Thursday, January 15, 2009

Futility of Wishes

If wishes were horses, beggars, they say, would ride. But in the light of the barrage of good wishes exchanged in Nigeria during the last Christmas and New Year, we could give this aphorism the magic touch of Nigeria and say instead: if wishes horses, Nigeria would have become a better place by now. Our ingenuity in couching beautiful goodwill messages is unmatchable. Check out this beautiful New Year message which a bosom friend sent to me at the dawn of the New Year: “10 good wishes in this New Year: joy unspeakable, love, affection, peace now and always, favour, promotion, good health, break-through, victory, anointing for excellence”.
In principle, nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong with exchange of good wishes and messages. But the only reason why we are perturbed by the sanctimonious wishes and message crisscrossing Nigeria is that they sometimes reveal the new disease ravaging the land-pseudo-religiousity mixed with superstition and voodoo, or better put, the new paganism. You see, the old pagan oracles, shrines, diviners and futurologists might have disappeared quite aright in some places in Nigeria, but they have been replaced by the new paganism which always harps on material prosperity, financial breakthroughs, supermarket Christianity etc. That is why any small boy who manages to erect a sign board with the inscription: miracle, is sure to harvest dozens of gullible women who will start following him and start calling him their everything. Somebody should write a book on the new paganism in Nigeria . We revel in high superstition too. Look at the massacre of Akwa Ibom children well over 132 years after Mary Slessor stopped the killing of twins in Calabar. Also look at the new wave of strange belief sweeping across town now. Before you were warned not to shake the hands of passers-by in the streets otherwise your thing will disappear. With the enforcement of the okada helmet regulation today, many okada passengers have simply refused to wear the crash helmet in the strong belief that the okada rider had secretly planted wicked juju inside it which will make them to instantly disappear with the okada rider. Who will redeem us from superstition and strange beliefs? Maybe that is why we are the happiest people in the world, albeit it is doubtful whether it is real joy or just the happiness of someone intoxicated by alcohol or the happiness of a madman.
Whichever is it, the important thing is that we are a happy people. Isn’t? Therefore as we happily cruise into 2009 we have to remind ourselves that no new year comes with an already-made bounties or new lease of life. Nobody reaps where he did not sow: having failed to work hard in 2008, what right do we have to expect a bounteous harvest in 2009? If there were no plans in 2008 to create jobs for our hapless young graduates, why do we hope for a better employment opportunities for them in 2009?. If the Governing Councils of Federal Universities have not been appointed, what right do we have to expect a smooth academic program in the affected Universities in 2009? If the whole nation is virtually in darkness right now owing to intractable power failure, how can the citizens be productive in their respective homes and offices in 2009?. You can go on spewing out these posers ad inifinitum
That is why I join other commentators in begging President Yar’Adua to sit up in this 2009. Nigeria is drifting before our very eyes. Only a fool thinks otherwise. Granted, what Chief Obafemi Awolowo termed a mere geographical expression may still be standing, but the spirit of the nation is almost dead. Our only alternative at the moment is to arrest the deteriorating human condition in Nigeria . Reveling in New Year wishful thinking, flowering speeches, misguided religious doctrine of predestination, or participating in Alice Wonderland fantasy games, will not solve the problem. The miracle we need in Nigeria urgently is the miracle of putting our human intelligence to work to make to improve the well being of our fellow human beings. This is what Governor Fashola is ingenuously doing in Lagos State . You see, God has created us and given us Will, freedom and intelligence. That is why we human beings have thinking faculty, hands and legs. God has no reason to work miracles to solve small human problems in Nigeria that have not surpassed our human intelligence. For example, the reconstruction of the Benin-Ore road has not surpassed our human intelligence for us to expect God to work miracle and fix the road. Since the former Minster of Works went to the road to weep, nothing has happened to the busy expressway except that several Nigerians were gruesomely killed in several ghastly motor accidents there at the last Christmas owing to the bad condition of the road.
We are in a critical period in the history of our country, the grinding global financial crisis notwithstanding. The human condition in Nigeria has been deteriorating calamitously over the years. It was Lyman Bryson who once said that great citizens are built when their leaders dare to let them use their minds, when the State helps them to know the competing choices open to them, preserving for them the essential democratic, which seeks the truths by its own efforts. But the opposite of what Bryson said is happening in Nigeria at the moment. To begin with, you can hardly use your mind well in the afternoon because you haven’t slept well at night owing to the suffocating heat. When you hit the road to ward off the frustration, a uniformed road merchant dashes out from nowhere and signals you to an abrupt stop. He may end up extorting money from you under one flimsy excuse or another. Upon reflection it dawns on you that governance at the federal level is in abeyance. The great disconnect between the people and the federal government keeps widening day in day out. Many sick Nigerians are desperately fleeing to India and other countries in search of improved health-care facility. The paradox is that many of these hospitals abroad are staffed by well-trained Nigerian medical doctors. Here our medical doctors are always on strike for one thing or the other. Although Nigerian lawyers are yet to go on strike, but as at the time of writing the gates of most High Courts and Magistrate Courts in the country were still under grid lock owing to the strangulating strike of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN). Just think about it: the judiciary, a veritable third arm of government, going on strike. The painful aspect is that the matter is hardly discussed in bigger circles. Somehow we are now used to oddities. We have lost our humanity. That is why a dead human body may be lying in the middle of the road and no road-user raises an eyebrow or expresses ordinary human sympathy.
Certainly we cannot continue to live like this. First: the people must regain their humanity. Second: government must live up to expectation a little bit. Nobody expects a big transformation of Nigeria overnight. We appreciate the enormous problems. We equally appreciate that the problems are overwhelming. We also appreciate that some of our political office holders are not so gifted to tackle the problems. But there is one thing they can do: they can remain focused in solving little problems which improve the life of the ordinary man in the street. Playing the Ostrich under an amorphous 7-Point Agenda is not the solution. No pseudo-rationalization, preaching or other forms of escapism will solve the problem either. For a vast majority of Nigerians, the biggest problem in Nigeria at the moment is the energy crisis. So let the Yar’Adua government fix our electricity. We have just been told that N6 billion has been budgeted to run the electricity generating sets of the Presidency, other federal Ministries etc. We also hear that while the country’s roads and public infrastructure are broken down from head to toe, a staggering N47 billion had been returned to the treasury. You can see the way we are: we like sharing the money, but not solving the real problem.
In sum, we need more men to put their intelligence to work in 2009. That is God’s miracle for us in Nigeria . We are tired of listening to flowery speeches. Now we want more action. Faith without works is a dead faith. New Year wishes not backed up by sustained hard work are useless.
Welcome to 2009.