Tunde Odesola; (email@example.com)
If Nigeria had a surname, Disaster would’ve been a fitting fit. She would’ve come to be known as Nigeria Disaster – a befitting reflection of who she truly is. Just like the US is called the United States of America and Britain goes by the family names, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Or, what do you call a country without a soul; a judiciary waltzing with corruption, a scandalous legislature and a woeful executive? It’s an absolute disaster when an oil rig produces water, a soldier ant scares a soldier, and a 20-year-journey is all about motion without movement.
February 17 is my birthday. May it not turn a sad day, I pray.
February 16 is the day Nigeria would go into labour and the world would hold their breath to see the fruit of her four-year pregnancy. The baby will be an ‘abiku’, I can loudly predict. It will never be a newborn. Because the seeds that fertilised the eggs shot forth from the loins of two genetically-deformed fathers claiming the same baby. The first father, Mallam Ethnic Bigot, forcefully led the rape of Nigeria over three decades ago. The baby from that painful coitus was not only malformed, it died at infancy. Today, the mallam is an epitome of flawless inefficiency. The other father, Mallam Bureau de Change, shot into limelight in the new era. The babies he helped father on two occasions were born blind, deaf, dumb and dead. If these two principalities had fathered ‘abikus’ in the past, one would expect Nigeria to get a young and virile man to roll in the hay with her, in the hope that the product of the union would be a bouncing baby, either a boy or a girl. But with a surname that is Disaster, our dog can’t do more than eat its vomit while our pig gets the mud for a bed.
February 17 is the day after the Nigerian presidential election. I pray blood doesn’t rain down on the country in the preceding days of the election, on the D-Day and the days after. I pray February 16 won’t be a day Nigeria’s most famous scapegoat, Mr Devil, would walk the Nigerian space shopping for heads, limbs and innards. Because I know the election will never be complete without bloodshed! And the blood to be shed won’t be that of the current impotent tenants of Aso Rock or the rapacious prodigals craving a comeback after 16 years of revelry ruination. I fear as February 16 crawls on us like the tarantula, spurning its intricate web over the paralysed eagle.
Today, I remember the late Tai Solarin, the atheist, whose baptismal name was Augustus. In 1952, as the principal of Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, Solarin cancelled morning prayers and religious studies as a subject in the school. His ‘re-education’ campaign didn’t go down well with the Ijebu Igbo community, where his brother was also a reverend. After his apostasy ran into an opposition, he quit the job to establish and run, with his late co-atheist wife, Sheila, the illustrious 8,000-student capacity Mayflower School, Ikenne. Stinking and stagnant religiosity didn’t emigrate to Nigeria from Jerusalem and Arabia on the back of a camel yesterday, it was birthed in the maternity ward of culture contact that imposed colonial imperialism over an unfortunate race.
Despite her globally renowned slogans, ‘In God we trust’, and ‘God bless America’, the United States’ elementary, middle and high schools don’t teach religious studies, yet the country respects God and human diversity. Nigeria, where the loudest noise pollution booms from churches and mosques – in the form of worship – disdains God and humanity. I know that thousands of the students who attended Solarin’s school were the children and wards of bishops, pastors, sheikhs and imams across Nigeria. But I’m still curious to know why many Nigerian devil-is-a-liar believers sent their children to the school of the popular ‘pagan’. Was that hypocrisy, acceptant realism or tolerance?
In his New Year wish for Nigerians on January 1, 1964, Solarin said, “May your road be rough!” Solarin’s greeting, which was contained in a letter, preaches vision, hard work, determination and resilience. When Nigeria was setting out on her democratic journey 20 years ago, little did she know that she was on the road to nowhere. If someone had predicted in 1999 that the democratic dispensation, after 20 years, would produce pains instead of gains and division instead of dividends, Nigerians would’ve disagreed. Today, the country stands regrettably on the threshold of another historic election, ruing two decades of waste, unfulfilled promises and paradise lost. From the impunity, selfishness and greed of the Olusegun Obasanjo-Atiku Abubakar years to the short-lived, static Umaru Yar’Adua-Goodluck Jonathan years and the legitimised corruption of the Jonathan-Namadi Sambo years, to the Muhammadu Buhari-Yemi Osinbajo know-nothing era, it is certain that all the four successive leaderships that have steered the ship of the Nigerian state since 1999 should have, at best, headed roadside shops selling padlocks, nails and hoes, and not come anywhere near the corridors of power because the masses, whom democracy seeks to promote, have been utterly dehumanised by them.
If not that our surname is Disaster, the Obasanjo-Atiku administration wouldn’t have mishandled the Bakassi Peninsula crisis and lost the whole of the oil-rich region to Cameroon. The administration wouldn’t have mismanaged billions of dollars on non-provided infrastructure, corruptly impeached successive Senate presidents, defied court orders and criminally sought a third term. But for our surname that is Disaster, Patience Jonathan wouldn’t have forfeited N1.04bn to the government and still struts about freely today. A confirmation of our Disaster surname is the nepotistic Buhari-Osinbajo lame-duck presidency, whose perpetually ‘unaware’ arrowhead, Buhari, should have long retired from politics and be at home treating his undisclosed infirmities. Our Disaster surname is the reason why several indicted and some jailed members of the Peoples Democratic Party are shamelessly mounting podiums to campaign today. It’s the reason why Atiku said he would continue with the policies of the Obasanjo years if elected. It’s the same reason why people hail the Buhari-Osinbajo government despite obvious incompetence, underachievement and lopsided anti-corruption fight.
While Nigeria’s political class stockpiles funds, arms and ammunition for the war of February 16, 2019, a look at how elections are conducted outside the country would bury our surname, Disaster, in shame. An Ilora-born Nigerian living in the US, Femi Ojewole, shares his voting experience: “Voting in the US is a pleasurable experience; you’re free to take pictures with people and the electoral officers, and the whole voting is done in about three minutes. You’re even given candies to eat after voting. No policeman in sight, no stampede and your vote is counted by the computer, which immediately shows that your vote is accepted.
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“Electronic accreditation had been sent to all citizens earlier in order for them to know where to vote. Early voting, which is voting before the Election Day, is permitted; all you need to do is go to the courthouse nearest to you and vote. This is for those who may not be available to vote on Election Day or who don’t want to wait till Election Day.”
No gift of clairvoyance is needed to reach the following conclusions:
- Atiku will fault the outcome of the election if Buhari wins and vice versa.
- Life will continue to be short and brutish under either of the two.
- Politicians will defect to the winning party after the election.
The above-mentioned conclusions are easy to reach because there’s no evidence to show that we’ve learnt anything from the pitfalls of our past. The docile and largely uninformed masses have not helped matters either, acquiescing to the manipulative whims of the political class.
Indeed, our road has been rough, very rough and disastrous.