I’ve always thought about starting a blog. In fact I’ve done this in my head like a thousand times. Somehow the will to actually proceed always got lost with the seconds of the minutes, every hour of each day.
Today, I’m here.
Well, to be very honest, I don’t know how long this drive to write would last, but if I’ve come this far, I might as well keep figuring all this out. This indeed is my very first blog, it could be my last. If that happens…Oh well!
Last week, Sunday to be precise, was for me one of those days where you go to bed, really happy and fulfilled. For me that always relates to having helped someone, somewhere in some way. I joined the Rotary Club of Nigeria on their yearly Polio vaccination visit to villages in Riverine areas. To a great extent, this helped me start off on the right track the following week.
Going there, I had no expectations. I had always been invited to join the club by a friend who has refused to give up selling me this particular product. I just wasn’t interested. Like Mahatma Gandhi put it-“I like your Christ but I do not like your Christians”, as regards membership of this club, my sentiments exactly.
As usual, African time fully came into play. We left by 10.45am as opposed to 8am I was told was the departure time.
Well, that was expected.
Making a stop at the Ojo Local Government office to pick up the polio kits, we made our way to the jetty. After some minutes spent taking pictures and trying to negotiate with the boat riders-who were bent on taking more money for less service- we all settled in, man and goods(items brought for vaccination and relaxation) in 3 speed-boats. We left the jetty about 45 minutes later to Itogbesan community, one of the 47 riverine villages under the Ojo Local Government. The speed boat ride was fantastic! It had been a while I let down my hair for the wind to take up. The sights were picturesque, almost surreal….
Now this picture is totally worth it. For some reason, it refused to rotate. So you can now take a right head-turn. #lol.
Our guide was Mr. Olumide, a man in his late 30’s with a friendly face. If there ever was a job as smiling for a living, Mr. Olumide would be one of the top ten on Forbes list. On our way, I noticed that some sticks were placed standing side by side in the water. In my very wild imagination, I thought that probably these were the dangerous places marked out where the crocodiles and other deadly aquatic animals were trapped. Well, Mr Olumide said they were used to indicate places with high levels of sand. So much for the wild imagination…
We got to the village twenty minutes later. By now, big thanks to the wind, I was already in high spirits, eager to see what lay ahead. Eleven of us climbed up the bridge that led to the village.
Climbing down and entering the village, I understood more the meaning of rural existence. There, just in front of me, walking like the king himself was a very fat pig whom we all waited to pass before walking on. Around as well were tiny stylets, almost looking like small puppies. All around me were bungalow houses, some with holes in them and others with no doors. A good number of children under the ages of 5 came out bare feet, some with clothes on, most in their birthday suits.
They all kept staring at me.
Now, I know I’m pretty hot but this time their attention was fixed on the carton of biscuits and pack of sweets I held. The need in their eyes pulled at the strings of my heart.
The first house visited had 2 children below age 5 already vaccinated the day before. We knew this because as I learnt, it was a standard rule to mark the little fingers of all children that were given the vaccine or immunized.
The vaccination itself included 2-3 drops of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) into the mouths of the children.
Afterwards, a pack of biscuit and sweet were given to them. Mosquito nets were given to families as well. Eventually, the biscuits and sweets ran out. I was to give only children who were vaccinated but when some mothers practically chased me down for their children who were “asleep” I literally had nowhere to run. I was so sad when an elderly man in his 70’s asked me for a packet of biscuit as well. Fortunately, I didn’t have to give him the “for immunized children only” speech as the biscuits had run out; I just showed him the empty carton instead. Even at that, I still felt guilty. It was like looking hunger in the face and saying you have no right to be full.
I took a mental note of the basic amenities they had. Came up with just one-shelter, at least. Other social amenities such as clean water and power supply were obviously missing. Apparently, they got their water from a nearby well; this was not so clean. Pretty sure, sometimes they made use of the water from the river which was even worse than the water from the well.
There was no power supply. Or maybe there was if you count the man who had the 900KVA generator-commonly known as the “I better pass my neighbour generator”. This pidgin phrase simply means that since we are all in the same boat of not having power supply, I’m of a higher status since I can provide power for me even if its just the lights and fan that come on- so yea, I’m better than you. This generator goes for about N15,000 ($91.16c).
On our way back to the speed-boat, we passed through one of the government abandoned water projects.
Words failed me when I saw this.
I asked one of the boys if he went to school and he responded affirmatively. Didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I exhaled. A sigh of relief.
I could see with the fishing nets spread out that their primary means of livelihood here was fishing. This proved right as I saw one of the men pulling out crabs from a bag. He did this so meticulously. If any of the crabs bit him, he showed no sign.
We passed through the King’s house but didn’t get to see him as he was out. This “palace” was bigger than the rest of the houses, painted and all but nothing unusual or so glamorous. The native language here is Egun” – a dialect of the Gun-be, (pronounced as “goon-bare”) a language spoken in Lagos State. Generally, they all spoke Yoruba language. For those of us that don’t know, this is the second largest language group in Nigeria and one of the most populous and better known African ethnic groups. Very few of them could understand and speak the pidgin English. Of course, fluent English was a far cry. In my estimation, about 200 people-men, women and children lived here in Itogbesan Community.
So we made our way out, back to the bridge and down to the boat. Now, we headed to one of the remote and private beaches there to unwind, relax and basically just play around. Somehow, the scenic beauty of the Babatope Sea Beach seemed to have a silent message-
There is hope.
Indeed, all is not lost. Somehow, things will get better but the wait sometimes is what kills the belief. No one can do it all but everyone can do one thing. It’s not about the government this or that (even though they have a vastly huge part to play). Read somewhere that “You can love your country without having to love your government’’ It’s about you and me and everyone taking the next breath. It’s about what we can do, not just to make the difference now, but the distinction. It’s way past time we be there for people who have no one to be there for them.
So they say that #Rotary is good…lol. Well, after all said and done, especially with their plan and actual deeds to touch lives, they just might be right. Just for today, here and now, I concede. Rotary might be good after all.
Then again, it’s just me saying…
Peace and Love.