by Saatah Nubari
I rented an apartment about a week ago and the compound had a big generator house—that was part of the building plan—where tenants kept their generators. The owner of the compound had already done the generator connections for every flat, so all I had to do was to search the generator house for my wire and plug it to my generator. At first I found this to be a good initiative and thought it to be stress free, then about two days into my stay, I realised that we had adapted our lives to not having power. We had recalibrated our lives to seeing not having power in our homes as normal. We had subtly stopped giving the government the stick and as such we do not even care what happens to the billions that will be budgeted, or was budgeted to provide power that we never saw and might never see. We had become immune, deaf, blind, and dumb to the uselessness of our government. Just like power, we now provide our own security and it is no longer out of place to see communities and private estates having armed vigilantes and guards. If, let us say tomorrow your estate gets robbed, the first question will most likely be “don’t you guys have a security guard?” before questions are asked about the police and the others. I do not want to be alarmist, but at this rate of decline, it is only a matter of time before big estates start including fully functional hospitals in their plans. We must ensure that we do not get to this point because at that point, each individual becomes a government in his own right and legality becomes individualistic. For starters, that is a state of what I call mini-Somalia.
One of my neighbours whom I just met plans to get himself a car, and he has opted for an SUV. I asked him why an SUV and he pointed to the deplorable state of the road leading to our compound and I had to nod in agreement. He never mentioned the government whose job it is to make that road motorable for all types of cars, he had subconsciously phased them out and they bore no blame in his eyes. I am not even sure he thinks they exist and I feel for him as much as I feel for myself. If the road was any worse than it is now, he would have been thinking of purchasing a tractor, or any of those heavy duty vehicles instead of an SUV.
Just opposite my compound is an elegant building, I do not know who owns it, but he or she must be a man of no small means. As we walked past the house, my friend looked at the building and made a statement: “Look how big this house is and how bad the road leading to it is, couldn’t he have done this road?” My friend did not blame the government you see; he blamed a mere citizen like himself and me, someone without the political means and without the legal or moral responsibility to construct that road. That is what William Ryan referred to as “blaming the victim” and he described it as an ideology. A look at the definition of ideology points to it as a set of conscious and unconscious ideas which make up one’s beliefs, goals, expectations and motivations. In this instance ours will best be termed an unconscious ideology and it is one that stems from neglect that has spanned over five decades.
What do I want you to get from the stories above? 1, we are beginning to take the purposeful cluelessness—yes it is on purpose, there is a select group of people who gain from the system as is—of the people saddled with the responsibility of making government work for all of us and not just for THEM. 2, we are fine-tuning our existence to accepting absurdities, anomalies and absolute abnormalities as normal if not even natural. Stay with me, I am just getting started.
“Nigerians are very strong people,” “Nigerians are the happiest people on earth,” “Nigerians are the most industrious and hardworking people on earth,” “Nigerians are the most innovative people on earth” spare me these absolutely condescending crap clichés. Nigerians are strong at being naïve and silent in the face of even god-numbing oppression and suppression; that is not strength, it is called weakness and cowardice. Nigerians are not the happiest people on earth; we are simply a people that have turned adapting horridly to hopelessness and despair into a national art. How does that even translate to happiness? Nigerians are not the most industrious or hardworking people on earth. People who prop up this theory always have a huge basket of “Nigerians” to point to, majority if not all of the “Nigerians” in this basket having lived outside the shores of this country for a great part of their lives. Realise that those are not Nigerians, the system that encouraged them to achieve those feats are not Nigerian systems. Let me assume what I have said has permeated your entire being, and as such I will move on to why I wrote this in the first place. Now, why exactly are we not industrious and creative, it is because the system that is being forcefully administered is an extractive kind of system and not an inclusive type. Creativity and innovation hardly or never is a product of an extractive political and economic system like the type we have, only inclusive economic and political systems can birth innovation.
Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa” as you know or thought it, does not exist. Nigeria is at best, a disgrace to mankind and is very close to putting a dent on God’s creations. Now this is me assuming that we have not already become a dent in God’s own creations.
In 1994, Rwanda experienced arguably the worst genocide in human history. A lot of people will love to counter this claim, but try juxtaposing with the human loss in other genocides and their time frame and you will get my point. Rwanda lost approximately 20% of her population in that bitter ethnic cleansing; but this year made it 22 years since it ended, and Rwanda, without the natural or human resources available to Nigeria has succeeded in building a country very many people would be proud of. That, is how you become the “Giant of Africa.” Let us take a look at our very own Nigeria. We fought a bloody civil war that ended 46 years ago, but today, with huge deposits of natural and human resources that no African nation can rival, we are nothing—absolutely nothing. Now why is this so? I will put it quite simply; because the people that profit from our being nothing—yes, people profit immensely from our being dysfunctional—have been at the helms since independence. And even when they do relinquish power, their successors—who are most times those they tutored or even their friends, and relations—end up continuing with the same system or even make slight adjustments so they can profit more at the expense of the vast majority of the poor and deprived citizens. I call these elites “THEM” and I call those at the receiving end of the stick—the citizens—“US.” In 2019, it is going to be US vs THEM.
Some months back, the Central Bank and Federal Inland Revenue Services stealthily hired hundreds of people without following due process. Was your name on that list? I doubt it, but still let us assume your name made it there. Was it because you merited it or because you know someone who knows someone? If your name was not on that list, and you have asked the very pertinent and intelligent question “why,” I will give you an answer. Your name is probably Uche Nobody, Aliyu Nobody, Umoh Nobody or Yemi Nobody. The system is not for Nobody’s, it was designed to favour and for the use of the Somebody’s in the society. So you know those whose name appeared on that list, they are the friends and family members—or “candidates” if you choose—of the Somebody’s who are and will continue to game the system for their own benefit. Do not forget that these people are the THEM I am talking about.
Now, do you know what THEM have conjured and designed for US? N Power. It is the government’s grand idea of job creation for US. You will fill a form and probably be drafted to a school to teach and the government will pay you say twenty something thousand Naira every month for let’s say two years. Well, congratulations to US! We are now officially a part of what I call NYSC 2.0. Do you think you will be trained or drafted to teach alongside the child of one of THEM even if that child has a Pass degree? Hell no, that is why we have the CBN and other government agencies. That is where they belong, in air-conditioned offices earning hundreds of thousands of Naira. Are you getting my point? They call US and ask US to bring our ideas—they can call it YouWin or whatever—but their children do not join US. Who has that time right? Just send him to the CBN as a Director. Then when they fall out with each other—and they always do—and are being chased with the CCB, EFCC and other government apparatus they have under their sleeves, those being chased fall back to you doing your N-Power. They claim to be witch-hunted and tell you how it is because they are from so and so ethnic group or profess so and so religion. So you jump on Twitter and Facebook with a hashtag, numbered tweets and long posts or you out rightly “occupy” on their behalf. You do all these because you think you are a part of THEM because well, you speak the same language and worship the same God.
The people of Bayelsa loved Alamieyeseigha but you see, he pillaged and looted money meant for them. He converted those monies into his own personal and family wealth. But when it got too hot for him, he made it an US vs THEM battle and he claimed to be a part of US. He claimed to be fighting for the Ijaw man, a fight that redirected millions of dollars meant for the livelihoods of those same Ijaw people he claimed to be part of, into his own pocket. Now Abacha and others like him are revered up North, but these are the same people that literally wiped the treasury dry with a towel. Abacha is dead, so we might never get to see the “They are after me because I am from the North” talk. But the other Northerners like Dasuki have played the same tape. The list is long and heart wrenching, so I will skip that and get on with other instances. Let me refresh your memory about a young man who campaigned vigorously for President Buhari. He must have thought he was a part of THEM since he campaigned and voted for THEM, plus he was from the North and Muslim too so I guess his mind was at rest that he was fully part of THEM. But you see, when the military came into Zaria late last year, all it took was for someone, a Nobody, to touch a General’s chest—a somebody’s chest—and the bullets brought down over 350 Nobody’s which included the young man who thought he was a part of THEM and his entire family. Now, do you think there would have been a massacre in Zaria, if let us say a nephew or son of a Somebody was there? No, because the system was designed to protect the Somebodys and not the Nobody’s like us or like those two young men in the East who were shot by soldiers while they were on their way from mass. Why were they shot? Somebody felt they were Nobodys who belonged to IPOB and as such deserved to die. Another thing I want you to get here is that when the Somebody’s carry out these actions or order for these actions to be carried out, they do so bearing in mind that “Nothing will happen” since they are the ones administering the system. “Accidental discharge” is what they often call it, have you ever heard of one of THEM being killed by a police officer or military personnel who “accidentally discharged?” So, instead of championing causes for these people who have psychologically enslaved us and kept us this way by their prebendalistic and neo-patrimonialistic systems, sit down and re-evaluate.
Sit down and think about why whenever there is fallout between THEMselves and they are being persecuted or what not, they all claim to be having health issues and need to go abroad for medical treatment. Sit down and wonder how people with no track record of running profitable businesses or being gainfully employed wake up one morning and start owning properties worth billions of Naira. Sit down and ask yourself why they do not give you the chance to also wake up one morning with properties worth billions but instead see you as worthy to go home with their party branded rice, fufu, face caps and wrappers. Sit down and analyse why majority of Nigerians are poor despite the resources available to us. I will paraphrase Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards. If you do not have anything meaningful to add to this debate of US vs THEM or if you by any means support the system as it is because you hope to get crumbs from THEM or hope someday be a part of THEM, do the rest of US who have seen behind the facade a favour and sit down.
So if you are still wondering who the US are and who the THEM are, I will finalise by saying; the US are the entire citizenry except the political elites. The THEM are the political elites, like that former state governor who boasted on live radio about how he quashed a murder case by the police and took the prime suspect under his tutorage or that he had given out contracts to a man who diverted the monies to his personal pocket and he as governor did nothing. The THEM are those politicians and thugs turned politicians, those that have roamed the National Assembly for years and have succeeded in doing what they had in mind to do, keeping us down. The THEM are those governors who with billions in allocations cannot pay salaries but their personal bank accounts keep increasing. The THEM are those current service men and former service men who now own houses in Dubai and other cities outside the shores of this country, houses that they cannot own with money earned legitimately. The THEM here are those politicians who build hospitals and still have to travel abroad for medical treatment because they know what they built is nothing but a death trap. The THEM are those who have diverted and keep diverting funds meant for our military. The THEM are the messianic, the ones who feel they are doing us a favour being in leadership positions and as such treat US with disdain of elephantine proportions. The THEM are the entirety of our political class—and to a large extent the “Intellectual” class who are quickly turning out to be frauds—who have year after year made laws to keep us down, built economic institutions to favour only them, built political institutions to keep themselves and their cronies relevant enough to continue extracting from us, built judicial systems to serve and legitimise their interests, turned our police and armed forces into their private security while turning them against us at the slightest discomfort. The THEM here are the people who have played a part in creating this system that has kept us the way we are, conquered us psychologically and as such made us amendable to the prebendalism and neo-patrimonialism that this system comes with and strongly encourages.
Come 2019 it is going to be US vs THEM and we should be ready to take back our country from them. In as much as we would like to do this via the ballot, we will not underestimate their ability to employ violence in trying to intimidate and silence US; but that should not be a problem, because in 2019 it will be US vs THEM and we will win by any means necessary.
Saatah Nubari is on Twitter @Saatah