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[email protected]: So far, so good

By Segun Ige
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Age is one factor that can make or mar someone. But what is age? People have different opinions as to what age is. One group believes age is a number. Another group says age has to do with maturity, sensibility and wisdom. Actually, one can be 40 and still be foolish but one can be 20 and be super-wise and intelligent. That’s why they say that he who doesn’t know that he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know is a fool. That’s why they say that he who knows that he doesn’t know and wants to know is wise. By and large, we need to be taught how to number our days, so that we can be wiser and wiser, better and better, more purposeful and more purposeful. That’s the secret of wisdom: it is a self-teaching and self-learning process in which we apply our hearts to words of wisdom, actions of wisdom, behaviour of wisdom and thinking patterns of wisdom. It is wisdom to look before you leap. It is wisdom that whatever you sow you will reap. It is wisdom that action and reaction are equal and opposite.

God has been faithful to Nigeria in all ramifications. Those who are aged 60 know what it means to be 60. It’s not an easy journey. Many waters have passed under the bridge. Ask those who are 60 to say what’s kept them alive, strong and healthy. They will tell you God has been faithful and that it is by the mercy and grace of the Lord they are not consumed. We should be grateful to the One who has been keeping Nigeria from natural disasters and from collapsing. We should even more thank Him for delivering us from the novel coronavirus. We have lately been hearing increasingly decreasing COVID-19 infections. Now, churches and mosques have begun to open as it were. We could now go for worship services to serve the true and living God. What’s more, schools have been reopening. Typically, everyone is getting used to the new normal in terms of wearing facemasks and social distancing. Everywhere you go, you could not but wear a facemask, because “no facemask, no entry”.

Let’s consider more reasons why God has been faithful. I thought Nigeria's a developing country. Yes, many people believe Nigeria is a developing country because of a certain number of things. For example, we almost always hear of corruption and mismanagement allegations. Our political system is fraught with favouritism and frivolity. The cases of the EFCC Chair, Ibrahim Magu, and UNILAG Vice-Chancellor Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe are indeed critical. The leaders are spawned by the opportunism and adventurism of power. But have we spared a moment to consider what’s right now happening in the U.K. and U.S., the so-called developed nations, where many millionaire Nigerians have hidden their treasures and offspring? I remember some Nigerians crying to be brought back home because of COVID-19. Up until now, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, even though he had been cautioned to “get a grip” because he was “winging it” and “exist without strategy”, is devising means of strategically imposing stricter, tougher lockdown measures in certain areas of the country the coronavirus has “gotten grip of”. With the highest number of death tolls and cases, the U.S. under the Trump administration is facing systemic discrimination and institutional racism, particularly with the awful killing of the unarmed black American George Floyd. One would think black Americans wouldn’t be killed again, considering the radical international influence the death sparked on many European countries. Instead, many more machine-gun mechanisms are meted towards black Americans, whose lives do not seem to matter. Hasn’t God been faithful to Nigeria, even at 60?

Many actually think we’re some religious group of men and women with stinking hypocrisy. They think our profession doesn’t match our character and conviction. They even go far to say that God doesn’t answer prayer, particularly the prayer of black people. It is easier seen than said. Look at what’s befallen Belarus, for instance. After all, the Belarusians are not some able-bodied religious people. And yet, over more than one month now the country has been suffering from dire, devastating masochism and mayhem because of a disputed August 9 presidential election. President Alexander Lukashenko says he remains the president, and has therefore inaugurated himself as such. Main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, claims the election is grossly unfair and disproportionate. She has, with her vocal supporters who clamour Mr. Lukashenko should step down, fled for dear life to Lithuania. God has actually been faithful to Nigeria, even at 60, even with the numerous reports and findings that Nigeria is one of the corrupted countries in the world.

Yes, prices of food materials are high. Prices of staple foods have been seriously scaled up. Prices of decoders are now exorbitant. Electricity, petrol, hate speech, bread, transportation, everything has increased. We just need to get accustomed to the new normal. Everything is new everywhere. We need to be new in our thinking. We need to be new in our spending. We need to be new in our savings. We are in the dawn of a new beginning.

At 60, I begin to wonder whether Nigeria is getting older or younger. Maybe I might be right to say that Nigeria is still in need of proper parenting, so that, at least, one can stop hearing the gross complaints bedeviled of Marwa (Keke Napep) riders.

On September 28, I was in a certain Keke Napep, and it was so abruptly stopped by a policeman. The rider looked me in the face and I think I looked at the woman sitting next to me. Nothing had been obviously violated: we strictly adhered to the rule of two persons per Napep, even though some of them might manageably strip one beside them. But I thought the reason could be that I wasn’t wearing my facemask. Of course, I’ve always had my mask with me. Everywhere, anytime! But sometimes I do forget, though. And the consequence could be pretty or fairly well dire depending on the circumstance I find myself.

So the Marwa rider parked somewhere. He himself sounding and murmuring as though he never knew anything about the policeman's gesture and gesticulation of whatever sort. Hardly had he parked when he dug his hand in his graveyard pocket and began to finger some money. What’s more, the rider grudgingly squeezed the money into the four-corner walls of the police's hand. And we were given a carry-on gesticulation. The Nigerian police are so good at making numerous meanings simply by waving their old-rugged hands hither and thither.

The seemingly once-benign rider began to say that, first, it was because of the Marwa’s partly broken glasses that the money had been illegitimately hijacked from him. Second, he began to rain impassioned curses on the policeman. The face-masked woman beside me could not but give kudos to the rider.

Getting to our destination, my curiosity would not let me leave the poor rider alone, who’d just been bedridden of money. He himself had been thinking, by the way, how he could continue to copy with the cowardly silence and stinking hypocrisy of the Nigerian police. I remember vividly what Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka said regarding the thin line between the police and the prisoners in The Beatification of Area Boy. Hear what the professor says through a prisoner: “Be it police, be it prisoners, both of us are one”. So as I was saying, I couldn’t help asking the rider, our rider, how much the money was. Guess what he said. He said N200. Such a meager money, you say.

I don’t really know the cause of this epidemic the police is unleashing on those who have taken upon themselves with three to five children to sustain themselves and their families. Nigeria at 60 should have nailed this shame and brazen brigandage to the cross of old birthdays. That’s not what we should be grappling with. That’s not what we should be struggling with. That’s not the doctrine the police should be preaching in their roles and responsibilities.

The Federal Government should earnestly see to this cankerworm and palmerworm that has so eroded the “police is your friend” motto.

In fact, I begin to unnerve if, in actual fact, the Nigerian police wouldn’t be patterned after the similitude of the American extremely and apparently super-funded police. I hope at 60 Nigerians wouldn’t be crying and carrying placards with the inscription of “Black Lives Matter”. I hope one day we would not be seeing awful scenes typical of the unarmed black American George Floyd on May 25 in the Minneapolis police custody.

What shall we say, then, that, going forward in this geometry, the Nigerian police wouldn’t be rocking down on people’s homes cracking them down and clamping down on them? Even in their homes? Like 26-year-old Breonna Taylor bludgeoned to death by some bloodless policeman?

The fact that we use the American democracy as our own democracy doesn’t mean our systems and institutions should be fraught with hatred and racial tension and betrayal of any kind. No, we shouldn’t follow the American democracy hook, line and sinker. No, we shouldn’t be beclouded and beguiled by the nature and architecture of the American people. Nigeria has its democracy. Nigeria has always had its democracy. That’s what we should be celebrating in terms of working with the codes of ethics as principally and primarily outlined in the Chapter Four of The Public Service Handbook. The chapter says, in part, that loyalty and honesty are some of the virtues the Nigerian public service should possess and demonstrate in their profession and practice.

Segun Ige is a graduate of English, University of Lagos [email protected] 08141688084