“I find that the great thing in this
world is not so much where we
stand as in what direction we are
moving: To reach the port of
heaven, we must sail sometimes
with the wind and sometimes
against it – but we must sail, and
not drift, nor lie at the anchor.” –
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
(29 August 1809 – 8 October 1894)
The name, Musa Parad Isiaka, is that of a fictional character that I intend to be the protagonist in a novel. I’d been nursing the idea of this novel for some time now. For lack of ideas at the moment however, I have elected to gloss over a short period in the life of one Nigerian academic, who goes by the same name. Hence, whatever narrative you read below differs greatly from that of my novel protagonist, at least in their conception.
This period, I innocently wish (like a child is wont to) would ultimately become somehow inculcated into the novel, as events that constitute a major telling bulk of the novel. And when it does, it may just come up as a dream that can’t either harm or make (I’m not here referring to a prophetic dream, mind you). I plead, no one should spank me for all I’ve said and will say, especially for having a “head full of cobwebs”, like my mentor would say, if you know what he means.
If you must know, my usual reaction every time he said it was to gently rub the bushy hair on my head. You don’t have to know why, if you don’t already.
Going forward, let’s permit this Nigerian academic to speak for himself.
My name is Musa Parad Isiaka and I lecture in one of the decaying Nigerian Universities. Did I just say that? Pardon me. I lecture in one of the best of the decaying Nigerian Universities. No pun intended. Sad indeed. How did I get here for God’s sake?
I’m in a mess. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike. Again. For the umpteenth time, that is. I’ll come back to that.
For now, I’ll quickly like to explore how I became a Pharmacist rather than a writer, something I had from childhood always dreamt to be. For consolation, if not a certificated writer, professional as the world would expect, at least I may be called a comedian writer – it’s not the funny types I mean. In my dictionary, that’s one who writes carelessly as the words come without regard to the rules in the books. You think I’m okay? Then, you’ve not read me. I write like I talk.
I’m a Pharmacist; a proud one. And thank you for permitting me to be the ethical Pharmacist, my own way.
“My father forced me to become a Pharmacist”, those are the words I heard mostly from colleagues that I have questioned about their choice of Pharmacy, as a course of study. Not surprising this is applicable even to me; although, in my case, it’s a little permissive (my father gave me an opportunity at freewill, while strongly but diplomatically expressing his preference for Pharmacy. Not with the conviction of Christ as the true son of God, though).
I’d have preferred to be a writer. A writer? Is that what I’d have been? How stupid. Well, amongst others, I wrote an unpublished but ‘almost published, almost launched’ book, “The Family and her Love” before I got admitted to study Pharmacy at one of the best of the decaying Nigerian Universities. It was almost launched by the late senator, Prof. Afolabi Olabimtan, but he died, the book died and the passion died with them.
Never mind that most, not all though, of the opinions expressed in that nonfiction entity are contrary to the opinions I hold today about a similar subject. Of course, that should be obvious considering the age-difference. I was only a child? ahahahaha, of course not. You say it.
That issue isn’t my business tonight (no frowns. I’m writing at night), however. But. Though, not any stranger than taking a warm bath in a hot afternoon, it’s good to briefly explore how the inevitable clashes between the alter egos, the Pharmacist and the writer get resolved with balance (there are occasional periods of losing it, mind you).
How do I relate with these alter egos – a my-own-way Pharmacist and a comedian writer?
The Pharmacist helps me and the writer to appreciate nature and the nature of things. The human body has a nature and it is a natural entity, as well as drugs, especially, in my context, plants. The Pharmacist in me helps us to understand the nature of these natural entities – the human body and drugs.
He also helps us to know which drugs to avoid, which are largely unnecessary to be used unless it’s absolutely essential. And there are many of such drugs, a good take-away for Pharmacists the world over. No wonder O. W. Holmes, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard University, said, “If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity”. And Daniel H. Kress, M. D. said, “Drugs never cure disease. They merely hush the voice of nature’s protest, and pull down the danger signals she erects along the pathway of transgression. Any poison taken into the system has to be reckoned with later on even though it palliates present symptoms. Pain may disappear, but the patient is left in a worse condition, though unconscious of it at the time.” There are more of such quotes by great medical persons if you need. To know the more we can keep away from several common and uncommon drugs, the healthier our body, mind and brain would be. What for? To live well and tell well.
And the writer? He humbles me and the Pharmacist to be as innocent as to appreciate the beauty of, to say the least, an imperfect human existence that is the lot of everyone.
When it comes to scientific writing and all else, he kicks me and the Pharmacist aside, saying, “Yep. I got this.” One wonders where the real me, Musa Parad Isiaka, is in all of this. He’s probably tucked away somewhere, enjoying the bliss of balance that navigates within the power-plays of the Pharmacist and the writer.
An impersonal headache. An academic in the department of Pharmaceutical Microbiology for instance, who has justifiable reasons to regularly incubate his/her culture of microorganisms, or variations of it, in a functional laboratory oven (not an oven-turned-cupboard as is sometimes the case) is consistently challenged by the lack of reliable electricity in his/her laboratory.
For him/her, a 21-day essential (if not compulsory) period of such incubation for instance may have to be cut short when, in perpetuity, the electrical cables refuse to convey needed voltage to the laboratory. I have used the expression “electrical cables refuse” because in Nigeria, where no one (PHCN staff, the Government, saboteurs etc) admits complicity, and hence only those lifeless cables can be blamed for not having power in them.
What to do? Only a few options are left to such an academic. The culture is removed from the disguised oven and after a protracted period (in which case, the culture loses its integrity) of ‘search and rescue’, transferred to a functional oven wherever available. What deception!
An impossibility to locate such an oven is usually a reality in this part of the world. So, the only option usually available is adopted. Discard the culture and restart the experiment whenever suitable conditions are restored. Olodumare helps you that the time you finally get results falls within when scientific relevance is still on your side.
Collectively, several, if not all, of the Nigerian academics are badly affected one way or another by the epilepsy of the economy and policies of the Nigerian state, adjudged erratic.
No wonder ASUU goes on strike and then, ASUU goes on strike. Again. How well can such academics compete favourably, or less favourably than expected, with their counterparts in serious nations with the tag ‘developed’, and even ‘developing’ (such tags therefore become irrelevant in that wise). It only has to be through sweat and blood that a favourable competition is attained and that is in very rare cases.
Lest I forgot, that functional oven, just like many other basic laboratory equipments are altogether lacking in these Universities that boast being the best of the decaying many.
At the moment, ladies and gentlemen, ASUU is on strike. Again. Maybe the Federal Government of Nigeria, of course, wants ASUU to return to the classrooms to employ the services of dysfunctional ovens, serving as ovens-turned-cupboards, and to continue to teach students how to use basic laboratory equipments (largely unavailable) through mere illustrations and verbal descriptions.
Here, that’s the way to go. Becoming ‘labelled’ graduates, certificate-wielding, is cheap; in fact, too easy to be taken any seriously.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed in wait for the next google-refresh-pages of ASUU vs. FGN news.
The above is the dream of Musa Parad Isiaka and while we wait for him to wake, this novel character continues to bustle in my brain.
From lAkUnLeScReWs with love, it is ciao!.