CRUEL WAY TO WISH A NATION HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Nigeria was 50 on Friday, October 1, 2010. On the morning of that same day, bombs darkened the bright skies of Abuja, the nation's administrative capital. Ugly carcasses of mangled vehicles littered everywhere. Some lives went up in the fumes of the blast. As its usual practice here, the figures of the casualties will be shrouded in mystery as official and unofficial numbers jostle for prominence. Rescue workers from the Nigerian Red Cross, the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Police and other security agencies moved into the scene to see what could be salvaged from the macabre dance of blood.
This, indeed, is the veritable definition of an anti-climax. Golden jubilee celebration turning before our very eyes into bloody jubilee. What a sardonic way to 'celebrate' the golden anniversary of a battered and run down country! It was as if the bombers were mocking the nation: 'let's celebrate together; you light your colourful fireworks and we ignite our ugly bombs and let's see which one would be more remembered?' But, why did they have to do this at this point in time? Couldn't they have some respect for the suffering people of Nigeria? What point were these guys trying to make: detonating bombs just as celebrations were going on at the Eagle Square, just few kilometres away?
Ironically, the nation was not at war with an enemy country neither was the explosion an attack from foreigners. Angry Nigerians for whatever reason(s) had taken their disenchantment to the level of a bizarre attack in Abuja's Central Business District. For a nation whose citizens had reluctantly rolled out the drums in celebration of, what has generally been acknowledged as , 50 wasted years, the Abuja bomb blast is a frightening reality that dark days lie ahead as we approach the 2011 election year. For a nation enveloped in mass frustration, citizen disillusion and cynicism, the bomb episode on our golden jubilee is a sad statement that, despite optimistic postulations of our leaders, there are dark linings in our national firmament.
You don't have to be a prophet of doom or a John Campbell to see that the way our political gladiators are going about their activities, only God can bring sanity to our land. Only God can stave off the impending bloodbath and cataclysm which the politicians and power grabbers are bent on wreaking on our nation.
Any time you hear our supposed leaders and those jostling for political offices speak, it's the language of violence, the language of blood, the language of threats, the language of 'if- I- don't- win, there- will- be- no Nigeria.' It's the language of desperate men who desperately want power for neither altruistic nor patriotic reasons. With such fertile grounds of acrimony, it's easy for any group to cash in on the situation to inflict maximum damage.
Even though a militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the Abuja attack, you still can't completely rule out politics, dangerous politics or what is now commonly called, do-or-die politics, from it. There's the raging politics of zoning/rotation; economic empowerment; social inequities , amongst others.
I honestly believe that we still have to find time to sit at a table, call it round table, conference table or whatever, to decide germane issues of our nationhood: do we want to remain one nation or several nations? True federalism or confederacy? Presidential system or parliamentary? And of course, issues of the ethnic minorities, including the volatile Niger-Delta region. If 'sovereign' is the frightening word there, let's remove it and have a national conference of all nationalities to iron out gray areas of our union. That kind of conference can only make us stronger and more united. It's certainly better than pretending all is well with us or sweeping our problems under the carpet.
The road to 2011 and the current bickering over zoning/rotation is a clear case that we still haven't exactly become one nation.
No one loves Nigeria
Do you love your country? Well, you may be in the minority if you say you do. The truth is: majority of Nigerians don't love Nigeria. They don't believe in Nigeria. Nigeria is a poor, pathetic orphan. Raped in its formative years by soldiers. Badly sucked and squeezed at adolescence by same military clique and its civilian collaborators. And now disparaged by its citizens in its adulthood, because it has been unable to provide them a reason to love her. Poor country!
Of course, there is every reason to feel sorry for Nigeria: A giant with the feet of a dwarf. A nation full of hopes that has turned into hopelessness. A nation filled with promises at birth, the promise of a great kid that has simply refused to walk. Stuck to the wheel chair of despair and motionlessness. Of course, we all, especially our leaders, pretend to love Nigeria. We speak of one, indivisible nation, but each time we speak in a gathering of clans, it is the language of bile that spew out of our mouths, our hearts are filled with the spirit of hate for those we call brothers. We fight for tribe rather than nation. We speak the language of ethnicity rather than nationhood. To many Nigerians, Nigeria may well be an abstract term existing in the realm of imagination, not a reality in substantive terms. Something the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, once described as a mere 'geographical expression.'
Awo was right. We are not yet a nation. We are several nations pretending to be one nation, and doing everything possible, knowingly and unknowingly, to retreat to our ethnic enclaves. We may call ourselves one nation, but we don't behave as one nation. We don't speak the language of one nation or one people. We are a nation in perpetual search of unity. Little wonder, progress and prosperity continue to elude us. How can there be progress when there is no unity? How can there be prosperity when most of those who lead us shouldn't even be in positions of authority? When they don't believe in Nigeria?
I am sad as I write this piece. Sad for a nation without nationals. Sad for a nation with prodigal kids, who have been busy destroying rather than building. A nation many don't share its vision, because the visioners have largely been unable to define that vision and how to go about realizing that vision. Instead, what we get are platitudes and exhortations, urging all to love their country, without ever defining the essence of our nationhood or why love should germinate overnight after a long stretch of the reign of scavengers who have been punishing us with the evils of their satanic outing?
You don't need to go too far to see in practical terms the drift of my argument. The majority of our political elite have long since abandoned the concept of Nigeria. Almost all our leaders today are more of ethnic champions rather than nationalists. Sorry, there are no more nationalists around since the Ziks, Herbert Macaulays changed address. Something definitely is wrong somewhere. And what is wrong, dear brothers and sisters, is that Nigeria has not been operated on the basis of fairness and justice. Nigeria is a nation of injustice. It's a nation that hasn't done its duty by the weak and the powerless.
A nation that flaunts might of the powerful. Oppresses the poor, and dares the cheated to go take a dive in the lagoon. How can there be love and happiness where there is no justice? Why, for example, should the land of the black gold be cursed with poverty? Why should a group of people be consigned to the pathetic lot of drawers of water and hewers of wood simply because they belong to minority ethnic groups?
Why should there be thousands of dying poor in a land that ought to be flowing with milk and honey? Why should those who lead us be getting fatter, while we the people are suffocating in poverty? Why then should anyone blame the people if they don't love a country that sadly reminds them of everything except equality of persons and privileges? All these posers, I guess, should interest those who genuinely preach love of the fatherland. Love of country by countrymen and women. Love of Nigeria by Nigerians. The problem, certainly, is not with the common folk. It is with those who haven't been able to properly define Nigeria, the Nigerian and the aspiration of the Nigerian. Until that is done, we will continue to live with the sad reality of a Nigeria without Nigerians.
…Posers for a nation @ 50
'Japan. There lies a giant. Let it sleep, because when it wakes it will move the world.' British war hero, Sir Winston Churchill was right. Japan rose from the ashes of ruin after the Second World War to become a super power, confounding the rest of the world with its miracle of recovery. At 50, Nigeria is a sleeping giant that has refused to rise from its slumber. Sure, like Japan, this is a giant that has the potential to move the world.
With its intimidating population, enormous human resources and incredible natural endowments, we are the country to watch in the near future. But the giant has to first rouse from its death-like slumber before it can ever hope to realize its potentials. Will this sleeping giant ever wake up? That is the ever-raging debate in the land since things began to degenerate. While the optimist in our midst are seeing hope in the horizon, many see little to cheer in our nationhood since October 1, 1960. There are reasons to feel this way: soaring unemployment, insecurity of lives and property, food crisis, energy crisis etc, etc.
Amidst all these ill-feelings, the message of hope and renewal are being preached every October 1. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has not been left out in this hollow ritual. He has tried to explain why things are the way they are; he has called for faith in his leadership; faith in our nation. Do Nigerians believe him? I don't know. But what I do know is that there are many Nigerians who are increasingly losing faith in their country and its leaders after being shortchanged and mismanaged for many years.
Only recently, I did a piece: 'No One loves Nigeria,' which x-rayed the reason[s] Nigeria has gradually plummeted to a country without Nigerians. As we mark yet another independence day, I have found the piece relevant to the mood of a nation in search of nationhood, a nation blessed with everything but cursed with mostly bad leaders. Please, go ahead…