Whispers of the Nigerian Sun.

By Enoch Akinlabi

I usually don’t like telling my stories anymore, because the fire is gone out of my pen, because if I tell the stories of how my Nigeria should be, who would stop to listen. They all have not lost hope, instead it has been stagnating in them, not progressing, ever reducing. So I have been writing poems, romantic things full of emotions but with no meaning which I hail as good, instead of the stories I wish to tell.
If I say I am God and I want people to be saved, to free them from their cycles, they will not listen to me. So I say I am not God, I am merely someone He has allowed to see. I am sure many of you will want to put these pages down, I encourage you to do so, because sometimes I wish I wasn’t allowed to see more than the average African. I have been gifted and cursed with knowing the truth. The truth is bitter, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I wish to tell you of many things, but I don’t have the words, the eloquence or the technique to graft the imagery in your minds; besides my time is almost come. I have seen a great many things over decades as time seemed to stand still like the moment Okigbo saw the lady of his dreams. I wish to speak of joy and laughter, of humor and dancing but forgive me, it can’t be helped that I may speak of things most would think best left unspoken, as they leave a taste bitter than the bitterest bitter kola (perhaps that should be most bitter, forgive me, I am not much of a grammarian you see).
I have not come to tell tall tales of doom or sadness; I simply wish to remember. I remember the dawn of independence day. I took extra care to dress well, covering myself with a sheet of clouds to protect them from my glare. I watched from my high perch and could see the joy written on as many black faces as I could see. The joy of beating the powers that be, the joy of becoming free to become the controller of one’s own destiny. They sought for me and prayed I should accompany them throughout the day, I obliged. I tarried until my sibling complained that I had stayed up watching them for too long, that it was his turn to listen to their tales. They have never ceased working, but now they work so hard ironically once more to escape the land of freedom that their fathers worked to get.
I remember the wars. I begged Christopher Okigbo not to go, I signalled again and again, but again just like many times before, nobody could hear me. He had been betrayed by leaders he chose to fight for, when the dream of a nation new was so far away but yet seemed so close, in the days when brother gunned down brother blinded by names of towns that were once one to me and whose boundaries had never changed, whose limbs had never moved. In those days I saw more skeletons walk than in the day when God called bone to bone and flesh to flesh. I could see them bleed, by their hundreds and thousands they were forced to make rivers of blood. And all I could feel was pity, not only for the deaths but also the memories because I thought to myself who would remember each and every one but me. They would teach the duration of three years as the period of the genocide sugar coated as a civil war, but they would not remember. They would not remember how it felt to watch blood dry and I have no choice but to remember because I had the best seat in the audience. I had to dry Okigbo’s blood and those of thousands more. This is my memorial to them, my ode to their last breaths. And then they came, when it was no longer profitable to them to continue, those who had started the war over petty pride and jealousy and had used blood to fuel the war. They came together and drank wine, they agreed that there was no victor, no vanquished. They gave neither side victory nor defeat, but from where I stood watching, this seemed even worse because they had simply announced to my ears that the rivers of blood that they spilled and I dried were for nothing.

I tell you there was a victor, there was a vanquished. Iyayi said it best just as I whispered in his ears as ‘Heroes’ came to life, that those who profited and encouraged the wars and wined and dined through it all were the victors and those who suffered, fought and are still fighting for the hope dangled in front of them are the vanquished. I try not to mention names as who am I to be partial, I am simply he that stands and watches, I am not a person. I used to be hailed as the start of all life, the beginning of the savannah, the gardener of the forests full of irokos, the bringer of warmth; but now I choose to be silent.

I must fast forward to the days of Saro Wiwa Ken as I liked to call him, as my time draws near. I was there when the brave marched to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. I was there when pen met paper to create 'Sozaboy’. I was in awe with the intricacies of 'Transistor Radio' and wondered whether I would live to see the day that perhaps the Nigerian dream would be brought to flesh. Alas as he grew brighter, so did the blackness that desired to put his lights out. I gave the light as I watched him pen down his own death in "Africa Kills Her sun" and I wondered whether God had gifted him with a vision akin to that He gave me. Then I watched him and the Ogoni 9 be dragged off. On that day I cursed the eternal game of 'change your style' I am destined to repeat for God knows how long, because I had to stand still and continue keeping watch. I could hear the whispers of 'Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues’, the last short story my friend who I had watched from afar off would ever tell. Over the years of watching and never aging, watching and never being able to intervene, the African proverb of the beautiful ones not yet being born no longer rings true for me, because the beautiful ones have been killed over and over again with all I could do being to grow bitter and hotter as the decades passed me by. I wish to tell the stories of how I watched over Abiola and Fawehinmi, but I do not want to remember the injustice, I want to pretend I never saw it. I wish to tell the lie that I wasn’t hopeful that they would stop the suffering I have no choice but to watch, but when death was contracted to take them on a stroll, I learnt my lesson. There are many I wish to speak of, but you do not know them.
I remember my friend Aisha. I taught Aisha how to read, my rays gave her understanding on where the letters went, on what they meant. It gave me joy to give her an escape into fairytales which the world around her wouldn’t. I stayed up late so that she could read and the Spark of intelligence in her eyes increased my joy ever so. But my joy at helping this little girl have a taste of the outside world her society sought to deprive her of for no good reason turned to ash in my mouth when the day came. As I watched her struggling to read her own wedding invitation at the age of 8, as her inner child died that day, a little bit of me went with her. Her husband, a man old enough to be her grandfather gradually snuffed out her joy, so she no longer sought out my warm embrace, he stole her innocence. And then he committed the gravest sin of all, he made my sweet Aisha, a girl I had watched grow with my very own eyes, his murderer.
I have seen these and so many more. I wish to tell them to the world, but I must not, I cannot. I do not want to bring anyone else into my solitude. The stories all seem to have the same pattern, the same ending. I have not learnt my lesson though I should have by now. I wish to tell of celebrations, of the anniversaries come and gone, of the achievements even I will never forget, of where I first met the African, of how I darkened his skin that he may be stronger and survive, of how some (I call them fools) have despised my gift, I recall of how I taught the Nigerian ingenuity, they have forgotten me now and turned that same ingenuity as a weapon against their fellow Nigerian. They have thrown my kindness in my face.
Warm regards to one and all (see what I did there, because I am the sun). But I no longer make jokes. Nigerians have made humour taste bitter in my mouth. Because with every joke innocently told, they themselves have become the punchline. Unfortunately, because I have been allowed to see all, to rise and set on all, I was there when meaningless wars snuffed out thousands. I am still here when tens and hundreds are being cut down, both by government, bandits and herdsmen alike. I am also there when those meant to protect, clink their glasses of champagne over the amounts looted. So now it sounds like a dirge symphony to me, the clinking of glasses and the wails for help. The dying has become too regular, too normal.
Even now I still watch them scurry like ants, ever busy, working not towards the country but instead to escape it. I want to blame them, I want to scream and shout that stand and fight for the land your ancestors fought for. Defend the freedom your elders prayed to me for. But I too am becoming tired, I can’t blame them for running away from the war, because it seems to never end.
I have come to the full stop of my story, maybe if I am lucky a semi colon. Lucky enough to find some true Nigerians beneath my rays. Lucky enough to find some willing to stay and fight. To fight themselves, to fight the corruption, to fight the people, to fight the powers in high places, to fight their inner demons, to fight the urge to run away, to fight to seek a way out, to fight to know God but yet fight to save the country in the physical also.
I am tired now, I go back to sleep, perhaps you will hear from me again but I don’t know whether even I will rise again. I will always be here watching, waiting, remembering the stories I need to tell even if there will be no one left to listen.

Yours Sincerely
The Sun
Orun. Anyawu. Rana