SEPARATED (Volume I)
Last night I went to bed angry: angry at what I didn’t even know or understand. I just felt this inundation of negative vibes licking its way through my mind. Emotions that initially seemed afar off, ages away when I was much younger but now rising like a scene from a horror movie. I felt fear, indifference, restlessness, burnt out, hate and any other nasty thing the mind can imagine.
There in my room, perched in one of the dilapidated blocks in Shagari Hall of Obafemi Awolowo University, under the stupid naked light bulb dangling dangerously over my head, I tightened my eyelids to a solemn promise of a better tomorrow. Abi! (Right) that was the least thing I could do. No! It was my right as a human being.
Suddenly, I’m not sure what woke me up. Maybe the sound of some ecumenical club of fellow students raining fire and thunder at the devil or the grating sound of music from some dude that wouldn’t just use his head that people go to bed late. In midst of this confusion I dragged myself and began mulling about the day. My mind reeled indolently like a tech device transmitting data at a slow 0.01 kilobyte. I just stare into space like some zombie in a sci-fi movie under orders. My life has been so rote since I started this damn varsity programme. I just switched on and off like some android in some distant China factory.
Slowly as the blue sky gave way to some vague whiteness, I strode off downstairs from the second floor of block F to fetch water. To my utmost dismay, the spigot and ground below it was as dry as desert. I felt like knocking the imbecilic contraption off, maybe it could also feel the pain bludgeoning my heart.
At this point, I felt a nauseous sensation in my stomach as everything around slowly reeked of putrid decadence. Probably it was the gutter just nearby, wet and green from neglect. I was sick of the hostel I lived as I took in a view of the blocks of flats around me looking like the ghosts of the former majestic self. The walls of hall literally taken apart piece by piece and under the rulership of shrubs and wild life.
Still numb, it seems I momentarily floated back to the room. Of course, on getting back the power holding guys, NEPA had also cut power. I could only just hiss away the pain I felt.
Exasperated I kicked off my rubbery Dunlop slipper, with beads of sweat already limning every part of my body. I thought I might go into a fit, convulsing with mouth full of whitish froth of expletives. I flung myself to bed at 7:30 am! Looking at just about everyone in the room, moving with all purposefulness even though the look on their faces and hollowness of the eye betrayed all the veneespiritedness.
Then without warning, Tope, one of my flatmate rang out in his usual snide manner most Nigerians are familiar with.
‘Se na like dis we go dey dey’ He said with a slur.
This was the detonator. Minutes later the little spark had turned into a full-blown debate. It was something on to the state of the country.
‘Oh Lord! the most toxic of topics’ I thought. To us, the flat mates, it felt like we were bitten by a black mamba.
The state of the country evoked all sorts of emotions. It didn’t need much dressing; people started talking, spewing all manner of invectives at the big guns in the public glass house. Someone painfully remarked on what he thought Buhari should be doing and how the president’s party was faring so far – the ‘CHANGE’ ideology and its woes. The public mood quietly but firmly saying maybe the country was simply doomed, plunged headlong into the ceaselessly gloomy dungeon of maternal mortality, kidnap, malfeasance, terrorism and the blatant state of a ‘failed’ state.
At once, my mind played back all my frustrations so far. The day before, we had been tongue lashed by a lecturer for refusing to pay the one thousand naira ‘offering’ to the Department to purchase a generator to get the printout of the last semester results.
A host of eggheads joined in our moot court. Emotions heightened like in the tempo of the Jason-Bourne blockbuster, knifing through like the head of Robin Hood’s arrow. ‘Boys no waste time at all’
I laid there on the bed amused. Everyone had something to say. However, what fascinated me was at the vestigial part of the debate. To me, it still tastes like the odorous portion of madness.
“See-ee what we need to solve our problem in this country is for us to disintegrate – fair and square” Tope had said. At that point, the room was thrown into an unfamiliar icy silence and for more than a second, it seemed all was frozen in time. It was a dead silence that betrayed the cliché ‘Silence is Golden’
What the heck?! A voice screamed out at the back of your head. I was bewildered at the silent approval of these pundits as if being satiated from free food in an Owambe party.
For me I felt threatened at once. My childhood… Guilt… and If my senses perceived correctly, I could see the same fate written over these faces caught in the passion of the debate. The convictions of Tope trumpeted resoundingly in our brains. And like a convicted criminal, our sins! All of us in the room that day were as guilty as hell. The effect of which sent a whirling, hurricane – like sensation down beneath my gut like a sucker punch.
SEPARATED (Volume II)
‘We are all in one deep shit. A good shit depending on how you see it.’ I thought to myself.
I’m Yoruba. I’m in deeply love with an Igbo girl and my best buddy Rika, a Northerner. From the early 80s, growing up in my neighborhood had always an awesome experience. Me and my friends like daisies in their assorted colours, in all manner of ethnicities. I learnt the ‘normal’ way of life, how we ate, we talked…dressed. I learnt to do acrobatics, played hard and worked harder under the watchful eyes of all my fathers and mothers. They loved us and showed in no small way.
I ate Ofe nsala/Akpu; drank Zobo and Kunu from my next door neighbours while my friends participated in the popular Lagos Owambe parties. We attended each other’s birthday parties, quarreled sometimes but made up pretty soon.
I made myself an oath to cherish all of these memories till my dying breath even in the face of the present day threats perpetuated by political and religious demagogues.
I can swear I didn’t even know the difference between the disparate religions in Nigeria because fundamentally it didn’t really matter. Life was a balance sort.
And so like a ram backing up and charging on for a fight, I felt stirred like a volcanic mountain suddenly awoken from extinction. I didn’t intend to be polemicist, or any other those stuff but in the heat of the moment I started off like reading from an epistolary piece:
‘As they say – there are indeed many sides to the truth: your way and surely, the version of truth you now hold on to chauvinistically was probably handed down to you by your parents, society or some crazy cabal from your village that feels bigotry is an eternal principle. Believing that kind of cow dung!’
‘But let me ask you Tope, do you really think we are better off going our separate ways?” I intoned. Heads quickly turned in my direction. I thought the throng of people now gathered with quizzical faces felt a mixture of surprise and shock (Of course, I wasn’t given to confrontation much less a debate of this magnitude).
‘We all are students of history. You remember Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Germany, and Korea?’
‘Frankly and arguably, I don’t think we can fare much better. In short, our destinies are intertwined even beyond the formal establishment of colonies. We are born to have something to do with each other – The eruditeness of the West; the business acumen of the Igbo man, and the sincerity of the Northerners. We are indeed an industrious, progressive people. Without sounding overbearing and over–simplistic, I think instead of this cop–out mentality of secession: the ugly cacophonous tune of breaking away; we need to look inwards. Our predicament is staring at us like the hydra – headed dragon in the legend of Hercules, snarling and growling at us.’
‘Let’s face it, do we not know our problem?’ I asked rhetorically in momentarily oration.
‘We know it is not that Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa are innately evil or that matter-of-factly, we are even good in ourselves. In our imperfections, we all have that proclivity to err and to love. It is indeed what makes us human.’
‘We are aware there are some of us are hell-bent on wielding their ‘powers’, so they form cabals, leading all manner of religious bigotry. We know there are amongst us – sowing seeds of discordance and hatred. They target our fear, our frustration, our de-sensitivity to the appalling acts of evil and easily giving up attitude.’
‘They are the ones that needs to be weeded out and held accountable for their acts of madness. The rest of what we face is just what I call the vicissitudes of being a Homosapien in 21st planet earth. We are indeed not alone.’
I stopped now, breathing hard as cold sweat streaked my dark skin. For the first time I felt victorious for this morning as my flat mates stood there motionless giving me exclamatory ‘wows’ amidst dilated pupils.
At 9:03 am, the panoramic view of my room on block F couldn’t have been more alluring and picturesque. The gloominess I’d felt earlier gave way to a warmer mood. I was ready for the day. It was a bright sunny Saturday morning, under the crystal clear Ile–Ife sky, in the Shagari Hall.
The huge mountain overlooking the entire landscape of the school took a life of its own. Birds chirping, trees dancing and swaying left – right. Even the softly blowing wind seems in agreement with the course of the day.
Across the field (east side of the hall), Lekan enjoying a vigorous soccer march with Akwudike and George. I thought vaguely “I’d love a chance at the game of chess with Mustapha” the hall chess champ.
I thought of my friend, Femi and what he said about his plans for Nneka, his girlfriend getting married someday soon and have kids with this beautiful, drop – dead Igbo chic. Though I’m tempted to think currently he likes her for her South Eastern delectable dishes.
I’ve seen people go the extra mile to help people in this hall not withstanding their ethnicities. Translated to a parallel universe of space and time. If I was a preacher man, I would let my message ring out more, saying:
We are the future: the last hope of resurrection and restoration to the ideal Nigeria we’d love to see…so let’s stand up…stand up for your right – your inalienable right to life, to happiness and the pursuit of happiness. Tear off the sable and dirge – like vibes that we are barraged by in the dailies. Embrace the ode of our National prosperity. The true music we long to hear. The drum beat of the Nigerian pride.
written: Mayowa Shobo
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