…if we have a country

thinking man

Dear Suzzy,

Contrition overwhelms me as I pen these words. I am ashamed of myself because I lied to you and made a promise I knew would be hard to keep. On a second thought, I forgive myself because you pushed me. You pushed me when you kissed me the other night and made me promise to take you to Nigeria on Valentine’s Day.

I must have been hypnotized by that kiss or the food we ate afterwards.  I am certain that I wouldn’t have made such a weighty promise if I was in control of my senses.

I hate to disappoint you my dear but we have to cancel the arrangement. We cannot spend Valentine day in Nigeria because my country will be at war on that day.

I know how eager you are to visit Africa and Nigeria. I know how much you look forward to meeting the nice people and seeing the beautiful places you have read and heard about. But your curiosity can wait another year my dear.

If you don’t want to have Valentine memories tainted in tears and blood then we should remain here and cuddle on that day. With the super-fast internet at our disposal, we can watch the madness in my country from a distance. Our love is young and sweet but I fear it will never be the same if I take you home this Valentine.

Suzzy my dear, you are probably wondering why I am so scared when all that is happening is just an election to decide who will be president of my country. But you won’t understand. You have lived in these peaceful climes for too long and you think elections in other parts of the world are the same with what you have here.

But you are wrong my dear. In my own part of the world, elections are like war. We go to the polls afraid of what will happen when the results are announced. However it turns out, tears, blood and wanton destruction of property are normal features of elections in Nigeria.

You ask why it is like that?  It is because politics in my country smacks of desperation. Those who hold power sit tight even when they have performed below expectations and those who want it will throw everything including the kitchen sink to actualize their ambitions.

My dear Suzzy, we can’t make this visit to Nigeria because the forthcoming elections may be bloody. Everyone is afraid the country may go up in flames regardless of the outcome.

Have you forgotten what my friends in Berlin said when we visited for Christmas? I mean, you saw the trepidation in Timi’s eyes when he told us his parents were planning to relocate temporarily from their home in the Kaduna because they fear a riot might start when the results are announced.

Joe my friend in Lagos, said some people were already planning to go to Ghana, Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries during the election. That’s what happens every time we go to the polls in my country. Those who have the means run away until the madness abates. The poor and innocent ones are always at the short end of the stick. Some die. Others lose their homes and means of livelihood while another group of survivors will spend the rest of their lives nursing physical and emotional wounds that will never heal.

Suzzy, do you know what is really annoying this time?  We are to choose between two men who probably don’t deserve to be president of any country in the world.

Unlike your own country where you have to choose from a pool of brilliant minds, with enviable track records, election in my country is based strictly on ethnic and religious sentiments.

My dear, do you know how difficult it is to choose between an incumbent president who has failed in many areas and a 72-year old retired General with a questionable past?  Joe says it is like standing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

You know another annoying thing as we prepare for this election? It is the fact that no one is asking the fundamental questions. On Facebook, Twitter and other social media platform, the re-packaged General is portrayed as our knight in shining amour.  To his teeming supporters, it is a sacrilege to express contrary opinions about him.

They sound as if this man who overthrew a democratic president some 32 years ago has the magic pills to cure all that ails Nigeria the moment he becomes president. As though voting for him will instantly mark the end of the epileptic power supply, equip hospitals without drugs, revamp universities of shallow knowledge, fix blood sucking expressways and better the lives of millions of impoverished citizens in one day.

As for the incumbent President, the cookies are crumbling around him with every passing day. They say he is weak and inept to rule a complex country like Nigeria and he is not doing much to change that opinion.

You know what is most funny about his re-election campaign? His followers compare him to Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew and other famous leaders and then urge us to give him more time to transform our country.

So Suzzy, do you see why we can’t go to Nigeria for Valentine this year? Let’s just watch from here and pray God and the angels protect our loved ones who can’t get out of the country.

I know how disappointed you feel right now but I promise you in the name of our love that we will spend the next Valentine in Nigeria…if we have a country after 2015.

With love, now and forever

Veen

Vincent Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany

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Lessons From My Past

I have been to the Capital City, Abuja on only two occasions. My second visit was just two weeks ago, for my Call to Bar ceremony, and I had to put up with an in-law of mine, who is married with two lovely children. I had a tough time keeping Ezinne, the three-year old child away from my room. She would run in and insist on ransacking and inspecting every belonging of mine. During one of such occasions, she stumbled on my wig and gown, and as soon as I informed her what they were for, she declared emphatically that she wanted to be a lawyer. Ebube, her elder sister, laughed and informed me that only some days ago, Ezinne had made a lot of noise about wanting to become a pilot. I had a good laugh at that revelation. But it was not only humor that was sparked up in me, as that incident took my thought down the long path of memory.

I did not always want to be a lawyer. In fact, there existed a time when I was totally clueless and confused as little Ezinne. Being the best Biology student in secondary school, my parents concluded that I would be a surgeon, and frowned when I eventually went to the Arts class. My decision stemmed from my flair for the Art subjects, and more importantly, it was, for me, a chance of becoming an economist like my favourite sister, Ify.
At that time, I believed that if I followed my sister’s steps, I would become like Okonjo Iweala of the World Bank, Charles Soludo of the Central Bank, and Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke of the stock exchange. And so my sister became my greatest model and mentor. Then, it was not so much about what I really wanted to be in future, but who I wanted to imitate and eventually become like. I was blinded by my desire to become like other folks that I never looked deep down.

Time went by and I found myself in the Economics department. I later got wiser, and discovered a brand new path which I should follow if I desired career fulfillment – the path that led to the legal profession.

The legal profession held vast promises for me. It was an opportunity to be a true advocate of justice, especially in a nation like Nigeria, which has repeated instances of social injustice. I was also desirous of defending the rights of the vulnerable persons in the society, and the profession provided the most suitable platform.

Switching was not an easy task as I had to re-sit the JAMB exam and aptitude test, while also dedicating adequate study time to my courses. I sought counsel from few persons before I finally decided, and of all the pieces of advice I got, the one offered by a certain Chioma, a final year student still stands out in my mind. She berated me for not considering my friends in the Economics department. Being the assistant course representative at that time, she reminded me that I owed my friends and fellow students the great duty to remain with them in the career journey we had already begun. According to her, my decision to switch courses was most incongruous with my obligation to the class. I was to stand by my friends, she maintained, and any contrary decision will be tantamount to disloyalty and gross unfaithfulness to friendship.

There was a certain doctor who also stands prominent in my mind. I had a small medical challenge in school – one that I cannot remember now – and I visited the school clinic. When he inquired my discipline, I told him of my intention to switch, and he immediately launched into a litany of warning. He considered my decision thoughtless, and warned me to re-think. According to him, entrance into the legal profession would usher me into a world of endless poverty. He made reference to several relatives of his who were lawyers with a long history of impecuniosity. ‘You may end up as a charge-and-bail lawyer, so you better stay in Economics’, were his last words to me.

I really consider Economics an amazing course, which presents its graduates with wide prospects of employment. My decision to switch from it was driven by a far deeper conviction, a nagging yearning, whose end I could not yet fathom. I was satisfied in the knowledge that I would derive eternal glee in the very act of following the path that I was rightly convinced was meant for me. I neither followed Chioma’s advice nor that of the doctor, and so far, especially on the day I was called to the Nigeria Bar, looking back in time, I have found endless contentment in the path I treaded.

Experience, they say, is the best of teachers. So, from my career mistake, I learned a lot of lessons.  I am now convinced that each person must follow his/her own dreams, and strive to thread that unique way that is most suited for his/her destiny. I have also learned that role models and mentors are there to inspire us to be the best we can be. They are not persons to be followed sheepishly or blindly, for we all are made with our own unique abilities and destinies.

Again, I have learned that in life, there will always be dream killers, and discouragers. Focus and determination is the only solution to overcoming them. And for me, they were personified in Chioma, and the medical doctor. Chioma was wrong. I concede that there is nothing compared to faithful friendship. But any sort of friendship which becomes a barricade between a person and his/her dream, is at best, useless. It is almost seven years now, the wind of life has blown me and those erstwhile course mates of mine to different directions, and naturally, I have lost touch with most of them.

The doctor was also grossly wrong.  Fear is the seed of failure, and there is nothing as bitter as pessimism, and an abject lack of hope. His words were channeled to ignite fear in me, which if conceded to, will only distance me from my ambitions. Any man who prepares for poverty, will certainly find it at his doorpost. I did not set my eyes on poverty, never did, never will.

Having only been called to the Nigerian Bar, and currently in the NYSC orientation camp, I already have three letters of employment from very reputable law firms in Victoria Island/ Ikoyi, Lagos State. Surely, the doctor was very wrong.

Finally, and most importantly, the past incident has enhanced my appreciation of the concept of time. It remains true, the old saying that no time is ever too late. Upon the discovery of a mistaken path already taken, one must be quick enough to make the necessary amends, or forever, live in regret, and wishful thinking.

By Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe

Uche Anichebe was called up to the bar on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 alongside over three thousand Nigerian law graduates.

Twitter: @ojukwu_martin

CRIES OF THE MOON

FUll moon

At night the celestials are watching
As the sun goes down and the tides are falling
The shouting and honking subside
And the troubles of the day put aside
Slowly but surely the darkness appears
Bringing solace to some but to others fear

The night brings with it a certain chill
While all appear calm and tranquil
Alas a certain sound is again heard this time
The muffled cry of man as he witnesses crime
Watching the puddles turn crimson
And the blood-soiled earth glisten

The lady that once walked with pride
Now has tears filled in her eyes
For her pride has been taken
And she will face shame when others awaken
The vehicles are out on the street again
But their owners are not in them
The offenders drive off in the open lanes
To open-secret abodes that are their dens

The celestials see the events that happen
And provide for man a safe haven
The sad moon starts to waste
As the outlaws start in haste
They care less for the nocturnal iniquities
And summarize their nefarious activities

But all of these come at a cost
Their rewards are not at all lost
Even as they leave rubbles behind and take flight

They know the victims will never dread any like the night

EMMANUEL OKAFOR is a Nigerian poet. Follow him on twitter @chelsea_emma95