A Look Into Our Problem as Nigerians

Sick Nigeria visited by President Muhammadu Buhari in the hospital

The young man kept staring confusedly at me, his matted hair standing like beads on his head. "How can you say that?" He asked angrily, his tensed jawline thick with uncombed hair.

I couldn't keep staring into his hollow eyes. "Nigerians are opportunists," I said and looked away. He kept mute and I turned back to him. That was when I saw something in his bleary eyes. And, immediately, I wish I hadn't said that.

At that moment, I remembered how it all began. We were only discussing the effects of Covid-19, until the young man said it was in our best interest that the lockdown was eased. Damn me, how could I forget where he was coming from? How could I have told him that the government is only responsible for 30% of our problems, that we need to look inward for the remaining 70%?

I felt regret but I couldn't stop being realistic. I said nothing afterwards, but I never took back my words. Nigerians are opportunists; for one, that's a fact. And the bulk of our problems didn't come from the government.

If you also think I am speaking in the nonsense, I wouldn't blame you. We are in this together, so I understand your plight. Nigerians are never the ones to accept their faults. We always blame every other person for our mistakes. We blame the government, the government blames us, and thus continues the endless cycle of blames. 

Was there any government Nigerians didn't speak ill of? Or was there any government that didn't think Nigerians were a hopeless bunch? 

If your answer is NO, then you ought to know that the problem is a shared one. No one can be allowed to blame the other, except the one is ready to accept his own blame. We cannot afford to be unfair at this stage.

You seek the wisdom behind my 70:30 division, so I'll try to explain without being too verbose. But I want you to always remember that I fall in the team of 70%, just like you.

Nigerians are known to make lime juice out of the limes the government hurl at us. That's how resourceful we are; only that we steal our neighbours' limes in the process of making our own juice. With what moral justification do we then call the hurlers thieves? Those that collected oranges from us and gave us limes?

When government removed the fuel subsidy, we cursed and cursed under our breaths. But deep down inside, it's euphoria, at least for those who'd sell a bag of sachet water for #250.  The government might have betrayed us, but we didn't die from their betrayal. We died from the cold within. Knowing the plight of fellow countrymen, are we supposed to prey on one another? But rather than address our horrible situation, we look for the common enemy. Government.

And might I remind you that those currently in power were once like us, filled with so much hatred for the government? Then, they seemed to know how the government should have disbursed national funds, the same way that we do now. They knew the rudiments of government like the back of their hands. But, unfortunately, their skills are no more, long dead and forgotten like the distant memory of a household name. 

It is good that we currently have lawyers running the country. You see, the judgement was never mine to pass. But do you think they would have stood up for Sowore in the recent court brouhaha if they weren't in government? Or do you think Mr Falana would have been that active if he were in their shoes? Do you even think Sowore would have made so much noise if he'd been blessed with a ministerial position? At this juncture, please permit me to laugh in Chinese. My local tongue has now become a luxury.

And isn't it just so amazing how their long-lost governing skills miraculously return when they are no longer in power? And then they start making so much fuss like the rest of us? I don't know if they'll ever see this, but Mr Obasanjo, Mallam Atiku and Reverend Dino Melaye can bear me witness.

President Olusegun Obasanjo sending a mail to Aso rock

But I would be a monkey's uncle if I say that the government don't deserve to be blamed. The execuTHIEVES, the legisLOOTERS, and the judiSHARERS. They uphold their names like true sons and daughters of their fathers. They stand solidly in the face of money like Aso rock. No enemy dare penetrate their line of defence, their House of Assembly. Don't be deceived, they have Merlin on their side. Our 70% becomes minority when they work their sleight of hand in the ancient AbracaDABIRA. They tell us it is mathematics, but we are not blind. We know matheMAGIC when we see one.

And I would also be a pig's cousin if I waste useful energy cursing and cursing all day. Why would I occupy this page with words about the betrayers of our poor nation instead of reserving all the space to seek clarity? Now that I think about it, selfishness is the bane of our existence as Nigerians. We are like the six humans trapped by happenstance in black and bitter cold:

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In black and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back
For the faces around the fire
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking across the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third man sat in tattered clothes;
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use to
Warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned 
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain.
Giving only those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held right in death's stilled hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn't die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.

 --James Patrick Kinney--

If we are ever going to solve this problem, we ONLY need to give PATRIOTISM a shot. But patriotism isn't covid relief, so I never mentioned it in the presence of that young man. Only a Nigerian whose stomach isn't empty can truly harness his faculty of reasoning. The inability to forget the tale of woe in that young man's eyes is enough punishment for being too reasonable. But this writ is my retribution for words left unsaid. It's high time we started focusing on our dear country. Being a Nigerian is BEING!! We have to stop acting like the country is a rented apartment. It is our home for goodness' sake, our birthright, our collective idea.

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