Thursday, 30 March 2017

While we all laugh: Nigeria 101 in plain language

I have been privileged to visit several countries on this planet earth, but I have not been had that rare opportunity to visit a madder country than Nigeria. My very first flight out of Nigeria, and Africa, was to London some years back. And I had no idea what to expect. Like most Nigerian youths, life in Nigeria was good and couldn't be worse, having no other experience to compare mine with. Don’t blame me, I didn’t know differently. We left Murtala Muhammed International Airport and I had no idea how much it stank until I experienced something different. We made a brief incursion onto the Atlantic airspace, a detour through an arid and Northern Africa, over the Mediterranean and then …. There, right there was the first shocker. Watching London from the air was like watching a perfectly pencilled work of an Engineering student, with all the curves and lines where they should be. Even the river banks we neatly drawn as it were, more like one giant cup of coffee, with banks glittering greyish white from the distance. River! Ordinary river, that we used as conduit for all things disgusting and nasty back home in Nigeria?

Before I knew what was up, tears were streaming down my eyes. I wasn’t the emotional type, but the anger, the feeling of betrayal, the loss that I felt, that all our leaders have been privileged to visit these saner climes and yet they returned home without feeling the need to improve the country's condition of living… We the youth, we do not know any better, so you should pardon us. We should pardon ourselves. They, the self-acclaimed leaders, know better. Rather than returning to the country with a passion to improve the home land, they go out there in the West and Dubari, on a spending spree- buying houses, buying cars that only gods or insanely mad people would dare ride, spending money on oyinbo girls, and boys and those whose behind is hardly different from the front…

Yet we laugh.

After all we are Nigerians, and the only consistent thing about us is our penchant to turn everything to joke and laugh it off. We do it. Our fathers did it. Their fathers before them did it. We play the ostrich, maybe if we bury our heads long enough in the sand and laugh under the hood of the earth, maybe, just maybe the problem will have disappeared before we remove our heads from the sand. And in time, we have lost the knowhow of how to remove our head from the sand. Problem rages where our asses reside, but who cares, our heads are in the sand and troubles cannot get to us. The price of cement doubles, more than doubles within the space of 6 months. But who cares, the harder we laugh, the more distracted we get, the less painful it will all be.

The generations of our fathers bought brand new cars during NYSC and they didn’t have to share testimonies in churches and mosques. And yes, our fathers studied history, and demography, and education, and business admin. During NYSC, yes they bought DL cars, tear rubber. They ate with both hands, excited by the jobs as servants of the civil society, forgetting to build industries... But who cares, we their sons are better than them; we are their pension plan, their breathing gratuity. We are better and so we study pharmacy, and law, and medicine, and chemical engineering, and we study so hard that we speak languages our parents do not understand. Yes, we are doctors, we are engineers, we are lawyers and pharmacists and speech-makers … But 10 years after graduation we still don’t have a job that does any better than keep us alive to suffer grimmer fate of the coming morrows.

But who cares, our churches are there, and our mosques, and our senate… they take our mind off our fate, and they make us laugh, and clap, and make celebrations out of Christ… If I pay my tithe of #1k today, next week God will have made me a millionaire. The good Lord in Nigeria has taken Ponzi scheme to a whole new level. Just a seed of faith and in the morning we all are at par with Dangote. But how? Just how will this things be? Beloved, the good Lord cares not about tiny details of success, neither should we... And after one year, and two years, and ten years, we still can’t increase our offering from N20 to N50… But we are men of faith, and we are to bury our heads in the sand of religion and indifference while Dangote, the son of God, buys us all and makes us give him change.

Who cares!

We have a President, and he has certificate that no one has seen. Several months ago the 180million of us left no stone unturned running after the fleeing paper; but we couldn’t catch up. We couldn't find it. We looked everywhere, everywhere except the other room where he keeps a lot of precious things and our Mrs Madam. And when we’re all exhausted from the search they graciously allowed us to consider his NEPA bill…to become the President of our dear mother-father land. Hurray! No, not so fast, JAMB has refused to allow us too present NEPA bills to enter higher institutions. What are we to do? Our favourite spot remains still in the sand, we need only bury our heads deeper still, and these concerns will dispel all by themselves.

A rule exists for the Senate and the politicians, another for us that live in the jungles of our common national hustle-ship.

But who freaking cares?

Steal a loaf of bread and your fellows-in-suffering, before you say “Jonat not Buh”, have lighted you up like a candle. How fast they get the petrol I do not know… Or worse still, the police get to you first before you fulfil the destiny of a human torch. They take you to SARS, and for stealing a loaf of bread, you enter their nest and you never again come out alive. 

The gods that occupy our senate no longer have to steal these days, they have carefully legitimized and apportioned the choicest part of the loot to themselves. After all once the law backs it it is kuku not a crime. A single alert announcing the salary of a senator, could well have paid the salaries of a hundred Nigerians, and Dende that entered SARS’ nest would not have needed to pay such a fatal price for hunger, for a loaf of bread.

Someone dared us and we tried to see if indeed we could remove our head from our precious sand. We did, only briefly, and found that our President dearest, the Lion of the Tribe of the Other Room, the Lord of WAEC, and the wife of Saraki, had been gone for more than a month. Ah! Who stole him? The Queen? Is he alive? He breathes, like in the movies? But, is he alive like normal people? Before we were answered the one of whom Onikuje of Kuje fears, the Lord of WAEC, the Confidence of the Herders quickly gave us the blessing of Suleiman and Otobo, and Sowore and Dino… And we were happy, the Lord of WAEC is happy, Saraki is happy, so happy he has now gone on a summoning spree; if a tree moves too much, it must appear before him in uniform. And before the year runs out we all must appear before the senate at least to justify the criminal pay they all collect. Legitimate, yet criminal.

Perhaps one day the wind will blow our sand away and we will have no choice than to stare with naked eyes at our naked and sorely butts. Perhaps we will someday grow the courage to beat sense into the senate and the executives. After all, the people they say is the power of democracy… Perhaps, someday our youth will live up to their true strength, not merely seeking and taking up jobs, but building industries and inventing mechanisms to put the old dinosaurs leading us into old peoples’ homes.
But right now, let’s keep laughing until God comes round to building a ladder that allows Him to descend into Nigeria to sort out our problems, every one of them, by Himself. Who knows, the desperate and fervent prayers of our mothers and their fathers before them, might just get answered in our days. But if that doesn't materialize there's at least a heaven after now and here.

But hallelujah somebody, Nigerians needn't be afraid of a Hell after this life: Hell's headquarter has now moved to Nigeria, with the executives and legislators and public officers outdoing each other as the able representatives of Hell's special envoy to our land.

But who cares, our sand still remains.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Nigeria the green

 Nigerians. Nigerians?
Who are they? Who are we?

When I try to attend my mind to this question several pictures come to mind: The rich crude oil flowing of the southern South. The tall groundnut pyramids that used to adorn our historical past. The leafy cocoa trees, their yellowing pods, also now faded into the past. The green and the white national flag, the cattle ranch, the impossibly beauteous landscape adorning of the Niger, of the Abuja, of the Ekiti, of the Savannah…

I also remember the military khakis and the boots stomping and the ground cringing. Their guns, their bullets, the several eyes they forever shut. The take-overs. The fathers and brothers and mothers that disappeared from the streets of Lagos and from our jungles. The Saro-Wiwas, the Iges, the nameless ones dying daily for Boko Haram and by Boko Haram. 

The Boko Haram, the politics of it, the intrigues of it. The silence of the damned, and the silence of the President. The disarming of our soldiers when money is mightier than the guns. The pupils shot in their sleep, the silence of their graves and the ceaseless flow of pain, of loss on families' faces, on all our faces. The anguish at killings which must be avenged…

I remember the motor ways and the jungles of them. The society of potholes - baby potholes, sister potholes, and the grand holes. The breaking of the absorber. The bursting of the expensive inferior tyres, and my frantic effort to escape the abyss on the road. The soldiers I meet along my way of escape. Their stranglehold on my meagre livelihood. The gun in my face. The whip on my back. Their laughter and my weeping. The robbery. My loss. My children's loss. The tears soiling our faces with no water to wash them off. For government pipes are hollow, waterless even in the rain.
I my own government, digging my own well, buying my own gen… The police cars have no fuel, and the ambulances have escorted the governors to a weekend bash. I must buy my own dogs and keep guard at my own gate. I must work in a bank and own one, plant a farm or four- one to grow meat and one for corns, one for salt, and in the fourth I grow my own medicines. 

The government of the Rocks and those at the states are for the TVs praising them. Ogwuche they said commissioned a road. Jona too has improved power. But Ogwuche's roads are those of his own estate and Jona's power lights only his wife's dingy rooms.

But I remember you Nigerians and the silly smiles we share. I remember our temples, the fat offerings, the fatter tithes. The Imam's new car of glass, Ayo too has bought a jet. I remember the scars on our knees as we pray, hit our heads on the floor, or both.  I remember our frenzy, our shouts, the confused cries on megaphones, and the waking of neighbours Fridays. I remember our strange faith, and the endless patience and tolerance of ills. Our docile backs bending again and again to the whipping under the mid-day Sun. The shiver of pain from a back bleeding and badly torn...
I remember the new elections and the new sacks of rice. Some even got the President's wife's yellow T-shirts with her 1 million dollar lipstick printed on the front. Some have sighted the President in his redeeming walk. Some say he now has a patch created at the altars where to knee and make us blinder still.

A pot of rice, a yellow T-shirt and Jona's kneeling and our bleeding backs are now healed. Our hungry mouths are suddenly fled. And our young idle hands somehow will feed off … something, anything. It is a miracle, Presido did it again!

A rumour has it that new political formation is in town to give the President a good run for his money. But all we hear is “Wolf, wolf, wolf!” at the creeping of every gecko.  They also share a scream with a rooster hired by the President for such things as that. Some oily brothers from the southern wells say this and the North something else.  And us, well we panic at the silence following Borno’s gunshots in the camp of the poor afflicted by Boko Haram, the brave killers of babies. But still the North deserves the crown, they were born to rule.

And I remember you the real Nigerian from the North and the South and fringes seeking a Promised Land. The hungry you. The blind you bowing daily to the Imam telling you to slaughter sleeping babies and women. The blind you heeding the pastor telling you to bring your money and your wife for his more sanctified use. I remember you and your dusty daily walks, running daily after Molues and Okadas, waiting at the fuel stand to atone for the invisible subsidy... I remember you sitting at home with no place to go and no hope to nurse.

And I remember you, my green-and-white-and-green flag and my pledge to thee.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Discarding the Achebes and the Kayodes.

Here is the bitter side of history, that it is never fully recorded or reported. The sparse record of it that remains was written by individuals who viewed, experienced and interpreted events strictly from own limited point of view. In other words, we can never truly recover the full facts of the past by reading the skewed accounts presented by the historians. An Hausa man would write the history of Nigeria in a light that protects the perennial interest of the Hausas. The Chinua Achebes would go to the extent of unnaturally bending past record and presenting it in light that makes one view the Igbos as permanent victims of undeserving malevolence directed at them from all other ethnic groups around. And when a Yoruba man, the Fani-Kayodes, writes his own version and surnames it The Bitter Truth, he goes all the dubious way to marshal his craft and craftiness to present the Yorubas as some noble ethnic group, one that is all accommodating and never given to crime and suspicious dealings...

But as a Nigerian I now write: our self-appointed historians have failed us.

The Chinuas have failed, and so have the Kayodes of this country. For they are no more than a servant of their own gall and bitterness.

For, what is the purpose of a history that does not solve any problem or make a single meaningful contribution to the life of a Nigerian? Instead, their account of the past was designed to keep us chained down by the fetters of blood, of intrigues, of hatred woven by these same men and their colleagues. And this they did supposing Nigerians shall have no other place to find meaning than in looking back over their shoulders at the failings of their fathers and then refusing to move forward.

But they have all failed, these servants of discord and bitterness.

When great men die, shouldn't they leave behind a legacy of benefits that should tell their tales? Great men have lived and died and by the products of their lives established scholarships and foundations that have continued to benefit humanity, even the children of strangers, centuries after they were gone. Chinua died and left behind a call to hatred, and Fani-Kayode's very life labours to fan such embers to full blood. Should Nigerians be deceived about their motives?

Should we be deceived?

Perhaps we are really so dumb- as opined by Tunde Bakare- dumb enough to allow these selfish and hateful interpreters of history to sway us by their own demons and venom. Perhaps we are dumb enough to ignore the fact that the same challenges befall all as Nigerians: 1) Boko Haram doesn't care that you're Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa before they seek to kill you; 2) your ethnicity makes little difference when poverty and joblessness come calling at your door; 3) before the Police man forces a bribe out of you you're not required to justify your ethnicity; 4) ... I shall stop here, but we all know there are more. Why not conduct a small experiment. Make a road trip to Katsina, Enugu, Benue, Nasarawa, Oyo, Anambra or Ekiti State..., some place, any place away from your ethnic origin. Perhaps then you shall understand better the problems and situations that unite us are many more than the ethnicity that (some persons want to) divide us.

Isn't it silly and utterly unintelligent that one should take credit for something not a product of one's own choice? If you did not do a thing to become an Igbo man, why then should you wear your Igbo-ness as some proud warrior would do after his conquest of the Land of Ticks? If my Yoruba-ness was beyond my choosing why then should it be the basis for differentiating me from all other ethnic groups both in Nigeria and beyond? Should it be land and claim to it? Millions of people that had laid claim to the same land have come and gone, not able to leave with a handful of earth from it. We too have come, and shall certainly go when we are done here. Isn't it silly that we should lay a bloody claim to a thing that shall survive our mortal existence?

Education, business empires, sound political career and legacy: these are direct products of human diligence, resourcefulness and effort. If you're tempted to boast because of any of these the world will understand and congratulate you that your boast is well deserved...

A thousand of thousand years from now, and perhaps just a thousand years from now, every Nigerian will likely have in his veins the blood of all ethnic groups. Even now, there are millions of Nigerians within whose veins the bloods of different ethnic groups have achieved an harmony. Which side should these people then pledge allegiance to? Where should we chase them the next time we consider them too unsightly and poor to adorn our state capitals? Or should we simply call them a no-man's people the next time we seek a reason to relieve them of their jobs in the state civil service?

These past months and weeks given us reasons to bite and malign one another, no thanks the self-sponsored Achebes and Kayodes. I am to remind us that at the end of the day we all must return to tending the wounds that we commonly share as Nigerians. And that many of our historians are men so much overwhelmed by their own bitterness and failings that they must incite public discord for them to find some relief from their affliction, their narrow view of the Nigerian history and situation. But this is the very reason we are humans, capable of individual interpretation of our circumstances in a way that improves the present. Most Igbos had never personally had a reason to specially hate a Yoruba man until Prof Chinue Achebe's "There was a country". Then the Igbos suddenly remembered, as one jolted out of a dream, their ethnic duty to hate and distrust the Yorubas. Then also came the champions of the Yorubas, Fani-Kayode, who reminded the Yorubas their sacred duty to view the Igbos with immense suspicion. And in this induced silliness, many Yorubas chanted, "Go home ingrates". These they did, as though afflicted by a strange amnesia, ignoring the personal relationships they have had (and still do have) with many Igbos, some of whom they have married, some of whom they have fathered and mothered, and some of whom are their Pastors and fellow-sharers of the same faith and trade.

And for a Nigerian, where is home? Isn't it silly to be asked such a question when you are at home?