I overheard two young men in their 20s talking about how stressful February 16 is going to be; all the standing and queuing they will have to do to vote and I just shook my head. These were people who were virtually baying for blood and asking for somebody’s head when they were called lazy bones. Now, if they are not lazy, why will standing for a few hours be such a hard job? If they are not shortsighted, how will investing one day’s sweat in the rest of their lives be such a huge task? If people of my generation yawn, stretch and decide that their ageing bones are too tired to go and queue and vote, we may have a point. We, Nigerians in our 50s and 60s, have had a taste of a good, even great Nigeria.
We were born in public hospitals and attended public schools. Our parents drove brand new cars. My father was a teacher and drove, not a beetle, but a Vauxhall. I attended a primary school where the government of the day provided all our textbooks. Those who attended the university even three years before me spent 50k (when ‘k’ meant kobo not naira) for lunch. We lived in a Nigeria that had a functional, relevant Water Corporation and public water taps that gushed clean goodness. We drank from them on our way from school. Those were the days when the children of the Principal attended the schools where their parents worked and the children of commissioners attended Federal Government Colleges. We had electricity. We had no Boko Haram or killer herdsmen. We lived the life, in a Nigeria we wanted to hand over to our children. Before it all disappeared slowly, steadily, totally.
Today’s youth are very unfortunate. Go ahead, scream positive confessions like ‘its not my portion’. Their realistic life is one of struggle. Of course, they can pray harder and longer than we did and needed to do. Many married Nigerian young couples under 30 or even in their 30s have to save for years so they could have their babies in Ireland or Canada or wherever outside Nigeria. The others are too broke or unemployed to consider marriage even at 35. Those who have jobs have to travel five or six hours daily to and from work. Or how many hours do you think a Lagos young graduate who works in Victoria Island but lives in Itori, after Ifo (both are in Ogun state, by the way) spend on the road daily? The poor guy has to leave home before 5am and probably get home at 10pm. When some of them write their addresses in employment forms, that is when you realize you don’t know anywhere in Lagos.
Home, what is even that? Many of Nigeria’s young people are still living at home with their parents and when they do, it’s in some small set-up called mini-flat or self-contained. These are graduates who attended private universities. Their dreams and destinies are in jeopardy at best, and at worst on hold. Many of them want four children but have to settle for one or two because the system today is skewed against joy-in-full. Nigeria’s poverty arrangement has effected effectively a national family planning policy. So my dear young people, you can decide to stay at home next Saturday and watch wrestling or football matches played in countries that work and by men whose future is assured. You can put your future on hold because of just a few hours discomfort in the sun. Maybe it will even rain.
Just know it’s your choice. Yes, my generation stole a chunk of your future and mismanaged your present but how exactly does being a Twitter or Facebook warrior help your hustle? Are you planning on blaming everybody else but yourself for everything, forever?
..And for the League of Betrayers
They said we should follow them and we did. We have over time accepted them as leaders, men and women we can trust not to lead us astray.
When they gave us food, we ate without even praying. We drank from their cups. We felt that with them in our boats, we will arrive safely at the shore of promise. But what did we find out to our chagrin and dismay? Our tummies are bloated from the poisoned meal. The slow poison from the cups has impaired our thinking faculties. In our sleep, they violated us.
To worsen everything, we found out, in the middle of the sea, that our leaders are the only ones with life jackets. And there is storm, heavy storm. With tears in our eyes, we ask them what to do. They take sips from their brandy bottles as they put on their life jackets. We are soaking wet, our teeth chattering from the cold, fear freezing out our hearts. The storm worsens but the men we followed are taking care of themselves, alone, leaving us to our fate. That is when it finally dawned on us that this was how it has always been. They tell us all would be well if we follow them, that they knew the way through the storm, the wilderness, and the darkest tunnels. We believed them. Now, we found out that they made provision for their flashlights, life jackets and backpacks for themselves. Only theirs.
It reminds me of the story of a maiden who was made to believe she was betrothed to one of the gods of the land. Nneoma suffered the trauma of losing suitor after suitor. Her father and village priestess told her she must never marry anyone because it would incur the wrath of her spirit husband. And true to their words, each suitor died of stomach-related ailment few days after the introduction ceremonies.
Nneoma soon resigned herself to fate. Until a young doctor, home for Christmas, spotted her in all her natural beauty at the village stream.
He fell for her. His parents were beside themselves with pain knowing the enormity of the disaster ahead of their only son but Somna was determined to make Nneoma his wife. Sure, he was scared by the number of men who had died trying to marry Nneoma but he was puzzled too that all the suitors died of relatively the same ailments. Of course, he found it suspicious and incredible that some god somewhere wanted a human wife in this age and time! He decided to discreetly launch an investigation.
Long story short, Nneoma’s father was not really Nneoma’s father. He was the wicked uncle who knew that the last will of his brother said all his properties must revert to his daughter and only child on the day she marries.
So, Uncle Wicked convinced the priestess and poisoned the drink and food of the suitor the day of the introduction ceremony.
On the day Somna went to introduce his family, he refused to eat or drink. He took the food and fed it to his dog which died in the night.
The truth finally came out. The man Nneoma loved and thought would always look out for her was the descendant of Judas Iscariot. He fed five suitors to his greed, sacrificed Nneoma’s joy for his lust for wealth.
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, we must all turn down food and drinks from those who have sacrificed our comfort for their greed. We must shine our eyes and see beyond the sweet words of betrayers. The rest of our national life depends on what we do next Saturday.