“I know a lot about my country
I know a lot because I care
I know a lot about the people
I know a lot because I’m here
Nigeria my beloved country
Working together is the key
Nigeria my beloved country
Her future is you and me.”
This song holds strong memories for me, the title is Nigeria my beloved country and the singer is Funmi Adams
When I was in Primary four, my school was showcased on a schools’ variety programme on NTA Channel 10 or was it Channel 7? And my class had to present three performances and one would be picked for TV, all three ended up being picked – a drama about wise king Solomon with me as the good mother (naturally hehehe), a song about my school and a selection of songs that ranged from gospel to Yoruba folk songs, we did seven songs and four were broadcast.
Me singing the first line of Sese ninu mi du – the fifth song, ended the programme. My paternal grandmother was so proud and happy that she gave me extra portions of liver in her famous goat meat pepper-soup until I left for secondary school.
Nigeria The Beloved Country was the first song we did, I had to sing the first verse and chorus alone while my classmates joined for the other verses. I remember singing that song with joy and pride, I really loved this country with all the passion in my 8/9-year-old heart and body. There was no country like it and I fully intended to see every corner of it when I finally grew up.
I’ve seen a fair bit of the country and stood at many spots that were pictures and dots on my atlases and maps, it is still a phenomenally beautiful country but it is not the country I was promised, not the country Funmi Adams and countless others inspired me to love as a child.
From crippling insecurity to poverty and massive infrastructural deficit/collapse and unemployment, there really is little to celebrate on this 59th anniversary of becoming a country and 56th anniversary of achieving the status of a republic. Where is the progress? What can we point at and say it is definitely better for us now than it was when we were colonised.
While we were sarcastically sharing Happy Independence Day wishes earlier today – after they ‘brought my light’ for the first time today by some minutes after noon, my friend said something that made me really sad. He said, “it used to be a joyful day especially for kids, we are a country where every good thing used to be better. Shame”
His words cut me even more deeply because I had just abandoned a piece I was writing about the deliberate defunding and downgrade of our educational system by successive sets of leaders to keep us too handicapped to know our rights and create wealth and opportunities for ourselves – you see, it is easier to analyse policies and manifestoes, and make informed political decisions when your stomach is full and your mind is sharp.
Take Lagos for example, between 1979 and 1983, a certain Alhaji Lateef Jakande was the governor of Lagos state. He established one hundred and eighteen (118) secondary schools in Lagos in addition to two hundred and seven (207) primary schools and the Lagos State University.
Go and ask Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, the number of schools they renovated and equipped to Jakande’s standards of the early 1980s even with their access to superior funds. Don’t bother asking them why they didn’t establish new schools though, don’t break your heart by yourself.
But do they care though? Lagos might be the smallest state in the country, but it has the most organised agbero system in the country with these guys moving massive sums extorted from commercial vehicle operators which makes public transport in Lagos the most expensive in the country. This is our major export, perhaps our biggest bragging right – thuggery.
From time to time, a misguided individual comes up to lay the problems of Nigeria at the feet of Nigerian Youths. Demanding that they clear the rot that they do not even have the tools to approach, even presidents are not excluded from this silliness.
From their love for soccer and foreign/well organised football leagues to their love for Telenovelas and reality shows, the Nigerian youth is targeted for derision because they are preoccupied with these pleasures while their country spins quickly to hell in a hand basket. Like Nero, they are accused of fiddling while Rome- sorry Nigeria, burns.
But what would they have them do? In a country where election results are decided months before the first vote is cast, going into politics without strong backing is a waste of time and money – unless you just want the clout of being an aspirant. How else do they want them to effect change? Go to Ojota to dance and party as they did in 2012?
The same young people who are trying to survive, to pay rent, to live a modest life. In a country where the prices of staples gallop every quarter while the average person’s salary doesn’t increase in a three-year window, it’s a lot like running on a treadmill. All that motion without movement.
Let us not forget that they also have to cope with the reality of being retirement plans for their parents who have been failed by government. Ask the governors of Abia state from Orji Uzor Kalu to Theophilus Orji to Okezie Ikpeazu, when they last paid gratuities. Ask the governors of your states too.
We currently have a government that is strongly averse to criticism. On various occasions and even today, it has made not-so-subtle threats on stifling of speech that it considers offensive and some state governors have gone a step further in that area.
Isn’t it better the youths spend their time tearing their literal panties and bras on social media over Big Brother housemates or football, rather than getting locked up, arrested or even killed in fighting for their ‘rights?’ At least nobody has ever died from ‘stanning’ a house mate and there’s no danger in being locked up over the hundred posts you made about Cristiano Ronaldo being better than Lionel Messi and how he was robbed of his FIFA title this year.
If you walked into my alma mater, The Great 🙄 University of Benin and asked literally anyone for directions to the William Ubong building, you are very likely to get a blank stare even from people who did their three degrees in the University, yes even those who spent at least eight years in the school getting their PhD and who have lectured for years. They mightn’t know what you were asking about.
William Ubong was the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union Government Uniben and an undergraduate in the department of Petroleum Engineering, who was stabbed to death in February 1997 during a General Assembly to discuss the latest increase in school fees. The SUG secretariat is named after him, however it is more popularly known as the June 12 building.
Anytime I pass by that building and see his name in small letters, I wonder about those who loved him and how their lives were changed by his death. I think about his family and his friends, his girlfriend(s) even, people for whom their lives would always be divided into before hearing the news of his death and after hearing the news.
Thousands of young Nigerians have died during protests and riots while demanding for a better country. Fela, Tai, Beko and Gani and several others, died still asking for the Nigeria that is possible with our gargantuan resources. It is obvious nothing has changed, nothing might change. Why should parents have to cry over corpses of children because they went on a futile, suicide mission?
A living dog is better than a dead lion – Ecc 9:4
In December 2017, the president of the SUG of Uniben Ogbidi Osamudiamen and four others were suspended for their role during a protest against an increase in school fees. The fees were still increased while these students had their academic lives in upheaval. Luckily they were recalled, in this age of social media getting away with oppressing students is harder for university authorities, thank God!
Today, the school fees are about four times what I paid in 2007 as a returning student. Facilities aren’t particularly better, sadly.
Anybody who wants to hold or support a revolution is very free to do so, but he or she should keep Nigerian youths out of their mouths. A certain Mr. Omoyele Sowore is currently still in detention for advocating for a better nation – he calls it a revolution; the government calls it treason.
This is a man who has an influential media outfit and has attracted international attention. Yet he is still locked up for illogical charges. Imagine if this was Segun from Abeokuta or Okiemute from Ughelli or Adamu from Yola, he’d be forgotten in two days. Only his family and his real Gees would worry still.
Where the hell is Dadiyata?
Please leave the youths to watch #BBNaija and trend housemates on social media and spend their life savings voting for them and making GoFundMe payments for Tacha. It is a more productive use of their time, money and energy.
“It is sometimes good to be brave and courageous, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of the fool and point at the ruins where a brave man used to live.” – Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God.
I’m listening to another Funmi Adams song – All We Need Is Love, the chorus haunts me – It talks about love and guidance being all the youths need to make their dreams come true. It is what I grew up believing, that dreams are attainable as long as you are willing to work hard, love what you do.
I feel very sorry for the current me who cannot afford such bright-eyed optimism about life in Nigeria. I want to hug this woman who has watched too many brilliant people/ideas/businesses get broken by a stupid change in government policy that were obviously never formulated with the interest of Nigerians at heart.
For every ‘successful’ person I know who has beaten the odds and made something of themselves, I know several more who have been beaten down by life in Nigeria, these people are practical examples of The Law of Diminishing Returns – despite their intensive hard work.
When people talk about how much potential there is in Nigeria and how much wealth is available for the picking, I wonder if they know just how privileged they are, just to be able to think that way. If they understand that for millions of Nigerians, the tools are absent for accessing these opportunities that they claim abound in Nigeria. For this multitude, these opportunities simply do not exist.
To be honest, if you can afford to have a smart phone and can access the internet even sporadically monthly, you are very privileged. The privileged class is crying too, twitter threads on emigrating from Nigeria are perfect for exercising the tear glands. You would definitely find something to cry about.
It breaks my heart to realise that this country, my only country – constantly tries to bury her best and brightest alive, if they let her. And with each passing day, the question of leaving this country had shifted away from Why? to When?
And now – What the fuck are you still doing in Nigeria?