The Freedom Park was almost filled up. Different individuals came together from various locations to celebrate the independence of Nigeria. It was the 1st of October 2016; the country had survived 56 years. Families came in their groups. Customs of green and white painted the square. There was unraveling of fireworks of different sizes. There was a deep sense of happiness in the environment.Damiete walked into the park with his sister’s hand in his. His eyes ran through the different set of people that flooded the area. He never understood why a country like Nigeria should be celebrating independence; that was at least until some days ago. Before then he had promised himself never to celebrate the independence of a country that offered nothing more than suffering and trials. He had always talked to his friends on his plans to leave the country and never return, not even to bury his parents. Every day that passed fueled his anger, every politician he saw and heard sparked his violence. His heart would burn with fury when he watched the news, his soul would long for blood of those that put the nation in turmoil and those that pushed it deeper. He had always prayed for an opportunity to meet the politicians of Nigeria; just one chance to recreate the memorial event in Ghana, one he considered as justice. He would imagine their bodies’ burn like the dreams of the youth; he would imagine the oil they loved so much make history of their screams. All of these he used to dream until five days ago. On that day while he picked up his bible to read his eyes searched for any form of solace it could find. He had always been told that his generation would make a difference; he questioned every bit of it. He wondered how a world so lost in deceit could be redeemed; he wondered how a country drowning in overwhelming greed could be rescued, he wondered, how a generation so distant in ideas and background could stand in unity. And then he stumbled upon it. That passage, it read “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…” It went on but the rest was of no concern to him. He remembered reading that passage before in Ngugi’s A Grain of Wheat, but it never struck him like it did at that moment. He closed his bible and for the first time in a long time, he thanked God
His sister slipped her hand away from his. She rushed to the arcade center and he quickly joined her. There were in their third round in the racing game when they heard screaming coming from outside. Damiete took the hand of his sister and together they rushed back outside. He saw the men march in with their guns. They were fierce looking, each having a red bandana tied to their right arm with their guns in the left. Then the last man walked in. Damiete thought him to be the leader. He carried no gun, his head was occupied by a red head warmer and he held a cigarette in his right hand. With so much energy in his steps, he walked towards the pole hoisting the Nigerian flag and pulled it out of the ground. And with the same amount of energy he took to the microphone and began to speak. He started off hard and got the massive crowd trembling for fear. An elderly man beside Damiete caused the police for not responding quickly to the situation, for not even having officers at the park. The leader of the group continued talking. He told the people that they had no need to celebrate independence. He told them ‘their’ nation Nigeria was nothing but a fishing pond for the ‘bloody politicians’. He told them of how his wife and their only daughter had died in jail. He told them how his land was seized by the government for specific ‘government use’. He had continuously gone to the Ministry to get his compensation. That land was all he had; he used it to farm and also had a small house where he and his family lived. The Ministry kept on putting him on hold. They did this for about a year. His desperation grew to anger and one day he went to the Ministry and started a fight. The police was later at his house; he wasn’t around and so they took his starving wife and daughter. The last he heard of them was that they were dead. He had lost his livelihood; he had lost everything.
At this time his deep voice had softened. Damiete noticed tear drops fall from his eyes. He wiped them off and the sternness returned to his voice. He commanded everyone to leave the park; he and his boys had planned to set it ablaze. Thoughts raced through Damiete’s head. He reminisced times when he shared similar ideas with this man. He knew that he could never understand the pain the man felt but he knew deep down that he didn’t come over that passage for nothing. Conflict arose in his mind and as he stepped forward his heart raced like a thousand horses. He stopped just some few steps away from where he stood and then he opened his mouth to speak.
“I can never understand the pain you feel right now, I hope to never know what it feels like to lose your land as well as your wife and daughter. I would also not judge you for your actions or that of these men with you. But I know one thing for sure and that is that the darkest hour comes before then dawn. I used to feel so much hatred for this country. After I lost my mother to a suicide bombing my heart grew cold and dark. My sister and I waited for the government to say something, to do something but they didn’t. Having lost our father some years ago, my sister and I were left to care for ourselves. I took to the streets, became one of these Agboro boys. I got what I could to take care of myself and my sister. At this time my heart longed for violence, it tasted for blood. But one day, while I picked up my bible as I was trained to do, I read something that changed my perception. It however didn’t remove the pain I felt, it didn’t put an end to the struggle but it birthed hope. Hope that this country would rise like a thousand suns. Hope that the stones of fallen houses will be the cornerstone of a nation that shall rise like a tower. And the cries from Chibok shall birth an atmosphere of laughter, and their cries shall bring forth rivers of flowing joy. And we would set our eyes above and the walls of China shall testify of our length, and the army of Russia shall speak of our sympathy, the enterprises that run the United States shall bless our benevolence. We shall rise from the rubbles that we cry upon, and the waters that fill our eyes shall become our dead sea. Let’s wait
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it profited nothing”
Damiete stopped talking, his heart now beating as though the horses had been joined by a herd of cattle. His sister had walked up to meet him, he gripped her hand firmly. He rose up his head and looked in the eyes of the leader. His eyes had turned red. And with such tenderness, he put down the Nigerian flag on the ground. He rallied his men together to leave. And as he walked towards Damiete he stopped, “do well to set it back up” he said. Patting Damiete on the shoulder, he left.