Quote me.

Money in the hands of a fool is like a loaded gun in the hands of a child.

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Alade Eleshin Ara.

And so I have been called upon to give an eulogy on my friend. You all know me. I can say of a truth, I have known Alade Eleshin Ara most of his life. We have been friends for almost seventy five years. We met when we were both helping our fathers farm their plots, which lay adjacent to each other. In fact, that was how we became friends. Both fathers were contemporaries in our great village of Ekunkan. As children, we ran down the dirt path leading to the stream and waded naked in the clear, pristine cool waters. We were innocent and simple. Our eyes not shrouded with adult concerns, our stomachs distended from our meals of fufu and mixed vegetables soup.

He was a great traditionalist. The great masquerade leader. He ran the youthful ring that brought forth our Gelede masquerade. I do not understand why you children insist on burying him as a christian! He was a staunch traditionalist, a true son of Ayo Oka. He embraced the ways of his ancestors and was proud of his beliefs. In his death, you people cut off the beautiful braids that adorned his head and shoved a crucifix down his throat. Alade was not a hypocrite. He never embraced Christianity. In what world does one justify this sacrilege? You stripped his power house of the gods of his fathers and trashed his totems. You burnt his ibante, his horse tails and cowrie adorned wrappers.

Is Christianity not about truth?  Is it not about love? Is it not about temperance? All of which you have not displayed in your planning my beloved’s passage to the great beyond. You have shown absolute disrespect for his beliefs while he tolerated your excesses when you all went on the path of your gospel. You children and your viper of a mother raised a fund to build a new church while the old one fell apart, while your father’s roof began and continued to leak. If not for this pump and pageantry of a burial, it would continue to leak and you would not have done the emergency renovation of his home. Your home! You were all raised within these walls. He did his due diligence by you, did he not? Not one of you lacked. Even though your snake of a mother was disrespectful and bore children of questionable paternity, my Alade raised you all as his. Abi, you want to say you didn’t know. Oyeleke, stand up! Ask your mother! Akinkanjuola, don’t hide your face behind your wife’s head gear. Aduke omo Ogini, you know how your mother fraternized with the palm wine tapper, the Ba’ale, to mention a few.

If you children are representatives of the god you emulate, then you must worship the devil. I am too old, too close to the end of my earthly life to live a lie and be a hypocrite. I leave you with one prayer; may your own children treat you with the same magnanimity and care you extended to my friend. May your days end as his did. May your lives be a reflection of the seeds you have sown. Ase!

 

My train commute

I am not a fan of reality television. In fact, if I want to be honest, I can say boldly, I hate it and for one simple reason:reality tv isn’t reality. Its censored,edited to cater to the whims and caprices of its audience. If you believe otherwise, then you have been successfully sold. Why would I watch reality tv, anyway, when I can watch real, I mean real reality uncut  during my train commute.

My commute is precious time for me. Its the only time I can hear myself think…and when I say think, I mean the only time there is only one voice…mine, in my head. I am able to read, listen to music but more importantly enjoy the many strangers around me. Most of them bent over: peering at their phones, working on their laptops,some with eyes closed listening to music,a few with their mouths ajar, fast asleep.

During the course of my commute, I have witnessed many an altercation. Is it the man who assailed our ear drums with colorful expletives seriously vexed because his ‘baby mama’ denied him access to their mutual seed, or the two women who pulled at each others’ badly done weaves because they both caught each other cheating…..that particular altercation had to be disrupted by Chicago’s Finest. There has been random ugliness in the mix:once I barely missed stepping on a turd…your guess is as good as mine where that could have “fallen” from. I have met many a curious individuals and had quite a bit of great conversations with perfect strangers during my commute.

Of all my experiences, the ones that usually strike me as bizarre and for the life of me, I can never get used to, are those who ‘lip lock’ in public. Now don’t get me wrong,I have absolutely nothing against public display of affection. But. When two people of either different, or same sex decide to lip lock with such intensity to the full glare of fellow commuters, including children…!It always leaves me flustered, for lack of a better word. I always imagine myself ringing a bell over their heads…..or pouring water from a wide basin, like the one used by my former neighbor Mama Inibong to fetch water back home. But wait, maybe I am too conservative, maybe I should appreciate the reckless abandonment of some folks in expressing themselves….no,I don’t think I can embrace that culture. I will continue to enjoy my commute but fix my eyes on the real reality I enjoy.

 

“You have to own your ‘shit’ to be able to flush it.”

So, as we approach the end of 2015 before you start making the resolutions, think about all your bad choices you refused to take ownership of. Stop blaming the other person, take ownership of your choices. Meditate on the process that led to where you are…..,then move on.

 

The Lie

Preload 05The lie was not deliberate. It started with her name and just developed a life of its own. A life she resented but lacked the strength or resolve to destroy. Initially, she found it amusing, then just shrugged it off whenever there was reference to it. Her coworkers took her nonchalance attitude as humility.

When she was first interviewed as an administrative assistant in Ascension, a multi million dollar publicity corporation with shoots springing up all over the globe, Adetutu’s name caught the attention of the HR manager. After she had been employed and started the mandatory one month long orientation exercise, the manager, an African American, middle aged man Horatio Clitard did his best to acquaint her with her schedule.

He was closer to retirement than most of the management staff. He had spent almost forty years in Ascension and knew all the upper echelon staff and referred to them by their first names. It was hard to guess his age. A tall, dark skinned man with beautiful pearly teeth and a rumbustious  laughter. The Clit, as he was called behind his back had become something of a legend in the corporation. It was he, who decided who was shortlisted for any top position in management, who went on course to Yale, who was chosen to strengthen the companies ties to Asia. He may have seen unlikely as the voice the CEO listened to but those who had served long enough in the corridors of power knew he was the one who decided which square peg was best suited for any square hole. And so, when Horatio peppered her with questions of her heritage, all within earshot paid close attention.

He had read about the Yoruba tribe of Africa and so inferred from the root of her name “Ade”she was royalty. “Adetutu Adebimpe”. He said her name with the right notations…which was unusual for Tutu. She had gone through school hearing her name called different things but what it really was. Only at home was it called properly by her family and so she knew, Horatio had taken the time to practice saying it long before he said it out loud. Tutu shot to her feet. We have a real princess in our midst people. Horatio addressed the whole class, all one hundred new intakes with his eyes firmly on Adetutu. He lectured them on the root of her name, or atleast what he thought was the root of her name. He said her genealogy could be traced back to the Ooni of Ife, who was to the Yoruba Kingdom what David was to the Israelites. She was a true African princess, the real McCoy.

Tutu failed to correct him,her great grandfather had migrated from Benin Republic to Nigeria in the early 1800s. He had started a small but prosperous village along with his brothers and their respective families. Back in those days, polygamy guaranteed a man a slew of women and plenty of children to help cultivate a vast farmland.Her great grandfather being the oldest had been named the Ba’ale,something of a mayor and not a king. Her grandfather had fled from Benin Republic in his teens to escape the family pressures and sporadic violence that had broken out in the village due to the claims to the property acquired by the brothers.

Her grandfather had kept his father’s first name has his surname,a ploy he hoped would keep him hidden in plain sight. It worked. the name was a throwback to the past…when her ancestor was the Ba’ale of his village.

She didn’t correct Horatio.She reasoned, it didn’t matter what they thought. What mattered was her job and her need to stand apart from the rest. She did not do well at her job however,she excelled at it. And so, the African princess became Admin Officer and by the time a decade had rolled by, several promotions and courses at Ascensions’ expense later,she had risen to the upper management position she had coveted from day one: Executive Vice President, North America,Ascension. Horatio Clitard had retired. She had given the toast at his retirement party and never neglected to send him two presents each year: one for his birthday, another for Christmas. The lie seemed to have been retired too, it seemed until the Ooni of Ife passed on to be with his ancestors, and all hell let loose.

Her phone rang incessantly from colleageus all over the world. All wanting to offer their condolences on the death of her “uncle”. Ascension colleagues across the globe reached out to her, her office was awash with flowers, and cards. Some sent her expensive chocolates.She was a princess,afterall, they remembered and should be treated as such.She was stunned. Adetutu kept her eyes downcast whenever someone approached her to offer their condolences. She didn’t even know where Ife was, not to talk of the king. She felt like a fraud everytime someone asked her when her “uncle”was to be buried.

She stayed in her office and avoided contact with coworkers, when she declined the routine TGIF night outing, her friends at work made excuses on her behalf: she’s still grieving. She knew the night would be riddled with questions on the burial rites of her uncle. Every time she took a bite from her stash of chocolates and felt the molten wonder of caramel melt on her tongue she asked God’s forgiveness.With her annual leave looming in the horizon, she diligently planned a trip home, to her parents, home to Chicago and not Ife, Nigeria like her friends assumed.