Long Live Nigeria—But!

Jos Law Week: Human Rights and Activities of Security Agencies in Nigeria

If you leave the baby lion in the midst of matured goats, there will be tales by moonlight…


Indian PM: Namaste, Gangubai. Please sit

Gangubai: Namaste, Mr. Prime Minister

Indian PM: I hope you had a comfortable journey

Gangubai: I did

Indian PM: Have some tea

Gangubai: Thank you, You have some too?

Indian PM: Later, I have heard a lot about you, Gangubai. What you have done for downtrodden women is commendable. Your fight against injustice is a noble one.

Gangubai: My father taught me all this. He was a barrister too. Mr. Jagjeevandas. First of all, I want to thank you, sir, for taking the time to meet me.

Indian PM: No need to thank me. It’s my duty to meet people and grant them their rights

Gangubai: Yes. That’s what I have come for…

Indian PM: Go on.

Gangubai: Legalise Prostitution!

Indian PM: That is impossible, Gangubai. Prostitution is not for the welfare of society.

Gangubai: But as long as society exists, so will prostitution. As we speak, some girl is being sold off or someone is buying her. The seller and buyer should be punished but who gets the punishment? That innocent girl.

Indian PM: I understand your pain

Gangubai: No sir. No one can understand what we go through. Not even God Himself. All our rights have been taken away from us. Be it a school or hospital, bank or queue at the grocery store. A mother’s love, a father’s protection, we are deprived of it all. Now even our home is taken away from us. They want us to vacate Kamathipura. They have even dragged us to court!

Indian PM: Have faith in the law. It always supports the truth.

Gangubai: Which law? We are the victim and yet treated as a criminal. The daughter of Eve needs help. The likes of Yashoda, the daughter of Radha. The prophet’s nation, the daughter of Zulekha. Those who are proud of this country, where are they?

Indian PM: Okay. I will set up a committee and discuss this matter

Gangubai: Thank you

Indian PM: Can I ask you something, Gangubai?

Gangubai: Yes

Indian PM: Don’t you want to set up a home of your own, away from this world?

Gangubai: The truth is that 4000 women in Kamathipura are my family. I live in their hearts.

Indian PM: Okay. I’ll make sure your homes are not taken away. (PM gives her a red rose)

Gangubai: And our legal rights as well…Have you seen black roses, Mr. Prime Minister?

Indian PM: Black roses? Do they even exist?

Gangubai: They do. Visit our neighbourhood sometime, you’ll find a garden filled with them.

Gangubai: Long live India!

Indian PM: Long live India!

As long as Gangubai lived, the garden of black roses thrived…Gangubai was no saint but she was no devil either. People like Gangu will not be mentioned in history, but these lanes have a way of remembering, and these lanes tell us that as long as Gnagubai lived, not a single woman in Kamathipura went homeless. White sari, golden tooth and a woman with a golden heart. Gangubai Jangjeevandas Kathiawadi. The woman who tried to legalise prostitution. Who gave women dignity in an undignified place and taught them to breath freely in stifling cages. The color of gratitude and celebration that day was white…Gangu white. Some called her a Mafia Queen, while others called her a sister. A friend to someone and a mother to some…

Movie stars’ posters come and go every Friday…But Gangubai is one such star whose photograph has stayed on the walls of Kamathipura for the last 50years. Her destiny was filled with sorrow, but she smiled her way through life. Wanted to be a movie star, but her life played out like a grand movie.

That was the last 10 mins of the movie Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Young Ganga is tricked by her boyfriend with the promise of a film career and persuaded to leave the countryside for Mumbai. In Mumbai her dreams of a film career come crashing down and she is lured to the underworld.

The film is based on the true story of Gangubai Harjivandas. Her life was documented in the book ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’ penned by S. Hussain Zaidi. Gangubai Harjeevandas, better known as Gangubai Kothewali or Gangubai Kathiyawadi, was an Indian social activist, prostitute and madam of a brothel in the Kamathipura area of Mumbai during the 1960s. Gangubai did a lot of work for sex-workers and for the well-being of orphans.

Prostitution per se is legal now in India but it is caught in a web of laws that makes sex workers vulnerable to police action in red-light districts, where they ply their trade on streets or in dingy brothels.

I am not writing about prostitution, I am writing about Nigeria, I am writing about a nation that may not live long if we don’t find heroes soon, we speak of her heroes past. I am speaking to a nation of black roses. A nation that is everyday falling apart and retrogressing more than it is progressing. I am talking about our youths, the black roses of Africa’s largest black population, I am talking about how they move without direction, I am talking about the stifling cages that they are kept in.

I am speaking to a litany of broken promises, a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that have put Nigeria firmly on track towards an unliveable existence. Long live Nigeria where her citizens do well everywhere but home. Where politics supersedes education. A nation where her youths lie to themselves, blame everything and everyone but themselves, live with a blemished sense of an entitlement, wanting everything and not willing to take anything.

Young people incapable like Gangubai to galvanise themselves to a movement, a political movement, picking a party and breathing life into it. Yet they are running after heroes past, while education is on hold, young people are collecting their share. The same people who mobilised funds for a DAVIDO to get his car, yet these young people who are members of the 30bn gang cry wolf about 100M nomination cost.

We are not ready, Nigeria cannot live long, it wants to live long but how can it, our leaders do not take us seriously, whatever the faith, ethnic cleavages, party affiliations; they are all the same, they have no truth in them, justice flawed is their sense of reasoning, what they see we do not see and so though we want to live long, everyday live becomes shorter, the battle even grim because no one wants to take responsibility, no one wants to be held accountable and so the dance of shame of a nation that has greatness written all around it continues.

A mushroom sprouts from

an arid pacific atoll

Disintegrates into space

Leaving only a residue of might

to which for an illusory

peace and security

man clings.

In the calm of the early morning

the third day after

love found joy

in the empty tomb

the wooden cross of disgrace

transformed into a symbol

of love service


‘Peace Signs’ (1974) By Celestine Kulagoe

Long live Nigeria—But only time will tell how long.

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