As 2020 winds down, many things have changed around us. The optimism and hope that often heralds the pending dawn of a new year are missing, for good reason too. Everyone is cautious about their expectations from the coming year because of the many shocks 2020 served. But while a lot of changes have occurred in the way we live and our disposition to events, what has remained unchanged is the deep divide when it comes to opinions about the way Nigeria is currently run. The “hailers” and “wailers” within the polity have maintained their stance regarding national issues.
It doesn’t matter which side you belong, however. Truth remains sacrosanct and a deluge of propaganda cannot erase the truth. For instance, indeed, more than 300 boys of Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State were kidnapped last week by Islamic militants, Boko Haram. The encore and feeling of deja vu it elicits when one remembers that six years ago, over 200 high school girls in Chibok, Borno State were also taken in one swoop with more than a hundred of them still unaccounted for is a stark reminder that our security issues haven’t abated.
If you are a supporter of this government for whatever reason, you must at some point look in the mirror and ask yourself what your values and principles are and whether you can in all conscience assert that Nigeria is making progress. Call yourself an incurable optimist, but do me a favour and tear yourself away from your ivory tower for a bit and walk the streets. And I do not mean the streets of Maitama or Banana Island. Visit the suburbs—the Kubwas and the Badias of this world—and see if you’ll come away with the same conviction.
On Friday evening, I was held in a traffic gridlock that lasted for at least five hours. I was tired and uncomfortable because of the situation, but my bigger concern was my security. I knew I would have nowhere to run or hide if a miscreant chose to take advantage of me or other hapless motorists. At some point, a young man paced on the median right next to my car; he was wielding a lug wrench as he made a phone call. I was terrified; in my mind, I imagined it was only a matter of time before he smashed my side glass and demanded that I hand him my valuables even as I willed the traffic jam to ease off so I could step on the accelerator.
My fears were unfounded. I would later find out the poor guy had a bad tyre and was looking for help around. But you can’t blame me. Traffic robbers who target work returnees, particularly lone drivers like me are common features on Lagos roads. Again, I was reminded of just how insecure I felt driving around in a city I was born and grew up in; a city I had called home all my life. I did not feel safe at home. If that doesn’t evoke sadness then I am not certain what will.
Over the weekend, on my way back from my uncles, I couldn’t help but notice the number of beggars littering the sides of the road. Runny-nosed toddlers who needed a scrub down staggered around, straying not too far away from their mothers who sat or went begging from car-to-car. As I had done innumerable times before, I wondered what sort of future lay in wait for those kids who were oblivious of me and my concern for them.
It’s why it beats me every time someone attempts to downplay the enormity of issues plaguing Nigeria. The disaster waiting to explode is right there on the streets. One Million Boys and other sundry ne’er-do-wells who transformed our men to vigilantes and ensured the rest of us swapped our sleep time from night to day did not drop from the sky. They had always lived amongst us and continue to do so in this time of relative calm. They will show up again when the opportunity presents itself.
Want a true picture of the state of things? Step out of your house and walk the streets. Don’t just listen to the radio or watch TV. See the struggle of Nigerians; view the state of things with a mind void of preconceived notions. Cynical of poverty stats and other “narratives” that do not support the progress agenda? Take a peek into the daily lives of beggars on that route you go through to get to work every day. Look at your own life and compare your purchasing power now to what it used to be some years ago.
If you have genuine curiosity, the answers are all around.