At an evening of conversations with media men and art enthusiasts which took place last Wednesday at Jazzhole, Ikoyi, as part of activities lined up to commemorate the 70th birthday of Professor Bankole Omotoso, the short story writer, novelist, dramatist, critic, actor, biographer of Nigeria, founding General Secretary and a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), seized the opportunity, to open up on reasons for his relocation abroad which he said was as a result of the social realities of the country.
Omotosho in this regard, opined that the Nigerian situation can best be described as ‘dislocation’, leaving him with the choice of relocation even when it was a difficult decision for him as a writer.
One of the issues that bothered him was non availability of electricity which has forced Nigerians into dependence on generators and as such, speaks volume of the people’s readiness to turn emergency measures into a way of life.
“Where there is no electricity, there’s no way I would come back to Nigeria. For me, it just doesn’t make sense. How can a government be budgeting for generators? And we all sit down and accept it. One thing I can live with is when one-night stand becomes recognizable as a wedding.
How do you have successful politicians in an unsuccessful country? For me it was not easy to leave this country. I had offers and temptations to stay.” Making known his unwavering commitment to social change through what looked like a 7 point agenda which he said corresponds to his 70 years on earth, the critic expressed concern on the lackadaisical approach towards war against corruption in Nigeria with particular reference to a situation whereby public servants with good record of integrity involve themselves with the already polluted business of governance.
On the planned sale of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos by the Federal government, Omotosho lamented that the theatre is not the only legacy of Nigerians that had been mortgaged but frowned at how Nigerians show so much care free attitude to the decayed system. According to him, in “Okonjo-Iweala’s book, Reforming the Unreformable, she made this submission that the Nigerian civil service is unreformable.
It cannot be reformed and it will not allow itself to be reformed. The Port Authority and anything that has to do with import and export cannot be reformed. But Okonjo-Iweala is back as Minister of Finance. Will she be able to reform the wreck that is or just sit back to enjoy the fruit of the gang?”
He further noted that, “It is impossible in Nigeria to punish corruption. It has got so powerful that it has become the system. When you look at the issue of dislocation in Nigeria, you have to look at the issue of abandoned projects. How does the government abandon 40,000 projects in a period of 20years? About 6 months ago, it was discovered that the federal government has about 500 containers abandoned along with their content. The abandoned projects include schools, bridges, roads”.
“This joke is made about South Africa but I think it is more relevant to Nigeria. It is said that South Africa has a great future behind it. We can say that Nigeria has a great future behind it. If you look at some of the unrealistic dreams of Nigeria becoming one of the leading economies in 2020, you will see that the calendar does not care about what you expect. It keeps on counting. So in a situation where you are not doing anything differently but you are expecting a different result, that means vanity and insanity,” he said.
Rather than sit down and watch the system decay further, Omotosho disclosed that his recent work asks several mind boggling questions that Africans need to be asking at the moment.
“In my novel that would be published soon, there is a driver that is given the task of taking 30 mentally ill patients from a provincial hospital to the state capital. A former minister in the British government had once looked at the possibility of mental illness and political power. That’s one area that we have never bothered to look at”, he said, stressing that, “One of the things I do with my writing is to link artistic purpose to political purpose.”
He tasked Nigerians to engage the government on accountability, transparency and integrity in governance.