A couple of weeks ago, I had a run in with some of Nigeria's finest (or should that be unfinest?). I'm talking about those individuals who are armed and stop members of the public at checkpoints. Long story short, we had a major standoff that resulted in me standing on the roadside, for 3 hours on a Saturday night, because they illegally impounded my car! Before you question my sanity (you'll have to get in line for that) let me assure you that it wasn't my plan at all. I'd just got off a flight, after a 12 hour flight and all I wanted to do was get home and go to bed. But when it came to it, I was so incensed by the behaviour of these individuals that I thought to myself "you know what? I'm not going to be harassed and bullied by you today!"
Today's blog is a bit different from my usual ones. I'm in a bit of a pensive mood. I'm thinking about the state of the country (Nigeria); the postponed elections; the mass murder being perpetrated by Boko Haram in the north of the country and the blatant poverty and inequality in the society. All that pondering (apart from giving me a headache) have made me ask the 2 questions, which are the subject of this week's blog.
My first question is "if not you, then who? Sometimes, when we hear about people who've done amazing things or come through tough situations, we have the tendency to think they are superhuman, able to overcome anything. As I think about some of these people, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that separates us from then (apart from lurid spandex pants and a cape) is resolve and the ability to ask this important question. Before I had my beloved daughter, I had multiple miscarriages. And as you can imagine, at some stage , I started to ask "why me?" Not in any genuinely enquiring fashion, merely a whiny, self pitying kind of a way. I started going through all of the reasons why it shouldn't happen to me. Reasons like: "I'm a good person", "I am kind to children and old people" and my personal favourite "I go to church regularly". One day though, as I was getting ready to rehearse all my reasons, another question dropped into my mind and it was "if not you, then who?" It was like a million lightbulbs went off in my head. To ask "why me?" with all my reasons, was in fact to say that there were some other people out there, who deserved multiple miscarriages. Thinking about it logically now, I'd have to ask myself who are these people and what could they possibly have done to deserve such pain and heartbreak? This is a personal example, but in the context of being a citizen of Nigeria, a violence against women activist and just a human being, this is a call to action. What do you see around you that is driving you to distraction or making you foam at the mouth in fury? Now that you know what that is, my next question is what are you doing about it? Not your neighbour, not the politicians, you. I love the online petition organisation change.org. You do get a few dodgy petitions, but what I love is that ordinary people can get a petition going about issues that matter to them. When you have a couple of thousand voices all saying the same thing, it's a lot harder to ignore. A petition may not be what is called for, in your case, but there is always something that we can do. A lot of us are geniuses at pointing out what is wrong. Not so great at actually doing something about it. This is not about being superhuman, it's about understanding that in our little way we can take a stand and resolving to do just that.
My second question is "if not now, when?" As well as being geniuses at pointing out what is wrong, a lot of us are also master procrastinators. How many times have you sat down to write out a super duper plan, complete with bells and whistle, looked at it and said "I'll do that later?" Too many of us are living our lives on hold. Our speech is littered with phrases like "I'll be happy when..." Or "when this happens, then I'll..." I'll admit to more than more than my fair share of such phrases and I'll also confess that it hasn't got me very far at all. The truth of the matter is that it is a colossal waste of our time to ignore the present and base our happiness on a future that we don't know. None of us know how long we have to live, but we squander what time we do have, when we live our lives on hold. The late Chinua Achebe said it more elegantly than I ever could, when he said "I cannot live on the bank of a river and wash my hands with spittle". In other words, recognise the resources you have available to you and use them. I don't even want to think about the opportunities we miss, because we're scared it's not the right time or we don't have what it takes. Speaking as someone who likes to be sure that she has all her ducks in a row, before stepping out, I regret some of the chances I didn't take, because I listened to the voice in my head that said "you're not ready yet" or "that idea isn't developed enough yet". The average man shares his thoughts and opinions, whether they are fully formed or not and even when he hasn't got one duck to put in a row! As women, I think we could learn a lot from that approach.
So, as I end this week, I ask again: "if not you, then who?" And "if not now, when?" Opportunities are all around us. They are either coming towards us or going past us. Let's resolve to grab a few more of them, take a chance and just do it.
Until next week, go well.