Sunday, November 1, 2020

“Aluta continua” ( A short story probing the future of Nigerian Youths)

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Thanks for checking out. Here is a short story probing the future of Nigerian youths (c)2019

Published in Respect of the ongoing Protest against violation of human rights by SARS. #EndSars #EndPoliceBruatlity #EndSwat

 Note: The word Liberty in this story stands for Democracy 

He was one of the active members of AYN, Denrele Abiona; with his daring contributions on every thread. So when he posted a story over the tragedy that befell his family, the thread was torn apart, blown up, like the earth in clash with a dynamite.

Comments; rantings, from Activists, to Critics, to Lawyers, to Grammarians.
Tearful faces, via video reactions, flooded the thread.

The AYN President, Nicholas Osadebe, said they had to bring their fight offline. They had to bring their fight to the real world. Denrele’s case had triggered them. His story had pierced every soul, struck every heart like fiery arrows.

The union had won some fights in the past. That was many years ago, twenty years or more. A fight against Government tax measures on social media. This taxation had been effective for years before the first AYN President, Harrison Williams, sprang into action. The protest, so tough, had gone through campaigns, videos and picture posts: the youths, the children, the aged, raising placards, harshtagged #We Deserve The Right To our Opinions. #We Say No To Social Media Restrictions And Taxation.
This time, it would be different. AYN was going to raise their voices on the street. For each state, there would be an assembly point. The aim of AYN (Articulate youths of Nigeria) was a fight for human right. Slogan: In fight for justice we unite.

They had opened the union page on all social media platforms. Total members or followers; seventeen million and still counting. For the offline meeting, a leader appointed for all the venues in each state. The meeting was scheduled for the last Saturdays of every month. The offline meeting was necessitated to strengthen the bonds between members before the protest.
They concluded to meet at the high school premises. The head of each school was contacted online through their e-mails. However, some school authorities wouldn’t permit them, for they feared they might vandalize the school properties if a fight ensued. So they opted for other public arenas, like football fields.

For every meeting, Nicholas Osadebe would host elders to counsel the members on live broadcast and this they experienced through their smartphones, from their various meeting points.

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One of the elders, a retired civil servant, said “I can see there is power in your voice and your warm blood. If I was ever told that our youths will be this fierce I would doubt it. You see, we have been wielding swords of impotent letters against our leaders for ages. For you to take a break from campaigns behind the safety of your systems and mobile phones, is indeed a bold step, a good initiative. I will urge you. Do not use violence to claim your right. It is your right to protest. I repeat. Shun violence. May the Lord guide you all.”

Denrele’s intimate friend, Nwachukwu Okafor, met him after one of such meetings. Both walking along Queen Moremi lane, Ile-Ife, a lush street overlooked by sky-scrapers.

“I still feel sorry for your loss. I am really sorry. You lost your father, mother and two sisters in a single day? That’s too much to bear. I wish I had a father like yours. A man who could stand up to speak.”

At this, Denrele’s eyes became bulbs of melancholy amid his forest of beards.”Thank you, Nwachukwu,” he said, ” I’m left with no choice. For the past six months, I’ve not been myself. In….”

Denrele had his word trapped at the frivolity unfolding before him.

“Just look at that!” jeered Okafor, pointing a finger at the incident across the road.
One of the two robots controlling the traffic had collapsed. Shut down. The rescued team, cooperation of robot and humans, were there to take him away in a vehicle. Such was not meant to be a recurrent happening. Not at all. Normally, these robots were highly resilient; recovering by themselves in a matter of seconds however fatal their physical damage. They were not meant to break down for any reason considering the mammoth budget allocated for their well beings.

“Just look at that,” Okafor emphasized on his statement, chuckling.

Okafor was equally surprised. This was part of what his father criticized that cost him his job. And finally his life.

“This is crass mismanagement and immorality!” Professor Joseph had said, his father. He was a professor of Economics at the State University, interviewed by some journalists on the school premises. He had commented on the inferior batteries discovered in most collapsing robots. These robots had been working perfectly over the years.

” How did that happen? Something is wrong somewhere.” He pointed out.

He had spoken further on how most human labors had been replaced by robots yet no provision for other jobs. This would have been in reverse, though. What about the high tax measures on e-trading? Over the past few decades, internets had become the new offices and workshops for 85% of the populace. People were trading from the comfort of their homes. Many property owners were demolishing road-side shops to build more enclosed offices and more residential apartments. Street and roadside trading gradually becoming extinct.

“Don’t you think that is a great turn around?” he was asking the reporters but they stayed quiet, “our leaders went ahead to place restrictions on e-trading. They hiked tax on websites and blogs.”

This interview was broadcast on the national news and days later professor Abiona was dismissed at work. To aggravate the situation, he was denied of his salary. One day some civil servants had come to mark his house, that the land was Government’s property. After some findings, the claim was validated. It was true. The house was demolished with all the buildings around it. Professor Abiona had plunged into a stream of HBP. He had inherited the mansion from his own parents. How imprudent of him, he had no investment to fall back on.

Denrele’s two sisters had to start a roadside trading, selling wares at the commercial market, to raise money for their tuitions. Internet trading could have been the perfect option for them but the tax was choking, of course. Denrele, a brilliant computer student, had been selling e-books on robotic system programming, through which he sponsored himself, for no restriction, whatsoever, on digital publishing.

Book authors, in all academic disciplines, were becoming richer. Denrele had seen parents, his neighbours, urging their teenage children or even the preteen ones, to consume more books. Novels, Short stories, History and other instructional textbooks. They paid for online writing tutoring and stocked book on their children’s iPhones so they could start writing like some notable authors. The Government e-library required the digital national ID to be accessed. Loads of books were stocked in the Government e-library. Encyclopaedia. History. Literature. Science. Art.

Many years back, some students that constructed the first Nigerian-made airplane and spaceship received accolades upon accolades and scholarship from the state and Federal Government. Same to students that discovered cures for deceases and viruses: Ebola, Lassa, influenza. HIV/AIDS. Smallpox. Cholera. All from herbs and shrubs manufactured into pills and resins. More researches carried out to facilitate new discoveries every year. Same for students in other African countries. But, sad enough, only a few of these countries were able to cure the immoralities in their countries.
Denrele was trying not to recall how his two sisters were caught in the throat of a monster truck, how they were crushed to nothingness at their stall. Professor Abiona had slumped when he heard the news. Died from hypertension at 58. That same day his mother committed suicide, unable to shoulder the trauma. Denrele was crying in the hospital, at the sickbed, trying to wake his mother, shaking her, that he was here for her.

Even now he didn’t realize that tears had dropped on his face. Okafor was asking what was amiss. When he was silent, and exhaled deeply, he didn’t feel the need to bother him. He understood. To be rendered orphan as an adult, at twenty-seven, was less miserable than infant or teenage, he was telling him, cautiously.

This was exactly the story he had posted on the AYN page that drew reactions and caused people to weep. Weep for their beloved member who was drowned in ocean of tribulation.

“Your father is really a fearless man” said Okafor after consoling him.

Then Denrele was alerted by a beep from his smart phone. He unfolded the wallet-like device, stretched it out. As he stroked his hand in mid air, an alternative screen sprang up, floating, displaying an image of a girl from a ray of violet light.

“Your babe?”

“How did you know?” Denrele was looking askance at Okafor.

“You told me about her. Anyway, I’m not really sure.”

“You must be a real wizard, Nwachukwu.” He smiled. “Yeah, she is. I will read her message when I get home.”

“Ahghh. See Omalicha nwa. See as she just resemble our vice president.”

Denrele laughed. “Really? I will tell her you said so.”

Denrele and Okafor had become bosom friends after a social media clash. A controversial post by the Youth President, Nicholas Osadebe. It was a debate on Victoria Akwueke, Mrs vice president; whether or not she would make a good leader. Denrele said she might not be allowed to rule even if the president died in action. Okafor had left an audio response that Denrele was an hater, a bigot, a moron, that if she was from South-West he wouldn’t have said so. Denrele denied the allegation. Okafor said, whether Denrele like it or not, Mrs Akwueke would emerge as the first female president of Federal republic of Nigeria. Okafor had blocked Denrele for over a week, thought better of his action and unblocked him.

“Now that you are about to be appointed the next AYN President, “said Okafor, “only God knows how many babes you go get.”

“With the many, many assignments before me?” Denrele said, “everyone cannot be like you nah. Besides, no one can take Gloria’s position in my heart. Not even your Miss Nigeria. You eh. So you thought I don’t know how babes are making eyes at you at that meeting?”

Okafor burst out laughing, stroking Denrele’s beard “See, see you’re fine beard. See as man fresh finish, get the big chest, tall and get fine face to join. If I am a woman, you think to say I no go fall for you?”

“Stop that thing. No dey flatter me abeg.”

Denrele thought Okafor was really a womanizer. Although only a few girls were present at the gathering and he was making jokes, stale jokes, throughout the meeting, which the ladies ignored at first but started laughing at, perhaps because Okafor was good-looking. Though both friends were tall and handsome. The only difference was the complexion. Okafor was as dark as a moonless night and Denrele’s skin was rivalling the moon.

“No, be flatter matter, guy.”

“Let’s continue our yarn online,” Denrele said, glancing at his phone screen, “Let me catch this bus.”

Sometimes Denrele would sit alone in the room, at his study desk, thinking of how to plan everything; from the protest to the fund management. There were affluents members who donated funds to the growth of the union. This contribution started since they initiated the offline meeting. Members donated according to the bulkiness of their wallets and the donors were announced on the pages. Accounts for budgets were equally tabulated for transparency. All in preparation of the upcoming protest.
Nicholas Osadebe had been the seventh leader of AYN, Denrele being the eighth. In the beginning, it was a mere reluctant association page with a few followers. The founder of the association, Harrison Williams, was shot by unknown gunmen after the fight for the social media taxation. And to date, the members made annual donations for his aged parents for their only son lost at the tender age of 23, whose impact would forever remain in every heart.
When the nominated members were voted, Denrele had garnered the popular votes. He was on the verge of rejecting the Presidency’s responsibility but reminded himself that this bold step was taken because of him; a step beyond the threshold of cyberactivism. The President’s Special Assistant was to be appointed by the president himself. So Denrele had appointed Nwachukwu Okafor as his Vice/Assistant.

One afternoon, Denrele’s girlfriend Gloria paid him a surprise visit in his well-furnished two-bedroom flat apartment. A house he rented outside the school. Gloria, a mountain of a girl, shapely, with skin and height competing with her boyfriend’s. Gloria seemed to carry the whole world at her behind and chests. The same way she carried the whole world in her brain, with a good heart to match. In admiration, Denrele turned Gloria round and round, like a carousel, her pink gown doing a good job pronouncing her disastrous assets. She was smiling, blushful. She was Denrele’s adopted mother, for her consolatory words and motivations. The defense once said this to her and her cheeks had glowed red.

Gloria noticed that Denrele was moody after the mirthful moment. She was curious about his suddenly saturated spirit, kissing his temple.

“The stress of this union is draining me,” he said. Both standing face to face now.
“You can do it,” she said, her arms resting over his shoulders, ruffling his white t-shirt. “Don’t give up, uhn? Nothing will befall you. I know you are anxious because of Harrison William’s strange death. I will keep praying for you. We shall be rewarded with victory at last.”

He smiled, “Since my parents passed, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“No,” she sealed his mouth with her slim finger, “Jesus is the best thing that ever happens to anyone. Okay? I am far from that. I’m only doing what every good woman would do for her man.”

“Gloria.” He said, smiling, still holding her gaze, “I agree. Okay…okay. According to your name, you are my glory. My light. My sun…”

“Stop, stop that,” she cut in, “I’m not your glory either. God is the custodian of glory.”
Denrele was giving up on Gloria already. Something about being nurtured in a religious home. This was the kind of girl he wanted. But too much of everything, they say, is harmful. She needed to adjust to ascribing everything to spiritual terms.

“I love you.” He said.

“I love you too, but….”

Denrele held her lips, gently, quite romantically, knowing she would say something to counter his statement again. Something like “But Jesus loves you more” which she always said.

“But what.” He said after releasing her lips.

“But…I am afraid.””

Afraid of what ”

“I hope you are not like someone…”

“Someone…who?”

“Your friend.” She held back, folded her arms, turning away from him, lips pursed.

“You mean Nwachukwu?”

“Yes. Don’t be too close to him…He….”

“He…what? What has he done?”

“Don’t worry,” She turned to him, nestling her hands on his chest, “Just be careful with him. Okay?”

Denrele was eager to know what Okafor had actually done. Most definitely Okafor must have made advances to her. If you were told a wayward dog is fighting with a pig over a dumpster, it would be useless to question the reporter before you realize it’s because of shit. That seemed the most likely thing. But Gloria would not talk!

*

Mindless of Gloria’s cautioning, Denrele was still in good terms with Okafor. That could never heave a bridge between them. At least not now. The devil to whom you are acquainted, they say, is better than an Angel you have never met. Besides, he had been a prudent Assistant to him.

He was messaging Okafor over the progress of the union. Their discussion centered on the equipments needed for the protest. First they needed to print more vests, the union name and logo to be printed on them. They needed Aluta buses for the rally. They had approached some automobile factories across Nigeria for unique bus models. Denrele had posted the designs proposed by each company and through popular votes they agreed on a single design. Some of the AYN members that worked at each company assured a discount.

Okafor suggested that they carved special coffins with a caption of “Liberty” on them. The coffins were to be dropped at the frontage of each state Government office. It would be more metaphoric for their fight for Liberty. Denrele thought the idea was too traditional.

“Why not make a cartoon animation,” Denrele said, “an imposing character, a giant, with green-white-green costume, masked, wielding a big stick to cripple a blindfolded character, who must be having Liberty captioned on its costume. ”

“The giant is like an abductor, right?” Okafor asked.

“Yes. He is an abductor. Or bully. Anyone. We have genius illustrators that can come up with better ideas. Then we shall display this on the LED screens on both sides of the buses. Other causes of our protest will be on display too.”

Okafor was okay with Denrele’s suggestion but thought his real coffin idea was not bad either.

Denrele called the former President Nicholas’s attention. He engaged him in a voice call.

Nicholas said: “You are doing a great job. The real coffin thingy is cool by me. I have informed the NCA (National Christian Association) about our move. We shall win this together. Let’s keep praying. Like the elders have said, keep singing it to the hearings of the members not to cause violence. With that, I believe, victory is certain.”

“Thank you” Denrele said, ” I am trying my best on that. Thanks for your spiritual support and regular advice.”

Until recently when Okafor settled their dispute, Nicholas and Denrele had been quarrelling ever since the post about Mrs Vice President. They were in good terms now. They had dined together in eateries several times, while discussing the guys’ usual SPW (sports, politics and women)

*

The protest came after weeks of anticipation, on a Saturday. Denrele was standing at his PC desk, shouting their demands through the system transmitter, onto the remote speakers built on the buses. All members already converged in each state rallying, marching in hundreds behind the occupied buses, causing traffic.
They had nominated those to act as undertakers for the coffins. Written on the placards were, #Resurrect our Liberty now #We Demand A Cut On e-trading Tax #Say No To Immorality and mismanagement…

Music blared from the buses to punctuate the protest speech as the demonstration commenced. Throng of reporters and press were present, capturing the moment and reporting back live to their various stations. Camera soared in the air, and the reporters interviewed some of the members trekking behind the slow-moving buses. They asked different questions like what inspired the group to occupy the streets and how long would this last.

“We are not giving up until our demands are granted” said one of the demonstrators, a bespectacled young man. “We want a cut on the e-trading tax if not a total removal. As we all know, vocational job is the order of the day. Even as a technician, I deal with my clients online, on my website. At least, a cut from the tax would alleviate things for us. And I wonder why some citizens are indirectly punished when they express their grievances. In ages past, we were told that some of our fathers have abused their freedom of expression, spreading propaganda about Government or any public figures and tearing the elders to shreds, which instigated the social media tax. That fought and done with. We are here again fighting a similar cause. Why?”

The protest was being exercised in peace.

No disruption from any security agents, much to their amazement.

But the unthinkable happened.
News began to flood in. People were checking their mobile phones.
In some states, AYN members were vandalizing Government properties. The security agents had swung to action. Many of the youths were apprehended, some maimed. They had shot at police officers. Scores of youth died from strayed missiles.

News report: “There is riot across the country now. Some cult members by the acronym of AYN, Articulate Youths of Nigeria, are reeking havoc. They are carrying deadly weapons. The leader of this cult group is said to be Abiona Denrele, a student of Cowry Shell University, in his final year…”

But he warned them against violence. Didn’t he? Denrele was baffled, treading the length of his room, back and forth, in restless strides. He did not know what to do. His profile was all over the news channels. Before he could finish processing his thought, police sirens had begun to wail off the streets.

*

Social media and street campaign of #Free Denrele Abiona began shortly after he was being held in custody. As rumours had it, he was to be charged for treason for allegedly leading a group of cult members.
During one of her visits, Gloria had her hands clasped in Denrele’s, praying that God in his mercy would acquit him.

“See how your skin has become sore,” she was robbing his face with her fingers, “you are not using the stuff I gave you to use on your skin?”

“Don’t worry. I would be fine.” He gave her an assuring look, “I am already used to the mosquito bites.”

“No, no. I don’t want you to fall sick. You will be out of here by Heaven’s grace.”

“I pray so,” Denrele sighed, visibly nervous, tightening his grip in her soft hands over the desk.

“I learnt the FG wants to ban AYN. ” Gloria sighed, her shoulders dropping with her face.

Denrele flinched on his seat as though shocked with electric cable. “Wh..why that?”
Gloria revealed her head, “Except you are acquitted.”

“But I…I had proves and witnesses in court that we were out for a peaceful protest. Of course, the Government knew of this union long before.”

“Yes. But investigation is still ongoing whether or not you had a private meeting with the boys to cause the riot.”
“What sort of nonsense talk is that.”

He saw tears trickling down Gloria’s face. He was not happy seeing Gloria broken like this everytime she came here. She had visited him eight times within the three weeks he had been in custody. Many of the members had come too. They came in group to either pray for him or to give an assurance that they would keep clamouring for his freedom. His major concern was Okafor Nwachukwu who had only visited him once. Why was Okafor so mean. Someone who was supposed to be feeding him with updates on the case.

*

Some days later, some AYN members came visiting him; Gloria was with them.

“We have gotten to the root of the matter!” Said a man, one of the union members.

“Are you sure about this?”

Then they went into details. The gang had confessed that they were sponsored by some elites in the country. Nicholas Osadebe, the former president of the union, had taken bribe from some politicians who were among the beneficiaries of the e-taxation. He had organized the gangs, non-AYN members to disrupt the protest. He shared the union’s vests with them. The jailed gangs were poisoned with a certain toxic gas. It was one of them who had managed to survive at the hospital that confessed. Those responsible for the poisoning, some prison officials, had been arrested.

“Are you serious about this?”

“Yes, dear,” said Gloria “We learned that your Vice, Okafor knew about the whole conspiracy.”

“Nwachukwu Okafor? Good. Good,” Denrele hit his hands on the desk but cautioned himself because of the cell guards behind him, ” I thought as much. He has been exhibiting this strange attitude ever…”

“No, no, he is not among them.” Gloria chipped in.

“He is not?”

Okafor had rejected the offer, she said. But Nicholas had threatened that his life was at stake if he ever exposed the secret.

“I could not believe my ears,” Gloria was saying after the members had excused them, ” I can’t believe that a whole Okafor, king of women, the Mr. Casanova, would reject such offer. It’s incredible. Wonder shall never cease in this world.”

She was revealing to Denrele that Okafor, in one of her chat with him, said Denrele was always downcast over his family’s deaths, that he didn’t know how else to console him anymore. He said AYN would try their best to fight for Denrele’s cause, the full restoration of Liberty, but he advised Gloria to keep motivating him. On another occasion, their chats had centered on lifestyle; African marriage. Okafor said he could not be satisfied with one wife. He was going to marry two or three wives. This was in fact the reason she asked Denrele to stay away from him.

“Re…really?”

“Yes, dear. I don”t want him to teach you bad things. You know I can’t share you with anyone.” She said, smiling mischievously.

“Me either.” Denrele said, and gleefully uttered, “A Luta continua!”

Gloria smiled, “Victory is certain.”

END

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