In this ‘season’ of letters, in these days where missives have been flying left, right and center. from those coming from people who could hardly pass as the conscience of society, to those who have discredited the records of the cash cow and home of sleaze- NNPC, and to those whose writers haven’t been bold enough to stand by the contents of their supposedly written letter, not forgetting the attendant rejoinders that have greeted and continue to trail them, I have been jolted to grab my pen which I have constantly warned myself never to reach out to again, to write about the voluminous ills that have become of you. But somewhat uncannily, the more I take to that position, the more I come to the realization that it is a duty or an obligation which I cannot run away from hence the reason for sitting right here in what my boss likes to call an office but which I consider a cubicle to write you instead of replying and joining the bandwagon of rejoinders, that have become the in-thing lately.
Dear Nigeria, only two months ago, you celebrated 53 years of independence from the British establishment. Earlier before then, you celebrated 14 years of democracy and in less than a month, I hear you will be celebrating your centenary-A whopping 100 years of co-existence brokered by the white man under Lord Frederick luggard. What a feat indeed! But at 24 years old, and judging from quite a good number of books on colonial history that I’ve read, it seems you were even better-off while the Whiteman was on your terrain. It is undoubtedly true that the white man will not allow you look after yourself in those days, but he made sure your welfare was adequately taken care of except that sovereignty was visibly denied you.
I have this on good authority dear Nigeria. My ageing father, whom life has been good to, never stops to tell me how good and enjoyable life was then, there was no communal strife, your peoples lived in peace, there was an enviable amity enthroned in the land, our schools (however few) were up and running, there was respect for Law and Order. In a nutshell, the society was run on a grid that allowed for peace, harmony and collective existence as a people binded by common history and in furtherance of a common goal.
And then came the nationalists, the Herbert Macaulays, the Azikiwes, K.O. Mbadiwes, Ahmadu Bellos, Awolowos, Akintolas and a host of them too many to chronologically mention here, but which I am sure you know even better than I do, who privileged to be schooled in the white man’s land, came back home, impelled by the light that education brings, thought it right to wrestle power on your behalf from the white man whom in their valuation, must have had a surfeit of the economic and political authority over you and consequentially, sought to reclaim you from the British who were no doubt, luckiest of the lot that took part in the scramble of Africa way back in 1884.
Providence, would later crown that effort with success as unknown to you, the British were already putting up their bags to leave your territorial waters as a result of the harsh effects of the 2nd world war which created a deep hole in the white man’s pocket to administer the region. consequently, your independence, like the head of John the Baptist, was served on a plaque of gold and you took to the streets in ululation, thinking it was already uhuru while the white man, retreated to the stands and watched how you and your supposedly enthusiasts who professed so much love for you, play ball.
53 years after that, look what we got! Look what has become of you! I have heard on several occasions in the streets, how many of your sons and daughters out of frustration, say: that had you allowed the white man to stay some more, you wouldn’t have been what has become of you today. You wouldn’t have become a nation without conscience, you wouldn’t have become a nation without respect for law and order in high places as you are today, you wouldn’t have become a nation with little or no infrastructures to take care your many off springs, you wouldn’t have been a nation that could barely employ her graduates, and the gamut of societal malaise that you are synonymous to.
Dear Nigeria, I must confess to you that I am tempted to drink from the wine of their philosophy even though it is brewed out of the barley of frustration. Immediately after securing your independence from the white man, you became power-drunk. I know why. And I will be gracious to tell you why. You never thought independence could come so subtly as it came, you never envisaged diplomacy will be the midwife to midwife your independence and when it finally did, instead of you swinging to the unification of your catholic offsprings, which you have spread across your vast land, you went ahead to sow the seed of enmity, you got your diaphragm sequestered and polarized your people across ethnical, regional cum sectarian lines. Before one could say Jack Robinson, you were already fighting an avoidable war with your sons and daughters and after those years of bloodletting and carnage, the wounds to this day have not completely healed, no degree of vitamin and minerals taken will make the scars suffered during those dark 30 months to heal. The resultant effect is that, you have continued to go into decline. You have sat in the barbershop chair, with so much motion but little or no movement. I hope you never expected anything better. Well, if you did, I will also be generous to let you that you cannot sow yam and reap cocoyam. It doesn’t work that way, so whatever has become of you today, you should have yourself to blame. Don’t even give me those crocodile tears.
Would you be so kind to join me in a walk on the streets so that you can see for yourself what has become of your sons and daughters? Will you mind if I show you what has become of the Army of children born out of your ‘prostitution’? How they continue to suffer for the wrongs and the mistakes they know little or nothing about? My generation seems to be the most affected. Well, let me tell you, there is no love out there on these streets. Your current breed of politicians seems to be literally without ideas. For them, leadership is opportunism. It is about luxury and accession to a life of wanton opulence and affluence. For them, it is about living in mansions and tall-fenced buildings in choice location in the major cities. It is about sending their wards outside your womb to the same people you got independence from and paying them visits cocooned in private jets bought with our common patrimony when they complain of flu or knock their feet against a rock. For them, it is about driving in siren-laden expensive auto-mobiles made elsewhere with a retinue of sycophants called aides who help in rolling their sleeves, combing their grey badgered hair since gerontocracy is the brand of democracy practiced here and others, who have gotten for themselves appointments as the 1st and 2nd carriers of the handbags of their so-called first ladies. They have secured for themselves all these, at the expense of the truck-pusher at ‘upper iweka’ the ‘okada’ rider, ‘keke-napep’ rider in ‘mushin’ or ‘sabon-gari’ Kano etc., but yet, you stay ‘siddon look’ while they decimate you further.
Oh! I am not surprised, they are your wards, and as my people will say: “a long snake will always give birth to a long thing”. Little wonder why you sit, watch, but could do nothing, because you did even worse. And since you could do nothing, crime, kidnapping and terrorism has become articles of faith. And why not? What better way, could the bruised and derided lower class vent their spleen but to take to arms and wreak havoc in the land? Dear Nigeria, you treat us badly!
Look how insecurity has enveloped you. As I write you this letter, your sons and daughters are everyday slaughtered along the Maiduguri-Biu-Damboa raod and elsewhere. It is only by an uncommon grace, that you have not become what have become of Syria. You are torn apart and literally swerving off the road leading to Eldorado and taking the route leading to Kigali. You stand askance on the edge of the precipice and at the slightest application of force, you will fall off the cliff you currently mange to stand on. Terrorism, a phenomenon I thought was alien to us, has spread it tentacles here and remain unabashed in its quest to secure for itself a citizenship certificate because you left your pot of soup unwatched, and the blue flame has given it roast. You have been designated a terrorist nation with millions of dollars as booty for information leading to the capture of your son by the white man whom you drove outside here with your initial ‘gra-gra,’ yet you stay bemused with practically no solution or counsel to stem the tide. You know what? I think you should be ashamed of yourself.
Look at your politicians who ordinarily should be responsible for preaching the much needed unity to unite your children; they themselves have not been able to objectively agree on a single thing in your interest. They have polarized you even more than your subjects and that is why today, you are the only country where 16 will betray every mathematical genius to be greater than 19 and the powers- that- be will ratify it and also, where a group of 6 lawmakers attempt to impeach a speaker of a House of Assembly comprising of 26 members in a democratic government where we are told that majority counts and you expect the good spirit of Pythagoras, Blaise Pascal or Albert Einstein to be appeased wherever they may be. Today, nothing is heard of your Governors Forum. Why? The ruling party has swallowed so-much that it could digest and your so-called progressives have mounted the media podium in hypocritical sanctimoniousness and have even taken for bride people whom they before now, condemned and demonized like the adulterous woman in the Bible, but today, have taken her into their apartments to have their turns. That is the kind of ideological differences that leads to a breaking of ranks here, instead of political differences that border on polices that will make or mar the living standard of your sons and daughters. That is the kind of people you begot to look after your affairs. Who takes a dog that goes back to its vomit serious anyways? Does it not go to show the breed of leaders you have birthed and who now direct our activities? Is it not so clear that they have nothing to offer? And if they don’t, it is you I put the sledge hammer on.
Never have your wards been this divided along ethnic lines. The fault line is already cracked and will cave in any moment. There is a deep-seated hatred in the heart of the average Nigerian. You sit on the keg of a gun powder, a time-bomb is clicking, how soon before it chimes, is what I cannot tell you however my magnanimity with the truth. There is no love and happiness in these streets which I tread on every day. You are barely loved by your children. It is always easy to profess love for you on the pages of newspaper and on T.V screens but it is a direct opposite with what you get on these streets.
Very soon, your wards will be going to the polls to elect or select their leaders (depending on how the electoral body choose to make it) but the level of hate vocalizations in town is so towering that I wish 2015 never comes again lest, there is a repeat of the 2011 post-election crisis. Some have said, your waters will be filled with blood of innocent citizens if the current president contests and the scheming have long begun in its actualization. It is to your discredit that instead of your wards to be concerned with who will lead them in the way leadership ought to be, they are more interested in where the president comes from- whether it will be from the North, or the south as though we are not one. The rhetoric in town is: where the leader comes from and not what he has to offer. Looking at the national dailies these days bore me. I am tired of seeing supposedly statesmen stoking the embers of anarchy and national acrimony.
Alas! I remember you were a ‘prostitute’. So many men had their turns, some, a one night stand and that is why we are so physically differentiated. I have heard people from one region of the country voicing their hatred for the other. Something like, “These people are from somewhere else, we cannot co-exist with them.” “Our blood cannot be traced to a common ancestor” they say. Yes, you don’t get to hear it in the News or see it as it is on the pages of Newspapers, but maybe you should got to the motor parks, local bars and you will get to see the real Nigeria as it is and not as they want us to see it and how they explain to the white man when they visit them. We are not a people that is why our ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, fluctuates like the price of crude or the exchange rate of currencies in the Money Market. What we poo pooh in Okeke’s cause, we condone in Abdulrazaq’s cause and turn a blind eye in Adeyemi’s cause. What society thrives that way anyway? I put the blame on you-yes, you. Were it not for your ‘prostitution’, we wouldn’t have been so divided as we are today.
Where are your students, the much touted leaders of your tomorrow? Where are they? Is it not your shame that in the 21st century where nations are competing among themselves in literature and technology, they while away at home? As I write, news just got to me that the Chinese have landed in the moon after the United States and Russia. What your wards do here is worship the moon. And why not? May be it will help in mediating in the ASUU-FG impasse and lead to the strike being called-off. It’s been six months for the University students, for the Polytechnic students, everyone seem to have forgotten about them.
I can go on and on and on, but I don’t want to write you an 18-paged letter as did a former president who could pass for a rogue. Nothing about you gives one joy. I over-heard my father only two days ago telling a friend, “Nigeria is not working”. That there is no established system which the nation runs on and like my friend will say, “Anyhowness” is the norm here. You know what? I cannot agree less with them.
Poverty is striking your wards like never before. A mudu of garri sells for 500 Naira while the average Nigerian lives on N 160 daily. Looks like a paradox I guess. Well, you have to forget about the jaundiced statistics and archaic economics slangs which your Finance minister reel out every day with bespectacled eyes but later on retreat to have lunch for thousands of naira just for a meal. Is that your own definition of social justice? I just finished reading Thomas Paine’s “Right of Man” and have discovered that what led to the French Revolution is no difference with what is happening here now. The kings were living stupendously rich at the expense of the poor masses. Well, if that is your definition of social justice, it will be a pleasure you let me know if you deem it fit to reply this missive. But I know you won’t. However, whether you reply or not, know it that the “Dangoterized” economy only serve the interests of a paltry 10 percent of the population which are in the political and few in the private sector.
I know you are happy that a centenary celebration will be held in your honour as though there is anything worth celebrating about it. After 100 years, we are still building bridges, constructing roads, buying water from the truck-pushers what they call, “Mai Ruwa” from the part of the divide I was born and brought up, billions have been spent to make sure we have uninterrupted darkness, the current Niger bridge built in the 60’s is shaky and I heard might just cave in, while a second one to reduce traffic on it, has been a mirage, a great percentage of the controversial population are homeless, infant mortality rising on the prowl, justice is for Sale, if you are a common man, “You are on your Own”, for accountability in governance, it is even easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle for that to be obtained here, if I am to borrow the Biblical phrase, selflessness in leadership a taboo and leadership by example is an anathema yet you sit down arm-folded like, “Oluku” and watch . Indeed! You treat us badly.
Like I said before now, I am not in competition with a certain Olusegun Obasanjo to write you an 18-paged letter. If I must continue writing, then I must do so from the confines of a stationery store so that I can easily pull out the sheets and get another pen as I exhaust them hence why I must stop here as in my conscience, I believe I have said enough and have registered my indignation. Whether you heed them or not, is a whole thing entirely and strictly at your discretion. I have done my bit. But before I go, Nature will not be kind to me if I do not tell you these:
All what I have said, is just the tip of the iceberg. Like I earlier mentioned, I felt the need to write this to you because very soon if care is not taken, you will find yourself in the middle of a crisis which may be the precipice of your existence. This should be a wake-up call. See the beauty and virtue of your differences and you will realize that your cup is half-full,
Your failures leave you with so many life lessons. Use this to your advantage in order to make sure that your greatest weakness actually turns out to be your greatest strength. I know it is a tough one to swallow but it will only be upon that realization that you will be able to start turning things around. Even if the differences that represent you is not going to go away, once you harness it, it will lead you from a rather self-destructive path to a highly productive one.
You must not let anything distract you and blind you to what’s really in front of you and what is really in front of you Nigeria? You don’t even know yourself yet. You think you know and you want to assert that you do, now that you have come of age, but you don’t. What is in front of you is a whole world of mistakes and bad choices beyond your imagination. And my warning to you is tread with caution.
Put yourself and your growth and your development first, grab the unity that you promised your children who were the forefathers. Unity……Yes unity! That is the key. If you dissect your innermost problems Nigeria, you will find that in the core of each and every one of your problems and mistakes, lays the lack of unity and the religious, ethnic, tribal and regional dichotomy that drives our people and drives a wedge in our necessity of that unity.
You must teach your children that the unity of you as Nigeria must come first before the unity of any tribe or region. It is only then, that you and they will be able to objectively separate the good from the bad and ostracize the bad and uphold the good in the interest of the nation. It is only then that you can see facts clearly through clear vision and not through the bigoted and jaundiced eyes.
Everything you do, every thought you have, every choice you make creates a legacy that you will hold within your entity and that will come to define your history. It’s imprinted on you as a nation and on generations of your children and it affects you in all subtle ways; ways that you may never be aware off. With that in mind Nigeria, please be very conscious, be very careful and be very smart. Wish you the best for years that lie ahead.
I don’t know when next I shall write you again but until then, I will be watching you with high hopes.
Forever with you always.
The writer is a Law student and a Public Affairs commentator. He is on twitter as @RayNkah. [email protected]