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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Mind Over Muscle



I hated the sound of my neighbour’s generator – with a passion. Maybe they never serviced it, maybe the exhaust pipe was just too close to my window… but there was something about the non-harmonious blaring sound of that thing that always made me want to douse my oesophagus with copious quantities of Benylin syrup.

I would lie on my bed, wondering what gods I had to appeal to… just to ease the suffering. Was it too much to ask for a good night’s sleep? Whilst praying for the return of NEPA, I would hear the offensive machine power down. Splutter, splatter, silence. The sigh of relief would not have finished escaping my lips when the Mosquito Orchestra would start their non rhythmic sounds. My skin, clammy from the heat, would then become the landing pad for an army of mosquitoes, who streamed in because I left the windows to allow for fresh air. At least the neighbour’s generator was a distraction from the onslaught of mosquitoes.

I cannot bear the thought of mosquitoes. Those things, are ferocious, evil and deadly! (No, I’m not exaggerating. Malaria KILLS) Mosquitoes are the reason why I could never go and read at Education Auditorium when I was in my first year at UniLag. I just could not do the routine of taking fabric to class to cover my legs, swatting away at mosquitoes the entire time – when I could be doing something more productive… like sleeping in my narrow metal bed in Newest Hall II.

Back then, going to ‘read in class’ was the hallmark of a good student. It was also a good place to initiate amorous relationships (but we’ll talk about that some other time). For me, anything that required special ‘stress’, like going to submit myself on the altar of suffering, was not worth it. I have never subscribed to the belief that something that is more difficult is better – or guarantees a better result.

When I was younger, my brothers and cousins always told me that making Indomie noodles for a guy was out of the question. According to them, if I wanted a man to take me seriously, I had to make the effort – ‘Cook something that shows you sweated at least’. I asked why: “Won’t the guy be full if I cook noodles?” They said it wasn’t that he wouldn’t be full, it’s just that he would know that you didn’t ‘stress’. I asked if the tastiness of the noodles would make any difference. After all food is food.
“It’s like comparing the sweetness of Pounded yam to that of Eba.”

“Are they not the same thing? Isn’t the accompanying soup the determining factor?”

You see, I had learned to enjoy Eba with the same fervour as I would have Pounded Yam. Pounded Yam was a Sunday staple in our house. So after a long day in Church, we would file into the kitchen – cut yam, boil yam, bring out Egusi, cut the spinach, clean the dry fish (and other appurtenances to go in the soup). By the time the Egusi is cooking, it’s time to pound. Wash the mortar and pestle, cut the transparent plastic bag that will house the finished product, pound. 20 minutes later, after heaving and hawing, ensuring that the pounded yam is smooth, and soft, ready to be served and eaten…then you’d start hearing sounds – visitors arriving. Unbudgeted visitors! The arrival of visitors meant one thing – all the hard work you put towards that Pounded yam – after long hours of sitting through the church sermon (with no breakfast – remember we had to rush to catch Sunday School) – GONE! My mother would turn around, without batting an eyelid “E lo g’bomi Eba ka’na” (Go and boil water for Eba)

Just like that, I learned to enjoy the taste of Eba and dissociate my senses from believing that Pounded Yam was the Holy Grail of food. In fact, the lesser the stress, the more enjoyable the food became.

Atoke CheeriosIt can be argued though, that the more effort you put into something, the more love, and value you have for it. Proponents of this would say that, if you go the distance to ensure that your partner’s clothes are hand washed, and personally ironed, it is indicative of a personal touch – which means love (Or maybe you’re just snooping around for strange lipstick stains). If you’re willing to walk a mile and half from your bed, to go to the mosquito infested Arts Block to read, it’s a sign of a sacrifice you’re willing to make towards the achievement of your goals.

I’ve learned, over the years, that working hard doesn’t necessarily achieve the desired results. Working smart, on the other hand is a more effective tool – for me. When my Grandmother died in the 90s, one of my funky Aunties came to Ogbomosho with an army of caterers and servers for the burial. Family members sniggered behind her back, calling her “Olowo ike” (Plastic hands – a euphemism for ‘Lazy person’). She did not subscribe to the whole idea of sleepless nights washing tomatoes and boiling pepper, and as such was tagged lazy… just because she chose to contract the service out. Her canopy was the most organised, and the one with no issues of food scarcity. That Aunty taught me a valuable lesson in effective use of time resource.

Weighing the value of the desired result, vis a vis the effort put into it should always be paramount. If I can study effectively for 4 hours in the reading room in Moremi Hall – with air-conditioning blowing into my face, please believe I will not be strolling to class at 11pm to go and play Dodge This Part of My Skin with a mosquito.

At the end of it all, it boils down to the satisfaction derived from the energy utilised!

Have a good week ahead. Heaven knows we need all the optimism we need this week as our country slowly crumbles to a halt in the wake of the fuel crisis. If it’s not ABSOLUTELY important, please just conserve your energy and sit at home. Work smart!

Peace, love & Celery stalks.


Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Racorn 

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. DatEnuguChic

    May 25, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Atoke love i agree with you 100%. I have never cooked for any of my events i simply contract a caterer and trust me i was raised with Eba( my mum was a civil servant and loves to socialize) I learnt to enjoy eba and any other meal cos mama no get time for long thing. I have since learnt to enjoy simple meals and dare say simple things in life. Im raising my children like that too. Life is too short to waste all my energy on one task. Life is short and i intend to enjoy it!

  2. A Real Nigerian

    May 25, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I’ve never yawned so many times in the space of 10 minutes before…

    • khennee

      May 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

      like seriously? this is a fine read!

    • Dollz

      May 25, 2015 at 10:19 am

      It took you 10 whole minutes to read it? Therein lies the problem. Perhaps you yawned so much because you couldn’t understand the words and had to read each one three times …at least 😉

    • A Real Nigerian

      May 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Nope. It took me 10 minutes because I kept dozing off at the beginning of every unexciting and expected paragraph.
      I see you are trying to be the one with the witty comeback but…you failed.

    • Funmilola

      May 25, 2015 at 10:46 am

      eyaaa,something must be wrong somewhere…..

    • F

      May 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Well, this is your opinion. You’re free to express yourself. I enjoyed the article and the lesson Atoke made.

    • thoroughly annoyed

      June 11, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      is there any article written on bellanaija by anybody at all that you ever appreciate?
      you are such an ignorant critic.never saying anything good about people. mssstcheeeww!!!!

  3. jummai

    May 25, 2015 at 9:36 am

    lol @ e lo gbe omi eba kano.

  4. Jo!

    May 25, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Oh AToke

  5. bissy

    May 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I used to think hard work guarantees success but growing up made me realise it’s by working smart!
    God help us!!

  6. nef

    May 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

    OMG Atoke, your mom must be related to my mom. I swear! the only difference is that we lived in Kano, we were 8kids in my family and every Sunday as we were about to leave church you would hear my mom inviting people home for Sunday lunch! The issue wasn’t that the pounded yam wont go round o, the issue was the pounding. I have pounded so much yam in my life that on my 18th birthday I singlehandedly pounded yam for over 30 guests. I have cooked so much food in my life that now, I hardly go into the kitchen except to tell my maid what to cook. it is a great sacrifice to prepare soups over the weekends for the week and I only do it because of my children. I see some of my colleagues at work bringing cooked food and I cant for the life of me imagine myself doing it!! I can cook a mean meal, but my KPI has to be involved before you will catch me volunteering to cook anything. Going to the market is another trip I avoid by all means available!

    • Jo!

      May 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    • ShineShineShine

      May 25, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      @KPI ehn? I feel you jare. My body and soul rejects suffer if it ain’t showing up as +++/ves on my mid year review or end year appraisals.

    • abeniade

      May 25, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      please where did you get a maid that can cook? I need one urgently!!!

    • dee

      May 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      @nef you are my exact twin mehnn .we shud meet

  7. balogun eniola

    May 25, 2015 at 10:03 am

    @atoke true, a friend of mine always tells to me work smart. And read smart, it relieves the stress than working hard and cnt enjoy at d end of it all.

  8. Theurbanegirl

    May 25, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Lmao this is so my granny ” e lo gbe omi eba kana”

  9. loll

    May 25, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Atoke i sincerely believe ur mum has d same spirit with my mum. Same meal was applicable in my house every sunday n u wont even hear sorry for being deprived afta d sweat and hard work. Hated so many uncles and aunties dat used to visit den

  10. Calabar Gal

    May 25, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Nice One – Atoke.

  11. ChicadimplesNG

    May 25, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Atoke dear, I learnt this principle a long time ago, work smart not work hard!
    My Husband pple can select food? Going home for Xmas for me, is like punishment, morning- porridge yam, noon- jollof rice and night- fufu and onugbu soup! For like twelve pple!
    Last year, I got a woman to do the cooking for that period , for only 12k, some people wan die,lol. I cannot come and die abeg. Results pls!!
    And I wish I can work from home, dis Lagos (Nigeria) situation tire me.

  12. naijaflo

    May 25, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Working hard and working smart still needs luck for success. Luck and God’s favour or else you’ll work smart and workhard for nothing. Nice read.

  13. duchess

    May 25, 2015 at 10:50 am

    You are a very fine writer. Absolutely love this piece. You deserve a truck of fuel right now. Lol.

  14. oj

    May 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

    the billionaires of the world got their money by working SMART

  15. Moyo

    May 25, 2015 at 11:28 am

    @chikadimplesNG, my sister from another mother, I cant come and die,Lol. I agree with o jare

  16. wagamama

    May 25, 2015 at 11:46 am

    My uni days tho……chai!

    Worked more smart than hard in year 1…..Excellent results (Got a lot of praises, transferred to a harder course)

    Worked more smart than hard in year 2….Excellent results (Got a few awards)

    Worked more hard than smart in year 3….Pressure started setting in…Good result…bleh!

    Worked extremely, extraordinarily hard in year 4…..The pressure i put on myself was immeasurable! Literally lived in the library. For the first time in my life, failure became my fear. This year determines your final grade in Scotland….For one of my papers, i got to the exam hall and BLANKED!…..SAT THERE STARING AT EVERYONE ELSE WHILST CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE…



    It took me YEARS to get over my degree classification (the first two years after graduation i cried every other day. Sometimes i still cry sometimes (Blame myself solely for all the darn pressure i put on myself).

    The whole experience changed my perspective of life.

    Waga has now relegated her life to working smart ONLY! Except if it involves something I’m really really interested in/really like. ONLY THEN will i throw in a bit of HARDWORK!

    So far so good people, so far so good!

    • chai

      May 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      That there, is my academic story.
      Working smart is key.

    • f

      May 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

      me too. sigh

    • Sabifok

      May 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      You like Japanese food?

    • Wagamama

      May 25, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, i believe i do.

      *****BIG GRIN*****

    • Zee

      May 25, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      More hard and more smart? A graduate uses such terms? You must like Japanese buka!

    • Zara

      May 25, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Honey can u chill already??? Am sure people understood…..I can’t imagine sitting in court and blowing all that grammar and I get in here to relax and just” BE” and someone b correcting more hard and more smart!!! Ohh chi ohhh

    • S!

      May 25, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      When I was leaving Nigeria to school, my dad told me he wasn’t paying all that money for me to go & learn book only, that I should also experience life. I chilled throughout uni, when final semester came, I calculated my CGPA & just worked to achieve the cut off mark for the classification I desired. I didn’t change how I read previous semesters, but that was my best semester.

  17. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    May 25, 2015 at 11:54 am

    At working smart and not necessarily hard…

    I remember in secondary school, we got wind that there was going to be an ’emergency”physics test. The class was to hold immediately after break. Everyone was scampering opening note books and P. N. Okeke. I looked around the class and knew we was fighting a lost battle. I left the class and went to do “underground work’. I found out the teacher was going to test us on transformers. I also found out that it was going to be from WAEC past question. Within the spate of 10 minutes, I crammed the diagram, formula, equation break down, and the answer from the past question. When Mr. O. walked in and wrote TEST! on the blackboard, the class held its breathe in expected reverential silence one reserves for such occasion. I, on the other hand was waiting already with my pen poised. Immediately I saw transformers. By the time Mr. O. had finished writing out the question I was done with the answers. Ask me to explain one single equation or even define transformers after the test, it would have been war. But did I score good? Better, I was the highest. Mr. O. raved from class to class about it.

    Same thing happened in biology class in S. S. 2; only this time we had a day’s notice. After doing my survey from other 3 classes she taught and their test questions the day before, I found went home and read Cells like there was no tomorrow. It did not occur to me once that I could be wrong until she stood in front of the class the following day and started the test. As I waited in sudden uncertainty, I saw “Draw the something of a cellular….. . I finished fast and early. Next class she singled out my script to talk about how detailed and neat my answer and script was. You guessed right, I was the highest.

    Learning to fillet information is an art one should learn. Even at work, I can’t count how many times knowing the right thing at the right time has made me seem like a genius. And it goes on…

    • TA

      May 25, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Oh dear Bobos & LB but the ability to know the right thing at the right time is genius. Modestly put, you are a genius ojare, 🙂

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      May 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      From your lips…

      How you been?

  18. TA

    May 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    LDKMF! Loool! Hahaha @ your mother’s reaction. Epic! I love to cook o but I draw the line at pounded yam. It is suffering pure and simple. My own mother refused to buy pounding machine because she wanted us to learn how to pound with a mortar and pestle (suffer head way I call it) . I asked mama dearest recently, so what have I done with all my pounding yam skills? she said something about not being helpless when there is no machine. Abegy! Long thing! When I have Debonairs pizza and co on speed dial? As for that belief that anything valuable is worth suffering for.My friends know I have argued and fought against that notion. It is one of the biggest fallacies ever! How many of us labour to breathe? And that is needed to live. See! I have never believed that I have to suffer to appreciate something. For e.g If a guy ‘suffers’ to get a babe , would he then appreciate her more? You see how faulty that reasoning is.
    Peace, Love and fuel to all of us. 🙂

  19. Weather

    May 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I really like the flow of this article… like you deliberately had to connect one thing to another. Our Sunday meal was jollof rice, you could never miss it. And my mum cooked so much to allow for “budgeted” visitors. lol..

  20. cleo

    May 25, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    It really pains me when my mother chooses to take the long way only for me to arrive at a better result. I spend half the time my mother spends in the kitchen. I always look forward to cooking without her supervision. And like most African mothers do, we sweat in the kitchen then one visitor just comes and you are denied food. You are told to put another pot on the fire to cook allover again before you eat. Why they don’t call before coming coming beats me. But that is story for another day.
    Why you ground pepper and refrigerated and use when the need arises. or ground dry pepper if PHCN is not nice to you. But no my mother will say, it is lazy cooking style.
    Visitor arrives unexpected and my mother is giving them buffet option of SEMO/Pounded yam/Rice etc and choice of soup . Biko it is your house offer them what you have and if they dont like they should bring their food in their bags, instead of the stale bread they bring.
    I refused to learn how to pound yam. My mother always said don’t worry you will marry a man who loves pounded yam for breakfast/lunch/dinner. And i am like if pounding machine no do am he should pound it himself. Part of the reasons i hate pounded yams. I love every other thing yam, but pounded yam i can go a year without it.
    I always said that of the recurring expenses spent on food condiments plus time spent is culminated, it will be cheaper to just cook in bulk, buy fuel and refrigerate it.
    In the past the most our mothers did was work 8 – 2pm. Hence they had all that time. But now that things have change, i would be surprised at any woman who does not take the easy way out.
    Whatever machine can do for me, i wont raise a finger to do.

    • TA

      May 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      @ cleo, thank you my dear.. Mi ole wa ku at all . Hian! whatever a machine can do, I won’t raise a finger to do it. These words of yours are epic .

    • derhmy

      May 26, 2015 at 7:41 am

      @cleo u sound so much like s1 i know…i will make a call now to do my investigation *wink* *wink*

    • cleo

      May 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Oh!!!!!!!! @Derhmy. Will be expecting that call. *wink back*

    • deb

      May 26, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      My mom would disown me if I refuse to learn how to pound yam. So I learnt. Then one time she wasn’t around for a week and dad asked for pounded yam. I singlehandedly pounded yam for 6 people. I’m pretty small framed, was barely weighing the same as a bag of rice. Needless to say, my hands were covered in blisters afterwards, couldn’t use them for a week. Showed my dad the blisters too, now nobody stresses me for p.yam again. M still the best pounder in my house, but then m marrying a man who doesn’t like swallow foods. Go figure.

    • Nero

      May 27, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Exactly. Whatever a machine can do for me, I won’t raise a finger to do! One of the many reason why I love Dooneyrooney.

  21. babygiwa

    May 25, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    This is a good read, the flow was nice and easy to follow.
    I believe in working hard and smart, I did both and graduated with a good grade from uni. Hoping to continue when I start working. Work hard and smart!
    I wish us all FUEL. Toodles!

  22. Jhennique

    May 25, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    can i like this article?

  23. @edDREAMZ

    May 25, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    I love the way yu talked about this egusi and pounded yam part i swear…..

    • deb

      May 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      No doubt.

  24. TA

    May 25, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Oh dear Bobos & LB but the ability to know the right thing at the right time is genius. Modestly put, you are a genius ojare, 🙂

  25. Momo

    May 25, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Very well written, keep up the good work Atoke

  26. tiny colored miracle

    May 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Emi ko,visitor will come nd now eat my pounded yam.yh, am dt selfish,na dm go chop d eba!!!!

  27. papermoon

    May 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    want a witness, just look at the West with their smart ways of doing things (machines, not all though) and their development and look at Africa with our love for manual, hard, back breaking labour that has launched our rockets on the moon!!

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