Introduction: a call to new way in Nigeria

In this DIAGNOSIS the individual is the guinea pig…

If you are within the age bracket of twenty and forty five and you are a Nigerian, then you need to perform a very urgent ritual in soul searching. The process is simple. Just get home or find a spot where distraction is minimal, where the hound of daily activities and events are cut off, where you could be really alone with your thoughts. Then think about yourself, about your wife if you have, about your kids if you have, about your friends, about your activities for the day, about your work, about your school, about the little encounters you had on the road, about the last thing you heard on tv or radio, about what you just read on the papers, about the next 5 years, about the next 20 years. At this point, I expect that your mind would have suffered a jolt of agitation at the howling passivity with which your life to this point has been led.

What have you been doing with your life? What has the society, the Nigerian society been doing with your life? What meaning can you at this point ascribe to your life, beyond the often hazy strands of plans and prospects to which you have absolutely no control? Maybe your particular circumstance is not as dire as that of the beggar that stared hollowly at you at the traffic, neither are you as desperate as the little girl tearfully gathering her panties after suffering indignities from a patronizing avuncular. The clear wretchedness of that little lad, carrying a pan of ‘pure water’ on her head could be lost upon you. Because you have a job, because you are educated, because you live beyond the biting exigencies of everyday existence, you may not fully grasp the hollowness that plagues a whopping 90% of the Nigerian population. Do you think as some people do, that you are summarily insulated from these hard realities because your particular circumstances are somewhat better? Can you not hear the yell emanating from the cauldron in which the bitter rancorous soup of social unrest is gradually being brewed to cataclysmic point? Can you not hear it: the youth yawning hungrily under the oshodi bridge, the ‘almajiri’ gazing at passing cars with eerie look of hatred,  the child-whore staring at the lewd face of the next pot belly, the soldier doing his round while wondering at how much ‘call to service’ has metamorphosed,  the hushed whisper greeting each report of bomb blast, the shrill wail as another isolated village falls under the blade of ethnic hatred, a headless body being lowered into the lagoon, a president seeming clueless as a great nation assimilates shock after shock of horrid tales of violence and fear.

I do not pretend to be fully sensitive to these issues in an uninterrupted sequence, but I recommend that we take time off periodically, everyday to really see that our country needs an urgent revaluation, a u-turn, a fundamental change in direction.

 I was in Enugu, at a cinema, with my friends and family. The hall was dark, the environment was serene. At intervals, in reaction to the movie on the screen, the audience clapped or screamed and relaxed back again to an almost studied silence. You know a typical cinema hall. In the midst of that, a thought came into my head…bomb! I was startled. The thought was foreign to me. How did it come to this? How come the idea of a bomb blast could intrude, steal its way into my consciousness at this time and as a proximate possibility to which I was immediately compelled to spare a thought? I was not thinking about the possibility of a snake crawling into the dark hall, or of someone pilfering my phone. My thought was rather of something latently defining evil per excellence; a touch of terror amplified by the grandiosity of its potential to harm. The imagery was sinister: a silhouette of a man, stealing quietly into the dark hall, dropping a seemingly harmless baggage by the corner and stealing away, then the expected aftermath, charred bodies mixed with rubble, the belated agitation of the security apparatuses, the hushed shock of bystanders, the weak whimper of a president trying ineffectually to lift the spirit of a dejected nation. For a country, founded on a wave of great optimism, a cynosure for a while to the world, to be in this state, at this point, on its fourth try at democracy, we all, the people of my generation need to step out now else it would be too late.

This brings us back to basics. What have we, the people of this generation been doing? What are we going to do? What am I doing? What can I do? The event of this nation’s transformation has to start now, within each individual.  It starts first as an isolated flame of thought welling up within each individual. If this thought is right, if this thought can be kindled in so many people, at the same time, at different places, the underlying moral uniformity would naturally agglutinate the many into one, one force, one voice, demanding for change, demanding that the status quo be abrogated. The status quo is unsustainable.

One of the sad angles to this nation’s problem is that we have not actually regarded the work of mending as our sole responsibility. We are fixated somewhat in the idea that the repair of this generational sickness lies at the hand of the Divine. This mindset represents an unfortunate resignation to fate, an acceptance of our own failure, a sign of deep seated paucity of ideas and values. If we can argue that God has a role to play in the shaping of Nigeria’s historicity at this point, it has to be remembered that at many occasions in our historical awakening, we have had opportunities to catch into the dialectics of events that have occurred without our direct effort, events that seemed an act of God. The death of Sani Abacha in 1998 was a point in the historical cunning that fundamentally dented the popularity of military rule and instigated the hunger in the people for a genuine political shift. The shift occurred, the nation was optimistic; the world looked with weighted expectation. Unfortunately, the changes that later occurred in the political sphere was akin to what happens in the game of football. The coaches merely replaced some players, but the game was the same, the style was the same, the philosophy was still bereft of all moral decency or will. The conscience of the nation was left to rust at the altar of immediate convenience. Political associations occurred only to pacify the insatiable greed of the same cabal who earlier brought the nation to its feet. What was the tragedy in all this? We failed again, on a grander scale to catch in on the soul of the historical shift dialectically manufactured for our benefit. Once again the earlier optimism turned to despair, the world looked away once more, history sped on leaving us clutching at the trail it left behind.

How long can we continue like this? We have had opportunities upon opportunities to make the fundamental shift in values and sense of direction required to change the destiny of this nation. But at each point we have failed. Why? Because we have left the project to characters who are absolutely bereft of the moral standing or will required to make the change; Because we have each regarded the issue as something outside our core purview, as something extant, a remote responsibility waiting for an imaginary solution. Nigeria has to this date been treated like a fiefdom, an enterprise, a spoil of war. Our collective heritage have continually been appropriated by a few under our very nose, yet we wag our tails as the same individuals throw out a few crumbs; crumbs intended to keep our hunger under check; to blind us to the true state of affairs: a gag to maintain the criminal silence.

It is wrong to follow the thinking that says Nigeria’s problem is ethnic or religious or cultural. One can produce whole treatises on various aspects of our religious, ethnic, or cultural experiences that could have propelled us into the right league in the comity of developed nations. Our problems rather emanate from a gross paucity of the right value system, a surprising disregard of the very values on which our entire religious, cultural and ethnic experiences are hinged.

So what is the way forward?

I cannot even begin to pretend that I know the answer to this simple query. And even if I dare prescribe some solutions, they might at best represent my own subjective opinion without any surety of eventual workability. However I prefer to submit that the way forward would entail a moral induction. This is a process that would attempt to heal the hurt that affects the whole incrementally. The inductive process entails starting from a part to the whole. Moral induction would target the individual, the unit, and attempt to situate in that little part the ideals intended for the whole. If I am good, if I can decide to shirk all excuses and attempt to adhere to fundamental ethical imperatives willy-nilly and if I can attempt to influence my most proximate environment, may be the moral bug would metastasize into a grand imperative that would guide us all, that would take on a life of its own and command a rebirth.

Our project therefore lies in the profoundness of the first truth; The First Letter, a call to arms against all inimical traits and values. The grand imperative would be a personal call, instigated by self and answered in the final analysis by self. The First Letter is a missive to self, an awakening to change. The change has to start now, in me, in you, and in the person nearest to you. We have more or less criminalized our consciences. Yes, because our silence at the carnage all around is itself criminal, and irresponsibility to self, to the country, and worse to our progeny.
Forthwith we have responsibility, self imposed, to do whatever is necessary, legal, and right to contribute even a morsel of change to this country. Our project is progressive and as the days role by the scope would grow as all living things do to accommodate whatever is worth doing to bring positive change to Nigeria.

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