I was preparing to be the master of ceremonies at someone’s birthday party last weekend. So I went to the house of her friend to collect the ‘program.’ There were a few Nigerians there and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn political. Wherever you find three or four Nigerians 

together in this little city of Windsor Canada, they are talking politics. Time and time again that has been true, and this time is no different. I didn’t want to join the fray. I just wanted to get the agenda for the sixtieth birthday party and leave. But I was delayed to offer a viewpoint.


Nigerians are a very political lot. That’s perhaps why the General Buhari administration long ago made it illegal for a group of Nigerians to congregate at any point in time. This same Buhari is now a democrat. I don’t know if his basic character has changed, or if that was the hand of his alter ego, General Idiagbon, in the administration. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other types of freedom didn’t mean much to either of them then. I don’t really know if the leopard could ever change its spots. But that is another story.


Every Nigerian is a political pundit, many imbued with a certain sense of what is right. Divergent views in discussions always give way to loud arguments. Yet there seems to be a convergence of opinion everywhere I’ve been in recent time, that the third term fever is bad sickness. Many are yet to understand how the former military ruler who handed over power voluntarily in 1979 would be the civilian ruler on whose behalf many are cheming for an extension of term. “But the president hasn’t said anything,” someone argued. “Neither did he need to say anything,” someone else countered. You only needed to open your eyes to what is seen to understand what is not said. “When I look at this wall,” said the poetess, “I’ll remember you, and what you have not written there.” Sometimes, a non-speech could be a veritable policy. Is that essentially a strategy of withdrawal for when things don’t work out?

“Nigeria is an unfortunate country,” someone argued. “I disagree,” I countered. “If every Nigerian medical professional down tools in Saudi Arabia, that country might collapse,” I argued. Nigerians are indeed all over the world as experts in several fields of endeavour, and many Nigerians are accomplished in every area of work and livelihood. It’s only in the socio-political realm that we are not successful in our own country. And that realm has affected every other realm for the people of Nigeria. Many individuals who are self-sustaining local governments still recognize that they have to depend on the state for infrastructure, why does the country make a mess of everything?


I stayed with a friend on the outskirts of Lagos on my last trip to Nigeria. That was last year. Beautiful home, wonderful amenities. But his heavy duty generators had “knocked” because he put “bad petrol” in it. He bought the petrol in an authentic gas station where he buys gas for his Mercedes Benz. I can’t imagine what harm could have been done to the poor car, and I still pray for him whenever I remember. That was the car that was taking me all over Lagos. But my story really is that for the two days I was in my friend’s house, we had electricity only once, and that lasted for about two minutes. As a matter of fact, I was just disembarking from his car when the light came on. And I was still outside, greeting his children and introducing myself to them when the light flickered out. That was all the electricity I had in that part of Lagos. That is shameful for a country that has a huge deposit of crude oil and sell the same on the international market. That is shameful for a country that supplies uninterrupted electricity to another country. That’s shameful for a country whose president promised heaven and earth about eight years ago that we would see the end of epileptic power supply. What else has that president proved to justify the need for an illegal extension of tenure?


My friend planned that we would go to one of the fast food joints to eat that night. I thought he was joking. “Is there another way to get to that oint?” I asked. No other way, he assured me. We would go back through the way we came in, and come back again. “We do it everyday.” I said I wouldn’t want to go through that hassle again. But since the children’s minds were already on taking me out, out we went. What was frightening me was the extremely bad road that would lead us to the restaurant. Many times our vehicle was so slanted I thought we would tip over. It was all so strange to me, but that was the reality my friend was living in. “Suffering and smiling,” as one musician put it. It wouldn’t matter if you’re so rich. Would you build your own roads to everywhere you would like to go? That is very shameful.


And what happened to the fortunes of my people? We may not have seen the arrests and murders of the Abacha years, but many people are not less despondent. Many people are still trying as much as possible to escape from Nigeria to live elsewhere. Though I must admit that I’ve only known one family that has relocated from Canada to Nigeria in the last ten years, this family still comes back here to experience some order and sanity. And I’ve only known another family from the United States who went back to settle in Nigeria. I haven’t heard much from them since they left.


As I sat with friends last weekend preparing for the birthday party, I was wondering what the land could have become if Murtala Mohammed lived a little longer, if IBB’s coup did not succeed, if MKO Abiola did not suddenly die… A few good men is what I think our country needs, a set of good men who have the interest of our country at heart, not the schemers who are waiting to eat her flesh and abandon her carcass.


I was sitting with a group of gentlemen as we ate at the birthday party when the man to my right suddenly asked if I was following events in Nigeria. “Could we not talk about this?” I pleaded. I was the MC and I wanted to party, not to talk about something we can’t ever resolve. “Please pray for Nigeria,” I solicited. “I’m done praying,” he said, combatively. I didn’t know what else to say, but I don’t want to give up on my country. We could still be redeemed as a people, certainly so.


"At some point in the evening the grass collects its dew."
                                          George Murray, The Hunter (Poems)
Akin, former colmnist at the Daily Times and Concord, currently writes for New Age.



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