The Broken Grid 1: A Nigerian fossil fuel love story

Part 1

Image Source: Financial times

It’s a chilled Friday night and I’m binging on my favourite TV show which talks about political reforms that are needed in my country ( p.s. the reforms hardly ever happen 🙂 ). All of a sudden, there’s a blackout and the TV and lights go off, my living room turns into an abyss of darkness. I manage to locate my phone and turn the flashlight on. Hurriedly, I step out of the door to the backyard to switch on the generator, luckily I do not have to pull as the generators nowadays come with a starter which is much easier than using the recoil pull.

This is the reality of millions of Nigerians, including the Ogas at the top that have failed to fix the erratic power supply, but oh they do not have to turn the generator by themselves, they have maigadi’s to do that for them. So here we are today, a so called sane nation with power outages every now and then, a country where the soothing Beethoven-like sounds of backup generators will make your eardrums pulsate, where beautiful exhaust fumes fill the air creating an artistic masterpiece of soot in the sky.

On some nights where you decide not to turn it on because you are low on dirty petrol/diesel or you are just plain broke, you’ll have to decide sacrificing your body to mosquitoes, because I assure you they will have a good barbecue that night. Bon appétit to Mr. Mosquito because Kentucky Fried Human-Blood (KFH) never tasted better. On other nights, the heat due to the weather will make you think of life deeply, I’m sure you can relate and if you can’t, the electricity supply in your country is stable.

This is just the beginning, of a love story between humans, electricity, fuel emissions, health and our environment. A story of hardship, pain, love and greed and I will share with you more parts to my story.

By Salim Ubale

be bold

be bold
rise
uphold your values

be one
unite
hymn to the slogans of liberation

be fearless
revolt
let the earth tremble
let the blood of the dead attest to your unheard cries
let this change be an epoch that’ll be etched on minds of those to come
let it ting, let it jar
let your selfless anthems make it to pages of history
let them know complaisance is not a word we ever agreed with
let your demands be chanted
let this bondage cease to end
let your hands veer minds into doing what is right

be invincible
impact
be a moutain of hope to those treading the path of disarry
let your guidance blaze their trails
let belief be restored to the hearts of the defiant

be a wave
impart
recite the bitter verses of this modern reality
let it reecho to the graves of souls departed
let it be known their fight was never in vain
their pain is rooted in our veins
and that we will not be veered off this lane

be just
at all times
let justice not be only a word seen on paper
“for true peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice”
let it resonate in our acts
let it be embodied in us, by us and for us

be loved
and love
let your heart overshine the sun’s radiance
let it be soft and embrace each other’s diversity
let it be as it is
for love conquers all

be bold
rise
uphold your values

be one
unite
and proclaim this struggle

—Salim Ubale

Image by Dreamstime Stock, Pinterest

Pain-Rage-Release

i’m hyperventilating, not because i ran on a 50 mile track, it’s an entirely different reason today. the stifling air in my lung’s thick with a smoke-like rage sweeping me into a vortex of my emotions.

pain (n)
how peculiar pain is, it comes from distinctive sources and makes its way to your heart causing arrhythmia.
death, heartbreak, divorce, a blow in the face, failure, all these connote pain.
it seeps through your bones, through every fibre of your soul setting it afire.

rage (n)
pain morphs into rage and thrums it’s way through you, it is fuelled by anger, anger at things we can’t change as much as we try, anger at those we care for who seem not to look into the subtleties, outrage over the state of the world’s affairs, these build a pressure in our souls, in our hearts, waiting for the right time to explode, waiting for purgation to occur.

release (n)
a cleansing phase we undergo, it vents through our tongues, though our fists, though our legs, or our fingers as we write about our ordeals, it gives us satisfaction, a feeling of contentment or regret for what we’ve experienced. the fury abates at this stage and we wear an unbridled smile or a cloud of sadness. a maelstrom of gratitude rises high and takes over our minds
an appreciation for what we’ve been through.
a catharsis.

image by me

Allegiance

i pledge allegiance to…

oh did you think i would say flag?

or did you think i’d pledge my trust to leaders with deflated egos?

Nay!

i pledge allegiance to pure justice

to the struggles of our ancestors

to the battles of the mind, body and soul that made real impact

i pledge allegiance to the truth

to the likes of Jamal Khashoggi who perished for questioning a biased status quo

to the mind liberators of our generation

to political correctness in the face of aggression

i pledge allegiance to bravery

to the likes of Gambo Sawaba who fought for the rights of her kins

to those being persecuted for voicing out against our oppressors

to artists who subtly enlighten us with persuasive paintings to address despotism

i pledge allegiance to those who remain not silent in the face of adversity

to the likes of Fela Kuti, who stirred revolutions and fought for something bigger than themselves

to those who ignite sparks of emancipation in us

to the ones who rip the ulcer that eats and decays our society

i pledge allegiance to our fallen heroes

to the likes of Lt Col Abu Ali the vanguards in the quest for our salvation

to the oath keepers who selflessly serve for no other reason than honour

to the chain breakers who fight to restore our peace and to enjoy the glories of freedom

O my people think!

you look blindly and swear fealty to dishonourable leaders

you support the occupation of a people and reprieve yourselves when called to answer for your crimes

you listen to the truth and call it treason because you benefit from falsehood

you walk down paths of wretchedness and call it the path to salvation

O what hypocrisy!

O my people think!

Think!

for i pledge allegiance to you

to humanity, to my people

-Salim Ubale

this poem was published in a newspaper. you can find the link at https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/poet-of-the-week-salim-ubale.html

image by Creative Market

regret

sometimes you’d wish a thing you did or failed to do or stop never happened, it’s called regret

regret is more than a feeling of guilt due to inaction, it’s a darkness that seeps through you when you close your eyes in search for peace, it hunts your soul and consumes you till you give into it, it lies awake staring down at you hoping for a counteraction, hoping for change

regret has nothing to do with honour nor pleasantries nor viciousness, it is unbiased and eats up the hard-worker and the lazy and the candid and the devious in similar ways for different reasons. it swallows Kings for not defending kins and destroys killers for slaying victims

regret has no rhythm, it has no crests nor troughs, it’s neither sinusoidal nor collinear. it makes its way through whether there be barricades or not, it cares not about time for it’s relative to ordinary actions and peculiar inactions.

regret every so often says “slowly but surely” although it has no sense of spans and will consume you in a way a blackhole consumes a star, so all i can say for now is regret is the deadliest asphyxiant

@Salscribes

music.

music is life

it’s the cry of a newborn as it comes into the world, a cry of a new soul, a melodious cry of life

it’s the pitter-patter of a 2 year old baby crawling it’s way across my carpeted floor

it’s the motion in the last two seconds before the sprinter crosses the finish line

it’s the tweet of bird at dawn and the hoot of an owl at dusk

it’s the pip of a chick as it hatches its way through its shell

it’s the crunch of my Grandma’s wheelchair as she moves across our gravelled pavement

music is pain

it’s the voice in your head telling you not to give up when all you see is a tiny thread of hope

it’s the joyous remark your opponent makes after he beats you at your game

it’s the pop Mr Jay’s knee makes after walking 5 miles to put food on the table

it’s the laughter of Dr Q’s three year old that passed away last month resonating across my ears

music is death

it’s the palpitation of a loved one on a hospital bed

it’s the crashing sound of two automobiles from across fifth street

it’s the swooshing of the charming brown autumn leaves

it’s the silence of the graveyard i visited last Friday

it’s the rattle a dying soul makes when his last seconds catch up on him

music is love

it’s the cackle of the two lovebirds across me in the café

it’s the cry and wiggle of my dog anytime i step my feet in my home

it’s my mom asking me every now and then “have you eaten”?

it’s the sound of a handshake, a sign of trust

it’s the squish of fabrics rubbing off against each other as two people hug

it’s the sonance of a peck, of a kiss, a validation of love

music is so many things

it is art. creativity. feelings. sensations.

music is very little things too

music is what you define it to be

Do You Not See?

Do you not see?

Are your hearts undergoing petrifaction? Cause this silence is uncanny.

You read the news about bombs and scroll like it wasn’t just your brothers and sisters from the far north that got shelled.

You look at pictures of bodies in white sheets and all you think about is, “these bloodlines do not thread through me, I’m safe here, the bullets won’t reach me here”.

Do you not see?

I wish you had shame for that at least,

I wish you had a muster seed of empathy for this,

I picture carrions on bamboo mats with crimson coloured fluid dripping on the shoulders carrying them

I see a 2 year old with no heartbeat, wrapped up in a garment, it’s her Mama’s wrapper. the one Grandma gave her when she gave birth to a free spirited baby.

Hajia Ladi who sells cow milk down the street lost all her cattle. How? I asked.

The cattle rustlers, they raided again.

Papa went out with the other elders in the village holding machetes, screaming “we must fight back, you cannot break us”.

Papa never came back, we couldn’t even find Papa’s body.

Do you still not see?

Bloodbaths are becoming norms.

Communities’ riches are being drained.

Perpetrators’ pockets are being filled.

Oh God please break this filthy cycle of violence.

I hope you see now.

I hope you can see the chaos Zamfara is going through.

Salim Ubale

27/03/19

Image by Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

We Watched

we watched as they starved

unheeded to their wails

we watched as bodies quaked

from the batons struck on their flesh

we watched as the bombs landed

silencing the cries of newborns

we watched as limbs got severed

for crying out loud for freedom

we watched as the slender kid died

his last words, oh what injustice

we watched as the politicians

decided the fate of our nation

by a scribble on the sheet of paper

we watched as they violated our rights

and sealed our lips with fear

 

we watched and we bled and we fell

but we rose

for our tongues can never be silenced

we are the voices of the voiceless

the faces of the faceless

we give identity to the nameless

your attacks are of no weight

it only increases us in faith

oh damn you and your corrupts courts

judging without jurisprudence

we will speak against injustice

we will fight for freedom

till the flames of retribution engulfs our oppressors

Happy #HumanRightsDay

Image source: Unsplash

Refugee

our feet move languidly

past ashes we once called home

and pulverised spirits we called family

leaving behind oceans of crimson

 

the shoreline witnesses

creaking while we mount death boats

the desert sympathises

as we tread towards camps

that reek of blood and pain

 

you refer to us as “displaced”

after you devoid us of our lands

and have stripped away our freedom

but our journey comes to no end

for hope is our only raison d’être

in this abyss of ruins

 

In honour of millions of refugees around the world. My thoughts go out to you, and i hope for a world free of war, persecution and apartheid. A world filled with love, compassion and justice.

#worldrefugeeday

Image source: Pinterest

Desecration

the sun’s not beaming for it hides its radiance

the waves crash no more in protest of our actions

there’s no fish in the coast cause the ocean fails to forgive

she cries out loud but the echoes reach not the surface

but today,

her shores proclaim her pain

her susurrations are heard above the skies

cause our actions are roots of the dearth of her children

today she begs you to show some love

for she is our lifeblood, our food, our medicine

she gives off her warmth as the poles become too cold

she grants us what we can repay her not

so how dare we cause her all these pain

Happy World Environment Day!

The word “actions” from the writing represents (oil spillage, pollution, plastic and other wastes as well as activities that harm our oceans and the world as a whole) while the word “children” represents marine life.

#worldenvironment

Image source: Pinterest