I was born in an age of intimidation.
24th September, 1979 was the date and there was nothing special about it.
I was the 5th child.
I was 7 years younger than my closest sibling.
Our dining table had six seats: two for daddy and mummy and 4 for the
I got the message…life was a struggle.
Apart from being born under such intimidating circumstances, my naming
ceremony also fell on October 1, an important date in Nigeria’s
It was Nigeria’s 19th Independence Anniversary.
It was the advent of the 2nd Republic.
It was the swearing-in ceremony of Nigeria first executive President,
Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Once again, I was overshadowed.
Because of the frenzy surrounding the Independence Day and Swearing-In
celebrations, my naming ceremony was fixed early in the morning so
they could have time to celebrate this national holiday.
This was an oil boom year; surplus was everywhere.
Cars were cheap.
The exchange rate was almost at par.
We didn’t need visas to travel to the UK.
A carton of peak milk sold for N30.
And beer was cheap.
My naming ceremony started at 6am sharp.
It was going to be a small do, featuring relatives, church members and
a few neigbours.
It was going to be prompt.
In the spirit of speed;
They read from John 11: 35, the shortest verve in the bible.
They left the TV on so they could catch a peek of the ceremonial
proceedings while my naming was going on.
They gave me just one name; two if my surname was included.
By 6:30am, it was over.
What could be more intimidating?
The ceremony happened so quickly that the guests didn’t even get to see me.
Intent on according me some honour, my parents asked each guest to
peek into my cot, shake my hands and welcome me into the world in
their own special way.
Finally, I had attention.
A family member here
A neigbour there
Some shook my tiny fingers.
Others dropped money.
Then the unexpected happened.
There was a gentleman.
He reached down into my cot.
Something wasn’t quite right about him.
His eyes were red.
His face was swollen.
His smelt of booze.
He must have been drunk.
He opened his mouth over my cot like a dark cloud on sunny day.
Maybe he wanted to welcome me
Maybe he wanted to shake me.
Whatever his intentions were, he didn’t say.
I inhaled enough alcohol to keep me eternally inebriated.
In just 8 days of being alive, I had had my share of intimidation.
I was determined not to let this trend continue.
I reached out with my tiny hands and pinched his face with my 8 day
old finger nails.
He got the point.
When my mother asked him what had happened
He said ‘I was trying to tell him Happy Independence Day’
For once in my 8 days of existence, I felt truly free.