Mbaka and the Burden of Courage

by Isidore Emeka Uzoatu

I don’t have change o!” was all the rather laconic-looking boy piloting the craft said as we set sail. Though I had the requisite ‘change’ as it were, the mere mention of that word in this nation now evinced an abiding feeling of foreboding. This time around, it kind of served to double my initial trepidation.

In fact, I should never have boarded it at all, I started to muse. Not even at gunpoint. At first sight, it was crystal clear that something was wrong somewhere; that it just wasn’t another run-of-the-mill tricycle on the street. More so now that the state government has them painted in a government-approved colour.

Ostensibly, it was undertaken by the powers that be to debar criminality. However, one in two voices would maintain it’s another settlement term for another party tug that had given his all to the party at the last election. Any wonder they cleared the polls at every booth.

In fact, from the intersection headed their park’s way, I had beheld it with a dose of consternation. While the rest irradiated in the state’s yellow and black hue, this one had added elements of green and red. Interspersing the collage were some green leaves and a bold array of letters. From a distance, I could only make out the word COURAGE written in bold. It was only as I neared that the rest in smaller letters manifested.

It was a quote from a Bob Marley song. None other than the celebrated No Woman No Cry: My fear is my only courage, it now screamed in my head as we now meandered through the refuse-streamed thoroughfare.

But, fortunately, the radio in the keke was tuned to the local station. In no time, it was the top of the hour. It had the station stray from another phone-in programme for the news-on-the-hour.

As turned out, the first item on the bulletin was all it took the quiet journey to an animated one.

“Did you hear what I just heard?” a man bearded and balding seated at the front row asked the air about.

“Na wa o!” the young man clutching a polythene bag seated beside me to the right exclaimed. “Wonders shall never end.”

Seated between two passengers in the back row, part of my trepidation had been caused by my sandwiched position. You know, like Jesus Christ on the cross. Though the bread slices I sat in between were hardly crooks at first sight.

“Are you sure it’s true?” This came from the one to the left.

“Why?” the former interposed as if he was being accused.

“It could end up being fake.”

“Until then, then,’ the accused said with an implication of finality, making the other discontinue.

All was quiet again as we progressed to yet another junction.

“But that guy has guts o,’ the balding man took up the gauntlet once more from where he had stopped. “It’s as though he never lines up with the majority.”

“No be wetin spirit command am ‘im de talk?” the only other guy who hadn’t spoken like me enthused.

“Spirit ko, spirit ni,” I decided to chip in. “Spirit de change mind?”

“That’s exactly where I’m going to,” the bald man boomed taking over again. “For him to have the boldness to always speak out no matter whose ox he’s goring marks him out from the many.”

As the charivari heightened, I withdrew into my shell tortoise like. I journeyed back to when the waters entered the throat of the pumpkin. When one candidate’s pigeon had taken to its wings swiftly and the other’s had refused to crawl, let alone soar.

Back then, many had been skeptical about the implied prophecy. Knowing the antecedents of the subject, many saw it as just wishful thinking. Perhaps, because of the spirituality of the messenger, many rather chose to sit on the fence.

Then came re-election time and in spite of the rampant atrocities the man of God stuck to his guns. He even refused to say anything about the absence of prerequisite educational qualifications entitling candidates to run.

And now we have come full circle. However one ends up looking at it, it does appear as though sometimes human intellect works better than intuition.

How indeed could a confessed religious bigot turn an ecumenist overnight. Someone who unabashedly said that the nation would swim in blood become a pacifist. Just because he wants to be president.

And when he became president, all he set out to do was to bottle everybody up with nepotistic policies. The nation now became the promised land of his chosen clan to be ravished at will. Our spirited shout outs only fell on his deaf ears.

Well, I no sooner reached my destination and had to disembark from that unique keke called courage. But the courageous, on whatever toga, should try to tinge their conclusions with a little intellect. If nothing else, it’ll save them the undue disadvantage spawned by unselective utterances.

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