Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Electricity Day

"Happy Electricity Day", a little girl on the streets who I didn't know said to me. She was a beggar, dressed in raggedy torn clothes and she obviously  wanted me to take notice of her so I could give her some change. This was after all a new Nigeria or so my parents said. In their time like they always reminded me, strangers used to greet each other as they walked by. It wasn't that way anymore. A certain distrust of other people had arisen as the nation prospered.
         Electricity day was a holiday celebrated on the fourth of July every year to mark uninterrupted power supply. So far, this was the 25th Electricity Day. A lot of things had changed or so the people of the old Nigeria liked to say. We were now a country called Naija, once a ghetto corruption of the word Nigeria. However, we were still known as Nigerians and not Naijans.
      Nigerian History class is the worst, I thought to myself as I walked down the hallways of the prestigious Dora Akunyili University. I didn't know much about her or about any of our founding mothers. I only knew she was a kick-ass fighter against fake drugs which were once prevalent. That was all I needed to know as far as I was concerned. Professor Malibu droned on and on about the Nigerian civil war. I didn't get why I had to learn about a bunch of adults who couldn't sort out their mess without resorting to violence and by 4pm for that matter.  Halfway into the class with most of the students zoning off, all the bulbs went dead. A power cut? There had been some rumours flying around that there had been issues with the Lekki power dam and electricity problems could resurface. Professor Malibu tried to calm us down, "Give it a minute or two and the power will be back." The wait was agonisingly slow. Ten minutes and there was still no light. The air conditioning was even down and the school didn't even have provisions for an emergency generator. Could this be the Nigeria my parents once lived in? I couldn't fathom it. School was cut short that day.
     The atmosphere was sweltering with mosquitoes buzzing about. I sat on the porch of my house in the student lodge. It was too hot to be inside what with the power being out. I swatted a mosquito that came close to my ear. This was frustrating. My neighbour next door was also on her porch using her notebook as a makeshift fan while her bedside lamp doubled as a reading lamp. I didn't have one. I never needed one. I made a mental note to buy one the next day. Eventually, we all decided enough was enough and went inside bravely determined to brave the unbearable nightmare.
     That night, there was a break-in. People must have realised the cover of the dark was a perfect time to rob students blind. It was a silent operation especially as most students slept with their doors or windows open. This was of course a Nigeria with the lowest crime rate in the world. Hardly anyone slept with their doors locked. I still did though. Everyone said I had trust issues. The next morning, I was one of the few people who had not been stolen from.
      Two days later, we still had no electricity. So much for electricity day. The price of the bus fare had increased and fuel prices were sky high. Next, there was an ASUU strike. Lecturers were complaining that they couldn't teach in such an unfriendly environment. It seemed like everything was crumbling at once. The foundation was crumbling because the cement hadn't dried properly before the house was built. Flyers were being passed around. There was going to be a protest at the Iweala square in Abuja. I had to go. That morning, I joined a bus conveying people mostly students to the square. People bore placards saying, "No going back", "Forward ever" and "Never will we lack shoes" while some discordant voices carried a tune of 'Solidarity forever' . I stepped out of the procession to go to a kiosk stand across the express to buy a can of Coke and meatpie. I sat down on a bench just beside the kiosk to eat my snack. The environment was a bit shabby, but it would have to do. The earth trembled. Did you feel that ?, I asked the young girl selling. She nodded shyly, her pigtails bouncing.
I looked over to the square from the kiosk. People were still marching along, but now not in unison. "Take cover, take cover! Bomb blast", someone screamed. This was something I only saw on CNN. That was when I knew it was over. We had lost our Naija, our new Nigeria. Blood pooled around the floor of the square and I looked from a safe distance. There were corpses all over and people writhing in pain. I shook my head and looked one last time at the country that once was. We would have to start rebuilding  once more. There was still no electricity when I got home and saw 35 missed calls from my mother. I called her to let her know I was ok. She wept, I wept.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

       I'm about to be really boring right now but I need to share a life lesson I learnt when I was in a dark place and couldn't summon the courage to do anything probably because I couldn't for the life of me see the point. To put it simply, I was in a funk so here goes nothing.
       A lot of times the problem is not the number of hurdles we have to jump over to get to our destination. It's rarely even about how many days it takes to build Rome because Rome sure as hell wasn't built in a day. It's never about how high we have to climb because almost everyone wants to get to the summit.
          It's more about that first hurdle that we have to jump over, that first step - the one that sets our journey in motion. It's always difficult to take that first climb up Mountain Everest or lay a brick to the foundation of our figurative Rome. The problem therein is mustering up the courage to make that initial move in the right direction.
          We find it fairly easy to see the grand plan from a distance, that beautiful finish line and the applause when the curtains close. It is however  not so easy to get up on that stage but when you dare to, it's only gonna be uphill from there (at least that's what I want to believe). Even when it seems like you're going downhill, you are actually getting into a better..... or the best position for another climb which will be worth it.
          The key thing is to know where you are headed and have that initial courage to get on track and realize that failure is always an option, just one that you can't afford to take.