NEPA’s Terrorism by John Anusie
It had teased and tickled you about an hour ago, the fleecy skirt of heaven’s perennial coquette – the wind. For reasons at best esoteric, it had aroused thoughts of spectacular towers in the lands of your wanderings, from Degeneration by Max Nordau to Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow; Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In this agreeable matrix also sparkles The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende, that svelte, linguistic sorceress from Chile, had introduced you to it. You adore the spirits; disparate specimens of them roam your head… Good literature and the assurance of it in a world desperately mortgaged to clichés is a mollifying miracle, you thought and nodded.
The evening rises to meet you. The sun, hitherto rich, arrogant and unforgiving, now blushes, an embarrassed orange above the hills. Whirr… And you stare in suppressed scepticism at the grass in front of you. Whirr… You move your head sideways to at least espy the interloper. But nothing is visible. Nothing. Nothing. And then suddenly the quiescence of your thoughts vanishes in a disharmonious anarchy of jarring stridulation. Ah, the toads and cicadas! You exhale deeply. A murder of crows zips through the sky in front of you. You look up definitely. The hills have swallowed the orange.
A lump erupts in your throat. Loneliness encircles you like a garment of benediction. You luxuriate in its silken warmth, in its assured fecundity, your thoughts distinct now above the din… You are never alone; you found that years ago. The daemons of writing, nudged by inspiration, the dervish of the wilds, are always tagging alongside you, mumbling ethereal tones, whispering arcane ideas. They possess you spasmodically, leaving you at the feet of words, words, words.
You are possessed. Now. Possessed and restless. You recognize the moment for what it is – an impending lapse of ambiguous time: one can refine bars of gold from it or let it pass – and mock one in its passage. You recognize the stupidity in indolence, so you get ready to mine the gold in the moment. Everything else melts into the inane. You are restless; gold is impatient. You jump from your seat, your mind chugging in anticipation. From a side stool, F. Scott Key Fitzgerald’s The Morning after the Wild Party detains your gaze, your thoughts. You smile wryly, for the apple of instruction is here misplaced: You are not a party to the bacchanalian soiree currently drowning the voice of reason in Nigeria.
You bolt posthaste into your room, taking Fitzgerald with you. Your spine tingles; your eyeballs dilate. Gold is in view, and you are determined to mine it. Cup of gold. You crash into a seat, ignoring the sudden urtication at your bottom. Your escritoire stares at you; you stare back, stubborn, alert, impatient. Unconsciously, you lift your head up, up, up. The ceiling. Your eyes detain the glowing bulb. For a minute. And then your eyes, bleary veterans of many wars, return to your desk. Your pen is not there. Indignation pinches your subconscious. You look around wildly and impatiently. Nothing is in view. You rise from your seat and peer sceptically under the escritoire. There on the floor lies the pen, complaisant like a sated whore. You pick it up, your visage brightening in a smile. Gold is nearer.
Three words later and the wink of darkness stops you. A yelp of agony escapes your lips. You stare at the ceiling. The bulb, the ceiling, even your palms cannot be seen in the unforgiving darkness of the room. You wonder if you have a candle left from the reading marathon of the day before and begin to rise from your seat.
And the bulb reappears, lucent in its arrogance. Relieved at the sudden restoration of power, you drop back into your seat. Maturity melts without warning and you find yourself reenacting the virgin fatuities of childhood: “Up NEPA!” you shout. Your shout of adulation synchronizes near instantaneously with another curse of darkness. You are not surprised – the sudden restoration and then cut of power has solidified into a tradition that has refused to buckle even with the change of the name from NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) to PHCN (Power Holding Company of Nigeria). You bang the escritoire; novels crash to the floor. Your tongue begins to swell in curse corrugations, but you suppress it. You have a definite knowledge of the candle now – not a stick of it remains. Morose, you swallow your saliva. Your thoughts muddle up. The sentences in your head begin to vanish, specious chimeras in the bog of distraction. A yawn knocks gently at the door of your mouth, gains a foothold and begins a reign of terror.
Sleep fans your brows; they begin to droop in submission. The idea of a generating set crawls into your head. You do not own one – cannot afford one. Your reading lamp died months ago. You scratch your jaws, sinking in abject enervation and ennui. You do not own a laptop and no longer importune the heavens for one. You no longer own the pen on your desk; at this black hour darkness does. Even now, your head – your psychosomatic essence – is not in your hands but in the pocket of sleep’s invading army.
Bang! And you find yourself nursing a lump on your forehead. The risk of another accident is unwelcome, so you rest your head on the escritoire. You begin to snore, to clap for marauding mosquitoes. Sleep gloats. Rest in peace, feuilleton…
In Nigeria much has been written about the waste lack of power – electricity – provokes. But few writers have cared to dilate on the intellectual bend in the river of waste… Forcing a man to sleep when he wants to read and write is as much a case of terrorism as the slaughtering of innocents by – and here I borrow Hermann Hesse’s words – the degenerate dissembling mob of bestial fops invoking Allah on behalf of their paranoid constructs. You might know them. They insist Western education is abominable, evil, and a sin.
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