The One Whose face is veiled

By Ayk Midas Afowoolukoyasire
I sit in the bus, en route to Ibadan to deliver an assessment to my boss. Tears besiege my eyes, big though they are. Big tears preparing to experience gravity; who dares defy? Yet you could not see on my face any signs of lacrimation… We Nigerians are masters of concealment, maybe even deception; deceit even; we’re modern-day Mona Lisa. Veiled as our faces are, we suffer and smile, we beat and smile, we are beaten to smile; yet there is one suffering one cannot smile through… As I endure the journey (what’s there to enjoy? the potholes on the expressway? the preacher’s convictions pounding in my ears while the true culprits are yet to be convicted? the local girl acting ‘touche’ two seats away?) I think back to a time long before now. A time now long ago; a time long before men hawked…

In the tradtional African setting that ours used to be, men where breadwinners, women were homekeepers, children were just happy to be children. There was plenty of food, concrete security, and no, as the preacher just said, “bribery-corruption” or not so much as a billionth of that which we now witness. The preacher easily attributes the modern-day Nigerian situation to demons: demons govern all: greed and selfishness, the very things that brought us here. Yet I know better.

Our men hawk for lack of jobs, our women die of AIDS or suffer in contentment, our youths are delinquent or unemployed, and lately, our four-year-olds spend eight hours in school! All for greed and selfishness? I beg to differ. Our companies are dead or moved to Ghana, our ports are congested, yet our Port Authorities ask for bribes: Pay N120 000 or your containers won’t be cleared. To send goods into Nigeria is a daytime nightmare for the whole world knows that our ports are the messiest and our Customs, the greediest! The whole world knows, save our President who seeks to empower them the more.

As we enter Ibadan, Nigerians sprint to sell their meagre wares to us passengers, yet Nigeria is never good at the Commonwealth Games nor the Olympics. Greed and selfishness. For in Nigeria, neither ascension nor recognition is not by qualification, even qualification is not by qualification. It is by self, then relatedness, then by familiarity: it’s ‘all man for himself’! Each man caters first for himself, then for his family, then friends, then neighbours; however unqualified they are. It is no wonder then that the best companies in Nigeria are owned by strangers more often than not. No wonder that a group of people can unilaterally recognise an individual as the Father of the Nation. No wonder that the same Federation that threatened to sack Keshi else impose a foreign technical adviser on him quicly changed skin, chameleons, that they are, and threw dances and songs and coughed out swallowed funds once he won.

It is rather incontrovertible that any group of Nigerians in general deserves to be heard. But not just to be heard, but to be listened to. Alas we find ourselves under rulers whose acquired (?congenital; as we say in Medicine, “query congenital”) partial deafness prevents them from perceiving subtle pleas but not blatant threats. Rather unfortunately, the hospitals in Nigeria are unequipped to treat such conditions. A situation well testified to each time any of our rulers goes overseas for treatment, or admits their relatives into the National Hospital, Abuja. Alas, we’re the one whose face is veiled.

In weddings, the bride’s face is veiled until the groom acquires the authority to unveil it, usually after taking his vows. I thought little of this until I realised that in those Indian societies where the bride pays the dowry (as the groom pays the bride price in our society), it is the groom’s face that is veiled. It therefore stands to reason that the one is face is veiled is invariably the one whose price is paid; after all, he calls the tunes who pays the piper. Little wonder in Africa where the groom pays, he is allowed to have other wives, polygamy; while in those parts of India where the bride pays, she likewise is allowed to have other husbands, polyandry.

The one whose face is veiled. Ours is a democracy where the legislature seeks immunity even as the executive misuses it. Where the President will have to be dragged to visit a Benue State that he will not declare unsafe for civilian residence but will nevertheless avoid. Where our judiciary is accused of laziness. Where the First Lady is in fact a First Dame, and all those things you very well know. Where a political party is formed overnight to frustrate the opposition. Where the ruling, nay, lording, party forms its own Governor’s Forum. Where our treasury is deflated and our Naira is shamed just so their loots abroad can acquire interest as well as value. Where schemes are made to retain power rather than empower the populace. Where a chameleon Federation is expected to cater for the Eagles, Green, Flying Or Super, and outrage escapes each time the Eagles are in effect chickens. Where assasinations go unsolved as clashes of interest go unresolved. Where all that changes is nomenclature, not attitude, not strategy, not personnel; and we’ve had the same ruler since the early years of Tafawa Balewa’s tenure save a few times.

It is therefore unarguable that our face is covered. That we are indeed paid for, or perceived to be. That our rulers, the piper payers, will not but call the tunes, as long as we allow them to have other interests, as long as we do not call them to account and hold them responsible. As 2015 approaches, we must make sure that we are given freely in marriage to the man, or woman, we love, for gone are (or should be) the days when youths are forced to marry a particular person, and gone should be the days when the Nigerian populace is sold, face veiled, to the heightest bidder, or crook, only to become lording husbands, rulers, “Flat narrow pieces of plastic, metal, etc. with straight edges, that you use for measuring things or drawing straight lines.” Alas, short rulers that they are, poverty cannot be measured with them, nor can un-education; yet they are too crooked to rule straight lines. Isn’t it then safe to say that these rulers are useless?

In the mean time, one can only hope that our veil is removed, or rent in halves as the one in the Temple of Jerusalem, or that our husband falls in love with us as some enforced husbands have been reported to. That those responsible for rearing the Boko Haram become a rarity in our land as well as our affairs. That the god who raised The Dame from the dead may cure all the deafness, ineptitude and/or apathy that afflicts our rulers and their cronies and their lords, the piper-payers cum godfathers cum cabal.

Ayk Midas Afowoolukoyasire is a penultimate-year medical student at OOU/OOUTH, Sagamu, Ogun State.

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