Nigeria At 58: A Romance That Ended In Tears (Osayimwen Osahon George)
At some point last year, I felt I had found love. Love literally took me to the South-eastern part of Nigeria where I plucked a flower and felt it would be mine forever.
The romance started in May, 2017 and the sail of the ship was like the smoothest ever until the Titanic hit an iceberg on the 1st of October, 2017 which was Nigeria’s Independence Day. On that fateful day, I stepped out of my house in Lagos in the morning to see people rushing to their various churches in outfits showing touches of the green and white colours of the Nigerian flag. I sat in the church with my heartthrob by my side looking radiant as musical performances, theatrical displays, poetry and teachings took my attention. For some reasons, she wasn’t as thrilled as I felt and that was the crack that made our ship sink. I lost something I cherished with my life on the Independence Day.
Apart from this, I don’t have good memories of the Independence Day celebrations in general. I always ask myself, “What is the essence of the day?” My country has been starved of good governance, purposeful and selfless leadership. Many today hold the opinion that Nigeria would have been a better place for us if the British colonial masters had stayed longer and you will not blame them. We live in a society where people pray that the rot and corruption in the system will one day favour them, while others are tired of hoping and they have become more focused on the imagined Nirvana that awaits them in heaven as the Holy Bible teaches the Christians.
The Independence Day has added to the economic losses suffered by the country on public holidays. It is worthy of note that Nigeria lost at least N9.74 billion in 2016 as a result of multiple public holidays observed during the year. Reports revealed that in 2016 alone, about 15 national public holidays were observed, excluding others declared in some states. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for the fourth quarter (Q4 2016) showed that 81,151, 885 workers spent 37.38 million hours during the period to contribute N29.29 trillion to the economy at an average productivity rate of N783.51.
There is nothing significant to celebrate about Nigeria; the British colonial masters only handed over the enslavement of the people to some ‘black colonialists’ who have been feeding fat on the economic resources of the land. Nigeria has been plagued with the Boko Haram crisis which has become the cash-cow of a powerful cabal presiding over the security architecture of Nigeria. Over 100,000 lives have been lost so far, over 2 million others displaced and according to a 2017 United Nations report, the cost of the damage in the North-east orchestrated by the terrorist group since 2009 stands at $9 billion.
In the past three years, the Fulani herdsmen insurgency has killed about 3,750 Nigerians according to statistics gathered by the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law and most of the killers are still as free as a bird.
Also, the United States Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) says it has documented at least 19,890 deaths in Nigeria since June 2015, just after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015. This is as the United Kingdom-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) disclosed that Fulani militias killed 1,061 people in about 106 attacks on communities in central Nigeria in the first quarter of 2018. CSW said 11 other attacks on communities in the southern parts of the country by the militia claimed a further 21 lives. The CFR, an independent body of experts dedicated to providing advice on policy options facing countries, put the cumulative deaths in Nigeria from May 2011 to May 2018 at 53,595.
In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to political corruption since independence. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) Nigeria disclosed in 2017 that about $32 billion was lost to corruption during the six-year administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
More have been lost to corruption under Buhari although estimates are not yet readily available. Over N400 billion was paid out to public officials as bribes in Nigeria between June 2015 and May 2016 according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The Central Bank of Nigeria recently raised an alarm that Nigeria could be back in economic recession. The country’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate for the second quarter of this year has recorded a decline in performance from 1.95 per cent in the first quarter to 1.5 per cent. The country’s debt profile is also mind-boggling. According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s total debt has increased by about 90% in almost three years from about N12.6 trillion in December 2015 to about N22.71 trillion as at March 2018.
Nigeria has an infrastructure deficit of $3 trillion including an estimated deficit of about 17.37 million housing units, and electricity, rail systems, airports, seaports are equally begging for financial attention. The cost of living in Nigeria is becoming astronomical with the Nigeria Labour Congress pressurizing the Federal Government to raise the minimum wage from the meagre N18,000 to N65,000.
Poverty is far becoming a part of the Nigerian culture as the poverty capital of the world. People are hungry, we don’t only have the streets filled with beggars but several others have moved to the internet space to harass celebrities for cash. Aside unemployment, another monster people have failed to pay attention to in Nigeria is the problem of under-employment. We now have ‘corporate labourers’ who work in the offices under dehumanizing and slavish conditions. They are locked in prison-like rooms for hours doing the same thing over and over again without the necessary perks to make their lives feel better. Most jobs in Nigeria are mere stepping stones as they can’t guarantee the future or human development. Take-home-pays no longer take people home and we want to eradicate widespread corruption in the land, what a dry joke!
The major problems in the country currently are unemployment and high cost of living, not corruption as against the understanding of President Muhammadu Buhari. The National Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with other agencies of government conducted a National Corruption Survey this year, entitled: ‘Corruption in Nigeria’ and discovered that Nigerians didn’t see corruption as a major problem. The participants were more concerned about unemployment and high cost of living before corruption.
Our democracy has refused to mature and the expected growth has been retrogressive. As the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC combated the issue of ballot box snatching, stuffing and inflation of votes during collation, political actors adopted the strategy of vote-buying and it has been working effectively. All you need to do as a leader is to leave the people pauperized so that you can buy them cheaply at the end of your tenure. The easiest thing a poor and hungry man who has never had a taste of good governance can do is to sell his votes and live for the day.
With due respect, I don’t see any hope for the Nigerian youths at least for now. It’s difficult to see a Nigerian youth doing well through legal means. Its either he is actively into internet scam and using music or other businesses as fronts or he is doing hard drugs. As for the ladies, prostitution has become the new oil venture as people openly use Instagram and other affiliates to buy and sell sex. The movie industry for example is a sham, the male folks who appear in more movies wallow in penury while the actresses who are rarely seen like the Lunar Eclipse share testimonies of buying exotic cars, houses, opening businesses, traveling abroad for holidays and shopping expensively.
The NotTooYoungToRun movement has become the latest joke in town. The movement was only good for the photo-ops. The youths were offered sumptuous meals to quench their hunger with their mouths tied. The cost of obtaining the presidential nomination and interest forms under the All Progressives Congress runs into N45 million and that of the governorship race is about N22.5 million. The Peoples Democratic Party also sets its own at N12 million (presidency) and N6 million (governorship). How many youths can cough out those amounts of money? Except the youths sponsored by the old looters. The only option is to go form a new political party without structure. Today we have 91 political parties and only less than 4 are real contenders in the political space.
To the politicians, the role of the youths in politics for now should be restricted to being ‘professional protesters’ like Deji Adeyanju and his friends, purveyors of Fake News and hate speeches on social media, cyber-bullies and agents of electoral violence and mobilization during the electioneering period.
Our religious leaders have prophesied severally that Nigeria, a country blessed with vast natural and human resources will be great. They said we should give fat offerings and pay our tithes regularly to unearth the greatness of Nigeria in our favour but they all lied! What we have seen in the last couple of years is a selfish wealth transfer from the millions of followers to the clerics who are not competing in the media space with politicians and musicians.
The country has remained a big prison people want to gain freedom from. 600,000 migrants predominantly Nigerians have crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy over the past four years in search of better lives. The European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Karisen, said Nigeria accounts for 60 percent of 10,000 illegal migration cases recorded between January and February 2018.
“In 2017, EU registered about 187,000 cases, with 116 deaths. For the year 2018, 411 deaths have been registered. Of the 10,000 illegal migration cases, Nigeria accounts for about 60 percent” she asserted.
The migrants don’t even mind dying in the Mediterranean Sea during their escape from poverty. Nigeria is not only a problem to its people but has also become a major challenge to other countries with the issue of terrorism and illegal migration. Part of the reasons why the German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Nigeria in August this year was to discuss the menace of illegal migration which is threatening her administration. Majority of the illegal migrants constituting nuisance in her country are from here. She brought in several investors hoping they can create jobs in Nigeria and encourage people to stay back and work instead of risking their lives for greener pastures in Europe.
There is virtually nothing to celebrate about Nigeria which is like a beautiful and well-decorated bride who has been robbed and raped constantly by miscreants. As the country marks its 58th birthday, only the members of the ruling APC, their family members, few members of the PDP, the looters and other businessmen and contractors who have benefited from patronage politics will be celebrating the birth of Nigeria because the reasons why they are extremely rich, is the same reason why we the masses are extremely poor, the reason why they laugh is the reason why we cry and the reason why they are encouraged to live is the same reason why several mentally-strong people in Nigeria have become suicidal overnight.
As I stand at the balcony of my house lost in thoughts about the bleak future, several other Nigerians will be mourning the Independence Day and biting their fingers on why the Mobilization Officer in heaven – presumably Angel Gabriel posted them to Nigeria at birth and not a western country or one of the Asian Tigers which have recorded giant economic strides over the years.
The family of the Squadron Leader Bello Baba-Ari of the Nigeria Air Force who died during aerial display rehearsals for a proposed performance on Independence Day will be in gnashing their teeth and shedding hot tears intermittently with visitors paying condolence visits to their house.
The families of the victims of the Independence Day car bombings which left 12 dead and 17 injured near the Eagles Square in Abuja in 2010 will be engulfed in agony as the perpetrators are yet to be brought to book. Nearly 200 people have died and 286,119 others made homeless in flooding caused by heavy seasonal rains across 12 states in Nigeria, according to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA after the main Niger and Benue rivers burst their banks. There will be so celebration for the affected people and their families. They will be wearing long faces at temporary shelters as food and good sleep becomes an illusion to them.
The loved ones of the over 100 soldiers killed by the Boko Haram sect in the last two months in the North-eastern part of Nigeria will be dialing their phone numbers hoping it will connect. They can’t believe they are gone forever, they just want to speak to them one more time but it’s not possible. No cause for celebrations whatsoever!
The Internally Displaced People in Bama, Borno State will not be joining in the empty celebration due to the dehumanizing conditions under which they live. 13 children were reported dead in less than two weeks in August due to malnutrition and diseases. Over 6,000 people currently sleep in the open with no protection from the heat, rains and mosquitoes. Some of the women might even be raped or sexually-harassed by soldiers as alleged on Independence Day. Same goes for the homeless Bakassi people living in class-rooms in Cross River.
The Independence Day will mean nothing to the victims of fresh attacks in Riyom Plateau State and that of the gory incident in Rukuba Road area of Jos North Local Government Area which led to the death of 16 people.
Victims of herdsmen attacks in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara and other states across the geopolitical zones will be wondering why the government has abandoned them with their oppressors appearing above the law. They will keep reminiscing over their beautiful homes and farmlands which have either been destroyed or become death traps.
The wife of the Dancing Senator, Ademola Adeleke will be keeping an eye on him so that he doesn’t attempt the unthinkable after initially winning the Osun State gubernatorial election. It will be hard for him to accept the results of the re-run election which foreign missions had reservations about. Civil servants being owed salaries for several months would be wondering about those they offended who have refused to forgive them of their sins, hence, no celebration for them.
The sick people at the hospitals who can’t afford to travel abroad like President Muhammadu Buhari for quality healthcare will not be celebrating too. They eyes will be welled with tears as they pass away slowly in loneliness and despair.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State whose second term bid remains uncertain will be wondering how he fell from a GOAT to a scapegoat within the space of two months. He will be struggling to smile in public to show all is well while he cries in his heart. His internet browser history will be filled with links about the massive political endorsements gained by his appointee, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The list of unhappy people who will be mourning the independence of Nigeria remains inexhaustible. Free feel to add yours to complete this piece.
Happy Independence Day Nigeria but there is indeed nothing to celebrate.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a PhD student of the University Of Ibadan. He writes from Lagos State.