Akì í mú ìbọn tetere. One does not hold a gun carelessly. (Always be careful in handling dangerous matters.)
So Nigeria is 59 years, 59 years after the British officially handed over to us, to run the show, we call it Independence Day anniversary; sadly all is not well with our beloved nation Nigeria. I am drawing this conversation from almost ten years ago; to wake us up if at all we are asleep to the realities of the times. That we are at one of our lowest ebb as a nation in many indices is in itself no news, given the fact that this phrase “all is not well” has become a popular refrain in recent years.
Can all be well then, sometime in the future; is it possible that as a nation, Nigeria can still find character and strength to hold her head up; remains million Naira questions.
For a nation that has completely lost its sense of rage, the norm has become abnormal, the abnormal, so normal and a way of life. Deviant attitudes supported by an elite leadership well disconnected from a docile populace.
At 59, we are society where leadership would deny rape that is obvious, a society that has lost its sense of morality as policemen continue to fight publicly for N20 that is when they are not killing an innocent soul for the same amount. A nation that its security apparatus are against each other when not against the people whose tax pays their salaries.
At 59, we are a nation that simply does not understand the precepts behind the rule of law, we at a rate not yet know abuse our judicial system, that is when the system is not being self abused. Most days, the federal government is disobeying laws of her land, and another day, asking governments of other lands to honor theirs.
At 59 years, institutional rape is on the rise, ASUU strikes are not news, education on the decline, system gradually collapsing and yet no rage, we try to find character through phrases such as Transformation, Change, and NEXT LEVEL, 1million Point agenda, re-engineering, redemption, and all such cache words, good people, great nation, but truth is that silently the underdevelopment of our nation continues in almost all spheres.
At 59 years, we are not outraged at how we have suddenly become a nation that produces god of men rather than men of God, pastors with several aircrafts while the congregation are hoodwinked with prosperity classes, Islamic scholars turned Talibans. And one day we may just wake to the news that a governor may have been kidnapped.
I went to a public school, Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School, it was situated in a Lagos suburb called Mushin, I was taught English Language in Yoruba, for it to sink in, and I properly understood. At 59, we don’t understand the language of our leaders, “speaketh them” English, Yoruba or Hausa, we do not know, but one thing is clear, and that is because “NA DEM”, it is all about them, they close the borders to protect us from us, but they open the skies to access everything foreign for themselves.
In the early days, the ones we referred to as the much-mouthed good days, then Nigeria was just 10 years, we were 20 years, we had fought a civil war, made mistakes that has brought us here, but there was a semblance of character then; we had not become so corrupted, or possibly what was a structure was being disintegrated. Then it was a burden to spend 50Kobo. One Naira had value and character. Today part of the burden at 59 is a lack of structure, one that is anchored on fairness, equity, free enterprise and spirit of nationhood.
When Nigeria was younger, we studied Islamic Religious Knowledge and Christian Religious Knowledge as they were both called irrespective of your faith. And on Fridays, morning assembly was held as a regular Jumat service led by Mr. Salami, everyone participated, we had character. We were neighbors, the underbelly was soft but we soldier on, and maybe that was part of the problem.
Many of us would recall that Onward exercise book, 20, 40, 60 and 80 leaves with the mathematical timetable behind, now replaced with some flashy notebooks with the head of some foreign soccer league star name and photo or club, we have lost our character to the English Premier League, it is a global village but we have no hamlet in that village at 59, as Nigerians are killed everywhere, home and abroad!
We have not lost our rage; in recent times if left on our own we may soon require FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) to get married.
A governor traveled to get foreign donor to assist in building a new government house, at 59 years. We have the potential to do as China is doing, or translate into some African Alsatian if we cannot become tigers. But we consistently spew chance after chance away, and behave like the proverbial cockerel pecking the bottle while the groundnuts are inside.
Government officials tour the world with monies better used for meaningful development chasing shadows that you cannot trust in the dark. We beg them with ten years VISA, they treat us like rag, we get four weeks VISA in return after some blue eyed woman behind a counter is sure we’ve got millions to spend in Disney land and we see nothing wrong.
At 59 from the era of draconian decrees by the military we have swaggered to the democratic version which is simply ‘pay-as-you-go, talk-as-you-want judiciary. The executive continues to grope in the dark, looking for a replacement for Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and some army general, if we cannot take little strides would it not be foolhardy to expect giant strides.
When a legislative arm remains in recess while the nation burns, does it deserve commentary, we are a people where, cure is better than prevention, Kefason, Sowore, Jalingo et al are all in prison for talking…
There is no outrage that a governor appoints 1,070 political aides, among them hundreds of special assistants and dozens of senior special assistants whose salaries and other perks would cost State treasury several millions, and what do these aides do; NOTHING!
At 59, we are still serving dinner with the perennial guests, corruption, nepotism, abandoned projects, lack of infrastructure, bloated government, insecurity and lack of decisive will in governance. There is no agreement on which way to go, as we battle to renegotiate our collective existence as a nation, confidence in government divided.
At 59 its either government has no commitment and has ability, or its ability is never matched with commitment. As we mourn yet another Independence, I dare ask where has all the increased oil revenue gone to, no corresponding increase in quality or quantity in the lives of Nigerians. We are now a borrowing or is it lending nation, even English fails me as I am saddened.
“In the human development index Nigeria is low. In life expectancy it is low, and unemployment continues to soar high. Maternal mortality climbing the rooftop, children out of school is a whole country in Europe.
In Rivers State, in the oil-producing south, local government revenues have risen while the level of basic services declines, in a Local Government in Kaduna, kidnap is comparable to the record numbers in Mexico.
How can we grow at 59 when a government officials travel budget is higher than that for teachers’ salaries or his accommodation higher than that given in bursaries to university students? When his or her phone allowance is higher than what is allocated to equipping, building and repairing local health facilities.
Limited and declining basic services are a concern across the country. For example, national good water coverage fell is less than 50%. At 59, citizenry have very little to show. The power supply is nonexistent in many parts of the country so people rely on generators more than the national grid… People go to hospitals to die and public schools are going extinct.
Let me state that in 59 years, there are Nigerians littered across the globe breaking barriers, creating records, being great in their rights, berthing innovations, and a home there are pockets trying to make Nigeria a better place, but until we get to the proverbial there, we are still far away from any form of Independence.
Let me end by saying that until there is an outrage; we will go ahead like all is well, feeding on our false resilience. Hoping against hope, holding the gun of nationhood carelessly, …would there be a Nigeria, in the next 41 years, what would it look like – Only time would tell.
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