Waiting for God, Waiting for Rawlings

How many Nigerians live abroad? No one knows; no one knows, with any degree of certainty, the number of Nigerians who have lawfully emigrated within the last thirty years. Records are not kept, and even when they are, such records are not reliable because of a variety of reasons including, but not limited to the fact that false identities can easily be assumed. The government also does not know the number of passports it has issued to bona fide Nigerians; it does not know, and will never know — from now until the end of time — how many non-Nigerians have Nigerian passports.

The Nigerian government doesn’t even know the numbers of Nigerians there are. Census figures, from the colonial era to the present, are either inflated or deflated, depending on the region, the state or the local government. Sadly, there are several things the Nigerian government does not know, including the amount of oil it has sold, how much it received in rent, the amount of money it has in its treasury, and how much has been stolen from it. Because the government is bad with numbers 1-3 billion dollars worth of oil are stolen every year by legitimate and illegitimate sources. I doubt if the government even knows the number of employees in its foreign missions.

In a social and economic sense, there are seven types of overseas-Nigerians. Be it in the Asia-Pacific Rim countries, North America or Europe, the typology is the same. For the purpose of this discourse however, overseas-Nigerians are re-categorized into four immigration related groups: (1) those waiting for God; (2) those waiting for Rawlings; (3) the emotionally damaged; and (4) the denial-indifference group. When it is all said and done, it doesn’t really matter which group one belong: perpetual migration has a way of jabbing and sapping the human spirit. To be away from ones motherland, to be away from familiar grounds and scents and voices and faces is not as easy as some may think.

Will there ever be a reverse migration of Nigerians? Frankly, I do not foresee a time — anytime within the next quarter of a century — when such will take place. Speaking in abstraction, the stars have to align in the proper order for such phenomenon to take place: several positive things have to happen at the right time and in a sustained way for there to be reverse migration. But when you consider the fact that for more than a quarter century Nigeria has been on a slippery slope to damnation, a lot — a whole lot — has to be done before the free-fall can be slowed, halted, and a turn around undertaken.

Consider the state of our political and cultural institutions. Consider the state of our educational institutions. Consider the state of our national culture. Consider also the attitude of Nigerians towards their country and their government; but beyond all that are the loss of faith, the abundant cynicism in our national psyche, and our indifference towards truth and honesty and personal responsibility. Too many things have gone wrong for far too long that extraordinary efforts are needed to make simple gains. It’s good to be hopeful, but there is nothing hopeful and promising about Nigeria.

Most Nigerians born in Nigeria after 1983 are damned. Such Nigerians are consigned to a culture and a life rife with excesses, lethargy, avarice and misery. What can Nigeria offer and what has Nigeria been offering such people? When your country does not love or want you, what do you do? When your country does not take care of your basic needs, why should you care for her? In this and other instances, patriotism or nationalism means nothing; it holds no special meaning for such Nigerians.

For the post-1983 Nigerians therefore, Nigeria does not exist the same way it existed for previous generations. In our anger and desperation, we tend to forget that there was a time our country was awash with heroes, intellectuals, capable minds, and men and women of essence. Naming names from a bygone era is not necessary. But how many heroes, intellectuals, capable minds, and men and women of élan could one name in today’s Nigeria? The country, as far as I can surmise, is missing the right sets of leaders with the right set of training, mindset and worldview. The people and their leaders are lacking the courage and the political will to confront their history and their future.

The future of Nigeria is at stake. But no one should worry about the US intelligence estimate which predicted that the country may disintegrate sometimes within the next thirteen years. Nigeria is not going to breakup. Not with all that Black Gold. Not in my life time. But if oil is found in commercial quantity in all the regions of the country, well then, all bets are off. Until then, what will come to pass is the vicious and deepening cycle of grand theft, stupidity, callousness, indifference, confusion, hopelessness, poverty of common sense, and the establishment of physical and mental hell in the country — exacerbated by insatiability, ethnic politics and religious fanaticism.

In all of these, continental Nigerians are not oblivious to what is happening to them and to their country. No. They are concerned. They are worried. They want solutions. But they lack the courage and the political will to retake their country. So, much like their foreign-based counterparts, they are waiting for God — the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscience God — to solve their problems. Within a twenty-five year period, the vast majority of Nigerians have come to believe that only God can solve their problems. And so they wait. They wait for God. They wait for God to solve man-made problems. With hand folded, eyes to the heavens, they wait. They pray. They wait. And pray some more.

Those not waiting for divine intervention are waiting for a Rawlings. The hope is that someone will come along to dig up decayed and decaying roots; sanitize the air, bury the garbage, and help them make sense of their country. Murtala Mohammed couldn’t get to it; and Buhari was thrown out before gains could be made. Democracy or no Democracy, somewhere in the back of their minds, a great many Nigerians yearns for a forthright or benevolent dictator: someone to clean up all the messes. Either way one looks at it — by way of participant observation or statistical and institutional analysis — Nigeria is in a rot, in a deep pile of shit. Forgive the vulgarity, but how else could one say it?

Continental Nigerians are waiting for God or for Rawlings. And so are their foreign-based brethrens. They want to return home, but they can’t. Every so often they call home to see if things are improving. They occasionally visit to see and experience things — needing to be convinced that things are improving. They scout cyberspace for news about the economic and political conditions. At every turn, they are disappointed. They are saddened. They become depressed. They know they could do better in Nigeria, but Nigeria doesn’t want or need them. And no matter how successful and well-placed they might be in the western world, they will never be truly accepted. They will always be different, will always be foreigners, not fully fitting in. It hurts. Truly, it hurts to be second or third.

If you are a teenager or if you are in your twenties and thirties, living abroad can be fun. But once past 40, life in a foreign land becomes tedious. Past 50, it becomes depressing. Past 60, it may drive you insane. Past 70, you may not know it, but others may know you are a walking-dead. There are certain things a six or seven figure salary cannot replace: the joy of being Home. Home is where the heart and the soul are. It is why they hope that things will improve so reverse migration can begin.

Overseas-Nigerians are waiting to return home. They have no history of armed struggles or political activism, so armed resistance or resistance of any sort is out of the question. Nigerians are not good at dying. They hate death. When they die, they die not for their country, but for ethnic or religious causes. Courage and audacity is not part of their makeup, so they’d rather just whine and whine and whine. And when they are not whining, they are praying for some sort of divine intervention; otherwise, they are hoping for Rawlings.

There will be no God and there will be no Rawlings. Nigerians, wherever they may be, must take back their Homeland. They must wake up and begin the journey to recapture their Motherland. No one will do it for them. Not a God, not a Superman. They must do it themselves.

Written by
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
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2 comments
  • Sabella: Why did you came back from Nigeria? Why didn’t you stay to help solve some of the problems that you talk about? Quit complaining if you cannot go back to Nigeria and help

  • Sabella

    As usual, you have written a very good article about the mind set of our people. As far as Nigerians are concerned, they will continue to wait for God to solve our man made problems. They are waiting for the white messiah (Jesus) to come down from an imaginery heaven to solve our economic problems. Common sense has evaporated from our brains and has been replaced by a mythical belief system about God and Religion. The average Nigerian is quick to respond by saying “God will provide” when questioned about the economic uncertainity in the country.

    Unfortunately we will keep waiting for God and continue to be third world while the rest of the world moves ahead economically. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!!