The Man in the Mirror

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

Of course, you already know that I have appropriated the title of Michael Jackson’s famous song. So, who is the man in the mirror? Well, that man is You. There are probably a few exceptions but when we look in the mirror, we see what we want to see. We delude ourselves that we’re the best thing on this side of the earth. The mirror, in a sense, is an object of self deception. That is in absolute agreement with the fact that some mirrors distort the reflected image. This, perhaps, is the reason why it is one of man’s most famous inventions. I picked up a line from a book sometime ago: ‘We are blind to our blindness’. Such powerful words. Let me try to paraphrase that: We are ignorant and unaware that we are. That’s why the Yoruba’s often say: ‘ Ipako onipako laari, aaki ri tara eni’. It is easy to point out another’s flaws.

The man in the mirror,sometimes, makes gargantuan mistakes yet chooses to wriggle his way out instead of going the path of an unreserved apology. The revered Bishop Oyedepo once read a newspaper article upside down. His mistake started the moment he referred to the author of the article as ‘one Tunji Dare’. Anybody who understands English can tell that ‘one’ as used here suggests that Tunji Dare is little known, maybe obscure, in fact. Error one. Tunji Dare is a both a professor and a famed satirist who has been in the game for over thirty years. So, the article talked about the fact that Buhari has been cloned and that a Sudanese is the one at the helm of affairs. The author went on to provide ‘proof’ to substantiate his claims. The Bishop misinterpreted the article and told his mammoth congregation that the man in Aso Rock is Jubril al Sudan and not Buhari. He shored up his claims with ‘ facts’ from Professor Dare’s article. Error two. Bishop Oyedepo encouraged his congregation to pray against modern day slavery and they prayed hard. He missed the satiric bent of the piece.

If our knowledge of a particular field is limited, it behoves us to find out from those who know. The Bishop certainly didn’t. His media and editorial board chairman, Professor Folarin came hard in his defence. He claimed the Bishop knew the piece was a satire. Now, this is the error of errors. Which is easier? To tell a blatant lie or tell the truth. Why deify the man and give folks the impression he is incapable of making mistakes? Let’s be honest, it is easier to lie. It is divine, however, to tell the truth and admit we had goofed. There is an Oyedepo in all of us. The man in the mirror rarely admits publicly that he’s wrong. It is instructive to note that the idea that Buhari is dead and has been replaced by Jubril originated from Nnamdi Kanu’s twisted mind. Sadly, many people still believe Buhari is dead and that the whole world, including America’s king of rants Donald Trump, is enmeshed in a conspiracy of silence.

The man in the mirror is incredibly selfish. Oscar Wilde has provided a sound definition of selfishness: ‘ Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.’ Nigerian politics is a study in selfishness. When Governor Ambode’s rift with his god father became public knowledge and the former realised the governorship was slipping away, he quickly called a press conference where he thoroughly slandered Sanwo-olu his opponent at the primaries. He claimed the man was once arrested for spending fake dollars in America. He also told us his opponent was mentally unfit to govern because he had been a patient at the Gbagada General Hospital. In the characteristic manner of politicians, he added:’ We don’t want to talk about all the things we know’. The question is, what’s there to talk about again? Whether we agree or not, there is an Ambode in all of us. The degree to which he manifests, however, varies.

The man in the mirror is often deceptive. When we were still in the north, one of my friends had a girlfriend whom he loved immensely. I remember on one occasion, he collected his meagre allowance of N9,500 and sent it straight to the girl. My friend was so sure they would end up together. After all, they met in the university and both were members of the same fellowship. Both were committed; both blazed amazing spiritual fire. My friend was posted to serve in Kebbi. She was sent to Kano. I have often maintained that service year is the litmus test of all relationships. Any relationship that survives it may last a life time. Long story short, all the while that my friend was sending money to the girl, she was warming the bosom of another another Christian brother. Perhaps to a lesser degree, we’re mostly like this lady. When we stand before the mirror we know who we are but that’s not what we see. We are blind to our faults but can easily pinpoint other people’s infelicities.

The man in the mirror must change. By now, it is probably apparent to all Nigerians that the present government is just as clueless as a man in a strange land. It is an overstated fact that we must be the change we want to see in the world. It is possible for the earth to be Heaven’s anteroom if we all strive to be a little better than we were the previous day. Just think about it, the man in the mirror must exhibit God’s nature; not his own wicked propensities.

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One Day for Sure

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

One day or day one, we will all die. I think it was Soyinka who explained that ‘death is an inevitable state of terminality’. If you are a Christian, you may have noticed that people echo their loudest ‘Amen’ when the pastor prays against death. Deep down, we know it’s a debt we owe. Still, we all carry on as though we are the lords and masters of tomorrow. We use our friends, we speak from two sides of our mouths, we don’t care what happens to the fellow next door as long as we’re doing great. No one prays to die early yet people do and many will.

About ten years ago, I met a remarkable teenager. His name was Damilola. What drew me to him was his trademark toothy smile. I don’t think I know any other male who smiles and laughs with that same ease now. In those days, Damilola’s smile seemed like the sun peeping behind the cloud’s golden curtain. One other thing I liked about him was his unending questions. His mind, as we say, had an extra large question mark. He harassed me every time with several questions. Some I could answer, some I parried and some I couldn’t even fathom.

His questions were borne out of a genuine desire to make sense out of a chaotic world. One day, I woke up to the sad news that Damilola had died. It seemed like one long and ugly dream. He slept and he never woke up again. He was seventeen at that time. Unknown to many of us, he had a hole in his heart. He knew this yet, he carried on like a warrior. He is dead and gone. At best, we can only speak of him in the past tense. I remember this boy again a few weeks ago when Professor Pius Adesanmi passed on. Adesanmi died when Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 crashed after take off on the 10th of March, 2019. This man had so much promise. He spoke truth to power. He was ever ready to lend a helping hand. For all his brilliance and courage, he still died. And he’s not fifty yet!

While it may be disconcerting to go around mulling over the day we will die, it is helpful to bear it in mind. Perhaps, it can check our excesses and remind us of our mortality. Somebody suggested we should all write our epitaph and put it where you can see it,at least, twice daily. How would you like to be remembered when you’re gone? Write it, please. Just one sentence. May be this will help us see things in a better light and probably remove the shoulder pads from our hearts and shoulders. Where death is concerned, age is inconsequential. You may be ten or twenty, thirty or fifty, when death comes,there is no armour against it. May we find ourselves lucky enough to reach a ripe, old age. We must bear in mind still, one day or day one,we will die.

P.S : And God shall wipe away tears from all eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelations 21:4

A Tale of Three Drinkers

‘Dele Oladipupo©2019

When my good friend, Martin was about to get married, he asked me to accompany him to meet his prospective father-in-law. That was about four or five years ago. We travelled all the way to Sagamu from Lagos with a clear mission. The man is a Londoner and in the characteristic manner of people who are both exposed and well read, he didn’t keep us waiting. The exterior of the building belied the magnificence of the interior. We were marvelled. When we knocked on the metallic door, a woman opened it with a warm and inviting smile. We later realised that was his wife. We were barely seated when the man himself sauntered in. He wore shorts and a white polo shirt. He greeted us, shook our hands warmly and asked: ‘What will you boys drink?’ ‘Malt sir’, we replied. ‘ I have Vodka, beer, red wine or you’re teetotalers?’ ‘ Yes sir, we don’t drink.’ He seemed shock but when he came to, he called us ‘boring pastors’ because of our disposition to liquor.

While sipping his drink he said something strange. He told us that people who drink are easier to deal with than those who don’t. We didn’t prod him; he continued of his own accord. He told us that those who do not drink find it hard to forgive and that there is some sort of chasm in their souls where they keep the wrongs and infractions done to them. Drinkers, on the other hand, talk about the wrongs done to done immediately alcohol enters their blood stream. He told us this is why they make better businessmen that those of us who call ourselves Christians. You must agree that seemed outright illogical. Of course the conversation soon shifted grounds. We talked about the serious, the mundane , the cosmic and even the pedestrian. His brilliance shone effortlessly. Probably because of the brilliance he displayed in other matters, I found it hard to shrug off the point he made about people who drink.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make a case for alcoholism, whether moderate or extreme. The disadvantages far outweigh whatever advantage one may put forward anyway. Jesus made a distressing statement about Christians and non- Christians in Luke 16:8, ‘…the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. ‘ So, as far as street wisdom is concerned, Christians are not half as wise as non-Christians. Just look around you, they flourish more, they’re easier to deal with, they don’t even hoard information. This is a fairly established standard, however. They, like many Christians, can be mean too.

My boss has a fantastic husband. She’s a solid Christian but the man merely strolls into church once in a while. He’d rather spend his Sunday on his bed and and maybe watch football matches. Expectedly, this is a sore point between these two. For all I know, he is simple almost to the point of being shy. He doesn’t joke with his children and it seems to me that he adores his wife. On her 40th birthday, he bought her a jeep. The poor woman very nearly died with joy. Did I mention that he drinks? I met a man a few weeks ago, he is one of the high Chiefs in Remo. His sense of humour is amazing and all his words are laced with wisdom. For example, he told me: ‘ Do you see how big this house is? I only have control over one room. That’s the room where I sleep. ‘He explained that if a man wants peace of mind, the size of the house he has built matters nothing, what counts is the ability to relinquish authority for the sake of peace. This man, like the other two, drinks.

So, what’s the point? If you refuse to make somebody’s acquaintance all because he drinks, you may be the loser for it. After all, even Jesus befriended sinners more than the saints. The fact that we’re Heaven bound doesn’t mean we should be useless here on earth. Don’t throw an argument out of the window merely because it doesn’t align with your faith. We have a lot to learn from people whose religious leanings are different from ours. That wisdom is only useful here on earth, it is absolutely useless in Heaven. At this point, it is important to remember that if you can, you shouldn’t even drink at all. There are several ways of enjoying oneself without resorting to alcohol. We must bear in mind, however, that the fact that we do not drink doesn’t make us better than those who drink.

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.

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.