“Man’s best political weapon is war; bloody, heart wrenching, excruciating war. He cannot help himself. It’s all he knows. Whether its pride, contempt, ambition, or just his need, he comes back to it at every point. I guess it’s easy to navigate the blood and sing of martyrs and praise dead men for their bravery and dwell in all the righteousness of why any war had to happen! And maybe sometimes we stop the argument and say that its part of the way of sinful man, and we recede to feel defeated.
And with every war we count the death tolls that man has made; a thousand, a million, a little too dark to count again. So we wait. We wait for the light of a tomorrow that may never come because tonight may see another gun and another bomb and another specimen to add to this never ending experiment on how best to kill the next man we see. So we dwell in this darkness, this mire that has captured all our dreams and stay afraid; afraid to even look outside because all that’s left of us is what we see in here.
I can tell you all you want to know, I can tell you that when that war was only a thought, we neglected its threat and stayed in our homes, careless enough to never give credence to the vitriol that had immersed the streets. Just like others before we thought the fight had nothing to do with us. But while we kept silent and let the rage grow deep, the continuum of hate that was building was making a large space. It grew slowly, calmly, and stealthily till at last it was not just a blur but a reality. It became this reality that we all live today. The reality that makes me to calmly recall as I look into your awestruck faces; that in this warring parts that you have grown to see, was once a country that tried so hard to survive.
A lot of people like me watched it as it fell, from terrorism to idealistic struggle, to economic recession, into secession and finally into cold dark war.
But that was forty years ago, and even though the chasms remain, the idea of what we were supposed to be stays with us; constantly beckoning our old mind to ask if it could have been better, or if what we had become was our only best.
It’s all questions that we have been left to wallow in as we look into a future that has been as bleak as our past. But what truly is History?”
The class remains silent as the new students stare blankly at Professor Douglas, a famed Professor of the new Middle-belt republic that was borne out of the now defunct Nigeria. His days of relevance precedes this class to the moment that really matters; that moment came forty-five years ago when as a university of Jos student, Douglas watched the becoming of the war that rendered what he had known as Nigeria into 4 different countries.
That day as he watched the unfolding of the news and the sun setting, he recognized that the view that most had taken was not of progress but of dissatisfaction and disillusion. Most had already given up hope that there was a country to save.
Like all break ups, this process of nations was a slow, excruciating dilemma, it started with a slow burning need for direction, six small years into galloping in the semblance of a nation, a people gathered and in their analysis it was adjudged that the leaders had gone corrupt; but let this writing be clear, I do not in any way propose to support any view because history is like a picture that does not allow you to see all parts but the point of view in which it was taken.
Now, when they had fully determined the vanity of these leaders, they devised a plan to oust the cancer, and for a while, the plan worked. It worked so well till an intervention came and made the conflict interesting. Now the interesting dilemma suggests that the new intervention and the key players in this cathartic cleansing shared a very common identifiable trait and a side of this nation in its infancy discovered its suspicion. For a while it seemed that the needless noise was past its way but it was a ruse. And six months later the nation arose to be engaged in its biggest grudge match; as the nation fought, it became harder to fathom whether it was a cry of strangers or an argument of friends. Blood flowed careless and for three years, that nation got its first scar.
What becomes ironic however is the script that shows that it never moved past this scar. In fact, the nation explored, questioned and repeatedly hammered its veil. Each touch brought a bruising pain.
This constant battle for identity and power emaciated the nation that was; it subdued its hope for patriotism. As the years passed, the shades became clearer as the grudges thickened again, it was either your tongue or your religion, everything else seemed bleak; this rickety steps stayed until the second chapter of the year 2020, when deep seeded divisions and chasms escalated. It could have been Boko Haram, The Avengers or the Herdsmen but it was everyone. Everyone decided that the best way to make it walk was to expunge the problem.
But the question lingers on silently after forty years; still, what was really the problem?
The students in Professor’s class were all born after the wars of secession and could have been allowed to be indifferent towards his passionate ramblings. He was allowed to teach a history class but his indulgence in this historical reflections posed a few problems to the school administration who considered his beliefs to be a little bit too out modeled. To most of them, his reflections pictured a man who had dwelled too much in a past that had already gone. They laugh at his insistence on clinging to the multi cultured etiquette of a nation that did not even exist in his own new nation; others found it interesting that he believed that there was a way back to re-unite the four countries that had been at each other’s neck.
All that the students recognized about each of the other three nations were that they were constantly in boundary disputes and military clashes. The online platforms peddled a lot of harsh commentary, the accusations to each country was out of hand. In the first example, the Middle-belt republic was accused of short charging its neighboring countries by hiking the price of the agricultural produce they abundantly produced. The Biafran Republic was adjudged to be too back handed and engaged in frivolous attempts at smuggling through the borders of its neighbors and the Northern Nigerian republic was accused of personally trying to regain territories that had hitherto been allotted to the Middle-Belt.
This was the scene that the students knew and they felt a different longing as the old professor talked. His words seemed to gently vibrate around the room, raising sweet notes that tickled their ears; he may have spoken of the past, but some of them felt the future in his words.
“Excuse me sir!” a student sitting at deep end, close to the window gently broke the silence “so in your opinion, history does not matter? Or how would you define History?” he continued. For a moment Professor Douglas stared gently at him, he smiled a little and moved close to the window where the figure of the student sat. “What is your name son?” he gently asked. His smile still gently glowing as the class threw their eyes at them. “We—ell well My name is Choji “ he answered softly, staring blankly at the figure of elegance that stood before him, “ well Choji, it is wise to ask me the same question and I will explain my view of history to all of you” he said sternly as he walked back gently to the podium in front of the class, as he walked, the students noticed a visible limp that drew his legs, in all there was only silence, for all of them wanted to hear what he thought history was.
“History” he softly began “history is only but the malicious tale that people choose to tell to mask the truth, while they let the truth to nauseate in the realm of their shame. All that history remembers is geared to project an illusion. Who are you? What are you? Where are you? These are all questions that tie you down to the most fragile fact. But if history itself is fashioned to fit in a profile of event, can we trust that all of us in this world and existence right now are nothing but a denominator of the common fact of a past.” The students are amazed by his insights as they stare surprised at his unconventional way of teaching. “History in the end is all we dare to do now. The past can never be seen in variables and the future has no possible constant, the only reality that all of us have is now. The past is all of the actions that we do now.” He said carefully as he folded his notes.
The time was ten o’clock and his class was done. Choji, the student by the window looks on impressed by the old man’s words; beside him was a lady who had a red scarf.
A few minutes after the lecturer had gone; the lady with the ref scarf introduced herself as Ene. The two of them stayed in the empty class talking, arguing and sometimes admiring the knowledge that they had and the magic that the old man had on them, this was 2061 an even though the rest of the world had advanced technologically, it still felt rich that they could still have that lovely sensation of connecting on the first day of school.
As they left the school premises, they come across Eli an old friend of Choji, and together they walked the lonely road to their hostels, just three lonely 18 year olds who had no idea what the future held in store for them and if they would ever have a line in this story.
Elijah peter is agradute of university of jos department of theatre and film arts