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Nigeria, We Hail Thee! Progression or Regression?

There is a Hausa saying: ‘Wai waye adon tafiya’.  Hausa Linguists realised early on that taking a look back at the past goes a long…

There is a Hausa saying: ‘Wai waye adon tafiya’. 

Hausa Linguists realised early on that taking a look back at the past goes a long way towards moving on in life. Simply put, managing our modern lifestyle is enriched by the memory of our pasts. 

So, for the sake of my sanity, I choose to believe that this is what our elders in the red and green chambers were doing when they returned our national anthem. They looked to the past in order to restore the future of Nigeria. The problem is that when they went probing into the past, they opened a whole can of worms. I am talking about the whole damned tank with all the vile creatures creeping out and seeping into the future that none of us are prepared for.

These days when I see patients, whether in the clinic or elsewhere, a common presenting complaint is for me to change their medication to a cheaper alternative. They recognize that the medicines are working and sometimes mandatory especially with chronic diseases, however, they also need the doctor to realize that they cannot afford that particular brand. And so, you hear them asking: ‘Isn’t there another medicine that is cheaper or of lower quality?’  

It is a very scary reality.

Ever since the discussion about the return of the old national anthem began, Nigeria began a sort of retrogressive decline. It is as if, with the return of the old anthem has brought back the hardship our forefathers faced in the fifties, sixties and seventies. You remember the stories we heard of only one household having a TV in the entire neighborhood, where everyone gathered to watch foreign movies? Well, now more and more homes are unable to afford a television. Or if they have one, they do not have electricity or cannot afford to power it (what with this Band XYZ nonsense). You remember the stories of how only few people could travel by Air because of how expensive it was? Well, at present international airlines are traveling out of Abuja with empty seats on board. You remember the stories of extreme poverty and starvation during the military rule when Nigerians had to beg for rations? Well, we are now back to the reality of begging for N35,000 palliative from the federal government.

That the economy has gone to the dogs is not news any longer. The day a man I know to be very wealthy by whatever yardstick or currency available asked me to change his medication from Exforge HCT (a Novartis brand for hypertension medication) to a cheaper brand is the day I realized the gravity of the situation. He told me quite frankly that he could not afford the N40,000 a month expense, in addition to his other bills. Patients that were previously able to afford dialysis are now dropping out like flies and dying silently. The matron of a labour room said to me that the staff can now sleep at night because very few people can afford the N35,000 delivery fee.

And yet, we sing.

We sing an outdated anthem about hailing our dear native land, Nigeria. We sing about brotherhood- though tribes and tongue differ. And we sing about handing the country’s flag to our children, without stain in a country free of oppression.

Exactly who are we fooling? 

Between 2000 and 2014, Nigeria’s economy experienced broad-based and sustained growth of over 7% annually on average, benefitting from favourable global conditions, and macroeconomic and first-stage structural reforms. From 2015-2022, however, growth rates decreased and GDP per capita flattened, driven by monetary and exchange rate policy distortions, increasing fiscal deficits due to lower oil production and a costly fuel subsidy program, increased trade protectionism, and external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Weakened economic fundamentals led the country’s inflation to reach a 24-years high of 31.7% in February 2024, which, in combination with sluggish growth, has pushed millions of Nigerians into poverty.

Even though Nigeria has the biggest population and economy in Africa, most of its people have little possibilities. Young people roam the streets everyday carrying brown envelopes moving from office to office. More and more people are venturing into small scale businesses that provide very little profit.  Nigerians, with the 7th lowest human capital index in the world are predicted to be 36% less productive as workers in the future if they have complete access to healthcare and education. The 3.5 million Nigerians who enter the labour force each year are unable to find jobs, and many decide to leave their country in pursuit of better possibilities. It is an open secret that the rate of ‘Japa’ has skyrocketed in the last five years. Just last week a woman came to the clinic in search of a medical certificate of fitness because her ‘agent’ (and I use the term loosely) had secured a job for her in far-away Baghdad! All my efforts to dissuade her fell on deaf ears. 

I stopped talking when she asked me what I could offer her instead. 

Sadly, the answer is nothing. I quickly shut my mouth and sent her on her way.

According to estimates, 87 million Nigerians live below the poverty line, making them the second-largest impoverished population in the world behind India. The prosperity we once enjoyed in the late nineties and early 2000s is now a thing of the past. Skyscrapers that adorned the streets of Abuja now have their paint peeling at the edges. Government offices now have their windows and doors permanently open because there is no electricity and diesel has become as scarce as gold bars. Even the almighty Jollof rice that we once boasted about in Nigeria has become tasteless. Because how can one make delicious Jollof rice when tomatoes and tattasai have become as rare as diamonds? A large basket of tomatoes now cost N150,000! Not to mention fish, meat and other orisirisi??

Have you attended a wedding or funeral recently? You will weep at the quality of the food!

No food and no money to buy medicine. Yet, the speed and alacrity with which members of the green and red chambers championed the change of our national anthem left us dazzled. Are these the same people who are yet to sit for a second hearing on issues like banning of open grazing, student loans, state police, protection of domestic workers, mental health bill etc etc??

This anthem- be it the new old or the old new (I am getting confused) is certainly not our priority. Nigerians have shown no desire to learn the old lyrics and frankly cannot be bothered.   Nigeria continues to face many social and economic challenges that include insecurity such as banditry and kidnappings especially in the northwest region, continued insurgency by terrorist groups in the north-east, and separatist agitations in the south-east. Learning the lyrics to a song written by our colonial masters eons ago, especially with the memories it brings, is certainly not at the top of my to do list.

Instead, I would suggest we find a magic key that can be used to shut the door to past and throw that key into the Atlantic Ocean. No more dredging up old stuff. 

Progression not regression. Abeg!

** Corrections: In my article on the 25th of May: The return of the King, there are two errors:

  1. a) The First verse Quran is Q3:26 not Q2:26.
  2. b) History has shown that they were a few kings that returned to their thrown following dethronement or abdication in Nigeria.

All lapses are mine and I take full responsibility for them. 


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