Our Featured Story for Nigeria’s 59th Independence Day: The Free Soul: The Story of a mythical man and his love for his country Nigeria…

“Come here my boy”

The man said. He was a tall man, gruffly and white haired old man. He sat under a large mango tree in a sparse land with a hill close to the tree. The man was addressing a ping wandering boy passing by. The boy taken unawares by the sight of the man turned sharply in surprise.”Come,” the man repeated, “Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.”

He smiled as he repeated the last word and that invited the boy over. Holding the boys hand affectionately the man said,

“My dear boy, climb over to that hill there and tell me what you see.”

The boy did as instructed and came to the man saying,

“I see nothing but sparse land and people going about their business.”

The old man smiled knowingly and said in a croaky voice,

“Tell me what you know about this land.” After a pause the boy replied, “Nothing much, just what everybody else knows.” `Are you sure?” The man Inquired

“Yes, I am,” the boy replied.

“Sit my son, I have something to tell.” Intrigued by whatever the man was going to say, the boy crouched at the feet of the man and listened attentively. The man cleared his throat exaggerating the process and said,

“I have lived for long and yet knowledge about this land never ends. For beginners, I was thought in school that this land is bordered in the North by another nation called Niger, in the Northeast by another nation called Chad, in the East by a larger land called Cameron, in the West by Benin and finally in the south by the ocean that brought the white men, the Atlantic Ocean.” “Hmmm,” the boy murmured in approval and understanding. The man began again,

“I know that this land has more than 250 ethnic groups, cultures and traditions so diverse. Times have changed because now this country has a bicameral system of government, about 700 local government areas, 36 states and even I I geographical zones and 6 geopolitical zones.”

“Okay,” the boy replied trying to assimilate all the fact at a go.

As the man cleared his throat once more and smoked from a pipe he brought out from the breast pocket of his long traditional gown, a woman heading for the market with pretty materials on her back passed by inattentive to those under the tree as she struggled with a child in her hand. Like a bulb suddenly lighted over his head, the old man said,”Ah! Such a woman.” He continued by lamenting to the boy saying, “MY SON, I shall show you that a child’s and his mother, it’s like a nation and its people.” He went further and relayed details about how when a child has cold, it’s like corruption and poverty.

“Is the mucus stuck in the nose of the child as they are in the habits and lives of people? But you know what?” the man said ” the love that the mother nurtures the child with is like the love the people use to fight against corruption and poverty.” The boy then smiled, in silence and understanding. 

At that moment a group of children appeared, dressed in different attires and having different hairstyles. The man’s gaze followed them into the horizon and then he said to the boy “Come closer, I need to tell you about the children who just passed.” He began by relating in almost silent tones the story of those children. He related about how they came from different parts of the land but still played together, set traps for wild animals together and even ate from the same bowl. He then further relayed that the one with a large white wrapper hung across his neck came from a place filled with rich mineral resources that helped the entire land. 

The man continued saying that the cultural diversity of that place filled with the likes of Masqueraders, lesser gods like Amadioha and festivals like New Yam Festival fuelled the child’s love for his land. The man then said to the boy, that the second child dressed in a large buba and sokoto meaning dress and trouser that were colorfully dyed came from a part of the country where the dense tropical hinterland climate encouraged growth of a large variety of crops and special fruits such as hazel nuts and where gods such as Ogun and Osun are treated with severity and this made the child love his land more. 

Finally the man told the boy about the last child that wore a beautiful large agbada that comprised many folds. The old man said the child was one that came from a cattle rearing community that was endowed with crops such as groundnuts and millet and these and more made the child love his land.

The boy then spoke saying, “I wonder how they can be so different and still live together?” 

“The people of this land are strong people, they adapt and survive wherever they are, and they fight and settle and even marry one another no matter what. 

Their love for their country and land binds them together” the man explained. Then he said to the boy, “I am to take my leave now. duty calls” 

“But,” the boy asked, “who are you and what is it you want me to do?” 

The man then replied saying in a laughing manner. “I am a free soul.” 

A gush of wind swept by and when the boy turned, the man had disappeared. 

As the dust settled, written where the man sat were words “I love my country Nigeria” and the boy in them could see the wonderful future that awaited him.

© Aaliyah O. Ibrahim