You slightly touch your belly. It’s strike day four. Papa’s forehead shines in the distance as he raises his hands.
“Fellow Nigerians”. His voice makes you retch. It is a mixture of Hennessy and hypocrisy.
You bend over and let out soft moans. You can feel Natalie’s eyes on your skin. You feel it every month when you bend like this. Her silence doesn’t annoy you. She is like that.
You feel a grip on your arms. “Madam, hope no problem”. The grip is so tight that you can hardly breathe. You are certain it belongs to a man and you want to sue him for battery. Yeah, battery. Mr. Olajumoke, your torts lecturer mentioned it last December.
“I’m fine. Thanks” you wrench his fists away from your arms without looking up. Your gaze is dim. You can hardly make out your dark brown slippers from the brown sands on the ground. You blink your eyelids and that leeching tear drops.
Who pulled me into this battle? You ask yourself.
Two hands wrap themselves around your breast, pulling you up away from the swirling dust thumped up by the swarm of legs.
“Ozioma ndo. You will be okay”
You are wondering if Amarachi’s “sorry” was directed towards your menstrual cramps or your bleeding heart. You appreciate that she understands that you are bleeding inside-out.
You find the strength to hold on a little longer. You stand up from the army of shadows to be greeted by the fury of the frowning sun.
“My brothers, we are not fools and will not be taken as such. Our children cannot feed well anymore. The prices of commodities haven risen in geometric proportions. We will not accept this…” A husky, baritone voice breaks out of the public address system. You stand on your toes, trying to look over the black grains of heads that are scattered all across Freedom Park. All you see ahead is blurred outlines of your father’s Ankara. He holds the microphone and gestures melodramatically.
“We won’t stop till the FG reverts the pump price of fuel to 65 Naira. Nigerians say a big no ,to subsidy removal”
You cover your ears from the deafening claps and shouts that follow.
You feel nauseated by the momentary unity, short-sightedness and lack of in-depth knowledge by many of the protesters.
“I love my father” your sister shouts, beaming with the smiles of a newly-kissed bride.
Oh shattap! Your thoughts say, subtly masking your grimace with a half-smile.
Freedom park, Ojota looks like a Barak Obama presidential rally. The whole place is filled with people, who have the same anger burning in them. You had often wondered if there were more cars in Nigeria than there were people because of the traffic jam that greeted you every morning first in Ojota and then on Eko bridge , on your way to work. You shudder now that the traffic you see is not vehicular but pedestrian. The once busy Ikorodu road, that is synonymous with BRT buses, the black-and-yellow-danfo buses, cart pushers, tomato hawkers is now a large crusade ground with people who are saying the same prayers. You wonder where they were when they were asked to come out and vote during the last presidential elections. Your face morphs into the expression of one heaving huge sacks of rice.
You close your eyes in thoughts. Why are Nigerians so easily fooled? Did they think that a president who asked D’banj to conduct his interview had sincere plans for them. Did they forget how much he allocated for the celebration of the 50th independence anniversary. Why did they have to wait till their pockets had to shriek every time they spent. Why did they wait till now? Why did they have to watch the demise of the kobo and the gradual disappearance of the five Naira note.
You do not realize that you have tied your brown pashmina scarf around your waist for the umpteenth time, sub-consciously aware that you might have stained your light brown trouser pants at the back.
Your sister adjusts her dark sunshades and claps so hard like she does whenever pastor says “clap for Jesus”. You let out a hiss loud enough for the people around you to pave way for you as you move out of choking congregation. You find a place to sit on the pavement just in front of the desolate Total filling station. Your father is a political science analyst who spent most of his life outside the country. He got an appointment to work with the Federal Government when he was in the UK. He refused the offer. You could tell he disliked Nigeria from the way he twirled his hand over his head when he said “tufiakwa”. You remember how futile mother’s efforts were when she tried to persuade him into allowing the family relocate to Nigeria to contribute its quota in the development of the nation.
“Where is this nation going?” a man who looks like he is in his mid-thirties asks and looks at you like you are his most intelligent student. He is answered with opens hands, clasped palms, deep sighs, shaking of heads and a few snorts.
“God bless Nigeria” You could hear your father’s voice trailing off as he stepped away from microphone and took his signature bow; the type he did at the end of any family gathering. You disliked how he cursed the country whenever the police collected a tip from him or whenever PHCN took away power supply. He was always quick to criticize and swear like he could do a million things better.
Not that you were in support of the incumbent president who is the cause of all these people’s misery because you didn’t even cast your vote for him but that you wish you were on the podium, speaking, in the place of your father. Not telling the people to strike just to reduce the pump price of fuel, but to enlighten the of the importance of love and unity and peace and progress.
You look up at the man who asked the question and say “Sir, Nigeria will continue to remain where it is until we all learn to curb corruption in our homes, from the security men who work in our homes, offices and eateries who beg for a tip. This nation will move forward when our policemen act in accordance to the national pledge. We will move forward as a nation when we come out to vote and fulfill your civic duties. Nigeria will be better that time when you spank your child for throwing litter on the road.”
You find boldness to speak as more people gather around you.
“People have fought and died for this country. Real men and women. I don’t need to mention names. They have been fighting for the good of the nation before 1960. People will continue to fight and die until they have a mind shift; a paradigm shift. The future of Nigeria is in what you teach your children in action and in deeds. When you make them understand the importance of priorities, then they would know how to build refineries or repair them before removing subsidies. When our religious leaders come out and criticize the actions of the presidency and the faceless terrorist groups. How do we with one voice speak and influence different associations who directly or indirectly control the price of goods, commodities and transportation. Why is it so easy for the NLC to fight the government and leave out the trade unions. I don’t support the fuel subsidy. Don’t quote me wrong. What would you do if the government reverted to 65 Naira per litre and the commercial transporters do not return the bus fares to their former prices? Would you protest again? There is no price control for anything. This is the one of the problems we face in Nigeria”
You feel glad that your sister finds you and leads you out of the growing crowd in the nick of time.
“Nigeria will get better when we all stop being selfish. Right now we need to GEJ out of here”