BUILDERS AND THIEVES – HEROES AND POWERS // Volume 2: DETERIORATION

When I was younger I hear my elderly everywhere I went complain hopelessly about our country. As a young girl with hope [but little knowledge and was inexperienced] I encouraged them not to despair but to pray and continue to fight for and believe in a better Nigeria. They simply shrug after much argument with them, but with most of them saying in this summary paraphrase – ‘I don’t blame you; you don’t understand but will when you know better.’

My sentiments for my country have always been strong since I became conscious of her. I was a patriot to the core when my primary and secondary education taught me much about the heroes and nationalists of my country who dedication their lives to our freedom and independence from the colonial masters. I was marvelled at the number of mineral and cash crop resources bestowed on this beloved country. And I was most proud of a people with diverse enviable and amiable culture. But outside my classrooms I saw despair and melancholy in the faces of elders, starting from my home with parents struggling daily to survive and give us [their children] manageable education in public [poultry houses] schools; to other children who couldn’t be in school but hawk daily to support their homes or that of their wicked guardians; and able-bodied men drinking away their sorrow or dangling on the road in hunger and frustration like dummies hung on poles. The Church/es and get-togethers were their consolations.

The sting of bad governance bit me to a consciousness of my country’s deteriorated condition and I began to see how even the poor condition grew worse and only those with the gift of longevity seem to survive for long rather than the popularly proclaimed ‘survival of the fittest’.

I remembered begging my mother to join my mates [fellow children] to hawk food stuff on the streets in order to support their family and education, but she would not hear of it. She said her father never subjected her to such labour, and so would not do that to her daughter or expose any of her children to the danger [sexual abuse and other sorts of violence] inherent in street selling. My heart broke whenever I saw her health failing due to the stress to survive by grabbing and doing any job that comes her way. Her suffering gave me an insight of the condition of the country I’m in, otherwise, it was just seeing daily how soldiers beat up men and women who resisted their bully; read about journalists who were tortured and killed over the just conduct of their duties and people cowering into the covers of their homes from fear of their government, whether military or democratic. I never fully grasped the whole drama [as they all seemed entertaining at the time].

I was determined to make the most of my education [since it was popularly said it was a better weapon than sword] needed to fight poverty by getting good jobs and tackling life challenges. But after my secondary school the state of my nation had degraded from upholding the integrity of education to downplaying it with incomprehensible concepts of ‘catchment areas’ and ‘bribery process’ of gaining admission. Jamb candidates were desperate to enter the university but the school authority were lusting for the inordinate [money and girls] and thence, the value of education crumbled before my eyes as I saw the students who succeeded in gaining admission become academic prostitutes [in the name of ‘campus babes’, bimbos and gigolos] and bloody cultists; they seemed to be more [in number] than the serious-minded students, just as the bad authority seemed to be more than the virtuous lecturers who were still boxing walls to crack in some values – a pity.

I struggled to gain admission for about five years [for the above and personal reasons] but to no avail. I was frustrated with the fear that furthering my education was becoming an illusion. ‘Am I going to be as poor as my parents and suffer for daily bread as they did with us? No! No! This can’t be!’ I wasn’t content with the petty jobs I did; they were not promising and enough to pay the bills and feed the home as the cost of living continued to sky-rocket at the excuse of – removal of fuel subsidy – every year and every successive political administration [as if fuel is the only mineral resource worth exploring amongst other God-given natural mineral, crop and human resources in my country].

My education aside, but it was my first contact to the state of the growing corruption and insensitivity in my country. Now what seemed to be a few honourable people left is the entirety of desperate Nigerians clawing and lynching one another for survival and the ‘national cake’. All values thrown to the wind as stupidity, while vice is applauded, honoured and considered fit for governance and survival. How?!

By Ifeanyi O.C

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