It was just two days before the last Christmas. It was getting late. Willy was engrossed mending an old big map. It was one of those huge maps that National Geographic Society is well known for – a fold-in map from an old edition of the National Geographic magazine. Several old copies of the magazine are scattered all over the house. Two sheets of this map, made in the form of a cloth are almost large enough for an average adult to make a decent shirt out of. The map was still in good shape except for some few slashes here and there due to frquent folding and unfolding. Willy had to spend ample time mending the torn big map. To this end, he has previously bought a big cellotape from a nearby store. The borrowed pair of scissors from his mum also came in handy. This is usually his style any time he finds a pet project to occupy his time. His mum said that the boy is like me in this area. All focus and concentration. The boy reminds me of those days back at Ososo Grammar School and later at Oyo State College of Arts and Science Ile Ife. Then, I used to explore the world – just reading and poring over maps in my college atlas. That was before the days of the world wide web. That was long before computers and laptops as we know them now were concieved and embraced en-masse. Both Yahoo and Google were still many years ahead – behemoths of the future, yet to be born. The first job I got after my WASC/GCE OL was selling audio cassettes at one of those noisy open shops at Gbagi, Ibadan. One of the first things I bought from my first salary was a college atlas. That was long before what Professor Os Guinness in his book “Fools Talk”, described as the modern Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMD).These weapons of mass distraction if you don’t know them are in their legions – Google Whatsapp, Skype, BBM, Yahoo IM, Telegram etc, etc
Daddy: “Willy, you’ve spent so much time repairing a “broken map” of USA and cramming the names of all the 50 states in US, can you even tell me the names of all the 36 states in Nigeria by heart?”
Willy: “Yes. That is easy now. I can name all of them along with their capital cities.”
Daddy: “I’m sure I can do the same too if I really have to. When I was your age, Nigeria had only 12 states… ”
Late in the evening of the following day, resuming from where he stopped yesterday, Willy has itemized the list of almost all the states that make up US in his notebook. Hawaaii and Alaska were also included in the large spread out map. He has written down all the names of the states of US correctly (along with their capital cities). All except for the state of Rhode Island. At long last , tracing his finger towards the North East section of the large map, he exclaimed with excitement.
“Daddy, is Rhode Island also a state?”
“Yes, it is. On the map, the state is very small, that is why you were not able to locate it quickly.”
Willy: “The area is very small. It’s about the size of Rivers State.”
Daddy: “I think Rhode Island is even smaller than Rivers State.”
Willy: “Daddy, I can mention almost all the states by heart.”
Daddy: “Are you sure you can do that?”
Daddy: “Sure? OK. Will President Obama, Bill Gates or any American citizen give you an award for naming all the states of their country correctly without looking at your map? You had better go and find some better thing to do with your time instead of cramming the name of the states in US.
And don’t forget to cellotape together the large slashed out hole in the centre of the map. Doing so will help the map to last longer.
On my own part, I’ve been through only 3 of US states. I’ve been through the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois. Do you know that Texas is larger than Nigeria in terms of land area? Texas and California are the two largest states. You can even see that from the map.”
Dad: “Yes son?”
Willy: “How do you pronounce this state M-a-s-s-a-c-h….
Dad: “That is Massachussetts.”
Dad: “One of the most famous universities in the world – Massachussetts Institute of Technology is located there.”
Mercy: “That is “MIT””
Daddy: “It is not pronounced MIT (as in meat), the alphabets are pronounced individually M-I-T.”
Mercy: “I know.”
Now addressing myself to Willy, “you had better start putting in more efforts towards your Maths. You never can tell. May be one of these days, you will find yourself at the MIT.”
He was grinning from ear to ear and finally walking away from the map still left open on the plastic table.
So here is my son working hard to fix a “broken map” of America. And I said to myself, it seems that this America don’t even know who their true friends are. And what do you expect when you don’t even know who your friends are? Why won’t you be running from pillar to post when you cannot differentiate between your true friends and your sworn enemies?
And I said to myself further on, if only there were more of our youth who will commit themselves to mending this broken and battered nation of ours – Nigeria. Let’s commit ourselves to this goal in this year 2016 and going forward. That’s is the challenge of our times. Willy’s Challenge.