Growing up, there was this ‘big’ man in the neighbourhood. He drove a big car, lived big and boasted of big things. However, the man lived in a rented apartment. His wife had a habit of borrowing some very basic things from some of the neighbours that they looked down upon as not being in their class. One day the man had to go to another neighbour who drove an old car and asked for a loan to settle the mother’s hospital bills. The people around concluded that the man had no shame whatsoever. The story of Mr. Chikwado is a metaphor for Nigeria. The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari was absent from Nigeria for 49 days for health reasons. In May 2017, a few weeks after he came back from the United Kingdom, he travelled out again to attend to his health.
The presidency thinks that it does not owe Nigerians any explanations regarding what exactly is the health status of a President who has abandoned his duty posts for more than two months. It is only in Nigeria that the government can exhibit such total disregard for the people and yet remain comfortably in power.
I don’t want to dwell on the hypocrisy of the President who while he was campaigning for the top job lampooned the previous administration for wasting money on medical trips abroad for top government officials. As a country we have hit the lowest mark possible. A country that prides itself as the giant of Africa and Africa’s largest economy, yet our President will fly outside our shores and submit himself to foreign doctors for all sorts of ailments including ear infection. If we cannot provide something as basic as healthcare for the President then the fate of the hoi polloi is better imagined. As it is, no one is making any efforts at improving the healthcare delivery so as to put a stop to future medical tourism that all those who can afford it have been subjected to. What a country.
Recently, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, shut down government just to commission two bridges in Lagos State. Like the typical Nigerian politician, the noise made about the projects will make you think that they built a bridge to the moon. Now, building bridges and such likes are some of the most mundane things to be done by a government and should not attract any special attention such that the state will be shut down for the commissioning.
The Lagos State government has been beating its chest for transforming Lagos into a modern city. The question is: has Lagos been transformed into a semblance of a modern city? Absolutely not. Lagos remains as decrepit and unlivable as it has always been. Residents of Lagos State still lack the most basic of human needs; potable water. The state should start with the basics. Provide portable water, affordable and standard health care delivery, quality and affordable primary and secondary education, housing and appropriate waste disposal. The public transportation should be urgently overhauled to bring it up to the standards of a modern city. All the chaos causing yellow buses need to be phased out, the ubiquitous okada would have to be phased out too. The road infrastructure, especially in the surburbs, need to be enhanced. Turning Lagos into a modern city is achievable but it takes more of critical thinking, planning and execution than propaganda to achieve. For now we are nowhere near achieving that.
Nigeria claims to be a secular country, yet the country is principally controlled by religion and religious leaders. The other day, the Sultan of Sokoto complained about the commencement of NYSC orientation camp during Ramadan. If the authorities heed his plea, then the next will be the Christians who will also complain about opening orientation camp during Lenten season. Who knows what other adherents of some religion who will voice their displeasure about opening camp during their holy period? Nigeria will continually amaze and frustrate any right thinking person, that is, if there are any such persons left in Nigeria. The Senate has just ‘directed’ the Central Bank to sell dollars to pilgrims at the exchange rate of N200 to the dollar. Wow. Our foolishness knows no bounds. And these are the people determining the destiny of the rest of us in Nigeria.
We are not just serious as a people. Rather than focus on how to make progress as a country, become economically viable and trying to be a regional force, we would rather be preoccupied with religious sanctimony which has not brought about any progress to us a country. Rather than anything positive, religion has become so divisive that we should give it a wide berth if we want to progress as a country.
Okoli is a legal practitioner, wrote from Surulere, Lagos.