Two major factors crippled my hope in Nigeria: the last presidential election with the dirt, tribalism, and impunity that attended it, and a certain article by Simon Kolawole.
On the election, restructuring was key for me. Not being clairvoyant, I had no way of knowing Atiku’s genuine intentions on the subject; I had mere faith. I keep saying Nigeria is not a nation, but a loose group of people stampeding for personal and ethnic survival. Stampedes are predatory, and there is no such thing as an organized stampede.
Ethnic groups are the real nations in Nigeria, wherein people’s true patriotic passions lie, never mind the denials. Not necessarily a bad thing, for all politics is local. People can die for Yoruba, Igbo, or Hausa-Fulani causes. Except those benefitting from Nigeria’s darkness, or those totally naive, no one is willing to die for Nigeria. Nations are strong bonds of unified purpose, vision, culture, belonging. What we have is a stampede to grab resources everyone thinks belongs to no one. Which leads me to Kolawole’s article written two years ago.
The journalist writes that he was awake one night, and decided to read news reports of old newspapers to pass the night. Nigeria, cheered a 1988 story, had attained 4,000 megawatts of power supply, targeting 12,000 megawatts by year 2000. Thirty-one years after in 2019, Nigeria now boasts some 3,000 megawatts, after spending over $30 billion on power. This sealed it for me, but you can keep believing for yourself that anything will change.
Nigeria is designed for stagnation, more so for one more point: the country’s development is not incremental. Development is either incremental or cyclical. Since 1960, each government has actually always posted dividends in road construction, health, education, etc., to the cheer of credulous citizens. But our developments have no benchmarks, so they collapse shortly, only to be repeated by new governments on and on. Thus, we perform endless rotations on road, water, power. Take for instance the short Ozumba Mbadiwe-Ikoyi bridge built by Fashola at N2.5 billion, whose surface is already wearing off.
Nations building infrastructure have institutions that ensure minimum standards, so a governor or president cannot waste public funds so he can have more roads, though of poor quality, to his credit. Accountability, standards: incremental growth. That way, development becomes a buildup, not a random thing.
Why do Nigerians still believe things will get better despite apparent deceit? Because each government blames “the wasteful past”, offering a new hope. Each government tells them the hard times are “temporary, a necessary bitter pill” to get things to work. Hope never fails.
The ethnic nationalities are not necessarily better, but they have some resolve, passion, and, if they become autonomous, a sense of competition will follow. Which is why I have chosen to focus on my village, community, on the Igbo. As Igbos, we must strengthen our communities, while still protecting our space and rights in Nigeria as the country remains. A psychological Biafra must be sustained, but in a sense that drives growth. Our (new) governors and state lawmakers can help with that.
Nothing stops them from declaring May 30 a public holiday across Igboland, thereby legitimizing our story and memory. The security agencies have sworn to deal with those involved in today’s activities. All that can be avoided with an official holiday. Nothing stops our governors from embracing who they really are, dignifying our slain ancestors—nothing, except of course selfish and narrow politics.
People all over the world commemorate their important stories, except where cowards and oafs are in power: where politicians, to please outsiders, equate embracing their own historical truth with bigotry. Igbo communities differ in culture, language forms, etc. Biafra is the only thread running through all that is Igbo. It is a shame that such a monumental memory is being criminalized and some Igbo politicians are letting it happen. Which is why, no matter what you think of him, Nnamdi Kanu is helping produce an important Igbo anger enabling us to look back into the future. That anger should unite and build, and you all should go back to your governors and lawmakers, asking that May 30 be made a public holiday. It is the least we could do for ancestors who died that we may have a nation, one that, even without official sanction, endures spiritually. Forever.