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Bobosteke: Celebrating the Roses with More Heart than Degrees

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dreamstime_xl_40496631I walked past a television set that was tuned to AIT (Africa Independent Television) and some expected fall-outs from the current economic situation were being displayed. Among them was the increased spate in armed robbery. Then a house on my street got robbed in broad day light (I think), and the security company handling our house (which also handled the house that got robbed) were told to be more vigilant.

So imagine my dismay when this particular guard was posted to our house. Now this guard was all shades of incompetent. He left the gate permanently opened and I had to lock it repeatedly because he was nowhere to be found. Or when he was to be found, he was sleeping soundly, while people pounded repeatedly for several minutes on the gate. Or was it when the mechanic fixing my neighbour’s car became the ad hoc security guard, opening the gate without asking who it was. Or when some group of guys (who later turned out to be plumbers) just walked in without any “Ehello. Who is you find come?” question from him.

Then my neighbour returned from a trip. He gave the usual number of unhurried piiiiim piiiiim, but no one was forthcoming. He then leaned on the horn until his son came down from two flights up to open the gate.
I did not know when I carried my fever-razed body, wrapped the duvet round my neck, my hair looking for all the world like Ayawa in Sugar Girl; and went to look for the guard.
“Oga, where were you when the car was horning?” (Nigerian English)
“I went to buy shaving stick.”

The conversation from there, as with such things, did not go well.

Later that day, I ran into my neighbor who said, “I didn’t like what I was hearing this afternoon”.
I batted innocent lashes at her and asked what she was talking about. Then she said, “You have demeaned yourself by talking to an ordinary security man. You should know your status in life and not interact with such people of low status. They don’t have anything upstairs that is why they are security men.”

It’s easy to take umbrage at such a statement, and vilify the utterer with self-righteous indignation. But hasn’t she spoken what most of us feel, but don’t say? For those of us whose acts of generosity readily sprung to mind (like mine did), I have discovered that it is so easy to be condescending and be kind at the same time.

I remember once I overheard a security guard ask for money to eat, from someone who responded that he did not have. Immediately, resentment grew in my spirit for all these begi begi people who don’t know better than to beg. Still, I got up, feeling very gba jekin simi-ish (take and let me rest) which is quite funny as he did not ask me, and went to give him some money. As I returned and shut the door to my flat, I heard this fifty-something year old man crying and thanking God in gratitude for me.

I stood still as I heard prayers that only a mother would think of praying for her child. I sank slowly to the sofa and I wept. For the pride in my heart, for the need in his life, and for the man who was bold enough to say to God, “Because I am your friend, and You said anything I ask you would give me, bless her”.

One asked my neighbour for pure water; she said she did not have. Yet, you have bottled water or dispenser water. Are security guards above the grade of people that drink such? I sat there in my living room momentarily stunned but without a thought of doing anything to help. I heard a knock on my door, and he stood there asking if he could carry the bag I had left outside for days. Shame clouded my face, for myself and for my neighbour as I, mumbling, told him that I wasn’t sure it was still “pure”. He said he would take it anyway.

I have learnt to see unfulfilled needs in anyone, not as burdens but as cleverly disguised opportunities to be blessed and to learn to sow in discomfort and pain. Such that when food was requested for and the response I heard was something along the lines of this food is only meant for me; I quickly jumped up, brought out the food that I had gotten for dinner, shared it into two, and gave them half.

So permit me to celebrate the following security guards, cleaners and helps with more brains than some professors I know; who have with more heart than any degree can confer.

I celebrate you Mr. E., formerly Chief Technician at Nuel Ojei Holdings; owner of a duplex and boys quarters, whose son recently graduated from Landmark University, Omu Aran. May our friendship grow and may your love and care for me be rewarded. We would find a good teaching job for your daughter very soon.

I celebrate you Mr. T., formerly an accountant at Berger Paints, Head Usher and President, Council of Foursquare Men (CFM), Foursquare Gospel Church, at his local branch. You don’t look a day over thirty-five. No one would ever believe you are over sixty.

I celebrate you Mr. C., father of Valentina (so named because she was born on February 14th), currently pursuing his HND at a polytechnic. Your bespectacled face is always a joy to see at the gates.

I celebrate you Mr. I., newly married. I still owe you a gift and a visit.

I celebrate you Mr. AK., even though you started to fall in love with me, I hope someday we can be friends again.

I celebrate you Mr. K., who washes my car and runs away every time I try I try to pay him.

I celebrate you Daddy P., security with swag, who had to get a bit high on his wedding day because he was so nervous. As your daughter turns two, may God add more bundles of joy to your family.

I remember you, Aunty Ruka, from Togo and Aunty Zainab, our maids in the 90’s. I don’t know where you both are. But we miss you very dearly. We still speak of you often.

My pretty, pretty, Iya M., who cleans my office, whose dark beauty and pretty smile could light up a room. Stop trekking everywhere, o. It’s not healthy.

To Mrs. O. my washerwoman, another beauty whose sons would make any mama proud. Kayode would definitely go for his HND.

I know you all may never get to read this, but I pray most earnestly, that God who sees this anonymous “thank you” page, will bless you most particularly. You all, are part of my history. Your lives have given me so many
opportunities to be a better person and be blessed. I hope to continue to make you all proud of me.

I love you all.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

24 Comments

  1. Simi

    July 19, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Such a beautiful piece ??

    • AceOfSpade

      July 19, 2016 at 10:49 pm

      Awwwww aren’t you such a darling. Sometimes I see those women selling oranges. I just buy everything off their tray and it’s usually 1500 or thereabout. You are inside hot sun because of 1500. I hope God bless you!

      One girl once came to me. She needed 2k to complete money for her acceptance fee to a polytechnic. She was kneeling and crying and would do ‘anything I want’ for 2k. I gave her 10k and didn’t take ‘anything’ back in return. It touched my heart mehnnnnn! I can’t help everyone but the little I can, I try to and I won’t look down on them. She is a graduate now and works at AB microfinance bank!

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Wow! She’s a graduate now? I’m so stumped! This is really touching.

  2. Bianca

    July 19, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Wow. The beauty of this article left me speechless. It is so heartwarming to know there are other people out there who respect and care for those amongst us that others would not ordinarily not treat well. I can relate to your story of hearing the older man cry in gratitude. Sometimes something as small as 200 naira can make someone’s day. In fact I am inspired to go help some people around me now.

  3. Message for Lara Bian

    July 20, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Hi Lara. I’ve read Memoirs of a Lagos Passenger & now this. There’s something beautiful about you & it appears you’ve got a heart of gold. Please can you drop me your email, would love to be in touch.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Thank you for the compliments. [email protected]

  4. Nini

    July 20, 2016 at 1:27 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. God Bless you for this piece. I wish people would realize that these low level staffers are people too. With their own stories. It’s goof to know some people still care.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 10:54 am

      We all can care. It’s just that people think refined people should only relate with those within their class. The poor would always be among us. It’s only that people interpret poor in terms of material wealth. We would always be poor in heart, in health, in true friends, in love, in knowledge etc. The people who can meet these needs are the rich ones.

  5. Anon

    July 20, 2016 at 3:51 am

    May God Almighty continue to bless every hand and heart that never snubbed the poor IJN, Amen.

  6. Aisha

    July 20, 2016 at 4:07 am

    This is such a raw and beautiful read.
    I am very careful not to keep “friends” who have no sense of duty to the less privileged in the society or talk recklessly to them/ about them.
    Who we are and what we have is by God’s mercy and grace; as well as a test from Him.
    Learn to help and give with abandon…I know that may sound risky but if you believe God will provide then why the restraint?
    His promises never fail or dissappoint.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Hi Aisha. I could be quite choleric and impatient with people who don’t see or do things the way I would, especially when it’s consider as service to humanity. But I had to learn to lead patiently by example and in that I also learnt a lot from my intentions. Some friends want to care. They are just afraid it may be uncool to.

  7. The real D

    July 20, 2016 at 4:11 am

    I have learned in recent months, that intent is truly the measure of kindness/goodwill. If my intent is not right then there is no kindness or goodwill regardless of what the physical act may or may not indicate. God help me ??. I am still a work in progress.
    Lastly, your hailing a for Mr. T and Daddy P. Mr. T of CFM gave me the giggles. I was raised Foursquarian and my father is still a devout member of the Foursquare organization but I have not heard CFM in ages!!! And Daddy P needing a little joint to get through his own wedding.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 11:12 am

      My response was to @The real D

    • "changing moniker"

      July 20, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      I was raised Foursquarian too…
      Actually i still attend since i live in my parent’s house 🙂

  8. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    July 20, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Intention! Intention! Intention! That’s the word. Do I do what I do to hear “Ha! Aunty yen nice gan”? Or to be liked, be thanked, be acknowledged or appreciated.

    I used to wait to be greeted by people I considered inferior to me. Until I asked myself, if that person was (insert name of anyone you rever) would you wait to be greeted? I stopped immediately. There’s still room for plenty growth. Growing, is never easy. But we are only beautiful when we are broken.

    Foursquare grown? Hmmm…..

    • Mrs A

      July 20, 2016 at 11:42 am

      This piece is so me, even my nanny that has left me ages ago i still send her stuff. Problem though is sometimes i think they take advantage of us. They sometimes prefer those who are mean to them, Take for example some janitors here, i was raised to greet everyone younger or older first as we approach each other. Some of them blatantly ignore my greeting oh, but my home training has made it reflex – i always forget even when i say i wont greet him or her tomorrow. Take note most are young not even old, then my nanny whom i buy same clothes for (cos i hate shopping, so just pick same dress different sizes) cleared out my jewelry the other day though she claims its jazz.
      So sometimes, i wish i was a screamy nasty fellow like some others to them cos the respect level they have for those ones sometimes are much more than they have for me.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Hi Mrs. A

      I know people who were killed by security men they were kind to. I also know people whose security men collaborated with armed robbers to steal from the family that had cared from him and his family. I know of drivers who had hurt their bosses because of greed. I know a nanny who robbed her employers blind despite the employers sending her kids to school. They came to mind as I wrote this piece.

      But my heart firmly knows two things: First, I do not do these things to be liked or disliked, or be thanked or unthanked. I simply do them.

      The fact that you are nice to people does not mean they would be the same towards you. The fact the we are mean also does not mean we would not be punished with kindness either.

      Secondly, I will not make anyone’s response the standard of my behaviour. I have a higher person I am responsible to. When we all stand before God, we will give account of our actions not of others.

      Whenever I remember this, I readjust my wig, calm down and move on.

  9. whocares

    July 20, 2016 at 11:26 am

    AAwww B.steke you always know how to draw on my heart strings.. and they are short strings too. Ahh aunty Bola, my childhood baby sitter. I still think of her till today. My most vivid memory of her was when my grandma and everyone else went to (ajodun- all k&s people in the house you know how it be) and they left me behind as per omode things. We sat in the compound, sang (a song she taught me that even included my name! I am too embarrassed to type it. lool), caught “esunsun”, fried and ate them and just sat outside in our compound until I slept off. I was 7/8 then. The next time I saw her, I was 14 and she had a buka selling rice. She hadn’t forgotten me either and gods knows she was the first person I went to look for as soon as I got back to my grandma’s house. I got the biggest plate of rice from her (the foodie in me will always appreciate food) and the warmest hug and welcome. Her daughter, I was there when she gave birth to her (well I remember her putting the little baby in my arms ) somehow they are all stiched in my heart.. My other baby sitter, aunty aina cant forget her too, she had short hair and “barbed” punk: she was absolutely mental to everyone else, but so gentle with me.. Point is, people are important in ways that have nothing to do with their pedigree- if they show you love and support in their own way, mirror that back to them. I try to do this. It doesn’t work all the time (e.g I am currently beefing my beautician) I am only human but I keep trying.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

      People are important in ways that have nothing to do with their pedigree. Word, Sista!

      We had our own rasta help too. Aunty Love, and she loved us! She was Calabar. Her grammar left us in stitches but she was still authoritative and would play with us whenever we got back from school. Ah… memories…

  10. idee

    July 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    amazing write up!

  11. Brown

    July 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Knowing people like you exist in this mad world means there’s still hope. Bless your heart Bobosteke & Lara Bian.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      July 20, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Bless your heart too @Brown.

  12. amarachi

    July 20, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    aww..i do that too,atimes my parents do complain that it is excess.

  13. Naijatalk

    July 20, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Bobosteke you come across as beautiful inside out. May we all find it in us to be gracious to everyone without respect to status.

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