A few days ago on Facebook, I posted a picture of myself as a 3 year old plus. It was in the early eighties in Nigeria at a time when Nigeria was less than 25 years of independence from the British. As I reflected upon the cropped photo, I played back the sweet smell of the car behind us and which belonged to my dad. The car always smelt nice. My Dad also had something like a dark blue tint at the top of the windscreen. The doors had a reflective and shiny “PLAYBOY” sticker either above or beneath the handles with the Hefner rabbit head present. I was enjoying this beautiful replay of a childhood experience with the eventually stolen car and was in smiles within the comfort of my own space when it dawned on me that, this man also had a Generator then. What??
At that point, my countenance changed. My spirit began to gradually loathe the experience. My mind started pacing to calculate the year that the picture was taken. I needed closure. I was no longer at ease. I’d been buying diesel on end to power either the mains or my Inverter. I can’t work without electricity as I am a computer based worker. Take out my computer and I’m almost a walking dead so power for me is a non negotiable element of daily living – I must have light. Or else I go broke. And nobody likes being broke. So I calculated how much I had spent since my first Lagos accomdation for alternative electricity generation and basically shook my head in painful disgust at the estimate. I recalled how when I was going to buy Inverters, I resolved to get whatever best was out there. It cost me an arm and leg then but my Inverter is today my NEPA today, my Generator is my NEPA while the NEPA is the Generator. That’s the mad, triangular matrix that my life has revolved around for over 7years now for basic electricity.
I have a son and I imagined that he’d probably be drawing up his own history. So what will his story be? That his dad “also had a generator” somewhere in their compound? It was at that point that I almost concluded – Nigeria has failed. All the indices of failure are there. We are individually better off but nationally regressing. If you schooled abroad and returned to your school, you’ll likely find improvements that the years between have brought to the institution. If you leave a Nigerian school and return after 20 years, you’ll only see a 3 week old, justifiable improvement. The alternative would likely be “dilapidation”, “abandonment”, “a loss of organization” or some funny tale if the institution still existed at all.
I was a Nationalist – Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria. Like I once mentioned, my faculty once threw open a PhD scholarship possibility and there I was playing around the matter. I had faith in Nigeria and I plan to contribute to her emancipation. I however never foresaw what I have seen over the last years till date. Nothing has changed and with the way things are going, my lad, had better prepare to work hard to be able to buy his own generator. Ol bwaiii, this one would have packed up or dashed out!
In the past, it was a struggle to pay school fees. Today is it still not a struggle for hundreds of thousands of families out there? Families across the entire spectrum of Lagos groan to pay school fees. This was the case 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, today… so what changed? Nothing apparently! And so when I see continuous migration to Canada and the West from tens of friends, I scale the hypocritical fence of non-patriotism that I would have put up some years earlier. This life is a one time event and you have a duty to yourself and loved ones.
Happiness is not a nationality. Joy is not an ethnic group. Fulfillment is a universal human phenomenon and where you find it, I urge you to follow through. You owe nobody any explanations for how you choose to live your life here or there. The only set of people I hold no respect for are people who are issued short stay visas who convert it to lifetime opportunities. That, is abuse of process, abuse of trust, and a reflection of lesser values. Those, I have no respect for. But those who sought legitimate exit out of Nigeria, with hopes for a better life, are today the wiser.
Under Obasanjo, there was a movement that was sweeping across Nigerians abroad – many wanted to return home. I remember many examples of efforts of folks who felt that Nigeria was now rising with hope and I know a few who came back temporarily but had to return. This country CAN KILL YOUR DREAM if you are not strong and determined – do not stay if collective social happiness is your goal – it is non existent here. We simply have individual islands of prosperity here and Islands are hardly good examples of communities.
Today, the likelihood of living up to 50 years if you live in Taraba, Benue, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Zamfara is slimmer than ever since the amalgamation. Crossing to southern Nigeria possibly increases the likelihood of living an additional 5 years on average but the national average is a shameful low. The Buhari administration came in with trumpets of noise. There was hope that the Augean stable would be cleansed. There was hope that leadership would be accountable for processes and resources. It was believed that the Nigerian state would witness, if not radical turns, a semblance of turning away from the old ways of doing things. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. The masquerade only changed clothing. The same persona, character runs the show.
To those who have gone out, it is still the same filthy level of corruption, only better masked. It is now more difficult to get petrol at N145 outside Lagos than it has ever been in the history of Nigeria. It is the longest scarcity of fuel ever experienced and by far the most pretentious. The pretense and deception is epic at all counts.
Don’t be fooled, the president loves luxury. He enjoys presidential trappings. He enjoys premium healthcare. He enjoys the cozy presidential aircrafts. He now has a helipad at Daura. He loves parties too. He’d rather Kano than Dapchi. He’d rather Nasarawa than Benue. He’d rather Daura than Ado Ekiti. So your decision to get out of this hole is a great one.
At least, your kids won’t grow up with generator noise. They won’t witness fights with neighbours who just love to sleep with loud generator noise at the expense of the peaceful rest of others at night. They won’t see the crazy display of slaughtered human beings. They won’t see thefts all in the name of a fight against terrorism. The likelihood of their abduction from schools is lower. They won’t see Governors running errands or Ministers publicly displaying sycophancy. They won’t witness how political affiliation entitles innocence. They won’t see this heap of rubbish called governance.
God bless our gens too.