THE TRAGEDY OF THE FUTURE UNSEEN
The children were scattered in groups under the shade of the biggest Iroko tree at the village centre, each group with children of same interest, same play and same game. They covered their bodies with khaki pants. Oh! They didn’t cover their bodies; they covered their special parts, the parts which, according to their parents, should not be exposed when a boy plays with a girl, so as not to draw the ire of the gods.
As each group performed its kind of game, I felt a touch in my heart, like a wish, a reverie. I wanted to be a kid once again. There is this readiness in me to give up the whole world and go back to being a child.
I would like to be free, free from worries, from pressure, from grudge, from malice, from guilt and from everything that has to do with adulthood. I wanted to be happy, the way the children I earlier mentioned are, as if there is no tomorrow, living every moment, to its fullest.
The children unconsciously enjoyed everything that happened: the sun, beaming its smile on them, as it went to bed, the sounds from the chirping birds on the Iroko tree, which made it to look as though it was a party of animals and humans. And so it was.
As I sat, looking at the children, and most especially at a beautiful girl; Adesewa as I later knew her name to be, I received gifts from the villagers. Kolanuts, dried fishes, palm wine, pieces of cooked yam, to mention a few, were given to me. People here are lovely.
Instead of the boredom of having to wait for my guest beside the gate, lonely, as it would be in the city, I got engaged by the children and the courteous villagers. “This is a hidden paradise” I said to myself.
Adesewa, the beautiful girl was in the circle play with her friends. She frequently smiled, reciprocating what the sun was doing on every one of them. I even guessed the sun was sorry, to be going to bed so early, and would miss her. It (the sun) tarried in its journey, wishing to take her as its bride. There was this bird, on the tree busy with the works of weaving a nest, and would soon drop it for Adesewa, and she deserved it after all.
Adesewa bent on her knees, in the middle of the circle of her friends, like a lost “mammy water” which they called her. There were the game invaders who would break the circle and take her away.
The busy bird building its best nest left for a rest, probably to plan making the nest a better one. Now the sun had almost set but its effects were conspicuous on everyone. It could now be felt in its deep yellow light from the west. In a matter of minutes, the moon would show up, for its duty.
Here, everyone has a duty to be happy, at whatever he does. The birds sang, the trees danced, the women sang, the men watched and laughed. The hens and pigeons cooed, the dogs barked. The pestles beat their mortars, pounding what they were used to; yams, cocoyams, bread fruit, and dried yams for flour. Children went to help their parents and their number reduced under the tree.
Suddenly, Adesewa’s circle was broken, not by the game invaders, but by fear mixed with joy and surprise. The bird had dropped its gift for the beautiful girl. “Adesewa” they all screamed with joy. That was when I knew her name.
Before one could say Jack Robinson, the clever children had turned the situation into a more melodious scene as they sang:
“Adesewa, ayaba eye…Adesewa, ayaba eye”
This is translated as “Adesewa, the bird’s queen… Adesewa, the bird’s queen”
Even now that I write, everything to me is halcyon.
It was a place, far from whatever advantage or disadvantage civilization might have brought, yet it was beautiful and natural. It had a friend for everyone and an enemy for no one.
The elders showed love to the young ones and were not taken for granted. The young ones, showed respect to the elders and were not cheated. It was a paradise on earth, a paradise where the gods accept every cheerful sacrifice, exalt everyone humble, detest the evildoer, forgive every repentant sinner, supply people’s need, bless their farmland, give rains and sun, bless the animals and make things work well.
The bird had defeated the sun in the quest for Adesewa. Seeing that there was nothing to wait for, the sun went, to give room for the bright, glorious full moon.
My host came. “E kabo baba agba” (“welcome grandpa”), I said. He smiled, ignoring the wrinkles on his cheeks, he was more handsome than Kelly Handsome. His expression changed after smiling to acknowledge my greeting and asked in Yoruba language if I had been welcomed. “Oh Baba, I was welcomed but too busy watching the playing children”.
As I showed him the gifts given to me, he identified each calabash used in giving them to me. “This calabash” he said “belongs to Baba Ngozi, the nice Igbo man who owns the hut beside the Iroko tree, he speaks Hausa, Yoruba and of course, his language Igbo and relates with everyone with pure interest, everyone loves him.
As if it was not enough, grandpa went on to ask me to describe the woman who gave me the dried fish. He asked if she was tall, dark complexioned and squint eyed. He already knew who she was; she was Mama Diepreye, the Ijaw woman who sold fish in the village. According to grandpa, she was most loved by children to whom she gave fishes. “If she sells on credit and you could not pay on the agreed day, she would reduce the amount you are to pay”. He added, “sadly, her husband, Brisibie, died in the river trying to get a boy who was drowned, the man could give his life for anyone, for nothing in return. That was what he actually did.
The bag grandpa carried from the farm was a brown as the earth itself and so were his scattered teeth. From it he brought out a nylon containing sour milk. “Mallam Musa, the herdsman, gave me this on my way from the farm”, he said, and then added “he is a Fulani man whose life is a good example of being considerate, he never allowed his cattle to stray into anyone’s farmland and if such happens, he apologizes and pays whatever is demanded if the offended person will take anything”.
“Here, nobody is rich or poor, nothing compulsory belongs to anyone in particular, another man’s children are allowed to help the childless before the gods give them children. We work, eat, play, laugh, sleep and wake, we live every moment to our pleasure. Nobody steals, no one fights without reconciling before sunset. We are a family and our gods are happy with us”, he said in a voice somewhat solemn.
I wonder how he managed to chew the kolanut with his teeth. All I knew was he was stronger than he appeared. Or how could an octogenarian go to the farm and return so late? He should be with dad in the city shouldn’t he reject the proposal. He believed grandma died so early because she lived with us in the city and ate artificial food with which her body system could not cope.
…And this was a visit to the village on holidays… a couple of decades ago.
Whoever opined that “change is the only constant thing in life” should be commended. The Late Professor Chinua Achebe, a prophetic writer as I see him, wrote “Things Fall Apart” as a prophecy. Things never fell apart when he wrote the book, things just fell apart even now and they are still in the course of falling, all by themselves. Whenever I think of my grandpa’s times in relation to the times we are, I shed tears, freely, as if they could help the matter, and they may never do, since the earth doesn’t like bitter things which they are.
Everything has turned upside down in so many ways. Things changed their normal course of journey, from good to bad as a result of our choice, our decision and our resolution, as if nobody read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.
How does one find it difficult to define change when a child chooses to follow nature rather than nurture and rebels against his parents, he bites the finger that feeds him with impunity?
You see the land receives blessings from the sun, the rain, the dew, the moon, yet it refuses to bring up crops planted in it, what then is a change?
A ruler chooses to be wicked, like the biblical Rehoboam, his subjects also rebel and we say things have not fallen apart?
When it is time for rain, it shines, when it is time for the sun, it rains. At the time for light, there is darkness and light comes at the wrong time. Yet, is anyone saving a fortune to buy a dictionary for the meaning of the word “change”?
In my grandpa’s time, women dressed morally, yet they were beautiful. Men dressed locally, yet they were handsome. Boys and girls wore pants and played together, yet they were innocent. Adults loved the children and they were not taken for granted. Children respected adults and they were not cheated.
Those happy times are like a shadow now sent away, by light. Oh! It was darkness. It was only given the name light because it was brought by the white people and they call it civilization.
With its presence, the old can no longer discipline the young without being disrespected. The young only obey the old when they are forced, and that becomes nothing but fear.
The boys don’t dress like humans anymore. They wear trousers a little above the thighs and a little below the waist. Are we sane? The girls believe they rule the world and control its affairs. Each is drowned in one social vice or the other. You walk on the street and see the daughters of Eve no longer shy to open their nakedness. You can easily see, if it is your business, from beneath a girl’s wear, her beautiful body which God gave her and you have a little left to the imagination.
The first time I saw a girl’s pant on her bare body was at the age of seven. She was my age. Naivety prompted her to call me to a corner and said in a happy mood “Biodun, won ti ra pata tuntun funmi” meaning “Biodun, they have bought new pant for me”. Everything ended there and our innocence wasn’t stolen from us. That is a world now gone.
A man wakes up and decides to sleep with his sister-in-law. Even before he carries out his vicious plans, the sister-in-law might even have an intention similar to his. Haven’t men been reduced to total animals, living beasts? If the answer is no, then I believe we are highly less than humans and more of animals.
The stars on the television and the pictures on the internet are not making things better. A man proposes marriage to another man, and according to our colonizers, he has the legal right and in country where he doesn’t, say Nigeria, he marries such secretly. Aren’t we the devils spoiling ourselves?
How can a man, a sane man, be ready to kill his opponent for an office, the occupation of which is temporary? A political leader turns his office to a family chieftaincy and can do anything possible to retain such, are we okay?
How won’t we offend Matthew 7:1 when our religious leaders, who are supposed to correct social vices, turn to be the ones in the mess? You hear pastors forge documents, and even rape innocent young ones; an Imam takes another man’s wife. Aren’t things falling apart after all?
A student cheats to pass an examination, after passing, he comes to the church for thanksgiving, all praise to God for his mercies after all. A man loves a child more than the others, and he declares such even to his own detriment. Are you another Jacob? I should tell you, you can never bear a new Joseph, no more slave trade and Egypt is not even ready for you. Get that to your skull.
Man’s thought is full of evil and out of the abundance of such, he speaks and acts. There are many questions I wish to ask as to why the future, in which we already are, is full of tragedy and yet we are not aware of it. A Yoruba adage translates as “we unknowingly applaud a banana which is decaying as ripening”. Gone are the good old days when the gods were our friends and here are the bad new days when we made the gods our enemies. This is not the future we dreamt of, this is just not it!
I’m @me_ablad on twitter.