The morning I settled down to write this, and by morning I mean 12.30 am, I was watching the worst romantic comedy ever produced in the rose-tinted world of romantic comedies. “I Hate Valentines’ Day“, starring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, is quite simply, awful. Yet, I was compelled to finish the disastrous movie. I could have pushed the EJECT button and the CD would have slid out from the player and that would have been the end of my ordeal. Why did I feel it necessary to wait until the end credits rolled? I guess the answer is written in my genes. As I writhed on my bedroom floor moaning about how much I loathed this film, I realized my pain threshold had something to do with my ability to sit through hours of agonizing tattoo creations, endure the ripping sound of a body piercing, and watch Peter Benchley’s ‘The Creature’, Sandra Bullocks’ ‘All About Steve’ and most Nollywood films (I draw the line at Ghanaian cinema pre-dating 1998). Okay, stop laughing…that might not really be a real reason, but I often wonder why we, as humans, generally stick to our guns? Personally, I like to see the logical conclusion of a matter. Whether or not said conclusion is logical to the general populace is another issue entirely. Why does a woman stay with a good-for-nothing husband who refuses to provide for her and their children? Why does someone write ‘Introductory Chinese’ eight consecutive times? (I know someone who knows someone who has taken that exam in her Thai university for eight years). Why is Atiku campaigning? Why hasn’t Buhari just retired into blissful political obscurity, writing books that no-one will read in his own country because Nigerians are more interested in Obama and the Clintons? (Trust me, I cannot quote Tafawa Balewa, or Herbert Macauley, or Ojukwu. I don’t know any Nigerians who can. I learnt more in history class about what Lugard had for breakfast on the morning his wife uttered the immortal “Niger area”).
There are many things that I do not understand, including motive, but I do understand purpose. I recently read a book by Patricia Omoqui called ‘Clarify Your Purpose and Live It’ and while doing some of the exercises at the end of each chapter, I realized that purpose is closely linked to one’s sense of identity, which can be a subjective concept (i.e. each individual is different etc). Perhaps a woman might see herself only as a wife and mother, excising all the other valid roles that she plays in society, which is why she will endure a no-good spouse. Perhaps some of our past leaders can only see themselves at the helm of affairs of the country. Until we are clear in our minds about what we desire for ourselves and our society, decisions will be based on fleeting emotion and grievances hazy with age and irrelevance. On October 1, I let myself be excited about our Golden Jubilee. I woke up early. I watched the presidential address (my favourite highlight of every Independence morning seconded by the excuse to dress up in my favourite colour). I prayed. A few hours later two car bombs went off killing at least eight people. I saw the report on CNN and Al-Jazeera before I saw it on our local networks. But somehow, I could not feel anger, only pity for the lives lost and the victims’ families…and for whoever planted those bombs because how wretched one’s own life must be if one’s purpose is to maim, kill and destroy. During his speech President Jonathan said that the civil war was so devastating because people were now “exchanging bullets instead of handshakes”. But that crisis did not materialize from thin air. The Nigerian identity has always been shaky at best. It is however our firm belief in ‘happily ever after’ that has kept us together for so long. Like me, there are millions of people whose identities include their nationality, and like me, have clarified their purposes to include creating, maintaining and leaving behind a legacy of love. It is this that has kept us glued to the screen as drama follows horror story and political comedy until the end credits roll for each of us.
(First published in The Road Newspaper, October 4, 2010, under ‘Taking the Mickey’)