Monday, July 19, 2010

Are Our Best Years Behind Us?

When a fish, for one reason,or the other,jumps out of water,it does not die immediately.

But it might as well be.

For all intents,and purposes, the fish is dead,unless it can get back into water quickly.

Until that happens, one could argue that, it's best years,months,or days,could be said to be behind it.

However, some species of cat fish,and lung fish, have the ability to live for prodigious periods outside water. Some can "walk" on land through special adaptations! 

Most  are not so lucky, out of water,means out of life,sometimes in a matter of minutes

When I look at the Nigerian conundrum, the whole nation seems like a fish out of water. She is gasping for air,desperately.

Sadly, the people responsible for her care,the current political leadership, in error, see this as a sign of robust health! 
They have misread the obvious, slap-you-in-the face, cannot-be-missed-unless-you-are-dead, signs of a system in need of life support. 

Critical,and urgent life support!

When I first came to Abuja almost twenty years ago, I had the pleasure of living with the Davies family.I believe they are from Ede.

Sheye and Tutu Davies, adopted me as one of their own children,and I was literally installed as the first born child.

Uncle Sheye,often told me stories about Nigeria, after dinner,in the glare of flickering candlelight.

They seemed more like fables then,and in the light of our reality now,they could have happened on planet Mars. 

One story he told me was about his time at the university,he was among the first crop of National Youth Service Corps participants.

He told me lies!

He said in those days at the university, a washerwoman used to come every Saturday to clean their room, wash ,and iron ,their clothes! 

Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!

He said for fifty kobo,you could eat whatever you wanted in the cafetaria. 

Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!

And that if you did not have money,you could still drink tea for free!

Can you imagine the lies again!

And in addition to this, they were two to a room!

More lies again!

Sheye Davies,is a very brilliant man!

Anyone who has met him,would see that time has been spent,and effort too, to make him a man of robust intelligence!
He is a testament to the quality of education he enjoyed.

Fast forward to the year 2010,the year of our Jubilee.

Jubilee is actually a celebration of freedom from debt,and oppression;what do we see today in our universities?

Rooms originally designed with careful considerations for two undergraduates, now imprison twenty people,or more! 

Some rent bed spaces,others rent the space under the bed,and so many others rent bag spaces! No wonder we are producing people with big certificates,but little education.

Our children are going through the motions of learning, in the most dire of circumstances. 

Our education is on life support!

We have never,in modern times,spent the UNESCO  recommended thirty percent of our national budget on education. 

As I write, there is no Nigerian university in the top one thousand universities of the world! Meanwhile five South African Universities are there!

Have you listened to the average university graduate speak the English language recently? 

It is an exercise in linguistic mayhem! On the average , expect one sentence of twenty words,to be littered with seven errors!

Are our best years behind us?

I have a friend who works as a records personnel in one of the hospitals in Abuja.

Sometimes, I see things.

I remember getting to her hospital at nine am one morning,and finding women in various stages of pregnancy sitting. Waiting. 

Waiting to see the doctor,sometimes, there are up to sixty women, and some of them seem to be on their last leg. They look like lettuce left to dry in the tropical sun.

Some of them,got to the hospital,as early as six am! They usually see the doctor in their order of arrival. If for any reason, an emergency engages the overworked doctor, these women may not leave the hospital till noon! 

Nigeria's infant,and maternal mortality rate, is legendary.

Pregnant women are safer in Somalia,than in Nigeria. If "city" women spend so much time waiting to see the doctor, what do you think is the lot of rural women? 

In those days, maternal and infant mortality existed, but not on this scale.It was not as a result of the failure of the system to care, but there were mitigating factors then.

Today, when we are supposedly richer, and more knowledgeable, we still have not solved the problem;instead,it has grown worse.

I remember a time when agriculture was the mainstay of this nation, the groundnut pyramids, and the cocoa, and oil palm plantations.

I still see some of the warehouses built to store these produce for export.
They are now silent, and fallen into disuse. A testament to a succession of failed leadership.

We no longer have an agricultural industry.

What we have are a few farms,struggling against  the smothering,and atrophying  effect of  leadership without vision.

When Malaysia wanted to establish her oil palm industry,it looked to Nigeria for seedlings. I read a few months ago, that Malaysia had just acquired land on the coast in Ghana to build storage tanks for palm oil.

They intend to supply Nigeria quickly whenever we have our seasonal scarcity of palm oil. 

In one generation, the tide has turned against us.We no longer export agricultural produce, we now import rice,beans,poultry,and other sundry produce.  

Are our best years behind us?

At one point,not too long ago, we had companies assembling volkswagen, and peugeot, cars in Nigeria.
Today, the last surviving company,peugeot automobile of Nigeria, is now importing second hand cars!

It's excuse, the cost of producing new cars, puts it at a huge disadvantage with the imported second hand cars. I suspect they may eventually relocate to Ghana, where Dunlop,and a host of others,have relocated to.

Our industrial estates, are now generator display estates. You can tell you are there even if your eyes are closed.

All you have to do is listen, for the generators.

Generators are meant to be an alternative power source, any industrialist who works on this premise would soon discover the error of his ways. 

Anyone intending to engage in any reasonable manufacturing enterprise, must provide his own water,power,electricity,security,road; in a nutshell, he must duplicate services expected from government,which do not exist!

Are our best years behind us?

A cliche we often hear concerning elections, is that the June Twelve election,was our freest,and fairest  election. 

Seventeen years on,three general elections later, we do not have any credible election capable of knocking the June Twelve from it's much vaunted pedestal of credibility.

Today, credible election verdicts,are only possible through the intervention of the courts. We have all succumbed to the notion,that free elections, cannot happen in Nigeria. 

So how did we achieve June Twelve?  

Are our best years behind us?

One could go on,an on,and on.The litany of lost opportunities signpost our one step forward,two steps backward existence.

Are our best years behind us?

Nigeria has been flipping,and flapping for the past fifty years, those charged to care for her, her caretakers, have,sadly, truth be told,been undertakers.

They have consistently misread the signs. They have been clueless.

One of them, General Ibrahim Babangida,when he was head of state, once declared that he did not know what was keeping Nigeria's economy up.

Such has been the caliber of those minding us.

So when I ask the question, are our best years behind us?

The answer is up in the air.

We are a resilient brood!

And that is the reason why we have survived despite the numerous attempts to scuttle our collective hopes.

When your best years are behind you,you are on your way to extinction.

We should not be celebrating our fifty years of nationhood. 

There nothing to celebrate!
Instead there is so much to mourn!

They have not been glorious years.

They have been fifty years of watching the world pass us by!

Fifty years of failed dreams, and broken promises!

Fifty years of watching smaller nations,like Ghana, catch up to us, and leave us behind.

When Ghana discovered oil some years ago, a Ghanaian said his nation was going to show Nigeria how to use oil wealth properly.

It was a well deserved indictment.

Deep down in my heart, I hope it does not happen;but in my head, I know it is certain.

We have lost so much ground,I wonder if we can regain our place.

Fifty years of failed leadership,has brought us here.

What will the next fifty bring?

As we hope in the face of the odds against us,

Let us hope, that our children do not look back at our shameful suffering in the midst of plenty now, and envy us!

Then,it would have been better,if we had never existed!

Are our best years behind us?


1 comment:

  1. Julius, hope you know they are planning big for their Golden jubilee. Budgeting big for a ceremony that will, has usual benefit a few, they and their cohorts. Does President Jonathan need to be told that this is a time for sober reflection? Our leaders so far will remain the same until sulphur and brimstone is let loose on their heads.