Midnight in Lagos.
Welcome. This is the last time I will do this — go on about myself. Enjoy this one. This announcement should not come as a surprise; there are obvious, practical reasons why. I am preoccupied with work now. Also, the team at Medium must be sniffing something wild because it is increasingly difficult to publish here. Oh, and I do not see myself visiting another Nigerian city soon. Maybe I will do a Midnight in London next. Amen?
There are latent reasons why I must now stop writing about myself. First, I honestly believe that I am oversharing, and the older I become, the more I wonder if people who stumble here deserve to know as much as they do. As I said in Midnight in Ebonyi, the few things I share here have real life consequences.
Second, you would expect that because I go on about who I am and what I like, because people (presumably) know this much, my real life would be easier. Perhaps I am an open, predictable person. Perhaps people would treat me how I clearly wish to be treated. No, it doesn’t work that way. People I hold dear do what they want anyway. It makes a mockery of the truths I profess, and how much they once claimed to value these truths.
Third, I now wish to write about other people and things, from their own perspective even. I believe this is the next step in my writing journey. Perhaps I should attempt complete fiction. Telling my own, repetitive stories all the time has become somewhat limiting. Can I be considered a serious writer?
Finally, I fear that my writing affords closure to people I would rather be distant or opaque to. People I have fallen out with, who cannot muster the decency or bravery to speak to me in person, gather here. They tiptoe around, to catch up on my life, to catch imaginary subs, to affirm prior convictions. When I don’t care, I don’t care. When others don’t care, they stalk. It is pathetic, dear. Why? Why are you here?
Oh well, welcome. This is a summary, recap of the Midnight series so throughout, I will make references. I have been conflicted about what to say to you because I no longer wish to be as vulnerable. But I decided to tell it all, once and for all. This final time, hear it — the whole truth, embellished with the best Nigerian songs from the second half of 2021.
It is midnight in Lagos, lets get it.
Q4 and the Emotions.
The last time I wrote to you was in August 2021. It has been 8 months since! In Midnight in Ebonyi, I told you everything was changing. At the time, I had just begun work as a lawyer, my Call to Bar ceremony had just ended, I was slaving at NYSC camp in Ebonyi State. Well, I moved to Lagos after that. I have now worked as a lawyer for 10 months; I have lived in some chic estate for 8.
I planned to write to you since November but I wasn’t calm. November, especially, wasn’t calm. August 2021 to February 2022 was dramatic — I went through wild emotions — love, desire, anger, rage, disappointment, and sadness. So, every time I sat to write this, I knew it would come out badly. There would be too much of one flavor in it. Today, I am finally calm. Well, my legs are still shaking beneath the table because 2020’s anxiety never left but Hallelujah.
Unlike in 2020 where my predominant emotion was fear, my 2021 was laced with joy and positivity. Haha, just kidding… loneliness and shame. After Law School, I was alone. I thought Lagos would help but all it gave me was work colleagues and neighbours. You know, people who are not really your people outside your unintentional, collective purpose.
School makes friendship easy — you run into your people in class, their hostels are minutes away. Everything else after school demands effort. You must remember that literally half my nuclear family and clique of close friends are outside the country. As I mentioned in Midnight in Ibadan, I haven’t seen my brother in 3 years and my father, in 6. I haven’t seen my mother in a year. In that piece, I predicted that Zainab would land in Heathrow Airport in a few hours and Tolu would follow suit in a year. I was right, wasn’t I?
After Law School, I was alone in a 4 bedroom in Ibadan, then I was alone in another, in Lagos. I told you a little about that in Alone, in this, together., one of my favorite pieces ever. But you didn’t read it, did you? It was just me and my Thinkpad, I spent my hours fingering the keypad, sighing, cursing, and drinking. A streak of bad luck in December did not help — I flopped at work, lost a scholarship, lost my phone, and fell worryingly ill in quick succession. One day, I just packed my bags and left Lagos.
I was also embarrassing myself, most of 2021. I was embarrassing my guardian angel, the Akindolire ancestry and you, if you have any faith in me. I put myself in sad, unsavory, regrettable positions. Why? Because I didn’t want to be alone. Until February, I went from one bad decision to another. And oh boy, hear me out — no matter how great you are, desperation will get you murdered. To all the women who made me doubt myself, cheers, I needed that. *Insert vengeful Yahoo Boy quote*.
I have also been conflicted; about everything I was once sure of. I do not know what my future plans are — if I wish to continue this profession, how long I wish to stay, what happens after. I do not have a next move, not because I am unaware of my options, but because I am torn between them. I wonder if I am too old to completely change my path, I wonder if I made the right choice. I wonder if I make enough money, if I ever will. But I am also too tired to research or apply for anything. Man mi, I only have the weekend to myself. And when Friday comes, I just want to sleep.
I think I ran a little mad in February. I imagined things and drank myself to sleep. I laughed uncontrollably past midnight. Sometimes, I cursed and entered a strange fit of rage. Sometimes, I got no sleep at all. The cause of this “madness”, as I would later discover, was stress. Pent up stress. I was severely stressed and I wasn’t releasing any of it. Lagos is a crazy place and law is a crazy profession. Waking early, sitting in traffic, immersed in noise, heat and smoke is enough to madden mandem.
I learned that every stressed person in Lagos has their thing — something routine, addictive that dissipates the stress, something they consume in exorbitant amounts. For some, it is alcohol, for some, it is weed or some other substance. For some, it is partying or shopping or sight-seeing. For some, it is consistent support from family. For some, it is fucking. Yes, people have an inordinate amount of sex in this city to keep the madness away. For some, it is church — they show up on Sundays to cry to their omnipotent father and offload their burdens on the altar. They say it is revival, but it is (also) therapy. Everyone finds their therapy somewhere, only a few consult actual therapy.
I did not have my own thing, I still don’t. But at least, I know the problem now. I do a little bit of a few things, but most of all, I sink into the music. I listen to an extraordinary amount of music. I take it seriously, I memorise the lyrics, I screengrab and analyse. I do what the music tells me to. Through the traffic, through the mundane tasks at work, when I am back on my bed at night, I play the music. I reach out and embrace it. It is my truest friend.
I am doing quite well these days, its amazing. I am happy, I am not sure why. Oh, and I also signed up for the gym. I go swimming after, to wash my sins away. I return to my room refreshed enough to stay sane. When anxiety doesn’t dance all over my bed, beauty awaits me. Yes, beauty — beautiful sheets, duvet and a stack of pillows. Oh, nobody.
The Streets and Bad Behaviour 01.
Speaking of nobody, a lot about the streets irritates me. When I say “the streets”, I mean the women of course. I am heterosexual. The men of the streets may be worse but I don’t deal with men. As you read the following, remember this background. I have always struggled with speaking about my irritation because I prefer to blame myself. I do not enjoy going on about the bad behavior of others, I prefer to believe that things happen to me because I let them. But as I have since learned, this behavior is not honorable, it is narcissistic. The truth is — other people are worthy antagonists in my life and lot of things are completely out of my control. So brace yourselves for a long rant.
I used to think that dishonest women irritated me until I met unkind women, women who do not communicate, women who do not apologize and women who gaslight. And before I go on, I acknowledge other things men find irritating — for instance, young women’s proclivity to build their “standards”, not on anything they have acquired or become, but on thin air. A lot of disillusioned “I want….” in the streets will distress you until it only amuses you. And oh, I am still irritated by dishonesty but hear me out.
Everyone complains about the streets of Lagos. Here is the main reason why — people are aggressively unkind. Everyone is secretly desperate for love and support on the one hand, while being brash, impatient, judgmental and manipulative on the other. Everyone is keen on being the smarter person and concealing all signs of weakness (vulnerability — a basic ingredient of good relationships). We come to the table as sharks — one wrong move from the other person and we devour them, with exploitation, immediate detachment, or good old sanctimony. Sometimes, vileness.
In Midnight in Ebonyi, I explained that the backbone of romance is company. Well, affection is hinged on kindness. Normal people suspect that people love us, or have feelings for us, when they are (exceptionally) kind to us. There are abnormal people who express affection through mockery, feigned difficulty, or tacit detachment. Abnormal people can have each other. I know now that I must prioritize kind women.
Ingredients of kindness that we often ignore include patience, curiosity, and empathy. I think that kind people place curiosity over judgment — they spare the time to ask a simple “why?” Unkind people think they have it all figured out, they don’t want your “bullshit” so they burn your chances and cut you off. The streets are desperate to meet your “bare minimum” with even less. It doesn’t matter why you text after an hour, they will now be doing theirs in two. Oh, and negative assumptions are increasingly popular. The streets encourage us to readily assume the worst about people we have just met. We are so full of distrust. It exhausts me — having to assure women that I am no shark. I am not lying; I am not trying to play you. For God’s sakes!
Then there’s empathy — the ability to fit ourselves in the shoes of others and see from their perspective. Look, life is hard and people are going through it. It is okay to believe that people have good, justifiable reasons for their actions, reasons that may have nothing to do with us. The streets prefers presumptive judgment.
I have had my fair share of unkind women — especially those who think I am “proud” so they make it their first mission to “humble” me. Or those who become terrified of seeing me leave so they resolve to cut me off first. Oh, there are also those who having lost feelings for me, go on to unveil cruelty. “I don’t like you anymore so you can die now” people. Good. This is why it never worked out; you were never a good person.
Unfortunately, I have also encountered those who communicate badly. One of my toxic traits is that I resist manipulation. It sounds like a good thing but hear me out. Most people are manipulative; not necessarily in masterful, insidious ways but with the little things. And it is actually so common that it is probably okay. We use hints, for instance, to suggest to others what we expect from them. We do not want to communicate clearly because it rids these expectations of some color or makes us vulnerable in difficult ways. We want others to “understand the assignment”. My problem is that there is not a single assignment in the world I wish to “understand”. When I deal with women, I do not relish the fulfillment that comes from deciphering puzzles; instead, I appreciate the comfort of being trusted with the simple truth. I demand that people communicate with me, explicitly. Oh, I hate it — standing by my windowpane, staring into space, asking myself, “what the fuck did she mean?”
But this is a light version of the conundrum, isn’t it? Bad communication, however rampant, can be quite destructive. I mean refusing to say things that should absolutely be said. Or saying the exact opposite. I cannot deal. And for a long time, I blamed myself for lacking discernment. But only days ago, I had an 8-minute phone call with a woman who went on impressively — about her stance, the rationale for this stance, how she feels about me, her fears, and expectations. I did the same, she listened. We did not agree, but she made the effort to be clear and honest. I understood. After the call, I sat still for minutes and thought I would cry. Alas, it was possible.
The Streets and Bad Behaviour 02.
However, I think the worst of the streets are those who, having had time to reconsider their indiscretions, absolutely refuse to apologize. All the time, I say this — the ability to withdraw, reevaluate a situation and take a right turn with ease and openness is singularly the most admirable thing to me. It is true humility in motion.
Apologies are important. One of my role models once said, “see apologies as a matter of feelings, not a matter of wrong or right”. When we apologize, we must think “I am apologizing for how they feel”. Of course, saying this aloud turns the apology sour but this mindset is necessary because, as I have learned, interrogating wrong and right prolongs (or worsens) situations. We must ask ourselves if we care about people enough to place their feelings over our (often) petty insistence on rightness. And we must remember that explanations can always succeed apologies. I say to people I care about, “I am sorry… now here’s what really happened...”
I am increasingly horrified by women who do not apologize. Oh God, I cannot stand them. But it is considered acceptable, fashionable, isn’t it? We say these incredibly unhealthy things with relish — women are always right; no matter what, apologize to her and move on.
A few people who will view this post no longer speak to me. Why? Because once, they crossed me, and they refuse to apologize or acknowledge the problem. Meanwhile, I’m just a baby — I melt after a genuine “I am sorry”. But I know, with conviction in my heart and amusement in my face, that they will never say it. Never. Ama pade lese Jesu, dear.
There are so many hurting men, who want to be “men” so they avoid their own hurt, say little and move on. Not me. I am not among, ko shi kuro. Or maybe I have learnt that hurt piles and eventually bursts through the seams — on some day, in some form, but surely. I know that when I love people, I must let them know that they hurt me. The hurt I ignore often originates from people I do not care about or will never deal with again. A simple deletion or locomotion resolves that. If I intend to deal with you in future, I must disclose your offence, aloud. We will fight, but we will settle.
Oh, then there are women who gaslight. Gaslighting makes you angry and confused at the same time — you question your comprehension, motivations, reaction. Worse, you question your sanity. My least favorite forms of gaslighting are undermining a grievance or pretending that conflict does not exist. Often, women want you to prioritize their grievance in a way that completely extinguishes yours. As if two people cannot be wrong and proceed to apologise to each other. With a straight face, they say to you, “Stop it. You cannot be angry about me killing your mother. Now here is why I am angry — after I killed your mother, you broke my comb!” You sit there, in shock, wondering which of you is dreaming or raving mad.
Even worse, women may simply opt to ignore the problem. Which is something I now flag early. Oh I dislike evasive people. She may kill your mother on WhatsApp, then come on IG to ask “how was the pasta at lunch?” You are then left conflicted — shouldn’t you be talking about your mother? Isn’t that pretty serious? Should you be “mature” and talk about pasta instead? Should you reply? Should you ignore? Should you stand on your right toe and swear for her?
Often, she knows what she did. She hopes that it somehow disappears so she can avoid accountability. Or she is waiting for you to bring it up, so she doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing herself; so she can toss the issue aside with complete denial, a casual apology or a “that’s just how I am”. Oh, and there’s this thing women do — they think they are masters of sensitivity so if they could not spot their offence (or if they can at least pretend that they did not), then there was no offence, and you have no right to be offended.
I have done well with my articulation, haven’t I? My brother in Christ, I know what I speak of. Are you going through a lot? McCoy is coming from a lot. Bro, women are mad. But here is the absolute worst part of all — the affinity for fantastic delusion. It bewilders — the fact that women can masterfully concoct a complex, plausible version of events (that is of course, wildly untrue) which they tell themselves and their fellow mad friends. They do this to comfort themselves. Perhaps if they exalt their grievance, it can bury yours. Perhaps they are never wrong.
Perhaps if they run to the internet to sprinkle “‘men are bla bla” and “God forbid” here and there, they would be absolved of their evil and madness. Perhaps they would be raptured into the blameless, sanctified heaven of Lagos woman victimhood. Perhaps if they feel they were the ones wronged, they do not have to task themselves with improvement, or confront the alarming possibility that they completely fucked up.
The Internet and Stan Culture.
Speaking of the internet, in Midnight in Ibadan, I went on about my return to Twitter. I joined Twitter in 2011 but I deleted my account in 2019 because “I was overwhelmed — by hate, volume and dilution”. I returned in 2020 because of my social media work with Volition Capital and stayed. On some days, it is maddening; on some others, it is hilarious; on most days, it is my journal — I speak to myself, I jot lyrics, I review movies and I play pundit. Everyone should take a break sometime though, I am returning from one. I try to ignore the controversies, I really try. Well, I have compelling thoughts about a few of them, thoughts I must now share with you.
Months ago, the “foundational black man” controversy was unraveled in a ridiculous Twitter Space that spanned hours. Some moron went on about some forced, hateful distinction between African Americans and African immigrants. Incredible stuff. But what was perhaps more incredible was Mr. Incredible’s insistence on hosting said moron on yet another Space. Why was Africa’s greatest rapper seeking a platform with this moronic nobody, who was infamous for willful ignorance and uncouthness?
I too once believed that if I calmly explained things to people, I would win them over. This belief informed We need to talk. In that piece, I argue that liberals are unable to have the patient conversations they need to have because they are rabidly intolerant of everyone who disagrees with them. They do not appreciate freedom of thought; they only think that they do. I explain that the things we know now, we did not know them at some point in the past, so it makes sense to tolerate the ignorance of others. Well, I was right to some extent. But only to some extent.
You see, people do not always disagree with us because they do not understand what we have said; often, they just disagree because they do. In fact, it is arrogant to think that if people only understood our point, they would agree with it. It is also a ragingly lazy but awfully common thing to do — insisting, conveniently, that a person lacks comprehension because they disagree. Even though this is the case sometimes.
These men understand what women complain about, they do not care. And no, people are not bigots because they are illiterates who do not know better, they are bigots because they are bigots. In my many articles, I have gone on and on about patriarchy, misogyny, and feminism. In Midnight in Ibadan, I told you my salvation story — how I was born into some privilege, how I bought all CNA’s books, how I began a social media campaign, how I listen to women and continuously strive to improve myself. Will you change? No. Because you do not want to. You, my guy, are enjoying the patriarchy. You would rather convulse than acknowledge your privilege. Wo, as long as the people that matter to me get it and nobody touches my anointed, I will drink my Schweppes Ginger in silence.
M.I’s insistence was not honourable or outstanding, it was arrogant. Like many other “geniuses”, he must have considered himself intelligent enough to explain, engage properly, break through the fold. He is intelligent, articulate. But he was underestimating the rigidity of this unworthy opponent. He was certainly set for failure. This error in judgment happens all the time. People get it, they don’t care. And no, we don’t all have (or get) to live in one unified, happy world. There is no black nation. Prejudice and discrimination are real, natural. People find cause to hate (people like) me. And I get to respectfully tell them to go fuck themselves.
Months after, I woke one morning to news that Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock at the biggest movie award show on the planet. And now, you are rolling your eyes. Oh David, it’s been forever. Err, why is the internet forcing us to forget this? As if it is not a big, big deal. Somebody left their seat, walked to the front of the Oscars, to slap an award presenter across the face, on live TV! And that is okay? Instead of escorting said hothead out with security, he was given a standing ovation moments later? I thought it was bizarre. But the subsequent reactions were even more bizarre. It revealed one painful truth, however — most people do not care about right or wrong, they do not hold onto indiscriminate values, their assessment of a situation mostly depends on how they feel about the actors. Oh, precious Will Smith.
To be clear, I will never support physical assault. No. It won’t become permissible because its talented Burna Boy, gorgeous Bianca Ojukwu or endearing Will Smith behind it. Or because somebody I dislike is at the receiving end. I will never support it as a matter of indiscriminate principle. I expect the same from people I take seriously.
Another bizarre observation I made was that people who push unpopular social causes believe that violence is some answer. As we would later learn, bald African American women have their own support groups, and they thought it was honourable for Will Smith to defend a black, “disabled” woman. But that wasn’t about defending a woman, was it? That was entirely about male pride, good old testosterone. And it is confounding to watch women and minorities support a culture of violence. If we all took up arms and exchanged blows, who do you think would suffer the most?
Oh, then there is the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial. It is an actual court matter, that invites objective analysis of real evidential issues. It is not a TikTok campaign, so it is bemusing how issues have been interpreted. If you pay attention, not to how mindless blogs have framed excerpts of court proceedings, but to the comprehensible submissions of both parties, you will learn that this was one diabolical marriage with two victims and two actors. Both people were disturbed and abusive. It is unbelievable — everything that happened and how long it lasted.
Yet, every time I come to the internet, there seems to be this desperate, misleading campaign for Johnny Depp’s vindication. I am not sure why. I hear that he was dropped from a few roles and Heard remains in Aquaman. Is this why? Or is it just good old misogyny? You know, that kind that buries women once they are not presented with completely clean hands? And why do people on Depp’s side feel like they are supporting some underdog? Elon Musk, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Kanye West, Tory Lanez — which of these people is the underdog in their controversy? Is it really man vs. industry or is it man vs. accountability? What the fuck is going on?
What I have learned from such situations however, is the danger and ridiculousness of stan culture. It is ridiculous indeed. In Midnight in Ibadan, I explain that famous people are still human. I am a fan boy because my faves are astonishingly skilled, not because they are on TV. And it is usually their art I stan, I am not going to defend everything they say. As you may already know, M.I is my favorite artiste ever, Johnny Depp was my favorite actor for most of my teenage years. I have written about both people before. There is talent; there is appreciation; there is wrong and right.
“Stans” confound me. It does feel like a great waste of one’s life purpose — to create fan pages and support every aspect of another person’s life, for free. Just because they are on TV. To take on the tedious, ridiculous job of defending another person over every accusation or wrong. To swallow the conceited lies a far more privileged person, deviously tells you. To be such a tool. Elon Musk and free speech eh? You fucking moron. To smear, insult and threaten other human beings because of a “fave”? You should never have been born, your daddy should have used protection.
Sanctimony and Reward.
The following is unrelated to the foregoing but I must share my thoughts on sanctimony. In Midnight in Abuja, I told you about my distrust for sanctimony. I explained that sanctimony hardly accompanies good behaviour. This cliché sense of morality people profess is no guarantee of character. I said that I judge the character of people by their intrinsic, indiscriminate respect for the individuality of others.
After the sweet Lucky for you., I wrote the bitter Lagos Babes. You will not find the latter anymore though. I unlisted that post because I couldn’t bear the sanctimony. I am conscious every time I say something that makes me seem morally superior to others (even though (hear me out) I actually am). It leaves a sour taste, opens me up to imagined accusations of hypocrisy. However, we all live off some sanctimony. For a lot of us, a sense of superiority, however latent, is elementary to our self-esteem and purpose.
Christians say there is no joy or purpose outside Christ. They take the narrative a little further — they say joy is different, superior to happiness, and that they have exclusive access to this joy. They use words like “true” or “really” — there is no true purpose outside Christ. What does that even mean? Who knows? It is comforting to say. Religion is comforting, elevating.
If you cannot be smarter than them, prettier than them, wealthier than them, at least you can be holier than them. At least you can be overall best in doctrine, divine recognition, and afterlife gratification. They may be enjoying all of life’s good things but in the afterlife, they will burn in hell. And you, you will sing hymns in your gold mansion. Or they will run to your God at some point in their lives, because it will occur to them that everything they have is vanity upon vanity; they can only find true fulfillment in what you, this lowly person, already have. Salvation. Hallelujah.
At some point in our lives, we decide on how we intend to live it. We choose our aspirations, the rules we have to obey and the burdens we wish to carry. When these rules are strict, when these burdens are heavy, we expect rewards, however obscure they might be. Religious people expect blessings and eternal life, hardworking people expect outstanding success, moral people expect nemesis, healthy people expect long life, “nice guys” expect to do better with women, “good women” with beautiful souls and intact hymens expect to be rewarded with loving, godly men.
But it is all a sham, isn’t it? Life is not fair, there is no nemesis or karma. Manners make man and good habits attract success; yet, sometimes, there is simply no correlation between effort and results. Often, people are just lucky. Most things are coincidental. Our self-righteousness is misled and unnecessary. We must realise that no matter what we choose to do, no matter how reasoned we consider our choices to be, there are people who reach our desired results while doing less, nothing at all, or the exact opposite.
There is a more important version of this issue I must expose. We are often disappointed to see people thrive while doing less or different. Worse, we wonder if they are living a fluke, if they are happy, if they will meet some waterloo. We wonder how it works for them. Again, we dread the inevitable truth — that people succeed, and are happy doing, the exact opposite of whatever the fuck we do.
We hate fat people, simply because we would be miserable if we were them. We lose our minds over the small fat at our stomach and joints. Yet, look at that fat bitch eating chicken, having the time of her life. It cannot be. She must be faking; she cannot be truly happy. She must be unhealthy; obesity will end her life at some point. We look at people who do not want kids the same way. How could they not? They must be scarred, broken people. Surely, they cannot be truly happy without children. But it is not about them, is it? It is entirely about us and how we have foolishly convinced ourselves that our choices are superior.
We wonder why people love the food they love, why they enjoy the music they enjoy. We look at people who have different tastes from us with disbelief. We conclude that they must be pretentious. Haven’t you heard? People do not rate Nigerian movies because they are elitist, people pretend to enjoy The Cavemen., people who read in public are performative, etc. Our preferences are superior, opposing preferences are unacceptable. And if we don’t enjoy something, it must cease to exist. Everything in life exists to serve us — musicians we do not enjoy must quit, products we do not like must be banned. It is ridiculous, it is foolishness, it is bad vibes.
“How do atheists decide between good choices and bad choices?” Ha, please.
God and Optimism.
I say the most about religion, don’t I? In Midnight in Abuja, I went on about God. I was born into church, my parents are pastors, I was a church-boy until I turned 18. I played the keyboard in my local church, during a phase I recall as the worst of my life. I told you about falling out of church — I had unanswered, intolerable questions. I told you I hated the selfishness and delusion of religion; the implausibility of a fair, involved God; the monopoly of salvation every religion claims to have; the Nigerian culture of irresponsibility — one that holds God, not elected leaders, accountable.
Well, here is a summary of my thoughts on religion. The truth is that, on most days, I do not believe. I don’t, that’s all. I can’t help it, I can’t bring myself to believe in some resurrection, miracle, or rapture. It is ridiculous and my head knows it. But of course, religion is based on faith. Tragically, I do not have this faith. When I look at religious people however, my strongest emotion is envy. At the end of the day, I wish I were them. I wish I believed. Most of all, I wish I was filled with this divine optimism. You know, the belief that an unseen, supernatural being oversees all my affairs. It is so convenient, comforting.
In Midnight in Abuja, I said that perhaps we believe in God because we need to. Perhaps it is the only way this world makes sense — we are powerless, oppressed Nigerians who need to believe that we lowkey have a power above every other power, and that God will eventually bring judgment to the many who oppress us. Perhaps we need a sense of protection, from the 1000 Nigerian ways to die. When you don’t have this belief, life can be cold, lonely, hopeless.
If you ever commit to stripping yourself of your delusions and biases, as I once did, you will not find peace, you will meet misery. To live happy, purposeful lives, we need to be deluded. We need to believe in destiny, purpose, and legacy. How else would we inspire ourselves? We need to believe that everything happens for a reason, and the many mishaps we encounter are meant to teach us valuable lessons. We need to believe that people who wrong us will get what’s coming for them.
No, you do not want to confront the possibility that life is vibes without the Insha Allah. What would people do if they woke one day and realized there was no God or great design? No eternal life or judgment? They would fall apart. It would mean that all their sanctimony, longsuffering and martyrdom was for nothing. It would mean that all those bad things they shouldered, all that bad behaviour they tolerated, based on “God is watching” was in vain. It would mean that their religious leaders are actually scammers. What would my mother do if she realized that her many church services and rituals meant nothing?
This would never happen, it mustn’t. We will never really know. People will continue to die; some will say they just died, some will say they left to meet their maker. We will continue to live; some will say that one day, in the uncertain future, their saviour will return from the sky. And oh, some will continue to judge, oppress and murder in the name of an omnipotent God.
Institutions and Elections.
A certain Deborah was stoned and burnt the other day for the non-existent crime of blasphemy, in a constitutionally secular state. It is the very height of impunity — citizens taking law into their own hands, in such brash, brazen manner. Except that they didn’t take law into their hands, because there is no such law. It was simply murder. If in fact it was Sharia Law, you cannot subject a non-consenting non-Muslim to Sharia Law. That is ludicrous!
The solution to religious and ethnic killings, however, is neither education nor a sermon on tolerance, it is working institutions. The important questions are as follows: Is this a crime? If yes, have people been arrested? Will they be tried and sentenced? Would this be done effectively and transparently, well enough to serve as a deterrent? These are the issues.
The other day, a man murdered his Christian musician wife and it caused an unprecedented stir. Look, the cause of gender-based violence against women is patriarchy and a culture of violence. Holistically. The cause isn’t an annoying wife or a short-tempered husband. The solution isn’t home training, mediation, or prayers; it is thorough women empowerment and an effective justice system. There must be some institutionalized deterrent! As I have always said, things are more institutional than we would like to believe. Institutional problems require wholistic, institutional solutions.
After domestic abuse or jungle justice occurs, what happens to the abuser or killer? Is he punished? The question should not be why was she there or why did not she leave? Or other evasive things we say to absolve audacious actors of blame. With abuse especially, we treat abusers as some constant k in the equation, we prefer to give tons of tired advice to tired women. What more can women really do? Abuse is rampant because it is not criminalized, crime is rampant where people know they can get away with it!
As I explained in Midnight in Ebonyi, we need institutions to work for everybody. The whole affects the parts. People are hungry, not because they are not prayerful but because the economy is bad. In a poor country, some people will invariably be hungry. We have many road accidents because the roads are bad, not because some people don’t serve a living God.
Regarding Deborah’s death, the nature of the crime, the audacity of it, is not isolated. It is symptomatic of the common, brazen impunity that is now characteristic of this country. Our government has failed, it continues to fail in unprecedented ways. Where do I begin? All apparatus of state and all social amenities are failing — a train station was bombed, a defence academy was attacked, the national grid collapsed, academic staff of state-owned universities are on strike, airlines are threatening closure, our Central Bank has been flagrantly compromised, and so on.
We need better government, but most of all, we need better institutions and a working democracy. Talk about anything else is misguided. Democracy works. The rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances are not myths. Democracy doesn’t seem to work in Nigeria because this is not a democracy. The very root of democracy is the understanding that no man is omnibenevolent — no one is perfectly good. Everyone has dictatorial tendencies and no country will develop sustainably under a dictatorship. So, we need to divide power equally, amongst more men, so they can coordinate affairs of state and importantly, curb each other’s excesses.
Yet, this is a tricky conversation because good institutions and a working democracy still rest on the shoulders of the leaders we elect. However, we get to elect them. We must. Especially because the ingredients of a true democracy — rule of law, a vibrant legislature, a sound judiciary, a proactive opposition party, working pressure groups and a liberal press are clearly failing in Nigeria. More responsibility lies on a determined sect of the electorate. I cannot stress this enough.
We need to vote. We must vote. We must. Whatever our thoughts are about the transparency and safety of our electoral process, we must get our PVCs and vote. It is the only way. We must vote because when Buhari became president, I was 18, I will be 26 when he leaves. I have witnessed the Buhari regime for all of my adult life. By the end of the next regime, if it enjoys two tenures, I will be 34. I might have children by then, they will be born into a country led by the government we choose to elect at the next elections.
Stop whining. Register for your PVC and vote! Click here.
I know this much to be true.
The mention of 26 sends shivers down my spine, the same way the mention of 25 did. We are never ready for how old we become. In Adaobi’s Letters 01., I told you that 25 was confusing to me — I feel both young and old, mostly old. I think I have lost years; I am late to every party; I will no longer be considered a prodigy at anything.
But I must tell you that the year 25 has given me immense clarity about myself. All that time alone ushered important realizations. I know who I am now. To some generic degree, I know what I want, and especially, what I do not want. Amidst the blur my life has worryingly become, I know the following to be true:
I know that I am good, because when I go to sleep at night, I am filled with good intentions and good wishes for everyone. I want most people to succeed, however I feel about them. I genuinely believe in open arms and blue, spacious skies.
I know, that like everyone else, I want what I want. My desires do not have to be perfectly logical or explainable, they only have to be mine. My life does not have to be good or bad, it only has to be mine. This is all that matters. I know now that I must be myself. I must allow myself to be corny, cocky, colourful. Pruning myself to fit the preference of others is great disservice.
I know that at some point in my life, I will settle, I will reach my limits. But I owe it to myself to have done the things that set my soul on fire. I know now that feeling all the emotions is natural, authentic. My life is not a movie or a content creator’s Instagram page; I do not owe it to myself or anyone to be happy or organized all the time. Of course, I fuck up.
I know now that people like what they like. No matter what I do, say or become, people will underrate, hate. I must focus my life’s lenses on those that matter. I know now that I can always return home because I am loved there.
I know now that no matter what happens today or tomorrow, I am going somewhere. There is a long journey ahead of me and as I have always said, beautiful days will come. I will continue to enjoy them. I must make space for enjoyment; misery makes space for itself. I also know that I must see my life and its experiences, not as one long, linear story in a novel, but as a compendium of short stories. The fact that things end does not mean they were never worth it. Life is in phases, and I must enjoy each phase for what it is — a phase.
I am sure that less is more, I was always right about that. I will be a wealthy, busy man but I will still find pleasure in the simple things. Like Zima Blue, after I master the ways of men, science and the universe, my ultimate desire would be to return to my uncomplicated past. I would wish to be that pool cleaner, made for a simple, mundane purpose. Everything is indeed vanity upon vanity, I must declutter my life and purify my mind.
I know now that my problems are common, they are not exclusive to me. I know that it is narcissism — that thing that makes us feel like we have the most complicated problems in the world, that no one is capable of understanding them. Because even with our misfortune, we sometimes want to be special. Somewhere in the world, an underachieving, 25-year-old, first-year lawyer with anxiety and an impossible schedule is using his firm’s Dell to overshare on Medium.
I know that I am not alone, I am blessed with wonderful people who fulfill different roles in my life. They will help if I reach out. Even if they do not, I must continue to believe that they will. I know now that losing friends is only natural, inevitable. For diverse reasons, people will continue to leave me. I will decide to leave some as well. I also know that no one is coming to save me — it is my life. My actions have consequences, I must believe that my destiny is in my own hands.
I know that although it is difficult to admit, to say aloud on most days, I do not want to be alone. I have love to give and I would like to receive some. My many songs and notes must find a persona. I am capable, I must demonstrate capacity. I will find this love one day. And I will tell you about it in deliriously beautiful ways. You will see the real me. And when I finally meet her, the love of my life, she go first collect decking. Because why? Why did you make me go through all that?
Thank you for reading, I am finally done.
I must now return to fixing my life. Tomorrow is a workday. It is 8PM in Lekki, Lagos.
No, it is not midnight. It never was.