BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON
Looking for Nigeria's Sesame Street
"We have consistently honored rhetoric at the expense of concrete actions..." Late President Yar'adua
This week, Nigeria’s civil war Head of State General Yakubu 'Jack' Gowon was 80years. I read his full interaction with The Guardian; while I reflected over a similar interview I had with the "living legend" and one of the few of good old men still left.
Interestingly my admonition this week is not exactly about Gowon, but about the Gowonian era, and for those that think it is just about the 60's, 70's and the good old days, “when the problem was not the money but how to spend it”, let me state that it is not, it is about the recent good days, the days of Sesame street.
And talking Sesame Street, it is a long-running American children's television series created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett. The program is known for its educational content, and images communicated through the use of Jim Henson's Muppets, animation, short films, humor, and cultural references. The series premiered on November 10, 1969.
In 2001 there were over 120 million viewers of various international versions of Sesame Street, and by the show's 40th anniversary in 2009, it was broadcast in more than 140 countries.
A 1996 survey found that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old. In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children. As of 2014, Sesame Street has won 8 Grammy Awards and 159 Emmy Awards—more than any other children's show.
Now in case you don't know the days of Sesame Street, it was just few years back, when we came back from school by 2pm thereabout, there was no DSTV, or Arabsat, no startimes, but playtime was there and it came in various forms, as we patiently waited for Sesame Street.
Sesame Street, came after we had spent time enjoying a few minutes watching the color bar accompanied by music of Bongus Ikwue, playing, and then the National Anthem followed, good old NTA, it was. And we were ready for Sesame Street.
Months later my birthday would come, and we had Treetop juice; Do you remember Treetop, mom would add some cups of water, it was often as sweet as the top of the tree it came from. We drank and had our fill till we stained our clothes. Reliable Elephant blue detergent did the rest. It was just like yesterday.
In most middle class homes, which anyway was the case in almost all of Nigeria, we never lacked Stella Pomade, or the white one, I think Jet Cream it was. And my mom would scrub us with sponge laced in foam from Premier or lifebuoy soap. Kai Nigeria sai Allah.
In those days of Sesame Street, there was big bird, cookies monster, Oscar the grouch, Grover, Ernie, Abby, Elmo, and from time to time a guest would appear. I am sure these names sound like from the moon.
However, it is true, the names are actually from the moon, just as stories of a once supposed to be great Nigerian tales often sound like they are from the moon.
All these were from Nigeria’s recent past.
In Sesame Street you were graduating from any of our then very few universities, you had a job waiting for you. The universities were few but then they were indeed ivory towers. Handouts were not sold, students either passed or failed, it was strange to hear that the lecturer victimized me or wants to ‘go out with me'.
But now with over a hundred and more degree awarding status in the country, we are producing, half-done, half-baked and in recent times…not cooked at all graduates.
in Sesame Street, most of us all went to public schools but now, except you want to ruin it for the kid…better look for the cheapest nonsense called ‘private school'.
Ghanaians came to Nigeria as teachers, to sell ‘puff-puff' and repair our shoes, and watch Sesame Street, but we pursued them in Ghana must go bags. Now our leaders have stolen us dry in same Ghana must go bags and we are fleeing to Ghana to be educated.
In Sesame Street while driving and your car broke down on the highway, all you need do was to wave and other cars driving by would fall on themselves to help you.
However today, armed robbers would attack you on the same highway and leave you practically naked and fellow Nigerians would drive pass and ponder in the car with their partner…'see fresh mad man'.
In sesame Street, our big men and women died with us; either at home or teaching hospitals because then the teaching hospitals really taught. Now our leaders die in London, US and Azerbaijan because that's where their stomach indigestion and migraine, which they get as a result of loot, get treated.
Some persons have criticized me of repeating the same story over again, that may be true but certainly I have no apologies because the truth is that if we were what we ought to be then I probably would have resorted to doing something else. We refuse to listen, so I repeat the message, I change the tempo, I change the direction, I vary the stand but the message remains largely the same that we have a problem and we need to solve our problems.
In Greek myth the legend Cassandra, I recall, was condemned to know the future but to be disbelieved when she foretold it. Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. So the pain that we know our problems but seem condemned to an existence of being incapable of solving them.
Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit but we in Nigeria have no limits, every single hour we endure a life that is best described as foolish. Consistently honoring the rhetoric of our self serving leaders, whether Buharists or Jonathanians, they are all same-difference.
The theme song of Sesame Street, used to end like this…Sunny Day, Sweepin' the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get? How to get to Sesame Street...How to get to Sesame Street...do we want to get to Sesame Street--Only time would tell.