After Yet Another Periodic Ritual

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The morning after what was yet another fanciful celebration of our transition from one civilian epoch to another, I had cause to ruminate over our flailing prospects in a democracy that should reward us all with life more abundant but is returning quite bizarre fruits after several failed efforts to make it work for us. Yes, we are rolling out the drums and mounting a loud party that we are effecting another ritual that should signify strength to our democratic commitment. Yes, new leaders or re-jigged leaders have emerged to take us through what is becoming a difficult bend. But then, Nigerians have gone through a rough and stormy patch and there seems to be no palliatives in sight. The future is so dark and dreary and the prospects of redemption is so bleak that not a few Nigerians would vow we are in an irredeemable cul de sac.

Yes, we have heard newer, sweeter and sometimes recycled words of promises and anticipated comfort. We have heard sermons of the brighter days ahead and we have been once again, exhorted to be hopeful of elusive brighter days ahead, only that those that pen and read these beautiful sermons, as periodic rituals, do not have our patience to wait for their own sunny day. They would rather free load the goodies right now and stash away enough till to last them for several future generations. Yes, all these fifty years of our troubling independence, we have been conditioned to hear these sweet songs to our parched ears. In fact, our leaders are beginning to sound like broken records, just like the poor service they give us, because nothing gets to change with each promise of impending goodies. What we are hearing today and hooting and fretting all over are mere recycled bylines that have littered our still born hopes and unrealized expectations these past fifty years. It is only that we, as ordinary Nigerians, have conditioned our minds and estates to be overly optimistic on nothing, to go round and round in a self-duplicitous cyclical chain that permits our marauding leaders to exploit us while we invent newer means of accepting our fates.

As Nigerians, we have not strained to find out why our so called leaders never change, why they keep repeating the same old and worn out mistakes of taking the people for a ride, just the morning after similar high falutin promises as we heard on May 29. Simply, put, why are Nigerian leaders condemned to exploiting us at every bend and doing it so well that we do nothing about it but clap and provide ring side approval for their bestial acts? Why is it that it is only when a leader gets out of stage that his nuisance values came to be noticed and in most cases, he becomes a fugitive from the law? Why can’t we pin down our leaders and hold them accountable to such mouth watering promises that they repeatedly make every time they access opportunity to take absolute control of our coffers and affairs? Is it that Nigerians are afflicted with so short an attention span that we forget easily or that we are easily seduced by just a mere recitation of promises that have rather been implemented in breach? Is it that Nigerians are easily pliable, simple minded or plainly powerless to hold down their leaders and pin them to the promises they eagerly mouth when they come to the saddle and easily jettison as soon as they sit pretty? Is it that our leaders have known our weaknesses, our terrible afflictions and are exploiting these shortfalls to full advantage?

Let us recall that twelve years ago, precisely May 29, 1999, former president Obasanjo made mouth watering promises to Nigerians that within a short time, he would restore this much abused country to an Eldorado. Let us recall that he had promised to end the scourge of power shortage in six bare months, restore our educational system to an enviable status, make functional health facility easily accessible to ordinary Nigerians, fix our dilapidated roads, stem the pandemic scourge of corruption, provide jobs to our teeming unemployed, tame the monster of insecurity, end the cancerous run of the vicious circle of poverty, among other soul lifting promises. Eight years after, the jury is still out on which of these sectors that was not left in a more wrecked state as Obasanjo left power in 2007. Even as he awarded himself a flattering pass mark, Nigerians knew that Obasanjo merely exacerbated the vicissitudes he met on May 29, 1999 and that has been our sad fate with leadership since then.

Thirteen years after we joyfully ushered in a supposedly new vista of hope in a democratic dawn, life has plunged to a frighteningly low nadir as the vicious circle of poverty makes unfettered rounds among famished Nigerians, insecurity has continued to force Nigerians beyond the limits of protection, infrastructural breakdown is the order of the day, poverty walks on all fours, corruption has become the most lucrative and thriving business in the country, unemployment has become intractable, life hovers on the Hobbessian fringe and the Nigerian lives in an entrapped cage where life is brutish, short and nasty. This damp and scary picture is despite the fact that within the said period, oil revenue has quadrupled and the country had earned more than it had earned in the remainder of our fifty something years nationhood!

We all know that soon and very soon after yet another ritual of flowery sermons on a permanently receding rosy future, the only business we will have thrive here is money sharing, official stealing, all manners of constituency and shitting allowances, ensuring sybaritic comfort for office holders, contract splitting, padding budgets for office holders, official graft and all sorts of financial scams that enrich those in power against those to whom these feckless promises provide momentary opium. We would be saddled with the same dawdy scenario of decayed infrastructures, worsening insecurity, uncurbed unemployment, internecine poverty, diseases, want and the notorious circle continues its undisturbed ravaging of Nigerians who are made to live on periodic diets of endless promises of a rosy future. That has been the lot of Nigerians these past fifty years and everything points to the fact that this will not change soon.

My take is that in a hundred days time, the tone will change with ear-spitting celebrations of unidentifiable achievements and from there to the next four years, Nigerians would be seduced to clap and dance that our messiahs have exceeded their campaign promises and should carry on for eternity and the scam will go on for another four years when a new set will come in with even sweeter mouth watering promises that never departs from the public space where they are usually uttered. If any of these leaders is unfortunate to leave power in the next four years, we would be regaled with sordid details of his conducts, which provides momentary juicy distractions to a clearly disoriented and ill-focused people while their raiding continues unabated.

Nigerians must work harder to make leadership and the provision of life enhancing opportunities and infrastructures to cease being seen as rocket science that is unrealizable. If Dubai can transform from a waste land to a wonder of the modern world in eight bare years, the country’s leadership has no excuse to fail so abysmally in thirteen years of corruption wracked and mediocre leadership With what happened recently in North Africa and many parts of the world, Nigerians must brace up to wrestle with their irreformable leaders for their country. So in the drab ritual of reciting oft repeated promises every four years, Nigerians must move in to effect positive changes to their lives through holding their leaders accountable to their promises. We must be bold and courageous enough to challenge our leaders to work for us or ship out. We must define what we want and set out to go for it and it should be nothing more than service to famished and poverty-wracked Nigerians. Within the next four years, this should form our collective mission and ensuring that things are done right would be a great departure from a past of self imposed drudgery that has almost completely wrecked a well endowed nation and made her people desolates in the midst of plenty.

•Claver Oparah wrote in from Lagos.