creatively sharing inspired thought one word at a time
My dearest “peepu”! If you follow my comments on BN, you’d have deduced that I’m back from Nigeria and, alas, didn’t keep you all updated with the blow-by-blow accounts of my sojourns as majestically intended by the Christmas greetings I issued to you all.:-( Forgive me (and feel free to blame Airtel for not supplying reliable service in certain parts of my village… feel similarly free to blame PHCN for the blackouts… but blame me the most for my lack of accountability).:-( 😦
I had a great time and there were so many topics I started mentally drafting at different stages of my trip (that country is such a great place to find blogging inspiration) but when I translated them to my screen, they somehow fizzled out before becoming full articles. The one about being a “Mother Christmas” when planning visits to Naija was stating the obvious; the other about the past we’ve all forgotten but continues to flourish in our rural communities seemed a bit contrived. I wanted to rant about how angry and rude Nigerians always seem to be but I realized how pretentious that would sound as I was also once an angry and rude Nigerian myself (and that supressed part of me was revived very, many times during my visit). Plus, I don’t want to sound like one of those IJGBs whose time away from the motherland has turned them into supercilious twats, inciting the wrath of readers … and I admit that even using the word “supercilious” already takes me dangerously close to twat-ish behaviour…
And so it went until the following dose of reality was served to me as a much-needed reminder to look a bit deeper and past my own understanding of what should matter in our society to what really counts for a vast majority of Nigerians.
On the 31st of December (in the manner of many Igbo brethren) I was with my parents as we sped back to Port Harcourt in advance of the New Year, after spending quality time in the village. We were listening to a local radio station and a song came on which just stumped me. I couldn’t even tell you what the title of the song was (and I’ve actually tried to look for it since then) but from what my ears perceived, the singer had taken time to craft lyrics in homage of roasted plantain and fish and then recorded those lyrics into a song which was currently getting airplay. Amazing. So, once Airtel finally restored my data services somewhere between Mbaise & Aba, I decided to take my “wonderment” to twitter, with words of disbelief about the low points that our music industry has sunk to and then I completely forgot about my tweets for the rest of that day. Until I realized later in the evening that someone had retweeted all my comments to another artiste who knew the musician in question and there were a few notifications on the subject awaiting me. Never underestimate the expansiveness of Twitter… anyway, I was thankfully saved from engaging in any kind of tweet-fight (I never strong reach, abeg) as the artiste who’d responded to me was quite good natured about my calling his friend’s work into question and wanted to explain the rationale behind the release of the song, which reasons I didn’t agree with but he said his piece and I said mine, after which we both let it rest.
Here’s what I came away from that experience with – if I heard a song about bole (the local term for roasted plantain) and fish on the airwaves, it’s a reflection of the listening preferences of a lot of Nigerians. And I’m saying that without any castigation at all to that group of Nigerians but it made me think for a moment. Having spent the better part of (nearly) three weeks in Port Harcourt and even though said time was spent over the festive season, I don’t remember ever feeling any urgent awareness about Boko Haram’s rampage in North Eastern Nigeria or such ills particular to that region as the disappearance of the Chibok girls. In fact, I could have been visiting another country. The inhabitants of Rivers State were just trying to comprehend the recent activities of their Governor who seems to have gone AWOL so he could devote more time to matters happening within Abuja than his own region of authority and if there was a national crisis happening outside this local one, it was secondary to them. My friend, can’t you see how dangerously close APC are to retrieving control of that state from PDP? Visiting my village brought on the same perception and to a large extent, I can’t even blame the folks currently living deep within the East because if you’ve visited those communities and seen the lack of infrastructure, you’ll understand where their more immediate concerns lie. In fact, if you consider the average Nigerian to wonder at what they see as being important to them, you’ll understand a lot more about why votes go the way they do. Take your mind to the many that pass by you on the streets every day: the cab and tanker drivers, the barrow pushers and market traders, the bus conductors and motor park touts, the volcanizers and mechanics, the salon girls and tailors, the electrician and carpenters, the buka owner and her staff, the more than 70% of Nigerians trying to survive. How many of them are truly focused on anything other than the here and now of making ends meet? You want to debate about the merits and demerits of GMB and GEJ, when they can’t see any change to their own present situation looming in the horizon? My people, that bole and fish poses a surer guarantee of being available in their time of need, than anything else their country promises them.
We cannot and should not even begin to deceive ourselves about the important power held by these 70%, notwithstanding their imprudence, in choosing who to preside over us; after all, one of the most controversial Governorship elections in 2014 was won by Ayo Fayose who notoriously understood the blinkered awareness of his voting constituency and gave them the rice they temporarily desired. The more deserving incumbent probably didn’t understand the importance of this perspective and he lost the race, leaving us with the moral story that it will be foolish to believe competency and having the prerequisite qualifications are all it takes to get the job of leading Nigerians.
So, as the 14th of February looms and social media campaigners heap righteous indignation against anyone airing points of view which contradict everything they’ve said about their own ideal Presidential candidate, we need to also realise that foot soldiers are also on a relentless drive throughout the local communities across the nation and will be bombarding the 70% with the short term reassurances which include bales of Ankara prints bearing party emblems, stacks of garri bags or similar produce and catchy slogans yelled out from public address systems as the soldiers perambulate slowly through streets on the flatbeds of Toyota Hilux vans. Or maybe, they will chose instead to play that catchy ode to bole and fish, which seems like it’ll go down a treat…
Let us use these final moments left until decision time to keep spreading the word to everyone in our own immediate vicinity about the important facts to vote on and see that we don’t neglect those physically present listeners who belong to the crucial 70%, for the conversations we’re having on social media. I wish I was still in Nigeria to physically witness how events unfold until the Presidential and other elections (or maybe, I should do like many of my country men and observe proceedings from a safe distance) but I will be praying a lot about this potential change in the course of our nation’s fate. And I cannot wait to see what choice the 70% of Nigerians will make regarding “the one” to assume leadership authority over the nation.
Image: courtsey of http://www.gather.com