“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 proclaim myself an Opintar sometimes, yet with constant agreement. Many think Opintar is a fun name. Or of vernacular because they cannot google it. Or the vanity of one gnawed by rough illness many times. It is none of these. Opintar describes my lot in life and my compass. Opinterity is the closest I know to being emancipated and joyous. Yet it is not remarkable because of the uncertain internal costs.
I joined two organisations and fraternities that exhort messages of ‘liberation’ of man and society’. What a joke! They are autocratic cesspools, baiting members through polite evil, chicanery, and racketeering. Are such groups different from the oppressive families or nations plaguing our world? Unwitting outsiders baited by pretences of merit rush to say yes, but they’re wrong. Where you live and what you belong to counts. Life isn’t always oppressive or evil. Oasis of liberty and decency exist here and there. Semblances of freedom are what we pursue to thrive, but its germ rests within us.
Being an Opintar in Diaspora of African origin does not affect distinct impressions of other persons. Life plays out personally for people, though, by power and its exercise. The order of organised life is one big hub of power relations, authentic or perverse, necessary, or vain. Might makes things happen in our everyday life, whether they are natural or artificial. All occurrences happen with the use, underuse, or overuse of might. Culture is the amorphous labyrinth but irrepressible complement to might. The laws of life, driven by power, assert themselves to massage and ground the interests of the Mighty. Not the weak, unless latent power hides in their ascribed weakness. Only God and his human imitators do not complain about matters of power.
As rich and powerful as Bernie Ecclestone is, he make public and with proud admiration for Adolf Hitler, who must have admired King David, who praised 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 forever from man’s control despite any try at self-arrogating the power to stop it. A great rarity is emperors, kings, presidents, or Prime Ministers thrown in jail. The sanctity of laws are at stake. Mess around, they bring you down, should be justice many wish. You can count the exceptions, though.
The laws of sleep make sure the Mighty, like everyone else, wakes up with bad breath. When the Mighty experience erectile dysfunction or frigidity, punishing the partner or an advising doctor is utter stupidity. Seek treatment or perversion. As the rules chastise ordinary folks, so they do the High and Mighty, but in different ways. Punishments averse to visibility and scrutiny relax or tighten consequences for offenders. We only see what they allow. When the High and Mighty fall, all within the reach of their capture witness liberation or even flourishing.
The reality of ‘Might is right’ underlies humankind’s condition despite fictions of free societies. Jail, Sodom and Gomorrah, the death penalty, torture, oppression, poverty, displacement, exclusion and all the other Hells caught here on Earth emanate from Might. Dominions of might grow by manipulation and disconnectedness. Such is necessary to churn out multitudes who will catch Hell, without fail. The more Hell caught by the majority, the firmer the grip of the few. Winning success is so rare in life; thus, over-celebrated when attained. The Mighty make us celebrate it, even when of no use to us. The Mighty instructus us to make a laugh out of our lives while they squeeze away our pennies, freedoms, values, support and even happiness from our private spheres till Hell visits and swallows us. Hell is a landlord and employer, but also a preventable adversity.
In late 1989 at the African Continental Bank branch within the University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka, I came upon an unusual experience. A tall, handsome man, in fashionable casual clothes, in his early 50s, stood up from his private conversation with his mate. Using congenial loudness, he recited the initial four lines of the great poem, The Second Coming, by WB Yeats. They distinguish the poem in the folklore of Nigeria. It opens Chinua Achebe’s famed 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 loose upon the world.
His expression bore the signs of a distinguished education and privileged background. Maybe he was an academic faculty at the university. He spoke for two minutes before he sat down in mischievous silence. What he exclaimed in conclusion, he might have been disputing with his companion, “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 forty customers and staff in the bank laughed to exhaustion. The man neither appeared drunk nor irrational. He left the bank not too long after, he drove away with his companion. From his Mercedes Benz, the distinct jazz song Birdlike by Freddie Hubbard blazing. Excited customers in the bank were still laughing and chatting about his joke afterwards.
An hour thereafter, I found eschatology’s definition and realised my initial reading of Things Fall Apart in early teenage was too literal. A very intelligent friend of mine, Mohammed Oluwa, was with me at the bank and we discussed the man’s brief soliloquy. 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 is a commentary on an alternative Second Coming. It promises no more Deluges after the one Noah braced. It will be fire that comes instead. Reading that book had an inexplicable effect on me. It made my future hope as an African on planet Earth most perplexing. The essay that so brutal with the truth of my existence either deformed or over-informed something inside of me. I became something new in an instant. But my history and identity, an iota I could not shed. I mimicked a photon ready to de-excite back to a normal state, having experienced extraordinary illumination. I then knew I was living in my eschatology, my end, my eventual calculated obsolescence with only the Second Coming to look forward to if ever it happens. That was the day I started calling myself an Opintar. Opintar is the first word that came into my mind via intuition; I waited for another that never came. Was I awakened, reborn, transformed, displaced, or deranged? The Second Coming for my people is beyond imagination. The human brain could run out of memory just attempting to contemplate it.
An Opintar: “a person who understands his words and actions can never change the underlying conditions of life. He or she and endeavours to work and think for his and society’s survival, anyway.” The Opintar begins by creating certainty where none exists. Besides life-cycles, absolute certainty is rare in human life. Why are people desperate for certainty? The Opintar understands his mistakes and errors and those of others through reactions to certainty and its absence. He learns from them with keenness. Uncertainty often means unpreparedness, but through experience and intuition, he finds the right responses or best reactions.
The Opintar abhors self-absorption, life includes others and an environment. ‘Live and let live’, is her creed and mission statement. Creating her own pathway within the uncertain currents of life and seeking truth is the Opintar’s challenge. The Opintar ensures she chooses, when possible, as options float in tricky streams, as unexpected choices that tease her. Few arts are more excellent than mastering choice under uncertainty. Leaving things to chance alone is frivolous. Her caution; life is subject to tough conditions and unfree, and far more merciless than magnanimous.
Opintars laugh without instruction. He or she mimics a falcon flying high who sees choice as freedom, not endure chains enforced by the threat of violence. Being law-abiding or rule-following is more than a demand of consistent moral compliance, the Opintar agrees. Those who play mental games with morality either have nothing to lose or can no longer find their identities. Money and might are the most ubiquitous replacement-identities on the planet. The next hundred years are not enough.
Achebe’s primary focus was the plight of the African in a European-dominated world, “at home”. I tuned into his endless worries and never found an antidote like himself. I could not resist his views. For the condition of my people [through Achebe’s eyes, Baldwin’s lens, and my naïve astonishment] I made a few conclusions. The dizzying heights of achievement and honour attained by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr are without hype or gloss representative failures. Sublime condoms that never prevented the pregnancies of backwardness and the divine soaps unable to wash away the stigma of impotence. By the time you get to other greats among my people, it becomes pantomime. Why degrade or neglect my people for fame and daily bread. Puppets with pretty feathers. I and everyone else always forget my people worthy of greatness within the global cultural heritage. Disqualified are the viable competitors, those unfit are wards of “retirement honours”.
That “Might is right”, among my people, is useful to African dictators and their wealthy clients. “Might is right” shows nowhere else among the Brethren unless in petty strife of brittle pride with massive consequences. Attaining Might may be a possibility of the Second Coming. A new meaning for might one may dare? Forgive the temerity of the question. With other Brethren, might is pervasive and unmissable, ushering in spectacular leaps and descents in powerful societies. Might’s absence leaves our nations flat on hard ground without the hope of a hop.
Our greats get used to being dismissed as “Uncles” and never venerated as “Fathers”, except in their tiny political patches or by their consanguineous kin. These Uncles claim, ‘nothing in a name’. The irony, they love their prizes, honours, and tiles though, of which many become their literal equivalents–no more, yes, no more. The man and his prize are one. Our greats do not have small brains, but many have tiny testicles, fortitude-wise; it results from a habit of seeking “safety” and an invariable obsequious search for happiness in appeasement. The experience of a bullet wound or the prison cell also becomes the equivalence of their greatness. How many of our Brethren endure endless and unjust incarcerations or have died in innocence of a bullet? The Mighty dictate us what and who we celebrate and value. The sincerest spokespersons for my people and the despair of their Second Coming are not brethren. What a resounding disgrace. I share in that disgrace, but it harms me small. Does anyone know my name?
The Opintar is a reluctant leader, one willing to pay whatever price the role demands. He knows sincere searches for truth and means often end in a hard life or fatality. The Opintar’s dogged aspiration for simplicity makes the vocation of leadership stand outside his interest. Even if he embodies abundant endowments, ability, and competence. Good leadership, translated into good governance, diminishes the fear of mortality in man. Terrible leaders exist for one purpose, the incessant recreation and reminder of our undeniable expiry; they proliferate insecurity and uncertainty. Max Weber warned of rational governance by leaders that will create the “polar night of icy darkness” in the Iron Cage for individuals. Neoliberalism salutes you.
The Second Coming is imminent but distant; we can sense it coming, but we don’t know what. No preparations ready. Snakes and Ladders, slippery slope, wild guess? Every good deed pushes it further away, and every wrong one brings it closer. Good deeds only proliferate sometimes, or the opposite happens to others in unobstructed force; they always unleash a shocking mix of unexpected persistence and unusual brevity. The contradictions within eschatology make a fool out of the wisest people. In these neoliberal years, a Second Coming may straighten of life out. I am not waiting. I hope no such hope, not in the Second Coming. Not in the Fire Next Time. Never after elections of bought-out political liars into office, not after that billionaire “bequeaths” the world bits of his fortune in acts of cynical charity. Not in the Scriptures, putty on the lips of false clerics. Never not in an era of a debt-driven economy. Not in anything but myself, I often doubt that.
It has been long fashionable to discuss ‘inseparable dualities.’ Most tend toward the omnipresence of necessary evils, only to go with their preferred and sometimes unwholesome goods. It explains everything and nothing. The lies of people without pain and burden persuade others lacking much with promises. Does Yin and Yang interest you, or moral philosophies of the East? I know a guy who swore by the Second Coming and Khalil Gibran when he was forever needy but later swore by his might when he became rich? Then he swore by Christ when his wonderful fortune dumped him? Having Might is supreme, by our desires may, most are seeking. But my Brethren often earn only pittances of it and its most insecure forms.
My Brethren seek grand solutions to their many everyday problems, in every way. But solution ever eludes them energy and distance. Splendid outcomes attract our leaders, not the grand inputs leaders need to make. Begging bowl politics is politics with bitterness. Debt and borrowing are the symptoms of government with grandiose aspirations but no fundamental capacities to realise them in any meaningful way. Inputs are the seeds of growth. How simple. Are there no small, efficient, effective, and reliable solutions leaders can adopt? Development is the cross of my Brethren, in thought and practice; it’s their reality, like the Second Coming. Look here, my Brethren, are you serious about anything? For every good deed leader and citizen do in society, it brings development closer. Who is doing the society good?
Do my Brethren want Development or the Second Coming? I ask this question every day. My leaders want both; they want a glass of boiling water filled with ice. So, 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 phoenix eschews expiry and death does not exterminate it; thus, survival remains. Our reality is to “wait” on something without a timetable or calculable season, the Second Coming. My leaders and Brethren are the most “impatient” human beings on the planet; their aspirations of a “quickie civilisation” can never touch a civilisation based on sustained consistent action and a long wait for the harvest. My leaders, Hell creators, are yet to fall; their followers don’t want to, nor know how. Thus, my people will not flourish by any means. Waiting in despair for the Second Coming. Multitudes want rapture, or end times, or miracles, or even messiahs. ‘Waiting on’ mystery is not an answer, but unity. Such realisation is the gravest tragedy the Opintar knows.
Claude Ake proclaimed that my Brethren’s post-colonial ways are impediments to stop them succeed as a ‘developed people’ within a ‘developed society’. Was Ake expecting these people to become 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 terms, you need Might. The Opintar continues working as others do. We must keep working. Look, the bottom of Maslow’s Triangle awaits you all, even the Mighty in our realm.
The Opintar is not special and as confused as everyone else; only work gives him or her direction and purpose, but only just. Toiling in the mud is okay in our transient, changeable world. Corruption dominates social organisation. The Opintar negotiates time and succeeds for nanoseconds. Seconds become magical, but fifty-nine seconds scatters passes over an entire day; this is a harsh reality. Who gets one second of their own? Many 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”. It is a never-ending cost-ridden catch-up game people must play and lose; it is the ascendancy of compound interest. Oh, dear!
A sophisticated lady once told me my Opintar talk was rubbish. I then explained it to her in sexual terms, then in financial and esoteric nutshells. “The Opintar lives in sequences of Fibonacci Numbers, where and when possible. It guarantees lucidity in thought and banishes illusion”, I told her. Captivated and convinced, I declined to spend the night at hers. People ask more of pleasurable things. It will never be that casual again. The Fibonacci Numbered secrets of the Opintar stay secret except to initiates. Opinterity is part-esoteric, rooted in practical human action, actual 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. I taste the real potentiality of freedom, virtuousness, and safety in those digits. Culture leaves me alone, for my perceptions are no longer embroiled in it. Opinterity begins as hard-to-get habit.
I believe in my shared consanguinity with my ancestors. The forbears allow me to drink by tradition. Temperance was never their forte and drinking was an incantation-laden affair. I am merry and live every day in their honour and memory. If they didn’t “do it”, no me. I drink for light recreation, hoping I land on ‘47 Black’, my lucky number; irresistible odds for countless people, better than heads or tails. “In God We Trust?” I only believe in God because of whiskey, “the Water of God”, (my parents named me after a Scotsman and I grew up in a household with a Liberal-party bent). And the holiest libation cum tipple known to man is Talisker. Take three shots of Talisker 10 years aged in a well-chosen environment. Close your eyes, calm your mind and drink; tell me if you do not see God! Do not misunderstand me. I never said I find God in a bottle of stills, just entheogenic or ancestral encouragement to a willing heart. Heineken, “the drink that spits” too, sanctifies. Even if you don’t praise the Lord, have these drinks.
Toto water must never go to waste, for in it our conception happens, and from it, we are born. Forget the graphics of our creation and its binary nature. The oscillatory entry of one into zero is enough description. The day the binary matrix of the underlying condition of the Opintar exposes its essence, and I bear witness to full freedom and joy, I shall shout “Land Ahoy! Green Fiddlers, let the whiskey flow men! Hallelujah!” till I lose my voice. There is nothing wrong with making our ancestors happy; I never cared much for their culture, just their bloodline and memory. I too shall become an ancestor without mufugbeneity.
Will the Second Coming help me? I have had a walloping by a nefarious mafia of illnesses; thrash-canned by ever-desirable women without a second chance to grasp; suffered immiseration of my million pounds; made a mere convenience for friends; fattened by medical prescriptions; squandered my promising youth; will the Second Coming do me good? My pleasant looks have faded, muscular legs “caned”, body second-handed, good upbringing broken, keen learning irrelevant, skills gained nearing expiry. They have rendered my good intentions unnecessary, evil branded interesting; laughter misunderstood; do I need a Second Coming? My personal Second Coming sounds complex. Mine may be “the Eternal Second Coming”. Does that make sense? A personal Second Coming does not count, though; it’s for everyone on equal terms.
Why will I not be an Opintar? Am I alone? I cannot be, but neither is my soul connected to other Opintars. There are several of Opintars all over, but I cannot find them. if I cannot see them, they must be spooky guys and girls. Do I get spooky? An Opintar does not do diversions. The immanence of the Second Coming may have made me into a spook without… No wonder I complain! O, Achebe! O, Yeats! Why have thou misled me so? I find nothing wrong with being misled into embracing good things expected to destroy me. I’m still here.
A schoolmate of mine who I had not seen or heard from for 35 years reminded me via social media, I had translated the first four lines of “The Second Coming” into the Urhobo language when still in secondary school and buckled my aspiration towards a tidy life once again. I recited it;
Ọjuẹrariẹ ọjuẹrariẹ jẹojiji biẹyara
Apiapia gbesa nyumirẹ ọrose apiapia;
Ehwahwa sheguọghọ ukherevie gbiseyọre;
Ozigiorare shere’akpọr tiẹna
The Second Coming and my realisation of its possibility have left me inert, and I have no hideaway nor a corner of respite. I have to be an Opintar, whatever comes or goes. Where else will I find freedom and safety? My ancestors must show me a sign and others after that. Or grant me the freedom of a bird. Without obsession, I always contend with Might, its eschatology, and my very own. It offers more choices than usual when you discover the inevitable sequences. It enables the Opintar and his vision to endure the unendurable; hope trumps expectation, but in its best form, is an accessible, lucid understanding of people and why they are so. No experience beats awaking to the reality of you and your purpose. Exclaiming Aha! and Oh No! drench your mind. You do not need numbers for that, just self-honesty.