A Happy New Year to Nigerians? Not For Me!

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

I just chatted with a friend, Gani, on Facebook this morning (the morning after Boxing Day) and the first thing I told him is that I am a sick, frustrated, despondent and discouraged Nigerian. Gani shared my views and all I listed above but, true Nigerian as he is, he counselled me not to even think of ever giving up. He himself was all wrought up because as a devout Moslem, he was sad about the Nigerian bomber incident.

The year 2009 is about to come to a permanent close, never to be seen again. Human beings have been in this world since only God knows. Nigeria has been there floundering like a captain-less ship in the sea of the world for the past how many years.

It is the usual rites that we perform year in year out. We wish ourselves and our families and friends, and sometimes, foes alike, a Happy New year, hoping and praying that the next New Year will bring joy, success, etc to all of us. We pray for Nigeria to witness change; we pray for its deliverance from the evil and corrupt cabal that hold us hostage and condemn us to poverty, genocide, hopelessness, suffering and despondency. We do this every year end, but the subsequent New Year hard fares better. It is the same old thing. No change of heart from our rulers.

The hypocrisy is even more galling. Our rulers send out Yuletide and New Year messages, urging Nigerians to bear with them. Then they have the boldface to “task” Nigerians to be all kinds of things they are not offering by example. They tell us to pray for the nation, so that when we close our eyes, they can steal our wealth; they tell us to tighten our belts while they are not tightening theirs; they promise us that the New Year will bring better electricity generation and supply, yet they waste billions of our money on fake power projects; they tell us they will do the roads, and the moment they say it, thousands are dying on the death-trap roads they say they are going to repair or build; they promise to improve education, healthcare, etc and what do we have year in year out? Zilch, zero! I can understand if the money is not there, but Nigerians, can you believe we have no money to do these things?

What a life for Nigerians? We open newspapers everyday to be treated to yet more corruption scandals perpetrated by our ruler and civil servants, and now bankers. Each scandal more scandalous than the other; the figures misappropriated into private pockets more massive than the other. And the worst thing is that as soon as they are exposed, they are swept under the carpet. They seem to get away with it everytime.

Look at the previous years. Halliburton scandal is no longer in the news and the top people fingered are still walking about and rubbing it in our faces; Siemens scandal is no more, and one of the main perpetrators, Senator Jubril Aminu is even being considered for the position of Vice President in case, Goodluck Jonathan becomes the Acting President.

What happened to the Independent Power Projects Probe led by Senator Elumelu where it was discovered that Obasanjo spent $26 billion (or is it $16 billion, who knows?) to improve the power supply during his eight years in power and there is still no light in Nigeria? What is happening to the investigation of the Railway Project which the Chinese used to siphon away billions of dollars and our train is still not running? Many more scandals are still around and probes promised with virtually no results. NNPC probe; fertiliser probe, communications probe, you name it; every department of government, federal, state or local have skeletons on their closets; the embezzlement, graft, theft, bribery, corruption, mismanagement, misappropriation of funds going on are just too much, you lose count and makes your head dizzy.

Nigerians must be the most forgetful people in the world, or maybe we are too easily ready to forgive and forget, to our everlasting misfortune. What about the many scandals that befallen even the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate? These are our lawmakers. How many laws have they passed this year alone? Please, if you know, let me in on the secret, because I can’t remember any law passed this year, yet they have carted away billions in salaries and expenses for doing nothing. And you think that is fair, Senator? Representative? You think that is good value for your people? You think your people like that?

This year, just when it seems the Nigerian Judiciary has come of age (Bode George and Andy Uba come to mind) and can be trusted to do the right thing, then comes Justice Awokulehin in an Asaba court who could not find any guilty verdict in a 170-count charge against Mr Ibori, the thieving and ex-convict Ex-Governor of Delta State, who, all Nigerians, and even the UK authorities, know is a common thief, a vagabond in power.

Some caution here. Either the EFCC lawyers are deliberately incompetent or Ibori knew how to spread money and tamper with justice, or perhaps a combination of both, are still to be determined. But it is again an insult to Nigerians that the man immediately thanked God and restated his faith in the much abused “rule of law”. That is all they do, Nigerian politicians; despite their crimes against humanity, they are quick to profess their religious belief in God.

Can any Governor, ex or current, any Minister, ex or current, senior civil servant, ex or current, come out and tell Nigerians that they have not stolen a kobo from the treasury? I dare any of them to come out and say that to me, personally, and I will tell them a thing or two. Let that person come and tell Nigerians that they were there in charge of our money and they did not steal a kobo.

Let me digress a bit. Power is transient. When you have wealth, you are only a custodian of that wealth, which is supposed to be used to better the life of the ones who do not. A wealthy man is a mere custodian of wealth, because nobody in this world is born with wealth. You can be born into a wealthy family, but nobody comes into this world with wealth. You only become wealthy when you are in the world, if God wishes it. And, more importantly, you leave this world without wealth. Nothing at all! So why all the acquisition of wealth when you cannot make use of it for the benefit of your fellow human beings while you are still enjoying God’s time on earth?

To cap the insult, we now have an obviously incapacitated President for over a month, who his people said can rule from outside the country. I have never heard of such asinine argument. The Constitution is there to be followed, but nobody is following it. What they tell us is to pray for his recovery. Indeed, we do pray, why, I don’t wish anybody dead, but let us do things for the interest of 140 million people, not a few thousand who stand to gain from this stalemate.

As a matter of fact, VP Jonathan is not really the ideal man to rule Nigeria (I will admit we’ve never had ideal persons to rule Nigeria) but we must follow the constitution and if it says it must be that luckiest of man, then so be it.

For many years, I no longer heed the calls of these hypocrites on New Year’s Day calling on or “tasking” us to help improve Nigeria. It is not for me or for many Nigerians to improve Nigeria. What do we have people in Government for? It is only when we see them doing what they are elected to do, or appointed to do, that I can join them in doing it. That is why they are there. They have to convince me that they are there to do things for me and other Nigerians, and not for themselves. The way it is, I have never seen that happening in my 53 years on earth.

However, my friend Gani and some others I bared my mind to on Facebook, put some new hope in me. I woke up feeling despondent and hopeless, but as I began putting my thoughts down in this article, I felt a surge of hope.
You see, Nigerians have this sense of fatality, a flaw in our otherwise rich cultures. We never try to accept things as either an A

ct of God, or a natural occurrence that will lead to some other thing, perhaps positive, when things happen (although I will admit that this may be due to the fact that it seems to happen to us with too much frequency). For example, why don’t we see the incapacitation of President Yar ‘Adua as a test of our resolve, or as a test of our nascent democracy? Why don’t we look at it that it may be a catalyst for a bigger and more positive change? Every thing that occurs to Man has a reason. Even, the corruption problem or image of the country might be turned into a positive thing in the future.

So, the new phrase nowadays in Nigeria is “Change Agent”, A change agent is a noble aspiration. The assumption, of course, is that change is for the good, not purely destructive change. In my mind, change is akin to “making people better”. Which is something we should all strive for.

A change agent is someone who “alters human capability or organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of output or self actualization.” Beginning with the end in mind, the goal of a change agent is obviously to make changes that will endure. The result of change agent activity is to enable people to do more, or find a new and better perspective on life. Sometimes this latter idea is the foundation for future change which achieves outcomes that were previously not attainable. Change Agents must have the conviction to state the facts based on data, even if the consequences are associated with unpleasantness.

Yes, unpleasantness is the key word here. Is there anybody out there who is ready for some “unpleasantness”? I am sure there are, despite our self-deprecating notion that we are cowards.

I am of the conviction in this coming year, penultimate to the election year of 2011, which Nigeria is going to see real Change Agents in action. Let the Iboris, the Aoodoaakas, the Odilis, the Ubas, the Soludos, the Sarakis, the Obasanjos, the Anenihs, the Babangidas, the Danjumas, the Isa Yugudas, the Lukman Rilwans, etc prepare for the worst this coming year. They will not have their ways.

Another caution. I have just read a piece title The Principle Works! by Ope Ajayi, a Champion For Nigeria, in which he contends that though we say that the “problem in Nigeria is the failure of leadership. I am not saying that we do not have leadership challenge but we are not better than the leadership that we have. Whoever we call our leader is a direct reflection of the people; we do not deserve better leaders at least for now. Leadership is a reflection of the citizens. Corruption seems to be synonymous with Nigeria because majority of the Nigerian people participate in it, not a few but the majority does it, the majority will always get along rather than stand out.

Everything we do at our individual micro level has a direct effect on the country as a whole. No matter how little, it will tell on the future because everything is a seed. If you ever shunt a queue, bribe to receive Drivers Licence/ vehicle papers, you are not better than those who loot our treasury. You have both planted the same kind of seed”.

I cannot agree with him more. I have always said that we the people of Nigeria, or the society we have created, are as much to blame as the leaders we foisted on ourselves. Yes, foisted. We all opened our eyes, and even collaborated with those who are still raping and looting the country. Nobody can be absolved. We are all culpable.

In the meantime, in spite of the contradictions, I wish Nigerians a Happy New Year that will bring the desired change, finally.

Maryam Babangida’s Death.

I was just finishing this article when I heard about the demise of Mrs Babangida. As written before in another article, when it was first rumoured of her death, I am not one to wish anybody dead, nor is to spit on anybody’s grave. It is no use recounting all the problems she and her husband created for Nigerians, which we are still in today. Suffice it to say May her soul rest in peace. The evil that men do, lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar. We come to this world with nothing; we leave with nothing, despite all we acquire and the way we acquire them. It is a lesson that I wish all of us, especially those in positions of power and have access to our treasury and who keep behaving as if they own the rest of us, will learn and take to heart, and most importantly, remember everyday in their actions (or non-actions) to their fellow men and women in Nigeria today.

On the lung run, the massive money that she and her husband stole, extorted, embezzled, misappropriated, looted, mismanaged from their fellow Nigerians have could not save her. And to make it worse, many Nigerians do not have any sympathy for her family nor care about her death.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36. The Holy Bible)

The Nigerian Suicide Bomber

At first I thought it was a joke – a Nigerian suicide bomber, a guy born with silver spoon in his mouth? And he was so brainwashed, he was actually sympathising with the war in Afghanistan. Holy Shit! Why wasn’t the damn misguided fool fighting against the injustice, poverty, corruption and all the ills of his own country, Nigeria? And especially the against the plight of the “talakawas” of the North, where the likes of his father ride roughshod over the poor?

And an advice to my countrymen! Because of this dastardly and damaging act by this misguided idiot, please don’t be ashamed to be Nigerian. Nigerians have been denigrated, persecuted, rightly or wrongly for the past five decades by both foreigners and our leaders alike. It could not get worse. Continue to be proud, as long as you are not hiding anything and not into criminality.

I will continue to use my Nigerian passport to travel.

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