This is a rant, with which I aim to show how the governance of Nigeria has personally affected me and why I do not have faith in our so-called leaders.
I never expected that a time would come when I would have to explain why I am against the government that runs my country. This is because since I got old enough to analyse and understand what governance is all about, I have not found a Nigerian government that I can wholeheartedly say I am in total support of.
Even as a child, I saw many of the people that purportedly lead us for what they were—selfish men and women who are more concerned about the size of their bank balance than the diminishing returns that has characterised the country for years. From my first vote, cast in the 1999 presidential elections that brought in Olusegun Obasanjo, I have continuously voted against PDP and its band of nation wreckers. In other words, I have always been part of those that occupied the mindset that until we do away with PDP and any politician that have had lengthy involvement with that party, the nation will continue with the downward spiral.
I boldly stand this ground today, occupying and unwilling to back down, because the history of this country and my experience as a patriotic law abiding Nigerian is riff with examples of how insincere and roguishly criminal people in government can be.
As a child, visiting my grandmother in the foot hills of Obeagu, Awgu LGA, Enugu state, the songs of otanishi—a play of the word austerity using an Igbo word that loosely translates as head-biting, or a sting to the head, referencing the austerity measures introduced by the Shagari administration—was one of the lasting memories I took away. The refrain of “otanishi egbu’go anyi o, ka’anyi’changie shagari o, o ’iwe di anyi na obi, iwe!—austerity has killed us, let’s change Shagari, anger is in our hearts, anger” rings in my head to this day.
As a kid attending primary school in Kaduna during the heady IBB days, I still recall the much-vaunted structural adjustment program (SAP) and how it was supposed to only bite for a while, but the bite lasted longer than was promised and continues to this day.
Even though still just a child in 1993, I still remember with pride how my dad and his friends would argue endlessly about the merits of an MKO presidency and how SAP will finally be laid to a well-deserved rest. Well, what happened to that expectation is well documented and Nigerians continued the speculations of my father and his friends to this day.
For decades, I heard promises of reform that never materialised; promises of good life that still eludes us; promises of increased opportunity that goes no further than the vile mouth that issues them; promises of better education in the face of increasingly ridiculous and never actualised education policies, and can’t help but snicker at the promise of a coming magic year that constantly kept being officially moved forward as each one loomed.
While sitting on the floor, in primary school, listening to a teacher chalk away at the ancient blackboard in Army Children School New Cantonment “A”, I exactly believed that was how life was meant to be, that sitting on the floor is normal and that that it is our lot. I thought so, even though the Command Children School that shared the same compound, and which two of my siblings—using my dad’s old army ID and resultant quota—were fortunate to attend, had desks, better-dressed students who eat cake at break time and more teachers. I thought so because I felt Command Children School and others like it were for academically gifted children who needed more care than we do. Anyway, even the Command Children Schools of those days were not too much removed from us—aside from having more desks and those juicy cakes, yes I tasted them for my now late brother used to sneak into our zinc and wood classroom to share with me.
True we saw standard classrooms in the few movies we got to watch and in Sesame Street, but that was another life, one of fantasy, one that belonged to the TVs we escape to at 4pm. I also felt there was nothing wrong with there being two sections of the same school, one for morning, and another for afternoon. Yeah, Command Children School had only one morning section, but that was ok, they are more brilliant kids, they don’t need to go to school under the morning sun. Can’t remember much what I learnt in primary school, other than the best way to play dead during the game of police and thief. Mind you, I learnt to read and write from my father, who also taught me elementary mathematics, and much of what I know about maths to this day.
Secondary School was worse; I got to go to Government College Kaduna, a very popular secondary school renowned for its past glory because my father could not afford the better private ones that were just then beginning to spring up.
There, the sitting on bare floors was worse, especially with our uniform being white on white. We also had to go to school in the afternoon, at least those of us in the junior section had to. The memories I have of junior secondary school were of not having teachers and spending the day playing fives or shooting pigeons with catapults in the school’s extensive vegetation. Yeah, the chairs did come—think I was in JSS 2 then—from Buhari and other alumni. As for teachers, nothing changed until we entered SS 1, extremely under-educated and most barely able to string English words together without blunders. I must add that we had no teacher for mathematics and English the entire duration of our Junior Secondary miss-Education.
I was lucky; yes, I was, for I had inherited the love for books from my father and a fight, its resultant punishment and a kindly librarian who supervised the dusty task of sweeping the school library introduced me to a world far removed from the one I know. I began reading, garnered knowledge on my own and managed to make the best out of a very bad situation. I was not alone in this, and those of us who learnt anything from Government College Kaduna, did so on our own.
Then came the battle to enter university, a mighty struggle for us half-baked secondary school graduates. We struggled, paid for extra lessons and read until our eyes watered until the university doors opened and swallowed us. Back then examination malpractice in the form that it is today was the preserve of those who can afford it and you only steal from those you feel know more than you, unfortunately, I fell into the group that were presumed to know, so I didn’t get to steal from anyone.
My stay in the university was marked by increase in school fees. I got admitted in 1999 and paid N1600 (one thousand six hundred naira) as a fresher, by the time I left five years later in 2004, school fees was N17, 500 (seventeen thousand five hundred Naira). Math understandably never became my thing, so let someone else do the maths on percentage increase over a four-year period. I can’t recall how many strikes from the Academic Staff Union of Universities occurred while I was an under-educated undergraduate, but I know it was enough to add an extra year to my four course.
The story of how I eventually got a job and the struggles and anguish in between will be better told in the future, but the fact that as an editor of a magazine and with a salary many times over the recently reviewed minimum wage, I still find it very impossible to survive month to month. I don’t have vices and have learnt from my years of struggle to respect money, yet I can’t afford a tokunbo car on my salary or a house big enough for my family, not to talk of taking proper care of them.
I am a half-baked Nigerian graduate, all my life the Nigerian government has not shown it cared I exist or that I have a stake in this country they claim is ours. Therefore, until I am assured that my children will not pass through the same hard route I did to get here, I shall continue to occupy.