Dear Diary: Day 365

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Empty white space.

That’s all I see trying to write this. I’ve been here for several minutes staring at the blank space, as though forces unseen are in control of my fingers, preventing me from striking a letter.

But I dared them already. You see, I struck the first letter D.

I don’t exactly know where to start, but looking back at the several lines so far I think I have started.

It’s the last day of the year; lots of days since I did something like this. This won’t be a transcript of a 365-day journey, but you’ll get the point. I hope so.

I apologize for my inconsistencies and fizzling on the blog this year. I got the WordPress annual report for the year and I was ashamed! I mysteriously grew a thick skin to post notifications of blogs I follow; erstwhile constant reminders of my inactivity on the blogosphere. Regardless of the fact that I wrote more this year like I set out to, I had to choose between blogging and another form of writing. It was a Hobson’s choice and I had to go all the way with the latter. It dawned on me that I miss the wonderful readers and their comments, more than I miss writing on the blog itself.

Speaking of the blog and awesome readers, I almost lost one―not to death―around the last quarter of the year. I got so carried away with “things” that I became unaware I was passing the wrong clues. The proverbial blow that broke the camel’s back was a strange attitude, or rather, negligence that became a part of me under the guise of being busy. I would miss calls, get pings and texts and then promise to respond when I’m free, only for me to get the freedom and never fulfill my promise. I automatically got sobriquets with “pride” as root-word from some, and a surgical unfriending and unfollowing from others. I blame no one else but me. That wasn’t my real face o, and I am sincerely sorry. I learnt my lesson and I know it won’t recur.

The year came and went so quickly (I remember the first few days of the year like they weren’t so far away), but that’s just an illusion informed by how great or otherwise the year has been for respective individuals. Mine was nimble-toed because despite the little bumps, it was a smooth ride: no accidents, hospital admissions, unfortunate events even in strange lands, etc. Many thanks to the Gracious God for life and for the gifts and privileges, even though we often classify them into categories of basic/general/simple blessings and major/customised blessings; usually taking the former for granted. Sometimes when we have a piece of a thing we ask why we don’t have a truck full instead, despite the efforts we put in. Surprisingly, we usually forget that breathing for just another day automatically qualifies us for greater things.

I’m grateful for my friends, colleagues and family; their micro soft words of encouragement and punchy power points that nudge one to excellence. Life would appear in monochrome without them, I’m sure of that.

I did things I never thought I could do or be trusted with at the time this year. The saying that we don’t know how much we can do until we’re thrown to the deep end held true for me, and I appreciate the opportunities. Borrowing an expression from a blogger friend, Monsieur Kingsley, you never really know how long you can hold on until you find yourself dangling between the devil―or the blue sky―and the red soil.

I was constantly reminded this year that I have grown and qualified for some feats and milestones; but the year also reiterated the fact that there are no strict rules, and that being ready to pick up the mantle is a great prerequisite to shouldering responsibilities. I have not leaped, but I have moved and I am thankful for the pace and the many lessons therein.

Contrary to the opinion of some friends, and their attempts to convince me otherwise, this year buttressed the fact there are no straight answers to most questions. Many opinions/ideologies will not withstand 365 days split to three, and obvious can sometimes double as oblivious. The lady/gentleman that got you humming Titanic’s theme song at first sight may turn out to be a zonkey and the end of you. A simple answer to a seemingly simple question can haunt you for a year or for the rest of your days. You can hate and then love a thing within a month, and the shift will be lost on you. Sometimes, there is a third option after yes and no, and it’s your prerogative to state what it is. Think hard before you make major decisions and say huge pronouncements. Matter of fact, never say never!

Among other things, this year has taught me that:

  • opportunities can find you in boxers and no shirts, when you least expect one;
  • love can creep up on you at any time or place (cupid won’t send you a memo);
  • you’ll always find a flaw if you won’t stop scrutinizing;
  • things can go all the way down south even when you think you’ve got it all figured; and
  • death can knock on anyone’s door; keeping it locked out won’t be an option.

I don’t have a list of strict to-dos or resolutions, as people are wont to draw one at this time of the year. I’m aware that there are lots of things to do and improve on, but I will take things easy, one step at a time, poco a poco. I will enjoy life, laugh out loud, get down to business and ditch the cutlery sometimes, cry if the movie/story is too touching/emotional and laugh at the cry-cry chicken, keep 69 as my favorite number combo even if the world finds it mundane, try new things… live, love and learn.

Thanks for a great 2015.

2016_Happy New Year (SJB)
Bonne année! Bonne santé!!








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Quiescence: Our Great Undoing

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*Inspired by Tolulope John*

* * *

The answers to these questions are fundamental; they’ll aid the understanding of this post. Please take a moment on them.

(1) Which would make you feel awkward the most: an electric shock from a faulty electric iron or an electric shock from an apple?

(2) What is/are the reason(s) behind your choice?

• • •

There is a category of individuals who will stand on their ground and stay rooted even if another Mount Vesuvius erupts in their immediate environment. I know there’s a verisimilitude of blithering stupidity in that, but these ones would rather die than renege on their words or beliefs, especially when they are nothing short of the truth.

A member of another category would promise to crucify his girlfriend because she wronged him, vent on how he would strike her dead with thunder as soon as she appears; but you’d be surprised to see him melt like ice cream in the microwave when she finally arrives and rubs his head, displays the come-and-do eyes and pouts him endearment. Mumu-button is pressed and the god of thunder loses his wrath. He sleeps off.

Kenneth belonged to the former category; I was unavoidably the largest shareholder in the latter. The other shareholders, Kenneth and I all lived together in the same building (a hostel of many self-contain rooms) as members of a family would. There were no boundaries in the way we co-relate. We’d see movies, play games, cook, discuss — current affairs, women affairs, sports, politics… and the corruption in the society, murder erring rats, and do many other things altogether.

We were like brothers with healthy camaraderie and common interests. But we had a common enemy too.

If you lived in my neighbourhood then and you don’t know Thunder, you seriously need to buy a scratch card and apply for your LASTMA cap online; you have officially jonzed. He is the terror that forces tenor out of you even though you never want to sing. “Unfortunate” is when you walk into him on a day he’s in the mood to “tax” you. “Very unfortunate” is when all the conditions in the “unfortunate” are present when he had just finished some wraps— not one, not two —of indian hemp.

As routine, instead of saying “deliver us from evil” every morning when saying the Lord’s prayer, we’d change that part and ask God to “deliver us from Thunder”. Likely are you to be in trouble if you greet him. You’re definitely in trouble if you don’t. The best remedy is complete avoidance.

The day he stormed our hostel with his protégés after one too many bottles of beer, for a reason that eludes me even till date, was one that should be named a national holiday in our honour. Say “Beating day” or “Thrashing day”. Kenneth was lucky not to be around. He met us all putting up a strong face, a futile attempt at obscurantism; weak joints, tumid cheeks and dark eye rings can’t be hidden.

He was so annoyed. Not that he would’ve turned to a superhero and fight for us, but we knew he would’ve faced Thunder and said his mind, even if the blows that were sure to follow would put him in a coma for months or some three-sixty-something days at least. He opined that we report the very heinous and totally execrable act to the police, but we knew the simple service rule: customers are always right. True, he would be arrested, say by 9pm, then you’d see him knocking on your door by 9:25pm— same day and same time zone —to tell you he’s back.

Will one survive the beating that must follow? That’s a question for the gods.

Unanimously, we debunked the idea and made sure he didn’t pursue it on his own. About a week later, our own Kenneth was “very unfortunate”. He had blatantly refused to give Thunder any tax after his rather rude and unwarranted demand. The consequence was obstreperous, forceful and gory. Thunder punched him heavily on the face, focusing on the nose and mouth until he lost balance; retrieved Kenneth’s wallet from his pocket and left him for his aides to finish off.

We watched as he writhed in pain. We witnessed his suffering and the hard kicks to his sides amidst the torrents of weed-invoked invectives. At a point he stopped fighting it. He lowered his defences and focused on us with glaring bewilderment on his rumpled face. In between his contorted mien were confusion, disappointment. . . and puzzled questions I didn’t entirely understand.

Our friend was being plummeted by touts but we didn’t interfere. We were silent. Scared. Traders minded their businesses as though it was a normal thing; the same way they neglected us the day we were thrashed in our beds. We would discuss injustice and proffer solutions in the comfy of our hostel but lose our power of speech and right to act when they matter most.

I understand him better now. I fully understand the looks on his face.

Thunder’s treatment was noxious and not humane, but what else would you expect from a half-sane— if sane at all —inveterate thug? The same way a bad electric iron is expected to shock (no shock is good but it’s not strange in this case).

As friends and neighbours to Kenneth, the proverbial apple a day that keeps the doctor away, we betrayed him with our silence and inaction. The shock must have been very devastating, just like an unexpected electrocution from a green apple.

Life is a tragedy not because of the strident clamour of the bad people but because of the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King Jr.

What difference does it make in shouting in your closet and keeping mute in public? For you have not spoken until you’re heard.

In the end, we will remember not the words of the enemies but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Ken is doing well as a budding activitist. He says he has forgiven us, but we’ve not forgiven ourselves.

Only if I can go back in time and undo things by raising my voice and acting against it; make others join me. We were more than them. We would’ve won, but our silence was a cue for them to go on.

If we do not act against injustice, we are accomplices in the perpetuation of evil.

I can’t travel through time, but the present is mine to fashion the future.

I am @jossef69 on twitter.

Adewoyin Joseph A.
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Perception 101

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Three vases or two persons?

Three vases or two persons?

At the end of this piece lies a picture that could be sexually suggestive, slightly obscene or simply interesting. You will decide what it is. It’s a very popular one, and by my statistics I know 92% 98% of readers will scroll down to the bottom to see it ASAP. May God help us. [smiles] Its placement was a deliberate attempt to avoid distractions, but I doubt if the purpose was fulfilled.

Now that you’ve scrolled down — with myriads of thoughts as souvenir — and back here, please let’s continue. Comments that often accompany the picture include: “Iru puff-puff wo leleyi? || What sort of puff-puff is this?”, “Dirty mind what are you thinking?”, “What d’yu think it is?”, “Hmmm… I love this fried dough.”….plus the one on your mind. It can be sometimes expressly lewd but I won’t put that here, you get the idea. If you ask me I’ll say differently.

In my own opinion, I see something else. Permit me to go the nollywood way and attempt a suspense while I slightly elaborate on the central theme — perception.

As we all know it, perception is a way of understanding or regarding something. It is the translation of the raw data from the senses into meaning by the brain. A glass filled half way with water is a perfect illustration for this. Some will see the glass as half full (say optimists) while others will assert that it’s half empty (say pessimists). Same glass. Same water. Different opinion. I’ll tone down the pessimism and optimism twist and focus on something similar yet different: the determinants of perception. I must add that they are intertwined.

Here we go. Please tolerate my approach, the way I think most times is…erm, never mind.

Over the past two decades I’ve seen snakes of various species, lengths, shapes, sizes, and most importantly, what they can do. I’m not ophidiophobic, but I don’t like snakes. Cook and dish it well, then we’ll discuss. Two days ago I stumbled upon a robust rope before my door in the dark; a simulacrum of a serpent, and…gawwD, I cringed (I am a coward, yes. No problem). I hated adrenalin at that moment. My neighbour’s two year old boy will see the same rope, smile, pick it up and play with it. He almost picked a snake once; he was found following the slithery thing in the balcony.

What distinguished us, presenting the boy as the brave and I the wuss, was knowledge or experience. Not bravery. Not strength. He doesn’t know what a snake is let alone fangs and venom. I do. He was bewildered by a “moving rope”. He hasn’t seen victims of snake bite; the pain an acquaintance went through back in school. I have. Our perception was subject to our knowledge and experience.

In between knowledge and exposure, this tweet would fit:

RT if you’ve ever blown and played with a “protective rubber” like a balloon #PUERILITY

Exposure, entwined with knowledge is another. We learn and know from what we are exposed to. It took like forever before a friend’s grandma stopped calling ‘Golden Morn’ garri. It wasn’t deliberate. All her life she was exposed to garri so anything of a similar appearance is garri.

Mimic Usain Bolt’s victory pose (lean back and point both index fingers towards the sky with the right arm cocked and the left arm stretched out). Kids who watch sports on DSTV will understand this and likely do the same. A typical and representative village boy will only but wonder if you are well at all.

Here is where expectation comes in. If as a child you watched series of diabolical, evil-spirit-ish, and horror movies, then you’ll agree with me that any shadow or shape on the wall at night would look just like one of the dreadful creatures you’ve earlier seen. If in one of such movies a mannequin turned to a brain-eating zombie, the next mannequin you encounter in reality might just come to live, with your help. Your exposure shaped your expectation.

I don’t entirely support the optimism-pessimism concept of the half filled glass illustration. Aim, desire or objective could also be of influence in such instance. Kofi, a roadside mechanic, who has been working in the sun for hours took a few minutes break and saw a glass half filled with cold water, sweating profusely than he is. What he wants is a full glass or more to calm his thirst. His description would most likely be “a half full glass”. Silas needs the same glass to take another liquid (say coke) and he must justify pouring out the cold water. “The glass is half empty” is more likely. Again, same glass. Same water. Different views. Objective is the key word here.

Back to what I see in the picture. First, I see a fried dough; the one we almost generally call puff-puff. I bet you see that too. Also, I see a puff-puff that slightly has the shape of a foetus in the very early stage of development. Do you want to scroll down and confirm this? Please do. Tilt your head a bit to the left or your device to the right.

What was your first opinion of the picture?
There’s no crime in seeing what you saw in the first place, whatever it may be. Your perception is yours.
You can make it better though.

What influenced it?
Now you know…or probably reminded of what influences your perception. What you feed your heart is what it conceptualizes. Feed it appropriately.

Why this?
I normally would chip in “just another rant” at the end of a piece like this, but I will forget today [smiles]. I’m not so interested in a snack that looks like a growing zygote or a phallus (though I couldn’t hold back a smile at a point). However, it gave me the chance to better reflect on perception…and I decided to share.

Regardless of bits of manoeuvres, I’m glad I did.

Adewoyin Joseph || @Jossef69

The Experience Of A Corper II

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In my last piece I wrote about my first day in camp and briefly complained about the food (please read “Experience of a corper (I)”). I later found out that was just the beginning; the introduction in the long list of “wonderful” items on our food menu. It is day eleven today, the story continues…

Before my arrival I’ve heard lots about Kogi. I was told food and food items are relatively cheap, my experience so far proved that wrong. We eat five main foods, judiciously rotated in a way that reminds me of the crop rotation system I learnt during my undergraduate days. Our menu contains bread and tea, beans (sometimes with pap), eba and egusi soup, something and okro soup (don’t know what to call it) and rice. The tea which we call warm water is always warm, though light; the bread, weightless and often deformed! The eba and egusi are most times okay, except for the days the soup decides to be flood-like watery. Next is that something probably made from corn or cassava flour, synonymous to semo vita only in consistency, never in taste. Beans seems to be the only good protein we eat. I laughed when we were asked to voluntarily donate blood. Me? Blood? Never knew an Igbo fella beside me was in the same spirit with me. He replied silently in proper pidgin; “Shoo? With this food wey we dey chop? Abeg ask for another thing. If na bloody okro you want I get am. Na okro full my blood as I dey so.”

It’s not my place to judge anyone but we all know it’s either the government’s fault or management’s (that will be a story for another day). To the glory of God I never skipped a meal! The situation grouped us into three in no time; the ones who don’t have much to patronise Mami market—a market in the camp famous for its high item cost—and so must stick to the camp’s meal. The ones with enough money—probably with a mini-atm in their pouch—to patronise Mami market and disregard the camp’s food, and the ones who want to belong to the group of the “big boys” and exhaust their transport fare and allowances in the process. I agree with you if you call them fools.

Perhaps I should tell you more about the Mami. The popular Mami market where you buy a cup at the price of a bucket (I mean it). I’ve been forced to patronise her a few times out of necessity and I was seriously not glad I did. There’s hardly any necessary good or service you won’t get there, you just name it (even if you need someone to brush your teeth…after paying of course). I don’t blame anyone, we are all trying to survive and make it in the shortest possible time.

Even though it seems I’m so focused on the dull areas, I experienced a few bright ones. The management incorporates social and cultural activities as a part of our routine, ranging from cultural dances and others—including the trending kukere, azonto, atilogwu and the old makossa—drama, football/volleyball competitions, choral, “Miss Big, Bold and Beautiful” and the famous platoon day where the platoon on duty takes charge of the affairs of the day. I won’t fail to mention the talks and fun we have everyday, especially those of the night when we are supposed to be in bed (light out is 10pm) which, most times land us in trouble…proudly powered by the soldiers. One of the aims and objectives of NYSC was achieved after all; I got the chance to meet many characters from various parts of the country.

One of the moments I really enjoyed was the comedy night as it was a great chance to relax, have fun, and most importantly, get back at our trainers and instructors…after all, it is called comedy (all parties know it’s the real thing though). I also won’t forget the various revised commands (the corper versions are really nice). Every Kogi corper (my batch) must sure know the famous “Attention by number, Curve 1! Bold 2!” “Motherf*ckers halt!” Another event I enjoy is the early morning jogging accompanied by the morale boosting songs (“Ogogoro wetin I do you…” is actually my favourite). It is quite unlike the solo jogs often characterised by low enthusiasm. I almost forgot the Man ‘O’ war village. Believe me, you’re not a full youth corper if you do not pass through that place.

Now, the ladies. I know I’ll disappoint a lot if I fail to write about them. They make the world go round, shebi? I’ll be very brief. Talk about beauties of varying degrees, shapes and forms, you’re in the right place (not that you’re in the wrong location in the case of “the less beautiful” though). Right here, if not everywhere, most ladies act as though they are daughters of rich men; a few remain true. In addition to that, they know how to put P-square’s “chop my money” into action. Picture this: boy meets girl, takes girl to Mami, girl proves exotic and eats what her dad never for once gave her, boy foots the bill (before nko?), the aforementioned repeats itself, lady redeploys after three weeks. Story ends.

Orientation camp is a place where lots happen. I can’t write it all but I guess I’ve done justice by pouring out some, I feel a bit light now. A very nice juncture to give my thumbs and keypads a little break.

It’s a few minutes after 6pm, the flag is already down. Goodnight Nigeria!

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Adewoyin Joseph || @Jossef69

The Experience Of A Corper I

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This is a sequel to my previous post, The Mobilisation Palaver. A friend asked why I haven’t written on the more interesting stuffs like my journey to the orientation camp, registration, drills, parades and many others. Truth be told, I can’t afford to leave those aspects untold, it’s just that I’ve been incapacitated in a way for some few days now. Now the time has come…

It was the 5th day of March, 2013. I woke up as early as 5am, not because I couldn’t sleep or very anxious about what the day was going to be like, but because I needed to be in the motor park by 7am. I was able to beat the time and I beamed with smile when I saw the almost full nice looking—with good performance as I later found out—space bus awaiting three more passengers. The park was teemed with people, most of them in my category with the same purpose; to get a bus to our various places of deployment. Minutes later, a classmate joined and in a few more minutes the bus was full. The arrangement of luggages, collection of the fare and the annoying money issues and settling among the driver and the “officials” took what seemed like hours. Finally, we left the park. Location: Ibadan. Destination: Asaya (Kabba), Kogi state. The time was 10:13am.

Apart from the constant revs of the engine, the occasional discussions triggered by the sights and sounds—the hills of Ekiti, the winding roads, the music (thanks to the driver, Afro-juju sounds nice)—nothing much really happened. We all sat quietly (convenient or not), feeling big (forming…as we do call it), and minding our businesses. A fraction of our thoughts, if not all, was similar I’m sure; we were all looking forward to getting to camp.

Approximately four hours after departure, we got to our destination: NYSC permanent orientation camp, Asaya, Kabba, Kogi state. Immediately we alighted, Kabba boys rushed at us to help with our bags (definitely for a token), but we refused. We’ve been warned against that except we want to part with a few of our belongings…without our consent of course.

Policemen and soldiers filled the place probably to compensate for the camp’s lack of a fence. We were checked with a metal detector to discover the presence of contra-bands (security is a prime issue) and asked to open our bags for further assurance. Contra-items were dropped and logged at the gate. We checked in and advanced for the actual registration. Our details were logged and a state code was issued at the spot alongside the platoon number. The code is similar to the matriculation number in our undergraduate days, standing in place of our names. Apart from the administrative purposes, it is quite convenient. I don’t have to loose my teeth trying to pronounce anyone’s name (you need to hear the complexity in some names).

The remaining stages included registering with my platoon supervisor (Platoon 1 in my case), collection of kits, collection of NYSC materials and the exeat card, procurement of mattress, and finally, moving into an hostel. All the stages involved standing on a long exasperating queue. The situation of things at the kit collection unit corroborated what I’ve heard way back; getting a kit of your exact size is really rare. You have to manage, adjust (if you can…though kind of illegal) or exchange with someone in a similar predicament. NYSC kit comprises of the following items: Khaki shirt and trouser (1 each), NYSC cap, crested vest and belt (1 each), Jungle boots and convas shoes (1 pair each), plain P.T vest, P.T shorts and stockings (2 pairs each).

I advanced to the next section to get the various NYSC publications (the bye-laws, handbook for corps members on teaching assignments, national youth service corps act and decree…), number tag and importantly, the exeat card. The number tag is an ID number to be worn around the neck at all times. I guess the name “Exeat” card is a blend of the two words “Exit” and “Eat.” Just from the root words, the card is a pass for exit (after lots of frustrating formalities) and the procurement of food. I went to get my bed and the mere sight of the flat thing (about 2-3 inches thick) already gave me the hint: we are in for serious wahala! (problem). Finally, I moved into the hostel and then settled in…so I thought.

Having gone through all the stress of travelling, registration and the likes, I was without doubt entitled to take a nap or at least rest. Well, rest is one word the platoon commanders and instructors do not understand. A few minutes to 4pm, the sound of the trumpet (beagle or so…don’t know the exact spelling) filled the air. As a journey-just-come (newbie), I didn’t understand what it meant until an officer in uniform came shouting; “Everybody in this hostel! I count from one to ten! If you’re not out you’re wrong! I hear?!” Fear gripped me. I rushed out half dressed…without my P.T short and canvass. I ran and dressed at the same time towards the field. My day has just started.

Under the hot sun (Kogi is comparatively hotter than Ibadan), shining at its best as if in a competition, we were amassed to begin the day’s drill. If you call a soldier a merciless man I’ll gladly support the motion. We jogged, squatted, sat on hot sand and several other activities all in the name of exercise. Youth service turned to youth torture in no time. The crazy thing was that they (the instructors) seemed to enjoy the show and were occasionally adding; “You never sabi anything. You think sey na joke? No be you wan’ serve your papa land?” Imagine going through all these on an empty stomach! It all came to a halt when the P.R.O addressed us, telling us the aims and objectives of the NYSC, the rules and regulations, the meaning of the beagle sounds and many others (mttcheeew…as if I was listening).

Again the trumpet sounded, this time to tell us food is ready (that stuck to memory so fast). Although they called the food Jollof rice, God knows it tasted more like that thing we eat back in school called konkorsion—an improvised version of Jollof rice prepared with less condiments. I know I sound embittered, but these were all I went through. Of course, there were good areas. However, as far as my first day was concerned, the bad outweighed the good.

This is actually a convenient spot to pause a little. As much as I would love to, I won’t put down all I experienced in this piece…but I’ll try to continue in the next one.

Life on camp could be strenuous…and exciting at the same time.

“The Experience of a Corper II” loading loaded.

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Adewoyin Joseph || @Jossef69