Often when we are in a position, we fail to see how far we have come. It is often the case that when a man is climbing a mountain and looks down, he does not appreciate the heights he has attained but is afraid of what would happen if he falls.
Well, poetry speaks to us in many ways and comes to us in different ways. It is that place where there are many of us rushing in, especially with this whole advent of the social media. Now, while a lot of people have argued and bashed people who write so-called bad poetry on their blogs and spaces like Facebook, I’ve told these ‘critics’ to cool down. We are simply moving with the times. No writer should be judged for such posts. The only time when such a person should be judged is when the poem has been put into a book. So to say, when the poet has declared it final.
i build memory
one block tenderly placed on another
of love and disaster; right steps and wrong songs
time cementing each with sorrows savoured, lessons learnt
slowly, materials disintegrate
shattering what once was me
the years wither to dust
and I am left to start building afresh
lost in sands that have become my now
- Su’eddie Vershima Agema (First published in Ake Review 2016)
I have learnt to take a few things; to embrace the tears of others, whether in joy or sadness. It has been a year like that. 2017 was. I have grown tougher, and yet, softened too. I am not the man I was at the start of that year, or the man the year left. I have learnt to love more, but to also note, that even those we love have great flaws. While it takes nothing to be loyal and it is allowed to be blind, we have to be wise to listen when people point out errors in us and in those we love. No need to defend blindly or to be angry when we are told the truth. Importantly, there is no weakness in being sorry. No matter how far gone or how early, once we find our wrong, we should right it in what ways we can while acknowledging our guilt. We can change what we can, and should change it if we have to, and if it will make things better. What we can’t, we can’t and we can only find ways to assuage what damages we can.
Life is what it is – kind and unfair, in differing measures. We have to accept this.
I learnt an important lesson: to have a chest for happy memories where I would save treasured moments, to use in times of torment. There are those days when the skies get too bleak and it is only those memories that become the light to help us through the darkness those times bring. In simple English: appreciate every moment and store vividly every time of joy. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
There’s no time to be too bitter, let things go. Time is fickle and life too short. I know this. I lost two uncles (brothers), two cousins (siblings), a cousin’s child and a younger sister. To mention only those in the direct family. Just in a year…and all, in the second half. That same season when I did my nuptials (apologies to family and friends who I couldn’t get through to or thought I got to in my state of being overwhelmed… You still mean much, and we are still collecting gifts 🙂 ).
Vern, the treasure of most of us, was only 28 years old. She died on the 1st of December. She was buried, as is the tradition with young ones, a week later on the 8th, a day to my church wedding. I had thought I had lost the gift of my tears as I would experience the deepest of pains without an outlet to shed away the tears. For her, I cried non-stop for hours. And in my heart, the wound of her loss still bleeds, and will, for very long time. The trauma for my brother, James Blaze, and my other siblings, is perhaps more but we all mourn differently, pain being a private affair always no matter how shared. In the same season I got to share of the loss of the child of my good friend and adopted brother, Saddiq Dzukogi. It got me thinking on much too. A whole lot. And just when we thought it was all over, another cousin lost his daughter on the 31st of December, 2017. #sigh
In the spirit of the New Year, I am starting life afresh and thinking of things in new lights. I have my family, my co-driver, Agatha, with whom I am navigating… I don’t know where these roads would lead but I am hoping to be a better man in every ramification. I raise a toast to us all and ask, that in all our ways, we also take that step to be better than we were everyday. At the last second, life’s battle is not a race with others but with ourselves. May we smile, fulfilled whenever the curtain calls, and may life always treat us kind. Amen.
There is an eagerness for everyone to say something about Biafra, to blame somebody for the chaos that is about to unfold if care is not taken. This is not the time to say that IPOB had it coming. The issue here is that human lives are being wasted.
First, the killing of Biafran agitators by armed soldiers and the inhumane treatment soldiers have been metting out on Nigerians for decades now is not justifiable under the law and must be condemned for what it is – a gross abuse of the fundamental human right to life and human dignity. At the same time, the hounding of Northerners and other ethnicities in the Southeast, to be murdered in cold blood in the name of retalition by Biafran agitators should also be condemned in the strongest terms. These acts could lead to a cancerous spread of retaliatory violence in other parts of the country and in that case, no one will be safe. The anxiety in Jos should serve as a resounding alarm.
One would think that the lessons of history should serve to remind us that violence either by the authorities or by the civilian populace has never resulted in any meaningful accomplishment. The civil war and more recently the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the Zaria massacre should be enduring lessons for us.
But unfortunately, it would seem we are too anxious to repeat the same mistakes, perhaps on an even grander scale.
Since we are not savages, and I strongly believe we are not, both the government and the citizens must follow laid down laws to pursue their objectives, hence:
1. All acts of violence by all parties in all parts of the country must stop at once. We simply cannot have our soldiers turning their guns on us at the slightest provocation, neither should we take laws into our hands.
2. All those, soldiers and civilians, who are found culpable in killing or maiming persons or destroying property or otherwise causing a breach of the law must be subjected to the laws of the country. Peace can only be sustained by justice and fairness.
3. We must recognise that not every Igbo person subscribes to Nnamdi Kanu’s suicidal ideology the same way that not every non-Igbo hates the Igbo and should therefore avoid generalization and stereotyping people as well as spreading hate.
4. That if some people no longer wish to be part of the country they should be allowed to pursue this within the framework of the law. If the constitution does not recognise a referendum then IPOB, which I understand has the ears of some senators and political leaders from the Southeast, should push for it through constitutional means (via the National Assembly) and if this succeeds, a referendum could be conducted within the framework of the law. But until that is done, the Nigerian constitution maintains that the country remains indivisible and the president is sworn to defend the constitution and the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
5. IPOB must recognize that forming a parallel government with a “Biafran Secret Service” is a treasonable offense as well as Mr. Kanu’s hate speech and calls to “burn down Nigeria.” Regardless, there are lawful ways of dealing with this issue. If a court of law believes that Mr. Kanu has violated his bail conditions and issues a warrant, he should be re-arrested lawfully and prosecuted. And the last time I checked, these is not the duty of armed soldiers.
6. Muhammdu Buhari is the duly elected president of the country. He is human and admittedly could have handled this issue with more tact through considerate words and actions (that 5 percent talk was a grave error of judgment). And Igbo leaders as well could have played a bigger role in curbing Kanu’s excesses. This is the time for leaders, not rulers, to step forward and appeal for calm, for anxious gladiators to sheath their swords and for reason to prevail. That which hate cooks will always leave a lasting bitter aftertaste.
The sanctity of human lives must be prevalent in our minds at all times. Overhead, the vultures of doom are circulating and for the young ones eager for action, remember what is said: when surrounded by vultures, try not to die.
May reason and peace prevail.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a multiple award winning writer and journalist who lives in Abuja.
Poetry is hope; hope is life; something beautiful.
If you would listen, it is a promise.
If you would listen, quietly and get those codes that gently unveil themselves to us like dawn unfolds to day; like the caterpillar to a butterfly.
It is the look of waters
– on a cloudy night; wait a few seconds for when God’s hands pushes those clouds –
With stars and the moon dancing in a million glitters across several miles;
Can you see the diamonds bobbing up and down as the waves sing promises and freshness to your soul?
It is transformation from bleak to bliss.
It is the sight of beauty, the sound of desire, the smell of hope, the taste of victory and the touch of greatness… It is so much more…
It is your heart in words the mouth cannot utter; your soul in codes your flesh can’t decipher. It is the air and it is the earth – you can feel it without touching; you can grab it in your fingers yet it carries you.
It is dawn – the sun smiling when you wake.
Dusk – when the sun dives back below the earth’s belt.
The moon shining in shapes from a calabash to a banana, on any given night – with its stars glittering and dotting the skies, precious gems lighting the souls of the weary…
It is those words that tell us, who are heavy laden
– lovers who struggle to find the spark of fires that now seem like smoke
– a writer weaving words no one seems to care about
– someone looking over a sick one, in anguish
– people in recession, finding a single meal
– a father who looks to questioning eyes that ask ‘why?’
– a mother, forced to go to a trash can to pick meals like a lunatic, not caring about eyes that stare, as she puts food in the mouth of her baby
It is those words that tell us to look up in hope, even on those nights when the clouds come around to bring a sense of darkness
As you struggle through dusk, note every night gives birth to dawn and day, brilliant rays that will sparkle your existence
When it seems like the end, remember just when the caterpillar thought it was over, it became a butterfly!
The river that looks dark on a cloudy night, inviting you to taste of its depth transforms to a mirror of diamonds with a small push of Aôndo who takes all the clouds away
True. Those clouds…
They never took away the moon and stars. The clouds would slowly float away… but would you be waiting?
That is poetry. That is hope. That is life.
That is you.
You are verse. You are hope. You are life.
Too beautiful to be explained. Too deep to be deciphered at once, yet full of so much and more.
You are beautiful.
If they would listen, you are a promise.
If they would listen, quietly and get those codes that gently unveil themselves like dawn unfolds day; they would see the diamond that hid behind the rough.
You are the sight of beauty, the sound of desire, the smell of hope, the taste of victory and the touch of greatness… You are so much more…
Listen slowly to what the universe just whispered to my heart,
hear it everyday in the voice time should never make you deaf to:
You are the best verse that life ever wrote.
- Copyright ©Su’eddie Vershima Agema, 2017
Today, I stand to salute a great man, whose greatness is bellowed by his utter humility. A priest, a teacher, a moulder of character. An Irish man, a priest of the other of St. Patrick’s Society – Very Rev. Fr. J. D. O’Connell, SPS, MFR.
After serving as a priest of Minna Diocese for 55yrs and school Principal for 50, Fr’s time in Nigeria is slowly coming to an end. It was therefore only apt that one of the many occasions in his honor be held today.
One day, I will write about this man. About his time at Government Secondary School Minna which is more correctly called Fr’s school – there is no higher honor than to be called Fr’s boy. A badge many wear with pride. His boys are legion; former governors, commissioners, lawmakers and even the legendary Cyril Stober. If you were a young boy in Minna and you were not in GSS, you were of all men, to be most pitied. And I perhaps may hold the distinction of being the only girl Fr wanted to offer admission to after it became an all-boys school – I mean, he had a complete plan of how I would sew the trademark gray trousers.
Remembering his stories of carrying wooden desks and chairs across River Kaduna to the hinter areas of Wushishi bring tears to my eyes.
Remembering his stories of disabling one headlight of his car so that the truant boys he was after, in the bush would not realize it was he, imagining it was a motorbike until he was upon them, bring laughter to my lips.
If you saw a school boy walking home in gray trousers but without a school shirt or with one leg of shoe, just know Fr was punishing him. Go home and explain to your parents why you went to school with shirt and came back without.
One day, I will write about this man, quietly dignified in the suffering that Parkisons brought him in this latter part of his stay. Determined to be completely self-reliant and hesitant to ask for help if he thought it was going to be a burden. Wanting to cause the least amount of disruption possible. One day, I will write about him, and it will break my heart.
Everyone in Niger feel an intense need to show this man how much he really means to us: from road walks to traditional titles. Today the Niger state government announced the re-naming of GSS Minna to Fr. J. D O’Connell Secondary School. That they may truly be Fr’s boys.
Fr O’Connell, much like the rest of us, doesn’t want to go. And when I say ‘Fr, don’t go’, he laughs. Because we both know that he is loyal to his vows, even to the last; Poverty. Abstinence. Obedience. Always Obedience.
It is the same laugh we get when he’s being stubborn about something. The same laugh we get when we say ‘Fr, you’re not sitting properly. Stand up and sit properly’. And he laughs, and stands up and attempts to fit his Parkinson-afflicted body properly into the chair. Or when we ask ‘Fr, have you been exercising?’ Always that laugh.
Jennifer and I are not in Minna at the moment so on Monday he called us to ask us our email addresses. On Tuesday, we both received mails with almost 30 pictures form the varioua activities going on now. Because Fr. O’Connell.
One day, I will write about this man. But today, let me say, here is a man who completely embodied his society’s motto: Caritas Christi Urget Nos; The love of Christ compels us.
Today, let me say ‘Here is a man, truly like Christ’. Here is a Man of God.
I’m afraid to tag all the Fr’s Boys on my Facebook friend list because this post will become a market! (That’s how we refer to GSS when we talk – Fr how was market today?) But I will. And if you are tagged and you believe Fr had any impact on your life, share on your wall and tag your friends! Heck, share this post on your blogs and everywhere else.
God bless Fr. O’Connell. God bless us all.
And when my Joy was born, I held it in my arms and stood on the
house-top shouting, “Come ye, my neighbours, come and see, for Joy
this day is born unto me. Come and behold this gladsome thing that
laugheth in the sun.”
But none of my neighbours came to look upon my Joy, and great was
And every day for seven moons I proclaimed my Joy from the
house-top—and yet no one heeded me. And my Joy and I were alone,
unsought and unvisited.
Then my Joy grew pale and weary because no other heart but mine
held its loveliness and no other lips kissed its lips.
Then my Joy died of isolation.
And now I only remember my dead Joy in remembering my dead Sorrow.
But memory is an autumn leaf that murmurs a while in the wind and
then is heard no more.
I woke up today, preparing for a lot of things, thinking of how I can better myself to be better for others. I thought of how I could make life far better, but somewhere deep within I guess I thought more of how I could have a better life for myself. Nothing wrong with that but it gets to that point for a lot of us when we slowly put ourselves above everything and everyone else, then forget what life is all about. At church yesterday, I was reminded greatly that sometimes in trying to live, we die, walking roads that might not have been our calling. We suffer depressions because we do not get certain things we want; we suffer depressions because we are simply working on feeding our most carnal desires and forgetting that there’s a bigger picture we are meant to help paint, with love, kindness, beauty and so much more.
I went out and had an interesting day, was not able to spread as much cheer, came back and found in the mirror a man with red eyes and amnesia, someone who might slowly have been forgetting life. I curled into a ball and tried to get the stress off but it stuck to my fevered subconscious as sleep played troubled games with my consciousness.
I got up, a lot later and thought of all the the awards and garlands that had passed me by; those won by others and of several missed opportunities. I thought again of all those I had neglected and all the good things I have stopped but should continue.
We are all here for a reason and it is easy to lose our paths when we focus on the wrong things, get into the wrong company or just live lives without taking time to reflect, meditate and strategise, then re-strategise. Who knows what tomorrow holds? When time comes to call, will you be glad of this moment? Will you have played your part right and walked your path well?
It is only noon and the paths still call in these woods of our lives. We all have miles to walk before we sleep.How many miles? Who can tell. Keep walking, and I pray that the roads lead you right.
Maybe we should learn to hate.
Not to love everything, like our heart would have us do. Not to compromise on things that are more of lies, for the sake of – peace.
When they piss on the centre of our souls, quenching the one thing that keeps us going –sanity.
Maybe we should learn to hate.
To rise above the cries we have sobbed, smiling in distress, swallowing sadness while lingering pain stabs us deep in the heart where no one can see… Even in love, we offer another plea…
Maybe we should learn to hate.
Shout at the arrogance of asses that fart noises to our noses, entrenching deeper stripes into our skin as more wipes are lashed by those we throw our hearts at, as they target carefully aimed darts…
Maybe we should learn to hate.
Maybe hate should grow. Slowly, a spark at a time till it flames and enrages our being, burning every fibre to shout at every evil, stare every stupidity and not be trampled by those who live that we may die…
Maybe we should learn to hate?
- Su’eddie Vershima Agema