Keeping Mum

by Joan C. Akubue

You will not be on this earth in the next two hundred years. Think about it, real good.

Hard to swallow, huh? When I was eight years old, I remember saying to my mum ‘Mother, where do old people come from?’ She sighed and then proceeded to explain that people like me evolved with time and that these old people had been children once. It was a big blow. A part of us never believes that we shall age or die: we foolhardily believe that we are physically invincible. People depart this turbulent world on a daily basis; we mourn them for a season but soon return to our old ways. The sad aspect is that many people pass on without discovering who they really are and worst of all, without leaving any legacies behind.

Too many Nigerians have no value for human life. I’m not even talking about the lives of their fellow human beings, but their own lives. All you need do is take a look at the reckless lifestyles some people lead and you can tell that they don’t give a hoot about themselves anymore and probably never did. I get worried when I see the street folks especially. These area boys and girls we perceive as a menace to society are actually lost sheep: people who don’t have a clue about life and who have no reason to live. Many of the armed robbers are heart broken and disillusioned people.

The lunatics that prance the streets stark naked in broad daylight weren’t born that way. They are probably victims of cruel circumstances that you and me know absolutely nothing about.

Life may be rosy for you relatively (we all have our own problems after all and wearing the shoes, know where they pinch so well) however; we can’t keep looking away from the folks who aren’t a pretty sight. One day after shooing a child beggar away and winding the car window upward as an acid victim approached, I realized that I was merely running away from my own shadow.

Like it or not, these people are a part of our world and will keep following us around until we do something about them once and for all. Sure, it feels good to toss the wretched of the earth a few coins now and then, but how far does that really go?

We need to make a din so that our government can really wake up to its responsibilities. We need to solve this sort of problem from the root cause. How can we watch innocent children on the streets imbibing criminal tendencies everyday and all we do is whine about our own security?

I’ve noticed one ugly trait our people have. We like to keep mum even when issues that directly concern us are being raised. I’ll illustrate. While I prepared to travel to the Eastern region of the country over the Christmas holidays, I expected a hundred percent hike in fares. To my chagrin, the transport moguls had raised the fare far higher than that. Although I could still afford to squeeze out more money, I decided not to do so without a fuss. Needless to say, I was a real tough customer at the car park that day (and can you blame me?). Eventually I paid the fare and found myself a (cozy?) space to seat. You can then imagine how put off I was, when I was asked to pay another chunky sum for my luggage. I refused point blank and argued my point for nearly half an hour. At the end of the day I sorely regretted not traveling by air, but at least I won the luggage debate (after shouting myself hoarse!).

However, I found it a bit odd that only one fellow passenger had the guts to complain while I did. All the others hunched over timidly and kept their mouths clamped shut. Ironically, they didn’t appear more affluent than I was and I knew that they felt the pinch of the exploitation just as painfully as I had. So why didn’t they speak up? Cat got their tongue?

Each time I read about the Montgomery-Alabama bus boycotts (in 1955-56), I marvel at the unity of spirit displayed by the African American people. If they hadn’t resolved to go about their daily businesses on foot, day in day out for over twelve months, they’d probably still be segregated by now.

Are Nigerians ready to make sacrifices for long term gain or are they going to keep on keeping mum? Remember, grumbling about societal decadence in your kitchen or bedroom doesn’t count!

We must find more ways to speak out and engage in NON-VIOLENT protest.

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