Dr. Abi Adegboye is the Director of AfriLeads, LLC which trains the next generation of leaders. She is a public speaker and writer passionate about youth and women's empowerment. Author of Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama's Journey to the White House and co-author of Owanbe! Yoruba celebrations of Life, Abi inspires her audience to lead their best lives now. Book Dr. Abi for your youth conference at www.afrileads.com or (678) 590-5810.
After all is said and done, more is said than done - Aesop.
It all started with this piece of social media flotsam – A young lady had her dad’s picture as a screensaver on her cell phone. One of her friends saw it and asked, “So you too know this yẹ̀yẹ́ man?”
Thanks to Nollywood, the term, “yẹ̀yẹ́ man” has entered pan-African lexicon. It describes a shyster, ne’er do well, a layabout, a consumate liar. A major characteristic of such a person is that they talk a good game but deliver zilch. Rather, they build castles in the air. For example, a yẹ̀yẹ́ man one who has been “about to graduate” for twelve years!
He’s a business man, a lawyer, an architect, a neurosurgeon, and a part-time astronaut. Yẹ̀yẹ́ man is most adept at weaving a world of words. With his mouth, he builds empires and wins wars. His saliva alone establishes conglomerates yielding billions. From his sofa, he commands the universe; all humans hold a collective breathe awaiting his pronouncements. He is king of his (sand)castle.
With his sweet tongue, he woos even the most astute of women. He talks of his plans and dreams. Who could resist such a visionary? But wait a while, and she soon discovers he’s the master of sweet nothings, beautiful zeros, and empty kisses. At first, he turns a girl’s head, but soon enough, her stomach.
Yẹ̀yẹ́ man asks you to marry him by saying, “You know, marriage elevates a woman’s status. It beautifies her life.” When you go, “Hmm?” he continues, “A woman who weds is very fortunate indeed because a good man is hard to find.”
A consultant par excellence, yẹ̀yẹ́ man tells you how to start or do everything. He walks into your shop to instruct you on the arrangement of shelves, goods to sell, vendors to buy from, customers to cultivate, and most especially, employees to hire or keep. Never having done any real work himself, yẹ̀yẹ́ man was born an expert so listen to him.
You plan to have children together and after 10 years of waiting, you get restless. You say, “let us check our fertility, now?” Yẹ̀yẹ́ man agrees but never takes action. In fact, he loses one of his occasional jobs about the same time you need money for fertility treatments.
The rental in which you’ve raised your children is a testament to ‘honey-didn’t do nada.’ Scrape money to buy land and yẹ̀yẹ́ man informs you that it is a dangerous place to build a house. Travel to visit friends, and yẹ̀yẹ́ man intimates that they gave you the evil eye and must be avoided at all cost.
After spending 25 years marking time, you tire of yẹ̀yẹ́ man and suggest it might be better to part ways. He tells you, “Yes, now, I’ve been wanting to divorce you for a long time. Marrying you has derailed all the plans I had for my life!” So, he storms out of the master bedroom to colonize the basement.
“If you want to marry a husband, never you marry a waka about. If you marry a waka about o, tomorrow, trouble, trouble, trouble…” goes Nelly Uchendu’s 1970s highlife classic, “Waka About.” The song tells the story of a sweet sixteen seduced by an older man whom she met at a superstore. He was ‘all correct’ – fine looks, fine clothes, fine car. Against her parents’ advice, she married him in a flamboyant society wedding. Post-marriage, she found out he was a womanizer, fraudster, and abuser who regularly used her as a punching bag. Unfortunately, the story ends with her enduring bouts of boxing suggesting that once married to him, she had no recourse. Given this premise, the best way to avoid an abusive marriage is not to get into one. Following are ways to spot a “Waka About.”
1. He plans everything: When he takes you out, he chooses where you go, what you wear, what you discuss, and how you act. He seldom asks what you’d like.
2. He introduces you to a myriad of women but you can’t tell how they’re related to him. Deep down, you suspect he’s dating one or two of them.
3. He has a thin skin and can barely tolerate a slight. If you say or do something that hurts him, he’s unable to accept an apology as the end of the matter. He keeps bringing it up or seeks revenge.
4. He finds it hard to “feel your pain.” He does not care that you’re hurt by his or other’s words or action. Or he pretends to care but repeats the hurtful words or action.
5. He’s using you – for ego boost, status, money, sex, power, etc. You feel the imbalance of your relationship and his exploitation.
6. He’s a god unto himself. Nobody can tell him what to do. No one can counsel him or beg him to treat you better.
Watch out! Stay away from a Waka About.
Love in Yoruba culture is playful on one hand and serious on the other. Love consists of afẹ́rí and ojúṣe. Afẹ́rí, the closest form to romance, includes use of praise names, endearment, and ìtage or oge. Lovers often engage in playful banter called "oge" whereas they tease and cajole one another. Oge can be used to coax an angry partner out of a bad mood or bribe one into making concessions. It might go thus:
"O dẹ̀ wa n'bínú. Áh, ah! Kí ló dẹ̀ lé to yẹn?" goes the husband nudging his wife's playfully.
"Fi mí 'lẹ̀ jọ̀ ọ́. Má ba mi s'ọ̀rọ̀," returns the Mrs shaking off her husband's hand.
"Ṣe b'ọ́n se ma a n binu l'óko yín nì yẹn?" He cajoles touching his wife's lips. But she's less forceful than the first time. He snuggles closer and puts and arm around her. She doesn't shake him off.
"Pẹ̀lẹ́, ma binu. Ol’ójú edé mi. Akankẹ̀." He finishes off using both a term of endearment and her praise name.
Ojúṣe on the other hand is duty or representation. It comprises of the husband doing for the wife what husbands are supposed to do and vis versa. For example, a husband is supposed to buy the coffin when his wife's father dies. Similarly, a wife is expected to care for her husband's people so he looks good. In combination, Yoruba love grounds the couple in a nucleus of their own and within the broader context of an extended family.
“You’re so lucky to be heading to Yankee,” Bisi continued. “Everything is abundant there; light, water, food, money, everything! You will be picking money from the ground!” (Excerpted from Renike comes to America)
The myth that people pick money off the streets in the US is pervasive for many reasons. For one, work is readily available and those who apply themselves to industry, get paid. Once they get paid, they send money ‘home.’ In fact, migrants remit more money than some of their countries receive in development aid. There are two sides to the remittance story however; one good, the other bad.
Most migrants sacrifice their own comfort to cater for their relatives back in their natal countries. They send money despite their own dire conditions. It is not uncommon for a migrant to work two or three labor-intensive jobs to scrape together money to send to relatives. On the upside, such monies are used to fund school fees for kids who would most likely not darken the door of an educational institution; medical bills, and businesses. Secondarily, these private grants ensure community development.
Unfortunately, not all relatives who request and receive remitted funds use them for progressive projects. Often, money sent is squandered on parties, white elephant projects, and businesses that never take off. Most sinister however is the perception that those who live abroad are cash cows to be continually milked for funds.
I was told the story of a migrant who travelled to his natal country only to be kidnapped from the airport. The kidnappers demanded N3,000,000 for his release. At some point, he called the American Embassy which negotiated his release. When he returned to the US, he uncovered the fact that his younger brother was behind his kidnapping and demand for ransom. Interestingly, this was the same young man he’d been sending money to regularly.
Lessons? Watch who you send money to and what you fund. Go for progressive individuals and goals. Fund education sure, and business, if there’s a sound business plan. Avoid incentivizing greed and a sense of entitlement. Nobody works to put money in your pocket, don’t allow them to work to take money out.
And check out Renike comes to America to find out what part remittances played in her story.
On Monday morning, eight of your friends have forwarded the same message to you on WhatsApp. It ends thus: “Please don’t break this chain. Send to at least 7 of your friends. If you break it, you will not receive the good news you’ve been waiting for.”
Besides the fact that it lacks originality, you find the message offensive for several reasons: 1. It’s coercive in demanding you forward the crap to other unsuspecting friends in order to ruin their Monday; 2. It contains a veiled threat of mayhem should you fail to comply; and 3. It clogs up your inbox. You’re sorely tempted to unfriend all culprits. But before you do so, you hope they will read this blog post of what’s appropriate to share on social media and govern themselves accordingly.
Let’s start with the Don’ts:
Like a leader, share hope!
(Insert photo: Post on Wow! Words of Wisdom)
I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last Friday; my very first and quite an eye-opener. My friend and I arrived at the midtown location at about 7:15pm. On the lawn of Ray’s home, about 50 people milled around talking, hugging, or lounging in lawn chairs, benches, and other surfaces. Several cars lined both sides of the street and about a dozen motorbikes were parked curbside. At the other end of the lawn, refreshment tables were laden with liter bottles of root beer, pints of vanilla ice cream, and coffee. As we made our way to the refreshment tables, my friend, a regular attendee, stopped to greet his friends - people of all races, ages, and positions. I met a county judge, a business owner, and regular folks. Everyone was friendly, exchanging pleasantries, hugs, and conversation.
At about 8:30 pm, our host roused our attention. Standing at a makeshift podium in the center of the gathering, Ray began, “let’s all rise to say the serenity prayer:”
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
As we prayed, I felt something momentous happening and schooled my mind to absorb the experience. Interestingly, I’d memorized the Serenity Prayer a while back because it helped me deal with my Type A perfectionism not even realizing its connection with AA.
A young lady read out Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps. I was particularly by #4 which states, “[We] made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” This dovetailed into the topic for the evening – Accountability.
“My name is Bob and I’m an alcoholic,” our speaker began. He recounted his journey as a recurrent alcoholic who only broke free 11 years ago when he became accountable. For years, he’d believed he wasn’t answerable to anyone. Finally, he met a Sponsor who was able to reach him and to help him embrace accountability to himself, family, club, and community.
After the main speech, it was open mic. One by one, individuals walked up, picked up the mic, and introduced themselves - “Hi, I’m James and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’ve been sober 14 years.” Following intros, each relayed their journey of accountability. One guy was only 3 months into his journey of sobriety and was depending on the community to hold his accountable. At the end of each speech, the audience clapped and cheered.
I left the meeting thinking how much better we’d all be should we practice some good old-fashioned AA accountability. It would help us:
But barring joining AA, how can you find accountability?
And if we emulate AA by embracing accountability, imagine how much more we can learn from a community that exists to support its weakest members until they’re stronger, healthier, and whole.
Oprah says she knew her purpose as soon as she could speak - she loved to talk! As a child, she recited bible verses at her grandmother’s church and spoke up at school. She was poised, articulate, and bold. She discovered her passion for public speaking early; it was as an extension of her personality. From an early age, Oprah captivated audiences at church, in class, and on the literary stage. Where most people have a mortal fear of public speaking, Oprah was a natural and this aptitude set the trajectory of her life.
Her voice having such a resonance beyond her years landed her a job at a radio station at 16 when most of her colleagues were still working odd jobs. As she worked in her passion, her aptitude for public speaking led to bigger and better things including news reporting, talk show hosting, interviewing celebrities, and super stardom.
Discovering and working in her passion presented Oprah with opportunities to grow, have incredible success, and make significant impact. It has produced both personal and professional rewards for over five decades! Discovering and working in one’s passion provides tremendous personal and professional successes. Discovering one’s passion is about finding one’s purpose, essence, thing, groove, love, or desire. Both the journey to discovering and finding and working in your passion is worthwhile and rewarding. So how would you discover your passion? Try the following:
Aptitude: Everyone is born with certain attributes, talents, or gifts but most people do not take the time to discover what those are talk less of passionately pursuing them. Think, what gifts and talents were you born with? What comes easily to you? Like Oprah, do you have a gift of the gab? If so, there are hundreds of career paths open to you both in the limelight and off including public speaker, politician, and lawyer.
So, you say, “that’s all well and good but I don’t love or hate anything nor have a burning desire to change the world. Yet I would like to live a more passionate life.” Don’t despair, simply take some to look inwards. When asked about their passion and people respond “I don’t know,” what they really mean is “I think it’s so out of reach that it is not worth speaking aloud.” Unfortunately, they stop thinking or doing anything about it. Discovering and pursuing your passion is as much a journey of uncovering hidden talent as it is about deciding that whatever you uncover is worth pursuing. Thus, follow these steps:
Now you’ve discovered your passion, start working. You have discovered you have many passions. You have selected the one you will start with. Now focus and begin to make things happen. Remember, life is an adventure, just as you journeyed to the discovery of your passion so you will journey to wealth. But you must dare to follow your dreams. The dream is yours, nobody else’s. NO APPROVAL NECESSARY!
(Excerpted from Wanna B Rich?: 10 Life Strategies from Oprah's Journey to Wealth)
Last week, a friend complained about her mother-in-law spreading tales all over town. “Can you imagine,” She lamented, “a 70-year old telling lies about a woman half her age?” She was especially grieved that someone that old still exhibited such moral decrepitude. I reminded her that said ‘spreader of lies’ is living out her senior years as the second wife of a polygamist; the implication being she had not aged in a polygamous setup without having some nefarious tricks up her proverbial sleeve.
Arguably, polygamy is a poisonous institution that creates an environment in which participants are trained to fight for their survival by any means necessary. Children raised in polygamous households (whether standalone sub-households or one compound) are vulnerable to all kinds of abuse and experience psychological, emotional, and social trauma that change their nature and profoundly impact their lives, families, and communities. If they physically survive the dog-eat-dog interactions that characterize such families, they do not escape the lasting socio-emotional impact of their upbringing. Polygamy abrades their souls in such an insidious, systematic, and sustained manner that they seldom recognize its deleterious effect on their lives and life choices. But the impact is there and is projected in the following attitudes:
By far the most deleterious impact of polygamy is on society wherein these emotional ticking bombs permeate society making it a veritable landmine of immense proportions. While they’ll make great secret agents or spies, persons raised in polygamous homes make fractious citizens at best. Their emotional imbalance creates a society where distrust, deception, treachery, and cutthroat completion. In fact, it is not far-fetched to blame most of the ills of our nation on the institution of polygamy.
[*The operative word in this article is “arguably.” I have not conducted any psychological studies on polygamous progenies and therefore cannot conclusively state they have warped minds. However, as a social scientist, trained in the art of observation, I have gleaned the opinions shared above.]
Necessity is the mother of invention. Or is it?
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a video about a young man who had invented a ‘lion repellent,’ a device which used flickering lights to distract lions from attacking the villagers’ cattle. To summarize, Richard Turere was charged with herding his family’s cattle like other youth of his age in the village. Every night, the villagers lost livestock to prowling lions. Some villagers came up with the idea of setting up a sentry each night who was charged with killing any lion that tried to steal from them. They rotated guard duty and were successful in their plan. However, it cost the lives of some lions and cattle.
Richard came up with an alternative plan. Initially, he thought fire would keep the lions away. Then, serendipity struck and he noticed that flashing lights confused the lions and kept them away from the cattle. So he designed a device that he placed on the fencing around his family’s pasture. Soon, other villagers noticed his success in keeping his family’s cattle alive and they asked him to design the same device for their own pastures.
So what made Richard invent such a device? If we say ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ every boy in the village had a similar ‘necessity.’ They each wanted their cattle safe from lions. Indeed, there had been generations of youth who’d lost cattle to lions and who had used the sentry method to keep their livestock safe. Yet, Richard chose to create a better method of dealing with the problem rather than accepting the age-old remedy. Why?
Let’s review what it took for Richard to invent his lion-deterrent device:
Of all these elements however, one trumps all – a curious mind! Villages across Africa are replete with problems or ‘necessities awaiting inventions.’ Unfortunately, a dearth of independent thinking generates the same tired old approaches to problems generation after generation ad nausea. And though people never give up, they cling to the wrong ideas. Indeed, there’s no substitute for a curious mind. It drives the three other factors – if there’s no problem, a curious mind finds ways to make an existing remedy better. It cannot follow the crowd because each person’s personality drives their curiosity and there’s nothing curious about a tired and worn path. Finally, a curious mind never gives up. It keeps on generating new ideas. A curious mind is the mother of invention.
Happy Mother’s Day - In honor of the mothers who died in the line of duty.
Reading stories of recent domestic violence victims, one gets the impression that born-again Christian women are especially vulnerable. This vulnerability could be attributed to the sect’s: (a) over-emphasis on a wife’s unquestioning submission to her husband; (b) blind obedience to leader/church edicts to the exclusion of all reason; and (c) trans-fixation on miracles. Simply put, the over-emphasis on a wife’s unquestioning submission forces abused wives to tolerate whatever their husbands dish out regardless of the impact on their families or lives. Blind obedience to leaders reinforce the preceding in that when a wife runs to her leader, battered and bruised, he advices her to continue to submit to her abusive husband with the edict that “God hates divorce!” Finally, the sect’s miracle-focused faith lures the woman into believing her abuser would miraculously be ‘delivered’ from the demon of abuse and they will testify as they renew their marriage vows. Thus, instead of looking for alternative remedies to her domestic mayhem, she prays tirelessly that God perform a ‘midnight hour transformation’ on her marriage. So she hangs in there, slap after blow, believing her day of salvation is nigh.
Unfortunately, her salvation comes but not in the form she’s expecting. Rather, her abuser hastens her footsteps to heaven’s pearly gates. At her funeral, the leader extols, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes, blessed be the name of the Lord.” And the church agrees that “she’s gone to a better place.” No one admits that the outcome could have been different or that she should not have ‘gone so soon…’
Indeed, the story of Abigail, wife of Nabal in 1 Samuel 25: 1-42 presents an alternative outcome to what would have been a catastrophe. To summarize, David, who became king of Israel is running for his life, from the current king, Saul. Along with his men, he becomes hungry and requests nourishment from Nabal, a prosperous farmer. Nabal, also a notorious as**le, refuses to feed David and his men thereby treating them like nonentities. David is so outraged that he determines to obliterate Nabal and family. But Abigail saves the day by sidestepping her husband and providing to David and crew, more victuals than requested. Consequently, Abigail’s maneuvers saved her family and are instructive to women in similar circumstances; married to Nabals: