It’s the tenth of December in Lagos, and the cool dry wind of the year’s end is descending one day at a time. It’s not winter – not anyway close to the overwhelming cold of other climes – but calming. Close enough to Fall, except for the green that remains on the trees. If, like a number of residents here, you are going to make long trips to other parts of the country, the weather gives enough incentives for the start of packing for such a trip. Ibadan is about 120 km away from here, but longer if the length of journeys counts for the dilapidation of roads or the trepidation at putting one’s life at the risk of such terrible human trap.
I have just watched the memorial for Nelson Mandela, where the US’s first black president gave a fitting tribute in the presence of an adoring throng. It was perfect, I thought. A black man, the son of this soil, just a few thousand miles north-eastwards carrying the banner of the world to honour another first black president who had fought a different battle, not just of the flesh, but of the mind – and won. An exchange that will surely raise a few dusts on US cable news all day today is a picture of the President Obama handshaking the president of Cuba who had also come to pay homage. Not in any way strange for the US counterpart who – a few months after his inauguration – was caught shaking the hands of the guards at the Buckingham Palace in London, it celebrates the larger significance of Mandela’s life and death: to bring peace and reconciliation to the world.
2013 feels like a memory. It hasn’t yet become history, but the cyclical weight of its presence singes like the dry wind about one’s ears. So much in one place, and the pleasure of removal. It’s not hibernation per se. Just a protective shield from both progress and stagnation. We lost Achebe, now Madiba. A couple of years more and many more heroes would be gone. The world is twisting on its axes, as it always does, and new heroes born. I look forward to next year and its many surprises, some known and some not. The pleasures of such discoveries might be yet another reason for gratefulness, at least for the present.