Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 29

As we prepare to mark the ninth year of our great democratic experiment/learning process/PDP "vote capturing"/INEC's robust independence, we must look back on the intractable problems that once bedevilled our great nation and smile at their resolution.

For instance, in the past we had Supreme Military Councils made up of about 30 crooks (whose word was law) doling out money amongst their friends and favourites to the detriment of the national good. This problem was resolved by the creation of a Federal Executive Council and National Assembly made up of about 500 crooks (whose word is law) doling out money to their friends and favourites to the detriment of the national good.

We used to refine crude oil in Nigeria, and the Government always groaned about the subsidy. We now import refined products and the Government groans about the subsidy.

We once used to live in fear of soldiers breaking down our doors to arrest our loved ones who dared to speak out against their paymasters, now we live in fear of thugs breaking down our doors to kill our loved ones who dare to speak against their paymasters.

We once considered constant electricity to be the luxury of the rich, now we consider constant electricity to be the luxury of the mega-rich.

We used to have several tiny banks, each doing their best to rip off the unfortunate Nigerian customer. We now have few large banks, each doing their best to rip off the unfortunate Nigerian customer.

We once thought it was an act of courage to drive around Lagos without a well-armed escort, and now we think it is an act of courage to drive around Lagos.

Fela, the great sage and seer, once described democracy as a demonstration of craze. Witnessing a catalogue of simply disgraceful behaviour by our "honorables" on Channels TV News last night, I couldn't help but agree with him, as I am so often compelled to. Witnessing fathers and grandfathers displaying all their agbari skills without restraint on national television made me alternate between tears of laughter and, well, more tears of laughter. One video from Ondo State, showing a legislator attempting to seize the House Mace was particularly hilarious. Here was the fellow, struggling desperately to wrest the Mace from some other folks, when from behind him, someone steps up and delivers a punch that Muhammad Ali would have been proud of. When he is helped to his feet, after assorted refs have counted to a hundred and gone for lunch, all he does is rub his head and look bewildered. You wouldn't want to be that guy's kid in school the next morning, trust me. Or the "Civilian Coup" in Delta State wherein the Speaker of the House of Assembly actually had his seat pulled from underneath him, and then got dragged out of the Chamber, so a new Speaker could be installed.

On May 29 our rulers will get out their collective soap boxes, and proceed to do their very best to dislocate their own shoulders via vigorous self back-patting. We will hear about how the military destroyed everything for so many years, and how there has been so much to do. We will hear about the "great strides" that have been taken in bringing democracy dividends to the ordinary Nigerian (by which they simply mean that instead of the General from your home town building a mansion in your back yard, you now have the Senator, the Honorable, the SHA Member, Local Government Councillor, and the local thug building mansions in your backyard). We will be told that we must exercise patience while our children attend substandard schools while the funds to give them a decent education are spent on Harvard tuitions for the children of government and party functionaries.

We will be told that decent drinking water, motorable roads, stable electricity, and basic security are being worked on and will be delivered soon, while our rulers drink Ragolis and Eva, ride in jeeps, utilise the largest generators and use their MOPOL to chase us off what thin strip of good road we were clinging to.

We will be told to exercise patience while the "rule of law" enables perpertrators of the most nefarious crimes against the people in recent memory dance and dine in absolute freedom.

Oh yes, patience will be a major theme of May 29 addresses. We will be told to exercise patience until it becomes a virtue. Someone once told me that if you chase a goat to a wall, it will turn around and charge you, but if you chase a Nigerian to a wall, he will dig through or under the wall so he can keep running. I know we have had men of courage in this country, but I am loath to begin naming them here. Suffice to say they have been occasional comets during our perpetual Antarctic winter. Their light shines too short to do more than offer a glimpse of the direction in which we should head, then is snuffed out by collective apathy.

Yes, Nigerians generally, no longer give a shit. We don't care if our rulers steal our money. We no longer have (ife we ever did) a collective desire to hold our rulers accountable for their misdeeds, and that is perhaps the enduring legacy of military rule. The military did us irreperable harm, but it wasn't in the area of infrastructure or national development. It was in our psyche. After such a mind fuck, we became ready to accept them when they tossed the guns and whips and came back with constitutions. Now we constantly hear "no to military rule" and "the worst civilian government is better than the best military dictatorship." What a crock. Mind you, I am not advocating a coup, but at least during military rule we didn't have a collection of quite so many pigs gathered at the trough. We had a few large pigs and a collection of piglets. Now we have several large pigs and an even larger (and still growing) collection of piglets.

Our political parties are, in general, a gathering of persons whose only common ideology is "there is no such thing as Government money." There is no better demonstration of this than the PDP. The only thing that gathering has in common is avarice.

Well, I'm venting, perhaps even ranting a bit, but if you can't rant on your blog, then where can you? Besides, maybe 10 or 20 people will read this post, or a few more who stumble across it, so let me offer a personal solution to Nigeria's power woes:

1. A blanket ban on the purchase, or use of generators by all top government functionaries, and permanent load shedding of their homes.

I can see it now: the "honorable" minister for energy (power) forced to do battle with mosquitoes with his own hands while cursing and waiting for PHCN to restore power to his area. If PHCN doesn't start working properly in a week. I know it won't happen, of course, but it's a lovely thought on which to celebrate demonstration of craze day in Nigeria.

As for me, I intend to celebrate by tackling some laundry which has refused to abandon the politics of opposition, and then I shall loot generously from the public till of my kitchen, before retiring to my plush villa in the middle of my flat for a well-deserved foreign vacation.

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...