Column Opinion

Nigeria And Nigerians – But Why?

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

Let me start my admonition this week with a usual unusual, an unexplained norm within our political space and leadership sphere.

Who amongst us has understood the idea, principle or workings of office holders going to functions late, and then blaring away sirens, racing in breakneck speed, which in not just one case, in that mad rush, their convoys have been responsible for innumerable casualties? Why go late to a meet/function that you were made aware of by your protocol many days before—why?

So, in the unusual manner I started, I painfully continue; a certain Mrs Adeola Egbebi, an environmental security guard, collapsed on duty at Oja Oba market in Akure after being reportedly slapped by Dr Doyin Odebowale, the Senior Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Special Duty.

Odebowole allegedly attacked the heavily pregnant worker for not standing up to greet him like her other environmental staff.

“The woman had been working since resuming service, and it was time for the environmental protection guards to leave the Erekesan market when the governor’s SSA Odebowale arrived with his men and began threatening the workers, but Mrs Egbebi was unable to greet him immediately, which enraged the SSA, who gave her a hot slap and she slumped.

The most unfortunate thing is that the SSA didn’t even care to take the woman to hospital. It was her colleagues and some good Samaritans that helped us to take her to a private hospital,” a source revealed.

Only God in heaven, no let me rather put it in this manner, only the god of men in this clime know how we churn out such characters that occupy leadership spaces. But why—really why are we like this: ‘who do us like this’, it was Ortom and Lalong in the past, Ortom and Bala, and now it’s Ortom and El-Rufa’i desecrating public spaces with childlike muttering and uncouth venom. Why are we like these, and such rantings fill public spaces, and we debate about it, are enraged but no one is concerned about a public officer that slaps a pregnant woman.

What kind of education, what system is responsible for the kind of leaders we produce, is it truism that we deserve what we get, and leadership cannot be elevated beyond followership, but why—Catholic bishops versus the FG, Christians versus Muslims, south versus north…the list of dichotomies full of hate is countless, why is it so?

While ASUU strike, is nothing to celebrate, it is essential to note that beyond the pandemic that such prolonged school disruptions have and will continue to have, tell me a sector that literally have not downed tools, it’s profound impact on the lives and learning of a whole nation,  to the extent that a government official slaps a pregnant citizen for not greeting him.

But why the inequitable access to health care, income inequality, and disproportionate employment in high-risk, “essential” jobs, low-income, marginalized communities to a deplorable point where Nigerians now are a government to themselves. Dire security, health and economic disorder to a point schools close in the nation’s capital because of a truckload of bandits seen by citizens and yet not seen by the intelligence and security communities.

Our systems are highly inequitable and plagued by opportunity gaps in all corners.  Although we may see the light at the end of the tunnel but if we don’t talk, if we don’t dialogue, the long equity crisis is just the beginning of sad days ahead, in a tunnel we do not know the length.

When social and emotional well-being is absent in a people, they spend three years after unveiling a national carrier and no planes, no office, nothing to show beyond a brand name with no product. Nothing in Nigeria is restorative—the spaces where citizens feel safe, known, supported, and fully engaged with the groundwork for long-term and systemic transformation is lacking.

But why, my beloved country, the old adage goes, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” So these are some of the crisis…316 duplicated projects worth almost 40bn traced in the budget, the Finance ministry fails to provide evidence for N7.5bn withdrawal. We are discussing coup, coup plotting, coup d’etat and overthrow; no overthrow.

Incompetency, nepotism, favoritism, ethnic  jingoism, and religious ‘cherikambia’ (wait I am coming) yet we can’t define right from wrong, our religion has no morals, governance is non-existent. Trigger happy soldiers and IPOB, ESN and unknown gunmen, police now endangered species, inmates everywhere or and at large.

Sick politicians, sick followership, sick nation, but we keep moving one day at a time. We won’t die, we have a strong resolve, and we believe that it cannot end just like that. Our immune system defies medical logic.

We have saddled upon ourselves a history tainted in intra elitist cleavages and ethnic parapoism, with each power bloc cementing its own cleavages. The possibility of genuine democratization is not only lost because we lack the will to radicalize the material foundations of our society but because we live a life of fallacy. One of such is thinking that Mr. Buhari is the problem, no he is not, he is only part of the problem and not the solution.

We are almost certainly either a sick nation or a sick people, maybe a sick people inhabiting an equally sick nation. Our leaders continue to steal us blind. In our shortsightedness, we see our differences, and sure they are there but we are afraid to remedy it.

Nigeria is splitting, it is not dividing, we are leaking in various holes, towards various leanings and we still are lacking in leadership that has any model to solve our mirage of problems.

Let me end in this light, speaking of Nigeria using analogy, three sons left home, went out into the business world and all prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother.

The first said, “I built a big house for our mother.” The second said, “I sent her the latest Mercedes with a driver.”

The third smiled and said, “I’ve got you both beat. You know how much mother enjoys reading poetry? And you know she can’t see very well. So, I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites all her favourite poetry. It took a world- famous literacy teacher 12 years to teach him and cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars to see to his maintenance yearly He’s one of a kind. Mother just has to name the poem, and the parrot recites it.”

Soon thereafter, Mother sent out her letters of thanks:

“Milton,” she wrote to the first son, “The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house.”

“Gerald,” she wrote to the second, “I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home, so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!”

“Dearest Donald,” she wrote to her third son, ” You have the good sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was absolutely delicious!

But why this story, Nigeria is not about Buhari, APC, PDP, next level, anu level or secession, it is about the different narratives which often than not betray our sense of emotion. We act in the now, we pour venoms on each other, and fact is we really do not know what we want. We don’t know the story, but we know our side of the story. The seismic disruption in the status quo presents an opportunity to reimagine and rebuild our systems to better serve Nigeria and Nigerians but why we don’t want to take it shocks collective sanity; how long will our public officials and office holders keep slapping our pregnant women, spending without evidence, killing and maiming recklessly, running an education that is pin head faulty and body handicapped—Only time will tell.

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