“…there is something fundamentally wrong with Nigeria.”
While glancing through one of the social media platforms for further details and information on the gloomy election recently held in Anambra State, I came across a bold commenter who asked harsh critics of everything that has come to typify Nigeria, to first remove the specks in their own eyes before doing it for others.
The comment went very hard on those who Reuben Abati had once called Mr. Alaseju; who, according to Abati, were only “wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions.”
Like Abati, who brazenly identified these harsh critics as “pestle-wielding critics, unrelenting, self-appointed activists, idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, distracted crowd of Facebook addicts and the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria,” the writer of the comment could not hide his emotions when he concluded that one “should be careful the way you bastardise others destructively because someday you will find yourself in the same shoes.” This part will be visited later.
As a keen observer of events in the country, there is no doubt in the my mind, and that of majority of our people, that there is something fundamentally wrong with Nigeria. The late Chinua Achebe saw it from the angle of leadership problem, arguing that Nigeria is a true reflection of who her leaders are. How true that is, one is certainly not sure, yet the truth is that Nigeria has lost it and because we have failed to learn as a people, there is no way we can achieve the social justice and participatory democracy we all crave.
In the last couple of years, the expectations of Nigerians have not been met simply because the political class have busied themselves with frivolities and a penchant disregard for their first constituency, which is the people. Every passing day, there tends to be a wide disconnect between the leaders and the people meant to benefit most from the social contract. As a result, the contradictions in our political evolution continue to falter without a tangible solution to even the smallest of challenges. We seem not to grow at the pace the country demands, yet we pride ourselves as the giant of a fragmented continent.
There is no denying the fact that every Nigerian is angry and would necessarily vent his anger on anyone at the slightest provocation. Those of us who use public transportation would readily tell you what they face in trying to find a comfort zone in a crowded bus. The irony of the Nigerian state is that we care less, bother less and don’t give a damn about the next person; hence, the wide gap between those who have and those who do not and why there is a socio-political and economic disconnect in the country.
Just recently, precisely last Thursday, we were all witness to the farewell ceremony held for Deji Falae, Ondo State’s former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, who died in the Associated Airlines flight which crashed after take-off in Lagos. Since that sad event happened once again in our chequered history, nothing tangible has been done to forestall that unfortunate incident. Nobody has been arrested, nobody in the industry prosecuted, nobody has been interrogated and the most unfortunate angle to it all is that we have carried on as if nothing serious had happened. Deji Falae’s death has come and gone, families and friends have mourned, we all have cried, government officials have visited, sent condolence messages, signed even the register but the question we have not asked is, how prepared are we in preventing another disaster in another week?
The fact that we have failed to always prevent an impending disaster which hangs in the air, many of them come to us not even as a shock these days.
For our ineptitude, we lose souls every day. Ordinary individuals who would have contributed in no small measure to our growth and development as a country are frittered away in their prime through needless and unavoidable accidents and deaths. Even the easygoing ones who bother less about the punishments meted on them by the Nigerian state and who, in a bid to survive, live legitimately in a country that recognises impunity, they are rammed down by a convergence of gun wielding, reckless driving and road threatening convoys owned by the political class.
We now live in a country where a particular set of people have become owners of the right of way; therefore, the masses, who voted these particular set of people into power, cannot even walk on the same way. Apprehension reigns supreme all around the country with the security of the state being threatened by known and unknown forces. Every Nigerian is not safe and secure, and has therefore, become a prey to the next man who, in his bid to survive and put food in his stomach, turns a predator.
It is in this prevailing situation that we all must begin to hold our leaders accountable. It is in such dire circumstances that we all must begin to harshly criticise the power elites and ourselves so that people can learn to do the right things.
For those who think the harsh criticisms are needless and so should not be frontal should put themselves in the shoes of the families of Chief Olu Falae and hundreds of Nigerians who die needlessly in Nigeria because someone was mindless of his duty and feel the grief of losing a loved one forever.
The impunity witnessed on a daily basis in Nigeria is enough to turn even the meekest of hearts into a monster. Let us all perhaps imagine that the late Prof. Festus Iyayi was our father and Pastor Bimbo Odukoya our mother. We should take all those who died in Apo, Abuja in September through a military crossfire as our brothers and sisters or even the pregnant women who die daily in public hospitals as a result of lack of facilities as our wives. While the millions of men who cannot provide food on the table for their families as our husbands. The question is: if any one of us finds ourselves in this peculiar position, how would we have felt, especially when we lose a dear one? When such things happen, the first thought that should come to the minds of this generation is to know why we have arrived at this crisis situation in our history and how we intend to fight it hands down.
We all look up to great nations, wish to go there, be like them, live there and even bring up our children in such societies, yet we fail to ask ourselves how such countries got to that enviable height and how we could replicate their greatness for ourselves. It is an irony that a few do not understand what social justice, equity and the right to live in a better society means. When such is lost, the result becomes nothing but squalor, violence and ultimate death. No one prays to die in his prime, but when many Nigerians lose their lives unnecessarily because someone had failed to live up to the social contract, it leaves some people no choice than to come up and fight for what is right, make their voices known and criticise harshly so that their children will never face what their own fathers faced.
It is only natural that in a place where there is no law, sin becomes the order of the day. Criticisms have appeared more angrily than ever before because Nigerians want a better place to live without fear. These are perhaps is what the average Nigerian hopes for—good job, justice and equal distribution of wealth.
When people keep quiet in the face of oppression, they allow impunity to rule and when it does, they all become trapped in grief and sorrow. The late Festus Iyayi could have been anybody’s father and if it were so, his death would have blurred the hope of those who were dependent on him. His wife, kids, family members, academic community and Nigeria as a whole can never and will never come out of this shock because Festu Iyayi was just one man nobody was and will never be tomorrow. Because we create our own path to greatness or failure, it is an appearance unique to us which nobody can truly wear. Life may continue, as in the case of the families of those who had needlessly died, yet in many ways we have opened a wound that may take years to heal.
For as long as those who are supposed to lead the country to an enviable path fail to perform their duties correctly, they leave the people no choice but to complain.
However, the lesson of history teaches us that the worst thing one can do to man is to take him for granted. For too long, Nigerians have faced this treacherous path. It is only hoped the leaders would do the right things to make the country a better place.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org