Furrowed frowned faces
I had wanted to write on the misfortunes of Visionary Leaders in Troubled Times to highlight the challenges confronting some of the current leaders of Nigeria and Africa who had hitherto demonstrated visionary traits but are now worsted by the global economic meltdown. But looking at furrowed faces of many Nigerians, I thought it was better for me to challenge immortal Fela Anikulapo’s ‘Suffering and Smiling’.
Back then in 1977, Fela Anikulapo Kuti took a good look at his country men and women and observed that despite the huge suffering they were going through then, they still managed to put a smile on their faces. It was of course, satirical. The smile at that time was out of ignorance and idiotic helplessness. Now people are suffering and cursing!
It is serious suffering and provoked lamentations that have taken centre stage in the personal experience of virtually all Nigerians. Before I left Akure and Ekiti about two weeks ago, petrol was selling at 125 Naira per litre. On my way back to Ibadan my friend Professor Oluwole Osonubi took me to a Gas station where our drivers spent close to two hours to scrape some litres of petrol at 130 Naira per litre. But by the time I left Ibadan for my country home at Ago-Iwoye, I had experienced a frustrating regime of ‘no power, no petrol, no water’ and suffocating heat both in the day time and at night. I left with 150 Naira per litre petrol only to get to Ijebu and found that I had to cough up 200 Naira for each litre of petrol needed for my generator!
Little wonder then that majority of the faces found on the streets in Akure, Ibadan, Ijebu and Lagos were quite mournful and pitiable. Even if you managed to say ‘Hello!’ to passers-by, they hardly responded with any warmth. It is that bad.
We all know how we got here. We all know that we are the fifth largest producer and sixth largest exporter of crude oil in the world. We all know that at a point in time Nigeria was grossing 2.4 billion dollars every day from crude oil alone. We all know that at that point in time Nigeria was netting N3 billion per day from the combination of revenues from Customs and Excise, VAT, and sundry charges. We all know that about the same time, Liquid Gas was bringing to Nigeria about a billion dollars per day. Regrettably we all know that the bulk of these revenues were mismanaged, misappropriated or outrightly stolen by vultures in charge of our governments.
It is, therefore, not unexpected that Nigerians from all walks of life except the vultures with bulging stomachs and outrageously large lips, now go about raining curses on their country, all the past leaders and their collaborators, and unfortunately on the current leaders who are unlucky to have inherited a collapsed building!
Nigerians are wondering why the generation and distribution of ordinary electricity had eluded their leaders for generations. They simply cannot understand why Liberia and Senegal, two tiny countries less than the size of the city of Ibadan, have steady and uninterrupted supply of power and the so-called giant of Africa is in uninterrupted and steady supply of darkness. Nigerians are wondering why our refineries are not working and why we cannot refine enough for domestic consumption. Nigerians are wondering why all the opportunities their previous leaders had had to diversify the country’s economy were unutilized. They wonder aloud at beer joints why Nigeria remains a cursed country.
It is wondering and wondering and lamenting and lamenting. Couples are daily engaged in verbal wars. Parents are at loggerheads with their children and wards. Employers are in unending row with their employees. Salaries are not paid as when due and government leaders are at their wits end because solution is not in the air. Internally generated revenue is nearly impossible with collapsed businesses and unpaid salaries. Unemployment in Nigeria is about the highest in the world. Pensioners that have served their country diligently and honestly are now left in the lurch, going a-begging with their bent backs because their pensions, richly deserved, are not paid.
Is there a solution to this seemingly unending logjam? Are Nigerians not their own worst enemies? Is extreme profiteering not involved in the petroleum saga? Are Nigerians not adept at taking advantage of every national misfortune? Is it possible for any government to curb maddening excesses of the Nigerian animal? You watch the behaviour of some Nigerians and you wonder whether such exhibits are from the jungle or escapees from mental asylum!
Psychologists blame frustration, mass poverty, injustice, deprivation and desperation for the many maladies expressed in the characteristics of most Nigerians. Some also attribute the extremities of some Nigerians to helplessness and hopelessness. Nigerians have been driven to the wall by the gluttony and wickedness of their successive leaders and they are now at a point when their frayed nerves can burst!
The Buhari government has a herculean task to battle with. There is no time to waste at all. Nigeria is being confronted with two choices: immediate fix or bubble burst! It is not funny when citizens of a country are openly canvassing for a bloody revolution. It is not funny for a country if her citizens are openly calling for the dissolution of her union. It is not funny when citizens are stockpiling arms and ammunitions in anticipation of a civil or uncivil war. It is tragic when those who should take drastic action to prevent a total collapse of law and order are living in denial.
Armed robbers, kidnappers, ritual murderers and cultists have subjected the entire citizenry to perpetual fear and trepidation. So many bad things have descended on the land, and to borrow from Achebe, the country is no longer at ease. Fortunately, and that is the redeeming feature, Nigeria is awash with best brains and best minds in the world. But will the country beg them to constitute a most formidable Economic Team? Will Nigeria invite the best political engineers to help sort out the rot in our political structure?
Something as simple as setting up a Special Tribunal to deal with the known looters who brought Nigeria to her knees could not be done. Vultures are allowed to continue to taunt the rest of us. Can we now see why there are so many furrowed frowned faces in our streets and on our roads?
*Adeniyi, veteran journalist, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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