Nigerians and the Death They Die, By Pius Adesanmi

The deaths they die because their country won’t settle her rift with human civilization…

I see two categories of citizens: those lucky because they know they are dying; those unlucky because they know not that they are dying.

Six hours on the road. Not a single kilometre of those six hours is free of them – the smoke belchers. Trailers bringing soft death to them by turning 180 million people into shisha smokers.

Sometimes, you see a kilometre-long line of smoke belchers, belching toxic fumes. Les than 1% of the cars following them in this dance of death have air conditioning so all their windows are down, inhaling, inhaling, inhaling this cloud of thick black fumes.

I look on in anger. In considerable sadness.

I think of the tragic irony. The stretch between the two cities on opposite sides of this 17th-century express road – which they have been repairing since 1999 – would be an industrial hub in civilization.

Here, it is home to a faith-industrial complex. Home to mega-Pentecostal churches screaming against the vice called smoking. Yet, everybody, including the faithful of those churches, are chain secondary smokers, inhaling deadly fumes daily from the smoke belchers of the road.

We pass in front of Redeem. I can hardly make out the gates because of the thick cloud of black smoke coming from the caravan of belchers in front of my car. The gates swallow chain smoking Redeem faithful on their way to condemn smoking and smokers in Church

If I weren’t such a snobbish, alienated, diasporan who “doesn’t get our reality”, I’d say there is a reason for emission tests in civilization. I’d say that it shouldn’t be rocket science that once you fail your emission test, your vehicle should be off the road. I’d say that we have those rules on the books in Nigeria.

We never enforce the rules. We enforce some only to extort; not for the public good. Ours is a society that is very wicked to herself.

By 21st-century emission test standards, half the automobiles on Nigerian roads would be grounded. I don’t think a single trailer in Nigeria today would pass an average emission test.

The car radio interrupts my chain of thought as I am gnashing my teeth in anger in my cosy air conditioned comfort. Why can’t I just enjoy my own comfort and not have to worry about these career sofahead inhalers of toxic fumes outside who would abuse me anyway if they heard I was worrying for them?

The car radio is a pidgin station. The news is about some SE Governors who have rejected the idea of cattle colonies. The anchor says:

“Some southeast governors don tear head for Buhari. Dem been talk say how cow go come dey chop dinner on top table like say e dey chop salad and federal government go come say na our states go provide where cows go dey chop dat kain life?”

That brilliant, imagistic deployment of language transports me beyond the tragedy of the herdsmen and the tragedy of the smoke belchers to a conundrum I have not been able to explain.

That news anchor’s use of language is pure, unadulterated genius. How can a society boast such an abundance of human brain and brilliance and not be able to rise above this primitive level of gradual, needless, democratic death?

The deaths they die…

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