Without a doubt, Nigeria is that cat with nine lives. It survived amalgamation, which made no sense before, during and after it was signed, sealed and delivered. It survived the military era -complete with all the accompanying combustibility, the nearest miss being the June 12 imbroglio in 1993. It survived a senseless civil war, which, in my view as a Nigerian, remains the dumbest internecine pogrom in human history.
There’s a question mark though, on Nigeria’s uncanny survivability. It’s a punctuation sign that dents, rather than accentuate, this survivor. Exactly what has Nigeria learned from all those times it almost had a head-on collusion with disintegration? How has the country today deployed such yesterday lesson to better ready for tomorrow?
Being an incurable nationalist, I wish I could answer the foregoing pair of questions joyfully. In fact, right now, I wish I could concoct a positive answer or two. But, no, Nigeria has learned nothing from its past and, therefore, going forward, has no resultant strategy for the future that beckons. The reasons are both typical and farfetched.
Public analysts always look to the Nigerian factor whenever the need arises to explain why Nigerians have not gleaned a thing from our many experiences. Of course, Nigerian factor, which is more or less a euphemism for customised corruption, speaks to our penchant for crass politics, horrendous ethno-clannishness, and silly religiosity. This is the crux of the matter. Nigeria is heading nowhere because Nigerians are content with its status quo.
Hence, we keep taking the same medicine for this chronic migraine. We keep doing the exact same thing and expecting change. We keep treating Nigeria as if we hail from somewhere else. We keep treating each other as some agelong sworn enemies.
Yet, we all keep hoping and waiting, and praying and watching for magic. Yes, that’s what it is. Doing left but expecting right is a forever wait for magic, not miracle. This is what makes the Nigerian reality particularly painful and sad and frustrating.
Alas, Covid-19 (the microscopic irritant that crept out of Wuhan, China, to fly around the globe, panicking mankind to proceed on forced holiday and into isolation) has further exposed that Nigerian underbelly. If something as terrible, as dreaded, and as terminal as coronavirus that has shut down even nations hitherto reverenced as the indestructible strongholds of the world, cannot move Nigerians to seek the healing of our perennial intranational chasm or hate, just what would? Clearly, the pandemic has so far failed to do what colonialism, democracy, oil boom, military rule, civil war, poverty, corruption, June 12, religion, ethnicity, politics, ineffectual leadership, and an apathetic citizenry could not do. Are Nigerians waiting for Christ’s second coming to transform from being own greatest enemy?
Why do we play politics with everything? Why would we want our own President to contract Covid-19? Why should we rejoice that Chief of Staff Abba Kyari (a human being created like us) has tested positive? Why is it impossible for Nigerians to draw a line between politics and hate?
Generally, why are we so cynically unsympathetic and unempathetic to ourselves and to our leaders? Why do we impute politics, ethnicity and religion into things of life and death, and God? Why do we always bear grudge against people we perceive treat us poorly, when by hating them we prove conclusively that we may even be worse than they are? Why have we allowed government-people suspicion to steal our joy, hurt our relationship and delay our emancipation as a nation?
I get a sense, from conversations I hold or hear and articles I read, that very many compatriots blame President Muhammadu Buhari and the current set-up for how divided the country currently is. We may be right, but are we ourselves showing better examples? It is true that the incumbent President uncharacteristically allowed his fiery emotions in words, some of those 12 years he sought the office. In fact, most of those who see nothing good in the five years he’s been running things think that the dangerous things he said in the build-up to his 2015 victory set the stage for hate speech to now operate in Nigeria as its global headquarters.
Perhaps, with all else having failed to heal this land and make us one people truly, President Buhari should try apologising for what he said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. No savvy, but I believe a presidential apology both for himself and all of us could reset this country in a defining way. To be sure, Candidate Buhari might have been forced to say most of those things by the peppery injustice he suffered in the electoral process time after time. However, that cannot be an excuse because injustice is our way of life; Nigeria itself is injustice nationified!
Still, I see that apology not only cooling national temper and burying the so-called Nigerian factor but also simultaneously stopping injustice and reconvening all of us on one page. I see it teaching us to stop taking advantage of compatriots whenever there’s a little crisis. Imagine the criminal increment of prices of goods and services, or as witnessed in some states the vehement refusal to heed the new (lower) pump price regime of petroleum products as directed by the federal government. As a people, we cannot blame government for these self-inflicted mannerisms.
In closing, let’s note that, while those in government must take some fundamental steps for purposes of retrieving, resetting and redirecting our country, citizens need to meet them halfway with commitment, trust, support, understanding and patience. As Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos was quoted recently, Nigerians need to realise that there’s a time to criticise government, and a time to jump in and support. Covid-19 has taught citizens to partner government instead of standing by to attack or condemn or mock. At the end, whether we like it or yes, I know that slow and steady, our country shall cross these seemingly uncrossable rivers.
God bless Nigeria!