I met a young woman living in Nigeria online more than ten years ago.
We became friends and exchanged lots of chats.
She had just graduated with a degree in engineering.
She couldn’t get a job.
I watched her struggle for many years.
A really gorgeous woman transformed into a shell of herself.
Her mother fell ill.
She began to live with her married sister.
She fell ill.
Then she called me and told me life had no meaning for her anymore.
She was bidding me farewell.
If I didn’t hear from her, or about her any longer, it would be because she had taken her own life.
“What?” I asked. “You plan to commit suicide or what?”
“Exactly, prof,” she said. “I have suffered enough. There is no hope for me any longer. No money, no job, I am sick, my mother is sick. Even my pastor won’t help. He just wants to sleep with me”
I remembered how beautiful she used to look many years ago; how she would pay special attention to herself, paint her face elegantly, with eye shadow, lipsticks, highlights, etc.
“Look,” I said, “why not learn a job? Why not learn to be a beautician? If you could take care of yourself so excellently, you are a natural. Rather than kill yourself, why not be a hairdresser? You live in a city. After you complete your training, you will struggle for some time, but you will make it at last.”
“It’s a good idea and I have considered it,” she said. “But it costs a lot of money to train to be a beautician.”
“Why not apply for some loan from a bank?”
“I tried,” she said. “They just want to sleep with you and don’t help.”
“Any assistance from the government? You are from an oil-rich state. there must be programs to help people like you.”
“I know nobody in any position of power in government,” she said, weeping.
“I will support you,” I told her. I will pay for your training, and give you a stipend while you study. After you finish studying, I will buy you equipment and set you up.”
She was more than happy.
She started training immediately. She sent me pictures of her training process. Gradually she grew, and I could see her skill getting better, week by week.
Though I have never met her physically, I could feel that she is a happier person.
After about twenty-four months of hard work, she got really good.
Last December, she finished her training.
I helped to set her up.
She got a shop and I paid for the rent for a year.
She began to make a bit of money, and she is beginning to feed herself and assist her mother and siblings.
After just two months of working as a hairdresser, she is beginning to look better and is gaining some of her confidence back,
Yesterday she dropped a bombshell.
“The Task Force came to my shop yesterday,” she said. “They gave me a seven-day notice to come and pay them, or they will close my shop.”
She was crying. “I will go to them tomorrow, and beg them….”
What a country, this Nigeria. They won’t give you a break, but they will try to break you.
****This picture shows a painting I completed yesterday.
I read an amazing poem titled “American Wedding” by Essex Hemphill.
I couldn’t resist making a painting off the poem.
It is Ogun’s Rocket.