Mindfield Series: Mettle (Part Three)

Edentu D. Oroso is the head of Special Projects Group for Kakaaki Magazine, a magazine published in Nigeria delving into development journalism. He is a seasoned magazine columnist, biographer, motivational speaker, and poet. A former President of the Writers’ League Benue State University Makurdi, Edentu is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Benue State Chapter and its former Director of Welfare. His published works include the eBook Tears From A Rose, Wings of Freedom – a biography of Ralph Igbago; and The Alfa Sky, a biography of Air Marshall Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, Nigeria’s longest serving Chief of Air Staff. He coauthored The Hidden Treasure a compendium of essays on former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and coedited Voice of the Earth, an anthology of poems. He has been featured in many poetry anthologies such Sentinel Online, Bridge for Birds, and Cerebra(lity).

Part One

Part Two


Nature is a great teacher. Hidden in its complex mold are some of the greatest lessons of the human experience. Nature’s lessons do not cost much. Often times they are given almost for free. What is required of the learner is a keen spirit of observation. Then the ability and capacity to try out the apparent lessons observed in nature’s whim.

At barely twelve years old, I learned an important lesson. Nature was the teacher as well as the classroom. The lesson, however, was conveyed through an intermediary, which was my mother. I remember all too clearly those childhood memories at the fishing camp located on one of the vast beaches that sprawled along the Gbajimba village waterfront. Their import stirs the mind with the significance of the human will in the face of odds. They remind one of the truth that man’s mettle is defined by the odds he confronts.

Now the story. The first time it happened, it took me unawares. My mother and I had been regular in the fishing brooks and open waters of the River Benue, specifically, along the Gbajimba waterfront. In the swift river currents, swollen by the rains, we had fished so many times before with diverse expectations and catch. But on this particular night during a holiday in my last year in primary school, it was different.

We had set out with modest expectations early in the evening from our fishing camp on the beach across the river opposite the Kabawa camp on the eastern reaches of the river bank at Gbajimba village, Benue State, Nigeria. The weather was clement. A sprinkle of stars dazzled the night sky and the cadence of a subtle wind wooed the senses as if to say there was something spectacular about the night and its offerings.

My mother, who sat in front of the dug-out canoe, looked up into the night’s sky and said with a hint of enthusiasm as she rowed away, “The weather’s so calm and friendly tonight. I hope it turns out to be a good catch as well.”

My lukewarm response from the stern boat was, “I hope so”. Those flights of enthusiasm were recurrent decimals in her daily romance with nature. So it had little effect on me.

The downstream currents made the upward glide of our canoe a bit difficult. But we had to row all the same with a force of will, using long bamboo sticks at times to pull through the river bank to get to our destination, the point where our net was to be cast. We made it there as usual in spite of the strain. There were other fishermen and women, Ijaws and Jukuns, already on cue at the edge of the swollen river bank for their turn to cast their nets. We waited patiently for our turn as the night sped on.

Then the unexpected happened as our turn got near. Of a sudden, the azure sky became very dark like a thousand thick blankets pulled over our senses. A clap of thunder echoed through the silence of the night reverberating in the distance like an explosion of a hydrogen bomb, shuddering our canoe and those of other fishermen and women by the river bank. A fierce southwesterly wind howled, slapping our faces with its vehemence. The thunderclap, now accompanied by lightning, became persistent, breaking the dark veil of the night with its flashes of light. An awesome storm was in the making. The river currents began to bob to the sweeping wind, and soon took dimensions of huge waves as the first showers of rain poured down and pelted us like pebbles from the heavens.

“It’s going to be an interesting night of fishing!” Koloendi, my mother, said in our language.

“Did I hear you say an interesting night of fishing, Mama?” I probed naively. “How can anyone go fishing in this storm?”

She turned and stared at me through the blanket of darkness sensing my fear of the elements. She couldn’t make out my outline immediately, so used her torchlight to graze over my face momentarily.

“Take no notice of the storm,” she replied, almost on top of her voice for the splashing rain, wind and thunderclap had taken over completely. Nature’s fury was at its highest. “This is the best time to go fishing. Now, get ready. We are sailing out. We’ re riding the storm to a bumper catch!” she added confidently.

“No, Mama. We are not going out into those towering waves in this dug-out canoe,” I argued. “Not in this storm anyway. I suppose you don’t want us to drown out there?”

“My son, I mean well,” she said calmly. “This is the best part of our fishing expedition tonight. When there’s a storm, when the river currents are turbulent, that’s when all kinds of fish come out to play. That means a bumper catch for us!”

I almost didn’t believe her. Why would any fish find comfort in turbulent water or in a storm for that matter? I was scared of the prospects. Yet for the fact that my mother who was wiser in such matters had given her assurance of our safety and the possibility of a bumper catch, I gave in to her wish.

“Mama, I’m hoping that you would handle this well,” I said indifferently. “I’m not too comfortable with the storm. I’d rather suggest we wait for the storm to subside”.

“Don’t you worry! All will be fine!” she assured me. “Now, look at it this way. We have the choice to wait here by the river bank till the storm is over. We also have the choice to plunge headlong into the storm and turn the situation to our advantage. Between the two options, I’d rather go for the latter option.”

This theory didn’t seem to cotton with me. “Mama, why?” I asked naively.

“Because if we wait by the river bank, we will still be drenched by the scud-like rain, the wind too will continue to slap our faces, and the waves will continue to bang our canoe against the river bank. In essence, it is still the same risk as going all out into the storm. But if we do take the plunge, we stand to profit from it because we are sure of a bumper catch. Which do you prefer between the choices?”

“The latter I guess,” I said.

“Now, let’s set out! But be careful to steer the canoe away from the crest of the waves; always place the canoe in the troughs, that is, in-between the crests of the waves. That way, we are assured of safety. Keep your calm and focus. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am,” I called back loudly.

“Ok. Here we go!”

So we pulled out of anchor at the river bank and embraced the storm, the waves rising threateningly and the wind howling and blinding us in its fury. Yet we were undaunted as we rowed on, taking the waves in-between troughs as they came in turn.

Once we had edged a little distance away from the river bank, my mother told me to reverse the canoe as swiftly as possible in such a way that the front of the canoe, the prow, will now face the direction of the river bank where we had left, while my end, the stern, will face where we were headed. This was quite a dangerous move in the violent storm. It had to be done with precision on the crest of a wave, and in a matter of seconds, else the canoe would be imperiled by the onrushing waves. However, I did the manoeuver successfully. Once that was done, she began to cast the net in the darkness aided only by a miniature torchlight she held between her jaws. Meanwhile, the thunderstorm raged on.

Few minutes into the bargain, the net was fully cast. In less than twenty-five minutes afterward, we were at the point of retrieving our net due to the swift downstream currents. The catch was bumper just as my mother had envisaged. In fact, it was the best catch I had seen in a long while. Different species of fish got caught in our net. Some were fairly large, some were of medium size, and some had to be hit with a wooden wedge to silence their thrashing and writhing in the bowel of the canoe.

Perhaps, as my mother had hinted, they were out to play in the turbulent currents and got caught in the process. I was overly happy with the outcome of our fishing expedition that particular night in spite of the odds. We went through the rigorous motions of rowing our canoe against the storm and casting our net more than six times before the early hours of the morning when the storm subsided. By daybreak, we had a canoe nearly filled with assorted fish.

That was the first among so many fishing expeditions of similar hue. Subsequently, I knew unreservedly each time we went fishing and there was a thunderstorm, that we would ultimately ride on its crest and make the most of it because that was the time nature was astir in the depths and all kinds of fish were in their elements.

The import of nature’s lesson, however, did not register fully in my consciousness until a little over two decades later when I was privileged to attend a fish farming seminar in Abuja under the auspices of Premium Resource Network.

In the seminar, we were exposed to various fish farming techniques as obtained in the contemporary. But the one that caught my attention most was the process of aeration in a fish pond. In layman terms, aeration is a process whereby the water level and freshness of a fish pond is maintained through an inlet and outlet. In the construction of either a concrete pond or earthen pond, consideration is given to the inlet pipes which carry water to fill the pond. An inlet pipe, which should be about 15cm above the water level in the pond, not only supplies fresh water but serves to aerate it, thus, availing needed oxygen to the fish in the pond. The outlet pipes allow for water holding and easy drainage of the pond.

Now, how does this relate to nature’s storm, the kind that my mother and I experienced in our fishing sprees? The waves stirred by the fierce wind are a natural way of aerating the water currents or depths. An abundance of oxygen is supplied by the turbulence of the river as seen in the waves or bobbing water. This becomes a perfect playground for all kinds of fish. The implication is that they are at their best when a river is turbulent and life’s essence, oxygen, is in abundant supply. A great lesson!

As I tried to place side by side my experience of nature’s ways at the fishing expedition and that of the fish farming seminar, my mother’s words by the banks of river Benue in Gbajimba village many years ago re-echoed: “When there’s a storm, when the river currents are turbulent, that’s when all kinds of fish come out to play. That means a bumper harvest for us!”

It can be inferred from this that the best part of our lives is almost always hidden in the storms of life. The storms would always be there to test our will. How we perceive and react to them will determine how we ride their crests to victory or how we become consumed by their rage.

I learned quite early in life not to be afraid of the storms of life, but to embrace them with confidence and a sense of purpose. Ordinarily, fishing in a rainstorm, a violent one at that, is nigh impossible. But wizened by the ways of nature, my mother, and other fishermen and women, knew that the only way to conquer a storm is by risking a ride in it. She taught me that storms are profitable if we learn to banish the fears that arise out of their unpredictability. While others perhaps were indoors, frightened by the howling storm, or scud-like rain, we went out riding the storm in our canoe and caught as many fish as we could possibly dream of catching even inclement weather.

I learned also that between each successive wave, there is a trough. In positioning our canoe in-between the crests of the waves, we were assured of safety in the rainstorm. In physical terms, storms are the circumstances or violent waves we face in life. In every circumstance, there is a window of opportunity – a trough, a moment of respite. Once you can locate that trough or window of opportunity, you can safely ride the crest of the next wave. All that is required of you is to position yourself in the trough in such a way that it takes you to the crest of the succeeding wave without endangering your boat of life.

Looking back now, my perception of the rainstorm during our fishing expedition was of great danger whereas my mother saw in it an opportunity to showcase her mastery of the elements. She rode on the storm instead to achieve her aim, which was a bumper catch of fish, not minding the risk involved.

Our circumstance by the river bank suggested insurmountable odds. Most of our situations in life suggest this. But we were willing at that time in point to take calculated risks by venturing out into the turbulent water when common sense said we shouldn’t. This means circumstance is a figment of our imagination. It can only demean you and make a mockery of your will by virtue of the sheer force you accord it. The truth is your world comes alive in the midst of a storm. The storms or circumstances of life are nothing other than the aeration you need to be the very best you can ever be in the oceans of life.

There are all kinds of storms in life though. Whether it’s a financial storm, an intellectual storm, a matrimonial storm, a spiritual storm, a political storm, or a storm of friendship, it remains but the circumstance that can be surmounted. See that circumstance as beautiful clay in our hands. You reserve the right to throw the clay away. You also have the right to stare at it daily without doing anything positive about it. But most of all, it is your responsibility to turn that clay into something of rare value. This takes ingenuity of mind, guts, and calculated risks. Once your mind is set on this path, then you have taken the right steps towards going beyond your circumstance.

The lesson nature taught me the courtesy of my mother was never to allow my circumstance, which are the storms of life, define my destination. I should rather let my destination define my situation. This is in cognizance of the fact that man’s mettle is defined by the odds he confronts. Odds, therefore, are the elixir of life.         

Terror Tonight

The Lady of Flies

My wife is the ruler of hell, but she thinks that I don’t know. It’s her little secret and I play along. My lovely Maria, for whom I will gladly die. We are waiting for those inside me to mature. Those dark things that she plants inside me as I sleep. Things that squirm beneath my skin if I am away from her for too long. They ache for their mother and scream for her using my mouth.

In the mornings we go our separate ways to work, she gives me a smile knowing that it will be a day of pain for me. But my pain is her pleasure, and her pleasure is my life. It will begin in my stomach, a small growling. It’s not my hunger but theirs. The things that Maria has put inside me demand to feed on the unclean. In my suit and tie, I take to the alleys at noon, hoping for something that they might enjoy. My Maria’s children have such a hunger that the moldy and dead can fill. If we are lucky, I can find the greatest of treats, a rat already bloated from the heat, or a cat crawling with life as it lays useless to anyone but the swarm and me.

After the children are fed it’s back to the cubicle for me. The little square that I fill during the day as the buzzing fills my head. I try not to scratch at them as they get loud enough to drown out the drone of my coworkers and their petty lives. They have nothing, but I am the bringer of the swarm. The ones who will feast on them all. However, sometimes the pain is too great and blood is under my fingernails before I know what I have done. I sit in in my car screaming at my laxness, hoping that I have not killed any of the tiny ones. Crying at the thought of failing in my duty. The children are all.

Today I have not failed, today I have kept my charges safe for their queen. We sing praises to the Dark Lady as I take the long freeway home. I scream hosannas in her name to quiet them. They scream through my head all wanting to be near her as always, their voices blend until no words can be found. Then as one, they silence themselves. A small voice tells me that it is time. I laugh because my Lady will be proud of her husband for giving her these fine children.

How shall I present the gift that she has waited for so long?

I shall give her the Valentine that she deserves.

She enters the house with a glow. Candles wait for her, and white wine to celebrate what she has waited for without complaint. I give her a kiss and my love as I set her at the table. She laughs at our largest bowl empty in front of her. Running my fingers through her hair, her eyes connect with mine just as they did on our first night. She smiles as I run the razor across my stomach to release her present into the china bowl.

I close my eyes from the pain, hearing nothing but the goodbyes of our young. I know my Maria is proud of me I don’t need to understand what she is saying to know of her love.

The end


JD Hyde enjoys rocking back and forth in the shower rethinking his life decisions. Follow him on Twitter.

Mindfield: The Character of Change

Edentu D. Oroso is the head of Special Projects Group for Kakaaki Magazine, a magazine published in Nigeria delving into development journalism. He is a seasoned magazine columnist, biographer, motivational speaker, and poet. A former President of the Writers’ League Benue State University Makurdi, Edentu is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Benue State Chapter and its former Director of Welfare. His published works include the eBook Tears From A Rose, Wings of Freedom – a biography of Ralph Igbago; and The Alfa Sky, a biography of Air Marshall Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, Nigeria’s longest serving Chief of Air Staff. He coauthored The Hidden Treasure a compendium of essays on former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and coedited Voice of the Earth, an anthology of poems. He has been featured in many poetry anthologies such Sentinel Online, Bridge for Birds, and Cerebra(lity).


Three fundamental aspects define the character of change. They come across as the essence and the extent to which human life is expressed. Within the limits of human experience, these fundamentals have always bordered on identity, mobility, and sustainability. The interplay between these in the right degrees, almost always results in sensibilities that humans perceive as belonging to a finer hue, or what is often regarded as the wheels of meaningful change.

In the annals of history, there is hardly a person or nation that went beyond the borders of mediocrity to the spheres of value-outcomes without truly putting into perspective the values inherent in own identity. As the norm, such an identity naturally seeks to transform itself within the currents of human dynamics through strategic positioning on creative pathways. The significance of an identity, however, is not hinged solely on values but includes as well the currency of constituent elements and their sustainability over time. With this in mind, let us examine the transformative pathways of human actions via identity, mobility, and sustainability.

Identity, a Reliable Currency

At birth, none of us was privileged to have a roadmap to follow through with life. Yet everything we have done, or hope to do, tend to suggest an endless search for self. Actually, it is a search to unravel who we are, where we are, and where we hope to be. Beyond its ordinary meaning, it is indeed a search for an identity. What then is an identity?

It presupposes the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. In broader terms, identity is also a close similarity or feeling of understanding. Who and what a person is goes beyond the physiological, it encompasses the person’s ‘signature strengths’ as well as the elements of the cultural. ‘Signature strengths’ refer to the potential of the individual, or those areas of relative advantage. The elements of the cultural, on the other hand, are those influences or values prevalent in the social milieu in which the individual operates. Often times, it is a combination of these elements of the human identity that translates into the mass character of human actions.

Great minds all over the world, or people who accomplished great feats in the course of history, are all products of unique identities or peculiarities. Their thought processes undoubtedly reckoned with their ‘signature strengths,’ which is who they truly are. Through the conscious expression of their natural capabilities within their cultural milieu, these people became the objects of their desire. The determinants of their outcomes in life, therefore, are not so much a game of chance but the wave of their inner strengths in outward expression. When contextualized in terms of the values and influences evident in such social settings, it becomes glaring that the reality of their being was a blend of the cultural and distinct ‘signature strengths.’ Thus, identity remains the currency they traded in the spheres of life.

It is interesting to note that nations of the world that have attained some level of greatness followed this trajectory at one time or the other. Take the Asian Tigers such as Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, for instance. Their rising socio-economic profiles on the global scene are an indication of their conscious efforts to unleash distinct sensibilities on the rest of the world. These sensibilities include the facts of whom and what they are, which has cultural implications, however modified this seem in the context of contemporary realities. What the Japanese and Chinese are exporting to the rest of humanity is not necessarily their expertise but the values inherent in their identities. This is also the case with the advanced nations.   

In the corporate arena, identity remains the stock in trade. Regardless of the name it is called, identity is at the core of corporate survival and relevance. This is what brand, or branding is all about. If anything, the essence of a brand (an identity) is to flaunt the credentials of a corporate entity so as to carve a niche that would withstand the storms associated with competitive environments. The reason for this is quite clear. If you do not sing your song, nobody else will sing it for you. Also, it is recognition of the fact that what you will become tomorrow is determined largely by what you are today.

As individuals striving towards meaningful change, it is of utmost importance for us to realize that whether we had roadmaps with which to tread the paths of life at birth or not, we are still the proud owners of a unique currency we can easily trade to the rest of the world- – our identity. As a nation, we only need the political will to understudy the trajectories other countries took that gave them the edge. By applying the character of our identity in similar directions, we are certain of a unique place in the comity of nations.

Be Upwardly Mobile

According to a wise man, an idea whose time has come is like a freight train that is on the move. It cannot be stopped simply on a whim. The ability to recognize the intrinsic nature of one’s identity and its constituent elements in value-outcomes is likened to a freight train with its load of possibilities. However, fast-tracking the train towards a destination implies engaging gear and guiding it along various trails. This is necessary because life’s journey seldom unfolds with a single terminal. As an identity-seeking creature, the tendency to move from one sphere of experience to the other has always been part of man’s survival instincts. It is indeed man’s notion of progress. Yet it is not enough to be inspired by an identity. It is simply not enough to get the train rolling tentatively if it is not targeted at an outcome. Even when the outcome is specified, a sense of dynamism that clearly reflects the identity must come to bear as a matter of necessity.

Our notions of progress, therefore, are to be a step better than where we were yesterday, with our sights firmly fixed on where we ought to be tomorrow. What this boils down to is to be upwardly mobile; to always take the steps on the paths of life that help us bring out the best of our identity; to rely more often on the value streams of our being in consonance with the dynamics of life.

Most failures in life are as a result of sedentary lifestyles. People in this mold are better described as non-movers. They dream or fantasize about all the good things of life but are never too willing to strive towards the upward paths of their desires. So they remain where they are, overtaken as it were by those who strive to explore and conquer new frontiers. At times, the dreamers even acknowledge the beauty that goes with their identity and talk about their potential in a glowing light. Ironically, that is where their dreams end for they only talk and do little or nothing about their potential.

Strivers achieve what dreamers believe. These are the words of African American entertainer Usher Raymond. But they express the quality of human efforts in relation to the constant stretching of will by those who aim to advance beyond where they are at the moment. It is also a reminder that we appear to be limited by our circumstance because our sights are not fixed farther than enough. We are probably content seeing those things we want to see and never allowing ourselves to see those things we ought to see. We are content being where we are because we are afraid to go further than our already defined latitudes. Yet it is in fixing our sights high and in striving to reach the highest points that our strengths permit that we fulfill most of our dreams. Simply put, the mobility of ideas, or that of identity, characterizes great achievements.

Sustain the Momentum, Keep the Prize

So far we have seen the relationship between identity and mobility. However, the prizes or value-outcomes which these aspects engender can only endure the test of time when the momentum is sustained. By all standards, sustainability remains a factor that determines who succeeds and who fails. As a matter of fact, the difference between good and great is just a little extra effort. A typical example is the finals of the 100 meters race at the Beijing Olympics.

The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt left the starting blocks on a rather lackluster note (actually with a reaction time of 0.165 seconds), but built up momentum as the race progressed. By the time they crossed the 50 meters mark, Bolt’s impetus to set a standard had the better of him. Sustaining the momentum he had built up, he sped past the other competitors like a spirited gazelle. And by the time he crossed the finish line in 9.69 seconds (unofficially 9.683 seconds) with hands outspread in victory, he was well ahead of a crop of world-renowned sprinters with a large margin. A world record was not only set by this feat but Usain Bolt had defined the heights by which other sprinters would measure their successes or failures on the tracks for a very long time to come.

According to an online report, “Not only was the record set without a favorable wind (+0.0 m/s), but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied. Bolt’s coach reported that, based upon the speed of Bolt’s opening 60 m, he could have finished with a time of 9.52 s After scientific analysis of Bolt’s run by the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo, Hans Eriksen and his colleagues also predicted a sub 9.60 s time. Considering factors such as Bolt’s position, acceleration and velocity in comparison with second-place-finisher Thompson, the team estimated that Bolt could have finished in 9.55±0.04 s had he not slowed to celebrate before the finishing line.”

The lesson in this is sustained momentum. The tenacity to be upwardly mobile and the ability to keep the fire of zeal burning so intensely within, took him to such Olympian heights, especially with his winning of the 100 meters and 200 meters race in world record time. Two important races of his life; two significant world records; and twice a display of the character of sustained momentum.

We can only imagine the self-exertion, the hours of training and the effort required in getting that far. According to a Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) advert, “to beat the 100 meters world record, a man must take six steps every second…” The task appears Herculean; however, it does not mean it is insurmountable. It only requires sustaining a particular speed of action for a length of time. In Bolt’s case, it probably exceeded six steps per second, but the thing to note is his sense of commitment to sustaining the force of his will (‘signature strengths’ in the words of Martin Seligma) on the tracks.

Yes, we can!

We can imbibe the character of change if only we are willing to try. We all can turn our identity into a currency in the global economy if we are willing to maximize our strengths. We have all it takes to define our tomorrow if we take better steps than where we were yesterday. We can effectively build the future by creating it today. All that is required of us is to reckon with our identity as a people, redefine our mobility and fix our sights on its sustainability. Yes, we truly can make the difference!