By Donu Kogbara
The world is full of man-made tragedies and avoidable difficulties that are caused by evil or selfish people, and there are times when searing despair about the human condition almost overwhelms me.
But every cloud has a silver lining and the flipside of the dark side as members of the human race whose essential decency cheers me up and delivers a sense of hope that makes life worth living.
Sometimes, the good things that good people do seem minor or routine. But goodness uplifts spiritually and is never irrelevant, even when the uplift is subtle or invisible. A handful of examples:-
Miguel and Carol
I was recently invited to the European Union, EU, delegation’s annual party in Abuja. It was a typical diplomatic “do” at which professionals and other regular folks from Nigeria and many other countries mingled with VIPs from Nigeria and many other countries.
Change and adventure
I went to the party with two treasured old chums, Miguel Cabrera and Carol Cowl Cabrera – a delightful Anglo-Spanish couple I’ve known for 20 years and would like to briefly pause to salute.
I met Miguel and Carol when hungry for change and adventure, my English journalist husband Dominic and I sold our UK residence and moved to the Federal capital with our toddler son, Oliver, in 1999. Oliver became a pupil at Abuja’s American International School, alongside the delightful Cabrera offspring, Carlotta and Gabriela.
The children instantly bonded and established firm friendships that have survived into their adulthoods (all three are now in their twenties). But, sadly, our marriage didn’t survive the multiple stresses and chronic disappointments that Dominic and I encountered in Nigeria.
Instead of pulling together as challenges loomed, we grew apart; and he wound up returning to London, leaving me and Oliver behind. Carol (an inspired homemaker) and Miguel (a hugely talented professional landscaper) were pillars of emotional support when I became a bereft, floundering nervous wreck of a single mother.
They were key members of a social circle that helped me recover from marital collapse and everything that goes with it – loneliness, financial anxiety, etc; and I’ve spent so many happy hours and days in their spectacularly stylish home atop a verdant valley in Maitama.
Anyway, after we’d circulated and exchanged pleasantries with various fellow guests at the EU party, Carol and I started to feel very tired and decided to find somewhere to sit down and chill. But we couldn’t find any vacant seats. So, I decided to at least try to guilt-trip the nearest two comfortably-seated men into standing up for us ladies; and I marched up to a duo who were chatting to each other and cheekily asked them to please stand up for me and Carol.
Smiling, they both jumped up like perfect gentlemen and offered us their seats and asked us if they could get us drinks or snacks. Then I noticed that a police officer was hovering close to one of them. Then I suddenly recognised him as someone whose photograph I’d seen in newspapers: Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, the Minister of Communications and Oyo State representative in Buhari’s Cabinet.
When I asked him if I’d identified him correctly, he looked diffident and somewhat embarrassed and made light of his lofty status. Considering that Shittu, a barrister, became the youngest-ever member of the Oyo State House of Assembly at the tender age of 26 and was subsequently appointed Attorney-General and is the author of no less than 13 books, he has plenty to boast about.
But instead of strutting around arrogantly like the many toxic empty vessels who pollute the Naija political landscape, Alhaji Shittu was so charmingly modest and I hope that Mr President re-hires him!
The Asikas, Ejiogus and Pax Harrys
When I was down and hurtling towards a divorce I didn’t want and struggling to avoid humiliation and poverty, my late, great, beloved, fabulous, fun and unforgettable Auntie, Mrs Chinyere Asika, nee Ejiogu put a roof over my head and helped me take care of Oliver.
Last weekend, her namesake, Data Chinyere Pax-Harry, the beautiful daughter of Auntie Chinyere’s beautiful younger sister, Mrs Obii Ejiogu Pax Harry, got married in Dubai. And I was there. I don’t usually indulge in major extravagances like attending “destination” weddings in overseas territories.
But I feel like an honorary member of the Ejiogu/Asika clan – which, by the way, includes Mrs Kema Chikwe, a former Minister and another of Auntie Chinyere’s beautiful younger sisters.
Furthermore, I also happen to be close to Dr Pax Harry, the distinguished father of the bride. He is, like me, from Rivers State; and he’s my brother; and he’s smart and extremely decent – a consummate Kalabari professional who possesses tonnes of integrity.
I hail Pax and Obii for sending their daughter off so well. As for Dubai, I’d never been there before beyond briefly transiting through its airport. And while I must confess to a preference for cities that are more steeped in History and Culture, I was massively impressed by the sheer cleanliness and modernity of the place.
The rulers of Dubai have delivered speedy development and shiny sophistication. They have transformed an unremarkable Arabian outpost into a buzzing, pristine, safe business and tourism hub. What on earth is wrong with Nigerian rulers?
Why can’t they achieve even one-tenth of what their Emirati counterparts have achieved? Nigerians are always insulting Indians. But even India is better than Nigeria!
Why can’t the Nigerian ruling class cope with basic tasks like providing us with round-the-clock electricity?