Michael O. Ogunjobi: This Bitter Change

A cursory look at the state of our polity barely a year after the ‘Change’ revolution ushered in by the 2015 General Elections brings to the fore the tortuous path trodden, like a ‘Long Walk To Freedom’. The plight of the average Nigerian can be best captured in these lines of the late renowned poet Kofi Awoonor, a casualty of the terrorist attack by al-Shabaab militants at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on September 21st, 2013 in his poem- ‘Songs of Sorrow’-

‘My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me

If I turn there the sun burns me

The firewood of this world

Is for only those who can take heart

That is why not all can gather it.

The world is not good for anybody

But you are so happy with your fate;

Alas! The travelers are back

All covered with debt.’

Despite hallowed economic and political problems in our fatherland, emphasis has to be laid on the impact on the average Nigerian.  The hash tag #Bringbackourcorruption is already trending on social media platforms. We do not need to order for copies of- “A Commonsense Revolution” by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce from USA to decipher that times are hard. Obviously, our law makers don’t feel the heat since they can afford exotic cars which cannot be used in their constituencies due to the deplorable state of roads.

Education has lost its ‘nullus secondus’ status to entrepreneurship and skills acquisition. University graduates now make life unbearable for Secondary School Certificate Examination holders, taking all available employment opportunities meant for the latter, despite impressive class of degrees. Even National Youth Service Corps is hapless trying to convince State Governors on the need to pay up debts owed corps members. These enthusiastic youths are awakened, post their aluta years having scaled through the hurdle of Academic Staff Union of Universities’ incessant strikes, the only bane they know, to confront the reality of being rejected at the Place of Primary Assignment where they are meant to engage in their mandatory one year youth service. Having read the tongue-in-cheek love notes of the ruling party- All Progressives Congress and the litany of ‘what they cannot do’ incorporated in their manifesto, the hope of these youths for a stipend of #5,000(Five Thousand Naira) to make up for NYSC monthly allowance of #19,800(Nineteen Thousand, Eight Hundred Naira) which ceases upon completion of youth service had only recently been truncated. Yet their parents are expecting to repay debts incurred during their schooling years when they eventually get the ‘white collar jobs’(sic) now turn mirage.

Of course, they hope to teach their children the nursery rhyme- ‘On My Honour/ As A Scholar/ I Will Do My Best…’. Indeed, they are heroes, turn unsung ‘awaiting future leaders’. Tomorrow seem non-forthcoming. Even to afford garri, sachet water, and kerosene to prepare eba have become ‘mission impossible’, how much more pay utility bills or buy fuel for ‘I beta pass my neighbour generator’. The barometer with which we measure the quality and quantity of happiness of the average Nigerian is nothing but the ‘e go beta’ idiosyncrasy, due to our religious dispositions. Marriages are no longer celebrated, due to bride price palava, yet there are numerous breakups. Criminal acts like rape, kidnapping, ritual killing, amongst others are on the increase.

With numerous virus making waves globally, our medical doctors are groaning. Who bears the brunt- the masses dying of malaria or their leaders going abroad for medical checkup? Our idle youths have become the devil’s entrepreneurs. Our streets are now flooded with depressed souls adopting various strategies to beg, ranging from ‘selling Jesus’; some clad in white asking that you honour Osun, the Yoruba Goddess of River with alms; some unemployed yet sharing fliers of ‘Job Vacancies’; some harassing you with their pitiful look of ‘who will buy my wares?’.

Of note, the least migraine the average Nigerian hopes not to bother about at this stage is an outbreak of epidemics. Sunday July 20, 2014 was the day the nation’s Ebola patient “zero”, or index (first) case – the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, imported the Ebola virus into Nigeria.
The aftermath of this was the emergence of a heroine, Late Dr. (Mrs.) Ameyo Stella Adadevoh. There is the cliché- “what goes around comes around”. Most times, this has a negative connotation. In the advent of alien ailments like zika virus, laser fever, ebola, and with the hope that the list is not endless, trending globally, no doubt HIV/AIDS will feel slighted, bemoaning its ill fate. There is no gainsaying that our local herbs have so far not led up to expectations. Or rather, we have forsaken the less trodden path of our ancestors.

Of course, we live in an e-world. Our e-mentality condemns our forebears’ ‘once upon a time’ crude ways of doing things. The outcome is that today, different continents of the world now confront peculiar calamities. Third world countries are groaning over sit tight syndrome of political office holders, corruption as canker worm to development, poverty, insurgency, unemployment, underemployment etc. Whereas the ‘G this and that’ are groaning with nuclear weapons rivalry, curtailing immigration, ammunition control, drug abuse, natural disasters, amongst others. Different strokes for different folks indeed! While the latter relish their domineering status, the former is united in resisting suppression.

Despite these variant priorities, mankind is unanimous in this trying moment to combat the menace of alien epidemics which is the prime problem bedeviling global serenity. Concerted efforts are being made by various nations of the world and international organizations. Our fatherland must not be found wanting!

Today, the many sins of Former President Goodluck Jonathan which is being propagated by the various modules of the media like the ‘Good News’, confirms the saying that the fulcrum of greatness is acceding that ‘the buck stops with the leader’. The ruling party have remarkably polluted the minds of the populace by emphasizing shortfalls of their predecessor, but unmindful of the trite point that ‘power does not last forever!’. This has raised a curtain on the culture of ‘yellow journalism’, where the media traffic in salacious fare in an effort to gain readers.

No doubt, there are so many questions begging for answers. Things cannot continue this way, while we claim to channel all our energy towards combatting corruption. Can we continue to suppress ethnic agitations in this tense state of affairs? It seems impossible just as telling a devout mother to dispose the remnant garri she has been preserving for supper simply because she saw a rat drawing ‘X AND O lines’ on same!

Having been compelled by fate to thread the path of ‘Change’ with the All Progressive Congress, how long can we rest on the thin rope of hope, awaiting when the average Nigerian will say, in the words of the poet, ROBERT FROST in ‘THE ROAD NOT TAKEN’– “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference”?

The Federal Government of Nigeria must vigorously pursue policies aimed at liberalization of the Nigerian Economy with alacrity. Nigeria operates a federal system of government, and each tier of government adopts its own fiscal policy without proper coordination. Consequently, resources are not properly coordinated and purposefully deployed to projects with specific macro-economic goals, resulting in macroeconomic instability. There is need for strong legal sanctions where money is being spent outside the purpose it is appropriated for. The moral tone of the society must also be raised by all and sundry. Concerted efforts should be made to remove socio-economic injustices, imbalances and inequities in the society, alleviate the suffering of the people and provide job opportunities for the right atmosphere for genuine business and investment to thrive. A re-orientation in our sense of values is very necessary, starting from the highest echelons of society downwards. However, all of these will make no sense to the average Nigerian until he/she can afford the basic necessities of life.

*Michael O. Ogunjobi writes from Lagos.

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates