Suffering and Smiling, a contradiction within a national space

Again, Buhari promises to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty


-Chukwuemeka Otuchikere

I stood at the bank of the great River flowing from the lofty heights of the Futa Jallon highlands. in what appeared to be a deluge of an enormous body of water, streaming and cascading over rapids and falls as it lost momentum within the confluence town of Lokoja. As I continued in my contemplative meditation on the destiny of this nation, I concluded that as it is in the life of a river so it is reflected in the metamorphosis of nations: The juvenile or youthful stage, the mature stage and finally old age.

In a land of such immense contradictions, potentially wealthy but scandalously impoverished by successive governments; transiting from the industrial and scientific age into the much anticipated information age, we have undergone a cultural evolution without any definite progression beyond the threshold of lethargic, random motion and commotion. Given the divergent conglomeration of ethnic and tribal ideological plurality, this has produced a cauldron of interest and infighting within a spatial dimension that could be summarized as merely a geographical expression by no less a personality than the late sage from the ancient city of Ikenne.

I remembered the vagaries of our wasted youth, the missed opportunities of the oil  years of the 70’s, including the Gulf war wind-fall of the 90’s. Our prodigal proclivity to wasting the natural and national endowments bestowed on this bastion of the black race by mother nature. It was obvious that the sheer sybaritic lifestyle of our leaders cannot be sustained by the extractive industry alone even as black gold is subjected to centrifugal forces of fluctuating demand and supply.

While we have committed ourselves to putting up a good exterior, we totally neglected the soul of our nation therefore charity, empathy and sympathy are in short supply. I also lamented like the not too long departed sage, when with a tint of regret he wrote: ‘There was a country’, where the collective visions and dreams of her childhood days have been long sacrificed at the altar of self and selfish interest’.

Even as the nation sits precariously at the edge of a precipice, her elite engage in a new dance style dubbed ‘Azonto’. They are lost in ‘azontomanic’ gyration across different boundaries oblivious and unmindful of the prediction of 2015 as the expected terminal point as the nation braces the elastic limits of intolerance and injustice.

As the streaming waters meandered further downhill across the vast savannahs and sahaelian landscape, the body of water appeared like some silvery serpentine contortion in the horizon. In the dim echo of discordant voices it was announced that western education is ‘haram’ or forbidden.

On cue, more dance steps were invented. Even since the days of Atilogwu and nkpokiti dances, men have always somersaulted in defiance of gravity. Now the youths spend their time obsessed with a new genre of music laced with ludicrous, obscene and gutter-speak. Lyrics exhumed from the catacombs of the fabled concrete jungle-city.

The  matured citizens reminiscence on the days of innocence when school-boy bands like ‘Ofege’ ruled the airwaves in adolescent sopranos cooing ‘Wizzy Ilabo’ while men waltzed away to the care free rhythm of bongo drums across the African landscape with ‘Osibisa’ and ‘Ipi n’Tombi’ in refreshing serenade showcased at the festival of black and African arts also called FESTAC.

As the light increased, so did the circumference of darkness around it expand. Today we have an emcee who can boast Ph.D. however, the lyrical arrangements end up with my favorite refrain as ‘shebi-shebi’ laced with all manner of distorted memories and nostalgic experience.

We remember the Afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the abami-eda himself. The now dead conscience of the Nigerian masses who many fans likened to a prophet in his day. It was he who popularized the song ‘Suffering and Smiling’ -the greatest contradiction of the times only possible in Nigeria where the musical chair never stops revolving.

Otuchikere, a geologist and social commentator wrote from Calabar, Nigeria.

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