Let’s Arm Ourselves to Fight

“…this must be the handiwork of the wicked witch from our village. Some call her Naija. She is out to kill us all”

Prologue: No Be Today!

Before the formation of the country in 1914 by the British imperialists, the communities that constitute the geopolitical entity that is now known simply as Nigeria had at one point or the other made recourse to arms and might to settle scores. Peace also proved elusive in Nigeria during the age of colonial subjugation and subservience. Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed a civil war that lasted for over thirty months; coups and counter-coups, some were bloody; political, religious and ethnic induced violent conflicts; conflicts between so-called indigenes and settlers, feud between pastoralists and farmers are rife and frequent and sometimes very bloody; agitation for more resource control in the Delta of the Niger has led to vandalism of oil pipelines, kidnappings and militancy have demarked the social landscape of that part of the country that is considered the economic heartbeat of the country. The dailies are overloaded with tales of homicide, armed-robbery, jungle justice, kidnappings and other forms of crime. Also, in its post-colonial era, many violent groups have blossomed and withered. At the moment, the country is attempting to get rid of the shackles of the dastardly radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, all the while as renewed militancy is rearing its ugly head in the Niger-Delta and communities in the North continue to endure the scourge of marauding herdsmen.

Pre-Fight Talk: Me I Go Yarn My Mind

In an attempt to find solutions to the seemingly insurmountable challenge of insecurity brought about by the unkind activities of violent groups and what obtains in violent uprisings, many theories have been pushed forward. The layperson or those we may categorise as the non-expert on the street is never concerned with theories but with positive results, therefore theorising is not our business here; we are content to leave it to the academic gurus to ruminate on. Our concern is to put up this matter the way the people on the street that are devoid of expertise in the field of social sciences and conflict studies see it. The common people’s perspective is borne out of his personal familiarity and varied experiences accrued from living in the heat of this crisis. There is no better person to say it just the way it is like the persons who bear the brunt the most and who sometimes out of frustration take up arms against their sea of troubles. It is from this perspective that I wish to guide this discussion that rationalises (if you like, term it a justification) why many Nigerians resort to arms and sinister approaches to express their dissatisfactions and to get what they crave for.

Round One: Naija, Our Village Witch Wan Kill Us All!

Nigeria or Naija as we informally call her is the world’s most populous black nation on the surface of the earth with an estimated population of 160 million people.  It boasts of one of the largest oil reserves in the world and is considered as one of the largest economies in Africa. One would expect that with the enormous wealth and fame that the country possesses, peace has long been her faithful ally. After all, some have regarded ‘lack’ and poverty as some sort of lubricants for violent uprisings and conflicts.   With Nigeria, the reverse is the case.

Left to me, I would say there is nothing good about this country. That is the language of an ungrateful ‘bascard’, sorry bastard. This country has given me some good things to regard her as being good-for-no-one. I won’t fall for this temptation. But the way this great nation of good people treats its citizens, especially the powerless person on the streets leaves so much to be desired. Nothing seems to be working out: our war against corruption is but a mere witch-hunting and payback exercise, the unity of the country is ‘dancing alingo’ on a precipice, hunger makes a mockery of our position as one of Africa’s leading economy. Nothing seems to work for us, no matter how hard we try.

Hmmm! Like we jocularly express in our day-to-day street parlance, this must be the handiwork of the wicked witch from our village. Some call her Naija. She is out to kill us all.

Time Out: Who Dat Wan Don Epp?

Before I proceed, it is sacrosanct to point out that it is my considered opinion that Nigerians are among the happiest people in the world.  We are more than happy to roll out drums to celebrate and make merry. We don’t wait for the weekend to come around before we start our merry-making – as we say in our street parlance; who dat wan don epp? As early as Thursday our canopies are out on football fields, on our roads and corners of the streets; I must admit, some now enjoy using halls for their ceremonies. Chairs are arranged in the shade provided by the canopies’ shielding off the sun. Speakers are mounted and before you know it the whole country is booming with music as colourfully dressed people dance in ecstasy. Don’t be surprised if you hear that the elaborate party is just a jamboree to celebrate a child’s graduation from the university or a hundred years anniversary to celebrate the lives of some ancestors. It is not just our thing to take up arms. We love life and we love to enjoy it. We don’t dull ourselves when it comes to enjoying the pleasures of this world. When suffering becomes our companion, we conceal the bastard in our hearts and carry gay faces around. That is the Nigerian spirit – A spirit that does not bow down to sufferings of all forms.

Round Two: Man Pikin Must Survive

I yarn am before, have I not? Let’s rethink it again. This country is out to kill us all. In fact, Egbon Ayo Sogunro, said, I’m yet to read it, but I learnt he wrote that ‘Na Everything for Naija go Kill You, your children and your future’ (This lawyers sha! Take time before Presido Kuje (imprison; from Kuje prisons) you like him do the man who called Nigeria a ‘zoo’) . Ehn! That’s how I heard he puts it.

As hard as it sounds is as hard as most Nigerians perceive it. Literally, everything in Nigeria is out there to get you, place you on the butcher’s slab and chop off your big head. How best do you explain the fact that in the 21st century in a country with the wealth of Nigeria, the gutter is where you get your drink from? Enjoying stable electricity remains a pious hope as our homes can be mistaken for an Oriental shrine due to the number of candles we depend on to shield our homes from the clutches of darkness. Going by the state of our roads and the rate of accidents recorded daily, it suffices to say that they are not better than death-traps.

Our citadels of learning are more or less playgrounds. Our hospitals and health centres are places where the experts and practitioners gamble on people’s lives, perhaps to further their learning process. Starvation and ‘situational fasting’ are our staples and most sought after menus. Poverty is our dearest companion. Comfort has long been redefined. All the while as corruption seems to be the only sector of the country that thrives unabated.

With the above ugly reality in mind and the fact that only a corrupt few take all the wealth of the land, tell me why a sane person will not resort to arms to demand for an equitable and egalitarian distribution of our common wealth? Tell me why and how armed robbers will cease from amongst us?  It is never too much to ask for. Man pikin must survive. But how man pikin go take survive? To some of my goons’, na to carry weapon sure pass.

Time Out: Poor-verty For Inside Naija-Delta Plenti

Sometime ago, I used to regard the people of the Niger-Delta area as among the most selfish on the earth who want to enjoy the blessings of the Black Gold alone at the detriment of the other areas of the country. A visit to the region some years back changed my views. I witnessed first-hand how the people lived in a kind of lack that in Nigeria we term ‘poor-verty’. Their arable lands no longer support the cultivation of crops as a result of irresponsible oil exploration. Their waters have also been polluted to the extent that fishes cannot live therein. A community of many ethnic nationalities that has historically depended on farming and fishing are being deprived of their livelihood. Let’s face it! If an average Niger-Deltan that is unemployed and aware of the dependence of the country on the wealth being acquired from his area and the environmental degradation of their area visits Abuja – a nation capital that was constructed from top to bottom by the proceeds of the Delta’s oil – he will have no problem taking up arms against their perceived source of oppression. Perhaps, this helps explain the militancy that is being experienced there till date.

Round Three: Justice Dey Our Jungle?

One sabi oyinbo, after too much thinking, said that all the wars that have been fought by man in this world including the one that people fought for God or over God have been fought by all the parties in the name of justice.  I think it was Alf Ross that said it.  This idea of Justice is a big ‘wahala’. I heard that Plato and Aristotle could not even agree on what it is. This idea has caught the attention of great philosophers, theologians, jurists, scholars and enlightened minds of all ages. I am content to regard it in the classical sense; ‘to give to everyone his own’ (suum cuique tribuere). The whole idea of justice is quite problematic. It is like a harlot at the disposal of anyone that can pay for the satisfaction and salvation she promises. Therefore, the noble notion of justice could be invoked by just anybody for any cause they wish to advance. Going back to Ross’ assertions, many conflicts have been birthed in Nigeria out of a demand for justice. Is it the militancy in the Niger-Delta? Or the perceived marginalisation by the easterners that in some way contributed to the agitation for the secession of the defunct Eastern region from Nigeria and subsequently led to the civil war? Was it not the extrajudicial killing of Yusuf Muhammad that completely militarise Boko Haram? Have we not resorted to jungle justice due to our mistrust for the justice system to effectively carry out their duty? Justice to the common people is creating an egalitarian atmosphere for them to live in, providing them with the prerequisites to lead a good life, ensuring that they have their rights jealously guarded by our laws and when a matter is in dispute they should be able to have their day in court no matter how highly placed in the society the other party may be.

Time Out: Spanner For Devil Workshop

It is a common talk that ‘Na pesin whey no get work, Devil dey take do spanner for him workshop’. Even the Jewish Holy Book, Bible and Quran all agree on this point. With Nigeria’s unemployment population at an estimated 4.5 million and no hope of a better life in sight, it therefore comes to us as no surprise that many of us have allowed ourselves to be used by the devil to rob our fellow countrymen, resort to kidnappings for ransom, ritual killings with the hope of acquiring wealth from some mysterious supernatural forces, vandalisation of  oil pipelines and facilities, susceptibility to being used by mischievous politicians, association with radical violent groups and willing tools in the hand of cabals with anti-state and anti-government dispositions. Give us what to do and see if we will have cause to make recourse to violence. We will be too busy for that. Admittedly, creation of jobs would not bring an end to the problems of insecurity and violent conflicts in Nigeria; however it will go a long way to reduce the incidences.

Epilogue: Last Blow  

The laws of the land vested the powers to safeguard lives and properties and ensure the prosperity and wellbeing of the people on the government. Nigeria is today beset by daily threats to lives and properties. Government has not been able to find lasting solutions to the crisis. A situation where one group seems to have monopoly over violence and wields it as it pleases them is unacceptable. It only spells war for the present and the future. A time will come that the victim can no longer turn the other cheek. At this stage, they would only arm themselves and take on their aggressors; thereby creating a state of war or civil unrest. Government and its agents are sometimes guilty of this felony. The government of Nigeria has at many times descended on its citizens with its full arsenal. Violence does not breed peace and stability; violence begets violence. It is a vicious cycle that continues on its path. If the government cannot protect the people it has been contracted to safeguard, it is not out of place for some persons to organise themselves into a cohesive unit to defend themselves. The first law of life has always been survival, and survive they must! If this is the case, be sure that they will overstep their bounds and create a bigger problem than what we had.

If we must have peace in Nigeria, attention must be paid to the just demands of the common people on the streets and it is within these demands that government should formulate its policies and schemes. Any sane government that overlooks the ordinary man on the streets of Nigeria or any other country does so at its own peril and the peril of peace, stability and development. If anything   can be done to keep the ordinary Nigerian happy – so it should be, and so, let it be. Na housefly whey no hear word dey follow deadbodi enta grave.

Elisha Gwanzwang Godswill is a Nigerian obsessed with knowledge and has a wide variety of academic interests. He hopes to research Conflicts, especially as it relates to Africa

Who Again is Spitting Fire?

Were we not there

When the mountain nearly

Slipped from its axial

Did we not hear?

The trees speak past

A lion’s roar

Did we not disregard?

The tremors

For they held no semblance

Of an earthquake

And did we not make sense then

To act not

For we were still potatoes

Buried underneath

 

Have we not rolled away?

All the dung with our beetle limbs

To liberty hill

Did we not scream?

At the top of our lungs

Free at last!

 

Why then are we hushing?

Our baby not to cry

Why are we choking its life?

What Harold has awoken

Who again is spitting fire?

Chris Msosa is a malawi-born Poet. He has recited his poems at several Art and literature events including Lake of Stars and the Story Club. Visit his blog, Chris Poetics for more poetry.

In Africa

In Africa we are rebels

In Africa we are on their tables

In Africa we read more their tables

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are

FRELIMO

LLA

AL – SHABAAB

MPLA

BOKOHARAM

LRA

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are rebels

In Africa we are wrapped in their labels

In Africa we are glued to their cable

In Africa we still hope to sit at their table

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are

FRELIMO

LLA

AL – SHABAAB

MPLA

BOKOHARAM

LRA

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are rebels

In Africa we dream more their fables

In Africa we are hooked

In Africa we are booked

In Africa we are crooked

In Africa we are umbilically uprooted

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are

FRELIMO

LLA

AL – SHABAAB

MPLA

BOKOHARAM

LRA

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are rebels

In Africa we learn well their lessons

In Africa we work hard to fill up their silos

In Africa we have emptied ourselves the African mile

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are

FRELIMO

LLA

AL – SHABAAB

MPLA

BOKOHARAM

LRA

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are rebels

In Africa we are wolves in their sheep clothing

In Africa we write their mystery over our history

In Africa we are circus lions following instruction

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa we are

FRELIMO

LLA

AL – SHABAAB

MPLA

BOKOHARAM

LRA

In Africa we are unable to be African?

 

In Africa before spilling blood

For whatever good reason

We must first learn being African

Chris Msosa is a malawi-born Poet. He has recited his poems at several Art and literature events including Lake of Stars and the Story Club. Visit his blog, Chris Poetics for more poetry.

Biko

I have not seen

a monument raised.

I have not seen

vultures waiting.

        I have only seen

        Batons

        Unloving hands

        Blood streams

        Swollen body

And words said, forgotten

A man alive, then dead

And forgotten

 

Biko, what was all that fire for?

Chris Msosa is a malawi-born Poet. He has recited his poems at several Art and literature events including Lake of Stars and the Story Club. Visit his blog, Chris Poetics for more poetry.

At Your Old House

At your old house

We were the misplaced

Jamaicans

Who lit up their smokestacks

At 2am, whilst playing

Fela and Nina uninterrupted

 

Our tired bodies

Waiting on our invigorated minds

Not many sat outside

Their homes in June

Talking Marcus, Malcom and brother Biko

Not many out here

Took plunges into Piñon noir

Without the notion

Of ever thinking

It was never a habit for the black

 

Not many talked about

Vegetables

And organic gardens

Without losing their black

 

Not many, loved to love

And talk Africa

Except for the two souls

At your old house

Chris Msosa is a malawi-born Poet. He has recited his poems at several Art and literature events including Lake of Stars and the Story Club. Visit his blog, Chris Poetics for more poetry.

Time

I speak of an enemy friend

Friendly to the wise

Yet impatient to the ignorant

He who separate a mother from the child

He who brings those separated together

Time! An unpredictable element of life

I speak of the one who changes fate

He who challenges the mind of the young wise men

He who controls the circle of life

I speak of a famous stranger

Known by many yet misunderstood

His work speak volumes with no voice

His actions speaks for themselves

The grave yard can be my witness

Time…an element of life

Jokes aside truth be told

Step out of ignorance

And smell the roses

Be careful of the thorns

They protect the precious rose

Time is of utmost importance

Take a walk down memory lane

Pay the dead a visit and wake them up

Hear their story

Maybe we can understand the importance of time

Maybe we will know the purpose of time

Let’s pay the dead a visit and listen

To their grieving voices

Some are crying for waisted opportunities

If all spent their time wisely

We wouldn’t have ghost

You see a ghost is an unhappy soul

Seeking for peace and quiet

A soul that never fulfilled its purpose

Yet we say may their soul rest in peace

Time ….an element of life

As the hands of time move

As seconds turn to minutes

Minutes into hours

Hours into a days

Days into months

And months into years

As seasons change and nature changes

There’s a common thing here

Time is of utmost importance

Time waits for no man

Many have died before time

So we say because of the pain we feel after loosing a loved one

Truth is they were given their time

Question is who knows when will they die

Truth is……..

We know our date of birth but….

No one knows their day of departure

You see life is like a blackjack game

We all call the cards to beat the dealer

That’s time

But none of us know what card is up next

Only time will tell

Time is of utmost importance

Every moment is meant to be precious

Every second is meant to be treasured

After all an hour is made up of sixty seconds

Once waisted never regained

Due to negligence and ignorance

We neglect what matters most

Focus on that which is worthless

Disregard that which we need the most despise those we need

Later regretting the decision made

forgetting that time waits for no man

Its not an instrument we use as we please

But an element that life revolves around

Time is of utmost importance

Live like there’s no tomorrow

Forget the mistakes you made

Its a lesson learned and experience gained

But respect today for it honored its appointment

Take nothing away from the fact that

You were granted today to fix the mistakes made yesterday

Focus not on yesterday for its gone

Master today to overwrite yesterday

Perfect what you couldn’t yesterday

Live not for yesterday but strive

Strive to be better as time passes by

Use time wisely for it was given to you for a reason

Time is of utmost importance

Time! An important element of life

The core partner of existence

A dictator of our destiny

Its never late nor early

Always on time

It never sleep nor does it quits

Time the only one who fulfills his promises

Time …..the element of life

Mziwanele Anele Mayekiso was born in Eastern Cape, Queenstown . a young and upcoming poet. Currently works at Golden Horse. A dealer by profession and a poet by choice.

The President

On Friday morning, the breaking news in Lufrika was about the death of Fisadi. There were different versions about this Lufrikan leader’s death. One theory said that certain key leaders from the neighbouring country had bribed the doctors to euthanize him. Another theory was that God’s wrath was on him because he had enriched himself through the sweat of the poor. Others said that Fisadi was becoming a nuisance to the leaders of the neighbouring lands, because he never allowed them to dictate policies. People suspected that his death was organized, so that they could put their own leaders in office, who would dance to the tune of the policies that worked for them and benefitted their economy. Those leaders were known to plant their own leaders in government, whom they could use as puppets, with the intention of progressing their own agendas. Although Fisadi was a corrupt leader, he would be remembered for his firm stand against any manipulation by the neighbouring leaders. Lufrika needed a strong leader who would courageously administer the right dose of resistance to the oppressive neighbouring leaders. Fisadi rubbed shoulders with the neighbouring states when they wanted to introduce foreign ideologies that were meant to kill home-grown ideas.

Lufrika was one the most intelligent nations, with innovative people – although they were untapped. The land had a warm, cultured and educated populace. In spite of this beauty, the land was run by some neighbouring authorities. Lufrika exported raw materials at a cheap price, but bought back the finished product at exorbitant prices which were set by their exporters. The wealth of Lufrika benefited neighbouring lands more than it benefited those living in the land. Fisadi was hated by neighbouring lands because he eloquently told them to stop raping Lufrika, by using unbalanced multilateral trade. His speech and his relationship to a few neighbouring countries that were not trying to oppress Lufrika was positive, but it was offensive to those countries that exploited Lufrika.

A week later, Fisadi was laid to rest. The Tumbo Kubwa stadium was filled to capacity. People from all walks of life, the rich and the poor, as well as dignitaries from other lands, came to bid Fisadi farewell. Death could be a celebration of a well-lived life. However, the death of Fisadi was a celebration of the death of a bad leader. The majority of the populace were looking forward to seeing Fisadi leave the office because they were sick and tired of seeing their money being spent on building ‘a kingdom’ in his compound. They were sick and tired of seeing roads that were in a mess, despite the fact that the taxman followed Lufrikans everywhere. They were sick and tired of seeing escalating levels of corruption, with Fisadi doing nothing about it. They were sick and tired of seeing Fisadi and his comrades involved in numerous scandals, including the arms deal scandal and the siphoning of public money.

In his tenure, the economy had waned as a result of the huge wage bill, which had grown by the day, due to the creation of new ghost workers. A bunch of employees had smart pay slips at the end of the month, yet they had never worked anywhere. These ruthless ticks that relentlessly sucked the sweet blood of taxpayers, looked for more godfathers in office, so that they could fit them into the job system somewhere else. Having a good job, and more than one job, was about whom you knew in office, and not about one’s merits, qualifications or experience. God forbid! As if that was not enough, nepotism, ethnicity and racism was a huge problem during his tenure. Fisadi’s family and his relations were rewarded with the best jobs. It was pointless to apply for tenders or to consider looking at the gazetted tenders, because of the high level of corruption. Those in power knew who was to be given the job or tender, even before the job interview or tender was publicized. It was the time of a new generation in this land, that drove fancy cars and lived extravagantly, only a few months after they had been employed or received tenders.

It is important to mention that race was a factor that dictated who was smarter in a job. As if skin colour helped one to think better or less; as if skin colour determined who delivered the best or the worst work; as if skin colour determined who could be less or more corrupt, if he was given a job. Gosh! Wonders never cease. Some races had to work a little harder at school because the system had set their bar higher for certain races. There was no ‘I have got these certificates with these qualifications’, but it was all about ‘I look like this’ or ‘I speak like that’. This had demoralized learners, because they were never assured of a job opportunity in their own country, the schools never taught about having an entrepreneurial spirit, neither in the early stages, nor in the later stages of their schooling. All the learners knew was that they needed to work hard to get a white collar job. Period. Education was not regarded as a tool that enabled one see how one could employ oneself and others, or how one could transform society, but it was a tool that determined the type of white-collar job you would get.

The requiem mass was celebrated by Father Pesa. He loved money more than anything else. Pesa and money were inseparable. Some of his flock made jokes about him, saying that even if he died and later rose from the dead, his first question would be, ‘Where is my money?’ In Lufrika, most of the clergy were like Father Pesa in terms of their materialistic attitudes and attachment to money. In all his sermons he made sure that he spoke about money, although never directly. He was known for telling people that if you bring your gifts, God would bless you and you would be rich. The flock gave huge amounts of money, because they feared that they would be cursed for failing to give, or for giving meanly. As if that was not enough, Pesa faked miracles, when his sermons did not woo people enough to tithe open-handedly. In most of his crusades, Pesa told people to ask the Lord for flashy vehicles, well-built houses or a good life, a good spouse, and so forth. His perception of success was materialistic and not a holistic one, which focused on spiritual, moral and physical pursuits. For him, and for many other fake preachers in Lufrika, the Gospel was used for personal and monetary gain and not for the holistic transformation of the people. The Gospel was made to talk money, instead of untainted truths. Establishing a church in Lufrika was a money-spinning enterprise. If yourbusiness failed, you needed to open a church and money would flow into your pockets, as fast as the flowing waters of the Niagara Falls.

On the day of the funeral, Pesa was the main celebrant and would take any available opportunity to make a kill. He knew those who attended the funeral were big shots, and was therefore prepared to focus his sermon on his financial target. He brought deeper baskets, to hold the hefty donations that he anticipated. More ushers were deployed and were on standby, from the time that the celebration began. This day was his moment to look out for money and please other politicians, instead of exercising his prophetic mission – this was the time when politicians robbed the poor people of their hard-earned money. You would expect a clergyman in his capacity to console the bereaved and, at the same time, talk about the need to mend one’s ways and to turn back to God, whom they had abandoned when they got involved in corruption and all sorts of injustices.

Due to his greed for money, Pesa never corrected the politicians who used citizens for their political agendas. During Fisadi’s tenure, the church was cohabitating with politicians. The church had abandoned its prophetic mission and slept with politicians and affluent people on their golden beds. The beds were so comfortable that they would never again see the value of walking with the populace on the edge. The marriage between Father Pesa and Fisadi’s leadership saw the death of a preacher that was once vocal and who spoke his mind fearlessly. He was now a preacher masquerading in the mask of a loving preacher, yet he was a traitor in the community of have-nots.

“Please be seated, Sisters and Brothers in Christ,” Pastor Pesa begins. “Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are gathered here to celebrate a well-lived life, the life of a man who dedicated his life to raising the standards of Lufrikans.” (People signalled each other with their lips, as they disapproved what the preacher said). “We bemoan the loss of a champion for the less fortunate on our soil. Fisadi will leave an unfillable gap in the hearts of those women and men whom he served indefatigably.” In order not to hurt the politicians allied to him, whom he adored because of his passion for money, he spoke really well about the deceased. ‘Do not bite the finger that feeds you’, goes the saying. Although the late Fisadi was a criminal who liaised with other politicians in siphoning off public money, before his ascendancy into power as the leader of Lufrika, Father Pesa canonized him throughout the funeral proceedings.

None of the projects, of which he was in charge, was ever completed. Most of the institutions and departments which he had headed up, had collapsed. Fisadi had blood on his hands. During his tenure, many people disappeared in politically-organized car accidents, gang shootings and food poisonings. These were all organized by Fisadi and his government. Despite his hands smelling of blood, Father Pesa (the man of God) still canonized him as a saint during his sermon, because the deceased had sustained him with blood money.

Father Pesa went on praising Fisadi, saying how good he was, how he brought development, how he empowered the youth, women and children, and how he improved the dilapidated infrastructure, and so on. In spite of him being a criminal, he was presented with saintly accolades that made him out to be a harmless dove. These preposterous praises that were poured onto the deceased, were hated with passion by most of the suffering populace that saw his leadership as an era of tribulation and hell. The ‘chicken’ that Father Pesa had been eating with the politicians in their intimate marriage, caused him to lose his moral authority as a pastor, while he was meant to bring hope to the suffering.

*excerpt from The President by Anthony Gathanmbiri Waiganjo available here

Anthony Gathambiri Waiganjo was born in Kihurin village in the Nyeri Country, Kenya. He wrote the novel ‘The President ‘ while pursuing his PhD degree in Gender Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and lecturing at the same university.

 

Speaking Tongues

For Harold, it only took till he was 15 for him to lose interest in the church. It wasn’t a gradual thing, nor was there any particular reason, but one day he found himself in that humble building with its wooden benches, cement floor, stained glass windows and raised dais – Such a familiar sight once – and it inspired nothing in him anymore.

Perhaps, with the few inches he had gained while growing up his pride had increased as well. Perhaps his greater interest in being popular with girls took him away from the spiritual experience, perhaps it was the beer he’d been drinking, or the simple fact that television was more interesting.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. There were many possibilities. All he knew is that he wouldn’t do anything about it. Forget about missing out on church – As far as his family was concerned there was no negotiation.

Mr. And Mrs. Likoma were always a humble couple. Both university students and teachers, with a very strong relationship with their extended family, as was the right way to go. When it came to church however their humbleness ended: They busted out the best clothing they could, they were the loudest, the proudest, the most charismatic.

They were a power couple of the church, and if their son dared show anything other than rapt attention or respect for the services, there would be hell to pay.

But the day he lost his interest, was the day all hell broke loose for him. After a particularly uneventful Sunday, Harold simply didn’t bother trying to get out of bed.

“What are you doing, you’re going to be late.” His mother asked, opening his door.

“I’m not going.”

“Of course you’re going.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Ok…” She said. And it seemed to be the end of that, but then his father came in, nostrils flaring, all the calm wise soft-spoken nature of him a long memory gone.

“What did you just say to your mother, Harold? Explain it to me.”

Harold felt sick in his stomach with fear. No matter how he changed his tune now, it looked like he was in for trouble.

“I just wanted to-”

“Get up right now. We’re leaving.”

More knots in his stomach. Harold didn’t dare disobey. He walked meekly past his father, all dressed up in his suit, and felt a rough hand on the back of his neck, shoving him out of the room and towards the door.

In silence the family took the car and went to church. Harold had never seen his father that angry before. He snuck a glance at his mother and she resolutely stared out the window, hands over her purse, ignoring him.

What had gotten in them? Had he done something evil?

When they came to the church, the warden-prisoner style escorting continued. Mr. Likoma pushed his son into the church, and even though the service had not yet started and people were hanging about and talking to each other, they all saw the expression on his face and sensed the mood.

“Ah, morning Paul…”

“Hey, what’s the matter?”

Mr. Likoma resolutely ignored the men before coming to the front of the church.  With some unspoken signal he let his wife stand next to Harold while he talked to the pastor in quiet but firm tones.

Harold wanted someone to save him, anyone. Maybe the pastor would calm his father down. Instead it seemed that Mr. Likoma’s dark mood was contagious – The pastor wore the same expression he did, giving a subtle nod to his father, signalling him to continue with whatever this was. A crucifixion? Harold wouldn’t be surprised if someone came with some wood and nails for him.

By then nobody had spoken up and were all well aware that some sort of spectacle was about to happen. Harold was going to be disciplined against the church.

Mr. Likoma stood on the right side of his son, putting a firm hand on his shoulder.

Later, he’d feel some anger, come up with a hundred imaginary solutions to the situation where he ran away, where he stared his father down, where he begged for help, but that was only the courage that returns to a man after the danger had passed –

In this present Harold only knew a primordial fear.

The church slowly filled up. Every new comer sensed the scene and their smiles and greetings turned to questioning whispers. The pastor ushered everyone to take their seats, and led a prayer.

“Let’s close our eyes and pray.”

Harold barely heard the prayer.

And now, everyone’s eyes were open. The prayer was finished. It was time for whatever it was.

“I’m sorry for the strange scene here.” Mr. Likoma spoke, “But I wanted to be upfront about showing you the power of the devil in our lives. None of us are perfect, we all meet temptations in life and moments of weakness. We always say ‘It’s a small thing. Tomorrow it will be better. It’s just a small sin, it’s just a small lapse of judgment. Tomorrow I will pray in my room, and then I will smile when I enter the church and it will be fine.”

He looked everyone in the eye, one by one. The church members were already enraptured.

“But that is the way of the devil. He works in darkness, and thrives in darkness. My son, my faithful loyal son has been tempted. Tempted.” He toned the last word and people almost shivered with the gravitas of it, “He does not want to come to church. He does not want to pray. A demon is upon him, and sin is crouching at his door. I want all of us to come together, pray to the Holy Spirit to drive this demon out! We will baptize him with the Holy Spirit here and now, and God will work his wonders. See if he won’t!”

Harold could barely speak as his father suddenly embraced him and started praying.

His mother touched his back and started praying fervently too.

In a few moments, the entire church bowed their heads and started praying too. Some stood up, some knelt, one or two came over to touch Harold and pray as well.

Harold felt a distinct strangeness overcome him.

His fear had somehow turned into something else.

It had turned into a mixture of stage fright, of light-headedness. Was this the holy spirit?

They were starting to talk in tongues. He didn’t understand anything they were saying, and as the prayers reached some sort of cacophony, he felt a push, and as though it had been practiced a thousand times, he let himself fall.

People praised God, and Harold found himself embraced. His father and mother weeping, the church gleeful. Their emotions alight.

Later, as the service closed, everyone came to share some words with Harold. He smiled non-committedly and accepted their blessings and prayers.

More than anything, the people spoke with his parents more. There was pride there, awe. They praised their faith, and wished them well.

When Harold went home, his parents were back to being conversational, and they spoke normally the whole day. Just like that, the week came and it was time to go to school again.

What had just happened? Had he just been used for something?

Was that the holy spirit that had made him fall?

No, he knew the answer.

He knew that the fear of not reacting to all that fervent prayer was what had made him fall over.

Still, he felt nothing. But he dared not let that be known by anyone. He wouldn’t risk it again. Harold never missed a day at church again.

Somewhere along the line, he became the poster boy for church: He spoke in tongues, he jumped up and down and shouted the loudest in church. His parents were proud of him, and he didn’t need to be afraid anymore. Indeed, he seemed to be getting more popular by the moment.

What did it matter if he didn’t really believe in any of it?

What did it matter if he didn’t love his parents anymore?

What did it matter if he hid the truth about his feelings.

Perhaps he really was being touched by the Spirit. Some days, Harold found himself fine with this conclusion.

The security, the joy of being highly praised, it was better than that spiteful glare he’d seen on his father’s face, on the pastors’ face.

Anything was better than that.

Mordecai Banda is a Malawian-born science student who currently lives in Germany. In his free time he enjoys writing on a variety of topics including those related to his homeland. He lives on books and coffee.

 

On John Chilembwe’s Uprising: was it too early?

This is the era of the charismatic leader on whom populations pin their hopes and dreams. Within the African realm names like Paul Kagame and John Magufuli come to mind, names that elicit lively debate both on social media and in face-to-face conversations along the lines of,

“That is a strong leader that one. He will change EVERYTHING! Look at what he has already done!”

Across the seas other names that, for many, are more demagogic than charismatic come to mind: Rodrigo Duterte, Donald Trump…

On the flipside, this is also the era in which national problems can also be pinned squarely on a singular political figurehead; never mind complex local and global contributing factors. Of course many times the figureheads are to blame however; it is the personification of political heroes and anti-heroes that is a poignant trend. Reverend John Chilembwe also finds his name conjured up within this trend.

As John Chilembwe’s legacy continues to span a wide spectrum ranging from a hero-status that culminates in his gracing the bank notes of our (depreciating) currency; to disdain for the perceived hurts he has done to the same currency. This disdain sometimes takes on religious and mystical tones,

for example I once overhead a discussion that went, “Since his face came on there, the Kwacha has fallen. And do you know why? He is cursed. He killed CHRISTIAN colonisers.”

Perhaps a fitting rejoinder would have been along the lines of, “what about them? They killed a Christian too in killing John Chilembwe.”

A somehow related but more persistent expression of disdain is economic in nature and it is in response to this that we must attempt to grapple with the question: did freedom come too early?

The answer to that usually reflects the views of the questioner. On one hand you have those who have a high view of chitukuko, physical development.  Take a look at the charismatic leaders mentioned earlier, praises attributed to them have much to do their respective visions of prosperity. On the other hand are those who have a high view of psycho-social development ufulu, bata, mtendere.  It is my view that the two views rarely overlap although they should. Case in point, we are known as the Warm Heart of Africa – surely that should go on to translate into holistic well-being.

 Was the Burden of Freedom Necessary?

“It’s bad enough . . . when a country gets colonized, but when the people do as well! That’s the end, really, that’s the end.” Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Looking around the African continent, it is a hard fact that Malawi ranks poorly when it comes to infrastructure and economic might. Worse yet, Malawian people themselves rank comparatively  poor in terms of income, numbers in quality education, access to health, travel and so on. It is a fact that is hard to live with because it forces us to confront the question of the “why”.  When our country appears so often on the world’s poorest lists; it is necessary to ask questions and in the spirit of the current hero/anti-hero narratives. It is tempting, very understandably, to imagine how Malawi would have been miles ahead had we waited to have our independence. Is such an imagination plausible? I propose that we take a critical look…

First off, who is to say that the colonial British administration would have pulled off economic success in what was then regarded as a “Cinderella of the British colonies” – beautiful but poor (sic)?  The factors spurring economic booms for our neighbours or fellow colonised territories at the time were sadly few and far between for us such as mining enterprises, lucrative cross national trade, harbours and skilled labour (some of whom trekked off as economic migrants to neighbouring countries). But supposing that they could have pulled it off, where would the average Malawian stand in that economy? I think we can all agree that people like Chilembwe and his fellow freedom fighters across Malawi sought to recover a dignity lost, suggesting that the status quo at the time was “indigenous Nyasalander last” – indigenous Malawian last. The America’s, the South Pacific and until a couple of decades ago, South and South-West Africa all show us a possible scenario for the indigenous amidst colonial prosperity.

Yet, we must acknowledge that many feel we would have still been better off and the price we have paid for our dignity is too high when we consider whom and what we have lost since our independence that came in 1964. We can think of lives lost due to inadequate health care and social welfare; corruption, the ongoing brain drain due to political and economic instability; exploitation; inequality; erratic service provision and security; fear-mongering. Looked at this way, we have not progressed as our forebears had hoped. However, as the saying goes, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  There are some things that freedom has honoured us with beyond dignity and we would do well to build on them. In doing so, we can draw from Chilembwe’s leadership model – not that of a messiah or anti-hero but a visionary within challenging circumstances.

 

Providence Industrial Mission: a model for vision and (sustainable) growth

We can learn from Chilembwe the attitude to progress that has local empowerment at heart while utilising both local and global assets.  He took the opportunity for study presented to him by Joseph Booth and the African-American Virginia Theological Seminary and College. He used the knowledge at home to resist empire and grow his community the best way he knew how, finally paying the ultimate price. He tried to (re) instil “the values of hard work, self esteem and self help in his community”. Of course some of his methods are dated by now and as with many visionaries, not all his ideas were achievable; however, the principle remains that in this ever changing world, there are opportunities within the grasp of Malawi’s sons and daughters. Thus, what input is missing from those among us that have the knowledge, leadership and financial capital to make lasting changes? What teamwork has been replaced by cycles of hero-worship and anti-hero bashing?

Chilembwe’s vision, at its best, has had lasting historical ramifications. His first church building was destroyed but its replacement still stands with its architectural integrity intact.  His uprising, together with the sacrifice of other Nyasaland freedom fighters triggered our kwacha moment that eventually arrived in 1964. His life was cut off but his vision somehow survived. There is an inspiration in there somewhere, that we were once victorious – although his work is incomplete, for we are still under other oppressions chief among them material poverty in an age where cash actually saves lives. Wishing we had remained under the colonial administration changes neither our current reality nor the future. It is also merely an idea and dream because who knows what would have become of us had we remained there. Looking for a messiah-type of leader who will cure all our ills or someone else to pin blame on whether that blame is spiritual in nature or otherwise is helpful either.

Yet we can collectively adopt Chilembwe’s example, his visionary drive for emancipation and expand that vision to us all to empower our participation in creating a Malawi that favours all that call it home.  We have the visionaries, we have the can-do men, women and children.  We can do it. We were once victorious, we can be again.

Thandi Soko is a Malawian PhD student and Trainee Research Assistant in Theology in the Netherlands. She lives in the South of the Netherlands with her husband, a Pastor in the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (PKN) and their daughter. She has studied, interned and worked in Malawi, the USA, South Africa and the Netherlands.’