Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Where did you grow? By Ruth Okwumbu

Image result for ajegunle photos
Where did you grow?
I think the word for it would be – ghetto
I grew up in the last decade
Of the 20th century
In a yard, with roughly a dozen tenants
And over 3 scores of children
In what we now call, Face me I face you

I grew up on a street,
Named after a former CBN Governor
In the popular AJ city, where clean water was luxury
And we had to travel a couple of compounds every morning
With buckets on our head, before the first cock crow
To get clean water for bathing
Before the crowd would unsettle its calm

I grew up on a street,
Where we had regular visitors daily
The rise seller –oniresi- at dawn
The moi-moi seller not far behind
Also the beans seller –eleewa
And at night, the best seller
The man who sold the indispensable otapiapia

I grew up on a street
Where it was a regular occurrence
To see couples fight, and exchange blows
In the presence of their children
Where neighbours always had to intervene in the unending quarrels
Help the woman massage her swollen face,
And the man his head, which may have been hit with pestle

I grew up on a street,
Where there was no sense of privacy
Where one man’s problem, was always up for communal discussion
Where it was clearly one for all, all for one
Where a child was raised by the community,
Taught respect by that nosy neighbour always asking
“You don see me this morning?”

I grew up on a street,
Where we rarely ever saw electricity
Hence the excited shouts of “Up NEPA” whenever we did
Where the only man who had generator
Became host to children and adults alike
Every Thursday night at 8pm
For the thriller series – SUPERSTORY

I grew up on a street
Where it was not at all strange
To see a wife pack out today,
And another move in tomorrow
Where teenage pregnancy was a daily occurrence
Where we had neighbours who changed girlfriends daily
And had children all over the place

I grew up on a street
Where a bottle of coke was luxury
Any adult who bought one
Was sure to have every little child milling around
Where we bought ice water and ice block using coins
Where anyone who slaughtered a chicken
Was sure to have evening callers

I grew up on the street
With many other children,
Where tribalism was no issue
There we grew up, Tope, Zainab, Anwuli
Quarrelled by date, played by night under the moonlight
Told stories, laughed and ate from one another
With such innocence as I can hardly find anymore

I grew up on the street
Where there were no phones
And so we ran endless errands
From Mama Nkechi to Iya Modinatu
From Mama Onome to Mama Osaro
And had a lot of fun doing it
Dressed in only pants

Someday, when my children ask me
I will tell them,
Of the street where I grew up
But then I would ask
Where did you grow up?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


The March 28 Presidential elections has long come and gone, with its surprises for some and heart-breaking shocks for others. ever since then, the status of General Mohammed Buhari changed from that of five-time Presidential candidate, to President-Elect, or rather next President of Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan’s loss at the polls turned out to be more miraculous than most people thought, and even Mama Peace has publicly stated that she recovered from her ailment when her husband lost the election. Hmmm!!! Is that so? Maybe. I guess you are thinking along the same lines as I am. The announcement of that results was more or less an eviction notice for the occupants of the Aso rock for the last six years.
The results, however, raised fresh fears in the hearts of politicians, irrespective of party affiliation or interests. In fact for most, the results threw them off-balance, and Nigerians have continued to watch with interest how each of them have reacted to these fears. We have continued to see how the PDP politicians have continued to blame and cast aspersions on each other, each seeking a way to exonerate himself and implicate others. that is their own reaction to the fear of becoming opposition after so many years in power.
Some went as far as calling for the head of Adama Mu’azu and Chief Tony Anenih. In the midst of all these, both men have resigned, with Anenih strongly recommending Goodluck Jonathan to take over as the Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees. I personally hope he refuses. Not only is he not cut out for such based on his “gentleman politics”, the almost Ex-President who is yet to clock 60 needs to return to Otuoke to recuperate after all the grey hairs he has grown, and the pills he has popped in his six years of ruling “The Giant Of Africa” amidst so many crisis and challenges; and should refuse to be shackled for with the responsibility of rebuilding a house that fell under the watch of Anenih and Mu’azu.  
One major fear in the heart of politicians is that Buhari might actually put in place structures to fight against corruption and corrupt politicians. This is irrespective of political parties of course, because if the truth be told, APC politicians are just as corrupt as their PDP counterparts. If General Buhari actually blocks all the leakages in the national treasury, that would mean that those politicians who spent as much as 20 to 30 million to purchase their nomination forms, and more than double that amount to campaign, would have no means of getting back their monies spent. It might even spell danger for outgoing officials if he chooses to prosecute corrupt government officials from past regimes. This is the real reason why there have been series of carpet crossing, as well courtesy visits to the defense house, where he is currently resident.
Another major fear which is part of the reason PDP is yet to put their house in order, is the fear of Buhari’s success. Deep down their hearts, they have actually pondered and considered the possibility that the retired General might actually succeed in changing the lot of the Nigerian masses. They fear, in their hearts, that he might actually revamp electricity, drive out corruption and poverty, improve standard of education. They fear that he will do what PDP has not done in 16 years of ruling. The interpretation of such is that PDP would be out of power for good.
Enough of the PDP politicians, lets come down to the soon-to-be ruling party; the APC and Buhari/Osinbajo team. In truth, these men have more fears to deal with because as the saying goes, maintaining success is actually more difficult than attaining it. Unfortunately for them, the loads of campaign promises and media hype that preceded the elections has brought the expectation of the masses to a zenith. With such height of expectations, there is a lot of room for disappointment. Promises such as “blocking all leakages to the national treasury, increasing electricity to 40,000 megawatts, paying N10,000 monthly to the poorest 5 million Nigerians, tackling insecurity” amidst so many others, gave the impression that with the General in power, heaven will relocate to Nigeria. Some persons are already pointing out that with such promises, Buhari would be lucky to deliver even five out of the numerous promises. All these are already putting fears into the hearts of APC members and even the ardent Buhari Campaign managers on the social media, who did all to paint Goodluck Jonathan like a pile of rubbish.
With all the calls coming from various corners on where and where the General and his Professor vice should focus, and the dawning of the reality that the Nigerian treasury is almost empty, even the Bold and fearless heart of the Army General must have felt a tiny bit of this fear. He was quoted as saying to Nigerians that he would require their Patience, as Rome was not built in a day, and he would not be able to change things overnight. Is it a mere coincidence that the patience he seeks from Nigerians happens to be the name of the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan?
On the social media, there has been all sorts of suggestions on areas to prioritize, but I would love to emphasize just one of them. The person who made the suggestion is one I know to have been an ardent Buhari supporter throughout the campaign and he wrote “Baba, now that you have won, don’t come up with a 36 point agenda like others. just give us light and security, and others will fall in place.” As laughable as it might sound, that writer expressed what he felt were the core areas that need the General’s touch.
Coming to the 9ja politicians at heart; the masses who campaigned vigorously, came out under the rain and the sun to vote, and for the first time, stayed back to ensure that their votes counted. A lot have the same fears as the APC team. After joining the chorus to chant “change” even when they had no assurance if it would be positive or negative, they fear that the APC might turn out to be no better than the PDP. Some have pointed out that whatever the intention of the Buhari/Osinbajo led government, he would not rule alone, and one can rightfully predict that a bulk of the ministers if not all would come from APC. Considering the influx of members from the PDP to the APC, before, during and after the elections, it might be near impossible to judge the true ideals of any politician, or what he or she would turn out to be.
This is the fear of the Nigerian populace now, and I might want to steal the words of the curious disciples of John to ask “Are you the Messiah, or do we wait for another?”

Thursday, 21 May 2015


The Hassles of Battling Kidney Failure
By Ruth Okwumbu
For most people who have, at one time or the other, had the misfortune of suffering from a dangerous, life-threatening and finance-consuming ailment, the beauty is being able to come out strong and healthy, with a testimony filled with gratitude. About a year and a half ago, the first set of kidney transplants were done at Delta State University Teaching Hospital, (DELSUTH) Oghara, with the twin cases of a mother to child transplant, and a child to a mother transplant. Coincidentally, for both cases the children were in their early twenties and the mothers around their fifties. the result of both transplants was in two fold; a fifty four year old mother with a twenty year old kidney, and a bubbling young man in his early twenties, with a kidney more than twice his age. 

Both cases had their peculiarities, but for the young Oghenetega Joseph Ahawha and his donor mother Mrs. Martha Ahawha, it can only be described as a testimony of gratitude to God for the success of the operation, and to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, for lifting the financial burden of the operation off the shoulder of the parents, as well as being present throughout the entire process to give moral support to the patients. 

In an interactive follow-up session made possible by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health Monitoring, Dr. Rukevwe Ugwumba, mother and son allowed journalists into their experience throughout the ailment, as well as life after the successful surgery in February 2014. While a lot of publicity preceded and followed the surgery, not much has been said about how the donors and recipients have fared for over a year after the surgery. 

Oghenetega, who is now a 200 level student of Computer Science at the World Mission University, recounted to journalists that his situation had begun in the early quarter of 2012 with body pains and swollen feet. Both had been dismissed by his parents as nothing to worry about, and he had been left to go back to his schooling in Niger Delta University (NDU) where he was studying fishery. When the situation persisted still after some months, he visited his Medical Doctor-Uncle at Port-Harcourt, after which he was placed on some medications after a few tests.

A few months down the line, his situation did not get better, and by the time he visited home, his mother panicked and rushed him to the hospital where it was confirmed that his both kidneys had failed. According to him, “I found it hard to believe because I was not a heavy drinker, in fact I only drank on rare occasion. I was referred to the Delta State University Teaching Hopsital, Oghara, and it was confirmed again. It was as if I had been sentenced to death, but my mum would not let me give up. She kept on praying for me and encouraging me. I went online and read up stories about it, and it gave me a little hope that I could come out alive”. 

Discovery of the ailment, according to Mr. Ahawha, however signaled the beginning of endless spending as his both parents practically gave out all they had to ensure that he got adequate medical attention. “we were told that I had to go on haemo-dialysis two to three times a week for a while to see if the kidney would pick up again. From then, it was one spending after the other. A session of the dialysis was to cost N23,000 back then, and it was still the cheapest in the country. After the dialysis, I would be given an injection to help increase my PCV level, and that injection cost an additional N8,000.” This had continued until the government had intervened, subsidizing the amount by over 75 percent and easing the financial burden on the family.

His mother, Mrs. Uhawha had this to say, “my husband and I both closed our bank accounts to meet up with the cost of dialysis twice or three times a week. Even when we tried to reduce the frequency of the dialysis, the mere sight of him struggling for breath and being unable to sleep, sent us running in search of more money. There was a night when I woke up beside him to find out that some sort of water was coming out of his nose and mouth and he was gasping for breath. We had to rush to the hospital about 1;30am that night and I thank God the staff were here to attend to us.

“We had financial support from some relatives and church members, but all the money kept going in for more medications and dialysis. We just kept spending and spending and it began to seem as if we were abandoning our other children, but there was no way we could sit back and watch our first son die without doing all we could to help him” she related. 

Explaining his sojourn with haemo-dialysis, he described it as a process where the blood was filtered to remove the body fluids – a task which ought to have been executed by the kidney to ensure proper circulation in the body. The importance of this process is so magnified in the case of kidney failure, such that failure to regularly filter out the fluids came with its consequence. “There was hardly any option of deciding not to do it because of the costs or because of inconveniences. When I fail to do it frequently, I had difficulty sleeping. The body fluids come up my body system, sometimes making it hard to breath. Once I lie down at night, the fluids sometimes come up and my face gets swollen. Sometimes in the middle of the nights, I had fluids coming out through my nose and mouth, and making it hard for me to breath. There were days I could not venture out of the house due to swollen limbs, and my water intake reduced drastically”. While his life was being prolonged by this act, the torture remained. 

As would have been expected, his social life was badly hit by the ailment as he could no longer hang out with friends or go out for social events. He lamented that most of his friends started avoiding him, barely called or visited to check him up. His medical condition, thus, marked a turn-around in his life
After months of enduring one dialysis after the other, the head of the Renal unit, Dr. Odonmeta had recommended a kidney transplant to be done in India. According to Mrs. Uhawha, “as soon as I heard the cost of flying him abroad, I nearly shouted. We had already spent everything we had on dialysis for about eight months, so there was no hope of raising the money from anywhere. I started praying about it, and after some time, the Doctor called us to tell us that all we had to do was get a donor as the Governor had agreed to bear the cost and fly in experts to do it here”.