Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Virus of Our Nation

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Friends, brothers, sisters, a very frightening thing is occurring; perhaps the most alarming thing about this ‘epidemic’ is that the victims are largely unaware as to the danger that has befallen them. Much like a viral infection, the aggressor appears infinitesimally small compared to its victim, yet its potency works to completely destabilize its victim to the point where the victim is rendered completely non-functional. The victims in question are native to the vast, heavily endowed yet troubled continent of Africa. They are the younger generation of our century, comprising a greater fraction of the population than found in any other continent. We, the youth of Africa, as a collective group, stand the risk of being written down in history as one of the worst criminals of all time. The nature of this crime is of a very unique sort. This crime does not entail machinery in the form of guns or ammunition; in fact, it is one devoid of physical forms of aggression, yet its gravity inflicts wounds that work to further weaken the already fragile link that unites us as Africans. 
 

In every war of aggression, there are the two parties that the history books talk about at great length; the winners and the losers. However, matters as complex as war are not to be seen only in black and white. There is always an undefined gray area, which although in terms of area take up but a fraction of the entire picture, in reality those operating in this section are significant enough to influence who loses and who wins. Historians will refer to this group as ‘bystanders’; a more cynical historian would refer to them as ‘accomplices’. Members of this group tend to shy away from the blood baths on the battlefield. Their place is not behind the barrel of a gun nor are they accustomed to the rigid rigmarole characteristic of the life of a soldier. Their battlefield, although very much intangible, still effects the same purpose of producing corpses with the use of their most prized weapon; silence. What makes their war so unique is that it is often fought without their knowledge; that is the perpetrators inflict damage unknowingly. 

Most often when the name ‘Africa’ is spoken aloud, it subconsciously elicits images of war, poverty, corpulent corrupt politicians, flailing infrastructure and every other imaginable damage that can be possibly imposed on a nation and its people. Its become a conditioned reflex, very much akin to how the meeting of two Africans inadvertently ends in a discussion of the ongoing crises that are crippling their individual countries. These conversations most likely would trail off into a harangue leveled against a certain tribe, government official or be attributed to God’s anger against the nation. It will then end with the customary head shaking from left to right accompanied by a disgruntled moan or a defeated shrug. Upon personal self-reflection, one begins to realize, as I did, that very rarely do these conversations ever end in decisive action to actually resolve the situation at hand instead they tend to belabor the issue rather than analyze it in search of possible solutions. I was conversing with a friend of mine earlier this year and we too were victims of this conditioned reflex; we fell into a discussion of the moribund state of affairs in Nigeria. He had said to me “Do you think Mandela would have been the hero that he was if he was born in Nigeria”. His already prepared response to this was a resounding NO as in his words ‘Nigeria was too diabolical’ to produce such a reputable character as the Great Mandiba. 

Decades of repeated government failure, wars, tribal warfare and series of regimes that are inaugurated with promises of a better life and exit with the state a step closer to complete wreckage. All this and many more factors not only serve to impoverish individuals and add to the endless list of conversational topics, they have worked to desensitize the victims of this failure; Africans, so much so that we have become so acclimated to a lifestyle of dysfunction and ineptitude that transcends all the way from the government to us civilians. We’ve become somewhat like robots, responding in a banal manner to the disorder around us, yet refraining from engaging our intellect and any form of critical thinking which would allow us as individuals to operate using a questioning and analytical mindset which addresses rather than laments a problem. One does not need to stray too far from home to find evidence of our tendency to do away with intellect and rather embrace brutality. If you have ever observed the numerous vehicle collisions that occur on the subpar Nigerian roads, you would notice that on instinct, the two drivers step out of their vehicles each loaded with all sorts of insults they have prepared to throw at one another. Then slowly, we have the bystanders who gradually begin to form a crowd around the collision, each with an opinion of who was the victim and who the criminal, regardless of whether or not this opinion giver witnessed the collision or not. With the crowd fueling the brew with their own accusations, the drivers engage in physical showdown. Worst case scenario, although sadly most likely the case in these types of situations, one of the drivers is killed. The bystanders return to their respective duty posts and the car wreck is left at the site of collision for God knows whom to clear up. Now, taking a closer look at this real-life scenario I just presented we see that in a society not given to mental rigor, violence triumphs. Closer analysis of the situation by either one of the drivers as well as the bystanders would probably have laid the blame for the collision at the Government who failed to invest in ridding the roads of potholes and providing well-trained traffic wardens. The absence of this kind of thinking leaves two drivers who cannot see beyond the accident itself and therefore in either of their eyes each one is the cause of the collision and therefore his anger must be channeled solely against the other driver. Had this same anger been directed at government leading them to demand their civilian rights perhaps such altercations would have been few and far in between on Nigerian roads. 

More important is what fosters this kind of thinking exhibited by these two drivers; once again our dear friend ‘complacency’. Being so well accustomed to the decrepit nature of our roads and entire infrastructure as a whole, the drivers see nothing wrong coming into contact with such a poorly maintained road network. It completely eludes them that the role of their so-called government is to see that the roads are up to par to avoid such collisions and in the absence of that, their roles as civilians and true countrymen beckons them to see to it that the Government is made to live up to their fundamental responsibilities. We see here a byproduct of this kind of complacency; the birth of a society whereby dysfunction is the norm and order becomes almost an idyllic state that cant possibly be envisioned or actualized by human minds and so therefore such order is not aspired for.
Applied in a broader sense, we see strands of this kind of complacency in one of the greatest barriers to our progress as a continent; Ethnicity. Perhaps the greatest atrocities committed against mankind have been committed in wars driven by racial or ethnic ideologies, namely; the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, Congo wars and the Nigerian Biafran wars.  Through these manmade catastrophes, history has pointed out time and time and again that a society bent on emphasizing differences, rather than nurturing unity, is destined for failure yet across our continent we see that the major and most significant forms in which we tend to mobilize ourselves, even more increasingly in times of unrest, are around ethnic lines. Ethnicity, in turn helps to nurture tolerance for mediocrity. The dictators of our continent have relied on sustenance of patron networks consisting mainly of individuals from their places of origin, to maintain their grips on power. By so doing they create an atmosphere that condones incompetence for the mere sake of honoring ancestral roots. We, as civilians are also implicated in this. Often times when we head for the ballot boxes, our tendency is to vote for the candidate that shares ancestral roots with us, disregarding whether or not he or she possesses the ability to fully execute the responsibilities of the position the candidate is vying for. During election campaigns, we repeatedly fall prey to empty promises eschewed by these politicians who offer them in a manner which seems as if they are doing us a benefit and not the responsibilities they are obligated to fulfill, all in the hope of winning over the masses. Borne out of our tendency to embrace mediocrity is our failure to realize that the problems of our continent has reached an emergency stage. Time, unfortunately is not on our side. Our past leaders have lost the 20th century putting our nations dangerously close to the edge of destruction. We can only start now or never to regain ourselves now in the 21st century.
Earlier this year, a Nigerian senator was accused of marrying a 13-year-old Egyptian girl. He finagled his way out of the accusations by an all too popular escape route; invoking Islam‘ Mohammed did it so therefore it is legal’. What really struck me when the news of the whole sordid affair broke out was not so much the bestiality of this Senator and his cohorts who backed the move, but the widespread silence of the Nigerian population at large. In this case the Senator emerges as the winner and the unfortunate teenage girl the loser. That leaves majority of the Nigerian population as the bystanders. With our silence we encouraged this Senator to be more brazen with his appetite for young girls. Later on this year, news broke out that he divorced the young teen, whom he had impregnated and took in another child bride. With our silence we killed the dreams of two naive young girls; the former as a result of her pregnancy and ties to the senator has been cast into a despondent life, her prospects of a future marriage very slim and the other; well only time would decide her unfortunate fate. We have become so desensitized to the preponderance of injustice in our society that we have nurtured an environment devoid of a moral compass. The fate of such a society is left to the whims of what the diabolical minds ruling our society can possibly conjure up.
Another route by which we tend to mobilize is through religion. Unfortunately what is supposed to be a blessing has proven to be a hindrance to the success of our nations as a result of wrong application. Perhaps one of the greatest impediments to civilians of our continent rising up against the tide of injustice is the unfounded belief held by many that our success and change for the better will originate from the benevolence of a greater divine being who will bestow success and development onto our bosom without us getting our hands sullied. History has proven to us through countless heroes such as the Great Mandiba that change is enacted when individuals willing to defy the odds rise up to stand for what they believe in. Upon attending the redeemed camp convention this year, I was utterly dumbstruck by the masses that flocked to this venue. The event greatly exceeded capacity; there were roughly about 6 million people in attendance. I got to thinking that if we Nigerians could drop whatever obligation, travel the distance on not very secure roads and be present on time (a very challenging feat for us Africans) just to hear the words of the highly revered Pastor E.A Adeboye, then why do we find it so difficult to rally up and begin to demand answers from our government. .
Perhaps, the worst of these crimes is committed by the well-educated individuals, who have been privy to top institutions in the developed world. They live a life well insulated from the plight of the millions who are not as fortunate to afford a life sculpted by their own will and wealth to back up that will. This educated class betrays the nation by the mere awareness of the possibility of an alternative life to the ones the millions in Africa live, a life replete with a functional public transit system, responsive and accountable governments, reputable higher institutions and the many more benefits that they enjoy in the developed world.  They are also well aware that these benefits did not originate in the form of manna from a higher power but were the fruits of the work of dedicated and visionary individuals who sacrificed personal advancement for the bettering of the country as a whole. They are aware of all this yet choose to fold their hands and watch from a distance as their nations move closer and closer into disrepair. They, unlike the millions suffering at the hands of corrupt and mismanaged Governments, have not been accustomed to a life of disorder and know what it takes to create a society that applauds merit and denounces incompetence, they are aware that such a society requires the efforts of both Government and civilian. Perhaps their indifference is due to their hearts having long given up on the possibility of a strong, united and flourishing Africa. Leaving the shores of Africa, they shed the responsibility they owe to themselves, to their country and to humanity as a whole, using their acquired skills to invest in already developed societies, robbing the motherland the chance of a brighter tomorrow and debasing the sweat and toil of our ancestors who liberated us from our colonial oppressors. 

Friends, brothers, sisters, I implore you, let us reflect and objectively analyze the ways we have directly or indirectly hurt our nation with our silence and indifference. Our forefathers have relinquished the reins of our nation from colonial hegemony. They have made their marks in the history of our continent. Now, it is time for us to make our own. We have delayed to the point where our situation is now extremely critical. We cannot afford to be aloof and keep our shoulders and backs turned, as we owe to the future generation, a continent free from ineptitude, tribal warfare and social injustice

 By Nchedolisa Anammah

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