By Dum Syl Aminikpo
This is a medal for the real heroes, the lot who never get a mention even in teenage gossip rooms, the fellows who do all the job and gladly struggle to see the celebration from the back, the group that will go back with a piece of bread while others feast on their efforts. For you all, I have a medal.
This is for the guards who open the gates to multi-billion naira estates but must live in shanties on the same property- the symbol of harsh antithesis, for those times when your monthly stipend gets deducted because you did not open the gate quickly enough, while the same amount is spent on the cat in a day, for those times you get the boot because a teenage mistress feels you look like her grandfather who she hates, forget the sad tale, put on your torn clothes, the only reward for your decades of service and move to the podium. This is your medal.
This is for those teachers whose rewards are reserved for heaven while they work on earth. This is for those times you save for months so your child can get a secondary education. And even when you have to work for such low pay, you never get paid in time because the local chairman who rakes in millions must make some profit from the banks before you get your change; because an audit must be done each month so some corrupt local authority can make deductions from your salary; because it will be too early if you get your salary fifteen days into the new month, and because of this, and that, and those, and all the pains you suffer, we adore you. While you await your pension nine years after retirement, a pension we know might only be paid to your children years after your death, we call on you to step forward. Today, we might not give you a pension, but we will not leave your glory to heaven alone, so receive your medal of honour.
This is a medal for those pastors who preach the word of God. Take note:
who preach the word of God. We see you more in the orthodox churches now.
We see you in your zeal as you coach the new congregation. We acknowledge your efforts as you pass by on a new transfer on that dying motorbike. You do not preach miracle, and so you don’t get the car gifts. You do not import a foreign intonation overnight, so you are not up to date. But we see you here. And while the local church authorities quiz you because you got a tuber of yam from a member and never shared it with them, while they hate you because you are bent on the truth, and must be put on the road again before you make any good of your time, we honour you. We pray heaven has the best for you, but whatever it is, take this medal, for you have earned it.
For those honest beggars, those who summon the courage to ask for alms, I pull my cap for you. Forget the proliferation of the trade, the well-dressed women telling you their bus broke down on the way to another state (sometimes you wonder if they only enter rides that never end the journey every day, having seen them there the day before). I refer to the lot who stand in front of mosques and churches. Begging is no mean task- if you doubt me, pick a plate and stand at a junction. You have my respect, but I reserve my medal for that fellow in the wheelchair selling recharge cards.
This is for those young people who embrace success through the tedious path of industry as opposed to the quick track of violence. This is for you who still see good in integrity when those around you celebrate vice. This is for those times when you are given names because you think otherwise. For giving a helping hand, for volunteering, for saying no so that good may prevail, I present this medal to you.
For those leaders who have a thought for a good purpose while their colleagues wreck developmental havoc, for those politicians who still see good in positive ideas rather than beatifying thuggery, for you who come down from your high places for even once, this is your medal. I give you this medal for thinking differently from the foul norm, I give you this medal for seeing some good in all that is good, I give you this medal that you might look beyond your comfort to lend a hand to that soul whose only need is to survive the moment.
To all those who I have not specifically mentioned, to the good guys who will never cheat even when provided with an opportunity, the thinkers, the idealists, my girls loving for love, those who wish good for society, those who pray every day that all may have a fair share of life, you have my medal.
For those on the other side of the divide, expect my medal soon!