I am in the middle of the road. At a crossroad actually. At my back is a speeding Volkswagen and in my front comes a biker overtaking a Hilux van. People are running across the road — too busy with vehicles that one doesn’t look out for Zebra crossing. Does this place need a traffic light? Are you thinking that? Don’t think that.
I am in the middle of the road but I suddenly stop running across to the other side of the road. Something is not holding me from running. Something is not dragging me — something — someone in my head says stop. I begin to retrace my steps to face my back and enjoy the scene of the speeding Volkswagen. I smile. My hands in my pockets.
Someone drags me by the hand. Someone drags me out screaming. Are you mad? Tell, don’t you fancy your life? What could you have been thinking? Death. No. I wasn’t thinking of death. I was exploring my freedom. Is standing in the middle of the road waiting for a vehicle to hit one down not one of their rights? I never thought of death. Why did you think that?
A man on the bus with me from Abakaliki to Onitsha says that this country is shit. A hearse. A corpse. Death. A noose. A hangman — an executioner and an open grave. He says he wishes to be from Mars. He wishes to be gone and far gone from this country. He screams. Perhaps, he doesn’t know I am shaken now. He spits fire. His fire is raging. His rage a dark cloud — sign of a rainfall. A rain all over me — smelling. Who doesn’t know that much of talk causes an influx of raining saliva? The rain is falling and I am shaking.
History is a subject in school that I never took, but I read history books. I read history with one eye closed and the other open. My legs crossed and my mind jumping like a man doing a horse’s dance. Look at that, are these people dumb? Why did that happen? Could you have allowed the junta to crush your mother while still giving birth to you? Doesn’t make sense. Who thinks that? I am not writing about my country. I can’t. It takes people with hearts like a stone to write the story of such a country as this without freezing. It takes people with such heart to freeze and be unfrozen. I can’t think of that.
We have got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain — Nigeria and Afghanistan — possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world. David Cameron, former prime minister of United Kingdom, was caught on footage chatting with the queen at the Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth was listening with sheer interest and David laughed like someone at their first prom. Vanguard Nigeria took to figures to reveal why David made the comment.
Afghanistan was ranked 167, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea, in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perception index. Nigeria was at 136.
Nigerians reacted. My Twitter handle caught fire. And the fire became a smoke and the smoke turned to another fire. Nigerians are waiting for the President to react.
The Prime Minister must be looking at an old snapshot of Nigeria. Things are changing. That, we believe…
President Buhari said.1 Some Nigerians clapped because they believe he is the saviour, the redeemer and the reformer. Nigerians believe in him and just like the symbol of liberty, the president is the symbol of war against indiscipline.2 But I can’t talk about my country. I am talking about Nigeria — I am talking about the world — how to de-map a country. This is an art — an art allures. It uses the story of one to tell a whole, but who, what, where else is fantastically corrupt?
Someone drags me to a safe place and starts talking to me about hope. He says that nothing on earth should make one think of taking his life. You have no right to kill yourself. He says and I smile. He frowns. I stop smiling. A tear. I am tearing apart inside. A tear. A tear rolling down my right cheek. But while I was on the road, I never thought of death — suicide. I thought of living. Surviving. But someone in my head said to stop and enjoy art — stop, appreciate art — can’t you see the beauty of that Volkswagen? The speed, almost ghostly. Almost like the wind. Can you see that? The voice said. I only wanted to take a look before the hand dragged me out forcefully. Is it not one’s right to appreciate?
I like reading history books but when I get to a place that has the map of a country — Nigeria on it, I stop, take a deep breath, pull a razor, and started learning how to cut. How to cut without tearing — cut without bleeding — without feeling pains. Without spoiling the entire text. Am I cutting myself? Does the country hurt much? Why are you crying?
The man on the keke-napep3 says I look like someone he knows, perhaps, he has seen my twin somewhere — I have no twin and the person I look like is an elderly man who is from my village because I just finished answering a call in my dialect. The man you look like is my very good friend. We fought in the war. I remember how we stole things from people’s farms to eat when hunger struck we the Biafrans. You look like him. True. You speak like him. I want to punch him real hard in his face to shut his running mouth. I want to scream at the top of my voice for him to stop. Am I hurting? Is history hurting? Why the tear? Are you tearing?! A tear. Another tear rolling down my left cheek but he keeps talking.
I have a headache.
Nigeria is broke, pure and simple. Lai Mohammed4 — minister of Information and Culture said, and the World heard it. They watched him drag his sagging mouth around the x-axis looking for y that was no place near. Lawd?! Did we hear that? His eyeglasses that have the exact shape of binoculars, loose on his nose and his hands trying to drive home his point: all point at something in the background. Recession? But we have got enough loot recovered from previous administration. He talked. The world heard and we giggled.
I run my hands on the map of my/our/your country and it pricks me. Where does it hurt? I let out a cry. After a wry. A why. A cry and a why together.
Prices of things in the market have changed overtime. The naira wakes everyday to depreciate against the dollar and itself. Naira is a currency. It is no longer a hope—giving currency. [Naira] is no currency — argues a buyer in the market trying to buy denim jeans. He looks at the jean properly as if there is a hole somewhere hiding — waiting for the buyer to buy and leave and then expose itself at home. But I got this same quality two thousand five last year. The buyer says, this time facing me. I nod. We nod and he says, you see what this country is turning into. I am not smiling — wondering whether what he said is a question or a remark. Does he need an answer? Is he expecting an answer? Why is my mouth not moving? He pays three thousand four hundred naira after much begging and leaves talking to himself. He keeps talking. He is shouting. Is he mad? Are we not going mad?
God will be crucified today. He’s got an entire nation signing petitions to him.
At which point does water on fire reach before it becomes hot — before it becomes boiled water? About dot com answers:
The boiling point of water is 100°C or 212° F at 1 atmosphere of pressure (sea level).
However, the value is not a constant. The boiling point of water depends on the atmospheric pressure, which changes according to elevation. The boiling point of water is 100°C or 212° F at 1 atmosphere of pressure (sea level), but water boils at a lower temperature as you gain altitude (e.g., on a mountain) and boils at a higher temperature if you increase atmospheric pressure (lived below sea level).
Another factor that can facilitate water to boil faster or slower is dirt. The map of the country in my history book is not on the mountain. It is close to an ocean and the Sahara desert. So, the temperature is beyond sea level and desert level — the heat is strong. The heat is wind. The wind is a killer maniac, thus, the country in my history book has reached its boiling point and the president comes to give the people hope. He comes to still the water. He has the right word to say. He always has: You have the past administration to blame for your woes. You don’t blame me. I am only restructuring. He blames.
The Map in the pages of my history book bleeds. Cries out in pain. Did they say corruption? Corruption. We are fighting it fantastically — this is always or close to the headlines.
God is crucified today. He’s got a lot of petitions — sickening, all. Lai Mohammed, being the perfect man he is for all situations, comes to save God.
Well, I can tell you today that corruption is already fighting back, and it is fighting hard and dirty. He says and I forget where I was before the razor started cutting me. Does it hurt?
I am given a butt-kick to go home and never think of killing myself. I should always tell God my problems. He is all-solving — he sure has an answer to what you are thinking; the hand that dragged me out from the road quips. I shake my head and start walking to the bus stop where I would get a bus back to school.
God, are you there? Are you listening?
No sound. No whirlwind. No chariots running down from heaven. No angels whispering. No Mary calling me son. No Elders singing hymns to calm my nerves. Heaven seems to be too far to hear or feel or hear these.
Hey God, are you there?
The woman I am just meeting for the first time asks me the naira equivalent of dollar.
Four hundred and seventy five naira. I say.
Four seven five.
Hmm. God will save us.
She knows what I want to ask. Like most people of her age, she has become one with the spirit world — she can see and hear things others can’t hear or see.
My son needs to be operated on. He’s got a tumour and the Teaching Hospital says we need to travel to either Germany or India for the surgery to be successful.
They can’t do it here, you mean?
Yes. And the cost from what you just told me is not far fetched.
In millions I believe.
Your son will be okay. God won’t let anything happen to him. Miracles happen, don’t you believe?
Voice changes. I do. I believe.
God is crucified today. Is there not much in his hands already? Who calls, who believes, who hopes?
Hey, God, are you there?
All is well. All will be alright. Change comes so slow, but God has either gone on vacation or he has been crucified.
But then, in the Bible, God warns us to be mindful of those that preach change5 —Proverbs 24:21—22: My son, [reverently] fear the lord and the king and do not associate with those who are given to change [of allegiance, and are revolutionary],
For their calamity shall rise suddenly, and who knows the punishment and ruin which both [the Lord and the king] will bring upon?
Hey, God, are you there?
The man at Yaba, Lagos state tries crucifying God with his demands. His demands are containers containing other containers. His demands are a mountain and it is an obstacle that blinds…
Hey, God, are you there?
The man at Yaba jumps off from that tall building — is it a mall? How did he get there? Can you see his head shattered on the ground? Oh my, did you see his green blood and that whitish sorta thing? Did you — did you?
God, no. Wait. Are you there?
You’ve already seen the body of the student at University of Nigeria Nsukka dangling from his roof. God, they say he is in his final year of study but owes a lot of money he may not be able to pay even after getting a job. A job? He’s not certain of getting one. People before him are not yet working. How dare he dream of getting a work? God, wait. Did you hear that? They said it.
God, remember that woman who drank insecticide because her purse is the same thing as void and her creditors are already piling up to collect what she has left of life. You remember? They say it’s insanity. How does one think of that? Kill yourself? Fuck it. Where there is life, hope survives. They said it, but God you know this ain’t true. It is another lie to keep us all to continue suffering — accepting all that is given to us.
God is crucified today. No, wait. God, don’t die yet.
Two women in the month of October, 2016, traded their children for food in the market. They said hunger is a pretty looking bottomless pit that caught their attention that they never knew when they fell in. And they were dying. So, they sold. Wait, God, listen. Did you know what people say?
God, are you there?
A man in my village just jumped into a flooded river to run away from the mob chasing him for stealing some food in the market. We’ve not seen him, perhaps; he is now one with the river.
There is a rumour of a seven year old boy burnt to death in Ibadan or Lagos for stealing a cup of garri. How do you want to shout? Which do you shout first — burnt, or seven?
God please, don’t go yet. Don’t die yet. No vacation yet. Who do we believe in for our survival?
The president is talking, pal, look at his clean glimmering shaven face. Don’t you like his kaftan? He wears it better. He said he has got an ear problem and travelled to UK to go treat himself — that best hospital there — fine hospital with fine services. Now, he’s back. Back for real. He says he understands our/your/my plight – he reads the dailies and sympathises with us. But know, people — your problems are what the passed administration caused — how can I ever stop blaming them?
Blame them too.
I am not writing about my country. I am writing my story — myself — tearing. It takes a heart strong as a stone to bleed out words about a shattering/battered nation without getting drowned in depression and death. So, I am writing me — I am drawing a map — I am tearing a map — I am de-mapping.
I have a headache.
I am in the class staring at the map in my history book and wonder what sort of people do not learn from history. How do you tell your children that the competent man that took office in the ’90s through the barrel of gun can rule you democratically and with sympathy? The prince is too righteous to feel what you feel as far as it doesn’t make him bow. Machiavelli was right when he wrote that a hungry poor people cannot revolt. Nigeria is broke. Mohammed’s voice echoes.
My history book starts with how the country was brought together and how the people struggled for independence and how the nationalists became leaders and how they became corrupt and the junta came to save the country and how the country started tearing apart — ethnic tensions and how the war started and how Gowon said there was neither a Victor nor a Loser and how he made the supposedly losers humble by making their currency equals to nothing in naira and how the people started believing and living and how another junta came and suspended the constitution and became a tyrant and looted and later died for this democracy we enjoy now to come to us.
My history book starts with profiles. Each leader. Each figure. Each hero. Each villain. All. A profile.
How do you write about something — someone?
Solomon Dalong is the sports minister of Nigeria. He represents everything sports. He talks sports but if I were to be his biographer — I will do nothing but wonders — he deserves a stone from posterity, at least. You think?
I can start by saying that Solomon Dalong is an honourable honest man sent from heaven to save man — the eclipsing sports ministry. He is a man that understands all the country needs. He is just like the Prince — his master. He has no clue as to why he is what he is. And why is he even there?! He has a different speciality but the Prince still gave him a post — a post bigger than the man and the man reasons using his mouth — only an honourable man reasons thus. He wakes from slumber after some dailies displayed pictures of him and the family on vacation —swimming — it calms his nerves — his nerves are now cold. He wakes to resound what his colleague said in other news.
Nigeria is poor to spend money on sports; he says. And when the Falconets won the cup, he comes out to say, We can’t pay you, we didn’t know you’d win. An honest man. A laudable attitude — such sincerity.
The prince in the wake of the outburst — no, before the outburst said, I can’t stop blaming the past administration; they’re the reason we suffer now. He accused and blamed again. Perhaps, the past administration went with our brains — sense of reasoning and opening mouth. Perchance, the past administration gathered all the never right—thinking personalities and gave them the portfolios never suiting where they belong, and yet I don’t want to write about this, I see myself tearing out pages of the history book where our/my/your map is.
I am in my house at school. I have nothing to eat. I call home. Mama tells me that she has not been paid for long now. She has nothing to send me. She just borrowed some money from a neighbour who needs the cash soon to go to hospital. My stomach hurts. I go back to lie in bed. The voice comes whispering to me — cry, cry, don’t stop crying — explode. Cuss. Say the world is cruel. Fuck the world. Screw it. Never stop fucking the world. Life is now tiresome. Go to the kitchen, get a knife and stab yourself. Die.
See blood. Die. Die.
I have got a headache.
God is crucified today. I start mapping out the dots that connect depression, pain, and frustration and a country. How does it hurt? How does it feel?
Are you a country?
Are we countrymen?
Countryman, wait. Stay longer.
Remember that time of the year when Britain carried out a referendum — Brexit,6 they said. We sat comfortably here flipping through history books trying to locate their map and know how to cut it out. Remember? We didn’t, but their leaders gambled real time — real hard. It was funny how a country wanted to cut itself to bits because it wants to reclaim and you wonder what? Britain is a well-known colonialist. And doesn’t it feel good watching your former imperial masters burning — cutting throats and falling apart? Doesn’t it feel right watching Nigel7 nurse his ambitions while Cameron fell apart? We wished more happened.
I am reading the history of the world — I am not writing about Britain, not Nigeria, not Russia,8 not Aleppo9 — Syria, not Israel.10 I am reading what it takes to be an American but doesn’t it cost nothing — watching the self-proclaimed superpower tear itself out from history?
This people are bleeding but they never learn from history — same mistakes. Donald tells his countrymen to come together and make America great again.11 And one wonders if America was ever great with all its dirty past, racism, microaggressions, crime against humanity. How do I tear this map — these maps? How do you tear yourself without bleeding? Am I bleeding? This place bleeds. It hurts.
[After the election of Donald Trump, a theory surfaced that Russia helped Trump win the election — Russian hackers rigged US of A elections? We asked and we blamed.]
The Map is torn.
Countryman, are you wary yet?
God. No. Don’t die now.
Hey God, are you there? Everyone is looking for whom to blame, perhaps, I blame you for all these — your silence. No, I don’t blame you but the voice in my head does, and you telling me to blame the people that never learn from history; means what?
1 Buhari who was sworn in as Nigeria’s president on the 29th of May, 2015 is a metaphor for cluelessness. He is also well versed in saying what he doesn’t mean. His messiahic stands took Nigeria down the drain in 1984 when he was the military head of state. But people believe in him. Is he not righteous? Are we not fighting corruption?
2 War Against Indiscipline was introduced in the years Buhari served as a military head of state. This war is a failed policy with no goals actually. But, is he not righteous? Are we not fighting corruption?
3 A tricycle with a space at the back for three passengers and the driver built—front—seat. A new place for gossip – everyone has something to say, by the way. You are never a stranger on a keke.
4 Mohammed is a character. He trained as a lawyer and he is known for generally making things look better when they are bad. Euphemism, right? Mohammed is among the persons brought into power to foster the president’s vision of cluelessness. None on the list of Buhari’s cabinet has a record for being a prince. Not Niccolo Machiavelli kind of a heartless prince. But even Nic’s Prince understands that you lose power when you lose the support of the local people.
5 APC – Buhari’s political party’s slogan or motto is change.
6 So now, Britain voted to leave Europe. They want to gain back what got lost. They want to regain their lands. Fucking immigrants. Fucking refugees. Britain is a house on fire.
7 Nigel Farage, patriotic countryman, arise.
8 America’s torn in the flesh country — Putin’s footstall.
9 21st Century city in flames — city of burning men — Victims of Assad’s wrath. Victims of Putin tests.
10 God’s people, fighting to exist — ever ready to attack — how do you spell peace within God’s walls?
11 And America has become great again with the same hate and aggressive behaviours against the people of colour and the Mexicans. Hate so strong that Muslims still wonder what their fates are. Great again – people are now molested and harassed in his name and under his umbrella. Great. We are clapping. Great. How do you kill a dog? Give it a name.