By Sunny Awhefeada
Night remains a disturbing metaphor in the construction of experience whether fiction or factual. The human mind has configured night as providing the ambience and frame for whatever is evil. A dominant and frightening feature of night is darkness, a phenomenon that has frightened humanity from time immemorial. Night is imagined and constructed as a time of transition during which an unseen mortal combat takes place in the spiritual realm. Night has horrors that are better imagined.
It is also configured as the time witches meet to plot and invoke evil. Night holds unseen dangers and it instills fear and evokes uncertainties. The owl which is configured as symbolizing evil also hoots only at night. Night has also played a destructive role in Nigeria’s traumatized history. The many military coups that thwarted the nation’s destiny were plotted and executed at night. The politicians from the First Republic till date also found the night as the best moment to hold parley and scheme the fate of our unfortunate nation. But night also has a slightly ambivalent side to it.
It is the moment of rest for some and to others it is the moment of deep thinking and productive work, be it research or statecraft, occasioned by the serenity it guarantees. All the same, night and darkness encode destructive and negative significations.
The Nigeria of the last five years is dancing dangerously towards night. Our country is beaten, broken and badly fractured. Many years ago, it was fashionable to blame our leaders for Nigeria’s amputated fate and stunted destiny. But the narrative has changed and the truth right now is that both leaders and the led conspired to undo Nigeria. The nation’s problems are legion and those who instigated the problems number among the leaders and the led.
That is why the problems appear intractable. We are all complicit one way or the other. Selfish motives remain the scaffold behind all of our problems. Altruism, patriotism and selflessness have taken flight. A great number of those who decry our predicament and their causes do so because they haven’t got the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat.
Those ruling and ruining the Federal Republic since 2015 were ardent critics of the old order. They mounted the soapbox to declaim the perceived shortcomings of the Goodluck Jonathan era. Recall the Occupy Nigeria protest against petroleum subsidy in 2012?
Those in power today orchestrated the protest that nearly torpedoed the regime of the day. Sadly and ironically, the very reason for that protest has become even more intractable under this present regime. Petroleum subsidy looting persists even as our refineries lie prostrate and the cost of petrol prohibitive.
The bogies of corruption, rapid economic decline and insecurity continue to eat at the core of our being as a nation. There is acute failure of governance at all levels as non-state actors have taken over. Nothing is certain anymore. An atmosphere of fear pervades the land. Death prowls the landscape and those who should protect us are themselves in need of protection. Hunters now protect police stations just as village vigilante rescue abducted policemen.
Soldiers have become soft targets for bandits and terrorists. Soldiers who should be fighting terrorism are being deployed for election duties and a state governor came up with the bizarre suggestion that graduates participating in the National Youth Service Corps program should be trained to fight insecurity. Let that governor first offer his children for service as a mark of commitment to what he professed. Ours is such a bad case. Insecurity looms over us.
There is no measurable index of development or statehood that is adding up for Nigeria. Our education system is comatose, health is absent and we are grossly deficient in housing and other infrastructure. The biggest challenge facing us is our monumental failure in the sphere of education.
It was estimated some ten years ago that about 12 million children were out of school in Nigeria and most of them in the North. Those children without school a decade ago are today the prancing bandits and terrorists giving us hell. Today, ten years later, with the raging insurgency in most parts of the North and the attendant displacement, the number would have doubled. Here then lies the grim danger facing Nigeria’s future.
Out of school and without skills to fall back to, these youths would evolve into a bigger and more dreadful army of malcontents that would be ready recruits for any insurgent group. Other factors like rising inflation and deepening poverty are also pushing the Nigerian child out of school. Simple school items such as pencils, biros and notebooks are getting out of the reach of the masses. School infrastructure is also non-existence in many places. Lack of teachers’ motivation has also left a devastating effect on our education system.
Instability and centrifugal forces are tugging at the soul of Nigeria. A large swath of the North is desolate due to insecurity. The East which feels marginalized and subordinated is up in agitation. The West has also thrown up series of incendiary actions. The minority groups are also kicking.
Gleaned from this disturbing scenario is the strong desire for self-determination. Some of the ethnic nationalities that constitute Nigeria have registered their presence at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in remonstrance against the idea of Nigeria. Some of these groups want to opt out of Nigeria.
At the receiving end of this chaos is the proletariat that is denied opportunities and bound to lack and poverty. The mass of the people are disillusioned. And there is nobody to turn to for help. Everybody is fast becoming a law onto him or herself. With a corrupt police and security system and even more corrupt judiciary, Nigeria has suddenly found itself as Hobbesian state. A notable thought leader dies, the home of an eminent jurist is invaded, an army general is killed, a journalist is murdered, security personnel collect bribes in broad daylight at the nation’s international airport, security officials carry out brazen extortion at the nation’s major seaport and no agency of government intervenes to right wrongs.
Just two months ago, resident doctors went on strike to protest government’s irresponsibility.
As I write, university lecturers have served government a strike notice one year after they suspend the same strike. Government is helpless. That is why we are failing in every sector. Our citizens are fleeing Nigeria as they see that night is coming. Yes, people leave whatever they are doing and head home as night draws nigh. Those Nigerians fleeing to other places now believe that home is anywhere you find comfort and peace.
There is fright in the land. Our day is fast dissolving into an unpredictable night. But then we must not lose hope. Let us gird our loins and collectively confront the monsters that threaten to tear us apart. The struggle ahead will be tough and rough. Night will birth darkness. The darkness will get darker and we must not give up then, knowing that it is darkest when it is near dawn. Our struggles which should commence now will usher us onto a new dawn, a glorious one for that. Now, let us brace up as night approaches.