I haven’t written in a while and I feared work demands meant I had forever lost my creative writing nous to structured articles and professional pieces. Luckily, however, I’m Nigerian, and one can always rely on the fault in our stars to make one’s fingers fly over keyboards in disbelief again.
On January 3, many woke to the news that United States President, Donald Trump, had ordered an airstrike that killed a top Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, and a few others. The Nigerian Facebooksphere was filled with comments trying to weigh out the likely outcomes of this action because, of course, we are tired of judging our own issues. Really, what is there to say? We’ve entered the year 2020 that we were promised all sorts of positive development and today, our president, Muhammadu Buhari, was seen at a conference titled Nigeria 2050: Shifting Gears. More like shifting goalposts and deferring promises, but I digress.
Normally, I wait a couple of days for events like these to pass. With the exception of a few insightful pundits, I usually find many of these conversations have the depth of a teaspoon and as much use as a chocolate teapot. We are, after all, the same people who discussed at length the virtues of afang over oha soups when everyone knows the right answer is to put the kettle on for eba.
One particular post caught my eye, however, and is the muse for this piece. A friend wrote on his unease surrounding America’s decision and Iran’s reputation for being unforgiving. There were comments for and against the threat of retaliation for the murder of arguably the second most important man in Iran – some were flimsy, some were cogent.
But they are not my problem. There were three comments that caught my eye because they are symptomatic of wider, more endemic problems in our country:
The first comment: “That your analysis is strongly flawed is not my headache at all but the way you presented it. It's childish and doesn't make sense whatsoever to call a country's president a child.”
The second: “Well! For Nigeria it "may" be good news. Oil prices”
And, the piece de resistance: “Trump my man. If one man own no spoil, another person own no go better. That’s life o. I pray present Nigerian Government will use whatever excess we make on something tangible that we will be able to point to o” and when she was reminded that “When the world loses an opportunity for peace or less bloody interventions and/or punitive measures, it is not a joking matter,” she responded with, “Hahahaha, guy chill o... no carry problem wey no be ya own for head. As I dey so, hakuna matata. The world itself wey crucify the Prince of Peace, abegi peace dey where it dey. O Lord, give me peace in my heart and keep me loving, but not as the world loveth biko. Las las, we go dey alright”.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: Nigeria in a nutshell. The first comment was in response to the original poster referring to Trump’s action as childish. This feeble deflection from main issues for which the speaker has no real information or viable solutions is a plight that plagues many Nigerians. Talk about Buhari’s governance, and there are people who will tell you to respect his grey hair. When you talk about a sanctioned strike possibly causing more unrest and bloodshed, our people, world famous for leaving the substance and chasing the shadows, bemoan your referring to the US president as “That child”.
The second offensive conjecture is that the potential war could in any way affect Nigeria. Yes, the coffers may swell, as will agbadas and military garb the length and breadth of the country. Another dark spot in the Middle East will not add a single chair or desk to a classroom, a syringe to a hospital, or a kilowatt of electricity to our grids. Our darkness grows even as blood stains Eastern sands because people like the second writer will not channel their rhetoric towards what should work for Nigeria. And no, it is not bloodshed to shore up our oil prices.
The third is perhaps the most worrying and telling comment. A commenter proactively espousing evil on a country in the hopes that their misery will lead to ourupliftment. And when questioned on this, she immediately started talking about God, Nigeria’s eternal band-aid on the cancer of evil. This hypocritical position shows effectively how some people are happy to starve and beat house maids and spend hours in church. The cognitive dissonance shows how many of our leaders are unmoved by their inefficiency and the ever-plunging depths to which Nigeria is falling, but are devout practitioners of whatever faith they follow. Our culture teaches that it is okay to lack ideas, be short on solutions, have zero understanding of empathy, as long as you can call on a superior power.
A few days ago, a young man allegedly met with a “pastor” and together, they brutally murdered his girlfriend and made food and soap with her vital organs for the purposes of supernatural enrichment. The young man’s mother, who also partook of the macabre meals and baths, has a Facebook wall full of Christian service videos and Biblical quotes. Because priorities, thoughts shape ideas. Ideas shape actions. Consistent actions shape behaviour and this ultimately forms a nation’s collective ideology. So, if you want to work out what’s wrong with Nigeria, it might be worth starting with why we have people who know first-hand what suffering is, yet wish suffering on others for the sake of wealth that will not ultimately benefit them.