A very common expression whenever tragedy, sometimes on a massive scale, has befallen Nigerian citizens is “it is a very unfortunate event”. Another common expression, perhaps to rub off on the religious sentimentality of Nigerians, is “may God grant the families the fortitude to bear the loss”. No one expresses disappointment, indignation and sadness better than the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan. He has perfected the act of looking pained, resigned and even cries when the occasion justifies it.
The President’s ministers and the various state Governors are not far off in the histrionics. A certain minister has learnt to hang her glasses as far from her nose as possible. This achieves the twin effects of looking like an intellectual and appearing very concerned. A governor has quite brilliantly attributed the will of God as the reason behind the rape and murder of an innocent Youth Corp member. Every time there has been a fuel scarcity, a representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has solemnly reminded us of the country’s strategic reserves and the excess stock; when the scarcity lingers –blamed it on the handwork of a cabal or criminal elements.
I am in the United Kingdom at the moment and I am struck by the number of inquests that the government carries out. When the famous Baby-P died due to parental abuse, an inquest was carried out that showed that the social workers could have done more to save the baby’s life. Recently, the files on the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died in 1989 were released to the public. The families are now in the process of requesting for an independent inquest into what happened on that day, 23 years ago!
Disparity In Governments
The disparity in how the governments of Nigeria and the UK react to tragedy could not be more dissimilar. The Nigerian government expresses sorrow over tragedies and makes a passionate appeal to the religious and hopeful nature of Nigerians that “things can only get better”. A good starting point is why “those” tragedies or events happened –this is what the UK does and it is on this premise that the country moves forward.
The real question is why are Nigerian politicians more interested in simply contorting their faces and making empty promises? The answer is that the Nigerian politician truly does not give a damn (apologies, Mr. President!) and is afraid of genuine and intellectual dialogue.
A President travelling abroad when his country is burning is a very clear indication of truly not giving a damn. Surprise! The non-implementation of minimum wage (which is not sufficient to live on), is completely and utterly ignored by the highest paid legislators in the world whilst they give speeches on workers day, enjoining Nigerian citizens to eschew (every politician is taught to use this word) violence and join hands in moving the country forward (another expression in the Nigerian school of politicking).
Regarding the disdain for discourse, whatever happened to the Oputa Panel report? Who was at fault for the attack on Fela Ransome-Kuti’s house and the subsequent throwing out of the window of his mother, which led to her death? Should derivation not be discussed objectively if we are truly a federal structure modeled on the United State? Should we not be secular as a country given the freedom of religious association as espoused by the 1999 constitution? If so, why do we have some states practicing Sharia leaving the thirsty unable to freely drink alcohol, for example?
In the end, we need to start demanding for answers and stop falling for the promises and melodrama of our politicians. A good starting point would be the next elections. As Nigerians, we should not fall for the crap that four years was not enough –what we should be asking is why, sir, did you not do more, given the resources that this country or your State is blessed with. Only then would we see through any such nonsense as a politician professing to be just like us, or more specifically, “not having shoes” as a child.