Making Nigeria’s incredible reality believable
Nigeria is a poor country. It has been a poor country since independence. That is why a study of the party political manifestos and the speeches of military-enter-politics for the first time shows an abundance of promises. The civilian leaders said they would make life more abundant for the people of the country. A few years into the civilian attempt the soldiers claimed that the civilians had failed to make life abundant and they would now do it. With immediate effect. With instant alacrity. It turned out they too were bluffing. No uniform is needed to make life more abundant for the poor people of Nigeria.
In the new dawn of 1999, with a costume made of lace and military fatigue, fiction was sold as fact. Ignorant Ministry of Information persons conjured up dates on which Nigeria would become the biggest economy in the world. By 2010 Nigeria would lead the world in economic growth. No, not 2010. By 2020 Nigeria would send people to the Moon and they would stop over on Mars to answer the call of nature!
They seem to have tired of this game of naming dates for impossible achievements already. Now, the politicians dance and sing to amuse the poor people of Nigeria. They build-to-abandon structures, abiku hospitals and health centres, water projects destined to work for one day and thereafter die the death of abandonment. And if and when they must go to the voters, they buy the votes needed.
Holidays are declared so civil servants can go and get their voters’ cards. And the rumours had it that party representatives were there to buy the cards off the voters straight away. Sell now, smile later. A Senator once berated journalists for questioning her performance in the Senate. It was nobody’s business. She could do what she liked with what she bought. There, the questioning died down.
Along the highways into and out of our towns and cities, young men and young women, from the ages of six to thirty-six, carry junk to sell to motorists plus pure water! Plantain chips, how many weeks old? Forced-ripe bananas looking sickly yellow. Bread suffocated in nylon bags for days. Vegetable picked from among the toiletries of the highway. And boiled corn cooked in dubious water. Hundreds of youngsters would roam, run, sprint with these items and more without selling ten naira worth in one day.
In the mean time someone or two are filling the pot holes on the roads with laterite collected from the side of the road and stopping road users to donate money to them. How does laterite replace the tarred road that has degenerated? And poor Nigerians do give them money. Better than begging, they say. Over there, on some rock outcrop renamed the mountain of miracles and instant healing, can be seen, on a Monday morning, customers dutifully ordering God to do their miracles immediately and their healing at once simply because they have prayed in the name of Jesus. Just like that.
On the other side of the mountain, a well dressed prophet-pastor lands from his Rolls Royce and stands on a red carpet three feet square. He waits here and greets and meets his ragged congregation who had come to see him off to his hundredth pilgrimage to Jerusalem to walk on the very footsteps of the Son of God. And here the ladder to his sixth private jet meets him and he enters the aircraft.
Somewhere in Ile-Ife, that cradle of the Yoruba, cars, minibuses, big omnibuses, bicycles, okadas, waka jugbe people and a Rolls Royce struggle to make their way some where, some how, some time without doing damage to themselves and their means of mobility.Take any roundabout in Ibadan or Lagos and take a census of the beggars. Take a measure of their begging pitch. Especially as you wait for the red light to changed to green. Or the latest traffic knot to unfold. You are harassed with the story of a mother, bundled over there, needing money for an operation and please do not let her die leaving us orphans with nobody to care for us. . . and the red light changes to green and the voice pursues you with a monumental hiss!
How does a writer make these incredible reality believable? The lyrics of our musicians speak of the political and economic elite. “Roles roll to your turn. Roles roll to your turn. You play the roles. You take them up. Because if the role rolls to me. If the role rolls to my turn o. I will take it up o. I will take it.” This was played at the launch of a governorship campaign. The president was there. The party leaders were there. Other governors were there just as the candidate and his deputy were there.
The candidate put his corpulent body into paroxysms for the campaign rally. That, we were told, was the extent of his campaign speech. Another song says: “Full to bursting is my belly. I say my belly is full to bursting. I know not if there are people with nothing to eat. Full to bursting is my belly.” And as they danced to the rhythm of the drums and percussions, mint condition currency notes come out of voluminous agbadas, and the spraying begins. It is a continuous sending out of notes after currency notes, beating those attempting to pick them up as they descend to the granite red carpeted dancing floor.
Outsiders are telling us now that come 2050 forty percent of Africa’s poor will live in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And as most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is forest and mines, most of that forty percent will live in Nigeria.How does the writer of fiction make this reality believable enough for someone to do something to make it change, to make sure it does not happen like it is predicted?
Fiction cannot live with this reality because fiction needs hope. This reality is bare of hope. Look around you, nothing is being done to make the situation better, to make life more abundant for the poor. Nothing. And fiction cannot simply enumerate poverty. That would not be fiction. Fiction must be able to say that one day when the poor have nothing to eat, they would eat the rich, without putting in that manner. Saying that a word is enough for the wise is a waste of time and word. The political and economic elite in Nigeria today is not wise. It is stupid.