29.02.2024 Feature Article

Nigeria: a nation that lost the script.

Nigeria: a nation that lost the script.
29.02.2024 LISTEN

My friend, Andy K, obviously did not expect the response I gave to the video he sent to me two days ago. In the video, said to have since gone viral, some women stripped off their clothes and danced naked to the beat of Afrobeats song.

This was my reply to Andy K: “I just had visitors from Nigeria for the burial that I mentioned to you, and they think that Nigeria is a paradise compared with Ghana in terms of cost of living.

They were shocked by the prices of basic goods, especially food!

They admire the electricity supply and the general security, but they don't understand how we cope with the insane prices of things!”

I did not mean to imply that Nigerians, please nake that Africans, are not suffering from economic, social, and political malaises, but as one who has devoted his entire adult life chronicling the ills of Africa, I have a very low threshold of tolerance for our people who prefer to whine instead of doing something, WHATEVER, to confront and tackle the problems that they face.

I later sent Andy the following: ”Meanwhile, this is what the inimitable Fela sang in 1982 (yes, 42 years ago)

E-no dey
Government sef e dey?
E no dey
Dodo nko?
Ten kobo for one

Akara nko? twenty kobo for one (2x)
Bread nko? forty kobo for one
E no dey
Government sef e dey?
E no dey

House matter na different matter
Those wey dey for London dem
Those wey dey New York dem
They leave dey like kings

We wey ele for Afrika
We dey leave like servants
United Nations dem come
Get name for us
Dem go call us under developed nation
We must be underdeveloped
To dey stay ten-ten in one room O
First and second day

Dem go call us Third World
We must dey craze for head
To dey sleep inside dust-bin
Dem go call us non-aligned nations
We must dey craze for head
To dey sleep under bridge O

Ordinary house for man

To leave nko O?
E yen dey (it is there)
E no dey (it is not there)
Wahala (affliction/trouble)
E yen dey
E no dey
E yen dey
E no dey

E yen dey
Dem come turn-us to suffer-head to (suffer-man)

Original Suffer-head
It's time for Jefa-Head O (lucky man)
Original Jefa-Head O
Dem turn us to Suffer-head O


It's time for Jefa-Head O

I want to tell you my brother
One bitter truth
Before we all are to Jefa-head O
We must be ready to fight for am now

Me I say sufferhead must go O O
Original Sufferhead
Jefa-Head must come…”

Forty-two years ago, Fela and his generations fought hard to bequeath to us countries that were worth fighting and dying for. Compared to today, the conditions that Fela protested against and got beaten for were paradisaical. The dream of Nigerians four decades ago was to join in building a nation that would continue to live up to its billings as the Giant of Africa. Economically, the country was considered Africa's Powerhouse. Diplomatically, Nigeria was the uncontested LEADER in Africa. The few Nigerians who considered traveling abroad went in search of better education to improve their prospects at home.

The late Orlando Owoh in one of his songs told us point-blank: A ko ni le kuro nile yi, ka wa gba Ghana lo, to wit: We cannot leave this land and go and sojourn in Ghana. So low was the consideration of Ghana among Nigerians in the 1980s that few would have predicted that several thousands of them would become what Ghanaians were in Nigeria in those days - economic migrants.

What went so disastrously wrong in Nigeria to make citizens dance naked in protest against economic hardships?

As one who has vociferated loudly against bad leadership, I think that I need to add the culpability of the ordinary Nigerians/Africans in the disaster that descended on our country/continent. I speak from experience.

The more I consider it the more I am convinced that, largely, we remain the architects of our misfortunes.

As one of those who decided to come back home to contribute to nation-building, disappointment does not even begin to define my experience. Our people have lost the cultural ethos that defined Fela's era. Long gone is the belief that one must strive to earn an honest living from honest pay. Few appear to remember what personal discipline implies, or what it means to have a developed sense of personal responsibility. The sense of deep spirituality that inhibits animalistic conduct in humans has been replaced by over-religiosity - manifested largely in spurious and dubious religious pyrotechnics that have little to do with imparting high moral and ethical standards and everything to do with stupid showmanship.

The question that I ask my European friends when we talk about their fascist and racist leaders is: Who elected them? I can ask my Nigerian/African people the same: Who elects and tolerates the insanely corrupt otiose elite misgoverning the continent?

Of course, I do not argue that there are easy answers to complex political cum sociological problems. What I ask is what makes it possible for citizens to live under unbearable conditions without raising their voices?

I asked this question because as I related in many articles, a top political figure in Ghana once told me: Femi, We read all that you write, but we can choose to ignore you because there are so few of you.

It would be merely tolerable if many of us only refused to protest, but unfortunately, the few among us who decided to raise our voices are often shouted down by the same people for whom we think that we struggle. Rather than consider the problems of society holistically, these hired guns will reduce everything to the gutter levels - either to tribal sentiments or religious bigotry. As Mark Twain warned: They will drag you into the mud and beat you with experience.

Aside from not confronting those who misrule their countries, some Africans simply prefer to whine and complain than to work to improve their situation. As one who lives in Africa, I see limitless opportunities that can be harnessed if only citizens will get serious. I have touched on this in several of my writeups.

Just one question here: What makes it possible for families in Africa to gather and contribute money for a lavish funeral when they cannot gather and contribute to set up a family business? Why do we live only for today without taking thoughts for the morrow?

As always, I have more questions than answers. I hope that this will help to spur minds into extending the conversation.

Let me end this piece with one example of the opportunities that I mentioned above.

Among the items I received from my visitors from Nigeria were herbal medicines -
is that of an herbal medicine that was made in Pakistan.

Both Nigeria and Pakistan are considered poor, developing nations. But we can see here the contrast in mindsets.

As a user, I can attest to the efficacies of Nigerian Herbal Medicines, but the shoddy packaging leaves much to be desired. The Chinese have built a multi-billion herbal medicine industry, why can't Nigerians do the same, given that they also have a very sizable diaspora?

Rather than dancing naked on the Internet, or wasting their time on Instagram watching the obscenely-vapid Big Brother shows, Nigerians can find better employment for their time by doing the needful and the useful to contribute to their personal as well as their country's development.

Our Elders say that how we lay our bed is how we will sleep on it. We cannot waste time twerking on IG, spend whole day and night in supplication to gods, engage in smuggling banned goods or in the production of fake goods and drugs, gear our palates and tastes to foreign goods, and go online to bemoan high dollar rates or government corruption.

These I believe are some of the questions that I think Nigerians ought to ask themselves:

  1. Why do those Nigerians who constantly berate the presidents forget to bone up on their constitution and learn that the country is a Federal Republic, with three tiers of government, each of which has its responsibilities clearly spelt out, and its budgetary allocations from the federal kitty made available every month? Why do Citizens fail to query their local government officials and their state governors who are closer home to them than a remote president esconded in Abuja?
  2. How can a society that has more prayer camps than farms or industries make economic progress?
  3. Why would any country which produces more pastors than farmers not go hungry?
  4. How can a country which imports virtually everything it consumes domestically and industrially have a stable currency?
  5. Why do Nigerians think that the current abysmal state of their country is not a reflection of their personal lifestyles?
  6. Why do Nigerians, no, make that Africans, think that a god, any god, would be interested in their wayward ways of life - lack of discipline, absence of a sense of personal responsibility, outrageous sense of entitlement, and the inability to take thoughts for the morrow?

Solutions, anyone?