BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON,
There are still
So for the purpose of this admonishment, I did like to refer to them
as the Nigerian musketeers. And if you have watched The Man in the
Iron Mask, a 1998 American action drama film directed, produced, and
written by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual
role as the title character and villain, Jeremy Irons as Aramis,
John Malkovich as Athos, Gerard Depardieu as Porthos, and Gabriel
Byrne as D'Artagnan. You would get my point and drift.
The film centers on the aging four musketeers, Athos, Porthos,
Aramis, and D'Artagnan, during the reign of King Louis XIV and
attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a
plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring
Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by
James Whale, than to the original Dumas book.
Well my Nigerian musketeers were a group of young men that I met a
few kilometers to Keffi the bubbling city that heralds you into
Abuja. The name of the community where this is set is called Sabon
So myself and my companion and friend Ruby drove towards Keffi, when
the now obviously painful and unendurable call of nature bladder had
to be dealt with. It was already late for this kind of trip by
Nigerian standards but we are soldiered on uneventfully so far.
As Ruby dealt with nature, I reflected on the surroundings, the vast
land and greenery, pitch darkness, except for the lights provided by
cars speeding in opposite directions. It made me recall the old
wooden bridge on my grandfather’s ranch; it crossed a large
irrigation canal the size of a good stream, which flowed constantly
with milky water the color of well-creamed coffee. Cottonwoods grew
in the rich loamy soil along the canal, and their huge boughs
covered it in shade all summer long. Even in the dog days of August
it was always cool there, and the waters made the quietest lovely
sounds as they passed under the bridge. It was a magical place for a
boy. Coming in from the fields we would race the last hundred yards,
galloping our tiny legs over the bridge that boomed and echoed under
with a marvelous deep orchestra like sound. Swallows would shoot out
from under either side, spinning away up and down the canal. As far
as I was concerned, in my seven-year-old heart, that bridge had
always been there and always would be.
Unless everything in a man’s memory of childhood is misleading,
there is a time somewhere between the ages of five and twelve that
corresponds to the phase Ethologists have isolated in the
development of birds, when an impression lasting only a few seconds
may be imprinted on the young bird for life… I still sometimes
dream, occasionally in the most intense and brilliant shades of
green, of a jungly dead bend of the Plateau we grew up in. Each time
I am haunted, on awakening, by a sense of meanings just withheld,
and by a profound nostalgic melancholy.
Yet why should this dead loop of road, known only for a few minutes,
be so charged with potency in my unconscious?
Ruby was done and she interrupted my thoughts, I equally decided to
do as she had done to nature.
I now understand, with the benefits of events later, that the bridge
under the cottonwoods was filled with “a sense of meanings” and
“charged with potency” because the promise was coming to me through
that place. And oh, how I would love to see it again, take my own
grandchildren there; then sit quietly and dangle our bare feet over
the edge, watching the swallows come and go. Perhaps I will, at the
restoration of all things. For nothing is lost, my dear friends;
nothing is lost.
Our car refused to move, it simply packed up, whatever it was,
nature and in this case mechanical nature had been tempered with. I
am sure I saw the problem almost immediately but there was nothing
one could do.
Then the first Musketeer appeared after we had waved at several on
coming cars and none would help, not even stop. There are no good
Nigerians anymore, gone are the days when a driver would stop no
matter how late, help you with his tools, aid you with a repair, or
help secure your car and then give you a lift to safety.
But the first musketeer was a rule to the exception, he helped us,
we pushed the heavy metal and iron called a car all together, and a
second join us, soon a third and finally after some thirty minutes
with four able and young Nigerians we had arrived the little
settlement of Sabon Gida.
They helped joyfully, they chatted away in their indigenous dialect
and we interacted generally in Hausa. Somehow our differences and
yet understanding of our precarious situation was miniature Nigeria.
We arrived at Sabon Gida and they proceeded to call the mechanic the
community had to offer, Timothy, I recall that was his name, he
came, diagnosed the car, and was sure it was a problem that could be
handled but not until the next day, it was already past 11 by that
The musketeers got about helping us with items, secured the car
locks, took our few bags and went ahead to get us a cab to Abuja.
These dudes were not Biafrans, Arewans or Oduduwans, they had their
ethnic identities but had not lost their humanity. They were not
politicians of the APC or PDP creed and ilk. They weren’t helping to
get anything in return. They could have been robbers; they could
have kidnapped us for ransom (interestingly that area was a hotspot
for bad guys operations).
These musketeers in the scenery showed the real Nigerian spirit of
love for humanity. They displayed humanness. They earned instant
trust, as the following day when we headed back, our car was fixed
and ready to be picked. No stories, they could have easily been the
villain but they turn out heroes.
No bureaucracy, forms were not filled, no federal character, no
catchment area. There exist good honest Nigerians, the musketeers
who won’t take a bribe and won’t give. Their word is their honor and
bond. No promissory notes, they simply offered to help and indeed
Like the drama in NNPC, and the disappearing Paris Funds, nothing
was missing either in the car or our personal effects. The
Musketeers played guard and friend. Till our common humanity as
Nigerians, as a people, as our brothers’ keepers return…we will
continue to be driven by greedy leaders and politicians, selfish
citizens and followers, but if only we can choose to just be a good
Nigerian, just one good Nigerian, the tide may yet change, till
then—Only time would tell