I hope this letter from a dear son to his motherland finds you well. It has been awhile since you heard from me but I have been meaning to write you and your thoughts have never escaped my heart, not even for a moment. In my veins still runs the life-sustaining blood whose hue is green and white.
You will, hopefully, understand that my inability to write you all this while was the result of the vicissitudinary condition of life. I too constantly check the mailbox in the hope that you will write to me.
If I haven’t been perfect in showing my love for you it is because you haven’t been too.
I know you are still probably worried about my wellbeing. Please be assured that I am in good health.
It isn’t my preferred choice to write you an open letter but circumstances beyond my control compel this channel of communication. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive my choice of medium and not throw the baby with the bath water.
Dear Nigeria, my heart is heavy, ready to air its content to, hopefully, an attentive mother.
My iroko, why, in spite of your years, did you allow our relationship to wax cold? It is expected for a child to behave like a child but isn’t a mother’s love supposed to be everlasting?
Yes, I left you for another land but you will acknowledge that there was no more space in your belly for me and your other many children to continue to grow. I, like many of them, am educated, versed in the ways of the world and couldn’t contend with the long lines that formed at the privately owned water taps in the neighbourhood since yours wouldn’t dispense water anymore. Or the near-violent jostling that came with boarding molues and danfos in Lagos on a daily basis since your government wouldn’t provide efficient mass transportation system.
I could afford a ride but you had no good roads for road users. And then came the mobile phone revolution but even you weren’t prepared for the large number of your children who wanted it so bad that the technology hasn’t worked efficiently since it was introduced. You see, calls are constantly being wrongly-routed or disconnected but the users are never compensated.
“Yeah, these are the rantings of a spoilt child”, you would sigh. You may think I am now too worldly-wise and have, perhaps, lost my way. I get it!
But let me digress a bit and ask after your wellbeing.
How’re you doing, my dear motherland? How are the years treating you? Are you still the beloved for whom your son sang “Sweet Mother”, Africa’s anthem and greatest song of all time? Do you still remember the lyrics to that song and how it is meant to invoke the love of a mother for the child?
Dear motherland, I still remember how you held me in your underbelly for those many years before I temporary relocated. See, our love isn’t one that can be easily quenched; yet, neither of us chose the other.
Just like how you were formed without your input, I too had no say when the Lord chose for me to be a Nigerian. But that’s where, curiously, the similarity ends.
You are the offspring of the violent rape of a people of motley tongues, traditions, cultures and histories by a certain colonizing bunch. You were a damsel whose future was ripped by gun-toting, jack-boot wearing racist crew who in their selfish desire for an empire midwifed your birth.
So closed-minded and gain-seeking they were that even at your christening the only guests were your foster parents to whom your cultures, languages and norms were unknown. Who names a child in the absence of her people? Your birth parents thought so less of you that they invested the least amount of time on the only everlasting attribute that sticks - a name! Haba.
Oh, how unlucky you have been!
But is that why you have lost vigour for life and permitted nincompoops who drank the milk of life from your breasts to ceaselessly continue to re-victimize you? I mean those vagabonds you call your children!
You mean you still harbour feelings for those disreputable offsprings who so much desire your demise that they steal heirloom that is meant to be collectively shared by all of your children, including the poorest among us?
Why do you turn a blind eye to the pillaging of your oilfields and the illicit emptying of the treasury by those who live for today but forget tomorrow? Have you lost your ability to invoke your wrath on them so that their ashes can be scattered on the floor of the Atlantic for swift currents to forever take way from your shores?
Strike! Oh motherland, strike them with the anger of a mother who chastises to admonish!
Those one percenters have amassed more wealth than their great-grand-children will ever require. Yet many of your living children are destitute under your roof.
It is for these that I wail. Their fate appears sealed with no interlocutor on their side. Hear me then even if for their sake!
Do you not care that many of them have no roof over their heads, sleep under bridges, are exposed to the elements and have no food in their belly? Isn’t it to your eternal shame that many of your children are jobless and hopeless only because the select few that you have ordained to run your affairs are gluttonous leeches whose appetite for money is quenchable only by death?
You are only fifty-six years but your face has aged, your chest betrays your frayed frame and your cheek bones are laid bare by the ever disappearing flesh that once hid them. You are malnourished yet beneath you lies one of the largest deposits of natural resources that the Almighty ever bestowed.
Curse, curse most docile Nigeria, those who have turned your land to burial sites and enslaved your poor children in their land of birth!
Haven’t you heard that petrol price has increased astronomically? The exchange rate between the naira and the dollar has since skyrocketed. Ah, the masses will be damned with no one to turn to. They can barely afford the petrol price but they are not even allowed to buy it with a jerry can.
Tell me, how do they go about buying fuel since they do not own generators or cars? They aren’t allowed to come with a can even though they desperately need fuel to run the machines for their atarodo and tatashe grinding businesses?
Your poor children do not begrudge deregulation; they only worry about their unknown fate in the absence of a social safety net. Your government says it will feed school children, give loans to artisans and market men and women and pay the unemployed but your government’s word has never been its bond. Honour has deserted the rulers because for too long they have deceived the poorest among your people.
Some time ago the government took some of your unemployed children to foreign lands to study. Just now, we hear many of them have been abandoned yet the government continues to budget for their upkeep. The only ones who receive their share of the budget are the fat makers of laws in whom avarice dwells.
Your poor children are meant to trust you whatever might come their way but under your care they bear pains of inability to feed their own children. In their arms, their wards die daily for lack of food and good medical care. A poor pregnant woman is more likely to die than birth her baby!
Why has your milk of compassion ceased
that you no longer hear
the lamentation of your children?
As a shepherd harkens to his cattle
so too your children
call for you.
Like a bride waits for her groom
your children long for a
Even so now, awake O Nigeria!
To be continued …
Idowu Ohioze, a lawyer, lives in Canada and can be reached via [email protected]