My Heart Bleeds for Nigeria
At lunch today, Nigeria was the topic as I ate hungrily in a Mexican restaurant at Queen’s street Glasgow. The 2012 Olympic that was to start off this evening brought the memories of the old when Nigeria conquered the world in football and other sporting events. Today Nigeria has not even qualified for the Olympics football. My dear friend who bought me free lunch was almost in tears as he remembered the past of Nigeria and where we are today as a country. His conclusion was that the future of Nigeria is still bleak with the level of corruption and nepotism in our dear country. He attributed the root of corruption to oil which should have been our source of blessing but which has become the brewery for corruption as almost every one of our leaders does not care to serve but to sap the economies of our country for selfish personal enrichment.
In order to increase my friend’s pain and make him shed the tears that he was withholding with the power of a man who should not cry in public, I reminded him of the stories that were aired in NTA news last night: Young children of politicians stealing money as if there is no tomorrow. The parents having stolen to their fill and still stealing planted their children to keep the stealing syndrome going for their families. What else can one say, having heard how the children of Bamangar Tukur and one other politician with their friend stole over 1 billion naira within four calendar months? Oh my God. My friend started shedding tears. Being very wicked indeed, I increased his sorrow by reminding him that these boys are in their late 20s and early 30s. They are young boys in every sense of the word and younger than both of us. I reminded him of how we toil in this country to get enough to feed ourselves and our families while small kids steal Nigeria dry and have more than they need.
Why are we even complaining? We could go home and stay in Nigeria if we wanted than moan that we are working here like camels all but to just feed ourselves despite our post-graduate studies in various fields of endeavour. Between his tears, he reminded me of friends who have gone back to Nigeria and who stayed many months and even years and could not get even a job that would pay them enough money to transport themselves to their places of work. It was mostly those who are connected to the thieves in high places that got job as jobs were not based on merit but on knowing ‘him’ or ‘her’. After all, we are not dunces as we work for a very established UK bank and would not be given the opportunity to work for such institution if we were in Nigeria. We did not come here, he reminded me, because we prefer this country but because we have no opportunities in Nigeria.
“Enough of this my friend”, I cried; “allow me to enjoy this lunch you bought for me”. He looked at me with both sympathy and anger and reminded me that many people in Nigeria could not afford any lunch at all not to mention the decent Mexican lunch, with Magerita to wash it down, that we were enjoying. He told me of how he suffered in childhood and how his parents toiled and starved themselves to give him secondary and University education with the hope that he would get a job at graduation and assist in taking care of his siblings. He graduated and stayed 5 years searching for job all to no avail. A plot of family land was sold to send him to the UK for studies. Having finished his studies over four years ago, he has found out like the main Character on Lonely Londoners that there are no gold on the streets of London or Glasgow. His parents must be disappointed in him. The pain in his voice was so strong and infectious that it broke the bulwark of my solid heart and gave me a shock of my life. I moaned for my country but not in the way my friend had. His generosity of heart and mind was so touching. Despite all lurking behind what we can see, he still beamed those characteristic glittering smiles of his when we left the Mexican. I may not shed physical tears for the situation of my fatherland as my friend did in the restaurant but surely my heart bleeds.
Maduakonam Achuama, a member of Campaign for Breakthrough Nigeria writes from Glasgow, UK