Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Welcome to Nigerianistan, By Nicholas Ibekwe

Published:

map of Nigeria

In 2012 we found ourselves occupying similar (sometimes worse) positions on every study or statistics with the “-istan” countries or regions.

“When we’re done running, we shall calculate the miles,” mom would say.

When she says those words be assured you’ll soon get it. It means she’s tired of meting-out those stinging correctional backhands that gradually lost their didactic impact as we grew older. It’s a warning she’s saving the best cracks of her pankere cane until the day she decides your cup has run over (which could be in a few hours, actually). Gosh! And mom knew how to crack those whips! Hey, before you start saying how abusive she was, just know that when you have 11 children running amok all over the place, your closest friend has to be the pankere. For one, there was no way you could’ve tamed a rampaging hothead like me without constantly resorting to this infamous (many Nigerian parents will disagree) tool.

Let me not bore you with my family tales. But, as the year peters out, it’s necessary that we calculate the miles we’ve covered as a people. Need I warn you that what you’re about to read won’t be pleasant? My intention is not to make your delicious festive jollof rice and cold beer taste like sawdust and piss; actually I hope to stir you into doing the needful if you want to eat jollof rice and beer come next Christmas.

We’re about to get it. If nothing is done to gauze this haemorrhaging country it would soon crumble like akara paste in lukewarm oil. If things continue the way they are, next Christmas some of us would be eating powered egg yolks from USAID or some other white saviour organisations. Yeah, it is that bad. Oh, you think it hasn’t got that bad? Tell me that when you’re done reading this.

Agreed, the rain didn’t start beating us today. But 2012 was a particularly terrible year for this country. It was a year when the absurd became normal and the normal sounded outlandish. President Goodluck Jonathan promised during his Christmas day speech that 2013 will be better. But many of us know that the president’s promises are as dubious as a molue built with plastic. I’m not Prophet T.B Joshua’s protégé, but 2013 will be tougher. You know why? This government hasn’t got what it takes to get us out of limbo. In fact, from all indications, it’s accelerating our passage into hell proper. I’d never expect an apple from an agbalumo tree. Honestly, anyone who expects this crop of politicians to wake up tomorrow morning and set their ways straight is as self-delusional as someone trying to get a high by smoking uju.

Increasingly, Nigeria is being mentioned in the same breath as those Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries or regions with the “-istan” suffix such as Waziristan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, when people talk about the quality of lives, insecurity and total breakdown of law and order. If you noticed, I left out corruption and I’m sure you know why- we’re the undisputed world champion of corruption. Besides I really don’t want to bore you with talk about corruption in this piece. Seriously, how does one begin to explain that N5 trillion (over $33 billion) has been stolen under the watch on this government? Please how?

In 2012 we found ourselves occupying similar (sometimes worse) positions on every study or statistics with the “-istan” countries or regions. I remember watching Al-Jazeera about three years ago and was trying to imagine how tough life was for civilians living in Taliban-infested Waziristan, Now all I’ve to do is look at Maiduguri and other North-Eastern states to see the vilest example of human survival.

Let’s look at some of the studies in the outgoing year to appreciate how dire our situation is.

In 2012 we became the kidnap capital of the world. Last October the African Insurance Organisation (AIO) released a report that stated that a quarter of the global kidnap for ransom takes place in Nigeria. With over 60 million youth out of illegitimate work, Kidnapping is the fastest growing business in the South-East and the Niger Delta (apart from oil theft, of course).

Some weeks back the Minister of Finance’s mother was abducted from her home in Delta State. For several days the police and army were running dizzy and confused all over the place like a colony of soldier ants visited by a burning touch. She wasn’t released until her family paid the ransom. But for the stupidity of the kidnappers they wouldn’t have been caught. So think, if best detectives and intelligence officers couldn’t find her how secured are you?

Lagos witnessed the heaviest traffic in recent times this December. Usually, the last two weeks of the month used to be fun for commuters within city as many people especially from the East would have travelled to their hometown to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays. But the fear of being abducted has forced people to stay back in the relatively safe Lagos for the holidays.

Earlier in December, we received the “honour” of being rated the seventh most terrorised country in the world on the first ever Global Terrorism Index done by the Institute for Economic and Peace. In fact, Nigeria and Somalia (that has been without a functional government for decades) were the only African countries in the top ten. In fact we marginally lost the sixth place to Somalia. Nigeria scored of 7.242 while Somalia’s score was 7.244.

Few days ago, the U.S., Canada and Taiwan warned their nationals against traveling to Nigeria. Just like the U.S. government had done few days earlier, the Taiwanese government fear that there may be a terrorist attack in Abuja in the coming days. They also warned that Boko Haram may extend its killing campaign to southern part of the country. So if you’re in Lagos acting all detached and thinking you’re safe from the Haram boys, think again!

On education, last March a UNESCO official revealed that 9 million of the 70 million children out of school worldwide are Nigerians. I’m not saying the chunk of this figure was accumulated in the last two years, but a feeling president will, instead of spending N2.2 billion ($14 million) to build a banquette hall, spend some of the money in building new schools and on training teachers.

Talking about kids, in November, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, rated Nigeria as the worst place to have a baby next year. The country was placed at the bottom of the Where-to-be-born-index 2013. Countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, and even Syria did better than Nigeria. Please, make family planning your top priority in 2013.

If not for Pakistan, Afghanistan and of course Nigerianistan, polio wouldn’t be mentioned outside universities medical laboratories any more. The disease has been eradicated all over the world except in these countries. Having spent millions of dollar trying to help us to get rid of it the disease will not let go like white pomo from a female cattle. International aid organisations are getting tired. Other countries are wary of allowing this obnoxious thumb dripping with palm oil to stain the other fingers. So, from next year Nigerians travelling out of the country will be required to get a polio-free certification before they are granted visas. Isn’t that awesome?

Like I said at the outset, I don’t intend to frighten anyone unnecessarily. All I’ve done here was to calculate the miles we’ve covered after a horrendous race in 2012. Though I’m not a pessimist, I’ve extricated myself from the e-go-beta brainwash. It’d only get better if we snap out of this political numbness and actively demand the best from politicians. Like I told a friend who was worried about my criticism of the government on Twitter and Facebook, government decides how many morsels of eba you would swallow during lunch. It decides if you’d have orishirishi in that egusi soup or if you’d merely settle for crayfish. Happy New Year! I sincerely hope 2013 proves I’m a terrible social commentator.

Mr. Ibekwe, a recent Chevening scholar at City University of London, is on the staff of PREMIUM TIMES.

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