I love memory for the reason that it gives us a sense of self. Memory also reminds us of the past and in a way, helps in creating the needed connection between what was and what will be. Above all, I love reprocessing the past because as they say, nothing remains when memory fails. Therefore, for people and nations who remember, there are always blessings and rewards. However, for others who love to forget like Nigerians, there are also consequences.
But as a people, already facing many difficulties because we have remained permanently at the sharp end of everything bad, what is our fate in a world where memory counts? And as Nigerians, how much do we actually remember?
Today, I remember Ernest Hemingway despite his failings. Hemingway was an extraordinary American novelist, short-story writer, adventurer and an audacious journalist. Without him, 20th Century fiction and journalism are incomplete, and the world knows.
So, when he passed away in 1961, humanity lost a legend. But Hemingway still lives in our memory because this Ernest was truly purposeful and forthright in many ways. He was unusual too; he created real characters and memorable places and events in his short-stories, novels, heroic journalistic writings and adventures. He also gave the world unforgettable books like The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, Men without Women, Death in the Afternoon, Winner Takes Nothing and A Moveable Feast, among many others.
But I also love Hemingway’s famous quotes. “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated”, he says. This moving optimistic quote for uncertainties and hard times says a lot about this important writer and the world he lived in. I also love two additional quotes, among others, by this famous writer:
“Courage is grace under pressure” and “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much and forgetting that you are special too”.
So, where are the authentic writers and thinkers like Hemingway in our world today? Where are Nigeria’s ‘courageous’ columnists and writers of the military era? And politicians, public officers, soldiers, the religious (I don’t mean pastors who steal and lie in God’s name), young people, professionals and even common folks who lived for the good of others back in the day? Where is the succeeding generation of those human beings who remain in the hearts of people because they touched lives in a special way? How many politicians, old or new breed, live in our memory in the present day?
But amid the seeming hopelessness, we are still hopeful because we remember men we can never forget. Men and women who gave their lives and all, in service to Nigeria from the colonial period to the dawn of independence and even beyond; these men and women, we shall remember forever.
Sadly, all we have in our public space today are men who may never be remembered for anything good. They are not only inconsiderate and colourless, they are also cold and immoral. The most horrifying part is that the men who run our affairs are oblivious of the fact that it is already midnight. It is now clear that things will only become worse with every passing day if they continue in their old ways.
For the record, we must state that our most horrible era ever in democratic leadership in Nigeria began in 1999 after a 16 year brutal military regime that desecrated and destroyed everything we hold dear. Unfortunately, some of the principal actors and thugs of that dreadful military regime later became part of the new power brokers of Abuja, both in the parliament and in the executive arm.
That first 16 years of our latest democracy were without doubt, a terrible period for Nigeria. But we are now too dumbstruck in this new era to even speak on the mass atrocities and ineptitude of today. In less than four years, this administration shattered all known failure records of the past and took our leadership crisis and misbehavior in public service to new heights.
However, many people are of the opinion that Nigeria’s most recent journey to the unknown actually began on February 6, 2013 when a group of politicians without anything in common, save for lust for power, came together in an unholy alliance. During that ‘historic’ assembly, they formed what critics have described as the most vicious political coalition in our history. They eventually grabbed power at the centre but since then, no one has slept, including their members and even the main actors of that deadly alliance. Today, if they are not fighting at their different riotous state chapters over positions and relevance, they are busy sabotaging their party and themselves during elections.
Definitely, Nigeria cannot make any progress in this chaos.
Now, the chicken has finally come home to roost. Those who supported this party over the last few years are now in hiding on account of the atrocious acts of the last few weeks. But the impudent ones are still speaking in hushed tones and shifting blame. To them, the visionless rulers they cheer are not to blame. Rather, hold those who speak for government and the heads of security agencies, responsible, they insist.
Unfortunately, Nigeria flounders every day. Everywhere, the objectionable activities of the ruling class and the unconscionable actions of their desperate and depraved supporters continue to fan the flames of discontent and destruction across Nigeria.
At a time when countries all over the world are sober and busy working hard to restrict movement because of the devastating effects of COVID 19, our agencies, the so-called Ministry of Telecommunication Technology and Digital Economy, (whatever that means), and National Identity Management Commission, NIMC are busy asking people to physically appear for their National Identification Numbers and Sims registration. And they are even creating spurious deadlines and threatening ordinary Nigerians. What a country!
If you really want to know how terrible things are now under this weak and nepotistic regime, wait for the next round of political appointments. Once appointments are made, grovellers and ethnic champions, opportunists in sheep’s clothing (particularly in Southern Nigeria) would spend nearly a month fighting and struggling to appropriate spineless appointees who even depend on others for direction. That is where we are at the moment.
But before the inevitable smoldering fire hovering over Nigeria finally leads to another conflagration, we must speak to those leading us to nowhere. The truth is that this group of politicians and even those before them have absolutely nothing to offer in the making of a new Nigeria that we all desire desperately.
We need help and this is the time to save Nigeria. Right-thinking people must come together and rescue Nigeria from herself before more harm is done. We must ask ourselves:
What do we do with cattle rearing, kidnapping, the continuous threat from Boko Haram, banditry, porous borders, the ungoverned space, provincial politics, ineffectiveness of government, cultural particularity, the national question, equity and more. These are the real demons. And until we find answers to these questions, this long and frightening night may continue.
But Nigeria still has a fighting chance. She is not totally irredeemable, and it is never too late to begin.