I was about to spread my tired bones on the mattress and wander my mind through the numerous corners it rounded every night when the agents who served darkness made a call on my street- as the president had promised when he tried to woo Lola the white journalist. Sahara who had been lurking around must have been most delighted as she quickly pounced on me with her loads of unforgiving heat, extracting water I couldn’t afford to lose. I did not hate Sahara; she just couldn’t help being the hell around the bend. Pelumi -my faithful lappie- soon bowed out, the battery was battle worn and crying for replacement, heck, the whole system needed replacing, something out of consideration- immediate or future.
With what I later considered disproportionate anger I snatched the old transistor radio idling behind my nylon of garri, with its Made in China emblem or stigma – a factor of who was making the assessment- now almost unreadable. My grandpa had enjoyed the crackling sound of a copy of the ancient technology in the 50s when Mr Kenneth Kaunda with his high rising afro was still asserting that his Zambia should be free, and today when the free Zambia wouldn’t pay due homage to the Africa’s Big Brother and Santa Claus-in-Chief in a Football contest, and here I was, the scion of the fearless Akinlumo still depending on a machine my six year old cousin would consider a crude noise generating tool deserving a place in some local museum or antiquity shop, somewhere in Utah or Braga or wherever they dealt in such stuff.
Well, I could listen to radio on my outdated Nokia phone –allegedly made specially for Nigeria- but just that morning the Presidential Commission on Transformational Darkness (of course that wasn’t the real name, but don’t you just dig that?) had announced with glee the patriotic need for four Eastern states to enjoy some normal darkness for few days –which could as well run into weeks since people enjoyed so much a scheduled and stable power outage. For sure, this was in accordance with the president’s promise during his successful presidential campaign and as reiterated during his fumbled courting of Lola- the CNN lady. Common sense, which was quite in abundance in Aba like abandoned oil-wells in Oloibiri, dictated the rationing of battery use. Infrequent Whatsapping, limited Facebooking, no Olamide blaring obscenities, and definitely avoid flashing. I would have appreciated if no one flashed but with the people I had in my contact that would have been a well-undeserved miracle- which of course didn’t happen.
I hated turning the knob of the damn thing. The stations were never where you left them- perhaps their own form of civil disobedience. They rolled over each other especially those in the MW and SW (coincidentally enough the states in the South West were so clumsily rolled over that almost every state claimed a part of a neighboring state). The rolling over also exhumed the hurriedly buried memories of the unusual sleeping arrangement we put up with during my childhood and the memory in turn induced few stifled chuckles. I hated Sanni Abacha more; the crazy devil stole my childhood. But before I could dwell further on that hatred, a cultured voice of a British newscaster in superiority battle with a weaker Arab voice escaped out of the irritating noise and I briefly wondered whether my grandfather had listened to that same voice before under similar circumstances. Foolish wondering, I agree.
The voice, later identified as that of Brian Flair (or Fleur, couldn’t be sure), was breaking the news of French Army swift success over the crazy militants in Mali who had given the whole region some bump in blood pressure. My sweat riddled face involuntarily and voluntary broadcast layers of smile my heart felt instantly, this result was expected but it was nonetheless exhilarating, passing the dreaded SSCE didn’t even compare. The threat the militants in Mali portended for West Africa especially beloved Fatherland couldn’t be qualified. It was immense- it made slavery looked like some mild case of brain drain.
I dropped the old Tell I was fanning myself with and rushed to Facebook to gauge reaction to the news- my internet service was blissfully smooth so I didn’t have to curse MTN and their thieving brothers. My FB friends, arguably one of the most informed collections on earth, were already running thrilling commentary. X Okigbo, a perpetually aggressive, opinionated and funny blogger I happened to like was bursting with superlatives for France and full of invectives for African intellectuals who were wont to accuse France of imperialism and all nonsense things they enjoyed mortaring at the West when we had thoroughly and willingly failed ourselves, the same west from where in the comfy of western air condition and decaffeinated coffee they wrote articles few hundreds read back home in their victimized Africa.
I remembered my grandfather again; he wouldn’t be thrilled with the situation, no he would be miffed- he wasn’t in love with the West and everything she represented. That was understandable, the old man in his youth had followed Pa Awolowo through the narrow streets of Ibadan, the plantations of Benin and the cocoa farms of Ikare spreading gospel of self-determination and well, black power and he never forgave the sadistic mid finger the defeated British plastered in the new nation’s face. But times had changed now, grandpa, we were centuries past that period –it sure seemed that long- yes, that eon when Chief Awolowo surpassed in three years the colonial masters’ eighty years ‘achievements’, today we needed the West for everything including telling us who and what to read, how to define terms and concepts, and of course we needed them to secure our citizens from our citizens.
Nigeria –and Africa- had come a long way, and the NEPA had not been left behind. Yes, they hadn’t, because just then my bulb had literally lighted up, in seconds crackled and before it gave the pop sound and splashed all over, I leaped off the mattress and yanked my Pelumi’s charger off the extension box but my stupidity would cost me four hundred naira only. I saw my Nokia charger exhaled poisonous smoke, another victim of their surge.
Mental note to self: Next time, stupid, when NEPA calls put off all electrical appliances except your brain and when you suspect a surge do not abort individual children just kill the mother.