By Bisi Lawrence
This is another season of joyful greetings. It’s festival time. It is an occasion of celebration for Muslims, though everyone joins in – Christians of all suasions, pagans of all denominations, atheists of every distinction, all identify in one way or the other with the festivities, at least, if not with the attendant observance which has several aspects; there are the purely religious which pleasantly flow into the social.
But the theme is sacrifice, which is symbolized by the slaughtering of rams, portions of which are shared with neighbours and relatives. And I have no complaint about that. In fact, it is an incentive to good behaviour towards my Muslim friends, especially with the approach of the joyous occasion every year. I am an unrepentant carnivore. Let anyone eat grass, if they wish.
What I have a complaint about is this recurring exhortation to sacrifice from political leaders all over the country at this time. It would in fact have been tolerable, or understandable, if it were confined to this time in particular, in line with the theme of sacrifice which the festival is meant to celebrate, but it is considered like every other religious festival; as a season to din the perpetual admonition of sacrifice into our defenceless ears. Will it never end?
It would appear that State Governors, leaders of the National Assembly, and even the President of the nation have turned it into a hobby-horse. Is it Christmas time, let’s call, for sacrifice; is it Id el Fitr, let’s call for sacrifice; is it the National Day, more and more sacrifice Raba! Aren’t we entitled to a bit of respite? What have we done to deserve this?
It is not as though this country deserves to wallow in all this misery that is spread around us, what with the God-given wealth of our land. We have been put through the wringer relentlessly, remorselessly, by those who have managed to be chosen as our leaders, after those who imposed their leadership on us. And yet they have the crust to ask us to make sacrifices. Without good roads, without jobs, without light, without water, without safety within our homes and outside them, what other sacrifices are we supposed to make?
Our insufficiencies today as a nation are compounded by incompetent and dishonest administration of our resources by those to whom they were entrusted. They have established a dynasty of dishonesty which they recently attempted to perpetuate. They had a bill which they would have passed into law to ensure that each legislator would automatically become a member of the executive committee of his political party.
The implication would be to place each legislator in a position where his re-election could be massively influenced by him. And they could have done it too, if the State Governors, who would not have benefitted so much from that dispensation since they are restricted to only two terms, did not step in to scuttle the awful scheme.
When you consider how much each lawmaker scrapes home every pay-day, it is no surprise that they don’t ever want to go home and stay there. It’s a rip-off, and we all know it. It appears there is very little we can do about it, at the moment. Their salaries are determined by The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission which is empowered to, among other functions, “determine the remuneration appropriate for political office holders including the President, the Vice-President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers, legislators and holders of the offices mentioned in sections 84 and 124 of this Constitution … “(Third Schedule (prt 1; Sec 31) It is interesting to find that “the holders of the offices mentioned in Sections 84 and 124″ include the Chairman and members of The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission themselves. No one affected by this provision of the Constitution had ever been known to go on strike.
There has presumably been no need for it. They seem to be experts at fixing the salaries of the President, the Vice President, the State Governors and Deputy Governors, legislators and people of that ilk, including themselves, to the satisfaction of all concerned. The plight of all workers in this nation today cries out for their help, although the Constitution seems to have limited their ministrations to the high and mighty. So far, the Commission and its creators must acknowledge their responsibility for the yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots in our nation.
If sacrifices need to be made, we do not have to seek very far for those who should make them. Of course, it is those who are of the affluent class who should step forward to help the indigent masses. These people are dripping with wealth. Ironically, and painfully, they are now the people who are asking us to dip our hands into pockets that are already dry, even at a time when their prosperity is at its most garish display.
But do you know the most galling of it all? They are even the class of people calling us to make s acrifices.
There are people who honestly believe that Professor Dora Akunyili tries too much, especially in asserting her views on issues. I have my own views. It is not just in her character to seem to overstress the obvious or flex her muscle to drink a glass of water, it is her nature. She loves the limelight and feels fulfilled in it, but she does achieve much; her quest for excellence does not suffer as a consequence, but is rather enlivened. How I wish she had been assigned to Health, or some more familiar area like that, instead of Information where she is compelled to expend her creative energy on a totally foreign terrain. All the same, she may leave her “brand” there yet.
However, I believe she may have missed one opportunity to establish an impact in the mind of the public when she dissociated herself from the tag of NAIJA currently slapped on the identity of the country by some younger elements within the entertainment world of the society.
Nigeria, as the name of this nation, is historically ascribed to Lady Lugard whose husband’s colonial administration was responsible for joining the Northern and Southern parts of the country together. The union has not always been a comfortable one to all the parties affected. It would perhaps have been helped if there had been a common purpose to which we were all committed at the same time, and with the same mind. But even when we seemed to have had the same objective, there had usually been some reservation somewhere as to its expectations. We have seldom shared a common passion for the same purpose.
It ought to be admitted that it might be difficult to visualize such a purpose among peoples of such diverse cultures and backgrounds as we are. But the macro division of our social and political structure generally into the North and the South might make it easier to find a common ground, if there was a project into which we might make appreciable contributions at par with one another, or give and accept concessions by subjecting sectional preferences to national profit. Permit me to illustrate.
The Northern Region of Nigeria had a National Anthem when it became self-governing (not independent) some three years before the entire country gained its freedom. All the other regions also attained a self-governing status at that time, but it was only the North which had, what I would call, the prudence to equip itself with an anthem. The words of the anthem were composed by an expatriate, which was acceptable since it had to be in English anyway, but the music was an original composition by a Nigerian. The Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was said to have personally invited the man acknowledged as the foremost Nigerian musician of his day, Fela Sowande, to compose the music. Fela Sowande was, of course, a Yoruba from the South.
It was a magnificent composition called, “0 Fatherland”, from the first words of its inspiring refrain.
The Sardauna was a Prince of the Sultanate whose life was expressive of the pride and flamboyance to which his station was entitled. But he easily made a concession which would have immortalized the name of a Southerner for the glory of his nation. As it happened, it was the Southern politicians who shied away from adopting a the “Northern National Anthem” although some patriotic elements in support of the Sardauna’s position went as far as suggesting a plebiscite for the choice of an anthem at the time, But we chose another one which we have since abandoned.
However, I believe “0 Fatherland”, would never have been discarded. It would have been ours, our “pet”, because we created it – not a colonial introduction, or military imposition, like we have today. It is the same, I believe, with Naija. It is the “pet” name we have given to ourselves. It may sometimes be given pejorative connotations, but that happens to any identity in given circumstances – like “Yankees”, or “Brits”, for instances. Professor Akunyili might have missed the point. All the same, I think our Dora is still adorable