The blues of October 1 (2)
Last week, we focused on the various prophets who were of the perspective that independence would amount to nothing but the deepening misery of the Nigerian peoples. In the process, we drew attention to the various social forces like Adunni Oluwole, Wole Soyinka, and the ultra-pessimists who founded a political party whose sole aim was, as earlier pointed out: The Retention of Colonial Rule.
Although these various tendencies could have been right, yet there was a contrasting position to what has been sketched above. In the midst of the stark pessimism with which independence was greeted, there were, on the other hand, voices of optimism which felt that Nigeria-the new nation, was the place to be. These optimists felt and strongly too, that this new nation will certainly come into her own. On the face of it, one cannot blame such optimists. Here we were at independence, the pride of the black race; well educated elite, and a burgeoning population. Indeed, and perhaps the main attraction was the last of these variables. The new nation fired the imagination of blacks all over the world. This was more so in places where those blacks were contending with the inclement variables of dehumanisation and subjugation. On this note, the United States comes readily to mind here. And as such, our own Nigeria naturally beckoned as something of a favourite destination for the blacks in the United States and beyond. One of such individuals who invested his hopes and even his entire life in Nigeria, is the famous Jamaican-born, Political Sociologist, Dr. Patrick Wilmot. With an Ivy League education from Yale where he was a contemporary of individuals like Bill and Hilary Clinton as well as Clarence Thomas, the lone black in the US Supreme court; he had the option of transiting from the status of a student visa holder to Permanent Residency and subsequently a privileged placing in the Washington policy community. For him, this gravy train was not an option. Rather and according to him, Nigeria was the place to be.
Read Also: The Blues of October 1 (1)
However, in the course of time and given his raw encounters with the Nigerian State; his subsequent testimonies have been one of bitterness and disappointment. This is because what obtains in the light of his experience here, was not the great black hope but the contrast- the great black despair. In his estimation, apart from the brief interlude of the Murtala Mohammed leadership, what passes for leadership in Nigeria, can be likened to a series of unmitigated disasters. Such indeed is his bitterness about the clueless nature of our leadership that he was forced to depose that the leadership which he encountered in Nigeria, was without vision, without intelligence, without competence, and without integrity. He deposed further that, people were not going into government to transform the economy or benefit the Nigerian people. Rather and in his view, they were in government for one purpose only – to control power and to use the power to steal. According to him, they take the money outside Nigeria and put same into banks and institutions. This, as he pointed out, runs against the grain. For in other nations, corrupt and brutal leaders go out and plunder other countries and then bring the loot back to their own country. But here and in his own telling words, in Nigeria and by extension, African leaders do the opposite. They plunder and massacre their own people and put the money in other countries.
What seems clear from much of the foregoing is that Adunni Oluwole, Wole Soyinka, and a Wilmot ultimately ended up on the same page. The only difference was that, while Adunni Oluwole and Soyinka were wise before the fact, a Wilmot only came into his own wisdom much after. There is no point in blaming any of them – after all, experience, as they say, is the best teacher. In the former context, A.O. and W.S had experienced on a first-hand basis, the ineptitude and lack of vision that hall-marked our leadership at the point of independence. Such information was definitely not available to Wilmot then. But now, he knows! Unfortunately, such knowledge continues to deepen by the day. And here one can liken us to the foolish man who continues to dig a hole hoping to get out.
What is perhaps most disconcerting is that, even as we celebrate, we have lost our capacity for either shock or anger.
Whereas, the more he digs, the more he is sucked in. What is perhaps most disconcerting is that, even as we celebrate, we have lost our capacity for either shock or anger. This is judging by the numbing news which continues to assail us on a daily basis. For instance, even in the midst of the celebrations of our independence anniversary, there are some horrendous happenings that go a long way to effect a linkage between tragedy and the birthday boy. Such a tragedy, which has gone a long way in pouring sand into the rice of our celebration, is worth recalling here. As we celebrate Nigeria at 61, a citizen of this country slumped and died under very pathetic circumstances. Elizabeth Tekoh the person under reference was a widow who had five children to cater for. She eventually got a job after paying a whopping 800 thousand naira to grasp fingers in the Federal Capital Territory. She resumed duties at the end of 2020 but she was not paid. Meanwhile, she had to contend with the hectoring tactics of her creditor. Under this inclement circumstance, her blood pressure took a turn for the worse. Many questions boggle the mind here. Why is there no safety net for this kind of vulnerable individual, many of whom abound in our country? Again, why should that humongous amount be extorted from a widow by some soulless officialdom sitting somewhere in the Capital Territory? It just does not add up, if only because what has been rendered here is not an isolated case. For just as we were contemplating this callous treatment meted out to a fellow Nigerian, it was revealed that teachers in Federal Government Colleges who resumed duties in 2018 are only going to be paid by the end of this October 2021.
Taken together, one then begins to appreciate the pessimistic perspectives and positions of Wole Soyinka, Adunni Oluwole, Wilmot, and those who called for the retention of colonial rule. So as things stand, the blues of October 1 continue to endure. And indeed, it is not yet Uhuru for this beleaguered nation at 61.