Whether at a wedding ceremony, a funeral or a birthday party, on the street, in the motor park, train station, inside or outside the Church or mosque, at Seminars, conferences, at the bar or on a dining table, it is impossible for two or more Nigerians to have a normal conversation without veering into the mood of desolation that has gripped the nation. Both the Party in power, which ordinarily should be swooning in a muscular mood of joie de vivre, hoisting its victorious flags of achievements, consolidating its gains, and the Opposition Parties which should be exposing the underbelly of the party in power, scheming, plotting and mobilizing how to dethrone them seem to be in a state of stupor, like synchronized swimmers in a sea of confusion and self-abnegation.
Everywhere you turn, we are faced with the dilemma of the blind man chasing a black cat in a dark room. The most visible common denominator that defines the mood of the nation is that we are all a nation of sad people with heads drooping everywhere. Individuals, communities seem to have all turned to the Book of Lamentation for inspiration and solace. Both members of the party in power and the opposition seem to be wearing the same jerseys of sadness. Everywhere is full of stories of perceived and alleged feelings of treachery and betrayal. The nation has never been in this kind of collective national mood of self-doubt.
For the most part of the year, we have listened to stories of alleged unfair distribution of offices, positions and privileges among the elites. In response, the federal government has laboured to make the point that this government has been fair in its allocation of offices, traversing ethnic, religious and regional boundaries and that indeed, as one newspaper stated, Christians have done better or have had more opportunities than Muslims or something to that effect. Sadly, this elite monologue suggests that elite interests trump the survival of our people, why they are hungry, sick and dying daily.
Those who govern us have never seriously attempted to answer the question as to what is wrong with our country. They have never attempted to find out what government is doing wrong and how people continue to feel so frustrated. It reminds me of a little story of a man whose wife left him with his three children and went off to the market. He settled down in his sitting room to read the newspaper and decided that the best way to relax is to bribe the children with something to keep them busy. He looked at the refrigerator and found many oranges. He then peeled and gave each child an orange and warned them not to disturb him.
Shortly afterwards, there was a fight. Rather than asking what the problem was, he simply went out and bought another orange and gave the youngest child who was the one crying. No sooner had dad settled down than little Jonnie let out another cry. Dad opened the fridge, brought out more oranges and started peeling them when his wife came in. Her little son was still crying and she went over to him, hugged him and asked what happened. The little child told her mother that her brothers had refused to give him the seeds of their oranges which he wanted to use to improve his counting skills!
There we are: the father felt that he knew what the children wanted and because there were many oranges in the fridge, all he thought needed to be done was to bring out more oranges. The maternal instincts acted differently. Oil money has closed the rational and creative part of the brains of those who govern us. Money is everything and feeds everything in our lives.
The Nigerian state has become an insensitive father because of the fridge of full of oranges. This is why the country is littered with an ocean of abandoned projects, broken dreams and has become a massive graveyard of ideas half-baked and ill-conceived. It is unlikely that our circles of sorrow are about to end. Even the bitterest enemy of Nigeria could never ever have imagined that we will be stranded on a highway to nowhere as we are now. But here we are drinking the daily vinegar of blood and death. All hope is not lost, but we need to urgently call the map-readers in so we can at least trace our steps back to the right path.
On being asked where Daily Trust will be in another 20 years, its founding father, my friend, Kabiru Yusuf admitted that the future lay in stepping up in a world of digital learning. Owners of Daily Trust must learn the lessons that have stunted the north. I looked at the masthead of Daily Trust and it does show an appreciation of diversity as a key to innovation and survival. It is all Men, and all Muslim, bar one Indian. No Woman, Christian. The paper will not survive if it does not urgently lift this dark veil and deliberately cultivates diversity, innovation and ideas.
About the Author
Father Matthew Hassan Kukah is a remarkable Nigerian. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese was born in Kaduna State in northern Nigeria and fluent in several Nigerian languages, he has worked hard to promote understanding across ethnic and religious fault lines. Kukah contributed this piece The National Trust Deficit to@daily_trust on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.