I always wanted to be a hero like Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X or Ken Sarowiwa, I guess it stemmed from watching Sarafina re-runs as a kid. Those were heroes I believed in, not the fictional ones Marvel and DC comics entertained us with. Though it wouldn’t have hurt to have super-human strength, I didn’t quite fancy having a secret identity;-). I believed that everyone needed someone to believe in, a cause to fight for. That the weak needed a hero and he didn’t have to have a cape or a phone booth just an iron will, a caring heart and the focus and determination needed to effect a change. Heck, he didn’t even need to be a man! 🙂 I spent a great part of primary school social studies learning about Queen Amina, Mary Slessor and Joan of arc; Women could do it too…
Then I became a teenager and got a healthy dose of curiosity mixed with dread. I’d blossomed into adolescence with the curiosity that inherently followed it at a time when the leader of the country had SSS everywhere. If you coughed and his secret service heard his name in the cough, you got jailed and maybe even put away permanently. Freedom of speech was taught in school but holding your tongue was the word on the street. How could I be a hero if I couldn’t even express myself? How could I stand up to injustice if the very people supposed to hear my cry were merely puppets in the hands of a powerful tyrant? I shrank like a violet, afraid to be burnt and buried my head back in my books…
Somewhere in the Niger Delta where I am from, a group of youths were thinking and feeling the same way I was, they didn’t have books to hide behind cos most were uneducated, they didn’t have good food or money or even cartoons. They had never heard of superman or sarafina but it didn’t matter cos they felt something more powerful than a cinema could re-enact, they felt a stubbornness deep within, they felt a rage kindling like a fire as they watched the greedy power moguls smile at the expatriates with their well fed bellies and fat pockets as they plundered their land, polluted their water, killed their fish, ruined their harvest and watched in glee the widespread destruction only seeing crude oil and naira where they should have seen family legacies and means of livelihood. The youth rebelled, they wanted to be heroes. They remembered the stories they had heard as kids, the stories of men enslaved who stood up and fought for pride and honor. They knew nothing about strategy or diplomacy nor did they care to know. They had a wound, a grave injustice had been done and their grievances loomed over their adversaries. They would get back what was theirs and avenge the loss of what they held dear, they were united in a singleness of purpose…and M.E.N.D was born. Alas no one prepared them for the cunning of a deceitful tongue with a hidden agenda, empathizing with them while leading them away from the goals that governed their force…they hurt the innocent, another hero turned vile…He had told them that sometimes innocents had to be sacrificed for the greater good…they must have listened a little too attentively…
My brothers in the North had a fight too. They were born heroes, nomads without fear, serving a God who had given them the will not to back down from a fight and the wisdom to know when to hold their peace. They had stood up against the decadence of the Western civilization, alarmed that the secular education would erase the morals of their precious children, make them forget Allah and embrace a life that would disgrace their lineage. Somebody got fed-up, somebody looked at the infidels on television and swore to end the plague that attacked his people like a deadly virus from a land beyond the seas. Somebody felt that burning desire to impact his surroundings and earn a place in the heavens and Boko Haram was born. No child was meant to die, no innocent was meant to perish, the people were supposed to be forced out of the trance they had entered and focus on all that was holy but somebody didn’t realize that his idea was the perfect loophole for those who sought evil, somebody didn’t anticipate that impressionable youths could be brainwashed to break the laws of the very book they fought to uphold and protect. Somebody didn’t know…He only wanted to be a hero.
Some chose the power of the pen, others the power of the sword, others the power of their voice and yet others the strength of their actions. There’s a hero in us all and a thin line separates hero from villain, it all depends on who you are cheering for and whether or not your cause falls in line with the greater good. Our greater good has always been “One Nation bound in freedom, peace and unity…”
Nigeria is 51 and it is a land of forgotten heroes. Who sings the praises of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Herbert Macauley and Obafemi Awolowo? Rather than striving to perfect the work that these men gave their lives fighting for, we trample on their memories and spit on their graves. If they lived in these times, would they have been motivated to fight or would they have sat folding hands in despair like most Nigerians do viewing our nation as un-redeemable? Would they weep if they could see our misguided heroes-turned-terrorists or the would-be heroes banished permanently to the back seat of our minds because someone had told us it was better to live a miserable life than fight? For how long would Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe fight alone? For how long would we allow the blood of MKO Abiola, Ken Sarowiwa and Bola Ige be just a couple of senseless killings?
“The Labor of our Heroes past shall never be in vain…”
Every time we sang the National anthem, we glossed over the words like they were the lyrics of a not-so-popular song. Where did the compatriots go? They had still not arisen to obey Nigeria’s call to serve, too busy chasing 1000 naira notes. Gani Fawehinmi had taken that anthem seriously, Tai Solarin had too but were they random oddballs in a sea of bland citizens?
And how about our un-sung heroes? T.Y Bello who chose to lift our spirits and paint a beautiful Nigeria among the negative bandwagon who took delight in flogging a dead horse and spelling out the troubles of a nation already under worldwide public ridicule?
How about the man or woman or child who chose to do right in a country where right hardly paid off? These were our heroes. You could be one too… We cannot build our nation if everyone wants to be the villain. The nation is ripe for salvation, we are 51…Life begins at 40…11years gone and we still long for a hero, a man or woman who will break the status quo, who will fear no man, who will make the world pay attention and create a Nigeria we have only dreamed of. Search within you, we all have a special gift. One day, the God we serve will require of each of us our country Nigeria and while we rattle on about what Nigeria didn’t do for us, He will raise His hand so we pause and ask what we did for Nigeria.
“Make we join hands to make Nigeria better…”
Happy Independence Day Nigerians!!!
…Daddy when I grow up, I wanna be a hero like superman and fly and catch all those bad bad people way dey spoil Nigeria… 😉 Amen
Do not give up on Nigeria…Have a great night peeps…xoxoxo 😉