NIGERIA: A Slumbering Giant @ 62 & Her Macabre Dance on Perambulator
By ‘Tunji Ajayi
I plead with my audience to permit me to borrow the title above from my next book to be released soon. It is a compendium of few contemporary issues in Nigeria in the past 35 years entitled Macabre Dance on Perambulator. How time flies! My country is 62 years independent. I recall with sadness that at her 50th Independence Anniversary, twelve years ago in 2010, I had written Our Infamous 50th Macabre Dance (The Guardian July 4, 2010) wherein I bemoaned the pitiable conditions of Nigerian journalists’ wives. I alluded to Fela’s Ikoyi Blindness where he sang that when a person misses road he may never get to his destination unless he prods his sense and has a rethink to turn back to the right path.
Hear Fela: “You miss road, you miss road. When you miss road you no go reach, you no go reach where you dey go. Because that no be the road. No be the road wey you for take.” Being married to a journalist is like being at the brink of precipice. A slight push at the brink can lead to disaster. A fatal fall. An average journalist’s wife is married to a man whose greatest love is “nosing for news”, pondering on “scoops”, writing and writing and struggling to finish up before “the edition is put to bed”. Like the fabled Àlàdé-Hùwo in this writer’s “The Eyes & Ears of Society” (see Nigerian Tribune, August 7, 1996)an average Nigerian writer is pregnant with issues and could only free himself from the excruciating pain if he tells his story to his audience. Hence, the Nigerian journalist is more married to his daily tasking jobs than to his wife, who consequently suffers loneliness and inattention from a husband who is more committed to grappling with the run of news; and whose occasional outbursts of “darling I love you” are often a mere platitude to placate his attention-seeking wife.
In similar vein, most of the Nigerian leaders are more focused on Nigeria’s plum resources to fleece than to the Nigerians in whose trust they hold power. Thus Nigerians have missed road for 62 years now. If I wrote Our Infamous 50th Anniversary in utter disenchantment far back in 2010, and twelve whopping years later Nigeria has no noticeable progress but retrogression into the Stone Age, I see nothing to celebrate. My country has degenerated into a society where citizens, including policemen, are abducted on the streets and in their homes; where worshippers are massacred in churches and mosques; where military barracks are sacked by bandits; where cows graze on airport tarmacs; where university students are being kidnapped, raped and killed; where church leaders are beheaded; where Aso Rock, the seat of the Federal government was ransacked and robbed; where a President’s convoy was attacked; where the President was threatened with abduction; where local currency has depleted to N750 in exchange for only $1; where the Federal Universities have closed for almost seven months at the heels of her 62nd Independence anniversary. Nigeria has degenerated to a country where those who have contributed immensely to our economic woes by stealing our common patrimony in billions were granted amnesty, even while the pang of economic distress occasioned by their avaricious act continues to bite hard. It is a country which refuses to have regular electricity and yet pontificates on industrialization. It has become a country where her national grid has collapsed 8 times consecutively in a single year; where the common man can no longer afford to buy their hitherto Kerosene to cook, and whose price has now risen to N809.52 per litre - an equivalent of $1.88 and yet there is no alternative; where petrol, has risen to almost N175 per litre. Nigeria has become a country where it is almost practically impossible to travel on the road either in the daytime or at nighttime; and yet the common man cannot afford the alternative of travelling by air route from Lagos to Enugu or Abuja - a flight of 45 minutes which now costs over N150,000 return ticket for the economy class! A country where citizens are under the pang of excruciating hunger but yet cannot work in their farms due to intense fear of being beheaded, raped or kidnapped at the farm site. It is a country with over 23 million un-employed and jobless youths whose prime period of their lives are painfully wasting away, while the leaders are hypocritically and ironically preaching against social vices, youths delinquency and unwholesome practices. On a radio program recently, I had asked the question: “What is there to celebrate?” And I heard a voice answering me: “We have to celebrate for being alive and the country is still surviving in spite of the tense situation.” Yes it is true. But it is also true that the pain of being a slave in one’s own country is more excruciating than being a slave outside. Nigerian resident doctors are running away in droves from their country home because many realized that lean liberty is better than fat slavery. Many realized far too late that it is better to continue their daily struggle where their efforts would yield maximum rewards possible, while concluding that it is better to die on one’s feet than on one’s knees.
Many Nigerians also argue that it is patriotic to always see a good future about one’s country and keep praying for her. Permit me to disagree because chances only favour a prepared mind and the good future a man refuses to prepare for may never come. How does a man see bad and call it good? Sentiment does not substitute fact. Rather, it prevents the spirit of self-appraisal. I believe in Charles Caleb Colton’s view on the need for self appraisal. The 18th century English Writer writes: “The follies of the fool are known to the world, but are hidden from himself. But the follies of the wise are known to himself but hidden from the world.” Why should we continue to pretend to be what we are not, while the world that has seen who we are really, and making mockery of us? Shouldn’t we have realized our past mistakes at 62 while prodding ourselves and making urgent amends to move forward?
Oh! Keep praying for our country? It is good to pray. But, I doubt if God has changed his mind on His avowed decision to ignore the prayers of the impenitent and pigheaded ones. He bluntly told us through Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be misled. God is not to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (NWT) King David went further in Proverbs 15:29. Hear him: “Jehovah is far away from the wicked ones, but the prayer of the righteous ones he hears.”
Oh! Did I hear anyone pulverizing my argument with the story of the Biblical prodigal son who was forgiven by his offended father in Luke 15, verse 11-32. Good! But the truth is that the prodigal son first became penitent and went back to the father after sober reflection and sincerely pleaded for remission of his error. Hear the profligate stubborn but now remorseful boy in verse 18: “I will rise and journey to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.” The hitherto hurt father did not only forgive the presumptuous son, he also held a bounteous feast to celebrate him. Like Charles Caleb Colton averred above, it is better for a foolish man to realize his stupidity and make amend, rather than feign ignorance of his foolishness until the world notices and hold him in derision. On the contrary, can we imagine what would have happened if the prodigal son went to his already hurt father and kept boasting of his non-existent wisdom and his pseudo exploits and bravery on the lands of refuge?
Like Fela lamented in his Confusion Brake Bones (CBB, 1990): “My problem e no small at all. Nothing good for me to sing about. If something good dey I go sing.” What is edifying to write on a country whose leaders often presumptuously leave their home country in tatters, without common electricity, water, passable road and basic infrastructure for decades now, only to attend meetings and conferences with other nations like Japan, Britain, China, Germany and other serious developed nations of the world to flaunt their gay dresses on the podium while pontificating on how our world should be better run! Simply put, the intra-personal communication of many of the other leaders being addressed is: “what is this leader whose country has no electricity telling me?” “Who is this leader whose country’s universities have been closed for almost 8 months without finding solution?” “Who is this leader whose citizens are being abducted on the streets on daily basis?” “What gives him the audacity to be advising me on how our world should be better run; and pleading for debt cancellation when their leaders still unapologetically remain profligate, turning their nation intp huge debtor”, and are still building railways and funding security for safety of lives in other countries?
The nations that have grown to become the envy of other nations like China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan etc are not engaging in macabre dance on perambulator, while flexing muscles and feigning ignorance of their shortcomings. They ate the humble pie, shed toga of pride and identified their folly to move forward and develop. Otherwise “dem for dey perambulate and for still dey same, same place” till eternity.
Like the Phillipino President, Rodruigo Duterte once said: Before any nation can grow at all, it must put law and order in place. Nigeria is yet to do that even at 62. It still remains a nation in lamentation under the crushing effect of her “cob-web laws” where the rich offends the law and passes through the cobweb unhurt, but the poor commits lesser infraction and gets caught in the cobweb without a grant of presidential pardon or amnesty. If Fu Zehenghua were a Nigerian his story would have been a different one. The former Chinese Justice Minister was recently sentenced to death for bribery. May we continue praying for a better country while hoping for a better future. Good. But I think God has done his best for Nigeria, a country that lacks nothing in resources, but ironically lives on the Ocean but washes her hands with spittle and urine. Like Bob Marley says in his Rat Race: “In the abundance of water a fool is thirsty.” Let Nigeria now do more work than praying. While Nigerians were busy building churches and mosques and holding night vigil, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore etc on the other hand were busy working, hence their exalted positions in the comity of nations today. The future a sleeping nation refuses to see and work for, may never come. It is not a curse but a corollary. Verbum Satis Sapienti.
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author and documentary producer writes from Lagos, Nigeria.(+2349020007004; +2348033203115)
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