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Cooking this stone

The most powerful words I have ever heard were not spoken by Sa’di, Frantz Fanon or the Mahavira. They were spoken by God, and then…

The most powerful words I have ever heard were not spoken by Sa’di, Frantz Fanon or the Mahavira. They were spoken by God, and then repeated by all of the above. Those words had brought me not only comfort but had lifted me back from the abyss time and again.   

Hakuri… yakan dafa dutse… the echo of these words, in my experience, have proven so instructive in purging the distress of the human condition. It resonates like a lighthouse discovered from a convulsive tempest at sea. Indeed, the stoic self-restraint of patience can and will cook stones if you become the fire under the pot. But like many overused human constructs, patience has for long all but lost its countervailing essence. 

Patience is not only about resignation to the facts of reality during difficult times. It is about the will and the courage to keep moving unbowed. It is about daring the facts of reality themselves – conceding tactical battles where the need is. Why is patience relevant in this context? My idea of patience is not restricted to “forgiveness” – that is forgiving the situation and moving on.   

My blood boils whenever I hear people repeat that shallow, defeatist indignity about how Nigeria, or even Zoogeria, is but a fool’s errand that is already a dead end. As the new “japa” syndrome catches on, what it reminds me is what Cesare Pavese said about suicide… “At great periods you have always felt, deep within you, the temptation to commit suicide. You gave yourself to it, breached your own defences. You were a child. The idea of suicide was a protest against life!” Indeed, the idea of jumping ship and flying away, because life is just too unbearable, is not by any stretch of the imagination any less contemptible than the idea of suicide.  

So, we have problems… boohoo! So, we are down in the dumps… boo freakin’ hoo! Maybe we have even tried and failed. But so what? According to Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong, it will”. A lot has gone wrong. But the flip side is that it will eventually all go right. 

A lot has gone wrong with us simply because human life is a double-edged sword, a blind experiment with so many sharp bends and unknown variables. Under this type of climate, a lot could go wrong and they all have. But then again, they will eventually right themselves. 

So, we get off our butts and fix things. And that is where the rubric of patient fortitude becomes relevant. Our lazy, entitled causal compass tells us Nigeria is a textbook Sysiphean nightmare. But problems, no matter how bitterly difficult they are, are meant to be solved. The very fact that they were created means also that they can be solved. 

As Voltaire puts it, “no problem can withstand the constant assault of human imagination”. If you flee from every strenuous encounter – you will never, ever, ever find your way home. Life is a journey through deserts, oceans and mountains and will always remain thus, not just here but everywhere.  

The reason some of us look for and find hope somewhere is someone there not only decided not to yield one more inch of ground to fear and despair but went on the offence to invent fire, braving its raving heat until lambs became lions, until the fire was hot enough to cook stones.   

The way I see it, it really does not matter if you think it can’t be done, or that it can’t be done in your lifetime that is not a legitimate excuse regardless. Ours is a tough stone to cook… but it can be done and we have to do it. We will never find escape anywhere but home. 

So, we must cook this stone or die trying. Either that or the terminal death knell called japa, in cahoots with the usual suspects, will do us in. And I mean in.   

The world today, and Nigeria at the moment, is no doubt a particularly hard stone. But, laa tahzan… la tahzan, laaaa tahzan! Never, ever concede to darkness, never succumb to that defeatist, counterintuitive (im)morality of despair.   

The reason we are stuck in the dumps is itself a problem of sociological stagnation. Our leaders are not the evil vampires we actually think of them as. They are scum, but then so am I. 

Relevant statistics will tell you that at least 80 per cent of people are not sociopaths… meaning by many definitions they are good people too. Just not leaders. That is in actual fact, their only crime. They are round pegs that somehow found themselves sitting on square thrones.  We are lost because we have been unable to disabuse the thought of leadership as linear function with no thrusting vectors. What we need is not a conqueror – what we need is a Moses. 

If Frantz Fanon is right, part of our problem is also a colonial hangover that has thrown us off track, stagnating the social evolution of our own civilization. In short, we will be stuck until our political Mahavir shows up.  You see, Moses did not only take the Israelites out of Egypt but also gave them a God. He galvanised all 12 tribes and aggregated their collective will for a common vision. A thousand hearts will cause a lion where an individual person or a country that is not also a nation will forever be a lamb.  

But a Moses happens only once after a thousand donkey years… and even then, it takes another 40 years of severe “ass whupping” to get into Zion. The problem here is the fact that we want to go home – tonight and for free! So, some choose the indignity of exile, instead of fighting. Instead of moral victory, they choose the easy coattails of metaphysical defeat. 

Lest I am misunderstood, I want to clarify that I have nothing against people who decide their fortunes are far away from home. But show me a man whose only premise is despair and I will show you a coward. This is where I stand, and will not budge forever.   

So, what you can do to summon out the Mahavir, the gauth-az-zaman from occultation faster? Build him/her a house befitting his/her splendour. That is a house inhabited by men of transcendent quality. And not just a smattering of quality men who know very well how deep the rabbit hole, but a critical mass for the quorum sensing beacon of this Mahavir to activate.   


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