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Love In The Time Of Recession By Louis Odion

November 3, 2016

With the stocks looking stuck on the economy front, with figures simply no longer adding up, it seems inevitable that more and more Nigerians would instinctively seek solace in the elementary, yet most transcendental, vocation ever known to man - the pursuit of love.

With the stocks looking stuck on the economy front, with figures simply no longer adding up, it seems inevitable that more and more Nigerians would instinctively seek solace in the elementary, yet most transcendental, vocation ever known to man - the pursuit of love.

Even at that, there is no guaranty of easy win. For rarely is the amatory arrow fired from the bow of love ever so dead on target. Driven more by passion than reason, more of emotion than the material, love does not lend itself readily to scientific outcome. The ones we love don't care for us; those dying for us we can't stand.

The result is what would then seem the growing infiltration of the Nigerian narrative, this usurpation of the national space, by Gabriel Marquez' quirky characters. From the dramatic tale of unrequited love in Lagos to the farce of an aborted wedding in Delta, the comedy of lesbian sex video in Anambra, to the tragedy of a lady suddenly giving up the ghost in the heat of passion in Oyo - all within a week, the nation is now evidently plagued by a contagion of heartbreaks.

In his epic "Love in the Time of Cholera", Marquez unveils Florentino Ariza, the tireless soldier of romance, who will endure a more than fifty-one-year wait, compose uncountable stirring love letters, survive 622 forbidden affairs, before landing the chance to finally consummate a love nursed from teenage for Fermina Daza.

Fermina, the object of this infatuation, becomes available only after the passing of her legitimate spouse, Juvenal Urbino, urbane physician of the high society. But, alas, that is when biological toll had already sapped Florentino of strength to intensely savour the fruit of what had been a life-long obsession. 

From the outset, Florentino's quest will seem a tall order indeed. Scion of a pauper, who begins life as an apprentice telegrapher, longs after the haughty daughter of a wealthy tycoon. 
Before being beaten to the game by Urbino, Florentino had tried all tactics imaginable. Like taking a telescopic view of Fermina from under a tree at night through opened shutters of the window and feverishly blowing through a pipe assorted love melodies whose tunes will, in turn, be mercifully transported by the winds in her direction. 

Now, let us take look closer home. Doesn't Florentino's well documented extra-ordinary exploits remind of Tunde Agbaje, the young man who grabbed national fame early in the week following reports of the successful completion of a tortuous 19-day trek from Ketu, Lagos to Zaria, Kaduna, just to demonstrate nothing more than a love he had nursed for one Miss Sharon Donald since 2010.

26-year-old Tunde, obviously unemployed, is said to be a cousin of politician Jimi Agbaje, the flagbearer of Peoples Democratic Party in the 2015 Lagos governorship poll. Equally 26-year-old Sharon, daughter of a former South-South governor, is presumably well off. (At this writing, one was still unable to confirm if her dad is the same like-able Donald Duke, the similarities being too striking.)

According to Tunde, the decision was borne out of a desire to do for Sharon what no man, certainly no reasonable man, will even contemplate. And the symbolism of the choice of Zaria as destination was intended to be the icing atop the extra-ordinary cake. Through discreet research, he had learnt that Sharon's own parents dated for six explosive years at the university located in that ancient city before deciding to sign the dotted lines. 

When he first broached the idea of a cross-country trek with his own Fermina, Tunde stoically recalled she, as usual, mocked him it was akin to a suicide mission. But he was far too smitten by Sharon, far too inebriated by the liquor of love, to care or be scared of, say, kidnappers or ritualist or wild beast on the way.

In case Sharon may be doubting, he arranged for his photograph to be taken in transit and circulated online, decked in a red (the colour of love!) sleeveless vest and shorts, red socks pulled near the knees and black sneakers. And for the records, on arrival on October 21, he was reportedly received by the Chief Security Officer of the Ahmadu Bello University, Colonel J. K. Turkur (rtd), and the protocol office of the Emir of Zaria.

To ward off any obstacle from the home front, Tunde had devised the most unassailable stratagem. His words: "I didn't let my parents know and to ensure I was not disturbed, I changed my SIM card. I took a tracker along with me to monitor my movements... It was a tough task and I even collapsed some of the times... I have proved my love for her, even though she didn't reciprocate my feeling."

Contacted by The Punch, Sharon perfectly acted up Fermina. Not only did she dismiss Tunde as a stalker, she hinted his obsessive pestering drove her from Nigerian shores to faraway United States in the first place: "(T)his is just a new escapade in a series of his harassment...My mum warned him to leave me alone, but he refused. I changed my phone number and moved to the US, but I don't know how he got my contact. I've stopped picking calls from Nigeria because of him...This guy is mentally unstable, because how can you still be stalking a woman who has turned you down for six years."

With that, it is obvious Sharon is oblivious that the mythical Florentino waited for a total of 51years, nine months and four days, in a roll. So, at six years today, the tenacious Tunde could be said to still be within the take-off perimeter. 

But, all told, we miss the bigger picture if our aperture focuses on Marquez's Florentino only as the hero of unrequited love. Through his odyssey in the land of the forbidden apple after Urbino took Fermina away, his taxing marathon in the race of romance, Florentino ultimately takes us to the brightest height and darkest depth of the human emotion.

Conversely, by his stamina so far, Tunde will certainly elicit today sharply disparate emotions across the nation's vast spectrum, whichever the lens he is viewed: moral, social or economic. While that may potentially be distractive, one point is beyond contestation. Tunde is a strong metaphor for growing youth disengagement, the productive population at the nadir today. What else would make a sane young man embarked on this sort of perilous adventure if not unemployment. Were he gainfully employed, Tunde would certainly need more than a casual leave to afford this venture. 

Last weekend, elsewhere in a sleepy community in Udu Local Government, Delta State, Florentino's ghost reappeared. It came by the story of one 41-year-old Julius whose bride suddenly sprang to her feet and bolted from the wedding shindig onto the adjourning street, her immaculate white gown fluttering in the autumnal wind, hotly pursued by the bewildered groom.
As reported by Vanguard on Wednesday, the new wife identified as 32-year-old Rose simply shouted "I'm no longer interested!", to annul the entire event. 

That precipitate action was said to have been prompted by her suddenly sighting her former suitor, indeed her true love, in the crowd of guests. (This time, a determined Florentino chose to disrupt Urbino's victory dance.)
Overall, whereas unrequited love is depicted in Florentino's longing for Fermina, we see the dangerous variant in his assignation with the mental patient. We see adulterous love in Urbino's own affair.

In Anambra these past few days, we see the dangerous love in the lesbian sex video involving Miss Chidimma Okeke, the beauty queen, leaked allegedly by a now estranged business partner and has been titillating online oglers salaciously. The defence quickly marshaled by her publicists is that the act preceded her winning the pageant. But that hardly absolves the stupidity. Only a lunatic daring would make a young lady agree to be recorded in such condition in the first place. The National Coordinator of the Association for Universal Moral Education, Rev. Sister Theresa Nwodo, blamed it on poor parental care. One cannot agree more.

Come to think of it, in hard times such as these, those pressed for cash will likely resort to seeking to make up in kind. Anticipating possible backlash on an epidemic scale in restricted quarters, especially the ivory towers where many a lecherous male tutor has over he years built a dark reputation of taking advantage of vulnerable female students, the Nigeria senate last week did the needful. Without a single dissent, it passed a bill (Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution) criminalizing the act and prescribing a punishment as stringent as five-year jail term for anyone found guilty. (Well, after the successful execution of "sting" operation against corrupt judges, speculations are mounting that the academic citadel is next on DSS' gun-sight.)

Again, Florentino's adulterous love played out recently in Ibadan where 48-year-old Sadiat Adejuwon reportedly died during a romp with her 50-year-old lover, Fatai Busari. In his bid to impress her, the lothario allegedly ingested an overdose of stimulant. However, no one could say with certainty yet if that triggered the deceased's premature death. After hearing the case, an Ibadan magistrate ordered the suspect be remanded in prison. 

Elsewhere in Katsina, just when the high society was still battling with the hang-over from the colourful nuptials last weekend of President Buhari's second daughter, came this rather  apocryphal report that his new son-in-law, a former bank chief, has come under EFFC radar over an alleged past sleazy deal involving a staggering sum. Well-wishers can only pray and wish that this turns out another hoax. 

Regrettably, this dramatic turn of event seems to have robbed many of the grace to ask the other question: did it ever cross PMB's mind during the nikai ceremony to sample his new son-in-law's opinion whether the "amaria" (Hausa for new bride) should be limited to "the kitchen, living room and the other room?"