Why are you running?

When I watched the Nollywood film titled Pretty Liars (no relation to Pretty Little Liars), I had no way of knowing that that one scene (you know the one I’m talking about) would go on to become an iconic meme. Today when I sat to write this post, that is the first thing that came to my mind. Why are you running?

See I have been running for a long time now. Running even though no one was chasing. I have always been in a hurry to get through the stages of life. It may have started when I skipped grade 6 and went straight to secondary school at nine years old. I turned 16 in my first term at University, completed all my credits at 19, and by 22 I had my Master’s degree and was starting my career. At university I took summer classes every year to speed things up so I could graduate in three years instead of four. When it was all over, I sat with myself and asked the question “Now what? What’s next? Why were you in a hurry?

The sad truth is that I should have enjoyed the journey more, rather than rushing to the destination. It would have been nice to have taken the time to smell the petunias. At the end of it all I am grateful for everything, and I’m not going to dwell mindlessly on the past; still it is good (important even!) to reflect. Did it matter if I graduated at 19 instead of 21? By the grace of God, we all reached the destination, and it did not matter how long it took. I was so engrossed in just getting it all over with, that I never even stopped to consider what the point was, and what the plan was after everything was ticked off.

For so long it was just “on to the next”. I was ticking things off robotically like I was collecting infinity stones (I only know this reference thanks to social media. I have not watched the film), and when it was done I felt so terribly lost and confused. What now? I had not thought beyond the destination, forgetting that life is not one destination but one long never ending journey with some pitstops. After my final summer semester in which I got the final credits for my bachelor’s degree in summer school, I remember sitting in my room in University, completely overwhelmed by the rest of my life staring down at me. I had reached the end of the race in record time and there was still the rest of my life to deal with. For years I had known what the next step was-midterms, exams, summer school etc. That was the first time that all certainty was gone- there was nothing set for me to do next, the decision was all mine and I was petrified. I was technically an adult now and had to decide what to do next, yet I still felt like a child. After graduation I just laid around and waited for someone to tell me what to do next. That was one of the more depressing periods of my life. I remember one day my mother scolded me for loafing around saying “do you know you are a graduate now?But I’m still a child, I thought. How am I supposed to make all these decisions? In a way I am still that child, and I struggle sometimes with making serious life decisions because I’m just a baby haha.

For a long time now I have been in a rut. Well actually maybe for the past 2.5 years because before then I had professional exams that I was working towards (again rush rush get it all done in one go no resits hello anxiety). These exams were not fun by any means but the stress, anxiety, adrenaline provided something other than inertia. After those were done and dusted, life returned to this long monotonous bore as there was nothing I was working towards or looking forward to. It’s weird that in writing this, I have managed to partially diagnose myself; I need something to work towards and for the past couple of years I have not had that, hence the funk.

I have started implementing changes in my life, and the main one is that I have found a new job. For some people this is not a big deal, but for me it is the biggest of deals. I just could not deal with the monotony anymore and I wanted something fresh. Now I realise that even the new job by itself may not provide me with a completely new fresh lease on life. There are two reasons for this; the first is the feeling that while this is a change, it is still not my purpose. I may never truly feel light and happy with work until I am doing something that feeds my spirit. The second, which I literally just realised while writing this post, is that unless I am working towards something, life is dull and monotonous. So this new job is not going to automatically lift my spirits, because if care is not taken I risk falling into the same rut. Still it is a much needed change. I just have to be intentional about this.

Taking this leap feels scary, but also empowering and liberating. If this job does not work out, I will get another one. Now that I know better, I will try to be more mindful of my life. There is a thin line between doing too much and not doing enough. I want to get a promotion within a year of my new job, but I also want to chill and take everything in stride. The next big girl decision is to get a new place to stay, but with rising costs of everything the situation is dire, and it may be better to just stay put. Still I feel better than I have felt in a while, and for now that is enough.

Why are you running? Take the time to enjoy the journey, admire the scenery, smell the roses. You will get there in the end, there’s no need to rush.

Netflix and Chill #2: Oloture (2019)

Oloture is the story of a young journalist, who for some reason goes undercover as a prostitute. I say “for some reason” as it is never truly clear what her purpose is and why she put herself through such danger. How does one go undercover as a prostitute anyway?

We see Oloture as she pretends to be a prostitute, befriends some of the girls, and jumps out of windows to escape patrons (like I said, it is difficult to be an undercover prostitute). Her undercover work puts her in contact with a sex trafficking ring that smuggles girls to Italy which is where the film takes a dark turn. The head of the trafficking operation is a chain-smoking madam named Alero, who charges $1,200 from each girl who wishes to go abroad for greener pastures. The first outing with Alero is to a politician’s seedy sex party which Oloture is excited to attend. Again I asked myself, how exactly is this undercover prostitution thing going to work at a sex party? Well her plan was to tell the man that she had a tummy ache and didn’t want to have sex, to which the man replied oh I have just the thing for a tummy ache, and gave her some pills which of course turns out to be sedatives. He proceeds to rape her once she is incapacitated.

This gruesome experience marks a change in Oloture who becomes moody and despondent, even trying at one point to punish the bigwig who raped her. Still she goes along with Alero’s plan to take the girls to Italy. Again I asked myself, what exactly is this girl’s plan and how is she going to get out of this? Finally it is time to depart for the trip, and the women are lined up into buses and taken out of town to some unknown location. They are then taken to a voodoo priest who does voodoo stuff on them, I assume to ensure their loyalty to Alero. Things come to a head when one of the girls is murdered as a warning to everyone. The girls, including the journalist extraordinaire Oloture, are put on another bus and taken across the border.

The story ends, not with a happy ending, but with more questions. Is there going to be a second part? (I hope not). What exactly is going to happen to Oloture? What was the aim of all of this, and was it worth it? We would like for there to be a happy ending and justice to be meted out as deserving, but unfortunately that is not real life.

As a child, Italy to me was synonymous with sex trafficking, and a lot of Nigerians will say the same. I read a lot growing up, and the tabloids and newspapers were awash with stories of Nigerian women lured to Italy with the promise of a better life, only to find themselves forced into prostitution. There are countless stories of these women stuck abroad due to the high debts they owed to their madams and the fear of the voodoo oaths they had taken. These women would finally come back home used up and disease ridden. As I got older, I slowly forgot about this and Italy become more about fashion, food, and fancy lifestyle, of Milan and Versace, of Tuscany and pasta. For a while I even completely forgot about the sex trafficking. Then a few years ago (maybe even a decade ago), I came across one of the old magazines which had a story about the sex trafficking, and I wondered how I could have forgotten such a thing, and was saddened that this was still going on. In real life, these women do not have happy endings.

I quite enjoyed the film and thought it was well done. I viewed it more as a documentary or expose on the reality of sex trafficking in Nigeria than an actual film which is why I am not too critical on its shortcomings or the ending. The acting was great and everyone delivered their roles perfectly. All in all, I found it tragic and aggravating in equal measure that women have to go through such horrors without any action from the government.

Also super interesting is that it is loosely based on the true life experience of Nigerian journalist, Tobore Ovuorie who went undercover in 2014 to expose the human trafficking trade in Nigeria. The story is truly graphic and horrendous, I shudder to think that this is happening. I am amazed that she risked her life for the story, but also disappointed because I know it was all for nought. That’s the thing about Nigeria, the risks and sacrifices are often for nothing. Just like Oloture, there didn’t seem to be much planning and security behind the women undercover. Tobore and Oloture could have been killed and that seems like an unacceptable level of risk for such a mission.