History has proved sufficiently that as everywhere and always, in every struggle, there were, in order of importance: the fighters, the lukewarm, and the traitors. The sifting process must necessarily begin with the self.
The social world in which I grew up was virtually Nigerian – without needing to say so. Nigerian imageries, customs, doctrines, suppositions everywhere. My Nigerian sun, and I am sure, that of my generation, revolves around one major phase: bitter anguish. Gilded by the rays of uncertainty and incompatibility, my generation has sought tirelessly to return Nigeria on the map of the world where it ought to be in the first place. We had great dreams for Nigeria, to say the least. But the present of Nigeria is another ball game for us. Corruption, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, depression, economic downturns, want, nepotism, and what have you. Those were the guiding principles which my generation has come to associate Nigeria with.
However, Nigeria at fifty-six seems to me a symbol of a great mission. And in another respect as well, it looms as an admonition to my generation. Not quite fifty years ago, and not up to ten years into Independence, Nigeria, had the unfortunate tragedy to be plunged into a bitter civil war, a tragic catastrophe which gripped the entire nation, and indeed the world. At the time of our fatherland’s gross humiliation, the perpetrators of the war, still basking in their ill-advised bravado, are yet to learn simple lessons from their past actions. The omens were then even more present and visible, though but very few attempted to draw lessons from them.
Today, those self-professed gladiators of Nigeria’s unity, Machiavellians, they have been aptly termed elsewhere, having scarcely no hint of their destructive nature, are coming back to haunt the country. What they have failed to appreciate, perhaps, was that, unless a man were to back up his words with the requisite action, he would never have had the power to stamp his desire on a nation of over one hundred and eighty million souls. There is no gainsaying the many political upheavals we are confronted with in contemporary Nigeria is traceable to the venal actions of the very low IQ-ed, grab-it-all politicians that have flooded the socio-political terrain.
But before typing the first word of this piece, I was for the better part of twenty minutes staring at the blank Microsoft Word page on my laptop screen deep in thought as to why writing this piece might be necessary, and how I was to properly circumnavigate the dangerous repercussions that might arise. It dawned on me then that in order to write this, I have to be willing to do one thing, just one thing. I have to be frank with not just myself but with the sources of my ambivalent picture of my dear country, Nigeria. If we are to be truthful with ourselves, we would not doubt the declaration that not many Nigerians truly believe in their country. This is not a new discovery since from the very beginning the country has offered no justification for its citizens’ faith in it. Today, I consider it Providential that Fate should dictate that I be born in Nigeria.
Times without number, I have pondered: what could be the limits of my Nigerian identity? This I have asked numerous times. I have also wondered why the question of my nigerianness floats so impalpably, so ungraspably, like a cloud which outlines defy cognizance. I understood later that it was as result of the fact that country itself is on the search for coherence.
But I also realised that I have to claim my Nigerianness, notwithstanding its shortcomings, and in way that I have asserted my right to Nigeria, I have to expose its flaws. For that is the only way I can fathom the abiding interest and fascination of this country called Nigeria. That is also the way I can gain insight into its many doctrinaire misconceptions.
Of course, music, being aptly called the food of the soul is such a good means of soothing the soul and clearing the mind of ambiguities. Thus, to Brymo’s Dem Dey Go did I turn to in my confused state. Yes my dear ever expressive readers, Brymo’s powerful philosophy did provide me with the needed energy to pen this piece.
First off, clarity need be given to one salient fact: there has been confusion as to who Brymo directly addresses in the song. There was the view that he was referring to the much publicized and acrimonious break-up with his former label, Chocolate City. This view is reinforced by the fact that he says at the second verse, “We are born and then we’re gone. Nobody lives forever. It’s alright, and then it’s not…” Lines which most probably reference the fickle nature of his relationship with his music label. How, according to commercial logic, talent can be eschewed and emasculated in favour of bank alerts. But there is the second school which believes that Brymo was metaphorically, and quite literally, referring to Nigeria’s socio-political situation. And that is the beauty of it all. Chinua Achebe once said that what makes a work great is its ability to be understood and appreciated by people of different situations. Brymo infused enough descriptive imageries of Nigeria’s current situation that one cannot but concur that this social commentator is on a mission to portray Nigeria’s every struggle for nationhood. It is this latter side that I adopt in this treatise.
The song begins: “Once upon a time…” Yes, it was on that fateful partly-sunny day of 1st October, 1960, in a certain Western interior part of Africa, a country was birthed from the shackles of British imperialism. But the country was yet to be free in the real sense of the word. Brymo continues: “Freedom is a kind of prison…” Significantly, the 1960 Constitution reportedly maintained the characteristic features of a federal state with residual powers falling to the Regions. By section 33 of the 1960 Constitution, Nigeria was declared to be a federation of three Regions – the North, the West and the Eastern Regions with a federal capital at Lagos. It also gave Her Majesty (the Queen of England) the power to appoint a Governor-General who was to “hold office at Her Majesty’s pleasure as her representative in the Federation.” What one can unequivocally conclude is that ‘Independence’ at least in the simplest meaning of the word, was never granted to Nigeria in 1960. One would have thought that this (the Queen still being the overall sovereign in the country) was inconsistent with the provision in the Independence Act that as from 1, October, 1960, the British government shall have no more responsibility for the government of Nigeria.
Brymo says: “Some people come together. Made a plan. Took a chance agreement between one another…” The pervading propaganda for a break-up of Nigeria would have us believe that the incompatibility of the different ethnic groups is a fact which makes it difficult for co-existence. But the function of propaganda, as I see it, is merely to emphasise the rights of one side it sets out to argue for without stopping to weigh and ponder the merits and justice of the other side. Ethnicity, it can never be denied, easily results in a state of disharmony and acrimony, a sad situation which is not absent from Nigeria today. As the obvious flaws in Nigeria’s constitutional framework continues to impinge on the amicable relationship among the various federating units of the country, tempers and deep-seated grudges constantly arise at slight provocations causing the country’s democracy to be buffeted by every wind of opinion. Many would seriously believe such nonsense opinions as spewed forth by agents of destabilisation, and there are many from whose mouths such an explanation can only one huge lie and a conscious falsehood. This last applies to those who today feed from the government plates. Hasn’t Nigeria fought enough with itself to realise that the self-inflicted wounds would do more harm than good? Isn’t the country traumatised enough with countless sling-shots of crises that efforts should be started by now to patch up things?
Brymo goes on: “One silly, the other sneaky, the other sleazy…” Tami Koroye fittingly describes this part: the Nigerian politician, be it an illiterate with no evidence of his intellectual achievements and prowess, or a slow but well learned and sparsely taught degree holder (err, let’s say a Ph.D) is a smart person never the less. He is well abreast of the ever persistent strife betwixt the two major religious factions in the nation, so, therefore as not to appear biased (but with the true and glaring notion of winning the ignorant and tribalism hearts over to his welcoming canopy, or umbrella, whichever) he adorns, yes, adorns, because they turn to nothing but ornaments subsequently, himself with noiseless loyalists with no desire of theirs, except to do what monkey says (monkey does), loyalists which coincidentally happen to be an appreciated person of the adjacent major religion. Why try to win or buy votes when your actions, precedent and present, display you to have nothing but the invigorating fire of change and love for your nation at heart? Intrinsically, the politicians remain unalterably in one piece when it comes to sharing the national cake.
Brymo again: “Them dey fight. Dey quarrel dey go…” Nigeria is comprising of too many disconnected angles that beginning to look into them would take volumes of parchment. The bitterness; the resentment; the strife, the divide.
He goes on: “I tell them if them no wan gree make them scatter, go their separate ways…” Nigeria is one enormous absurdity fraught with the direst consequence. The basic question facing the country is: should the power sharing formula give a large bulk of political power to the constituting ethnic groups, hence creating a weak central or federal government thus jeopardising the essence and stability of the federation and ultimately leading to a collapse of the federation, or, should the larger chunk of the powers be left to the federal government, the dregs left for the other components, thus highlighting the differences amongst the different component units and hence enhancing tribalism, fear of domination, disunity, civil unrest, secession and other problems which only breed mutual distrust and hatred within the federation and thus undermining the federation? Nigeria’s political system has passed through so many political and constitutional crises both before and since Independence that it had come to be regarded as relatively not well constituted, despite the country’s doubts, cultural diversity, uneven economic development, and uncertain future.
And finally, Brymo sings: “I can see the future, oh, I can see it. Where the people see what the people need. I have a dream to see the people free from the pain within…” The remarkable fact about the Nigerian situation is that its waves strike hardest perhaps in the youths, since youthfulness is the fertile bed of easy manipulation. Anyone who knows the soul of youth will be able to understand that it is them who lend ear most joyfully to the deceptive appeal of the plentiful minority, the plutocrats and powerful ruling elite. But what this ruling class have failed to recognise is that young people carry their struggles in hundreds of forms. Their convictions are better and more honest. Now, the wind is blowing. And my generation is becoming wiser that Nigeria is far more important than the wish of a single politician. When that time comes, and it definitely would be sooner than realised, anyone who tries to alienate my generation from Nigerian heroic grandeur would have to cope with their unrestrained enthusiasm. Precisely in this apparent hopelessness of our gigantic struggle, as youths in Nigeria today, lies the greatness of our task and also the possibility of our success.
Finally, here is my own simple rendition of Nigeria at fifty-six: Once upon a time, on this particular day over half a century years ago, a nation, within the borders of the Atlantic Ocean to the southern coast, estimated at an area of three hundred and fifty thousand square miles and lying on the south of the equator, was birthed from British colonialism. An area carved out of the West Coast of Africa containing diverse tribal groups or nationalities by European knives. Sadly, still in search of genuine nationhood, the nation underwent a bitter civil war, years of unpalatable military juntas, countless scoundrels parading as statesmen…ethnic bigotry…tribal chauvinism…societal malaise like never before…yet the country has refused to give up. Rather producing barrels after barrels of crude oil which empowers only a select few of the large populace. A giant yet to discover its immense potentials. With a robust youth population which cannot boast of meaningful achievements…even when the very fabric of its existence is being tugged at vigorously by selfish and inconsiderate individuals, it still stands its ground! A nation badly shaken at the roots…but still spreading its root in search of water to sustain it…A nation which has seen the return of a horde of vultures picking at its innards…it wouldn’t just give up, yet! This nation has survived wave after wave of ill winds…a nation that its inhabitants don’t trust…a nation betrayed…this nation is Nigeria!
I remain Arikor Ogonnaya.