We Are Nigeria: An Update By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
Despite actions that leave no doubt, we are not animals. Our land is no animal farm. We just lack the power to know, judge and choose. We are like a bacteria placed on a dish. We will not stop eating until we consume everything on the dish and die away.
We steal crude oil. We import refined fuel. We borrow foreign loans. We give away subsidy money. We collect hot $620,000. We place it in a freezer to cool down. When caught, we say it was a piece of evidence we preserved to prove that we were bribed by an oil merchant some months ago.
We are outraged. But you won’t see it on our faces. We do not get Botox injections. But desensitization to evil saps our power to gesture. It won’t have mattered so much if it did not wilt our manhood, too.
We worship the arbitrariness of life. Giving life any constitution pulls our bones away. We are on the side of belief that is malignant.
We live in a hut. Yet when we look at a heap of stones at our doorstep, we proclaim that the stones would become a mansion as soon as God points his finger at the stones and says, “Be a mansion.” Our prime hobby is knocking on heaven’s door while holding on to acres of land with our feet.
We confuse our right path with everyone’s only path. We do so out of fear that there may be someone out there who is wiser than us. The sky is our canvas. Not because our hands can reach it -only because our hands cannot.
Our mea culpa is a blank slate- rare and precious. We call our pensioners, old wood, steal their bread and offer them to the sun to dry up like pepper. We wonder why our ancestors do not tattoo our names on their bodies.
We want chameleon, even if it’s dead. We hide in it to run away from ourselves. We want snakes and everything that crawls. We want fast, though we hate to run. We adore our fame even when it outshines our reality.
We love London and all that glitters. It reminds us of its clone we have been incapable of creating. The aura of Easternders prevents us from noticing the disappearance of our shadow. We shall wed in London; meet in London, party in London, even dare the ghosts just to hail the Queen.
We want benevolent men who know how to spray. We invented spraying. We like it when the spraying is done in numerous currencies – Dollars and Yen, Pounds and Euro. And our men are doing everything to possess the power to spray. They are cooking the books, breaking the banks and sucking the oil.
We will quiz the prostitutes who are just back from Italy, “Why did you go?” We shall pat corrupt ministers at the back and say “go home and plot a comeback.” We go from Republic to Republic, merely changing the form of mis-governance. We raise the dust and complain that we cannot see. When you see us, we are either totally ignorant or totally indifferent.
We love the charms of some medicine men. We also love the Bible. The cultists are the front seat members of the church. Treasury looters, with Koran in one hand and chopping knives in the other, pontificates Sharia from their naked pulpits. The adults are still battling with Teen Study Bible. It is a race against Time. If the charms do not work; if the tortoise does not walk, St. Peter would draw the sword.
We suck up to miracles, like when police arrests a suspect one-year after the fact. Of course, the police is our friend. If the police can’t enforce the laws in the book, we change their uniform.
We want democracy. We want democracy prescribed by hoodlums. We walk away from the city of Sodom and intermittently look back. Once inside Gomorrah, we set the clock one hour behind. If it does not give us room to make things happen with immediate effect, we mutate it.
We want students to sit their butts in school and learn, even when teachers are on the streets selling akara in protest. If they have no books, we offer them leaves. If they have no tools, we offer them games. If they have no chemicals, we give them decimals.
Our dreams once deferred, we now kidnap. We are White man’s burden. We hate western education. But we use tools of western education to wipe away those trying to replicate it in our midst.
We want politicians who are also Ogbanjes. It is in our land that politics first invented the comeback kid. We want intellectuals who think out our revolutions. From the Ivory Towers, they step into the corridors of power and make their broadcast. We, then, want bandits to carry out the revolution.
We worship the government, any government. We want a government that will give us everything - suya, contracts, Indomies, and canned coke. This government will however leave our resources alone.
We wash our hands clean when the bus breaks down. We blame the driver. Sometimes, we remember to blame the conductor too. He did not heed the scream, “Your side?” We are the passengers. Our rowdiness has nothing to do with it.
We are the Black Renaissance they talk about. We are wiser than they are, always, and we do not hesitate to tell them so. From our tabernacle hope arises. If we jump, the rest of them jump. If we dance, the rest of the bunch dances. Sometimes, we recall, sometimes we don’t. We live in our labyrinth. Our horsemen of the Apocalypse are too drunk to shoot straight.
We chicken out easily. We let them beat us. The same people who are inferior to us. Then we step outside and gnash our teeth. The only moment we seize is the one that precedes bad omen. As centrifugal forces spin, we sit and watch in great wonderment.
We bribe our way just to get home. We decorate our parlors with immaculate concepts, yet we wash our hands in blood. We want interrogators who speak our language. We want interpreters who are as tall as we are. We feed the crocodile until it eats us last.
We love amulets. We want myths - myths about Zik and mermaids, myth about Oduduwa coming down from heaven. We love invisible men - Anini and IBB. We love our crooks to be smart. We despise them when they weep. We despise it, more so, when they are generals in a regular army or the un-commissioned battalion.
We love cars even though we are going nowhere soon. Any car, from anywhere will do. Be it good, bad or ugly, we shall have. We have roads, only that potholes indicate our special touch. We invented traffic jams. There our unemployed youths sell newspapers, gala and tooth picks.
In 1966, Peter Enahoro wrote the űberseminal book, How to be a Nigerian. Of course, we now know there is no way that one can be a Nigerian. There is no road map. There is no formula. There is no pathway. Nobody created the Nigerian. Not God. Not the British. Not the people. The pressure cooker of that piece of real estate fashioned the soul of a Nigerian. You are either a Nigerian or you are not.
We are what we are. We teach what we are. We act what we are. We sit back and wonder, “how did this happen?”