Stories we hear are always heartrending and dreary. Sometimes, they trend too gross, base, and horrendous. Talks of the pervasiveness of hunger and poverty often ring banal. Highhanded leaders seem determined to keep submerging helpless and hapless subjects in a pond of oppression. And followers are not doing the needful; they have accepted suffering as their fate. And their repose position has contributed to the massive mess.
It is candid if I submit from my personal perspective that Nigeria may not have shown me her affection since Obafemi Awolowo ended his tenure as head of old Western Nigeria. Yes, it is true that I neither live nor do business in Nigeria; but I have not woken up one day regretting that I was born in that land. It remains the home I love. It is a land of many opportunities trapped within the walls of Jericho of mammoth misfortunes. We open our eyes every day to much Grace which God has released upon the blessed land. But bunch-by-bunch, and granule- by-granule, we seem to be wasting the Divine Grace; and dispersing it on the altar of deliberate ignorance.
Nigeria is roughly 185 million people. She is about 40 million more than France (66.8 million); Italy (60.8); Belgium (11.2); and Holland (17million) put together. She is almost three times the population of the United Kingdom (65 million); and almost 20 times the size of the United Arab Emirates (9.1million). Nigeria is 25 per cent the total population of the whole of Africa. Twice the population of Egypt (91 million); three times the size of South Africa (55 million); 12 times that of Zambia (16.2 million). Lagos alone, one Nigerian state out of 36 is about the same size with the nation of Ghana which stands at 26 million. None of these nations has the volume of human and natural resources Nigeria can boast of.
From Adamawa to Bauchi; stretching down to Osun into Ekiti; and spiralling Eastward to Enugu and Abia, there is no single state in Nigeria that God has not blessed with natural resources that can make any nation qualify as a ‘Wealthy Nation’. States that some ignorant Nigerians deride and mock as poor and parasitic have abundant wealth buried under their soil.
Government revenues in Nigeria averaged N803.03bn from 2010 until 2016. It reached an all-time high of N1091.75bn in the third quarter of 2011. The collective wealth of Nigerian billionaires reportedly stands at $77.7bn, more than double that of South Africans and almost as much as the rest of the continent’s billionaires combined. Of the 55 billionaires in Africa, Nigeria boasts of 23 and a Nigerian is Africa’s richest man whose net worth is getting close to $30bn. Also, a Nigerian is the world’s richest black woman with $7.3bn. In this land of plenty, destinies of many of her citizens are bruised and brutalised.
When loud rants of impending belligerence and deafening noise from the tom-tom of wars are heard from certain groups of people, it is their reactions to the brutish side of Nigeria millions encounter daily. When a man comes mouth-to-mouth with Nigeria’s cruel kiss, life vamooses. Many are tired of life in Nigeria. They are drained because of unfairness, injustice, hunger, and poverty. They are sick of remaining second, third, or no- class citizens in their own homes. It is why the atmosphere is charged. The signage of dangerously looming feuds and fights we sight must make all of us pause. Nigeria is on the precipitous escarpment to evisceration. She is in a free-fall into the Gehena of avoidable bloodbath. Those who taunt, keep taunting. Those who threaten fire and brimstones continue to have a field’s day. But we are not hearing the truth about why many are not benefitting from the riches and wealth of these many “countries” coerced into one by the brutish British crooked businessmen who were just looking out for themselves prior to 1914.
An unrushed and painstaking look at the quality of life and living in Nigeria will make one wonder if Nigeria is stinkingly rich, or pulverisingly poor. I will save my readers the agony of going through gruesome statistics of backwardness. Do we then wonder why since the end of the Biafra War in 1970, the clamour to get out is getting louder? Do we wonder why many ethnic groups have already drawn out maps of their dream countries out of the orphan Nigeria nation now hated and despised by the same people who sustain her existence? It is partly because lies have replaced the truth; and senseless insistence on maintenance of the status quo is a stubborn rational alternative to a few irrational but powerful beings amongst us.
A nation that abhors the truth abhors good life. A people who run away from it will run forever like the cursed itinerant Esau. For a man who hates the truth, discussion and dialogue are impossible endeavours. But TRUTH is the only existential axis upon which life rotates. It is the only compass whose spin encompasses clear direction; and it is the sole navigational system that takes man to the right destination.
Who does not know that the Igbo are different from the Yoruba; and the Hausa/Fulani are poles apart from Ikwere? And don’t even think about affirming that the Tiv are the same people as the Itsekiri. They are planets too far apart. In other words, Nigeria as geographically expressed, is an incorporated bond of confusion with people who most of the time can’t stand one another. About 500 ethnic tongues and cultures fused into a fuselage of frequent fusses and fights we call a country. Only a fabulist and fabricator will boldly and confidently assert that all is well with Nigeria as it presently is.
We can, however, strive to play down on what makes us different and work on what makes us look or sound alike by first telling ourselves the obvious truth before it is too late. This discussion about the truth Nigeria needs has just begun. Is Nigeria working? No! Can it work? Only if we tell the truth about why it is not working. Let the discussion in truth begin.