Thursday, 5 March 2015

Mr. indestructible, Mr. immortal: Hear this


That we all shall die is a granite fact and glaring reality. As time changes everything, including mountains and kings, no material thing else lives forever. Be you who or what, one day, you must obey nature’s final call – death. I wonder if you ever paused and pondered over this.

This election time, I want to talk to Akwa Ibom youths, because, once upon a time, I was a youth as they are. Not every youth, anyway. I want to talk to those ones who are proud being called thugs, cultists, intimidators, ndito-ekim, ndito-ifot ­– all those paid predators or sadists whose jobs are to make others miserable. I mean those guys who kill because of the lure of money. I want them to be reminded that they too will die someday, and their manner of death will be terrible such that nobody will pity and no eye will shed a tear over them.
Yes, money is a good master and bad servant. It can make as well as mar. Despite its being full of germs, it’s ever popular. Everybody wants and needs it. As you prepare to get rich overnight through the shedding of innocent blood, I want you to put yourself in the shoe of such a one you intend to kill. Supposing someone points an AK 45 rifle at you now, while you are unarmed, wouldn’t you kneel down and prostrate: “Oh! Please, please, don’t kill me!”? If you would, it then means you know and cherish the sanctity of human life. Then, why take another’s?

You are well trained as a sniper or sharp shooter. Your shoulders are high up, your chest and muscles protruding. For your eyes to shine and people to fear you, you smoke cannabis and inject cocaine, you drink “enyong-ye-isong” or “combine”. You have Samuel Peter-like shoulders and fists that can punch off any of your disobedient enemies. Cooked pally! Haard boy! Mean guy! For your own good, let me retell this lesson that I was taught in my history class way back. You can take it as a folklore or tale but, whether I tell it in detail or not, I thank God that it has a lesson or two for its listener or reader. Before I go ahead with the story, let me tell you the origin of the caption: I was with a police friend who mentioned the nick-name of one of his colleagues as “SOMETHING MUST KILL A MAN”. “Funny name”, I told him. “Of course, it’s true”, the sherrif confirmed. “One day, one day, you shall die, and it is SOMETHING that will kill you. It may even be the gun we are using. It may be through poisoning, smoking, sex, drink, sickness or accident; it may be from a man or woman; it may generate from malice or grudge. It may be caused by jealousy or envy of your family, enemies or friends. It may be pay-back from your own wickedness or sins; it may be from your karma, covenant or anything. It may be natural death or celestial call. But, surely, SOMETHING must kill you”, he concluded. And I saw meaning in his explanation. True talk from oga police.

As a humanitarian, the death of any human being diminishes me. While I am not praying for the death of anyone, my people, hear this: Nobody is spotless or flawless, everybody has blemish or loophole. Just as the most hardened of criminals is loved by his own mother, the saintliest folk in the world has his own foibles too. So, boastfulness, bragging, arrogance, insolence, cockiness, pride, better-than-thou attitude (whatever you call it) is all emptiness, null and void. None of that vain stuff makes one an immortal superman. Whether you go to the North pole or South pole; whether you run to India or Indianapolis; whether you contact those pseudo artists – Iluminati or church of Satan – or something, whaz gonna be is gonna be. No matter the amount of money you waste, when its not panadol it’s not panadol. Unless the Bible lied when it said “you reap what you sow”. Efik mbon ete “ikureke ke oro. Utom owo etiene owo” . The literature maestro, William Shakespeare, in his “Julius Caecer” says “The evil that men do lives after them”. Yes, idiok eyewot idiok. Do not deceive yourself or be deceived, whether you are a king or centurion, death the sentinel is waiting at your door, because SOMETHING MUST KILL A MAN.

“MAN, KNOW THYSELF”, one of the most important dictates of ancient philosophers, teaches us that we should take time to learn our true strengths and our real weaknesses. Yes, because one could be made safe by the very parts he scorned and, invariably, one could come to one’s end by the parts he gloried in. This story reminds us that even the “strongest” man in the world needs to be aware of his own vulnerability. Sampson, Goliath, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin Dada, Samuel Doe, Muammar Gaddafi, don’t forget this few. We should always remember, through the aid of this fable, that once we have seen someone else’s SOFT SPOT, like that of this writer or that of the misgoverned Akwa Ibomites, we should not hit such spots.

As the story goes, the mightiest in Greece who went to fight the Trojans was Achilles. He was the son of the King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. When he was born, a soothsayer predicted that his life, though glorious, would be short. His mother determined to prove the prophecy wrong and that, her son, like an old soldier, would never die. She took the child to the sacred stream by which the gods swore unbreakable oaths (not in Ukana). If a mortal were dipped into its black waters, no sword, arrow, gun or other weapons could ever injure him. Makes me remember the Isakabas and their “ode oshi”. Also brings to memory the mbia-ibok and their “akpuub”. It takes me back to the Bible where “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”.

Thetis held the boy by the heel, between her thump and forefinger, and gently lowered him into the stream. The mysterious river enveloped the infant hero, and hardened his flesh (like bullet-proof) against all harm. In her haste to get out of that dark kingdom, however, the loving mother forgot that the waters had not touched the child’s skin where she gripped him. And so on that heel, and only that spot, was the place he could be harmed.

She carried the baby back, and showed her work proudly to Peleus. Soon Peleus sent the young man to a creature half-man and half-horse, who had a famous school for heroes. It is this creature that changed the boy’s name to Achilles and fed him with the hearts of lions and the marrow of bears and wild serpents. The boy knew how to take care of his own body that he might always be strong and brave. When he was finished at the training school, he went back to his home a tall, yellow-haired youth, strong-limed, and as graceful as he was brave. His mother wept when he saw him, for she remembered the soothsayer’s prophecy. But his old father was proud of him, and took him out to show the treasures of his palace, e.g armor, shield, helmet, spear and other delightful war items.

And so Achilles grew up to be one of the greatest heroes. He sailed with Greeks in the long war, and there proved himself to be the champion of his people. But, as strong as he was, and brave as he was, he was not perfect – as no mortal is. He wanted to make sure everyone knew he was the strongest and bravest. He thought and talked too much of his own glory and UNCOMMON FEATS. Self-absorption, you may call it. He was choleric or hot-tempered. When he did not get his way, he devised every evil means. And his doom, which the soothsayer had foretold, came soon enough.

One day, when hard fighting was going on, Achilles rode his chariot close up to the famous gate and stopped to taunt the unhappy Trojans who stood upon the battlements. Standing high in the chariot, he boasted of his great deeds: how from the sea he had laid waste twelve cities, and from the land eleven; how he had vanquished the queen of the Amazons, and had slain Hector, the hope of the Trojans; how he had taken great spoils and countless treasures from many lands; and how, in all the world, there was no name as terrible as his; no, not one. Boasting or bragging did not start today. Hubris is a fatal character flaw that had been there right from genesis. Achilles boasted of his wealth, domestic and international accolades. A very uncommon achiever.

But scarcely as the last rash boast passed his lips when a gleaming spear circled down upon him from above. His armor could not ward off the swift death it brought. People wondered where the weapon was hurled from. Out of the various versions, some asserted that it came from the hands of the mortal man, but was cast from the sky by the great Apollo himself who was offended by the hero’s boasting.

I do not know which of these stories is true, nor does it matter now. The lesson to importantly learn from them is that the missile found the one mark on Achille’s heel and tore the flesh, portraying that none of us is the toughest we claim we are. My late brother, Tony Nse, from Mbiatok Itam (bless him) sang “Ikang akap ata ikid ayara mkpok, nwanwa dise unen obiom nyaha (if gold can rust, what about iron)?!”. I am reminded of another great uncle in Ikot Andem Itam – PIKMEFIA. There was nothing like “nyanka”, “Shakara” or boast that meant anything to him. He would ask you, Nse-adu? (What are you?); he would also ask you “Nso ido ufa?” (what is new?). A man who was, who knew, and saw enough, but tells you now that all is vanity upon vanity. Power Mike, thou shall not kill. Okrikpokpotio, cool down!

Achilles, the destroyer of three and twenty cities fell headlong and helpless in the dust as many another boaster has done since his day, and the great world went on as before. Akwa Ibom youths, don’t be blinded by money that takes you nowhere. Those that send you to go and kill should bring their children from hiding to come and do that. Something will kill you, but don’t let it be this election. Remember always…. THE ACHILLE’S HEEL. May God in his Almightiness make you useful for yourselves and fatherland; may His son who changes hearts visit your sad hearts today, and may His holy spirit be your guide. Long live Akwa Ibom State and her good youths!   

 Essah – 08020945205

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