What is the government celebrating exactly?
Like everyone else, I have heard stories about the activities of various orders of monks in various erstwhile monasteries to develop or show their faith. Some have sounded just plain incredible. There was, I learnt, the order that chose to walk barefoot. Fair enough, I think, when you remember that the cost of shoes has a habit of rising astronomically and not necessarily in direct proportion to their functions or aesthetic qualities. Another order prefers to walk some minutes a day on hot coals. Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to even look at hot coals. Most horrendous of all, why, I always think, would anyone choose to belong to the order that indulges, I say indulges, mind, in self-flagellation? I would have refused to believe it if they did not have the stripes to show for it. If I had a choice, I would have chosen to belong to the order of those who get together once a year to eat very costly satisfying dinners in order to raise funds for the hungry poor and wretched of the earth. You see, pity is pithier and more cynical when you are able to do it from a certain detached height.
I believe that cynical kind of pity is what our federal government is feeling for its citizens right now. We the citizens are bursting our sinews protesting the decision of the government to go ahead with the centenary celebrations. I don’t believe that the government suddenly developed an inability to understand English. I think that the problem rather is that the government has as usual gone deaf in one ear. It tends to do that many times, mostly when the people are speaking or when the people are saying what it does not want to hear. That’s when it turns the bad ear to the public and the good one to the other side where it hears itself speak. This is why the government perpetually sees the people’s lips moving but hears itself speaking.
So, you see people, the government has no idea that there is any opposition to the centenary project because it cannot hear us. It can only hear itself humming a joyful tune sometimes made into song by bus ‘conductors’, ‘Go on soun jare, o wo mbi’ (the road is clear here). Clearly, it fails to appreciate what people say about the road which is that the light is always green when they see a fool coming. Please don’t look at me; people say it, not I. Anyway, because the government has failed to hear, understand and appreciate our opposition to the centenary project, we simply must make our arguments more vociferous and pass them through strident voices; that’s all. No violence please; I hate violence. There is absolutely no need to go jabbing stubby fingers at the chest of the president’s dog. Everything else apart, you might get bitten.
To start with, I had a hard time comprehending what the centenary celebrations were about. I asked everyone around me, what centenary? The last time I counted, Nigeria was fifty-two. No, explained someone very patiently, clearly believing he was speaking to a dumb one, independence is different from amalgamation. I coughed, reluctant to ask, what amalgamation? Luckily, the bright one read my thoughts and further patiently explained that the amalgamation was when the north and south of the country were joined together to make one. The natural question that should follow that, of course, is how come I never heard of this before?
Don’t get me wrong. Every beggar in this country has heard of how Lord Luggard sauntered into the territory, looked left, right and then left again, then declared, the north and south will be one; you know much the same way we are told that day and night and conjoined twins came together. So, I knew all that, but I had no idea the fact was worth celebrating. Frankly, every pair of conjoined twins I have ever read about has always rued the day it was born; none has ever yet gone to church or mosque to thank God for joining their two heads or two bodies together. The inconveniences you get from any joining are just too many and painful to rejoice over. For instance, when a priest declares a couple as being ‘joined’ together, I think he does so in a manner of speaking. For I am yet to see a couple happily going about their business literally tied together at the waist. So, no thanks, this amalgamation thing is nothing to rejoice over but something to weep over, for it has resulted in a troublesome case of conjoined triplets or quadruplets or any number of lets you might care to use. Ideally, the country should be in the hospital where the doctors would be trying their best to prise it apart as carefully as possible without losing too much blood.
In any blessed case, who the deuce are the celebrators? The government? Hmm, yea, I guess. The government and all its functionaries are well cared for so they do not lack. Indeed, I think they have every reason to rejoice. I have never been to Aso Rock but I imagine PHCN is not allowed to practice the profligacy it flagrantly displays on the rest of us there. Therefore, since they have electricity all the day and year round, they do not need to fend for themselves; they do not need to go looking for fuel; they also do not even need to look for food – food comes to look for them.
So, why are the people not celebrating? I am the people, and I say I am in no mood to jolly around but rather to weep for the many problems I have to get myself out of. Right now, I am busy extricating myself from the generator fumes of people who cannot sleep (poor things) without relief from the heat through their fans powered by their generators because there is no electricity. I am likewise busy extricating myself from the high cost of fuelling my car now because the government cannot rein in its friends and friends’ children who are robbing the country dry through fuel scams and I must pay. Yes sir, I am too busy extricating myself from the hunger forced on me because the prices of foodstuff in the market have aimed for the sky. So, pardon us, government for not celebrating this centenary thing with you but please go ahead, don’t let us stop you.
It is time, however, that we raised the level of our national intelligence. Believe me, the world is not mocked when Nigeria portrays herself as a wealthy nation when everyone but the government knows that people here are hungry, tired and getting angrier by the day. To go around celebrating something that should be swept under the carpet for now does not send a very good message to the world. It posits that there isn’t a sufficient level of intelligence in the country so that our children do not stone our graves.
To be sure, a time may still come when this kind of celebration will not only be auspicious but will suggest itself. At that time, the people will lay tables of food, produced on the land, along their streets and invite passers-by to join them. They will waive the national flag with joyous abandon amidst the smiles and coos and laughter of freedom from want. Today, however, is not auspicious because there is too much want in the land. For now, I think we should do well to let the government celebrate alone and we the people should just wish them happy celebrations.