Drums of chaos, war and disorder
LET those who beat the drums of national disorder, war and chaos beware! Let those who egg them on beware also; let those who take no action to douse tension, who take no action to quench a raging fire in a section of the country beware. Let those whose houses are on fire and are chasing fleeing rats beware. It is not wisdom to insult your mother in order to please your father. It is not wisdom to confront and insult your father in public over a private matter. It is not wisdom to dance naked to celebrate the beauty of success.
Indeed, it is foolishness, big foolishness. Let those who would rather sow seeds of war than plant trees of peace beware too. Let them remember with the memory of the elephant that when a tree falls, we are no gods to tell where the branches will fall with a thud or with a fatal bang; that we are no prophets to say what would become of the huge trunk of the fallen ‘akpobrisi’ tree or who would come with axes and cutlasses to fetch or make firewood of us. Let them know that even women would cut off meat of a fallen elephant or a dead lion. Let them know that a grandmother does not enter the room of the feast of puberty. And let them beware too!
Let them know that it is from the house of the coward that we point at the ruins of the strong man’s homestead. Let them know that when chaos sits as a permanent guest in our homestead, we would have to enter our homes through another man’s gate; that strangers would sit in judgment over us and cast our lives into the dustbin of disgrace; that the perching birds would fly into distant skies and roam away in complete freedom; that no one would receive us into their habitations because like the proverbial chicken, we blindly destroyed our God-given nest. Let them know that it is not the way of our inherited world for us kill the bee perched on the scrotum with a sledgehammer. Let them know that if the deluge comes again, the manipulators of the violent drum beat will fly into distant lands and watch from afar till restoration.
Why do we want to cascade with lusty gusto into the valley of uncertainty? Why do the drummers beat sounds of war and the singers sing songs of separation? Why? Have they forgotten 1967? Have they forgotten 1968? Have they forgotten 1969? Have they forgotten January 1970 when the conflagration came to an end? Have they forgotten the victor, the vanquished, even though we mouthed ‘no victor, no vanquished? Have we forgotten that indeed some were vanquished and have been kept out of the corridors of hope since that brutal conflict? Have we forgotten that never again in our history should we push dancers into anomie, into bloody valleys? Have we forgotten how Boko Haram started and how like a festering sore it has made a mockery of governance in the north east? Have we forgotten that we have not been able to stem the season of slaughter of innocent lives in the north eastern part of our country? Is it true that the visible dancers and drummers were not born when we all said ‘never again? Is it true that they were never taught in school how we imposed hunger on our brothers and planted kwashiorkor on innocent kids? Is it true that the history of Nigeria is dead in the school syllabus?
A father’s tears, our elders say and we know too, are not for his offspring to see. When a child cries and points in a direction, even the blind man knows that he wants his mother from that direction; the direction of hope, the direction of succour, the direction of peace. When we queue up in the hot sun or endure the wetness and coldness of the rain to cast a ballot, we yearn for a farmer, a horseman or horsemen that would listen with both ears and water seeds of peace, plant trees of hope. Silence from the farmer when violent birds land on the farm and devour crops is a sign of deafness. Our elders never enthroned the deaf as king. Even the limping genius was forbidden from sitting on the throne. Ask J.P. Clark’s idiotic Temugedege who became king of Orea after a season of deaths.
The elders are baffled that babies of yesterday now yearn for the yuletide of destruction. The grown babies make war chants and pour red oil on the white cloth of communal purity. Onlookers are worried that may be they are listening to the drum beat of agitation played by disenchanted elders whose access to the centre of things was thwarted because of the conflagration of the past. Is the war drumbeat a brother to Boko Haram or the fierce fight in the Niger Delta before amnesty and reconciliation? Is it the brother of the ‘political Sharia? Is it a call to attention?
We have fired the words of hope, of caution into the space of today, into the horizon of our homeland; let us hope and pray that seeds of peace through actions and words will drown the urgent drums of discordance. Let us be magnanimous in victory and plant the seeds of growth and inclusion in the permutations of the land. So, let those who currently beat the drums of war remember the cataclysm of the deluge that landed on our homeland from 1967 to 1970. It was not a dance that anyone enjoyed. Not even the drummers came out with a good story to pass on. When the Dance ended, we swore ‘never again’. Let the ‘never again’ be a refrain as we prepare for the feast of ingathering. Let us remember that ‘the elephant ravages the jungle/the jungle is peopled with snakes/the snake says to the squirrel/I will swallow you/the mongoose says to the snake/I will mangle you/the elephant says to the mongoose/I will strangle you’.
• Professor Hope Kevbe Eghagha is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.