Quieted

The river is never so high that the eyes of a fish are covered.
– Yoruba Proverb

1. At this time, your thoughts are with your friend, Wale, whom you grew up together, now an Americanah as your people would eventually call him during one of his travels back home to take his supposed fiancé (the opposite version of the Jagua Nanas that now parades the city) abroad, while you, still on the potter’s wheel wonder if the gods are not to blame for the famished road on which you trudge upon. Wale used to be one of your playmates back in primary school someone whom you nicknamed “small” in primary five or so just because he could not clean the blackboard without jumping very high. And whenever it was his turn to do like every boy in the class did at least twice a week, he did so with a wry smile that indicated his dissatisfaction with such exercise because it revealed his physical disadvantage- a short height. He visited your house on one of these occasions bearing gifts for you and your siblings. And when you saw him off, you teased him about his former height reminding him of the old days. “Don’t even go there,” he says, “I’m much taller than you now.”

As you retire to bed that night, a new feeling that you can’t adequately explain creeps upon you; one whose door was opened by a comparison of your life and Wale’s own in a kaleidoscopic manner that attributes pleasant things to travelling outside the shores of the open sore of a continent upon where you live. But as you close your eyes, a cocky voice inside of you say, “everything good will come.”

2. This new feeling wakes up with you the next day and had now transcended Into worry, one that infects your demeanour and makes it glum causing you to be no longer at ease. You can’t help but think of yourself as a failure because all of a sudden you notice that your life seem to be snail-paced. You think of the good life you’d have if only you had a chance to live in the land of opportunities too. You even associate things such as growing taller to such opportunities too, that is, one’s desire was not far-fetched in such places.

You wished that you’d never been born here- a graceland now turned into a ditch by corrupt individuals who take advantage of loopholes in our own democracy to get rich, leaving the poor to live as second class citizens. You even nursed the idea of traveling through illegal means but the stories told on the news of how people who did that were treated as slaves, crammed into a boat on a precarious journey across the sea with no life jackets and upon getting there were eventually deported back to the county with nothing terrifies you. But no one around the house cared about the thing around your neck even though you walked around gloomily; everybody had their own worries too. Eventually, you console yourself with the conclusion that

“we can not all be lucky to get a full time scholarship abroad.”

The news on the radio that misty morning was no different from the ones on previous days; awashed with stories of kidnappings, killings, power tussles, corruption, economic crises, unpaid salaries, striking unions, school lock downs and looming fuel hikes.
Your brother asks loudly from the corridor, “when will these beasts of no nation who wander about, on a rampage destroying people’s farm be brought to book?”

You reply him with the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin you’d gleaned off an op-ed a fortnight ago,

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

3. Your eldest uncle visits your family that evening, complaining bitterly to your father about his farm that had been stampeded just this afternoon. This dastardly acts were becoming rife and nobody was doing anything about them- this beasts of no nation who were on the verge of crippling their livelihood. He further goes on to tell your father about the resolution of the other farmers in the community, “from now on, Adedokun, it is now one man, one matchet.”
“Pls be careful, Egbon mi, don’t take law into your own hands, the government is doing everything possible to douse the burning grass with waters of justice as they seek to apprehend these marauders.”
“And after how many days of waiting for changes, not a bit of difference has been made. Adedo-kun, We are tired of waiting for an angel.”

From their conversation which you had been following behind the curtains where you sat twiddling your thumbs, you deduce that the man who came from the back of beyond is no longer a man of the people as your uncle and the other farmers had lost faith in him because he had failed to address urgent issues in the landscapes within. Reports on the news supported this claim and now even the so called people of the city are now measuring time and not patient any longer.

They say, according to a respondent on the morning news, “it’s a time for new dreams.” In your own thoughts, you agree with the respondent, “It still the same as the time before the blackout- a dance of forests.” you would later say to your neighbor’s eldest son who had just completed his secondary school education, Kolade who argues that the country was getting better because the anti-corruption crusade was overwhelming and effective.

4. That night, you lie on a rubber mat outside your three-bedroom bungalow compound under the clear April sky, busy with your phone away from the heat in the rooms in a bid to enjoy the cool of the evening because there was no electricity to power the ceiling fans. Your father sit at his usual spot outside too, on a locally made chair, one of the three gifted to him by your uncle on his retirement as the community school principal five years ago. Beside him is a long broom which he uses to ward off menacing mosquitoes that romanced one’s uncovered skin. It was either the cool breeze and mosquitoes outside or the airlessness inside and the lack of a comfortable sleep.

You look in his direction after hearing a heavy sigh, your best reason for his sigh was that he was pondering on the controversial and agitated chat he had had with your uncle in the afternoon. Your father was a man of peace and he always never wanted anything to do with conflict; He wanted something to be done about this season of anomy that pervaded farmlands across the country but he didn’t have such powers for this was a play of giants, and the government was not responding well. His best shot was talking to his brother and the other farmers during the next community meeting to prevent the grass from burning. But as sleep bury your eyes underneath your eyelids, you whisper to the dark “Not my business.”

5. Two weeks later, less than a month from your school’s resumption, You receive a text message from your friend Efuru. The content read thus, “I have been posted to your state for my NYSC programme and I’ll be coming on Thursday, will you be available to pick me up from the Motor Park? Pls call me.”

You met Efuru, someone from the eastern part of the country, a place where oil was always on water, during your student’s industrial training programme in Lagos, a place you’d always dreamt of visiting because your friends in the university’s hostel often described it in such a manner that made it looked like it was an imported part of the country.

You had eyes for her until one of your friends whom you met during the training, Ola, her departmental mate advises you against having an affair with her if you didn’t want to have toads for supper. But Ola was wrong because some of the daughters who now walked this street were decent even though you heeded his advise and only took her as friend. You call her later in the evening to let her know that you’d be available to pick her up when she arrives. You should be going to the NYSC camp too just like Efuru if not for your university’s academic union who often embarked on industrial action and had now successfully elongated your stay by two years.

Even now, there was still a gathering fear that you would not be resuming in the next month because of unpaid lecturers’ salaries. You just pray that it doesn’t happen, because you can wait to have your independence from these hungry lecturers who perfectly matches the proverbial man who is angry because he is hungry as most of them do not care about your strenuous education.

You finally meet Efuru at the motor park to help with her luggages to the camp. In the bus to her destination, you among other things ask about Chika, a brilliant cousin of hers in his second year at a state university whom she always told you about during your I.T days.
“He no longer goes to school.” She say.
“why?” you ask.
“He ran mad a year ago, and some of his friends say that it was as a result of the hard drugs and drinks (which one of them dubbed as “omi gutter” meaning gutter water) he often consumed. She further goes on by telling you that he is being taken care of by a dibia, a local medicine man as they are often called in the igbo dialect in his mother’s hometown. As you return back from Efuru’s camp, a place in the next town, you think about how these drug abuse practices were becoming rife and how it was affecting young boys especially, causing them to eventually have mental problems. You know tons of them in your school too who indulge in such practices.

What bothers you most is that the country’s beautiful feathers are gradually being plucked away prematurely, robbed of the benefit of flying high the nation’s colours in the international society and a more shocking fact is that nobody was alarmed. You wished that the arrow of God would hit the soiled nation, purging it of its so many vices before it was too late.

Atiba Festus
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