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I WEEP FOR NIGERIA

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As it been with previous years, my heart broke for the umpteenth time this year when I read about federal doctors in Lagos state embarking on a five day strike. Doctors in Lagos state owned hospitals have been on an indefinite strike for two months now and their federal counterparts have decided to give solidarity support. Months ago, they went on strike for close to 4 months – in a desperate effort to push home their demand for better remuneration and improved working conditions. Now, they strike to compel the state government to honor the agreement reached at the end of the first strike.

I ponder what it means to be a Nigerian? What has the government done for me? What is in store for my children? These are difficult, very difficult questions and I had to search deep within me to find answers but I could come up with only one – and I’m eternally grateful for the privilege to be able to associate with one thing as most people today have nothing to boast about. In my almost four decades of being a Nigerian, the government has done only one thing for me – my education at Queen’s college.

In 1985 when I attended, we not only had a functioning gym and science labs, we were also taught how to be ladies (etiquette) and how to perform basic household chores in the home economics practical labs. All these were of course in addition to the traditional subjects taught in the school. Today, ex students are mobilizing themselves to provide boreholes and other basic amenities for the school. The school’s kitchen operates in the open field using firewood (in 2011!) and the girls have no qualms presenting themselves in their underwear as a male teacher passes by. The school is in rots by all ramifications as we all weep and attempt to restore its legacy.

Health, education, food and housing are fundamental requirements of any society. In Nigeria, these are regarded as privilege pecks. Thankfully, I have never been a patient of a public hospital but I wonder what the fate of the majority is now that the federal doctors are on strike too. What hope are they left with? Before the commencement of the strike, public hospitals are categorized as consultation rooms at best, and death traps at the worst. Cases of lives lost due to ill-equipped facilities coupled with unqualified attendants are never farfetched. Human lives are attached little value as accident victims are turned back for lack of police report, mothers in labor are rejected for lack of deposits, and babies succumb to truncated destiny for lack of incubators.

What kind of government will subject its citizens to such heartless circumstances? Now with doctors in both state and federal hospitals on strike, I can only imagine how many mothers will die in labour, how many accident victims will lose limps and hands, how many babies will die even before taking the second breath of the Nigerian callous state of affairs. I weep for Nigeria!

The food and housing sectors aren’t faring any better. Children (and also adults) are in every nook and cranny of the society begging for alms to feed with. At the end of the day, they retire to their corners under the bridge or in a slum nearby. These children will one day grow up knowing nothing else but being hoodlums. They will be disorderly and perpetrate crime to the discomfort of all of us because we ignored to reason such a day will come, eventually. We snub them today and wish them away, but where are they going? I weep for Nigeria!

I have had lots of discussions on the ongoing regime crisis and change in the Arab nations and the reasons why it might take much longer to replicate in Nigeria. We’ve been subject to no standards we place no values on ourselves. Most have forgotten what a functioning state is all about, others have never experienced it. What was it like to have electricity 18 hours or more every day? What was it like to get government scholarships and grants to attend public schools? What was it like to have babies in standard public hospitals and not have to make a deposit or take any items except the mothers’ change of clothes? What was it like to visit the botanical garden and zoo in Ibadan? Some of these I remember, others I was told by my parents, none of which exist today. What was it like to be happy being Nigerian? I weep for Nigeria!

I weep more for Nigeria today chiefly because I see no silver lining in the horizon. The decadence in the society marinated with the complacent attitude of its citizens is wretched. The present government and those of preceding years have systematically robbed us of desire and worth. In the midst of so much resource we starve and die in numbers. We celebrate ex-convicts who betrayed us and could have better spend money entrusted to them to equip hospitals and schools, repair the roads, enhanced agricultural development etc. We spend fortune to sponsor and host international sport events when we are not compensating our doctors, teachers, and other public servants adequately. Political parties spend billions on campaigns; the government spends billions on voters’ registration all in a lust for power to govern the naïve citizens.

Visualize if they had spent a fraction of these monies on providing amenities for the society they hope to govern – what difference it will make on the quality of life. I weep for Nigeria!

I often hear that education is the missing essentially part of maze and I can’t agree more now. Muhammed Bouazizi was the catalyst of the current Arab revolution. The young Tunisian had set himself on fire last December because he was unemployed (a university graduate) and had his vegetable cart sequestered because he was selling without a permit. He was beaten in the process by the Task force. As a result, he went to the governor’s office to plead his case but he was prevented from seeing him. In frustration he set himself on fire and his legacy is still burning. Note that in Tunisia and most other Arab countries, the government provides basic amenities - there’s a pension plan, there’s regular if not constant electricity, there are functioning public schools and hospitals, yet the citizens’ demand more because they understand they are worth more.

There many like Muhammed Bouazizi in Nigeria today. Unemployment and food prices are sky high and rising. Nigerians are constantly humiliated and penalized in their desperate attempt to earn an honest living as they hawk their wares. Police brutality is the norm. But unlike Bouazizi, we never ask to see the governor. Not because we might not be allowed to see him, but because we are uneducated to understand he has an obligation to listen to our plight. There is so much disconnect between the governed and the government that the two groups operate on different wave length to the detriment of the latter. In my hairdressing salon, last year three young girls died during childbirth, a friend’s driver recently lost his new born daughter to jaundice, I see young boys eating out of dumpsters, I see children detained in the hospital weeks after they have been discharged because they can’t pay the hospital bill, I read of suspects dying in police custody, the list goes on and on. I weep for Nigeria!

History and government, two essential subjects of a modern educational curriculum are illusive. It’s by these two basic subjects that our rights, privileges are inculcated. In these two subjects, the duties of the government are also highlighted. Until education is available to all we will always be blinded and imprudent. Until we can think and understand we have a right to basic amenities of life, we will always die in numbers as the doctors and teachers go on strike while our leaders fold their arms, watching us seat still in our misery. They in turn will continue to purchase the amenities they deny us from western countries, countries we die in wheels of airplanes in our desperate attempts to reach. They will continue to slight us with the resources we allow them to accumulate. I weep for Nigeria!



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