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Reuben Abati: Living In a Nation In Search of Hope



“Where have you been, you this guy?”

“Omo, I no go deceive you. I just meet this girl wey dey turn my head. Shey you know, I no go deceive you. You don’t need to die to discover heaven. Heaven is right here on earth, except you have not been lucky to discover it. This my new babe ehn, I am convinced that she descended from heaven at a special moment of the Lord’s intervention”

“I hope nobody has given you vegetable to eat. You sound like you are under a spell. I asked you where you have been and all you are telling me is how you met a girl as if you are in a trance. Well, I must assume you are talking about your wife.”

“Which wife? That one? You don’t get it.”

“Ï don’t. Whatever has come over you, I pray in the name of Jesus will leave you. Because I don’t know why men will see danger and embrace it with their full chest.”

“Leave matter. Don’t pastors also see women they love and desire, and they keep their bible aside and obey the call of flesh, the evidence of their eyes and submit themselves to their own humanity and nature? Leave matter.”

“So, when are you going to introduce me to this your new woman that you are so ecstatic about? What is her name? When do I get to meet her?”

“Whenever you want to meet her. Almost a virgin. Fresh. Innocent. Her name is Chidinma.”

“Yeh! Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!”

“Are you alright?”

“What did you say her name is just now?”


“Oh, Jesus! Ore, why are you doing this to yourself? You wan die? One Chidinma has just been paraded by the police in Lagos in a homicide case. She has been accused of killing one of your type, a successful young man with a great future, an entrepreneur with skills and talent, who gave access to a young woman, and ended up dying through her. Such a tragic story, such a sad event, it should make every man run away from any woman that bears the name Chidinma.”

“Are you okay? Are you listening to yourself? You run the risk of group defamation. Every Chidinma in Nigeria should sue you, individually and collectively.”

“Na you sabi. I beg. Ï am speaking for myself. Since that tragedy was reported, I have been thinking of the pains of Michael Usifo Ataga’s family. He was someone’s son, cousin, brother, husband and a father too. He had a whole world ahead of him. It was even a day to his birthday. His family was looking forward to celebrating him at 50. And then the devil showed up in the shape of Delilah, Cleopatra and Helen of Troy, and destroyed him. I feel the pain in my bone marrows. These days, when I hear the name Chidinma or Adaora, I break out in sweat.”

“You see, this is the problem with you people. You like conspiracy theories. So, because one Chidinma committed a crime, every Chidinma has now become a villain. For your information, Chidinma means “my God is beautiful,” and Adaora means “the daughter of all.” What is in a name?  When a crime is committed, it is for the police to do their work, and ensure justice. The case you are talking about has nothing to do with the name of the suspect. Candidly, I no longer understand how people reason in this country. Is it the poverty? Or the bad politics?”

“After what happened last week, if I hear Chidinma or Adaora, na race be that oh. A girl of 21 years, going out with a man of 50, and yet she killed him in such a gruesome manner. The whole story does not even make sense to me. It does not add up. It is a story about poverty, greed, peer influence, drug abuse, parental upbringing, infidelity, and frustration.  Yes, every man should be careful and avoid an amoral life, but that is no reason why the Chidinma, undergraduate of the University of Lagos should kill, drug, tie up and destroy.”

“What if you hear Mary? You go run?”

“That is my mother’s name. Don’t bring my mother’s name into this matter.”

“You see yourself then? Are you aware that the alleged murderer had a fake identity with the name, Mary Johnson? Will you now start running away from every Mary? What has happened is not funny? Nigerians should stop misbehaving, creating all kinds of theories and misinforming people. In case you don’t know, the Ataga family has issued a statement, appealing to the public to stop turning a family tragedy into a material for malice and mischief. I think their feelings should be respected. The police should be allowed to do their work. All self-appointed detectives should be told ‘enough!’ And that should be enough.”

“Since you know all of that, then people like you should learn your lesson. Stay with your wife. If you must have a girlfriend, then ‘know your customer.’ It is called KYC. Stay away from girls from problematic backgrounds. Don’t get carried away by young girls with so-called innocent looks. Mata Hari had innocent looks but she was evil. Every femme fatale is a vamp. Delilah. Helen of Troy. Cleopatra. And above all, don’t play around with drugs.”

“Thank you, preacher. Let he who is innocent cast the first stone.”

“Very sad the way tragedy occurs in this country unabated. It can get to somebody, you know, and it is beginning to get to me. I was reading the newspapers the other day, just going through an accumulated pile. I was depressed. If Chidinma is not murdering Michael, Maryam is killing Abubakar, Funke kills Femi, one husband kills his wife because of N2,000, one fellow accuses his mother of being a witch and decides to kill her, a jealous step-mother throws her step son into a well, someone abducts another man’s wife and rapes her for five months, herdsmen kill farmers, farmers kill cows and herders and their kinsmen, a group of avengers claim they will ensure the permanent recession of Nigeria and humiliate the government, some other groups want to secede. Is there hope? Tell me, where does our hope lie, those of us who fought for this democracy? Can someone help me make sense of this unending deluge of sad news?”

“Oh come on, there is hope. This is the way it has always been with Nigeria since independence. Things go wrong. But just when you think the country will collapse, it suddenly bounces back. What we need is Love, unity and understanding. The problem is that too many of our people are quick to imagine the worst. But I can tell you, Nigeria will survive.”

“But some prophets have said the country will break up. I know one or two pastors who insist that Nigeria has come to an end.”

“You must stop listening to those spellbinders, futurologists and shamanists. Most of them do not know what they do.”

“It is the word of God. Can’t you see the signs?”

“What signs?”

“Are you not aware that a group of Southern and Middle Belt leaders have approached the African Union, the UN, the World Bank and the IMF that they must no longer do business with Nigeria, and must never give the country any loans, because the sovereignty of the country is now being disputed?”

“Don’t worry yourself. Nothing will come out of it. I can assure you that all of those institutions you have mentioned will continue to do business with Nigeria and even grant more loans.”

“But what of the restive youths of the Niger Delta who are threatening to humiliate the entire country? There is Operation Humble by the Niger Delta Avengers which is led by a woman, former Field Commander of Operation Red of 2016 now Brigadier General Tu-ere, also known as Queen of the Creeks. There is also the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, leading Operation No Mercy Alpha Piper Zero Oil. We also have the Niger Delta Liberators. They all want to cripple Nigeria.”

“No worry yourself. Na today?”

“There are separatist groups everywhere. In the East. In the West. In the South South.”

“Na so e dey be any time a major election is around the corner. Everything na hustle. Nobody dey go anywhere. Is it not this same Nigeria all of us dey inside?”

“Ï think it is different this time around. People are genuinely aggrieved and upset. Nigeria is at a breaking point. You make everything sound so light.”

“Too much grammar. That is our problem. And I keep saying do not focus on the moment, do a trend analysis of Nigerian politics over the years.  When people need something, they will make noise, agitate, threaten to pull down the roof but when you speak to them in the language they understand, they will calm down and Nigeria will move on”

“Of course. That is exactly how Nigerian leaders keep postponing the evil day until one day, monkey will go market he no go return. This is the root cause of the civil war, the June 12 crisis, the menace of military autocracy, the #EndSARS protests. The thinking that some people can seize the reins of power and treat the people shabbily, refuse to listen to them and simply assume that nothing will happen. But I think we are dealing with a new Nigeria. There is a new generation that has emerged that can no longer be taken for granted the way their parents were. They are fighting back in all ways, from rented slaughter beds, short-time joints, to the streets.”

“That is what you think.”

“That is what I know. The dynamics have changed. This new generation is on drugs, they are high on all kinds of substances, they don’t care, they are not afraid of any authority figures. On top of it all, they are educated and outspoken, and they have access to technological means of instant communication. My advice is that the political elite should stop daring them. They will kill and maim, and look innocent. Nigeria has created demons waiting to strike.”

“Can I make some predictions?”

“Ï thought you just condemned prophets and pastors a while ago”

“Yes, I did. But I want to speak as a pragmatist. Stop giving yourself hypertension. Nigeria is this. Nigeria is that. For example, have you not seen the desperation with which politicians have been fighting over party primaries in all the major political parties in Anambra State? The desperation. The theatre. PDP, APC, and APGA. Does that give you the impression that everyone has given up on this country? No. All the gladiators have followership. They are all convinced that there is still something of value in this country. After their crisis-ridden political primaries, they have all rushed to Abuja to take instructions from the centre.”

“The Igbo political elite do not represent their people.”

“Who told you that? So do the Yoruba or Fulani political elite represent their people?”

“Ï don’t know.”

“My friend, wake up. Stop getting sick over Nigeria’s problems. Spread love. Get yourself one young girl who can make you happy, and drive away your sorrows.”

“God forbid. I choose to be on the level.”

“Everything God. God. Have you forgotten that everything good and ugly, the Lord makes them? It is the way of the universe. It is the way the Grand Architect has made it all.”

“No. I am okay. And you have not answered my original question before you went off on a tangent about how Nigeria is in a safe and secure place and how the obvious signs of implosion mean nothing to you.”

“What was your question again?”

“Is there something to hope for? I no longer feel safe in this country. I can just pack my bags now, take my children and relocate to Canada with all my frustrations! Arrrgh!”

“And I told you to stop panicking.”

“When even a nationalist and stateman like Baba Olusegun Obasanjo is panicking. He says population explosion is a ticking time bomb in Nigeria. By the year 2050, Nigeria could be the third most populated country in the world. A time could come when Nigeria could be the country with the largest population. Imagine the crisis that will occur. There will be an explosion of poverty, criminals, separatists, decayed infrastructure and too many useful idiots in high and low places.”

“Are you sure you the former president made that statement?”

“Yes. He was very factual, analytical and on point. Brilliant submission as always.”

“Of course. But I recall once reading a book by the same Obasanjo in which he listed his biological and adopted children. I believe I saw more than 20 names, his direct personal contribution to the Nigerian population, not to add an emergent family tree that includes grandchildren and great grandchildren. Baba is my role model. I will like to be like him, and when we get to that stage, can we then discuss the population of Nigeria?”

“You always like to twist people’s thoughts.”

“Listen to me, don’t let anybody give you headache in this country. Get smart. Niger Delta Avengers claim they will humiliate Nigeria. I hope they have heard that electric cars are now in Nigeria, even at the University of Lagos, and that the same Nigeria has accidentally discovered about 206 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to another 600 billion cubic feet. Accidentally! And the man that disclosed that information is a son of the Niger Delta, Minister of State, Timipre Sylva.”

“The gas belongs to the people of the Niger Delta. That is the elephant in the room. The accidental discovery does not change anything.”

“You still don’t get the language. Okay. Okay.”

“Nothing is okay”

“Okay then.”


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