I often wonder how it will happen — my Nigerian death. I would like to see it coming. I would hate to be caught unawares. I sit and ponder. There must be no failure of imagination. What are the many fatal tragedies that can befall me in this country?
Would the bus I am in run into a pothole and summersault? Would an overloaded truck lose some of its load to my Uber? Would a trailer fall off an overhead bridge onto the tricycle I am hurrying to work in? Would a petrol tanker do what petrol tankers do? Would I be stabbed late at night and rejected by hospitals? Would I breathe my last at the back of a stranger’s car? Would he even help me in the first place? Who would blame him if he didn’t?
Would I become too poor to treat my illness? Would my fundraiser fail? Would I be misdiagnosed for too long? Would I ingest fake drugs? Would I be stuck in a hospital with inadequate equipment? Would a doctor be negligent with my surgery? Would I be kidnapped and killed before my ransom arrives? Who would do it? Who would look me in the eye for the final time? Would I finally know this unknown gunmen? Would it be bandits? Would it be herdsmen?
Oh, I have always thought it would be my friend — the police. I fear that at some junction, I would talk back. I would refuse to slip some crisp note. They would blow my brains out to correct them. Then they would drag my body into some nearby bush. My mother would never find me. My friends would swear it was the police. Some Twitter user would ask, “but where is the body?”
I hope I see it coming — this Nigerian death. In my final moments, I do not want to think that I was outsmarted by good old Nigerian tragedy. I do not want to sigh and mutter. Or curse. Or scream in shock. I would prefer to smile and point. “That’s it! I knew this uninvited politician would retrieve a gun from his car and shoot me at a protest.”
Haven’t I heard it all? Talk to me, Reaper. What other methods are at your disposal? Show your cards.
I would hate to make newspaper headlines for the way that I died. I would hate for these old people to stare at my portrait and sigh. “What a fine, promising boy!” I would want the editor to decide that my story isn’t worth publishing. Ah, his gas cylinder exploded? An electric pole fell on his head? Nothing new here. We published something like this last month.
I would like to have the regular, common, Nigerian death. Nothing spectacular. I would like to know, seconds before I die, that I am dying, that I had always thought that I would die that way. I would like to be right, at least.
I wonder what would happen after I die. But I bet that too is predictable. They would download my pictures and say performative things. Others would find something I did wrong. Oh I was out too late. Oh I argued with policemen. Oh I did not take my health seriously. Oh I wasn’t diligent, or careful, or prayerful.
Some people would want to know if I knew God, if I would be going to heaven. I assure you already, I would not. But it would be unfair if I was sent to hell by this just God. Isn’t Nigeria hellish enough? Are there still devils in hell? Don’t they all live here?
They would go on, these pathetic people. They would assure themselves that my cause of death could never be theirs, because they happen to be more diligent, or distant. “I never take that route”, “I never do that”, “This is why we should pray” they would cry. As if people in burning buses didn’t pray. I bet my neighbors would be in church on Sunday, to thank God for their own lives. “Our neighbor died the other day but we thank God. It is not by power, nor by might.”
Would it ever become apparent? That Nigerian tragedies are indiscriminate? That poverty, insecurity, bad roads and bad healthcare will invariably kill people, no matter where they come from or what God they serve. Would it ever become apparent? That the state of our wellbeing is the fault of the government? The government that we elected ourselves.
Would somebody please smack the fool who says, “Only God can help this country”? Would you please tell him that we read books! We know politics, law, economics. We know how good policies improve the wealth of nations, the lives of many. It is physical, tangible, feasible. There is no miracle behind the prosperity of nations. It is all explainable!
Would we finally hold our leaders accountable? All of them? Would we finally admit the foolery that inspired our support for this despotic regime? Would we become wise? Dictators are emboldened by indifference, bigotry. First, it was Supreme Court Judges. Then it was a Senate president. We cheered this “war against corruption”. Then it was companies. Then protesters. Then TV stations. Now it is free speech. Now it is a war against all of us. Would we finally confront history? Isn’t there a pattern?
Would we finally abandon this toxic desire for benevolent dictators? This admiration for strong men? Would we finally see the truth — democracy rests on strong institutions and restless opposition. If there is no separation of powers, checks and balances, opposition party, freedom of press, there is no democracy. Would we abandon this misguided faith in the inherent good of people? Everyone will become a dictator if they are left unchecked. Everyone.
Would we finally leave the complicit to their BDSM? For how long can a man’s hands be tied? Would we become immune to the deception of religious men? First you tell us you can fix the problem, practically. Then you take the reins, and ask us to pray? Why? Did we vote Jesus?
Would we finally question “men of God”? These people who only speak when their pockets and influence are affected. What God cannot do does not exist? Well, why aren’t we praying against the Twitter ban? Why hasn’t it been miraculously reversed overnight? Why is a church quoting international statute? Could it be that the affairs of men are governed by laws, not prayers? Would we become wise, discerning? Would despicable politicians fail to fool us when they do photoshoots with general overseers?
Would we finally see the divide? It is not one tribe or religion against the other. It is one elite against all of us. One self-supporting elite. One. That succeeds in fooling us — toying with our poverty, ethnicity, religion.
Would we finally want better, for all of us? Would we want Nigeria to improve, for everyone’s sake? Or would we continue to groan until we benefit from the scraps? This is a problem, isn’t it? Some Nigerians protesting today would do worse than the government if they had the chance. Often, they are not protesting injustice, but an empty stomach. Once this stomach is filled, they will go quiet. Or they will go loud. They will go on TV to support bans. They will give awards to controversial politicians. They will hail them in comment sections and queue for contracts.
Would we finally grow spines? Would we truly speak up and fight? We will all die anyway. How much further do we have to be pushed? What more can we take? Would we rather hide indoors, until we cannot afford the air outside, or until killers are at the gate? There is an insidious, Nigerian lack of empathy. It doesn’t matter. Until it affects us.
So do not ask too many questions about my death. If you put my picture out there, do not reply anyone who asks “what happened?” They would be playing my game — learning of another Nigerian way to die. Do not give them that benefit.
Do not ask for justice, you will not get it. I was hopeless, so are you. Nobody gets justice here, only pity and scorn. Let me die, ordinarily. Because my life does not matter. My killers will go Nigerian free. Or they will grow fat in police custody. The courts could be closed anyway. The lawyers of the highest distinction may come against me.
Do not mock my death by hinging a campaign on it. Do not make me famous only to make me lost. Your campaign will fail. It will die slowly, pathetically. One day, the country is shocked and raging. The next, they are on top of a more spectacular death. Or they are distracted. By something glamorous, scandalous, hilarious. They would need that. To live through their collective trauma somehow. Look at the hollow sadness behind these jokes that they make.
Let them be, even. Do not sadden them any further. Do your peasant things. Pray that my soul should rest in peace. Say that my death is God’s plan, that everything happens for a reason. Thank you.
Please don’t make me no hashtag, or slogan.
I pray I catch a wave, that doesn’t subside.
Happy June 12.