Depression: Get up and Fight!

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

A couple of weeks ago, I heard of the sad passing of one of my former students, Pelumi. She was one of the prettiest girls I have met. She always wore her smile like an ornament. I don’t think I ever saw her raise her voice or flare up in anger. She seemed like one who was always in control. She had moved on to become an OAP with Cool FM in Lagos. For one who was so young and focused, the world would have been her oyster. One of the most enduring lessons in life and literature is the dichotomy between what is real and what appears to be real. Sadly, her beauty, her dreams and her laughter speak differently from the state of her inner recesses. She committed suicide and left what seemed like a suicide note on Twitter. One thing is clear. You cannot commit suicide unless you’re depressed. Please, see my post https://deleoladipupo.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/why-do-people-commit-suicide/

According to World Health Organization, ‘depression is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed moods, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy , feelings of guilt or low self worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration’. It is instructive to note that depression as a disorder is different from depression as it concerns a time of sadness or disappointment. The difference is, while one is temporary, the other is sustained over a long stretch of time. Depression as a disorder occurs when an individual is unable to move on long after something bad has happened.

It should interest you to know that more than 22% of Nigerians suffer from depression. That’s alarming. What are some of the things that can make one vulnerable to depression? Sustained negative thoughts,lack of motivation, feeling of abandonment and hopelessness, health problems, grief and loss, drugs, poor nutrition among others. Is a person suffering from depression a weakling? If depression is an illness. It follows logically, therefore, that when one has this disorder he is suffering from an illness over which he has no control. To this end, people who suffer from this disorder must not be looked down upon. They are not weak.

Unfortunately, we live in an environment where people judge our actions and inactions. If you’re celibate, you’re impotent. If you have too many male friends, you’re a slut. If you’re thin, you’re poor. If you’re fat, you’re foodie. We’re so relentless about passing judgements, we don’t even wait to interact with people sufficiently before we write them off. This is the reason most people can’t afford to seek help from professionals when they’re down. As it’s typical, we’ll label them ‘mad’.

Do you suspect that you might be suffering from depression? Then, you need to seek professional help. May God bless our pastors and spiritual mentors but unless your pastor is a psychiatrist, you’re talking to the wrong man. Betty Irabor is the publisher of the popular magazine, Genevieve. She sought help. She was constantly misdiagnosed because depression is , sometimes, hard to pick up. She went from one physician to another and each added something to her already long list of prescribed drugs. Her worries are over and she has written a fine book where she narrated her travails and her journey out of the woods.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the best way to deal with depression is to get up and fight. The desire to get out of bed each day may be nil, pull the curtains aside and get up anyway. At the end of the day, we must endeavour to make a success out of our stories. If we fail, there are friendly foes waiting anxiously to say: ‘We always knew you won’t amount to anything’. Somebody said: ‘success is the best revenge’. If you’ve been fired, dust yourself and fight. If you’ve been disappointed in love, take good care of yourself and love again. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I wish it were possible to leave you with something more soothing. You may have heard of Winston Churchill. I fell in love with him many years ago. I have read a few books about this remarkable man. He said something noteworthy: ‘If you’re going through through hell, keep going’. I’m almost certain he wants us to understand that as long as we continue to make an effort towards getting out a quagmire, we will get out. You should take his advice Take care when you notice tendencies of depression. Don’t keep quiet. Talk to a psychiatrist. You know I love you. Take a handshake over the miles. Hugs and kizzzzzizzz.

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How to Win Friends and Be More Likeable.

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

Photo credit: F. Amo

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted someone reading Carnegie’s classic: How to Win Friends and Influence People. If my memory serves me right, I read that book some fifteen or so years ago. It’s a fascinating read any day but as I moved away, I kept wondering if the rules are still the same given that the terrain is no longer what it should to be. Take for instance, parenting is no longer what it used to be. When we were growing up, our bodies bore weekly tell-tale signs of flogging either from school or from our parents. The rod of correction wielded much influence back then. Until you reached your twenties, you were not spared. Things have changed radically now. You can’t even flog a ten-year old without getting on the wrong side of the law.

Please, don’t get me wrong. Carnegie’s wisdom is almost incontrovertible. The 21st century, as we all know, presents peculiar challenges. To meet them, we must continually be on top of our game. We must constantly re-invent ourselves too. So, you want to be a more friendly person? You want to be likeable? Please, read on. You may add your opinions in the comments section of this piece. That way, we can drink from your well of wisdom. That way, we can be even better.

First, if you want to be more likeable, you need to smile more. I think it was Charlie Chaplain who said: ‘ I have many problems in my life. But my lips don’t know that. They always smile’. I didn’t learn this early. A few years back, the Professor supervising my thesis asked why I always looked worried. ‘You don’t smile’, she added smiling. I felt really stupid. Why do we even frown? There is a Yoruba proverb that roughly translates as: ‘there is nothing the Heaven will throw that the Earth cannot contain’. A frown does not even lighten anyone’s burden. If anything at all, it makes us age faster. It is common knowledge that a smile makes you attractive. According to experts, it also boosts your immune system, improves your mood,lowers your blood pressure and keeps you looking youthful. From the foregoing, it is possible to argue that anyone who refuses to smile may not live long!

Second, you need to have a fine sense of humour. Everyone gravitates towards the one who can see the jocular side of things. It’s almost laughable when you hear some say they like it when a man has a sense of humour and they themselves can’t take a simple joke. There are very few ladies in the class of my good friend, Lizzy. She told this story many years ago. Her boyfriend had just lost his father. So, he called Lizzy on the phone and sounded lachrymal. She rushed to his house to console him and found that the door was just closed not locked. She looked everywhere. Eventually, she decided to go and check him upstairs in his room. She found him seated on his bed with his legs stretched out in front of him. He wore boxer shorts and a singlet. According to my friend, his eyes didn’t wear the ineffable sadness of one who had just lost his father. In that instant, Lizzy burst out laughing. He was shocked. She asked him whether he was really sad or whether he had something else in mind. You get the point? For one who had just heard of his father’s passing, a bed is the least of places he is likely to be mourning. The guy got the message too. He laughed hard and long. He even got up and made himself a meal after she had reminded him that his father didn’t die in his prime. That’s the power of humour. Pure, simple and life transforming.

Third, you must help and support people. Nobody is the centre of the universe. You must help people grow their dreams. We need to support our friends in anyway that we can. When you help people you feel quite happy with yourself. On those days when I get the chance to help a stranger, I’ve noticed there’s often a springiness to my steps. There are quotes to the effect that if you don’t build your dreams, then others ‘ll make you build theirs for them. How is that even bad? When Einstein was asked why we are here on earth, his answer was: ‘ We are here to help people’. In the strict sense, nobody is self made. A self made man is that fellow who has closed his eyes to the innumerable sacrifices people have made for him. He is an ingrate. He is a wet blanket. A wet blanket is immediately useless. Be a builder. Encourage people. Lend a hand whenever you can. It is almost impossible to support somebody’s dream and that person won’t have a soft spot for you. When people know that you’ve got their back, they’ll love you to the moon and back.

Finally, if you really want to be likeable, you need to stop worrying overly about being liked. One of the reasons why people fail is because they are unnecessarily keen about being liked and accepted. So, they lose respect for themselves and become doormats. There are people who will never be impressed with you even if you play football with your butt and shout ‘Halleluyah’ with your legs. The point here is to focus on dealing with positive people. The moment you realize that somebody’s default reaction is to pick holes in the fabric of your efforts, it’s pointless wasting time. Don’t dissipate your energy trying to make them like you. Don’t waste time with people who take you for granted. They’ll frustrate you anyway. It’s infinitely better to steer clear of them. Like we say on the streets, just concentrate on ‘shining your shine’. You are not perfect and to think that everyone will like you is to live in a fool’s Paradise. So, there you have it folks, a few additions to Carnegie’s wisdom. I’m certain you can think of many more. Let’s have them in the comments section, please. I look forward to reading them. Have a fine week. From here, it’s xoxo.

What is the Value of a Good Deed?

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

Sometimes,we worry needlessly about how our goals have developed K-legs and then forget the things that matter. Yesterday was one of such days for me. I’m sure you know that feeling. You wake in the morning tired and dispirited because yours plans aren’t taking the shape you had envisaged. A corollary of that is the fact that you wish you had more money to meet your needs and solve the problems of those whom you love. You wish had a robust bank account to deal with problems as high as Kilimanjaro. Matters like these are sufficient to make a man wake up tired.

So, as I started out on this day, I found myself looking at some of the passengers on the bus with me and engaging in my favourite past time of trying to figure out people’s psyche merely by looking at their faces. Don’t tell me. I know I’m not likely to ever get it right. I do it only to keep my mind busy. After all, it is common knowledge that you do not ‘ judge a book by its cover’ and ‘ the taste of the pudding’, as they say, ‘is in the eating’.

I felt a gentle tug on my sleeve as the rickety bus roared on leaving a cloud of exhaust fumes in its wake. I looked to my left and noticed a beautiful little girl smiling at me. Her mouth was toothless and her laughter warmed my heart. I smiled back and fixed my eyes on her, winking intermittently. She began to laugh even harder. Her mother noticed this. She looked at me, smiled and began to tickle and rock her baby at the same time. The mother, despite the hijab which covered a portion of her face was quite young and beautiful. As I looked at the happy duo, I wondered whether one could equate all the achievements and diadems of this world to the innocence and the happy smile of a child, or even the joy of a proud mother? Those are things money cannot buy. Those are things we easily take for granted.

As I approached my bus-stop, I noticed that the lady was also planning to disembark. For the first time, I noticed she also kept a big Bagco sack in between her legs. She handed her child to me without saying a word. She just smiled. I took the child and began to play with her as the woman made attempts to both balance her load and tie her wrapper in readiness to back her child. The bus was tight and this left her arms little room to manoeuvre and position the wrapper properly.

When the bus stopped, I handed her the baby and offered to carry her load. She beamed with joy and echoed: ‘ thank you, sir’ even genuflecting at the same time. As we moved away from the road, I asked: ‘are you crossing to the other side?’ She nodded. I quickly carried the Bagco sack and moved as fast as the load allowed. She walked behind me with her hands clasped before her: ‘thank you. God bless you’. She probably said that fifty or more times before we reached the other side of the road. All the while, I kept wondering how she would have managed it. How can a woman with a frail physique and a child strapped to her back carry that big sack? I didn’t have any child strapped to my back yet sweat streamed down my forehead as though I had just been baptised.

When I offered to help up to another point farther down where the motorcycles were, she opened her mouth in utter disbelief. Eventually, she got on a motorcycle. I noticed that her eyes were rheumy with gratitude. She waved and waved until she became a tiny dot receding in the distance. At this time, my well ironed trousers had become rumpled and stained. I was sweating too. To be honest, I wasn’t in the least bothered. You should have seen me smiling sheepishly like one who had just won the lottery of a lifetime.

As I walked back home later day, I was glad I had gone out of my way to help somebody I might never meet again till I die. Maybe the next time she sees me will be when I throw my hat in the ring to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I hope she’ll vote for me. LOL. So, folks, what is the value of a good deed? The value of a good deed is the joy it gives you. After going through a lot of stress for somebody who may not be able to repay you, you’ll suddenly forget your worries, your sorrows, your rumbled trousers, the engagements you’re attending late, the foiled plans, the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations. The worth of a good deed is felt by the helper, not the one who is helped. There is an aspect to it that reaches the core of your being. When you show kindness, it is so that you may experience genuine happiness.

On Humility

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

A few years ago, I had the privilege of having a remarkable man in my Use of English class. He, like many in his department, had been admitted for a different programme but were compelled by university regulations to take the course. This man always walked in early. He always sat at the back too. He didn’t seem brilliant and, at first, he never asked questions. One fine thing I noticed about him was that he always scribbled as I taught.

One day, I gave a test. It’s the exception rather than the norm to return test scripts in many Nigerian universities. The week after the test, I returned to the class with all the marked scripts. Their performance had been dismal and discouraging. There was one shining light, however. It was this old man. I think he scored 17/20. The arguments in his piece were compelling and he demonstrated a fine understanding of what we had taught so far. After commenting on the scores, I encouraged members of the class to make a photocopy of this man’s script at the end of that day.

As I stepped out, this man walked up to me:’Excuse me,’ he began. I stopped and greeted him as he continued: ‘ I found that I scored 17/ 20 in the test you gave. I just thought I should ask you what I should do to score higher next time’. My mouth dropped. When I regained composure, I explained a few things to him. Permit me to put this man’s reaction in a proper context. When a man in his sixties begins to attend lectures with teenagers, then you know he’s most definitely in search of knowledge. He scored the highest in the test. The percentage of teenagers in that class couldn’t have been less than 85. He dusted them all and complacency didn’t set in. I believe that it is humility rather than ambition that keeps one soaring.

That night, I tossed and turned on my bed for a long time. For many of us, our default reaction would be to lift our shoulders high and immediately turn ourselves to demi-gods but not this man. I concluded that God used him to show me what true humility is. Humility in the sense that he has a proper estimation of his self worth. Humility in the sense that rather than lift his shoulders high, he recognised that there is still something better.

What then is humility? It means having a true picture of one’s ability. In Latin, it is ‘ humilis’ and it means ‘to be from the earth’. The same word from the Greek variant means to be ‘lowly in spirit’ or ‘unpretentious’. According to G. K Chesterton, ‘it is always the secure who are humble’. What that tells us clearly is that arrogance is the badge of the insecure. I read somewhere that in Japan, it is commonplace to find managers sweeping factories. They don’t consider themselves too high for such lowly endeavours. Here in Nigeria, a manager is some kind of ‘Jesus’. His eyes are too celestial to behold a broom.

The absence of humility manifests in several ways. It manifests in carriage, in mannerisms and in an argumentative nature. Here in Africa, big men with minds the size of a walnut keep people waiting for them for hours. They assume it shows how busy and important they are. I once waited for six straight hours to see a man. When he came, he acted as though it was normal to wait that long. He rifled through the day’s proceedings. No apologies. No explanations. I felt like giving him a slap.

‘What do we have that we have not been given?’ The day we understand the full import of that question is the day our outlook will change for good. Everything is a gift. Your warm smile. Your beautiful face. Your rich husband. That great job. The luxury house you built at thirty. Your handwriting. The air you breathe in. Your life. Every single thing is a gift. If you don’t use that gift with humility, it will be taken from you and given to somebody who already has more. That’s a biblical fact. One of the ways of showing our gratitude is to carry ourselves with humility. People often fail into the error of arrogance because they compare themselves with others and conclude they are far better. The truth is, everybody you meet is better than you are in some way.

One of my friends has a very fine head for figures. He can commit numbers to memory with ease. He is, surprisingly, one of the laziest readers I’ve met. He would struggle to read a very slim book for four months. The fellow who can finish the same book within hours isn’t better at all. We don’t have the same strength. None is superior. None is inferior. Each man is unique in his own way.

Mother Theresa’s admonition is noteworthy: ‘ If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are’. If you are humble, you won’t see everything as a personal affront. Praise won’t turn your head. Disgrace won’t ruin your life. How many words can ever fill a basket? If you’re humble, you’re humble. If you’re arrogant, you’re arrogant. You can pretend to be humble. This is called false humility. How can you tell that a man is humble? Lao has solved the problem. He explains that a humble man, ‘ puts himself in the background yet is always to the fore, remains outside but is always here.’

So, why should you be humble? Simple! It is the quickest path to the multiplication of grace. We have been told time and again that, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble’. So, if we want to be better at the things that we do, if we don’t want to be detested by God, the path is laid. The decision is ours.

Once Upon a Genius

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

Albert Einstein is a name which has become a synonym for genius. He was the first child of a Jewish couple in Southern Germany. His mother, a domineering and musically inclined woman fuelled his passion for the violin and for classical composers such as: Bach, Shubert and Mozart. His father, an engineer who failed relentlessly in business bought him a toy compass at five. This compass triggered the latent scientific spirit in the young boy who wondered why the needle always pointed north. More than fifty years after his death, his landmark achievements have continued to touch the lives of every individual who walked the face of the earth. The television, the laser, the semi-conductor, the atomic bomb all bear his imprint. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1922 yet, he died with the lament: ‘If only I had known, I would have become a watch maker.’

Einstein was slow to talk to talk as a child. He was expelled by one headmaster and declared a dunce by another. At the age of twelve, he became bored with formal education. Several years later, Einstein became a professor who could still make out time to help little girls with their Mathematics home work. 1905 was the year he reached the zenith of his genius and glory. His application for lectureship had been rejected so he worked as a clerk. In that fateful year, he produced three papers that changed science for ever and was awarded a Nobel Prize for the first. This paper described how light could behave not only like a wave but also like a stream of particles (called quanta or photons).This is the basis of Quantum Physics.

His third paper birthed the most famous equation in Physics. This equation has been variously described as the only scientific equation to have relevance on the streets. E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). By this theory, Einstein wants us to know that everything in the universe is a repository of energy and that converting a small amount of mass would release an enormous amount of energy. This has been amply demonstrated by the atomic bomb.

In 1894, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and entered Zurich Polytechnic where he fell in love with a classmate, Mileva Maric. His pet name for her was ‘my Dolly’. Einstein often engaged in passionate discussions about music and science with her. They eventually got married despite his mother’s protest that the married would hit the rock. They divorced in 1919 and Einstein fell in love with a German cousin named Elsa. Mileva had two sons for Einstein: Hans Albert who became a distinguished professor of Hydraulics at the University of California, Berkeley and Eduard who was gifted in music and literature but died in a Swiss psychiatric hospital.

In 1933, he escaped to the U.S.A from the wiles of Hitler and his Nazi party. When hinted about the possibility of Germany developing an atomic bomb, he quickly wrote a letter to President Roosevelt (of the U.S.A) and urged the U.S to do so before Germany did. This culminated in the Manhattan Project where the first atomic bomb was developed. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein hoped it would:
‘Intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs, which without the pressure of fear, it would not do.’

When he saw the havoc wreaked by the atomic bomb and the purpose to which it was converted by dictators, his face thenceforth wore an ineffable sadness. He considered his letter to Roosevelt one of the great mistakes of his life. One of his last acts one week before his death in 1955 was an agreement to allow his name head a manifesto urging nations to give up nuclear weapons. This was what gave birth to the lament: ‘If only I had known I would have become a watch maker.’

Contrary to what is the norm with many scientists, Einstein believed in God- but his was a depersonalized deity. Einstein believed in a God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists. This faith made him reject the view that the universe is subject to randomness and uncertainty. His most famous scientific credo is still engraved at his study in Princeton: THE LORD GOD IS SUBTLE, BUT MALICIOUS HE IS NOT. Einstein believed that searching for God’s design was the source of true art and science.

Despite his unassuming personality, Einstein was a bundle of controversy. When told of the publication of the book: One Hundred Authors against Einstein, he retorted, ‘why one hundred? If I were wrong, one would have been enough’. His controversial nature was also reflected in the Nobel Prize he won in 1922. The prize was for his work on photoelectric effects and not for relativity which was little understood at that time. After Physics, peace was Einstein’s most important concern. His views on Zionism and Pacificism earned him verbal attacks and death threats. In 1952, he was offered the presidency of Israel but he turned it down. He wrote: ‘Politics is for the moment, an equation is for eternity.’

In 1955 when he died, his body was cremated and his ashes scattered, but a pathologist carried off his brain in the hopes of learning the secrets of his genius. Canadian researchers have recently discovered that he had an unusually large inferior parietal lobe (a centre of Mathematical thought and spatial imagery).

Einstein’s theory of general relativity was the first new major theory since Isaac Newton’s more than two and a half centuries earlier. Einstein’s genius, complexity, simplicity, humaneness and controversial nature can be summed up in Arthur Eddington’s wise-crack: ‘Only three people understood relativity. I am trying to think who the third person is.’ Evidently, the first person is God; the second is Einstein and the third? Maybe you, my reader?

N.B I stumbled on this piece and decided to publish it here. It was written in 2007 when I was an undergraduate student. I’m certain my friends and a few folks in the faculty will still remember it. Time flies. I thank you for your time.

Why Do People Commit Suicide?

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

In simple terms, suicide refers to the wilful act of taking one’s life. There are several reasons why people commit suicide: depression, substance abuse, psychotic and bipolar disorders, hopelessness, feeling of abandonment, etc. Perhaps the unacknowledged reason why some commit suicide is the judgemental nature of the society. We judge people mercilessly. We judge the slightest infractions. We judge even when the facts are skeletal. So, some may commit suicide because they’re afraid to meet our prying eyes and self-righteous posturings. You remember the story of the woman who was about to be stoned to death for committing adultery in the Bible? Her accusers had committed more grievous crimes. Yet, they were intent on killing the poor woman. Thank God Jesus was in that neighbourhood.

Last week, a woman parked her Ford SUV on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos and jumped into the lagoon. This came on the heels of two international celebrity suicide cases. At the scene, somebody quickly posted a video which went viral. The video only showed the vast body of water, sympathizers who parked and peered into the lagoon and the face of the man who did the recording. Nothing more. It seemed odd that a few hours afterwards, the woman’s pictures, her chat records and a nude video had reached the length and breadth of Nigeria. We are not famed for investigative journalism. So, how could anyone have known who the woman was and her motive for jumping into the lagoon within hours?

By the next morning, nearly everyone became pundits. All it takes these days to be an expert is a Facebook wall. Many called her unprintable names. Their opinions were based on snippets of information picked up here and there. The woman whose pictures we have is a totally different person. She has taken to her Instagram page to correct the error. This tells you that for the moment, the identity of the woman who jumped is unknown. The police have also said that the Ford SUV belongs to a man who is currently helping the investigation. So, what happened? Truth must have met with fiction at some point.

Since the facts in this case are still pretty sketchy, we must tread with caution. Suppose the woman actually jumped to her death that evening because she had committed adultery and had sent her nude pictures and videos to her partner who then resorted to blackmail? What then? If you have not walked in somebody’s shoes, it’s difficult to blame them. People battle problems they can’t tell anyone because they know in our characteristic manner, we’ll judge rather than listen. Here in Nigeria, if you’re bipolar, you’re mad. If you’re depressed, it’s the devil. If you are single for too long, you’re morally reprehensible. We drive people to their deaths daily with our ignorance. People don’t kill themselves overnight. First, they try to communicate. Then, they withdraw. Some also try to talk about it. For some, there are usually a few failed attempts at suicide. When all these have failed, they kill themselves. It should interest you to know that the one who commits suicide is dead and gone. His death, however, would gnaw at his family and friends for a long time. They didn’t pay attention while he was alive. Now that he’s gone, their world will move in slow motion. In Japan, I think, when one kills himself by jumping in front of a train, his family is compelled to pay disruption fees. Sometime ago, I read about a man who wrote nearly two thousand pages of suicide note. That took him five years to write and he still killed himself. When I overcame my initial shock, I couldn’t help but wonder whether anyone paid any attention to him at all. A suicide note is not an academic text. Apparently he foot-dragged to get attention. Since he got none, he took his life.

In Nigeria, adultery is not a criminal offence except ,of course, in the north. When two consenting adults have sex, it is their problem not ours. If they are religious folks, it becomes a matter even God has to look into. Splattering a woman’s nude pictures and videos all over the internet is , at best, infantile. For those, circulating and posting the pictures, what have you gained? When an adulterous affair gone wrong gets to the public space, our default reaction is to judge and resort to name calling. Jesus didn’t judge that woman. He saved her from death and he didn’t even use a single condemnatory word. I’m fairly certain that woman got saved without a sermon about ‘a God waiting to send you to Hell should you offend Him’, even mildly.

It should alarm you that suicide is on the increase in Nigeria. Not too long ago, a secondary school student committed suicide in one of the well-known schools. The reason? Bullying. I shudder to say there are more cases than are being reported. A teenager I know once attempted suicide because a girl rejected him. He took an overdose of Tramadol which nearly killed him. He got lucky. I’m fairly certain he saw the Pearly Gates before he returned. If that woman did commit adultery, I wonder if she’ll jump to her death if she had just one person with a pair of listening ears. Africans are wired to be communal. We have abandoned that. It is now a case of everyman for himself. Each would do everything possible to be seen to have attained a greater level of success than his neighbour. This is the reason many more may see suicide as the way out. Nobody cares. Nobody listens. They are frustrated by time-lines of success. All hope is lost.

We must learn and re-learn the art of listening. Stop yakking about ‘suicide not being the way out’ or that ‘suicide is a mark of cowardice’. You see, you’re judging again! Somebody finds it hard to see the way out of a particularly knotty issue and you’re sermonizing. Show love. Listen to people. Enquire after people’s well-being. Buy somebody an occasional gift. Smile. Give hugs liberally. All these things take next to nothing. If you’re constantly rebuffed, now that’s different. If that child, that man or that woman commits suicide because of your nonchalance and negligence, God will hold you accountable. Do you know why? Cast your mind back. What is the greatest commandment, my dear? Love your neighbour as yourself. It’s that simple.

Unforgettable Professor Eruvbetine

Photo credit: A. Okusi

#eruvbetine, #humanist

Dele Oladipupo ©2018

Oftentimes, the best things in life don’t come as we’d rather they came. As a freshman in the university many years ago,I was lucky to make the acquaintance of one of the most intelligent students in my department at the time. She was in her penultimate year. This lady took me under her wings and helped me regularly. She became a mentor who forewarned me about the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of each teacher. She also gave me books and encouraged me to study systematically. There was one matter, however, on which she goofed thoroughly.

One day while asking her about some of the courses as well as the lecturers taking them, she asked if I had heard of Professor Eruvbetine. Of course, I had. In secondary school, there were two teachers in the department whose names we encountered at every juncture. One of them was this Prof. This lady warned me to be wary of him. She told me there’s every likelihood I might meet him in Year 2. When I asked whether anything was wrong with the man, she told me: ‘He’s an atheist. I don’t like him.’

I didn’t meet ‘Eruv baba’ -as we fondly call him behind his back-in Year 2, I met him in final year. This time, his course was compulsory. He taught us Literary Theories. Prof is tall with a slight stoop. He carried what looked like a mane on his head with a modest sprinkling of white hair. From the very first session he had with my class, he never hid his disdain for organized religion. He believes a large chunk of Nigerian pastors are swindlers. He could explain a complex concept in a very simple way. While trying to explain a particularly knotty point, he would pick a member of the class and use the shape of the person’s head or nose to illustrate the point. There was no way you wouldn’t understand what he taught in each class.

Prof was a teacher like no other. He was free with his students too. One day in class, somebody got up and told him: ‘ Sir, because you’re an atheist, you’ll likely end up in Hell-Fire’. Eruv Baba did not take offence at all. He burst out laughing. ‘Well’, he began,’there is no place called Hell- Fire. It only exists in the minds of men. If ,however, there is something like that, we have sufficient technological know-how to convert your God’s Hell-Fire to a cooling room.’ Those who found it funny laughed. Most, however, were filled with righteous indignation. How could anyone dare talk about God that way? But that was vintage Eruv Baba’s way.

Eruv is a humanist. Humanists are essentially people who believe in the primacy of human beings. They are thinkers. They are challengers of the status quo. They are immensely kind. If you’re able to get over your hatred for those who do not profess your faith, you’ll fall in love with Prof. He remains the only Sixty something year- old I’ve met whose soul is that of a twelve year- old. He shows gratitude even for seemingly mundane things. He is generous, even with his time. When the examination came, his questions were hard but he had taught us well.

He admitted only ten students for the course he thought us in the second semester. Even then, three or so ran away. One confessed he was afraid he might soon begin to share Prof’s atheistic bent. Eruv taught us on Mondays from 9am-12noon. If any member of that class was absent, he would pick up his phone and call such a fellow. He would not teach the class until all the members of the class had shown up. We always used his office on the last floor of the faculty. After teaching, Prof would pick up his phone and call catering services. He would place an order for plates of pounded yam and either fresh fish or goat meat, depending which you preferred. Let me pretend that I can no longer remember whether it was his illuminating sessions that I looked forward to on Mondays or whether it was the joy of pounded yam and fresh fish that tickled me.

Professor Eruvbetine trained in both Nigeria and Canada. He is also widely travelled yet, he carried no superior airs. He spoke exquisite English with an almost noticeable Urhobo accent. On several occasions, in fact, he would switch to pidgin English. On one of such occasions while taking a swipe at Christianity and the concept of Original Sin, he said: ‘ I be Urhobo man. We no get apple. Na *ogogoro my ancestors dey drink. So, Adam and Eve no be my mama and papa’. The class reeled with laughter.

One day, Prof called me to his office and asked: ‘ Dele, where would you like to work when you graduate?’ My heart raced at break neck speed. I assumed he wanted to use his immense clout to get me a dream job. I did the Math and mentioned three areas of interest. Prof smiled and asked me whether I had no plans of returning for a Master’s degree. I told him I would after I had made sufficient cash. He threw his head back and roared with laughter. ‘You know what, Dele’, he began, ‘I think you should teach’. I believe my heart stopped beating in that instant. Me, teach? Of all the professions in the world? ‘There is much in your head that people younger than you can benefit from’, Prof continued. At that point, my brain went on sleep mode. I was sorely disappointed. ‘ wetin, consin me with people younger than me,’ I mused. I had expected him to call somebody high up somewhere and command the person to employ me after the compulsory service year. I think he spoke for about ten minutes or more. My mind only returned to the room when he asked: ‘Do you understand’. I muttered ,’Yes Prof. Thank you, sir’. If what they say about young people being stupid is true, I think I qualify to be one of the stupidest. I distanced myself somewhat from Prof but he was relentless.

He called to congratulate me on the day we had our convocation. He was pleased I had won a prize. He would call every now and again to check on my wellbeing. Even though I was angry when he suggested that I should teach, I taught for about five months before travelling to the north for Youth Service. Some of the students I taught back then have remained my friends till today. The wisdom of the elders is incontrovertible. What the elders can see while lying on a mat, a young man perched on a tree can’t even see a quarter of it. While I was serving Prof called a few times. Once during an intense Harmattan, he called. He noticed my voice my husky. I explained it was the weather getting the better part of me. ‘Don’t kill yourself, Dele. Why don’t you get yourself one Hausa girl to take care of you’, he joked. I laughed hard. His call and that joke helped me shake off the onset of cold and for days afterwards, I walked around with a spring under my feet.

Among his colleagues, he was both a man of great wisdom and a man of many names. From Professor, he became the Big Masquerade. Then, he metamorphosed into the Oracle. He is loved by many and adored by even many more. In spite of all, he is a deeply private man. I suspect that he abhors fame. He never regaled us with his success stories. He doesn’t even talk about his family and how successful his children are. It is because of rare folks like him that some of us can claim to have had something close to a world class education. The impact of Eruv Baba in my life, to use the street lingo, is mega! One day, I will sit down and write a proper tribute to this great man.

He is still very much alive. He has left Nigeria, however. It goes without saying, everyone needs an Eruv baba, a teacher whose influence transcends the four walls of a classroom, a teacher whose impact can be mega, a teacher who is absolutely unforgettable.

*Ogogoro is a local gin distilled from fermented Raphia palm tree juice