Essay ~ Towards a United Humanity: A Literary Retrospection (Part II) ~ Paul Liam

Concluding part.

Our meeting at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was dramatic, and the ambience so genuine that an onlooker would think we had known each other all our lives. He clearly disarmed me with his affectionate conviviality of a cultured fellow. I had been trying to text him that I was outside waiting for him when I saw a six footer (not sure about his exact height) hurrying towards me with a wild smile and open arms spread in embrace. Of course, this act of familiarity took me off guard, it was after a long while that I realized it had been his own way of creating a psychological balance between us. He was a smart guy, I figured out independently. Being a student of Counselling Psychology, I understood where he was coming from and his predisposition to friendliness, he was a stranger and I was to be his  guide, so by disarming me at our first meeting, he would have created a cordial ground for our soon to become brotherly relationship. I reckoned this guy must be brilliant and a nerd of some sort, and it turned out to be true. At that instant, the chemistry clicked, something inexplicable happened to me, to us, we connected as though we were brothers reuniting after a long separation. We hugged heartily and walked to the waiting vehicle and soon we were on our way out of the airport and into the city of Abuja. without delay, we began a conversation about politics, culture, literature and the forthcoming presidential elections in Nigeria, and politics in Europe. It would soon become clear from our conversation that politics in Italy and Nigeria share a lot of things in common, such as the elitist corruption and the impoverished state of the masses in a political equation of class clash. Our interaction was so natural that on our very first meeting and in less than an hour we had become just another pair of friends having a conversation in a taxi on the street of Africa's most populous nation's capital city. This guy is cool, I thought to myself.

From touring the city center to getting a Nigerian Mobil SIM card for him, we talked and shared jokes and hinted on the possibility of having a great time together. After spending less than an hour at the MTN office somewhere in the city, we were soon back on the road to Lapai, Niger State.  We talked throughout the journey, excepting of course a few times when we paused to catch our breaths. I introduced him to the initials of Nigerian social and political realities as was aroused by the environment and things he saw. He asked questions on almost everything! And I tried to provided answers to them without betraying my exhaustion at some during the journey. Everything was happening so fast that I had no time to process them and I wondered internally, the source of this connection I couldn't explain. He was as young as myself and full of energy and bravery. I had told him, "you must be really brave to have visited Nigeria at such a time. This is the political season, and a lot of people would be conscious of the political tension." But he was not disturbed about that for one bit. He told me how coming to Nigeria was in fulfillment of his childhood dream, "I came to Nigeria to find a missing part of me," he said, proudly. This too I found strange, how could a missing part of a white man be found in Nigeria, when he has never been to Nigeria before? I asked myself. Strange as it may seem, he was not afraid of discussing any topic, he was open to all kinds of conversations. Always, he exhibited a calm disposition robed in humility and inquisitiveness. And I admired this aspect of him.

In Lapai, I got to know more about my guest as we settled down into Professor Sule Emmanuel Egya (E.E. Sule)'s flat on the campus. Abraham, Prof. Sule's nephew added flavour to the quality time we eventually shared together, with his gentle, masked brilliance. So, together we formed a bond, with Abraham being the youngest. We talked about a lot of things from the politics of culture, colonialism, religion, immigration, literature, poetry, music, humanism, love, feminism, and through it emphasizing the need for global dialogue as the panacea for bridging the gap that divides the world. We agreed that our humanity, irrespective of race or continent must be strengthened through concrete dialogue. That we are richer together than apart. And in a very strange way, we realized that Michal and I have a lot more in common than the differences of our skin colours. He, like me is an offspring of a humble background, he hustled his way to attain educational and economic independence, judging by his frank confessions. Like me, Michal discovered early in life that the escape from the humble life to which he was born was to develop his intellect and groom himself. And as a measure of securing his future, he worked as a waiter for seventeen years in Italy, saved money to be able to see himself through school. Of course, I wouldn't know this if he didn't tell me this was his story. And like him, I grew up with very little and did odd jobs in order to survive; from being a labourer, to an apprentice cobbler, carpenter, to becoming a professional Tiler. I kept my hopes alive through writing and literature. And so it happened that literature saved me. Yes, it did. And thankful to Literature, I found a friend and brother in whom I could draw strength and hope for tomorrow. And thus, I became cured of my stereotype and dislike for white folks by a single genuine human encounter. And now both our lives are changed forever! Thus, beyond the borders of hate, ignorance, racism, stereotype and media propaganda lies a sea of humanity waiting to be explored with genuine love and dialogue.

I realized that I needed to work on my perception and redirect the course of my life. It also dawned on me growth means engaging all the angles to a story before taking a drastic stand on issues. Not everything or everyone in a flock is bad and our past should not totally control our present or future. There is always room for adjustment!

Paul Liam is a Nigerian poet, writer and literary critic. He guest-contributes to The Arts-Muse Fair