Rather than pay a tax he suspected was being used to expand slave-holding territories, Henry David Thoreau opted for a jail during the Mexican War. His friend, Waldo Ralph Emerson was a convinced opponent of slavery too. Hearing that Henry had been jailed for refusing to pay a small tax, Waldo visited him in prison angrily demanding: “Henry, why are you here in prison?” Surprised that Waldo wanted him to compromise, Henry turned to him, “Waldo, why are you not here?” Henry’s response became the classic reply of any fully committed to cowards.
Later on, Waldo who was a great American essayist and poet would admit, “Our chief want in life is someone who can make us do what we can.” Emerson was for him, a lesson in conviction even at the price of his freedom.
To all poor Nigerians helpless before the current elite politics, Thoreau has a message. We are not healthier when we eat our vomits like politicians or less thirsty when we stew on our juice as the citizens do. The heroes of our democracy are not the political prostitutes but the poor masses who remain committed to a country that offers only low life.
The West has conquered space; the US is creating space force. But Nigeria is yet to conquer her pathways and her citizens are still falling down from palm trees. Rather than fund education and research, whooping sums are pumped into elections whose winners are always known years before. Our best brains rot in mortuaries called public schools while the wards of the rich despite knot-meg brains study in the world best universities at the cost of our public naira. They return home with results just good enough for coordinating Sunday school activities.
Average Nigerian child has no future. His basic education is not guaranteed. If he pulls through and writes his Jamb, there is no admission. If he gets an admission, strikes will frustrate his study calendar. If he writes his finals, it takes years to compute his results and clear him for NYSC. If he serves and wants a job, someone with political connections to help out will either insist on initiating him into an occult group, extorting or taking sexual advantage of him. At his work, he is owed; if he is paid in arrears, he faces bank protocols and poor internet services to withdraw. If he succeeds, he is robbed outside.
He is everywhere unsafe. He goes by air and it is a matter of life and death. At bus terminals, he is at the mercy of bomb explosions and hoodlums. His road is full of dangers- the gullies, the trigger-happy police constables, taskforces, kidnappers, and armed robbers. By water, the avengers and pirates are on rampage. He treks, he runs into bloody herdsmen or Boko Haram insurgents.
He rents a house in the urban, the revenue collectors wouldn’t allow him ‘drink water and keep cup.’ He opts to be indoors, he has no power supply. He goes outside to enjoy natural breeze, he is a guest to robbers and ritualists. He relocates to his village, witches and wizards call for his head. He runs to a church for help, he is either extorted or sexually abused.
He wants to share his frustration on social media and he is cyber-mobbed by fanatics of politicians and pastors. At 30, he is unmarried, hungry, angry and unfulfilled. To run his shower, he has no soap; to love, he is asked how much he earns; he slips into depression. Yet, he is the only graduate in a family of seven. If gold can rust what will iron do?
He comes to my inbox to ask if there is still hope again for the upright. He is now tempted to defect to easy virtues. He is my hero and not any political hippopotamus with cobwebs in-between his legs. To him I tell the story of Thoreau not to sell his conscience, never to defect. Things do not always get from bad to worse; sometimes, they get better.
During the WWII, London was bombed mercilessly. One night a man in his 80s was standing outside St. Andrew’s Church, located on the edge of London where it overlooked the city. As the old man looked down on the fire and billows of smoke rising from city, he began to cry. “Is there no hope at all?” he sobbed. Just then a gust of wind cleared the smoke long for the old man to see atop the dome of St. Paul’s. The instant he saw it, he felt a surge of hope soar through his body. He suddenly realized there is power greater than evil at work in the world.
An inscription on the tricycle that hit my car in 2015 is consoling: No Condition is permanent.
© Felix Uche Akam- 11.08.2018@Dragnet.