Can Nigeria be saved: A political debate among friends

Franklin Izuchukwu
By Franklin Izuchukwu
Nigerian flag with a fist as a symbol of activism.

The coronavirus pandemic has led many to do things they ordinarily would not imagine.

The lockdown in my area made sure I stayed indoors listening to music whenever there was power or watching movies; the routine became more ritualistic as days went by.

I found myself calling friends and colleagues I have not been in touch with for a while now. I felt the need for a human conversation. I decided to walk down the lonely road that led to the street's barbershop.

As I passed the shop, I saw a group of four people laughing at each other's jokes and momentarily arguing with each other; I desperately needed to sit down amongst these strangers and listen and, if possible, join their conversation.

They were comfortably sitting in a shop beside the barbershop, a football betting shop though activities have obviously reduced due to the pandemic.

I had no reason to enter the shop, but I wanted to engage in this conversation because I love talking about politics. They were talking about politics and corruption and how the Government has failed its citizens in all sectors.

I do not know how I made it in there, but in less than 40seconds, I was already giving greeting gestures. They refused to shake my hands abruptly, reminding me that there is a new force in a town called Covid-19.

It was ironic to me because I am a medical practitioner serving in the state. They welcomed me, and I sat down, also paying attention to their conversation.

I listened with an open mind, or so I told myself. They talked about how the Government doesn't know what it takes to govern and how the poor cannot access proper health care in the country.

Another individual pointed out the poor state of road infrastructure in the entire region; he also pointed out that this has affected inter and intra-state trading.

The fellow behind me was furious about why his governor drove 12 new cars, and he, as a citizen, finds it difficult to maintain a 3-square meal. He also said, "what pains me more is the fact that I voted for some of them....."

There was a girl amongst us, she has been silent since I came in, but she was quick to chip in and counter the fellow behind me; she said:

"Why won't they forget you when they shared two hundred naira or one thousand naira, and you collected." She angrily told him, "you sold your birthright like Esau, and now you think you have the right to complain about the success of Jacob."

She defended her point by stating that some Nigerians are shallow minded and that she believes the masses are the country's problem.

The guys were furious, everybody speaking at the same time. I tried to get things in order; I begged them to allow one person to speak, the most vocal among them now shouted:

"I have a question for our Queen Sheba here who thinks she is wiser than most of us", he asked, "how can a hungry man refuse any opportunity to get a free meal or money when he sees the opportunity?"

He was quick to note that the leaders intentionally wanted to keep the masses hungry and poor for easy manipulation. He also asked her, "what do you think the masses should do to make things better and to get their elected leaders to work for them?"

The girls stated it's obvious she has talked about the election and how the citizens collect money during such time. She said:

"We talk about poverty, but we all know that the one thousand naira you will receive that day will not solve your problem entirely rather it will worsen it for generations to come, so why not make sacrifices? "

While the leaders are the biblical Jacob, she doesn't believe they intentionally want people to be poor.

To answer the second question, she made a point about how citizens could organize rallies and sensitization and not necessarily a protest but an investment in the power of knowledge because many individuals don't believe that the government infringes on their right thus, how can they protest an evil they don't see.

She also added that forums should be created and broadcast nationally, where different intellectuals air their views. Even NGO's can go to campuses and civic centres to lectures students and villagers on individual rights.

She said she believes that once the majority are aware of the government's laxity, no one needs to tell them to protest.

They all laughed at her, and the fellow behind me told her, "there is hunger in the land, and yet this is what you think a man in a certain remote village will care about?"

He said, how will they even understand the jargons you will tell them when many of them did not gain a primary education?

I felt this was the moment I chipped in. I started by telling the girl she made a valid point about how ignorant the masses are because there is a need to know your right before accessing infringement on a right.

I went further, saying;

"The major problem we have in Nigeria right now is the fact that many people don't believe that the present administration is performing woefully or that the preceding one failed in the implementation of proposed policies.

The argument concerning the above falls on tribal lines, with each defending their tribesman; this creates the problem of political sentiment and bias in all the system.

No one cares about what you do as long as you are from their tribe or religion. Nigeria needs a revolution which cannot come until there is uniform re-assessment of the present endemic mentality; this can only happen through sensitization and a more robust avenue for political argument, especially in schools."

I also noted that there is now a thin line between morality and social decadence, civility and barbarism, law and anarchy. The surprising fact is people rarely notice.

There have been instances where anarchy overshadowed law and order, like the action of DSS against Omoyele Sowore in a law court and the constant defiance of court orders by DSS and EFCC.

They keep shattering the fabric, which ensures their successors will do even worse and no one will complain because it has become a norm; anarchy has turned to normalcy.

In the words of Chinue Achebe, ".....things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.."

I told queen Sheba that the populace had lost trust in the electoral process; thus, they believe that their votes do not count, and they end up collecting money. The masses believe the election will always be rigged with or without their vote.

I concluded that the only feasible solution is investing in the younger generation to rid them of this deadly mentality.

As queen, Sheba pointed out more outlets for broadcast and channels to encourage political debate and sensitization.

I concluded by telling them that only the youths can save this country.

To be continued.