“A battle is won by the side that is absolutely determined to win…but we had told ourselves early in the day that the battle was lost, so it was lost.”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Last week, my friend Sam and his friends were together when a friend in their midst got involved in an altercation with someone. It was minor by eyewitnesses accounts, later in the same day, the police broke down Sam’s door; he wasn’t home, so they took important items from his school hostel and asked him to come for them at the station, turns out Sam and his friends were all named in the case brought by the man his friend had had an altercation with. Now, it gets interesting. Sam and his friends went to the station, the police without asking them for their statements on what had happened and even though only one of them had the problem with the accuser, they were all asked to strip and were beaten within inches of their lives- after which they were made to enter into a horribly dirty pool of water and bathe in it. And did I mention that they were all students-except for their accuser?
Moving on a little bit. Yesterday, I was cooking noodles in my kitchen, with my Starking glass cooker when I decided to step out and get something. Then a terribly deafening sound shook the house, I ran back to the kitchen and found out that my cooker had shattered. There was glass everywhere…I was thoroughly unnerved.
How do these scenarios tie into the topic at hand? In the first instance, Sam decided to make reports; pertaining his mistreatment in the hands of the police, to the vice-chancellor of his school (who wasn’t around) and go on to meet the police boss and also move to contact a lawyer but he was ‘advised’ to let sleeping dogs lie-forget the assault, humiliation, terror, bodily harm and general injustice against him and just move on. He was ‘advised’ by these ‘well meaning folks’ that this was the way of the police and he should just get away from them. On my own end, I knew I couldn’t sue China so I went to the place I bought the cooker and guess what? I was told “it happens”. It happens?! You mean, if I had been in that kitchen, if another adult had been there or if a child had been there and got horribly injured, then I should (buy another weapon and) move on because it happens?
No. Injustices happen because WE let them happen! It has become a norm on Nigerian roads for policemen to holdup traffic because they’re haggling for and taking money from drivers. The policemen have become terrorists: breaking down doors, publicly beating up civilians, shooting at will, taking money in broad daylight-they carry guns and they’re getting away with their behaviors because Nigeria talks about it but Nigeria does nothing about it.
Nigeria is a nation of defeatists. We’re all about eternal forbearance. A nation of hopers waiting for ‘the beautiful ones’ to be born. We get smacked around by unjust laws, we accept corrupt people in public offices. We do nothing about the louts that hike the cost of transportation by taking money from drivers who in turn charge more from us to recoup the money. We are accepting of fast foods that give us meals prepared anyhow while taking a lot of money from us. In our homes, we pay money to the local government for “Television and radio use notices” (what does that even mean?!) We pay exorbitant light bills that we know not how those who have never entered our homes to see what we actually use, who do not read our meters and who give us light only when the month is about to end, present to us. We do not make noise when we contribute money for the repair of our streets and ‘it disappears’.
We are very accepting. No one wants to be the troublemaker and so, injustice becomes the status quo. And this is the land that our sons and daughters will be born into and they in turn will await the birth of ‘the beautiful ones’-those who in the events of protests, bullets will bounce off their bodies, tear gas will not affect their nostrils, and whose voices will ring through the corridors of power…probably.
The Nigerians of today want to TALK fashion and celebrities and sex and machismo and football. And then pepper the TALKS with politics, corruption, oppression, injustice etc…all from within the comforts of their homes and keypads.
But defeatists die too. Maybe not today but death must happen. But while we still live today, maybe…just maybe we can quit the talks and for once, act.