Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

04 Oct Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

The Three Musketeers

Three nation builders set out at night in search of a place to sit, eat, and talk. There were urgent matters to be discussed, issues of national import you could say. But first, food.

At a popular eatery in Wuse II, a guard was closing the gate when we arrived. It couldn’t be more painful if that were heaven's gate. All axioms about time management became pertinent. The guard stood before the gate waving off all late hopeful diners. Just to be certain, we asked if he was gesticulating at us too. Yes, he was. Perhaps he could let us in to scavenge? No point asking.

So there we were, back on the road, driving around Wuse II in search of a meal. At 10.30 p.m, there would be only a few options. If you were ever in a crisis of hunger, ignore the fancy eateries and go straight to the bars. There at least there is an assurance of drinks, pepper-soup and suya, in any case, something to hold off ulcer. If you are as lucky as we got, you will find Dreams (such suitable name), where there would be a bar and a restaurant.

The bar was out in the yard, and the restaurant inside. They had fried rice and white rice, the waiter informed, and then did a volte-face after an order for fried rice had been placed. She needed to confirm if the preferred was available. Did I mention we did not really care? Just rice would do, food, if you may, even the burnt residue from the day’s culinary effort.

There were many empty tables. Like a federal government committee, we sat down to the task of nation building (who is to say these committees do more than sit, eat, and talk?). To the task, who had written what, where, and how? Stories were pulled out from the internet, assessed, and trashed if need be. As it was hard to separate the writing from the writer, a critique session might wander into base gossip, no malice intended. It is all for literature, for Nigeria.

We deconstructed a piece of writing with the same passion the political commentator expends analysing the Apo Killings or the Yobe and Borno massacres, and wailed even louder over poor writing. I do not draw a parallel to trivialise these current affairs but to state that all are tragic events. We believe that the trouble with Nigeria is its literature, a deliberately flawed view no doubt.

Who are we and on what authority do we preside over literary merit? Three writers who by virtue of their exposure to certain foreign literature believe themselves to be descended from the clan of great 20th century writers of the West; three who personally, and as a group, consider themselves the best under 30 in the country (self-delusion has many faces); young guys revelling at the prospect of becoming jobless, dreaming of spending a time in Paris as did their progenitors Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, and a time loafing in the French Riviera, with a French consort.

At these infrequent rendezvous, it is stated or implied that we can build or rebuild the nation, sentence by sentence: that we can wrestle the trade from the philistines who do not care for language; regulate its operations; set down the rules for the political commentator whose basic tools are his indignation and social media, diminish his influence.

It would be midnight, after everyone else had departed, before Nigeria’s most underrated nation builders would bring sitting to an end and step out into the dark. Or rather into the light, for this is Abuja.