Archive for January, 2009

January 30, 2009

One Small Touch

Today I met with the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. It all started five years ago with one small touch.

When I was in my final year at the university, my fellowship took those of us in our final year on a retreat to Badagry, a coastal town which was one of the first slave holdings in Africa. While there, our hostess who was the Principal of a Secondary School asked us to meet with the students in her school. After meeting with the students, we asked them to form groups according to their desired professions. So I got to speak with those who wanted to study law, afterall I was almost done with the journey they hoped to begin.

When we broke up this young boy came to me and told me he really wanted to be a lawyer. I asked him how he hoped to achieve that and he said his teacher told him to gain entry into the Polytechnic. I was aghast! In Nigeria, the only way you can qualify as a Lawyer is by first studying law in the University and I made sure he knew that. I encouraged him to make an effort to go to the University and thereafter, we went back to our campus.

A year later I got a phonecall, it was the young boy. He had written the exams of the Joint Matriculation Board (JAMB) and had done well. However, due to one reason or the other it was years later before he was able to accomplish his dream.I saw him today after five years, all dressed up in a suit and a proud recipient of the BRF Scholarship award.

The BRF Scholarship Award is a joint project by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) and Intercontinental Bank Plc. There were 50 scholars who were awarded the annual scholarship and this young man, who by the way had gained admission to read law in the Lagos State University was there standing proud. All the scholars were asked to pick a mentor of their choice who would mentor them through the years they spend in the university. While several picked icons like Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dora Akunyili, I was there as his mentor. I was so proud of him and I was touched.

It is incredible that just listening to one boy’s dreams and aspirations, one small touch, one act of kindness and five years later here I am. One never knows where one’s actions would take one. I told some young people last weekend that whether they knew it or not, they would influence people however they had a choice what that influence would be; positive or negative. This applies to each and everyone of us.

January 26, 2009

Jos Christians Hired Mercenaries…?

Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State inaugurated a six-man judicial commission of inquiry into the November 28 crisis in parts of Jos North Local Government Area. The panel is headed by an international jurist and former Attorney General of the Federation, Prince Bola Ajibola.

The purpose of the commission is to investigate the remote and immediate causes(s) of the unrest; determine the extent of loss of lives and property; identify the persons or group of persons responsible for the unrest and recommend appropriate sanctions and to make recommendations to avert future occurrences. It is also asked to make any other suitable or relevant recommendations. (Source: The Punch)

One of the means of achieving the aims set out by the Commission is the acceptance and analysis of written memorandums by the members of the public. Since the commission was inaugurated, several accusations and counter-accusations have been levied by both factions. One of such memorandums written by the Hausa Muslims contained an allegation that the Christian faction hired mercenaries. According to an ‘eyewitness’, the mercenaries were huge men, wearing white uniforms. The formidable aspect of these so-called mercenaries was their use of juju (Yes, juju). The claim was that their juju was so strong, the men hovered above the ground.

As ridiculous as that allegation sounds, the swiftness and totality of the reprisal attack which took place on Saturday left many residents of Jos speechless. The crisis began on Friday, after the Muslim Prayers with the casualties mostly Christians – Church members and Pastors. That same day, a 4pm curfew was imposed on the city so there was hardly any opportunity for the other side to meet and plan a reprisal. Yet that was exactly what took place the next day. The losses on the Hausa Muslim side were astronomical and the whole destruction took about thirty minutes or less.

This gives rise to a number of pertinent questions: Who were the mercenaries and where did they come from? Was this a practical demonstration of the scripture that says ‘I will fight with those who fight with you’? So many things are unclear about what took place on the 29th of November, 2008. But one thing is clear; I trust in God’s goodness and protection – He has it all in control!

For more information on the Jos Crisis:
January 23, 2009

Meeting with Teenage Girls

I’m meeting with a group of young ladies tomorrow; they range in age between 15 and 18. I plan to meet with them

Courtesy Morguefile archive

Courtesy Morguefile archive

once every week. They are young ladies who are getting ready to go into the university so I have only until June with them. June is a long way away but when it comes down to it, it’s only a moment in a life. What do I tell these young ladies? One of them came to my mum in tears on Sunday. She had steadfastly refused to date in school because she did not feel she was ready too; so the boys in school decided to make her life miserable. They called her names and just generally tortured her the way teenage boys are wont to do. My mum was helpless and called me. All I could tell her was what I had personally lived by and that was that different was definitely good.

So I guess that is what I want to pass along to these young ladies. In the short time we spend together, these are my objectives:

  • They should learn to accept and love themselves
  • Appreciate that women are strong
  • Strength does not always lie in brawn or in rudeness
  • Different is good
  • Their bodies are theirs; given to them by God for safekeeping. Who they finally decide to share it with is a personal choice and no one but NO ONE has the right to pressure them about it.
  • They can be whatever they set their minds to be.
  • A woman should learn how to work hard and acquire discipline

I think I’ll stop here. I know there should be more, there probably is. But I cannot seem to think of anything right now. I plan to pick a topic of discussion each week and maybe the story of a strong, dynamic Christian woman. I’m a bit stumped and I could do with some help. The first meeting is today and I’ll be out of town next week but your suggestions and ideas can come any time; I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

January 20, 2009

Refined as Silver…

some time ago I got this story in my mailbox and it meant so much to me. My mum also got it in hers and she printed several copies of it and placed on the many notice boards of the mission. I don’t think she had any idea of the impact it would make on people. It is a story which speaks to the heart and I’ll love to share it here. It’s called

The Silversmith Story

There was a group of women in a Bible Study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three, which says:

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”.

This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, this woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse, that “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith “But how do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His
eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

January 19, 2009

How Liberated?

We just finished the Samuels (1st & 2nd) in our family devotions and reading through those books, one thing that struck me is the freedom Jesus Christ has given me, especially as a young Nigerian Woman. Before Jesus came and declared to the world in Galatians 3:28 that “…there is neither male nor female…” women had no more value than chattel; a man’s possession to dispose of as he would. The story of Micah, King Saul’s daughter really got to me. Here was this young girl, trying to live here life when out of the blues she was promised as a reward by her father to any brave warrior who met the prescribed conditions. Most probably, without her consent and with no consideration for her feelings, she is given to a brave soldier as his wife. Then said soldier one day runs out of town and she is subsequently ‘given’ to husband number two as wife. Then ex husband becomes King and wants her back, she is unceremoniously yanked from the arms of the second husband that she has come to love and handed back to ex husband by her father’s right hand man. I felt really bad for this young woman, especially as it was recorded that the new husband trailed behind her in tears. I do not think she was treated very fairly at all.

Then there is the case of Tamar who was raped and badly abused by her brother and in a society where the value of a girl was determined by how much of a virgin she was too! It made me mad to see that the King, her father did nothing about it; it was left to her brother to avenge her honour (The Story can be found in 2 Samuel 13).

Anyway, it goes without saying that this was not peculiar to Israel. It was a practice of universal application. It is sad but decades after Jesus walked on earth women were still treated as sub human. Just see how long it took to get the right to vote. Even in the Church, we are still struggling be heard and to be relevant despite the fact that it is widely accepted that the Holy Spirit does not discriminate in the distribution of his gifts. However, I cannot deny that things are much better than they used to be.

I live in Nigeria and being the young twenty-something woman that I am, it is wonderful to know that I am free to make decisions for myself; I have CHOICES! No one, but no one picks my husband for me. I have worked in a couple of law firms and experienced no discrimination or at least, nothing substantial. I believe that has a lot to do with the almost universal acceptance of the basic principles of Christianity centuries ago.

However, in many parts of the world today, especially in some parts of Africa and Asia the girl child is still little more than a highly valuable possession to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Numerous girls are kept in ignorance and without the benefit of an education. A woman has little or no recourse against an abusive father or husband or even against any injustice done to her. In Nigeria, we practice most of the common law handed over to us by the British Empire and under the common law, a wife cannot be raped by her husband even when he repeatedly uses force and leaves indisputable injuries all over her; there is just no provision for that in law. And several other blatantly discriminatory laws exist and worse, are applied.

We still have a long way to go towards gaining total freedom and equal treatment, particularly here in Nigeria but oh, we have come such a long way!

January 18, 2009

Contemplating Marriage

As the thought of marriage takes on an extraordinary reality, the questions and questionings start to crowd my already crowded brain. More and more people in Nigeria like their western counterparts, are taking the option of divorce, nevertheless, it is not an alternative for me. Marriage is for keeps. Then again, I doubt anyone really goes into marriage with a plan to get divorced after a couple of years.

So if marriage is for keeps, then I have to search myself…make sure I am not making an irreversible mistake. Are there signs to watch out for before I finally say “I do?” can anyone ever completely be a hundred percent certain? My dad always says that as you make your bed so you must lie on it. I am not sure I completely agree, however I do believe that certain things need to be considered before two people decide to get married. Like their respective value systems; if a man who places value on family marries a woman who places value on money, there is going to be a problem eventually. I also think there should be mutual respect. The ultimate for me is love; but I am aware that a lot of people get married for other reasons and fall in love along the way. It does not always happen instantly.

One thing which keeps bothering me though is whether I have what it takes to make a good wife. The average Nigerian man used to believe a woman would have to have the qualities of a doormat to make an ideal wife. I think expectations are a little higher these days. I am not by any standard a doormat. I have also been called stubborn and mule headed. Patience is not one of my virtues. Some years ago, for no reason I can think of, my grandma called me and decided to talk to me about patience in a woman. She said it was a woman who mostly held the home together therefore a woman had to be patient. I am trying but I suppose I still have a lot to learn. I don’t want to lose my sense of myself as an individual…I do not want to wake up 10 years after and wonder where the woman I struggled so hard to become went.

I read this article by Nina Chen and she raised these questions to consider before saying “I do”:

  • Why am I getting married?
  • Why am I choosing to share my life with this person?
  • Is this the right time? What has brought me to this point in my life?
  • Are there concerns or support for my welfare from my parents, friends and coworkers? How do I feel about their apprehension?
  • Is this a good choice for me? Have I compromised my values and beliefs because I think things will be better if I’m married?
  • What is my level of commitment? What changes do I expect to experience after the wedding?
  • Will I be able to discuss problems and options with my partner? How do we manage conflict together?
  • Will we communicate openly to reach a compromise or agreement without involving violence or put-downs?
  • What are our future goals and dreams? How many children do we want? How will the roles and responsibilities be divided?
  • How much money will we save each month? Who will handle our money?
  • What kind of marriage relationship do I want? How happy am I in this relationship?

So many questions to consider! You think you are utterly ready for a step and when the time comes to take that step, you discover that you are not so ready after all. I wish I could be absolutely certain that this step I am about to take will turn out right but that takes out the adventure from it and what is life if not a great adventure? I know that life does not come with any guarantees so I am determined to take the good with the bad, dwelling more on the good than the bad.