I really have never celebrated my birth date anniversary and I do not think I will start that ritual in contemporary terms. The reason, obviously (may be to me and a few others), is the ‘insignificance’ attached to such dates. What makes it more special than the other waking days? However, before I step on toes, let me appreciate everyone who has shown, and who will show, some great, heart-touching gestures towards me on this occasion that falls incidentally on the 24th of May, every year.
My wife quipped, “When do you actually make the turn of another year; Nigerian time or the time of the country you live in?” To that, I did not have an answer. I hope writing this piece will help figure it out.
Having being born in Nigeria, it would be expected that my birthday arrives at 12:00 midnight Nigerian time. However, it will be 8:00 p.m. on the part of the earth where I currently reside. Do I start acknowledging birthday wishes at 8:00 p.m. here (12:00 midnight Nigerian time) or wait till 12:00 midnight here (4:00 a.m. Nigerian time). Of course, the most reasonable thing to do is to acknowledge wishes from 12:00 midnight Nigerian time (8:00 p.m. here). However, I feel a little awkwardness like my birthday starts at two different times (one, the Nigerian 12:00 midnight and 4:00 a.m.).
Why is growth so dynamic across the world? Though one remains the same person, while one’s Nigerian friends will start to congratulate one for adding a year at 12:00 midnight of the 24th of May, friends of another time-zone (with four hours behind), would at that same moment (8:00 pm of the 23rd of May) have to wait four more hours. They would think you are yet to grow into another year.
At which of these times did I grow older by a year? I actually grow older every fraction of each second that ticks away. Growth is about the individual entity, that immeasurable fraction somewhere in-between the seconds, in-between time itself. It cannot be seen, touched or even felt, but it is noticed in the physical changes that occur to us over time. That can only be measured when our images are compared in pictures and well, maybe in the acquisition of intangible assets. It is rather intrinsic; the growth of humans does not necessarily lie on the pages of almanacs, but right in the cells. We cannot even perceive our growth!
By extension, one is inclined to ask, “When does Nigeria (or the unique identity of inhabitants of that geographical space, past, present or future) come, gallivant or stumble into existence? There is something interesting about time, especially as it relates to events and players of events. Was it when the country got colonized and an identity forced on her and her occupants in their respective regions? Was it after the amalgamation of the different protectorates, when many of the occupants had to shed some of their unique features to take on new identities yet again, under the sovereign, concerted rule of the queen of england (sic)? Well, many others opine that we got into existence as soon as we got independence from British rule in 1960, a situation that afforded us the rare privilege to redefine who we truly were and how we hoped to live together as Nigerians. With the advent of military rule, which subsequently became a festering would, that will never go, the acquisition of democratic status granted for us some hope, and many believe, Nigeria is beginning to come into existence.
There are many other situations that come to the mind of the reader as well as the writer about both the significance and insignificance of time. One of such is the status of development across the world, with respect to time. While some countries are said to be developed, others are categorized otherwise: developed and underdeveloped. When do we say we have gotten development? At what point? What is the reference for development? Many would argue that technological advancement is tantamount to development. Yes, of course! But as we have always been advised, “Tread carefully!” What about spiritual advancement (Read the use of egbe to traverse the world without gigantic paraphernalia. Read the digging of Sugbon Eredo by the legendary Bilikisu Sungbon, the Queen of Sheba, with iko without the need for excavators, numerous man-powers and the troubles associated with ‘modern development’)?
Time affords relativity. In retrospect and by virtue of the fallouts of particular civilizations, previous civilizations are adjudged developed or otherwise. Hence, all civilizations must have been developed at some point in time in the past, especially with reference to themselves and the beneficiaries of that civilization, irrespective of even adjoining civilizations.
Our global civilization comes to mind and one recalls the quote of Albert Einstein that attempted to categorize the current state of development to which he had contributed immensely, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
While we await further categorization of people, tribes, races, countries, events and eras by ‘unknown’ entities and as compared to their ‘chosen’ references, let’s pick up glass-cups, make a toast and break the ice.