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What the… Nigeria is 60?!

What the… Nigeria is 60?!

3 October, 2020

I’ve always believed that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria that removing its people will not cure. Nigeria will breathe again if someone could just kindly take all the present occupants out of it and place them on planet Saturn, and then fill this country again with others with more serious turns of mind, such as Martians

 

I love drama and the dramatic, I’m sure you would have found that out by now. That is why I try to put some pizzazz in most things. When the food bins are empty, I don’t just go, ‘we need to restock!’ Oh no, that’s too normal. I prefer to go, ‘What the… the food bins are empty?! Who is the rat that has been gnawing at them? Will someone not show me which one of us has been eating this house dry and will not let my one thousand naira garri last for one month?’ I just love hearing all the ‘it’s not me…’ from mouths full of garri grains.

So, much as I love the dramatic, I believe Nigeria, my beloved country, loves it even more. That is why I worry. I worry that Nigeria has been so used to giving the world all that drama that it might not be able to get out of it. Just look at what I mean by drama. Nigeria is said to be earning this much from petrol, yet with few having access to it; against the backdrop of such desperate poverty in the country that women are dying in childbirth in droves because of lack.

Many who have had access to the nation’s wealth have not built hospitals that they themselves might have been able to benefit from in the future should another virus lock down the world again. They have not built schools that could benefit many children, including their relatives, and lessen the burden of ignorance placed on those one’s heads by the corrupt system. They certainly have not even built cheap and affordable housing units that might have helped many people. No, the dramatic in us just insists on showing the world that we are a ‘fantastically corrupt country’. Now, that is why I worry – all this dramatic show and tell!

Like you, I do remember snippets of my childhood, especially the parts that contained a lot of drama. I do remember a particular episode involving a new sweater I had just been given. I could not have been more than what, three or four years old. I think in my eagerness to show off the sweater, I fell down the staircase. Naturally, that was the end of the beauty of that sweater for me. Sooner or later, as the saying goes, pride falls down the staircase. No? They don’t say that? Who would have guessed?!

Anyways, I’ve always believed that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria that removing its people will not cure. Nigeria will breathe again if someone could just kindly take all the present occupants out of it and place them on planet Saturn, and then fill this country again with others with more serious turns of mind, such as Martians. The reason is that we have spent the better part of the last sixty years dramatising to the world that we do not deserve the space we occupy because we cannot seem to get it right, starting with something as simple as equity.

Seriously, just look at the state of things in the country. Electricity is in such short supply everyone has a budget for generator fuel. Hospitals are in such short supply patients have to wait to get bed space. Schools are in such short supply that children take lessons under trees in some places. Where there are classrooms, they are sometimes better suited for goats and sheep, and that’s being cruel to goats and sheep. Food is in such short supply that many able-bodied have taken to going around begging. Well, there’s something wrong with that anyways, but the point is, they claim they are driven into it by circumstances.

Have you noticed that this year, there are no drums being rolled out for the country on this birthday occasion? It’s as if people have lost their hope. The situation is indeed dire, and the government is not helping matters.

Not only was the country, along with the rest of the world, hard hit by COVID-19, it is now suffering the double tragedy of the government being more interested in adding to her burdens. First, fuel price increase, and then increase in electricity tariff. These two have added to the big, seemingly intractable problems on ground: insecurity from the antics of bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen and the almighty Corruption. Together, all these problems, piled on together, are right now threatening the tensile strength of the camel’s back. Seriously, can a people be more beleaguered?

Now, the level of angst in the land has reached an epidemic level. As we said, many have taken to solving their problems by begging, many more have remained still, nursing their rising blood pressure and silently crying into their pillows. Me, I work out my angst by counting my remaining grains of rice and garri, as I have been taught by some people I know on social media. You won’t believe how therapeutic that is. By the time you’re through, you’ve not only forgotten your problems, you’ve forgotten why you set out to count them in the first place.

It is all the more painful because Nigeria had so much riches and promise. The riches were frittered away; the promise was buried deep within the earth, and deliberately too. The leadership of the country, from the beginning, never meant to allow that promise to grow, which is sad really, because it would have been to the benefit of all of us. Rather than foster growth, her leaders have preferred instead to foster religious and ethnic divisions, selfishness, greed, and unimaginable waste. The result has been that, instead of our having a country as advanced as any on earth (yes, we could have done it!), we have a country that is a cesspool of veritable poverty. The long and short of all this is that Nigeria at 60 has no narrative worth recounting.

Even right now, the coming generations have become entangled in this cesspool of dirt and corruption. Not only are the children of the privileged being taught that it is alright to enjoy and live like princes on wealth they did not work for, the children of the underprivileged are being taught that it is alright to do anything at all, including killing others, to get some wealth to live on. No society with these kinds of norms lasts any distance. Sooner or later, something gives.

Nigeria’s story can change, because, as the saying goes, it is never too late; all we need is sincerity of purpose. Unfortunately, many of her leaders, since the beginning, have not been able to see past monetary advantages. Many of us have gone quite crazy at the sight and sound and smell of so much money in our positions of authority. This is why I always say that many leaders are really not as fortunate as they think, no matter their gains. The work of social engineering that is demanded of them is more than enough preoccupation.

The crushing weight of sociopolitical engineering upon leaders is more than enough concern. Well, this is one time to carry that weight with panache. So, there really is no need for all the dramatics of anti-people bills; only the dramatics of weight carrying.

I greet this country on this occasion of her birthday with, as usual, the two sides of my mouth. On the one side, I raise my cup of garri grains to her tenacity and tensile strength. On the other, I’m shouting, ‘What the… Sixty already?!’ How time has flown; and with so much drama too!

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