2017 was the year I learnt about the importance of reading and understanding the Terms and Conditions of consuming a product. I also understood the importance and strength of unity.

Unity: /ˈjuːnɪti/

(Noun) The State of being an undivided identity.

I first came across the word Unity at a very young age in primary school. The idea was portrayed in my favourite textbook, Mastering English. A passage told of a dying man who had three sons who never got along. In a bid to resolve this lifelong rift, he called them to his deathbed, handed each of them a broomstick, and told them to break it. Easy peasy, right? After this exercise, he handed them an entire broom and told them to do the same. They took turns in trying but all failed. The father then advised them about the strength of unity. The passage was the first place I learnt the phrase “United, we stand; Divided, we fall”.

Till now, I’ve always been the kind of person to stay away from whatever I perceive to be unnecessary trouble. If it’s none of my business, I’m not interested. If something was happening outside my territory of operation, I didn’t bother talking about it. Even when it affected me, I refused to lend my voice.

2017 was also the year I did a lot of reading up on Hitler — his life, involvement in the WWII, how he affected the world. The one material that struck a nerve was a poem written by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

This poem immediately reminded me of Niyi Osundare’s Not My Business, and Maurice Ogden’s The Hangman. These three poems make a similar point, that silence isn’t neutrality. If you stand by and watch a structure silence your kin gradually, no one will be left to stand up for you when you need it.

Principiis Obsta et Respice Finem: Resist the beginnings and consider the end.

Before 1905, China adopted a form of torture known as Lingchi. Lingchi, also translated as Death by a Thousand Cuts, is the slow process of executing someone by removing portions of the body over an extended period of time until death. This sort of torture is the reality of our country. Our system is crumbling gradually - structure by structure, state by state, association by association. To say that you can’t lend a voice to the undergraduates because you’re a graduate might seem appropriate, but once they’re done corrupting the schools, your taxes will be next. The trouble in the south might be none of your business because you reside in the north, but remember that “after you’ve been down, the only way to go is up”.

Corruption has become a creeping normality in Nigeria, so much that people try to shield themselves from its effects rather than fight it, those who don’t, succumb to the corrupt culture. Unfortunately, as much we’d like to isolate ourselves from the reality of things, as long as we operate within her territory, we can’t not be affected. You don’t cure a disease by resisting its symptoms.

There’s a saying that goes: “Loan Saturday Out, and You’ll have Sunday before you”. This was used when Jews and Christians were been persecuted. Saturday is the day of worship for the Jews as Sunday is for Christians. The saying highlights the fact that once the Jews have been taken care of, the Christians would be next.

You’re never too wise, too civil or too woke to stand for what you believe. Your silence contributes to your detriment. Your refusal to participate only procrastinates your doom. Stand up for what is right, and against whatever is wrong irrespective of how much of the matter affects you.

For, if we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own — which it is — and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night
- James Baldwin (An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis).