Season of Regression to the Mean

In which the peculiar fragility, and persistence, of hope is exposed

Image by @NoraAwolowo

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I started to write several times last week but couldn’t bring myself to post anything besides a cautiously hopeful poem on fighting for the light. The sense was that something momentous was happening in my other country. Sadly the last few days have shown a regression to the mean in which the forces of power, feeling threatened, unleashed their might against its own citizenry, with a significant (and rising it seems) body count being the fallout. The irony of such a heavy-handed response to protests about police brutality is surely not lost on the world; those in power - and their lackeys - who recast themselves as progressive elements have surely shown their hand. One hopes that come 2023, those who chose to side with power against the people are shown the way out of power and relevance. The personal stories from before, during and after the protests are jarring, including more than a few from close friends. What this has done is shown that regardless of privilege one cannot escape the ravages of a broken system forever. We are all in this, to varying extents, together.

In the aftermath of the mayhem, I think there are several encouraging things to come out of this, chief of which is how in a short period of time, systems of support and organization sprung up and were deployed at scale. People put their money and bodies where their mouth was, with some very fine women (amongst others) coming to represent, at least for me, the masthead for the call for justice and change. That they did all that whilst organizing collection and disbursement of funds, arranging legal aid for arrested folks and security amidst a myriad of other activities puts the failure of our bloated government into perspective. Whatever the arguments against a small government, bloat and corruption (and the cost of government itself) in the Nigerian setup suggest to me that that should be the direction of travel for Nigeria. The individual is already his/her own government anyway, providing his/her own power, water, security and all, going the full hog to charter cities is only a further small step I think.

Another thing of interest was seeing quite a few of the Nigerian Pentecostal ‘heavyweights’ lend their voices and feet to the movement and the call. Given how often they have seemed (at least to those of us on the outside) to be wedded to power and preserving their access to it, it was refreshing to see those break rank and speak up. The hope is that this was driven off true convictions, rather than a desire to ride the wave. We all know how much weight we give the proclamations of our MOGs (the frothing at the mouth from otherwise sensible people in support of a certain 5G conspiracy theorist a few months ago comes to mind). Altogether, I feel it is a good thing, and hope it goes some way to remind the deeply spiritual amongst us to ally prayer to action.

2020 seems to be the year that keeps giving, and not in a good way, with new depths of darkness being plumbed almost every day it seems. Hope that the trajectory of Nigeria was changing may have been shattered in the moment, but it feels like the genie is out of the bottle. To quote Lucille Clifton:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

We may have regressed to our basest, meanest, darkest mean but Hope, though shattered into many bits yet persists. That is some light.

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