A very interesting and didactic but strange encounter between an ass (donkey) and its rider caught my attention recently. In summary, the donkey, for once, misbehaved and the rider viciously struck it thrice and the ass vocally protested. “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” asked the animal. After the rider’s reply the ass reminded him how faithfully it had served him for donkey’s years.
At that point the rider saw the source of the donkey’s misdeed – an angel of the Lord blocked the road with a drawn sword. The angel also took a strong exception to the oppression of the ass and stated his mission, which was to oppose the rider because he was “going the wrong way”.
In Nigeria, the masses have been turned into donkeys condemned to carry our leaders and their heavy loads as they drag the nation through a journey into doom and disaster. The angel of destruction is already standing with a drawn sword invited by the agonies and groans of the masses. Even an ass protested in actions and words when it became necessary. Why can’t we turn our respective private groans into some collective public actions? The Lord graciously gave us all the power of speech but Nigerians are hardly maximizing that ability in relation to how the country is being mismanaged by a selected few. The truth remains that millions are only whispering inside their bedrooms in the dark of the night.
Dele Momodu’s article “Before They Wreck This Ship” in the back page of This Day of Saturday June 26, 2010 and Prof. Niyi Osundare’s thoughts in an interview with Armsfree Ajanaku Onomo “Nigerians Must Wage War Against Silence” in pages 65-66 of The Guardian, Sunday, June 20, 2010 are respectively thought-provoking and challenging. The pen and the voice are individually but explicitly angry and justifiably so. The atrocious deeds of Nigerian leaders can make a monk mad. In the words of Osundare, “we are too complacent; we are too silent over our rights”. I completely agree with him and with Momodu in “we cannot continue to wallow in self-pity and do nothing about it”. We must not just begin to speak but must do so in the language these betrayers should understand quickly and perfectly. How can we sleep well when our roof is on fire? We need to enthrone a culture of resistance. The masses should become active participants not passive observers of our hard-earned but thoroughly twisted democracy.
Our leaders have slapped us severally, laid cruel hands upon us and to add insult to injury asked us in plain terms “what can you say or do?” That is the accurate interpretation of their greed-induced prodigality, which found one of its most potent expressions in the unfortunate drama performed for the whole world on the stage of House of Representatives on Tuesday 22nd June 2010. On that day, the egwugwu was unmasked before the uninitiated eyes of school children. The king danced naked in public and the subjects did not cover their faces in shame because it is no longer an uncommon sight. The speaker of the house, Dimeji Bankole, on a remedial campaign to the school, said “there is no excuse for the behaviour of some of us in the house that day”, (AIT 8pm news, Monday 5th July 2010). It goes beyond some of them. It is a symbol of the catastrophic nature of our politics and governance. It shows the present Nigerian politicians in their true colour.
In five decades we have spent so much to achieve so little. The cause is not far-fetched. Nigeria, at the local, state and federal levels, has been consistently saddled with military and civilian leaders whose collective anthem is ‘all for rulers and none for masses’. Politics of “do or die” is entrenched and its elder brother, Corruption, sits comfortably on the throne daring us to challenge him. Our dear country has been gang-raped by a bunch of dishonest politicians and their military cohorts. A good and current example is the hypertension-inducing 10 billion Naira, earmarked to celebrate Nigeria at 50! What are we celebrating? Affordable food, clean water, comfortable houses, constant power, good roads, first class health facilities, wholesome education or adequate security? For which of these are we rolling out drums that beat to the tune of 10 billion Naira? It is not as if Nigerians are demanding the impossible.
For goodness sake these services should be taken for granted but not in Nigeria were we “have a civil service that is indolent careless, completely without a vision” (Prof. Abiola Irele). Do you know what 10 billion Naira would have done if judiciously applied in any of these sectors?