Origins of an Opintar

“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 declare myself to be an Opintar sometimes, yet with constant acceptance. Many think Opintar is a fun name. Or of vernacular because they cannot google it. Or the vanity of a man who has experienced severe illness many times 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 live it. Opinterity is the closest I will ever know of being liberated and of joy, yet it is not a glorious thing to be due to the ambiguous internal costs.

I have joined two organisations and fraternities [1] that preach the message of ‘liberation of man and society’ to adherents, but they are cesspools of anti-liberation through polite evil, duplicity and racketeering. Are such groups different from oppressive families or nations that plague the world? The unliberated will rush to say yes, and they will not be right. All life is not oppressive or evil, but it is under the grip of immanent conditions. Life requires many forms of liberation as a necessity for survival and flourishing in our post-creation existence.
Being an Opintar in Diaspora of African origin does not seem to have any difference on the sensibilities as a distinct perception from any other person. Life can play out 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 makes things happen in our everyday life whether they are natural or artificial occurrences. Culture is the elusive but irrepressible complement to Might that is so hard to identify and capture in daily thought. It is hard to find an occurrence without the use or overuse of Might. The laws of life, driven by power, assert themselves to massage and ground the interests of the Mighty, mostly. Not so for the weak, unless there is much power in their ascribed weakness. Only God and those who pretend to be him seem not to complain about matters of authority.
As rich and powerful as Bernie Ecclestone is, he publicly and proudly admires Adolf Hitler, who probably 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 eternally from man’s control despite any attempt at self-arrogation of power to stop it. One of the great rarities of life are emperors, kings, prime ministers going to jail but such rarity is more a product of corruption than the sanctity of rules; you mess around, they bring you down, should be justice. You can count the exceptions, though. The laws of sleep ensure the Mighty, like everyone else, have bad breath on waking up. When they encounter erectile dysfunction or frigidity putting a hit on the owner of the other “object” or an advising doctor is utterly senseless. As the rules chastise ordinary folks, so they do the high and Mighty but in different ways, and it is usually averse to visibility and scrutiny that relaxes or tightens the consequences for offenders.
‘Might is right’ as reality has always been an underlying condition of man despite the 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 are all rooted in Might at least. Might most unusually has grown 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 the enduring kind, even if it is of no use to most of 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 or an employer. The Opintar laughs without instruction. He or she is like a falcon in the sky who sees choice as freedom, not by pre-determined constrictions backed up by the threat of violence.
Unfortunately for me, in late 1989 at the African Continental Bank branch within the University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka, I came upon 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. Using congenial loudness, he recited the first four lines of the famous poem, The Second Coming, by WB Yeats. The poem was famous to Nigerians through the opening of Chinua Achebe’s also renowned 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 speech bore signs of outstanding education and privileged worldliness; he was probably an academic at the university or the son of one. He did not speak for over two minutes before he sat down in mischievous silence. What he said openly 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 forty 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. From his Mercedes Benz, the distinct jazz song Birdlike by Freddie Hubbard vulgarly blazing. Some customers in the bank were still laughing and chatting about his joke afterwards.
An hour later that day, I found the definition 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. 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 – I promise there it will never be another deluge such as 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 essay that so nakedly expressing the truth of my existence either deformed or over-informed something inside of me. I became something new in an instant, but with a full-length history and identity, an iota I could not shed. 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 eschatology, my end, my eventual calculated obsolescence with only the second coming to look forward to if it ever would happen. That was the day I started calling myself an Opintar. Opintar is the first word that came to mind, intuitively. Was I awakened, reborn, transformed, displaced or deranged? The Might by which the second coming for my people would arrive and manifest itself will be so unfathomable. The human brain could 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 is trying to create your own sea route within the uncertain currents of life or your own personal reality of life, it is Opinterity. The Opintar chooses when possible, as options float in non-linear and unexpected decision-making, for life is subject to unrelenting conditions and unfree, and far more merciless than magnanimous. To be 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 primary focus in print 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 put up a resistance to 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 in unhyped and unglossed 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 pantomime. Or additions to the worsening of my condition to earn their daily bread—caged birds with beautiful feathers. I and everyone else always forget my people who were genuinely worthy of greatness within the global cultural heritage. They disqualify those who can compete, those who cannot are wards of merited “retirement honours”.
That “Might is right”, among my people, is only useful to an African dictator and his wealthy 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 alien to the possibility of the Second Coming. Is that not one essential thing which, Might should find meaning? 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 our nations flat on hard ground without the hope of a hop. Mightlessness is a most undesirable endowment.
From another perspective, 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 will tell you there is ‘nothing in a name’. Ironically, they love their prizes and honours 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 invariable happiness to please. Experience a bullet wound or the prison cell, and that also becomes the equivalence of their greatness. How many of our Brethren are in jail endlessly and unjustly or have died innocently after being shot. But the Mighty always tells us what and who to celebrate, to value. It is a resounding disgrace that the most honest spokespersons 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 often a conjugate of hard life and death. The dogged aspiration of unpretentiousness for the Opintar makes the vocation of leadership outside his inclinations. It is such even if he embodies abundant endowments with capability and competence. But, good leadership as it translates into good governance diminishes the fear of mortality in man; this is another facet of Opinterity. Terrible leaders exist for one purpose, the incessant recreation and reminder of our undeniable expiry; they proliferate insecurity and uncertainty. Max Weber warned of rationalised governance by rationalising leaders that would create 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 can feel it coming, but we don’t know what. No preparations ready. Snakes and Ladders, slippery slope, shot in the dark? Every good deed pushes it further away, and every bad one brings it closer. Sometimes good deeds can only proliferate and at other times the bad is in unobstructed ascendance; they always subject sequences of events to 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 of ours, it looks 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 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; it is just the paralogisms of those who are devoid of pain and emergency at the moment. Some even muse about Yin and Yang, and many religious/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 forever needy but later swore by his might when he became rich? Then he swore by Christ when wonderful fortune dumped him? Might is all, it may seem, it is all most 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 always many steps ahead of them, ever-energetic, ever-distant. It is the splendid outcomes that matter, not grand inputs. Debt and borrowing are the symptoms of a society with grandiose aspirations but lacks the fundamental capacities to produce grandiose results with any serious form of reliability or will. Are 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 brings Development closer, but it is the paradoxically opposite case of 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. 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, 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 calculable season. My leaders and Brethren are the most “impatient” human beings on the planet; the “quickie civilisation” can never touch a civilisation based on sustained action and a long wait for the harvest.
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 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 terms, there has to be a preponderance of Might. 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 just. 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 succeeds for infinitesimally small periods. 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”. It is a never-ending cost-ridden catch-up game people have to play and leaves them behind; it is the ascendancy of compound interest. Oh, dear!
A charming lady once told me my Opintar talk was rubbish. I then explained it to her in sexual terms and then financially and esoterically. “The Opintar lives in sequences of Fibonacci Numbers where and when he or she can”, I told her. Captivation caught and convinced her, but I declined to spend the night at her’s. People always want more of a pleasurable thing; it will not happen so casually ever again. The Fibonacci Numbered secrets of the Opintar remain secret except to those who did the “initiation.” To be an Opintar is an esoteric thing 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 as a bird by Fibonacci Numbers and by Fibonacci Numbers, I taste the real potentiality of freedom, virtuousness and safety. Culture leaves it alone.
I believe in my shared consanguinity with my ancestors 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 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”, (they named me after a Scotsman and grew up in a Liberal-party supporting house). And the holiest libation cum tipple known to man is Talisker. Take three shots of Talisker in chosen surroundings, close your eyes and with a calm mind and tell me if you do not see God! Do not misunderstand me; I never said I could find God in a bottle of stills, just entheogenic encouragement 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 go to waste, for in it our conception happens, and from it, we are born. Forget the graphics of our creation, and it is binary by nature, the oscillatory entry of one into zero is enough description. The day the binary matrix of the underlying condition of the Opintar experiences exposure, 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 with making our ancestors happy; I never cared for their culture, just their bloodline and memory.
The second coming will not do it for me! I have had walloping and crippled by a nefarious mafia of illnesses; thrash-canned by ever-desirable women and unsure of a second chance; immiseration of my million pounds and more; made a mere convenience for friends; fattened by medical prescriptions; squandered my promising youth; will the second coming do anything for me? My pleasant looks have faded, my muscular legs “caned”, my body second-handed, my good background broken, my keen learning irrelevant, my skills nearing expiry. My good intentions rendered unnecessary, my evil branded interesting, my laughter 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. 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 enough numbers of Opintars all over, but I cannot find them, and if I cannot see them, they have to be spooky guys and girls. 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 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 reminded me I had translated into the Urhobo language the first four lines of “The Second Coming” when still in secondary school and 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 stay aware of the realities of might. Without obsession, I am always conscious of might, and it’s eschatology and my very own.
Grimot Nane

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