“Eru o b’omo Oloun”.
Indoctrination perhaps, but whatever it was, it must have been done subconsciously.
I want to believe that Buraimoh and his wife did not try to brainwash us all and make us drink it all in, to only believe everything our parents believed in, especially in matters of faith.
But here I was, a precocious toddler; I had soaked up everything I heard around me about God, the devil, fear, the Christian’s privileged access to a fear-free life, and I simply came to that faith-based conclusion that “A child of God need not fear”, or better still, “A child of God is impervious to dark and terribly frightful things” Eru o b’omo Oloun!
I was about three years old when I made that statement.
At this time in our family life, we lived in a fairly big household in Iwo, an ancient Yoruba town in Western Nigeria. They say that Iwo is about 40 kilometers (as the crow flies) to Ibadan, where I was born, but I am pretty convinced crows don’t fly in straight lines – but then, you get the idea.
In the household were my parents and my two older siblings; my dad’s 12-year old half-sister whom he had somewhat adopted since their father died when she was barely three; then a couple of uncles who had a revolving door policy through our (and their) home; and finally my mum’s sister and her three teenage children. My older siblings were aged five and six, so here I was, the youngest in this fairly large household, and I got teased a lot, especially by the youngsters between ages 10 and 20. They were the largest demography anyway, and they were at that time in every teenager’s life when they really have a need to pick on someone much younger and have some fun at the little one’s expense.
But they didn’t always bargain for the responses I gave them.
On this particular day, there was no electricity, and in my mind’s eye I see that it was early evening. I picture the whole household seated in the living room, or out by the verandah, swapping stories of the different activities of the day. My aunt had a small kiosk right outside the house where she sold every-day items, and made a tidy profit. I spent most of my waking hours with her at that age. I spent my non-waking hours sleeping in her room as well. I severely fought anyone who suggested that my cousins (or anyone else for that matter) were my Aunt’s children. As far as I was concerned, she was mine alone to call Mummy Agba.
Anyway, on this fateful evening, on those quiet nights before power generators made their noisy way to every household, candles held a special place in our daily lives. Candles, kerosene-lanterns and the rare gas lantern. Unfortunately, I was too young to hold any of those.
My cousins needed to get something from inside the house, the pitch dark house, and they simply just told me- the three-year-old – to go get it for them. I must have stood there a while to contemplate the situation and decide a sensible approach to this request from an older relation, a request that every child in Africa knows is not really negotiable. It is more of a command actually. But knowing my cousins and their propensity for mischief, it must have been not only a simple errand, but a setup to see what “Aayun” would come up with this time. Not long before then, I had run around the house announcing to everyone that I now knew how to pronounce my name. Aanu had previously been pronounced as Aayun by my toddler tongue, and they had their fun with that.
So I knew I would not let them laugh at me this time. I knew what I was going to have to do.
I knew I had to either go into that pitch darkness, or be unable to live it down. From somewhere deep inside me; from a conviction I wasn’t aware was there, I knew I was capable of going in and coming out fine, so I simply said to everyone’s hearing “Eru o b’omo Oloun”. They were surprised, of course. Surprised that I could draw that conclusion by myself…
I embarked on my all-important mission, with my heart in my mouth all through that trip, I retrieved whatever it was I needed to get for my now very-impressed cousins, and made my way back to sit on the laps of their mum, my favorite Aunt.
Many years have come and gone. And the passage of time has not diminished that truth. But sometimes, experiences make us think there’s something to be afraid of in life. But thank God for my three-year-old self that keeps reminding me… Eru o b’omo Oloun.
Even if you have your heart in your mouth all through the mission. Even if you start hearing voices from the dark, telling you you’re going down, and you won’t make it back to base, you can stay focused on the mission.
Sometimes you have to close your eyes, and feel your way through the dark.
Sometimes you have to trust that your heart knows what your head can’t handle.
Sometimes you have to let faith lead the way.
I love this saying I heard from Charles Capps a few years ago.
“Fear knocked on the door, faith opened it, and there was no-one there” Ha!
An excerpt from my upcoming book “Before my life begins”