The palpable fear that has gripped the residents of Port-Harcourt is not unfounded. At the last count, no less than ten young ladies have met their sordid deaths in the hands of an unidentified killer. The pattern is as similar as it is curious: young women of a certain age range are found bereft of breath in random hotels within the city’s metropolis. Cause of death—strangulation. The unsettling story does not end there; it takes on an eerie dimension with the murdered ladies spotting a white piece of cloth tied around hand and neck. By now, one would have thought that law enforcement agencies would have some answers relating to these inexplicable murders, but that’s merely wishful thinking.
My mum once told me the story of how, during the early years of her marriage, a friend of her friend had expressed concern over her “apparent” childless state. My mum’s friend had stared at her with a mixture of shock and amusement. “She has three kids already,” she announced to this individual. It was their turn to be surprised; they had had no inkling that my mum had even one kid, let alone three. They had been so certain of their impression that if the new information wasn’t from one who was so close to my mum, they would have doubted it was true.
Individual mystery is getting scarcer by the day. Our lives are an open book because it is no longer fashionable to keep mum on one’s activities. The virtual community continues to prompt us to share— and we succumb— letting friends and foes alike into everything that defines our essence. Gone are the days when circumspection was an unwritten rule. The times when one made moves in silence are long forgotten, and though some people still hold onto the holy grail of a life void of incessant displays, these lots are a negligible percentage.
Influence is a word that increasingly features in our daily vocabulary; so much so that we now have people who go by the title of Influencers. Impacting the behaviour or thought process of others is a concept the vast majority of us could relate with since we were kids. Our parents warned us about peer pressure and how it could derail us from the straight and narrow path. At school, we were admonished not to join band gangs to ensure we weren’t tempted to engage in untoward activities such as drugs and heavy drinking. All our lives, we have been lectured on the potential danger inherent in influence.
It starts at an early age: the dream and need to belong. To be one of the cool kids. The drive to be affiliated with wealth and recognition began in high school; children from average homes who did all they could to be friends with the kids from affluent backgrounds. They devised every means to be viewed as one of the creme de la cremes of the student society. Some of them went as far as denying their own parents or seeing them discreetly when they came visiting because they needed to keep up an appearance.
Nearly 2.5 million Muslims participated in the Hajj (a spiritual exercise that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam) this year. The figures have risen steadily over the years, and it is safe to presume the next couple of years will follow the same upward trajectory in numbers. The El al-Adha holiday is one both Muslims and Christians can identify with even though it is not officially celebrated by Christians. The story of Ibrahim (Abraham in the Bible) and God’s command to him to sacrifice his son, Ismail is recorded in the two most popular holy books. Eid-el Kabir is tagged, a festival of sacrifice—one that commemorates a test of faith and belief in the supreme being.
At the basest level, humans go through the same challenges: juggling family and vocation, giving attention to the things that really matter—making and sustaining a living, staying healthy—nurturing relationships. For people in developing countries, poverty is an ever-looming possibility, so there’s a constant battle to stay afloat financially. Add political turmoil and insecurity to the mix, and there’s no doubt that everyone has sufficient burdens to keep them busy. However, there’s a challenge that never ceases to rear its head. One that’s designed to break anyone who isn’t deliberate about self-awareness and authenticity.
Talking about famous people, the first thing you need to know is that there are celebrities and there are social media celebrities. No, they are not the same thing. Yes, sometimes, the lines blur and social media celebrities (or call them influencers, if you like) evolve to become popular in the actual world, but many…
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
“Amen.” The congregation chorused as Sunday mass came to a close.
Some members of Redemption Evangelical Church thronged forward to pay their respects to Father Brown the presiding priest of the parish.
“God bless you.”
“God bless you.”
“You are blessed.”
Father Brown had a prayer for everyone around him. The 6ft 3 inches bulky man of God was adored by his people. Even though he towered above everybody else, he was soft-spoken and a calm reassurance accompanied his teachings.
One of the traits the typical Nigerian (and to a larger extent, Africans) adores is humility. We talk about it—actually, we pontificate about it—a lot. We are obsessed with people who appear to have means or recognition yet are self-effacing. And when we come across those who do not care to be particularly modest, we are gutted by their arrogance. We can never fathom why anyone would not deign to make light of their genius or success. It’s entertaining to watch, really. More so when one remembers that Nigerians aren’t exactly famous for a being docile, meek bunch who are contained in their ways.