Honouring the Women Who Helped Me on my Quest

Written on: Saturday, 10 June 2006 | 4:27:46 PM

Like most people, I have had a lot of influence in my life from those around me, specific people will always remain in my mind for the great role they had in helping me see reality differently and shaping my character. I know somehow, these people were placed around me by providence to do this and so without them, the realisation might have come some other way but I thank God for them being there. Not all of those that have been great influences are admirable or good people (in my opinion); for example there are at least two people that I feel really sorry for (at another time, I would have despised them) – they influenced me by showing me what I don’t want to be. Others have been lighthouses and yardsticks, examples worth following in integrity, humility, joy, equananimity etc. Interestingly, practically all of the most memorable ones are women (- I sure do love women don’t I?) Yes especially these women, I can say above all things that they were my nurturers and each of them wrote their names on my heart to different extents. I know some of these names may fade out with time but if I can help it, it won’t happen, I want these names to remain engraved on my heart for eternity – because they are a sizeable part of my joy and peace, of my dreams and visions and they made life at one time or the other bearable, meaningful, exciting, joyful, educative, holy etc – in their presence, I have been alone without being lonely, spoken without uttering words, beheld without looking and in some moments, I have lived my dreams even if it were for 5 minutes!

Perpetua TAMON
The foundation for the person that I am is Perpetua TAMON, my mother. She is a strong woman that is the foundation for our entire family. I know that without her, our family’s economic and moral standing would be very low. I disliked my mum growing up as a child – because she didn’t spare the rod and was a tough disciplinarian. Amazingly as I became older, we became friends and shared so much love and joy that I now understand that she has/had always loved me … and always will. Without this woman, I would surely have started out as a lazy, disrespectful, and totally spoilt child. If God gave me the privilege of choosing my own mother, I can’t do better than Perpetua and I would choose her again and again! – Till that reality in which we don’t need mothers come. My perfect woman has her strength of character and purpose, her discipline and talented hands.

Susan Okpapi
‘Pretty geek’ that I met in university in Nigeria. For some reason that I still can’t fathom in its entirety till now, I liked her from the first day I set my eyes on her (sometimes, I think she looks a little like my mum). We became friends two years after we met and it was she that started me off the path of ME – me as the centre of the world. She taught me that it was selfish to keep to myself the way I did, that life could be more fun and easier if I wasn’t so aggressively introverted all the time (and also taught me the right way to place spaghetti in the water so it doesn’t bundle together when it cooks!). The amazing thing is she helped me change without ever saying ‘Tamon don’t do this, do this instead’ – she kept my huge ego (I remember actually having one then) intact and perhaps helped me peel off the first layers of that ego. She was the only classmate I had with whom I could talk – deeply, meaningfully about extracurricular things and life in general. I only have one regret – I wish, I had known her earlier and become her friend earlier – that is what I wish but maybe (as Susan would say), earlier wasn’t the time – maybe all the time we saw each other from afar was necessary for the quality of the friendship we later had. I agree with you on that Suzie, but I still wish I had known and become your friend earlier! My perfect woman has her spontaneity.

Helen Tanjong
Can you imagine falling in love with your own ‘lover’? Yes, that happened with Nelly – perhaps the most silent nurturer I ever had. How did she do it – teach me, nurture me I mean? – By loving me selflessly until something deeper than my ego saw it and responded with a kind of passion I never knew I had or was capable of. She modelled for me selflessness, care, trustworthiness and practically ‘spoilt’ me by it. My perfect woman has a heart like Helen’s.

Amina Ogrima
My conscience outside of me, the alter of the truth about myself – and yes, my shrink!! Amina is another geek (I won’t be surprised if she knows the circumference of earth at a latitude two thirds the way between the equator and the poles to 5 decimal places or for that matter the pH of river Nile on a Tuesday afternoon in summer!) I met her a little too late! (Suzie don’t kill me, maybe it wasn’t the time yet like you keep telling me) She continued the work started by Susan and till now, as my unofficial shrink, I can’t remember having so many deep and meaningful conversations with anyone – about anything! I think more than anyone else, she gave me ultra confidence in myself and on aggregate, has been my biggest fan and supporter in re-engineering myself. Apart from being my shrink when I need one, offering her laps for me to lay my head on when I feel low, she is also the editor for all pieces I write (my articles, some presentations and this blog). My perfect woman has a mind like Amina’s.

Bukky Babalola
I can remember that on at least two occasions, my interactions with this nymph made me feel something like Moses must have felt when he saw the bush that was burning but wasn’t consumed by the flames. In my case, I have felt I am the bush and she the flame. I once worked in what Stephen Covey calls a low trust organisation, one with a predominantly negative environment and it was she that brightened my day and gave me a peek at what the quality called equananimity is. She fuelled my dreams and sometimes offered the proverbial breast for me to lay my head on when I needed to cry out the filth of corporate bureaucracy and the pettiness of megalomaniacs. She also made many a horrible lunch delicious by offering me something apart from the bad food to focus on. My perfect woman has a spirit like Bukky’s.

These people are the most memorable milestones on my young journey of self mastery. Since I met them, not many thoughts pass through my mind that don’t include them. And every time on my journey that I am going through a valley and the shadows are so thick that my heart becomes heavy, I have but to close my eyes, stay still and recall:

  • Perpetua at more than 40 years old running like a little girl to come and hug me.
  • The long walks under the beautiful trees of ABU Zaria with Susan’s hand in mine.
  • Nelly putting a cold compress to ease my migraine and practically begging me to eat.
  • Putting my head in Amina’s laps and in silence, excavating and facing my demons, refining my dream, vision and reality.
  • Sitting to lunch with Bukky and feeling the fire from her eyes as she tells me a million things without uttering a word, or her hug in which I can melt.
I think of these and am filled with so much gratitude that the sun rises in me, spreads its warmth through my heart and makes it resonate with the theirs, clears my mind so I can see my path more clearly, lighten my spirit so I can rise above my circumstances and so the darkness of the valley and its shadows cease to be, because the inner peace, joy and blessings from these beauties make my eyes glow – for I know then that though my path goes through the valley of the shadow of chaos, I may be alone but never lonely!