When my father was alive and held a big position where he worked, things were very interesting for us.
I remember that December was my favourite month of the year. The Christmas cards would start coming early. We would line up the fireplace mantle, the tops of the electronics and shelves and fill up a table in the corner of the living room with well-wishing cards and compliments of the season. In fact, we got so many cards, we the kids would string lines and hang the cards.
The Christmas hampers were another thing entirely. The store would have no space as we got loads of baskets with goodies from individuals and other companies. We got bags of rice and tins of oil with cartons of toiletries.
My father died before retiring September 3rd 2009. Christmas 2009, we did not get even a single hamper. I think we got 3 cards of so.
And that was it.
When his subordinates travelled in the past, they would arrive at our house will loads of yam and other foodstuff.
At the end of the day, all his associations were sifted thoroughly as just a handful of friends and family members made sure they stayed as close as they used to be to us when he was alive.
It was such a life defining moment for me.
It is easy to find a crowd around you because you are successful. This association is very easily self-serving. There are favours that they may be looking for or they just think that being close to you says something about them.
Like the day a woman who had hitherto thoroughly snubbed me found out I knew someone highly placed. She came to me and said she had seen me with this person and she had the temerity to ask if I am close to that person. I told her I was. And that was how I became visible to this woman.
Some people will associate with you because you are close to someone they want to associate with.
When my husband and I first moved to where we live about 8years ago, I used to hire keke Marwas to take me around. I was pregnant and did not know Lagos much and was scared of driving in Lagos. The keke drivers all liked me. They were so nice to me. They would rush to take me round. I called them ‘my friends’. When I was going to the market or anywhere, we would chat and I got to know about them and vice versa.
One day, I did not have much money and had to go to the bank. I had about N50 or so. I got to the park and they rushed to say hi to me. I told them I was not taking ‘drop’. The about-turn was immediate and a blast of cold air hit me.
No offers to hold my bag.
No questions about the well-being of my family.
The smile I carried when I saw them froze on my face.
I humbly got into the keke that was loading and accepted my reality. I was just like every other person. But because I was aunty ‘chata’, they had wanted to be close to me so that they would get the job of ferrying me around which could mean several stops and generous settlement.
You would be surprised to find out that only a handful of people are with you because they genuinely like you.
We human beings can be so shallow.
When you hit a rough patch. When you are in need of sustained help, you will find that even people you sacrificed for will leave you in the lurch.
I was in a shop buying stuff and a guy came to see the shop owner. I like to talk and listen. I drew him into conversation and before long he was telling me of how someone who he had cared for and housed for years in this Lagos had turned on him when success changed hands. He did not care that the guy did not offer even a listening ear to his predicament. He cared that the guy was actively blocking his moves to rise from where he had fallen.
I had a relative that had some influence. Seeing him in his house was a feat. There would tons of people sitting in the garden on white plastic chairs arranged for this purpose. The person was a politician in the cabinet (this was about 10years ago).
When this person left the position, I went to visit him. To my surprise, everywhere was quiet. No cars parked as though the house was a filling station. Just a gateman. In fact, I learnt a relative waited till the morning after his appointment ended to send him a nasty text rejoicing.
I actually wanted to write about the Ajimobi/Ganduje wedding. I was trying to imagine the sort of gifts they would receive.
22 sitting governors and the president in attendance is not peeled, crushed and steamed black eyed peas (ehm…moi moi).
I have a lot to say about the wedding but the fact that they were going to be showered with all kinds of gifts because their fathers are influential distracted me.
Kano is a pivotal politically defining voting block; Ganduje is important to APC. Imagine people falling over themselves to win his favour with gifts. Or even Ajimobi.
And let us tell ourselves the truth. They would still have married lavishly without a single gift from anyone.
The irony of life.
Those that do not have are rarely given.
Those that have will get even more.
We human beings can be very shallow. We love to associate with wealth, success or beauty.
Do me a favour my people.
Always centre on yourself.
Never be carried away by the thought that you have ‘people’.
You will reach the fight of your life and turn back to find yourself alone.
On the flip side, be the friend you would want. Sticking by people through their difficult periods. It is depressing to be around people in pain. But pain is part of life. And the way life works, we all get our turn to face some kind of pain. It is always easier when someone holds your hand through it.
And this is Abiodun Nkwocha, and I just want to make uncommon sense (barf worthy sign out… I don’t care)