Why Human Rights?

Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard about the call for a nationwide protest march made by Tuface Idibia that has been circulating on the social media for about a week now. Tuface has requested that all Nigerians join him on February 6 2017 in a protest march tagged “Enough is Enough” against the government and its policies, which have caused recession and suffering in the country. This call is not without the attendant controversies, with many people reacting in different ways to his call. While some people think it is necessary, some others think it is not. Many Nigerians, ordinary and public figures, have expressed interest in taking part in this nationwide protest march; one of those who recently showed interest in being part of the protest march is the Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose (that’s not surprising though). We all know that this (protest march) would not have been possible in Nigeria many years ago during the dark military era because a lot of people would have been arrested, in fact, heads would have rolled! (Is any one left wondering why we are still recycling military leaders in this country?). In all of this, I think to myself this is progress and human rights at work!

When I told a friend that I wanted to concentrate more on human rights related issues on my blog, he asked “why human rights?” I wondered to myself, “why not?” I know that most other blogs deal with entertainment, gossip, fashion, politics and many other topics, but why have I chosen to focus this blog on human rights related issues?

There are a number of reasons; some that readily come to mind are: first and foremost, this is what I am an expert in, partly because I have a Master of Laws degree in international human rights law and because I have worked in the human rights field for over a decade. Now lets go to another reason; Human rights is the core of our existence- it is the only privilege that is bestowed on us immediately we are born, the tragedy here is that most people do not know this. A lot of people do not know that government is a custodian of power that we give them and we are actually the ones with the power. We are the “right holders” and government is the “duty bearer” The government therefore has a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our human rights; this is an obligation that it owes to us. This obligation is not a personal favour that a government bequeaths as it deems fit to a priviledged few, but an obligation that it is expected to achieve for every citizen of its country, regardless of sex, religion, beliefs, tribe and any other difference you can think of. Our government has committed itself under the Constitution and other international laws to carry out this three-fold responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill our rights and therefore can be held accountable by the people and the international community for failure to do so. This responsibility can be broken down as follows:

  • The obligation to respect means that government must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights.
  • The obligation to protect requires government to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.
  • The obligation to fulfill means that government must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Has our government lived up to its responsibilities? Are our rights being respected, protected and fulfilled as Nigerians?

For many years, Nigerians have suffered and continue to suffer from corruption, insecurity, inter-communal clashes, political violence, violations of rights by security agents of the state and so many other violations and abuses. We have largely kept quiet, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ignorance and most of the time because we are not directly affected, that is, until we actually become affected. A person without knowledge whose right is being violated will definitely be fearful because he or she is not equipped to speak up or act in defence of his/her right or seek help to protect him or herself. This is why a lot of wrongs do not get corrected and why the status quo has not changed for such a long time.

I am actually glad that we have transitioned over the years- from being silent, to grumbling within closed doors, to a bold few going out to protest and getting arrested for doing so (during the military era), to a social media awareness period that brought about protesters behind the screens of their computers, to people coming out to protest, being fully aware that they will not be arrested for exercising their rights (I believe that will be the case in this proposed up coming protest).

A nationwide protest, while it is an exercise of a fundamental right under the Constitution and under international law is and should always be welcomed. However it should aim to be peaceful, effective and results oriented. Why will thousands of people leave their homes, jobs and families on a Monday morning to go out to protest under the scorching sun and at the end of the day, they don’t achieve results? I will like to believe that organisers of this protest have a clear mandate on what they hope to achieve with the protest. A nationwide protest that does not change the status quo will be an exercise in futility.

So, how many of you are taking part in the nationwide protest?

 Toodles!

PS: Don’t forget our Human Rights Free Clinic where we answer your human rights related questions or issues that you are confused about and need clarification on. Fill our contact form and we will get back to you with the professional advise that you need.

It’s Never too Late

It’s never too late to say happy New Year!!! That is why I have chosen this last day of the first month, to wish all  followers and friends of this blog a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I wish you all an awesome and prosperous 2017.

A big thank you goes to all my loyal readers and fans (that word makes me feel bigger than I actually am, when I’m not Tiwa or Linda Ikeji- I like those two ladies by the way). I must say that your support has been great. Even when I was silent for a while, I still got calls, emails and texts about when I will be posting another article and what is amazing is that the page continued to get likes on Facebook by people I didn’t even know (that felt like I was being told by God to stop being lazy, get off my butt and get to work on my blog!). Same with the tosnesworld.com page, where statistics showed that people were visiting the blog on a daily basis. At that point, I knew it was time to be who I really am supposed to be- A woman who is more focused and dedicated to her beliefs.

I apologise to all my followers for keeping you all waiting for so long, I had come to a point where I knew that this blog had to give a lot more than it did in order to provide maximum benefit to its readers, by providing a mix of education, information and entertainment as it relates to human rights as a whole, all on one blog. Then I realised that I needed help; I had to find help from people around me, to help me with their skills in different areas on this work. So that’s exactly what I did! I got help and It has been amazing so far because so many ideas are beginning to merge, which by the time we start executing, will be mind-blowing to our readers (we hope). We are therefore happy to present to you a rebranded and improved “TOSNE’S BLOG”

We promise to bring in more human rights related articles and news based on real life experiences of people and events within and outside Nigeria as it affects us. So that we can discuss and engage ourselves in deliberations on what can or should be done in such situations. We have also included a segment once a week to allow our readers to get free advise on diverse human rights related topics. Human rights and legal professionals will answer these questions. Some of these questions and answers will be published on this blog, every Tuesday. Please feel free to send your questions to tosnesblog@yahoo.com.

Let me not spill the entire bean today, I will definitely keep you posted on new innovations on TOSNE’S BLOG as time goes on. Just keep yourself glued, keep inviting your friends to like my page and visit the blog (Please!). Once again, I appreciate your love.

Like the heading says “Its never too late…” and I have added “to be …” fill in the blanks as it applies to you and let that be your mantra for 2017! I look forward to seeing you lots more in the following months.

Toodles!

Living a Life of Fulfillment and Happiness

A couple of days ago, as I scrolled though my Facebook feed, I came across a video, which unlike other videos I see on Facebook, I watched a second time. It contained short interview clips with rich and famous celebrities like Lady Gaga, Cameron Diaz, Eric Clapton and many other celebrities whose names I can’t readily remember. The same question was asked, which was, “Did fame and riches bring you joy and happiness?” They all answered in the negative. They then went on to state that in spite of all they had acquired, like having lived in the best houses, locations, being with the most beautiful women in the world, having the most exotic holidays in different parts of the world- having the best that life could offer, they still did not have the satisfaction and joy they thought acquiring riches and fame would bring to them. I remember Lady Gaga saying that a lot of times, she did not feel authentic in doing the things she did; that she sometimes felt like a fraud in the midst of her fans. This is because what she reflected on the outside did not match how she felt on the inside. Cameron Diaz then said something like this: if anyone thinks that his or her happiness could be found in fame, then he or she would never be truly happy.

I am sure that a lot of us can relate very much with these celebrities, especially yours truly. For example, many singles on attaining a certain age and level of maturity, will decide that it was time to be married and start a family. At the point of making that decision, that seemed like the only thing that would bring happiness and fulfillment to them. They would then go ahead and make plans towards achieving this goal. After this must have been achieved, this person feels the fulfillment he/she expected from achieving this goal and if I might add, momentary happiness that he/she believed would come upon achieving this goal. After some time, this person gets tired of staying within the fulfillment of this goal and starts to set his mind on the next and the next goal to be fulfilled. These could range from building a home for himself and his family, providing some level of security for them (insurance, health etc), buying a car, starting a business to add to what has been the current income of the family; and the list goes on and on depending on who it applies to.

We find that upon achieving a goal or in some cases graduating from the need to achieve a particular goal (i.e. when you used to expect to achieve something and then for some reason you find yourself at a level where that goal seemed too small or became irrelevant), we still keep on setting new goals. I think all of these makes us human and each level we find ourselves in depends on our level of maturity, which varies from person to person. Our actions are based on human instincts that we were born with, which include; the need to be better, improve and be different from who we previously were i.e. evolve.

According Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, as humans we have to attain a level of achievement before moving on to the next one- from physiological needs, to safety, to love/belonging, self-esteem and lastly to self- actualization. I would say that it is while in the process of attaining the next level of achievement on the hierarchy, that one feels the dissatisfaction with their current level of achievement. At this point, one feels restless, tired or lethargic, which might bring about unhappiness, fear of the unknown and in some cases depression, especially when action is not taken to move on to the next level. Some people become stuck and have no clue about how to move on to the next stage, some begin to strategise, make enquiries, and ask questions, do research into the next level, pray, as well as do all that can be done not to remain stuck, in order to achieve that next stage; whilst some others who already have a plan, simply wait for things to fall into place.

At every stage of life that we find ourselves, we should ask if moving to the next stage is worth sacrificing our happiness for and losing track of who we truly are. When we know who we truly are, we will be able to overcome the stress, discontent and unhappiness that might result pre or during the time of our efforts to move on to the next level. We therefore have to look on the inside of us for true happiness and not outward.

We should learn to bask in the fulfillment and joy of every stage of life that we find ourselves in and be content with and find happiness right where we are. As we grow through each stage of life, maintaining the level of contentment and happiness we have had through the journey would make us find real joy when we finally get to the peak of self-actualization.

Protecting the child, a collective responsibility 2

Hello my people, I hope you are having a wonderful week so far. I certainly am. I have loads of gist to give you about what has been happening but before then, I need to get this very important topic on child sexual abuse that I started with last time concluded. To refresh your memory on what the last post was about click here:

Here are some existing myths about child sexual abuse:

  1. Child sexual abuse is rare and does not happen often: A lot of people think that child sexual abuse is rare and does not happen often- this is a myth. Statistics have shown that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria are abused before the age of 18 years old. Just imagine 4 girls standing together, now there’s a huge possibility that one of them has been sexually abused! That’s really scary.
  1. Child sexual abuse involves only forceful penetration: Wrong! According to UNICEF and other research, child sexual violence can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography. These acts could involve physical contact or non-physical contact for them to constitute sexual abuse.
  1. Only strangers can sexually abuse children: Studies have shown that it is those who are quite close to the family of the child, that abuse children, not necessarily strangers. Studies in Nigeria have shown that girls first sexual experience occur in the following order: romantic partner- friend – neighbour – classmate – stranger. While boys first experience is in the following order: classmate – neighbour. You would be surprised to know that house helps, drivers, relatives and family friends are perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Also, children are most likely to experience sexual abuse in the perpetrator’s home, in their own home, at school or someone else’s home (e.g their friend).
  1. Only adult men can sexually abuse: Wrong! Women can also sexually abuse boys. A couple of adult men have admitted that their first sexual experience was with an older lady who was either their older sister’s friend, an aunt, a house maid or even their teacher at school. In addition to this, children also act out sexually with other children. This means we have to be careful about the kind of information we expose our children to. A child who has seen pornographic content or who is frequently being exposed to sexual acts by adults, would most likely see it as normal and would act it out with another child when the opportunity presents itself.
  1. All sexual abuse victims are girls: This is also a myth. Even though the rate of boys who have been sexually abused is not as high as those of girls, boys are also sexually abused by both adult men and women. This happens in a lot of boarding schools and other places you find young persons of the same sex sharing a living space over a period of time. You would either find a situation where an unwilling “feminine” boy gets abused by the bigger and stronger boys. This myth also goes hand in hand with the one that says that child molesters only molest children from the opposite gender. This is false.
  1. It is sometimes the fault of children who are sexually abused because they dress provocatively or display provocative behaviour: Now this is one excuse for bad behaviour that a lot of men folk give, to justify rape by their peers, which I absolutely hate! Really? I mean Really??? Does this mean that a man who rapes a 5 year old did so because she dressed provocatively? According to experts, there are two things a rapist looks for when he tracks a victim: opportunity and vulnerability. The thought that provokes such an action is the man’s and has nothing to do with the victims’ actions. Statistics have shown that women who were sexually abused/raped (now I am talking generally) have different characteristics- some were gorgeous, others plain, some were young, others elderly. Some were attacked while wearing jeans and a T-shirt, others while wearing jogging clothes or heavy coats. Some were children (sadly). So sexual abuse should not be excused because of how the victim was dressed.
  2. If children did not want to be sexually abused they could tell the abuser to stop: Now picture this: a 30 year old man who is 6 feet tall and a little 10 year old child.  Now tell me on whose side the scale is tipped in terms of strength, power and persuasion (that is if he is even trying to coax her into being abused)? The adult abuser is usually a person in a higher position, authority, status or age than the victim. Children have also been taught and made to believe that adults are always right. This would definitely prevent a child from stopping or reporting abuse, especially when the abuser has promised to do something for the child or threatened to take something away from him/her . There is a fear that refusal to comply would cause harm to the child, or to other members of the victim’s family. The abuser usually instills fear in the victim, before, during and even after the abuse.
  1. Majority of victims report the abuse to someone else – This is a myth. Victims do not always report abuse because of different reasons like fear, being too young (example is 6 year old Jummai I spoke about in the last post), financial consideration, manipulation and coercion, guilt and shame and believe it or not, a desire to protect the abuser.
  1. Sexual abuses occurring in homes or within families are often isolated, one-time incidents: This belief is false. Statistics show that 71% females and 69% males who experienced Sexual Violence reported more than 1 incident of abuse. In some cases it goes on for many years and only stops after the abuser or victim moves out of the place where the abuse took place, e.g. is when the child becomes older and goes away to boarding school.
  1. Family members who do not know that sexual abuse is happening are always irresponsible: When we hear about sexual abuse, everyone is quick to blame the parents for shirking their responsibilities and not being watchful enough to know that their child/ward is being or has been sexually abused. This is not always the case because to be honest, it is not practically possible for parents to be with their children 24 hours in a day. Especially with our present economic situation where most times both parents have to work to make ends meet. There have also been cases where children of housewives get abused. Abuse occurs firstly, because the offender works hard to keep it a secret. From the story cited above, there was no way that Jummai’s parents, who were both in the house during the time of the abuse happening outside, would have suspected that the driver was abusing their child. This is because the driver worked really hard to keep it a secret, by knowing the schedule of the family. He knew his boss would be having breakfast with his wife at that particular time and the other siblings were not interested in playing outside like Jummai did. Secondly, abusers groom family members to ensure that they do not suspect the abuse. Grooming takes the form of being really nice to the kid, offering to help out with taking care of the child, buying stuff for the child, helping with the child’s home work etc. All of this ensures that the parents do not suspect the abuser.
  1. Non-violent sexual behaviour between an adult and a child is not damaging to the child – This is another myth. Studies have shown that children who were abused either violently (rape) or non-violently were affected negatively in different ways and exhibited behaviours, which include emotional instability, increased sexual behaviour, faulty interaction with others, drug and alcohol abuse and other deviant behaviours. Sexual abuse is linked to poor mental and physical health with outcomes that include self-harm, thoughts of suicide and sexually transmitted infections. Among females that were raped, 1 in 7 reported pregnancy as a result of the sexual violence, 10% of children victims reported missing school due to the sexual violence they experienced, 9% attempted suicide, 6% of the girls who disclosed used drugs or misused substances as against 2% of boys.
  1. Children who are sexually abused are damaged forever: This is false. With proper physical, psychosocial and spiritual support and interventions child victims can move on to live fruitful and purposeful lives.

Now you have it and its time to take action. One cannot say this enough: it is our collective responsibility as parents, teachers, pastors, friends, brothers, and sisters to a potential victim (don’t say God forbid! Remember 1 in 4 girls?), to ensure that child sexual abuse is stopped in its tracks. You can do so by stopping and/or reporting any incidence of child sexual abuse you come across to the appropriate authorities. It is offence against the state, not against the victim alone; this means without the family, the perpetrator can still be prosecuted. We should also educate children about child sexual abuse by telling them what to do when they find themselves in certain uncomfortable situations with adults. We also need to have close relationships with our children so that they won’t hesitate to tell us about inappropriate behaviour towards them by another adult. Time spent preventing child sexual abuse from happening is of far greater value than time spent fixing a child who has been damaged by sexual abuse.

Enjoy the rest of your week folks and don’t do what I would not do. 😀

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/15426517@N07/10398665926″>The laughter of all</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Protecting the child, a collective responsibility- Part 1

Jummai had what you would call a happy childhood and normal too in terms of her relationship with her family, i.e. her parents and siblings. Her dad told folk tales to her and her siblings every night before they slept, he took them out to the zoo, amusement parks and to visit family friends during the weekends and they prayed together as a family every night. What else can a little girl ask for? Her father was one of the few bankers of those days, he was well respected in the community and theirs was what you would call a very decent family. They lived a very comfortable life and did not lack anything.

When she was about five or six years old, they had a driver. This driver was recruited by her dad’s bank as his personal driver to take him to work and back everyday, he also sometimes ran general errands for the family whenever the need arose. His name was Dauda. He was quiet, respectful and diligent in his job. He came to the house early in the mornings, waited in the car until Jummai’s dad was ready to go to work, took him to work and he brought him back in the evening after work. Everything looked okay and he was seen as someone who minded his business and did his job. What no one knew however was that he was a treacherous pedophile. Each time six-year-old Jummai went outside the house to play in the morning during the holidays, he would lure her into the car with sweets and would proceed to caress her and kiss her passionately like he would do to an adult. When he was done with her, he would let her go, just in time for her dad to come out for them to go to the office. This he did for many months, undetected until he was replaced for an unrelated reason. For some reason, she knew that what he did to her was wrong, it confused her because it disgusted her and also excited her too, as she got the attention she did not get at home from this driver. She never mentioned it to anyone and life went on as usual and she even forgot that it ever happened to her. It wasn’t until she became an adult, knowing what she now knows, that she realised that God must have been on her side for not allowing the driver to go beyond what he did to her.

A couple of years later when she was a teenager of about sixteen years old, while she slept in her bed, she felt a hand caressing her breast, she thought she was dreaming or something. Then as she cracked her eyes open she wasn’t sure who she saw leaving the room in a hurry.   She lay in her bed as realization hit her, she felt revulsion- it was her 25-year-old male cousin Yusufa from the village, who had lived in their house for about a year. She said nothing because she needed to be sure before taking any action. A few days later, it happened again, this time she opened her eyes and their eyes met before he ran out of the room. She was livid, jumped out of her bed and ran after him. When she got to him she screamed, “What the hell were you doing to me?” He pretended not to know what she was talking about. He said nothing. She felt so much anger and hatred for her cousin that day and if not for the size of him she would have beaten him to a pulp, all she could do was to keep cursing him out. She swore that as soon as her parents were back from their trip out of town she was going to report him to them. The noise attracted their aunt who came and asked what the problem was. After Jummai narrated what happened, she reiterated her promise to tell her parents when they got back from their trip. Her aunt listened with patience and in the end begged her not to tell her parents or anyone because it would cause a big family issue. Her dad would not take it lightly; this cousin was from her mother’s side of the family. He was sent to the city from the village to come and learn how to do business, he ran the family shop and the plan was that after a few years, he would be given some money to start his own business. Reporting him would mean that he would be sent away with nothing, his poor mother in the village would be disappointed, and he might go back to the village and lie that the allegation was false, which would definitely cause a family feud in the end. Jummai refused to budge and insisted that she would report to her parents. But after a lot of begging she finally agreed to “see reason”; she listened to her aunt’s pleas. Since then she stopped talking to her cousin; she hated him and did not hide that fact from him or anyone. They basically stayed out of each other’s way until he left their house a few years later, to start his own business and family.

This week’s topic is one that touches my heart greatly. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) has been going on for many decades, but is just being looked into in the slightest of ways, in the last couple of years. Little attention and effort is given to it, this is because of the lifelong issue of stigma and discrimination that could be faced by victims as a result of it being exposed. A lot of families that it has happened to would prefer not to deal with it because of the stress it might cause to them, they do not want their family to be stigmatized, they do not want to “blow it out of proportion”, because they think that it is easier to burry it than to actually confront it, deal with it and stop it in its tracks. Forgetting that there are other long lasting future effects of child abuse on the victim, which include emotional instability, increased sexual behaviour, faulty interaction with others, drug and alcohol abuse and other deviant behaviours. Sexual abuse is linked to poor mental and physical health with outcomes that include self-harm, thoughts of suicide and sexually transmitted infections. Jummai is one of the lucky few who did not go through the trauma of rape and violent sexual abuse, even though what she experienced was also sexual abuse.

The Child’s Rights Act of Nigeria (not many of us know that it exists), passed in 2003, defines a child as anyone under the age of 18 years old. This means anyone who is under 18, is a child. It does not matter how womanly or mature she looks, she is still a child who is unable to make informed choices about sex.

Although all forms of sexual abuse whether perpetrated against adult victims or child victims, are wrong and have been prohibited, with sentences for offenders, child sexual abuse constitutes a huge percentage, which has not been adequately captured by statistics. This is not unconnected to the underreported cases of child sexual abuse due to families’ wish to avoid stigma and discrimination against the child victim and even the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse is even more insidious because the victims are given very little or no choice and they are powerless to make an adult decision, which they know nothing about. This then affects them in future and makes them live a life that was foisted on them due to circumstances beyond their control. Rather than live a normal life that every child is expected to have.

There are some myths about CSA, which have been ongoing for some time that has helped in the perpetuation of child sexual abuse over the years. Next week I will highlight some of those myths and some suggested solutions to this problem.

Until then, have a blessed and thoughtful week. Lots of love!

Help gone wrong- “Madman”

Everyday when I drove home from work or to church on Sundays, just before the right turn that led to my church, I would see this “mad man” at the bus stop. Sometimes he sat dejectedly under the shade of the bus stop, with his tattered grime-covered clothes, his hair overgrown and dirty. I sometimes saw him sleeping on his make shift bed, made of cartons straightened to form a mat. I felt sorry for him each time I drove past and something tugged in my heart to render some sort of help, no matter how little. Sometimes I wondered where he came from, whom his family was and if they knew he was there. I asked myself what could have been responsible for him being there- most likely a mental illness of some sort.

I wished to help somehow- get him some food, clean clothes or provide help in the form of psychological rehabilitation- Just to give hope to a fellow human being. However, in spite of my altruistic thoughts towards him, I could not summon enough courage to approach him. This was because I couldn’t tell if he dangerous; what if he attacks me and I had no way to escape and no one to help me out? Or worse still, what if he bites me? (Ha!God forbid). There’s this superstitious belief I heard of that if a madman bites you, you would also become mad. Despite my fears, each time I drove past the bus stop, I thought of ways to go about my “mission” to help the mad man.

I still have memories of when I was a little girl growing up in the cold city of Jos, Plateau state, in primary school, we always passed by a madman at a place called farin gada, on our way to school in the school bus. This man could be described as a creative madman. In his case, he started by sleeping under a tree, in the cold weather. Gradually, he started gathering sticks and wood under that tree. As children, we wondered what he was up to, as we all gathered by the windows to watch him whenever our bus passed that place. In addition to the sticks and wood, he kept adding all kinds of knick-knacks to his collection daily. Then when he was satisfied with his supplies, he started building a house just by the road. Everyday, we watched his progress with interest. Anytime we approached farin gada, we all crowded eagerly at the windows of the bus to see how far he had gone with his task. As each day passed, we saw the progress he had made- starting from the foundation, to the frame and up to the roof of his little shanty. Finally, after a couple of weeks, he completed his project- a shelter to protect him from the elements and what he would call a home. Then we stopped seeing him outside like we used to before his shelter was built, he now resided inside his new home! I often wondered what it was like inside the shanty. Well that’s a thought no one in his or her right senses would want to pursue further, for the sake of safety. As kids, we had to find other things to interest us on our ride to and from school, when the creative mad man show was over.

Anyway, back to the current mad man. I will call him Erin (Elephant in Yoruba language), You will know why I call him that soon enough. For the past couple of months now, I have started listening to myself speak to me, instead of listening to the outside world speak to me and tell me what to do. I started doing this when I realised, after several researches and soul-searching exercises, that most answers to our questions, resided right inside of us, if only we asked, searched and listened to our inner self. Since I started listening to my inner self, I started getting good results- the world started looking different to me and its been great. Ok back to the reason why I went into that explanation. Each time, I passed by his bus stop shelter, my inner self kept telling me to take some food to Erin and I knew it was something I had to do or else I would keep getting the same push to do so.

Finally, when I had had enough prodding and was tired of making the “I am busy” excuse, I made up my mind to just do it! (Nike style :)). On the first Sunday of this year, a day I knew that a friend was coming to visit, I packed some Jollof rice and chicken in a bowl, with a bottle of coke, put them in a plastic bag. When my friend came in, before he had time to settle down, I told him of my intention to take food to someone. Well, I said something like this, “Please I need you to go with me, to give some food to a homeless man somewhere not too far from here”. Luckily, he readily agreed to go with me. So off we went in his car. On our way, I decided to explain the situation to him- the fact that I was not sure of the mental state of this man because this was my first time of taking food to him and that he is what we would call a madman. I was relieved when he said “No problem, let’s go”. As we approached the bus stop, I started getting scared, my palms started to sweat. All sorts of thoughts ran through my head about this mission. I wondered if I was in my right senses because I know that here in Naija, we always avoid mad people for so many reasons, the most compelling is to avoid being bitten and becoming mad too (I know that no one would want to test the falsity of that superstitious belief because even if one does not become mad from being bitten, the pain of being bitten by someone with an unstable mind would definitely send maddening pain all over ones body!).

Anyway back to my gist, as we neared the bus stop, I asked my friend to slow down. We drove slowly until we got in front of the bus stop and stopped, with the engine still running of course and the car in gear, just in case we had to flee. Erin was asleep stretched out on his carton mat, so my friend honked his horn. He woke up with a start, looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun to take a proper look at who was disturbing his afternoon nap. He walked cautiously towards the car, looking unsure. Then we greeted him, he responded and I thought to myself “This is going well”. So I picked the bag and said, “We brought you some food”. He collected the bag with its contents, then he said “God bless you, thank you”. He asked for our names, I hesitated a bit, but when my friend told, his, I also did the same. We asked for his name as well and he said “Erin…something” (I didn’t get the last part of his name). It was a Yoruba name. What struck me was the fact that he spoke coherently and not like I had expected. I mentioned this to my friend as we drove away, having concluded my successful mission. My friend however advised me that I should be very careful about helping an unstable person because of my safety.

Needless to say, I was pleased that I had accomplished this task and was looking forward to doing more acts of kindness. You know that feeling of joy and satisfaction that comes from giving to someone who you expect nothing from in return? That was what I felt throughout that day. The next Sunday, I decided to take some food and drink to him again, since he didn’t seem to pose any threat the last time we went there. So off I went again. I greeted him and he responded and I reminded him that I had come the previous week with my friend. Then I gave him the food. Before driving off, he asked if I could buy him bottled groundnut and bread. So I said I will do that and bring it to him the next day. However, I didn’t anticipate my schedule for that week – what I call crazy busy days. I couldn’t fulfill my promise to Erin to bring him groundnut and bread. Finally, on Saturday, which was another busy day for me, I managed to squeeze out time to buy a loaf of bread (I bought the groundnut a day before). Then I headed for the bus stop that was Erin’s shelter. As I drove by the place, I didn’t see him. Although I saw his mat and a few rags where he slept. Anyway I decided to go home and try again the following morning on my way to church.

After getting dressed the following morning, I headed to church, with the intention to drop the groundnut and loaf of bread with Erin. When I got to his shelter bus stop, I saw him standing leaning on the wall of the shelter with something like a small radio held close to his ears (I didn’t want to believe it was a cell phone). I stretched my hand over to the back seat to pick up the bag of goodies. When I looked up my mouth dropped open in shock when I saw that the guy was actually smoking Indian hemp! My hand was stretched over the passenger window with the bag I held. Imagine my second wave of shock when he opened his mouth and said something like this to me with an angry tone of voice, “You told me you were going to bring these stuff to me since last week, and I waited for you but you didn’t come, what is the meaning of that?” Then he hissed and proceeded to snatch the bag from my hand and walked back to his shelter. Well words failed me; I drove away and slowly closed my mouth.

So many thoughts came to my mind as I drove- the first was a resolve that I was never going back to that ungrateful “mad man” again. I was also quite annoyed that he would talk to me like that. But I stopped being angry when I told myself that he was unstable, what did I expect? To be treated like a long lost cousin? Then again, I thought of my safety, what if he had attacked me and no one came to my aid? Thank God that did not happen. I drove past the bus stop on my way to church a couple of times after that and saw him but I knew I had to preserve myself from harm, so the thought of stopping, stopped crossing my mind. All of this happened in January within a space of three weeks.

Last week, on my way to work, I was listening to a radio programme I usually listened to every morning. The presenter of the programme had invited the police as guests on the programme to sensitize the public about safety. The policeman then informed that the police recently apprehended a “mad man” who everyone thought was actually mad because of the way he looked. I didn’t catch the part about the location where he was apprehended (I was distracted by my son who was saying something to me), but the rest of the story was that he was caught with Indian hemp, a small gun (yes a gun) and some other items that might have been stolen. The moral of the story was this: not every madman you see on the streets is actually mad, some pretend to be mad just to attack unsuspecting victims. I haven’t seen Erin at the bus stop since the day I heard about the mad man who got apprehended by the police and I seriously suspect that he is the madman who was arrested by the police.

Tosne, note to self (pull ya ears well): future charitable acts of kindness towards the indigent shall be targeted at and carried out through appropriate, formal and regulated channels e.g. orphanages or IDP camps, where you would find people who are sincerely in need and where your safety would be assured.

By the way, did I tell you that I was given 100 dollars the first time I gave Erin food? Who says my inner man isn’t super?

Have a blessed, productive and wonderful week guys!

Random Ramblings… because it doesn’t have to be serious*

*Random ramblings are just what they are –random ramblings; my thoughts, my imagination running wild, other people’s thoughts; real or unreal, with light humour meant to just make you smile. This I will feature on Tosne’s Blog from time to time, I hope you get it, because it really doesn’t always have to be serious.*

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Its 2pm on Saturday and I have been in my towel for about one hour now, doing nothing: not taking a shower, not wearing my clothes – I just feel so comfortable in my towel and if possible I can be like this all day. I remember my mum scolding me for doing this many years ago when I was still a teenager. She would shout, “When are you going to get out of that room and take a shower? Owuro lojo!”

Then as a teen I’d be distracted by an interesting movie showing on TV or a book that I am reading (I have always loved reading books). Then I’d tell myself “Let me just watch/read for 5 minutes before going to shower”. Then I would sit through 10 minutes of the show or book. I would then say to myself again, “maybe I should just watch/read for another thirty minutes”. By the time its thirty minutes into the movie or book, I’d tell myself that the movie is almost over anyway, so its better to just see it to the end (or read that chapter to its end). By the time I’m done and decide to finally go and take a shower, two hours or more has already been spent!

Ok back to Saturday afternoon, just before deciding to go into the bathroom, yet again, I felt my stomach grumble with hunger, so off to the fridge I went still in my towel, in search of a snack, which took another 10 minutes. Ten minutes after, hunger satisfied, I hurriedly jumped into the shower and took a bit of time daydreaming about Idris Elba (yes he’s my man crush, ok lets not go there okay?) and how wonderful a date with him might be. Shower over and I came out of the bathroom to put some lotion on my body.

Just as I picked up the lotion and balanced myself well on the edge of my bed, facing the TV, a show started on Investigation Channel, about how a husband killed his mistress a few weeks after she told him that she was pregnant. “Hmmmmn,” I said to myself “Na wa oh, some men are wicked sha…” Then I decided there and then to see how the show would end, because my immediate desire was to see what happened to the “killer man”. Though I already knew that for the show to be featuring that story, the man must have been caught, convicted and serving time or a death sentence already carried out on his unfortunate soul. Anyways, as I slather my body with lotion, I watched as the story unfolded. Then I started to wonder to myself if such a thing could happen to me: I put myself in different roles of the characters of the story and asked several “what ifs”: What if I was the wife, what if I was the husband and what if I was the mistress? What would my reaction be if I found myself as one of them in different scenarios? As the man, would it not be better to have come clean and divorced his wife if he truly wanted to be with his mistress? (Though a long process and expensive choice, its still better than murder); Would it not be better for him to leave the mistress if she was just a fling? (Since agbada don dey hook for nail). Or better yet, maybe he should have used protection, to prevent a pregnancy (common sense is not so common when it comes to lust!). So many what ifs… but in conclusion, I always tell myself that a lot of people get into trouble because of selfishness and fear, which prevents them from thinking though their actions before carrying them out.

Anyway, I’m finally done with the lotion, walked to my wardrobe where I spent another 15 minutes trying to decide what to wear. By the time I decided on what to wear with clothes strewn all over the place, the show was over, with the end that I expected: conviction and a long sentence for the man. Then I hopped out to meet up with my date … 2 hours after I said I would be there shortly (oh no!).

So are you still wondering why I took so much time getting ready and being there on time?