Day 16: Wars, Media & Media Wars #28DayChallenge

I have been thinking a lot about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, why it’s getting so much attention, what kind of attention it’s getting, and who’s saying what about it. It is safe to say the media played a major role in the build-up to this conflict, and continues to do so with all kinds of information flying around.

To start with, why do nations go to war? This particular war seems to have been pre-emptive, driven by a (perceived) need for Russia to protect its territorial integrity and prevent the establishment of hostile military bases near its borders. It seems more symbolic and less driven by actual breakdown in diplomatic relations or default in signed agreements. Yet no matter how it is cast, this conflict has led to loss of thousands of lives and displacement of many, with people’s lives disrupted and many livelihoods destroyed.

The media coverage for this conflict has been sensational to say the least, partly because it involves a major world power (Russia) and partly because it has major economic implications for the developed world. In fact, I am firmly convinced that economics is the key driver for the attention this war gets. Wars or sustained conflicts in poorer climes with minimal impact on key product supply chains around the world only get sporadic coverage and minimal intervention from major world powers.

There is obviously a humanitarian crisis triggered by this war – one which will outlast the war itself – but the treatment of the human suffering seems, in my opinion, to merely be a tool for media houses to drum up their positions or views of the war. And this leads me to the media war itself. On Western, Russian and all kinds of neutral media, opinions, information, and propaganda are being disseminated daily to canvass support for or against the war or either party in the war.

Traditional media having been engulfed by technology and social media, there are now a myriad of voices disseminating information and opinions about the war, including postulations about why the war started and how it will end. These voices include all kinds of moderate and extreme views that, in their own way, shape the outcome of the war, through various means. Actions result from convictions and emotions, and both are impacted by what we hear and believe. In the end, closure to this conflict may well depend on whose media strategy is more successful.

For me, it is just sad to see nations still embroiled in these kind of conflicts, especially thinking about the people whose lives are irreversibly transformed by those conflicts. But even sadder is the fact that the human suffering triggered means little to the mongers of war, including those whose interest in this war is less about human care and more about self-preservation. The relatively ignored conflicts still raging in Myanmar, Yemen, and Afghanistan among others bear testament to this unfortunate reality.

Day 12: Judas, Betrayer #28DayChallenge

Thanks for joining me today again. As we come upon Easter, it feels fitting for me to reflect on some of the themes around the death and crucifixion of Jesus. I would like to zoom in on a character that has received extended treatment and analysis over the centuries: Judas. Judas’ role in the arrest of Jesus was prophesied in the book of Psalms, yet it could have been fulfilled by any one of the disciples. Unfortunately, it was Judas Iscariot who made himself available, descending into eternal damnation for thirty pieces of silver.

Have you ever been betrayed? Usually it would be by someone who knows you closely. The person likely gave up important information that could be used against you, or switched loyalties in a very unexpected manner, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. The damage might have been little or huge, but betrayal always feels terrible. So, if you have ever been betrayed, do you know why they did it? Many people betray their allies for revenge over an unforgiven offence. Others just do it for selfish gain such as power, money, or fame. In Judas’ case, we know he did it for the money.

There might also be people who betrayed others because they were blackmailed, bullied, or manipulated. Some secret or failure of theirs could have been weaponized against them so they could give up their loyalty to someone else. While this does not make them innocent (they could choose to face the consequences of their actions), this category of betrayers are most miserable because they get no satisfaction or gain from the betrayal. Eventually, all betrayal leads to regret, or no? Or do all betrayers get betrayed by someone else? In Judas’ case, the weight of his guilt led him to take his own life. I bet he never imagined Jesus would be killed, let alone crucified like a thief.

The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is often told alongside that of Judas’ betrayal, and some parallels drawn to encourage believers to embrace repentance. But I wonder how close they are. While Peter acted in an instant to selfishly protect himself from whatever they would do to Jesus, Judas was set on a slippery path of no return once he aligned with his Master’s enemies to give him up. I’m not sure the outcome he expected, but things went out of hand as they always do. His greed stole a great spiritual inheritance from him.

Is there a way to predict or prevent coming betrayal? Or knowing who might betray you? I don’t know. All I can offer is Jesus’ counsel that you should “watch and pray”. In his case, he knew what was coming for him, and he was ready for it. Greed, lust and many unchecked excesses are behavioral indicators of many potential betrayers. Yet moderate men too have had their loyalties tested, and some caved when the right price was named. In the words of a former Nigerian Governor and current Minister: “May our loyalty never be tested”.

I’ll see you again tomorrow, have a blessed Good Friday, and enjoy the extended holiday weekend!

Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge

Today, I want to share a few thoughts on faith, particularly in connection with the adjective “unfeigned” as used in the King James Version of the Bible. If you use more modern versions such as the NKJV or NIV, the word will likely be rendered “sincere” or “genuine”. In the first chapters of both his letters to Timothy, Paul speaks about “unfeigned faith”. In first Timothy, he speaks of it as a Christian virtue that works together with love. In second Timothy, he recalls Timothy’s unfeigned faith as he (Paul) longs to see him (Timothy). The word is mentioned both in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5.

Continue reading “Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge”

Day 8: Triumphant Entry #28DayChallenge

Today is Day 8 of my 28-day blogging challenge, and it’s Palm Sunday. Happy Palm Sunday! It’s a beautiful day to be alive as we celebrate the Triumphant Entry in 2022. There are few days in history that hold a lasting significance as does this special day, celebrated by Christians all over the world. It represents the arrival of Israel’s long-awaited king, riding victoriously into the ancient city of Jerusalem with celebrations and shouts calling for him to save His people. He was fulfilling prophecy as he rode into Jerusalem, and also asserting his rightful place as the eternal king over Israel, and indeed the whole world.

It was a beautiful moment as people laid down their clothes for his colt to ride over and bowed in obeisance to Him – a fitting climax for the king and Savior who never got a proper welcome into the world by the people he came to save, having been born in the most humble of circumstances. It was definitely the peak of His popularity among the people, because barely four days later, he was being subjected to shouts of “Crucify Him” as the same people turned against their king at the instigation of the religious leaders of the day.

People are fickle, and forgetful. If you make your plans on the basis of people’s promises of loyalty, especially a large mass of people, you are the most foolish of men. Jesus recognized this, and was never moved by the praise or criticism of people. He always stayed focused on doing God’s will, and his actions were only initiated on the strength of divine guidance. So whether he was multiplying bread or chastising traders at the temple, he was never moved by people’s opinion – only by God’s voice and a genuine compassion for people.

So passionate was Jesus for His people, that he wept over the city of Jerusalem shortly after riding victoriously into it (Luke 19:41), because they did not know the things that would bring them peace. He would go on to lay down his life, being led to the cross as a willing lamb for crucifixion, and becoming the “Lamb of God” who “takes away the sins of the world”. The big picture was not lost on him, neither were the immediate consequences of obeying God. The suffering, pain, wounds and horror of separation from God. But He focused on the joy ahead, providing a template for us in our time of sacrifices.

Jesus’ triumphant entry was a big statement to the people of His day and of every day, that He is the true king who would one day reign over the whole earth, having conquered evil in the world. But until that day comes, we are to rejoice in and take advantage of the spiritual victory He procured for us through His death and resurrection. We who believe in Him are seated with Him far above all powers in this world. We are overcomers like our King! The only question is: do you believe in Jesus?

I’ll take a pause here and pick this up tomorrow….as I continue my blogging journey. Have a blessed week!

Day 6: The Teacher #28DayChallenge

I love to teach. I have a natural inclination to it, and I think being a teacher in any form, is the greatest way to shape people. Since I enjoyed the privilege of having great teachers simplify concepts and make them relatable for me, I also feel like I owe it to others to help them simplify the things they need to learn, if I am knowledgeable enough to do that. While I admire people who can easily grasp complex ideas taught with abstract words, I believe the majority of us need be taught using simplified ideas, lots of examples, and simple words.

Having taught at different points in life, I recognize that preparing to teach is a lot of work. The teacher not only needs to lay out their teaching plan, but they also need to find relatable examples for the specific audience and anticipate various kinds of questions. In the teaching session, connecting with those you are trying to teach and keeping them engaged requires ongoing effort and continuous development on the part of the teacher. Maintaining decorum and order also becomes critical if you are teaching a large number of people.

Teaching is a broad term and can include academic or religious content, one-on-one or group lessons, or the transfer of a knowledge or a skill. Whatever the context, teaching is different from just any kind of speaking because it requires deliberate effort to break down or simplify concepts and must always include opportunities for questions to be asked. The goal is for the learner to acquire some new knowledge or skill that they can put to use or even teach another person. Until there is a successful transfer of knowledge or skill (confirmed by an exam, assessment or some other check), teaching has not happened.

Since students or learners can be people of all ages, colors, backgrounds, or abilities, teaching methods need to vary significantly to cater to the need of various students. It is not uncommon to find a teacher combining several tools to communicate the same concepts in the same class. This is often necessary because while some are visual learners, others may be verbal learners. Some may learn better by listening and reflecting, while others move faster when they are doing something with the knowledge as they learn.

Here lies the teacher’s great task: understanding the diversity of their student population and catering to their needs as much as possible. If you ever had teacher who was really great at equipping you with some knowledge or skill in the past, now is a good time to call them and say “Thank You!”. It was likely not just about them getting paid: teachers do far more than they could ever get fairly compensated for! And that will be all for today…I’ll be back tomorrow. See ya!

Day 5: The Learner #28DayChallenge

Against all odds, I made it to Day 5 of my 28-Day Writing Challenge. I’d have thought it too early to start getting tired or blank, but I must admit I’ve felt that way today, to the point of wondering why I’m even doing this. As the saying goes in local Nigerian parlance: “Who send me”? Anyhow, here we are. So, on to today’s ramble…

I love learning. I love getting knowledge and acquiring new skills. As I assume the case is with many other people, acquiring new knowledge or skills makes me more confident, almost to the point of feeling powerful. Even learning a little new trick I can do with Microsoft Excel is very tickling to me. Always excited about the idea of learning something new, I am forever poring through pages of information on the internet to just learn about people, places, and things, whether historical or current, essential or trivial.

Interestingly, I have a bone to pick with most formal education systems (at least in Nigeria where I have studied) because I feel like they do a great disservice to the purpose for which they were purportedly set up – to educate people. Not only does one have to work extra to get knowledge and understand concepts, the assessment system does not quite test ability to find and use knowledge or innovation as much as it tests ability to memorize information as received. I found my passion for knowledge was more stimulated by real-life happenings around me than by my classroom experiences.

As you can imagine, I am super grateful I have grown with the internet. From using Yahoo in the early days to making ‘the Google switch’, I have been blessed with a stockpile of information literally at my fingertips – things that might have taken me weeks to find. This in turn has fueled my indifference towards the formal education system. That is not to say that the internet competes directly with schools. They, in fact, complement each other – it just feels like schools need to become less arrogant or more flexible because there are many willing teachers in many corners of the world, all accessible via the internet.

This leads to my last line of thought. Interestingly, I found that my learning experience has been best when I have a teacher who is deliberate about explaining concepts, answering questions and providing relevant examples to contextualize the learning. Even in the inadequate systems in which I have been educated, I have had quite a few of these outstanding teachers, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Their painstaking effort in transferring knowledge and pushing me to learn more will never be forgotten or unappreciated. Outstanding among these great teachers is Dr. Tolulase Ajayi, who also doubled as my undergraduate project supervisor. Fantastic woman, she is!

And that, dear readers, is where I draw the curtains for today….I’ll be here again tomorrow!

Day 4: The Loner #28DayChallenge

Day 4 of 28: proud of my progress! If you are reading this, thank you for being a part of this special writing journey, no matter when you are reading. Today, I want to slide across from yesterday’s theme and talk about the opposite of having friends: having none. I am a fan of Liverpool Football Club, and like many other fans, I like to croon along to the club anthem on the special occasions where it is sung, singing loudest at the last and most important line: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

In practice, however, we do walk alone sometimes. In fact, we all need some seasons of walking or being alone to come into our own. I am not talking about deliberately ostracizing yourself or strangling relationships around you so people can leave you alone. Rather, I am talking about periods of life, when by divine design or seeming coincidence, you just happen to have no close friend or confidante you speak to about your life affairs. If, however, this describes your default lifestyle, then you need to make a change! No one functions well continuously without a support system.

Seasons of solitude may last anywhere from days to months (or years?) and can be very useful for reflection on our personal values and convictions. They help us see who we are in the absence of others, and possibly identify strengths we need to amplify or weaknesses we need to fortify. Solitude is crucial to our development as individuals. Depending on who you are, however, it is very possible that you always avoid solitude and instead seek the company of others. I encourage you to consider that being alone for a time is not a malady; it may even be a blessing in the long run.

God’s call to the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, was a call to him ALONE. It was a call that separated him from his family and friends on placed him on a special mission. He would make new friends and build a family of his own, but I bet that his first few months or years as a sojourner must have felt very lonely. This is the thing with solitude: it is not always pleasant. We may feel the urgent need to socialize or connect with others but we must learn through practice when to remain alone with our thoughts and our God. Eventually, seasons of solitude often pass on their own, with new relationships emerging along with a renewed person.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and I’ll be back here tomorrow to share some other thoughts. Cheers!

Day 3: The Friend #28DayChallenge

Thanks for coming by today! This is Day 3 of my 28-Day writing challenge. Today, I want to talk a bit about friendships. I’ve enjoyed great friendships through the years, and I believe that is the product of divine blessing and a mutual commitment to one another’s growth that my friends and I possess. I have also experienced seasons of intense loneliness, which I think are necessary for the formation of every person’s character. Sometimes, you do not know who you are until you are alone. In solitude, our true nature is revealed.

We all take on the shape of the interactions we have with others. Said differently, our personalities are products of traits built through various relationships, from familial and professional relationships to social and community relationships. So, friendships have a powerful influence on who we become and how we become that person. Like familial relationships, they influence what we believe and what we practice. But unlike familial relationships, we can choose who we connect with and how often we connect.

Naturally, we gravitate toward people we admire or feel a connection with, and friendships can be a powerful tool to steer our lives in the direction we want to go. Our friends can reflect our past, present or our future. They are a strong indication of where our minds are situated or what makes us comfortable. Because true friendships are not forced, who we make friends with say a lot about who we are. And even if they are not our true friends, who we spend our time with reflects our values, our priorities, and our sincerity.

Friends are those people to whom you gravitate in periods of intense emotion or clouded thoughts. When you are happy, sad, confused, or excited, you likely want to share your thoughts or feelings with your friends. While some people have different friends for different occasions, others have the same friend(s) for all seasons. Friends give you a chance to share your thoughts freely and receive honest feedback from others. Friends are those people with whom we love to share experiences. The best friends are like siblings to us, or even better. And those who have such close-knit friendships are truly blessed!

Sadly, people don’t always feel the same way towards each other, and someone you see as a friend or want to be friends with may see you just as a colleague or neighbor, or acquaintance and no more. Wisdom is knowing when to draw the line rather than foist an unwanted friendship on someone. Friendships sometimes grow stale because people grow in different directions, or because one or both parties were insincere to start with. Again, discernment is knowing when to pull back and avoid becoming a burden to another.

Friendships sometimes go sour because of offense or betrayal. Having a forgiving heart is important as with every relationship. Taking precautions to avoid future hurt is also important. Love should be freely given, but trust needs to be earned. Great friends are a gift from God, but they need to be nurtured through care and communication. No one likes to be the only giver in any relationship. We are all built through consistent giving and receiving.

And that is where I draw the curtain today…we go again tomorrow. See you, then!

Day 2: The Author #28DayChallenge

Welcome to Day 2. In case you’re just joining me or have randomly stumbled upon this blog post, this is the second of what I intend to be twenty-eight consecutive posts on my blog, one for every passing day. I started yesterday with some reflections on my journey into writing and blogging. I want to extend those thoughts by reflecting on how I moved from blogger and writer to published author in 2021.

My author’s story is inevitably intertwined with the coronavirus pandemic. COVID transformed the way we work and provided a flexibility that we all plan never to let go of. Working from home meant I saved a couple of hours from driving through traffic, and I could now spend that time with family or on hobbies. Writing automatically got some more allocation. Before March 2020, my last two blog posts had been in Feb 2017 and Sep 2018. Then I posted twice in late March 2020, and have posted every month since then.

Writing regularly meant getting more ideas about other things to write. And then I started setting harder targets for myself on how often to write. Then one day in February 2021, about a year into COVID, the idea struck me like lightning. I had been praying with a few friends for an hour every Sunday evening for about five months. On one of those Sundays, after the prayer, the thought to write a book was strongly impressed on my mind. The outline was clear, and I knew what the title would be.

That same evening, I picked up the phone and called my friend and brother, Olawale Perfect. He runs a media outfit (wigradio.com) and had published a number of his own books. He even started writing the first book while we were undergraduate students at the University of Lagos. I wanted to get help from a hands-on person, who knew exactly what to do from first word to first print, and who could give me a timeline and modest budget for whatever quality I wanted. Perfect was my man for the moment.

After that call, I drafted the outline and started writing the day after. My focus was to complete the first draft in the shortest time possible; edits could follow afterwards. There is never a perfect time for any important task, and getting started is key to getting going. I found from experience that things become easier to achieve once you get started – the goal comes closer to sight with every step. And so it was, less than five months after the idea first came into my mind, that I was having a virtual launch of my first book.

Now that you are a Christian was first published in July 2021, with one-thousand copies initially printed and distributed freely within a few months. Another thousand copies were printed in February 2022, and are still in distribution (free of charge as well). From COVID-enabled writing to friendship-enabled publishing, the unrelated events that made a conviction come to life in such a short time can only be traced to a combination of God’s wisdom and man’s diligence in pursuit of purpose. See you tomorrow!

Day 1: The Writer #28DayChallenge

I have decided to start a challenge to post on my blog for twenty-eight days continuously, starting today. This challenge should take me to the end of April 2022 and will stretch me beyond my longest blogging streak, which I think is four or five days. My goal is to improve my writing and increase my fluidity in expressing my thoughts. There will be no particular topic or theme for this series. I am open to ideas or suggestions from my readers on what to write about and will write on them if I have sufficient knowledge or experience to string a few thoughts together.

I want to start today by reflecting on how I got into writing and blogging. I studied engineering for my undergraduate program, but have always had a flair for some other form of expression outside the sciences. However, aside from writing an article or two for my campus Christian fellowship magazine and writing a few devotionals for the daily devotional we used to publish (Truth for Times), I did not do much else to hone my writing skills, neither did I really take writing as a serious endeavor. It was always a tool to achieve other things I considered more important.

I began to give writing and publishing my thoughts more attention after completing my undergraduate program. During my NYSC program in Ebonyi State, Nigeria, I was selected to serve as Editor for NCCF Ebonyi and then successfully ran for election as NYSC Ebonyi Corps Editor. I oversaw the publication of two magazines for NYSC (Ebokopa) and NCCF (Flint Magazine) respectively. Those experiences emboldened me to pay more attention to a new skill I was unsheathing, one which is turning out to be critical in fulfilling my life’s purpose. I eventually started my WordPress blog in 2012 after completing my NYSC program.

Having a friend like Gbenga Awomodu (a very fine writer and editor) also influenced my decision to start a blog. Gbenga had run a blog on WordPress for the longest time. He even had his own domain name long before I paid attention to what those were. Because he’s been a close friend and brother through the years, I can’t even tell how much of what I am doing today was learned from him. I just know he’s been the greatest influence in my journey of learning to share my thoughts with others via writing.

Writing for me has encompassed a lot of study and practice. Although I have mostly written non-fiction, I have also tried my hands on fiction and spent lots of time writing poetry. I can confidently say that writing for me has been a journey of discovery and influence, one of learning from others and sharing with others. I want to keep it that way for a long time to come. I’ll pause here today and pick up my thoughts tomorrow…Cheers!

NYSC – National Youth Service Corps – a mandatory one year program to be completed after undergraduate studies in Nigeria. It is a requirement for employment in most organizations

NCCF – Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship – the association of Christians currently serving in NYSC