'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Menosophical - thinking deeply

What a week.  A dear friend loses her darling little fur companion.  A dear neighbour loses a close human companion. A village loses almost an entire generation.

I am torn.  Gravely concerned.  Hesitant.

Having spent the best part of three years in Nigeria I have some idea of the nature of the place and its peoples.  One large country which is tribal, with distinct demarcations of tribal territory. Add into this mix the growing influence of the more militaristic side of Islam and you have a tinderbox.

September 1975.  Father, Mother, Daughter No. 1 and Mac3 arrive in Benin City. (Macs 1 and 2 entered boarding school.)  There are many tales to tell and they will come.  First this.

One day the family is invited to visit the Oba.  King of Benin.  He has a large, mud-building compound.  Most of the buildings are to house his several wives and the many children.  He is a man of great age.  With significant power.  Head wife was a scary, scary woman.  Other wives were not permitted to be seen.  Then came the day of Oba's death. The city went into lock-down. Curfew was set for all but courtiers and royal members.  

We heard but thankfully never witnessed, the slaughter of animals and humans to be interred with their leader.  It was three days before curfew lifted.

Then there was the military coup.  The Biafran war may have been forgotten** but the underlying tensions and causative factors lie deep in the Nigerian psyche. Murtala Muhammad was the man up top when we arrived there. That's 'General' to you and me.  He was tuppled by another multi-starred bloke called Olusegun Obansanjo.  Very nasty business.  More curfews.  Lots of flashing of weaponry.  Road blocks and random knocks at the door.

At ground level we had the contractor seeking business with the father and thinking that three goats, half a dozen turkeys and a bottle of whisky would buy Daughter No. 1 as his third wife - although part of the promise was that she would be made his first wife.  This begs the question of what plans he had for existing first wife.

I am eternally grateful to the father for deciding I was 'betrothed' already... never knew he had it in him to invent such things!

Nothing could be done in Nigeria without 'dash'.  Open-plan corruption through adding lots of extra Naira hidden in a handshake.  Not corruption apparently.  Cultural. (The same thing happened in India.  Brought about by misguided Empire builders who brought 'gifts' in return for taking over. Gave entirely the wrong idea to the natives.)

The world is also well aware by now of the fraudulent letters and such which are generated from Nigeria.

All in all it is a difficult, dangerous and disturbing place.

Yet I have memories, of beauty, kindness, depth and wonder also.  

I am torn apart with grief for the families affected by the abduction of the girls.  I am gravely concerned for their wellbeing, for I have first hand knowledge of the attitudes there.

However, I am hesitant at international intervention.  When I read such as this, I am filled with horror.

It is understood that the current British 'expedition' is in an advisory-only capacity to the Nigerian government.  As long as that is how it remains, I believe this is a positive move. Nigeria and her people are volatile and complex.  Subtle background assistance is all that can truly be applied without risking complete revolt and potential for another Biafra or Rwanda.  I watch with angst and a prayer in my heart.

**all links are worth the reading but if you can only face one, then the link with these stars beside should be your choice.


  1. Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting post. My memories of the Biafran war are of being told to eat up everything on my school dinner plate and think of the poor starving children in Biafra. Then a couple of years ago I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie and learnt a bit more about the background to the conflict.
    Cheers, Gail.

  2. I've followed Africa and the near East closely for years. For some reason each of my daughters thought they could bring world peace to Africa. Or solve starvation in Bangladesh. Perhaps I should have let them.
    The kidnapping of the girls remains just a piece of the large problem of injustice for women. I hope our advisers can help, but this is an internal problem.

  3. It's frighting to hear about these things , why are the men in these countries so afraid to let the women take their true place in we only want to work along beside them not rule them but from my experience with a few guys from Africa that I have met they are worried about giving any power to their other halfs, I find I do not like their controlling nature.

  4. This post has so much depth in it. Thank you for giving us much food for thought.
    My sister-in-law lived for a time in Nigeria back in the 1950s when her husband was the Ambassador in the Australian Embassy there. It would have been an entirely different life way back then.
    They had to leave unexpectedly when Verna developed breast cancer and had to be flown to London for urgent surgery.
    We are all distressed about the abduction of the young girls and hope other powers that be are careful in the way they approach such a volatile situation.

  5. Hari OM
    Thank you for all your comments; particularly Mimsie who has done a catch up this week and I know your time is otherwise needed!

    Merle, I would agree except I have experienced equally misogynistic attitudes in so-called civilized countries. It has to be admitted though that in this case we are talking a cultural issue and not just individual mores.....

  6. This was a very thought-provoking post, Yam, and it's good to read a comment on these terrible abductions by someone who has real experience of Nigeria. I for one have never forgotten the Biafran war and the famine that accompanied it. I was a young wife and mother at the time and can remember squeezing money out of my very limed household budget for the Biafran relief appeal.


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