A Nation And Her Poisoned Apples

Casmir Igbokwe

Published in The Union newspaper, Friday, August 22, 2014

Tunji has a shop that is well located in the heart of Ikeja. He has a habit of waving at me each time I pass by his shop. It is a way of greeting and a way of drawing my attention to what he is selling. As I was driving home a few days ago, he waved and smiled. I stopped by to buy some items.

“Do you want some biscuits for the children?” he asked. I didn’t want biscuits because I had bought some tantalising red apples from Mallam, a fruit seller in one of the major streets in Ikeja.

“Apples!” the man exclaimed, “Be careful of apples o!” I was alarmed. What is it with apples again? I wondered. My mind went straight to the rumour some years back that a former Head of State died in office after munching some poisoned apples allegedly given to him by some Indian prostitutes.

I also remembered how Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit that led to their being banished from paradise. I learnt that that forbidden fruit was an apple.

 I was still ruminating when Tunji cut in, “I heard that Boko Haram people have poisoned apples in Lagos. They are targeting Lagos seriously and they want to kill as many people as possible. They recruited all these mallams selling fruits to do it.”

Noticing the frown on my face, Tunji clarified, “It was announced on radio.” Did he hear this radio announcement himself? He said (pointing to a neighbour’s shop), “No, the woman in that shop heard it on Radio Continental and told me.”

Just as I picked my things to go, the man asked, “Oga, is it true that all shops close August 20 every year? Somebody just told me this.” I looked at him with surprise, shook my head and left.

My children did not allow me to drop my bag before rushing for the apples.  I stopped them. As I told them the poisoned apple story, my second daughter, Kosi, asked, “Daddy, how can they put poison inside apple?”

My quick answer was that they should wait until the following day. “Let me eat it first, if I die, then know that it’s poisonous. But if not, then you can eat,” I said.

“God forbid!” my first daughter, Favour, shouted. Of course, God did forbid my dying. I ate the apple that night and slept soundly. The following day, the children did justice to the apples.

The fact is, rumour and delusion have become part of the poison we must eject from our system.

Look at the outbreak of this Ebola Virus Disease, for instance. As at the last count, it has killed over 1000 people. In Nigeria, it has claimed the lives of five people, the latest being a female senior consultant that treated Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian/American who imported the disease to Nigeria.

Health authorities have repeatedly announced the mode of transmission of this disease and how it could be avoided. But what have we heard so far? Some cock-and-bull stories!

We are already familiar with the salt and water therapy story. Just one morning, some fellows started spreading weird messages that Ebola was in the air. To avoid contacting it, all one needed to do was to put salt inside water and bathe with it. Then, put some of the salt in water and drink. Over 20 people found themselves in the hospital that day.

Suffice it to say that it is this kind of dangerous rumour that prompted some misguided youths to invade a centre where Ebola victims were quarantined in Liberia. They carted away some items including bloodstained bedding of the patients. Their action was said to have been partly prompted by suspicion that their government was deceiving them. They believed there was nothing like Ebola in the first place.

Back home here, the Lagos State Government, last Wednesday, announced the discovery of five new suspected cases of Ebola in Lagos. The Federal Government fired back, asking citizens to regard the statement as a rumour. According to the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, no other body except the Federal Ministry of Health under him is authorised to issue any statement on Ebola.

Nevertheless, I have not forgotten the born-again Christians. Yes, some of them see this Ebola as a sign of the end time. They say when that time comes, there will be strange diseases; wars and rumours of wars; brothers killing brothers; sons killing fathers; pastors raping young girls and so forth.

Agreed, there are wars and rumours of wars. Pastors are becoming randier that the rest of us. But much of what we believe to be signs of the end time are figments of our imagination.

Today, I remember some 11 students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. In 2007, these students got some revelations about the end of this world. They are members of a Christian group called the World Ablaze Fellowship. They thought the world had really gone ablaze and went into the forest to await rapture.

For days, they prayed and fasted, claiming that God gave them a message to rapture. Unfortunately, the same God refused to spirit them away. They eventually emerged from the forest looking like skeletons. Elsewhere in the world, people had committed mass suicide believing that God wanted them to rapture.  

Thank God, our military authorities prevented a similar mass suicide by some hunters a few months ago. These hunters wanted to invade Sambisa Forest in Borno State with dane guns, bows and arrows and possibly some charms. Their aim was to eliminate members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect. Their second objective was to rescue those girls held in captivity by the terrorists since April 14 this year. Happily, the army refused their request to move in. And we still have them with us.

Aha! I almost forgot the mystery fire that gutted the headquarters of the Nigeria Football Federation in Abuja last Wednesday. We hear that the fire started from the Chief Accountant’s office. You see, the president of the NFF, Aminu Maigari, has been on and off his hot seat. Today, you hear he is sacked. Tomorrow, the news will be that he has been reinstated on the orders of FIFA. And now this fire!

Seriously speaking, Nigeria is drifting. Boko Haram came with terror and rumours of terror. Ebola came with death and rumours of diseases. Corruption has always been there with mystery fire and rumours of probes.

We must all join hands to cast these rotten apples into the dustbin of history.

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