Brasilia, 17th June, 2012
By the time this piece was written, Nigeria Security Tracker, a crowd map managed by Council on Foreign Relations, has catalogued 591 violent incidents in Nigeria between May 2011 and mid June 2012 (and still counting). Several hundreds of people have been killed and many more displaced, as a result of attacks motivated by political, economic, or social grievances. These figures are alarming, and considering the difficulty of verifying incidents of this nature, we may assume that they are the most conservative you can get. Far more alarming however, are those associated with suicide attacks allegedly perpetrated by a radical Islamic movement, known as Boko Haram, which is believed to be based in Northeastern Nigeria.
With every attack, our hearts and that of our country are ripped apart as the mayhem continues. To understand the Boko Haram crisis better, readers may find useful, a Special Report published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in which Andrew Walker, a British journalist with experience in Nigeria presented one of the most comprehensive analyses on the issue.
However, as the country grapples with the escalating violence on one hand, and struggles to understand it on the other, commentators have argued that the turbulent times characterized by these attacks and killings are a result of decades of misrule, injustice and corruption that date back to colonial era. Theories abound in which some powerful and invisible hands, within and outside the country, are rumored to be behind the attacks for political ends. As the drums of war beat across the giant of Africa, secessionists, mercenaries, armed robbers and dare-devil criminal groups are having a field day. With different opinion leaders directing tirades at each other, some have even called for the complete annihilation of any community perceived to shelter attackers and others brag about how ready they are to go to war. Conflicting and polarizing reports which keep flowing forth from largely emasculated media outfits as well as accusations and counter accusations traded amongst religious leaders, government and security agents, regarding the attacks and those behind them, serve to further polarize an already divided country. While reports of human right abuses and extortion by security forces remind the public of the extra judicial murder that took place back 2009, unexplained disappearance of arraigned suspects and reports of alleged involvement of some police and customs officers in illegal arms dealings, suggest laxity and/or complicity of elements in government.
In the wake of this great confusion and what many, including those in high places, now consider a looming anarchy that may eventually consume the entire country, helpless Nigerians groan in pain, bewilderment and trepidation. While successive Sundays saw the bombing of churches, brutally ending the lives of innocent worshippers and passersby and visiting destructions on properties, rampaging youth maimed and killed travelers on highways in “retaliation”. With the horrible bloodshed involving ethnic Berom and Fulani pastoralists in villages around Jos, central Nigeria last week, and the deaths of high level politicians, there are only confusing reports on the circumstances surrounding their deaths and the crisis itself even as the military gave eviction notice to Fulani residing in the affected areas. These incessant attacks, the most recent being reported in a mosque in Maiduguri northeastern Nigeria, and Okene in central Nigeria, and that nauseating video of young Nigerians cannibalizing on fellow countrymen they roasted, are enough to traumatize anyone. The country may indeed survive beyond 2012, but it appears we might have reached a critical threshold in the great Nigerian dance “on the brink” on the proscenium stage, first set in October 1960 and managed by a succession of looters and criminals.
For condemning or being silent on the crisis, depending on where a specific attack is carried out or who is allegedly responsible, Nigerians are trapped in a dangerous predicament sustained by a combination of fear, prejudice, hypocrisy, bigotry and plain hatred.
Meanwhile, revelations on the theft of US$7.6 billion of fuel subsidy in a scam that seems to have been going on for several years now, and the intrigues associated therewith, further left Nigerians bitter, dejected and hopeless. No less worrying is the inevitable reality that seems to stare at the country in the eyes that tougher days may still be ahead when the financial dividends of corruption will rear their ugly horns with harsher vengeance. In the words of an anonymous writer, the major crisis may not have started yet, but it is imminent, when the country´s “much-abused public purse will run out of money” soon.
In these trying times and the catastrophic consequences they portend for the nation, perhaps the most “endangered species” is the young Nigerian. With only a few credible leaders, mostly completely powerless and frustrated, the young Nigerian is left with no befitting legacy and stripped of all hope of a better future. The so-called younger generations in power have also completely betrayed him by soiling their hands at the offer of a few dollar bills.
Born in the darkness of NEPA, (now PHCN) with a poisoned mind, that those who do not practice his brand of religion or do not belong to his part of the country are enemies, the young Nigerian cuts a pathetic figure. Having learnt that the enterprising Igbo trader in his village should be addressed as arne (a Hausa word for pagan) or the despicable Hausa speaking cobbler is nama and aboki (two other Hausa words signifying meat and friend, but which, in Southeastern Nigeria denote cow and some moron from northern Nigeria respectively), he is as close-minded as they come. With no dream or ambition other than that of driving expensive cars and “making it early in life”, our young Nigerian has become internet fraudster, drug mule, rapist, intolerant and uncultured.
Often, the young Nigerian secures his first degree right from secondary school (yes, they do award degrees in corruption there- BSc Corruption) where teachers, principals, parents and police connive with examiners from WAEC, NECO and JAMB to perpetrate all kinds of examination malpractice. The pursuit of a university degree, if admission is eventually secured, is usually not propelled by any genuine desire to pursue a career in which he is interested enough to excel and do great things, but merely serves as a means of looting after securing a job, just like his parents. For a fee, the NYSC corps members gleefully thumb print stolen ballot papers to rig election or engage in prostitution.
This piece addresses the bewildered, confused and oppressed young Nigerian who has been left with no purpose and lost in the ocean of hatred fueled by religious and regional prejudices and sustained by media not known for objectivity. Yes, the abusive, terrible English-speaking, European football fanatic that explodes at the slightest provocation; the judgmental young Nigerian rendered nervous by raging hormones, poverty and frustration; the young Nigerian who is terrifyingly and overly religious that, whenever he is about to travel or is ill, writes on the social network “i need ur prayers pls”. That he can read this, is a measure of the conquest he has made and hopefully, may share the following words with others. It is time to wake up.
It is humbly hoped that the words may serve to touch the minds of as many young Nigerians as possible, and prepare them for whatever tougher days may indeed lay ahead for our ailing nation. If this piece merely serves to give direction, no matter how little, to the lost young Nigerian, with which he may, hopefully, one day promote a genuine people’s’ movement that can position his country on the path to true democracy, then its purpose would have been achieved.
And so, what shall become of the young Nigerian? Where does he start and who will give him hope? Should he give up the dream of living in a country where at least the basics of life such as water, shelter and electricity are provided? Should he give up pursuing lawful business in Aba, Kano, Nnewi, Onitsha, Lagos etc? Should he give up rearing cattle across the River Niger and pursuing a career in science or accounting? If, as is being insinuated, the country is eventually Balkanized, how does he pick up the pieces and move on in building a new country, whatever its name may be? Where is his hope?; that emotional state of mind, which brings about belief in positive and favorable outcome of events, about which Martin Luther King Jnr once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.
The truth is, the young Nigerian is lost in the great drift towards decadence, sycophancy, provincialism and human idolization. In doing this, he ends up destroying himself in the process of awarding needless “governor of the year” prize. He is deluded by miracle makers, easy money and Ponzi scheme. He forges certificates and prefers the easy way. He is completely lost. But he is lost and hopeless because he has never been given any hope. Governments and their agents have successively failed him, corrupted the simplicity of his life and intoxicated him with drugs, banditry, nepotism and religious hypocrisy. With amputated spirits, the young have become idolaters of politicians and crooks by imitating their style of dressing and recognizing no wrong in whatever they do, including theft, deception and terrorism. This must stop now.
But the young Nigerians are the great survivors of this century. They are surviving the evolutionary pressures mounted by the raw materials of change even in the eye of the Nigerian storm. They are now crying out to be propelled and inspired. They cry out: we need great leaders and teachers. We need great examples and teachers, who can stand before us and say, “I am a Nigerian and I will do the right thing no matter what” and actually do so and teach so. We need teachers who can show us that even though the other person professes a different religion, he is our brother in humanity and should be embraced without any kind of prejudice or hypocrisy. We need teachers who will show us the way to freedom and respect for everyone, no matter how different their opinions may be. We need those who will tell us not to despair but to believe in ourselves; teach us to have self-esteem and understand that having money or degrees doesn’t make anyone a god we must worship; those who will tell us to lift our heads high because we are human beings like anyone and can be as great as anyone else.
Even as terror attacks are unleashed on Nigerian Christians and Muslims alike, we have reasons to hope. Even as we cope with incompetent governments from top to the bottom, we must not give up. Even as we are governed by a political establishment which has failed to reform itself, let alone its people, we must summon the courage to act individually and collectively to inspire each other for a better future.
We must strive and resolve to pursue great things and do good things as carpenters, drivers, farmers, laborers, teachers, tailors and traders etc. We shall sell our shoes and mobile phones and clothes and garments, to go to school because there, we shall be free and learn to create wealth without necessarily relying on pretentious governments in slumber. We shall “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery”, shun violence, laziness, half measures, sycophancy, and mediocrity.
We shall feed our hopes by drawing inspiration from the shining examples of honest and brilliant young Nigerians like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jelani Aliyu, Segun Olugbile, Chidera Ota and Saleeha Ibraheem, to mention just a few; Nigerians who proved that there is no limit to the greatness anyone of us can attain (Google their names and get inspired).
We shall feed our hopes by emphasizing on the flexible and conciliatory ideals and teachings of our faiths, knowing that neither angry argument, nor belligerent bigotry of what we believe to be right will change a different belief held by another.
We are not intimidated by the thieving Nigerian elite and his ill-gotten wealth; nor seduced by his gluttonous and flamboyant life which leads to heart disease and sudden death. Let them build the houses in Abuja; buy the latest expensive cars, sponsor children to Pilgrimage and universities abroad; we shall do the right thing. We shall endure and be the best. Let them blow their silly siren to oppress and cause panic and accidents on traffic; we shall be patient because those days will soon be gone.
The great Nigerian evolutionary process has reached a critical point and something has got to give. The reaction has started. We may not live long enough to overcome the enthalpy required to attain the point of spontaneity of this great reaction, but we can overcome the barrier by educating ourselves and those willing to learn. In words and actions, we shall be part of the great movement that will build a free and prosperous Nigerian society where everyone, no matter from what religion or region, will have access to free education and opportunities, and end proliferation of religious hypocrites, fake miracle makers, self-hating, corrupt, lazy, and indulging citizenry, whose role models are crooks engaged in stealing public funds, with some preachers defending and justifying the theft and the society recognizing them as heroes and next to God.
We shall open our minds and read everything from Astronomy to Zoology; Chemistry and Economics. We shall read everything and know everything, and in your quest for knowledge, we shall question everything, including the existence of God. We shall improve our understanding of foreign languages and mastery of Mathematics, without forgetting our African languages. We shall not idolize anybody because they have been a Minister or Chairman. We shall expect nothing from anyone. We shall engage in dialogue with each other, rid ourselves of personal prejudices and address issues that really matter, not trivialities or foolishness. We shall learn to pursue and believe in hard work and self-determination and every day, teach same to our younger ones.
This is a difficult time and may even get worse, but it is no time to give up on our country; united or not, unitary or federal; regional or central. The great change is imminent even as we face crisis. It may take some time but then that’s no reason enough to give up. From an evolutionary point of view where one of the rules is “do the right thing or get extinct”; one after another, every agent of government in Nigeria and ideed every citizen, will come to realize that the only way you govern people and have lasting peace is through honesty, transparency, accountability and rule of law; no half measures, no short-cuts, no kidding! We have serious problems and we need serious people to address them. We shall demand good governance and explanations and our laws will evolve to catch up with crooks. It may take another century, but it’s already happening.
There is hope.