By Gabriel Dike Industrial action by the non-academic staff in the Nigerian University System (NUS) on Monday disrupted the on-going screening of candidates offered admission for the 2017/2018 academic session. Members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) in federal…
Whether it is column-writing or biographical-writing or whatever form of writing, for me, it starts with getting a good headline or a good title which drives and guide the writing like a map to an adventurous explorer.
Writing is a form of adventure and every writer is an explorer. You know where you are going, but you don’t know what you will find along the way. That is the mystery of writing. That is the fun of writing. You begin somewhere and end somewhere.
I like my writing. I enjoy it. Sometimes it is fun. Sometimes it can be torture. It can be sweet. It can be agony. Particularly when two ideas are competing for attention. Or better still when you are faced with two choices, two topics all begging you to “write me, write me.”
Today, I am tempted to write something a bit autobiographical, something about my life as a father of two boys who came into the world about the same time, two identical boys, so identical that at the hospital bed I didn’t know who is who. It took some time, some efforts, some kind of divine intervention before I could finally distinguish one from the other. I can never forget the bliss of seeing them for the first time. The picture is forever framed in my heart as my personal memorabilia, as one of my happiest moments.
Automatically, you get a new name, a new tag. For having twins, everybody starts congratulating you in double measure, calling you “Baba Ibeji” (Twins Father). The woman enjoys it more being called “Mama Ibeji.” She wears the tag proudly like a PhD, she wears it round her neck like an everlasting precious jewel sent from above. Culturally, people tell you that having twins is a good omen, that they are bringers of blessings, that if you treat them well, they will bring you loads of blessings. It makes you wonder, why in the first place would parents not treat any child well whether they are twins or not? Truly, my twins have been a blessing. I have watched them grow with the pride and joy of a father. I have developed a special love for twins, such that I see twins everywhere as my children. I wish them well and I pray for them the same way I pray for my own twins. Their success is my success. Their agony is my agony. I was in Osogbo last Saturday for a wedding. While reading the Saturday Tribune, I came across the pathetic story of Taiwo and Kehinde Popoola, 47, two blind identical twins who are newspaper vendors, sharing their life stories, how fate afflicted them with blindness not at birth but at primary school. Gradually, their sight started fading until they lost their sights probably due to childhood glaucoma which was not promptly detected and treated or managed until total blindness set in.
And with the blindness, their destiny changed. It’s a sad tale, a tale of two brothers who probably would have ruled the world like the famous Nigerian show-business twins PSquare but are instead wallowing in misery and poverty, carrying their own cross, selling a product they cannot even see and having to devise their own ways of protecting the little money they make as newspaper vendors. In a rat-race and dog-eat-dog world ruled by money which must be preserved and protected from thieves and pickpockets, one of the twins says after making money, “What I do is to put N1,000 notes inside my trouser pocket on the left side. The N500 notes would be at the other back pocket. Then the N200 notes would be in another place; ditto for N100 notes and N50 notes respectively.”
I felt so sad after reading the story. It is the kind of story I would have put on the cover in my heyday as the pioneer editor of the Weekend Concord, a paper I gave birth to in March 1989 shortly after the birth of my twins in September 1988, a paper that made heroes out of people, particularly the downtrodden. People tell me the birth of my twins brought me the blessing of becoming an editor for the first time and I proudly agree. But then, I must have worked hard and paid my dues for me to be elevated into the editor’s chair which is every reporter’s dream.
If I am sad about the plight of the Popoola twins of Osogbo, I am equally sad about the shame of Nigeria and Africa’s most famous musical twins Paul and Peter popularly called PSquare who are at war with each other. Two brothers, twins at each other’s neck, fighting each other with primordial hate and fury like Cain who killed his brother Abel in the Bible. I saw the video of their dirty fight now trending and I felt so bad, so sad, so mad. I said to myself: “This is an abomination in our nation.” I saw the footage of PSquare fighting, dueling, warring, uttering and making hate speeches against each other. And I remembered the poor twins of Osogbo, united by brotherly love and poverty. It was like the difference between night and day.
I saw the violent picture of PSquare and I remembered Biafra. Two brothers fighting, disagreeing and wanting their own Biafra. It is the same picture of Nigeria right now. PSquare is the parable of Nigeria, two or three brothers under diabolic spell, divided, fighting among themselves and asking for separation, restructuring and division of all they have acquired in life.
I want to write but I cannot write further. My heart is broken. I weep for Peter, I weep for Paul. In my agony, my son Taiwo sent me from London an untitled poem he wrote for the fighting twins:
A tale of two brothers, Peter and Paul
Two black birds, falling off the wall
Don’t fly away Peter! Stay with Paul
Don’t put it on Twitter, Peter! Better call Paul
Don’t be bitter Peter! It’s better for us all
Come back little black birds and sit on the wall!