This piece is a call to civil duty. It is dedicated to all the victims of the modern institution of slavery in Nigerian; to the innocent victims of the most insidious invention ever contrived by man in modern times; to those at the receiving end of the beastly dispositions of the marabous in the mansions of power; to those who have been turned into pariahs in the land of their fathers by the demon-possessed drivers of the Leviathan – the evil Vicars of Aso Rock and other bastions of political power in Nigeria.
The thoughts expressed in this piece are bound to elicit missed reactions from a segment of the ever critical public. While some will objectively give me kudos for objectively speaking my mind – a fundamental right that no one can deny me – on what is a critical issue of national significance, others will choose to label me a prophet of doom and troubleshooter. That notwithstanding, I am ready to open my “basket mouth” – as some would prefer calling me – to speak out, that the wise ones in the multitude may hear.
Nigerians are some of the greatest skeptics in the world; doubting Thomases who don’t believe in the possibility of positive change; naysayers who see problems in idea, no matter how novel; compulsive pessimists who are always cowed by challenges. A couple of weeks prior to the marking of Nigeria’s 54th “Independence” Day Anniversary, I engaged some of my friends in a charged exchange on Facebook about the strangulating state of primitive inequality in Nigeria, and why there is need for a people-driven movement for democratic change. While my friends agreed with most of my submissions on the subject matter – the existence of two largely separate and unequal classes of citizens in Nigeria – they disagreed on the possibility of redressing this social imbalance. My dear friends are like most Nigerians: individuals who are perceptibly well informed about the man-made brambles constricting their country’s development and growth. They know what the union’s problems are, but prefer remaining spectators of action; bewildered freemen who watch while a little cloud gradually metamorphoses into a gigantic squall, without acting to arrest the situation; citizens who doubt the possibility of a constructive transformation of the unjust status quo; people who view change from idealistic standpoints.
Yes, Nigerians know it all! We know what our problems are; why we are still in chains, despite being “free”; why we are still tied to the apron strings of our local slave masters – our native colonialists – 54 years after gaining independence from the British Buccaneers; why the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to burgeon cyclically out of proportion, despite all the lip service being paid to equality as being the cornerstone of the country’s “democracy”. We are, indeed, a knowing nation – a society of philosopher kings and queens who know it all. But the million dollar question is: What practical steps have Nigerians – the all-knowing Januses of the 21st century – advanced as a people to arrest the burgeoning rot in the system, as rank and villainous as we know it is?
This brings us to a very dangerous presumption that is currently making the rounds across the country: the mistaken belief that “one day e go better”; that Nigeria will get out of her doldrums one day, whether anybody like it or not; that our challenges will simply suddenly fly away, whether we endeavour to do something about them or not; that since God is a Nigerian – as one of the discussants in the aforementioned Facebook dialogue alluded to – we must wait until He comes down from heaven to supply us with manna on earth. We are the only people on the face of the earth who tolerate injustice with smiles on our faces – “suffering and smiling”, according to the late Afro-beat exponent, Fela Anikolapo Kuti, of blessed memory. If you ask the average Nigerian what part of the world he or she would prefer settling in, you are most likely to hear “America”, “Canada”, Australia, “Europe” et al. This is because of the high level of organization that has provided the better life for the people living in these parts of the world – the relative peace, prosperity and access to the best things in life being enjoyed by the majority. But most us don’t even bother to find out why there is so much sanity and prosperity in these countries; why almost all the citizens of these countries are guaranteed equal access to the good life. We are quick to assume that things are just naturally the way they are; that these countries are so blessed because God resides within their borders.
Nothing can be further from the truth than the above cockeyed conclusions which stems from the narrow mindset we have developed over the years, which are due to the largely stone-age conditions we have subsisted in and the reign of suffocating ignorance that has held this country in its vice-like grip for so long; conditions that have been attributed to divine providence; to the supposition that we can do nothing about our present conditions; that we must manage everything the way they are until “thy kingdom comes”. We have internalized an “I don’t care attitude” to issues of national concern and have come to accept the various inconsistencies in the system as normal everyday routines; as traditions we met on ground which must be continued and left to future generations to pass on to others after them. This grave submission to the much vilified vicissitudes of life is partly responsible for the current state of confusion, fear and squalor persisting in this country. Nigerians want to enjoy the same high standards of living as Americans without working for it. We want to be great but are not ready to make our bones, forgetting that great nations are not constructed on seamless alters of wishful thinking, but built on solid foundations of hard work, dedication and uncompromising sacrifice. Na wa for una oh!
The Christian Bible tells the story about how the Israelites were miraculously liberated from Egyptian bondage by the mighty hands of Jehovah, the supreme God, who then led them into Canaan, the promised land of plenty; of how God saw the sufferings of his people, heard their cries for help, and was moved to deliver them from the hands of their oppressors. But people read this story literally upside down, without noting the very salient points the writer was trying to convey: that God did not practically come down from heaven to physically free His people from Pharaoh’s iron-grip, but that they acted on His instructions before freedom could be achieved; that they took their destiny as the people of God into their own hands by physically acting out the script prescribed by God before their destiny could be fulfilled; that even after crossing the Red Sea, they had to contend with a lot of challenges, such as fighting off hostile nations – such as the Amelekites, Philistines, Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites etc – before finally arriving the promised land; and that even after arriving the promised land they had to contend with other equally formidable challenges of nation-building.
That is the script countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Europe and other developed countries of the world have acted out to the letter, and is mainly responsible for their phenomenal growth – they practically fought for whatever they are currently enjoying. So, if we think we can wish all our problems in this country away without taking any practical steps towards eradicating them, we sorely deceive ourselves.
But why do some of us prefer Egypt, with all its persecutions, to Canaan, with all its rich bounties. Why do some of us prefer slavery to freedom? For how long shall we continue being patient, tolerant and hopeful that one day things will miraculously change for the better? My brothers and sisters, there is no more time for wishful thinking. The rulers of this gold mine of ours will never leave this rich field unless forced out by our resilient will. Like a roaring lion, they prance about seeking to devour anyone who dares challenge their evil mission; like the legendary leopard that can never change its coat, these Nubians will not change the colour of their skins unless compelled to. We must wake up from our drugged slumber and strike off together with the same determined objective of getting this country rid of all the filthy slim interfering with its smooth match to freedom. The reality of life is that nothing good comes easy. Our failure to realize this is the major reason why we have remained slaves in our land. That is why we have been disrespectfully subjected to the most inhuman conditions by our rulers who know us better than we know ourselves and have accordingly devised effective strategies to bend us to their iron will.
The realities of the 21st century, makes it practically impossible for Nigeria to progress beyond her niggardly state if we continue to operate the system as currently constituted. Countries the world over, having been infected by the bug of popular change waltzing through the entire globe, have activated the processes of reforming their administrative machineries – structurally, institutionally and in other significant ramifications – as this is logically the only vehicle through which they can develop and grow.
If the citizens of so-called “advanced” democracies can succeed in creating their own brands of heaven on earth, I see no plausible reason why we can’t follow closely in their strides by creating a state of bliss out of the injurious state of nature we presently subsist in. The citizens of the advanced climes we keep alluding to as benchmarks of development had to sacrifice their all to get to the Olympian heights they currently occupy. Why can’t Nigerians follow suit?
Every great achievement – from the distant past till date – started off as an idealistic construct. In fact, the world, as we have it today, was constructed on ideas. It takes the audacious demonstration of the practicability of “hope” for mere “ideas” to metamorphose into realities. In the same way the tar pit of confusion we currently hover over was ideologically constructed by the warped members of the ruling class to favour them and their cronies, we have what it takes to also upturn this demonic contraption from the hottest part of Hell: the collective Nigerian spirit – that indefatigable will to survive against all man-made odds. Bad leadership is a function of the quality of followership existing in any human society. We are partly – if not wholly to blame – for the poor quality of leadership that has held sway since the commencement of the Nigerian project.
Accepted that equality does not exist in the literal sense of the word, it is our common duty as the true owners of Nigeria to strive to “redress” – in order to “improve” on – the current systemic incongruities in which the citizens of one of the most extravagantly endowed countries in the world continue to subsist like Eskimos and Gypsies in the green land of their fathers. We must continue believing in the possibility of positive change and work assiduously towards the realization of that ideal. Nature itself avoids a vacuum. I rest my case!
IMAGE: Andrea Nigels