A Letter to my Dying Father (Country) on Independence Day

Hey daddy.

No.

Good morning Sir. You always taught me to be respectful. “Proper, well raised young women can be told apart by how they greet”.

Greeting is not the point of my letter. I don’t know how to start. I’ve never known with you, with your preference of respect over love. Respect means to see you as a strong man and icon rather than to understand you. I don’t understand you, I never have.  Even respect has dissolved like butter under our boiling sun. Respect has dissolved into fear. Fear for everything and everyone. The same fear that has crept into my siblings accents. Fear has made us easy to distinguish, even Audu who doesn’t come home anymore. He went to the diaspora. Today I write this letter from the crevice in the old shrine. Bombs blow up religious houses. I pray to Sango now.

I’m sorry if I don’t even know where I’m going with this letter, despite your tough love and disciplining acts, I grew up in the midst of instability. Before I was born, I dreamt of soldiers being executed on a beach. There were mothers and children of men in the crowd. No one stopped it. No one could.

 I turned out uncoordinated, like our country’s electricity supply.

Did I mention I’ve not been to school in three months? I did try to find a new job, the most viable options were, prostitution, armed robbery and drug pushing. I hope you help me choose wisely.

 In some nations I would be diagnosed for bipolar disorder. They wouldn’t know I’m just like my father, a sea of unfinished projects, a series of uncoordinated thoughts, and an incomplete crowd.

I cannot forget to tell you about the fight between Musa and Obi? They fought like mad men, drawing machetes and blood. The worst part was we who watched, Ade was on the fence. We watched because Musa and Obi are stronger than most of us. Don’t worry they are still friends. They did not die in the fight, although they were badly wounded. Not scars you can see, but those wounds that sting and ache when they try to hug each other.

I would tell you many good stories but the bad ones are easier to remember. The reason I initially decided to write to you isn’t even a good one. I was forced to pick my paper and pen after returning empty handed from the market. I could no longer bear the weight of lifting the celebration rice after what I heard being discussed. I heard you were dying. The rice seller said it with an air of certitude, it came out as truthfully as the fact that the sun was shining. Dirges and Elegies are being composed, even as I drape the halls for your birthday celebration.

I don’t know how to comfort you. Since you’re 53, I searched the top 5 diseases for people over 50 on google, they included; diabetes, stroke and cancer.

I put on imaginary stethoscopes I wouldn’t own because of the strike. We’ve got to keep on moving somehow. I diagnosed you with cancer which probably stemmed from obesity. I warned you when you continued to swell with the tears of children, swell with poverty then the scream of zealots. I warned you.

Now I google what to say to your dying father on his birthday, most answers that come back start with “I love you”

I pledge to Nigeria my country,

To be faithful, loyal and honest,

To serve Nigeria with all my strength,

To defend her unity,

And uphold her honor and glory,

So help me God.

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