“I just need to clear my mind now/It’s been racin’ since the summertime” – Kanye West (Blood on the Leaves)
Our biggest rallying cry when these protests started was that we didn’t inherit the silence of our parents.
Maybe it was just plain narcissism typical of young people, or it was our youthful energy and enthusiasm, zero reluctance to speak truth to power, piled up frustration or our ability to crowdfund and support systems within a very short time and at scale, powerful acts of kindness over the last few days, all of these mostly possible because we had the Internet on our side, something our parents never had.
After an exhaustive call on Wednesday morning with my mother and then logging on to Twitter in the evening to see Oke with a bullet hole in his neck, shot dead by the Nigerian Police, his parents cradling their baby’s dead body in their hands – his mother screaming her lungs out. His father quiet, with pain written all over his face, the exact way men grieve. – probably thinking about how they failed him, I realised we were wrong all along.
It was from reading about Pericles from Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature that I understood that our parents weren’t silent out of convenience or because they loved the idea of a toxic relationship. They were silent because they had come to understand how the system worked.
A generation that experienced a civil war, military rule, coups and counter-coups, genocides, militancy, civil unrests, pogroms, insecurity, election violence, riots, broken promises, poverty, a rotten system, an irate military and countless of targeted killings.
I always wondered why my father always insisted on exercising restraint.
But for someone who was born around the time the first guns sounded for the Nigerian Civil War, experienced all the horrors of war, saw Ghana and many other African countries capitulate under bad leadership, heard about South Africa, saw people disappear and never seen again, now I understand.
They were broken spirits and their silence was just plain PTSD.
They were so used to bad things happening that nothing even remotely felt out of place.
The reason our parents held on so strongly to prayers and religion was simply to numb the pain from the trauma. It was opium and morphine to them. A coping mechanism.
I saw too many videos of dead people over the last few days, but nothing broke me like Lucy’s and Oke’s.
I really was sweating my blood pressure watching Chelsea in the UCL on Tuesday night not knowing a genocide was on.
Lucy was dancing hours earlier, laughing and meeting new people, only to have her face cut in half by bullets bought with her own taxes.
Cried like a child with snort running down my nose. Couldn’t work or work out. Couldn’t sleep.
I broke down from watching Oke’s girlfriend post pictures and talk about their dreams.
People who knew him called him a whiz and an overall great human being.
3 hours earlier, he posted “Nigeria won’t end me’ on his Twitter.
Nigeria ended him 2 hours later.
That boy was essentially his family’s breadwinner and Nigeria might have just managed to derail his family’s future.
That boy was going to be someone’s future husband and father. Nigeria just killed someone’s present and future happiness.
Nigeria ended that man’s dreams and whatever seeds he had inside of him, whether seeds of greatness or progenies.
Your government might have just killed the next Paystack.
I really used to think that this country was supposed to test you and make you prove your mettle – the same way fire removes dross from silver, heat purifies gold or pressure turns coal to diamonds. Isn’t that why Nigerians excel everywhere?
But nahhhhh!!! Our parents understood from the get-go.
This country was programmed to kill you, and everything you hold dear, your dreams, hopes and aspirations.
Our military came out and shot protesters in the full glare of the world and then went on to deny it claiming it was photoshopped. An event seen by over 100,000 people live on Instagram? Makes you wonder how much evil has been swept under the rug all these years.
Our parents were always right, and we really ought to apologise to them.
This wasn’t the Nigeria I grew up to love, believe in and be proud of. Maybe it’s better to be an alien in someone else’s country and killed by a white cop on the account of racism than being killed in your own motherland just for demanding for the right to live.
Whatever I felt for this country will never be the same again.