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Three faces of an irritant

By Tony Momoh
Nigeria is the irritant.  An irritant may not accept that it is one.  But the tag is supplied by those who look at you, watch what you are doing and smile if you vibrate on the same wavelength as they; or you make them want to throw up by what you do. 

Deny as you may, what you communicate to others, the way others see you, is what you are.  Nigeria is Nigeria because of us, the people, its people.  Because of the fact of our being, of our existence in the comity of nations, figures show that  our country has the  largest concentration of human beings in Africa, and that we hold a world record  of having the largest population of souls in black bodies on planet earth.

I am from this country that I speak of, a country that is now the centre of attention on earth, perhaps for the wrong reasons.  But arguing that we are on the slab for the wrong reasons may well be an opinion, not borne out by the facts.

The truth, however, is that facts  are there to be sorted at will, even with blinkers unable to reflect the obvious biases of  those doing the sorting and selecting what they like that would ground  the decisions they take.  It is these decisions that make us the irritant. Name calling? So what! Let’s not deny it — even in the eyes of many who are Nigerians and have never denied being Nigerian, what  toga of behaviour do they see us wear?

At critical times like these, it is difficult to accept that we are at fault, that we are to blame for what we are being blamed for, accused of doing.  But the accuser points to the facts at his disposal.  Our plea falls on deaf ears because, most of the time, the plea begs the question.  One of us, a Nigerian, boarded a plane going to America and right there where it was heading to land, he ignited himself to snuff the lives of almost 300 people out of their bodies!

For that single act, Nigeria, our own dear country, pops up on the list of countries America says promote terrorism.  So, because of the little tiny insect that makes a whole pot of soup sour and so brands the cook as incompetent or negligent, we blame others but not  the cook, us, ourselves.  I have always crowed that we should always call a spade a spade and not an instrument for scooping igneous rock from terra firma.

Olikoye  Ransome Kuti was my colleague in the Federal Executive Council for four years when I was there, from 1986 – 1990.  He told me he would refer to my “atrocious ideas” when he wrote his memoirs.  He did not live to have them published.

I always wrote and passed pieces of papers to him when any issue was being discussed. One of such little pieces was that the AIDS virus had nothing to do with the African monkey because that time, people who decide what to believe and promote, said the African monkey was the carrier of the AIDS virus.

What I told him, more than 20 years ago, is obvious – leave out the monkey and the African when you are looking for origin of diseases.  I am mentioning this incident because the countries that decide what they want to believe do take decisions that those affected may not understand.

But the decisions are taken by them and are binding on others.  So whether we like it or not  and in spite of our crowing, Nigeria, our country, is the first most strategic country to western interests, to be branded as a country that encourages state terrorism!  Our strategic importance, both economic and political, sank below second place.

Why, because of our spoilt son by the name of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab. He is 23, more than 18 when he was qualified to vote for anybody of his choice in Nigeria; more than 21 when he was qualified to be a councillor to help in making law in any of our 774 local governments.  I had four children.

When each attained age 21, I wrote a letter saying thank you my child for the company.  Oh yes, they had become adults! I told them what I would look out for was whether they were worthy to be the type of friends I would like to keep; and that they should watch out to assess whether my way of life was one they believed could be accommodated in the path they had chosen to walk. Whether you like it or not, the truth is that we are all strangers on earth, you on your own and I on my own.  Children come through us, not from us.   The upbringing of a child is both personal and group.

By my presentation here, I am blaming neither the father of Farouk nor Farouk himself more than I would like to blame the environment we have all created for people to grow up in, relate to those whose paths they cross and opt for the type of life they would like to lead.

If a Nigerian leader refuses to board a plane at Ikeja because his children, between three and seven years old, had no first class seats, what happens when they are 20, when, as happened in the case under reference, the financial empire of their doting father had collapsed and the property their father so much relied on as security for three generations of his family had evaporated into thin air?

What lessons of the environment in which we grow up have we learnt when we ignore the only resource that is worth investing in, the human resource?  And how can we boast that we are 150 million and that just one of them cannot be used to assess the others when we should know that each individual is an important key on the cosmic piano and must evolve to play its role in the environment of his birth!  We have the Nigerian space, easily one of the most endowed pieces of acre on earth today.  And I say God does not endow in vain.  What have we collectively done to grow the people who must pull the guitar strings that will give us the music we will dance to as we perform our cosmic chores?

Or you think we are here to accumulate only material wealth?  See where the faults lie – the father of our children, the mother of our children, the parents of our children outside the home when they are of school age; and all through school before they themselves grow to be parents!

At all the stages of growing them, what did we feed them with or should have fed them with?  The meaningful and productive order is a simple sim card – spiritual (I did not say religious), intellectual and, last but not least, material?  The order is strictly s-i-m.

What America has done, branding us as a terrorist nation, completes the three ugly faces of Nigeria, all three acquired through more emphasis on rim than sim—“r” in rim stands for religious.  True we have the good, the bad and the ugly among the more than 350 nationality groups.  But in the past, only those who bore Muslim names were freer to pass through the tight security nets of the USA.

But those with Yoruba and Igbo names, oh, they were automatically tagged 419ers and credit card manipulators.  There were in fact Congressional hearings in the 80s where they warned all financial institutions in the USA that no Nigerian should be trusted!

They accused us of declaring economic war on America!  Those from the North were discovered to be less involved in the crimes.  Today, we have the three faces of the Yoruba, the Igbo and the Hausa/Fulani, the three Ijele Masquerades in the Nigerian cultural mix, as the faces of ugliness.

And what does it matter to them that we are 150 million and only a few bad eggs are doing the harm?    How many men were Hitler or Napoleon, or Papa Doc or Sergeant Doe?  It is not too late to start to build up from the ashes after we have, with our eyes wide open, discovered that our idiotic insistence on power without responsibility can only lead to disaster.


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