The Heart of Man

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

The heart of man is probably the most complex thing in the world. There is a Yoruba proverb that roughly translates as, human beings will stand to honour you but their hearts will crouch at the same time. It is election season here in Nigeria. It is the season of empty promises and handouts. It is dangerous, even idiotic, to trust any politician in Nigeria. In the long run, their stomach is their god and the faceless fellow on the street is a mere pawn. Let us even leave politicians. In the strict sense, the only heart you can speak about ,almost authoritatively, is your own. Human beings are mostly selfish and cruel. Of course, they sometimes give the impression they’re all nice and sweet. This is the reason those that are genuinely kind and selfless are like oases in the desert.

Several years ago when life became as tough as cowhide in our house, we relocated to a sorry sight of a building. It’s what , in local parlance, we call Face-me-I-Face-You. Those kinds of buildings are common in several parts of Africa. That experience was life transforming. One of the timeless lessons I came away with is that when you’re on the war path with a man, he ‘ll gladly snuff life out of you just to get even. You remember the story of the woman who cut off her husband’s penis and stuffed it in his mouth? He was unfaithful to his marriage vows and she dealt him a blow meant for the faithless. Back to matter.Something happened one day. Two female neighbours fought. It degenerated into a free for all. Their husbands and children came and added tinder to the fire. If my memory serves me right, I think they fought everyday for about a week. Sometimes, in fact, some of the children would resort to loud brawls and exchange of blows.

The furore died after the landlady’s intervention only to start all over after about three weeks of cease fire. On the day that the fight started again, my father was returning from work and he overheard something which startled him. One of the husbands told the other one that after the last fight, he had dealt the other family a terrible blow. What was the blow? In those days, it was considered unsafe to go out of your room in the middle of the night to use the toilet which stood as a separate entity away from the main building. So, most families kept – within reach- a paint bucket which anyone who was pressed in the middle of the night used. Of course, somebody would wake up very early to dislodge the content of the paint bucket before the compound revved to life. So, as my father passed, he heard the man say to the other man that his family had added a part of their urine in the other family’s soup while those ones were heating their soup in the general kitchen.

My father quickened his steps, came in and, without replying to our greetings, warned us never to leave anything in the kitchen. From that day, it became a point of duty for us to take turns in the kitchen until food was ready. Now, here is point. A man who could conceive of such a scheme would gladly add poison to one’s food without battling his eyelid. This happened because of a disagreement that could have been handled in a mature way.

Not too long ago, an ancient secret became a matter for the public to feast on. A man, discovered at the Canadian embassy, that all his three children are sired by another. I shudder to imagine how utterly shocked that man was. To think that his wife of many years who professed her undying love to him daily often ran into the arms of another while he toiled away at work. That’s why the Bible says: ‘ the heart of man is desperately evil’. Whenever you can find the time, please, read Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. It is a fine work of fiction where the dangers of polygamy and the extent to which people can go to stab you in the back while smiling in your face are explored.

I know this is hardly possible but if God permits me to return to this planet once again. I’ll beg him to allow me return as a bird. A bird flying about in the boundless sky is one of God’s most beautiful creatures. Birds are poets. They’re creatures of sheer beauty. Birds don’t even gossip or pretend to like you when they’d rather you remained down and dispirited. Birds have no worries. God, Himself solves their problems on a daily basis, of course, you know this already. In our dealings with people, we must always remember that only God is totally dependable. Even the best of men falters every now and again. This is why I’ll leave you with Genereux Philip’s quote: ‘ fake is the new real, you gotta keep a lot shit to yourself’. Our solace is in God alone.

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