Diaspora Matters

May 25, 2020

My friend is part of Nigeria’s problems


by Morak Babajide-Alabi

In the article, titled “What is It?” Much Information, But No Answers, published on April 5, this year, I had written briefly on my encounter with a long-lost friend of mine. This friend, who for convenience sake, I will refer to as Tony, had taken me to task on why I think Nigeria is not moving forward. His opinion on development is, no doubt, different from mine, and I should have “remembered” the disparity in opinions even before picking his call.

Tony is a long-time friend whom I communicate with on and off as the need arises. However, in recent times, we seemed to have lost the urge and enthusiasm to ask after each other. This is not unusual, it is because as we grow older our opinions on issues became opposite poles.

We have always experienced our differences, but we usually patch with the belief that opinions do differ. It became challenging, especially for me, when Tony’s views about development and every other subject I hold dear, became “wayward.” Gradually, we have found ourselves drifting apart so as not to hurt the feelings of each other. But I am certain he nevertheless thinks of me, once in a while as I do.

We all have this type of friend whose shadow just flutters across our minds once in a couple of months. We sometimes pick up the phone and call but often, we tend to ignore. We assure ourselves that we will call, one day very soon but we never get around to doing it. You can say there is the wish, but the will to carry through is lost. I believe this is something we can all relate to.

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Some of the friends that fall into this category are typically irritants by all standards. Well, maybe for the sake of a better choice of words, they are friends that find it hard to see the other side of arguments. Most times, we had preferred the sleeping dog lie rather than a waste of breath on unnecessary arguments. It is often easy to engage in a conversation with someone you are on the same plain with. Not that you expect every one of your friends to swallow your opinions hook and sinker.

Tony falls into the mould of the description above. Trying to make a point with him is akin to getting water out of the stone. I met Tony at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp in Yola, the capital city of the former Gongola State (now Adamawa State). We were in the same hostel and platoon.

I found him, at the time, very nice and charming. Fresh from the university, we all had high hopes of a better tomorrow for our country. We dreamt of a future where we would pick and choose from many opportunities, enabled by a functional Nigeria where everything works.

I remember sitting in clusters, discussing ideas that we think will change the destiny of our motherland. We believed the NYSC discharge certificate was a licence to the good world.

While Tony was always part of the group, his approach could be a bit off point sometimes. It did not take long before I realised that my friend was a “convenient” talker who will do anything to have access to the good life. For ease of passage, Tony was a willing tool in the hands of the camp commandant and the officers.

All of Tony’s life would follow a similar pattern after the NYSC. Through the military regimes, the democratic experiments and the modern-day republics, Tony is an apologist for the various administrations. And the pattern is the same till date.

He is one of the people you will refer to as the kitchen boys of the administrations. They look over the entrances to the “dark rooms.” Tony is a willing tool in the hands of any influential personality in government.

He is one of the young individuals who work behind the scenes propping up the old order. They go the extra mile to make sure the status quo of the government in power is maintained. They know they are not the best for the country, but it is convenient for them as they appeal to their objectives.

Above all, they are comfortable just walking the corridors of power, as they pick the substantial crumbs from the powers that be. They are the young men and women who carry out the bidding of the visionless and tired leaders. In essence, it is the likes of Tony that deceive Nigerian leaders that they are doing exceptionally well when in fact they are ruining the lives of fellow citizens.

Tony, like many others, is a brilliant Nigerian with leadership qualities. The problem is that these qualities are given up so easily to be subservient to individuals who are not as half-intelligent as they are. It is an irony of life. But some call it the Nigerian way of life and explain this is the reason why the country has refused to move forward.

Tony is enjoying life. He is made legitimate with a board appointment or giving an advisory role, or better still pushed to the house of assembly or National Assembly. This is the reward for the years of portfolio carrying. Tony’s vision of a better Nigeria, dreamed in his prime, is weakened by the long term association with his mentors. He is a carbon copy of the same set of people. He goes to his elective or political office with a blurred vision of a Nigeria with excellent infrastructure, good health and education for children, great road networks.

Yet, we shout every day that the veteran leaders are not leaving the stage.

Tony is a supporter of Nigeria’s ruling party – the All Progressive Congress (APC). He is angered by impatient Nigerians who complain daily and thereby not allow time for the party to turn the country around. I did not get his point, but I was willing to hear him out. “Could you imagine some dumb Nigerians saying that President Muhammad Buhari is too slow for the country?”

Here we go again. A lecture on the capabilities of the President, how Nigerians have not valued the “greatest President” that the country had ever had. I could visualise the conversation in my head, but I felt I should allow him to vent his frustration and anger with his fellow citizens.

“I read comments of some Nigerians about insecurity, lack of infrastructure, jobs, and I wonder what planet these guys live in. Maybe they are blind or something else. Imagine some complaining about the exchange rate.”

Tony is one of the numerous APC supporters who wonder why people do not celebrate the achievements of the Buhari administration. I repeatedly say because they can’t see them. I have found wisdom in not arguing or disputing their submissions, as it is usually of no consequence. They argue that Nigerians should be grateful to APC for rescuing the country from the verge of destruction.

If you ask them for the shreds of evidence that the government had improved the lives of the citizens, they conveniently go into long seminar discussions on how the previous governments had plundered the economy of the country for sixteen years.

Tell them to show you what the APC-led government had turned around since it came with the CHANGE slogan and they lecture you on the qualities of the President. “He is a disciplined detribalised Nigerian. He is not after anything in government, but the welfare of all Nigerians. Which government has fought corruption like his” How do you argue this? It is always the same story.