Death! That was the end of the story.
I gaped. No further words were spoken, no other memories recollected. It was the end of the story and I had to accept it was the end of a person.
He was just a boy. He was tall, dark and somewhat of an introvert. He loved wearing hats and was clearly passionate about the American rap group Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony. He had all their posters, I heard. He recollected all their lyrics, I saw. Yet, one day, about 15 years ago, he went to a show at a spot called ‘Pin Place’ in Port Harcourt. The show lasted the duration of the night. And while there, he stepped out, across the road, for a drink or perhaps a cigarette; something I am uncertain of, though very certain it did not qualify to be a reason for death.
While purchasing it, the seller cried out that he was a thief. He was perplexed, I must assume. The stories said he was shocked. However, the stories had it that the woman ‘claimed’ she recognized him from the gang of robbers that attacked her the previous week at that very stall. He honestly explained it was his first time in the neighbourhood and had only visited because of the show across the street.
In any case, she had insisted on her certainty of identifying a very dark lad in the steep night in a society without any form of laudable electricity supply. There had been a van of Policemen parked beside her, as if for the purpose of security for the show. However, what they did next revealed their true purpose for the night, irrespective of their preconception of it.
They pounced on the lad like dogs let loose from their leash. They beat, kicked, hit and maimed him. He was not allowed the dignity of a court room or the honour of his side of the story. By the time they were done, he was silent…not only in words, but even in the beatings of the heart. He was dead.
I found it difficult to visit his home as I had never been there before. It was the incident that made me aware that young people could die. Before then, I had lived in the hysterical lie of religion that GOD grants ‘his own’ long life – the lie continuously told by the religions in Nigeria. However, I mourned a chap whom I was not particularly close to, with fear and trembling and all scary imaginations of what he had experienced that night and afterwards…I withdrew. Every time I meet someone that shares his surname, I wonder if they knew him and if yes, how close? I had questions, but yet, I withdrew…into silence. A silence which, like all Nigerians are guilty of, seems to last forever.
Then, came December 11, 2013. This time, it was yet another lad. He was a younger brother to twin girls who once shared a class with me in Nigeria. He was the only son of 6 children. About 20 years before, the family had lost their elder son and now, with aged parents, he was the only one with the enviable African title of Son.
However, on that day, some people from his office were asked to purchase diesel for the office generators as Nigeria is a country that finds it easier to have $20 billion disappear than the provision of constant electricity. As the chaps returned to the office, Policemen appeared and harassed them. The Son, as a Supervisor in the office, came out in defense of his subordinates. And then, right there, it happened yet again.
Death! Yet, another end. The story tells that one of the Policemen used his rifle to hit the lad’s tummy and it misfired. A boy who had just been married on June 15, 2013; who reported to work that day as a citizen of any society would, was denied everything else. His young wife, of barely a year, and twin babies within her, was stripped of the warmth of a husband at night and the support of a father for her unborn twins. The unborn twins have been permanently christened orphans even before their birth – what a life! His parents, aged, have been denied the dreams African parents bestow upon their Sons. His sisters, all carved like works of art in their creation, that angels become insecure in their presence, had their pulchritude marred by erratic strokes of tears and indescribable auras of mourning.
The story had it that the Lad’s intestines poured out. It is said the Policemen, rushed him to nearby hospitals, which, as expected in Nigeria, rejected the ‘severe’ case. On the way to a distant Government hospital, located miles away in the city of Port Harcourt, he died.
It was yet another end.
And once again, I still did not visit the family. Even now, I have been so devastated that I have not called his sisters. Every time I pick the phone to call, I ask questions like, what in the English Language would I say? Why would I prick their trauma with my words, only to have them bleed again. Nevertheless, a part tells me it is expected I call. Few, who know I have not called or visited, chastise me to do so. Yet, when I look at them, I realize most did not visit or call to say anything reasonable or to really grieve with the family, but to ‘register’ their appearance, not minding the trauma of the family. And though this is not to ease my guilt at night or point fingers, the point remains, how many times would we as a society relent to silence?
Being one who writes most of what’s on my mind, I have been shunned for ‘pointing fingers’. When I was in the United States, people applauded my craft; they questioned where I got my zeal from, how I found the drive to lead? These qualities they bestowed upon me because of my works. It was not difficult to realize that an intellectual society finds expressions of art – writing, singing, drama, etc – as mediums in changing society.
However, my fellow countrymen often castigate me for my works. Empty criticism, they call them. They challenge me to ‘do something to effect change.’ And I have to say I have seen that with the African, ‘doing something’ is only when it is physically toiling, with sweat running down your face, grit staining your nails and dust gathering on your shoes. Hence, since, when in Rome, act like the Romans, I have ‘agreed to do something’.
I shall not only write. I now shall go out there to act! With a few people, we now volunteer to work with teens in Abuja, our base. We educate them for free in their schools on the responsibilities of a proper citizen. We have gathered materials from all advanced nations of the world we have had access to and, through free seminars, we educate the teens with slides, videos and interactive sessions.
It is not enough, I know. I just hope, it can register as a start. As it appears that most adults in Nigeria have chosen not to be bothered by the occurrences in Nigeria, I do hope we can arrest young minds to be more proactive in being their brother’s keepers. I hope it works. If it does, fine. If it doesn’t; we shall re-strategize.
However, the point is this: I have decided to do something. How about you? What have you decided to do? When do you intend to start? Would you wait for another to die?
Were you not touched by the ‘ALUU 4’ incident? Are you not outraged by incidents were apprehended female petty thieves of blackberry phones are stripped nude, beaten and violated by a mob of perverted men (and deranged women) under the ever recording lens of phone cameras that share the videos on Youtube? Does it not hurt that only a few months ago, some students in a Unity School in the north were murdered in their sleep? Have you refused to pay attention to the extreme difficulty and expense involved in purchasing petrol these days? Would you pretend that it does not hurt to see your Religious leaders ask you to sow for a sudden miracle, and though weeks, months and even years have passed without that miracle; you are blackmailed into silence and total compliance with ‘GOD’s plans’, yet, the religious leaders, have graduated from Sedans to SUVs and then, a convoy of cars and now private Jets? Is it okay to feign ignorance at the joblessness in society, the delayed payment of salaries, Corporate fraud by Management on their subordinates, five thousand naira offered to hungry women to stage political protests, the insulting minimum wage, Police/Army brutality and today, over 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram?
If all these have not gotten to you, what shall? Another death? What if that death bites you beyond redemption? What if it’s a Father, Mother or Spouse? How about the possibility of it being a dear friend, Son or Daughter? Or a couple of your children in one day as it was in the Port Harcourt-bound Sosoliso plane that crash of December, 2005?
There is no longer room for silence. The Nigerian Angel of Death is not walking at midnight targeting only our firstborn-sons, it prances nonstop all through the day, collecting any and every with its large net spun by societal negligence. It is now knocking on all our doors…even yours! You may not see what medium it plans to use. The time to act is NOW!
Let us, like Jacob did, fight an angel. Not by picking arms or spreading hate, but by engendering an activity aimed at reclaiming our society. What say you?
Please say nothing. Just act!