By ‘Lakunle Jaiyesimi
In Asare, a little town that thrived yet smiled without much of western civilization, the people depended solely on a small stream of water that escaped through small openings around gigantic stones that blocked and lurched a huge supply of water behind it back into underground, inaccessible recesses. The stones constituted an albatross giving no right of way and yet preventing access to a much-needed, life-saving resource, water. The vicinity of this stream enjoyed the most visitation by the people of Asare. The first sets of people to arrive the stream got to collect whatever amount of water had escaped the stones, while those that came later either scratched the earth in hope or waited around till the stones’ magnanimity allowed some water out. Everyone had a ready excuse, no thanks to the stones.
Mama Iyabode would sit, chin-on-hand, contemplating the stones as if they deliberately wanted her to suffer while she thought to herself, “Hmmmm, if not for these stones that prevented me from fetching water, by now, I would have cooked my husband’s favourite meal.” That was what she impulsively told her husband whenever he asked about his meal. Baba Iyabode himself had become a prominent member of parliament, not the national arm of government, but the assembly of big drinkers who gathered every evening at Iya Oloosa’s dry joint down the street. They passed for a better version of the national legislators except that they were not paid sitting allowances; rather they paid for whatever they drank. Baba Iyabode and his friends would argue about almost everything the public mouth could say. Sometimes, the argument was about the politics of the stones. “Why and how were the stones acting as they did?” “What will happen to the people of Asare and the town if the stones remained where they were?” So many questions that generated heated and forever unresolved arguments. While some argued that the presence of the stones was an act of God to teach them gratitude for the life and little water that escaped blockade, others thought of it as a nemesis for their sinful past. Yet, those who had not the privilege of a faith in any god contented themselves with the idea of nature, of probability. They argued that it was chance for their town to be located same place as the stones. While those who had any faith in God tried to convince their people that they needed to fast more and pray without cease; the latter believed they needed to work harder in order to create alternative sources of water for the town. The streets caught the fever. The young, educated, energetic, even purposeful members of the town distracted themselves from the imposing presence of the stones with other ventures, near or far. “I will work hard and tirelessly to earn much money and bring water to Asare, even if I have to lay pipes running hundreds of kilometers, to sell at a price and make more money. To hell with the stones! The less educated but street-wise ones planned and strategized to monopolise the stream by collecting all the water they could into jerry cans and selling them to the highest bidders. Some had sinister plans to sabotage the little water that escaped by adding more stones to finally block the few holes that provided a right of way for the stream. They thought, “if only a few had access to the little stream, it is better everyone had no access at all.” And then, there were those who did not care about the stones. They were too burdened by the lack of water and the stress therefrom to bother. These ones stayed away from the vicinity of the stones justifiably busy with their lives. Some even sold their family members at the borders for a bowl of clean water. Others used their time and energy in dredging the earth for well water, which they never encountered but kept hoping that one day, the earth will bless them. The entire town was immersed in the apathy of squalor. No property was too valuable not to be exchanged for water. And it went on like that. Asare existed, merely thriving, for as long as the people never came round to understand that collectively they could tackle the stones, removing them one piece at a time until all stones were removed even if it took hundreds of them to remove just one stone in a year. Whatever had happened to Asare must remain in the recess of memory.
It is one thing to be tired of the long-drawn-out political impasse that we have found ourselves as a people. It is another to resolve to do something about it. It is a fact, even on the streets of ignorance, that when pushed to the wall, the only viable option is an offence through the path(s) of the offender to achieve a stalemate or a counter check. Having lived many years after reaching that dead-end, simply picking crumbs that fall off the body of offenders, who persist in their politics of fraud and deception for the sake of self-agrandisement, we as a people should have had enough. We have but what to do about that frustration when we are a peace-loving people, who have faith in a God who will one day come to save us from the jaws of our own sharks? Our educators, preachers, key-opinion leaders are nonetheless immersed in their want to survive and rise to the peak of a fantastic pyramid that they help, even without many of them noticing or bothering to care about the consequences, in directing the attention of the mass of the people into perpetually picking crumbs and remaining grateful, “at least for life”. Down with them! Those complicit in keeping the people in bondage and the ignorance of it. Down, we should make them.
For the many years since independence, the old guard, veteran politicians who have managed to feed fat on the commonwealth of the people and the uncommon experience to outsmart the huge majority, have trudged on with their sense of entitlement to power and the largesse of it at the blatant detriment of the young voters, who clearly constitute the majority. They have trudged on with many more stones placed in the path of progress of the young voters, a constitution that favours the old guard, impossible criteria to qualify for election, money politics that disenfranchise young people who have only started to make a life for themselves and a pallying arrangement that puts the young electorates outside of the corridors of power. And when invited to those corridors, it is only to serve as observers, reporters and at best appointed to occupy the lowest rung.
Not being a favour, the NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN Act was ironically considered a privilege rather than the norm where young people who are eligible to vote should be eligibile to run for the same offices. The next is to see the reality of its provisions where the political landscape becomes mainly occupied by young people with members of the old guard serving to guide and advise. When this happens, the old veterans as we have them now who attempts to join political race would see themselves as RELIC TELEPHONE BOXES trying to outperform modern, hi-tech cellular. It just will not happen. But for this to happen, everyone must stand to be counted. Everyone must come together to lift off the stones that had prevented the outpouring of water. It must matter that everything matters. Everyone must contribute anyway we can to pronounce that we are ready to govern ourselves.
Enough of the now unpopular clichés as “Whatever I do changes nothing.” “The people who will win have already been predetermined.” Or “The roots power structure is just too deep to disrupt.” We should bear in mind that all civilizations, cultures and traditions displaced entities that predated them and the only constant thing in life is change.
For Nigeria, the time for that change is now.
‘Lakunle Jaiyesimi writes from Brazil. He can be reached on email@example.com
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