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What its all about!

The sweats, the endless traffic, the curses.and expletives,…..all melded into a broth that forms the interesting life of a fresh graduate in Lagos as he triea to burrow his way into the corporate life and consequently faces the possible collateral damage of self loss. It’s neither black nor white, it’s black,white and all the colours in between. It’s oxblood orange.

Between your lungs and your nose

United in our common division
Some call it isolation,
Mankind has come to that point
Where what matters is who “breathes”
And no longer who owns what
Nor who is coloured what

A little city is injured, the entire world bleeds
It is true, what they say
Our world is a global village, Wuhan is the capital
There are two races- the dead and those on the waiting list

We would recover and we’d tell the tales
Of when babies learnt to count by death statistics on TV screens
Of the productivity of sitting at home
Of fear and tears and the atheist’s God

And we’d know, and we’d tell
That when it mattered,
Soap,water and the dedication of masked heroes sufficed
Our nukes, rusty and useless
Life is back to the basics, it shuffles between your lungs and your nose

©️Kene Ujam
10th April, 2020

Spoil the canvas; Save the Painter

This evening, I streamed a beautiful celebration of today’s liturgy straight from the Vatican.
A part of the homily struck me, the priest who shared the homily told a story of a man whom I understand to be a painter or sculptor (I couldn’t hear everything as it was narrated in Latin and speedily translated in English). So, the painter (let’s call him that) was painting a part of a building and when he felt he had done a good job, he tried taking a few steps backwards to analyze his works and feed his eyes. But unknown to him, he was about slipping off the scaffolding and falling to his doom.

When his apprentice noticed this, he thought of screaming his name so he stops but figured out that this would only hasten the fall. Hence, he darted at the painting brush and struck it at the middle of the painting. The painter instinctively lurched forward to stop him thereby avoiding the fall from the scaffolding.

Hence, in destroying the painting, the painter has been saved……..and this stuck.

Maybe sometimes, that special thing which we are investing our entire energy in, might need to be destroyed for us to be saved.

Have yourself a meditative Good Friday

All Smiles and in Pain; the Everyday Superhumans!

Beautiful demeanor, very cheerful composure, excellent intonation and the air of education and civility all around her.
She was either in her late sixties or early seventies and had that silky silver hair that old ladies are known for, it was neatly woven into corn rows and it formed a beautiful mesh of black, grey and silver!
She was a beautiful old woman, you could tell that she might have turned lots of heads in her hay days.

The first day I met her, she came in demanding for pain killers, a lot of them and in various brands. This caught my attention and I politely approached her and enquired why she needed that much painkillers and went ahead to explain to her that she could easily develop ulcers from taking that much painkillers. By the time I was done, she let out a hearty laugh, you could see her perfect dentition and then she replied “I already have holes in my intestines my dear, it doesn’t get any worse than this. I have MS (multiple sclerosis) and I am at the end stage. I live with pain in every conscious moment. I am used to pain.”
I was speechless. I have never heard anyone say they were used to pain. Pain isn’t something to be used to.
Yet, she was all smiles, she made jokes and she carried her age with so much grace and beauty.
It was heartbreaking, I was heartbroken.
And I dropped the lecture and started listening.
The woman in front me looked like a perfect grandma. But behind her smile was a story of battles fought in each moment of consciousness.

We became friends and she comes in once every while.
Crisp intonation, excellent grammar and the squeaky cleanliness of the 1960s! The generation of “quite alrights and wherewithals”😁
It was always an honour to have her around. I imagined queen Elizabeth would have the same mannerisms.😁
And more importantly, she reminded me of my own grandma!…God rest her soul!

I live with pain in every conscious moment. I am used to pain.”

When she walked in today, I was very happy. I had to quickly round up with the patient who had my attention and rush off to stand before her for what I knew was going to be an hour of learning and glory!
Today, we talked about a lot of things. About how there is very little research on MS because not a lot of people suffer it, about how stem cells are having very little success rates in the treatment, about how people won’t believe that you’re dying because you are not crying about it.
Hence when people ask “how are you”, she promptly replies that she’s fine…. because what else can you say?

About how people would go ahead to say “you look beautiful” and she’d reply “oh, thanks” because…..”what else is there to say?”.
So, I told her that it’d be nice if she wrote a book or made a podcast or to even save her the stress, she could record what she wants to write and we could transcribe it and make a book out of it. I brought her a book from the shelf, the title was “living with scleroderma”. I offered to buy it for her so that she could have some inspirational juice from it.
She replied in her comely humour “I have surplus juice”.
We both had a good laugh and she flipped through the pages, read a few lines and said “yes….yes…oh, she’s just like me”.
And then heaved a sigh and said she could get depressed if she goes home with that book.

I pushed further and said, “but you have to let people know that someone has gone through this and with a cheerful spirit”.
She replied “well, I’d give it a thought…but I doubt people would believe me if they hear me talking”.

So, I said “direct them to me, I’d convince them on your behalf….one way or another”. She laughed. And then she complained of the cost of the supplements. And I reminded her that if she had written the book, we’d have paid for all her supplements with the royalties from the book. But no, she has decided not to write.
She laughed again and replied “foolish boy, why don’t I get the medications first then when we eventually publish a book, you can come and get the money”. Again, we laughed and then, she paid, promised to think about writing a book and left.

But it has not left my head that a person can get used to pain. And more surprisingly, still manage to squeeze out some hearty laughter, a beautiful sense of humour and a welcoming demeanor.
Not biting anybody, not dishing out invites for a well deserved pity party and not brandishing a much merited scowl, always smiles and says “I am fine, when asked how she is”.
If there are grades to being human then, she is a superhuman!!!

Rxpect🙌

Corona Virus in Nigeria; What Community Pharmacists Should do

Dear Pharmacist in Community Practice, my name is Kenechukwu Ujam, a Public Health Pharmacist with Medplus Pharmacy Limited. With the recent developments, it has become imperative that we adopt the best proactive measures for combating the nCovid-19.
No longer should we consider sneezing and runny nose as simply possible signs of allergies, now more than ever we must see fever and malaise beyond a possible sign of an ensuing malaria, dry cough or cough of any kind must be approached with the best possible carefulness. Our country is ours and we must protect it, we can’t all resign and go home and hide, the war has come to our front, and we must fight it.
Here are my recommendations:

1. An infrared thermometer should be handled by the security at the entrance (who would be well kitted with the appropriate PPE to protect himself too), any spike in temperature should be queried as appropriate. It might not be Covid but we won’t know if we don’t ask the right questions. Questions like : how long, when and where have you been within the past 2 months, any other symptoms, any medications already on etc.  This should be the first line.

2. Everyone who walks in must have their hands sanitized, regardless of whether they have a fever or not

3. We must all maintain a healthy distance between us and the client, the recommendation is 5 ft. However, we know how much we must respect the client’s confidentiality , since people wouldn’t be comfortable yelling “I have an intense itch in my vagina” at the top of their lungs. This is why you need a mask, this way, you can at least have some protection even if the client insists on coming close.

4. Keep your hands to yourself. If you must “take a closer look” at anything, actually use your eyes and keep your hands out of it. Or you get a glove, this goes without saying.

5. No more high fives for now. I am sorry kids but a wink will do.

6. Where it is possible, we can practice window dispensing but where it isn’t, take the appropriate measures to protect yourself.

7. In addition, let us do everything within the ambits of common sense, a man who has been trekking in the hot sun is expected to have a fever, so, once he walks in and his temperature flags off, give him a seat and test him again after 15 minutes. Also bear in mind that someone could have all these symptoms and still test negative for the Covid-19, so it is not in your place to label s/one a Covid-19 patient or carrier. REFER to appropriate institutions! DO NOT TRY TO MANAGE/TREAT IT PLEASE!!!

8. You’re a superhero, we know. But there’s one thing which I believe to be more honourable than dying in the line of service, it is staying alive to save more people through your services. Whatever you do, know your limits, do not put yourself at unnecessary risk!

9. Finally, do not panic!!! We (the Nigerian Health Workforce) defeated Ebola, we would also defeat Corona! But we have to be patient and careful in our approach.  Alright superheroes, dorn your capes and get going, we have lives to save!

There is a company in Nigeria, the name is Cross shield Health Consulting ( a new organization birthed by the need to protect our people from these pandemics, the aim of which is to train individuals and corporate bodies on the best proactive approaches to adopt in cases like the Covid-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019)). They have professionals who are experienced in infections disease prevention and Management. One of the co-founders worked in the management and prevention of Ebola in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. You can reach them via: info.crossshield@gmail.com

Above are my recommendations and it should only serve as that, it should neither replace nor supersede that of the CDC or the WHO, they have the final say! You can contact them on ncdc.gov.ng

Find You!

Yesterday while at work, I met this adorable little girl, she should be about 8 or 9 and came as pretty as they do. Let’s call her Ayo, because that is her name🙄 (or a part of it at least😏). What actually happened was that I noticed a scuffle between Ayo and her guardian, another young woman who wouldn’t be beyond 23. Eventually Ayo had to be half-dragged and half-cajoled into coming in. She still had tears in her eyes and was still insisting that she didn’t want to come in, though they were already in.
I approached this beautiful little human and asked what the problem was and she promptly told me that she didn’t want to come into the Pharmacy. So, I asked “why”, no response. I went further to ask if she didn’t want to become a Pharmacist (by this time I was wiping her tears and wearing my best smile and trying to appear affable as possible). Basically, I was Barney, just without the costume. But Ayo didn’t care, she responded with an emphatic “no!” which she endorsed by a vehement tilt of the head from left to right and in a quick succession. My spirit drooped, I felt I hadn’t played the part appropriately. I quickly “reattached” my smile and went on to ask what she wanted to be (by this time, she had lost interest in crying and was more interested in the shelf for confectioneries though the scowl was still there). Her next answer was in no way anticipated. Ayo said she doesn’t want to be anything. Bam!punch number 2 and my arms weren’t even up! So, I was dazed for a moment. Sincerely, I didn’t know what else to tell her.
To save face and act like an “adult” who knew what he was doing, I added “nothing but yourself right?” And she gave me the first yes. And then, we went further to select a suitable anti allergy medication for her. And soon enough, she was demanding for chocolate from her guardian. Of course, she was reminded that she didn’t want to come in the first place. Ayo and her guardian left but the thought lingered.
What would happen if we all didn’t want to be anything but us? That question even begs another question, what are we, without our degrees, titles and portfolios? What really are we?
And in what ways, I wonder, have the tags that we wear subtly driven what we really are into oblivion? Can we ever really find this “us”, that is, the original us that probably doesn’t want anything to do with a Pharmacy except the chocolates? And is innocent enough to say that anywhere! And if we find this “us”, would we even recognize it? Can we live with it? Is it even worth the search?
I don’t know!
Find you, regardless!

Ads in Lagos

So, I saw this at the wall of a Barbeque shop this morning. And it literally froze me in my tracks. Did you see what they did there? First they come humble and appealing and unassuming hence disarming you and crashing your walls of doubts and expectations at the same time. I mean, the first paragraph literally takes away your right to complain that the demands of your taste buds weren’t met! So now, you trust them because you assume that they are sincere, at least they are not claiming to be more than what they are.

Smart Number 2!
They now let you know that they are your *only* options for “Authentic barbecue and burger” at Lekki. So, you’ve heard authentic, a word which could mean everything and nothing at the same time. I mean, let’s analyze it, what makes a barbecue or a burger “authentic”? Is there like a United Nations barbecue and burger standard? 😂 You Know like UNBBS😉!
But well, they are your *only* option, according to “them”.
But do you think this deeply anytime you hear authentic?
And even if you did, they wouldn’t let you think too deeply because before you’ve gathered your thoughts, they have slammed you with a “Welcome Home”!
It’s sealed! That trust they established previously has been crowned. Because of course, home is irreplaceable, home is memories, home is mum and home is family! So, It’s not just about Burger and BBQ anymore, it’s now about home, which sounds a bit like mum, which directly translates into family and means “love” in several climes!
So of course, it’s justified to honour them with your ATM card and order to your fill!

This advert is by far the smartest that I’ve seen in a long while!

You think they are humble and bam!… They spin it on you and put you at the victim position.
Poor you, the barbecue addict who doesn’t have any choice but them!🤣😂🤣

Sometimes

Sometimes I look back at some of the things I said forever to, some of the things I thought I could never do without, some answers to prayers that I thought were mine.

Sometimes it wrecks the plumbings in my heart and drains through my eyes. At some other times, I just giggle at the stupidity that seemed wise.

And all of these are beautiful in their own ways. But surely I learnt the lesson; to trust God and His process even if it comes in a shape that’s a far cry from the regalia that I had sewn for it.

Kene Ujam
8/09/2019

Love on a Partitioned Chicken😉

I feel I’ve missed out on what could have been a beautiful love story today!😩💔

So, I went to Chicken Republic to get a refuel pack, the 500 naira pack (because I cannot bear to spend an extra 300 naira on a small conceited salad and a dwarf fanta when I can easily buy ugu for 50 naira, Carrot 50 naira and Tatashi 70 naira and chew till my jaws freeze😒).

I was still at my end of the long table negotiating with the lady behind the waiter and trying to prove to her that the corruption in Nigeria started when they decided to start giving only drumsticks or wings to those of us who bought the 500 naira pack and the choicer parts to those who bought the 800 naira refuel pack. I mean, why discriminate against us? This is wrong on all levels!😒

I was on the verge of starting the civil service war chant : “soli soli soli…. Solidarity foreeeeeeever, we shall always fight for our rights”… when my attention was caught by another client at the extreme pleading that they reduce her chicken portion because she couldn’t finish it😲. A slender young woman with an innocent demeanour. And before her was a portion of chicken with an overwhelming self respect. And there I was seeking for an extension of my chicken tenancy.
I quickly approached the lady and was like “hello (the brother shaggy way), hawaa you?” Can I help you solve this problem of chicken intimidation?
I am a human rights activist for chicken and I can’t stand and watch them intimidate you. So, we could instruct them to partition this chicken for us, I would clamp down on the other “ruder” portion and show it the stuff I’m made of😡. She giggled heartily and was like “yeah, sure”.
Y’all know the rest!😉

But no, it did not happen, the rest of the conversation happened only in my head😞, home training dinnur gree me. I walked out with my underachieving chicken, regretting all I could have done if not for home training. I feel I have missed out on what could have been a perfect love story💔. The toast on our wedding card would have been : “On a Partitioned Chicken, our love was ignited, may no wings and drumsticks put asunder”.

May, the Thirtieth (in memory of the Biafra “Holocaust”)!

We have not forgotten!
And nobody should forget!
Nobody should forget that some time ago in Nigeria, one of the most ravaging wars was fought. It became a holocaust! The Biafraholocaust”!
Our country fell, the physical ruins were seen majorly in the East, the Biafran land, but the cultural, economic, social and polictical ruin, as well as the rot in the nation’s perception of patriotism was perpetually engrained in every inch of space that answered to Flora Shaw’s play on words “Nigeria” ,…..or maybe not perpetually, maybe someday, we’d truly come together, accept the past and forge a way ahead. A way that is not wrapped around the “me and my people perception”. A way that is not blinded by place of worship. A way that doesn’t mind if we wear tunics or jalabia or danchiki or isiagu, a way that allows a man sipping his kwunu to also relish the taste of palmwine without feeling like an outcast, a way that allowed us to mix Ewedu and Egusi but this time not in a restaurant as we are already doing (only to tickle our tongues) but in opinions, to show our tolerance. A way that gives rise to children with names such as Idowu Aliu Igbokwe and Abasifreke Oluwaseun Okoro-Sambo.

In those 3 years of the locust, we lost properties, we lost lives, we lost years of development we had achieved, and more terribly, we destroyed years of development we were yet to achieve
We lost something that is difficult to be won, we lost something that is not usually fought for, something that wells from deep within a man – We lost that blind, overwhelming, patriotic trust that moves nation’s forward, that love for a nation that surges in every true soldier’s veins and affords him the confidence to pay the supreme price for the benefit of his fatherland. And we’ve never gotten it back since then!

Now, to all these, we say ozoemezinaa!….. Let it not happen again!
We have fought physically, we are still fighting socially, economically and otherwise!
It is time to drop our weapons and truly give peace a chance!

May God rest the souls of the fathers who stepped out to defend their sons, the sons who were plucked from their mothers’ breasts and could barely hold a feeding bottle before being flung into battle, the mothers and wives who wailed their hearts apart as they were torn between mourning the death of their husbands and the impending destruction awaiting their little ones from the twin evil of hunger and diseases!
May God rest the souls we lost during the three locust years!
Amen!

International Women’s Day!

To all the women out there trying to make ends meet, strapping a Suckling to the back and hawking whatever sells in that season,

To all the 5 a.m-ers with kids in school and files for pillows, burning the candle at both ends to see that some dignity is still there when the coffin eventually arrives, as it would for us all,

To all the mothers bearing the burden of raising a child made together, alone. Keep at it, motherhood is not measured by “husbandhood” rather by the amount of love you can nurture and multiply,

To all whose love are unrequited and who still try to wear beautiful smiles that leaves you wondering if they were high-fiving their depression, keep that smile, it’s a strength,

To all women in all walks of life, who understand that we were made to compliment and support one another, to all the babies and their bubbles, the babes and their selfies, the mother’s and their August meetings, the grannies and their stories,

And to my own Mother, Madam Josephine, Mummy m, Mama mia, my Father’s girlfriend and my first wife,

I pray happiness never eludes you all, I pray you and yours bring you joy.
I pray the juice is eventually worth the squeeze. I pray our love suffices for the sacrifices that you guys make.

Have a beautiful International Women’s Day!