The stranger you know

If there is something you will remember from year 2010, it will be the headline news of a thirteen years old girl, who left her family, to her own home in the woods. Definitely, you will remember she was also the girl who had three hours intensive discussion with the Primate of the Anglican Communion, and you will agree, she didn’t fail to talk about how infidel the church has become, to the society and God himself (if there is). 

This special discussion broadcasted on the national radio didn’t fail to expose many people to her new religion, she called it a name I can’t remember, but I know you don’t have to pay tithes, offering or zakah as the Muslims will call it and you don’t need a scripture inspired by God, there is many of them already, you just have to be honest and love everyone. The only commandment is, Do to your neighbours what you will do to yourself.

I had met her once, at the discussion with that influential Muslim cleric, Sheu Yai Danjuma, and then twice when I moved to join her in the woods. If there was something that inspires and tie me to Lade, it won’t be nose rings or her ear full of rings. It should be that she is saying those thoughts I buried somewhere, under my intestine, because of fear. 

I hated formal education and knew religion is flopping. Politics: I read and experienced enough to know that the nation is heading the wrong way, my thoughts though, but my tongues are always tied. I found someone saying what I want to say, the best I could do was to respect such a person, in some way worship her.

Lade would have stayed in school if it wasn’t that the school is designed to keep things as they were. Most of us as student knew this, but only Lade had the balls to talk. When you find your path, the journey becomes difficult than before, spiced, with little fun. This has been my opinion. When Lade will engage any teacher or even the school principal on issues I won’t find in any of our school textbooks. I knew she had found her path. 

Lade will go as far as hell and come back when it comes to writing and reading. She was just ten years old when she realized and decided to live her life as a social writer. From that year she had a column in the Daily Times. She must have grown tired, when she realized education that could help is not there to help people, because they will later call on other citizens and the government to embrace a good path, with the good interest of the country at heart. 

I knew this too, but I stayed in school. It was Ayo who brought the news; his neighbour dropped out of school and will not go back no matter how much carrot and stick the parents offered.

If I hadn’t talked to her, about this education thing, I would have thought it was wrong to drop out of school, to write. But when we met the fourth time, she told me how much of a scam formal education as she called it has become, and I agreed with her. She was in some way, my god.

In some ways like she said, everything we complain about in this part of the globe is there not because we can’t change them, but the system is perfect for some few, and they won’t be ready to let go of their opportunities. Who will?

It was a rainy evening, I was walking with Lade through the forest that leads to the tree houses, and about a hundred of us now stay here, then she started this thing of politics in this country.

James, I swear, this country is a goddamned motherfucking nation that will sew your ass up, so you don’t shit on it, cut off your tongue, so you won’t spit on it. Then tie your hands backward, so you ask her for all you need. 

Like I want to go to university, so that…

If I want to… I should do my master’s degree

So I can… I want to work harder

But then, this is a democracy and there are fundamental human rights, so you can do your thing to some extent, at least, and that is why I decided I am moving to the forest.

At first, I was scared about this decision, leaving my parents roof, never to go back again. Struggling to find nuts to put in my mouth, I swear this goddamned nation was just too sick, I can’t stay full in it, but the moment I decided to move and I saw emails from people who want to join me, I knew I can do it. Thanks to Ayo, for the land.

See, aren’t we happier here than outside there, all those things satisfy your eye, but not you? At least, I can speak for myself. I am very comfortable here.

If things were working, we won’t be here. I will repeat, as we walked through the trees.

Well, it is not that things are not working; it is if we will make them work. James, I read there was brilliant electricity till independent, education was great and students could actually grow into humans not robot as we have now. Water Corporation was working and transportation was very perfect. That was years back, see now, the rulers of this nation are just crazy animals, and they will rather satisfy the interest of their parties, instead of keeping the interest of the nation at heart. 

Ten years went; nothing seems out of place in the woods: As a fact, our number had improved to two thousand at round. No doubt, there were challenges with keeping the woods in peace, but it was easier to get things done right than it is outside. The society has taken many steps into decaying over the last years. 

Lade seems to be the air everyone breathes, she has been out here and there, speaking up and it amazes me that she manages to live this long. Well, maybe because she is much young of age and no reasonable old man or woman will want to kill a person about the age of their own grandchild. 

That does not mean that it was a piece of cake all through; there were attempts to teach Lade lessons. Sometimes, they came in Naira notes, stacked in cartoons or travelling bags. At times, they will come in the air that greets her welcome in a cell, where she spent days. Some other times, it is the painful injuries leftover from punches by some hoodlums. 

I must agree Lade is a beast, a god in her own way; she isn’t tired and won’t stop talking.

There is one special thing in living with the trees, in some ways; you will respect your own life, knowing so well that you don’t have total control over it, that you are in the existing in the past and those trees are in present. 

For myself, after three years in the woods, I could notice the slight difference in shapes, height, position and health of a tree. And you can lose contact with days, if you want, for me that is the freedom I want. Waking up and playing the life I paused, not like
Today is Monday… 
Today is Tuesday…
..and thank god it’s Friday. 
Here, you can make their Mondays your Fridays, isn’t that what freedom should be like? 

But here in the woods, we have challenges, ranging from health to water and a few more. Well, the thing for health is, after my first six months, my body immune system seems to have changed or maybe evolve to the environment, I hardly get down on malaria, and I drink from a spring in the heart of the forest. We even have a large farm, were we plant several edible plants, for consumption and selling. 

Even though we managed to escape from the entire society, we can’t stay away from money. At some point, we will need money, more than we can generate from selling our farm produce, this is one part of the problem we haven’t found a solution to till now. 

It was just after the twelfth year, Lade starts growing weak, and one could see how frail she is growing. The woods smelt like coffee last two nights when Lade walked to me.
James, I should tell you, I have just some weeks left.
Really, she had said it some moment back. Like
James, I have some years, months left. 

But I always believe she was talking about the sitting at the state assembly, on what should be done about the tree house. Should it be further allowed? 

Lade had several people who cheered her, some in their bathroom during their morning rituals, but a good number of legislator were bold to stand beside Lade and the tree houses at the state assembly, the bill to evict everybody from the tree houses has lasted years in the first stage. 

This time, I could see she is saying more, as tears escaped her eyelids, watering the nose rings which glitter from the moon lights that escaped the umbrella of tree branches. It seemed like Jesus is weeping

I will die very soon, but all these things haven’t changed at all. I am happy with this life, I am living, but I will be successful if these things remain and this resistance against this poor system is continued in a well-structured way, as we have tried in the past years. I am sorrowful because I see this little family shredding into pieces when am gone.

I turned to the moderator, just in time to see tears drop from her eyes. I wanted to continue the discussion on Lade’s journey, at least more than anyone else; I am closer to her, forgetting to say I married her. I wish Lade could tell her own story.

James Not’in is a creative artist lost in the process of exploring existing and nonexistent forms of expressing creativity. Interested in exploring the innings of power and class in relation to creative art and it expression, he explore beyond his major form of expression with is textual to other forms with includes performance. He is available on twitter @eclipsepoet

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