I was asking my mum about a famous politician (dead now), how he could be so bad and good at the same time. How he could feed so many poor, find shelter for the homeless and still hurt people in the name of politics. (Ask me later for the politician’s name. I don’t want gbege).
My brother who finds every chance to challenge my opinion asked me what gave me the power to label someone as “bad”. Are you God?
“The same power to label someone as “Good”, I snapped back. So it’s alright to say someone is good but only God can say someone is bad?
There are good and bad in people and pointing out the obvious bad in someone doesn’t mean I have judged them. Right?
Reading created this kind of light in my mind. . I hate and love some protagonists at the same time. Some protagonists are good and bad at the same time and you love them still, not love. That’s exaggeration. You understand them, you understand the reason they were bad and you can’t label them bad, often I put myself in the position and would ask myself, would you have done better? An American Marriage by Tayari Jones did that to me. I usually don’t have answers.
Yesterday, I was in a taxi going from Iwo Road to Adegbayi, a man entered the cab. Probably new in Ibadan and he isn’t a Yoruba, the driver overcharged him and I, in my mind was thinking why would he do that? Because he knew he wouldn’t know the standard transport fare. I was angry as I am about stuff like this. It’s bad. I didn’t say anything though, I wanted to but I didn’t. Is that bad?
Later around Airport junction, new passengers entered, a woman with 2 young girls in their Air force Primary School uniform.
The driver in awe of the uniform asked if her son attended Air force too?
“I don’t have a son,” the young woman said.
“Why not? Airforce is even better for boys o. You should give birth to a boy too.” Driver advised.
“Children are Children.” The woman gave an awkward smile and then snapped at the younger girl who was jumping and screaming loudly.
The driver later went on to talk about how he wants so much for one of his sons to attend Air force Primary school, to go forth to Air force Secondary School and eventually train to be part of the Air force.
“You know Air force is better than this Navy and Soldier abi. This police men ehn, they no get mouth for where Air force dey.”
She replied Yes. “But you can still enroll your children. The fee is not that expensive”
“No o. I can’t. I have 5 children and I want them all to go to school. If I put one in a school that requires the fees of his siblings. The world will think I’m mad gan.”
Till we got to my Bus stop, he didn’t stop talking about Air force and how much he wants his son to be one.
I told him his son could still be an Air force without attending Air force Primary school.
He smiled. “I know but I like this Air force school and I really wished I had something more than this taxi driving job to enroll my son.”
I said a silent prayer when I alighted. That his sons become greater than he hoped and wished.
I wasn’t angry with him over charging the man anymore. I wasn’t.
I’m not justifying the fact that he overcharged the man, the reason he overcharged the man is because the man was new to the area not because he wanted to add the extra 30 naira to his son’s school fees.
But when he overcharged the man, I already had a Picture of the type of man he is in my head. They weren’t good Pictures, trust me. But when he spoke about other things, like his desire to have all his children go to school, to have one of his son become an Air Force. The pictures changed, he became a Father. A good, and hopeful father not just a driver who overcharges people new to the area.
And then as I walked home I started to wonder who is a good person, who is a bad person?
What amount of good do you know about the person you’ve just labelled bad? Would the people I’ve labeled bad still be bad to me if I knew their reasons, if I knew more about them instead of first impressions, assumptions and hearsay?
There are so many parts of a man. The good part, the bad part and then there’s this third part. The part you can relate to. Good or bad.
“I began to understand that we were all born neither more nor less cruel nor kind than the other. We become bad only after we were born, not before. And this is what matters most. This after is connected with our training, with our upbringing, with our socialization”
—Festus Iyayi, Heroes.