“And Nigeria metamorphosed into a howling parliament of pain. A hoax. A fraudulent creation. A state designed for the eternal discomfort of its residents. And… A Huge social, geopolitical Time Bomb slowly, but steadily ticking towards detonation.”
- Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh
These words were written by Ogbunwezeh a decade ago. Whether seized by the fecund imaginations of a potent poet or by the depressive pessimism of a naysayer, his words reverberate today with a fervid urgency. ‘A howling parliament of pain’ is certainly what Nigeria is today. A country that can no longer guarantee the security not just of property but of the lives of its millions. A failed state with a military displaying all the tell-tale signs of the intellectual atrophy of an Alzheimer patient, a comatose disinterested citizenry, a theatre of racial hate and acrimonious religious dramas, a delusional somnambulist president taking drunken steps in quicksand waiting on the messiah-ship of America.
I write this piece because I am tired. Tired of waiting for a solution to Boko Haram. I am tired. I am tired of inventing beautifully constructed answers to friends who are not Nigerians. I am tired of lying so as not to tell a single story! Yet, with each passing day reality gloats and mocks. Its mockery leaving the dry fields and expanse desert lands, skidding through the rashly constructed fences of our middle regions and venturing ever more audaciously to the lush forests of our fertile savannahs. I write this piece because I am tired. Tired of hoping that things will get better only to see them get worse the very next day. And I write this piece because I do not like the myopic and triumphalist tonality of Ezeifedi’s piece titled, "To resolve the crisis in the North," published on May 3rd in The Guardian.
Ezeifedi’s words sounded like those of a regional but parochial politician. In reading him, one can see that thirst for vengeance and hate that underscores everything we do in this nation. One could observe first hand, the bottled years of suppression and animosity. One could perceive the season of anomie in which we currently live. But what I found particularly disturbing in the words of such an obviously informed mind is the manifest lack of urgency in understanding the enormity of the danger facing us in Nigeria and the increasingly international scarecrow that the ogre of Boko Haram is succeeding in turning Nigeria into. Boko Haram is an odorous economic leech, a sad political flatus and an urgent threat to our dear lives. Boko Haram is swiftly transmuting the idea of a failing Nigerian state into the reality of a failed Nigerian state. Boko Haram is a cancer that must be amputated with great haste for the good of us all.
However, much as Ezeifedi may have over rejoiced at the anarchy that has befallen the northern parts of Nigeria for now, his sentiments are not without reason. He made certain observations which are acute. It is not just the Igbos who today cry of marginalization. No, all other minorities shout of being marginalized. In war, there is hardly any real victor because the parties mostly emerge as shades of their former selves. This is why a people need a certain deep cultural ability to transcend the crushing banalities that confound the experience of life post-war. The Igbos indeed have shown such deep cultural ability to rise above misfortune in spite of great tribulations: rising beyond their planned and orchestrated massacre executed with the knowledge of the northern elite under the conspiratorial silence of Gowon’s watchful eyes; transcending the debilitating shock of the 30 month Biafran civil war and succeeding despite Awolowo’s spite with N£ 20. Yet, these are not reasons to gloat. Instead, these are reasons to be worried; worried that what Nigerians have succeeded to build since after the civil war might come crashing like a pack of cards under the continued siege of Boko Haram.
I do not share the spirit of Ezeifedi’s piece because I love Nigeria. I do not share this spirit because I am dutifully worried. I do not share this spirit because all of us are involved in Nigeria. Have Igbo traders, Tiv men, Ogoni youths or Fulani girls also not fallen victims to Boko Haram’s terror? I do not share Ezeifedi’s triumphal spirit because each Nigerian is reduced by the death of each Boko Haram victim, because each of us is reduced by the exploding reverberation of each of Boko Haram’s bombs. Much as Nigeria may be as Ogbunwezeh has declaimed “a monument to the avarice of [Britain] … an impossible project, economically irredeemable, politically ungovernable and a sad caricature of the conflict of eternal opposites”, we – all of us Nigerians – are yet involved in this unfortunate amalgamation of a thousand monolithic nationalities. Itaque, our treatment of Nigeria must be with the wisdom, restraint and cunningness a loving husband exercises in the treatment of his rash, impulsive but passionate bride.
Unfortunately, those who have led this nation, mostly skilled in the management of numerous bedfellows have more often than not lacked the wisdom of transferring much needed ideas from the private to the public realm. A little more wisdom would have done us good!
But like the son of a drunk or the daughter of a cheat we have to make do with the most we have got. We have to in one way or another find ways of keeping our heads high, our shoulders propped. This is why the national conference is a tentative right step matching tentatively to the right direction. Ezeifedi demands an apology from the North; an apology which is well needed but which will never be received. This is why we all know deep down in our hearts that we are fooling ourselves, that we will all continue in the fleece-like quest of reconciling irreconcilable opposites.
We have therefore taken national self-deception as our alter egos. We do not tell ourselves the truth. We sacrifice our national interests, the core steps that will move Nigeria forward, on the altar of religion and race. This is why no consistent system of values can be espoused as Nigerian 54 good years after independence. Instead, we have reduced ourselves to the laughing stock both of ourselves and of the international community. Whatever set of sentiments attached to the Nigerian or to the Nigerian state has become a byword for corruption (our politicians), inferiority (our goods), fraud (our youth), unemployed (our graduates).
This is the more reason why this is not a time to gloat or be happy that misfortune is not yet at my doorstep. This is why this more than any other time is a time to call for mutual understanding and to learn the spirit of tolerance. This is why this is the time to learn to love and to impose order! May Allah be merciful upon us!! May God save Nigeria!!!
Akunyili wrote in from Berlin.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters