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  • Chinua. G. Emeana.

Not too young to run

Four years don waka but here I am in the same place. Against themselves, my thoughts still race in the region of my mind. But who I am now is watching the world from my window, sunsets always sit pretty over here in the Savannah. Stare a little longer and I might see smoke rising from charred garbage. Squint farther and I might peep the police patrolling these excuses for roads in a Black Maria, cradling rifles and pistols like Iron arrows of God.

So because seeing is believing, my faith in this place is nothing. And nothing would have really prepared me for the day I came back to Naij, a final roll of the dice. Back when my Decembers had winter, the breeze was bitter, and I wondered about this motherland.

And many days after my return, I slipped into old habits like clothes I never outgrew. My fingers danced and snapped in the name of handshakes, slang rattling my teeth when I greeted. The taste of pidgin still familiar on my tongue, I was grateful I never spat it out. But that one no mean say I no be ajebutter because if you carry me go Warri, you go know say Khaki no be Leather.

I look back and remember when I wore Khaki to serve my country, we were corpers to salute those who emptied our coffers.[1] They called us government property because only our bodies were left to take. Our futures were taken before we could say kpo kpo di kpo. You know how the story goes.

In camp, friends were made as fast as they were lost, my mates sought to bump and grind before they had work to find, I shrugged through it all. I forgot why the caged bird sings as I cursed the cock that crowed every early momo. If only then, I knew the saying of my people, “whenever you wake up, that is your morning”. But if there is one thing Naija always tells me, she will not wait for you to start when you are ready.

That October, I wasn’t asked if I was ready or not for the news of death. Fast forward to the souljah man at Camp who said in jest to our platoon that one day, una go carry gun fight too. I had laughed then because who wanted to live in Naij, let alone die for it? But I had already been answered.

The night of October 20th, 2020 was when our illusions were shattered, I imagined their faces, shapes that glimmered faintly in the hue of hope, ignoring their mother’s pleas to stay in the house because there was a bigger home to fight for. How they screamed sóró sóké till we spoke up with them. After all, one does not tell a deaf person that war has broken out.

Our hopes flickered until our own people killed the lights and cameras to turn the guns on ourselves. That darkness reminded us that NEPA would never shine a light on our situation. My tears wanted to run where my feet could not, instead I swallowed my sobs. Seems the good die young after all.

And so, in times of grief that heaved our chests, we turned to the gods we knew best. Where incantations let the tongue loose, and tongues raise the Church roof, you have the formula for a full house. Be like say I dey judge but we just take what works for us. Sitting in a silver surfer of a car with my atheist and agnostic friends, I wondered what voice of God we all heard. Was it just echoes of silence? Was it distorted and divided? Chukwu gozie gi, Olorun Maje. Does it make a difference? Will I ever have Godspeed to run my race towards heaven?

I know my dreams can move mountains but my prayers may or may not crack ceilings, sometimes it is hard to believe. I’ve seen enough things that have shocked me as far as miracles go but this tug of war here is an arm’s reach, boxing with the devil.

My heart knows my God but my eyes say money is worshipped here. It’s why street girls never tire, for finer things like rent on Victoria Island. It was why on a sunny Saturday in Oshodi, a short man chanted something sounding like Xhosa as he brought our family closer in the name of Jesus and bound every devil by fire. I recalled my brothers and I kept our eyes open in defiance, his holy oil staining the notes exchanged with my aunties for counterfeit blessings.

It’s why everywhere you turn, you see a beggar with hands out for bread that is not communion. It’s why a man once named Raymond Abbas talk say e go hammer but nobody believed him so by fire, by force, he chased the money like police chased Lawrence Anini. It will always be why these leaders Fela sang about will never see trial.

It is why pensions are swallowed so our elders die in squalor. It is why we found solace in our president’s false promises, we really are not too young to run. Not for office but something that frames imagination beyond these horizons. But wait, I suppose know everything get price for Naij, especially our dreams. Truth being that not everyone can afford to japa thanks to sapa. I may not on my own but if push comes to shove, there is hope.

Nothing else warms my heart like when I spoke to my brothers on the other side in Yankee, even when questions hung in the air for me to catch. Like when will I go back to Jand? So Naij has become that bad? My bros know wetin dey sup for what I want but I also know that as far our skin is copper, anywhere we must see suffer. Certainly wasn’t easy for me the last time but I would do it again. How long has it been? By this December, four years for don waka and here I am in the same place. I tell myself it’s July and there is still time.

Time betrays you after twenty-five but my other friends are surely not too young to run, all the way to Ontario, Geneva, Reading, Kent and Budapest. And truly, their joy is mine, na jaiye we dey find. I know that these memories make enough movies for me to keep. Sha, we will see. Who is to say? Maybe, just maybe I will run into you again one of these days.

[1] NYSC- National Youth Service Corps is a mandatory annual program dedicated to Nigerian graduates to participate in positions of civil service for the purpose of nation-building.

About the author:

Chinua.G. Emeana is a Barrister with experience in Finance. He comes from a family of storytellers but hopes to be the first to put pen to paper. He uses his spare time to participate in community engagement and make awesome playlists.


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