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Tuesday, 05 October 2021 05:02

[OPINION] Independence Day Blues - Reuben Abati


“Happy Independence Day, my brother. I hope you had a great Independence Day?”

“No. I didn’t. This country don tire me.”

“Tire you how? How can you get tired of your country when the other day, you and I still went to Ngozi’s place to enjoy nkwobi and isi ewu with better orisirisi?  Where else in the world can anyone enjoy the kind of special things we enjoy in this country without cutting an arm and a leg?”

“You tend to take everything as a joke. I can’t blame you. I guess someone already said that the great thing about Nigerians is our ability to laugh when we should cry and dance when we should be still and sober. We make light of every tragic situation. We wake up the following morning and pretend as if all is well. If it rained overnight, we manage to forget and forge ahead.”

“Ït is called resilience, my brother. We are a resilient people. We are like the Beetle. No matter how bad the road is, there is no killing the Beetle. We keep going. I am not going to allow some stupid leaders mess me up. They can do all the things they want, I am not going to give up. If they like they can turn the Naira note, the national currency into a meaningless piece of paper, I am going to keep going. Soldiers come, soldiers go. Let me tell you something bro. This too shall pass and Nigeria shall be great again.”  

“Your problem is food and drinks. And I understand. There are people like you. Once you can eat and drink, you are fine. But there are some of us who want more from life, and we don’t think Nigeria is working. We think at 61, this country is thoroughly messed up and if I have my way, I will argue that the celebration of October I should be suspended till further notice in this country,”

“Omo, chill. What are you suspending? You can’t suspend history. Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. You can’t deny that. Don’t go about suspending things you can’t suspend. Jaiye ori e, bobo”

“But your President suspended Twitter? And even in his 61st Independence Day anniversary, he couldn’t lift the ban on Twitter. He said he had given directives that Twitter should be allowed back into the country based on conditions.”

“Leave Twitter I beg. Jack Dorsey is doing his own business. What has Twitter got to do with Nigeria’s independence anniversary? 61 years of Nigeria. Before Twitter, Nigeria was, after Twitter, Nigeria will still exist. I don’t even know why the President of Nigeria will choose to talk about Twitter on Nigeria’s Independence Day. That speech just went on and on. Good flow but too many unnecessary things inside. I was surprised President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t talk about Evergrande and its troubles and the fuel crisis in the UK.”

“Looks like the weed you smoked is beginning to clear from your head.”

“Which weed? Na drink I dey drink, I no dey smoke. You know say my Mama don die. If I go smoke now, the thing turn my head, who go take care of me? But what I am saying is that Nigeria is not a place you wake up in the morning and you begin to worry yourself? This life itself is not worth worrying about. Just live, and be yourself. Be happy. Don’t expect too much from anybody. This world is full of evil. Government. Government. Government. Who government don help? Can you believe there is power outage in Northern China? If they told you a day will come when white people in England will struggle with fuel scarcity, and beat each other up at fuel stations, struggling to get fuel, and that the streets of London will be filled with fuel queues, would you have ever agreed? But it happened bro. If not for COVID-19 and all these red list, green list things, I was tempted to go to London to make quick business. You buy, hoard, you sell. And make good money. I was looking at those people in London, fighting at fuel stations and for once, I felt good. If that happened in Nigeria, we would have been calling for a revolution, and the end of government. Every country has its own crisis. Let the Heavens fall, life will continue.”

“You are comparing apples and oranges. China does not have an electricity problem. Britain does not have a fuel scarcity problem. They have supply chain issues, and the fuel queues you are jubilating about are beginning to disappear. Britain and China have the capacity to fix their problems. Who will fix Nigeria? Can anybody fix Nigeria? Has anybody been able to fix Nigeria?”

“You like to praise white people. Anything a white man does; you will rationalize it. But you won’t rationalize anything for your own country. Which China? China where government is breathing down everybody’s neck, regulating everything including what time children should go to bed and what games they should play? With all our problems here, I don’t think any Nigerian leader would ever be mad enough to dictate what kind of food I should eat. You are praising the UK? Please who are you praising? Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister who does not know his right from his left? Supply chain problems? Are you saying I did not see those fuel queues? And the punch ups at the fuel stations, sorry, they call it forecourts? I have been telling you, don’t worry yourself. Nigeria is fine. Nigeria is great. If you are not happy, watch a Nollywood film. Listen to good music. Nigeria is the biggest entertainment centre in Africa. The home of pure genius in culture and the arts. The land of diamonds and resources.”

“I see you love escapism. You eat and drink. Watch movies. And you think all is well. That is actually the problem with most Nigerians today. They are so used to suffering, they don’t care anymore. A nation of depressed people.”

“Who is depressed in this country? Me or Davido and Whizkid who are selling out Arenas all over the world with their talent? Or Oluwaburna who is winning big international awards for his genius? Or Chimamanda Adichie who is lecturing European leaders about how to do the right thing in a world in need of justice and humanity?  Your problem is that you worry too much about government.”

“Governments dictate how we live”

“And I say leave government alone and focus on yourself to avoid high blood pressure!”

“How? With all the bad roads, and poor infrastructure? And insecurity? When many Nigerians wake up in the morning, they are afraid to leave their homes because they are not sure whether they will make it back home in the evening or end up in the mortuary or a kidnapper’s den?”

“You must have been reading too many newspapers, and those things they write. This is a country of 210 million people. What do you mean people are afraid to leave their homes? Have you not seen the rush at bus stops every morning? And the queues at garages across the country, people moving up and down?”

“Nigeria should not be at that level 61 years after independence. In 1960, it was widely believed that the Nigeria of the future would do better than Japan and Malaysia within a decade. We messed it all up. A 61-year old person in the UK, Japan, and Malaysia is better off than a 61-year old in Nigeria today.”

“Na lie. I know Nigerians who are 61 years old who are on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world.”

“And their names are probably listed on the Panama and Pandora papers, and America’s Wanted List. You will never find my name there.”

“Because you spend your entire life criticizing others. You don’t ever see anything good in anything or anybody. You must change your mind-set. You praise other people. You condemn your own. A 61-year old man or woman in Nigeria is better off than a 61-year old in Malawi or Zimbabwe and Guinea Conakry. How about that?”

“But they don’t kidnap people or kill them like flies in those other countries. What is the worth of a Nigerian life, 61 years after independence? All good things Nigeria destroys them all. The other day, they killed Dr. Chike Akunyili, Dora Akunyili’s husband in broad daylight in Anambra State”

“Yes. Sad. Sad.”

“For days, I kept remembering how the innocent man writhed on the floor, and nobody tried to help him. Instead, by-standers brought out their phones and recorded videos of his agony as life ebbed out of him. Something terrible has happened to this country, both the government and the people. If I had my way, I would ban the use of any phone with a video recording device in this country. Those phones are robbing Nigerians of their humanity and the old values we cherished.”

“Be careful. A few minutes ago, you were condemning the ban on Twitter. Government will hear you now, they will think it is a good thing to ban everything else including Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.”

“No society should be this cruel. In one day, in Anambra, the offices of the Department of State Services (DSS) was burned down, same with the office of the Federal Road Safety Commission and the country home of Joe Igbokwe in Nnewi and all you hear is that unknown gunmen did it. Unknown gunmen. Unknown soldiers. Unknown terrorists. Nigeria is a country of unknown citizens. Even the government is unknown. What tragedy can be bigger than that? Please tell me.”

“Ah well, Nigeria will survive. I have faith. According to my Pastor, he was telling us this Sunday…”

“Please can we leave your Pastor out of this? I am not interested in what your Pastor has to say… Religious leaders have done too much damage… They are part of the problem…”

“I just know that Nigeria will survive… My Pastor knows a lot...”

“What do you yourself know? What does your Pastor know about the unending insecurity in the country, the hundreds of children who have been victims of kidnapping in the North and have been scarred for life. What do you yourself know about the failure of the state in major parts of the country? The entire North is a killing zone. The Middle Belt is unsafe. Now the South is also in turmoil. Do you know that things have gone so bad in Anambra State, people are even afraid to go out, every Monday? That state is scheduled to hold a Gubernatorial election on November 6. A month to the election, many of the candidates have suspended their campaigns and fled the state. In fact, it is now being suggested that the Anambra election should be held in Abuja.”

“You like to exaggerate things. How do you hold a Gubernatorial election in Abuja, hundreds of miles away? Will the women and voters of Anambra travel to Abuja to make a choice about their own future?”

“Nigeria’s Theatre of the Absurd. As some of you celebrated Nigeria at 61, some of us spent our time reflecting on these things. In Niger State, a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport was abducted along with his granddaughter at an event in Zungeru. In the same state, in Kachive Village, 20 persons were killed, houses were razed down by bandits. In Sokoto state, terrorists kidnapped 20 persons and then freed one of their victims to deliver a letter to the traditional ruler of the affected community, to demand a ransom of N20 million. In Nigeria, human beings have become commodities traded on the Kidnappers Stock Exchange (KSE), which is fast becoming far more profitable than the Nigerian Stock Exchange. That is how bad our situation is.”  

“Na wah oh.”

“One of these days, we would all be here and we would all hear that a State Governor has been abducted or maybe his wife.”

“Na lie. That can’t happen. A whole Governor?”

“Are you not aware that many Governors no longer spend the night in their states. That is why they all have private jets. They show up in the state to attend events, and as soon it is over, they go to the nearest airport and fly to Abuja to spend the rest of the week. And yet these persons are called Chief Security Officers of their states.”

“Make you no blame them my brother. Who wan die? Everything for this life na destiny. Na where you find yourself, you go manage.”

“Even the economy is in tatters. Our debt service to revenue ratio is frightening. 97.7%. And that is why I don’t understand why there is so much scramble over who should become President of Nigeria in 2023. North vs South.  The next Nigerian President will inherit chaos. A broken country, if not physically, but certainly spiritually.”

“Don’t worry yourself, Nigeria won’t break. Did you not hear the President when he said that the Nigeria the British gave to us is indivisible and non-negotiable?”

“I sort of liked the speech. I thought it was a significant improvement on the terrible prose they used to write as Presidential speeches. But a second reading revealed the false claims in that speech. Fine prose yes, but don’t use fine turns of phrase to deceive the people. In this business, that is a form of corruption. In normal life, they call it “toasting”. Those fine things you say to seduce a woman.”

“Omo oor. The thing choke!”

“You heard woman now, see how you are excited like a child. Are you okay? The thing to note is that Nigerians today are beyond seduction. That is why we have all these problems around the country. I just hope that in the next round of elections, Nigerians will shine their eyes, and vote wisely.”

“Shine ya eye! Big Brother Naija. You too watch am? Odogwu, my man, Mazi White Money. The money white e be like snow.”

“I am not talking about Big Brother Naija. The obsession with a group of young men and women living in a cage defined by dissoluteness is a reflection of the state of the nation.”

“Nigeria sef na Big Brother Naija. Discuss. Mazi, White Money, na you biko.”

“I won’t discuss that with you.”

“Leave this Nigerian matter I beg. Na who go remain go remain, make we go drink, clear head. Buhari sef fit dey the other room, we dey here dey drag plenty matter.”   

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