talking

As Nigerians we all have experiences peculiar to us, even as compatriots.

Let us, however, examine some of the experiences of a former minister as espoused in a lecture he delivered in Lagos on Thursday, September 1.

Former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Frank Nweke II delivered the 13th in the series of lectures marking the birthday of Bishop Mike Okonkwo, entitled: “The State of the Nation: Redefining Our Values.’’

Mike Okonkwo is the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM).

In the lecture, to mark Okonkwo’s 71st birthday, Nweke II shared his experiences with the audience wherein he gave interesting in-depth about his reality of the country, Nigeria.

An excerpt of the transcript of his speech reads:

These realities are anchored on the experience of my mother, aged 71 who was mourning my late father buried in November of 2012 and my grandmother, 88years, who had visited to comfort her daughter in mourning. Both of them confronted kidnappers in the comfort of our home in Enugu in 2013.

They were saved by the grace of the almighty God. It was nothing short of a miracle as the older woman scolded them to leave the house while the younger asked them to please shoot her as she was missing her late husband so much that she was very happy to join him that night. Overwhelmed by the courage of these women, the gang of seven dressed in military fatigues scampered into the night.

My reality is the invasion of my community by herdsmen in 2012 leading to fatalities and large-scale destruction of farmlands. Today, only few of my people have the courage to go to the farm. Communal conflicts between herdsmen and communities appear to have become part of the reality of our daily lives.

My reality is the poverty and the hunger that ravages my community and my people, daily. This reality includes young men and women who have no jobs and or livelihoods since graduation from various institutions of higher learning.

Bishop Okonkwo, my reality is a certain young man, Joel recently kidnapped from his home in Ibafo, Lagos in the dead of the night in July 2016. When the kidnappers found it difficult to take down the burglary proofs from the windows, they chose to break down the walls with sledgehammers they had come along with. Neighbours did not come to Joel’s rescue. He has three children, the eldest is 5years. He was taken away for two weeks and released only after ransom was paid.

My reality is a close personal friend and colleague, Chioma, from Oguta who was kidnapped in Elele in Rivers State from a project site just one day after he left me in the South East in July. You don’t want to hear the narrative of his experiences in the forest and the very organized manner in which his abductors conducted their operations. He was in the forest barely clothed with his abductors who were clearly at home there. He was released three days after a ransom was paid and subsequently sent along with a message to a Governor whom they asked him to hold responsible because he had armed, used and dumped them.

My reality is the young military officers, some killed in the line of duty but whose widows and children are now homeless and uncared for by an ungrateful nation. Some are critically injured and abandoned in hospitals to cater for themselves. I know some of these officers, personally.

My reality is that of a bar that is degenerate, some of their members are traders rather than lawyers. They lack the intellect and the sagacity to diligently prosecute cases, prefer to compromise the bench and saddle the populace with perverse precedents.

My reality, ladies and gentlemen is a judiciary in which court clerks tell you which judges are competent and those who are not. They know the corrupt ones and those that are ‘honourable’ enough to keep whatever agreement you reached with them. It is a reality in which some judges send emissaries to you to encourage you to buy their judgment in advance without receipt! It is one in which courts of coordinate jurisdiction counter and undermine each other even in the face of similar facts evidence, in so far as the pay was right! It is one in which justice is delayed because certain patrons so dictate. I have experienced these things and this is my reality. It is a judiciary in which anything goes.

My reality is that of a country in which bad behavior is rewarded, the more you steal the higher you ascend. The more perverse your ways are, the more likely you are to be recognized and celebrated. Common criminals parade the corridors of power while discerning Citizens sit and watch.

My reality is a country that is at war with itself and whose people are at war with each other.

My painful reality is a country in which the ‘Neros’ in our polity are fiddling while ‘Rome’ burns.

Our economy, currency, banking, manufacturing and telecoms sectors, small and medium enterprises are in a tailspin of decline.

The 2015 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranks Nigeria 152 out of 188 countries surveyed in 2014, which puts Nigeria in the low human development category.

It can be expected that the 2015 rankings will be less flattering due to the contraction of our economy and the impact of conflicts in different parts of the country.

My reality is that of a country whose currency is in free fall and an economy in which my savings daily lose value while the cost of living is skyrocketing.

Pensioners drop dead, daily, while Pension thieves enjoy protection from state institutions. Hundreds of billions of Naira remain unaccounted for by public sector pension administrators some of whom are now standing trial and our banking system. Isn’t it bizarre that such volume of funds simply disappear without trace within our economy?

Court sessions are invaded by hirelings, who turn out, for a fee, to protest the innocence of the accused persons. What a country! With the quantum of illegal resources available with these individuals, aren’t the outcomes predictable?

My reality is the devastation of Maiduguri, a city in which I spent about 20 years of my life in peace and tranquility but now at the mercy of Boko Haram, the deadliest terrorist organization in the world; and Kano, the city of my birth once famous for scholarship and commerce but now home to the largest numbers of street and out of school children in Nigeria.

My reality is the millions of displaced fellow citizens, children, widows and widowers, orphans who do not know why their loved ones died.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, with deep sadness, my reality is a country in which generations, past and present chose to sacrifice the blood of our young men and women in uniform, on the field of battle, to feed their greed and avarice even as the rampaging gangs of insurgents, militants and secessionists threaten our existence and the sovereignty of our dear nation.

They chose to steal the funds meant for the procurement of arms rather than arming these brave men and women. They literally sent them to the fields of battle without arms to die.

Those that dared to challenge the perfidy of the military hierarchy were tried and condemned to die by military courts. Thankfully, those who ought to be tried are today standing trial.

My reality is an acquiescent people, called Nigerians, the only people in the world who rather than react when pushed to the wall, will either scale it or melt into it! My reality is a Niger delta that had been neglected for decades and whose youth are now at war with our nation and the environment. This reality includes a Niger Delta in which oil installations are daily bombed as proof that the inhabitants of the area neither believe nor have faith in Nigeria’s Federal Government.

Ladies and gentlemen, my reality is that of young Igbo men, who want to secede from Nigeria. First, it was the MASSOB reality but today the IPOB reality has taken over.

My reality is Agatu in Benue state where over 300 people were killed in one particular communal conflict a few months ago.

Before then, it was the Ombatse cult that had ambushed and killed scores of men of the Nigerian Police and the Directorate of State Security in 2013. There were no repercussions.

Is it possible that Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese philosopher and one of my favorite writers wrote the following piece, titled Pity the nation, with Nigeria in mind?

Pity the Nation

“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.

Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave

and eats a bread it does not harvest.

 

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,

and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

 

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,

yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

save when it walks in a funeral,

boasts not except among its ruins,

and will rebel not save when its neck is laid

between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,

whose philosopher is a juggler,

and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

 

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,

and farewells him with hooting,

only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

 

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years

and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

 

Pity the nation divided into fragments,

each fragment deeming itself a nation.”

Author: Yemi Olarinre