Africa

A big issue!

Sometimes I wonder why I bother at all. In a land where survival is dependent on input, where hard work is cherished. In a land where nothing, absolutely nothing good, comes free. In a land where the vagaries of the weather is better experienced than related. In a land where my skin and nationality makes me stand out. Most times I wonder. I really wonder why I bother at all.
I have always felt powerless to act, short of moaning continuously. Here in this same land, I have been able to make a home. Here in this cold, conservative and carefree society, I have been able to establish my root. I left home, bewildered by the wickedness and avarice of my fellow men. I left home frightened by the cheapness of life. I left my roots mystified by the richness of poverty amongst so many, in a land abundantly blessed by nature. I left home stupefied by the orchestrated demonstration of the wickedness of leadership and the foolishness of the followers. I came to sojourn in this foreign land and to make something meaningful of my life.
I have been through autumn. I have been through summer. I have equally been through winter. The weather forecast had predicted it, but never imagined what I experienced today. I woke as usual, for the hours of work that has become quite significant in my life but yet made me what I am, contented, meaningful and happy. I woke and made for my job, only to be confronted by the big issue. Britain is freezing. I waddled through centimetres of ice flakes called snow. A poor African from a sun-bleached background. My consternation is better imagined than described. I raised the alarm, Britain is indeed freezing. What a big issue!
Work became impossible. Most offices remained closed and even banks failed to open. Movement became a difficult task, as the land is too slippery to guarantee safety. Why still lamenting this non-tropical situation, the skies were relentless in pouring more snow like manna that poured on the biblical children of old. I looked up and remembered Africa. With temperatures roaring at the upper ranges of the Fahrenheit, I wonder at the benevolence of nature to the black race. I thought, if rather naive, of the goodness of importing African sun to a land at the mercy of the elements. It is indeed, a big issue!
                              
So back to the house it is. Hours of watching television, reading, writing and doing what not. I am really missing Africa! From the innermost recess of my mind, I heard the ancient call of Fashola, the demolition-minded super-governor of my state. In such freezing conditions as these, the clarion call to return home, which hitherto sounded like madness suddenly seemed attractive. How wonderful and pleasant it would be to soak in the abundant sunshine of Nigeria! I became oblivious to the world in my reverie. I saw myself at the Bar beach. Hey! This is not the beach I used to know!! What happened to those little structures by the beach? And where on earth is the ocean flowing to? Suddenly the famous NTA road look so shrunken and adjacent structures look threatened. Perhaps, it was not a good day for picnic. My reverie took me on the journey to Sagamu. I could do with surprising my dear friends with my impromptu visit. I languidly thought of taking it easy at the back of the car, after all, my sister had agreed to drive. We had not covered a few metres, when we arrested by the infamous Lagos traffic, also known as “go slow”. Wait a moment; I thought this belonged to over a decade ago. I thought my dear country had finally found a solution to the perennial traffic congestion. What happened to the metro dreams of Jakande?
As if in silent answer to my confusion, I looked up and lo and behold, it was the ever ubiquitous Lagos Molue. I held my breath to stop my pounding heart from jumping out of the rib cage. Molue and unpleasant memories! Memories of my childhood. Going to school in the legendary carriage with the pushing and shoving, fighting and screaming, the taunts and sometimes the fun. Just one moment, is this correct dream? Is this the Lagos of the 21st century? The much touted mega city? Hold on, and what a bump! I was thrown roof high, thank God for the fastened belt. Pot holes! This cannot be, as Lagos roads are undergoing major reconstruction and maintenance or so the headlines screamed. More confusion, am I really in Lagos? My sister informed that the air conditioner was to be switched off as we had remained immobile with traffic for a long while. The sun was blazing in its tropical majesty. The sun I so much longed for. And down poured gallons of sweat. I became hot and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the Africa of my nostalgia. Like a snake moving through an overgrown shrub, we negotiated our way towards our destination. Before you know it, the day was gone and darkness enveloped us. Then gradually like a cacophony of practised ritual, grew this deafening noise that growls and growls without stopping.
My dear sister, God bless her, perceived my consternation and informed it was only the sound of generators as there was power failure. Another confusion. Bola Tinubu brought Enron, I remembered. Enron was for power generation just like Julius Berger was for road construction. Or is it the other way round? I asked my sister if Julius Berger failed to complete Tinubu’s assignment. Dear sister, God bless her again, laughed and laughed. Enron folded up and the dream died. Not only that, political intrigues entered the picture and the dream was finally aborted. So the situation remains as it is today, a nation of generators. A study in the level of air pollution in Nigeria would be a very interesting one. I regretted not coming with my surgical face mask. The fear of lung cancer is real indeed! My sister regaled with paralysing tales of the night marauders. I was made powerless with the cheapness of life courtesy of the hired assassins. My sister informed me of the growing legion of orphans courtesy of a massively surging HIV infection. I was assured that jobs still remain scarce in my fatherland. That nepotism and corruption still hold sway. I peeped through the windows and saw faces of hunger, hunger in a land flowing with milk and honey. I touched my face and felt the warm tears. Tears for a nation that has really missed the way.
We were half way to our destination after over five hours on the road. And then the reverie came to an abrupt end. A cyclist has just been knocked down. His head was caved in and fractured in multiple places with blood oozing from available orifices. His crash element was meant to be protective but alas, it was only a well designed water melon shell! What a waste of life! I woke up sweating and trying to remember what led to all this. Now I do, the desire for sunshine in Africa following the merciless tendencies of the elements in Europe. Yes, Africa is good and sweet. Yes, Africa is adorable and picturesque. Yes, Africa is my home. For now, however, I would remain in this open deep freezer.  Africa is awesome and fearful. It is truly beckoning but dangerous!
I decided to be more pragmatic. I went on the air to retrieve more positive news. It must have been an unsuspected case of indigestion. Probably it was the baked beans I ate last night. The news could not be that gloomy. Ex-President Obasanjo loved Nigeria so much that he single-handedly anointed and installed Yar’adua against the wishes of the masses. Knowing the legendary foolishness of the masses and that of the Nigerian intelligentsia, he had a divine mission to do that he deemed right. The pictures of my president I saw made me cringe. Pray, what is wrong with President Yar’adua? Has he got a collagen disease or something? Why is the man shrinking in his Babaringa? The face stretched and taught like one with a skin that had lost its elasticity. Could the demand of office be complicating things with a frail health? Why on earth has the man refused to resign?
I kept on trawling the net and visited the numerous Nigerian sites. My indigestion became full blown with the news. It was a battle of wits over an anointed anti-corruption crusader. It was the battle over “Abati’s land” at Abuja. Reminiscent indeed of the “Papa’s Land” saga in Lagos. Missiles were freely flowing in the air and the Queen’s grammar begging for a reprieve. It was a cudgel here and an arrow there. What could be happening to my countrymen? Why do we waste so much time in fighting? Why do we take so much delight in bringing our selves down? What is the problem with the Nigerian breed?
I looked up at the grey overcast British sky once again. The unusual centimetre of snow is a real big issue. The situation in a land I crave and desire so much remains a bigger issue. The Africa of my nostalgia gives me so much indigestion. Where do I turn to, O lord!

Dr Olusegun Fakoya
United Kingdom.

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