Friday, June 22, 2012

Nigeria’s Centennial Celebration: Will Nigeria be one country by 2014?

Two days ago, we congratulated a colleague for his decision to relocate his family from Kaduna to Lagos following the increased bombings in the North and the most recent multiple attacks on churches on Sunday, 17 June 2012. This colleague had lived the better part of his life in Kaduna, and had started a family there before he was posted to our Abuja office, so you can imagine that it was a really difficult decision for him to make.

As we grieve in the devastation of incessant killings in our country, I heard in the news this morning as I drove to work that the Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim has inaugurated a committee to plan for Nigeria’s centennial celebration slated for 2014. A key highlight of the celebration  to mark 100 years of the amalgamation of the North and South in 1914 would be a compilation of Nigeria’s history. As I soaked in the news, the recent diamond jubilee celebration of Queen Elizabeth II reign was a good reminder that we need to preserve our history.

However, while a compilation of Nigeria’s history is long overdue, I ask myself – Will Nigeria still be standing as one country by 2014? Fifty-two years after independence and we are in doubt as to whether we are truly free.

Speaking of history, I recall our journey to democracy. It began with the passing on of General Sani Abacha, and then came the interim government and thereafter, the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo. I still have a vivid picture of the way the passing of General Abacha was celebrated back in the day when the breaking news came on air that fateful afternoon in the year 1998. 

I was opportuned to be in the University then (no better place to have witnessed such an event) headed for the library to do some studying. The  atmosphere was  filled with jubilation and the least charade that it seemed like I had misplaced priorities. What was the occasion? I thought to myself. In no time, I learnt that the life of General Sani Abacha had come to an abrupt end. We were free at last! Or so we thought.

Two things were noteworthy which I can never forget. Students in their ever  ecstatic mood had managed to swiftly build a make shift coffin and they were in procession with leaves depicting a loss, but as against the usual gloomy faces and tears in a funeral there was jubilation and of course pandemonium. Mind you, this was only one faction. The other faction had hijacked an unfortunate Coca-cola distribution truck and they had declared free drinks and a carnival for all. What a shame!

While I do not applaud those students for their unruly behaviour. It  was however a clear indication of the level of oppression we had faced from the Abacha regime. We celebrated then, thinking it was the end of untold hardship. 

Some months down the line, as we watched the swearing in of President Obasanjo, my mum shed tears as she couldn’t believe that Nigeria finally had a democratic government. I couldn’t understand it but her explanation was that life in Nigeria was just about to get better. Today, I am of the opinion that my mum shed tears in vain.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let He Who is without Sin Cast the First Stone

It is almost two weeks after the Dana Air crash and I can finally pull myself together to blog about it. Call this post late, but I do feel the need to share my thoughts.
Although I didn’t lose any relative or close friend thankfully, I was quite shaken because unlike the Sosoliso and Bellview plane crashes of 2005, the Dana Air crash had someone who was connected to someone who was either a relative or a friend.
Here’s what I mean - we lost a corp member at my office, my sister-in-law’s dad lost his business partner, one of my classmates lost a friend, another classmate lost two colleagues, my friends lost friends and it goes on and on and on. It is for this reason that I was therefore shaken.

The reality is that it could have been anyone. More so, I flew back from Calabar to Lagos on 2 June while some of my colleagues who were Abuja bound had hoped they had a Dana Air (which seemed to be on time) ticket as we waited at the Calabar airport for the Arik Air aircraft to arrive from Lagos, take them to Abuja and return to Calabar to pick up myself, other colleagues and passengers to Lagos. To cut a long story short and not leave you confused, our 12.45pm flight eventually became a 4.10pm flight. And so when I heard of the plane crash the next day, I was thankful but also reminded that it could have been anyone of us.
For three nights I couldn’t find sleep as my mind roamed in search of answers to several speculations in the news about the crash. Amidst my insomnia, it occurred to me that the reason why I probably didn’t feel the loss from the Sosoliso and Bellview crashes was the fact that I wasn’t quite as advanced as I am now in my career. As at that time, I traveled by air sparingly and didn’t value human capital as much as I do today. Going by the socio-economic situation in Nigeria, I believe it would be safe to guess that most of the people onboard the Dana Air plane where young professionals and entrepreneurs probably between the ages of 25 and 45 years; the implication - shattered dreams and wasted lives of potential leaders of Nigeria. People who would have provided solutions to some of our societal problems, and probably even employers contributing to the GDP of our nation. A huge loss to a developing country like Nigeria with an almost non-existent middle class I must say!
The second significant issue for me was the looting that took place at the crash site. I still cannot fathom it. It just validated my sentiments in an earlier post in 2010 titled: Corruption in High Places. My position then was simple. I had stated that corruption is in every one of us while we continue to point accusing fingers at the government. We are largely about what we can rip-off the next person but do it at varying degrees.
I am saddened at our degenerating values and keep wondering where we missed it. I know I will stir up a huge debate with this issue of every Nigerian being corrupt but let all who read the earlier post on corruption and are without sin cast the first stone!