Opinion: Naija, the beauty; Naija, the beast – By FOLA OJO
NIGERIA will be 60 years old this year. Her feet have got burned in history strolling down very rough pathways and rugged terrains of the hot Nigerian desert. She’s had to endure real pain and it’s far from phantom. She’s haemorrhaged without a tourniquet treatment to hedge the bleeding. Up till now, Nigeria gropes in a clime filled with visible and invisible cacophonic cacodemons threatening to sever her jugular and snuff out her life. Her piloting ambassadors are confused and bemused. They know not how best to shake off the protracted pain or break the shackles of self-enslavement. Is Nigeria a fruitful vine; or a filthy geographical assemblage? Whatever box you check, it is certain that she’s a potpourri of plenteous puzzles. She is a beauty and a beast.
Those whose eyes see Nigeria as a beauty are head-and-shoulders in love with her prevalent mess. They rule in the piazza of power; spun into a razzmatazz realm, and stroked by the rich and the affluent who call them by their first names. The naira may not be printed in their names; but their fingerprints are all over the currency in high places and posh palaces. Their heads are nightly laid on the $6m-Baldacchino supreme bed and none can stop them from frequently sipping on Chateau Margaux 1787 wine sold for a quarter of a million dollars. At every party, musicians trumpet their names in praises; and in every church, they are gods that spurious and factitious men of God, gold, and bling daily adore with unmitigated oblation. Their private jets are their public pets as they call on one and thousands answer. They are daily sandwiched by lollapalooza, sumptuous and enthrallingly beautiful women massaging their ugly egos. The silken incandescence; lustrous luminesce; flourishing fluorescence; and ravishingly bedazzling and hypnotical presence of the inamoratas are always confirmations for them that Naija is a beauty. If your eyes see Nigeria as a beauty, nowhere else in the world is as snazzy and spiffy as Nigeria! But out of 200 million Nigerians, only a few are in this category. And they are the fat cats and plump parvenus.
Conversely and like a crushing thunder; most Nigerians have been stricken by Naija the beast. Victims of this strike are numbered many. The African Development Bank recently reported that the national average poverty rate in Nigeria is 69%. It says that at least 18 states of the Nigerian federation are considered poor; and at least 124.2 million Nigerian live in poverty. Some 124 million Nigerians are victims of Naija the Beast. For them, life is stalled and all things are stagnant. For them, life is hell. And in hell, there’s no help. Meantime and around town, death toll is rising on our roads and government debt is spiking up to the eyeballs. Nigeria, home to one in five Africans, is the continent’s most indebted nation. Our government has found comfort in China’s Exim Bank and now in the nation’s pension fund. Today, we spend 25% of annual earning on servicing huge foreign and domestic debts that balloon by the minute. Has Nigeria been a fruitful vine; or a filthy geographical assemblage? What I know is that she is a potpourri of many puzzles. Nigeria is both a beauty and a beast.
In the same country, many live in paradise on earth because things work for them, not necessarily through their sweat, but via evil sweetheart deals they seal with men in charge of our patrimoney. In the same country, even the talented become trash and the fool rule the wise while the wise and his destiny waste away. In the same country, the analphabet is the commander; and the lettered is the commanded. To the ones with the underhand upper-hands; Naija is a beauty. To the downtrodden, Naija is a beast. What works for one, works against the other. The riddle of life; who can solve it? Endless struggles to make ends meet and feed family have cloned the unemployed youth into fraudsters and government workers into corrupt goons. Does the hungry care if he is caught with a stolen bag of rice? Many are at the end of the rope, and for them desperate times call for desperate measures to survive. As long as poverty rules the land, war against corruption is mere word of mouth. Over the last decade, Nigeria has committed a whopping sum of N3tn on security. Who have we secured? In the last 30 days, it’s been carnage carnival all across the country especially in the North. I am sure people in charge must have secured their pockets. Is God not watching them all? Ask family members of the victims if Naija is a beauty or a beast. Ask the church and family members of the beheaded CAN leader if Naija is a beauty or a beast. These are tough times in the giant of Africa!
I conclude with this thought. I have this inner reassurance that Nigeria can become a true beauty and rid herself of the beastly nature only if Nigerians have a sustained will to remould it as such. In 2014, under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria took out a loan from Japan for the eradication of polio from across her space. The loan was part of the Overseas Development Assistance programme. Payments were set to start in 2017 and fully repaid over 20 years. In the first year and under Jonathan, Nigeria completed 80% of the vaccination. Within three years, and under Buhari, Nigeria had no reported polio case. This is how government should work. Jonathan began it and there were positive results; Buhari continued it and we witnessed an improvement. Billionaire Bill Gates was so much impressed with Nigeria that he decided to pay off the $76m loan to the Japanese government. The Bill Gates Foundation said it was happy with Nigeria because of “the strong leadership of the Nigerian government in polio eradication”. The strong leadership started with Jonathan and continued under Buhari. In this area, there was the will to win. Where then is the will to stem the evil tide besieging a nation God put him charge over? Where is the will to fight criminals and bandits killing and maiming innocent men, women and children? Has the will not waned under the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)? Punch