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Nigeria and the strains of the blues @ 49

By Gab Ejuwa

NIGERIA’S situation at 49 is an eminently typical case of singing the blues. B.B. King was a powerful American blues singer and guitarist, among others like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, etc. And the blues was a mournfully tragic toddler of jazz.

Perhaps because of the impetus of the hollow freedom from slavery after so much emotionally – satiating agitation for equality with the Whites, the African Americans poured out their collective soul in an idiom of music that evoked pathos, broken melodies and dreams, jilted loves, unfulfilled yearnings and aspirations, hijacked destinies and general failure of state – their socio-psychology affronted, bruised and battered by political as well as socio-economic strangulation.

With a deep-seated, all-pervasive political rebarbativeness, social dislocation and disconsolation, economic precariousness occasioned by segmental avarice and structural myopia, the geopolitical entity called Nigeria totters on the brink of a jagged-toothed precipice.

There is little to choose from an almost unlettered Shehu Shagari, whom the late irrepressible Tai Solarin likened to “an oil-soaked pelican” on the day of his inauguration, struggling with being president and a colourless, ambiguous, compulsively tardy Yar’Adua with all his academic qualifications. Therefore the entire nation is adrift and everything about her is amorphous and inchoate.

Every sector or aspect of national life is either dead or moribund. Almost all the professional associations are on inevitable strike. Our students are bored to death at home, either conditionally occupied in crime and criminal tendencies or prostituting themselves on the streets.

The nation is shrouded in an almost palpable Cimmerian darkness with  generator businessmen, in active connivance with our so-called  leaders. The Niger Delta remains a dilatingly sore thumb sticking out, as it were.

The so-called amnesty to the militants is steeped in controversy and lacking in character, a kind of sop to cerberus designed to consolidate on the much-talked – about ‘Federal Might’ and ensure the overbearing exploitation of states’ resources for the Federal Government’s exclusive administration and control. And yet, for all these, the President has no solutions in sight, sitting tight and marking time.

Economically, goods and services cost an arm and a leg in a nation where the salaries of workers are like a handful of loose change. The manufacturing sector is straight – jacketed and  is screaming blue murder.

Our banks have crashed, or are still crashing, according to Soludo’s brash and demagogic successor, Lamido Sanusi, and they stand the risk of being sold off  to his friends and brothers in Saudi Arabia, sorry, London.

After over 50 years of oil exploration in the Niger Delta, what has been our benefit? The prices of foodstuff have hit the cerrulean sky and even garri is a status symbol. Kerosene is like an Etonian tie.

Financial scams and scandals sporting all kinds of colour litter the nation’s landscape like the brood of a particularly fertile bitch, and most of them painting our leaders a dubious brown, nay, black.

So whither our splendid ship?

Socially, the strains of the blues wax louder than ever.  Parents no longer  feed their children to satisfaction. It is enough if all a child gets are a few miserly grains of beans swimming disorient-ingly in an Atlantic ocean of red oil and water.

Groundnut oil is like David Mark’s telephone: “Strictly for the rich not for the poor”.  We later read that he did not actually say it. But I remember reading it in our dailies long ago.

Same goes for our sporting establishment. It is mediocrity galore.An Engineer as Minister of Sport, a retired president  Minister of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF); sooner or later a Pharmacist will become the Attorney-General of the Federation.

That is why we have a coach who cannot even read  matches intelligently and make any meaningful changes, whose selection of players for crucial matches borders on the irrational  in the final minutes of a serious match.

It is just the poignant irony of our situation that we bluntly refuse as a nation to make use of our best materials, preferring to “anger the head by putting the cap on the navel”.

The church and the mosque have rarely provided us with  truly spiritual leadership. Gone are the days when men of God confronted political leaders with the home truth, willy-nilly.

Gone indeed is the prophetic  social criticism and crusading reminiscent of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel of old. Nowadays people cannot even keep themselves, let alone others. The prevalent situation is, every man to his own, and God for us all.
Therefore we are still singing  the blues!

Ejuwa,a journalist, writes from Lagos.


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