Friday 4 May 2007

Did I abandon Nigeria?

Meeting the tribe

In my office it would appear that it is now open season for contractor/consultant recruitment.

I cannot help but notice that I am no more as conspicuous as I used to be in the computer department, there are a few more deeply tanned and very busy men, one of whom is Nigerian.

Living in the Netherlands, there seems to be this unspoken acknowledgement rule where other people of African ethnicity establish acquaintance, as if, we are few, all of us should band together as brothers.

I would not know if Nigerians are supposed to have a kind of look or complexion, but I have somehow never failed to identify Nigerians in the Netherlands or when I have been on one of my jaunts.

My tea got cold

So, I was accosted as I stepped out of my office to get some tea by this consultant who wanted to have some small talk; before we had exchanged 4 sentences of conversation, I thought I had heard this tale before.

High-flying consultant living in Europe for many years, happy with earning lots of money but dissatisfied with the fact that he does not earn as much as our contemporaries who seem to be minting money in Nigeria and spending it like an indispensable resource in Europe.

For that reason alone, we are not successful; rather we are suffering and should return to Nigeria forthwith to really make money.

Forget social justice

Fine point, but I do not like the situation where despite ones wealth there is an underclass of the deprived, the disenfranchised, the desperate and the disadvantaged - I was then thinking of the servant of the President of Nigeria in his pantry of a room with mattress on the floor and no chair in sight.

My colleague assured me that the circles in which I would move in Nigeria would completely isolate me from that underclass, I would hardly see them.

I would suppose that is why there would be no socio-economic development to affect the lives of ordinary Nigerians, they are invisible to the people in positions to exercise probity, social justice and bring the kind of thinking and ability to implement radical change in Nigeria.

Show them your money

If I took anything away from that conversation that left me down-hearted, unimpressed and almost disillusioned, it was the overwhelming hedonistic and materialism complex that informed everything he was doing; it is all about money, how to get more, how to show off, how to give bigger gifts and how to impress everyone else with magnanimity.

It was not about how to help people but how to make people realize that you have arrived and hence you should not be trifled with; it went has far as the comparison with the lady kicking you out of the house in Europe when the opposite and more chauvinistic case in Nigeria is to kick her out, destitute.

Yes, people living in Europe can think like that.

Abandoning my country

This takes me to a comment placed by a son of the President of Nigeria who has regaled the Internet community with pictures of servants and chiefs who congregate in the court of his father, the juxtaposition of opulence and penury makes uncomfortable viewing for my Western eyes.

He said, "I like how Naija (jargon for Nigeria) people who have abandoned their country like you carry on as if they are more Naija than anyone else."

For some, it is a very hurtful comment to make, but I think I did abandon Nigeria for reasons the President's son might have a rosy picture of.

The Nigeria I remember, where my middle-class parents lived almost like aristocracy is stuck in the 1970s. This young man's father has ruled the country for 11½ years of the 46½ years of Nigerian independence.

No blame no shame

The question is why anyone would abandon their country and if this has any bearing on the maladministration, incompetence, corruption, injustices and nepotism in the current and previous administrations?

This man (the current President) was Head of State, 30 years ago - yes, a generation ago - he ushered in a civilian regime in 1979 that plundered the nation which lead to another 16 years of atrocious military excess before an ex-military man - same person - in civilian clothes took over again and probably is repeating the cycle he initiated just a generation ago.

Umaru Musa Yar' Adua in 2007 is just about the same pair of safe pair of hands that Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in 1979, without reproach, honest but a weak figurehead over a garrulous bunch of looting and thieving miscreants who milked the country dry with impunity.

Nigeria in abandon

I probably did abandon my country because people who were to make opportunity meritorious, infrastructure functional, security inconsequential and democracy meaningful - the basic social justice bread-and-butter issues that give rise to a great nation - have squandered it all on their hedonistic ambitions and self enrichment without concern for the people they lead.

Those same people like a recurring nightmare are still in power as they were 30 years ago and they have not made the country we abandoned any easier to return to.

Yes, we feel more Naija than anyone else because the scales have been removed from our eyes to see that way their forebears have mortgaged Nigeria to interests inimical to her progress.

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