“Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man; better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster!”
For those of you who do not have the pleasure of belonging to my generation, let me introduce you to The Six Million Dollar Man, an American television icon of the ‘70s, played by Lee Majors. After being severely injured in a crash, Steve Austin is as good as dead. Recognising his value and refusing to allow him to die, the government ‘rebuilds’ Steve Austin in an operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and left eye are replaced with “bionic” implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision. As a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Steve Austin is resurrected in a superhuman body.
Like Steve Austin, Nigeria has suffered a near-total systems collapse. And like Steve Austin, Nigeria is in desperate need of a life-saving operation of epic proportions.
Our immune system has utterly failed us; unable to produce the antibodies needed to defend ourselves against attack we have invited foreign bodies to assist us to get the job done. Daily reports of scandals which go unpunished and tragedies which are not remedied have made our environment toxic and our respiratory system is under attack. It is difficult to breathe.
Our digestive and excretory systems are malfunctioning horribly. The Pareto Principle is at play; 20% of the nation (leaders) is feeding on 80% of the national cake while 80% of the nation suffers malnutrition as it attempts to survive on the 20% that is left. This nutritional imbalance has left us with a protruding stomach, constipated, unable to rid ourselves of toxic waste.
Our skeletal system is weighed down by a hubristic kleptocracy with its pugilistic response to any and all opposition. We are suffering serious fatigue. Our central nervous system is numbed by the ceaseless stream of unfathomable atrocities taking place unchecked, mostly – but not exclusively – in the north-east, and we are weather-beaten by a hostile climate of economic savagery. We are no longer shocked by stories which ought to offend our national consciousness and horrify our sensibilities. We are becoming, if we are not already, a sociopathic nation. Nigeria is in trouble.
Indeed, Nigeria is in need of a life-saving operation. Pathetic palliatives such as rebranding (Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation) just won’t do. So what is the nature of this operation? What will it require? What will it cost?
Let’s begin with the nature of this operation. It is essentially personal. It begins with you and me. The bionic implants Nigeria needs to resurrect her is our active participation in her affairs. Political apathy got us here. Active citizenship will get us out.
On December 1 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42 year old seamstress refused to submit to legalized injustice. She just wouldn’t do it any longer. Her action was not premeditated, but it precipitated the Montgomery Bus Boycott organized by the civil rights group headed by Martin Luther King. Parks’ personal act of defiance attracted a force stronger than herself and galvanized a movement that forced the repeal of the unjust laws of segregation. She became a bionic implant that gave impetus to the Civil Rights Movement.
No Nigerian can afford to be apolitical any longer. You must belong to a party. You must make your voice heard and your vote count. You must make the effort to know what the issues are. You must demand accountability. You must refuse injustice. You must. Nigeria needs you.
No Nigerian can afford to be asocial. You cannot stand apart from what is happening in your community or right before your face. You must challenge injustice and unfairness. (So if I’m waiting patiently in line during a traffic jam and you drive to the front of the line and think I’m going to let you through, forget it. It’s not road rage, it’s principle.) You must challenge those who think they are above the law or treat you like a fool because you are following due process. You must. Nigeria demands this of you.
What will it require? Moral courage. Paul Rusesabagina the Rwandan hotel manager who was the inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda, hid 1,268 Hutus and Tutsis during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. At the risk to his own safety he hid, fed and protected neighbours and strangers simply because it was the right thing to do.
We must and we will continue to lend our voices to the #bringbackourgirls campaigners whose only motivation for participation was that it was the right thing to do. We must yield ourselves to such opportunities and refuse apathetic responses. Nigeria asks this of you.
What will it cost? Ah…this is a difficult one. Not six million dollars. Much more than that. It will cost you your life. In 1964, Nelson Mandela made this statement, one which resonates so strongly with me: ‘I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ Nelson Mandela lived to become the first black president of a free South Africa.
The ideal society which we seek is not cheap. It will not come by wishing. It will not come by complaining. It will not come by praying, for faith without works is dead. The paradox of life is that if you hold on to it, you lose it. But if like a grain of wheat, you are prepared to fall to the ground and die, you will live.
Ms. Ishaya Audu, a lawyer, and an educational administrator, is a member of the Premium Times editorial board. She writes from Abuja.