News items and home hurts

Components of this title are not original. Rather, they have been drawn from Femi Osofisan, the renowned playwright and newspaper columnist. Osofisan once wrote in one of the daily newspapers that ‘Home is where the hurt is’. He may well be right, in view of the servings we get in our daily newspapers.

My specific reference here is to The Punch of March 15, 2015. In this particular edition, the newspaper had some news items which in their different ways spoke to the hurts in the land.  These different news items are: ‘Lekki bloody robbery, slain fish hawker planned to be a lawyer’; ‘Suspected stowaway found dead on US-bound Arik plane’; and ‘No US visa for violent Nigerian politicians’. And in what can be regarded as the icing on the cake, we also have the bolder and screaming headline ‘Jonathan rains dollars on South West Obas’.

On reading these various pieces, one is bound to shudder and ask: what is happening to this country? Let us take the first story. It is a story of armed robbers who in a perverse way wanted to get their own share of the loot. After all, in a seemingly different and more sophisticated way, the free-loaders in Abuja and the various state capitals as well as local governments are possibly carrying out their own version of the heist. Unfortunately, there is a tragic and human dimension to this particular story. Policemen were killed by these dare-devil robbers, and to boot, a young girl, a fish seller, who had the dreams of becoming a lawyer. Evidently her route was unusual. She could not attend the regular primary and secondary schools, which would ultimately have earned her a place in a faculty of Law in a Nigerian university. But then, dreams die, because –home hurts.

Incidentally, it is the same story of aborted dreams which courses through the next story. Here, we encounter another desperate youth who wanted to stow away in an Arik aircraft. But he died in the aircraft’s cargo compartment. Let us pause for a moment. Why would somebody want to stow away from his motherland under this kind of harrowing circumstance? For those who are even vaguely familiar with contemporary Nigeria and its past, the answers are not difficult to find. Chances are that the desperate young man was jobless. Probably, after pounding the streets of Lagos for a long time, our mutual friend hit upon this solution. Invariably, this has turned out to be the final solution.

These two news items are enough to jolt a normal society to ask pertinent and urgent questions like: What is wrong? How can we redress this bizarre situation? Why should our youths continue to waste away like this? But then, several days after these two incidents, all is still quiet on the Western front. I guess we are all so hardened by the various hurts in the land that we have been dehumanized. And indeed, when the abnormal begins to acquire the profile of the normal, what it means is that something has gone terribly wrong.

Indeed, the situation was not always like this. In the 60s and 70s, Nigeria was the place to be. There was a can-do attitude. The youths had opportunities by way of jobs and access to education. Little did we know that we were going through our own Biblical years of plenty. Now the lean times are here. And the harvests of these bitter years are our frustrated youths. For if the truth must be told, the episode of the stowaway is not an isolated phenomenon. In view of the fact that home hurts, many other young men and women are voting with their feet. For some of them, the preferred route is not even the cargo compartment of an aircraft. Rather, it is the Sahara Desert which will presumably take them to Europe. This has been called the scramble from Africa. Thus, and on a regular basis, we are regaled with the tragic news of how African immigrants (many of them Nigerian) are being washed ashore in Southern Europe.

One numbing feature which runs through the two news items is that the throes of mortality continue to beckon for the Nigerian youth. And such throes are not owed to natural disasters. Rather they can essentially be viewed in the context of human-made disasters. Such disasters are essentially consequences of malgovernance by an irresponsible political class. And as if to indicate that our language here is not overboard, the subsequent news item speaks to the new low which our leadership has reached. This is evident from the way in which the US ambassador to Nigeria has drawn the line in the sand for our politicians. According to him, any politician who instigates violence in the forthcoming elections will be denied visa to the United States. The threat symbolizes a new day in US-Nigeria relations. It is clearly a new dawn (?) for our country. In those days, especially in the heady days of the oil boom, Washington virtually courted Nigeria’s friendship. Then, such was Nigeria’s expanding power and influence in the continent and beyond that Ali Mazrui spoke about Nigeria as a credible interlocutor in world affairs.

As if to indicate that there is no end to these hurts inflicted by our leadership, the fourth news item says it all. ‘Jonathan rains dollars on South-West Obas’. In view of this odious revelation, one does not need to be an economist to appreciate why our naira continues to take a beating. But then, such self-inflicted buffeting will not end there. It will translate into a higher cost of living for the employed, unemployed, and under-employed in our society. Little wonder, therefore, that home continues to hurt – courtesy of a chloroformed and unreflective leadership.

Kayode Soremekun

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