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rioThe Rio Olympics is near at hand. Notwithstanding the Zika virus and all the other issues that threatens the games, we all know that once it begins, once the nations march out and that torch is lit, the attention of the whole world will turn to Rio and the excitement will be fever pitch. Nigerians, both home and abroad, will not be left out. It is amazing the way we support our national teams during competitions, the enthusiasm, the faith, the patriotism, feelings that eliciting from Nigerians on a normal day would be akin to trying to squeeze water from a rock.

Over the years, we have endured as our fortunes in sports dwindled. We are now used to failing, such that many no longer lose sleep over it. Take, for instance, our national football team, the Super Eagles, who some have rechristened Super Chickens. It would have been akin to a national tragedy not to qualify for the African nation’s cup in time past.  These days, we do not even expect them to qualify and when they live up to the billing by failing as they did just recently, we just move on as if nothing happened.

As used to disappointing outings as we may be, the Rio Olympics will be at a different level entirely. If the saying “if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail” is anything to go by, then, our failure at the Rio games will be spectacular. After the last Olympics in London, where we failed to win a single medal, there was the usual talk in government cycles of going back to the drawing board, — a proverbial board to which our administrators always claim they are returning to, each time they mess up. I wrote a piece about the damn board here. Four years since London, it is as though we’ve not just been marking time, we have been speeding with the reverse gear engaged.

One would have expected that between then and now, there will be some conscious effort, an expression of our national determination to have our anthem played at the medal podium in Rio by putting in place a programme (like other serious countries do) that will focus on raising athletes that will win laurels in the sports we have comparative advantage in. Clearly, that is expecting too much. The current state of things, made worse by the very poor preparation and almost anonymous leadership of the beret-wearing minister of sport (who seems to fancy himself more as a freedom fighter than a sports administrator), announces like a bell wielding white garment preacher at dawn, that we should expect national disgrace.

Perhaps so that we the fans do not come heavily down on them when they eventually fail, some of the athletes are already crying out, issuing caveat emptors, if you like. The latest is Efe Ajagba, Nigeria’s only, I need to repeat this for emphasis, ONLY, boxer at the Rio games. Ajagba and his coach Tony Konyegwachi told the media last week that all is not well at all, comparing their preparations and training at the National Stadium Boxing complex Lagos, to a farmer doing his chores without a cutlass.

To quote Ajagba directly: “We don’t have facilities. We are just training with our own minds. There are no punching gloves, and modern punching bags, the one we have right now, if you punch it, it slips and you bump your shoulders on it.”

First of all, boxing used to be one of our strong points. How we got to the point where we can only feature one boxer at the games is a study in mediocrity. It is a mystery in itself – a nation of nearly 200 million people? That we cannot now prepare this lone boxer well for the games is nothing short of a national embarrassment and, I dare say, simply unacceptable.

There are certain things that should not be said loud for others to hear, like how we cannot provide things as basic as boxing gloves and punching bags. What else then, can we provide? How do you realistically expect a medal of any colour, from a boxer who received no training with modern techniques (as those he will be facing are doing) but also prepared with gloves that should be in the museum?

You might want to ask, where is the Nigeria Boxing Federation, the National sports commission, the Ministry of Sports? Your guess is as good as mine.

Only last month, at the 20th Africa Athletics Championship in Durban, South Africa, the Nigerian contingent, the bulk of who are Rio hopefuls, gave a shambolic performance, coming third behind South Africa and Kenya and managing only four gold medals.  Just a little earlier, the Dream Team, the national under-23 male football team that will play in Rio played in a preparatory four-nation tournament in Korea, finishing third, winning only one match and conceding eight goals.

What can one realistically expect from these teams at Rio but failure?

Clearly, our problem is not the availability of talent. Harnessing it through good developmental programmes, well thought out policies, adequate funding and clear headed administration is the issue. You would have thought the change government would have come with a new lease of life in that sector but current evidence suggests otherwise. What should be done is not farfetched. Simply put round pegs in round holes, repackage sports to make it attractive for sponsors, sit down and chart a course for the future.

While we wait for that to be done, It will be wise that we all manage our expectations as regards this year’s summer games as Rio will be one big embarrassment.

Happy Sallah Holidays!

@nzesylva.

pubThe most popular tool of governance (or indeed mis-governance) in Nigeria is ‘The Committee.’ As is common around here, there is always one committee for this and another committee for that. When anything goes wrong, even that whose cause is starring everyone in the face, we set up a committee to determine the ‘remote’ and ‘immediate’ causes and after weeks or months of jamboree, the committee comes back with a bulky, bound report – which we make a big show of with clicking cameras and elaborate speeches, before leaving it to gather dust in some obscure corner.

Second to the committee and a concept that is fast gaining notoriety as an utter waste of tax payers’ money is ‘The public hearing.’

Public hearings are open gathering of officials and citizens, in which citizens are permitted to offer comments about a particular policy of government (or an organization), an intended law or any other topic that affects them. The main purpose of a public hearing is to allow citizens the chance to voice opinions and concerns and to make inputs as they deem fit, towards a particular goal.

With freedom of expression and the opinion of the people a fundamental tenet of democracy, it is no surprise that public hearings are a common feature of democracies; from Nigeria to the United States. In Nigeria however, the exercise is fast becoming a joke, a way to squander government money and a complete waste of time.

Our overpaid and underproductive national assembly is always hosting these hearings – ideally, an important part of the process of law making or carrying out investigations. If the number and quality of the laws that come out of those chambers is anything to go by, there is enough reason to wonder if it is a case of the barber not being good enough or the clipper not being sharp enough.

Admittedly, I have never made submissions to nor attended a public hearing organized by the National Assembly, but I have been part of two others organized by two government regulatory agencies that have left me with the foregoing conclusion. My first experience was a few years ago. The nation’s telecoms regulator, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) planned to auction vacant slots on the 2.3Ghz band, a frequency used for commercial wireless broadband. The Commission called for a Public hearing, for industry stakeholders to make inputs to its proposed plan. Meanwhile, the advertisement for this forum had already revealed that the commission planned to auction 1×30 MHz to one new operator.

I happen to have attended this session where the plan of the NCC was overwhelmingly rejected by operators. While there were different ideas on what should be done, the more popular one was that instead of auctioning 30Mhz to another operator, the NCC should allot 10MHz each to the three existing operators who held 20Mhz on that band with 5Mhz left for guard band. This allotment which was to be paid for at the prevailing international rate by the three operators was to ensure equity and also allow them expand their networks in line with the latest broadband technologies.

One would have thought the NCC  (who encouraged submission of hard copies of each presentation) was taking in all the ideas being offered and was going to review theirs in line with the opinions shared.   A few months later, they invited stakeholders once again to another forum where they presented exactly the same ideas which received the same response from the gathering. It was not lost on anyone there that the commission’s mind was made up on what it intended to do. Indeed it was being whispered that they actually already had a certain big operator in mind to hand the frequency to. A few months after, the announcement inviting bids for the band was made.

If they knew they would still go ahead, why waste everybody’s time? It might be important to point out here that for each session, there were full page adverts in national dailies, the event held in rented hotel halls, there was lunch for participants, and a full retinue of NCC staff flew down to Lagos from Abuja incurring both flight and hotel costs.

My second experience is more recent. The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) sometime last year came up with a draft national code of corporate governance which was supposed to supersede all other existing codes by various regulators such as the SEC & CBN. This would have been a non-issue were the poorly edited FRCN’s code not riddled with provisions that were impracticable, confusing, extreme and even laughable in some instance. Simply put, it read like a set of rules not a code.

Expectedly stakeholders besieged the venue of the public hearing and submission after submission tore the draft code into shreds, leaving the FRCN looking like inexperienced school boys. A few months later another hearing was held. To everyone’s utter chagrin, besides reworded lines and better editing, the fundamental issues of contention remained unchanged. It became like a repeat of the first session. Last week, the  Council called for what it termed the ‘Final’ public hearing on the codes and believe it or not, all gathered spent an entire day discussing these very same issues, making the very same suggestions as the very first day.

One wonders, what is the worth of stakeholders input if it would not even be considered? Why waste both time and money organizing these charades? Clearly, these sessions are just to fulfill all righteousness such that the organiser can claim that ‘stakeholders’ were engaged and thus give credence to whatever rubbish they churn out at the end, and justification for the huge sums they squander organizing them.

@nzesylva

Pix credit: www.elections.ca

Have you got a Will?

WillWills, or the absence of one, have formed the theme of so many stories, books, society gossip and even our very own Nollywood home movies. We are pretty conversant with how wills have made and broken lives, ripped families’ apart made some people very rich and made some others poor overnight.

But Wills are not very popular especially around here. It is a topic that makes people nervous, cycle their hand in the air and scream ‘God forbid or it’s not my portion.’ Because of some kind of superstition or a misdirected sense of spirituality, we feel that engaging in any post mortem plans, from taking out Life insurance policies, writing Wills or buying vaults, amounts to inviting our own death. Many people just can’t face the prospect of contemplating their own mortality. Yet, we bury family and friends every day and hear of countless others passing.

Some others feel, quite erroneously though, that you have to wait until you are old, retired or have acquired so many assets and estates worth sharing out to bother about writing a Will. Others feel buoyed by having to decide between family members who gets what; especially given strong family bond. Some others don’t like the paperwork with all the legal jargon which could be cumbersome and boring.

The truth however is, you need a Will. This is especially so if you are working, own at least a bank account, have started a family or have dependents. Your age, sex and wealth status does not matter.

The main reason for having a Will is to make things easier for your nearest and dearest if you do suddenly die. Unfortunately we live in a society that strives on secrecy. We have couples who do not even share how much they earn with each other, let alone disclose the number of bank accounts they have, or how much they have in them. Many couples hide from each other and their children the assets they own, and go to great lengths to hide the documents of same. Many of us, when we are starting out in life, single, we put in the names of parents or siblings as next of kin in all our documentations, and fail to update same after we get married and start a family. There is this I-will-do-it-later mentality. But as we know and as I have personally discovered, there is no time table for death. We can drop at any time.

The implication is, when you die with the knowledge of all you’ve got just inside your head, then it is probably lost forever and even those you were hiding it from (but who ironically you were acquiring them for) will never get to access them. I am not talking of large estates or huge investments in Fortune 500 companies. I am talking about things as simple as money in bank accounts, company shares, and all the gamut of short term investments young working class people often engage in just to raise some cash and save for the rainy day.

Just recently the news was awash with the story of the conviction of one Olawale Garuba, to 39 years imprisonment for stealing from the account of a dead customer.  The man, a banker was found guilty on all the 13 count charges brought against him by the EFCC and sentenced to three years imprisonment on each count. Apparently Mr Garuba and his cohorts had been making transfers and fraudulently withdrawing through ATMs and Point of Sale terminals from the accounts of a deceased to the tune of 31 million naira.

Their case is just one of many, that will never be found out or even prosecuted. There are so many of such dormant bank accounts with funds left behind by people who die intestate. In the above case, it is clear that the deceased had no Will and also none of her family members knew of the said account or they would have set the official process in motion for obtaining a letter of administration to claim it. And because it was just there, these young man fed fat on it. You don’t want this happening to you.

The good news is that making a will these days is easier than ever. There is something called a “Simple Will” which as the name suggests is less of legal jargons, less daunting to obtain and also relatively cheap to obtain and maintain. Even more, you do not need to have huge assets for this. It’s a kind of Will designed for us young people still in the ‘gathering-phase’ of our lives with perhaps no more assets than our cars. This Will captures your bank accounts, pension accounts and other such financial possessions and maps them to your chosen beneficiaries in percentages. If the beneficiaries are minors the executioners of the Will converts it into a Trust to cover for education and health care for them until they are eighteen. You don’t need to speak to a lawyer or pay huge fees to get a simple Will. Most Pension Fund Administrators are actually offering the service. You might wish to enquire about it from yours today.

We cannot leave anything to chance. So stop putting it off. Yes we do not plan to die anytime soon; still, we do not know the hour. So get that Will written and signed. Then put it away and concentrate on living. But if that is still too big a step to take for you, let your partner know what you’ve got and please go and update your next of kin details.

@nzesylva

We are all quite familiar with the ‘Wailing Wailers’ title, the early-in-the-day indication by Aso Rock’s chief mouth piece (and indeed there are quite a number of them) that this government will not only be dismissive but also quite intolerant of criticisms and dissenting voices. If the government has been complicit in this regard, their supporters who seem like infestations on every public space, — from vendor stands to twittersphere — are not only dismissive and intolerant, they are also very willing to criminalise any thought, opinion or idea contrary to those of their sworn messiah president, no matter how sensible.

We’re citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticise government without fear.

Nigeria operates, at least as at the time of my writing this, a constitutional democracy where power is at all times drawn from and limited by the Constitution. It is, or ought to be, a government that is subject to accountability, responsiveness and openness and where each citizen regardless of their creed, tongue or voting preferences, has the right — and duty — to participate in shaping everyday decisions of the government. This right, for the avoidance of doubt, is enshrined in the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and flows through such other laws as the Freedom of Information Act.

What this means in simple English is that all Nigerians are free to (and are called to) criticise the government — especially when they fail to respond in an open and accountable manner to the trust placed in them by the electorate or are railroading us all into some very unpleasant economic recession by both their slow action and in action. There is a bright distinction which has to be made, and loudly too, between citizens, who have rights and privileges protected by the state, and subjects, who are under the complete control and authority of the state.

Being critical of government does not make me an opposition or a rebel.

Saying my piece against a particular decision of my elected leadership does not make me unpatriotic. So many people, young and old, exhibiting their little mindedness are quick to relegate every opinion seemingly judged to be against those of the government which they support as being unpatriotic. Nothing could be more ignorant.  If patriotism, as all literature on the matter suggests, means being true to the principles for which one’s country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles and thus a patriotic act.

As a Nigerian citizen my loyalty is not to the government but to the constitution. It is a very common mistake to think that patriotism means support for or obedience to your government. We the people are the government. The machinery of state, is created by us (through the constitution which we gave ourselves) for reasons such as enforcing rights, laws and ensuring even the weakest of us is protected through sound economic policies and welfare packages. At any point when the elected symbols of government begin to go contrary to these responsibilities, even if it is in my own very minority opinion and I speak out, I am not being unpatriotic. I am being a good Nigerian. It doesn’t mean I cannot still support same government on another issue.

I have found it necessary to make this the crux of my weeks’ intervention because the level of intolerance for contrary opinion both among private citizens and between citizens and the government is really reaching alarming levels. We are daily putting blades to the things that hold us together, amplifying our fault lines and digging deep into our stubborn positions, which is cast in steel. There is an increasing fear to speak out against government either out of fear that ‘your file will be opened’ and they will come for you or  because you will be alienated by friends. Some people on social media for example are quick to block or delete anyone who challenges their opinions and they boast about it. The space for discourse, for engagement, for birthing new ideas which these platform ought to expand, continues to shrink.

And while we are at it, our light is going out. Our unity (or whatever is left of it) is dying. The economy is in a mess. A recession is now certain and a depression speculated. Jobs are being lost. Everything seems to be at a standstill. Nothing happens without the President’s nod. We snail on. Ministers can’t take initiative, except when it comes to speaking carelessly. The poverty is palpable. But it’s not just the economy, our liberty is also being lost. Before long we will lament the days long past when we could freely celebrate our independence as citizens. Yet we are in a democracy. Not a dictatorship.

I don’t have the count but it can be argued that in the last year, the Nigerian army alone has killed more unarmed Nigerians than violent crimes by Boko Haram, Fulani herd’s men and armed robbers put together. And there is a grand effort to cover it all up. When independent international agencies raise questions, our army brushes it aside. The Presidency doesn’t even find it important enough to be mentioned.  The citizens are muzzled. This should not be so.

We have a duty to turn the government inside out. Shake it up. Scream and shout. Demand answers. President Buhari and his cabinet, the governors, legislators, the armed forces , the police, all the way down to your councillors, are accountable to the public. They must be able to explain and justify their decisions and actions, respond to and be accessible to the people and conduct the business of governance in an open and transparent manner. They can only do this when we ask and insist and this is a responsibility we all shoulder.

@nzesylva

griefI have been told by many to write about my experience. One of the many words of advice I have received since my wife’s passing many of which of which literally lands on the floor and shatters noiselessly as soon as they leave the speakers lips. But I will write. Not necessarily because I am subscribed to the belief that I will achieve closure (whatever that means sef) by so doing, but because our lives are basically a collection of experiences strung together in beautiful random order and I would like (I hope) to by sharing mine, help someone somewhere bear theirs.

So this, is not that essay. But it is…in a different way.

It was finally that day when I was supposed to pretend everything was okay with the world and return to work. It was the sworn opinion of a set of sympathisers that getting back to work was going to help. I was eager to go back for a different reason though. I had been away for a long time and I felt a deep sense of responsibility to my employers…for all the support which I could only appreciate by getting back to my desk and giving my best.

The morning of my resumption was the Wednesday Labour was to begin its ill-fated strike against the fuel price increase. I would have jumped into the road by 6.30am as most Lagosians who work on the island do on a good day but I had decided to wait a bit to see if the strike would ‘catch fire’ or not. I dressed up, spotting a tie for the first time in over seven months and waited on the clock. While I did, I experienced a flurry of emotions which I have come to become quite familiar with since April 6, that almost made me take off the clothes and crawl up in a fetal position for the rest of the day.

Grief sucks! There is no other way to describe it.

It’s a cacophony of feelings and sensations, a bit like being tossed inside a washing machine. Sometimes it manifests as numbness, other times as anger or despair or shock, other times as, guilt and anxiety, and sometimes even as relief. Perhaps the most renowned of those feeling is the guilt for carrying on living as if nothing has happened and it was the most pronounced of the lot that morning of my resumption.

If someone sits and monitors what I google (and they do actually, given the grief literature that now surrounds my Gmail) my search requests in recent time would make an interesting reading. It is shocking even to me, that I would sit around and search such otherwise mundane topics as ‘what to do with the ring?’ ‘Can dead loved ones speak to us?’, “resuming work after bereavement” etc. Well, let’s just say I have been reading a lot and one of the texts I have found pretty interesting — because it mirrors just how I feel — is this excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s book written about the death of his wife “A Grief Observed”:

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning, I keep on swallowing.  At other times, it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed.  There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says… Yet I want the others to be about me.”

The part about the invisible blanket is so striking. It is like you are detached from the world with no cares left at all. Well that is what is should be ideally but when you are grieving in Nigeria especially at this time of complete despair, you cannot but feel a part of the world. The reality actually pushes your grief to the background. Staying home alone in darkness and heat. Counting and handing over twice the usual amount to the fuel attendant to fill your tank. Hearing of another village sacked by marauding Fulani herdsmen. Visiting the market and finding tomato now cost more than apples. Reading the latest statistics from NBS that screams ‘we are in trouble’ in many tongues. Enduring the anger of watching a government minister list administrative processes as achievements of the government after one year of rigmarole.

You see, you can’t even grieve in peace in this country because the country itself is grief and living here is existing in grief in present continuous tense. But I digress. Somehow I managed to overcome the overwhelming emotions of that morning of my resumption, walked into my car and started the engine. But I took my time though to steady the nerves. Getting to work late was the least of my cares. I had in my new reading interests, read a lot about bereaved people driving into other cars or off the bridge and other such stuff and even though it will thrill a tiny part of me to do, I remember I have a duty to my girls and my parents to stay breathing. So I made it in that day in one piece and I have been turning up, and working the full hours. It’s been two weeks now.

The next milestone was to resume this column which helped keep me sane through the period of trivial. A reminder from my good editor last week was the first push and even though I was not sure of what to say, I have said something and with it, it is safe to declare that I am back!

Permit me to use this platform to thank everyone who has reached out to me and my family through it all. I appreciate the prayers, messages, calls and visits. I hope you forgive the unanswered and not replied lot.

Ozoemena!

@nzesylva

Absurdities Central

mobPerhaps the most disturbing story to make the headlines in this Federal Republic of Absurdities we call home last week, was the murder in Kano, by a mob of religious fanatics, of Citizen Bridget Agbahime. Her crime, alleged blasphemy. Kano, the ancient city has a long history of hosting similar lynchings by persons who accord to themselves, the power to determine what constitutes (or does not constitute) blasphemy, persons who feel their God is too weak they have to fight on its behalf and who are quick to pronounce themselves judge, jury and executioners, in defense of a God they are clearly ignorant about.

That this should still be happening in 2016 is deeply worrying. But even more worrying is the conspiracy of silence among elite Muslim leaders in condemning said act openly and sternly  (not the halfhearted mumbles by a hand few that we saw)  and that there exist even among my generation, persons who are bold enough to advertise their little mindedness by justifying such heinous acts  in the name of religion. The President thankfully acknowledged this sad event and issued a statement condemning it. The President’s message, unfortunately, showcased the very reason why we are where we are on this matter. You cannot condemn a crime on one hand then, in the same breath, warn people to respect each other’s faith.  In case the President’s minders did not notice, that statement amounted to pronouncing the dead guilty for causing her own death. It is like justifying the action of the mob. It is unacceptable.

No one has a right to take life under whatever guise!

But we live in a theatre of absurdities so anything goes. Take for instance the laughable statement from the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, ordering banks to suspend the retrenchment of staff. It is so funny it is nauseating. Who told him he could even do that? The first question is to ask why are banks sacking en mass? The simplest answer is that it is a direct consequence of the state of the economy and as profit-oriented organisations, the banks shed weight when their wage bill begin to threaten their margins. Is it not then laughable that the federal government who should ordinarily take responsibility for the state of the economy is telling the banks not to downsize? One wonders, if the government will give the banks the money to pay the staff?

That directive also has implications for investor confidence and that is why as painful as it is that people are losing their jobs, it should not be allowed to stand. There is a clear limit to what controls the state has on private businesses or at least, there ought to be. World over, over regulation is already a major complaint of business leaders and a key determinant on where they move their business. To add the possibilities of governments being able to order when businesses can hire and fire has just one consequence….we lose out in the investment race and continue to have our economy bleed, endlessly.

Dr Ngige and the rest of President Buhari’s team should get on with the job of fixing the economy already.

This brings me to the classic reaction of the Minister of Transportation Mr Rotimi Amaechi on the issue of Foreign Airlines closing down their Nigeria operations. The minister, who either cannot just be bothered or is simply so ignorant he doesn’t appreciate the consequences of the trend, told journalists in the most pedestrian of tones; “When they were not here, were we not flying?” So essentially, they (foreign airlines) can all go to hell if they so like. No acknowledging the issues making them leave. No thinking around a solution to it. Just gra gra and careless talk.

Unfortunately, gra gra does not have a place in the global marketplace.

And as if the absurdities were not already enough for a week, we were treated to the Mr President is ‘fit as a fiddle’ drama. The President’s mouthpiece, Femi Adesina in his accustomed defence of his boss (because he thinks his job is to make the President look good), went as far as saying the report that the President was ill, broken by an online news media, was the figment of the reporter’s imaginations. Same old cliché. Same old needless drama. It’s a wonder how the man felt when less than twenty four hours later, he was the same person issuing a statement that acknowledged the President was indeed indisposed and needed medical attention abroad.

Is the president not human? Can he not fall sick? So why try to hide it?

We do not know shame. That is the very foundation of our problem as a people. And given the situation, we are all condemned to wallowing in this circus of absurdities without even knowing it, until perhaps the end comes or we are all consumed one by one, by the system we’ve all failed to change.

@nzesylva

IMG_1293There are simply no words to capture what you meant to me or convey the full weight of my grief over your passing. When I met you over six years ago I knew at once, that I had struck gold and I know many men have a wonderful wife but no one has ever had a better one than I. For Miebi you were simply amazing – beautiful, witty, highly intelligent, quirky, stubborn and always immense fun to be with. I am grateful for every minute we had together.

We shared a friendship, a bond that no one else can understand and together we tore down barriers of creed, tribe and culture that threatened to keep us apart and at once turned all of it into love and laughter and oneness. You always said family mattered most and you embraced mine so intimately that you easily passed for a daughter to my parents and a big sister to my siblings. You were humble, faithful, efficient, and true and in your unassuming way, made everything around you beautiful.

As cliché as it may sound, Mimi, you were my everything.  My happiest years were those spent with you. You gave me the experience of being clearly understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved. You inspired me in ways I cannot explain. You were my number one fan, blowing my trumpet the loudest. When I was worried, you said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, you figured it out. When things were difficult you were a pillar. And even there on your sick bed when I neared my wits end, you would hold my hand and reassure me that everything would be okay.

I remember fondly those long hours spent on skype calls while you completed you studies in Brazil, those blackberry voice notes every morning, the joy of welcoming you at the airport when you came home and the tears when you had to leave. I shall never forget the dance, the laughter, the promises and the plans. I miss your presence, your companionship, the notification on my phone of a new ping from you, the joy of watching Manchester United play, together…your love.

You see, love is at once this cruel and uplifting. We are dead without it, and yet made so much more vulnerable to pain for experiencing it.  However if the day I walked down that aisle with you someone had told me that this would happen, I would still have walked down that aisle. For the beautiful flowers you have planted in my memory will be treasured for the rest of my lifetime.

Alas, my love could not save you. We fought long and hard though. You did not want to die. I did not want to let go either. We were confident this would end in praise. In my spare hours, I planned the thanksgiving Mass that would follow your recovery in my head. It was also going to be our baby’s dedication. But the creator thought your work here was done and decided to call you to Himself, to swell the number of the Saints triumphant. Camera 360

I am consoled however by the fact that we’ve buried only your body. Your spirit, your beautiful soul, your uncommon ability to calm the storm is still with us. You live on in the stories those who knew you are sharing of how you touched their lives, in the memories of our families who you touched most closely, in the love that is so visible in the eyes of our daughters. Things will never be the same for us yes, but we all have been made better because you were in our lives.

The words of Alan D. Wolfelt  in The Wilderness of Grief, aptly captures my feelings on this day. “My grief journey has no destination. I will not ‘get over it.’ The understanding that I don’t have to be done is liberating. I will mourn this death for the rest of my life.”  But I will not stay drained by grief. I assure you that I will be strong for the girls, and that together, we shall make you proud.

With all my heart,

Your Husband

Nze

First published here on Thursday May 5, 2016

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