The sooner, the better

the sooner the better

As a kid, I transitioned through a zillion crushes, and the objects of my infatuation were often older and bigger females – don’t ask, I dunno why. In primary four, I did something she didn’t like to my ‘girlfriend’ at the time – don’t ask, I dunno what – so she chased after me, and I ran. As I reached the class door, I tried to execute a ‘drift’ but my momentum was too high and the sole of my sandals too weak to handle the traction. So I slid until I slammed into the wooden doorpost knee-first. Even before I got off the floor, the knee was already as large as a water melon.

After she heard what happened, my mother drove me straight to a traditional bone-setter in a part of town I had never been before. And thus commenced the torture. With every touch, the elderly lady tortured every nerve-ending in my body with heart-wrenching pain. I tried to run away, I plotted many escape plans but Madam WWD – wicked witch doctor – and my mother were always a step ahead. So I modified my plans.

I discovered that the worst pain I felt was to the right of the injured knee, just about the ‘dimple’ area. So every time Madam WWD massaged my knee, I would deftly maneuver my leg so that she was faced with the part that hurt less. Every time her hand strayed to the worst pain area, I clenched my teeth and – painstakingly – kept a straight face, but whenever she stroked an area that didn’t hurt at all, I yelled and screamed curses on her. Gradually, she started to concentrate on the other parts of my knee – all the parts except the part that hurt most. My plan worked!

With time, I learnt to endure the pain while walking, and even the worst pain area started to feel better. I was discharged less than a week afterwards, and the pain eventually disappeared.

Fast forward fourteen years and I had just discovered my passion for running. I was not fast, but I had a lot of stamina and it helped me think, so I jogged three times a week. After doing this consistently for a month, I started to feel pain in my left knee. I thought it was ‘good pain’ which would pass with more vigorous exercise so I continued through the pain.

Soon however it became obvious that there was nothing good about pain, and not long afterwards I found myself lying on my back in the doctor’s consultation room.

“Here?” he poked at my knee.

I shook my head. No.


Still no.

He clamped his right hand over the left and palm open pressed down on my right leg, just above the knee. “Try to raise your leg,” he said.

I tried.

“Any pain?” I shook my head. None.

He applied same pressure on my left leg, and asked me to try lifting it. Immediately, I saw a flash of hot white fire blast across the inside of my eye lids. The pain completely muted me, I could not even yell. My body recoiled and my hands ferociously latched onto his, wildly clawing them off me. After he stepped away, I dropped back, feeling beads of sweat form on my forehead as I struggled for breath.

His verdict was bad news for me. I had to stop jogging, not for a while until it got better, but for life. I told him it wasn’t possible, that there had to be something else that could be done. The physiotherapist said there was, and went ahead to explain to me the merits of other sports namely cycling, swimming and rapid-walking.

I didn’t want to cycle, or swim, and like hell, I was too young for rapid-walking; I wanted to jog, and I tried to explain it to him. But the doctor was adamant. He said they were all the same, all sports.

But it wasn’t just sports for me. For the first time in my active youthful life, I had come to love a sport, really love it. And now, I couldn’t do it again. I left his office pained.

I was speaking with my mother shortly afterwards and I mentioned the doctor’s visit.

“Left leg kwa?” she went, “the same one you broke in primary school?”

Gbagaam!!! Like a bad Nollywood movie, the memories came back to me: of injuring my knee – my LEFT knee – on the class doorpost, of the many sessions with the traditional bone-setter, and of my ‘genius’ plan which I had effectively employed to avoid the worst of the pain. I had gotten away with less pain, but even though I didn’t think of it at the time, I had also gone away with an unhealed knee. And all these years, the injury had stayed hidden, festering, and showing up just in time to truncate my joy.



Thanks to literature, movies and my imagination, I have ‘experienced’ the pains suffered by Igbo people during the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. I have also read several venomous posts and tweets aimed at Igbos on social media. But none of it had ever felt as personal, as demeaning, and as hurtful as reading @kunleafolayan’s Igbo-targeted hate tweets.

I might have taken it a tad personal because of my admiration for the man’s art, but beyond hurt, I am worried. It isn’t just the sheer hatred in the words that worries me, no, what worries me most is the realization that this hatred is not new-found. And this applies to the Oba’s tweets as well. While some see men yielding to the influences of chilled Orijin and piracy-induced frustration, I see prejudice that has lain for so long beneath an exterior of societal decorum. And as I read the ensuing e-warfare between supporters and protesters, I got even more worried.

We all pretend that the hurt of the Civil war passed away with the war itself but surely, recent events have proven otherwise. From the comments, one could infer the following as the summary of the present Nigerian state: while the Igbo man continues to exist in a bitter semi-auto defensive mode – seated with one buttock, as my grandmother might say, the Yoruba man merely tolerates him, the Hausa man wonders why this man has to always make everything about himself, and the Urhobo man waits to see what happens. And this is just when the Igbo man is the centre of discourse; insert the other 249 ethnic groups into that slot one after the other and the permutations will unfold like the Judgment scroll.

Like it or not, ethnic sentiments lie deeply ingrained in every Nigerian, be he/she Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik or Urhobo. While there are a number of reasons for these sentiments, an overwhelming majority stems from the pain of a war which was badly fought and too quickly discarded into the dusty cabinets of history.

The injury of the Civil war lies hidden and festering beneath this façade of ‘Allizzwell’ and like that lingering knee injury, it’ll never go away. We need to first uncover the festering wound so that it can be treated with some stinging disinfectant, and then we can allow time to lay its healing hands and complete the process. But first we must act. And the sooner, the better.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

30 replies added

  1. Chizzy April 12, 2015 Reply

    Wow. I finally agree 150% with you Martin. I was so surprised st the overwhelming hatred Nigeria (if I may say) has for the Igbo’s.

    Sweeping issues under the carpet never helps anyone.
    I have this close friend who has stopped speaking to me because I shared a link of what the Oba said.
    This is not about Igbo, Hausa or even Ijaw.
    It’s Nigeria and for me, the concept of one Nigeria is a facade

    • Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

      And you’re right, m’dear…the concept of one Nigeria as it stands right now? Tsk tsk tsk.
      Thanks for this

  2. anyi April 12, 2015 Reply

    Ethnic sentiments lie deeply ingrained in every Nigerian…. Word. I guess we must start by changing our orientation towards others of different ethnic grp before we expect others to do same. Cos, truth is…. D first statement is so true. we all only wait for who speaks out first so We may ‘stone’ him.

    • Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

      Such self deceit…so sad.
      Thanks Anyi

  3. Walt Shakes April 12, 2015 Reply

    We never talked about the war. We never owned it. We never aired it out to dry. We never adopted it in our history. Instead, we buried it. What we don’t know is that no grave is deep enough to hide such ugliness of the past. And in many ways, that past has crashed, however inelegantly, on our present.
    Odiegwu really.

  4. Walt Shakes April 12, 2015 Reply

    by the way, I love this writeup so much, I have to ask. Can I reblog it sometime? 🙂

  5. Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

    Odiegwu really! Nuff said!
    For reblogging, you know you can, man. It’d be my great pleasure

  6. Tomicity April 12, 2015 Reply

    You know how homebound I can be… You know my brother that I saw the rigging, sorry, voting map of the last presidential elections and mourned:”no such thing as deceitful as the mantra of one Nigeria!”

  7. Favy April 12, 2015 Reply

    Hmm… *scratching-my-eyebrow A very sensitive topic, one that the average Nigerian would rather cover under the sand of ‘civilization’ and busy daily routine…but it is there notwithstanding like you said, waiting to show itself like smoke. Very awkward. I’m wondering though, What happened with the United States of America? How did they grow through… How have they become this strong and well, united; America with 51 states… America with the ‘real’ Americans, the English, the Afro-, the Mexicans (don’t think about the immigrant single story, please). Even the Chinese and Japanese technology has a major seat in today’s American civilization and the recent Indian movies are very often set in India and yes, America. How did America accomplish this? Everyone that lives there now feels very much like a part of it and NO one dares think of splitting. They love it! The sooner Nigeria grows up too, the better for us. We had better realize that WE are Nigeria and that’s best and that’s final.

    • Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

      What happened with the USA?
      “…In the United States, children are taught about the civil war as early as the third grade, the Nigerian equivalent of Primary 3…In an article published by Education news, “(teachers) use props like milk-cartons for boats and blue marbles for cannonballs to illustrate battles…” and field trips are taken to any of the Civil war sites which have all been preserved. In Yale university, History 119 – The Civil war and Reconstruction Era, 1845 – 1877 is a course taught to freshmen twice a week for fifty minutes; it is also made available as an ‘Open Yale course’ on the internet for downloads by whoever is interested…The US government went a step further by taking pains to preserve sites where some of the most eventful battles were fought and today, those sites are unique walk-through museums which also earn the country revenue…”

      I wrote this a while ago; for the rest of the analysis, you may visit here

      In summary, they uncovered the sore of their Civil war, endured the pains of treating it, and let time heal them. You’re so right, Fave…the sooner we grow up, the better for us.

      • Favy April 13, 2015 Reply

        And you are of the opinion that just talking about our civil war will bring about the needed healing and acceptance? Well, maybe that will help. I’m thinking Nigerians need something deeper; maybe a mental surgery using a red-hot knife. *smh Because, I see our celebrities: actors, musicians doing the One Nigeria Enlightenment Campaign. The media play their role even more these days. And between their songs, we hear about a bomb blast, a degrading, embarrasing speech and what-have-you. Well, we must keep hope alive. Maybe our leaders need to uncover the ugly sacks of the civil war causes and wounds, maybe we Nigerians need to talk about it and our media continue to preach One Nigeria, the Giant of Africa (whatever that means and however that is measured), then gradually, it will sink in. It definitely will take some time and I hope it doesn’t become too late. The sooner, the better.

        • Chisom April 13, 2015 Reply

          I am of the opinion that we must start…with words, with songs, with action, whatever. But we must pay attention to the injury of that war lest it consumes us in odious decay. Lol @ mental surgery, you’re definitely more passionate about this than I am…hahaha. As God is our helper, Fave, it will happen. We will listen and we will become better.

    • Chisom April 13, 2015 Reply

      with restricted access…?

      • panafrise April 13, 2015 Reply

        Yep. One has to come to your blog to read the entire post if that’s what you are referring to with your question. I liked the post and wanted an easy way to come back to it in the future.

        • Chisom April 13, 2015 Reply

          Not that. You said you reblogged it, so I tried to visit your blog, but I couldn’t. That’s what I was asking about. I’m glad you liked it, welcome back ANYtime in the future 🙂

          • panafrise April 13, 2015

            Oh, haha. Sorry! The blog is at – and thank you for making me feel so welcome in your corner of the digital world.

          • Chisom April 14, 2015

            Checked it out…you’re doing some great work there, mate. Well done, and you’re very welcome. See you around more

  8. Lotanna April 12, 2015 Reply

    Great Piece Martin…..The thorn of division still pricks us daily & will continue if old wounds remain unhealed. Burying them or masking facts with half-truths would only make the thorn prick deeper. Acceptance & Knowledge of the past is what liberates us, part of the reasons why I am an ardent disciple of history. Healing breeds forgiveness & unity which in turn breeds strength…..we should know & accept our past, or a less formidable future awaits us as a nation.

    • Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

      Healing breeds forgiveness and unity which in turn breeds strength…I couldn’t agree more, Lotanna. Daalu rinne

  9. jany April 12, 2015 Reply

    Smh!! After supporting an aboki! Banza joor! Ur realization Bia late!

    • Chizzy April 12, 2015 Reply

      Babes, nice one. Just decided to ignore that part because he is a sweetheart

      • Chisom April 12, 2015 Reply

        Loool…nekwa gang-up. Unu aghotaro…this does not have any direct links with the elections or my choice of Buhari over our ‘home-boy’ – which I still stand by, by the way. I am talking about the people here, you and I, all of us and the injuries time and ancestors have taught us to hide so well. And I am not talking about doom; I am talking about hope, a great and truly ONE Nigeria which we can have if we pay attention.

  10. akas April 13, 2015 Reply

    Nice piece Martin. I was gonna write one very long comment here but, I’ll keep my thoughts close for now. @ Chizzy, if you hate Martin for supporting ‘ndi aboki’, I wonder what you’ll do to me if you discover I donated to the man’s campaign? lol

    • Chizzy April 13, 2015 Reply

      Akas, I’ll reply you on BBM…….

      • Chisom April 13, 2015 Reply

        Woooooo….Akas baba, your BBM is about to go up in No mind our ladies; for all of our sakes, I hope they will soon see that we were right.

  11. Ruth April 14, 2015 Reply

    Hmmmm thought provoking & soooo true. This one Nigeria thing is turning out to be a huge farce…except we deal this ethnicity issue 4rm its roots I fear for the future of Nigeria.

    • Chisom April 14, 2015 Reply

      I couldn’t agree more, Ruth. Thanks for adding your pen…the sooner, the better.

  12. Jay April 15, 2015 Reply

    This thing is everywhere.It’s just pitiful the way Nigerians talk about each other;ethnic groups,each about the others.I was in a bus one day and these two igbo guys were venting their dislike for every other ethnic group (though one half-admitted liking the hausa) and even theirs too.There is a cloud of resentment hanging over the nation and trully something has to be done,it’s like we’re tottering on the edge of a precipice…

    • Chisom April 15, 2015 Reply

      Tottering definitely…God only knows how much farther away that dropping edge is.
      Thanks Jay

Leave your comment