Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Girl Whisperer: Loving Betty Irabor

BY WOLE OGUNTOKUN

THE Whisperer, while growing up in Lagos, had an interest in everything television. It didn’t matter if they were commercials or the news or Hammer House of Horror or Tales of the unexpected.
All were watched with equal fervour and his ability to speak the English language even passably, came from listening to those giants, Sienne All Well-Brown, Ruth Benamasia, Taiwo Ajai and a host of others read the Nigerian Television Network news, as much as it came from reading books.
Yes, you could let your child listen to Nigerian news, not just CNN and Sky, that was how good the television fare was in those days.
To be fair, I think the NTA Network news still meets that standard even if pseudo-affluence in the shape of cable television does not allow The Whisperer watch the news as much as he used to.
In the midst of all the amazing Nigerian presenters in those days, there was a man who looked like the kind of person you would want as an older brother and a friend. His name? Soni Irabor.
And for many years, the posse of Yinka Craig, Soni Irabor, Patrick Oke, Danladi Bako, Sadiq Daba and a few others easily straddled the world of male presenting.
Then out of the blue, at least for the young man who would become a writer who would become The Whisperer came a woman known as Betty Irabor, who declared an interest in publications.
She was wife to Soni, my favourite ‘brother’ whom I had never met, and so I paid attention to her activities while asking myself at the same time if she was good enough to be my “brother’s” wife. Yeah, The Whisperer was very protective of Soni Irabor from afar in those days.
She pushed into an area that was not easily negotiable, a la the world of publishing and seemed determined to make her mark there but our business here today is with the thrust of her Pink Ball which she started in 2005.
For those who only have a hazy idea of what a Pink Ball might be, it is some manner of social gathering created by Betty Irabor, which is in aid of breast cancer work and awareness.

AN admirer once described this column as a light-hearted one written for females. There was nothing derogatory about that statement but The Whisperer would prefer to think it a column which presents major life-affecting issues in a manner which will make you smile as you read it. Today, however, I am not certain if the topic in issue can be couched in simple terms.
I flipped through a magazine few days ago and saw pictures of beautiful women dressed in variances of pink at the ball (by now you must have realised The Whisperer is an ardent and unabashed admirer of the female form)
As I looked at still-shots of them strutting across red carpets and staring life confidently in the face, it dawned on me what Ms. Irabor and her guests were really doing, no matter how glamorous, chic and ├╝ber-cool they appeared.
It was not just about the personalities there or the ex-governor who came as a mystery guest and played the saxophone.
All these people were bringing the truth about life, the tragedies and the victories of the world we live in, into private living rooms, into discussions in social gatherings, into quiet moments in otherwise unreachable bathrooms, into minds that could not have been reached before.

BREAST Cancer is a real and present danger to every female (even males have been known to be affected by it) and there is a tendency for us all to try to wish things away, to pretend it cannot happen to us or to our friends or to our family.
But it can happen and being prepared to stop it before it becomes life threatening is the key to peace of mind in the future.
A few weeks before I read the magazine, I stood with the female members of my cast before our weekly drama presentations talking about sundry matters and the subject of “real age” came up.
Apparently, there is your chronological age and then your ‘real age’. Your real age increases when you do not take preventive actions like examinations to determine the state of your health. I asked if any of these girls had ever had an examination for cancer.
None had, not even the savviest of the lot. It is essential that you listen to The Whisperer. You must pay attention to your health for your own sakes and for the sakes of those you love and those whom love you.
I shall go to the brass tacks – do not feel a lump in your breast while taking a bath and pretend it is nothing. Seek medical attention immediately. Please.
There are other forms of cancer humans are susceptible to and the advice I give females today is to check for everything.
The issue of health can be a depressing one many-a-time, but those who love us will love us and by God’s grace, nothing we cannot handle will come our way.
It was The Whisperer’s birthday on Wednesday and he was inundated with messages on facebook, by phone and by sms and it made him feel like a child again, like he had been tele-ported back to the days when one had friends, who truly cared, days without guile, without the calculations that inadvertently come with ‘growing up’.
The Whisperer says ‘thank you’ to all those who reached out from across the world, and his heart will forever be glad for friends like these.
People will leave their marks on the sands of time, in history, in life; by the things they do and are consistent at.
Betty Irabor, her friends, her collaborators, her supporters, those who get up from the comfort of their homes, wear pink and step out to give the war against cancer a united front continue to etch their names in indelible ink.
Someday, the war against this enemy will be won. But at this point, we cannot be weary. Leave no woman behind.
laspapi@yahoo.com

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