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Nigeria @58: Sweet Dream or Nightmare?





By James Eze (eziokwubundu@gmail.com)

You cannot live in Nigeria and not think about who we have become in recent years. You may try to shut it out of your mind but you may not always stop wondering if there is a sufficient reason for hope; to step out at dawn and watch the sun rise on the faces of your loved ones.  And I want to ask you this; at 58, what feelings does Nigeria stir in you?

Well, I don’t know if I am the only one that feels this way, but there are moments I feel like a deer, finally hounded to a corner; a plant in a room with no air. Those are moments when I mull over my relationship with Nigeria; and I gently ask her with the voice of a heartbroken lover, “have you been fair to me?”  At such moments, I am often of two minds, like a victim of an abusive relationship – I feel a strong desire to leave her but an utter lack of will power to get up and go.

 Don’t get me wrong. It is not for want of courage that I am still here.  It is the dilemma of someone who must choose between hope and despair. It is how you feel after years and years of broken promises. Each new promise raises the threshold of hope but each disappointment breeds a season of despair. Years when young and fearless, it seemed as though you could jump up and touch the sky. But also years that time has now turned into a blur in the haze of memory. And there are no mementos, no trophies and no reminders that you ever lived through those years. And who do you blame for this but Nigeria? 

Who do you blame when children in your neighbourhood scream “Up NEPA,” after a long power cut and you suddenly remember that your tiny boyish voice once rang out the loudest forty years ago when the power holding company restored electricity to thousands of homes denied nourishing sleep by heat and a swarm of hungry mosquitoes?  Who do you blame when cows assume a value higher than human life and all we can do is shout from the temporary safety of our homes? Who do you blame when over 180 million people consistently bring back former military rulers to run their affairs and our best and brightest actually parted the way for one of them to mount the saddle of leadership? Who do you blame when a country that produced its first professor of medicine 53 years ago has neither the expertise nor the equipment to attend to the medical needs of its citizens?  Who do you blame in a country where injustice to one is never seen as injustice to all? Do you blame the leader or the led? Is the leader an alien or just one of us; a brother or sister, a former classmate, a fellow tribesman/woman, a home-boy/girl? If the leader is one of us, why can’t he touch our wounds and feel our pain? Why is he far removed from the very air we breathe? And are we innocent or complicit in his sudden transmogrification? 

At 58, it is insincere to continue to absolve ourselves of blame for what Nigeria has become. And by the way, it is time to stop pointing fingers outwards. We cannot point fingers when we wilfully accept what more serious societies revolt against? We have watched with hands akimbo as farmers turned to manure in their own farmlands. And we shamefully nodded our acceptance when we were advised that it was wiser to let go of our ancestral lands than die holding onto them. We watched genocide sweep through the rainforest and looked away when malnourished children died with distended bellies over a war they had no hand in. We pretended that it didn’t matter when the goose that lay our collective golden egg became a wasteland for decades while fishes died in rivers poisoned by oil exploration. In fact, we laughed at them and called them ‘lazy.’ And when our fellow citizens complained of marginalization and pointed at decrepit federal roads in their domain, we called them cry-babies and mocked them with comments like; “you people are your own worst enemies.” And I just wonder how, by the way. 

 And when we mock the wounds of our neighbours, when we deny the humanity of one another and strip our neighbour the right to indignation and justifiable outrage, we trade places with Nigeria and hand her the moral right to ask us; “have you been fair to me?” 

Indeed, Nigeria never quite leaves you without questions, without wonder, without discontent. You may never stop wondering if this is all you can be as an individual. Sometimes the bleakness is so perverse that there seems to be nothing at all to give you pride as a Nigerian. No shooting stars to kindle hope with brilliant sparkles across the skies. No exceptions to celebrate; no genius to applaud and no singular act of heroism that could pass for a national banner of excellence. Innoson’s recent ordeal with the EFCC and Guaranty Trust Bank puts a dampener on what had looked like a rare flicker of hope and finally confirms the fear that Nigeria is a place where flowers wilt before sunrise. And you can’t help but hope that Anambra’s Golden Girls who won the World Technovation Challenge in San Francisco will get a chance to  live another day. 

Now, should I wish Nigeria a Happy Birthday or just watch her in silence?

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