Friday, October 14, 2016

Nigeria: Between Hope And Hopelessness

By Dan Amor
In 2015, during the Presidential campaigns, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) then in opposition, promised Nigerians heaven on earth. They said they would turn Nigeria to a new paradise in Africa. Boko Haram would be defeated in six weeks. The pump price of petrol would be brought to forty Naira per litre. Naira, the Nigerian currency would be made to be at par with the American dollar. Primary and secondary schools students would be provided free food daily. Unemployed Nigerians would be given a welfare stipend of five thousand Naira (N5,000) each every month.
                                                                                  *pix: cnn
The list included over 150 promises, too numerous to be accommodated here. More than sixteen months of the APC in the saddle, Nigerians are told to be prepared to make sacrifices, that the change must begin with them. Boko Haram has been defeated only on paper.  Sambisa forest has been liberated by federal forces. But the insurgents have metamorphosed into killer herdsmen who are being pampered and protected by security forces to kill armless Nigerians. The Nigerian currency has nosedived several octaves below its metropol. It now exchanges for almost 500 to the dollar from N165 to the dollar in May 2015. Petrol which sold for N86 as at May 2015 now sells for N145 per litre. Millions of school children are still at home more than a month after schools have resumed across the country. Everywhere, there is hunger and gnashing of teeth as inflation has risen above rooftops. But, in his October 1 independence anniversary broadcast to the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari asked Nigerians to hope for tomorrow, that tomorrow would be better. Are Nigerians hopeful of the day after? Will tomorrow ever come? The collective answer to this poser is a resounding NO. Tomorrow hardly comes.

If Nigerians are no longer hopeful of tomorrow, they deserve pardon. For, never in the history of mankind have a people been so brutalised and tortured by the very group of people who are supposed to protect and nurture them. They ought to be pardoned knowing full well that their manifest state of hopelessness has extended beyond disillusionment to a desperate and consuming nihilism. Which is why the only news one hears about Nigeria is soured news: violence, arson, rape, killing, maiming, kidnapping, robbery, corruption, official lying, etcetera. It is sad to note that Nigeria is gradually and steadily degenerating into the abyss. Even in a supposedly democratic dispensation, a sense of freedom, a feeling of an unconditional escape, a readiness for a genuine change, is still the daydream of the entire citizenry. Everything is in readiness for the unexpected, and the unexpected is not in sight. You cannot possibly conceive what a rabble we look. We straggle along with far less cohesion than a flock of cattle or sheep. We are, in fact, even forced to believe that tomorrow will no longer come. Quite a handful of us are simply robots without souls; as we are hopeless because we are conditioned to a state of collective hopelessness.

Our record of civilisation is ultimately a record of barbarity. Consider: we gained political independence in 1960 and immediately, due to greed and lust for power, we started killing ourselves. Almost six years later, the military took over the political leadership of the country, a role they were not trained to assume. This led to a civil war in which more than one million innocent people were killed. For 13 years, our freedom and fundamental human rights were gagged by the military. In 1979, Nigerians went to the polls to ward off the debilitating effects of military rule in our country. This exercise ushered in a democratically elected civilian government. 

Unknown to Nigerians, this gang of debt-ridden politicians suddenly metamorphosed into a monster. The result was the conspiratorial looting of the national treasury into their private pockets. Nigerians were worse hit for it. The government introduced a punitive fiscal policy styled "Austerity Measures" through which a people already denied the good things of life were asked to make further sacrifices. Millions of Nigerians lost their jobs. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth as a result of grinding poverty among the people, whereas the corrupt politicians were swimming in affluence and under the best security system one could think of. But their tomorrow eventually came. On December 31, 1983, the martial lords came calling again with their logic as traumatic as it was compelling. They sacked their compatriots in agbada with a consummate pledge to sanitize the leprous political system. 

For the first 20 months, there was a ray of hope in the system. But it was deceptive and fraudulent with some avoidable ambiguities. Whereas some of the looters were hurled into various detention camps, there existed some sacred cows here and there. Certain blue-blooded aristocrats in whose veins human blood does not flow were made to look as though they were above the laws of the land. The media complained. But the men of command and diktat who permitted this double standard vented their spleen on the men of the Fourth Estate of the Realm for crying aloud. Their decree was that all was well provided that no voice was raised against their draconian rule. Public outcry was to the effect that the sledgehammer employed by the khaki boys was too heavy for the flies. 

The men of terror thought otherwise. But their tomorrow finally came. Even those who overran them with a superior commandist logic in a palace coup did not fare better. Their regime was even more beguiling than their predecessors'. There were more pains, more anguish and more deaths, that most Nigerians were now yearning for the day after. The regime introduced a time-worn capitalist economic policy sponsored by the Bretten Woods institutions (the IMF and World Bank) which structurally sapped and decimated the life out of a majority of Nigerians. There was untold hunger in the land, just as there is today, as the local currency was devalued to an unacceptable proportion and inflation rate rose above sea level.

Even the people's popular verdict freely given in June 1993, that a drastic change be effected in the system, was vehemently resisted by the deans of the martial clan. There was bloodshed, burning, looting and maiming. In the end, the deans saw their tomorrow coming and quickly stepped aside. His Chief of Army Staff popularly called "the Khalifa", still forced himself on the nation as a maximum, iron-fisted dictator. No Nigerian understood his hyperbole, not even the acclaimed winner of the annulled decision for a true change. He clamped his "enemies" into jail; others were either shot, bombed or chased into exile in foreign lands. The custodian of the people's mandate himself died in jail. 

One of the jailbirds who was helped out unhurt was eventually crowned as king for the second time. Unfortunately, he saw himself as a messiah whose attitude to governance was gallivanting the whole world in customised agbada and parroting like the dreaded etulubor masquerade while looting the national treasury flat. With God's special mercy, his successors managed to reboot the economy but because he was not allowed to rule through the back door, he conspired with social pretenders who called themselves progressives to bring the country once again to its knees. What have we not seen before that we will hope for? God, where do we go from here? Are Nigerians still hopeful in the midst of hopelessness?
*Dan Amor writes from Abuja (

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