An orphan called Nigeria




"The public does not like you to mislead or represent yourself to be something you're not. And the other thing that the public really does like is the self-examination to say, you know, I'm not perfect. I'm just like you. They don't ask their public officials to be perfect. They just ask them to be smart, truthful, honest, and show a modicum of good sense." Ann Richards (recent death)


In the country of Armenia, in 1988, Samuel and Danielle sent their young son, Armand, off to school. Samuel squatted before his son and looked him in the eye. "Have a good day at school, and remember, no matter what, I’ll always be there for you." They hugged and the boy ran off to school.


Hours later, a powerful earthquake rocked the area. In the midst of the pandemonium, Samuel and Danielle tried to discover what happened to their son but they couldn’t get any information. The radio announced that there were thousands of casualties. Samuel then grabbed his coat and headed for the schoolyard. When he reached the area, what he saw brought tears to his eyes. Armand’s school was a pile of debris. Other parents were standing around crying.


Samuel found the place where Armand’s classroom used to be and began pulling a broken beam off the pile of rubble. He then grabbed a rock and put it to the side, and then grabbed another one.


One of the parents looking on asked, "What are you doing?" "Digging for my son," Samuel answered. The man then said, "You’re just going to make things worse! The building is unstable," and tried to pull Samuel away from his work.


Samuel just kept working. As time wore on, one by one, the other parents left. Then a worker tried to pull Samuel away from the rubble. Samuel looked at him and said, "Won’t you help me?" The worker left and Samuel kept digging.


All through the night and into the next day, Samuel continued digging. Parents placed flowers and pictures of their children on the ruins. But Samuel just kept working. He picked up a beam and pushed it out of the way when he heard a faint cry. "Help! Help!" Samuel listened but didn’t hear anything again. Then he heard a muffled voice, "Papa?"


Samuel began to dig furiously. Finally, he could see his son. "Come on out, son!" he said with relief.


"No," Armand said. "Let the other kids come out first because I know you’ll get me." Child after child emerged until, finally, little Armand appeared. Samuel took him in his arms and Armand said, "I told the other kids not to worry because you told me that you’d always be there for me!"


Fourteen children were saved that day because one father was faithful.


So, while we reflect on the story above, let me talk about a child called Nigeria, this child is fortunate to have many parents amongst which godfathers and foster and all kinds of fathers. He’s a child that has been abandoned, a child left with hunger and want or everything that makes life a little better. The child Nigeria is the very shadow of his/her parents today—they cannot recite the National Anthem, or Pledge, they are experts at foreign nursery rhymes that depict heroes alien to us, so much that our own heroes and their labour are fast disappearing.


The child Nigeria is an orphan today, no one cares how we queue on the long line for a product that God has given us in abundance. We don’t have a ‘single’ working refinery and yet local refining in countless nooks and crannies in the Niger Delta region. We import everything that we have capacity to produce locally, and tell me we are struggling to produce pencils, we are finding it a load to float an airline and some minister dude (one of our fathers) is talking about producing an airplane. We cannot even get enough diesel in a train and local flights are cancelled and yet our fathers look on.


Our fathers promised they would hold our hands, sadly we have been misled, they have misrepresented themselves. We don’t know who they are, in Michael Jackson’s voice, “all I want to say is they don’t really care about us”. They painted a picture of perfection, but lots of it is illusions. Nigerian leaders are not smart, truthful, honest, and do not show a modicum of good sense in keeping their words to us.


Let me end in this manner…Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10.


The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.


The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20.


This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.


Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to $25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!


The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $100!


However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his servant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the servant told the villagers. Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $75 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell it to him for $100."


The villagers squeezed up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. After they did, they never saw neither the man nor his servant, only monkeys everywhere!


The orphan is sick, very sick, these orphans cannot afford routine Panadol, millions that rely on self-medication and more millions that have become herbal medicine freaks?


These orphans are in trouble, there are prospects, good in places, bad in vital places, may pack up, may end up not packing up...but there are warning signs, they may be wrong and we hope they are not right.


The orphan is sick from lack of electricity, water, good roads, quality education and improved healthcare facilities. The child is sick because his parents are sick, but we keep moving one day at a time, we won’t die, we have a strong resolve, we believe that it cannot end just like that.


Taba ta banbanta da gari'n gero meaning (Tobacco and the flour of millet are very different things)". The current circus called APC is the same difference with its PDP colleague, all monkey business and unfulfilled promises. Idan gora tana rawwah, ba chikka ne ba. (If the bottle is shaking it will not be filled). The problem is the Nigerian mind, it is unstable…to the ordinary man, it’s about the basics, not free things, but available things. Usman mai doya (Yam Seller) buys water, has a small 'I pass my neighbour power generating set'. Add that to the quasi-private school his children go to, the money he pays on healthcare, yet he pays some tax to the government and he still is a government on his own, having to provide security through payment of some sort to some vigilante. We are all orphans in one way or the other, for how long—only time will tell.