By Alaba Yusuf
“Only a demented hen breaks and sucks its best eggs” – Adebayo Williams, a columnist and playwright.
Not too long ago, I dropped the need for patriotism to a crop of second generation Nigerians born in the Diaspora who are now bona-fide adults and graduates from various universities across the globe. Enthusiastically and unequivocally, they told me they are 100 percent Nigerians, unadulterated and world-focused, but none of them agreed to serve or die for Nigeria. Why? I asked. The unanimous answer that followed remains a food for thought for anyone older than them. “Nigeria is a great place to come from and we are authentic Nigerians born overseas; but Nigeria is littered with bad leaders that nobody wants to emulate. If your leader cannot die for you, why should you die for him or her or whatever they represent? We even know the truth about Nigeria more than some folks back home.”
Not ready to give up so easily, even though I knew I had a hard brand to sell, I told them to think of what they can do for their country rather than what their country can do for them. “We know that, but we are not ready to play ball with wicked people who do not cherish the sacredness of human lives and untouched by the sad fates of their fellow citizens.” I was sunken and gutted to the pit of my stomach.
Not really getting far with these cerebral young adults troubled my soul to no end. So, I decided to shelve the carrot approach and reached for the stick. No corporal punishment in mind, especially in Her Majesty, the Queen’s Land. But I bellowed unconsciously a warning that, “you guys may never become anything politically in Nigeria if you do not serve the compulsory one-year National Youths Service Corps, NYSC.” Rather than draw some awe or respect, my position actually angered the restive youngsters. And they vented their spleen openly thus:
“Sir, please tell your government to give such jobs to our brothers and sisters at home while we eke a living out here in the Diaspora. Why should we serve NYSC when the government cannot ensure our safety against kidnap, rape or even untimely death? Which government has a moral right to ask us to serve, is it the UK one that gave us Grant (student’s loan) to attend universities and become valuable world-class human assets, or the Nigerian Government that does not have us in her statistical data, if there is any? Who will pay for our flight tickets to and from our countries of residence to Nigeria for NYSC? Aside, how do you expect to us to live on a paltry sum of N18, 000 (about £60 British Pounds Sterling) per month NYSC allowance currently being paid by the Federal Government – £2 per day? How gainful are the jobs provided and can the pay cheque take one home? Sir, with due respect, such patriotism lacks proper direction, motivation, foolhardy and grossly engulfed in priority misplaced.” I became downcast. And that was the end of the discussion; some seven months ago.
In fact, in today’s Nigeria, I won’t envy any debate on patriotism with this set of brilliantly liberated and logically cultured young nationalists and compatriots sojourning in the free world of advanced democracies – where leaders are held to their pledges of good governance and oath of office on security and citizens’ welfare.
Today, Nigeria is fast becoming the incubator and hatching room for the monstrous eggs of avoidable fatality and morbidity. That death now plies our national ways and lurks at every corner and intersection of our daily lives is, to say the least, an understatement. Violence of immeasurable proportion and wanton destruction of lives and property of high magnitude are the country’s constant bed-mates.
So, I wonder and ponder if the proponents of a failed state won’t be having a field day for their earlier postulation that the ship of state in Nigeria is drifting into an abysmal miasma, a la Hon. Patrick Obaiyaghon. A US Report was identified as a leader in this direction, but it is an obvious point not shrouded from the minds of many concerned Nigerians. Little wonder why the matter of security and national unity remain key reasons for the assemblage of 492 Delegates at a National Conference, to chart the way forward for our 100-year-old nation that seems to be pushing carelessly on a self-destruct button.
Even at that, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, a former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters under President Olusegun Obasanjo, has labelled her co-delegates to the CONFAB as “the main problems confronting the country.” The frustration of Mama Bakassi might have stemmed from the huge hitch that greeted the first session of the national talk-shop, which brought into head-on collision the issues of religion, ethnicity and calls for fat allowances for their ‘imaginary aides’. The CONFAB has now adjourned for a week, thus decimating their 3-month deadline. Pictures even showed some of them sleeping and snoring through the first session. Sad!
Today’s topmost global trending news, aside the yet-to-be recovered Malaysian Boeing 777 commercial plane that went off the world radar with the fate of its 239 passengers dimmed, plus the Russian-Crimean face-off with the rest of us; is the mass publicised tragedy of how national stadia were converted into job centres in Nigeria, by so called highly placed government officials, which led to the premature deaths of nearly 20 job seekers and prospective leaders of tomorrow. Very sad indeed!
Thus every vocal chord in every home in the country is condemning the unpardonable maladministration of the sordid massing together in confined spaces of over half a million unemployed graduates, out which less than 5000 were to be hired into the para-military outfit. This odd ‘recruitment’ exercise conducted nationwide on behalf of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Saturday 15 March 2014, by the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, has brought hot ash and sorrow into the mouths of all right thinking people; and called into question our leaders’ vision for the nation’s tomorrow.
Meanwhile, death from the cold claws of unemployment has added a new dimension to the many ways that the right to live is being denied many Nigerians; adding to the dangerous litany from Boko Haram jihadists, Fulani-Tiv belligerents; armed robbers, kidnappers, rapists, ritual killers, childbirth morbidity, HIV/AIDS cum Malaria scourge and so on.
It is also very disheartening to hear that as much as N3.8billion was ‘fleeced’ from the already impoverished job seekers by the consulting firm that charged each applicant a fee of N1, 000 per head. Almost 530, 000 persons seeking daily bread and gainful employment participated, even pregnant women and their unborn babies! They travelled from near and far and were forced to purchase white undergarments for the fatal and infamous ritual that murdered the precious dreams of many.
Hence, the temperature and temperament of legislators at the National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives, have now risen to the red zone on the issue. So much so that they are calling for the immediate sack of the ‘monster Minister’ Abba Moro who brought grave sorrow to our nation’s tomorrow. And that call is receiving huge support from Bayelsa to Bauchi, Lagos to Sokoto, Benue to Yobe. The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, picketed the NIS headquarters and poured hot words on those responsible for ‘the show of shame’.
The Presidency too, is said not to be sleeping over the matter. The Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Major General Jones Arogbofa, retired, had invited the erring Minister and the top brass of NIS, for questioning. Some Niger Delta civil rights activists have called on their son, President Goodluck Jonathan, to send Moro packing if he (GEJ) wants to be remembered for good tomorrow by the nation. Even Mrs. Helen Mark, first wife of the Senate President, has denied any involvement in the ugly transaction that ruined the hopes of many homes, contrary to published allegations.
Somehow, Moro calls the monumental tragedy as a piece of history from which he needs a second chance to rewrite and reconstruct. “I hope to set a probe panel to investigate what happened. But the real cause of the whole thing was the presence of unauthorised candidates at the test venues. Who advised pregnant women to attend a para-military drill? “, he was quoted to have said. The visit of survivors at the National Hospital, Abuja, by the wives of NIS top officials in colourful aso ebi (fashion-outfits), led by Mrs. Parradang, jointly presents the Ministry of Interior in Nigeria as a house of public relations commotion. The physical assault and insults dished out the placard-carrying NLC leadership at NIS headquarters by overzealous staff, also leaves much to desire ethically.
Finally, which way is Nigeria heading in global perception and her people’s projection of their nation? Whither goes the Vision 20-20-20 promise and the Transformation Agenda? And how does the nation conduct a successful Confab, a referendum and 2015 general elections amidst these hullabaloo of grand delusion, genuine fear and collective socio-political and economic is hallucination? Are we just going to pray, as usual, and wish this evil cross pass over us with arms folded?
History is abound with nations that refused to distant fire from containers of gun powder –unemployment and official repression and oppression of a people by their rulers most times serve as catalyst for revolution. May we not bring upon ourselves riots of immense proportions in not too distant future? For the tension in our land is fast outpacing people’s tolerance and their traditional patience. Too much tales of woes, sorrow and deaths surround us every day! We all have to douse this fire on time. Long live Nigeria, but leaders should listen to the cries of the led. Because no country can continue to decimate its own population through avoidable situations, much like the demented hen that breaks and sucks its best eggs, and still stand to be counted among the best within the comity of nations.
The Writer, Alaba Yusuf, is an international publicist/journalist, strategist and commentator in Abuja