When the tongue or pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject that becomes exhausted.
The opening lines of Charles Oputa’s (A.K.A Charley Boy) chat-bursting track, “1990”, goes like this: “I go talk, talk, talk am make we hear”. The rest of this song went on to prophetically predict what was to be expected from the purported “Transition to Civil Rule Program” launched by then Head of State – Nigeria’s first self-styled military President – General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. This song was a caustic and candid indictment of the political class of that era. 1990, was expectedly vindicated when Babangida’s transition train started wobbling, fumbling, stumbling and stuttering from one mishap to another, culminating in the 1993 June 12 Electoral imbroglio, a political stalemate that threatened to balkanize the entire country. This prophetic song springs up in my mind’s eyes because like my big brother, Charles Oputa, “me I wan talk too, make una for hear”.
I am a full blooded Nigerian citizen by birth; born (and bred) in Nigeria to full-blooded Nigerian parents. I was privileged to be born immediately after the devastating Civil War (1967 – 1970), which was a very trying period in the political history of this country. It was a period that signified the end of an epoch and the beginning of another; a period that offered a new beginning; a period that held so much promises and hopes for this country; promises and hopes that have become as tin as tissues today. It was a period of national “reconciliation”, “rehabilitation” and “reconstruction” – the much-vaunted post-war slogans of General Gowon’s military regime. This was Nigeria’s golden era; the oil boom era, when “our problem wasn’t money, but how to spend it”. I Grew up loving my country, and when I came of age, pledged my “faithfulness”, “loyalty” and “honesty” to her. I came to respect my country, her ideals and the rules of general conduct guiding all who professed their allegiance to the “Republic”, and strove to revere the “constitution” in both its spirit and letters.
On becoming a full-grown adult, my faith in my country did not waver. My love for my fatherland did not diminish, but remained as solid as ever. I remained loyal and committed to my country. I considered myself a patriot, staying within the confines of the laws of the land; was never involved in, or convicted of any crime by any court; consistently performed my civic duties when called upon to, and never sought – either individually or in conjunction with others – to sabotage the state or her institutions. I did all these with the firm conviction that one day my country would attain true greatness like other great nations of the world; that one day she would be admitted into the hall of fame occupied by the world’s leading nations. I believed that my sacrifices for my country would one day be vindicated by the elevation of my country unto the hierarchy of developed countries. I passionately wanted to be a part of that success story.
I also held great dreams for my country; dreams of a free, productive, progressive, prosperous, united, powerful, wealthy and virile nation; dreams of a country metamorphosing into a true African giant; dreams of a country becoming a beacon of hope and role model for others in the third world; dreams of a country becoming a major player in global affairs by contributing its fair quota to the evolution of human civilization; dreams of a country where justice, equity and fair-play would become the building marbles of an enviable, new national identity. I don’t know where my optimism sprang from, but it was just so strong that the pessimistic wisecracks of naysayers (?) could not sway me from my resolve to “serve my country with all my strength”. Was I being stupid? On what foundation was my strong belief based? Was I blind to the realities on ground? These were questions hauled at me by those I wrongly perceived as detractors. Unfolding events soon vindicated these true patriots.
As the years turned into decades, I gradually, but painfully, came to the shocking realization of how wrong I had been all the while; how blind I had been to all the fakery, deceit and emptiness before my very eyes. What a hoax it had all been. Like Alice, I had been in wonderland for too long, but unlike her, I yearned to be back to reality; longed to get out of an Eldorado where there seemed to be no gold. I was tired of the whole ruse; was infuriated by the whole fantasy. I wondered why it took me so long to come to grips with the stark banality of the whole scheme. I blamed myself for the oversight. Before my very eyes a fairytale was gradually becoming a nightmare. I should have known better! I should have sported the lies from miles away! My own, dear fatherland has betrayed me! The land of my birth that called me to serve her has stabbed me in the back, wearing velvet gloves! I was like a jilted woman…like a betrayed lover… like a violated woman… like a man whose mistress had been ravished – heartbroken, vengeful and mad. I still am.
Does this mean I have lost hope in Nigeria? God forbid! Then why are my mad? I am mad at the present directionless, disjointed system and its operators; mad at the pseudo, largely contested entity called the Nigerian state, together with its equally artificial copy-cat institutions that are as weak as they are cosmetic. My madness is directed at those who have been charged with the task of administering this country since independence; those who have controlled the machinery of governance; those who have been in charge of our resources; those who have virtually run this country aground by turning her into a private enterprise; those who have been privileged to man the state’s institutions for the authoritative allocation of values , but have abused their call to serve; those who have pooh-poohed the general will, and by so doing, pushed Nigeria closer to the precipice.
My madness is directed at those who have turned our country into the richest-poorest country on earth; the lords of the Manor who fete and fiddle while the country burns; kleptomaniacs who have turned our national coffers into Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), from which funds can be drawn at will; the Escadron Volant – the flying Squadron – of political tics, who are committed to sucking their host dry. Yes, these are the people I have a big grouse with! These are the people who have lied to me and several generations of Nigerians. Their sacrileges are as stinking as they are damning, akin to what William Shakespeare would describe as the “rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended the nostrils”. These are the infidels who have mortgaged this country, stolen the future of future generations, turned Nigerians into what Frantz Fanon refers to as the “Wretched of the Earth”, and Nigeria into a scorched land; the mischievous ghouls and goblins who have entwined us all in a scary labyrinth. From politicians to soldiers, it has been a vicious circle of puppetry and treachery.
I must talk this talk now so that those who have ears will hear me. I must talk because it is my right and duty to talk. There are so many bad things happening in my country that I want to talk about. I want to talk about the disorganized pantomime that is the Nigerian state; a melodrama with flawed characters dressed in funny costumes performing on a stage made of fiber glass. I want to talk about a country where perfidy is a national culture, where corruption is venerated, and thieving leaders and their courtiers are deified. I want to talk about a country that is still a fool at hundred (100) – I hope not forever – and have not realized it. I want to talk about a country where vast oce
ans of poverty coalesces side-by-side with islands of stupendous wealth. I want to talk about a country that has remained a huge potential without direction for decades. I want to talk about a country where the citizens tolerate the most dehumanizing forms of oppression by “turning the other cheek”; a country where people surfer and smile at the same time. I want to talk about a country where leadership positions are seen as the birthright of some supposed special species of humans – those who are supposedly born to rule. I want to talk about a country where all leaders are aspiring emperors.
What else do I want to talk about? I also want to talk about a society where violence in its physical, psychological (and even spiritual) ramifications has become a currency of social interaction and expression. I want to talk about a country where people tolerate extreme hunger and console themselves with the fatalistic phrase, “e go better”. I want to talk about a country where beggars beg from beggars. I want to talk about a country where inefficiency in all its ugly manifestations is treated with kid’s gloves. I want to talk about a country where dissent is put down with brute force. I want to talk about a country where rulers masquerade as leaders and where the processes of political succession are manipulated to suit the whims and caprices of a Mafia that has held this country captive since 1960. I want to talk about a country that is 180 degrees out of control and has refused to change course. I want to talk about the state that is against its own people.
This is my moment of epiphany. It is my seminal season; a season when I usually wax lyrical. My theme for this season is “I have seen the light”. I have learnt my lessons the hard way and have resolved never to keep mute any longer in the face of all the cruelties and incivilities currently pervading my country. Never again will I tolerate injustice of any kind. Never again will I sulk and whine when I can stand up and act. I will no longer be a spectator of action; a viewer of a tragic-comedy that has being the sorry story of my country. From now on I will speak out, no holds barred, against whatever malpractices I notice in any area of national life, no matter whose ox is gored. I will speak my mind because, though I was blind, I can now see. This is my new “pledge to Nigeria, my dear country”. What about you?