Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Dear Papa Mandela,

The world came out en-mass to wish you a happy birthday last week, July 18th which was your 100th birthday.

Such show of love and remembrance left an unshed tear on my cheek and made me swallowed hard time and again; with the fear and realisation that Africa may never have a leader as great or loved as you. Ever.

And even though I have kept these snippets of information and of course; my opinion on some issues which I had wanted to cry out to you for months; I felt its best I left the birthday euphoria to settle down; to allow you bask in the love and affection of people all over the world before I come to you with my dose of troubles. I do hope that you truly enjoyed your 100th birthday and that my tirade will not spoil all the birthday fun.

But you see, I have to say this to someone, and who better than my President Nelson Mandela, our Madiba because I know you have a listening ear and a heart that understands.

Its been 19 years now since Nigeria returned to democracy; but it only means that its been that long we have been living in anarchy. Silent anarchy. We only seem to be going around and around in circles of the same social and economic malaise that has been dragging us down for decades without really going anywhere. Democracy is supposed to be good; but it remains a subject of doubt on whether it has the capability of taking Nigeria to the promised land.

Apart from the grandiose corruption and looting opportunities it has availed our leaders, it brought a lot of social ills orchestrated by the people we put in positions of power to lead us. Nepotism and bigotry has never been rifer than it is now. We keep on getting square pegs in round holes in every arm of Government; from the elected public office holders to the appointed ones which automatically contributes to grounding our country in the pool of stagnation. While an underlying current of religious and tribal hostilities keeps brewing, and everyone pretend as if nothing is wrong and carry on as though all is well. And truly Madiba, all is not well. There is fire on the mountain.

There is a storm coming.

One of the indicators of a failed state is insecurity; and Nigeria has never been worse hit by insecurity as it is now. Kidnappings are a normal routine; people get kidnapped for a ransom every day. Those who can pay buy their freedom and those who cannot get killed. Our security operatives either do not care or are helpless even as there is a conspiracy theory of their complicity. Daylight robbery, highway armed robbery, cattle rustling, car snatching, theft, human trafficking and an unending violence sweeping across the nation like a tornado are now close to normal for us.

But who would blame them? Their welfare is a joke. A huge joke; It is always a cause of embarrassment to me as a Nigerian. Our security operatives have been reduced to hands on men guarding and protecting the high and mighty in Nigeria. Their services and protection are only available to the highest bidder. So, the others who are not fortunate enough to be on such needless entourage are left to their whims and caprices for survival.

Well, I am sure you do know what I am talking about here because these are things you expressed yours concerns about in your chat with Hakeem Baba Ahmed shortly before you left us.

I am sorry to say Madiba, they only got worse. Much more worse than you could ever imagine. Lots of the issues you raised in that chat have either come to pass, are manifesting or are repeating themselves over and over again simply because Nigerians are too weak to demand for change and too cowardly to work for it.

Yes, we are a nation of cowards. The leaders use and exploit the led for their own selfish interest and gains while the followers meekly allow themselves to be led by the nose like cows with a nose ring.
It always beats me why and how 180 million people will allow themselves be held hostage by not more a million people. Not even up to 1% of the population. Weird isn’t it?
If we are going to collate the number of the entire Nigerian leaders currently in positions of authority and the number of criminals who kidnap, abduct, rob on highways and the numbers of the BH members that are still busy ravaging the North East, they cannot be more than 10 million in total. And these 10m people have been holding 180m of us to ransom. How embarrassing!

You did say yourself, that ‘The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.”

Then I am afraid that Africa may never get that respect as a continent because Nigeria may never be able to deliver. How could she when she does not even respect herself? This is a huge responsibility Papa Madiba. Nigeria cannot live up to it.

You also said, ‘freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression’. Well I am sorry to be the one to break this to you. African women are still oppressed; abused and living in bondage. Nigerian women particularly.

We are in the 20th century; but we still live in a society governed with patriarchy and injustice especially to the poor amongst us. We live in a world where the Girl child is still seen as a liability, and her rights torn from her by the very society and family that should value and protect her.

I am sorry I had to disturb you with all these gory details; but I had to because not everyone would tell you. You see, some of the things I am telling you, not everyone would acknowledge much less say.

But I have to say it; tell it to someone who would care; and who else better than you, Papa Madiba; for you are not only South Africa’s hero and president; but Africa’s treasure.

You are the Father of Africa’s unity and symbol of leadership, sacrifice and selflessness, And I figured I could tell you what disturbs me as a person about this entity called Nigeria and the people in it.

We love and miss you everyday. And we pray that somehow somewhere amidst all the chaos and conflict that is Nigeria, another Mandela shall arise and lead us to the promised land.
Rest on Nelson Mandela.

Hawwah A. Gambo
Journalist/Social Entrepreneur