ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 6)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 6)

NOTE: This will be the penultimate part, and though there are still 4 more parts (the series will have a minimum of 10 parts with each of those I have already shared here being further expanded and more detailed in another format) I will put up just one more after this here on the blog.

If you want to read from 1-11 you will need to purchase the whole thing in an ebook format after I have given you the next and final part for the blog.

MY JOURNEY

(PART 6)

The moment Ayo Vaughan saw me the interrogations he was obviously putting my friends through ended.

I had earlier agreed with Okwudili Agbo, Emeka Ngene, Ekene (aka Ide Nkwocha), and I.K Onu that we would claim that we barged into Precious Irubor while he was on the verge of unilaterally lynching Ekene.
I told them to say that Precious took a machete and was about to cut him up after beating him and then we came to his rescue as we heard him screaming.

Before I got apprehended I had met Mr. Adegoke, a House Master; I forget which House he was master over, but I felt I would get some sympathy from him because he had gotten me out of several binds in the past. But when I told him the lie we had scripted he saw through the facade faster than I could finish getting it out of my mouth.
“Ahh, Bishop, how can you say you did nothing to him? How can you say you only scratched him with your hands when I saw blood from machete cuts all over his body?”

I saw the lie was dead on arrival with Mr. Adegoke so I tried beating a hasty retreat. As I backed out of the space in which I was talking to him I stepped into the path of a waiting… and smiling Lt. Agada.

I didn’t even resist him. I mean, you could not reenact an Escape from Sobibor in that kind of situation.

You wouldn’t even think it if you knew Lt. Agada.

He beckoned on me and without saying a word to break the sadistic smirk on his mouth he indicated that I walked ahead of him. As I walked I squared my shoulders in tension as I did not know what to expect. A slap on the back of my neck or the crack of a koboko across my back, or both. I knew there was only one destination and so I walked ahead of Agada straight to the Commandant’s office.

The lie was probably gaining some traction before I came in because when Lt. Agada marched me into the Commandant’s office I could see Precious was sweating in his bid to disprove the movie script my guys had thrust on him.
“Ahh!! It’s a lie sir. Don’t mind them sir”
He was a prefect and so that must have counted for something in Ayo Vaughan’s undecided look.

But the moment he saw me he seemed to have his mind made up in the fraction of a second.
Lt. Col. Ayo Vaughan jumped up from his table and lunged at me. Before I could do anything I collected two punches.

They made us all lie flat in the Commandant’s office. Demo Olusesi was brought in for something else he had done. But Ayo Vaughan declared, “all of you will be expelled.”

He was expelling all of us.

Demola almost died of shock.

“I am not with them sir”, he shouted while raising his hands, “my offence was not like their own, ejoo sir”

“I know”, Ayo Vaughan responded, “but I am expelling you in advance so I don’t have to worry about doing it in the future.”

With that they brought us out in front of the whole school and they took our shirts off our backs as the soldiers scraped all our hair and marched us off to the guardroom in the presence of multitudes of students, some in astonishment, some others visibly elated, and others in consternation.

I was already used to detention in the guardroom and so I encouraged others as we trudged along. It was as we got there that I noticed right beside the sentry post my Command Secondary School Abakaliki nemesis- Staff Sergeant Kayode.

Staff Sergeant Kayode was a dark man with bulgy eyes, a thick Samanja like mustache, and a pot belly. He hated me passionately and wherever he saw me he became unduly animated. So it was that when my eyes fell on him I began to perspire profusely.

“Hey, you dia, double up”, he shouted as he saw us being taken into the guardroom by the corporal and lance corporal who were given charge of us.
We jogged instantly but apprehensively towards him. As soon as we had lined up in front of him he grabbed a menacing looking 3 tail koboko (horse whip) and gestured on us to come forward and lie down flat.
Everyone drew back, we were terrified. But I was the leader and had to show fear was not allowed and so I stepped forward and lay prostrate.

I closed my eyes tight while waiting for the sharp pain I was sure was about to sear through my back and jolt my nerves.

“Get up you bagger”, I heard Staff Sergeant Kayode bellow. I looked up as he gestured for me to step aside, I was surprised but very thankful as I leapt to one corner.
I realized I was not going to get horse-whipped because I had obeyed the instruction to step forward very quickly.

Once my guys saw I had been pardoned they all rushed forward in a cluster, each trying to get before the other to the floor in front of Staff Sergeant Kayode. Emeka Ngene got there first, as he jumped on the floor expecting to hear “Get up!!” the only thing we heard was the sound of the whip come down with intense fury as Emeka’s scream mingled with it.

The others had come forward too quickly to retreat and so they had to go in turn, each one feeling the brute force of the horse whip from Staff Sergeant Kayode’s sadistic hands.
As soon as he was through they ordered us to strip for searching.

That was a very big problem because I had my switchblade in my pocket.

I said a silent prayer then held it in my hands. The soldiers herded us into the sentry post and I saw that the floor was full of water. The windows of the post had blown out and the rain had obviously flooded the inside. They commanded us to sit inside the water while buck naked.
With my hands behind my back I sat down in the water and the moment I hit it I pushed my dagger behind my back with the momentum of the water towards Ekene Nkwocha who was seated next to me.
The knife sailed and stopped behind him where he was seated in the water.

Somehow none of the soldiers said anything as they asked us to get up, put on our trousers, and jog on into the guardroom.

I was to learn later that my switchblade was the subject of a fight between two soldiers who liked it.

The ranking soldier got it and that left the other one seething. He gathered us together and hastily scribbled something he called an agreement that stated we all would buy him another dagger or he would expose us.
He asked us to append our names and signatures…and so we did.

In the space for names we wrote all kinds of things as our minds went into overdrive.

Chinua Achebe, Oliver de Coque, and Wole Soyinka all made the list as we turned our motley crew into a stellar cast. All the while the soldier was smiling happily like he had us in a tight corner.

Yours truly was “Michael Jordan.”

And then we signed right beside those names we cooked up while the soldier was grinning from ear to ear at the “legal document” he had in his hands.

We were kept in the guardroom with its filthy and stinking conditions. We had no shirts on our backs and so mosquitoes were having a field day.
I could swear the mosquitoes in that guardroom had full sets of teeth because each bite felt as though Dracula had teleported from Transylvania to a military cantonment in Abakaliki.

Something interesting soon happened.

I.K Onu (aka Onyx) told us he wasn’t going to pass the night in the guardroom and that he was going back to the dormitories. We stared at him in disbelief but took him very seriously because for some reason he was always with us when we committed any atrocities but never fell into trouble when we did.

We suspected he had some sort of “jazz” he wasn’t sharing with us and so we were sort of relieved when he got caught and sent to the guardroom with us.

We concluded his “jazz had knocked” and he was a mere mortal like us…until he made that statement.

I told him it was impossible.

Soldiers were right outside the guardroom gate keeping watch, if he tried it he was going to get beaten like a runaway slave.
But he told me confidently that nothing would happen, and asked us to watch him.

He opened the guardroom gate and as we tried to watch through the very high and narrow window he walked out and passed right by where the soldiers were meant to be and walked right out of the main gate of the cantonment.

We couldn’t believe our eyes. I was to later learn what this “jazz” was and that served to be a major juncture in this story of my journey.

After Onyx left we were all gobsmacked.
While I was in deep thought as to how he pulled it off someone else got an epiphany.
There was another student who the soldiers had brought to the guardroom over some infraction he was involved in.

He was a year ahead of us, and while I cannot remember his first name I know his last name was Omagu.
Omagu saw when Onyx walked out the guardroom gate and the main gate of the cantonment and immediately decided that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander.

He got up from the dirty guardroom floor where he had been sitting and told us he was leaving.
We asked, “Omagu, where you dey go?” to which he replied “I dey follow Onyx”

We began to prevail on him not to go anywhere but he insisted and so we left him. He opened the guardroom gate and stepped out; he had barely made five paces away from it when we began to hear cries and what seemed to be slaps and blows.
We rushed to the high slits that served as windows for the guardroom and we were barely able to make out the images and sounds of Omagu being pummeled by two soldiers.

If you have never been slapped by a Nigerian soldier I advise that you do not put that on your bucket list or you might not be far from kicking the bucket.

We recoiled as we heard the commotion and any other person that nursed ideas of a prisonbreak immediately perished the thought.
As we heard anywhere between eight and twelve slaps within a five minute span we also heard Omagu’s voice as he shouted-

“Yeeee!! Have mercy!!”.
“I am an orphan o!!”
“My mother is not well!!”
“I am a widow!!”

The slaps from the soldiers had driven Omagu into delirium. In the space of five minutes the young man had become an orphan who doubled as a widow whose mother was ill.
That was what a beating from Nigerian soldiers could turn a person to.

We all just respected ourselves afterwards and stayed where the soldiers had asked us to sit. Nobody tried any stunts again.
But I couldn’t just help but notice that not only did the soldiers not see Onyx when he passed but after slapping out okra seeds from Omagu’s mouth for attempting to escape they hadn’t noticed we were a man short in the guardroom.

I was to learn later an invaluable lesson from Onyx’s escape and this lesson was the beginning of my turning point even though it culminated only after I had gotten into the University of Nigeria Nsukka about two short years later..

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 5)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 5)

One of the reasons I rebelled so much in that BCJS school was that shortly after my accident and time in LUTH I began to have a recurring dream.

I saw myself on several occasions over a period of time wearing a clerical collar. You see, I was born Anglican, and there was nobody on my father’s side or mother’s side that was anything else, and so the logical explanation for that dream in my little head was that something or someone wanted me to be an Anglican priest.

Then out of the blues my dad decided I was to go to a Junior Seminary while my elder ones were in a Unity School. This was in the 80s and Unity Schools then were really exclusive.

To further underscore my despair the fact that I was sent off to one local, supposedly religious institution was compounded by a situation where the two notable priests in the school, the Principal and the Chaplain, were models I wouldn’t have.

Let me explain.

Rev. Canon Ekwenchi was the Principal that looked just like your grandfather, and talked like him. He had this old cream colored Peugeot 305 which always chugged along the road as we watched from either the Administrative Building or our Dormitories.

The Chaplain was Rev. Israel Kelue Okoye; he was much younger, more boisterous, and very cerebral. One of the most intelligent men I had ever seen, but he drove this VW Beetle that looked like it came out from the set of a 1960 movie.

These were the priests I saw everyday and they were the only ones there who wore clerical collars. The problem was I had had these dreams where I was wearing a collar…. and I knew I had no plans to end up driving relics.
I had bigger plans than that.

So I threw tantrums and caused problems until I was removed from there and sent to Command Abakaliki.

It became worse and not better after joining CSSA.

I remember when I sent a junior student, I think he was in Dragon House, to go home and get guns and other weapons for me.
His father was a Commissioner of Police and so I knew he would have access to guns.

I had been watching “Juice”, the black image movie that starred Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps, and I needed to dramatize beside the military cantonment in Abakaliki what happened on the streets of Harlem.

I really didn’t have any reason for wanting those guns, at least not until I saw Uwem Ukoh and Precious Irubor.

These two guys were a year ahead of me in CSSA and, particularly with the former, I had a whole shed load of implements to grind (never mind an axe. In fact the axe was meant to be buried in his head).

A number of things happened and somewhere at the nexus of the boy I sent to get his father’s weapons being caught as he stood stupefied at the cache of weapons he saw in his dad’s bedroom and a hit targeted at Uwem Ukoh failing to hit its target, my gang and I were apprehended by the military school authorities.

We had missed Uwem so Ekene Nkwocha alerted me that Precious Irubor was in his dormitory room.

You see, these guys were S.S. 3 students and had written their final exams, and so were ready to leave.
Uwem Ukoh, though a year my senior, used to be my friend; but I messed up and started chasing his girlfriend. I should not have done that as it was a very dishonorable thing, and the fact that I was the one that started it made it easier to later forgive the horrible things he did to me.

He found out I was hitting on his girl and became my enemy. He was the Deputy Senior Prefect and he put the position to good use as he did everything to make my life miserable and crush me.
After everything he had done he attempted to apologize and let bygones be bygones, but he must have known too much water had passed under the bridge. So he went to get protection.

I was told he had a bag he had given to his junior roommate to hide for him. So I went from the hostel to the administrative block and walked into the S.S.1 class where the boy was.
There was a teacher and a lesson was on, but I called him and he came to the back of the class with a pensive look on his face.
“Where’s the bag?” I asked
“What bag?” he responded
“You have 5 seconds to get me the bag or I will kill you here, right now” I said, and pulled out a switchblade from my pocket.

He knew who I was and what I could do, so the melancholy look turned to one of raw fear as he quickly pointed to a corner of the back of the class.

I picked the bag and left.
I hid it somewhere and went to my dorm.
Moments later, Uwem Ukoh walked in with a few of his friends to ask me where the bag was.

I kept quiet.

He asked again.

I put my hand in my pocket to hold my switchblade. If anyone tried anything I was going to carve up some negroes that day.

Suddenly, I felt someone grab me from behind and shout “Ugonna, where’s the bag?” I turned ready to pull out my knife and bury it into the person’s midriff and then I saw it was Akpo Scott Victory.

Victory was my senior by a year, but he was my buddy. My best friend at the time. We actually looked alike and people that saw us together thought I was his younger brother.

As he grabbed me and pulled me out of there he shouted “where is the bag?” but concurrently he whispered in my ear “Relax, I know what I am doing. I am just trying to get you away from these guys”
At that moment I lost it and started screaming, “leave me alone. You saw what he did to me. I will kill him today.”

All the guys who came in, as well as Ukoh, turned round and left.
It was later I discovered that Stanley Iwuchukwu, the elder brother of a member of my clique and a senior student in S.S.3 like Uwem Ukoh and his friends (I was in S.S.2 at the time) had carried the bag I left in his care and returned it to them.

He had done it for a stipend.

I was livid. I learnt then that the contents of the bag were guns, and this made me more angry. I would have done either of two things if I had known what the bag carried. I would have submitted it to the school authorities, or I would have used the contents on the owners.
Stanley Iwuchukwu had taken that opportunity from us, and so I asked my guys to break out and look for him.

He was going to pay.

Stanley was a slimy one, he had read the tea leaves and taken off. It was at the point of exasperation in our search for him that I got the information that Precious Irubor was in his room.

I think he was the Labor Prefect or something, but whatever he was he had used his position to do me in.

So I put my guys together, with our knives, a machete, and mosquito net poles we found him in his room. I asked him to kneel down but he stood up to resist.

That was where it began. I attacked him with the poles and knives, he screamed and pushed Okwudili Agbo out of the way and ran with blood pouring out of multiple lacerations in his body.
I went after him with the machete in my hand.

He ran from Octopus House which was at the furthest end of the compound to the gate, and I was hot on his heels. He kept on screaming, “they have killed me. Bishop has killed me.”

As we got close to the gate I lifted the machete and was bringing it down to his head but for some reason my hand became very heavy and would not come down.

I slowed down and Precious ran out the gate, half-naked and bleeding profusely. I knew what was going to happen next. Soldiers were going to flood the whole place. Lt. Agada, the Administrative Officer, had been looking for what he would do to nail me, and I knew this was as good an opportunity as any.

I turned around, got my guys together, and we jumped the school fence and took the first motorbikes we saw and headed straight to Abakaliki town to hide out until it blew over.

Nothing was going to blow over any time soon.

To cut the story short we got caught. My guys first, then me later.
I was marched into the Commandant’s office. My guys were already in different positions of punishment. As soon as Lt. Col. Ayo Vaughan saw me he jumped up and said, “Yes, you again. You’re gone this time.”

He leapt forward from his table like he was taking a lunge at me…

(to be continued)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 4)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 4)

I spent 3 months in LUTH and considering how bad the accident was it was a shock I came out how I did. I had a total of 4 injuries.

Only one of them was really major.

I had one on my right shoulder that was just slightly broader than the size of a box of cufflinks. I had another on my ankle that looked like a little burn and then one on the inner part of my lower arm, just under the inside of my right elbow. It looked like a scalding from hot metal, and it very well must have been because there were lots of hot metal parts under the bus.

By far the biggest was the injury at the right side of my head. Incidentally it was the most visible of all. My skull was hit and exposed, how my brains were not spilled or affected in anyway is a mystery.

For me the injuries were very painful, but as painful as they were they paled into insignificance when compared with the aftermath of the trauma.
I suffered intense post-traumatic stress disorder and could not sleep because almost every time I fell asleep at night I would find everything happening again.

It usually happened at around the same time– between 12 midnight and 4am.

I would wake up drenched in sweat after finding myself being dragged for several meters under that bus. I would see the other-worldly faces I saw amongst the crowd at the time of the accident.
I had seen faces that were not human as they pulled me out from under the bus after the accident, and they were mocking and sneering at me.

Every single night for close to a month at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), I felt the same thing happening again and again. I would fight sleep with all the strength in my 9 year old body because I was petrified of what would happen when I did sleep.

I felt like I was on the set of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, only this time it was more real than Freddie Krueger.

I would wake up screaming, “Nurse, Nurse!!” The night nurses already knew me and while some were at their wits ends some others were downright irritated because of my constant grating and the obvious pain, shock, and horror I experienced daily.

Maybe that influenced the way they dressed the wounds because it would be about 2 or so months later, after they did 2 skin grafts, that the wounds healed and the doctors discovered the way the nurses dressed the wounds got part of my right ear stuck to the side of my head after the wounds healed.

Prof. Omo-Dare, who was the chief plastic surgeon at LUTH at the time told me there was nothing they could do about it till I turned 18 because they were going to give me a medication that would stunt my growth if he was going to separate the little part of the ear that was stuck from the head.
I had spent 3 months already and was very tired of the smells of hospitals, antiseptics, gauze, drips, soffra-tulle, antibiotics, and every other thing there.

Most of all I was fatigued of falling asleep and then waking up to see that my neighbor who had been on the bed beside me before I slept was dead by the time I woke up.

I can’t remember how many times I would see them cordon off a bed with sheets and then they would get in a stretcher trolley to carry out the corpse.

I remember Ikemefuna, he was younger than I was, he was like 4 years old or something.
Ikemefuna was admitted halfway or so into my 3 month stay at LUTH, and his bed was like 3 spaces away from mine. His mum was there by his side throughout the time, and since my mum was at the hospital to visit me everyday it was inevitable that their paths crossed.

My mum got on very well with Ikemefuna’s mum, and she also took an immediate liking to the young boy. She would bring things for me and also come with things for Ikemefuna, and in the same manner Ikemefuna’s mum would bring things for me while bringing things for her kid.

Both families bonded in our pain.

But one day, 3 weeks or so after Ikemefuna was admitted, an odious and very irksome task was thrust on me. My mum came in to see me as she did everyday, but this time Ikemefuna’s bed was empty. She looked at me to ask if they had transferred him to another ward, but I looked up, and even at 9 years of age the next thing I was going to say was difficult.

“Ikemefuna is dead,” I muttered while a few tears dropped down my eyes.

It was like a projectile hitting its target. She almost simultaneously dropped what she had in her hands as she put them on her head.

Then she started crying. As she cried she sang a dirge that was familiar to me.

It was one I had heard on T.V while watching the televised version of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and seeing where Okonkwo cut down the boy who had come to see him as a father, Ikemefuna, with a machete.

“Ikemefuna o ka isi ije?”

This was the only line in that dirge that I was familiar with, and it was the only one at that point that was most appropriate in expressing my mother’s grief at the loss of this boy we had come to know and love within these 3 short weeks.

I remember a few others that died while I was in LUTH, both young and old, friend and foe. I believe constant exposure to death only served to calcify me and get my conscience more calloused.
This showed up with greater frequency as I grew up.

I got discharged from LUTH and my physical wounds turned to scars. They were not the only scars I carried as there was probably a greater level of scarification and disfigurement in my soul.
I felt, from such a young age, a toxic mixture of anger, insecurity, fear, bitterness, and hate, all mixed with huge doses of passion.

I had already taken my first glass of beer at 7 years (courtesy of my mum’s late kid brother) so this potent mix of emotions saw me push the envelope even further.

I started smoking weed at 13 and started humping prostitutes shortly after. I would chase women twice my age because I liked them (I still like women) and I felt they would understand me more than 13 and 14 year old girls.
I got a gun at 14 while I was in my S.S 1 as a transfer student to Command Secondary School Abakaliki and became very violent and unnecessarily wicked.

I had spent my first 3 years of Secondary School at a junior seminary in Awka. I was stupefied that my father had sent me to Bishop Crowther Junior Seminary in Awka, while my 2 elder brothers were at the Federal Government College Enugu.
We grew up in Lagos and so my first knowledge of Awka was BCJS.

I hated Awka because of that school.

I didn’t believe my dad would do such a thing to me. I mean, the closest thing we had to a priest in my family was a native doctor who happened to be our village head.
He was my father’s first cousin.

In my family we had nothing remotely connected to a connection to an association of any kind with the Church so I couldn’t understand why my father would want me in a place like that.
So I rebelled and began to cause problems.

They had to ship me off to a Command Secondary School so the soldiers would straighten me out.

But I got worse.

I started a gang that was involved in almost every act of rebellion at school.
My late friend, Emeka Ngene, who I had given my gun to hold, was one member of my gang. I am still deeply pained at Emeka’s demise because I led him down a steep path only to turn the corner while in the University, but he continued down that path when he got into UNN, even after he graduated. He had left the University and had just gotten admission into a school in Canada to go do his MSc, but he couldn’t resist the urge to go gangbanging. Some guys tried to rob him so he pulled his gun on them to protect his money, and he got shot and killed instantly.

I had other friends like Chuka Okeke, and my onetime guardroom mate, Demo Olusesi, who occasionally joined us in our run-ins with the law.

A while after I transferred to CSSA (Command Secondary School Abakaliki) we got a Commandant, Lt. Col. Ayo Vaughan.

I had already started causing serious problems for the school authorities and I spent a lot of time in the guardroom (detention cells for errant and delinquent soldiers). My constant detention by the A.O (Admin. Officer), Lt. Agada, only hardened me further.

After a spell there I went on a rampage and ended up stabbing and cutting up the only brother of my good friend, Chuka Okeke, because he wasted my time and didn’t quickly bring the cubes of sugar I had asked him to bring me…so I went back to the guardroom.

Lt. Col. Vaughan came in and hit harder

Ayo Vaughan disturbed me and so I thought to disturb him back.
One day I came up with an idea.
I would open the gas tank of his red 1984 Mercedes Benz 230 saloon car that he parked right in front of the administrative block, and dip a whole length of cloth into it, while it dripped with gas I would light the little portion hanging out the gas tank and take to my heels before the fire entered the car and turned Ayo Vaughan’s prized possession into a bonfire.

(to be continued)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 3)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 3)

(If you have not read Parts 1 and 2 you will neither understand nor appreciate this installment. Kindly stop now and go read both of them first)

The moment I made impact with that danfo bus I heard the smashing of the windscreen, and at the speed at which it hit me it is completely implausible and beyond the clutch of reason that it did not instantly break my neck.

I was flung under the bus and my T-shirt got stuck in some part of the metal area under the vehicle. Maybe I was fortunate it got caught, because if it didn’t the tyres would have climbed over me and crushed my head. I vividly remember my head was close to one of them.

I imagine what the tyre of a 14 seater danfo bus would have done if it climbed over the head of a 9 year old boy.

Maybe it was a combination of the speed of the danfo and the brakes that obviously failed that dragged me on the rough tar of the road for more than 10 meters.

The moment the vehicle came to a halt I noticed that the passengers were falling over themselves to get out of the bus. I was in intense shock under the vehicle but I could tell the people in it were responding to the flight or fight hormones that were unlocked in them, and in this case the majority of them seemed to want to get away as far as they possibly could.

There were some, maybe passengers, maybe bystanders, who immediately leapt to my rescue.

After they pulled me out from under the bus I looked around and through a mixture of blood in my eyes and delirium in my head I saw human beings lined around the bus all wide eyed and in shock. I noticed a few women around with their hands on their heads wailing at the top of their voices.
Immediately I felt something press hard against the side of my head, as I attempted to turn round to see I noticed a man had pressed a rag hard to the side of my head and a couple others carried me into the same bus as the confused and petrified driver leapt into the seat and zoomed forward while the man that pressed the rag to the side of my head, ostensibly to stop the bleeding, simultaneously barked instructions at the driver telling him where to drive to while speaking gently to me and telling me to relax.

They drove the short journey to Moriah Clinic which was on the other side of Nnobi Street, after Kilo Hotel I think, it was not too far from the barbershop, Uncle Sho’s, where my brothers and I went to get our haircuts.

My mom had fainted and was rushed to the hospital owned by Dr. Tony Didigu. I am not sure what it was called, but they took her there to revive her because they thought I was dead. Dr. Didigu was my father’s friend and he had gotten information about what happened, so he kept my mom as far away from me as he could.

When my dad got back from work he got home to see and hear this palaver. In fact, the househelp that lived with the family to the left of our compound (I can’t remember the family name now but I remember their oldest son was named Donald, and they were from the old Cross River) saw him when he drove in and just said to him “Ugonna don die.” She had witnessed the accident and she just knew I was dead.
To her and to everyone around there couldn’t have been any other outcome…but mercy said no.

The God upstairs wasn’t about to let me go, even though I did not know Him.

Then they told my dad my mom had collapsed and they didn’t know if she was alive or dead.

He drove off immediately to look for me. I must have been halfway, between and betwixt, when my dad walked into the hospital room where I was. He turned round and saw the danfo driver whose bus hit me and I don’t know if anyone had identified him before he lunged towards the guy and grabbed his neck, before anyone could stop him he had already begun to pummel the guy while screaming at him, “you bastard!!” he kept shouting.

They finally got him off the poor chap. But then my dad just spun round and pulled the drip from my arm and lifted me into his arms as blood splattered everywhere from the force of the pull.

As the nurses kept protesting he pushed them aside and carried me straight in his arms to his car.

As soon as we got in there he drove off to LUTH- Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

I remember the first night.

My dad spent the whole night with me. He just sat in a chair beside me, throughout the night. He refused to move even when the nurses and doctors came in.
Between the time he took me to LUTH and when sat on the chair the only time he got away from my bedside was when he went looking for my mom at Didigu’s hospital where they went to revive her.

I cannot recall if he came back to see me with her or if someone else brought her, but I turned around to see my mom kneeling beside me and holding my hand. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and she had her head bowed to one side; all she could do was look at me and while choking whisper “Ugo, I am sorry.”

The moment she said this hot tears began coming down my face where I lay. She had asked me not to go anywhere, but I disobeyed her. I still carry the scars of my disobedience and rebellion.

It wasn’t her that should be saying sorry…it was me.
I cried over the pain I caused my parents and my siblings.

As I type this I recollect all that happened and I am crying profusely. I am trying to type this and I honestly don’t know how it is coming out.

I can’t remember how my mom went back home because I was really tired and was trying to fall asleep. Every time I shut my eyes she would tap me and shake me vigorously because she thought I was about to die. They finally had to get her out so I could sleep; besides my idiocy had already kept my siblings at home away too long from the parents they so badly needed.

My dad stayed back. I would wake up intermittently and see him holding my hand while trying to ward off sleep, and when I would wake I would say to him, “Daddy please don’t leave me”, and he would squeeze my hand and tell me he was going nowhere.

He sat on that chair throughout the night and if he went to ease himself I did not know.

I just knew that my father was right beside me.

You see, my dad lost his father when he was 4 or 5 years old. He was then sent to Lagos to live with a much older cousin while that cousin’s father (my father’s uncle/my grandfather’s eldest brother) took my grandmother to wife after his kid brother’s demise. This was customary in most parts of Igbo land.

My father had almost no dealings with his mom until she died when he was just aged 12.
They took him to Lagos and he had a bitter childhood.

He was terribly maltreated.

One day after he was viciously flogged they mixed grains of rice with lots of sand and then poured the mixture under a bed in a dark room. They forced him under the bed and locked him in the room without food until he had picked all the grains of rice from the sand without the aid of any light.
While he was under that bed at the age of 7 or something he cried bitterly and promised himself his children would never experience what it was like not to have parents.

His cousin sent her kids, who were just a few years younger than my dad, to school but made him hawk bread and “ogi” on the streets of Lagos. It was while hawking that he met some boys playing five-a-side football in their backyard and he joined them.

He would go everyday after that to play with his new friends until one day.
As he dropped his half empty pan on the floor to join in the game the boys’ father came out from the house and hurried his children back inside to do their homework. He then turned and sent my dad away; as the young boy picked his pan to walk away the man called him back and asked, “why are you not at home doing your homework?”
To which my dad replied “I don’t have any home, I don’t have any school, and I don’t have any homework.”

The man beckoned on him, as he came hesitantly towards him he very simply asked, “Why? Why don’t you have any homework?”

My dad replied, “Because there is no one to send me to school.”

After a brief silence the man asked him to come see him the next day.
When my dad returned the man drove him to school and enrolled him instantly on a scholarship.

It turned out that this man (I forget his name) was the Principal of Igbobi College.
This was how my dad became a student of Igbobi College until his graduation. It was the same man that helped him process his scholarship to Austria to read Engineering.

This is a part of my dad’s story and the major reason why he put his children ahead of every other thing.

This is the reason why he would never have been anywhere else but beside me on that night.

(to be continued)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 2)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS THAT LIFE SERVED ME (Part 2)

I began this by telling the story of the events leading up to my mom getting shot by armed robbers on the streets of Lagos.

We found that the bullet had snapped her spine clean and she instantly became a paraplegic. Maybe not instantly, as I am sure the multitude of “Good Samaritans” that came to her aid helped her on the path to paralysis in no small measure.
After she parked the car by the side of Adelabu Street to pick us up from school on that busy Lagos afternoon my mom heard a coarse voice that bellowed, “Madam get out of the car.”

You see my dad had just bought her a brand new Peugeot 505 2.0 sedan. In the mid to late 80s that car was “da bomb”. To me right now it looks like an antique that got blown out of the 2nd World War French Resistance but back then I felt it was KITT in the Knight Rider.

And I obviously wasn’t alone in thinking that as most armed robbers in Lagos probably thought same.

As she spun round to assess what gave the speaker the temerity to ask her out of her car she saw a gun pointed at her.
Immediately she said, “Take the car but please let me take my child first.” My last brother, Kenechi, who was 3 years old at the time was right behind with his classmate from Madonna Nursery School, Ufanette.

The robber had an accomplice, and while he was patient with my mom as she tried to pull the kids out of the car the accomplice was not. He pulled his gun and shot point blank at my mom. The first bullet missed her by inches but in either an inebriated or anxious state, or maybe just because he was demon possessed, this guy shot again and the bullet went through her neck.
As she dropped to the ground the first robber shouted, “You have killed her!!”

They tossed my mom out, as well as the 3 year old boys who had just experienced the most traumatic day they probably would ever have in their lives. Then they got into the car and drove down Adelabu Street towards Ogunlana Drive. They had done less than 30 meters before the car stopped them. The car had a demobilizer and my mom had turned it on when she parked the car.

They got down a few meters after the NEPA office and then opened fire on a man driving past in his Volkswagen Santana. I guess they killed him instantly but then they threw his body in the trunk of the car and drove off with him with an irate mob hot on their tails. With a few more shots in the air they made their escape.

Several other people rushed around my mom and grabbed her from the floor, all bloodied, and rushed her into a vehicle. I can imagine they only meant well but as there were no emergency services they, in their bid to save her life, must have broken her spine irreparably while trying in their overzealousness to pick her up.

I remember when my dad came back from his trip with his driver bringing him in from work. As he opened the door with a normal delighted demeanor at seeing his kids the expression changed to intense confusion as all of us had words tumbling out our mouths in a cacophony of cries.
He leapt back and before we could say anything we saw him jump into his car and shoot out of the compound as Mama Obiora, a neighbor of ours, and Aunty Ethel (Ufanette’s mum) who was another neighbor of ours almost tumbled out of the car as they frantically tried to join him.

He went off and we didn’t see him till very late at night. Family friends of ours, the Nnochiris, came to pick us up. Uche was my elder brother’s friend and agemate, Ezinne was my agemate, and the last kid was Kachi Nnochiri; I think he was my kid brother’s agemate.
Shortly after, young children that we were, we forgot our mother and played with Uche and Ezinne till late. We were getting ready to go to bed when Uche’s dad told us we couldn’t pass the night as our dad had come and insisted on taking us back home.

We cried but knew it wouldn’t change anything as my dad would never let us sleep outside the house under any circumstances (the first time I went on any sort of vacation without my parents and siblings was just after Secondary School).
He took us back home and woke up early in the morning to bathe everyone of us and take us to school.
He did this everyday for the next week or so.
I remember waking up and walking out into the sitting room. It was very dark, but I could tell from the digital table clock that the time was 4:00am.
My dad was sitting down with nothing but his towel wrapped around his waist.

He was looking down at the floor. I could see him crying because the limited light from the electrical appliances that were switched off and the digital clock had cast on him so I could make out that he was sobbing. He didn’t see me until I came close. When he saw me he carried me till I fell asleep and then returned me to my bed.

It was later in the week that my mom’s kid sister came. Aunty Uzoyibo became for many years my second mom.
She left her education and all to move in with us and take care of us while my mom was taken to Frankfurt, Germany for further treatment.

Say what you may about Ibrahim Babangida, the former “military president” of Nigeria, but I will not forget how my dad told me he gave him the sum of 50,000 Deutsche Marks to help him offset the cost of keeping her in one of the best hospitals in Europe.

Medicine didn’t do much though, as after a year plus she came back paralyzed and completely unable to move anything from her neck down.
The doctors in Germany put a pacemaker in her chest and said to her, “Sorry you will never be able to walk again.”

After my mom got shot things went south really fast. It didn’t help that earlier that same year I was involved in a life defining motor accident. A few months before my mom’s incident.

I remember I was at home watching T.V with my younger ones. I even remember what was on T.V- Robin Hood.
It was showing on NTA 2 Channel 5 (unlike the present satellite and cable T.V generation we were spoilt for choice with a grand total of 4 extremely exciting stations in the aforementioned Channel 5, NTA Channel 10, NTA Channel 7 Ikeja, and Lagos Television/Lagos Weekend Television. 3 of them were as exciting as watching paint dry).

On this eventful day, the water suddenly stopped running out our taps at home and so momsie had to make contingency plans.

My elder brother, Chiagor, and our domestic aide, a Togolese girl named Nonusi (I think that’s the spelling) went across the road to get water.

Our house at Nnobi Street, Ikate, Surulere, was adjacent to “Franca Fashions”, a boutique which was owned by a lady who my mom was friendly with.

So they went to get the water and I wanted to go with them. My mom said no. I sat down on my chair sulking, but as soon as she went into the kitchen that thing that said it will not rest till it finished me said to me, “This is your chance. Go now.”

And so I ran out the door and across the road till I got to where my brother was getting water. The maid had gone and so I rushed to get mine. The moment I had filled my little Jerry can I made to run back home but my brother said, “No, don’t go anywhere, wait for me.”
But once again that thing that brought me out against my mom’s instruction wanted to complete its work and so I disregarded what my elder brother said and made to run across the road as I left the compound of “Franca Fashions” on Nnobi Street.

Halfway through the journey across the road after miscalculating the distance from oncoming vehicles I was slammed into by a commercial (danfo) bus. As it hit me and my little 9 year old head smashed the windscreen I got tossed under this bus that dragged me under it for well over 10 meters.

When they had pulled me out from under the bus my green T shirt and shorts were ripped open and blood red. The gash on the side of my head exposed my skull.
There was no way a 9 year old could have survived that. But I did
I was told my brother dropped his Jerry Can and ran home screaming, “My brother is dead. They have killed my brother.”

As I write now and relive those incidents (mine and my mother’s accidents) tears are welling up in my eyes.

I am told that the moment bystanders dragged me out from under the vehicle all I kept saying was “Jesus I don’t want to die”. ”
I kept saying it over and over until I fell into unconsciousness.

I was 9 years old.

Anyway, my mom heard the unintelligible things my brother said in his delirious state and after looking for me in the sitting room where I was meant to be with my siblings she saw I wasn’t there and so ran out into the street…just in time to see them dragging my bloodied body out from under the danfo.

She collapsed on the road fainting immediately.

(to be continued)

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME

ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS THAT LIFE SERVED ME (Part 1)

Growing up I was not a religious person.

My father visited our family church, St. Saviors Church close to Tafawa Balewa Square, on occasion, and it was our mom who usually drove us from our home in Surulere to Lagos Island on Sunday mornings.

She would take us all, the Ken Emechebe offspring, and ferry us off to church while Ken Emechebe himself would recline on the sofa reading his weekend papers.

I detested that drive and I remember telling him, when I was no older than 7 years of age, that I didn’t want to go to church.

I remember what his rejoinder was.

In effect it was a quip that basically meant I would need to grow up and be an adult before I could stop going to church.

That response convinced me that going to church was not a rational and grown up thing to do, so I decided to bide my time and ride it out as I was sure I would be an adult soon enough. “Maybe in 3 years time” I told myself.

We moved church to Chapel of the Healing Cross in Idi-Araba, and I gave up on going to the children’s church and stayed listening to the Rev. Olaitan, the vicar of the church, even when I wasn’t listening to too much of what he was saying.

Life happened shortly after that and something that altered my family came with it. My class at the time in Fountain Nursery and Primary School was a Primary 4 class and it had a vantage position where it overlooked the main road of Adelabu street.
One afternoon, when parents and drivers had come at the close of school and were all parking at the space outside the school walls my classmates and I suddenly saw a huge crowd running and instinctively we knew what it was.

This was Lagos in the 80s. That sort of movement only meant one thing.

We spoke among ourselves in class and groans of “All these armed robbers and their wickedness, when will Babangida deal with them finally? Only God knows who they have killed now.”

As we looked out the window, I saw my teacher Mrs. Nwandiko looking with us. Shortly after, another member of staff who I cannot remember now walked up to the door of our class and beckoned on Mrs. Nwandiko, she went to her and whispered something in her ear. Almost immediately, my teacher’s face contorted in an eclectic mixture of horror, pain and grief as she let out an inaudible scream.

She bent over and held a wall to steady herself. When she had straightened herself out she walked straight to me. As I saw her approach I wondered what I had done, as I peered with fear into her oncoming face my fear left as I saw she didn’t have any anger etched on her face, but the fear was soon replaced by a deep sense of unease and worry as I saw the streaks of tears running down her cheeks and her expression of deep concern.

She gently led me by the hand to the office of the Headmistress, Mrs. Olaitan. As I walked in I saw my other siblings in her office. The only person who wasn’t there was my kid brother who was in Madonna Nursery School at the time.

Another parent, we later learnt his name was Mr. Sanni, took us on the short drive to our house on Nnobi Street. We were wondering why it wasn’t our mum or the driver that came to pick us up.
As each of us glanced at ourselves and engaged in soliloquy and Mr. Sanni turned off into Agbonyin Street on our way home he stopped to exchange pleasantries with another motorist who was another Fountain parent.

As her eyes alighted on the back seat she saw us and asked, “Are these not Uzo’s children?”
“Yes they are”, Mr. Sanni replied, and then he continued in a shocking level of callousness that instantly eclipsed his previously congenial and warm disposition, “she just got shot by armed robbers.”

The collective consternation that erupted in the car is better imagined…..

(To be continued)

DONALD TRUMP’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS AND DANGEROUS RED LINES

The late Nobel Prize winner and political economist Thomas Schelling is said to have noted 2 critical things in international politics and diplomacy- “Threats when they fail and promises when they succeed.”

In his recent State of the Union address I was particularly interested in what President Donald Trump had to say about U.S foreign policy and how it affected internal security interests, and so naturally I was interested in what he had to say about North Korea.
I heard Trump say North Korea will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

Now considering the fact that Pyongyang under the uncontrollable tyrant Kim Jong Un is said to be just 3 months from having nuclear weapons President Trump will either already have a strategy to stop that or risk losing credibility and looking like a fool when North Korea crosses the red line in exactly the same way Bashar Assad made President Obama look really weak and stupid when he crossed and recrossed the chemical weapons red line.

Kim Jong Un has shown he isn’t someone to be pushed around. He has shown he has a similarly thin skin and is not willing to let any sort of attacks against him go without a response- sometimes just adequate, most other times disproportionate.

I am trying to wrap my head around exactly how President Donald Trump intends to handle this conundrum.

Another thing that caught my attention was his statement on Pakistan and the funds his administration will withhold from them. To be clear, the U.S does not owe Pakistan but only sends aid to the country and has done so since at least two years after Pakistan was founded in 1949.

Between 1951 and 2011 the United States has committed more than $67 billion to Pakistan and they have done so for a variety of reasons that underscore Pakistan’s strategic importance.

For starters, Pakistan borders Afghanistan (where US is fighting a 17 year war), Iran (which is both traditionally anti-American and a major player in the Middle East), China (America’s biggest trade partner BUT also its biggest rival), and India (an American ally and the biggest democracy on earth).

Secondly, Pakistan provides access to Central, West, and South Asia – three of the most critical regions for world peace.

Number three, Pakistan is one of the most populous countries on Earth.

Number four, Pakistan is very unstable and incidentally combines this instability with being a nuclear power.
By financing Pakistan, the US influences who runs it and essentially keeps it from becoming another Afghanistan.

IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF A TALIBANESQUE GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER PAKISTAN.

Now, with this cut in Pakistani funding it has increased the prospects of this country that is a state sponsor of terrorism trying to further destabilise the region by increasing hostility towards India, fomenting more crises in Afghanistan, and a tactical tilt towards Iran.
None of the above is good news for the United States, but even worse news is the fact that Pakistan will do more deals with and depend more on China which is America’s direct rival in practically everything presently.

Trump’s “America First” policy has given China a mindboggling advantage on the global scale and pushing the likes of Pakistan into the hands of China is not very strategic.

China has spread its web across the globe. Only recently speculations were rife that China planted secret mics and other espionage equipment in the African Union headquarters a Chinese company built in Addis Ababa.
They have their fingers in pies across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa and the foreign policy of the Trump administration is likely to only make it even moreso.

COMMUNICATION: 5 STEPS TO BETTER COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE

5 STEPS TO BETTER COMMUNICATION

STEP 1
TAKE OUT TIME FOR EACH OTHER:
Time must be invested in any relationship that will work.
Time, although a highly expendable resource, is an invaluable one.

We usually exchange our time for what we place value on.

If you are on a 9-5 you exchange those work hours for a salary at the end of the day or month. So, invariably you are paid for your time, and your worth to your organization is determined by how much your time added value to them and the attainment of their objectives.
So in a sense we can say “Time is life”. If this is true then it is true that I cannot claim to commit my life to someone if I cannot commit my time to her, and the truth is that I will never get to know who I do not spend time with. 

If I really want to have a productive relationship with my beloved I will need to have unhindered communication with her, and if I am going to have that sort of unfettered communication I must first know her, I must know her thoughts and be accustomed to the vibes she emits.
There is no way I can know this if I do not spend time with her.
The first step to better communication and a relationship that works is- make out time for each other.

STEP 2
BE RESPONSIBLE FOR COMMUNICATING YOUR THOUGHTS & FEELINGS:

Clearly express your thoughts yourself.

This is a critical point and is not one that can just be wished away. 
Do not say things like “she should have known what I meant” or “we’ve been together long enough for him to know what was on my mind.”
As romantic and appealing as some of that sounds we need to understand that the responsibility for communicating our thoughts, feelings, and emotions is no other’s.

Take responsibility for saying and expressing exactly what you mean.

I cannot underscore this point enough because if I tried to tell you how many times I have seen people trying to shift the responsibility for conveying their message to those that are meant to be recipients of the message I probably would lose count.

STEP 3
REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE IN PERCEPTIONS:

Every human being is different. We all have different mindsets, personalities, and orientations, and in order to have meaningful conversations and communication with others we must put this into consideration.
 Do not condemn the other person for being different; rather put yourself in a position where you can understand and utilize this difference. Most times others see things about us and in us that we ordinarily are unable to see ourselves. So don’t be the sort of person whose attitude always seems to say “It’s either my way or the highway”.

Realize that views are meant to be complimentary as no one person sees everything he/she needs to know at every point in time.

STEP 4
BE AN ATTENTIVE LISTENER: 

There are three different ways to listen while someone is talking to you. 

These ways are attentive listening, passive listening, and selective listening.

* ATTENTIVE LISTENING :- In this sort of listening full and maximum attention is given to the speaker. When you listen attentively you put your whole being into receiving the message the speaker is trying to pass across to you.
This is the most effective type of listening but it is also the one that demands the highest amount of effort.  It takes practice, patience, and respect for the other party to get yourself to the position where you listen attentively to them every time.
A person that listens attentively will always hear.

* PASSIVE LISTENING:- This sort of listening implies listening to what is spoken yet not necessarily tuning in to it. Let me say it this way- looking is to seeing what listening is to hearing. 
So it is not everything you look at that you see, in the same way it isn’t everything you listen to that you hear. Passive listening is listening without hearing; it is a situation where a person listens without paying attention and so ends up missing the message.
An example of passive listening could be when a man’s wife is talking to him during a football game or some other thing that has his full attention; he could be listening to her without hearing anything she would be saying because his full attention would be on his game.

* SELECTIVE LISTENING:- This type of listening is what happens when a person gets to hear only what he/she wants to hear. 
There are those circumstances and situations where some people either listen only to get points to fortify their positions or listen to get ammunition they can use to attack others; now you do not want to be in that position if you genuinely intend to have good communication and a fruitful and productive relationship.

STEP 5
CONFIRM WHAT YOU HEAR:

The final step to better communication is to confirm what you hear.

As much as it is the other party’s responsibility to pass across their thoughts and feelings it is also important that you confirm what you think you have heard.
This is because there are many cases where there is a disconnect between the sender and the receiver of the message and this disconnect is seen in the message being transmitted.

I will explain this by breaking down a typical communication process.

Let us take a look at the 6 steps in a typical communication process-
(a) First of all is what the sender of the message intends to say
(b) Second is what he/she eventually says
(c) Third is what the recipient hears
(d) Fourth is what he/she makes out of what they heard
(e) Fifth is what the recipient decides to say in response
(f) Sixth is what the recipient eventually says

Now when we take a look at the process above it becomes clear why there can be so many potential land mines in what should ordinarily be a simple and straightforward dialogue; but most times it is anything but straightforward and it is for this reason we must confirm everything we hear.

So, before you respond you need to ask- “Excuse me, is this by any chance what you intended to pass across?” or “Is so and so what you meant when you said so and so?”

This makes life much easier for everyone. 

I trust you learnt something through this whole series.
Click on our other articles, read them, comment and ask questions, and share this site with everyone you know.

Cheers and God bless you

COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE: 3 OBSTACLES TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

We began this series talking about Communication.

In an earlier episode we defined the term and spoke about the various carriers of communication.
Having identified them, and having resolved that Communication is the lifeblood of a successful relationship we will in this Instalment speak about the hindrances to effective communication.

There are 3 Obstacles to Effective Communication

LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS:- Marriage is built on trust.
Trust is easily one of the most important factors in successful and effective relationships; once there is a breakdown of trust there will be no openness and this will make the communication process strained and laborious.

Now there can be no trust if there is no truthfulness. Trust is the first casualty in duplicity and a lack of honesty.
So each time trust is violated a new impediment to an otherwise fruitful relationship would have been introduced. 

Most people will evaluate others and decide how much to open themselves to them using a mental frame of reference and appraisal that is mostly contingent on either their past experiences with the individual in question or with people the individual reminds them of. 
So Miss A is inclined to relate with Mr. B either on the basis of the outcome of their past interactions or of her interactions with Mr. C who happens to look like Mr. B or come from the same place as he does or sound like him, and so on.
Now if those interactions are anything but memorable a lack of trust would immediately become an inhibition to further communication.

This happens even in already established relationships.

If a spouse is economical with the truth while dealing with the other and it turns out that the other eventually discovers it would be an issue because trust would have been violated, and where trust is violated the free flow of communication will be hindered.

Most of us have either seen or been in a circumstance where trust was violated.
It could be someone who betrayed your trust or possibly someone whose trust you betrayed; it could be someone you are dating who is yet to recover from the hurts of the past relationships and so transfers the aggression to you, or it could be you who has chosen not to move ahead from the trauma of past infidelities.
Whichever way it is the point still remains that a violation of trust hinders free flowing communication.

MISMANAGING CONFLICT:-

Conflicts are inevitable in marriage.

I wish I could say this a million times over until it gets stuck in your head and subconscious.

There is no way two people of different genders with different backgrounds, and in most cases conflicting or divergent interests, will not have friction and disagreements.

The good thing about it is that if the conflict is channelled properly it will end up leading to better relationships. Bad conflicts mess everything up because they end up turning attention to what should not be given attention.

When conflicts are mismanaged they make us focus on the person rather than the problem. When we do not manage conflicts properly we try to fix the person and not the problem.
This sort of thing will inevitably lead to the next obstacle to effective communication.

DEFENSIVENESS:- The first law of nature is Self-Preservation.
Many people give into the law of self-preservation and defend/protect themselves, and they would naturally do so if they felt they were being attacked.

 Most people are prone to not accepting wrongdoing when they are attacked.

So it’s a two way street here; if you want honest and productive communication with your spouse or your intended you need to learn how not to come across as though you are on the attack.

Even if someone has done something wrong you want to put yourself in a position where you can address the issue without making it look like you are on some sort of mission to take the other person out.

And on the other hand if you are the one that seems to have done something untoward you need to swallow your pride, admit your faults, and ask for forgiveness. 
It really will not take anything out of you but will instead boost your relationship and enhance your communication with your loved one.

Okay, so let’s take a look at how we can solve these hindrances. If you read between the lines I am confident you must have gotten some points that will help in sorting the issues out, however,we can glean a little more from what we read and develop a course of action to help take out those hindrances.

HANDLING A LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS
How can we handle a lack of truthfulness in our relationships? We will speak from two dimensions here.

First of all, let’s say you are the one that has violated trust, so how do you handle it?
For starters you need to be truthful about your commitment to the relationship. If you really love the other person then you want to keep them at all costs, and if you do not then there is no need to keep putting the person in a position where you will cause him or her pain.
Kindly note that what I have just said above does not cover you if you are already married. If you are already married to that man or woman then you must keep your commitment, you cannot just get up one day and say you aren’t committed to them anymore. It should never work like that.

And if you are not yet married but decide you are committed to this person and will want to take it to a logical conclusion after you have already violated trust or you are already married and acquiesce to the fact that you must make it work the only way you will be able to do that is swallow your pride and own up to what you did in the past.

Depending on the character and mental strength of your spouse or intended you may have to be eclectic in picking the details of your past discrepancies.
You don’t want to go into unnecessary details if the other person cannot handle it.
You don’t want to tell her the most minute details of your
indiscretions with several other women if she does not have a personality that can handle it.
You don’t want to tell him how your boss held you or what position you took while he had his way with you.

You must take responsibility for what happened and go over how it happened to the extent that you and your spouse can work together to plug the holes in a bid to ensure the occurrence is not repeated.
And after you have done that you will need to make a commitment to ensuring it doesn’t happen again and then take the further step of being accountable to your spouse.

Now if the reverse is the case and the other party has violated your trust you will need to FIRST forgive them. After you have done so you must decide whether both of you are committed to the relationship. If you are and if the other party is repentant for what they did you will need to work on re-establishing that trust.
One way you will not be able to re-establish it is to keep reminding him/her what they did to you at every turn. You will only push them further away.
The way to do it is to make them feel they can trust you enough to tell what their issues are at anytime.
After forgiving you must reassure the other party and make them see you are not going be victimizing anyone.

This is imperative to get everything back on track.

HANDLING A MISMANAGEMENT OF CONFLICTS
If encounters have gone South between both of you and you see that you have allowed your disagreements become crises you can remedy the situation by dialogue.
This dialogue is to find out what stimuli provoke you both and end up making you lose the lessons you should get from the friction.
You want to be sure that it’s not just destructive friction and a toxic environment you generate when you have disagreements, and if that is the case then maybe you are just not compatible (We will be treating “Compatibility” in a later article) and you may need to part ways.
If it just is not working and try as you might you are unable to pass your message across or get the other party’s message objectively then you might just need to call it quits.
If you are already married then I can only tell you that as long as that conflict does not degenerate to any form of abuse you must work on it, and even when it does lead to abuse a separation should only be considered when it becomes physical.

HANDLING DEFENSIVENESS
The first thing to do here is take responsibility. If you are involved in deflecting blame or abdicating responsibility you will only end up causing a festering of problems.
No one will get an award for winning an argument. You might even have noticed that if you are inclined to winning arguments even when you are wrong you have won several of them and afterwards looked at yourself and asked yourself what you have gained.
You might intimidate your spouse/intended through your verbosity or eloquence, or if you are the loquacious type you run them off course by talking nineteen to the dozen, but afterwards you scratch your head and wonder why you have a sense of defeat on the inside even though you were victorious in the argument.

You need to understand the maxim “live and let live”.
You need to always remember that in a marriage relationship it is more important to be in agreement than it is to be right.

We will continue later with the last Instalment of this “Communucation” series.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the comments section.
Then go read the other articles on this blog and share the site with your friends and loved ones.

Cheers and God bless

COMMUNICATION: THE MASTER TOOL FOR BUILDING HEALTHY AND STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

The heart of a marriage is its communication system”- Dwight Small
In this article we will be looking at a very essential factor in the building and establishing of fruitful, happy and successful relationships.
This cuts across all forms of inter-personal associations and as you read you can pick very important points to help you in your interactions with your co-workers, boss, clients, Bible Study group, friends, those you do leisure activities with, and practically everyone you interface with.

However I would need to let you know from the off that although you may use some of the points in virtually any type of relationship the focus of this article is exclusively the love relationship at any level through the 7 levels of friendship we had spoken about in an earlier article.

So right here we will be talking about a very crucial issue in building strong marriages- the art of communication.
There will be several things we will talk about so this very exciting and important article will be broken into several installments.

In this first installment we will be looking at the role communication plays in building a good and vibrant marriage.
First of all, I want you to note the following statement-
“Communication is to marriage what blood is to the body.”
When you think of the above statement you begin to realize just how profound it is.
We know the life of the body is in the blood. We know that the blood carries various things around the body including the oxygen and nutrients it requires to be enriched and survive, and so if the blood is let out life will cease to be.
It is very much the same thing with the role communication plays in the marriage relationship, or any other form of intimate relationship at that.
Let us take a look at this- Researchers have discovered that almost 97% of people that rate their communication with their partner as excellent are happily married, compared to only 56% who rate their communication as poor.
The implication is that effective and fluent communication is an essential in happy marriages.

Let’s start this off by defining our technical term. 

What do we mean by communication?

* Communication is the process of sharing oneself verbally and non-verbally with another person in such a way that both understand and accept what one says.
* Communication is the art of sending and receiving a message
* Communication is the ability to transmit thoughts and perceptions from one individual in such a way as to make meaning to another.

Now, let us take a look at the process of communication itself. There are basically “3 carriers of communication.”
They are the actual content, the tone of voice, and the body language.
There are percentages allotted to each of these carriers and the percentage refers to how much of the message that particular carrier constitutes. Invariably a higher percentage would imply the carrier is more weighty while a lower percentage would imply that the carrier has less import. 

It is important to note that with changes in the tone of voice or in the non-verbal component it is possible to express many different messages or meanings using the same words.
Now let’s take a more detailed look at each.

ACTUAL CONTENT:- This refers to the actual words used in the message. They are the sentences, phrases, colloquial expressions, and generally all the words used to convey the message verbally. So, in essence this refers to verbal communication or the verbal component of the message. Now as important as it is verbal communication is just 7% of the message.
This is instructive.

TONE OF VOICE:- The tone of voice refers to the fluctuation of the voice as the message is being communicated and it vocalizes the emotions, feelings and passions in a person’s heart. Usually when the actual content of the message seems to contradict the tone of voice listeners will accept the latter as the real message. 
For instance if someone knocked at your door you could say “Come in”, but that response could be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the tone of voice used in the communication process. You could say “Come in” and the tone of voice would show you were angry so the person who knocked would anticipate a hostile reception; on the other hand you could say the exact same words in an excited fashion and the person behind the door would realize you were expectant.

Now, the tone of voice far outweighs the actual words in a message and so naturally it has a higher percentage.
The tone of voice makes up 38% of the message.

NONVERBAL/BODY LANGUAGE:- This speaks about the gestures, mannerisms, gesticulations, facial expressions, and every form of nonverbal communication and body language involved in the exchange of a message. 
Because the body language outweighs both the actual content and tone of voice in the message it naturally is what most listeners will be inclined to accept as the real message being passed across.
You might have heard this maxim before- “What you do is so loud I can’t hear what you say.”
Researchers show that when a contradiction or lack of synch between  the carriers of communication in a message ensues most people will receive the nonverbal communication as the true intent of the message.
For instance, if you were having a conversation with someone and she looked disinterested even if she answered in the affirmative after you asked her if she were paying attention you would not need a soothsayer to let you know that regardless of what she said she was most likely either not listening to what you were saying or couldn’t care less.

A person slouching on a chair while another is giving a presentation is passing a message that he would rather be somewhere else, and even a marginally observant person would be able to pick on it.  And it is most likely that nonverbal part that would be picked as the actual message.
Researchers have shown that the nonverbal aspect or the body language constitutes at least 55% of a message.

Now let’s talk a bit about how to use words rightly. As low as the percentage is in passing a message across while using words they are still very critical and so it is imperative in the communication process to learn how to use them. This is really important because if I had $1,000 for every time I have seen wrong words wreck a relationship I would probably be on the Forbes rich list by now.
You see the right words will lead to a wholesome relationship; the wrong words on the other hand will lead to the destruction of even the best relationships. 

Let me share a piece out of the richest piece of wisdom and the biggest bestseller of all time-

“A soft answer turns away wrath:
but harsh words stir up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge properly:
but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.”
Proverbs 15:1-2

Now the verse above cautions us against the use of words in anger. Words that leave the mouth are like eggs that leave the hands; anyone that slips out and breaks is irretrievable. You can’t take words back so it is imperative that one be circumspect in their use.
There is a constructive way to use anger and if we all learnt it we would be able to preserve our relationships and make them richer and more fulfilling.

Let us now see 4 things one can do with anger.

EXPRESS IT:- This is the easiest thing to do with anger especially if you have problems restraining yourself when you get irritated or something strikes a nerve. When a person expresses anger he/she lets the emotion get the better of him/her and the consequence almost always includes toxic words, bitterness, and eventually regret. Sometimes in saying something you end up muddling it all up; the message you intend to send out gets screwed up and you just can’t retract it. It goes out and does the damage. This is why it is almost always advised that you say nothing when you are angry. 

Afterall, you do realize that silence cannot be misquoted, right?

REPRESS IT:- This is stifling anger and neither expressing it nor letting it go. When a person represses anger he/she sits on it and lets it fester and bristle. The problem is that this allows it gain steam and simmer like a volcano; the fact that this person does not express the anger as well as not letting it go means it keeps piling until he/she eventually erupts.
It is a very unhealthy thing and what it will likely do will be to cause health complications for the one that harbors these emotions and further relationship contortions between friends as well.
When you see people that are inclined to handling anger this way you notice that their attitudes and behavior tend to be occasionally confusing. This is because the outburst can be preceded by something that might seem negligible and when the person erupts they usually pour out the results of things accrued over time. 
Usually there almost is no way to know what I call their “trigger moment”- that moment they unravel, and you just might not know what final action would cause that dreaded outburst. Ironically it just could be something really minuscule that will cause the explosion. 

SUPPRESS IT:- This is attempting a forcible end to anger. A person who suppresses anger attempts to deny it as an emotion, and regardless of what happens he/she refuses to get angry. 
Well, as noble as it sounds it is unnatural; human beings were designed to feel emotions, including anger, and so a person who deliberately decides to kill and actually succeeds in killing the urge to get angry will very easily eventually begin to kill all other types of emotion. It won’t be long before feelings of happiness, joy, and even fear are suppressed to the point the individual becomes inscrutable and inexpressive.
This will end up killing the person’s ability to empathize and communicate and that will be a complete disaster.

Human beings are not robots, neither were we designed to be.

PROCESS IT:-This is the final thing one can do with anger. In processing anger what one does is pick the positives from the situation; calm down and let the emotions blow over, then with a clear mind articulate the substance of the events that transpired leading up to the anger and also isolate the stimulus that provoked it. 
Sometimes if we assess the issues that culminated in our fit of rage we might just see something constructive to pull out of it; so rather than blow tantrums we need to ask ourselves if there are positives to glean from what has happened and then cool off while we bide our time with a response.

If your spouse or your intended says something that really provokes you rather than blowing your lid you could first see if the criticism was constructive or just destructive, and if there is nothing edifying in it you can just shrug it off and wait for the right time to respond.

The key here is to do your utmost to restrain yourself from speaking while you are angry, especially when it is in a fractious situation with a loved one. You could say something that will really throw in the cat among the pigeons and if the situation isn’t managed properly you will end up with sorrow and regret.

You don’t want outbursts like- “Sandra, you have the nerve to talk to me like that even after I did you the favor of marrying you when nobody wanted anything to do with you”, or “Kelvin, I was warned to have nothing to do with you, my parents warned me to steer clear of irresponsible and lazy beasts like you but I disregarded sound advice because I thought I was in love. I didn’t realize I was making the biggest mistake of my life”

You see, as abrasive as the above statements both sound I have seen lots of people use even worse on people they claim to love in fits of uncontrolled passion.
What you want to do if you are interested in having a beautiful relationship is separate the hay from the sticks and then when you have cooled off you can then register your displeasure in a more diplomatic and measured way without having to remonstrate with your beloved.

“Hey, honey I heard what you said but you really could have put it in a different way” is one way you can say you were unhappy with the presentation after you would have cooled off.

As subtle as it is it can make a world of difference.

Here’s to building more productive relationships as we become masters at the art of communication.

We will continue this series with the next Instalment. Kindly feel free to ask questions, make comments, and make suggestions. Share this blog with all friends and family.

Cheers and God bless