Reflecting on life in Nigeria



Nigerian Tribune
Reflecting on life in Nigeria
January 19, 2018
Have you ever watched The Lion King and had it interpreted by an elderly person? Youngsters enjoy the sound-track of the movie and play over and over. But the music moves old people. It evokes Nigeria and Africa so much for them, more than anything else can. They see Africa through the ages; the darkness of the universe before day one of creation. They hear sadness and (too little) hope in the narrative of the music rather than the meaning of the lyrics. Some of the songs have the same tune as the musical instruments but others have a vocal theme in the background as well in a language other than English. It is this unknown language and their “other-world” melodies that strike at their hearts. I hear the laughter, cries of little children behind the house where I am quartered in Abuja, at a time when little children ought to be in school. I have had to come out again and again to see them so as to rank their ages in my mind’s eye . These children are all of age but they are not in school. Always when I go out on in the neighbourhood before noon, I see girl-children selling wares at school times and young boys at loose ends.
If these can happen in Abuja, what might, in Rural Sokoto, Kano, Borno and many other states in Nigeria? Maybe Nigeria needs to tinker with the establishment of a family court to try parents who shirk in their responsibilities to children, society and country. It beats me how Nigeria hopes to reduce the number of persons out of school with the blase policy of not enforcing schooling for children of all ages and jailing these irresponsible parents wasting the lives of innocent children who didn’t ask to be born by them. What can you remember about your childhood? I remember getting the chance to be interviewed for a spot in Command Secondary School Kaduna. From Sokoto we were transported to Kaduna for the interview. For reasons best known to the fiery military officers on the board of interviewers, only one pupil out of our party of more than 50 pupils was selected to be in that school. Could I have failed because I was asked,”how old are you today. Specify in year, months and days? That was a question tough to answer for the children of my day. Especially when it came from military men whose eyes you were trained not eye-ball, never smiled and were bespectacled.
These military men. Cramming type of education didn’t start today. I pass by that school sometimes and get angry. I should have been here. I remember our arts and craft lessons. For continuous assessment you had to build a home with mud or whatever your mind translated to hands. Trouble was that we didn’t have an art laboratory and we were not provided with arty tools. So we had to go get “laka” clayey soil some distance away.
My first culture shock was experienced when some students who came from boarding houses hideously began to wield cigarettes with their lips, revealing dark secrets and relieving the momento of parties they had attended. Was this what going to boarding school entailed? We ventured to the corridor of junior students at break time with our books ‘Modern Biology and Chemistry by Lambert. Today children walk with ear phones plugged in their ears in a brotherly way. Our level of habitual humanity was high. We stopped to help push broken-down vehicles on behalf of their owners and never asked for money. Today a ring- leading youth will consort with his gang-members and brazenly ask you how much you hope to compensate them if they push your vehicle. We never failed to add,”sir”, “ma” when we greeted or responded to elders but today all we hear is,”yes” some youths even greet by nodding their heads, unbelievable. One said,”hello” to we adults in a cobbler’s shop in Port Harcourt and got a reprimand from one such adult who was riled in the spirit. I had to calm him down. I have seen worse. Teenagers privileged to drive “daddy’s” cars fobb off greetings to people by dangling car keys casually.
How did they manage to smuggle “Lolly, Dauda the s3xy guy, Ikebe Super” into our classrooms in secondary school? These were full of raw crudities and easy for us to have been corrupted by bad company as we exercised our natural curiosity. Well some of us found outlets in James Hadley Chase. Others still read pace- setters. Dare Babarinsa’s of our world was one of the authors but I can’t remember a single title. We had Indians as teachers in public schools. My Mathematics and English teachers were both Indians (Mr and Mrs Babu) not anymore, what with kidnappings. We not only went to work at the school farm but we went to our farms which our parents owned. Trust me, we cultivated so many crops. Beans, groundnuts, okra, maize, millet etc. I loved Biology so much but had trouble drawing some plants and animals seamlessly. I derailed in chemistry and physics in final year not for mental capacity and aptitude but for lack of discipline and mentorship. Looking back now, maybe science shouldn’t have been my thing. Though I still remember the unicellular microorganisms that we studied such as amoeba, paramecium, euglena. Now I can’t tell which from the other except if I have to read them all over again.
In the barracks where I grew up, there were no borders in our interactions with people. We never asked where people were from. Regardless, school never prepared us for the “un-Nigerianness outside.” Whoever told us that nepotism was part of the Nigerian character? No- one guided us on how to weed the thorns and tares of religious bigotry. Our teachers taught us patriotism in a chimera manner and we were never mature enough to discern for ourselves how true in a sybilline fashion. I can’t remember most things I was taught in school but I might have remembered if I was taught how to use science and enterprise to survive in strange lands. I might have remembered studies around empathy, self-reliance and emotional development. A captain who was my friend’s neighbour in officers quarters chased us about only because we came home at break time to take corn flakes. He threatened us with a pistol never to leave the school environment. Today, children roam our streets in uniform at ungodly hours. No-one dares reprimand them even when they engage in unholy dalliance. Schooling might have made sense if we were told what autism meant and how to care for people with severe learning disability. Were we told about ovarian and prostrate and about cervical cancer? As emphasised by doctors now especially prostrate and cervical cancers.
  • Abah lives in Abuja





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