Nigeria is the country of my birth, but today I sojourn in foreign lands. I am too afraid to go home to my people. Fear grips my heart and my soul is too terrified. When I ponder on the infirmities of my nation, the essence of my being is devoured by shame. This humiliation is not in my father’s name: my family name is honourable. And, this ignominy does not spring forth from my deeds before I fled my homeland out of omission. Although I belong to the wasted generation, I am proud of my age group’s accomplishments. We may want, but I am not horrified by our morals.
Ordinarily, I hate dwelling on the goings-on in Nigeria. But fate has entwined my destiny with hers. Consequently, righteous callousness becomes the cloak my heart is apparelled, but my umbilical cord far and deeply enmeshed in the dust in the homeland brings nostalgia to the doorsteps of my life in strange lands. Why am I bothered with the plight of my country, today? I am first of all a Nigerian, no matter what; at least, I have not changed my nationality. Then, the future of today’s children and the unborn generation becomes a frightening reality every passing minute of the day. This shouldn’t be, I guess.
Why is Nigeria on my mind today? She is in the news again, thanks to the politicians!
Nigeria is a blessed nation. However, her wealth is the greatest cause of her pain. Her population is almost two hundred million. She is nowhere near China and India though, but this multitude of tribes foisted by imperialism is an albatross, chaos made sovereign. I hate history for this. I wished the Berlin Conference of 1845 never happened. However disastrous the aftermath, one would have expected that the people brought together in spite of obvious differences of their hues and tongues would have made the best use of the circumstance. I am very sure that was the motivation that propelled the nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Aminu Kano to risk their lives in snatching Independence from Britain in 1960. Perhaps, they should have watched their ambition for self-governance keenly, and humbled themselves while learning from the books of Western democracy the art of politics that nurture a Republic greatly. Maybe my people should not have chased their colonial masters away when they did, because the celebration of the exit of the foreign lords was short lived by the effects of nepotism, greed and inexperience. Almost 43 years after Independence, Nigeria is not yet One. The reality is that there are three nations in one, and this is an unholy trinity.
Every election plays up this discordant union. So, am not surprised that there are more parties than ideologies in the recent election. What irks me, however, is the continuous belief in the West, as reiterated in Rory Carroll’s report in The Guardian (London) dated April 21,2003, that every election is a time for the nation to brace “itself for clashes between rival ethnic, religious and political groups.” It is our bestiality that maters to the civilised world, not our determination to overcome. Again, who is to blame?
The answer, definitely, is not far-fetched. Nigeria’s leaders are the source of our universal shame. Thus, they fill me with disgust. I cringe, angst eating me up when I hear their words. Bowing my head in shame, I ask no one in particular, seeking to know when these pot-bellied nuisance who have hijacked the nation’s destiny will learn to accept the fact that God, the creator of all, did not make Aso Rock, Nigeria’s White House or 10 Downing Street, their generation’s birthright. I ask, time after time, when would Nigeria’s predators learn to accept defeat humbly and, then, like noble sportsmen, embrace their situation without threatening to tear the fabric that holds the nation together: the very cloth that is so stretched and worn, but holding on like tethers graciously hanging on to life, courtesy of threads waiting to snap under the least pressure.
Agreed, it is believed that the majority of Nigerians have elected Olusegun Obasanjo as their President for the second time. But the question on my mind is this: is Obasanjo the hope of my country? Power fell on his lap when he least expected it in 1976 when the charismatic military dictator, Murtala Mohammed, was assassinated in a failed coup. What do I remember that era for? Even as a teenager then, what sticks out on my mind now is “Obasanjo Finish Naira”, which is a ridiculous twist given to his Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), a programme launched by his Military government to make the Nigerian nation self sufficient in agricultural products once more after decades of total reliance on the black gold, the crude oil. If the programme is synonymous with cynicism, it suggests its failure despite the large-scale investment. Another badge of dishonour, which makes mockery of his legacy as the first military dictator to willingly hand over power to civilians in Nigeria, is the unchecked, wanton but discrete embezzlement of the public coffers by men in the heart of his regime: I don’t think my generation has forgotten the 2.8 billion dollar saga. Mohammed Buhari, the now retired Army General who sacked the civilian government of Shehu Shagari, the regime that was midwifed by Obasanjo’s 1979 team of political gynaecologists, and who was Obasanjo’s main opponent in the April 19, 2003 election was, allegedly, in the thick of the act that led to suspicious disappearance of that money in a period when money was not Nigeria’s problem, but how to spend it. Four years after the return of Obasanjo to prominence in 1999, I am yet to convince myself that his government, in spite of the adulations, has affected the life of the ordinary Nigerian positively. My judgement may be myopic since I am not living in Nigeria at the moment, but there is no chronicle that has been a harbinger of joy. What pains would another four years of an Obasanjo government inflict on our national psyche? Only time will tell!
Buhari disappoints me. Tough, towering as well, I was of the opinion that he is an embodiment of discipline. But recent events and pronouncements ascribed to him make the General look like an opportunist. I fear that his call for civil disobedience, and his incessant declaration that the elections are a fraud are acts that could encourage the Nigerian Army to sack the fragile civilian government. He truncated the country’s nascent second attempt at democracy in 1984 with the trigger, and it does seem to me that he is again inviting death to the political structures that have guzzled billions of dollars to institute by the combined governments of Ibrahin Babaginda, Sanni Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubarkar. Perhaps, his crime of 19 years ago could be overlooked since his high handedness whipped Nigerians into line and brought back a measure of decency and order to our national culture through his War Against Indiscipline, but should Nigerians handle his misdemeanour now with lightness? I don’t think so.
Should Buhari’s actions unleash a season of bloodbath on the Nigerian polity as the aftermath of an election generally believed to be free and fair, even by international observers, Nigerians and all those sympathetic with the Nigerian nation should know that the time has come to aggressively question the intentions of all those who have been in the corridors of power for so long, and are still unwilling to let go its rein. What, in God’s name, has Buhari and others forgotten in Aso Rock that they are so eager to pick up now?
The Nigerian people deserve a better deal; the leadership has consistently failed them, and all those aspiring to lead should consider what is in the national interest more than their selfish, personal glory and aggrandizement. Florida probably rigged the election in favour of “little” George Bush, but America did not burn. The civil rule of law simply prevailed. Buhari and all those who are sharpening their long tribal knives should learn from Al Gore. Nigeria will overcome, and shame the world of doubting Thomases.