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A gloomy end to a bad year

By Donu Kogbara

NIGERIANS have always complained bitterly about the countless inadequacies of their country and multiple shortcomings of their leaders.

But the complaints have been even more embittered than usual ever since 2009 dawned nearly 12 months ago because this has been a particularly bad year for almost everyone.

Every nation contains exceptions to the rule – as in Special People who do well against all the odds and despite the most challenging of circumstances.

Even during the dark bad old days of apartheid in South Africa when the black majority was being treated abominably by the ruling white minority, there were black entrepreneurs like Richard Maponya who rose above the constant racial harrassment they faced and doggedly transformed themselves into tycoons.

The same can be said of Nigeria. Here, there are quite a few way-above-average men and women who do not suffer the same privations as ordinary citizens.

And, sure, some of these highly successful Nigerians are especially clever or especially industrious or especially shrewd or especially intuitive or especially beautiful or especially whatever.

But most are just plain lucky and became highly successful NOT because they are anything to write home about but purely because they accidentally happened to be in the right place at the right time OR only because they happened to be close to someone who was in a powerful position.

Also please note that since criminal tendencies are rarely a disadvantage within our essentially jungle-esque environment, some highly successful individuals have became highly successful simply because they are ruthless crooks who covertly or overtly break every law in the book and don’t know the meaning of common decency.

Anyway, dear readers, those rare, especially fortunate folks who have acquired deserved or undeserved riches via various means are not my main focus today. I’ve mentioned them only because it is desirable to provide a balanced picture and acknowledge the fact that not everyone in this country is struggling.

But I am only seriously interested, at the moment, in the millions of normal Nigerians who are not enjoying any significant successes and are finding it extremely difficult to survive and thrive. And I feel so sad and enraged whenever I think about all those dashed dreams, wasted talents and anguished existences.

Things were bad enough before the President went abroad for medical treatment. And his prolonged absence has made things even worse. We have a right to know whether our Oga is OK or not, but the whole issue of his health is shrouded in secrecy.

Depressing rumours abound; and one is liable to be accused of treason if one dares to wonder aloud whether he is still alive in any real sense of the word.

People are feeling immensely insecure about the present and expressing major fears about their tomorrows. And I urge PDP stalwarts – who have a moral duty to restore public confidence and provide us with a lot more protection and prosperity – to put us out of our misery and do their jobs properly.

The President’s condition is neither here nor there at the end of the day, given that Government is a collective effort rather than a One-Man band, and that it almost doesn’t matter who is in charge, as long as the country is being run well.

Whether Yar’Adua returns to the hot seat or not, there will, for the forseeable future, be plenty of obstacles to be overcome in terms of national development.

A friend who lives in Port Harcourt decided to count the number of electricity outages that afflicted his housing estate one weekend last month and he tells me that PHCN “took light” 51 times between the Friday night and Sunday morning.

And what about the many other disgraceful messes we have to contend with? Take our healthcare, education and railway systems, for example: The President is currently on the other side of the world because there is no sufficiently sophisticated hospital here.

Meanwhile, most of our schools are jokes; and we have added almost nothing to the sound railway network we inherited from British colonialists in l960 and have, in addition, allowed the network to fall into disrepair.

As for capacity-building, forget it! Since I moved here from the UK, I have noticed that most of our VIPs are aggressively allergic to worthwhile personnel. Often, the more able and exposed you are, the more they resent, suppress and impoverish you!

Many Governors and Ministers are too selfish to act on the fact that a nation or state that doesn’t encourage its best brains to be productive – and regards folks who have integrity with suspicion – is depriving itself of useful human resources.

As far as these enemies of progress are concerned, it is more important to promote mediocre people on the basis of their tribal origins – or to provide as much patronage as possible to rapacious girlfriends and dubious cronies whose only skills are sexual shenanigans, election-rigging and looting the Treasury.
Poor Nigeria!

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