Many things have happened in the past week. Sowore is in DSS custody, but the really sad thing is the reaction of many ‘youths’ as well as even those who posture as ‘progressives’. Mockery. A people who should be contrite and use the opportunity to reflect deeply on the state of their country, are rather mocking the efforts of someone – no matter how misplaced – while some are showing cheap envy. Some who call themselves ‘educated’ apparently do not understand the evolution of nation states and believe they can waltz, party, or pray this nation into equity and greatness. They discount, with a wave of hand, the struggles of great people in other countries but carry the passports of those countries, and send their children there for education and whatnot.
Let me put it this way. There was a country. There was a time we had Fela Kuti, his brother, Bekololari, Gani Fawehinmi, and a few others. These people were permanently on the streets for the people. They were the voices and consciences of the people. They cared about the common man. Before them we had Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano. In those days people cared. We had a student union that government took serious. Just look at us today. What has happened to us as a people? We don’t care anymore about our collective development. We care even less about the most vulnerable. We all got into a rat race and embraced destructive acquisition of money. We are laid prostrate on the matter of an ideology. No one is ready to visit prison to see the inmates, much less being admitted as an inmate on the basis of any just cause. Our NANS leaders now ride around in the latest exotic cars and the student union elections that used to be moved from one campus to another, now hold in Abuja under full sponsorship and interference of government. The students of Nigeria are fully in the pocket of the government, and their future, in the firm grip of poverty, future unemployment and a dysfunctional society. We think we are smart, but are we really?
The days of sacrifice are since over. Nigerian adults have become cowards, even under a ‘democracy’. They die many times before the finally die. They hide under their beds at the sound of teargas. Nigerians now talk in hushed tones lest they are lifted by the Buhari gestapo, which seems to be getting stronger everyday. However, truth be told, the gestapo is not lifting and ‘disappearing’ people as much as fellow citizens are tearing each other apart with words in the name of politics. Many have appointed themselves vicious defenders of the status quo even when Buhari does not care if they exist. They are exceedingly intolerant of dissent. We all forget that this is a democracy. It is an irony that fear is even more palpable now. The paradox is that the defenders of the status quo remind us of the supremacy of democracy, but we are becoming more fearful than we were under the military. So is this really a democracy?
Back to the issue of Sowore. We can dissect his approach all we can. The fact is that he has brought attention to the fact that under Buhari – a man in whom we once had so much hope – not only are the socioeconomic indices getting much worse, and Nigeria has decayed further, but opposition people are getting more fearful. I definitely do not subscribe to his idea of ‘days of rage’, but I fully subscribe to the idea that citizens should start and continue organizing. It is the only hope we have for a survival. For when I consider Nigeria, it is almost impossible to not imagine an apocalypse of sort, something so drastic that will reset our brains and make us start afresh, that is if we are lucky. We need to save ourselves from ourselves.
What are the issues? Government functionaries announced that we now have 16 million children out of school. The UN says 95 million Nigerians are now in MULRIDIMENSIONAL poverty. We solidly occupy the first position in global poverty and in two months, we will also be the official holder of the gold medal for shithole countries (when we overtake India as the country with the biggest open defecation problem). The price of crude oil, our mainstay, seems to be trending down again. It closed on the 7thAugust, 2019 at $56, $4 below our set budget benchmark of $60. We know that this country survives on the proceeds of crude oil. General unemployment remains at 26% and youth unemployment, at over 40%. Our economic growth rate, in real terms, is in negative of 12%, if we compare 2.01% with population growth of 2.7% and inflation of 11.2%. The economy is increasingly unstructured and chaotic. The government has had to hand off some of the problems that overwhelmed it, like the Apapa gridlock. Our streets still look ‘jagajaga’ and we seem to have no clue what to do with it. Environmental hazards strike and we have no answer to them. People still complain about electricity. In many parts of Nigeria, it is rolling blackouts. Small companies are being trampled into non-existence daily. The security situation has made many stop visiting their hometowns. Our public schools remain uninhabitable for human beings even as all our public officers send all their children abroad, where they also treat their little illnesses. These children of theirs occupy every position in every government agency that ‘makes sense’, while the children of the unfortunate are asked to ‘go and start something’, or given N30,000 monthly N-Power money.
In the middle of all this, criminals have captured the state. A young friend of mine told me last week that he is organizing some youth program and had to go and see some guy called ‘Omo Alhaja’, whom everyone knows as a yahoo-boy now turned federal legislator. Omo Alhaja is there with other distinguished and honorable people with sterling criminal experience and credentials. The president even appointed a handful of these guys to spice up his ‘next-lebu’ cabinet which is yet to be inaugurated. Even those who get promoted in the public service are such type who understand how to ‘sort’ the big men. The civil service is at its most despondent state ever – indiscipline, lethargy, failed reforms, no direction or patriotism, nepotism, favouritism, corruption rules the roost. Perhaps it is a stage that we are; the stage as a nation where we get ruled by robber barons, where people steal and shoot their ways into governance, where the worst of us grab the power and use it to make laws that favor themselves. A clergyman once asked, that if laws are meant to curb the activities of criminals, what do we expect when the criminals are themselves making the laws? Will they disfavor themselves? One of the lawmakers boasted the other day in an interview, how he could never be caught dead in a Peugeot 508, after all he approves for several director generals to be given bullet-proof SUVs worth N78million each. In his words, some of them had 4, or 8, or 16. Who cares? Years ago, one retired AIG of Police looked around him in the Senate and exclaimed that a number of guys he had prosecuted for armed robbery, 419 and such like were there with him, bearing the same ‘Distinguished’ toga. The situation only got worse. We never could have imagined that this would happen under a Buhari. But yes, many Nigerians are perfectly alright with living as slaves, perching under this criminal rubbish and hoping for crumbs, rather than cause a conversation that requires a rethink and reordering.