The alarm was ringing and I woke up with a start…just as I was approaching that threshold of full consciousness, I heard what turned out to be the sound from impact of that world famous Pre-Palestinian times missile on my window. Incoherent sounds followed, then my eyes began to slowly take my surroundings in: the building, the jingle from the radio, the poster with some Arabic stuff on the wall, the Hijra Calendar, the Billboard I could see through the window with TEHRAN written on it… it then dawned on me: I WOKE UP IN IRAN!
Now apart from the Arabic numerals that we seem to all know, I’d have sworn I could not speak anything Arab except by some gift of tongues.
Then some youth, playing what sounded like Hiphop with heavy Asian influence barged into my room…my bad! I must have been so tired I forgot to lock my door.
Something very weird happened…very weird! I began to understand them (perhaps they were actually speaking English, I can’t tell, I am not sure of anything anymore) and they were screaming ‘JUNE 12, JUNE 12!!!’ Before I had time to comprehend fully, I was whisked into the middle of a rally and I began to wonder if I had not only traveled in space, but had also traveled in time.
To the protests post-dating the annulment of the June-12 presidential election on the 23rd of June 1993…exactly how far did I travel? When I went to bed last night, it was June 15, 2009, was it?
Then something dramatic happened. I was blindfolded and hauled into what I felt was a truck. For the first time since the turn of events, I panicked. I have seen clips of executions by extremists…I wanted desperately to scream ‘I am not American! I am Nigerian!’ but then, I had been gagged.
I was locked in a dark and dank cell, and I was given thirty minutes to feel the pulse of a man locked in the same cell I was in and write about it. They said his name was Iran! Are you freaking kidding me? Since when did human beings start bearing the names of a Country/Place? Then in what turned out an expensive joke, I heard one of my captors say ‘Aminu Kano, Shehu Shagari, Kaduna Nzeogwu…’ he mentioned other names I could not pick as the sound from his boots faded away from me.
I walked closer to Iran, an old man, wizened through years of war and I saw a tattoo on his arm. I moved closer, grabbed his wrists as if my life depended on it, to feel his pulse.
What felt like Megavolts of electricity coursed through my spine and I convulsed, ‘Hossein Mousavi-MKO Abiola-Babangida-Ahmadinejad-The Quick and the Dead’ was all I heard amidst harsh wailings, bloodshed, smoldering tyres….I saw what I would call a vision of Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and …I was about to name the others when I heard a voice behind me that caused me to quake ‘THE OTHER NAMES ARE FOR YOU ONLY’ I obeyed instantly.
I saw them at a table; discussing Global Domination, how to get people to believe everything they hear and see, and then I saw Saddam Hussein! Apart from the hole in his neck, he looked just as he did in the days of his reign, I dared to look at his eyes and I saw the pain of betrayal, the same machinery that sponsored him as a despot sponsored his end…okay, I broke the rules. I forgot to tell you I was given the waiver to mention two more names. I saw …Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?’ I blurted out. I saw sadness in his eyes, he wanted to speak, but his characteristic eloquence (in spite of the fact that he stutters) was gone. I wanted to know what happened on July 9, 1998; I said ‘Chief, were you actually beaten to death as Al-Mustapha (the Chief Security Officer under the late dictator, General Sanni Abacha) alleged?’ No answer. ‘What was in the Tea served by Susan Rice? Were you poisoned?’ …..I heard nothing…All I heard was silence.
Then I saw him pointing in one direction. He pointed to two video screens. The screens were labeled: Nigeria and Iran respectively……Two elections were held on a June 12, one 1993, the other 2009. One was an election adjudged the ‘Freest and Fairest’ in the history of the Country, the other…well, there were two opinions, The Western media reports that the Results were severely manipulated with impunity, the Arab media was saying something I just couldn’t figure. I tried hard…I just couldn’t. Would I be locked up forever in this cell if I failed to figure it out? Would my throat be spared or…I shuddered; this is not the right time to entertain such grisly images.
What I saw next baffled me. The Nigerian screen was split in two, showing the THEN and the NOW. The then showed students being tear-gassed as they protested; I smiled as I saw myself on the screen. I saw demonstrators burning tires. I saw Frank Kokori, Beko Ransome Kuti, Pa Rewane, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi among many other faces. I saw those that fought to their death, I saw those that fought till they were too frail, having expended their energies over the years…then I saw, at the forefront of the fight, those that shifted ground and crossed to the ‘Dark Side’ I saw Chief’s running mate preferring years later to serve as Secretary to someone who would have called him Uncle than persevere and hold to his mandate as Vice-President…I saw the then Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, under which MKO was the Flag-bearer become one of the most dreaded Godfathers of the party that has kept perhaps the longest and most frequent track record of electoral fraud in Nigeria, nay Africa’s history. I saw Charlattans paying lip service to Democracy….and I wept. While I couldn’t feel the pulse of Iran, on the credibility of the elections that Ahmadinejad ‘won by a landslide’, I saw protesters, I saw people who actually took to the Streets to cry foul….
At this time, I was completely overwhelmed with tears, it no longer mattered to me HOW MKO died but WHY he died and WHAT he died for. Chief was not asking me to see him as a Saint, he only wanted me to see that at the least he LIVED and DIED for SOMETHING.
I saw Nigeria in my mind’s eye. I saw a Numb Media. I saw a file on the table. It was labeled ‘Mass Hypnosis’ I need not say it contained confidential documents. Then I saw it all, why the Press has surrendered their pages for wham-bam-slap-palm journalism, why the entertainment industry is centered totally on the mundane…I saw it all…I wanted to see more, but I just couldn’t. ‘Why bother when the others won’t see it anyway?’ I told myself.
Then I heard the Cell Door open. ‘Time Up’ and I looked around me and everything was swirling again. I closed my eyes as the footsteps approached and my ‘abductor’ took up my sheet from my hand. ‘You failed to obey simple instructions again, Plumbtifex’. I opened my eyes, I was in an examination hall, and the invigilator was holding my script with a frown on his face….
My bad! I was actually meant to write a short story themed: I WOKE UP AND I RAN. Cruel Joke!
Brilliant Piece.Well Worth The Read.
*Screaming in the Din* Very cruel Joke!
Lawdy! I love the depiction of the Nigerian situation…Very apt…Beautiful writing…I was spell bound till the end!