October 18, 2018

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Happy Birthday Nigeria – Viola Okolie

Happy Birthday Nigeria – Viola Okolie
“Dear Nigeria, 
It is a bit strange though, wishing you a happy birthday; it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the way it is supposed to and there is none of that glee and unbridled excitement with which we usually reach for the phone and ‘rush’ a loved one who is celebrating, especially at a very good age like 58.
You don chop plenty Christmases dear country. In general terms, you should not just be a grandfather but should have long generated offspring making your lineage proud in more ways than one can imagine, but unfortunately, what do we have here?
We celebrate the turn of your birthday by having Fulani herdsmen invade communities and amazingly, an institution of higher learning, a federal institution of higher learning, on the eve of your turning 58 and leaving behind, as is characteristic of them, a trail of sorrow, tears, and blood.
Permit me to digress a little Naija; we shall come back to the topic of this auspicious birthday of yours.
You see, I schooled in the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and one of the memories that would continue to live with me forever was not related to my academic (and non-academic) activities in that school, no.
It was of a much younger, trimmer and more agile me, returning from the end of year party of the Association of Anambra and Enugu State Students sometime in 1997 – okay, maybe ‘returning’ would be technically wrong since what happened was that a band of students felt that we had no right being south easterners and celebrating an end of year party on a northern soil.
So they gate crashed our party with cudgels, knives, and daggers.
So, the memory is not of me returning from a party per se, but of Cousin Amaka and I hightailing out of the venue as if the hounds of hell were after us and running in the general direction of the Demonstration Staff School.
We soon got in there and discovered we were trapped. We couldn’t run back in the direction we had come as there was a bloody fight raging there and in front of us, was a solid wall.
What were we to do?
That was the day we both discovered we had wall gecko abilities. Shoes and purses flung over the fence, skirt pulled up far above our waistlines, we jumped up and just managed to grab the edge of the wall. We skinned our legs shimmying up the walls like lizards, sat astride the walls, gauge the distance to the ground on the other side and swung our legs over. We dropped, grab our shoes and purses, and ran – all in one fluid motion.
If you know Zaria well, we ran from Demonstration Secondary School to the Aviation College approaching Kwangila, before a car pulled up and offered us a lift and not even caring for our safety, we choose between the devil and the deep sea and literally dived in and, boy, were we grateful when the sympathetic occupants of the vehicle delivered us scratch free to my elder sister in Kongo campus!
This would be the second of such incidents I would encounter face to face and escape by the skin of my teeth – religious intolerance at the worst levels within an institution of higher learning.
How many times would these universities be hit by religious fanatics before the government of the day, whichever day these incidents happen, take decisive steps to let the intruders know that whatever the madness, it should be restricted to their immediate locale and young men and women who have left their different locations to come and pursue higher learning should not be viewed as sitting ducks for their anger and hate-fueled target practice?
Back to you Nigeria; apologies for that long digression as I pondered over the incongruity of innocents being slaughtered time and time again and a government who has not been able to handle these intrusions decisively – I have an uncle like you, Nigeria.
He is about the same age as you are – 58-years-old.
Like you, he is also a non-starting underachiever. He has a lot of younger ones though who are doing way better than him at navigating life and eking out a living somehow. So, from time to time, he feels that the successes of the younger ones should be his by default, even though he makes no conscious effort to achieve some success of his own.
Anytime this entitlement mentality falls upon him like a heavy torrential downpour, he will constitute a nuisance, trying to remind everyone that he is the eldest.
‘Giant of Africa’; ‘Africa’s Largest Economy’; ‘Big Brother Africa’; these and many more are the acronyms you have gratuitously given yourself yet you have absolutely nothing to show for it.
The only new infrastructures you have are either being built in the new cities or are personal properties of the thieves who have looted and continue to loot from your coffers for their own personal gain.
Every other infrastructure is either decaying or left as abandoned structures; or is decaying as an old and unmaintained structure.
The only development we see is in the pot bellies of your politicians.
Anywhere there is money to be borrowed, your politicians are there with their knee pads on, begging for a handout. Considering the fact that the ministers who were ‘carefully selected’ by your head boy after almost 7 months of dithering are either clueless, still operating in an analog mode while living in a digital world, unqualified or lack the ability to read the fine print.
Would it be any wonder if we wake up one day and find the Chinese rounding us up with chain links as contained in an agreement signed by your greedy, quasi-literate leadership class?
I say ‘happy birthday’ to you Nigeria but it is with the same tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm with which you say to a layabout ‘shebi you no go go marry?
You know that it is a herculean task for as long as he remains a layabout, but you ‘sha want to talk your own’.
At 58, what are we celebrating?
The continued decimation of the Christian population by the ‘Fulani Herdsmen’ whom your government claims to be foreigners but yet can’t be stopped as they continue to gain more and more inroads into the country?
Do we talk of the brain drain that has robbed you of your best hands?
Politicians, who start off with a polythene bag containing their personal belongings end up leaving office richer than you? Substandard education and healthcare? Roads and airways that swallow your citizens like well pounded ‘fufu’? Politicians that use ‘na who sabi rig pass suppose win election’ to pepper themselves in a press conference?
Where do we start from?
Wishing you a ‘happy birthday’ is akin to joining the village urchins to clap hands on the head of the village layabout and taunt him about his age of irresponsibility.
Where do we start from? Who do we complain to?
Anyway sha, make e for no loss, happy birthday Naija.
No share from the National Cake give me, I no dey interested.
They say a fool at 40 is a fool forever, but then, they forget there is an exception to every rule.
Nigeria, at 58, you are way too old to still be grappling. Hopefully, you will receive sense or die trying before you attain 70.
Weh done Sa!

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