Opinion: Gems in the zoo – By FOLA OJO

He was only 10 years old when his parents emigrated from Nigeria to the United States. Over the years, many things about him have changed. But with brute audacity, he’ll say forever he is Nigerian. Everything Nigerian thrills him. He will not swagger around in suit and tie; he is addicted to Nigerian collections of garments he dons even in dead winter. For 37 years, he had been away until three years ago when he decided to visit motherland. And four days after he left, I called to check up on him.

“How is Lagos”?

“Lagos is great, men.

There are a lot of beautiful women here”, he sounded excited. If fishing for women is your expedition, you will find them plenty. But beware, for therein lies death.

“Zoo”? but you just said Lagos is great”

“Yeah, but everywhere is a zoo, men. I can’t live here”.

The Giant of Africa is a zoo? How dare you call my country a zoo? But our friend is not alone. Many people live in this same opinion world. What is a zoo? It is an enclave where animals, the mild and the wild, the jolly and the jerks, the controllable and uncontrollable, are kept to maintain sanity in the kingdom. Is Nigeria a zoo? I hate the probe.  But some people think so and they have their reasons.  And many of them still live there. But don’t listen to them. Run through an independent appraisal of the system.

Once upon a time, the nation’s Attorney-General was killed by unknown gunmen in his own living room. Up till today, no one knows who the killers are. A presidential candidate’s tea at breakfast was laced with poison as he waited to claim his election mandate. He later died and till today, none has been adjudged culpable. Some crazy lunatics walked into a school dormitory and shovelled over 300 young girls into vans and married them off to strangers in the wild forest of Sambisa and surrounding towns. A few of them later returned to their parents with babies instead of diplomas. The fates of the missing rest are still undetermined. A pregnant woman in labour was carried into a hospital to be delivered of her baby. She had no money to pay for a hospital bed space. With baby trapped in her womb and in labour, she bled to death in the hospital hallway in full glare of men and women who have grown pachydermatous to horror images. Brazenly corrupt elements, and tacky and treacherous men and women on record aspire to higher political offices and succeed. Now; they are in charge of making policies for the country. Lions and leopards are moving about freely hobnobbing with wolves around the nation’s treasury as the lambs and the goats are scurrying into hiding and going to bed hungry. If I write and reflect on thieves in the Nigerian political terrain, it may end up to be a cornucopia of logorrhea. Be reminded that a zoologist used to be president; and he once said: “Nigeria is not a zoological garden”. How dare anyone call my country a zoo?

In the zoo, the young are sacred. A nation with a future does not kill her children. Not long ago, in a pre-dawn attack by Boko Haram in the town of Buni Yadi of Yobe State, 57 children were shot, set ablaze in a locked hostel, and fleeing students caught up with; and their throats slashed. Children were burnt alive as soldiers scooped up their carcasses.  Twelve children were once stampeded to death in Abuja when 50,000 of them gathered at a stadium begging their own government and in their own country! Immigration authorities suckered N4,000 each from them, and next minute; death came. No! Nigeria is not a zoo!

Our educational system slumbers off in the trash bin of degraded degrees. University lecturers don’t show up for work until after a month classes have begun. They sell handouts they should give out for free to kids; and teach from old curriculum spewing out spilth and scrap. Men employed to impart knowledge have nothing stocked up in their craniums. Intellectually lazy Vice-Chancellors sit behind derelict desks with virulent vices. Many of them, in cohort with their politician friends, budget more money for Prado jeeps than for researches into cures for Malaria and Typhoid.  NO! Nigeria is not a zoo.

In a zoo, there is some orderliness. Lions and other carnivorous cats are caged securely in their quarters. Animals don’t roam aimlessly without appropriate superintendence. Rules are followed so that antelopes are barred from entering the jackals’ den. Nigeria is not a zoo, but market cubicles are erected in the middle of the road; and a major freeway barraged with hawkish hawkers of all manner of stuffs who just have to make some brisk money. Then, seated on sprawling acres of land are big churches to the right and the left of the freeway. Their competing desecrating banners announce their hourly spiritual programmes that have not changed a thing in Nigeria’s quality of life. There is no major or minor impact made in the lives of hapless Nigerians who are ecclesiastically coerced to cough up money they don’t have. And pastors keep assuring: “I am praying for you” as screaming speakers hanging on raggedy dust-doused roofs project brackish and distasteful noise. Nigeria is not a zoo. A politician big-gun with his motorcade blasts the sirens through the traffic shoving pedestrians and motorists into the gutters because he has a flight to catch.  Chaos begets chaos; and all jammed together in a snake-pit and big pile of effluvium. Why would a young man from Milwaukee who does not want to live the rest of his life dependent on anti-psychotic dive into a pandemonium such as this?

I have adjusted my political lenses and now I have put on a new hat. I sit on the observatory 10,000 miles from Lagos just watching the chaos. I have learnt so much about politicians in the last few years. A few of them I truly like for the work they have done. Maybe, they made some missteps but their hearts are in the right place. But for me at this time, does it matter who is president in 2019? The Nigeria environment will likely maintain its status quo of deplorable mess for a long time with anybody in power.

If CHANGE is a spirit, it doesn’t have a breathing room in Nigeria. The labour of our heroes past seems to be in vain before our eyes. I may not agree with the qualifier; but when someone calls Nigeria a zoo, I try to sniff around to confirm if it smells like one. It sure stinks like animal poop everywhere. Even the people for whom we fight make worse the mess their leaders kickstarted. My people do not know that they are the government, but they keep worshipping goons in power who throw some dirty N200 note at them during every cycle of electioneering.

I read this story and hereby I gladly share. Once upon a time a man placed a stack of $1million cash and a bunch of bananas in front of a hungry monkey. “Stupid, useless paper”, the monkey said to himself gazing at the cash. He growled and surged after the bananas ignoring the cash. The monkey-mentality overrode his senses not thinking that the cash could get him bananas that will feed even generations after him. Nigerians, you are not like this monkey! Reject the monkey and embrace a man. And where is the man to follow? The endless search continues. And in this zoo, if that’s what it is, there are gazillion gems. Punch

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