Demaa Qadam’ (‘Forward March’).
If the sky above your heads
becomes full of anger, full of wrath,
thunder and rain and lightning and wind.
The night becomes dark as pitch.
The ground becomes like fire.
The times become savage.
But your goal remains the same:
March, March, Forward March.
–Gul Khan Nasir
You are alive and you are in Nigeria, it is not all doom—Abdul Chukwudi Balogun
Natural calamities are not familiar to the people of Nigeria, we have struggled through several leadership catastrophe. So, somehow, part from the poorly managed floods that have become an annual occurrence largely due to ill-planned rural-urban settlement, and the reality of climate change—God has little to do with these floods. Nature has only compounded the underlying crises of capitalist-driven climate catastrophe and neglect of water, land, and forest management in Nigeria, we are spared the agony of earthquakes, tsunami, hurricane, volcanos (to name the most damaging), as well as the horrendous bush fires. However, nothing could have prepared us for devastating events in leadership nor our money eating animals.
Cascading frustration with the Nigerian state defines the public mood. And yet, let me state that I am not writing about floods, neither am I writing about climate change, I am writing about the hand of village people, the much myth-ed village people, they are responsible for the ZAZU ZEH ala portable nature of the Nigerian spirit.
In this essay I ask to be permitted to share the story of a group called the Naijanaratives, a group supervised by the gods and ancestors, they define the true Nigerian spirit. All may not be well with our motherland, but all is not extremely bad. This piece is one of hope…albeit cautious hope, it remains that of hope.
Like most cosmopolitan cities, Naijanarative is a ZAZU space. We have the good, the bad, and the extremely and mischievously bad.
We have DI, he is dangerous, Nigerian dangerous, don’t look for his trouble, he is like portable, he embodies our joys and frustrations, many love him, openly and secretly. He leads our Kano liaison and he works in Lagos, with him is our loving friend Abba Gida Gida, Yusif the Emirates, Nazeer, and Haji Auwal who defied the odds and took a second wife and yes there was a bachelor’s eve.
As a tribe, Nigeria is not where it should be and we could be at a better place, over 60 years of dependence for and on many things. This land is blessed, blessed with some of the best that can compete within global spaces, Professor Rabi is one of the few female academics in the scientific field of something-one thing in physics and chemistry and some big scary science field. She motivates young girls to aspire to STEM education especially in the Northern parts.
She’s not alone, with Buky and Rashida; these damsels are bankers and encompass what that landscape stands for. We have Aunty Layo, once a banker, now a big madam businesswoman. Did I forget our Habiba, the one woman with the never-say-die entrepreneurial spirit. Rukky my Mama’n Chimkalifa an encyclopaedia on development practice in the North East of Nigeria. We have our Olori Amazon and Aunty B, educationists in their rights, despite the wokeism of the new generation and the shenanigan of the ASUU/FG drama, they are teachers of the kindred spirit, doing it right.
The beauty is these are women from diverse backgrounds, ethnic and faith affiliations.
Who say our rice no go cook, him water no go done. Nigerian leadership and followership is a ZAZU experience, it is unexplainable why this nation is not the Japan or Singapore of Africa. The gods have Dr. Chris, a library of liberalism in the peacebuilding and conflict resolution space and academic par excellence. The collective of peace practitioners has a chair in the group, Mr Pwakim, may Nigeria know peace!
Our leadership is not Muslim/Muslim ticket, it is a governance/development centred one. The cantankerous and lovable Abdulshakur aka Shaxx is charge de affair. Americana Oga Tony looks for trouble and Omo Iya Charlie, Oga Wale gives balance. We are grateful that Nigeria has people like you all, and Oga Peter, the man from the UK that takes us almost daily to UNIBEN and the entire Edo/Delta with happenings and Gafar our newest of that Diasporan true Nigerian breed. May the ZAZU flame not die!
Nigeria is too blessed to be this way, when I listen to Mallam Abubakar share his thoughts, and our milk depot Shanono brings perspectives and keeps us abreast of the communication sector while debunking anti-government sentiments. I ask, was there a nation, will there be a nation, all these while one marvels at Phaty who has three husbands in the group, and navigates them effortlessly. What Nigerians-cannot-do-does-not-exist. Phaty like a host of us honestly love Nigeria, and we are pained by failed governance.
There are Nigerians who do not have an opinion, comment, they have their reasons, you see them in all spaces, they are learning, they are also contributing in a way, they make me question the fallacy of WAZOBIA one that excludes countless ethnic nationalities. Like Kemi who isn’t Yoruba who ghosts in us like a spirit, there are many, they don’t utter a word, silent Nigerians!
However, like Aunty Bolaji, Yese, Seldom Bonkat, Kachi, Nonso, Cyril, Ogbemi, Omole, Musa, Mohammed are patriots of the Nigerian breed. Contributing despite the almost deliberate effort of making our labour be in vain.
I listened to a revered monarch in frustration as he asked how it is that political parties create their constitution and refuse to follow or understand the same, such that they need lawyers to adjudicate. One law for the rich another for the poor, this is Nigeria, we have erudite lawlords like Chris and Adewhale Einstein, well behaved learned gentlemen.
Dr. Ceejay is a veterinarian doctor and sweet soul. The man from Umuahia that communes with the gods to hear what his fathers have to say, makes one ask why do we despise each other, why do we not know we need ourselves, like the Tivman Joshua and Bamun we need the yams and more.
We have the obidients like Onyeka, Man Jero, and Lucky, our reliable news vendor, and the jagabans like Duuge and our PDP loving Atikulated Zidon. We cannot scatter this land; it is the only one that we have.
We have Iyke that actually relocated to Nigeria and is trying to beat the ZAZU-nature of doing things. Kingsley dey there, the Angolistic Ango, and Haji Rabiu.
My friend Ibrahim brings perspectives and Uloma brings love. Badeeya, one of the two nurses and Sophy are monitoring spirits. We are grateful for Sally Sallicious, mother of my godson, she helps us stay healthy with her recipes and when she gives us theories about the usefulness of dates and coconuts, Danjy provides practical clips that the great Elephant of Lagos Giwa validates.
Uncle Teddy has seen it all, and when he peeps in, we are blessed. We need Nigeria, Nigeria needs us, even those that want to japa, it is with the Nigerian passport. Shehu the rider and driver epitomizes the very Nigerian spirit, hardworking and resolute that we shall overcome. There are journalists, traders, mothers, civil servants, teachers, development workers, businessmen, artisans, fathers, and we are the Nigerian spirit, from all corners of the country, we no dey shake!
In one of his songs, afropop artiste Portable mimes “We rise by lifting each other, if we rise you, do not break the ladder, others need the same ladder…” Nigeria needs the zazu spirit, the never say die spirit, as we gravitate to the next general elections, we need to go beyond party affiliations, ask for the best, interrogate, engage, question the system, there will be many wrong answers but there will be one right question and Nigeria will win at the end, but when—Only time will tell.