“Bird’s got something to teach us all; About being free, yeah; Be no rain… Be no rain…” – Gil Scott-Heron, from the lyrics, I Think I’ll Call It Morning
I sporadically declare myself an Opintar yet with constant intent. Many think Opintar is a fun name. Or of vernacular because they cannot google it. Or the vanity of a man who has known serious illness more than once in his adult life. It is none of these. Being an Opintar is an apt description of my lot in life and how I should and do live it. Opinterity is the closest I will ever know of being liberated and of joy, yet it is not a great thing to be due to some ambiguous internal costs. I have joined some organisations and fraternities  that defiantly preach the message of ‘liberation of man and society’ but they are in truth cesspools of anti-liberation by means of polite evil, duplicity, and racketeering. Are such groups different from some families or nations? The un-liberated will rush to say yes, and will not be right. All life is not oppressive or evil but it is certainly constrained and requires many forms of liberation as criteria for survival and flourishing in our post-creation existence.
Being an Opintar in Diaspora of African origin does not seem to have much difference on the sensisibilities as a distinct perception from any other person. Life can be seen differently though, mostly in terms of power and its exercise. The order of organised life is one big hub of power relations, authentic or perverse. Might is what makes things happen in our everyday life whether they are natural or artificial occurrences or causes. It is hard to find things happen without the use or overuse of might. The laws of life, driven by power, are rigged to massage and ground the interests of the mighty mostly, not the weak unlessless there is much power in your ascribed weakness. Only God and those who pretend to be him seem not to complain about matters of power. As rich and powerful as Bernie Ecclestone is, he publicly and proudly admires Adolf Hitler, who probably admired King David, who in turn admired a real or spook God, because all their money and power considered could not free them from ‘the rules of inevitability’. For example, the inescapable institution called death recedes eternally from man’s control despite any attempt at self-arrogation of power. One of the great rarities of life are emperors, kings, prime ministers going to jail but such rarity is more a product of corruption and than the sanctity of rules; you mess around, they bring you down should be justice. Count the exceptions though. The rules of sleep ensure the mighty, like everyone else, have bad breath on waking up and when they encounter erectile dysfunction or frigidity putting a hit on the owner of the other “object” or on an advising doctor is utterly senseless. As the rules do chastise ordinary folks so they do the high and mighty but in different ways and it is usually controls over visibility and scrutiny that relaxes or tightens the consequences for offenders.
‘Might is right’ as a reality has always been an underlying condition of man despite the fictions of society-wide egalitarianism, freedoms and liberties. Jail, Sodom and Gomorrah, the death penalty, torture, oppression, poverty, displacement, exclusion and all the other ‘Hells’ caught here on Earth are all rooted in might at least by contrast. Might has evolved into an exceedingly polite and disconnected way of churning out multitudes of people who will inescapably catch Hell, somehow. The more Hell caught by the majority, the more might for the minority who wield it. Achievement characterised as success is also so rare in life thus it is over-celebrated when attained; the mighty make us celebrate it especially when it is enduring even if it is of no use to most us. We are now even told by the mighty to make a laugh out of our lives while they squeeze away our pennies, freedoms, values, support and even happiness from our reach till Hell visits and inhabits us, Hell is no longer just a landlord. The Opintar laughs without instruction. He or she is like a falcon in the sky who sees as choice allows, not by pre-determind constrictions backed up by threat of violence.
Unfortunately for me, in late 1989 at the African Continental Bank branch within the University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka, I witnessed an unusual encounter. A tall handsome man smartly but casually dressed and possibly in his early 50s stood up from his private conversation with his accompanying friend and employing congenial loudness recited the first four lines of the famous poem, The Second Coming, by WB Yeats made famous to Nigerians by the opening of Chinua Achebe’s also famous novel Things Fall Apart;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
His speech was one borne of a very good education and privileged worldliness; he was probably an academic at the university or the son of one. He did not speak for more than two minutes before he sat down in mischievous silence but managed to say what he might have privately been debating with his friend, “Forget your hopes for Biafra, the eschatology of our people is nigh”. He then said something funny in Igbo language mentioning Achebe [I did not comprehend] to which the over 40 customers and staff in the bank laughed exhaustively. The man neither appeared drunk nor insane and when he left the bank he drove away with his friend not too long after in a cute Mercedes Benz, the disticct jazz song Birdlike by Freddie Hubbard vulgarly blazing from its speakers. Some innthe bank were still laughing and chatting about his joke afterwards.
An hour later that day I found the meaning of “eschatology” and realised my first reading of Things Fall Apart as an early teenager was too literal. A very cerebral buddy of mine, Mohammed Oluwa, was with me at the bank and we spoke about the man’s brief soliloquy in the bank. When we got to Mohammed’s room at the Zik’s Flats, he gave me a copy of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. It was a revealing coincidence; The Fire Next Time was about another kind of second coming – it promised there would never be another deluge that Noah braved, it will be fire instead. The reading of that book inexplicably made my future hope as an African on planet Earth, most perplexing. The anxiety the reading excited in me by so nakedly expressing a truth of my existence either deformed or over-informed something inside of me. I became something new in an instant but with a full long history and identity I could not shed an iota of. I felt like a photon ready to de-excite back to a normal state having experienced extraordinary illumination. I then knew I was living in my own eschatology, my own possible end, my own possible calculated obsolescence with only the second coming to look forward to if it ever would come. That was the day I started calling myself an Opintar, it the first word that can to mind from the air. Was I awakened, reborn, transformed, displaced or deranged? The might by which the second coming for my people and would arrive an be executed was so unfathomable the human brain can run out of memory just attempting to contemplate it.
An Opintar is “a person having discovered his words and actions would never change the underlying conditions of life, endeavours to do deeds because his survival and that of others [society] depend on them”. If it is self-flattery or egotism it is not Opinterity. If it trying to create your own sea route within the evident currents of life or you own personal reality of life, it is Opinterity. The Opintar choses when possible which is steeped in non-linear and unexpected decision- making for life is certainly conditioned and unfree, and far more mean than magnanimous. Being law-abiding or rule-following is not a challenge as long as they demand morally consistent compliance. Those who play mental games with morality either have nothing to lose or can no longer find their identities.
Achebe’s major focus in print was the plight of the African in a European-dominated world, especially “at home”. I got infected with his endless worries and never found an antidote like himself, I had no incentive to put up a resistance to his views. When it comes to the condition of my people [through Achebe’s eyes, Baldwin’s lens, and my naive astonishment] the dizzying heights of achievement and honour attained by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr are in un-hyped and un-glossed terms spectacular failures; sublime condoms that could not prevent the pregnancies of backwardness and the divine soaps that could not wash away the stigma of being behind. By the time you get to the likes of many other greats among my people, it is either pantomime or additions to the worsening of my condition just to make their daily bread. Caged birds with beautiful feathers. My people truly worthy of greatness were always easily forgotten within the global cultural heritage. Those who can compete are disqualified, those who cannot are allowed merited “retirement honours”.
“Might is right” among my people seems only to be useful to an African dictator and his billionaire clients. “Might is right” shows nowhere else significantly among the Brethren unless in petty fights of strife with massive consequences and brittle pride. Might is never applied to the possibility of the Second Coming. Is that not one key thing Might should be about? Forgive the temerity of the question. With other Brethren “Might” is pervasive and unmissable, the lodestar that ushers in the spectacular leaps and descents of great societies. The lack of might has left my societies endlessly flat on a hard ground without the hope of a hop.
Our greats are always slighted as “Uncles” and never venerated as “Fathers” except in their tiny political patches or by their consanguineous kin but they will tell you there is ‘nothing in a mere name’. Ironically, they love their prizes and honours though, of which many are reduced to their literal equivalents – no more, yes, no more. Our greats do not have small brains, but many have tiny testicles, fortitude-wise; it is the result of an evolved habit of safety and an invariable happiness to please. Experience a bullet wound or the prison cell, and that also becomes the equivalence of their greatness. I wonder how many of our Brethren are in jail endlessly and unjustly or have died of an innocently of a bullet, but the mighty always tells us what and who to celebrate or value. It is a resounding disgrace that the most honest spokespeople for my people and the despair of his Second Coming’s realities are advocates other than my people. I share in that disgrace but as an ordinary human being it is not too bad for me; does anyone know my name?
The Opintar is a reluctant leader, one willing to pay whatever price in the role. Sincere daring in search for the truth and the right is a conjugate of hard life and death. The dogged aspiration of unpretentiousness for the Opintar makes the vocation of leadership outside his inclininations even if he is abundantly endowed with the capability and competence. However, good leadership as it translates into good governance diminishes the fear of mortality in man, this is another aspect of Opinterity. Bad leaders exist for one purpose, the incessant recreation and reminder of our undeniable mortality; they proliferate insecurity and uncertainty. Max Weber did warn of rationalised governance by rationalising leaders that would create a “the polar night of icy darkness” [the Iron Cage] for individuals with echoes of severity from every holy scripture. Neoliberalism salutes you.
The second coming is imminent but distant; we see it coming but we don’t know what it is. No preparations. Snakes and Ladders, slippery slope, shot in the dark? Every good deed pushes it further away and every bad one brings it closer. Sometimes it seems good deeds can only proliferate and at other times the bad are in unobstructed ascendance; sequences of events are always subjected to shockingly unexpected persistence and unexpected brevity. The contradictions of eschatology usually make a fool out of the wisest people. In these neoliberal years of ours, it does look like a second coming will straighten the whole of life’s situation out; I am not waiting. I hope no such hope, not in the second coming, not in the fire next time (well, after the Deluge), not after the election of bought-out political liars into office, not after some billionaire “bequeaths” the world with his fortune in acts of cynical charity, not in the Scriptures made into putty on the lips of false clerics, not in an era where debt is the monolinear focus of the economy, not in anything but myself even if I often doubt that too.
It has been long fashionable to talk of ‘inseparable dualities’; most tend toward the omnipresence of necessary evils, necessary only to accompany their preferred and sometimes unwholesome goods. It explains everything and nothing; it is just the paralogics of those who are devoid of pain and emergency at the moment. Some even muse about Yin and Yang, and many religious and moral philosophies of the Near to the Far East. Po’un! How about the guy who swore by the second coming and Khalil Gibran when he was endlessly poor but later swore by his might when he became rich then swore by Christ when good fortune dumped him? Might is all, it may seem, there is to seek but my Brethren often attain only pittances of it and its most insecure forms.
My Brethren look for a grand solution to their everyday problems and in every way but it is always many steps ahead of them, ever-energetic ever-distant. It is grand outcones that matter not grand inputs. Debt and borrowing are the symptoms of a society grandiose aspirations but lacks the fundamental capacities to produce grandiose outcomes with any serious form of reliability or will. Are there there no small, efficient, effective and reliable solutions that add up? Development is the cross of my Brethren, in thought or practice; it is a reality for them just as good as a second coming. No, my Brethren are you serious about anything? For every good deed leaders and citizens do in society it surely brings Development closer but it is the paradoxically opposite case with regards to the second coming. Do my Brethren want development or the second coming? My leaders want both; they want a glass of boiling water filled with ice. Therefore, my leaders and my Brethren should stick to the second coming, waiting is easier than enlightened work. Enlightened effort when successful manifests as might. The pheonix does not want to die but death does not exterminate it, thus survival remains. It becomes a dubious reality to “wait” on something that does not have a timetable or season, when my leaders and Brethren are the most “impatient” human beings on the planet; the “quickie civilisation” can never touch a civilisation based on doggedly sustained action.
Claude Ake did famously proclaim that my Brethren’s post-colonial ways were rigged not to succeed as a ‘developed people’ within a ‘developed society’. Was Ake expecting these people to be phoenixes who will re-rig their ways for the better after their end? As for Development, the bye-word should be “FORGET IT!” To negotiate and control development under your own terms there has to be a preponderance of might, but the Opintar has to continue working like many others, for the very sake of it. The bottom of Maslow’s Triangle awaits you, even for the mighty in our realm.
The Opintar is unspecial and as confused as everyone else; only work gives him or her direction and purpose but only barely. Toiling in the mud is cool in a transient changeable world where corruption is the dominant mode of social organisation and we know it. The Opintar is always trying to step in and out of time and consistently succeeds for infinitesimally small periods of time. Seconds become magical but fifty-nine seconds scatters over the passing of an entire day; this is a harsh reality. Do others get one second in a day? Some call it the ‘present moment’ which reminds me of the futility of neoliberal life foisted upon us with the sole fundament of “Achilles and the Tortoise”, a never-ending cost-ridden catch-up game people have to play and perpetually leaves them behind; the ascedancy of compound interest. Oh Dear!
A charming lady once told me my Opintar talk was rubbish. I then explained it to her very sexually and then financially and most convincingly, esoterically. “The Opintar lives in sequences of Fibonacci Numbers where and when he or she can”, I told her. She was captivated and convinced but I declined spending the night at her’s. People always want more of a good thing; it will not happen so casually ever again. The Fibonacci Numbered secrets of the Opintar remain secret except to the initiated. To be an Opintar is an esoteric thing rooted in human action, sincere observation and the full exposure of the soul. The spirit is here and takes care of space. I fly like a bird by Fibonacci Numbers and by Fibonacci Numbers I taste the real potentiality of freedom, virtuousness and safety.
I believe in my shared consanguinity with my ancestors most seriously because they allow me to drink by tradition [temperance was never their forte and drinking is an incantation-laden affair]; I am merry and live confidently every day in their honour and memory. If they did not “do it” I would not be here, yet I only do it recreationally hoping to land on ‘13 Black’, my transmission code number; for most people, it is such good odds – it is heads or tails. “In God We Trust?” I only believe in God because of whiskey, “the water of God”, (I was named after a Scotsman and grew up in a Liberal-party supporting house) and the holiest libation cum tipple known to man is Talisker. Take a three shots of Talisker in chosen surroundings, close your eyes and with a restful mind and tell me if you do not see God! I must not be misquoted, I never said God could be found in a bottle of stills, just entheogenic encourgement to a willing heart. Heineken “the drink that spits” too sanctifies. Even if you do not praise the Lord have these drinks. Toto water must never be wasted for in it we are conceived and from it we are born. Forget the graphics of our creation, it is binary by nature, the oscillatory entry of one into zero is sufficient description. The day the binary matrix of the underlying condition of the Opintar is uncovered and I bear witness to full freedom, I shall shout “Land Ahoy! Let the Whiskey Flow men! Hallelujah!” till I lose my voice. There is nothing wrong in making my ancestors happy.
The second coming is not going to do it for me! I have been walloped and crippled by a nefarious mafia of illnesses; thrash-canned by ever-desirable women and unsure about a second chance; immiserated of my million pounds and more; made at best a mere convenience for friends; fattened by medical prescriptions; squandered my promising youth; will the second coming do anything for me? My good looks have faded, my strong legs “caned”, my body second-handed, my good background broken, my keen learning irrelevant, my skills nearing expiry, my good intentions rendered unnecessary, my evils branded interesting, my laughter totally misunderstood; do I need a second coming? My personal second comings seem many, mine may be “the eternal second coming”, is that possible? Personal second comings do not count, it’s for everyone simultaneously. Tears?
Why will I not be an Opintar? Am I alone? I cannot be but neither is my soul connected to other Opintars. There are sufficient numbers of Opintars all over but I cannot find them and if I cannot see them they have to be spooky guys. Do I feel spooky?
The second coming may have made me into a spook, no wonder I complain! O Achebe! O Yeats! Why hath thou misled me so? I am yet to find anything wrong with being misled to better things that you expect to drop you from a dangerous height but never do.
A schoolmate of mine who I had not been in contact with for 35 years recently reminded me I had translated into the Urhobo language the first four lin.es of “The Second Coming” when still in secondary school and totally buckled my aspiration towards a tidy life once again. I recited it;
Ojue rarie Ojue rarie je ojiji bie yara
Apipia gbise nyumi re oro se apiapia;
Ekhwakhwa she guogor ukherevie gbise yore;
Ozighi oboba she re’akpor tiena
The Second Coming and my realisation of its possibility have left me enagobasted and I have no hiding place and no corner of respite. I have to be an Opintar whatever comes or goes. Where else will I find freedom and safety? My ancestors have to show me a sign and others after that. Or grant me the freedom of a bird. I remain aware of realities of might. Without obsession I am always conscious of might and it’s eschatology and my very own.