Fatherhood Journals, 1

At about 3 hours old, your mother and I were still breathing in the reality that a new, separate human had been produced from us, and would be a third member of the family. Later that night I lost sleep thinking I had seen a mosquito in the hospital room where you lay in your cot, with your mother and I beside. Instincts I never had before.

At 3 days old, it was clear that you were here to stay and weren’t going anywhere. You had one aim: feed to grow. Your language was simple and clear; once your body had exhausted the last nourishment – ring the alarm. It seemed your cry was louder than a speaker your size should be. I always wondered if you had real desires or if there was simply an automated mechanism in your system that played itself out.

At 3 months old, 3 sets of vaccinations behind, 3 trips to the pediatrician already. Now you make faces, which is a lot more communication. And you’re honest, but I don’t know for how long. But it’s way too early to worry. Sometimes we imagine the different stages of you grown up, then we remember we don’t want to miss the present experience of you growing through the stages. One day, when you don’t want to stay anymore, I hope your language would still be simple, you’d still want to grow, you’d still be honest, and you’d have learnt to kill some mosquitoes yourself.

A Hope for Hope

Here’s part of a WhatsApp chat, with a friend, on 18/10/2020, in the heat of the #EndSARS movement:

(in parentheses are some additions for emphasis)

“There might be 2 potentials from the trend of things. I hope we can go with the first:
1. We need to attack one thing specifically first, (and stay on it), and measure the government's response to it.
So, publicly and speedily prosecute SARS officials involved in crimes, and serve out sentences accordingly.
I believe if we can make the government take justice seriously enough, and the judicial system is able to demonstrate its functionality effectively enough, then we can look forward to putting the persons of our vote at the next presidential and gubernatorial elections, knowing that the government is now aware that we will not accept anything less than what is just.
If we're successfully accomplishing one specific thing - getting prosecutions - (only then) should we push for another specific thing: definite police reforms, well detailed out e.g. state police rather than federal, improved remuneration schemes, revised entry qualifications, rehabilitation and retraining of current officers, a speedy trial system for defaulting officers, etc.
2. However, if we're asking for everything at once, i.e. for all of Nigeria's problems to be solved by one season of protests, we will EITHER accomplish very little and everyone soon goes home at some point, OR being willing to die, we will continue building momentum over a long, bloody, period of time, until somehow, the protest topples the government.
But afterwards, who would we present to lead us? The chiefs among the protesters?
If we're not thinking in terms of SYSTEMS that will preempt and check corruption, and only hoping that new leaders will simply lead us out of this 60-year-old mess, we would be disappointed to find out that leaders we produce from among us may well lead us down the same paths of frustration again. Our "national" corruption lies inside of us.
We are protesting, not because we aren’t corrupt and our current leaders are; we're protesting because the corruption of our leaders have seriously, negatively affected our own lives. But protesting (against corruption) doesn't somehow rid us of our own personal corruptions. Hence, protesting is necessary, but it is not enough. (Ultimately) the change we seek is us.”

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While armchair speculations were still entertaining, 20/10/20 hit. Here’s from a diary note shortly after the appalling incident at Lekki toll gate:

“This alarming event was an ice spear in the chest of Nigerians – the deep, cold, heart-rending, shockingly heinous shooting of unarmed protesters by the military will of the nation. No other agency bears the mandate to defend the citizens against her enemies. Now we must wonder who the defended have always been and who the enemies have now become. Among many things, shame on the military. The only way I could find sleep at the end of such a black day was to remember that God is a Righteous Judge and will judge every evil.”

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Manifestly, a number of plot twists have taken place since the earlier discussions on the direction of the protests among us the citizens.

Where are we going from here? Any recalibrations?

We must do at least three things, arranged in descending order of ease, and simultaneously in resulting order of consequence: 1) come to terms with the revelations so far, 2) understand our position, and 3) decide what to do with what has been accomplished to this point. For the second, and especially the third, a rigorous wrestle of minds needs to ensue, if we intend to strive on with unity of thought and purpose. Our pain and struggle may be common, our hopes and end goals may be the same, but we are not exactly a homogenous group with regards to… ideas. So, may the best ideas generated be favoured, and may they unite and steer us forward.

For example,
1) One revelation is the insistent negligence of the government on the matter of justice.
2) Our position then is that of the oppressed. This is not our identity as a people – we are Nigerians – this is our current position in relation to our government. (In relation to our employees, we might well be oppressors – to our shame.) So, what can the oppressed ever hope to demand that their oppressor feels any burden to fulfil? Electricity? Minimum salary? Maximum salary? Hmmn..
3) We must demand for justice, ceaselessly. Whether they feel it or not yet, this is the one thing they do have an everlasting burden to fulfill. But we must demand for justice without violating justice ourselves. For some reason, that needs to be said; even emphasized.

Small justice is big justice

Before the turn of events, I hoped, and clamoured in conversations, that the energy that had been wound up would be unleashed insistently on pursuing prosecutions of criminal officials, even if one at a time. Justice is a system, a principle even; it is more than one act. If our efforts successfully produce one such act of justice from the government, I believe it means we have been effecting a repair of the system already, such that it is able to put itself together to produce its function. If we can’t have one act of justice on this matter – one prosecution by law – then we can’t have a second or a third, or the hundredth. Bad justice is no justice. Small justice is big justice. Justice is justice. If there’s no justice, government remains an oppressor. Can we do all it takes, in brains and in legs, within the free bounds of justice, to make justice begin to happen? Can we?

Justice is independent

We cast off the bonds of British rulership and were free from anyone, other than us, telling us what is right and what is wrong. We became our own people. But what people are free among whom justice is not free? What is a justice that serves power? But how can justice be independent of the whims and corruptions of anyone if power itself does not serve justice? For justice to be free and true, it must stand above all. And for any people to truly live freely, justice must be true, independent and served by power.

Let us beware then. I earlier said that we’re protesting not because we aren’t corrupt ourselves, but because the corruptions of those in power have impacted our lives. Hence, we cry for justice against them, and rightly so. But note that this justice we seek must also come against those of us who have likewise transgressed the law, at one point or another. If a people do not change, there’s little hope for a truly different kind of leader. The culture, principles and ethics that govern the hearts and lives of a people is what becomes the system that produces their leaders. Can we hope for the rise of an age of independent justice? Are we there yet?

A hope for hope

For six long decades, hope, if it may still be called hope, has been our palliative in the country, in the face of things getting worse on several fronts and our systems steadily degenerating. But what would the Nigerian do if he does not fill up this empty hope with his imagination? He must fantasize a better day, always ahead, and elusively so; he must load his hope up with dreams in order to get up the next morning. People hold on to this palliative because for some, it’s all they have left; it is not because it has been truly promising by any prognostications from the trends.

However, there’s more to be said for hope at this juncture in Nigeria’s history. What we all witnessed – the collective cry of the people against deplorable leadership – has thus far made a note that will continue to echo through the chambers of government, reminding those holding on to power like Gollum’s precious that the people they lead have only endured bad governance thus far, and not because they do not know what good governance should look like. And, they’ve remembered where government gets its power from. But more importantly, I think Nigeria’s people also demonstrated, by the attitude and execution of the protests, that we know what good citizenship looks like, are willing to play this as our part and we might be fit for a better society.

Our formerly hopeless hope may have just received a real deposit, something that stands a chance of growing, by yielding dividends and by attracting more deposits. But one thing gives more promise than what we may passively hope for; and it is what will give our hope any hope: if we have come to believe that our leadership must submit to justice, we must also and firstly, become the kind of people who cannot have any other kind of leader over them – exemplary citizens, who do and love justice.

To say in other words, where do we go from here? The protest has revealed a lot about us and our government; we’re understanding more about our position; and we’re hopefully realizing that justice is our prime demand from government. But we will never so effectively demand it as when we do so by our daily lives.

Fatherhood Journals, 4

Tastes and smells and sights. Different sensations, and the appealing (or non-appealing) quality of each at your appraisal. Your agency of desire and preference is waking up. So we find that your happiness or lack of it is no longer only about what you need; there’s a widening category of things you simply want.

And with your poor discrimination, everything goes into the mouth. There’s still some fun in restraining you, at least before you get to crawling and walking. Yet, a major portion of your care is gradually becoming preventing you from dying or blinding your eye or breaking your nose. Also, it would seem that you don’t believe in gravity. Fortunately, we do.

We’re used to the sound of your cry – dissatisfaction, desire unaccomplished, demand unmet – but we love you enough to try to give to you, do for you, and be for you, what is good for you, as far as we know, and as much as it lies by us to do so. You need this kind of love – you wouldn’t survive without it – because you’re bloody ignorant. But you remind me of myself, and my desires, living in a story that I know too little about.

Fatherhood Journals, 3

You have been a mysterious bundle of full humanity since your first uncoordinated agitations, but yet you are becoming more of a person with each new day, expressing desires, pleasure and displeasure, surprise and disappointment, curiosity. Moving beyond instincts.

What is such an astonishing responsibility to apprehend is that today, and what is put into it, makes part of the person you’re becoming. So did yesterday, and so will tomorrow, to degrees, more or less, as we go. So you really can either become one person or another. And no done days can be re-done.

There are three of us. I’m contemplating about how to contemplate these things. Your mama is changing your soiled diaper. And you, you are doing everything to twist your body out of this 1 minute procedure designed only to preserve your sensitive sanitary sanity. So I bring my face in to intervene for your staying-in-one-place; I’m chanting in Gandalf’s baritone, “you shall not pass!” And as if that like a trigger, you shoot out the widest spray of nasal droplets in my face. Of course, this gave your mummy 1 minute. Of hysterical laughter! But poor you, yet to have all your pieces of the world set up, are left staring at these two confusing adults, in your usual priceless curiosity.

Fatherhood Journals, 2

So you recognize faces now, both the familiar ones at home, as well as the idea of a human face. With a naive curiosity, your eyes light up even at the sight of artistic impressions of faces. So we can imagine your bewilderment when in public you sometimes have to try to make sense of the incomplete picture: eyes … then mask. Guy, you showed up at a peculiar time in world history. Will tell you more about this year one day and the stories on the faces behind some of those masks. But keep looking at faces though. Regardless of the century, that’s where the real interface with other humans remains.

You often don’t know what you need; we had to figure out that this does not always mean what makes you stop ringing the infamous alarm of your vocal cords. If allowed, for example, you’d keep calm and feed beyond your fill, and throw up, and still feed again. And if all you need is just a nap, you’d wail all the more after feeding from being unable to sleep because you’re now overfull. So we’ve had to let you cry sometimes so you can get what you really want while you don’t yet know how to prevent what feels good from getting in the way. I know there’ll be more versions of this coming. Passing through all these with you, now just imagine my future difficulty of having to begin to trust one day that you now know what you’re doing and what you really want. Lol.

You have the enviable gift of a fleeting memory, and so you manage to be free from those bitter adult humors of malice and resentment. So, it could be a scream one moment, and your grandma thinks you’re angry. But once your problem is solved, no trace of your previous state seems to be left in your demeanor. There’s a lot you’re going to learn from your parents and many others and the world, but perhaps I can learn a thing or two for myself from observing an example of human nature in your age. But when infancy begins to reach for adulthood and starts to abandon childhood virtues, I hope I’ll be able to teach some back to you.

The Cut

It can make all the difference. In how you appear – the appearance, and your consciousness of it. It makes the difference whether you can focus on what truly matters to you for the rest of the week – work, showing up, gatherings.

It often goes right; it’s done easily and routinely by those charged with its high calling, to define the destiny of a man for 6 days or 7. Yet it’s often fraught with so many hitches.

It’s the haircut. Both a simple act and an intricate art that trims, mows, carves and gives meaning to the hair distribution on a man’s scalp. The practice has persevered for millennia, yet one inconvenience or another continues to be endured at the hands of the craftsmen.

When Joe goes to his usual hair shrine – the b’s shop – to tend to the sacred lawn on his head, is it too fantastical that he wishes to enjoy everything about the process? Maybe. Here are a few snags that often make his dream farfetched:


Symmetry: Nobody insists that life is balanced, or that we don’t encounter lopsidedness in the everyday. Even our body has uneven apportionment of tissue between any left and right sides. However here’s one opportunity for that meticulous beauty of symmetry to be put on display, but the barber fails to rise by this little detail to the glory of his trade when he forgets to keep a close eye on the other side of the terrain while carving on this side.

Executing the plan: Joe has a picture in his head of what his head will look like at the end of the ritual. But so does the barber! And some of them, even after asking Joe’s opinion, have insisted in their minds (maybe unknowingly), what fits Joe’s head, as if they own it. Professional counsel is totally welcome, but no one gets to desire the look of a man’s head more than the man. Dear Barber, in the next 30 minutes, do your best to help Joe fulfil his vision, not yours.

The smooth: The procedure itself in skilled hands, can have a desirable flow and finesse to it, acquired through a long acquaintance with the angles and contours of various heads. But, ever had a barber use a clipper on you like he was leaning on it for support on the floor of your scalp? Even if you’re going to get a great job done, why the force Baba?


And you dear reader, would you have assumed that barbing was too mundane to write about? I did. But here’s the point: what has been done of barbing here may be done of what you and I do everyday when we get up and go out.

Then, do we leave a trail of palpable excellence? Do we seek to? Or is it in the realm of fantasy for our clients and coworkers, when it should be the propriety of all work?

With all its glitches, barbing to me continues to remain a form of therapy. Tell me about your experience at the receiving end of this trade.

Lying Itches

Every little itch silently demands a scratch, a little scratch. But there’s a catch; the scratch both feels good and releases an itch itchier than the first, demanding more scratching and producing more itching demanding more scratching. It continues to feel good until it begins to feels sore from the injury of nail devotedly grazing over skin.

The first little itch then is not innocent. No doubt, it always promises to be, demanding for no more than the faintest scratch you can afford. “Barely gloss the fingertips over the area,” it says, if you ever heard an itch speak, “and you’d feel better enough to leave it at that.” But the slightest scratch is just enough response to let out more itch and then more scratch. Old story. It wouldn’t be so sinister if it wasn’t so insidious.

Experientially if you may, there are maybe three other ways to respond to an itch: one is to ignore it by self-distraction for as long as it takes. Get busy doing something else till you lose your sensibility of it and you forget it’s there, or it just stops. Don’t itches seem to feed on attention? The second is to numb the sensation; apply a cold patch, an anti-itching powder or cream.

The third is to realize that the itch is a symptom of something else, the itch being on the surface while the something is beneath: a fungal skin infection, a viral exanthema, a skin reaction, a kidney disease. The list goes on. And with understanding what symptoms mean, you seek a diagnosis and aim to treat.

The palliatives are beneficial for bringing relief, but they don’t aim at the condition beneath, only at the itching which marks it. Such palliated itches are happy to go, and come back when you’re least ready to employ any technicalities to manage it. Anything then more than a simple, foolish scratch, is in the moment, too far removed from memory, reason and will, allowing the deceitful promise of the itch to be believed again and its evil revealed as it leads to injury.

A real solution starts with truth; the truth about your real condition – a diagnosis. Because now at least you know what really needs to be treated.

Providential Accidents

December, 2019

There are many places to possibly start this story from, but I’ll begin with the shoes in my hand about to be dipped in a bucket of soapy water. Like many other things in the story, from a certain perspective, these sneakers don’t matter. It’s a pair of white soles, but that is not so obvious now until I wash them. I had to walk through a number of dusty roads in between public transports the day before. If I intend to keep wearing the shoes, I will have to be washing them more frequently now as I wrecked my ’93 Corolla in a solo accident yesterday.

Every time I drove to work for a shift and made it in twenty minutes, or fifteen or twelve, depending on the day of the week or the time of the day, every time, I felt in control of my commute, without even thinking about it. Yesterday morning however, I wasn’t in control of the last two minutes of my drive back home after a busy night duty. I dozed – actually, slept – on the wheel, veered off the road and smashed through a number of obstacles, and crashed into a gutter. I woke up at some point in the middle of this realizing that a wreckage was in progress, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Life and limb were spared, to the astonishment of passers-by. No internal injuries either, confirmed later in the day. Fortunately I didn’t involve anyone else in this misfortune, not that it was within my control not to. What was lost, the precious value of this ease of transport, is a thing that is replaceable. What was spared is irreplaceable. Here is when loss feels like gain.

Perspective and meaning
Automobile accidents occur all the time, but one thing that would be peculiar about any incident is the perspective of the one who experienced it, which beautifully, is such a thing that can be shaped. So while we interpret the world and events based on our perspectives, these events may also in turn cause a shaping of those perspectives; they may reinforce, broaden, narrow, or, they may even transform those perspectives, when pondering the events leads us to search for more truths about reality. I think this is because, when we search for meaning, we are bound by our perspectives, which we find are either sufficient or insufficient.

And meaning matters because it seems people can endure the most depriving circumstances and harrowing experiences if they know there’s a meaning in it that is bigger than them and the event. What breaks us is not just great suffering, but meaningless, purposeless suffering. Hence our perspective must be sufficient for us to make sense of the world.

When our perspectives have been shaped in some way by thinking over an event, and a satisfactory meaning has been apprehended; we carry on these perspectives to the rest of our lives, like a new way of seeing the world that cannot be undone. Hence it may well be one of the blessings of such incidents which disrupt our routines and convenience, that they become chances for us to really think, and seek, until we discover not just meanings to cope with our sufferings but hopefully truer ways of seeing and of interpreting the world and life.

My perspective
“God is Sovereign” is a statement that always solves the way I think about my problems. It’s a perspective, when reinforced by thinking over events, that resolves the tension between my desire to control my circumstances and my finding that I have no ultimate control over them. I am reminded that I don’t just lose control when I doze off on the wheels during the day or when I surrender the wheels to sleep at night; I am never primarily in charge. The idea of the Sovereignty of God limits regrets, because while I have a real responsibility to take precautions and will be held accountable for carelessness, my regrets cannot retain a desire fixated on undoing the past or preventing an ‘accident’ that has already happened in God’s own kind Providence.

When God is in charge, as is always the case, many things that seem to matter a great deal do not as much. For example, how I think and write about a car accident while contemplating God and his rule over the past, present and future, or his rule over my life, possessions and family, how I think about or write about God’s providence matters much more than whether or not I have to walk through dusty roads, whether or not I lose a car or lose anything else. A question such as, “is God kind, and wise?” matters infinitely much more.