Scene One, City One
It is the 16th day of March. The year is 2018. On this day, like every other, the Sun is wearing a wide grin. The trees are fresh and radiant like never before, as though someone rubbed them with shea butter before dawn stole its way in. The roads are fat and spotless, like rich spoilt kids whose dining room is permanently located at McDonald’s. The people, however, carry on with their day’s activities without pausing to notice the city’s sparkle, splendour, and surrounding beauty. It appears they have grown used to it.
On Alabama avenue, three young Caucasians, between the ages of 20 and 25, are seen cruising side by side in the fanciest of latest cars – 2060 models. One is Henry, another is Stone, and the last fellow goes by the name Steve. The tender fire of a conversation was soon kindled.
Steve: [Winds down and shouts to the other two] It is a beautiful day, isn’t it, fellas?
Henry and Stone: Oh yes! It is.
Henry: I can’t wait to see what records I’ll be shattering today, with the help of my Harvard V10. I have been collaborating with friends in the United Kingdom and Germany to see what changes we can make to our cities together. By 2020, we hope to send gasoline packing as we commercialise other sources of automobile energy.
Stone: Great work there, man!
Steve: Excellent! You guys sure know our cars cannot have a smooth sail without the city in great shape. So we have to do all we can to constantly improve it. My team and I, with our MIT 99, are already set to launch streetlights powered both by lunar and solar power. We just discovered we can tap from the moon at night just as much as we tap from the Sun when it’s day. With this, we can even have enough backup energy to last through unexpected blackouts.
Henry: Beautiful! Beautiful!
Steve: What about you, Stone? What have you been up to of late?
Stone: Well, I have just been concerned with speed, sincerely. Yesterday, my supercool sports car, Stanford+, sped at 310 km/hour on the Artificial Intelligence street, off the Innovations Crescent. Today, I am expecting to reach at least 314, before the Chinese beat us to it.
Steve: Boy, that’s remarkable!
Stone: Thank you, bruv!
And so the conversation continued with talks of IoT, AI, Blockchain, Climate Change etc. etc. Soon after, all three young men parked their vehicles just outside a skyscraper on Century Street, New World District. Boldly written on the intimidating structure is number 21. One by one, they entered. There was no guard at the gate, only a robotic scanner. After Stone, the last of the three, made his way in, the door silently shut by itself. “Welcome to the future,” it said in a soothing female voice.
Scene Two, City Two
The date is 16th of March. The year is 2018. The country is somewhere under the armpit of Africa, far away from its round head, foot and horn. Today, like every other, the Sun wears a frown. It is a little too hot. The day before, it was a little bit on the other side of hot. It has always been this way, hot or cold enough to make life difficult, but not too much to anger or madden its subjects. In this place, there are no trees. All were cut down decades ago and replaced with electric poles having little or no wires.
On the poles are big, colourful posters of men with caps and flowing attires. Their smile almost compensated for the Sun’s frown – wide enough to cover nearly all their edited faces. The streets are lean and haggard, like refugees from East Africa. Their skin, already made from dust, is covered in even more. Nothing is smooth. It is either high from bumps and bruises, or low from wounds and rashes.
We see three black boys, between ages 20 and 25, pushing heavily-loaded wheelbarrows. They trudge side-by-side, but never forsaking a convincing smile. One is Akande, another is Uche, and the third is Danjuma.
Danjuma: [wringing a face towel that just flew across his flooded face] Kai! This Sun is hot today o. Even me wey grow up for Bornu dey feel am.
Akande: I dey tell you, but e no mean sha. We go still reach where we dey go.
Uche: Me I don dey reason am. If only we had umbrellas in our wheelbarrows, we could get some protection from the harsh weather, or wetin you think?
Akande: Tah! What do we need those for? We no need am! Humbrella or no humbrella, my own wheelbarrow, UI 303, is the greatest in this place. First and the best, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Gba be!
Danjuma: [laughs hysterically, nearly slipping into a pothole] Chai! Wetin this Oduduwa pikin dey yarn for here? Didn’t you get the memo? NUC just released a ranking with my ABU 212 topping the list. Una no dey watch evening news?
Uche: See me see trouble o! Look at these small boys o. E be like say you need make I reset you to factory settings, ehn? Which one of your wheelbarrows can stand my UNN 767? Ehn? No be say dem say. Nah we dey always win competitions for this country. No be by NUC ranking o! And even if we accept that one, we go still top am next year. Nah borrow we dey borrow you for now.
Akande: Eez like both you are mad, habi? Okay, okay. When my wheelbarrow enter number 850 for top vehicles in the whole wide world, where your own dey? Na ask I dey ask o.
Uche: Abeg, comot for road! Wetin be the difference wey dey number 850 and we wey no enter? Tell me. Make you kuku no enter sef pay you than to disgrace yourself for international stage.
Danjuma: No mind am! The guy don high.
[Danjuma’s wheelbarrow suddenly gets stuck in a muddy pit].
Danjuma: Abeg, guys, come help me push this thing small. Akande, go front to pull am.
Akande: Ha-ha! See exactly wetin I don dey talk since? If nah my own premier wheelbarrow now, e go don tactically manoeuvre that problem. E fit suspend the pothole sef. Greatest UI!
Uche: [While pushing Danjuma’s vehicle] It’s a lie, oga. Great UNN! UNN kwenu!
Danjuma: Hehe, una both wan use me take shine abi? Nah greatest of the greatest ABU o! Nah we dey rock the town, from the South of Sahara to the West of Skilashi and from the East of Skelemba to the North of Limpopo. Forget se pothole dey disgrace us. E fit happen to anybody.
Thus continued the discussion, with occasional cries of ‘great’, ‘greatest’, ‘best’, ‘better’… After exactly nine hours and two minutes, they arrived at number 19, Century Street, off Comfort Crescent. It is a small hut, with its door rebelling against the hinges, and bricks bereaving the loss of their relatives. Written faintly but legibly on its wooden door are the words, “Welcome to the Museum.” As Danjuma parked his wheelbarrow against the wall and hurried inside to join his friends, the door, finally gaining its freedom, slammed against the grimy floor.