Omo mi (My child)

Oladapo Akande

Oladapo Akande

I remember when I first returned to Nigeria after a 20 year sojourn in the UK, where I spent the better part of my formative years; and while talking to one of my parents or both, elderly people would casually refer to me as their child. I always felt a little perturbed by this. Why would people who I may have met donkey years ago and can’t for the life of me remember and those I had probably never met before, call me their child? I just couldn’t understand it and though I later learned that it was actually a term of endearment, it still took some getting used to. Now that the tables are turned and I too have since attained that age where I too almost subconsciously call other people’s children my children, I chuckle a little inside when I remember my reaction over two and a half decades ago.

Our dear Representatives did well in calling the executive arm of government to action by asking them to evacuate “our children” from Ukraine but perhaps I would have been more impressed if they had done this when it would have actually had some meaning. Yes, it all sounds very lovely and caring to say it now but would it not have been better if this had come before the Ukrainian air space was closed? Don’t worry. I’m not waiting on your response. That was a rhetorical question. It does baffle me however that where little me who depends almost entirely on the likes of CNN and Sky News to get information regarding international issues, found himself informed enough to know that a Russian assault on Ukraine was all but imminent, our Ogas at the top whose lofty positions automatically make them privy to all sorts of intelligence reports, had to wait until so late in the day before saying or attempting to do anything. The US, the UK and the European Union had been shouting themselves hoarse that this man was going to attack for several weeks before it happened but true to type, our people insisted on waiting until now; when it’s already too late. Talk as they say, is cheap and this compels us to ask ourselves for the upteenth time, “how much is a Nigerian life really worth?”

It was once said that it takes a whole village to train up a child, which basically means that every child is one’s responsibility, but with the “to your tents o Israel” attitude that successive crops of Nigerian leaders have adopted, that communal philosophy, once typical of African life appears to have been long forgotten in this neck of the woods. Such a shame.

With government officials swanking around town in their state of the art vehicles, National Assembly members collecting outrageous salaries and allowances and recently even proposing life pensions for their leaders (many of whom already collect pensions as former Governors of their state) while over 90 million Nigerians live in abject poverty and over 30% of one of the world’s most youthful populations lack any form of income, this blatent insensitivity and obvious lack of love for one’s fellow man, seems to have now permeated every strata of our society. Recently a mother connived with her elder son to murder her younger son for money rituals and they might have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for some vigilant police men who nabbed them on their way to disposing of the chopped up body. The youth too are not left out as some young men now sacrifice their girlfriends in this desperate quest for instant money. It’s a truly pathetic situation. Taking a cue from the leaders of this ‘village’ everyone now seems to be out to get whatever he can, however he can and our society is definitely the worst off for it. Some may even say the Hobbesian world is finally here.

The NNPC that had for many years claimed that it is the sole importer of petroleum into Nigeria did an about turn a few weeks ago by revealing that it actually has four private sector partners. Of course, this shocking revelation did not come as a result of a new year resolution to always tell Nigerians the whole truth; no, nothing quite that noble. It was in fact a desperate attempt to save face and deflect blame unto others for something it should have admitted to with its full chest. I do believe that’s the current lingo.

This however, is not the crux of the matter in our discussion today. Instead, my concern is with how the golden rule which says “treat others how you would like to be treated” is frequently and flagrantly ignored by those who ought to be setting a good example for the rest of us. The unfortunate result of this ‘dirty’ fuel has been damaged vehicle engines, increased suffering as Nigerians queue for hours just to buy petrol and gridlock traffic caused by horrendous petrol station queues that often reduce roads to one lane. As if Nigerians weren’t suffering enough already. And despite all this, all we get are irritating pleas for Nigerians to be patient with government. As far as I know, no apology from any government quarter yet and if I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath for to come anytime soon. So, for how long will Nigerians be expected to quietly put up with incompetent leadership? And I don’t want anyone to tell me it’s a Nigerian thing. No! It’s a Nigerian government thing. You only need to cast a glance at the private sector to see several examples of exemplary Nigerian leadership.

As a body elected by the people to play the fatherly role of protecting its citizens and providing for them – delivering quality education, providing good access to a robust health care system for all and giving the people hope of a bright future by ensuring there is an enabling environment for the populace to fulfill their dreams and live their best life, it would be stating the obvious to say this government has not done well. However, for them to effectively abandon their “children” at their hour of need in far away Ukraine is downright unforgivable. But then, who will tell our “village” heads all this?

 

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.

 

Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting

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