The old man continued, late into the twilight. And he felt slightly agitated by the remote possibility that I would consider him twisted, by any chance. I had interrupted the sublime feeling that I was having, by listening to his extremely intense and colourful conversation ,replete with knowledge and wisdom. But it was by no means rudely, for I wanted him to slake his thirst and save his parched throat, for more. So I presented him with a bottle of the respected stuff: the elder drink, which doubles as the elders’ drink, also. I know what it is! He quipped gleefully. You are not alone in this, Elder, I said, Kaplan’s, or whatever the wine it was called. A man would feel fortunate with a minimal amount or remainder of teeth, after several efforts at pronouncing the word . Ebem ,Ekpem or Karama , it was simply a sea man’s aromatic schnapps.
You might think that I am drunk, after my manner of rapid, colourful speech. But I am not. Even if I was, nothing could be affected by the facts that I lay down. But the elders and the ancestors often chose a good place and time for the important talk. Yet, it baffles me to find people,or scornful ones branding someone who seeks to communicate a thoughtful message, drunken and worthless. I harbour no such thoughts or ideas, Elder. I was the one, remember, who initiated the idea of seeking your wisdom and insights. I know, but what difference does it make ? Not only you, but perhaps it is a generational experience. Your kind approach someone, often times, with preconceived theories or notions about virtually every aspect of life. Then ,what do you make of that? One would expect that the wise man takes everything he hears and in isolation tries to make as much sense as he can, of them. That is correct. And to do that he will have to be patient and humble. You know it all, the elder resumed. But much depends on what you and your generation subscribe to. I have travelled through the past and present and have found a good deal of hope for living. For nothing is essentially new, only to be watchful and practical. And prayerful, too.
Today, a lot gets in the way of true sense, knowledge and love. But we heard of a travelling historian from Tangier in Morocco, called Ibn Batuta. Long before the advent of the white man into the African soil, we learnt that in the course of his many wanderings, he carefully observed the eastward flow of what is called the Niger. But any white man, on approach, discovers things. By breaking up the turf of the land. And in many places where he creates boundaries for the natives, who continually hope from that point to find some peace, he has discovered something more weighty than the flow of a river. And whilst they war with each other, he extracts what is there, as well as on the other side of town . What do you mean to say, Elder ? I had just said that the younger people lack patience. And here they are, seeking to put words into the mouth of the old. Just listening, not talking. A lot goes on and up for consideration. Why do people think that there was no such thing as a cultural unity in Africa? Or , what was the actual purpose of the white man in Africa ? And why would people think that they had a good chance of being a community of different tribes, when the same white man had a different set of objectives, which a community of people would not foster or enable him to accomplish ? We might have to figure this out as we go along. Yet it’s intrinsic for our people to think and believe in themselves and in their ability to make things, including the community of whatever composition, work. And this was what happened. But the complicated world in which we found ourselves rubbished the will to tackle the challenge. For the sake of money, we succumbed to the lure of riches and consequently broke the rules and also broke up the new community. If I had a guess, I would say to break up the whole thing or instigate a great deal of change. Something better should thrive: a good understanding of what we seek, want and need. Then, no further violation of the sanctity of life. For with more violations, the society will inevitably break apart. It is no prowess to think in this regard.
Elder, you deserve to rest. There you go again. It feels eerily familiar. The old man is to be pitied, or pampered. But do as he says. It is not a tribute to be offered to him. But I seek to establish some connections between the things that happen today and those that transpired in the distant past. You say, for instance, that the leader of the country is Sudanese. And how might that be? The same thing about cultural Africa. Today, despite the emphasis on travel documents and national boundaries, the said Sudanese can easily travel from Kano to Sokoto, or Daura, without encountering any sort of molestation or conflict. The same people ! Only set apart and against each other by a sudden change brought about by the invasion of the foreign powers. They also felt justified by the consultation they had, about breaking into, dividing and controlling people. And when, or how do you think that trend will stop? Think whatever you care, but the cost of freedom is beyond the making of a million noises, only to crumble in the face of a challenge-or adversity.