Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I
Nigerian State and the Rest of us
Updated: Mar 18
Many have been wondering why some Nigerians desist from commenting on certain burning issues concerning the nation. While some term such an act of indifference, others see it as being unpatriotic. But what many ignore is that sometimes, when everybody is shouting, no one is being heard out.
I had an opportunity to visit Nigeria amidst this Covid-19 frenzy. I took my time to measure the nation's tempo and test the messages we wanted the world to hear. In the end, I noticed a few things.
1. Nigeria is dangerously on a cruise mode
Those who drive understand that when you put your car on cruise mode, it maintains the same speed at all times, no matter the situation of the road.
Let me state here that the cruise mode differs from the autopilot mode. During autopilot mode, the car is intelligently guided by the AI incorporated in the motor car system. But in cruise mode, the car is on a free run.
On level ground and straight roads, the cruise mode is wonderful. It allows the driver to relax as s/he simply guides the steering. But the cruise mode is dangerous on bad roads like the ones we have in Nigeria. It can project the car into a pothole, towards an oncoming car, or even crash it on one of the death traps that decorate our roads.
That’s the situation Nigeria is actually in. We have a presidency that has no idea of what is going on in the nation and a number of crazy state governors that are as inept and impotent as a corpse. Some are simply figureheads buying people’s consciences with their bags of money. In brief, the nation is actually at the point of crashing.
2. Nigerians Are Getting Rich and Richer
Despite the hardship we all hear about, many Nigerians, both at home and abroad, are seriously improving their financial state. Many of them have discovered that Nigeria is a home of opportunities. Every investment in the nation yields a lot of income, and every right endeavour pays its just measure.
This can be verified by the types of houses that sprout out in every village these days. It could also be verified by the quality of life our young people have enjoyed recently.
But as Percy Bysshe Shelley would have it in his A Defense of Poetry, 1821,
“To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not, the little that he hath shall be taken away. The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of the State is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism.”
Poor Nigerians are now poorer, as the rich ones are seriously becoming richer. And in-between time, we have a ruling class making a mockery of all of us as they zoom in and out of the country at every opportunity they have.
3. Why Many Nigerians Prefer to Stay Quiet
Silence, they say is golden, even though staying quiet in the face of evil is no virtue. Yet, while on the horn of the dilemma, wisdom is the only thing that can save a brave wo/man.
Nigeria is plagued with myriads of competing opinions. The ruling class has run the entire population mad with their nonchalant attitude. People feel so hopeless and abandoned that anyone with any opinion, tested or untested, draws the attention of the masses.
In every quarter of the nation, there are factions of grunting citizens. Both women and men have become so grumpy that people can easily assault you if you oppose their opinion. Pastors, priests, and activists have all cashed into that state of the impasse to fill the space created by our absentee government. They are speaking so loudly that little do we listen to any (other) voice of reason.
In midst of this cacophony, speaking out has become a dangerous ordeal to anyone who is not ready to echo the resounding popular choruses. No one can tempt to disagree with the big town criers without either being insulted or assaulted.
And in such a situation, many prefer to watch realities unfold as they silently learn the direction of the wave. Call their choice of action cowardice or prudence, “mana o nwere ihe mere ede jiri bee nwii” – but frogs never run in vain during the day.
4. Why the East Should Be Preoccupied
There is this Igbo adage that says: “ka anyi wepụ aka enwe n'ofe, tupu ọ ghọọ aka mmadụ” – loosely translated as “treat every lump in your body before it becomes cancerous”. A few years back, when the expatriates were being kidnapped, Nigerians thought it was only a problem for the expatriates. Today, the entire population is suffering at the hands of kidnappers.
Nowadays, we are witnessing the dangerous birth of another deadly group. Every week, we hear of the incursion of the “ungun no men” [sic] in our cities. For the moment, we see their activities as being addressed against the police and the politicians, and it seems to be so. But who will they go for in the few years to come?
When Boko Haram started, the North Easterners were very sympathetic to their cause, but are they still proud of these rats? Will these men be our version of Boko Haram?
The difficulty, we forget, is not who will give the monkey water to drink but who will get back the cup once the monkey is done drinking. Arming any group that is not legally organized is a deadly bargain, and we should never forget that whoever eats with the devil should use a long spoon.