By Anthony Akaeze
ON a day that was supposed to evoke pleasant memories if there were many, I received a video via WhatsApp from a university classmate whom I recently reunited with after several years of losing touch. She sent it to me on Nigeria’s Independence Day–October 1–with a request: “Kindly send to as many as you can. You could even write about the subject matter.”
I watched the video. It was filmed by someone who said he arrived Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja after a 16-hour flight from Europe and was subjected to a long wait at the entry point that saw him parting with money for COVID test. He was peeved that he was made to pay a COVID fee when he had already undergone a free COVID test in London en route Nigeria. He claimed that contrary to what he was told at the Abuja airport, the clinic that conducts the test has no branch outside Abuja, and the implication of this, he said, was that he would have to return to Abuja for a test before travelling back to his hometown and then to Lagos to return back to his base. He ended by saying he was protesting on behalf of Nigeria’s hungry and angry generation who are desirous of change as the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari has failed the people.
I responded by telling my friend that I was too angry with my country and preoccupied with some assignment to write about it and asked her to write about it herself.
She wrote back saying that she was just as upset as me and that it was my responsibility (to write about it): “I am throwing it back because it’s a man’s world as they say. All these wahala, na men de cause am and only men go solve am o. I dey wait!”
I replied: “The women too share in the blame. Many of them are friends to the people in power and enjoy the money in many ways without questioning its source. Anyway, our country is in trouble.”
She fired back, albeit controversially: “I agree, many women are friends with them, enjoy the money and all, but these women don’t influence the decision-making process, do they? Don’t forget that the typical Nigerian man views women as objects or robots, and not human beings. They have no right to feel, speak, or think. Their job is to serve their “needs.” With such a myopic mentality, can those women really tell them anything?”
I countered that she sure is a good defender of her gender but decided anyway to take up the challenge to write about the angry generation to which I belong. It is, after all, the season of challenge, as I see it. Lots of ‘challenge’ that I see on social media which people take up, including one on sex that somebody close to me recently displayed on Facebook that left me puzzled. I immediately did the maths of how many times she claimed to have had sex in her life and judged it decent, given her age. Worried nonetheless by the public display, I complained. She replied that it was “not a big deal” as it is “just a game.”
Anyway, to the topic of the day now: the hungry and angry generation.
I feel the pain, like millions of people in my country. It was Professor Niyi Osundare, who said years ago that it is not possible to live in Nigeria and not be angry. Pain is a constant of many in my generation. It doesn’t matter where one lives in the vast country, we are connected and confronted by pain. Either you feel it or you know someone or people near or far who do: the lack of money or job or absence of the niceties of life which many in countries around the world take for granted: electricity, good roads, sound healthcare, clean surroundings, name it. The situation is compounded by insecurity and terrorism in parts of the country: Boko Haram, ethno-religious and political violence, herdsmen and farmers clashes.
I think about my country at times and wonder. “My country, good or bad, my country,” is a quote I love. It is a rousing call to patriotism but what if you’ve been repeatedly failed by the system? There are some who argue that Nigeria is not as bad as projected and that opportunities abound in the country. True. There has, and always will be opportunity everywhere. It’s about majority-period! It’s about life made more tolerable or not by the system. The majority, as is obvious in Nigeria today, is in pain and it’s even more painful knowing there’s little or no hope in sight as every day throws up new challenges. And the lies by government keeps mounting, as the recent justification for the increase in price of petrol linked to subsidy shows. That’s, of course, a word that has recurred for as long as many can remember: subsidy.
Indeed, the socio-economic situation keeps worsening, making residents of the country to perpetually wonder and compare themselves with people in even less gifted countries. When they hear, for instance, that residents of Dakar, Senegal enjoy uninterrupted electricity supply(as I learned in 2018 during my visit to the country), they wonder how that is possible and when exactly it could be their fate as what they know or are familiar with for eons now is far from constant-for many, 6 hours or less average supply of power daily. They wonder how it is possible when they know the back and forth tales about megawatt in the country which hasn’t resulted in any meaningful improvement in the last five years that the current APC administration came to power. That’s, putting it in context, just one example of the stasis in the country generally. It’s awfully painful. Little wonder why October 1 which signalled the birth of great promise 60 years ago has become a painful reminder of all that should have been but is not, a reminder of just how long we still have to go as a nation to rival others in the long run?
Anthony Akaeze, an award-winning freelance investigative journalist, is an author of four books. He is currently working on a new book with the tentative title, “Where Strangers Dwell,” a story of hope, pain, accomplishments, migration, love, and discovery.
– Oct. 8, 2020 @ 10:40 GMT /