Mama’s Voice

From turkeys stolen by an elderly man, who probably thought eating tomorrow’s turkeys would make the festival of garri and groundnut in the days to come more palatable; to the inhumane burning to death of human beings due to the explosive tendencies of our nemesis and savior, PMS. On to the exploitative tendencies of terrorists and religious extremists who have no code of conduct in the dark books of their imaginations, and who have exchanged their God-given consciences for a heap of stones and without batting an eye-lid would use the innocent purity of children to whet the appetite of the grave once more. The news is no longer shocking, we have been shocked one too many times.
It would appear that just like yesterday, Mama is once again at the brink of death spurred by the destructive and sometimes suicidal tendencies of her children. The ones who were supposed to redeem her and cultivate her land after the colonial masters seemingly gave it back. It would appear that the Nigerian situation is no different from that of the world at large, after all almost all countries are plagued by wars; for some the battlefield is marked by the incessant spread of the Ebola virus, for others it is the pot bellies of young children which is at a gross discordance with their thin arms and legs accompanied by dry cracked lips and red-brown hair caused by too little of the important parts of a balanced diet, yet for others it is a research laboratory searching for the cure to cancer and the other exotic diseases that the developing world cannot be bothered about. We are yet to fully master the art of curing and firmly eradicating malaria. For the other countries who are the heroes of the entire world whose battlefield is against the big boys of terrorism, the battlefield is marked by soldiers who never make it home, the ones who make it home without a limb, and the once who are physically whole but internally as scarred as the rest.
Mama is groaning once again for the children who have failed again, she weeps, for the beautiful ones yet unborn, she yearns. Dreams of golden streets paved by the oil money well spent, devoid of beggars and mentally unstable people who could be better cared for if anyone cared. Of schools with windows and classrooms filled with students who are eager to learn because they had a goodnight’s sleep and a good breakfast, and teachers who are eager to teach because they have passion and they are not owed their used-to-be meagre salaries. Perhaps, the day is coming when the fire raging through a country which lives in constant denial, eyes closed to the charred remains of what used to be relatively peaceful, what used to be relatively good, what was relatively cheap. When the sinking naira will rise again from the bottomless pit of useless currency, and petroleum will no longer be her sole source of survival.
Mama’s children claim to love her, they claim to cherish her, and they make empty promises daily, with their enchanting optimistic chants of ‘better tomorrows’, yet they know nothing of her history. How she was sold by her royal parents to the oyinbo ‘misssionaries’ how the folly of the oil boom was the progressive doom of the cultivation of her land. How the health sector became a death guaranteed sector with teaching hospitals marked by never-ending strikes; simply moving from one aggrieved category of staff to the next, each protected by unions with stubborn leaders . The wards became full of ‘what if’ stories, “what if doctors were not on strike when my father was ill?”, “what if the drugs were available?”, “what if the government had paid?” ‘What if this was a country that worked’ became the constant rhetoric amongst cynical adults on the balcony of joblessness and pain.
They know nothing about how the travails of Obafemi Awolowo which has become a story told to naïve public school students taught beneath the falling leaves of good education, the classrooms transforming rapidly from beautiful well-structured buildings to those with no louvres and fences marked by ghosts of bricks past.
They do not remember how Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed for being a poet for truth and justice for his people, and easily they forget Dele Giwa’s death by letter bomb at a time when speaking the truth was dangerous business, those who fought for the place you now occupy knew that. Yet they chose the dark and lonely path of martyrdom for descendants who would not appreciate the value of the freedom that was purchased with the blood of men and whose weak backbones cannot fight for truth and justice once before gained. If the dead could see, these men would roll in the grave, they would wonder why we parade ourselves as being resilient; resilience being the ability to be beaten with many blows without fighting back and still be alive and apparently well.
Easily, like only children can, they forget the many explosions caused by inflammable pipelines and oil tankers and they are steadfastly unable to prevent it or adequately compensate those affected by it.. Forgotten as soon as the headline changes to something more entertaining and less graphically disturbing as the display of charred remains generally is. Perhaps who the next ‘Miss World’ is, although they will only ever remember Agbani Darego, our own Miss World.
Mama’s children are plagued with a disease characterized by; an inability to fight for rights which belong to her, a constant drive to work under the harshest of conditions without breaking, and amnesia, the inability to remember what was and what now is threatening to be. Some call it a blessing because the alternative is a depressive tendency for suicide.
She awaits the awakening of these sleeping children or the birth of another generation whose name is ‘Hope’, earnestly wondering which would come first. Her eyes brighten at the news that her children in the diaspora are doing well, ignoring the bad eggs that threaten the names of the good. However her shores await their return, the ones who have tasted comfort and blatantly refuse to let her go, until it is time to be buried. God forbid that they are buried in another man’s land. American in life, Nigerian in death. Her eyes brim with tears at the children that her ashamed of her, who deny her and who sometimes wish they had been born by another. Come home will you, till my lands and build my roads, light up the cities and rid yourselves of those who profit from the thick darkness that has become a part of the Nigerian situation.
Behind the dark gloominess of what we know to be Nigeria, a beacon of hope shines forth in new leadership and chants of ‘change’ reinforced by a 50% slash in the salaries of the President and his deputy and the bailout money for the broke states. We hope as we always do, that tomorrow our streets will be paved of gold, our streets free of beggars and the mentally unstable and that finally, the menace called Boko Haram will be a myth told to children to keep them on their best behaviour.

(c)Olamide Oti
July 10, 2015