Every summer I look forward to my vacation in Nigeria with delicious shyness and nostalgia of my boyhood days in a country I was once proud of.
Like most things in life, sometimes we feel disappointed the way things are and the way things should be. Going on vacation, I dream of reveling in nature’s beauty of pristine Ikogosi Warm Springs, energetic rivers of Ogbese, Osse, and Calabar and the tumbling waterfalls of Gurara two and a half hours drive from Abuja and Farin Ruwa Falls in Farin Ruwa in Nasarawa State. I dream of solitude of early morning walks and evening family conversations with smorgasbord of delicacies to relive good old times.
It will be selfish and unrealistic to always expect comfort during vacation especially if your vacation destination is Nigeria – a nation of good people ruled by Rehoboams.
There is nothing new about Nigeria that you’re reading in this piece which you‘ve not read or heard before. The feedback from a month’s sojourn in Nigeria is to re-emphasize failed expectations and dashed hopes that have become a permanent feature of our people and our nation. More importantly, to inform my readers that I see no improvement in the lives of the suffering masses since my visit to the country last year July. Instead, the situation on ground triggers a memory of a nation of cold and cynical jungle dwellers defined by shared misery and sub-human living conditions.
Some hopes may be little more than fantasies, but any that go unfulfilled can lead to early exit into the great beyond. The Bible was right after all that “An expectation that drags on and on makes you sick at heart.” In my lay man’s interpretation, it means death by heart attack. And there is plenty of such deaths in Nigeria.
Like a miner who patiently sifts through rubles of stones looking for precious gems, I took my time to talk to people, interact with people, travel in “Danfos” and “Maruwas,” and stroll through neighborhoods looking for any improvement of quality of life of our people.
The thoughts of the Nigerian nation that kept me awake in the US drifted into my nights and days at home in Nigeria. What is wrong with Nigeria? Are the rulers so blind, deaf, and dumb that they can’t see what Nigerians see, can’t hear what Nigerians are saying? What steps are the various governments taken to create jobs for the teeming idle, young, and the restless youth? What’s the fate of pensioners and forgotten senior citizens? When will construction begin on Lagos-Ibadan and other important arteries of inter-state roads? Any progress in the provision of basic necessities of civilization – water, light, hospital, etc.? Why is home grown terrorists Boko Haram remains invincible and unstoppable by the government? Can the federal government gets its priorities right? Will corruption eventually consume and collapse Nigeria? Can Nigeria survive 2015 and beyond? These voices in my ear kept me tethered to the plight of the Nigerian poor.
In my conversation with ordinary Nigerians, their anguish, disappointment, and despondency inserted themselves into the abject poverty that prevails in the land. I feel disorientated and helpless to be plucked from my participant/observer status into their world of sunset of hope.
Consider the following samples of an advertising jungle:
A “Danfo” ride from Oshodi to Palm Grove Maryland, Lagos, has all the peculiarities of highway police chase. The “Danfo” was packed with more passengers allowed by the law. The driver is a young, energetic, and amiable personality with passion for what he does. With blaring horn he wiggles around pot-holes and puddles with ease and fun.
From nowhere, a police truck appeared behind us dangerously tailgating the “Danfo” with no apparent reason. There was no cause for the driver to suspect that he was being chased for any traffic violation. But soon we realized that the police was in pursuit of the “Danfo” driver. And once he knew the police was after him, he made up his mind to call off their bluff by meeting force with force.
The trip now becomes a dangerous and life threatening adventure. It’s a hot chase like a poacher chasing his prey. The driver turbocharged as it were, the rickety “Danfo” to outrun the police truck. Weaving in and out of the snake traffic, annexed any available space on the wrong side of road – dodging oncoming cars and wayward goats and wandering children and avoiding other barriers that could slow him down.
Speeding along in a zigzag course, he moves from lane to lane to avoid collision or obstruction. We (passengers) started screaming “Ye, O pawa o!” (“Yeah, he’ll kill us”), “Duro, jeki a sokale” (“Stop and let’s get out”), “Iru olori buruku wo ni driver yi?” (“What kind of bastard is this driver?”), “Abi won ti sepe fun o ni?” (“Or have you been cursed?”).
The more we scream, the more the driver injects speed into the reluctant ram shackled box. “A bi were ni ogbeni yi” (“Or is this a mad man?”), the rain of curses continued. “Ogbeni fun awon olopa ni N20 ki a dele layo” (“Man, give the cops their N20 bribe so we’ll arrive home alive”), “ti o ko ba duro ki a sokale, oni kure o” (“If you don’t stop so we can get down from the bus, you’ll not die peacefully!”).
Finally, the road yielded into a narrow crooked alley full of broken disposables of all kinds and the “Danfo” came to a screeching halt. The police – four of them – jumped out of their truck with their guns drawn at the driver. Undaunted and undeterred, the driver confronted them, ripped them into pieces with magnificent tirades of insults and accusation of bribery. Area residents joined the verbal attack on the cops in defense of the driver. With the commotion now at its crescendo, the passengers melt away into thin air!
When the miner finds a gem, he rejoices. The rough stone may not look precious, but the miner sees its potential value. I find no gem of any improved life for Nigerians. Basic needs are still criminally neglected. All traces of vestiges of modern living seemed wiped out.
Increased suffering and hopelessness tightly suspended on poverty greet you at every turn. I see no trace of any conviction that things will be better. I see precious qualities and potentials of Nigerians especially the youth. I believe when those qualities are midwifed, shaped, and polished by government policies and programs, then we can produce gems from this generation.
When it comes to suffering, Nigeria has become a shorthand for hell. Reaching into the looming and prophetic landfill, one could see the perfect negatives and the seething anger that consume the poor are on the rise and unabated. Name it, no area of human life is civilization visible and feasible the way the country is being run. Most people see Nigeria as a country on the bleeding edge. In fact, some foreigners come here to see what could have been the end of the world.
There is fake of everything in Nigeria – fake food, fake cooking oil, fake drug, fake gari, fake amala, fake meat, fake currency, fake local government chairmen, fake governors, fake commissioners and ministers, fake legislatures, fake judges, fake president, fake pastors and prophets, fake human beings and sadly a fake country!
Underage girls are being abducted and warehoused in a baby making factory. Impregnated by paid men, their new born are auctioned by the owner of the “mill on the floss” at basement bargain prices to men of the underworld for money ritual.
The corruption of the ruling class like leprosy has become a deadly influenza among the rank and file of the poor. The poor now exploits the poor at the slightest opportunity. For example, transport fare. A fare that normally costs N100.00 on a non-rainy day would jump to N200 or N300 on a raining day. The melee of stranded commuters at bus stops would also lead to price hike.
My nephew bought spare part for his Nissan truck for N29, 000.00. The part was found to be defective. With the receipt he took the part back to the seller. The seller refused to refund his money. Rather, he told him to return the defective part in two weeks for a replacement and not a refund. My nephew refused to bulge. It took the intervention of a family friend who is one of the “ogas at the top” with the military police to get his refund back.
You might be living now, but tomorrow you might not for no justifiable cause in Nigeria. A young woman left her shop around 11pm and headed home. While waiting patiently at the bus stop for the next bus, a man rushing to catch a bus pushed her out of the way into the gutter. Good Samaritans dug the woman out of the sewer gutter with broken bones, and lacerations over her body. No emergency rescue in form of ambulance or police came to her rescue. She was left on her own. She was lucky to be alive!
One of my friend’s nieces was run over by “okada” and left the poor 5-year old with a broken leg. She was rushed to Ajegunle General Hospital. The hospital staff couldn’t summon empathy to attend to the young accident victim with dispatch that her condition demands. She paid the registration fee and was asked to go to Mainland Hospital without any treatment. The registration fee was never refunded. One of the junior nurses whispered to the victim’s parents to take her to Ijaw – the native surgeon of broken bones for treatment. Her response to treatment has been rapid and encouraging.
In 2013, cholera remains an epidemic in some parts of Nigeria. Nasarawa State lost some of her citizens to cholera outbreak. Malaria and typhoid with renewed vengeance still torment Nigerians with unyielding regularity.
The entire public university system in Nigeria has been shut down almost four months while the President and 19 governors and the embattled aviation minister went on pilgrimage jamboree to Israel.
The Abuja City Gate will gulp N640 billion ($400 million) at a time when Nigerian lives are being harvested in the hundreds on our death trap roads. The Christopher Kolade SURE-P is missing N500 billion, money earmarked for job creation.
This is not a joke, this is Nigeria. This is the new Nigeria as some call it. It implies a dead country, the unforgiving big-money corrupted country of the world. A place where they sweep broken dreams off on the street. A country where the youth have been reduced to flotsam and jetsam of shreds and fragments of wasted lives.
Nigerians are trying to figure out where they are supposed to be, what they could do. Their confused eyebrows tilted on a theatrical display of uncertainty. They’re trapped between the intersection of choice and change. They could not muster enough courage and confidence to choose between the two. Nigerians are living on borrowed times.
The decadent attitude of the ruling elites that seeps into the hybrid of lawlessness and recklessness is truly ready to go to full-tilt. These native oppressors would always desire and strive for their luxury, glamor, and sensuous indulgence. They don’t give a damn whether the economy is doing well for the poor or tethers on the edge.
Nigerians unmet expectations are making them heartsick. The president and his PDP led federal government would want Nigerians to bottle up their feelings, hoping that the disappointment will go away. Instead of Mr. Jonathan to identify the unmet expectations that frustrate Nigerians, determine why we hope for change so he can understand why we cling to it and fix the problem, he’s the chief spectator clapping and laughing on the sidelines!
The unspoken anger and concealed tears of Nigerians characterized by masked spine-chilling and heart-stopping growls and screams echo throughout the land – and no one – to fill the void. Surely, we’re headed into the final sunset stage of a nation. It’s farewell to civilization!