LOUD WHISPERS: The Old Woman’s Goat

I am writing late this week not only because I have been busy on my husband’s campaign trail,  but because I have been battling a nasty cold. It started with a sore throat on Saturday afternoon.  By Sunday I could barely talk, and it did not help that I had scores of visitors to attend to. My birthday is June 11th, and it coincided with the launch of the public phase of Dr Kayode Fayemi’s (JKF) gubernatorial  campaign. There was a brief thanksgiving service at 7.30am at our country home in Isan-Ekiti, followed by a quick breakfast. Take off time had been set for 8.30am. I assumed JKF (JK to me) would still have to receive a visitor or two before leaving. That would give me time to have breakfast. No such luck. JK walked to the car at exactly 8.30am and so I had to forget about breakfast. Which also meant I could not take my Day Nurse tablets and Vitamin C. When I started to grumble about having to take off, JK laughed and said he could not believe I of all people was complainimg about departing right on schedule, knowing how fastidious I am about being on time. I knew he was right but it did not stop me from feeling sorry for myself.
After the fourth campaign stop (out of 11 for the day) my very thoughtful assistant, Grace, bought us some fresh, boiled corn. I questioned the wisdom of eating boiled corn bought from the roadside for half a second, and then my hunger won hands down. I love campaigning, but it can be very stressful especially when you are doing community visits.  As you enter each community, the first stop is the palace to pay homage to the traditional ruler.  The length of the palace visits depends on the status of the ruler and the amount of preparation the hosts have put into the visit. At every stop we were met by crowds of enthusiastic supporters, but I could not help but notice that a lot of the young people got increasingly unruly as the day went by. One of the senior party people standing next to me wondered what was in a bottle a couple of young men were passing around. I don’t know what it was, but judging from their behaviour, it was not Ginger Ale.

By the time we got to the 7th stop, everything was a blur and I was just going through the motions. Then something unusual happened. We were at Ilasa-Ekiti, a community in Ekiti East Local Government. The usual speeches had been made and just as we were about to leave the stage, the party Chairman of the local government told us he had a surprise. It turned out to be an elderly woman who had been a beneficiary of the first ever Social Security Scheme for the elderly that JKF started during his first term as Governor, 2010-2014. This old woman had managed to save her monthly allowance of N5,000 to buy two goats for rearing. Years later, she owns at least 35 goats. Whenever she needs money she sells off one of her goats, which means she has a steady source of income.
When she heard that her benefactor JKF would be in town, she insisted on presenting him with a gift of one of her goats. We all stood transfixed as the old woman prayed for JKF and thanked him for his kindness to the elderly. I had tears in my eyes and so much joy in my heart. All of a sudden, I was no longer sniffling because of my cold, and my headache was gone. My body no longer ached. I felt such a warm glow, a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude that after all these years, the story of what JKF accomplished in Ekiti during his first term was being told, not through the mouths of paid spin doctors and propagandists but by ordinary people who benefited directly.  I could not have wished for a more pleasant birthday gift. The small, bleating goat that the old lady presented symbolised the meaning of impacting on people’s lives, sometimes in ways that are hard to quantify.  JKF has been criticised for being ‘stingy’, ‘unwilling to spend money freely’, ‘too policy oriented’ and ‘disconnected from the grassroots’. People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. In times when people are more concerned about the razzle dazzle of public service, with endless populist shenanigans as the yardstick for political success, the measured approach to sustainable development is written off as a hard sell and a sure way to electoral failure.  I thought back to one day when I was touring markets in Ekiti in 2013.

A group of vegetable sellers at a market in Ikerre-Ekiti called out to me and said, ‘Erelu, see what we did with the money you gave us last year’. The previous year I had given micro credit grants to various women’s groups in all the local governments. I was aware that in a few local governments the women had shared the money amongst themselves without putting any of it into a savings scheme. I was so delighted that not only did I buy every vegetable bunch in sight, I asked them to come for another grant.  On Monday June 11th, as I thought about what it meant to turn 55, I was deeply gratified to note that every now and then, no matter how long it takes the right story will be told by the right people. I am so pleased that there are women like the old lady from Ilasa-Ekiti who can now lead lives of dignity because the right policy decision was made. Unfortunately, the scheme was cancelled in 2014 when a new government came in.
I thank the hundreds of friends and family members from around the world who sent warm birthday wishes. I am not sure I can respond to the question I get asked all the time – ‘what is the secret to your unlined face at your age’? I can however try:
Be grateful for each new day. You did well yesterday, you will do better today
There is enough ugliness and nastiness in the world. Do something nice for a stranger when you have the opportunity
You can’t go through life without some people hating your guts. It is their problem, not yours
Forgive and ask for forgiveness when necessary
Read any and everything
Dance as if you have won the lottery
Money is a great friend and a lethal enemy. Use it wisely.

Now let me go and drink some more honey, lemon and ginger. Have a great week.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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11 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Old Woman’s Goat

  1. Femi Diipo June 15, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Sorry about the cold ma’am, it seems this is the season for it; it’s been going around quite much lately. Truly, I can imagine the joy of hearing and seeing the fruits of your good deeds in manifestation especially from an unexpected source. Keep up the good work ma’am and posterity all all Ekiti people will thank you for it. Kudos

  2. Dom Dom June 15, 2018 at 12:45 am

    What a wonderful story. There is no good deed that is wasted in life and sometimes the kind of joy one gets from been kind and helpful to helpless people cannot be bought. Something our politicians need to learn. Keep up the good work and heavens will surely reward you

  3. Olakunle Olajide June 17, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Wow! Reading this just brought out some smiles..The little things we do actually matters, just do them for the good of others and not for yourself. You just don’t know the effect you are having in someone’s life.
    I think you got a befitting birthday gift ma’am and i hope you are very much better. I for one can relate how cold and catarrh can be so sickening.

  4. omilola Adeleke. June 17, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    I know a lot of people that benefited from the scheme back then, the volunteers and scholarships for students. I know he will win, I know Ekiti people have learnt their lessons. Please, take care of yourself ma. We need out First Lady to be hale and hearty.

  5. Victor Udoh June 17, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    I can relate with how hectic campaign trails can be. I was on a team back then with a south-south governor. I broke down after the whole thing. Well done mama. Please take care of yourself and rest well. You don’t have to follow JKF everytime o. I certain he will win the state because the track records are there already. I know the people will vote him in and he will rebrand Ekiti again.

  6. Shawn Daniels June 17, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    I saw some of the clips online and I watched the video on youtube. My heart sank with joy when I saw the testimony. This is the path of building your tent and coming to lie in it. I don’t know what the people need that they haven’t seen even though I know how greedy our people can be and that’s why we are where we are right now. If they will permit common sense and futuristic reasoning, I see no reason why anyone won’t vote for JKF. No reasons whatsoever. Please, take your medications and do rest well ma. Well done!

  7. Laura Dameson June 17, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    This is so unique. Once again, Happy Birthday.I can imagine the joy of that woman not only of the woman but her children too. I am sure that woman’s kids aren’t in the state but they don’t have to worry about how she is faring because she is financially independent. Even the other women too, the joy of having something to do is greater than anything. God bless you and your husband. This Election is Victory by his grace! We shall all celebrate!

  8. Kenny June 19, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Woah. This is such a beautiful piece. You are blessed ma .
    GOD BLESS that old woman .
    One thing I learnt. The true story will always be told by the right people. No matter how long it takes.

  9. DSEED June 20, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    What else will you have wished for, for a birthday gift. Its always good to show a heart of gratitude no matter what. The old woman did just great for doing that. And also we should all also keep this in mind that whatsoever we do now is a seed that we will surely reap in future.

  10. Samuel June 21, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Such is life.. There is karma somewhere for the good and the bad. Lesson is to always do good no matter how little.
    Thank you for this inspiration.

  11. Eric Onuoha June 29, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    First I will say Happy birthday to you Ma. A very good gesture on your part helping those women. The good thing is that those women traded with what they were given and gained more. It reminds me of a story in the Bible. Thank you for sharing vital lessons.


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