by Adeboro Odunlami
It’s the day after the day when Cupid went about doing good… or bad. And no matter how many times I brace myself for Valentine’s Day, I am never ready. The atmosphere, the excitement, the sudden mushiness, the way everything suddenly revolves around loving and being loved, and the way it suddenly dawns on the single people that they are indeed single; not double. It’s always an amusing experience for me. This year however, I observed Valentine’s Day with some sort of lucid inquisitorial attention. In my curiosity, I ended up asking myself ‘What exactly is love and who are we as Nigerians to say that we love?’ I mean, with the things that we do, can we truly say that we love? How dare we even claim to love?
Take the pharmacist just down the road as an example. He just got off the phone with his pharmaceutical distributor who was checking on him since it’s been long he’s placed an order for new malaria drugs. The pharmacist, he laughs nervously and says ‘It’s okay. You too like moni! I go call you when I need you.’ He drops the phone and looks at the pile of Malaria drugs that have been sitting on his shelf for the past 6 months. ‘Why are people not catching malaria in this area?’ He hisses. Thankfully, the area is also saturated with illiterates who do not know to look at the expiry date before swallowing pills. He’ll definitely get away with selling all these drugs expired. He looks down at his ringing phone and smiles. ‘Baby’m! My sugar potato!’ he laughs into the phone and replies the person at the other end of the line, ‘Ahahn! But you know I love you na.’
Or take the focused dogged herdsman somewhere in Kaduna. He will kill, gruesomely machete another person for the love (love?) of his cows? I am, maybe, going too far. What about the market woman in her own little corner; tampering with weighs and scales and selling goods she would never buy? For the (love?) of money? Maybe that’s too rural. Let’s consider the employee who was super grateful on the day he got his job. But if you see him now, you would be convinced that his sole mission in life is to punish his employer for giving him such an opportunity. It’s not his father’s business, so what is his business with his employer’s business? But he (loves?) to read about growing thriving businesses and one day he would (love?) to have his own business?
And no, I am not forgetting about that man. The one who sleeps around like someone bitten by an adulterous tsetse fly. His eyes are roaming around and they just cannot stop. He has now successfully contracted a venereal disease and has come home to share it with his wife; just the way he has shared their bed. But he’s a good man, yes? Because he swears that no matter how much he strays, he would never leave his family. He (loves?) them.
Yes, I cannot forget that woman too. Who for the sake of (love?) encourages her friend’s boyfriend/husband to decamp. She is shaking her head and not understanding why this is a problem. ‘I did not rape him or force him on me. He has chosen me because he (loves) me.’
Oh, we can continue to talk about these things– about those of us who regimentally segment the practice of love to carefully selected areas of our lives and let hate and indifference rule in other areas of our lives. Those of us who love our fathers but disrespect our husbands. Those of us who love our children but are irritated by our maids. Those of us who love money but hate working for it, and so we steal. Those of us who love on Valentine’s Day and not a day more. We can talk about ourselves, but let’s talk about you. If you say that you love, please love. And you know what? If you do not say that you love, still please love.
Love is not just a word, it’s a claim that must be backed up. And for as long as it gets you excited (or not), you must continue to ask yourself, ‘how many more barriers do I need to break to become a full love being?’
Adeboro is a graduate of Law, a photographer and a collector of experiences. You probably, most likely, already know her.