How To Save The World

A short story

This compelling photo was taken during the early 2012 ‘Occupy Nigeria’ movement. It was published in one of our Nigerian daily newspapers, unfortunately the photographer credits were left out. I keep hoping that one day I will trace the original photographer. If you are/know the original photographer please do reach out to me. She/he deserves credit. As a result, this is a photo of the photo that was published.

Bilyaminu woke up to find that the world was on fire.

Instinctively he knew exactly what to do.

He rose from his bed, said a short prayer, then walked outside.

He picked up his metal bucket, and made his way towards the river. The one gushing with water.

Side note: I only state this because there were two rivers that meandered through each and every country in the world: one contained water, and the other, flowing lava.

They both flowed at the same rate, with open access to all.

Bilya met many others at the river of water, no doubt with the same thoughts in mind:

we will fetch this water and begin to put out the fire.

Bilya and the little crowd began making various journeys back and forth, emptying their buckets onto the flames, managing to douse them out in few spots.

The earth underneath would be charred. No problem, it may take years to heal the land but he knew it could be done.

On his tenth journey to the river of water Bilya passed by a spot that had been previously doused.

It was on fire again!

How did that happen?

Bilya hid behind the bushes nearby, and sadly his suspicions were confirmed:

Some people were emptying lava back onto the doused land!

He even recognized a handful as being some of those who were at the river of water earlier.

From his vantage point Bilya could see the entire river of lava. He realised that along some parts of the banks, people were selling lava to well-meaning folk, telling them that it was water.

And he could also see that people were dumping lava in retaliation to others who had set their land on fire before. And so for many years it was a vicious cycle of retaliation.

Bilyaminu knew that even if some people were intentionally setting the world on fire, there were still others who may not realise what they were doing. Or how charred the entire world was becoming.

He would not be able to live with himself if he didn’t speak up.

Bilya ran down to the banks of the lava river with both hands raised in the air.

I come in peace. I want peace. Let us do the right thing and put the flames out together.




Bilya fell to the ground as the lava sellers cried in unison:


As Bilya took his final breath, he realised that the world was on fire because water was free but lava could be sold.