Men’s Code

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

Photo credit: B. Showemimo

Twitter street has a substantial number of smart Nigerians. That’s not to say there ain’t cows and goats who launch into an argument head first on that same street. A few days ago, there was an interesting thread on how a man should comport and carry himself. Some of the comments were funny. Some were interesting and thought provoking. Some seemed silly but they were nevertheless correct. I have attempted to add flesh to a number of those intriguing snippets. Please, enjoy it.

First, be neat. The much vaunted perception that a man is only supposed to be rich and nothing more is misleading. Perhaps, this is the reason many of those teenage boys wear one boxer shorts for as long as 3 weeks. Some even bathe in the same shorts and proceed to wear their jeans on soaked boxers. A man is supposed to be as clean as a needle. When you wear a shirt, wear it regally. Don’t wear a dirty or rumpled shirt and treat your white shirt like a girlfriend. If possible, you should also own a suit and maybe work on your body too. That way, the suit fits you and not you fitting the suit. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep your nails cropped. Don’t forget, you’re a man.

Second, whenever you pass out fecal matter, you must wash your behind with water. Don’t be content with wiping your butt with tissue. Tissue wipes, water cleans.The residue of fecal matter has a way of sticking around when you use tissue . When we were much younger and in primary school, the school toilet was a no go area for many of us. Part of the reason was because some idiotic children wiped their butt against the toilet wall. You think this is impossible? Then, you definitely didn’t go to a public school!

Third, use a deodorant at all times. Deodorants mask odour. If you must use perfumes, do so in moderation. Always remember that timeless minimalist credo: less is more. If you baptize yourself with a body spray to the extent that people sneeze and cover their noses when you enter the room, you may have made a fool of yourself .Remember, you’re a man; not a pot of soup. In my estimation, it’s better when people catch a whiff of your ‘smell’ as you pass by them.

Fourth, don’t let chivalry die. Even though we live in an age where women profess they’re strong and capable, always lend a hand whenever you can. From such simple acts as holding a door for a lady or even helping a lady in distress, go out of your way to be kind. When you offer help and you’re rebuffed, just walk away quietly. Some people lack home training and she, probably, falls into that class. Don’t lend a hand because you’re hoping to pick up her number. Just do it and make it a way of life. These days, genuinely kind souls are as hard to come by as white lions.

Finally, don’t be a glutton. When I was serving in the north, one of my friends boasted he could finish four cups of rice. Nobody believed him. We put him to the test and indeed he devoured every single grain. Why eat like that? Is the world ending tomorrow? Eat decently and in moderation. When you eat, don’t let grains of rice fly out at the corners of your mouth. Everyone should eat with their mouths closed. We are not dogs. Perhaps the most important point, is that everyman should commit to a life of learning. What’s a man with an empty head? People feel money is all that is required to be successful. That is untrue. We are men. We are champions. We need to get better everyday.

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The End!

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

The end is often infinitely more important than the beginning. Sadly, this is an often ignored fact. We focus all our energies on the beginning and talk away the strength we could have used in finishing the project. Before I begin to veer off course, let me get to the point. Some years ago, I visited my father at the beginning of the year. We talked about sundry issues and at some point, I began to complain because things had not taken the turn I had expected. I was sorely displeased with myself because I had been unable to meet my obligations as a son. The old man listened patiently. He stared at me and wondered whether he had complained to me. I shook my head. He told me: ‘o saaju aiye o to nkan, igbeyin l’oju’. Roughly, that translates as, being first for now matters little, it is the end that really counts.

When we were children there was a man- a Jehovah’s witness- who used to come to our house to preach. Somehow, my father liked him and they would sit for hours talking and swapping anecdotes. He was the one who narrated this story to my father. It’s not in anyway fabricated. Let us call the man Mr. O. Like me, this man and his brothers were sad because they were unable to take care of their father as they desired. Every ending of the year, these brothers would travel home to spend time with their father. The man who owned the building next to their father’s also had many sons. His sons, by every standard, were illustrious. They would travel from several parts of Europe and America to see their father. Nearly everyone looked forward to the arrival of these sons because food, drinks and money changed hands once you paid them a visit. Mr. O and his brothers would sit quietly with their father wondering why God blessed their neighbour’s household but choose to allow them wallow in misery. The old man always gave them his standard response for the first and the repeated time: ‘o saaju aye o to nkan, igbeyin’oju.’

This litany of complaints and needless comparisons continued year after year until the man died. His illustrious children came for the funeral rites. I think the rites lasted for three days or so. Of course, people had a swell time as they devoured plates of sumptuous meal and belched with satisfaction. The night before the day the man’s body was supposed to be interred, Esu took a hand in the matter. The hunters had kept gun powder somewhere in the house. It was customary, in that village, to usher great men to the ethereal world with gun salutes. That was what the gun powder was meant for. An unwary child, however, carried a lantern too close and the gun powder set the entire house ablaze. Mr O. told my father that more than ten houses also caught fire in solidarity. The dead man, his coffin and all other paraphernalia became ready tinder for the fire. His children, thoroughly ashamed, ran out of the village before sun up and never showed their faces in that part again. Mr.O’s father called his sons the next day and reminded them of his admonition that the end is far more important than the present. I suspect that’s something one says with a suppressed smile playing at the corners of one’s lips.

This year, as you set out in the pursuit of your dreams, don’t engage in needless competition. If anything at all, you should be so busy carrying your matter on your head like jerry curls that you have no time at all to peek into your neighbour’s seemingly lush garden. Simply put, mind your business! That somebody made his first million before you shouldn’t make you look down on yourself. Your race is different. When we compare, we compete. Then, we get petty and jealousy sets in. Years ago, I got lucky on my birthday. I got 5 lovely cakes. Out of sheer excitement, I told somebody. I noticed that with the passage of years, he would tell me: ‘ I got 7 cakes’ or sometimes 8. It took a while before I realized what was really happening. That shows you how petty people can get. Don’t be pressurized by people’s silly timelines of success. Don’t feel pushed by the beautiful pictures you see on Facebook. I’m sure you’ve noticed, people aren’t usually as fine as the pictures they splatter all over the social media. LOL

You can’t possibly carry an elephant on your head and still be mindful of an ant strutting by your feet. This year, as you set out to achieve your dreams, run your race, be diligent, don’t compete with anyone, help more people achieve their dreams and always remember the Divine. There’s absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t be your greatest year yet. Have a fabulous one! Hugs and kisses.

If You Can, Get Married.

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

The arguments against marriage these days are compelling. It would seem that we’re gradually tilting towards a society where it would be banal for a woman to have children for as many as three men. Truth be told, you can’t compel anyone to go get married. It’s a personal decision, afterall. Many years ago as an undergraduate student, I found kindred spirit in a course mate. We never got tired of regaling each other with tales of failed marriages and relationships. Bottom line: stay in your lane. I have found by experience and observation that this notion is wrong.

Years ago when America wanted to send men to the moon, the astronauts were carefully and painstakingly selected. Apart from the fact that the men must be first rate brains, they must also be married. The reason is simple. To cope in a confined space that a spacecraft is, patience and not intelligence is what is required. That kind of patience is only foisted on a man by marriage; not books. It is impossible not to appreciate the wisdom of our fathers: ‘suuru lafi nsoko obinrin’. Simply put, to be a good husband, patience is required.

Once in a while, the strength of a great man falters. At this time, his vulnerability stares him in the face like an owl staring at a lost hunter in the dead of night. When my uncle lost his wife ten years ago, he re-married not long afterwards. I went to visit him. Sometimes, I regret that my mouth turns out to be bigger than my brain. So, I asked him the question I shouldn’t have asked. He looked at me and said he had to re-marry for companionship sake. His children are all grown and have left his house. He told me: ‘ if I don’t have someone with whom I can talk. Someone I can complain to when a boil develops on my butt, I may die.’ The message sunk in and I worried him no more.

For a man, I suspect that getting married presents a win-win situation. The benefits are many and the problems merely present an opportunity for growth and constant self-evaluation. In those days when we were much younger, I would sometimes say to myself that this wicked woman couldn’t possibly be my mother, all because she had punished me. There are days, of course, when she would give me an extra piece of meat or even a second plate of rice and I would bellow: this is the best mum ever. Socrates has solved the problem already. He admonishes that if you marry the right woman, you’ll be happy. If, on the other hand, you marry the wrong woman, you’ll be a philosopher. At least, you can counsel those younger than you are and lead them away from the path of ruin. So, here’s my advice brother, go and find yourself a wife!

The Heart of Man

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

The heart of man is probably the most complex thing in the world. There is a Yoruba proverb that roughly translates as, human beings will stand to honour you but their hearts will crouch at the same time. It is election season here in Nigeria. It is the season of empty promises and handouts. It is dangerous, even idiotic, to trust any politician in Nigeria. In the long run, their stomach is their god and the faceless fellow on the street is a mere pawn. Let us even leave politicians. In the strict sense, the only heart you can speak about ,almost authoritatively, is your own. Human beings are mostly selfish and cruel. Of course, they sometimes give the impression they’re all nice and sweet. This is the reason those that are genuinely kind and selfless are like oases in the desert.

Several years ago when life became as tough as cowhide in our house, we relocated to a sorry sight of a building. It’s what , in local parlance, we call Face-me-I-Face-You. Those kinds of buildings are common in several parts of Africa. That experience was life transforming. One of the timeless lessons I came away with is that when you’re on the war path with a man, he ‘ll gladly snuff life out of you just to get even. You remember the story of the woman who cut off her husband’s penis and stuffed it in his mouth? He was unfaithful to his marriage vows and she dealt him a blow meant for the faithless. Back to matter.Something happened one day. Two female neighbours fought. It degenerated into a free for all. Their husbands and children came and added tinder to the fire. If my memory serves me right, I think they fought everyday for about a week. Sometimes, in fact, some of the children would resort to loud brawls and exchange of blows.

The furore died after the landlady’s intervention only to start all over after about three weeks of cease fire. On the day that the fight started again, my father was returning from work and he overheard something which startled him. One of the husbands told the other one that after the last fight, he had dealt the other family a terrible blow. What was the blow? In those days, it was considered unsafe to go out of your room in the middle of the night to use the toilet which stood as a separate entity away from the main building. So, most families kept – within reach- a paint bucket which anyone who was pressed in the middle of the night used. Of course, somebody would wake up very early to dislodge the content of the paint bucket before the compound revved to life. So, as my father passed, he heard the man say to the other man that his family had added a part of their urine in the other family’s soup while those ones were heating their soup in the general kitchen.

My father quickened his steps, came in and, without replying to our greetings, warned us never to leave anything in the kitchen. From that day, it became a point of duty for us to take turns in the kitchen until food was ready. Now, here is point. A man who could conceive of such a scheme would gladly add poison to one’s food without battling his eyelid. This happened because of a disagreement that could have been handled in a mature way.

Not too long ago, an ancient secret became a matter for the public to feast on. A man, discovered at the Canadian embassy, that all his three children are sired by another. I shudder to imagine how utterly shocked that man was. To think that his wife of many years who professed her undying love to him daily often ran into the arms of another while he toiled away at work. That’s why the Bible says: ‘ the heart of man is desperately evil’. Whenever you can find the time, please, read Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. It is a fine work of fiction where the dangers of polygamy and the extent to which people can go to stab you in the back while smiling in your face are explored.

I know this is hardly possible but if God permits me to return to this planet once again. I’ll beg him to allow me return as a bird. A bird flying about in the boundless sky is one of God’s most beautiful creatures. Birds are poets. They’re creatures of sheer beauty. Birds don’t even gossip or pretend to like you when they’d rather you remained down and dispirited. Birds have no worries. God, Himself solves their problems on a daily basis, of course, you know this already. In our dealings with people, we must always remember that only God is totally dependable. Even the best of men falters every now and again. This is why I’ll leave you with Genereux Philip’s quote: ‘ fake is the new real, you gotta keep a lot shit to yourself’. Our solace is in God alone.

Decolonising the Mind

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

So many of the things we copy mindlessly from the whites are not well thought out. Let’s get this clear, I’m not trying to fan the embers of racial supremacy here. Please, be patient. I’ll get to the point in a minute. This realisation came back to me a few days ago when I had an interaction with a boy who had picked an interest in literature. He had seen pictures of Wole Soyinka when a representative of the Swiss Academy handed him the coveted Nobel Prize many years ago. So, when we met he couldn’t hide his disdain for the way Soyinka was dressed. ‘Why’, he began, ‘ he could have simply worn a suit or even a shirt and trousers instead of the native buba and sooro.’ I smiled. That boy is like many of us. He has yet to decolonise his mind.

I’d rather not bore you with unnecessary preachments. Professor Sophie Oluwole is one of the finest minds Africa has produced. As elementary as this seems, it took this fine woman to open our eyes to the idiocy contained in the popular rhyme: ‘Rain, rain go away/ Come again another day/ Little children want to play. That makes absolutely no sense. Suppose Mr. Rain decides to humour the children. So, he withdraws his slivery fingers and soothing salve and returns from whence he came, what’s going to happen to the crops? What’s going to be the lot of earth’s inhabitants? Let’s not forget that the children will always sing that song every time the rain is about fall.

Pitch that rhyme side by side with that much neglected Yoruba rhyme: ‘Ojo nro/ sere ninu ile/ ma wonu ojo/ ki aso re/ maba tutu/ ki otutu/ ma’ba mu o’. Let’s attempt a translation quickly: Rain is falling/ Play in the house/ Do not play in the rain/ If you do, you ‘ll get wet/ Once you get wet, you’ll catch a cold. Now ask yourself, which is better? One of life’s greatest ironies is the fact that we pay little attention to what we have. Instead, we covet our neighbour’s vineyard. It is the reason we’d rather speak English in informal contexts rather than hold healthy conversations in our native languages.

Decolonising the mind is the beginning of self discovery for Africans. Independence should have started with thought processes. Instead, the colonial masters withdrew leaving behind clones which constantly deferred to them. The educated lady who makes and sells moin-moin in plastic bags is perceived of as refined. She also puts it in a clean show glass for all to see. The illiterate who sells the same moin- moin but puts hers in leaves is termed crude and local. According to those who should know, the refined lady is ‘killing you softly’ to use Lauryn Hill’s words by injecting harmful chemicals into your system. The woman who wraps her moin- moin in leaves is the one you really should patronize. Unfortunately, we’re too civilized to buy from a road side illiterate.

I learnt a vital lesson when I was serving in the north. Right from the camp, we were warned against using perfumes and soaps with fragrance. The reason? The scent attracted bees and other such creatures and they would sting you. I saw guys bathing with local kongi soaps which they had brought primarily for the purpose of washing clothes. These days, I hear that many perfumes and roll-ons can cause cancer. Eventually, we would return to the ways of our fathers and take aspects of the Western culture that are relevant. Why do lawyers still wear wigs when in other climes this has been jettisoned? Why do we even still wear suits when our weather speaks differently? Why are we still keen on going to eateries even though we know pastries go down the wrong way? What is wrong with some of those neat Mama Put joints where amala is served steaming hot and you wipe your brow with one hand while doing justice to the plate with the other?

We must decolonise our minds. We are Africans and we have to stop thinking like White men. Let me leave you with this thought. Mode 9 was reputed to be the finest lyricist a few years ago. He, however, continued to rap like the Americans. When the likes of DaGrin came, the game changed. They rapped in their indigenous languages and the crowd loved them. The times are changing and we must return to the place where the rain started to beat us.

The Lost Generation

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

In scholarly circles, it is standard practice to commence every endeavour with a clear definition of concepts. So, let’s begin with the word ‘lost’. There are a variety of possibilities with respect to the meaning of this word as provided by the dictionary. However, for the purpose of this piece, we will settle for ‘confused’ or ‘to be defeated’. The word ‘generation’ has a variety of meanings too. Let’s be content with, ‘a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously’. The lost generation here, therefore, refers to the demographic below 20. They represent the cream of Nigeria’s young populace. They are rudderless. They are lost.

Why are they lost? Don’t be quick to snort in derision. The facts are available and they stare at us in the face everyday. If you’ve noticed, these set of Nigerians are totally alienated from their cultural roots. They only speak English and even then, it’s mostly rotten English which they nasalise. They don’t hide their disdain for anything local and many of them have never sat at the foot of their parents to enjoy the rich stories revolving around the tortoise and his exploits. When they write, you’ll cringe in horror. For them, ‘because’ is ‘ bcos’, ‘before’ is ‘b4’, ‘that’ is ‘dat’,etc. It is regrettable that space won’t permit one to really thrash out this matter. Maybe one of these days, we’ll return to it again. You must forgive me. I’m already jumping ahead of myself.

The problem, it is pertinent to note, begins from their various homes. There is something about many of these contemporary parents. They are embroiled in a race of ‘my children are better than yours’. They discourage indigenous languages when talking to their children. Sadly, some of these parents themselves struggle to string sentences together. Any child who speaks any of the Nigerian languages is termed ‘bush’. The ones who speak English like an ‘opeere’ hardly know their right from left. For instance, they start every sentence with ‘as in’. Here is an example:

Man: What’s your name?

Girl: As in my name? ( man nods)

As in Rita.

Many of them don’t know the difference between the subject case and the object case pronouns. So you hear, ‘ us came to your house’, ‘ This matter is strictly between you and I’ or even expressions like: ‘ The worstest part is that…’, ‘ You’re still owing me fifty naira’. The strange thing is many of them don’t even care to know what’s appropriate. When corrected, they are often quick to offer a riposte, ‘ who English epp?’.

Let us come to the indigenous languages. Here, many of them can’t even pronounce their Yoruba or Ibo names correctly. If they try too hard, they’ll most likely chop off their tongues in the process. As a teenager, I had the privilege of reading Tai Solarin’s autobiography. He explained that students learn faster when concepts are explained to them in their native languages. I have also read recently that people think better and reach sounder decisions when they use their native languages. This is why the decision by the Ministry of Education to begin teaching science subjects in native languages is laudable. The wisdom of the elders is incontrovertible. How best can we tap into this wisdom? Proverbs! Many of these proverbs are witty, apt and there is always something for a particular occasion. Our children have lost it. The only wisdom they rely on is the one that is gleaned from video games and social media interractions. I once met a teenager who said learning to speak Yoruba language will make her pick up a bush accent. My good friend and editor, Peju is a Fulbright Scholar because her command of the Yoruba language is sound. So, what did I say to the foolish girl? Nothing! I simply walked away.

When we were children, we looked forward to those times when our parents would regale us with folktales, especially those ones were the trickster tortoise was at the centre. In the evenings on Sunday, we also had the good fortune of watching Tales by Moonlight on NTA. From those tales, we learnt the values of honesty, kindness, patience and so on. Of course, even in those days, there were children for whom these things seemed a waste of time. We also read books like Chike and the River, Koku Baboni, Ade, Our Naughty Little Brother and so on. These days, there are no such books. We now have cheap books riddled with unbelievable blunders and spelling errors. Surprisingly, parents are too busy to see these things.

As shocking as it sounds, many of these children can’t write properly. Undergraduate essays too are an eye sore. Many of them stupidly carry over the abbreviations they use when chatting with friends on social media to their examination essays. Worse still, is that they can’t spell. I have heard some say, ‘ I don’t like to spell’. What song does one sing to that kind of beat? You see for these children, their problems are many and the parents are at the base of it all. Why in heaven’s name do you want your child to speak Queen’s English when the same child is a dunderhead? Fela has labelled this ‘Colo (nial) mentality.’ All the Soyinkas, Osundares, Ofeimuns of this world speak exquisite English, yet they do not fake an accent. In the scheme of things, it is not your nasalized expressions that matter, it is the strength of your character.

Nigerian parents are grooming alienated children. Children who have no cultural foundation. Children who think the only way is the western culture. This is why it is so easy for many to buy results for their children. The standards they have set for their children are unattainable. So they must achieve their set goals by hook or crook. The real malpractice begins at home. When children look down on their culture and venerate another’s to the high heavens, it is a sign that danger looms. It is the beginning of the end.

May We Be Forgiven

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

Forgive me, I have appropriated the title of A.M Homes’ fine novel. Sometimes, life is hard as a Christian. Maybe it isn’t, really. Maybe it’s because some of us still have a long way to go. A couple of weeks ago, a lady sauntered into church while the sermon was on. I was listening intently( or so I thought) to the sermon when she passed. Because of the size of the church, I often sit upstairs in a corner where there’s a screen. So, this lady passed in front of the screen. For a second or so, I went blank. I thought I saw something. I looked again. Please, be content with the word ‘massive’. That’s the word that describes both her hips and her boobs. Of course, I quickly looked away. What surprised me was that nearly everyone on that axis, both male and female, looked too. And each face had that palpable shock.

In all honesty, we are no strangers to such matters. Thank God for friends with whom one can act and talk without any fear of being unduly judged. I can freely discuss matters like these with Gbenga, Abimbola and Faith. Back to that day when that lady walked in, two things happened immediately. The first was that my neck developed a life of its own. It turned of its own volition. My eyes simply followed the order given by their superior. The fact that people also looked shows that even as Christians, the flesh rears its ugly head every now and again.

Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to these things. There’s no point pretending. I guess we just have to fight and shake them off regularly. Personally, I have a problem with those who pretend to be Super men and Wonder women. Especially when one finds out eventually that beneath their hard-line posturing is a rotten, degenerate soul. So, when we admire a beautiful lady or commit some other subtle sins, our hope lies in the certainty that Jesus is kind. If we make it a habit, well then, that’s a much bigger problem. I have often argued with my friend, Abimbola, that pretty ladies are born lucky. Whether in the church or on the streets, people often go out of their way to help these beauty queens.

A fine illustration, you’ll agree, is with the way we treat children. When a child is pleasing to look at, we buy him gifts and even take the child off his mother’s back just so we can play with him. When a child is ugly, however, we just wave from a distance and call the obviously ugly child ‘fine girl’. In doing this, we’ve dealt wickedly with that innocent child. May God be kind to us. Our sins are many, almost numberless. One of my friends has converted the back of her sermon note to a ‘wall’ where she records the grammatical infelicities of her pastor. I have often told her, ‘ your pastor is not an English language professor, cut the poor man some slack.’ My friend has been relentless. One day, I jokingly said there is a file in Heaven where Apostle Peter is keeping a photocopy of her entries as it concerns her pastor and that when she gets to the pearly gates, this might stand in her way. ‘Shaaraaap’, she screamed smiling at the same time.

For those moments when we refuse to act the part of a good Samaritan, for those moments when we daydream about a woman’s boobs, for those times when we keep quiet in the face of injustice, for those times when we flagrantly flout the admonitions of our Master, for those days when we inflict pain on those who love us, for those little sins that we enjoy, for those times when we look at what we’ve accomplished and say: ‘ How great I am?’, for those times when we pretend ‘Mr. A is my friend’, yet treat him like dirt, for all the times we refuse to forgive yet expect forgiveness from the Master, for those times when we show cruelty to animals, may we be forgiven.