‘In Dependence’, Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe


A Story of Why My Grandfather Bought a Robot in 1960

Illustration © 2021 Jason Baltazar

 [ Robot, © 2021 Jason Baltazar ] I wasn’t born yet, in 1960, when my country gained independence
But I heard tales of how my grandfather took all his savings
And bought a robot from a travelling merchant.

The robot could speak seven languages
But my grandfather understoood just Yoruba.
The robot could recite classics stored in its hard drive
But my grandfather was illiterate.

When people asked him why he bought something so useless to him
He shook his head and said:

The white man has come and gone,
But we have nothing to remember him by.
These are the days of erasure,
We will erase the past to create a new future.
But the scars of the past are still decorating our skins.
The scars of being slaves in our fatherland,
The scars of my father stolen away from his farm to toil,
On a white man’s plantation—these scars are still fresh.
I bought this robot so I could remember,
That the end of the war is not the end of our battles,
That though the white man has left, he will return.
And though we rejoice for gaining independence,
We shall return to being dependent on the things we thought we could do without.

One evening, the robot walked to where he slept
And strangled him to death in his sleep.
Some say he died thinking the white man had returned,
Thinking his prediction had come to pass.
So he died with a smile of satisfaction on his face
While the robot recorded the cause of his death.
It recorded paranoia, anxiety, dementia.
And everyone agreed with it.

© 2021 Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

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