Nigeria: No Country for Weak Hearts

In recent years, I think I am one of those diasporan Nigerian writers who have tried to maintain an optimistic outlook on Nigeria despite our weak institutions and disappointing political class. This radical shift from my once avowed anti-government posture has cost me many a friendship. This has also reflected in some of my writings as I refused to accept that our country Nigeria is a failed state on the brink of collapse. I have as a result been called names by many who have occasionally through private emails advised me to open my eyes to the reality around me.

Despite a near – death experience in 2007 in the hands of armed robbers in Abuja who abducted and later dumped me in a bush on the way to the Abuja airport leaving me naked with my ankles and hands tied with strings, and blood gushing out from my skull which had been cracked open with the butt of a gun, I still continued to believe that mine was an isolated case which could have happened to anybody. One year after this incident, I relocated back home hoping to be part of the solution to our many challenges. It was my thinking at the time that Nigeria belongs to all of us; that one can make a better contribution from the inside rather than from his keyboard in the comfort of his home in the west surrounded by loved ones including family and friends.

Coming home for me was easy as I had the blessing of my wife Uche who shared in my Nigerian dream. My coming back home has also encouraged a lot of my friends who have either relocated after me or are about to relocate. Perhaps, you are among those getting your things ready to board the next available flight to Nigeria, I dare say my dear friends: I am sorry to disappoint you but I do not bring good news today.

Since I came home, I have had the opportunity through my previous and current employers to travel around Nigeria; I have interacted with various Nigerians discussing Nigeria, their plans, dreams and hopes. I follow the news daily through the media but must admit that I haven’t been encouraged one bit, not with the poverty and despair engulfing our people. I fail to see where our country Nigeria is heading to. But for a few bright chaps here and there doing their bit, and a few good men in government including Governor Fashola of Lagos state, I can not see anything to make me believe that we are on the right track as a nation.

I am beginning to feel guilty that I may have been ‘misleading’ my friends and compatriots living abroad who have severally sought my advice. Perhaps what I should have been telling them is to tarry a while still. This is because Nigeria is no country for weak hearts, picture the movie – No Country for Old Men. It does not matter what the good intentioned Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa (Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora) may be telling you, trying to convince you to come back home, you better look carefully before you leap. There is a lot more to Nigeria than meets the eye.

As I write this, I am holed up in my hotel room in Onitsha, Anambra state where I will be spending a couple of weeks on a company project. I have been here now for some days and to call the town a city of the damned will be making an understatement. Perhaps it is the whole Onitsha thing that has finally gotten to me, the self-imposed 7 P.M curfew, the chaos, the bad roads, the traffic, the filth and the fear of armed robbers and kidnappers. It is as if this is the lawless Wild West all over again without any form of government but for the mobile policemen stationed at various points in the city whose only preoccupation is to collect the sum of 20 Naira from every passing mini-bus driver. Acting Police IG Onovo should please note that the only brave thing about these guys are the brazen way they collect the money in broad day light, as if they are telling passersby that, “Yes, we run things around here”.

Who would have thought that this is what Onitsha, the home town of the late Rt.Hon Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha and Nigeria’s first civilian President will turn into? A reference point for failed cities. Definitely, with all the potentials that Onitsha and its several million business men and women have shown, the surrounding River Niger and its Eastern gateway status, one wouldn’t be wrong to argue that another way could have been possible for Onitsha but unfortunately as in all things, the widely travelled road of poor planning and lack of vision was taken, when with a bit of care, Onitsha could easily have been another Lagos. Whatever happened to the Oba Airport project? And what happened to all the money that was raised in the 80s towards building ‘the people’s airport’? Anyway, who needs it again when Asaba airport will soon be ready?

Last Saturday, not able to take it anymore, I escaped to neighbouring Asaba for the night just like other Onitsha residents do every weekend. Asaba is a fairly new capital city separated from Onitsha by the Niger Bridge. The difference between the two cities is just like night and day. On that Saturday evening as we drove through the Niger Bridge, I looked back to behold a city fading in its glory, enveloped both by the darkness caused by PHCN and the dark evil forces holding it from leaping into a glorious bright future and I wished I wasn’t coming back. In contrast, Asaba beckoned and welcomed us, the street lights shone just as the moon light showed promises of a breaking modern city. This is a contrasting tale of two neighbouring cities, one dead despite its rich tradition and commercial status, the other alive from its huge oil revenue and investments in infrastructure.

They say everyman has his breaking point, perhaps I have reached mine. Earlier today, I ‘sneaked’ to my home town in Njikoka Local Government Area, a 25 – minutes drive away. It was such an uncomfortable feeling as I avoided meeting and greeting anybody, what with all that is going on around here; armed robbers, kidnappers, ‘home front’ or juju evil men, all lurking in the shadows to kill, maim or destroy. On my way back to Onitsha, I said to myself that this can not be life. Where then in Nigeria can one call home?

My angst wasn’t helped by the news story in the Vanguard newspaper about the 22 people that were crushed to death by a lorry driver along the Benin – Sagamu expressway. These innocent Nigerians had been travelling with a luxury bus before they were waylaid by armed robbers who then forced all the passengers to lie face down in the middle of the express road, just as the robbers were searching and ransacking their belongings, the speeding lorry driver arrived on the scene and crushed the 22 to death. What a way to die. Still, the Boko Haram incident plus the continuing stories of the hundreds who have lost their lives completed a miserable day for me.

I ask again, is coming home worth it afterall? I really don’t know anymore.

Written by
Uche Nworah
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7 comments
  • Nigeria is my country. I love Nigeria. I love Lagos. When I heard that governor Fashola is transforming Lagos. I started thinking of going back home. In fact the only concern was my children education.

    After reading his article, I thing I will hold on for my children to be in college. May be then, I can move back home.

    No matter how long I stayed in America. I will still go back to Nigeria

    May God bless Nigeria and America

  • Buda Atum please take note.Calling a wayward child good because you “love” him,will only make him worse

  • Some few years ago I was questionning my decisions for resigning from a well paying bank job in Nigeria to sojourn in the US, however, in recent times I have come to the conclusion that I made the right decision in fact I should have left a bit earlier. I used to be an unrepentent optimist about Nigeria but I can’t say that now, if a Governor can defraud it’s state by about 400billion naira and only got 6 months in jail, it is a sham. If it happened in China such individual will be discussing with his ancestors yonder as we speak. I spoke to a friend who left Nigeria recently for the states, I asked him to please give me some good news from Naija, he couldn’t, he told me that lawlessness pervades the entire atmosphere. In the 80’s we were being told by politicians that we would have good roads, electricity and water, in the 21st century we are still talking about the same thing what that means is for the most part of my thirty something years on earth I have witnessed no progress whatsoever concerning my country. Soyinka said theirs was a wasted generation, I don’t know what ours would be only God knows but the future sure doesn’t look too bright. Finally, home is where your heart finds rest, peace and justice. I am happy to call US home and Nigeria a vacation spot. Period.

  • Uche,

    Thanks so much for telling us as it is! As for me, I have decided to settled down in the US for good! Granted, there are dangerous cities and places here too but law enforcement is very effective. In most part, if you stay out of trouble, trouble will not find you to your house as in Nigeria! May God help Nigeria!

  • Its a pity that you do not see anything to make you believe that we are on the right track as a nation. Sounds more to me like you not looking where you yourself are going, after all, if you did look Uche, you would see where you are leading Nigeria, wouldn’t you? Or do you perhaps mean that you aren’t one of the leaders, and you just following others? Surely you cannot have become one of those people who sit on their hands constantly moaning and blaming everyone else except themselves for the state that our nation is in?

    I’ve read some of your stuff and you do not sound the likes of those who give up at the first obstacle Uche. I think you are just having a low moment to be honest. So let me offer some encouragement, and some juju a la buda style which may help.

    Say after me: Nigeria go better because I am doing something to make sure it is.

    Dosage is first thing every morning, and twice before you lay your head to rest at night. I assure you that when you can say these words with conviction in your heart, you sir will join those who create a better Nigeria, and a place in there you can call home.

  • Indeed, no country for weak hearts. That said enough! Not just Naija alone, every country Naijans in-immigrate requires hard work to survive or to escape from poverty, or arm robberies, or inhumanity, etc. Mr. Uche, since repatriation shows that you truly love Naija, and must add truly a Naija Man for the guts to return home, and thank you for your courage, you’re excellent example of a professional soldier. How many will attempt such venture among diasporas? Diasporas make excuses not to return because of news stories they read as psycho-evidences. Diasporas make rationale decisions living in even more deadly societies than Naija. Every five to ten minutes afternoon or evening news in the United States on television for example are criminally acts news far worse than Naija. Mind you, living in U.S, Britain, France, Brazil or other nations does not guarantee that one will not appeared in the news just as those in Naija are now statistical news. Naija people found themselves in such criminally acts due to the western influences. Growing up as generation-Xer, I did not witness present troubles in the past. But, why now…? It’s the present democracy causing problems. Like I said it before this western style democracy at hand will never work in Naija, we can do all that we can it will never, instead it will break Naija, as the process in progress as it has being predicted by the artificial-god of the world. Enough!

  • Thanks for your honesty. I have often wondered if i made the wrong choice to stay here rather than go home. I hear conflicting stories. Life at home is good, life at home is bad, life is okay sha depending on how you handle it. Who do we listen to these days?