The Lagos sky is setting on this glorious Saturday evening. Out in the streets, millions of people are wondering where the weekend went, just like they are wondering where their lives are going. A few thousands are getting ready to wash the streets with bottles of champagne.
I’m in a house I haven’t been in seventeen years. I’m standing in front of two gravestones – one wasn’t there the last time I was here. Back then hope was smoldering in a raging, maddening fire of a goggled dictator. But, you can never really bury hope. Like they say, when there is life, there is hope.
Standing in front of the grave of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, I’m wondering, do we have another shot at hope?
Worse, I’m thinking, do they even know it’s his birthday today?
We have democracy today because of the ultimate sacrifice of Abiola. There are so many people who have profited from the blood of one man and they’re in power and on the corridors of power. You just wander if they’ll pause for a moment and remember that day when Nigeria came so close to Eldorado and the man who embodied it all.
At this time of the year, I sort get a melancholic feeling. My mind travels back a long time, twenty years back to the days when hope was floating on the horizon and everyone was camped out under the clear skies waiting to be swept away in the blissful river of hope.
And, then it was snatched away by a smoldering gun. They called him Abacha and he was sent by the angry gods to butcher the dream
Hope got killed and dreams got buried. Life took on the normalcy of a quiet graveyard a few years later but no one was fooled that the hope that once was so close was gone for a long time. If they were unsure the politicians that took over made sure they let the people know by the piles of misery dumped on their doorsteps.
I’m driving through the streets of Nigeria and I still see people with that lost look of men and women who just left the funeral of a child. You look down the streets and you see the mighty lords and ladies of politics swimming laps in the pool of wealth. And, you pause and wonder.
Abiola was like a last hope back then, like the swing of a tiring boxer that somehow connected and knocked his opponent to the ground. Nigeria was tired, there was little hope and here comes Abiola with a broom of hope. I always think of him as the last Nigerian – a man so detribalized he was at home in all parts of the country. A devout Muslim who could make references to Biblical passages better than today’s jet-set preachers. A man Nigerians trusted so much they agreed to elect him in large numbers even though he was running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
But, do they still remember the man? If the politicians don’t, surely the people must.
It’s the Nigerian way to forget the past. It’s why simple things elude us. It’s why the simple act of replacing light bulbs in the international terminals of the airports is too tough a task no one does it, forgetting it’s every foreigners’ first impression of the country
And, you want politicians to remember the birthday of the man in whose path they walk? It’s like asking the Americans to remember George Washington. Oh, stop – they do. The named the capital after him.
But, I remember. I remember yesterday like a glorious dream. I remember it like a giant rock of diamond in the sky. I still hope I won’t wake up from this dream until that man of hope, MKO, returns and shatter the diamond into tiny pieces so we all can have a slice of the goods of this blessed nation.
But, I always wake up and the truth is a stench so thick you can’t run away from it. It’s on the hopeless faces on the streets; it’s in the economy teetering on the brink of collapse; it’s in the opposition politicians screaming “thief” at those in power when they are busy looting their states dry.
Sometimes you want to cry then you remember the mother crying for her children who had gone to war and would never return and you know you should save your tears because the sweat of poverty would soon drain them off you. And, you stop because mothers all over Nigeria are crying for children who are out at war on the street of Nigeria and are getting swallowed by the hopelessness.
Make no mistake about it, Nigeria is at war – a war unleashed by poverty. You can blame President Goodluck Jonathan all you want but the simple truth is that the worst you can accuse him of is swimming along in a filthy current that’s been dragging along for decades, a current that kills Nigeria’s dreams and murdered the one man who dared to save us from the abyss two decades ago.
But there is one thing you can blame the president for not doing. It’s not doing the right thing. As the current chief beneficiary of the seeds of democracy planted by Abiola’s blood. the president and indeed every Nigerian owe him one simple thing – a posthumous honor.
And, not just some University in Akoka. The man was a national figure. You wanna honor him, you give him the highest award in the land and you acknowledge him as “ex-president”. After all, he did win the freest and fairest election we may ever have.
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