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Our cities deserve to be clean in the New Year

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Lagos

Lagos

Brethren, contrary to the popular trend, I do not rejoice each time the calendar reads 31st December. I do not celebrate the passage of days and months, the passage of my life. I do not indulge in any rambunctious revelry that usually accompany the ‘death’ of one year and the ‘birth’ of another. Rather I usually seek an escape from this utopia into an heterotopia: a place where the real meaning of life and living nests. I usually seize the moment afforded by the transition of one year into another to count the uncounted, to count the uncountable. The uncounted is the number of years that have passed away and passed me by since the day I emerged from my mother’s womb; the uncountable – for unknowable – being the number of times I breathed in and out since the day I was violently separated from my second ‘paradise’ when the umbilical cord which tied me to my mother’s womb was put to the blade.

But brother, that I put on the garb of the ascetic in a season of pomp and pageantry does have no functional impact on the reality around me. In other words, since more than a month ago, celebrations of the new year had become visible all over the country. In fact it started for many in this city since the last week in November. During the said week, a private recreation outfit launched a musical carnival very close to the campus here. Thus every night, your compatriots and mine, most of whom are youth continued to congregate at the centre and engaged in dance competitions in which young girls paraded their femininity and sexuality for the highest bidder, for the highest prize. Each time I heard the music penetrate the serenity of the night, it felt as if the whole neighbourhood had been transformed into a bazaar of the baboons where insanity, inanity and lewdness became legal or a cathedral of the faithless where chastity and piety became anathema.

But ironically, brother, the real ‘year’ had come to an end for some who met their deaths days and weeks before December 31st. Thus I began to wonder how that friend of mine would be marking the end of the year once he remembers that not all those with whom we started this year were alive to witness what some would refer to as pass-over night? The other day someone asked me about life, I responded quickly by calling his attention to the food on his table, to the bed on which he lays his body at night, to the tears that cascade his cheeks each time he is extremely happy or sad. Exactly what is life brother? It is the search for stability in a ship which is constantly rocked by waves and storm. Sister, tell me one single pleasure in life which is not preceded by struggle or strife. Is it not true that the sweetest sexual relations is that in which we moan and groan in the experience of pleasure mixed with pain? Is it not true that 2017 would be ‘happy’ when we constantly keep this in mind that the ups and downs that we shall have to experience this year and throughout our life are meant to keep us going because a straight line even in an E.C.G. means we are not alive.

While putting this together, a colleague mentioned his preparation for the pass-over night; that magical moment in which, in our reckoning, 2016 would ‘die’ in order that 2017 could be born. Again, immediately I began to wonder: ‘what about pass-over days?’ I thought the day precedes the night in the scheme of the divine; I thought when night falls, it buries the day together with all its fortune and misfortune, together with its moments of happiness and sadness. No day has ever been prolonged just because of its extra-ordinarily fortuitous contents; no night has ever refused to dawn because of its calamitous portents. Thus we are actually ‘condemned’ to experience constant ‘pass-overs’: pass-over days and nights, pass-over happiness and sadness. But I thought whenever night falls it takes the day on a journey into eternity in order to deposit the account of humankind twelve hours before then with the Almighty. He who knows the last year was the ‘pass-over’ of some would merry with caution and run to His creator in penitence. He who knows he is passing over his youth would prepare assiduously for eternity.

Brethren, as I ponder the above, I ventured into the city. I took my car for lubrication. On the way I beheld wastes and garbage on the mid-section of the road. It felt as if the roads in the city were in a ‘celebratory’ mood; they were ‘observing’ their own pass-over night and day of debris, garbage, detritus and filth. Could this mean nothing is being left behind in failed governance in this city? Does the presence of dirt, scuz and smudge all around the city means we are passing absentee governance in some states in the federation over to 2017. I have privileged to travel to some cities all around the world, not once did I come in contact with a city where its inhabitants would be so pretentiously ‘holy’ and catholic even as they are constant neighbours to slime and gook.

Please remember to pray in your pass-over night for the death of the ‘idea’ that led to the ‘birth’ of scum in our major roads in these cities. If there is one thing that should happen to us all in 2017, it is to discover exactly who we are. In line with Benjamin Franklin, in the new year, prepare to fight your vices, to be in peace with your neighbour and to live for your Creator.
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