Mail from Jail

The worst delusion that can come the way of a human being is his inability to know his exact status. I mean, when a beggar thinks himself a very rich man (financially I mean), or when a blood thirsty dictator thinks he is a populist president. Or worse still, when a prisoner thinks himself a free man. Where then would one begin, if help is to be offered to the deluded? I believe the appropriate first step is to uncloak the deluded of their delusion.

It seems to me that the majority of Nigerians are prisoners. From the inmates of kiri-kiri, through the millions who have had their rights denied them in one way or the other, we are all prisoners in our motherland. Prisoners denied of good governance, social mobility and such core values as the right to be educated. So I accept first of all that I have been imprisoned. I can only lust after the freedom that I hear is available in other countries. But while I lust after freedom, I can at least seek to psychologically free myself and those who I can free since our imprisonment is more psychological than physical. ‘Mail from Jail’ is my way of telling myself that at least I can be free to think.

I have always believed that Yar’adua’s only crime is inaction. That irritating silence while all around him things get worse. I had also always thought that even as he is silent and inactive, good had come out of his government in the area of independence of the judiciary. But the type of inaction that results in the grounding of our educational system, upheavals in the entertainment industry, and a farcical display of amnesty in the Niger Delta seems to me worse than the dictatorial antics of some rulers we have had.

I marvel especially at the way the educational system has been grounded. Education, which is the bedrock of the country’s development, and which insures our future has become an unobtainable commodity in the country today. What is more irritating is the stance that the government’s negotiation team has taken. I mean, what could be more irritating than to hear the joke that the government’s negotiation team is ‘on strike’? This indeed is a nation where profanities are turned to religious litanies!

But of course, it does not matter. Let the students continue to waste at home. While the male students out of idleness engage in criminal activities (armed robbery, thuggery, etc), the female ones bored to their bones, and starved of the normal allowances provided by their parents if they were in school, now hawk their bodies. I guess of course that nobody notices these activities. I bet of course that nobody notices the angry fights that erupt in bars out of frustration, and the young men that have been killed in the resultant fights. Nobody would notice that the ranks and files of prostitutes in clubs have increased.

The problems of students are just normal problems that can wait while in the meantime, the children of the policy makers are equipping themselves academically, abroad. And you know, in one of those their funny programmes, AIT will bring us stories of “Nigerians” who have done the nation proud, and then show us pictures of Nigerians (sons and daughters of the rulers of this country) in their graduation ceremonies abroad. And you know, patriotic as we are, we are supposed to smile in pride and say, “Yeah, those are my countrymen and women! They just graduated with honours abroad” And while the Nigerian students watch this, they are expected to feel very happy that (1) they are seating at home, with no hope of going back to school. (2) the educational system in the country is so deficient that the graduates from here are often termed half- baked.

And in the midst of all these lock down and confusion, Sam Egwu with his bloated cheeks and neckless head will speak through a mouth that is filled with an extra large tongue that ASUU has turned strike action to a religion. Then in a most surprising move, he and his team would then go and strike! This indeed is wonderland!

We know of course how this will be resolved. Already, parents have started appealing to ASUU to call off the strike in the interest of their children. ASUU members, themselves parents with children in Nigeria would take pity on their children, and continue the sacrifices after all, their rewards we often say, are in heaven!

The problem in the educational sector is infinitesimal. What is more important is the grant of amnesty to ‘repentant militants’. That is about all we hear now. Then to underline the farcical nature of this programme, some ‘militants’ in Edo state have turned in their dane guns! What we are yet to see is how well the federal government will handle the real problem of the Niger Delta (which incidentally is not granting amnesty to militants). What the Niger Delta needs are integrated development, provision of cushioning industries that will make up for the vegetation lost to oil exploration and spillages, the provision of a proper educational scheme that will take the young men to school, and provide them with a means of making money that is different from hostage taking. The problem of the Niger Delta youths is MONEY. Give them means through which they can make constant money in a positive way. Train them academically, and create employment opportunities to take them in after graduation. Anybody who thinks that creating skills acquisition centers is a solution is only creating a more conducive forum for militant meetings, and the grooming of better militants.

When Pete Edochie was released by his kidnappers, he told us that the young men who kidnapped him told him that they turned kidnappers because the politicians flaunt their wealth ostentatiously and thus they engage in kidnapping to make their own money. The truth then is that these young men live within the same society with us all, and have come to understand that in this society, money is god. And because they live so close and are a part of this society with strong money values, they cannot resist the pull of it. Kidnapping I insist once more is a business venture and not a political or resistance movement. Better be criminally rich than a poor nobody whom nobody listens to.

And of course the travails of the Niger Delta youths are the travails of the entire Nigerian youths. Any attempt to address the Niger Delta issue without taking into consideration the problems of the totality of Nigerian youths is just tantamount to scorching the python and not killing it. In time, youths from other parts of the country (they are of course gradually realizing this) would begin their own violent agitations as means of bringing attention to their plights: if the Niger Delta youths can succeed through violence (they will reason) they too can succeed. But in this jail we live in, nobody cares. Nobody thinks of how to prevent this from happening.

By the way, recently Nigerian artistes went on hunger strike. Comical? Not in the least. It is just that the artistes temporarily forgot that they are still in Nigeria. They thought they were in some country where the media coverage of the fact that they were on hunger strike would touch the heart of the government. They forgot that this is the country where the government does not even show commitment to negotiations on such matters as education that form part of the president’s ‘seven point agenda’(whatever he meant by that). We expect that an issue as important as the piracy issue raised by the artistes will as usual be treated as a trifle. What a society!

And in a shocking twist, the Sanusi tsunami hits us. And most of us are jolted to the realization that we are still being ruled by a cartel and that once you have money, you can do anything, and almost go free. So even our much hailed Professor Chukwuma Soludo was a cover-up artist? Who do we believe in then? One issue though bothers me. We are told that some of the debtors are debtors because the federal gove

rnment owes them the money they would have used to pay up their debts. What I am asking then is, why is the federal government not standing trial? Untouchable?

Anytime I tune in to Gbenga Aruleba’s “Focus Nigeria”, and listen to discussions on the situation of things in this country ( the APGA tussle between Umeh and Chekwas Okorie; the Jang versus the Solomon Lar-led faction upheaval in Plateau state; the boko haram issue, and many others) I immediately remember J.P Clark’s poem “Here Nothing Works”. I remember always that this is the country where nothing progressive is happening. This is the nation of charlatans and their charades. This is the nation of a slumbering HEAD. This is the nation where Madam re-branding is only re-branding in words. This is the nation of a failed educational system, a faulty labour market, and vexed marauding youths. But on a positive note, this is a nation of prisoners psychologically equipping themselves to effect a turn around for posterity.

P.S “Mail from Jail” is our (all of us) forum. You can contribute your views by e-mailing me at

Written by
Nnaemeka Oruh
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