HAPPY New Year! The excitement of a brand New Year, full of renewed hopes and aspirations is still fresh in our minds. I would be writing, or talking to you, my fans, on first person basis. We have come a long way, haven’t we?
It’s fifteen years now since FEMINIQUE hit the features pages, and since then, in my own small ways of making advocacy, lives which were hitherto at the brink of destruction were saved. People, particularly women and the girl-child and children generally who were going through the labyrintine phases of tumultuous lives had eventually lived with positive tales to tell.
Between 2005 and 2009, two destitute women, the kind we were ‘free’ to call ‘mad women’ were re-united with their families, children went back to school, destitutes had roofs over their heads, widows got justice, women were empowered courtesy stories that I did on this veritable platform and painstaking efforts made, in alliance with key officials of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development both here in Edo State and in other states, to ensure peaceful re-union and even transition from the state of dementia, amnesia and total indifference to the existence of humanity to the desired state of sanity or near-sanity and self-consciousness.
I remember Hauwa, I remember Maimuna, I remember the nude woman at Ogida Street, I remember the pregnant teen of Uzebu, I remember the destitute ‘Professor’ at Ugbowo, I remember the lonely child at Uwelu, the widow, the orphans, I remember all those whose story I couldn’t write afterall but whose advocacy made sweat run down my brow and who eventually began to sing new songs, not as they sang in their old state of dementia, but as, miraculously, they became new individuals with new identities again, with hopes and aspirations, with clear minds to choose between right and wrong.
I recall the episode with Maimuna, the young lady ‘chased’ about by demented spirits who imbued her with madness. I didn’t know what spoke to me and I left the cool, cosy atmosphere in my office that day and crossed over the busy Airport Road to the vegetable market to get some vegetables.
I had barely crossed over to Ede Shopping Plaza when I saw her, tall, lanky, ebony black complexion with a queenly gait, dishevelled hair, dirty apparels that swept the city centres, clutching a purse to her chest and with that hollow look in her eyes that suggested, “I am in a world of my own”.
I shook my head, pained to behold such a beauty, womanhood in disarray. Then I made straight to her direction. When she saw that my steps were not about being swayed to a different direction as would anyone who chanced upon her, she attempted to quickly pull away from my path, but I took her and gently good said, “I actually came to meet you, and in that instance, I saw shock in her eyes and the hollowness disappeared.
“You came to me?” she stammered the words, and her sweet voice, her English accent took me aback, momentarily.
“Yes, would you be my friend?”
“You … you want me to be your friend…? Why …..?”
“Why not? Am I not good enough?” And she threw back her head and laughed, long and hard.
I held on and enjoyed the ring to her voice. By God, I wished I could make her sustain that laughter for years to come. I saw how beautiful this ‘mad lady’ was, the beauty exuded from within and I wondered what would have happened to bring her this low.
“Are you so funny? I should be the one asking you why you chose to be my friend, why you chose me”.
Her words were explicit, fluently spoken and she was sensible.
“You are the funny one. You are the one who should be telling me why I am not eligible to be your friend”, again she began to laugh, this time I cut her short.
“Excuse me, am I not good enough to be your friend?”
And she sized me up now, a smile playing on her lips, another laughter about to break forth. I also began to size her up. Almost six-feet tall, I looked up at her as she peered down at me, and we both began to laugh.
“Oh, I see, I am shorter, no, I am short. You’re tall, that’s why we can’t be friends, isn’t it?”.
“No, no, no, I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking… are you not repulsed by me, by my appearance?” and I saw fear in her eyes, I saw a mix of doubt and amazement. “How can a normal person want to be friends with a mad woman?”
“Oh,dear. Don’t say that, who calls you that? You are not mad. It’s just that you need friends who can appreciate what you are and bring out the best in you. So, can we be friends now?”
“Yes!, yes!” it was like the acceptance of a marriage proposal and I took her hand and shook it vigorously.
“If you were a man, getting wives would be very easy”. She said to me and we laughed. Maimuna and I ended up in a restaurant and the drama there was something else. Everyone woundered at us as we ate together. After that, I took her to a salon at Ekenwan Road (it wasn’t so strange there because the proprietress had heard about me elsewhere) and the operators gave her junky hair an overhaul.
The advocacy had begun. The long tale is now history.
Today, Maimuna is okay and has re-united with her family in America. Four months back, Maimuna called me from her Washington, U.S.A abode and she sounded in good stead.
While we have begun a New Year that promises to be brighter and better than those before, I wish to use this medium to appreciate everyone, both individuals and organizations who had cooperated with me in my advocacy works as a journalist, social worker and lawyer in equity. May your quivers never run dry! Happy New Year.