December, 20th, 2009
As I sat down on my bed this morning with my computer resting lazily on my laps, I wondered what I should write. On a sudden impulse, I cast my mind back to when I was about six years old. I remember that I heard my mother lament that the price of bread has risen from two naira fifty kobo to five naira and that the price of biro has increased from fifty kobo to I-cannot-recall-exactly-what now. I recall that we used to buy buns then for fifty kobo but now I do not know what fifty kobo can buy in our Nigeria presently..
That time, I thought the world has come to an end. Now, I am surprised that after my mother’s lament nineteen years ago, we are still living but our world; our Nigeria is still coming to an end.
Right up to this moment, I have never given a serious thought to Nigeria or to what her problems, challenges or successes are. People make long arguments concerning important matters about Nigeria written in the dailies, they say Nigeria sells tons of barrels of oil a day and they talk about the politics of the day; the type they have in my state; Anambra state and other people like me just “wows” and get along with our lives.
But now, I have had a reason to reconsider. I have long been wondering why Nigeria cannot fix, why it seems that all efforts and prayers rendered to make the dear motherland a better place is wasted. .
Ever paused to think for one minute what the doctors, whoever they are, will diagnose Nigeria with when she visits their hospital to complain of this pain, this dis- ease, this ailment that she suffers from and that the illness will never go? Maybe, Nigeria has HIV or a full blown AIDS or maybe it has cancer; cancer of the root or maybe it has the Alzheimer disease or one of those funny viruses that any scientist sat down to manufacture and infect the world with. No, Nigeria’s sickness goes beyond HIV or cancer, her illness is equally more deadly than malaria or any other regular illnesses that one just runs into the chemist store for; not even a proper pharmacy!
Some might argue that the reason why Nigeria cannot be fixed is because of her leaders. Regular blame! The problem is not with the federal government which has at its helm of affairs a president that some masses call slow and dull. It always perturbs me to think that Mr. President always looks confused or maybe I should say the pictures do not favour him. But whatever it is, Nigeria’s present trouble does not reside in his bosom and neither is the fault with the state government. These governors of different states in Nigeria, engaging in their own personal pursuits and in their feuds between themselves within which ever political party brought them forth. .
The problem is not even with the local government chairmen; those little gods that must be appeased before they can plead on the bigger gods for our cause!
Even with individuals like Prof Charles Soludo who allow themselves to be used to achieve selfish ends, people who do not understand that there’s an adage that says, “Bow out when the ovation is loudest”. People like him who on their campaign posters look so unsure of what their mission statements are, that is, even if they have one.
You know, I am acquainted with a tiny booklet, just as I am sure some people are familiar with the book, written by Chinua Achebe titled
The trouble with Nigeria. Forgive me all of you bookworms and Prof, if you are reading this!
I have not been able to successfully finish reading this tiny booklet. Reason? I do not know, but the little I read had Achebe mentioning tribalism amongst other things as the trouble with Nigeria. Perhaps, at the time, he was right, but even at that, despite tribalism still there, it is still not, in my opinion why Nigeria cannot mend.
The reason why it seems Nigeria cannot heal, the reason why Nigeria cannot mend, the reason why it seems our dear motherland is so hopeless, the reason why Nigeria is ailing is you. You, me, we, us, what ever pronoun they use to qualify these things these days notwithstanding. We are the reason why our country cannot heal..
ASUU went on strike for God knows how long and WE did nothing. I had often wondered within those months what the federal government would have done if the whole of Nigeria went on sympathy strike with ASUU, even for a day! And now, I read recently that another strike is impending. I do not know how true that is but for what it is worth, strikes do not solve problems and neither do the wishy washy attitude of the individuals in government.
PHCN never lights good old Nigeria and WE are doing nothing. NITEL is almost gone extinct, apart from its structures and a few hang arounds, at least in Awka I know of, and WE did nothing. Nothing seems to be the way Nigerians in Nigeria plead their way out of the whole disaster Nigeria has become. We get angry, we yell, scream, and write in the papers, like I am doing now, religious fundamentalists pray and pray and we all hope. Unfortunately, hope might just have developed wings and flown away!.
The most piteous sector of the economy is the law enforcement. The mobile police; the ones that wear black and green, the ones that wear black and black, the ones that wear yellow and black, even the not- so- recently inaugurated Gov Peter Obi’s traffic control wardens, as part of his ANIDS farce; the ones that wear yellow and green, the civil defense etc. That’s right; all law enforcement agencies in Nigeria are thieves and extortionists! They are sick, a lot sicker than Nigeria itself..
Just recently, I was returning from Onitsha to Awka, and the bus I was riding in was stopped by a mobile police man; the type that wear black and green. I guess it is no longer news that they extort money from commercial bus drivers. By now, everyone in Nigeria is acquainted with the fact that when a police man stops a bus driver, he is required to slow down his vehicle and drop the gate pass of N20 or else incur the wrath of the Nigerian police “force”, who according to their slogan is supposed to be our friend!
But then, being familiarized with the routine does not make it right and I guess that by this, I am speaking the mind of many Nigerians.
Anyway, the driver of the bus I was riding in refused to pay the N20 and in a state of deflated pride and sudden sense of responsibility, the mobile policeman requested to go through his license and car registration papers. Something in his line of duty, something he should have done in the first place!!.
Everyone in the bus was told to get down, they oohed and aahed and cursed the driver for being so miserly and not paying his pass fee at the police barricade. Need I say, that those barricades on the expressway are illegal themselves, I mean, from the version of the story I heard, that was what killed about eighty Nigerians at Umunya in Anambra state. So, the bus driver refused to pay, the police officer, after looking through his papers and even at finding them all in place, still kept us there. It was getting late, people were angry and they threatened to join another bus that the driver was willing to contribute to Nigeria illness, so their time will not be wasted. .
Now, the irony of this tale is that, the bus driver was right; we all knew that, our consciences applauded his action but our own action did not. He was yelled at and pressured into paying the money, even after his papers were checked and found in order. Now, how long are we going to pretend that this does not happen in our nation? How far are we willing to go in looking the other way and hoping that hope will correct this kind of scenario? How long is Nigeria going to tolerate its police officers extorting money from their fellow Nigerians who it is their sworn duty to protect? .
For how long are WE; the federal government, the state government, house of assembly, senate, courthouse, local government, the common man, how long are we going to look the other way and decide to see that nothing happens? I mean, even when the driver was right, stood his ground and decided not to pay, he was pressured and cajoled into paying the N20, all because we were not ready to stand a while and wait. Come to think of it, if all of us in that bus had raised our voices and told the police officer that what he was doing were wrong, will he have all of us thrown in jail, knowing fully well that he was wrong?.
Another irony is that I, writing this now, I, otimkpu with my iron gong, even when I did not say it, wished it. I wished that the driver will pay the damned fee and let us all get away from there. I thought it in my heart; I indicated it in my action. I pushed the bus driver into paying the illegal fee, so did all of us.
Meanwhile, another funny thing happened in that bus. The normal fare from Onitsha to Enugu is two hundred and fifty naira, but on that bus, the driver and his colleague collected three hundred naira from each passenger. So at the time we were stopped for the N20 fee, a passenger said to the driver, “what goes around comes around, you extorted fifty naira extra from each passenger, pay the policeman”.
Thinking of it now, I agree with the passenger that what goes around comes around, but in this kind of saga, we should also remember that when two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers the pain.