THE EROSION OF HOPE By: Gbenga Olumekun

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“What is hope?  Hope is wishing for a thing to come true; faith is believing that it will come true.  Hope is wanting something so eagerly that, in spite of all the evidence that you're not going to get it, you go right on wanting it.  And the remarkable thing about it is that this very act of hoping produces a kind of strength of its own.”

This quotation by Peale couldn't have been more applicable to present day Nigeria. I have been forced to pen this piece because of my belief, just like Galsworthy that, “Honesty of thought and speech and written word is a jewel, and they who curb prejudice and seek honourably to know and speak the truth are the only builders of a better life.”

Hope is that ingredient that makes it easy for a man to continue to tolerate deprivation and debauchery. It revels in the expectation that a time of harvest is coming hence it makes it possible to bear the unbearable. Simply put, it is that state of mind that drives a farmer to continue to sow in tears while tolerating pain, suffering and self-denial because he looks forward to a time when he will reap a bountiful harvest. What then happens when this currency that enables one to endure pain is irretrievably lost? Imagine the state of mind of a farmer who gets to his farm in the morning only to find that someone had harvested all his crops while decent men were sleeping?

What makes the loss of hope most painful is the feeling of abandonment a people develops when those who are supposed to pilot the affairs of state are the very ones causing a serious erosion of that basic currency which has enabled us to ward off moments of depression. An action occasioned by the ineptitudes of those whose legitimacy to power was supposedly derived from the very persons they seek to impoverish.

In the face of the gradual onslaught of the very elements that deny us of hope we take solace in our ability to cultivate hope, even out of the most minuscule and unusual ingredients that would have made our collective journey into hopelessness a stark reality. Recent reports which rated Nigerians as one of the happiest people on earth might not be too far from the truth after all. At least, we have the initiative of being able to cultivate hope; we see in ourselves an ability and inevitability of “making it”, even under the most intolerant of conditions.

This ingredient of life is what makes an employee to stick to his job because he sees a future which sometimes no one else can see. He often sees himself as a manager and proprietor. Look around us, there are several “dreamers” who are looking forward to becoming governors, ministers, commissioners, senators etc. They are only exercising the hope that one day they too will be in the saddle and access to the collective heritage will be granted them to enrich their yet unborn generations. They therefore find it easy to overlook infractions from incumbents because of their hope that their turns would soon arrive. Such is the expanse of hope. It is both positive and negative, an everlasting irony.

Unfortunately what happens to a people who have no hope or whose hope gets gradually eroded with the passage of time? A people who have nothing to live for and all to die for; a people who at one time used to travel on well paved roads but now have to make do with country tracks in place of trunk A roads; a people who used to get drinkable water but now have to wait for the rains before drinking water; a people who are constantly assailed with the statistics of megawatts in place of constant power supply.

Daily press releases on national infrastructure repairs sound like broken records or put in contemporary parlance scratched DVDs. To complicate matters the only thing our leaders are good at doing is manufacturing lies. That is why a minister can go on television to tell the whole world that poor people don't use petrol!

Those who ought to have maintained studied silence often opened their traps so wide and what comes out is worse than raw sewage. Okonjo-Iweala wants us to believe that only the rich use petrol; after all her own folks use diesel for daily sustenance.

Who doesn't know that the poor man who needs to light up his house in the face of power outages can barely afford the generator aptly termed “I better pass my neighbour” which only sips petrol while the rich have as status symbols silenced diesel generators generating over capacity and contributing to global warming? How many Okadas are fuelled by diesel? How many Danfos are fuelled by diesel? One minister even said that majority of Nigerians don't travel at all.

According to Diezani Alison Maduekwe, “...retaining fuel subsidy would entrench the nauseating graft in the downstream sector of the oil industry….” What is more nauseating than an argument as childish as this? What is the business of government if it cannot enforce rules nor maintain law and order?

Is it then the business of government to punish the citizenry for its own failure to do what it was elected to do? They say honour is a scarce commodity among thieves, our leaders do not even have any modicum of honour; otherwise they would have done what honourable men and women the world over do: RESIGN!

Does anyone still wonder why the current strikes have been so pervading? They are a product of deep seated anger: anger at a set of people who are constantly denying us of the right to hope by their acts of hopelessness. They didn't even make any pretence; neither did they offer any convincing arguments to support their disposition.

Their best attempts are infantile arguments which were never designed to convince anyone but to obfuscate. They took us all for granted and they are now reaping our collective anger as a people who have been tortured for too long. Imagine the puerile argument that a set of people have hijacked our collective heritage and have been amassing wealth at our detriment in the name of subsidy payments?

The torturers in government even had the temerity to name names but by so doing they exposed themselves to more ridicule to such an extent that they have lost any decent right to partake in democratic governance.

Governments all over the world have a way of apprehending criminals, people who work against the collective will, but ours has abandoned the act of governance and has excelled in bare-faced lying. Are the so-called cabal members not the same people who recently cornered all our national awards? Are these people not the very same ones in the economic team, advising or misadvising the government? If a man identifies a criminal and has the instrument of office to apprehend and sanction a criminal, what then is expected of him in a decent society? Is it to punish his victims?

Right now the Nigeria project is in peril, a peril that has been foisted upon us by the very people who were supposed to nurture our hopes. Now we are a people devoid of hope because all hope has been eroded. We are a people being driven into the extreme. The portents are not good for Nigeria. The only way forward is the restoration of hope but who will do it? Certainly not these ones in power!

Hope rises on the basis of positive actions not on promises. Mere promises act like petrol to a raging fire, particularly the promises of those who have lost the credibility which ought to have been built up through experience. There ought to have been action but what we have seen so far is inaction. Promises of road construction, promises of refinery construction, promises of megawatts, promises of good health, promises of good education and even promises of 20:20:20:20:20, whatever the contraption really stands for. While the rest of the world is taking action, we are busy manufacturing a deluge of promises and excuses.

Paradoxically, the large proportion of Nigerians voted for Goodluck Jonathan because they thought they saw an honest man, the like of whom we had never seen but they have now discovered that feigned honesty itself is the mother of dishonesty. People who have no one to help them often turn to self-help. They may end up seizing the initiative to restore hope by any means, including violence, but hope obtained through violent action seems to take a long time in bearing any fruits, if any. Ask Iraq, ask Afghanistan, ask Tunisia, ask Egypt and of course, ask Libya!