In the spirit of Sankara, the Malian singer Oumou Sangaré released a wonderful song, Kêlê Magni (‘War Is a Plague’), in February 2022, which speaks for the entire Sahel:
War is a plague! My country might disappear!
I tell you: war is not a solution!
War has no friends nor allies, and there are no real enemies.
All people suffer from this war: Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire… everyone!
Other instruments are needed: new stars in the sky, new revolutions that build on hopes and not on hatred.
Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Boy, can I relate!
My first experience with water skiing came at the age of twenty-four. I was quietly anxious about the adventure. All of my focus was on getting up on those skis. The first attempt was over before it began. One tug from the motorboat, and the rope left my hands and took off without me. On the second try, I got up for a brief second before I face-planted and a rush of brown lake water was sent up my nose. On the third attempt I kept the tension just right to bring my body out of the water. As my body fully emerged, I leaned back just a bit and found the slot. I did it! I was water skiing. A smile overtook my entire face. I had accomplished the goal! Check.
Then it dawned on me. I had spent all my energy and focus on my entrance strategy and had invested zero time considering my exit strategy. I had no idea how to end this experience. Fear overtook me. Thoughts of my falling body skipping across the water like a smooth stone came to mind. Thoughts of my legs rising above my head as I made contact with the concrete water below elevated my blood pressure.
So, I held on for dear life as the boat continued circling the small lake. The guys on the boat began to yell out something to me, but I couldn’t quite make it out. By this time my hands and legs were cramping. How was this going to end? It had to end. I couldn’t hold on forever. I yelled for the guys to speak louder.
They screamed at the top of their lungs, “Let go of the rope!”
Let go of the rope? They must be insane. What happens to a body that just lets go of the rope and gives up? I didn’t know, because I had never experienced it before. So, I doubled down on my grip and kept skiing, completely unsure of how it was all eventually going to end.
Life is so often like my water-skiing adventure. We use all of our energy getting up and staying up but don’t have an exit strategy. We know we can’t continue the ride forever in this body — it will eventually give out — but, because we don’t know how the ride ends and fear it will hurt, we hold on for dear life.
I am a cautious optimist on the Nigerian project, I have hope, but I also know that hope can be an opium, and on the other side of hope, often there is no exit strategy.
It is only in Nigeria that while it was not raining, they offered their umbrellas and when the rain came, they collected it back because they know us. Do we know them, I doubt very much, although sadly when events are weighed vis a vis the past it is obvious that we know them, we just refuse to accept the truth. We know them, we know most of them could not manage their states, we have even seen some of them like migratory birds sing ‘change’ when a few weeks ago they were singing ‘transformation’.
We were witnesses, and participants to the Sai Buhari, and modern day sudden change agents, we cannot say we did not know that all these dramas were just for a piece of the cake of relevance, and political rehabilitation.
They know us, so they are caressing us and in our foolishness we praise them to the high heaven. They know that our poverty has driven us to the religious edge with churches and mosques everywhere so they target our beliefs and become spokespersons for gods only they see. We are again at the crossroads of a new beginning, because we have refused to face reality, we pretend to know when we really do not know, when we know we refuse to talk and all these they know and use against us.
We think they are naive while infact they know we are the hungry ones that are happy rather than angry, they know in the midst of our struggles, problems and hardship when asked how we are, we still say ‘fine’…some of them even won elections while owing salaries.
They know how docile we are, and how we cherish the little luxuries of life pinched to us rather than taking our right in whole. They know that our so-called activists will betray us. They simply know way too much, so they manipulate us, make us worship them and make us glorify their stupidity. The Nigerian is peaceful, hospitable and friendly, not easily provoked, infact never provoked except when he is what I call ‘politicoreligionized’.
They know they are up, so they fear the big fall and want to remain relevant, they know we are down and fear no fall. We do not ask why none of these men who lost elections want to be Pastors, Imams…or teachers. Why do they not want to go to school and teach courses in Political Science departments on “how not to be impeached”, “how to deal with Wike”, “Why APC lost”?
How many of these ‘goons’ would serve us with our money that they have stolen by establishing NGOs for whatever it is worth, how many of them are going into poultry or fish farming, or are they scared they won’t make much, after all a former President’s farm generates millions a day or month, so why the fear?
They know that we do not know, and even when we know we keep silent, so the maze continues, we keep going through the vicious circle and still keep searching for what we did not lose. We do not know that we are part of the entire puzzle, we do not know why. So they owe us no explanation when they move from party to party because they will always have followership…it is poverty of the mind not just the pocket.
We do not know our collective worth, we do not see our strength, they know so they exploit our weaknesses and always they win, like they are almost certain to do again.
We clutch on to the rope, we ride the bicycle every time with excitement and we do not have a handle, we do not know where the brakes are, how to stop, let the rope go, and save ourselves, we are fixated on the dramatics, we call a mobment (collection of mobs), a movement, the emilokans, unifiers and obidients, a lost cause!
For how long, how long, is there change in the horizon, is there anything to hold on to, are we going to be knowledgeable at least this once to change the course of our destiny? They know us, do we know them…The politics of Nigeria, the politics of depravation, a bitter politics run by a bunch so easily confused…the future is bright and ours for the taking, if we can’t exit but then do we know or we want to leave it to them again—Only time will tell.