Reflecting on Flawed Nationhood

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

Exactly three years ago, last week, we published the fifth in a nine-part series of articles attempting to interrogate the causes and effects of our calamitous manhandling of our national development. It was broadly dubbed ‘Great Nation, Poor People’. No one individual, generation, sector or profession was spared…we were all part of the mountain of decay and decadence that we have wrung our country into.

Let us gingerly remind ourselves of what was, and what could have been; perhaps, we can submit ourselves to genuine introspection, capable of igniting a desire to “do something” about our inglorious situation. Here we go…: 

“In truth, we are so far away from where we hope to be, and too near to where we believe we should not be. The ongoing hoopla about the alleged sexual peccadillo of a Nigerian movie star concerning an underage girl – a torchlight for reprehensible social abominations that have, in the past five years, taken a more rapid frequency. This tragic narrative eloquently typifies the fifth element in lifting our people out of diverse manifestations of poverty, to promote and produce a great nation. Society. 

 Let us ask ourselves a few questions. And answer them with honesty at the tip of our tongues. What do we hold dear nowadays? Who do we celebrate in our society today? What do we justify? We cannot hide under the cool shade of “in our own days…”- it won’t cut. We are seeing the perfidy of today because of what our children saw in some of us, read about many of us, and watched as some of us struggled in the mud with greed and shamelessness.

 What exactly do we hold dear as Nigerians? It is useless rhapsodising about a great period in this nation when every adult in the community was a disciplining parent to any wayward child, irrespective of tribe and tongue; when the scandalized ‘owner’ of the child would seek the surrogate out for thanksgiving – and a reassurance that remedial ‘works’ were ongoing. It is pointless luxuriating in the glow of the 60s and 70s when low fences were mainly to prevent straying animals from disturbing your household; when there was no wrought iron behind your curtains to irritate burglars or robbers; when driving against the traffic flow (‘one-way’ we call it now) was unheard of, except in serious emergency. 

Now is our problem. Now is what is letting us down, and showing us in discomforting probe-lights that our descent into total damnation is certain, unless we reverse and recapture our innate human essence. Today, we see and behold head-shaking spectacles, and we shrug in resignation – ‘children of nowadays’ is our national mantra of acquiescence. Young men and women in flashy cars drive around the neighbourhood, plunking money in the air for the next generation to scurry after, with seeds of future conquests and acquisitions sowed in their fragile minds. 

More often than not, the neighbours murmur against the spend-loose behind hooded curtains – ‘only God knows where they get their money from!’ Of course, that’s a lie. We know the ‘wherefrom’ – Yahoo-Yahoo, and other wire frauds. But their mothers pray for them – to be successful, to evade capture, and to prevent evil spirits and vengeful partners from disrupting their new prosperity. All the prayers are to the same God who abhors evil, cheating, ostentation and swindling. 

 When we justify villainy because others are doing it…or because governments have been irresponsible…or the country has gone to the dogs…and several other ‘reasons’… we inevitably pauperise our country, and besmear all as a people whose long history of academy, sophistication and high culture is now seen as merely a poorly sewn dress to cover a mind predisposed to crime and subversion of rules. That crime without punishment is locked deep in our DNA. 

So for the roguery of a few, the entire nation is condemned into ignominy. Our hardworking, law-abiding citizens are dragged through the guillotines as possible fraud artists, drug barons, or mules – and indecently treated and filtered. For the sake of a few, we are all tarred when you engage in online transactions, and your currency and nationality suddenly became an irritable issue – a cause for caution. The picture of eating with the devil wielding a long spoon pops up – simply because your ‘compatriots’ had gone ahead of you to muddy the waters. 

Our level of depravity is not synonymous with youth. The generation before them, in places of trust and responsibility, have also been involved with activities that suggest mental retardation, spiritual hocus-pocus, or some level of group mysticism. How do you steal from your company or business (even if you have the largest shares, or serve as the chairman) then pocket 90% of the loot, and go to church to give God 10% as tithe? The amazing part is the tendency that some people indeed believe that the penance of paying the tithe bestows on them a sense of restitution, a settled conscience. Laughable as it may sound, it is altogether possible that some righteous rogues actually believe that giving to God, or more appropriately, to the church (or the pastor) a portion from proceeds of their corruption, then all would be well. 

When we find a scintilla of justification to contextualise the villainy of the tither, and the consuming ignorance of the church (some bordering on arrogance), then we add to the layers of foundations that pauperise our struggles for a virile, great nation under a righteous God who takes so much time and give so much rope in dispensing immediate righteous condemnation.

More soul-sapping were reports of some pastors who have allegedly taken possession of physical property (cars, buildings, other hardwares) that some harebrained worshippers willingly transfer to the church, in moments of ‘spiritual’ catharsis…but those property, in some cases, actually belong to the entire family who are completely ignorant of the generous giver’s beneficiary, nor of his mental or religious evolution. However, on being made aware of the wilful duplicity of the ‘righteous’ giver, the pastor plays the ostrich, or acts affronted! And these are the end-time bastion that would be relied upon to pull us back from the awesome pestilence of the devil and his infernal host, in the coming Armageddon. So, mentally, spiritually and governmentally, the Nigerian society is in a depressing cul-de-sac.

Then, our ethnic and tribal relations are sorely tested. Nigerians are so divided, with obvious push from politicians and profiteers of irredentism that every act and statement are now filtered through frames of ethnicity, religion and tribal affiliations. It is grotesque when every kidnapping is surely by the Fulani herders; every fake product is likely by an Igbo trader; most, if not all, romance fraud, is, of course, by a Yoruba chap. Broken and brittle are words that now describe our national fabric which ought to be a one-size-fit-all coverlet for our more than 200 nationalities. The entreaty, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is trampled in these times.

We accept abnormal tendencies, and normalize deviants and pedophiles who have star-rights, not human rights. We indulge buffoons as political representatives because some hawk-eyed godfather has assumed power of omniscience to identify great works of God in one man or woman. We are no more shocked or incensed when ritualists kidnap and disgorge our children for money-making condiments. We are no longer troubled when kidnappers ask for and receive humongous ransoms, even from highly placed persons, and strategic functionaries – in a world where phone calls and electric messages can be traced to the tiniest end of the pin-point. We are now in a society that vilifies honest actions of upright individuals, and deodorizes the unfortunate excesses of dubious characters.

 We are sinking!” But has anything changed?

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