When I was 13, I saw a dead body for the first time; and it was rotting.
A young man was caught and set ablaze earlier in the day, for stealing Garri at the waterside market.
And as I walked home from school that evening, I saw him lying there, his face locked in an eternal stark grin, his teeth gleaming demonically white against the char that was his skin.
He was sprawled across the road, half his skin sloughing off his burnt face.
That sort of picture does something to the mind of a child.
I remember wondering how everyone was so calm and nonchalant as they trudged by.
Why did they act like it was all normal to have a dead body in the middle of the road?
Two days later, he had rotted enough to start breaking off at the limbs, and the stench that exuded off him was overwhelmingly suffocating.
So I wondered some more.
Why did everyone clench their handkerchiefs to their nose and simply walk by?
Why did we become a parade of little white squares?
Why did we adapt so fast?
As the rains fell and bits and pieces of him pureed under the tires of cars and tricycles, I wondered why none worried that pieces of a dead man’s flesh might get stuck between the teeth of their tires.
Then, I asked myself, “what about you?
Why do you also clutch a handkerchief to your nose and walk by?”
Perhaps, that was one of the most defining moments in my life and has stuck with me for the past 10 years.
It nudged me into an unseemly endless spiral of questions
Why did this person have to steal garri?
Was he hungry?
Who determined that burning him was the appropriate punishment?
Were the people who burnt him innocent of stealing?
On and on, in my mini-existential crisis.
Eventually, I understood a fundamental truth about the world around me: There were no whites and blacks. In the words of Loki Odinson, “No one good is ever truly good, no one bad is ever truly bad”
There are gray areas, little pockets of hypocrisies, and double standards.
Almost everyone exists in the grey.
The pastor who welcomes the governor to his church and tells the congregation how honored they’re to have a great man in their midst and they cheer.
A ‘great man’ that has not paid salaries for 8 months or bothered to build and maintain public infrastructure or provide electricity.
A ‘great man’ that has looted the treasury dry.
The ‘great man’ knows it.
The pastor knows it.
The congregation knows it.
Yet they cheer for him and he says “thank you” and donates 10 million Naira to the church building project.
None of that money will get to the civil servant who has been owed for 8 months.
*let that sink in*
Have you ever wondered why there seems to be a perfectly rational explanation for your wrongs, but none for the transgressions of others?
We all know…
the woman who criticizes young ladies who get pregnant out of wedlock. Yet her daughter gave birth to a bouncing baby after 4 months of getting married.
Or is it the parents who are vocal against 419 and yahoo yahoo, yet have a son who through cybercrime has bought a car and a house for them?
What is your gray area?
What is your little hypocrisy?
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Solving problems by day. Fiction writer by night. I speak English and two body languages.