Friday, April 3, 2015

Just Say The Word, and My Servant Will Be Healed

. . . Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it.”. . . And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour [his] servant was healed.—Matt 8:7-9; 13
I have always known as far back as I can remember as a child that when we keep quiet about injustice or abuse, someone dies a death, but when we are able to open our mouth and say NO, someone’s life is spared. I was in primary 4 when one of my classmates farted loudly in class and in the manner of 10 years old, everyone laughed excitedly, and following this, they began to call the boy who farted, Fart. He was embarrassed and each time he was called Fart, I could see him wishing for the ground to open up and swallow him. I couldn’t take it and one afternoon about a week after the incident, another boy called him Fart and I lit into him as I yelled “will you stop it! Everyone farts, you fart, your mummy farts, your daddy farts and even Gowon (the military head of the government at the time) farts, so let him be and stop calling him that, that is not his name.” The whole class including the teacher, I remember his name, Mr. Oyesola went quiet, and no one spoke for about five minutes. Mr. Oyesola stared at me and I steadily held his gaze, he nodded approvingly at me. Slowly, the class returned to what we were doing, but more important, no one called him Fart ever again.

I have always had a huge issue with unfairness in whichever way it presents its face and my blood would boil for a long time, as I am not able to put it out of my mind no matter how much I tried. And I have been a victim of what is not fair and just many times as well.

And there is a lot that is not fair in the world we live in which has led to the birth of the adage, “Life is not fair.” It is true that life is not fair, just like the fingers in our hands are not equal, but those are in the purview of destiny of birth as to social class, race, geographical place of birth, body shape and etc. and those, most of us can live with, but what tears our souls asunder are the oppressions and the prejudices that we visit upon one another every day, as in rejecting, discriminating, abusing, killing others because they are different from us or have a different way of living their lives or because of their gender, sexual orientation or their belief systems.

None of these are new, each human being from the beginning of time has always been lazy about doing the hard work of expanding his or her view of the world, and would do everything in his or her power to have the whole world comply with what he or she believes or is comfortable with. This is called Egocentricity, when a person believes that he or she is the only one that matters in a whole world of 7.125 billion of people and each of that 7.125 billion people should live their lives to make him or her comfortable by not doing anything that will be upsetting to him or her.

A lot of people that I know, good people, are upset at the thought that some people’s sexual orientation are different than theirs and would want such different people to disappear from the world, that way, and when the said different people are hurt or killed because they are different, they tell themselves, ‘they had it coming to them by their choices,’ instead of seeing such an act as a gashing wound in the world that we all live in.

A lot of kind and well meaning people say to themselves when yet another black boy is killed by the police, ‘he was a thug,’ and when people take to the streets to protest the killing would say ‘these people are ruining their case by these acts of vandalism,’ instead of seeing it as something that de-humanizes them and makes them supporters of genocide.

Women all over the world are expected to be in the degraded position of second class citizens and the woman who dares to step out of that place where she had been put is punished with the names, bitch when she is young and witch when she is older, other names are whore, ugly, fat.

My daughter recently told me that in schools in the US, black girls are in detention and suspended more than even black boys, and this is because people can tolerate a vocal white girl and a boisterous black boy but a black girl is expected to be submissive and quiet, and when a black girl is articulate and assertive especially in defense of herself, she had violated a sacred rule that says a black woman is supposed to contain all the dumping of negativity on her without complaining, and if she is not made to be quiet now, she would become an angry black woman like her mother and aunts in the work force.

For months, I have wanted to blog about this train of thought but I couldn’t really find the words until help arrived in the form of a story in Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph. I will not go into the details of the story, but in summary, the author on his personal quest to find out what could be blocking his joy in his present life was able to go back in time and to a life that he lived during the period of Inquisition and witch burning. Nine women, all under the age of sixteen were accused of being witches, being able to see into the future, and of having had intercourse with the devil. Their actual crime was that a farmer who liked to have sex with girls had tried to have sex with some of them and they had refused him and so he accused them of these hideous crimes. The crimes of the others were that they were very beautiful women, or that they were from rich and noble families.

They were tortured until they confessed to things that they didn’t do to prevent their bodies from being torn apart as they were tied to the torture ‘bed’ designed for just that, to tear a body apart. Paulo Coelho in this past life operated the torture bed. One of the women was in love with Paulo in that life time, he was the love of her life and though she was a noble woman and he a peasant, and as such their union was forbidden, she had been thinking of ways to be able to run away with him. He was a member of the Church and he loved this woman as well, and so in order to prevent the more sadistic soldiers from operating the torture bed, and to spare her unnecessary pain, he opted to be the one to extract her confession from her, and she confessed to the love that she had for him. That was her crime and her sin before the Church.

Paulo Coelho in Aleph continues:
[the Inquisitor said] “Gentlemen, I await confirmation of the verdict in writing, unless anyone here has something to say in defense of the accused. If so, we will reconsider the accusation.”
 They all turned to look at me, some hoping I will say nothing, others that I will save her, for, as she herself said, I know her. 
Why did she have to say those words here? Why did she bring up feelings that had been so difficult to overcome when I decided to serve God and leave the world behind? Why didn’t she allow me to defend her when I could have saved her life? If I speak out in her favor now, tomorrow the whole town will say that I saved her only because she said she had always loved me. My reputation and my career would be ruined forever. 
“If just one voice is raised in her defense, I am prepared to demonstrate the leniency of the Holy Mother Church.” The Inquisitor said. 
I am not the only one here who knows her family. Some owe them favors, others money; others still are motivated by envy. No one will say a word, only those who owe them nothing. 
“Shall I declare the proceedings closed?” The Inquisitor, despite being more learned and more devout than I, seem to be asking me for my help. After all, she did tell everyone here that she loved me. 
“Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” The centurion said to Jesus. Just one word and my servant will be saved. 
My lips do not open. 
The Inquisitor does not show it, but I know that he despises me. He turns to the rest of the group. “The church, represented here by myself, her humble defender, awaits confirmation of the death penalty.” 
The men gather in a corner, and I can hear the devil shouting ever louder in my ears, trying to confuse me as he had earlier that day. However, I left no irreversible marks on the bodies of the four other girls. I have seen some brothers pull the lever as far as it will go, so that the prisoners die with all their organs destroyed, blood gushing from their mouths, their bodies a whole thirty centimeters longer. 
The men returned with a piece of paper signed by all. The verdict is the same as it was for the other four girls: death by burning. 
The Inquisitor thanks everyone and leaves without addressing another word to me. The men who administer justice and law leave, too, some already discussing the latest piece of local gossip, others with their heads bowed. I go over to the fire, pick up one of the red-hot coals, and place it under my habit against my skin. I smell scorched flesh, my hands burn and my body contracts in pain, but I do not move. 
“Lord,” I say, when the pain recedes, “may these marks remain forever on my body, so that I may never forget who I was today.” pp188-190.
Some might say, but this is not the era of inquisition and witch burning, but isn’t it? Have we really stopped burning people who are different than us at the stakes?

In the past year, Nigeria along with some other African countries arrived at writing laws that criminalize two men or two women who love one another. And it saddens me because growing up in Nigeria; it was a common sight to see two men who are bosom friends holding hands in public, but now showing such affection will land you in prison.

Only say the word and my servant will be healed. This is the power that we all have; each one of us. At the age of ten, I said the word and a boy was spared the agony of having his beautiful name well thought out by his parents to celebrate the joy of his birth change to fart.

My boyfriend when I was 19 years old predicted that I would divorce when I get married because I was intolerant of abuse and mistreatment.

My roommate in college in exasperation called me a feminist, to her it wasn’t a compliment but I felt very proud.

We are all responsible, even for things that happened in history before we were born and not necessarily because we had lived in the past and participated in the evolving history of this world like Paulo Coelho, but because we are all nursed with the milk of the history of our different societies, and we identify with them and unconsciously perpetuate them in the manner in which things are transmitted down generations. Henrik Ibsen in Peer Gynt (1828-1906) said,
“Everything I have written is most minutely connected with what I have lived through, if not personally experienced; every new work has had for me the object of serving as a process of spiritual liberation and catharsis; for every man shares the responsibility and the guilt of the society to which he belongs. That was why I once inscribed in a copy of one of my books the following dedicatory lines: To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul, To write is to sit in judgment on oneself.”
And so we all have the power to say NO for that is the WORD that could mean life or death for someone. Just say the WORD and a life is spared.

Our silences, our non-involvement and our sitting on the fence condone Inequality, Maltreatment, Oppression, Injustices and Prejudices of different kinds, they are not neutrality but they are resounding Yes.

We need to say the WORD when our gay colleague is being ridiculed or marginalized. We must say the WORD, when the transgender in our college is being picked on. We should say the WORD when that child of color is being put down and we should say the WORD when women are paid less than men for doing the same work. We must all teach our children to say the WORD when a classmate is being bullied in their school or on the playground.

Just say the word and my servant will be healed. And the centurion servant was healed.

Paulo Coelho: Aleph
Henrik Ibsen; Peer Gynt

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Thought of Being a Creator . . .

This is a story that was recently told to my 82 year old mother by relatives who are older than her, as they were convening to bury my grandmother’s first cousin who recently passed.

It is about my maternal great, great, great grandmother who contributed 1/32 of my genes, and 1/64 of my children genes.

Here is the story:

Once upon a time, that time being someplace in the mid-1800s, in the town Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State, Nigerian.

This was a time of simplicity and innocence, that if for example you were a trader who sold bags of potato at one dollar per bag, and you had 20 bags to sell, you would display your ware in front of your house, like by your mailbox, return to your house to take care of other businesses like sweeping, washing, cooking or what have you. You would leave a dollar by the potatoes so that anyone who wanted to buy from you would know that it’s a dollar a bag, they would pick a bag and leave a dollar behind. At the end of the day, you would go there and collect your $20.00 or less and the remaining bags of potatoes. This practice was all but gone by the time I was a little girl but there was a vestige of it that I remember in the late 1960s, and early 1970s, and that is, you could still leave those bags of potatoes out there but you wouldn’t leave any money. If someone wanted to buy from you, on arriving there would yell for you with, “I will like to buy a bag of potatoes,” and you would rush out from whatever you were doing, wiping your hands on your apron to attend to them. No one would steal those bags of potatoes, even though they were unattended.

Back to the story of this ancestor, she was the daughter of a very wealthy man and married to the heir to the throne of Ado-Ekiti. They were very happy together and loved one another deeply. They had a lot going for them, they were wealthy and in time the heir became the king and she the queen. But there was one cloud over them, they were childless. They waited many years but no child was born to them. The woman whom I will call Queen did what childless women of the time did; she found a wife for her husband so there would be children born into the family. The wife had many children, and still, Queen didn’t have any. She found a second wife for her husband and the second wife had many children while she remained childless.

The king and the queen were very unhappy, he wanted to give her children and she wanted to assert her identity as a mother, so they sought help from many traditional healers. The best in the land advised them to return home and continue to enjoy the love that they had for one another as well their wealth and claim to the land as the rulers, but that they would never have children together. They both bucked at this and insisted that there had to be a way.

The only way, the traditional healer then told them was that the Queen had to give up all her wealth and her right to the throne as queen, leave Ado-Ekiti and start to walk west, there were no automobiles at the time and everyone walked or rode horses/donkeys everywhere. She would arrive at a river and in the river would be a man bathing, that man is her husband and the man that would give her children.

Queen, desperate to become a mother agreed. She and the king returned home and bade each other goodbye; she gave up all of her wealth and embarked on this trekking westward. In due time, she arrived at a river and indeed there was a man bathing there. She hid in the brushes and waited. He finished bathing, got out of the river, into his clothes and set off towards his home. She followed him at a distance. She arrived at a fork in the road, and didn’t know which way he went. She first went one way, it led deep into the forest; she retraced her steps and followed the other fork in the road and arrived at a village.

She walked around the village and saw the man disappear into his family estate. He was the lesser king of two villages that made up Oye-Ekiti and were connected together by some history.

She waited on the outside of the compound that housed the palace of this lesser king and spent the night there. In the morning, when the household awoke, the women of the house saw her there and greeted her as they started on their way to the river to fetch water for the day with their clay pots on their heads. She joined them and fetched water with them. They returned together, they prepared breakfast and offered her food and she ate. This went on for many days and the women of the house, the wives of this lesser king eventually told their husband about this strange woman. The lesser king invited her in and asked her what she needed. She told him that he was to be her husband and the man to give her children.

They got married and she gave birth to only one child, a daughter.

She never returned to her first husband the king of Ado-Ekiti.

The one daughter in turn gave birth to 4 daughters. These were my great-grandmother and her sisters, who were my grandmother’s aunts.

My great grandmother Adesoro died in 1958, four years before I was born.

Her sister Fagbola, known to us as Mama Coca-Cola (she lived close to the Coca-Cola manufacturing company in Ibadan) died in my late teens.

Another sister, we knew peripherally, and her name was Alhaja (she converted to Islam), and the fourth one, my older sister Ronke told me a story about her, and I am sure I must have met her. The story is that she sustained a hip fracture at some point and was bed-ridden because doctors told her they couldn’t help her. On a trip to Oye-Ekiti from Ibadan (with our grandmother Adelubi), Ronke remembered that she was bedridden because of this. But the following year, on another trip to Oye-Ekiti, when they arrived, she was busy pounding yam in a mortar with a pestle.

Adesoro, my great-grandmother gave birth to lots of children, by two brothers. The older brother died after she had had four children for him and then the younger brother inherited her and they had many children together, I think they were about eight or nine children in all, and my grandmother Adelubi was the second oldest.

Adelubi in turn had 6 living children and my mother, Adebimpe is the oldest.

Adebimpe had 6 children and my twin and I are the 3rd and 4th.

This woman who earned the right to be called Queen, she was married to two kings, one big and one lesser, but her queenly dignity lie more in the fact that she fought to give birth to her own children, sacrificing the deep love of her first husband, and great personal wealth, and she is the reason I am here today in this form.

Which makes me wonder, how many things had to be right, the vagaries of love, how many fights, anxieties, jealousies, rivalries, fears of not being attractive enough, rejections endured, hearts broken and etc. that your ancestors had to brave in different formulae and equations before you are able to arrive here on earth, and like Rainer Maria Rilke said in the Letters to a Young Poet: “The thought of being a creator, of procreating, of making” is nothing without its continuous great confirmation and realization in the world, nothing without the thousand fold concordance from things and animals –and enjoyment of it is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is full of inherited memories of the begetting and the bearing of millions. In one creative thought a thousand forgotten nights of love revive, filling it with sublimity and exaltation.”

The Queen gave me 1/32 of my genetic makeup, and so this is the story of 1/32 of what made me who I am today, what about the each and unique stories of the other 31?

Feasts of Phantoms a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni -- ISBN 978-0981393926 Available at your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Nigeria, A Wasteland!!!

The truth about Nigerian government is finally revealed to the whole world but more important I hope to Nigerians. Nigerian government has never done anything for her citizens but harasses, abuse, assault, kill them and pillage the treasury.

The defense continues to take the lion share of the budget but domestic terrorism has been given free reign and endorsement by the military and the police, from armed robbers constantly attacking and killing people in their beds and homes, and on the roads, to now out of control killings and abduction of people en masse. In Nigeria, you are allowed to kill in the name of whichever god you chose, and it is acceptable.

Nigerians have always prided themselves on their adaptability, ‘Suffering and Smiling’ is one of our saying, but are these things to adapt to? We need to replace that phrase with some serious expletives like WTF--yeah What the fuck!!!!!

Every Nigerian has always known the above, but we have individually condoned it by using one psychological defense or the other to hide these truths from ourselves, I understand, because these things can be too overwhelming to take in at once.

In the past, I have told stories of our experiences in Nigeria to people in the books I wrote, foreigners had thought it to be fiction, while some Nigerians, knowing it to be the truth had been angry with me for exposing the truth, they had accused me of being shameless in the way that I talked about my country, and that I was washing our dirty linen in public. Well our stinking linen(s) are out there now for the whole world to see!

We are about the most religious people in the world but all the devils of hell are now in the country.

An average citizen is so traumatized and feels so totally helpless that everyone runs to church and mosque (every other building is now a church or a mosque) to pray, and most of us have become religious fanatics. But sadly, religion used in that manner simply hypnotizes a person and makes him or her less able to act effectively in his or her own behalf, it acts as a drug and numbs a person.

I respect the religious belief that someone has chosen for themselves because it is an expression of their soul, but maybe we need to pray less and act more.

There are some things that are simply not acceptable and that one should not adapt to at all.

What we have in Nigeria as government, to bring it home to us, it is like having a mother and a father who are constantly beating up their children, not feeding them, not giving them medical care, raping them and as soon as they have new babies sell the older ones into slavery. We need to stop running away from this truth. We need to raise the bar of our expectations of the people in our government.

It is not just our right as citizens to demand accountability of our government, it is our individual responsibility and obligation, and when we fail to do so, we have failed ourselves and our country and we are as culpable as the people in our government.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mud-cracked houses
                                    If there were water….

The Wasteland. T.S. Eliot 1922

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Plight of Women in Nigeria

Plight of Women in Nigeria and our indifferent government is the theme of this book. Nigerian women are incredibly strong, courageous and hardworking, but this hasn't helped us with our despotic government. Maybe women should secede.

In Yoruba mythology, women were once fed up with the cruel treatment at the hands of their men and king, then Obatala, and they seceded. And so they went to heaven. Life on earth grounded to a halt, the rains stopped, there were no one to farm, and there was starvation in the world. Obatala had to appeal to Olodumare to entreat the women to return so that humanity can continue.

In Greek mythology, when Persephone was abducted by Hades, her mother Demeter cursed the world and there was barrenness and famine. Zeus had to step in and appeal to Hades to return Persephone to her mother.

Seriously, Nigerian men, this is not just women's problems, you need to stand up and by your stance make it clear that you are not a part of the abduction of these girls, because this act taint all Nigerian men in my opinion, where are you guys when the women were marching in Abuja yesterday?

Feasts of Phantoms a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni -- ISBN 978-0981393926 Available at your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quotes From Long Walk to Freedom

I read Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela about 12 years ago, and I compiled this list of quotations from the book. From time to time, in my own moments of needing courage, comfort and reassurance, I will return to them and read them again. I would like to share them with you.

There is little favorable to be said about poverty, but it was often an incubator of true friendship……………..Yet, poverty often brings out the true generosity in others.
—Nelson Mandela,  Long Walk to Freedom

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
—Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.
—Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

I also learned that to dishonor or neglect one’s ancestors would bring ill-fortune and failure in life. —Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

The answer, as far as the ANC [African National Congress] was concerned, was that we could not remain indifferent even when we were shut out of the process. We were excluded, but not unaffected: the defeat of the National Party [Pro Apartheid] would be in our interest and that of all Africans.
—Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard, chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and laborer. People spoke without interruption and the meetings lasted for many hours. The foundation of self-government was that all men were free to voice their opinions and equal in their value as citizens.
—Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Only mass education, he used to say, would free my people, arguing that an educated man could not be oppressed because he could think for himself. He told me over and over again that becoming a successful attorney and thereby a model of achievement for my people was the most worthwhile path I could follow.
—Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom