I am at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, Nigeria waiting to catch my flight to Dubai, UAE en route to Osaka Japan. Many Nigerians and non-Nigerians are around as we wait in the lobby at the boarding gate. There is no electricity, so we sweat in the summer heat. What is happening to my country? This question played on my mind as I guess it did on the mind of other co-travelers. We remained in the heat without electricity at the foremost international airport in the “Giant of Africa”. What a relief as a voice on the public address system announced it was boarding time! But we met with pitch darkness as we picked our way through the boarding tunnel. If by chance your boarding pass dropped on the floor, you would need a flash light to pick it up. I could hear the grumbling around. Some Nigerians muttered under their breath, “What a shame!” At last I was seated comfortably in my seat on the Emirate flight bound for Dubai. What a different world! Just few feet away was utter darkness in the tunnel.
The painfully amusing thing was that at the turn before boarding point, I saw via a flicker of light this notice-WELCOME TO THE LAND OF PATIONATE PEOPLE. Someone may ask, “Passion for what?” This experience was on Tuesday June 23, 2009.
A friend of mine, who is a Lecturer at one of the public Universities in Nigeria, chatted with me online shortly before I set out to write this article:
FRIEND: Do you know ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) is on total, comprehensive and indefinite strike?
SHILGBA: I read about that yesterday at the hotel. I doubt that government is interested in education. The deception is too much.
SHILGBA: Their children are in private universities.
FRIEND: It is very unfortunate. And that is why they will not listen to us.
SHILGBA : Yes. But they may be setting the stage for a serious overthrow.
FRIEND: What do you mean?
SHILGBA: I mean that government may be inviting some intervention.
FRIEND: Well, I doubt if anyone is thinking in that direction now. Nigerians have been conquered.
SHILGBA: Do u know that there was power outage at the Murtala International airport until we boarded and left? We boarded in the dark as we made our way through the tunnel.
SHILGBA: We Nigerians were thoroughly embarrassed.
FRIEND: But your leaders are happy; they are like mad men that go to sleep when their houses are on fire. As long as it does not affect their source of illicit wealth, they do not care.
SHILGBA: Do you know that at a turn, I saw through a flicker of light-WELCOME TO THE LAND OF PATIONATE PEOPLE?
FRIEND: Where; at the airport?
SHILGBA: Yes, at the same airport in Lagos.
FRIEND: What a contradiction!
SHILGBA: That must be Dora Akunyili's RE-BRANDING OF NIGERIA.
FRIEND: At least you will enjoy three months of peace and tranquility. They have thoroughly used her and messed her up.
SHILGBA: But you have just given me a title for an article I was contemplating?
FRIEND: Please, remind me.
SHILGBA: Nigerians: A conquered people.
FRIEND: That's right!
FRIEND: Nobody wants to fight; nobody wants to engage in any struggle because of what we are afraid of losing - our lives, our property, our wealth, and everything.
FRIEND: We have just refused to see and understand that that kind of reasoning does not help. And that is why we are where we are today. When the social ills are addressed, militancy will naturally disappear.
FRIEND: Ok, I have to take my kids to school now. Give my very sincere regards to your family, especially your wife. Please take care.
SHILGBA: I will; my regards to your family too.
On Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 my wife was delivered of a baby boy by Caesarian section at about 9: 05 pm at a private hospital-GALBOSE in Yola. What a joy I had! We named him Alex. But little did we know that we would lose him less than 12 hours after to negligence of the medical personnel, and lack of proper superintendence of the Nigerian health sector. This is one of the hospitals chosen by my University for our insurance cover. I learned later that the doctor who had operated on my wife worked at four different hospitals. As a doctor at the GALBOSE hospital confessed to me after the death of my son, there should have been a Pediatrician assigned to observe and monitor my son after delivery by CS. My sister, who stayed with my wife that night said she had reported the change in breathing condition of my son to the nurses on duty that night, who took no action (My wife was under the effect of the administered anesthesia). She complained about the way my son was twitching, yet they simply said, the baby was “only dreaming”. Besides, we brought our personal generator set to provide electricity for my wife since the hospital only provided about 6 hours of electricity a day and public power supply was virtually non-existent.
At about 9.00 am the next day, I got a call on my wife's phone that they wanted to take our son to the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Yola, since GALBOSE hospital had “no oxygen mask”! I rushed to the hospital but met no doctor in my wife's room. I saw a nurse carrying our son in her hands. The hospital did not give its ambulance to take us to the FMC. I had to use my car. At FMC, my son was confirmed dead. When I got back to GALBOSE hospital, the doctor on duty told me that he knew my son was dead but only wanted the FMC to confirm! He then told me that after the CS the previous night, our son should have been under the intensive care of a pediatrician.
With sorrow of heart we buried our son on June 19th at the Jimeta cemetery. Should I not sue GALBOSE for negligence? Should action not be taken in order to serve as a deterrent? I have learned how other parents and relations in Nigeria have suffered similar fate.
The deplorable state of infrastructure in Nigeria is no longer news. I just recounted an embarrassing experience at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos. Houses keep collapsing in Nigeria without anyone one held responsible; the construction/supervising Engineers and approving authorities are never punished. Huge amounts of money just disappear and no one is held responsible. Contracts are abandoned and nobody is made to pay back the sums of public funds collected. Telecommunication companies reap huge profits in exchange for poor services and government officials charged with regulation and quality do nothing about it. The public electric power company sends in spurious electricity bills and forces Nigerians to pay in exchange for darkness. Nigerians have lost a voice; they have lost guts. So, their governments do as they please, knowing that the people have been conquered.
The picture I have tried to paint above is that of a collapsed Nigerian system where every sector is in need of real emergency, and the people also require some emergency treatment on their minds.
Like my friend said, “Nigerians have been conquered…. Nobody wants to fight; nobody wants to engage in any struggle because of what we are afraid of losing - our lives, our property, our wealth, and everything.” Some of us who have seen the clear danger ahead know that a contradictory recourse to “prayers” is ludicrous. I am not simply a writer; I am also a pastor, teacher, and preacher. I use my knowledge of the bible to frame a social message for today. The profound truths contained in the scriptures are timeless and without generational limitations. Let me tell Nigerians what I know.
On what basis are Nigerians praying? Have we done our home work? I pray to pass my examinations as a student, yet I do not study; I pray to have a child but have no partner; I pray that I should have a bumper harvest but fail to break up the fallow ground and plant seed.
From the pulpit in Nigerian churches to the dais in her mosques flows hypocrisy like a mighty flood. Nigerians, you are called to amend your ways and your doings. We must not trust in the lying words by Nigeria's prophets that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, and suck up to oppressive and stolid political office holders for filthy gain and attention and then come and stand in the Lord's house to pray? The Lord has commanded, “Therefore, pray not for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear you.” But we keep on praying, hoping the good and merciful God will answer in spite of the folly of religious Nigerians. Then, I hear Nigeria's prophets prophesying sweeties. But the LORD says: “The prophets prophecy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke to them: they prophesy to you a false vision and divination, and nothingness, and the deceit of their heart.”
But I can pray, I know I should intercede for my nation. Yet, He says, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people. Cast them out of my sight and let them go forth.” Where should they go; overseas for greener pastures? Then, came the answer, “ Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.” If you are a Nigerian reading this from any part of the world, I urge you to know this: Direct the prayers you pray towards you and your household. Enough of pure hypocrisy! For each Nigerian there is an appointment. Yours may be an untimely death by a sword or famine; or it may be that you are in a captivity of fear, ignorance, inaction, or whatever sort. It may also be a necessary captivity of anger against the status quo.
Nigeria's “Men of God” have become jet owners in the midst of a congregation that is scraping for a living and in a country where per capita income is a paltry 1000 US dollars. They flaunt around wealth they have gathered from the coins that millions of poor Nigerians have dropped in the offering bags. How can God give us good political leaders when her spiritual leaders have lost their conscience? Nigerians are being psychologically terrorized to bring in their “tithes”; their preachers get fat while they get lean! But those conquered Nigerians have lost their understanding and sense of power.
Should a law be made by their government to take their wives for Nigeria's rulers, the men will just stand by and “pray”; and yet, they have no basis to pray-They live in sin, extorting money from travelers at airports when they should perform their normal duty there; they hide files at government Ministries and Agencies until they have got a cut from contractors; they help inflate contract figures and get their portion under the table; they collect money to execute jobs for customers and then fail to do so without refunds; they break agreements without a squirm and compunction; they refuse to pay workers their due when work is done and find flimsy excuses to deny the poor workers their due.
I urge Nigerian governors and the president (Mr. Servant-leader) to keep on with their “rule of law”, and “win” big in 2011. Let President Yar'Adua continue with the mass killings in the Niger Delta. That is the right response when injustice is resisted by some audacious youths. Let the oil wells be shut up as a result of Yar'Adua's pogrom. May the national assembly continue to sleep in the midst of one of the results of the seven –point agenda. Nigerians will still troop out in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 to vote for them. After all, these are a conquered people without a mind.
Those of us who have elected to fight with the weapons at our disposal are mere noise-makers who are doing this because we have not got positions in government yet. When we do, like the Segun Adeniyis have, our pens shall either run dry or drip with a new kind of ink. Not many Nigerians will rise up and support our cause and pick up and run with our message. They are too dubious of us and too paralyzed by fear to respond. Some will only rationalize government's failure and urge our “patience”. Our rulers know us too well. When we are ready they shall start giving us good service.
I write, maybe not for this generation. If they believe otherwise, they must prove it.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement
Originating at www.huhuonline.com