Nigeria: Between momentary pessimism and incurable optimisme

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“You can call me a blasphemer. I dispute the scripture’s assertion that God is everywhere. He is not present in the heart of our rulers….”— Maurice Bishop


I write today’s piece against a background of momentary ‘pessimism about the Nigerian condition; momentary pessimism, because by nature, I am an incurable optimist about the human condition in general, but most especially the possibilities for change in our country. It is the optimism that we can liberate and build a better country for its peoples that have driven my public engagements with the Nigerian situation, all these years. Nigeria is a very difficult proposition for any patriot, but it is worth fighting for, because of its latent possibilities. This explains why Ifeel a tide of emotions about its serial rape by what must be the-most irresponsible ruling class ever to impose hegemony on a modern country. Nigeria has become a basket case of the most frightening proportion, but when all is said and done, I have never despaired about the possibilities for change.


But my momentary pessimism was sourced from contemplating the lives of its young people and our children. The generation of Nigerians that is thirty years and below has been cultured within a country that has never really worked: they are the generation of the violence of military dictatorship and the fraud and banditry of the civilian ruling elite. We belong to the generation of independence with all its gains. Nigeria worked to a considerable extent: the public school system enrolled the majority of the children; there was a taxation regime; nobody would drink alcohol on an offlicense facility and as young children, the Dorin Provincial Library worked very efficiently and every fortnight, we borrowed books there . from and unfailingly returned them to pick new books! Today, when family and friends travelled we are on edge until they announce a safe arrival; but as an eight year old, Iwould be put on a train from Dorin, alone. There was no fear that anything untoward could befall me! That was a different country and the people had tremendous hopes for their country and their children.


Forty-nine years after independence, there is no gainsaying the fact that it is a completely different country today. Ihave a lot of fears for the young people who did not have the opportunity to live in a country where things worked, at least minimally. What the younger generation of Nigerians know is a country runby a bandit ruling class whose stock-in -trade is the wholesale looting of the nation’s resources; a country that does not guarantee the basic minimum standards of existence for its people and when they come out of very badly funded and equally poorly-run schools they cannot get jobs and if they fall sick, they are literally on their own! The hard working and honest heroic figure is not the role model for the younger generation; the nation is hostage to fraudulent individuals who nevertheless become recruited into leadership in our society.


The earlier generation of leadership at least believed in the capacity of Nigerians to build a new country and .they worked !Iard to place the nation on a path of growth: import substitution industrialization; ports; schools; heath care facilities and a deep sense of nationhood were also cultivated. Today, corruption is the central purpose of governance. Several evil schemes are devised to loot the resources of the nation. Capitalism’s role in history has been to revolutionize the productive forces of society; but in its corruption-ridden mongrel variety in Nigeria, it is leading “You can call me a blasphemer. I dispute the scripture’sassertion to the gradual death of our society. The Nigerian people are now held hostage by two groups: the bandits in power and the criminal gangs attempting to take a share of the loot which the bandits in power have cornered. The spate of kid naps of recent weeks underlines the depth of the crisis which Nigeria faces. What remains is for the criminal gangs to begin to kidnap governors (the Benue state governor recently cried out), ministers (Education Minister, the birthday partying Sam Egwu, narrowly escaped by the skin of his teeth) and who knows, even the president himself! Anarchy has rumbled in big time and every lover of Nigeria knows these are the worst of times for our country! In the past few days, two of my children have been celebrating their birthday; it meant visits to their school for photo-cps with them. Children enjoy those moments but sometimes they also ask instructive questions about everything under the sun. We have always encouraged our children to feel free to make inquiry about anything that comes to their minds so as to assist them make informed choices as they grow up. On the two occasions that I went to school this week, I was worried about the Nigeria the children will inherit; a country that obviously isn’t preparing a future for them. It was against this backdrop that the momentary pessimism overtook me; but then, nothing lasts forever, and humans are capable of building the processes of change. This helped me regain my incurable optimism. For the sake of our children, we must help generate the forces to set Nigeria on the path of liberation. That is what we owe the children of this country.

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