By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
These days it is boring to discuss the politics and social issues of the day in Nigeria. As a weekly writer you find yourself writing about the same issues – politicians, insecurity, education, the ruling party, the government of the day. It kills the spirit to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Today, I have decided to write about a very mundane and trivial topic- becoming a grandfather! Or a grandmother!
So it was that we sat down over a bottle of red wine two weeks ago, (not bottles of Rock or Star or Skol or Gulder beer like we used to do), three of us from my generation, early sexagenarians, smiling, laughing, looking on with great wisdom, as if we had no care in the world, content with a few intermittent words between us, no one attempting to impress or outdo the other, knowing that it was no longer time for intense drama or hustling or entertaining long term dreams and hopes, most of us having retired from service, with only the university people still working, saying to ourselves that these pains in the joints and waist were not familiar and that hopefully they would go away. Tall hope, this, because deep down in our hearts we know that we have entered the boat of the elderly in different degrees!
Of course, we had and have cares, very many, too many for us to bother about them, to avoid a spike in blood pressure levels, or headaches, or heart attacks and regrets. We had and still have cares about our children, and their children, that is, our grandchildren. We, grand parents already? How? When? How did things move so fast, like a blink? Where was that little boy who started off with so much hope, looking up to his father, hoping that a day would come when he would sit back and say, ‘well done’ and live happily ever after? It makes real sense to us now when the Bible says a thousand years is like a day in the sight of the Lord!
Our talk centered on the ordinary things, things that money cannot buy, children, grandchildren, their career paths, any forthcoming weddings. We talked about the children who have ‘japaed’, or those planning to japa, or those who married for the Green Card, those who had vowed never to return, always telling us about ‘that country’, and how ultimately, they would want us to join them in foreign lands where they had found happiness and want us to find happiness too in a strange land. No, we were not concerned with/about chasing contracts or joining a political party and changing the system of things, having given up on those idealistic thoughts after the ugly realities of our clime slapped us with a ferocious anger, some having retired from paid employment, contending with wives who happily jumped into the next plane to perform the popular ‘omugwo’, or ‘omiomo’ in Urhobo! The joy of being a grandparent! Did we know that such thoughts would preoccupy us so soon? No, we didn’t.
We were young men only yesterday, bubbling with the excitement of youth while in the university, after graduation, during national service, believing we would conquer and change the world, dissatisfied with our elders whose ways and style were slow, typical of the old school and decadent. We believed in hard work, believed that if we knocked hard enough the door of the world would open with a smile, and we would sit in triumph over enemy forces. Some forty odd years after, we got wiser, sober, and perhaps more realistic about life’s beauty, ugliness, sour and sweet moments, and uncertainties
We were young men only yesterday, bubbling with the excitement of youth while in the university, after graduation, during national service, believing we would conquer and change the world, dissatisfied with our elders whose ways and style were slow, typical of the old school and decadent. We believed in hard work, believed that if we knocked hard enough the door of the world would open with a smile, and we would sit in triumph over enemy forces. Some forty odd years after, we got wiser, sober, and perhaps more realistic about life’s beauty, ugliness, sour and sweet moments, and uncertainties. We recalled with sadness colleagues who exited the world even before they establish a career, those who rose fast, perhaps too fast and dropped out of the sky of the world, those who became big boys early and could barely associate with us. Saka died during National Youths service in 1983. Paul died in a car crash while serving as a director in a Ministry. Ada disappeared into thin air. Austin died of leukemia before he turned 50. Joseph died five years after graduation. Peter lives in the US with his family. Bonson is now a big politician. Kola is a Professor in Ibadan.
With the new glasses of sexagenarians, we looked at the world anew. We were closer to where we were going than where we set out from. Not in the Departure lounge, age-wise, though in a sense everyone was in the Departure Lounge, anyone could go at any time. We did not discuss politics with passion anymore. We did not fight battles on behalf of our ethnic group. We returned to the comfort of the innocence that ruled our lives when we first met in the beauty of teenage life, in the sweetness of tabula rasa of sorts.
We know there are many things money cannot buy. That those things would remain with us eternally if we invested in them, that the beauty of life was in enjoying moments with an open heart and loving the persons around us, the persons we had invested in while we still had the strength to move from Lagos to Abuja to Port Harcourt to Kano by night travel without fear of kidnappers or bandits and violent men in uniform of brutality! That not all of us have become grandparents, especially some whose kids migrated early and have declared that marriage was not in their agenda, or that when they were ready, they would produce a child after reaching an agreement with some man and remain a single parent.
But the world remains hostile. Old age does not insulate one from the hostility of a political crisis. Old age is no guarantee against shenanigans of the world. If anything, old age makes one more vulnerable to wrongheaded policies, inefficient governments, and general insecurity. So, one must save up against the rainy day, the day when one may not be able to hold an umbrella against the rains from heaven. We are told that the new old age is 80 years. Yet the climate does not give room for good living in peace and security.