LESSONS IN THE PAST…Evenings for me have become times of the day I do not really look forward to. Because, one gets to where he calls home and everything seems to cry out for attention at the same time, all screaming, ‘prioritize me!’. First the phones go off, then the latest news on some device, usually with some tragic content announces itself in some noisy way; at that same time more emails come around and then you realize you are still hungry and the burning smell of what you thought you were cooking, is actually roasting. My brother, it can be frantic and frenetic every time the clock hits the PM if you are a bachelor.But it happens like this, every time, every evening and the look on my face expresses surprise as if it was the first time. As always, I leave every other thing and prioritize my stomach first- well, didn’t they say, ‘A hungry man is an angry man?’ I must be right then. In these days of ‘fast everything’ and multitasking, food is chunked down while scouring the unforgiving Internet for latest news bits. Our world loves tragedy, so it is not surprising that almost all the headline stays tragic- or tries to stay tragic in its own way. Home, they say, is where the heart is, little wonder why my eyes actively sought for news about Nigeria- which seemed to be everywhere.Ah! Nigeria! The giant of Africa! The proud nation! The newly MINTed country! Good people, good nation! The footballing giant. The nation with the happiest people on earth- and the conceited accolades play in my head. They always do, isn’t that patriotism? At that exact time, the most distracting app (name withheld) ever produced by mankind tells me I have a new mail. I checked, obvious annoyance spread like wild fire across my face. It was an old friend, some old secondary school class mate. When I realised and remembered the bonds we shared in common, the frown immediately dissipated.‘Sa’anu abokina! Ya ya dei?’ I hailed him in his native tongue, Hausa. You see, those of us that claim we know all languages, do not miss an opportunity to show off, even when it is clearly unnecessary. And we started talking, chatting, each reply drawing smiles, blushes and laughter from me- I believed the same from him too. The young men, in a second became boys, as we relieved old times we spent in one of our nation’s Unity Schools and compared it with the present. Jobs, career pursuits, acquired possessions, future academic plans, even the subject which I was quite weak in, relationship, was discussed. We laughed, teased ourselves, called ourselves the odd crazy nicknames and promised to keep in touch. We talked about the government and governance, how developmental projects in Nigeria is hardly a direct consequence of just efforts by leaders, but a consequence of other things. We agreed that leadership was not as difficult as rocket science, like what we are being led to believe. And just like old times, the friendly flame hadn’t gone out.That was two weeks ago. I remember these things now and wonder what had happen to us? Two different individuals, from different sides of the Niger- what happened? Before the dark shadow of capitalism and socialism had covered us, we were once progressive children. Before the unscrupulous amongst our elites had made us realize that Christians and Muslims were warring factions and not peaceful religions, we were once children. Before our elders exposed us to politics, and our leaders exposed us to it’s dirtier form, we were once children. Before we were told to see people by the farcical lines that proscribed them and not the content of their character, we were once children. We were once honest friends and children across the Niger. We believed in the triumph of good over evil; of merit over mediocrity; of truth over falsehood; of love over hate; we believed in goodwill and peace to all men; we shared these things, we believed in these things, it worked for us. What happened to us?So, my brother/sister I think about these things. The President releases new appointment of service chiefs and army personnel, and we are more concerned with ‘where does he come from’, rather than, ‘is he competent enough’? And the thought refuses to go away. Believe me, I chase these thoughts, I use the most powerful nocturnal weapon known to man to chase these thoughts- sleep; but it won’t go away. I think it is there, because we that were once children, have it within us to return to that likeness. And no, not the likeness of children, for that will be medically impossible, but the the likeness of the values we once practiced and shared and valued. It is possible. Don’t get me wrong, it is not going to be that easy. When one stops taking a drug that has been ingested, methodically and with great care for a long time, there will always be withdrawal symptoms. But like a friend tells me, ‘an old woman never forgets a dance which she did in her youth’, change is possible, if a group of people, a generation collectively makes that bold step and conscientiously follows it. Yes, it is possible to replicate the lessons in the past, into the future. I think it is possible, but these thoughts refuse to go away.