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Visions of the Alfa Talakawa, from the Proletariat...Nigeria, as I see it

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THE LOTUS-EATERS


“…It is, therefore, with a brave heart, with confident hope, and with
faith in my unalterable destiny, that I go from this twilight into
the darkness, unshaken in my trust in the Providence of God that a
glorious dawn will come on the morrow…”

-Chief Obafemi Awolowo before the High Court before

Being sentenced for Treasonable Felony in September

11, 1963


If in the words of the Late Chief Awolowo, 1963 was a shift from twilight to darkness, I really wonder what I would describe some Forty-Seven years after.

The Pogrom in Jos, the graduation from Bows, Arrows and Daggers to guns and bombs that conveniently miss out a particular group, the irrepressible Hydra Headed Boko Haram whose strength, contrary to the norm spiked since their leader Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf was allegedly killed-in-transit, the emergence and spread of ransom demanding kidnappers all over the Country all serve as portent of even darker days to come.

The killings in Jos conveniently took a new dimension few months to the polls, about the time voters’ registration is set to commence, and up till now, there is a criminal silence on the part of the Government. Backtrack to February 1999, where the PDP convention took place in Jos, would such a thing have happened? The thanks that Jos gets for playing a significant role in the formation of Nigerian Democracy (however flawed it is) is the incessant deliberate attempt to wipe out its populace!

Jos is not a stranger to hosting Political Conventions, as a matter of fact. A brief read into Nigerian archives (the few ones you can find) points clearly that conventions have been held in this town since Nigerian Independence; that is actually beside the point.

What hurts is the pervading numbness of Nigerians in the face of an imminent implosion that threatens to consume everything in its way!

The problem with Jos is not the Jasawan (Hausa settlers) nor the native Anaguta, Berom and Afizere, it is not the Dan Fulanis nor of those giving guns to the Dan Fulani; APATHY is the problem!

Apathy on the part of the Islamic Clerics who go on air to condemn the violence, but do NOTHING to identify with the people in distress, apathy on the part of even the Christian Association of Nigeria who are ‘afraid to say anything to heat up the polity’ but leave gory pictures for website circulation, apathy on the people who never follow up the trial of the arrested culprits to ensure a thorough investigation is done. We don’t care, do we?


I had my Secondary education in Jos and I recall one incident out of many. Being a first timer in a Boarding School, an older relative, who was a class ahead of me, was placed in charge of my finances by my Mum. The ‘friend’ squandered my allowance and by the time the Term was over, I had nothing left. Either the School Authorities envisaged it or something; Junior Secondary I students were meant to go with the first Flight from Jos to Lagos.

By the time we got to the airport, both my flight ticket (which we usually submitted to the School Authorities upon resumption) and my boarding pass were ready, and I was good to go, but for one snag: I had to pay a Five (5) Naira airport tax (those were the days a Los-Jos-Los Return Ticket cost only Ninety Six (96) Naira)! I had no money left, but a combination of ego and stupidity made me tender my ticket for screening (not as if I really had a choice), the dude placed the Five Naira stamp on my ticket and I turned mute when I was meant to pay. Eventually someone advised I talk to the authorities and I walked up to the Station Manager of the Jos Airport who in turn referred me to the Commercial Manager.

Over two decades after, I still recall the man’s name and I am quite certain I’d pick him from a crowd till date. Mr. Sidi Abani (that’s his name) just took one look at me and the first word that came out of his mouth is ‘You are hungry’ he took me to the Staff Canteen, made sure I had a plate of pounded yam, left me in his office while he goes out to sort the problem, and ensured I got the free Airforce C-130 Plane which had limited slots for Command Secondary School Students and involved a lot of scramble.

He assigned an office assistant to carry my heavy box and I did not have to scramble. I never got to thank him enough, but I am so sure there are countless others this man went out on a limb for.


What’s the point of the story? I just painted a picture of what Jos used to be. All the man saw was a poor pre-teen in need of help, not some ‘ngbati-ngbati infidel’ (Ngbati-ngbati is a derisive term used to address those of Yoruba extraction; adapted from the penchant of the Yoruba for starting sentences with ‘It was when (Nigbati)….’ ).

Fast forward to today; If Soldiers deployed to protect citizens could look on in the face of carnage, it is about time to realize how low we have stooped as a people.

According to Wikipedia, In Greek mythology, the lotus-eaters were a race of people from an island near North Africa dominated by lotus plants. These plants provided the primary food of the island and were narcotic, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.

It unnerves me that Africa was mentioned in the myth; equally unnerving is the mention of ‘narcotic’ and ‘apathy’ in one sentence.

I look at the Nigerian situation and many times, I wonder if there isn’t some Voodoo expert who has his pins stuck in Nigerian (i)dol(l)s.

Pray, tell, what is your reaction when you hear reports of the incessant wastage of lives all across the nation? I have a maxim ‘A Corpse is a Corpse till that Corpse was your Pops’ .

At the just concluded PDP Primaries, a moment of silence was held for ‘Members of our great Party’ and there was not a single mention of Jos! Except as a subliminal.............To Be Continued