Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Nigeria @63, can we breathe? ~ by Prince Charles Dickson


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Akì í mú ìbọn tetere. One does not hold a gun carelessly. (Always be careful in handling dangerous matters.)

What about the hope
What about the promise you made to the poor
How you gwan joke
How you gwan vote

What about the hike in the
And the levy now the man he can’t cope
Now the man smoke
To hide away from all the pain
So he no drown from a boat
Or hang from a rope

How you gwan choke a man down and then tell him say
Let the poor breathe
You hold a man down and tell ’em say
Let the poor breath

Big man control all the money
And you can’t even let the poor feed
You hold a man down and tell him say
Let the poor breathe, breathe.

Some people say we get the kinds of leader we deserving
The type of fools who like to rule instead of serving
But what I know is a good leader is a servant
The type who feel the pain of people who are hurting

Who are hurting. I am certain
One day the youth will find a way to do the purging
And take Babylon system with their burden
Baba this no be prayer; this is just a warning

Day by day three things I pray
Baba give me conscience to talk sense
No be nonsense and call am content
And Baba let my whole generation get sense

What about the hope
What about the promise you made to the poor
How you wan joke
How you wan vote

What about the hike in the
And the levy now the man he can’t cope
Now the man smoke to hide away from all the pain
So he no drown from a boat or hang from a rope

How you gwan choke a man down and then tell him say
Let the poor breathe
You hold a man down and tell ’em say
Let the poor breath

Big man represent the poor man
But you don’t even know what the poor need
You hold a man down and tell him say
Let the poor breathe, breathe.

E be like say dem take all our sense
And money put am inside kolo
Use division, tribe religion, lead us we dey follow
Knack our heads together now we be like we on colos

On colos, on colos, on colos. Now we on colos
But the solution dey our hand cos na we matter
E for better make love unite us than to scatter

So all of my people Weymouths think say japa na the answer
No worry go but when we call you, you must answer
You must show cause day by day three things I pray

Baba give me joy
Baba give me long life and soft life
And all the people wey dey use corruption to cut life
Baba you know nah, Baba you know

Cobhams Asuquo

As we mark our 63rd independence anniversary, all is not well with our beloved nation Nigeria. This in itself is no news, given the fact that the phrase “all is not well” has become a popular refrain in recent years.

Can all be well then, sometime in the future; is it possible that as a nation, Nigeria, can still find character and strength to hold her head up, remains a million naira question.

For a nation that has completely lost its sense of rage, the norm has become abnormal, the abnormal, so normal, and a way of life. What holds sway are deviant attitudes supported by an elite leadership well disconnected from a docile populace.

At 63 years old, ASUU may soon go on strike, education is on the decline, the system gradually collapsing, and yet no rage. We try to find the character through phrases such as transformation, 1 million-point agenda, re-engineering, redemption, Changi Dole, renewed hope, and all such catchwords, good people, great nation, but the truth is that silently the underdevelopment of our nation continues in almost all spheres.

We are 63 years old, and we are not outraged at how we have suddenly become a nation that produces god of men rather than men of God, pastors with several aircraft, while the congregation is hoodwinked with prosperity classes, Islamic scholars turned Talibans debating the text of the koran weekly but barely following the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed PBUH.

I went to a public school, Archbishop Aggrey Memorial Secondary School, it was situated in a Lagos suburb called Mushin, I was taught the English Language in Yoruba, for it to sink in, and properly understood. There was a semblance of character then; because it was part of the much-touted good days…it was not old. Then it was a burden to spend 50 kobo. One naira had value, we were able to breathe!

We studied Islamic Religious Knowledge and Christian Religious Knowledge as they were both called irrespective of your faith. On Fridays, the morning assembly included the Juma’at service led by Mr. Salami, everyone participated, and we had character. There was breath irrespective of one’s faith!

We have not lost our rage. It simply left… The economy is near the doldrums in Europe, and other parts of the world, but Nigeria with the potential to do what China is doing or translate into some African Alsatian if we cannot become tigers is suffocating under a forex crisis, with the Naira unable to breathe. We removed subsidies to please them, they keep their own as safety nets for their citizens. Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzars, and Goliaths masquerading everywhere.

We have been constantly and consistently marking our independence on the lowkey for the last decade, this year we are even begging labor unions to let the government breathe and the unions are asking the government to allow the people to breathe; the people do not trust labor, and the chess game goes on, and the only reason the poor man has not committed suicide is because he cannot even afford the rope.

There is no outrage that a governor appoints 1,070 political aides, among them hundreds of special assistants and dozens of senior special assistants whose salaries and other perks would cost the state several millions.

At 63, we are still serving dinner with the perennial guests; corruption, nepotism, abandoned projects, lack of infrastructure, bloated government, insecurity, and lack of decisive will in governance. We battle to renegotiate our collective existence as a nation, and confidence in government is divided. It is either the government has no commitment and has the ability, or its ability is never matched with commitment.

With all these, there is no outrage, we go ahead like all is well, feeding on our false resilience. Hoping against hope, we keep holding the gun of nationhood carelessly.

The Yorubas say ‘Ohun méjì ló yẹ Ẹ̀ṣọ́: Ẹ̀ṣọ́ jà, ó lé ogun; Ẹ̀ṣọ́ jà ó kú sógun’, meaning that only two things are proper for a warrior: the warrior goes to war and drives the enemy off; the warrior goes to war and dies in battle. Would there be a Nigeria, in the next 63 years, and what would it look like, what do we want as Nigerians, how do we want it, and when do we want it, let us breathe.

Tinubu’s first ten days are proverbs

Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. — John Keats, letter to George and Georgiana Keats

The first ten minutes of your morning impact the day’s tone and your attitude.

Consider this scenario: You wake up to your alarm, already frustrated. You stayed up way too late the night before and are paying for it. As you roll out of bed, your mind begins calculating all you need to do. Feeling overwhelmed by everything on your list, you shuffle into the kitchen only to find an empty bag of coffee.

Those first ten minutes sound like the prelude to a frustrating, harried, and stressful day.

So, add another zero, it becomes a hundred, and in Nigerian governance parlance and lexicon, there is something we call, the first 100 days of an administration. For Mr. Tinubu’s administration and a whole lot of the governors across the states of Nigeria’s republic, especially those newbies, it has been one full of proverbs, at the heart of which is “frustration”, a people so blessed living off of palliatives is one hell of a proverb.

We are told that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but why at the end of the tunnel, a tunnel many do not know where it ends. Well, I get to tell you a little about proverbs from a scriptural perspective and will end with another story, just follow me patiently.

Two prostitutes approached the king’s bench. The first had given birth to a baby boy, and three days later, in the same house, the second gave birth to a baby boy. During the night, the second woman rolled over and accidentally smothered her newborn. What did she do? She switched infants. The next morning the first prostitute awoke to a dead child and the other woman claiming her live child.

“She’s lying!” the second prostitute shouted. “Her baby is dead! This baby belongs to me!”

A court hearing circa 900 BC predates DNA testing, and the king had a long docket. He asked to have a sword brought to him, and an aide produced a blade. Gesturing, the king said: “Cut the child in two and give each mother half.” “No!” the first mother cried out, “give the baby to her!”

“Fine!” the second one yelled, “no one gets him!”

“The first woman is the mother,” the king said. “Give her the baby.”

The monarch whose reputation for wisdom was sealed that day was Solomon, son of David, Israel’s first king, and David’s wife Bathsheba. Toward the beginning of his forty-year reign, Solomon collected wise sayings and pored over them. At some point, he winnowed the riches into a book in the Bible’s Old Testament under the simple name Proverbs. From nearly a thousand years before Christ, Proverbs is one of the earliest examples of wisdom literature, a priceless guide still widely considered the gold standard of counsel.

Of the Bible’s sixty-six books, to my thinking, Proverbs is the most provocative. Two dozen centuries before Sigmund Freud and psychological profiling, thirty-one short chapters penetrate human nature with insights into sex, anger management, slander, wealth, welfare, business ethics, intoxication, pride, and fissures in character as relevant as tomorrow’s top trending topic.

Proverb is a Hebrew word meaning “to rule or to govern.” Much of it has to do with self-mastery, and the only thing better than reading it is reading it routinely. If you were to take in a chapter a day, in one year you’d have twelve readings of a book that I consider boredom-proof. After nearly four hundred trips through the entire book, I still rely on it for new insights, reminders of timeless truths, and life-guiding principles.

Billy Graham said he read five psalms a day “for getting along with God,” and a chapter of Proverbs a day “for getting along with my fellow man.” In my growing-up years, I saw my father do the same thing. He also read every year through the Old and New Testaments, still another reminder that a mind and character cannot be left to chance.

To sample Proverbs, flip around. Just don’t be deceived by the simplicity. A proverb is an acorn with a tree inside — a puzzle piece to character — and character, in the words of Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara Tuchman, is destiny.

Where will we place Tinubu and the current leaders in destiny, in the light of what we know now of the Buhari years, are we safe, or in for a repeat episode? With all the illogical removal of subsidies the drama of trillions of debts and more debts, and the embarrassing potbelly governance structure. The enjoyment allowance of the National Assembly and all the corruption and sleaze, the collapsing grind, and unsure security status, are reflective of the proverb that a Friday determines the look of Saturday.

I will end my reflection on the following note.

Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam, who was given the title of Hakeem (the Wise), used to work in an orchard.

Once his master came to the orchard and asked for a cucumber. When the cucumber was brought, peeled, and sliced, the master gave the first piece to Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam to eat.

He placed it in his mouth and began eating it with great relish. When the master observed the degree of relish with which Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam ate the cucumber, he assumed that it must be very tasty.

Hence, he also put a piece into his mouth. To his horror, he found the cucumber to be extremely bitter. He immediately spat it out and asked in astonishment: “O Luqman, how can you eat such a bitter cucumber with such relish?”

Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam replied: “The cucumber is indeed bitter. However, I thought that if the hand that has already given me countless sweet things gives me one bitter thing, how ungrateful it would be of me to complain about it!”

It is bitter and sweet, that we supply several neighboring nations electricity and they owe us several billions in debt, and then having spent some $7.5bn and counting, we have witnessed 140 national grid collapses in ten years putting the country in total darkness each time.

It is one hell of a proverb trying to understand that we may soon be importing even crude oil. It takes one hell of an understanding to grasp how we are told to let go of subsidy because of a corrupt few, so that an honest many suffer, or how a nation that is blessed in crude is busy comparing her pump price of fuel with non-producing state, or how Singapore and other nations are richer than us, simply by supplying us refined products from the crude we sell to them.

The current administration has been at best bittersweet, how it will end is not looking bright, but as cautious optimists, we keep believing and for the sake of tomorrow that endless hope is not a hopeless end—May Nigeria Win!

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