A prayer for Nigeria, my country

March 28, 2015

Just picture this scene. A bus full of people of different ages and nationalities, is parked at the slope of a hill, a few meters from the sea. The sea waves are gentle as they caress the base of the hill. The sea looks calm but deep.

But not so calm are the people inside the bus who appear to be picnicking and revelling. The music is loud and the voices are louder. A few are drunk; many are fast getting to the inebriated state. Some are even fondling and carousing. Such is the wildness, the abandonment in the air. Suddenly, two pairs of hands reach out over the shoulder of the driver to take control of the steering.

The driver’s attempt to wade off the drunken hands is weak as he too is enjoying the moment. Fortunately, the ignition is switched off. The party continues amidst the cacophony of voices. Is there dissent in the babel? Hard to tell. Then suddenly, a hand releases the hand brake and the bus eases down the hill. Slowly, imperceptibly at first, then ever so slightly, the bus gathers speed. The eyes of a few onlookers widen as they take in the unfolding horror. But the passengers, the picnickers are lost to their inebriated world, completely unaware of the looming catastrophe. A vehicle is equipped with two brakes, hand and leg.

A simple action on either could have halted the descent; but the driver is confused and the passengers, especially the vocal ones, feel indestructible. And so the descent into the indifferent belly of the deep sea continues apace….

This is the imagery that comes to mind when I think of Nigeria these days. It is a country on the path to self-destruction but which seems completely unaware of the damage it is doing to itself. So many institutions, so many controls have been tampered with.

Today is Decision time. A day all of us should be happy that the months of often bitter campaigns are finally coming to an end and we will have a chance to sift the wheat from the chaff. Yet it is a day that fills many with trepidation because the stakes have been raised to an unprecedented height. The polity has been heated almost to a boiling point. It is as if some people are determined to waste the country if they cannot have their way—a phrase a friend uses often these days is ‘There was a country’. Or, like the drunken passengers, feel Nigeria will always survive irrespective of the knocks she receives.

Last week Monday, I found myself in a gridlock trying to get to Ikeja from the 3rd Mainland Bridge. A journey of 30 minutes took over three hours. It turned out the OPC (Oduduwa People’s Congress) were out demonstrating and campaigning for the removal of the INEC boss. This was less than two weeks to the election. And the major offence seems that Mr Jega wants to eliminate rigging by insisting on card readers. And so the OPC, under the watchful eyes of police, became wanton.

They carried dangerous weapons, blocked major roads, drove on one way and on BRT lanes. They led as it were, an unpopular crusade in a hostile territory because they were emboldened by security and their dangerous weapons. MASSOP, its Igbo counterpart had had its own a few days earlier. But the issue goes beyond the removal of Jega as unfortunate as that is. The issue is that we have a party that appears to be so desperate that it is throwing decency to the winds.

The plan to remove Jega so late in the day, is not decent. The spurious court cases ala Nzeribe’s ABN are not decent. The alleged inducement of traditional rulers is not decent. The alleged inducement of the clergy is not decent. And certainly not decent is the alleged inducement of the youths. These are our future.

The reality now is that we have a party which controls the leadership of OPC in the South-West, the leadership of MASSOP in the South-East, the leadership of a faction of MEND in the South-South – in short, all the ethnic militias in the entire South. It also controls according to Aljazeera, mercenaries in the North-East. On top of this it controls the leadership of the Police and Armed Forces. We have never had the situation before in Nigeria where both OPC and MASSOP sleep on the same bed with the Federal Government forces.

The party also controls the Federal purse. We can only pray that the hawks in the party will not be too trigger happy because they have enormous capacities for mayhem should the election not favour them. Unfortunately, the signs are not too good.

We saw the impunity in Ekiti and the abuses that the Army can be put to. We saw the impunity with OPC in Lagos and the abuses that it can lead to. We also saw the impunity in Rivers where every attempt by the opposition to hold a rally in Okirika had led to violence. We saw the impunity in Kwara when the convoy that had the wives of Buhari and Osinbajo were attacked. Acts like these lead to more violent acts if they are not investigated and the culprits brought to book. Instead, one of the alleged actors in the Ekitigate has been rewarded with a ministerial post. It is sad, so very sad.

The closest person to this party’s contestant, his wife is not helping matters. She has been most personal in her campaigns. Contrast that with the campaign of the wife of the other contestant. They say out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. She has been contemptuous of her husband’s rival whom she once described as brain dead, geriatric etc. She had been contemptuous of the North which she said “born pickins anyhow without caring for them”.

She was contemptuous of opposition and supportive of violence when she said anybody that mentions ‘change’ should be stoned. If her views represent the thinking of her husband, then it is most unfortunate. It is frightening that somebody with her views and temperament is so close to the custodian of the kind of powers I had earlier mentioned. Remember the verse in Ray Charles evergreen song ‘Heaven help us all’? It says, ‘heaven help the boy who won’t reach 21. Heaven help the man who gives that boy a gun. Heaven help us all’.

As we go to the polls today, my prayer is for the hawks to let peace reign. My prayer is for the driver to recollect himself and pull the brakes before the bus plunges into the river. The sea is deep and there might be no survivors.

I will end with a line from the same song. ‘Heaven help the people with their backs against the wall. Heaven help us all’.

Source:  By Muyiwa Adetiba, Vanguard NG

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