STATE OF THE NATION by Muyis Adepoju

Our challenges through

Through a blockade of shoulders, Timi gently props herself up on her toes and calls out to the vendor in a tiny voice that cuts through the cacophony of voices. The vendor hears, looks up and smiles at his only female customer; one of the few that actually buys and hurries to give her the usual. While at it, he takes a friendly swipe at the men that are feverishly glancing at the different headlines on the dailies; jokingly threatening them that if they touch any one of the newspapers, they will pay for it. Each one returns his threat with an equally friendly banter as best he can and the place gets louder.

It is eight on a Monday morning. She looks around after folding the newspaper neatly and walks to the kiosk that is directly opposite the newsstand in a leisurely manner. She sits down at the far end of the kiosk after mingling through a hoard of bodies that are already having breakfast. The kiosk is stuffy with thick smell of boiling liquids and solids. She proceeds to fan herself with the newspaper.

This has been her Monday routine for two months now after her suspension from work. The suspension was supposed to last for three weeks according to the bank’s disciplinary committee but it’s the third month now. A senior colleague told her to look for another job while on her suspension and she had laughed. That was two weeks into her suspension. This is the third month and they are still at it.

Events in the country mirror her own. In all aspects of the country’s endeavors, total chaos is the order of the day. It is a perfect example of motion without action. Citizens that have taken solace in sport achievements rather than the government’s achievements were given another shocker of their life when the national soccer team failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) football tournament over the weekend. The Academic Staff Union of the universities (ASUU) just announced that they will be going on an indefinite strike action to show the students and their parents, never the government, their grievances. The economy is in shambles as the apex bank tries to redeem the old glory by axing the licenses of some banks that are not healthy enough to continue the race to Utopia. Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is still trying to wake up from an apparent slumber that was passed on to them by their predecessors, thereby being unable to generate power for themselves and the country. Unemployment index is at an all time high and the federal government has just been christened ‘Clueless’ as they keep embarking on white elephant projects that are in the real sense needless and unprofitable to a nation with a rapidly depleting local and foreign reserves. And corruption continues to flow in the veins of the politicians as they are becoming more daring in their bid to run the country aground. Above all, insecurity reigns as armed militia with various names trail these politicians up and down the country while innocent citizens are rewarded with stray bullets for being at the right place at the wrong time. Taking a cue from the government’s cluelessness in not being able to apprehend them but sometimes reward them for their notoriety, these groups of armed militia are getting bolder in their mode of operation. Recently, the United Nation (UN) office in the capital city was bombed. Before that, bombs had been detonated in some other parts of the country. The fear of these notorious groups is gradually becoming the beginning of wisdom. And the federal government recently proved this prognosis correct by declaring that the nation’s fifty-one year anniversary would be an in-door activity, citing insecurity as the main reason. The latest burden the hapless citizens will have to carry is the removal of fuel subsidy. What this means to the average Nigerian is simple. The already high price of a litre of fuel is about to be increased by a hundred fold. It is their new year gift from the government.

In response to all these anomalies, the citizens are imploding. Left at the mercy of private corporations who incessantly rape them without any form of protection from the consumer protection agencies and the price regulatory bodies, the average Nigerian is a walking zombie; a dried-up husks of hopelessness.

Timi glances at her wrist-watch absentmindedly and looks up to find her friend entering. She smiles despite herself. About two weeks ago at the vendor’s, she had been surprised by a young man who begged her to let him make a photocopy of the classified section of the newspaper she had just bought. She was taken aback at first by the request. But after the illegal duplication at a nearby business center, she finally found her voice and told the young jobless graduate that he could come to her place and read the newspaper. But he had politely declined explaining to her that he was taking the photocopies to a group of friends who are as jobless as he is. Each weekday, one of the jobless friends will wait at the vendor’s and look for a buyer who is approachable, usually but not always a female. He will then make his harmless demand. He was on duty that day. He has been on duty since that day. It was not hard to convince his friends to let him do them the honor of getting them the daily newspaper. In return, he gets to see his love every morning.

But there will not be a photocopying session today. He is taking her to the ‘official residence’ of the group. Two of the friends just got employed. The others are celebrating their first day at work this morning. Today, she will be officially inducted as a member. And perhaps, she will get a new job soon. Perhaps.

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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