I don’t usually pride myself on being the party pooper especially at a time like this when everybody is flaunting their best patriotism dress. However, I do feel like dragging a few things out of my diary to highlight why I, and of course, millions of Nigerians have continued to agonize as our weary beloved Nigeria has trudged on through the years. Thankfully, or rather, poignantly, the country’s many (avoidable and ridiculous) failings as an entity, have continued to be peppered over by the remarkable resilience of its truly brave and tolerant people.
Below is my (pathetic, if you will) attempt to capture a few issues – many of which certainly do not beatify our heritage – that are a reminder of where we are today.
• On October 1, 2009, 24-year-old Grace Adie Ushang, a member of the National Youth Service Corps serving her fatherland in Maiduguri, Borno State was, IN HER SERVICE UNIFORM, thought to be provocatively dressed by a gang of young men who raped and murdered her. That band of gorillas is yet to be caught and I can bet my left arm that the authorities are not even looking to arrest them, perhaps because she was ‘an indecent girl who got what she deserved.” On the same day Grace was killed, the trio of Rotimi Philips, 28, Ibrahim Olojede, 32, and Friday Uti, 34, were callously spread with bullets by a group of policemen right inside a car in front of the workshop where they worked as motor mechanic in the heart of Alagomeji in Yaba, Lagos State. Arrogant and unapologetic as ever, the culprits and their masters in the police hierarchy have not shown any remorse for that atrocity and as a news reporter covering the story since it first broke, I have lost count of the number of tacit and even direct threats I have received for daring to follow developments on the issue.
• By his estimate, former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu believes that Nigeria has wasted about N700 billion in oil proceeds since independence. I think that is even a conservative estimate.
• In a country still plagued by widespread illiteracy, there are fewer more eloquent testimonies to why this is the case than the fact that education still gets an annual budgetary allocation that is just about half the National Assembly’s budget. Add to that the fact that teachers – who in more forward-looking societies are some of the better paid professionals – are some of the lower earning workers in Nigeria and you may better understand the point I am making here.
• In 50 years, from Wale Soyinka Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, T.M. Aluko, Ola Rotimi, Zainab Alkali, Zulu Sofola, to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ben Okri, to name a few, Nigerian writers have wowed readers from around Africa and other parts of the world with engaging literature, that has provided more than just a hint of how blessed this country is. A special toast must be reserved to these ambassadors whose ink, continues to give a more pleasant meaning to what being Nigerian is contrary to whatever unedifying impression the political class may have created in the mind of the world.
• Thirteen years ago, he and his cronies set the tone for what was to become a future pattern of political and electoral rape of the Nigerian people this nation. In a more orderly and saner clime, former military president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida would never be seen as anything but a betenoire and an aberration anywhere issues of election or eligibility for public posts are being discussed. Money no doubt, talks loud everywhere in the world and although he may not win the PDP’s ticket for the elections, but the sheer temerity in his throwing his hat in the ring as a potential elected president of this country, goes some way in highlighting the value system we have nurtured down the years. Only a culture of highest-bidder-may-come-forward that canonizes people of means however tainted the means may be, can embolden even the darkest of black beasts to believe they can wriggle round a system, no matter their antecedents. Unfortunately, this is what Babangida and his delusional ilks constantly prey on this to make a mockery of us all.
• Believe it or not, water is almost as, if not more expensive than soft drink in this country. Think of it, a bottle of Coca cola, Pepsi and the likes sells for N60 while a bottle of packaged water sells for N50. Perhaps not even in a place like Germany with its well-known story of limited water reach, is a litre of water equal in deutschmark value, to a glass of beer.
• Since the British left our shores, one can count the number of natural disasters that have befallen this country on the fingers of one hand. Yet by continually pushing the self destruct button such as in the case of the Lagos-Benin Expressway and many other appalling man-made calamities, Nigeria has lost more lives than a combination of 20 tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones, landslides, wildfires, volcanic eruptions and typhoons could have claimed.
• Like most aspects of our lives, the Nigerian entertainment industry, through the ingenuity, hard work and tenacity of its practitioners continues to trudge on in spite of the odds. Technically speaking, most of the movies still leave much to be desired but the music has come on in leaps and bounds quality wise. And these, together with other media of entertainment, have through the decades proved a more competent representation of the true Nigerian spirit – a Spartan spirit that conquers all obstacles.
• Three general elections since the return to civil rule in 1999, Nigeria still doesn’t have sustainable and workable electoral laws and rules to guide the conduct of elections. Hence, at the turn of each electioneering period, we contrive to further muddle things up by coming up with selfish contingency rules that only cater to the whims of the cabal with the strongest and furthest reaching influence.