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Akanna Okeke: Breaking the Rules but Obeying the Law



There was a little fish named Azu.  He lived in a river with his parents.  As he was growing up, he began to swim with his mates, together as a school.

His parents always told him to make sure he swam along with the rest, and kept formation –stayed in line.  He obeyed his parents but he just found it boring, swimming with the same group and in the same pattern every single day.  He would do this back and forth every day, and return home to his parents in the evenings and they always welcomed him home with a smile.

One day, Azu was at the peak of his boredom and frustration from sticking to the rules without any understanding as to why he had to.  So, he decided to break formation.  He stepped out of line, out of school, and was swimming alone.

He felt so free and he did many flips and twirls, dives and glides.  He was regaining balance from one of his (freedom) twirls when he saw a very big fish approaching, with speed, from a distance.  It had a very mean look on its face, and its teeth were very sharp.  Azu instinctively knew that the big fish had decided to have him for lunch.  So, he started swimming frantically, and the big fish darted towards him with intensity.

Azu was very frantic.  He swam all over the place.  He discovered many different areas and locations within the river that he had never seen, but at this point, he was too busy to take in the scenery.

He saw that the big fish was not letting him go –it had a lot of determination in its eyes and there was no area that Azu entered that the big fish didn’t already know of, so the chances of escape were very much limited for Azu.

Instinctively, once again, Azu started swimming upwards.  He darted upwards and swam frantically, unsure of where it led.  The big fish followed after him with an unsure determination also.

Azu was caught in a flash of bright light and a gasp for air as he shot up into the sunlight and out of the river, landing on the riverbank.  He didn’t know where he was but all he could think about was his inability to breathe.  He flapped and flipped and gasped for air.  He could now see the river water, and he was some distance away from it so he tossed upwards and flipped some more, hoping to get close enough to some water and perhaps eventually enter back into the river.

This was looking very impossible and enervating for Azu.  Just as he was about to give up, a little boy picked him up in his hands and announced to his dad who was fishing: “Dad, look! I didn’t even need to use my hook and I got one already!”

“That’s good, son” his dad replied. “Now put it in the bucket and come do some real fishing with me over here”.

Azu was dropped into a bucket of water.  He was relieved to be finally able to breathe.  He took a deep one in, and finally settled in this strange territory.  He realized that there was another fish like him there, who had a pronounced injury –a hole in his lip area, with some blood seeping out of it.  Azu was relieved and delighted to see a familiar face and proceeded to converse with him:

Azu: Hi, I’m Azu. What’s your name?

Other fish: I’m Eja. What brings you here, Azu?

Azu: Long story.  I was chased by a big fish and I didn’t know where to swim to in order to escape, and it appears I swam out of the river and almost died until now.

Eja: Did you drop out of school?

Azu: How did you know?  I decided not to swim with the school today because it’s so boring swimming with them the same way, all the time.  So I decided to see what it was like to be free to swim whichever way I wanted.

Eja:  Me too. I broke out of formation today, not because I wanted a taste of freedom –that would be silly –but because I saw this enticing worm wiggling upwards toward the surface of the river.  I followed it and was able to eat it, but for some reason I bit into a sharp hook that gripped my lip and pulled me upwards, out of the river and I ended up here after that.

Azu: Ouch! That must hurt and frustrate you at the same time.  Was the worm any good, though?

Eja: Haha! Not good enough for its consequences.  My parents have always told me to keep in line and follow the rules; never break formation to swim outside the school because the consequences are huge but largely unknown.

Azu: Hmm I see.  That’s perhaps why my parents always wanted me to obey the rules of swimming too.  Now I’ve ended up here as a result of my disobedience to them.

Eja: That’s not really why you ended up here.

Azu: What do you mean?

Eja: You ended up here because you broke the law and not the rules.

Azu: I don’t under–

The water was suddenly troubled as the little boy lifted the bucket as his father directed him to go dump it in the river. “We have to go now son”, he said, “Go put the fish back in the river, we don’t actually need ‘em at home”.

Azu and Eja felt the rush of familiar water as they were dumped into the river.  For a moment, they were confused; not knowing in which direction to swim to their homes.  Azu called out to Eja: “swim with me! I know the way.  I saw everywhere while running from that big fish”.

“It pays to break the rules sometimes”, Eja responded. “Now you have discovered uncharted waters by stepping out of line. Your parents would be proud”.

“I highly doubt that”, Azu replied. “They would be worried sick by now”.

The two fish were swimming side by side now and Eja was quite impressed by how much Azu knew his way around.  In a still, quiet voice as if to remember something, Azu asked Eja what he meant by what he had said about the rules and the law, back in the bucket.

Eja responded: “Oh, that! It’s just something my dad told me earlier.  He said there’s only one law in this river and then there are many rules.  The law is never to leave the river, and all the rules, like swimming in schools and in certain areas only, are there to protect us from breaking that one law.

When we break the rules, other people, like your big fish friend, come to punish you for that. But if you break the law, no one but the law itself punishes you and its punishment is fatal.”

Azu was still trying to take this all in when he spotted his parents in the distance. “Look, my parents!” He nudged Eja. “Boy, do they look mad. You’re sure getting a whopping tonight” Eja replied with a smirk on his face.

“Wipe that smirk off your bloody lip, my friend”, Azu retorted playfully. “Yours would give you the whopping of your life when they see that hole in your lip”.

“I would just tell them I wanted to get a lip ring but changed my mind after the piercing”, Eja joked.

Azu shook his head and let Eja swim alone toward his own home as he knew his way now.  The two new friends looked at each other one last time as they separated and deep down within them they had this connection.  A connection birthed out of stepping out of the box, but now realising to what extent they could do so.

Photo Credit: Invictus999 |


  1. Olubunmi

    March 8, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Good read
    Thanks Akanna

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks, Olubunmi!

  2. Her Grace

    March 8, 2017 at 7:58 am


    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      🙂 you can say that backwards!

  3. Adaobi Ezeoudm

    March 8, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I don’t know but this story rubs me off the wrong way. Nigerian parents in particular want you to be average and follow the crowd at all times. Nigeria is filled with mediocrity and basic people because we’ve all been programmed to do the same thing. No one is encouraged to think outside the box. This story just encourages that stereotype and we sure need some outside-the-box thinkers in Nigeria with the way things are going.

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Hey Adaobi,

      That’s exactly what the story is about. it is to encourage you to step outside the box but, in the process if that, to realize the rules that are there to protect you and those that are there to just keep you within the box.

      And one way to find out the difference between these sets of rules is to actually step out and try something new like the two fish. By swimming differently, they have discovered uncharted waters (new opportunities) but they also know how far to go –they know that they shouldn’t leave the river.

      So, you’re right on track! I just can’t advice to break all the rules, but to break the meaningless ones, but never break the law as there are usually no second chances with that.

  4. Nadia

    March 8, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Wow!!! The story captivated me from start to finish. Practical life lessons too. Thank you Akanna

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      You’re very welcome, Nadia!

  5. Ezinne O.

    March 8, 2017 at 8:55 am

    It was a lovely read, I’m still fighting with what it means to me, I understand breaking the law, but breaking the rules is one of two things, you can either take the heat, or you can’t. Where you succeed in taking the heat, then boom, you made it. Been breaking a lot of rules lately, so this story touches me somewhere real deep. Nice one bro

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Exactly, Ezinne! You just have to be brave and try. If you get burned by the rules, the result isn’t fatal (unlike the law). But we just have to try and go against the grain once we strongly believe in something.

      Thanks for writing in! 🙂

  6. Victor Adegoke

    March 8, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Good Rendition.

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you, Victor!

  7. Dainty

    March 8, 2017 at 10:12 am

    So captivating!!!!!!!!!!! Could have gone either way though, they could have ended up as meal.

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      True, Dainty. I didn’t want to be cruel so I gave em a second chance lol

  8. funmilola

    March 8, 2017 at 11:52 am

    they would have ended up in pot of fish stew…. very true and practical!
    don’t we all break the rule at times?

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      hahaha! I like that you’ve already imagined the kind of meal they would make. Yes, we do break the rules and I think we should break those unspoken rules that keep us bound- the rules that keep us in a box. You know, those things we do just because everyone else is doing them and that’s the way they’ve always been done.
      But we should also recognize the ones that are there to protect us.
      It all boils down to not being afraid to try those new things that tug at our hearts!

  9. Unicorn

    March 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Life, is about breaking rules.

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Pretty much. If we keep doing the same things as everyone else, how would we get to see a unicorn someday? 🙂

  10. tunmi

    March 9, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Now whenever I go fishing, I have to dump them back in the water. See what you have caused?

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 9, 2017 at 4:18 am

      LOL!!! Tunmi! No, you don’t have to. You can decide to punish them for breaking the rules and the law haha!

  11. Uche

    March 9, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for this piece…..Life is all about taking risks. Trying to come out that comfort zone

    • Akanna Okeke

      March 9, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      You’re welcome Uche! We’re all in that struggle together.

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