Go Tell the Spartans (A reply to Ken-Saro Wiwa’s ‘Africa Kills Her Sun’)

Dear Bana,
I was pleasantly surprised, no doubt, to receive the letter. I received it ten years after your death, brought to me by an old frail man who told me he was your prison guard and had sworn to deliver the letter before he died.

I must write you this letter, my flower, as a final act of surrender. Consummated love my Bana, is nothing more than a scar for which I would rather have healed than this pain of losing the only person for whom I felt palpitations. Heartache.
I must begin by confessing that I never made you the epitaph for I thought it was not befitting. I loved you Bana, but you fell, fell to the very whims of the system you sort to uproot. You claim to have sworn never to kill, but stealing from a man in this economy is worse than driving a bullet through his heart.You sacrificed your lives that others might live, if only for so long. You bore ultimate responsibility and for that I must say you three were honorable men. Still, a man who chooses to take from another that which does not rightly belong to him wrongs this pitiful life and all that is right in it.

Today, I stand am sitting at a small table writing a letter I am sure you will never read but if there be an afterlife, I will recount my sentiments when we surely meet [sic!]. I think the simpletons will call this a suicide note, for the rope I tied hours ago hangs just above me, dangling every several minutes when the gusts sneak through the open window.

Must we die, Bana? Must we die like stray dogs?

Whether one dies by the hands of the police or his fellow men does not matter much now. Yesterday a mob set upon a man for the sins of his wife. The poor man, unknowing of his crime, wailed and begged for help but his neighbors turned a vicious mob would have none of it. He lived, but no thanks to the police who watched like crocodiles that have eaten to their fill. It is a precarious world this one, Bana, where a man and his wife becoming one becomes more than just about sharing a bed.

We are now akin to a mother whose son is the village rapist. She rests easy, even with the knowledge that he might turn on her one day and commit the indescribable. We look and shake our heads. Gaze as the grave slowly swallows the caskets of those lucky enough to have one. Can you imagine, Bana, even coffins are now a luxury? On second thought, I figure the government never bothered to bury you in one. Or a suit. We are happy fools now. Reluctant. Noisy. Greedy. Aloof. Apathy.

Who cares really? Who cares that everyone loots? The few that do not are content with the knowledge that when the deities separate the wheat from the chaff, they shall remain as the few worthy grains. Must one be content with heaven if there be such a place? Is preservation of a soul more important than the dignity of life and your fellow man? Apathy, our disease, but we could not care less.

Where the king goes now, the hounds follow closely behind. Dressed in suits. London shirts, Hong Kong blazers, American belts, Cuban cigars. We exchanged one ruler for another, one master for his replacement. We are sold. Not to the highest bidder, as it were, but to the one who can sell us anything for the cheapest price and not ask questions about whether we eat our children and roast our dogs. We exchanged the devil who would hold sticks and carrots on one hand, for one whose only stick is to eat to his own fill, and to the many millions that must be fed. Is any better than the other, Bana? Is the master who feeds his servant on morsels from the high table any better than the one who lets his slave eat with the guests?

We pay the master, we pay the hounds, we pay their girlfriends, their sauna sessions, their trips abroad. With a smile we remit our taxes to the exchequer, heads bowed in awe. We walk around knowing that although our children sleep hungry and in pain, our leaders, voices of our freedom and sovereignty, are well furnished and supplied. What more could a good citizen ask for but the ability to make sure his leader is well-fed? Does not a well-fed master sleep easy? Does not a well dressed mistress allow her slave to sneak into her marital bed? Is not happiness the ham between the buns of life and love?

Religion? They have trampled on that one too my Bana. They always have anyway. Our grandfathers used to shake their heads every time they narrated how their first attempt at prayer had ended with the loss of their freedom. Now the middle-class citizen is shackled to a religion for which he or she worships nothing but the so-called messengers of deities. Whether it is the priest who lies on women as he casts away her demons, or the other one who looks to the red light districts to buy actors for his miracles, religion is a mere mockery now.

The prostitute of St. Pauli, sage as she sounds to have been, would have made the extra shilling by making a testimony to reinforce our belief in Jehovah Rapha. Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses but now it has become more, it has become the leech upon their lives. The promise of heaven, a place where we shall walk on gold as angels make music from all kinds of organs. Glorious, divine, pure, the quintessential paradise for the wealth oriented man. All we have to do now is buy the Lords messenger a car, a plane ticket, a house, a gun, a wife, children, mistresses, servants, pets and a bible. All to allow him to go out and spread the message. For heaven Bana.

Where three brave men with stories and justifications fell by the bullet not stands two posts marking the rugby goal posts. To make a try, men have to place an oval ball between where you and Sazan died, directly above where Jimba refused to fall to the ground even after they riddled his body with bullets. How befitting for three brave souls, I always think, that men should run and chase after each other and an oval ball as thousands scream insults and praises where freedom died.

The Chief Justice died years after he condemned you and Sazan and Jimba. He died seated on his throne, delivering justice to a young mother who had dared kill a policeman who tried to rape her. He just stopped there in the middle of delivering justice and sat like a rock. Unfeeling. Eyes popped. He fell. The newspapers said no one moved for ten minutes. Eerie silence it must have been. As if everyone feared to be in contempt of a court whose judge had been killed by years of bribes, a blind eye to a vocation and bloody skeletons in every closet he dared look upon. His big stomach finally drove his heart to the beach where he had sent so many souls. Death is the great equalizer Bana. I am sure that if there is an afterlife, and you three have met the man, then you must know the story.

Sympathy my Bana, you would never get from me, nor pity or unconditional love. When we met by the stream so many nights in our youth, we promised to always be honest, even when it hurt. I will be honest Bana, I planted a tree, I went to the park and planted a tree, three trees, one for you, one for Sazan and one for Jimba. I thought it was befitting too because no one should live forever. I did not immortalize the Black Maria or the Dark Continent, I do not believe in the pain of death. Africa Kills Her Sun, Steels her Daughters, they now say. I once read an epigram by Simonides of Ceos, the Greek lyric poet in honour of fallen soldiers during The Battle of Thermopylae:

Go tell the Spartans, stranger Passing by that here, obedient to their law, we lie.

I had it inscribed on the plaques next to the trees, but changed it to read

Go tell the Hounds, Stranger passing that here, obedient to their laws and greed, we lie.

The hounds, they bay for my blood, for my money, for my sweat, my loyalty in times of war, my apathy in times of peace, turmoil and scandal. Death. Blood. Hounds. Ropes. I must stop writing now and push the table from my feet, the knot must be wondering what is keeping me for so long.

Your love, Always
Zole.