They say we are a nation. How did we get there? By sending a group of resplendently dressed tea drinkers to Lancaster House. Spent sachets of tea later, all sides agreed on a date, place and time to exchange the Union Jack with the green-white-green. A phonetically suave British knight, Tafawa Balewa, at the helm. For that, our parents danced their visions away and we were declared independent.
Beyond the good speeches and the attires, we hardly knew who constituted the new Nigeria. That ignorance would result in us slaughtering each other for months. Over another round of tea mixed with ogogoro, we declared the battle ended and continued the war with vitriol.
In Sabon Gari, you still hear Nyamiri and Bayerabe as you hear Aboki in Onitsha. Godswill Akpabio had to issue threats to rescue his people from the scriptwriters of Nollywood.
For as long as we could remember, we have lived and judged the other by what our ancestors called them, not the content of their character nor were we keen to find out what or who they were. Our political leaders elevated nepotism into the governance structure and merit is dropped in the trashcan for religious interest. The states cartographed by soldiers were not meant to fare better revealing a coherent map of parallel lines.
The battleground has shifted to that virtual playfield called Twitter. Inhabitants of that land are not subject to anyone’s control but icky fingers on virtual keyboards spewing the views of brains twisted by sweet sweet codeine or comrade hallucinogens. Illusory midgets turned giants inhabit the Nigerian Twitterati.
Vestiges of age-old values of respect, decency and decorum are discarded as celebrities are born there and virtually die there. Those dragged into the Nigerian Twitterati enter the war zone in their Sunday best or the best of their Juma’at wear. They come out looking like Dino after the NASS brawl. Parents who have done a shoddy job of raising their brats are dragged here like egrets in mire.
This past week, the Lords of Nigerian Twitterrati reached a convergence to dis each other, tearing down on the veneer of decency and breaking the grounds of friendship and camaraderie. The marital choices of friends become subjects of derision and the imagined rape of other people’s moms were advertised as weapons of retribution.
All said and done, Naija Twitterati seemed to have acknowledged that aboki is not the acceptable cognomen of the average northerner. The northerner has come to realise that the Yorùbá don’t enjoy being called bayerabe and the Igbo are not Nyamiri. So, help us till the next battle.
So we want the data of the first 2.6 million almajirai who got the COVID-19 palliative cash. Not an easy task as our finance minister agreed that Nigeria has no acceptable census figures but that data from the Bureau of Statistics could be cashed at the World Bank.
When, as President Buhari boldly declared Monday night, we ‘democratically elected leaders’, we gave up our rights to hold them accountable. Who has consulted us whether we wanted gyero, dawa, elubo or ukwa before portioning them for us? Who decided that N20k erases poverty for a family in Lagos as it does in Lokoja? Of course, our government to whom we surrendered our rights to get answers. This is why countries with data give palliatives while ours spells palliathieves.
I have not come across any Nigerian who agrees to wear the unenviable label of ‘poor’. We have titles – earned, bestowed or stolen.
We’ve heard of donated sums but no idea yet who wrote a dud cheque. Government is keeping such information for our mental balance. They’ll tell us when they feel we’re ready to hear it. Government is committed to ease our exposure to budgetary trauma. Any details of how much cutlery Aso Rock is buying this year? How much is devoted to the evacuation of caked faeces? What is the cost of servicing the Internet for the driver’s pool this year?
We know that COVID-22 would not stop our legislators from riding their brand new Toyota SUVs but how many limousines would be added to the presidential fleet?
Mental health experts have warned that overloading our brains with too much information could be detrimental to health and things are pretty dangerous as they stand.
In Lagos and Ogun, youths have organised themselves into visitation militia showing up uninvited at homes day or night. They raid cooking pots for ice fish or lumps of meat. They empty refrigerators of its edible contents and help themselves to ice cold drinks. At gunpoint, they ask raid for cash and while at it, take turns raping women and girls in disregard to social distancing rules.
Police commissioners who give out unreachable emergency telephone numbers deny the stories. Residents know the most authentic emergency ringtone – ara àdúgbò ẹ gbami ó – neighbours, please help me!
Our government should earn global medals for its palliathieves to 3.6 million innumerate paupers. In addition, Nigerians would watch their favourite movies in the air-conditioned comfort of their homes for the next two months free of electricity charges. Blame yourself if you have turned your conduit wires into clothesline in the age of darkness. Government knows that if you are expecting uninvited guests, you should not deaden their knocks with the sound of your I-pass-my-neighbour-generator.
But for social distancing rules, government would have asked owners of Chinco generators to queue up for free fuel at NNPC stations. They’ve reduced the pump price of petrol – twice. Taxpayers would spend what’s left in the foreign reserves to fix the refineries before selling it off to investors – like NEPA.
My friend is subversive; he tells me there’s a COVID-19 palliative and COVID-4-1-9 palliathieves. Take your pick.