Collated commentaries on and around Nigeria seem to portray a nation waiting to implode. Brilliant Nigerian playwright and poet, Opeyemi Adedayo, in a poem Heritage of Lies, lashes out on what he considers to be the mindsets that cause our country’s failures; he attacks various corruptions and total drought of transparency in our government which, true this, are now being passed on to the next generation through a sort of genetic coding—in the womb. Our system is so warped that the conception and foundation of most sectors, whether private or public, are built on lies and deceits. Honesty is now only attributed to the fools and novices in our labour market. And the knowledge that honest workers are hardly ever patted on the back further slacks the employer–employee bond, irreparably. This marriage of employer lie and employee deceit forms the loft of distrust on which every corporation in Nigeria nestled.
Yet, our tragedies were designed by ourselves from the day we consider as normal every aberration detected in government. Perhaps we were too powerless to confront the government, but are we also incapable of forestalling its many romances with the private corporations, which go on to become our dooms? It’s on records that corporations, often publicly traded and regulated by local laws, offer bribes [or its semantic equivalence, grafts] to government functionaries to either facilitate the rendering of a substandard service unchallenged or to get away with the effect of having done that. At least we’re witnesses to the collective dishonour brought upon us citizens during the many bribery scandals that blew open our chicken-politicians’ rumps—from Halliburton and Siemens bribery scandals down through to the shams perfected by our customs officers at border posts on to internal corruptions institutionalised by our state and local government systems. Ours is a castle of corruption built by the very bricks of lies and deceits.
Venal capitalism and its proponents have fed fat on the corruptions in Nigeria; it has become a monster without a proper authority to cage and tame its excesses. This is the system in which Dana Airlines strove, and it is now graspable that a 22-year-old contraption with almost everything beggaring replacement was cleared to grovel above over 150 million people. When the stories of the Indian-owned mobile coffin taken for aircraft that crashed last Sunday with 153 passengers on board began to take a space on our conscience, it only justified my fear for Nigeria. It only went to prove the dreaded heritage—of lies and corruptions in the authorities concerned, the corporations who cashed on the slack oversight and the consumers who are already “accustomed” to deplorable service—for in the midst of this argument, none of this ternary is exonerated from taking a boot over what befell Dana Air Flight 0992.
Honesty has since been compromised in our polity. Of course we knew the danger when we offered bribes to our customs officers just to smuggle fake or substandard products into the country; we knew the danger when we offered bribes to lecturers in our tertiary schools just to scale through as professional of an apparently impracticable profession; we knew the danger when corruptions produced unsound and half-trained doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, aviators, you name it; we knew the danger when our aviation authorities were compromised by years of ‘mutual understanding’—whatever that worst form of government-capitalist countersign means to you—with the management of Dana Air, such that a pathetically faulty plane, nay coffin, made it to the sky, above a population of indolent grumblers as diverse as ours.
Yet we are suddenly surprised when the latent, rationalised dangers eventually manifests? It’s unfortunate that our authorities are so compromised that a capitalist Dana—whose entrepreneurial aim is solely translation of anything, honest or fraudulent, into profits—could order a carrier of death up on our sky with no concern for our welfare, our very humanity! Yes, how can we be surprised???
A friend of mine who flew aboard the crashed Dana plane just two days to Black Sunday put her shame thus: “We crawled in the air for 1 hour and 20 minutes for a flight of 45 minutes. And the air-conditioner kept dripping water all through that we joked that it was raining in the plane”. Typical Nigerian, we are so accustomed to poor services detrimental to our existence that we don’t see a thing wrong with a 35-minute delay, we don’t see a thing wrong with an air-conditioner dripping water. Imagine what their protest would have forestalled? But they saw the dramatic growling of the sick aircraft as fun; it was all in the Nigerian manner. Some weeks ago, I listened to a recorded sermon by the now notorious spokesperson of the Boko Haram, Imam Shekau. It was rendered many years before they became a newspaper and real-life threat and his ultimatum to Nigeria blared through microphones, heard by an entire neighbourhood and it was even recorded and sold at CD stores and markets, yet our secret service still lied that the insurgency hit them unawares!
This may be wicked to say, but the Dana plane crash became a “monumental national tragedy” only because it affected a large number of the middle-class elements and still bears death for more. The disparity between the poor and some elements of the middleclass was on play even in the media reportage of the plane crash where the identity of the non-passenger victims, the poor and unfortunate residents of the Lagos suburb, was considered unworthy for print. Just because they didn’t belong in a cycle of whatever makes an “important” Nigerian. Despite everything, our fate is grim in the palms of a president whose only achievement so far, as widely observed, is the mastery of condolences. If Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is actually sympathetic as his sobbing at Iju-Ishaga, the site of the plane crash, gave away, why wasn’t that sympathy shown on the killing of innocent protesters during the fuel subsidy protests?
By Gimba Kakanda
Twitter handle: @gimbakakanda
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