Journalism in the service of society

Baleful reminiscences of an optimist

‘…we have begun to lose our long-held and cherished fabric of hierarchical order of discipline, commonality, and civilisation. When children no longer respect or revere their fathers; when mothers no longer swell the hearts of their children; when soldiers no longer see worthy commanders to storm the front lines with… the glory of that society, the posterity of that nation is grossly endangered. Urgent, curative and intensive care and interventions are needed today to re-evaluate, re-affirm and re-negotiate the foundation and future of our co-habitation and unity…’

TRULY, history and its poor learners have a knack of repeating and perpetuating the same ignominious errors of the past and inflicting on all a painful presence. The article below was dug out of the womb of almost a dozen months (27 August 2022), and it struck me as a keenly illustrative script of what is currently playing out in our country. Clearly, and sadly, nothing has changed – and only inveterate optimists would hazard seeing some hazy light at the end of the tunnel with the policies and knee-jerk manoeuvers of the Bola Tinubu administration. Let us roll back the time…

“Dear politicians and political office holders, whatever the civil servants, ardent supporters and spin doctors are telling you, the case of today’s average Nigerian is distressing, almost hopeless, and verging on the suicidal. Most Nigerians are frustrated, disillusioned, low in self-esteem, prone to anger and/or hunger, and more often than not suspicious of any government plans to make their lives better…

Even when we (had) another successful civilian-to-civilian transition of power in May 2023, the biggest task ahead of the new administration is how to reunite Nigerians, and reignite hope and belief in our problem-solving capacity…

Is there anyone out there who is happy with the state of our markets and kitchens? While few of us may find the question funny or strange, we can easily hazard that the vast majority of us would respond in knowingly diverse and aching ways. Simply put, the markets, like the streets, are not ‘smiling’. Those who tagged us as the “happiest people on earth” years ago, were probably using data from many decades ago – as far back as the 70s, and to a lesser degree, the 80s.

Today, we are not happy. We are worried and frustrated because we do not have a sense that our circumstances would be reversed positively anytime soon. We can hardly afford the scanty stuff in our markets; the sellers are even complaining more than the buyers. They struggle to convince their customers that they are as hapless and frustrated as the buyers. The costs of foodstuffs are so prohibitive that many choose to buy barely edible castoffs and almost decaying offals to feed their families, as the better stuff are leaner and dearer – virtually un-negotiable, unless you have corrupt access to funds and privileges while loitering around power caucuses.

In our homes, we are worried sick about the sort of culture and environment we are creating for our children – the so-called ‘leaders of tomorrow’. Where the younger ones are able to go to schools, the fees are astronomical, yet there is a mild apprehension about the quality of education and orientation they are exposed to. Those who cannot afford the high fees of the numerous private schools that have supplanted the usefulness of public education, have condemned their children to the ill-equipped drudgery and criminal negligence of public schools. The more educationally insensitive a state governor, the sorrier the state of public schools…

If the home is worrisome, the roads are even worse. The spate of killings, abductions, banditry, kidnappings, and such organised calamities have castrated many homes, and rendered vast areas of Nigeria a no man’s land. The wave of insecurity is not concentrated in one state or region. Terrors have overwhelmed the land, and our valiant security forces have been stretched, and sometimes sacked. The impunity of the criminals has grown so pervasive and imperious that bandits and kidnappers callously demand and successfully receive ransoms in millions of dollars. More demoralising were allegations of complicity by some rogue elements in our armed forces who collude with criminals, or simply turn their backs on their activities as they skim and skin their victims in sickening abandon. In extreme cases, the criminals collect ransom, and still kill their victims! 

Our youth have serious resentment against the managers of the current economy, and by extension, the ruling political party… Our leaders must make haste at this misty dawn, for the sake of a fairly peaceable country. Our children are frustrated, demotivated, and angry. They look around and hardly see any heroes or heroines to give wings to their imaginations. All they see are traders and whorers of corruption and wickedness, roiling in abject opulence and glutinous acquisitions of illogical wealth.

The Nigerian youth have been thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned as people they had hoped would stand strong against forces of oppression and corruption have largely transfused into the same tribe of the corrupt. So they resort to the only available weapons at their disposal: they abuse, curse and lacerate any voice or vision that somehow represents a shadow of their “enemies”. Their anger and vituperations have no limit or peg – they lash out, and harangue any contrary voice or vision from any source assumed to share features or semblance of the older, decaying vestiges of their misfortune.

Consequently, we have begun to lose our long-held and cherished fabric of hierarchical order of discipline, commonality, and civilisation. When children no longer respect or revere their fathers; when mothers no longer swell the hearts of their children; when soldiers no longer see worthy commanders to storm the front lines with… the glory of that society, the posterity of that nation is grossly endangered. Urgent, curative and intensive care and interventions are needed today to re-evaluate, re-affirm and re-negotiate the foundation and future of our co-habitation and unity…

Fortunately, there are many optimists who believe in the capacity and flexibility of Nigerians to weather these dangerous storms, and somehow find a safe landing that would help them survive the supposed calamities. We are many who believe, or more precisely, hope, that though the Nigerian ship may suffer buffeting on all sides, it shall nonetheless berth in a glorious shoreline littered with goodies and game.

A note of warning though: optimism is not exactly a side effect of pragmatism. Both see the same picture, but make different interpretations. Let the Nigerian politicians leave optimism to hard-knuckled nationalists, patriots and folks nourished by Nigeria of the decades preceding and immediately after the independence. Our politricians (people who take politics as a full time profession) should be pragmatic – you cannot eat your cake, and still expect it to survive in your ‘show-glass’. Do not assume that the “anger” of the moment would soon calm down – “it’s a matter of time…or cash”!”

https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2023/07/22/baleful-reminiscences-of-an-optimist

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