Literacy and Open Letters in Nigeria


I have only just returned from our dear motherland and the story remains the same – bad leadership, bad roads, electricity failure – no light, corruption galore, fuel scarcity, kidnappings, cultism, Boko Haram, Herdsmen Killings, gross indiscipline…!   Despite all of these, our prayer is that God will bless our nation and redeem her from the shackles of leadership deficit.   You may wish to know that there are moves to allow cows to live in Colonies, while human beings can be killed by Herdsmen in hundreds and thousands, a reversal of the order! Airports may need to be relocated because of their encroachment on cattle routes!  The Fulani Herdsmen have infiltrated several States and continue to wreak havoc on lives and properties at will.  To make the matter worse, we read that people of other nationalities, the Fulani brothers, can just come into Nigeria at will, under the guise of being Fulani Herdsmen – to kill, maim and destroy people and properties in many parts of the nation.  This means that our security apparatus is unquestionably porous and unreliable.  What a nation, at the mercy of animals!  The Fulanis are having their picnic and smiling all the way!  Nigeria has no clues!

In Nigeria, contemporary Cow Colonies are now being advocated where cow can now flourish, while places of abode for human beings remain grossly uninhabitable and in shambles!   I even came across a funny cartoon in Nigeria which shocked me as it indicates that the only way to enjoy a good life in Nigeria is to be a COW, whao!   God forbid, for the beautiful people of Nigeria.  People will be people and cows will always be mere lower animals and they will not be entitled to any type of colony by the special grace of God.  Ranches may be developed for cows and Colonies may be developed for people, as it was done by the Colonial Masters for the people of Nigeria, not for animals.  “A ni itori pe afe je  nanman,  ki a pe malu ni buroda.”  Meaning that there should be no imaginable reason for any sane human being, who desires to eat beef, to call a cow his/her brother!  What an absurdity?

On that Chief, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter, I am sure that the effects of the letter may have come as a big surprise and shock to many of my readers.  Are those in authority even listening good to peoples’ rumblings on bad governance and are changes coming soon?  My answer is NO and if you will disagree with me, as you may wish to have me to say YES, what is the speed of Nigeria’s response to all that is being written and said about Nigeria?  What happened after the hue and cry over budget padding?  What about the resentful jumbo packages of our legislators?  Whao! whao!!  Let’s talk about that after the present terms as legislooters are over!  What has happened to those found to be corrupt?  Virtually all cases are being lost by the government and looters are cruising home with the jumbo loots!  Justice which was delayed is about to be denied all Nigerians!  Rich nation, poor citizens!

Our nation only listens and responds to BOMBS and BOMB-SHELLS, because they do not want the Heavens to fall on them!  The OBJ letter-bombshell indeed roared throughout all Nigeria and beyond.   All I know is that this shall soon pass and all will be well with Nigeria and Nigerians.  We are not ‘shitholes’ as misconceived, with our legitimate votes at the voting booths, e go better, soon and very soon.  Nigerians are now better educated and are determined not to be deceived by the greedy Politicians anymore.   It looks like Nigerians will vote wisely this time around.

The ONLY way to catch attention in Nigeria is to do something sensational, like throwing the Bombshell of a letter by only those who have got the QUALIFICATIONS and the GUTS to do so.   Obasanjo’s letter has raised so much dust in the land in recent times that the dust is yet to settle and those affected, are yet to recover from the explosion!  Since we are all entitled to some measure of freedom of expression, as a fundamental human right, I am cautiously adding my own voice with the hope that no one can or will accuse me of starting or fueling an existing bomb explosion.  Our nation is burning and the flame is only being temporarily suppressed, at least for now.  That letter has said what all Nigerians know, EXCEPT for the Cabals, Jackals, Hyenas, snakes, monkeys and others who are beneficiaries of the Nigerian loots and who are dotted around Nigeria.   They just don’t give a damn, you may say what you want!  They are on the driving seat!

I have every reason to support “Open Letters” (OL) since I have written many of them myself, even to President Buhari among others.  Such letters are written to attract wider readership with the hope that someone out there, will let the valuable information contained therein, reach the desired audience.  I have read many thought provoking OLs which have moved me to tears and many which have moved me to laughter.  All in all, reading some of these letters has made me optimistic about Nigeria.  Unfortunately, many of the letters have turned into impossible dreams and if I may say, many beautifully written letters, (open or closed), have shamefully wound up in ugly wastepaper baskets!

I thank God that I was in Nigeria when the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) released his Open Letter to PMB.  It is highly unlikely that any other letter had been well read by the majority of Nigerians as well as people of other nations.  Even the Nigerian illiterates had their literate relatives and friends read and translate the contents of that (OBJ) letter to them!   Nigerians, who are not ordinarily disposed to reading, struggled to read the contents of that OBJ letter.  Newspaper Vendors made lots of money, repackaging and rebinding that letter for unprecedented sales.  Bookshelves of the educated folks have increased their item listings with the new Obasanjo Letter to PMB.   Who gets the royalty for this novel Letter-Book?  OBJ should be a few Dollar richer by now, but for the rampant copyright infringements!

Strangely enough, twenty-four to thirty-six hours of the ‘Bombshell’ delivery, ‘actions’ came from many directions and as revealed in the Holy Bible, ‘dead bones’ started to rise!  Important governmental actions which had been pending (dormant), for several months started to receive attention.  These concomitant actions were not coincidences at all.  Basically, the jolt of that letter was instrumental.  This is why I am asking for more of such letters from other retired Heads of State as well as other notable Nigerians.  Another former President (IBB), also made his own controversial contribution by way of letter as well.  May be, these will serve as wakeup calls to the present Government to give the people (Nigerians) a better life, peace and security in the land.  Life is not worth living in Nigeria with the COWS enjoying unprecedented freedom on the roads and on farms, feasting freely on farms, on which farmers have obtained Agricultural loans with interests.  Can we appeal to the Governments of Nigeria and other Agricultural Loan Agencies to write-off the loans of affected Farmers as compensations to them?  What about the relatives of those killed by the Herdsmen?  Who gives them compensations to carry on with their life?  What a shame and high level of callousness!  Patience always likes to remind us all that “there’s Goooduo”.

I will not be surprised if many Universities around the world give Dr OBJ their honourary Professorial Chairs, based on this well researched significant Open Letter-Thesis.  It is certain that many Nigerian academics (including me) have not been able to record such high level of readership for many award-winning research publications.  He deserves our KUDOS for this masterpiece and for his boldness at speaking out for the people – Nigerians.  More grease! It suffices to say that his (OBJ) strong message registers very much.  It is very likely that his words of wisdoms advice may not be taken in good faith, by those who want to run PMB beyond his physical capacity and wellness, for their selfish reasons. Won fe pa ketekete ni – they wan kill am abi?  Good luck to them. 

If a former Soldier – OBJ has been able to metamorphose into a potential Nobel Laurette letter writer, with this award-winning Bombshell to PMB, why not other Academics and Scholars in Nigeria?  Nigeria certainly has got talents in all fields and areas of endeavor.  Let the PROFESSORS write, let the ENGINEERS write, let the ENTERTAINERS write, let our FOOTBALLERS and ATHLETES write, let the FARMERS write, let the MARKET WOMEN write, let the DOWN-TRODDEN write, let the OKADA RIDERS/MARWA DRIVERS/DANFO/MICRA DRIVERS write.  Some honest and well-meaning LEGISLATORS are beginning to speak out especially with the inspirational, Silverbird CEO, Ben Murray-Bruce’s Sermon on the Legislative Mountain Top. Another respected Senator Shehu Sani has added his voice to the inconceivable bogus jumbo legislative allowances in the nation.  Reputable Lawyers like Prof. Ben Nwabueze and Femi Falana (SAN) are not quiet as they continue to condemn the ills of governance from time to time.  Let the writing and talking continue.   It is obvious that until politics becomes less financially attractive in Nigeria, greed and corruption will have no end in sight!  However, as an optimist, I have the fervent hope that soon and very soon, Nigeria will overcome.

This may just be another season of Open Letters in Nigeria and who is afraid of open Letters and what is wrong with them?  If Open Letters with increase literacy in Nigeria and change Nigeria to become a reading public, why not let the letters keep pouring in?  Educators and Librarians will sing Halleluiah, that Nigeria is gradually becoming a ‘born-again’ reading nation.  That will just be one of the desirable changes that Nigeria needs, a new good attribute of our great nation.

While the OBJ letter continues to reverberate and serve as a wakeup call to the sleeping giant of Africa, it has also served another purpose of improving the reading propensity of the ordinary Nigerian.  We all know that the reading culture in Nigeria is very poor/ low.  Despite the effort of Librarians and educators, the last thing an ordinary Nigerian wants to do is to read!  All efforts should be devoted to finding activities, topics, and issues which can wet peoples’ appetite towards reading for knowledge, pleasure and recreation.  Whatever can turn Nigerians on, let’s use it as in the words of Francis Bacon “reading makes a full man, conversation makes a ready man and writing makes an exact man”.  Knowledge is power, so let’s read for knowledge.

A recent source of pride and joy to us in Nigeria is another Nigerian’s Reading Exposé, which has earned him a spot on the Guinness Book of records.  Treasures Olawunmi Bayode is the first human being to read aloud for one hundred and twenty hours (120 hrs) nonstop!  What a source of pride and inspiration to our Nigerian children and youths.  The Guinness Book of Records in the “Longest Marathon Reading Aloud” Category, records that he (Bayode) logged a total of 120 hours at the YouRead Library, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.  He was reported to have recited 17 different books from 13 authors during his marathon record attempt which commenced from 1:30 PM on Monday, February 26, 2018 and ended at 3.30 PM on Saturday, March 3, 2018, a six-day feat!  Nigeria certainly has got talents.  Kudos to Bayode.

The Social Media, for all we care, has also tremendously increased peoples’ interest in reading in recent times (though with questionable language and content accuracy).  The Facebook and WhatsApp in particular, have provided reading materials for many Nigerians in this digital era.  Social Science Researchers need to explore the Social Media potentials in increasing reading tendencies in Nigerians, especially our youths.   The culture of reading is the best way to lead and teach people, (young and old) to learn how to learn.

In addition to allowing the new and novel OBJ letter to translate to the cultivation of a new reading culture in Nigeria, the viral characteristic of the social media is being used by the youths in seeking a transition from analogue to digital mode of governance.  The news of the bombshell spread like a wild fire and youths were quick to capitalize on it to ask for a shift in paradigm.   What a new springboard for demanding change in our governance from the old generation to the youths!

For Nigeria to get new results from democracy and good governance, economic buoyancy, enduring security in Nigeria, end to corruption, greed and nepotism, the youths are now clamouring for a change from analogue to digital leadership.  Nigerian youths are set to retire the ‘old’ from governance and replace them with the dynamic, detribalized, ebullient, intelligent, and indefatigable youthful Nigerians, who can stand shoulder to shoulder with other world leaders.  Remember, our present leaders in Nigeria came aboard the leadership role, when they were in their twenties, thirties and forties, when Nigeria got her independence.  If as of today, Nigeria cannot find qualified, capable, incorruptible, trustworthy, and fearless youths to lead the nation and take over from now on, the old ones would have completely failed the nation.   The shame will be on the older Nigerians for not nourishing and bringing up appropriate and proper replacement materials to take over governance, in the last five to six decades.

Let us all clean up the mess in Nigeria to make Nigeria great.   Truth is bitter, but it must be told.  We need true change, we need a de-tribalised leadership, and indefatigable, corruption-free and impartial leadership.  We need to jettison nepotism.   Nigeria belongs to all of us.  Let us reclaim our dear nation.  Our ship is sinking!  Let us save the ship and keep it afloat.  Thanks to OBJ for opening our eyes with the ‘Open Letter’ avenue for boosting literacy and increasing our peoples’ interest in reading. If Open Letters will lead to change in Nigeria, let them keep pouring in and let Nigeria continue to be the beneficiary of citizens’ improved interest in reading for knowledge and for pleasure.

Written by
Adekunle Akinyemi
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