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Adapted For Pious Hopes (Harangue) by Hakeem Babalola


My people, how can I fail to see what longings bring you here today? Under this scorching sun, I know you are sick to death. You are tired. You are angry. But tired as you are, angry as you are, sick as you are, not one is more than I am. And this is the reason why I am standing before you this afternoon.

Today I am not begging but demanding for your votes. I am begging for the improvement in the quality of your life. In your land, none is living but only surviving. That is why majority of our brothers and sisters would rather be prisoners in the white woman’s land than be kings or queens here. There is pollution. There is disease. There are sins against humanity and that of greed. The poor in their land is worthy than a wealthy man here. This is not about money buried in backyards but the general atmosphere. Yours is a ghastly atmosphere whereas what you need is a protective familial environment.

That is why the rich in your land prefer to die on foreign soil while seeking medical treatment, which is lacking here. Ask yourselves why your land is prosperous and the inhabitants are in poverty. Do you think it is easy for men and women to rise whose qualities are thwarted by poverty? My answer is No. Listen to me with rapt attention. Be fooled again by rhetoric of bread and you shall remain in poverty. My people, they have kept you in bondage – of hope – and they have prevailed. They have persistently treated you like a slave in your own land.

A cliché question for you: how many of you standing under this scorching sun ever enjoyed constant electricity? How many of you have running water in your home? In this land, how many of you ever laid your eyes on good road? Is this what you call living? How many of you know these things are your property as citizens of this land? Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their lives trying to cross Spanish or Italian water in order to escape the land that has forgotten them. They would rather attempt such daring journey even though fully aware they might end up dead. Have you not seen for yourselves the consequence of selling your conscience? Oh, there is terrible danger in your ignorance of the significance of election period. My people, the only time you can exercise your power in the affairs of your land is during election.

Oh, your pain strikes each of you alone, but my spirit grieves for this land. I am not here to beg for your vote. I am here to campaign for a radical change. I am here as a catalyst to set off new trains of thought. I am here to elucidate on the pathetic way you have been living. I am here to ask whether you prefer suffering to pleasant living. My people, what is your sin? What have you done to deserve poverty in the midst of abundance? The mobile phone in your hands is not at all a measure of wealth. And the mere fact you think it’s a status symbol is a further testimony how poor you really are. It is a necessity, something that could save your life in times of danger.

In their land, even dogs own mobile phone. Well, I know this an exaggeration. The smoky car you are driving, which of course kills your neighbours day by day – is a necessity. Look at your roads, full of potholes – a personification for sudden death. My people, this is the first and the last time I am going to address you. I am not going to repeat today’s speech. No, I will not. It is certain that, when one is thirsty, the first gulp of water is the best. I am here to remind you that no one would sincerely fight for you. The only person that can genuinely fight for you is yourself. In this land, it is obvious that unless you fight or you take arm like Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, no one would listen to you. You have to fight for your right. You are all full citizens of this land and therefore have every right to be humans.

Nevertheless, please, do not ever; ever use violent because, according to Mahatma Gandhi, victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. Georgia and Ukraine are two good examples of a non-violent resistance that works like magic. In both countries, the masses, having ascertained the elections were rigged, protested en mass and went home victorious. Your vote is your salvation. Your vote is your wealth. Your vote is a way to your empty stomach. Mind you, I will be the first to castigate you should you endeavour to use violent means. I am not really a radical by nature, and perhaps this is not paradoxical. For there’s an intensity of imagination in me that yearns after what is absent, and which grasps at any fleeting image of what I lack. Yes, I prefer a bloodless agitation where the emperor’s soldiers would embrace the meek peasants. Am I being unrealistic?

My people, under this scorching afternoon, my mind is unable to stick to a single train of thought. I want every man and woman in this land to taste life before going to the House of Hades. I want our children to be able to want to die for this land. We need to mould our children to be fervent patriots. We need a national effort to restore confidence in our frustrated young men and women. In terms of anything good under the sun, I want our children to be able to stand side by side with children in the so-called advanced countries. Ah, it is a shame that this land is still underdeveloped. The other time I read an article written by Onyi, an eleven year-old-boy whose heart yearning for basic amenities he had experienced abroad, my eyes were full of sadness. How dare we inculcate the feeling and sense of inferiority in our children – our future – due to our lack of foresight and greed?

If nobody thwarts my plans then we are in for a fundamental concept – of beginning. The new leaves have grown, and there is fresh palm-wine in a new carved calabash. However, all efforts to move this land forward will be meaningless without you – the masses. This is why I demand for your votes. If we failed to prepare the ground for our great great grandchildren, then we will have come from a family of nonentities. I think they will never forgive us, especially if we let fear or greed take the best of us. My people, I am not here to tell you what you want to hear but the truth in its wholeness, harmony and radiance form – as I perceive it to be. I am not desperate to be the president. I am desperate to put an end to the infliction of pain in this land.

Meanwhile, I am not pretending that it is not going to be with a great difficulty. Then, living in this land is already a great task. Dr. Tai Solarin – remember him? He once said and I quote him: “Leadership means suffering”. I totally agree with him. I cannot bear to look at empty stomach prowling the street as if looking for prey. I cannot bear to see dead bodies in search of daily bread. I want to see living beings walking our streets with genuine faces wreathed in smiles. We need to start building. When we start, no group of people will have any cause to feel marginalized. The only truce that can probably defeat the ideology of Biafra is absolute fairness in its genuine form. When we start, the usual act of playing politics with fundamental issues that affect millions of souls will have stopped. Unless we engage in self-deceit, the issues that led to the civil war are still gnawing at us despite their attempt to sweep them under the red carpet.

I am not here to play politics. Politics seems to be tantamount to perpetual lies through unfulfilled promises though it is like that almost everywhere. I am not a politician. We need someone whose conscience has not been tainted or diluted – to lead us. Who is a politician? A Politician is that person who believes politics is war with bloodshed and war is politics with bloodshed. Technically, there might be iota of truth in this. What if we re-phrase it thus: politics is peace without bloodshed, and peace is politics without bloodshed? I know they have started organizing goon squads to intimidate voters as well as voting officials. They have started killing again. They have started. But you and I must say enough is enough.

You maybe right for thinking I am an angry young man. How will I not be angry? If you are a young man and woman in this land, and you are not angry at the way we’re going, then I don’t know what to say to you. In an age when a dog could feel the suffering of its master, and called the police to save him; when a pod of dolphins could protect a group of swimmers to fend off an attack by a shark, human beings in this land are still learning to pronounce lea-der-ship. O ma se o (thousands pity). Human beings in this land would rather slap each other over money allocation than confront the basic issues. I promise you under this scorching sun that a male senator under my administration will be morally sound as not to slap a female colleague and vice versa. I promise you that billions of Naira spent on foreign travel by the outgoing regime would be diverted to more serious issues fundamental to our immediate need.

Open your mind to the paradoxes that have engulfed your land. Elephant flies like a coffin in the air. Ours is a land where red carpet is for the devils. It is a land so rich that many of its inhabitants are paupers. It is a land where pen magnets money away from money house. Sirens are luring warriors from great tasks. It is a land where many are genuinely suffering yet the happiest in the world. Ours is a land where priest loves war and soldier peace. I ask you to do more than merely understand. I want you to imagine as I imagined, see as I saw, re-direct your life as I did.

I am afraid I may disappoint you in the sense that I am not going to use my valuable time probing anybody. I believe we have all contributed implicitly or explicitly to the mess. Then, those who have raped their motherland under the pretence of serving her must tender a sincere apology to the land and our people. We would leave them against their conscience and let them carry the guilt to their graves. We just want to show them that, although the task of piloting the affairs of a nation is daunting, yet we can achieve success with sincerity of purpose couple with our readiness.

Therefore, I need you in order to help you. You all deserve a good living and not mere surviving. This land belongs to all of us irrespective of the fact that some people are treating it as their property. I mean those who believe they are the owners of this land. Meanwhile, I am using this moment to appeal to good men and women of this land who have been politically reticent for fear of seeing their name tarnished, to please come out, because according to one philosopher, the price good men [and women] pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men [and women]. Mind you, I am not here for sympathy. My song is not for enjoyment, or even for edification, but for salvation. I do not know whether to say I am here to show how gullible we have all been. How could you have allowed opportunists to take over! I mean those pseudo-patriots in our midst. How could we have relied on empty rhetoric since the creation of this land? Do I hear you saying by fraud? I am here to remind you that your vote is your valuable weapon to effect a change that could bring salvation to your land.

Late Alhaji Wada Nas – remember him? He was Abacha apologist but a great communicator, and in his lifetime predicted the army will rule us for another twenty years. He was implicitly saying your suffering would continue for another twenty years. Your destiny is in your own hands… Our destiny is in our own hands. On my own part, I am not so naive as to engage in self-deceit, thinking people like me would last long where there have been many unsolved assassinations. My people, I am prepared. I am prepared if my death will cure the disease in this land. For me, this is not a sacrifice. A word is enough not only for the wise. God Bless you all.

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