Nigeria: Strange Country, Strange People

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Sometime ago, a survey revealed that Nigerians are the happiest people on earth. Nobody knows the basis of the outcome of the said survey but if its veracity is genuine, it only goes to authenticate what we have always known about Nigeria. It is a strange country occupied by strange people. Or how else does one explain a happy people in the midst of so many miseries? For a long time, Nigerians have been living without light, functional public infrastructure, qualitative public education, and good governance among others and yet they remain quite happy! Unbothered. Unconcerned. Unperturbed. How come? Nigerians are miracle workers. They have devised ingenious means of coping with their miseries. They have constructed their own roads. They have built their schools. They have sunk boreholes. They have discovered the best of power generating machines. So, whatever the government does with the commonwealth is not their business. After all, they have found a way round their troubles. What a people!  What a country!

A former civilian governor in one of the south south states, who was trying to evade justice, was actually aided by his people to escape from the country. They frustrated every attempt by security personnel to track down the said former governor. To think that these are same people whose wealth he has cornered and used for the good of himself and family! What a people!

A serving governor in one of the states in the country has been ruling for a long time without the State House of Assembly. So, if you call him a sole administrator, you might not be mistaken. Yet, the people keep milling around same man. Why not, he is the saviour of the people. He has delivered them from numerous troubles. Perhaps, it was in recognition of this that he was saddled the responsibility of coordinating the campaign of one of the frontline presidential aspirants in his region. An authentication of the power that be in his God given gifts as a ‘democrat’?

In another state in the country, a former governor, who was recently ousted by the Appeal Court, took his impoverished state to the capital market to take a bond of over N17 billion about seven months to the end of his second term in office. By the time he was thrown out of office, about sixty percent of the money has been spent, as usual, on ‘developmental projects’. For his ‘good work’ while in office, a well attended thanksgiving service was organised for him in his country home. Shouts of Hallelujahs echoed all through the village as the drums were rolled out to welcome back home a proud son of the soil who has represented his people well.

Following this same path of honouring our heroes, a befitting thanksgiving service was also organised last Saturday for a very important politician in a ‘rascally’ part of the country who was returning from prison having completed a two year jail term over corruption charges. Prominent in the crowd of well wishers at the service was a former president, serving governors, ministers, ambassadors, among numerous others. Their mission was simple: to welcome home a darling son, leader, father and husband who has done his people proud! Right from the gate of the Kirikiri maximum prison and its adjoining streets, gaily dressed men and women, in various attires, were on hand to demonstrate their love and solidarity for this very important Nigerian. The returnee, who looked so well fed (a testimony to the new prison regime in the country), smiled and waved cheerfully, in the company of his proud wife, as he acknowledged cheers from the surging crowd. What a ‘glorious day’ it was for him! Very soon, as a way to further demonstrate how well he is loved, he might be given presidential pardon. Why not?

It was recently revealed in a national daily that while the rest of the schools in the country observed the INEC enforced holiday, at a particular school in Abuja, where you have the children of the high and mighty in the society as students, it was business as usual. Remember George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

Not quite long ago, it was discovered that a cash sum of $250,000 dollars kept in the treasury room of the Nigerian Football Federation suddenly developed wings overnight. Almost two years later, after the usual noise ala Nigeria, nothing tangible has come out of the various investigative panels set up to probe the missing money. At the end of the day, everyone goes home happy, as usual! Being the unusual country that ours is, same Nigerian Football Association was purported to have paid the sum of $250,000 to the Iranian Football Federation after the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, failed to turn up for a friendly match with the Iranian national team. Money, of course, is not our problem. It has never been!

We live in a very special country peopled by very special men; a country where people with questionable records could rise to hold very prominent political positions; a country where a man who was living off the generosity of friends yesterday suddenly became wealthy overnight having been given political appointment; a country where people place curses on their relatives for coming out poor after holding political office.

It is very unlikely you can find any other country where the people suffer so much from the hands of their rulers and smile in return to cover their humiliation. Hardly can you see any other people that give so much to a system and receive so little. Despite the huge sum allocated  to the last voter registration exercise, Nigerians still came to its rescue by providing power and other logistics when it was obivious the exercise was going to fail.  When will Nigerians begin to make their leaders accountable to the people? When will Nigerians ask the kind of questions being asked in the Maghreb region? When will leadership such as the one we currently enjoy in Lagos State be a common sight in the country? Probably after we have prayed and fasted for divine direction. For now, let us continue to enjoy the enviable record of being the happiest people on earth.

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.