Independence and an air crash By Tunji Adegboyega

This certainly is not the best of times for our beleaguered country. I had thought I was going to explain why I did not mention a word (in my last week’s column) about the country’s 53rd Independence anniversary held last Tuesday, today. I will still do that anyway, after which I would also say one or two things about the last air crash in the country which occurred on October 3.

Our country is one where more often than not, bad or ugly things keep recurring. Indeed, we can count on our finger tips the positive developments we have had even in the last five years whereas we can mention a litany of problems that the country has been wallowing in for decades, without recourse to any reference material. As a matter of fact, the dilemma I had when I was thinking of whether to write on the then impending Independence anniversary in my column last week or comment on the ‘One man, one term brouhaha’ that I eventually settled for, was if there was anything new to say by way of positive developments, even since October 1, last year, when we observed the last Independence anniversary.

I thought and thought, but could not find much to talk about. It was not as if the tenure controversy too was particularly new or refreshing; it was just a case of one having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. I mean it was more or less a case of head or tale, you lose. It is that bad. I was not proved wrong when I saw what the media were awash with on Tuesday; it was the same sad tales, except from government officials who keep deluding themselves that the country has been making some progress. Is it about electricity supply on which we have sunk, not billions of naira but billions of dollars without much result?

Or, is it about education, whether at the primary or tertiary level, that is comatose? Is it about healthcare that we can commend the government, when doctors are on strike as we speak, joining university teachers in their own strike which is now over three months old.

Now, when some of the people in government want to spoil your day, they tell you the problems did not start with President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Apparently they are the only ones who understand themselves and what they are saying because, as far as the rest of us are concerned, what we know is that there has been only one ruling party in the country since our return to civil rule on May 29, 1999, and that is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And we do not know the difference between the present government and that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who handed over to the late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria has been in the hands of the PDP for more than 14 years, with the changing never changing. And if it is changing at all, it is for the worst. From the ruling party it has been promises galore of El Dorado, a thing that even the greatest fool in the country knows will take eternity to materialise for as long as the country remains in the hands of the rudderless party.

And, as if to demonstrate that the country is truly rudderless, a plane bearing the remains of former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu lost its bearing and crashed barely a minute after take-off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos for Akure, the Ondo State capital, where an elaborate farewell programme had been prepared for him, barely 48 hours after our 53rd Independence anniversary.

Many people have said Dr Agagu, was a good man. If the comments had been coming only after his death, I would have dismissed them as a product of our culture which forbids talking ill of the dead. But I have heard those comments about him long before his demise, which somewhat confounds me as to what a person like him was doing in the PDP. Some members of the party are probably realising this fact and this might explain the intractable crisis in the fold. No matter how hard a goat tries, once it has settled for a dog as its best friend, chances are the goat will also find faeces aromatic and tantalising.

But in times like this, we are usually united by our common humanity. My heart pours out to the relatives of those who died in the crash. I pray that those who have so far survived would experience the miracle that would make their survival permanent. I particularly feel for the family of the undertakers’ undertaker, the M.I.C boss, Chief Tunji Okusanya and his son who both died in the tragedy.

For now, we have been told the usual story, the Federal Government has ordered a probe of the incident. Of course this followed the usual dirge from the government whenever we experience a thing like this. At the risk of repeating myself, what we require are not these well-written graveside orations but practical steps to make air crash a thing of the past in the country.

Will there ever be a time when we shall be truly independent? Our Old Citizens always recall with nostalgia the good old days of British rule. To many of them, Independence is meaningless because it has not improved our lives. It is either some people are throwing bombs on October 1 or government is spoiling the occasion by rehashing worn-out speeches of hope that end up bringing hopelessness. When will be out of all these? When? when?

Meanwhile, I leave you, dear reader, with these words of wisdom from someone I have great regard for. There can’t be a better epitaph in a time like this. “Life often enacts warnings of calamities and tragedies as integral to our living on the stage of time. Our flimsy minds always ignore these signs! We are thus caught in the iron claws of sorrow, pain and despair. But the meaninglessness of our living is that the pretty blue tent above suddenly bears the camouflage of piercing gloom. The soil of the earth ebbs under our feet and its fresh pit swallow us all with brutal greed, one by one. What are we doing here? Life’s vain. In the end, it seems we are mere meals for the worms of the earth! Fear Allah. Do all the good that you can for all you encounter so that you may sap sorrow and blossom in God’s comfort. May Allah preserve the inescapable end of each of us with love, dignity, and His mercy and compassion”.

I hope our leaders are listening.

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