Nigeria: Is this me?
By Abdullahi Yunusa ProfWills
My birth was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. The event was grand in every sense of the word. My arrival was celebrated far and near, in a manner akin to a royal festival of some sort. At my christening, revered Kings, presidents, queens, respected regional, continental and world leaders converged on the beautiful city of Lagos, the land of aquatic splendor to honour me.
I was told my visibly elated parents smiled from cheek to cheek as they moved round to welcome well-wishers from all walks of life who defied all odds just to be part of history. Gifts of different sizes, shapes and worth were delivered to my parents. Orators, clergies, celebrities, monarchs and men of means took turns to speak of my greatness and the role I’ve come to play to make the world a better place for humanity.
Growing up, I showed signs of greatness. Nations, both within and beyond Africa had enormous confidence in me and looked up to me as the long awaited messiah. Of course, I didn’t let them down. I provided my shoulders for my brothers, close neighbours and others alike to lean on. I deployed both human and material resources to assist countries in need. South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and other nations in Africa couldn’t have have survived both internal and external strifes if I had looked the other way. I was called names like the African giant, Big brother, Head of the black race, Africa’s pride among other beautiful appellations. I did live up to expectations.
History books are replete with stories of my greatness. Giant strides by my children in fields such as medicine, law, journalism, engineering, sports, banking and arts are largely responsible for why the world respected me. My son and globally acclaimed literary giant, Professor Wole Soyinka made me and the entire Black race proud when he won the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature. Several of my children recorded great feats across disciplines.
Then came the era of doom, gloom and confusion! Gradually, things began to go awry when my children, spread across different parts of the country engaged and promoted anti-development practices like ethnicity, religious bigotry, corruption, indiscipline, nepotism, tribalism and dishonesty. Gradually, the falconer couldn’t hear the falconer. A few of them began to emphasize on the fault-lines inherent in me. Service was no longer for the good of all, but to self and self alone.
Regrettably, I watched rather helplessly, as my children killed, maimed and destroyed themselves through coups and counter coups all in the struggle for power and dominance. The situation keeps deteriorating daily, even with civilians incharge of my affairs. After several failed attempts to enthrone democracy, i succeeded in 1999.
This is almost two decades since my return to democracy, regrettably the situation has gone from bad to worse. Poverty amidst wealth, leaders without vision, lack of national cohesion, endemic corruption, weak institutions, avoidable deaths, youth restiveness, ethno-religious and political crises and violent communal clashes have pinned me to the ground. Patriotism which used to be my national character has taken the back seat.
My children have reduced me to a sleeping giant. I now trail behind less endowed nations in terms of good governance and economic development. I have become butt of silly jokes within and outside Africa. My children make haste to use derogatory words when talking about me. I have been reduced to a nonentity. Serious nations now deride and avoid me like a plague. Sometimes last year one of my aggrieved sons called me a zoo! A foreigner said I was fantastically corrupt! The latest bashing came only last week when a piglike character called me a shithole!
I now bleed from injuries inflicted on me by my children. Killings have become so rampant across the land. People now spill blood, mutilate their brothers and kill each other without bathing an eyelid. Amidst all these troubles, my older children have become clueless on what to do.
My hope lies not in my older children. They have failed me. Where are my younger children? Where are the youths? You are my hope, strength and future. You must rise in my defense. Resist the temptation to take up arms against each other. Refuse to be used as thugs, assassins and social media attack dogs in the days and months ahead. Take charge of my affairs. I shall rise again. I am Nigeria, neither a zoo nor shithole.