded by our aggression; in the sense that it announces the fear of loss of control.  I was really frightened by what awaited us. I remembered my grandpa’s favorite adage; “do not expect to be offered a chair when you bring a cutlass to your neighbour’s house.” Aggression is a fear-based response to an event. Nothing is weaker than operating from a base of fear. Monsters are weak.

I was raped, and I enjoyed it! Does that change his crime?

Yesterday was my first day in a company in Victoria Island. I felt uneasy, timid and shy around my new boss. It was extremely nerve racking, because I had distinct feeling that I’d been hired for my looks and slightly flirtatious nature. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have the qualification for the marketing position, but I’d found in the past that flirting a bit with a male boss could make the job much more enjoyable. Mr Adesola Albert- Adesanya, had been more than receptive to it, and by the time my interview was over and he offered me the position, I had the feeling that it wasn’t going to be a relationship of just professional exchanges.

When I walked in an hour early on my first day, I found out just how right I‘d been about that notion.  I guess it makes it kind of strange that the very first memory I have of my first day was how easy it was for Mr Albert  to get me undressed, compared to how long it had taken me to get ready. I was surprised he didn’t end up popping buttons off my blouse. Instead, he moved quickly and methodically as his tongue pushed past my lips and dipped into my mouth. He took no more time to get my pencil skirt off, unbuttoning and unzipping it before letting it pool at my feet as well. So there I was less than an hour and  a half  on the first day of my new job, and a my boss had me standing in nothing but my black lacy bra and my  tiny little panties I’d specifically worn to eliminate a panty-line. His mouth kept up with the aggressive kisses; an act I found awkward and I thought I wasn’t enjoying. Under the circumstances, I was somehow incredibly turned on.

Suddenly I was in front of a growing bulge in his pants. He forcefully grabbed my hand and placed my right palm on it. I was taken aback. I was terrified. I immediately pushed away; it was bigger in flesh than it had hidden in the fabric. I began to protest. He pushed my head into it; holding my neck tightly. I gasped, my mouth opened. And with my mouth open, he pulled me forward and his cock slammed past my lips. Slammed isn’t an exaggeration either, because he wasn’t gentle with it at all. He simply shoved himself in, sliding all the way back to my throat, and I gagged violently. I struggled consistently then he pulled me back a little to allow me to catch a breath before he jammed himself back in again. It was far rougher than I was used to, and I don’t know if it is because it was my boss that I ended up enjoying the way that he was taking control, but as much as I never would’ve expected to like what was happening. I did.

Every time he pushed forward, I gagged, and then he’d pull back and push forward again. It was a never- ending cycle of him holding my head firmly, making me gag, releasing me, holding me again, and making me gag again. And I knew he enjoyed my gagging because I felt his dick pulse against my tongue every time I did. I think under ordinary circumstances, I would have felt horribly used and objectified. Hell, I had an advanced degree in communications and marketing, yet here I was on my knees like some kind of paid hooker who had to fuck and suck her way to the top.

By all rights, I should have been pissed off about it, but instead I moaned and I sucked as best as I could under his assault on my throat, moaning like a ten kobo whore and feeling just as horny. He pushed his dick in; inch by inch relentlessly until my nose began to run and my eye teary. He held my head up and then released me. I fell back, gasping for any bit of air I could get. He smiled, and for some reason, his smile –though a little malicious and scary turned me on incredibly.

Finally he turned me around and shoved his enormous dick into my asshole. I knocked his phone right off his desk, but he didn’t slow down. I knocked the pencil cup he had on his desk over, scattering pens and paperclips all over the floor, and that didn’t slow him down either. I screamed. The invasion of my tightest and tiniest asshole brought so much pain and discomfort that I cried out. Finally he pulled his dick out of my poor little abused asshole.  He took a step back; as he reached for his shirt, I took the cue from him to redress myself. I scrabbled around the office, collecting my skirt and blouse from where they’d gotten kicked off to, throwing them back onto my body and trying to straighten them up presentably.

“So,” Mr Albert said finally as he smoothed his tie. He looked as if nothing had happened. His hair was still impeccably styled, his eyes calm, his clothing free from wrinkles and fuzz. I, on the other hand, felt completely ambivalent about what had just happened.

“I think you’re going to fit in here beautifully”

I lifted my eyes to his, and for the briefest of seconds, I saw a suggestive twinkle winking back at me. A small smile curled at the edge of my lips as I replied, “I agree, sir.”