Speaking To Myself

Olukorede Yishau

I wanted to write about Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki and Betsy Obaseki and John Odigie-Oyegun. I also thought of writing about President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet of saints and sinners. What fascinated me was Obaseki’s wife’s description of the sorry situation in Edo State as a battle between darkness and light. I remembered her allusion when Obaseki and Oshiomhole met at the Presidential Villa in Abuja for the presidential policy retreat. I thought finally that light and darkness met and shook hands.

As Obaseki and Oshiomhole held hands and smiled, they were joined by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari and Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman Dr. Kayode Fayemi. They spoke animatedly and seemingly made light of the situation in Edo State, which has seen lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole unable to access the House of Assembly, where they were shut out on the proclamation day. The way they plumped hands and laughed heartily, it was difficult to believe that only days ago their supporters were spitting fire. Obaseki’s wife, less than a week earlier, declared: “Darkness can never overcome the light. Light has come to stay and will continue to prevail. This light is not about any personality. They are fighting for the soul of Edo State. In this state, we must do good, we must destroy evil and establish good things.”

I, however, lost interest in the Edo matter. All I will say is that: As I write this, we have clear evidence that the Aso Rock smiles were for the cameras. The gladiators are not set to resolve the impasse caused by Obaseki’s proclamation of the House of Assembly with only nine members. And on the president’s new men and women, I decided not to say much until they have taken office and we can gauge their output.

So, what will I write about? Well, I will return to my April 5 mode when I used this space to speak to myself. Today, I want to speak to myself once again and like I noted then, if my words strike a chord in you, do not take offence. What I expect you should do is to fix things and, maybe, we will have a better Nigeria. It was after I met Yinka through Nze Sylva Ifedigbo’s debut novel, My Mind Is No Longer Here, that I gave serious thought to the fact that Nigerians are in their best mood when at the departure of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. There is a strong link between this statement and this quote from the novel: “When your home cannot offer you a bed to sleep peacefully on, a neighbour’s home becomes appealing.” At the airport’s departure, you see lovers, especially the ladies, shedding tears at the departure of their loved ones. They cry because they will miss their lovers, not because their men are leaving the country. In fact, they are glad they are escaping what the narrator in Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities describes as “the land of lack, of man-pass-man, the land in which a man’s greatest enemies are members of his household; a land of kidnappers, of ritual killers, of policemen who bully those they encounter on the road and shoot those who don’t bribe them, of leaders who treat those they lead with contempt and rob them of their commonwealth, of frequent riots and crisis, of long strikes, of petrol shortages, of joblessness, of clogged gutters, of potholed roads…and of constant power outages”.

Nigeria has not always been like this. There was a time when naira was more than a dollar. Time also was when naira was almost equal to pounds. We must never forgive the apostles of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which saw to the devaluation of our currency. The Structural Adjustment Programme of the Ibrahim Babangida regime made things difficult for a lot of people. The middle class practically went into extinction. Inflation skyrocketed. The government removed subsidies on petroleum products and fertiliser and deregulated the interest rate. Personal insecurity increased and personal satisfaction nosedived. For many, it was the darkest period witnessed economically.

There was a time when going to the United Kingdom or any of the Commonwealth countries was as easy as travelling from Lagos to Ibadan. Time was when public schools were the in-thing, and time was when jobs were waiting for graduates immediately after school. Universities were great. Students were tutored and mentored by star local and foreign lecturers. Hostels were not bedbug-invested. Students had access to balanced diets. Our primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions were world-class. The University College Hospital (UCH) was first among equals globally; its facilities were top-notch and its members of staff could raise their heads high anywhere in the world. No thanks to brain drain, UCH and others are now shadows of their old selves.

Many of the doctors who are supposed to save us from dying prematurely are on their way to Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Some are even heading to Australia because of the poor state of medical practice in the country. Even those who are not leaving are not committed. Many a doctor in government-owned hospitals run private clinics and dedicates attention to their private practice than their primary employer. Our people come up with all sorts of an excuse to get asylum abroad. Many have Boko Haram to thank for new and comfortable homes in Europe and America.

We also have overnight gay people, all because of the quest to have homes outside of the hell that their true home has become. The other day, I saw an advert in a newspaper in which a Nigerian, obviously seeking asylum abroad, made a ridiculous claim about his family. There was also another advert in which a guy claimed his uncle wanted to kill him over the inheritance. All he wanted was asylum and he caused the advert to be done so he could use as evidence to back his quest for a safe haven.

Pastor Sam Adeyemi, in one of his incisive presentations, pointed out that while those in government had their fair share of the blame for the wrong things in the country, the ordinary folks were also not immune from blames. Or how do you react to a situation where a cart pusher finishes the water in a bottle and discards the bottle on a major road? What about a public school headteacher who collects illegal levies from pupils? What about a journalist who has turned to a blackmailer? What about the lecturer who sees in his influence the excuse to take female students to bed? What about the managing director who keeps asking low-rung female employees out for sex? Shall we blame the government for a company where there are no clear-cut plans for staff’s welfare? Tell me who to blame for media houses which report government failures yet owe salaries, fail to remit pension and tactically encourage corruption.

Tell me, who should be blamed for electricity distribution companies’ failure to give service yet bill consumers arbitrarily? Many companies have folded up because of the epileptic power supply in the country. Running factories on diesel-powered generators for 24 hours is not sustainable. Who should we blame for pastors who take advantage of the fact that God does not strike like the god of thunder to dupe their congregation? Please show me who to blame for politicians who hide their children abroad and buy guns for other people’s children so that they can get power and use it to steal our commonwealth.

My final take: Obaseki and Oshiomhole should not make Edo people suffer because elephants are fighting. The president’s new men and women should work for the good of Nigeria. And you and I should play our part to ensure we get our country working!

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