I am not as daft as this country. I grew up with books while Nigeria fattened into stupor with oil money.
Anything very oily can be quite dangerous to good health.
I am very poor but I can stand on my own unlike the toddling country. At least I no longer use feeding bottle to feed, unlike good old Nigeria.
This country reminds me of the horrible image in Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born about Aboliga the Frog and the old man-child, an oddity born with the features of a normal human being but completed the cycle of childhood to adulthood and dotage in seven years and actually dies on the seventh year.
It’s as though Nigeria as a country died with the Biafra war, and we are today living a lie as a nation being run by scalawags.
Life was beautiful before the war.
I was living with my uncle, the late linguist Job Okwuoma Aginam, in Onitsha, at the staff quarters of the celebrated secondary school, Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha, and had just started primary schooling at the nearby Sacred Heart School, Odoakpu, Onitsha, the old school of former Rivers State Governor Dr. Peter Odili. The war started and I was transported to the village where I lived with my parents, brother and sister and a host of relations and dependents.
My brother Isidore and I played a lot during the war, hunted and ate rats and lizards and crabs, and dredged whole streams to catch fish.
We only dived for cover when the jet planes flew overhead.
Starvation was not our forte because our parents were somewhat well situated in the circumstances but it was such a tragedy seeing death and hunger and disease all over the place.
When the war ended I got back to Onitsha to regale my playmates from the Akudinobi, Eneh and Odikpo families at the CKC Onitsha compound how I was such an intrepid warrior in the Biafran Boys Company carrying out “Ogbunigwe” forays with Nzeogwu and Achuzia into the Nigerian enemy territories!
You can see that it’s not today that I started out with tall stories.
As a result of the war, we used bare cement blocks to sit in our classrooms. I was put in primary two at the end of the war, but promoted myself to primary three.
We played football with the brownish basketball-like soccer ball donated by UNICEF.
At primary four, my mates and I formed the football club known as Nico Football Club, alias Up Nico. Coach Obi Okoye taught us to do the sign of the cross before taking a penalty-kick. I still do that as a rule today and I never miss from the spot!
I left for secondary school in my fifth year as there was no need for me to take the First School Leaving Certificate.
I was put in the rural setting of St Peter’s Secondary School, Achina, a boarding school where I made most of the friends I still have today.
My comrades and I formed the Bic Insurance Company (BIC), insisting that all the students must insure their biros with us by paying five kobo, and incidentally all the students who thought we were joking had all their biros missing that day!
A teacher who entered our class also got his pen missing because he did not sign up with our insurance company!
We also formed the Baayi Society to challenge the senior students, and I became known as “The Young Dimka” because of my coup-plotting propensities!
The education back then was well-rounded unlike the charade that passes for learning now.
It was such an uplift passing into my chosen Dramatic Arts Department of University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) without any godfather paving the way.
Public libraries, great television with the dramas of the likes of Obi Egbuna and James “Giringory” Iroha were special favourites.
The coming of Network Television from the 1970s brought “Village Headmaster” from Lagos, “My Pikin Friday” from Ibadan, Sonny Oti’s “Life of the Odd Job Man” from Jos, “Hotel de Jordan” from Benin etc to Nigerian homes.
I still cherish how Jude Akudinobi (now a Professor of Film at the University of California at Santa Barbara) took us younger ones to Chanrai Supermarket at Onitsha and asked us to pick any book of our choice and he would pay.
I picked a book strangely titled The Good, The Bad, The Ugly only to later learn that it’s an immortal western film.
This way, I read of Desperedo Tuco (Eli Wallach: “If you wanna shoot, shoot; don’t talk!”) and his gang before watching the film that also starred Clinton Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef.
The children of today will only watch the film and not bother to read the book!
That is the real tragedy of this age of audio-visual bombardment.