The siren of rats leaping off a sinking ship
Nigeria is a canvass of conflicting and colliding counter narratives. A narrative of disrepair and dilapidation occupies one hand: a country where only dysfunction functions in a nauseatingly familiar fable. Two packs a punch on the other hand with home, heart and hope weaving a taut narrative threaded together by the familiar tropes of patriotism, pride and plenty.
For many Nigerians and Africans, home is where the heart is. For many Nigerian hearts, scorched by the drought at home, home is in the West. The one here has become a strange land. Those who journey to the West bear back news that life is all bliss and beauty there compared to the beast it is here.
They are hardly only talebearers, though. They often spend enough money when they come back, many thanks to the inferiority of our currency. So they lure impressionable into lather. They make them feverish, eager to leave the country, in search of greener pastures or its illusion as has been the case in many instances.
But what is it that makes this home so unbearable for Nigeria’s young? What is it that parches their throats so severely, making them pant after foreign fountains? Here, history has a confection for its ardent students.
An invidious degeneration of values and vision has swept the land for many years, breaching intergenerational boundaries and breaking down monuments hitherto erected to rectitude.
This epic degeneration has seen previously immovable consciences dive from dais to dungeon, and matters of previously inviolable heft suddenly weigh less than feathers. To supervise this savagery of national pride and prizes has been a select clutch of aged and aging kingmakers bonded by a kinship of kleptocracy.
Their death grips on the levers of power and the ladders to the hayloft means that while themselves and their cronies have been fattened from the public purse, Nigerians have known famine’s arctic face. Young Nigerians fatally starved of hope and opportunities have seen their last reserves of national pride and patriotism exhausted.
So Libya calls as loudly as Lebanon, Laos, Lesotho and Lithuania. They are told that in those countries, the streets are paved with gold; that the police force is proactive; that the courts are fast; that the government is transparent; that infrastructure is dependable; that citizens are content, and immigrants are comfortable.
To risk the rat race, they convince themselves that a fool’s gold is incomparable to a wooden spoon. So they flee the living death here: Boko Haram, corruption, nepotism. They set sail for other countries, selling all that is Nigerian in them except our nebulous nakedness.
Some end up making success stories. Others make grotesque corpses or form the cast in really gory stories. So Nigeria is haunted by the emptiness left by the exodus of those who should man her gates, build her walls and sing her songs, and the dearth and death of those who should bear her aloft on their shoulders.
The country also makes gainful game for the state security services of other countries who have fun playing with Nigerians already cast as crude criminals in the pervasive politics of international publicity.
The country is the worse for it. A permanent backseat in the comity of nations cannot flatter any country that treats grave national issues with gravitas. Every year, brain drain is lamented but nothing is done to occlude its many channels. Instead, more paths are opened for it by our dysfunctional education, surging corruption and a government that mouths light but means darkness.
A national disillusionment has been institutionalised and a country is on edge, swarmed by those whose mentalities have been invaded by the locusts of unaccountable plunder. Many Nigerians cannot wait to be within touching distance of the national cake, in any form. Already sharpened knives have long been readied.
At each station of this traffic of Nigerians and Nigerian misery to the uncertainties of Western capitals, slavery recedes behind shades and shadows to reinvent itself. By a stunning sorcery of disguise and improvisation, it survives the scorching torrent of words and actions.
It has proved itself deathless, its immortality reinforced by human greed and dereliction. It has refused to relent. Its march through generations has been as much mental as it has been physical. Entire societies are shackled by slavery; for many of them, ignorance would have been bliss but for its cost and boisterousness.
At the height of the slave trade, family members sold each other off, preferring the ties of money to the bonds of family. The whole business stank of the force funneled into it. The reinvention of slavery engages different dynamics: parents sell everything to send their children off; people of means pay through their noses to go through. Belief burns in each heart that the journey will be fruitful.
The reinvented mechanics of modern slavery is oiled with cheers; not the tears that the chains drew many years ago. Nigeria and Africa have been played in international politics by modern slave dealers jangling reinvented chains. Aid, however it comes, is the strongest link in this chain.
These modern slave dealers lay the pipes of brain drain and tell our young of lands where water is free. In those lands, water is as free as air until the allured lands. Things then change with the speed of light.
In most cases, Nigeria is reluctant to intervene because of the delicacies of diplomacy but mostly because of the lack of political will to halt the madness. Things must change in Nigeria. These trails of terror which turn into the termites that take away our treasures must now be truncated.
Opportunities must be created here at home and the system sanitised. The floodgates of conversations about everything that aches us must be torn open so that at the table of rank talk and abundant opportunities, the banquet that Nigeria so rightly and richly deserves can begin, superintended by those who can no longer only remain leaders of tomorrow but must become the leaders of today.
Obiezu wrote from Abuja.
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