NOTE: To be read to Donnell by his Mum; a few hours after he has arrived Nigeria and shortly before bedtime; to the accompaniment of Tupac Shakur’s song of a similar title…..
Welcome to your cot. It was the best we could find around, and welcome to Nigeria—we are the Giant of Africa! You are probably wondering at this point why Mum is reading this letter to you with the aid of a candle in a dimly lit room….
I can explain: it is raining out there and I am unable to fetch us the night’s gasoline because of what the weather man called ‘inclement weather’. Coming from Heaven where it is all bright lights; and where angels serenade you before bedtime and shortly before you wake up; in those cadence laden celestial voices, you could be forgiven for wondering if you have arrived the wrong country.
No, you haven’t. At about the same time you found your way to our home, your peers landed in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Liberia. So, it could have been worse, you see. You may want to replace those clasped fists and furrowed brow with a glint in your eyes at this point. Thank You, baby!
Several years ago when I arrived Nigeria in the ‘80s, I did also feel like I had ended up in the wrong country. But over the years, I have had to quit expecting my country to change overnight. I had since discarded the garb of self-pity. That, my little boy, should be the spirit you carry with you as you learn the ropes in life.
So, once the rain simmers , I would scurry to the petrol station and fetch us a week’s worth of gasoline. I say ‘a week’, because we will ration the petrol to the very last drop. Yes, you heard that right! (my apologies for raising my voice there). The Generator will come on at 7pm every night and go off at 2am– once we are certain that the mosquitoes have fled to other victims in the neighborhood and the heat levels have become bearable.
And we are doing this just for you; with all the love in our hearts. Before you found your way into our home, I was in the annoying habit of pleading with Mum on most nights to switch off the Generator shortly after the curtains had been drawn on her favourite late evening soap—‘Tinsel’ and the BBA daily highlights.
And ‘No’, we are not mean. On the contrary, we mean well for you. I have acquired an inverter which should store power for your delight during the day until we return from our places of work to get the Generator rolling at 7pm. And during weekends, because Daddy loves Football (and Mum is beginning to love football too, although she supports a rival team—Chelsea), the Generator comes on earlier—at 2pm, and keeps buzzing till 2am.
As you grow older, we may tweak the rules a bit. The Generator may come on at 4pm on weekdays, just so you can catch the latest on ‘Cartoon Network’ or ‘Disney’. But no more!
While you are at school, please do not let your teachers regale you and your friends with lines like: “You are the Leaders of tomorrow”. Abhor being so tagged with every fiber in your mortal bodies! Your future begins today. Several years ago, I and my generation were also labeled the “Leaders of tomorrow”. See where that has brought us!
That appellation remains, in my view, a curse. Those who called us “The Leaders of tomorrow” are still holding onto leadership positions with the last drops of their blood, as our own future erodes before our eyes.
Actually, my Generation preferred to play football on the streets or dirt pitches on polling days while politicians stuffed fake ballot papers into ballot boxes. On election days, we also slouched on the sofas in our living rooms, watching the latest Movies or catching Live Football action, while our futures were collectively compromised and seized by those who referred to us as the “Leaders of tomorrow”.
We were blessed with some of the most enthralling communication gadgets you could find in the shops at the time—Iphones, Blackberrys, Ipads and a host of other handheld wonders, but we never fully utilized the powers innate in these gadgets to make society a better place. One of our greatest undoing.
Some members of our generation also aided the political class in snatching ballot boxes into the bushes, ‘commando-style’, and inflating election figures in favour of a certain political party big wig, subject to a miserly fee. It was an error of Judgment that cost my generation dearly—it was an error of Judgment that has ensured that all public utilities have gone comatose and infrastructural improvements exist only in the realms of our imaginations. It was a grave error of judgment that still rankles to this day.
So, gird your loins and get politically active pretty quickly. And talking about loins, Mum hates sagging trousers, and so do I. And not just because we think there is a reason why God avails everyone of some buttocks (to keep their pair of trousers in place), we also consider it indecent to allow everyone glean the colour of your briefs from a mile. If you are interested in taking back your country, you have to look and act the part from the first day. ‘Responsibility’ should be your watchword.
Avoid candidates who appear during electioneering campaigns, wearing their ‘shoeless status’, like a badge of honour. Reject acronyms like NEEDS, SEEDS and UBE. Every politician who arrives your door-step with a sack load of these acronyms and buzzwords like ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘Transformation’ and without shoes to boot; was never prepared for office in the first place. Visionary leaders do not bore the electorate with a pot-pourri of mantra and buzzwords and do not eat Cassava bread either, trust me.
You are allowed occasional visits to the Cinema and the Malls during your pre-teen and teen years , but please, reeling out the names of every movie and their creepy story lines was not why God brought you to Nigeria. Watch and listen to the News, engage your peers in civic discourses and seek out creative ways to make your country a better place.
Like I wrote earlier, you haven’t arrived the wrong country. Not yet. But if you dwell on the mistakes your Mum’s generation and I indulged in, the ‘wrong country’ may well be your lot. Your chants of ‘Aluta’ should not end within the precincts of the University. You should be able to bring those slogans and deeds from the Campus to bear on the political landscape.
And as much as I recommend that you watch Football (because it is the beautiful game and Daddy loves football), remember that life is worth more than the round leather game. Draw life and managerial lessons from every game you watch. It is a ready excuse I flaunt around when quizzed on why I am such a Footie addict.
Now, Goodnight Donnell, and do have a sound sleep. And, Oh! I almost forgot to wish You a ‘Happy Children’s Day!’ For a moment there I had envisaged I was writing to an adult….Lol. But you have to grow up quickly enough because your Nation needs you—and fast!
This Piece is wholly dedicated to @eddyAniekan who suggested the name ‘Donnell’ and to @Karibiba; the latest Law Graduate in town who now looks forward to ‘motherhood’ with glee.
Catch the writer on Twitter @egbas