Christopher Opara: It is well (30 days, 30 voices)


My brain took a break this morning and all I did to keep it working failed so I did what I do when this happens – Open my laptop and explore or write. From one corner of my mind I heard someone on television just mutter the phrase ‘it is well’ in response to a lamentation on how bad the female league of Nigerian football has become during the Channels TV Morning breakfast show that produced the popular “Oga at the top” phrase..


In our religiosity, ‘it is well’ stands for so many things but originated from a Christian hymn of the old time religion. These were the days before the ‘name it and claim it’ movement came in followed swiftly by the ‘die by fire’ brand of Christians. Those were the days when people believed that Christians were called to a life of persecution and hardship as the hymn says in part:


“Whatever my lot/ Thou has taught me to say/ it is well, it is well with my soul.”


And so they sang.


Just like Horatio Spafford, the writer of that hymn who faced much personal tragedy including the loss of his entire fortune in the Great Chicago Fire on the 18th Century and the death of his four children, we sing because we feel that no matter what happens, things would eventually be fine.


When life seems hard and everything seems set against one’s soul. When it seems as if the day can’t grow any worse but then it does. On your way home you see electricity everywhere only to get into your house and everything goes dark: PHCN just did their worst and they chose the wrong moment to do it: your mind spins from electricity to the political class and you can’t help but mutter: it is well.


Or maybe everyone else has light but yours has been disconnected: you’ve been getting crazy bills and couldn’t meet up with payment so you dared them to do their worst and they removed your wire from the electric pole – if only you had money to settle them when they came earlier in the day…


Have you ever watched a powerful person act with impunity and dare the rest of you to challenge him? Perched gingerly on an okada and one of those agberos pursues you hotly as though he wants to snatch your bag but all he wants is to take the helmet from your head which he does and the action makes the rider to park well by the gutter and beg him to accept N50 and return the helmet. It is well.

Or a policeman who stops your car in traffic and asks you to find something for the boys but all you have on you is N200 which would get you bread and eggs from the mai-shai if Theresa can sell you airtime recharge cards on ‘credit’ so you try to smooth-talk your way out of the situation but end up getting delayed unnecessarily and still part with the N200: it is well.


‘It is well’ is the senior brother of ‘na wa o’, another Nigerian phrase that expresses surprised frustration. It is well is like a resolution, a statement of fortitude that although things are not okay at the moment, they would soon be. You don’t have to be a believer to say it, you don’t even have to understand it – just say it is well.


Or when misfortune falls on someone you know and they are trying to tell you how their lastborn took ill and died at the hospital as a result of fake drugs. You offer condolences and say ‘sorry’ as though you were somehow responsible for the loss but just outside their house you meet other friends and you all exchange tales of how the same misfortune almost befell you but for some sleight of fate; with nothing left to say, one of you offers as a parting shot: it is well, and the rest mutter “abi o” and you all depart.


But in actuality, It is well is a denial of reality, a denial of what is and embrace of what might be. It is well is what we say when we have nothing to say or too much to say as the case may be. It is well is not just another phrase, it is the confirmation that it will be well, it may be well but right now: it is not well.


Whatever you go through today, just say ‘it is well’ and smile because somehow we just know that it will indeed be well.


30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians from across the world to share their stories and experiences – creating a meeting point where our common humanity is explored. 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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