In a country oozing with blinding poverty, care for wildlife is an unaffordable luxury. The Yoruba proverb, ebi kii wo inu, ki oro mi wo, warns that hunger will never embrace discussion.
In Nigeria, the knowledge of wildlife is taught by myth, half-truths and falsehood, not by science and its twin brother, technology.
Today, science and technology has disrobed myth in the marketplace, revealing the nakedness of long-held beliefs and untruths. As a primary school pupil, the only period I could be truant was during the homeward journey after school hours. It was the period when pupils played in the rain and discussed the secrets of the jungle. As pupils, we knew that if the sun decided to shine when the rain was falling, it meant the tiger was in labor, giving birth in the wilderness. To every pupil, this was the gospel truth, which we shared excitedly among ourselves as though we were expectant members of the tiger family.
Away from the limitations of myth and right inside the four walls of the classroom, I learnt that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. I, however, unlearned this falsehood when I discovered, years after leaving school, that ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand, after all. When in inescapable danger, the ostrich throws itself on the ground and remains still, feigning death but certainly not with its head in the sand. A lightly colored head and neck which blend in with the color of sand make the ostrich appear to bury its head in the sand. The ostrich mesmerising trick on the eyes qualifies it as a master of subterfuge, master of pretence; rump in the air, head on the ground, lying doggo when all is but well – the ostrich is a Nigerian.
“There is a fire on the mountain: sleep, sleep, sleep!” That’s the absurd response of the Nigerian masses to the plunging of the country’s ship of state towards the precipice. But it is ironic that the masses, who suffer the consequences of bad leadership, have always kept quiet and scarcely challenged detrimental government policies. Every Nigerian has a political hero, whether a devil or a weevil, it doesn’t matter, both are destructive. What matters is the number of zero digits attached to the vulgar bank accounts of their political hero. The forebodings of doom are clear and present, yet both the leaders and the led carry on in self-denial and pretentiously call on God as if God has ever spoken to any nation in a burning bush, giving specific commandments on how to stop corruption, provide infrastructure and live in justice.
With nine brains, three hearts and many toxic glands, the octopus is a very queer creature. With one brain, one heart and innumerable toxic glands, the Nigerian leadership is a bottomless latrine. Only a latrine leadership would see nothing wrong in a female former minister forking out $40m from her inestimable looted funds to purchase personal jewelry. My fellow countrymen and women, $40m is N14.4bn – spent on vanity in a country where millions are foodless, homeless and hopeless. Only a stupid and an ostrich followership would grovel before the looters of their commonwealth, beg to eat crumbs and pray for their looters’ longevity. Nothing but a wastebasket leadership would vow to fight corruption, but end up with extra-corrupt individuals in its inner circle, making corrupt decisions for a corrupted populace. For huffing in the corridors of power for five years, a former First Lady ended up with profane financial wealth unimaginable by her forebears, yet some Nigerians still see her has a patron saint despite negotiating to refund some of her loot. In the government of Mr. Anti-Corruption, N270m was allegedly used to cut golden grass in a couple of Internally Displaced Persons camps in the North-East. Over two years since $9.8m and 74,000 pounds stashed in a Kaduna house by a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Andrew Yakubu, was unearthed, nothing has been heard about the case. Both the administration of Saint Sai Baba and Nigeria’s ostrich population have kept silent over the issue. Yakubu simply explained that the staggering sum was money he received as gifts while in office and he strolled away to freedom.
The electorate has the power to sponsor a bill that would stop Nigerian public officials and their families from travelling abroad for vacation, medical treatment and schooling. I dare say that this singular bill is not a one-tablet-cures-all medicine for our bumbling democracy, but if passed, would breathe life, restore confidence and build hope in our governments. The electorate has the power to vote out bad candidates, recall underperforming legislators, protest executive policies, appeal bad judgments and use various other instruments of the law inherent in the constitution to keep public officials on their toes, but the Nigerian voters have turned their traducers and vagabonds in power into gods. And these gods must be crazy. Otherwise, these gods should be sincerely worried about why Nigerians don’t excel back at home only to travel abroad and explode. The gods should know that the simple answer to this no-brainer is structure.
It is the United Kingdom’s structure that identifies excellence and rewards competence that provided the 39-year-old Kemi Badenoch the platform to blossom and emerge junior minister for education in the incumbent administration of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on July 27, 2019. Born to Nigerian parents in Wimbledon, London, Kemi nee Adegoke, spent her childhood in Lagos, Nigeria and the United States, returning to the UK at the age of 16. It’s most likely Kemi would have amounted to nothing in life if she schooled in the roofless, bookless, fenceless, ill-equipped, ill-staffed public schools dotting the landscape of Nigeria.
On April 1, 2019, the Obama Foundation announced a Nigerian, Adewale Adeyemo, as its first-ever president. Before the appointment, Adeyemo had served as Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, and also as Deputy Director, National Economic Council. If Adeyemo spent all his life in Nigeria, he probably would’ve ended up in the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army, genuflecting to Aso Rock in order to head one of the three juicy military services or scrambling to be appointed as chef to the biggest military broth, the Office of the National Security Adviser.
If they started and ended their football careers in Nigeria, Nwankwo Kanu , Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West etc could have been struck down by some ailments now, needing the help of billionaire Femi Otedola and other sports philanthropists to survive just as their talents would’ve melted in the stifling sun of Nigeria’s decadence.
Born in Greece on December 6, 1994 to a Yoruba father and an Igbo mother, Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, is the current Most Valuable Player in the NBA. Antetokounmpo, whose correct surname, Adetokunbo, was misspelled as Antetokounmpo on his passport, could have ended up in Nigeria as a frustrated basketball player or ‘Yahoo’ boy if his parents didn’t move to Greece in 1991.
Nigerians need not flee their fatherland to greener pastures abroad, Nigerian youths need not sit at home for years seeking admission into tertiary institutions; Nigerians need not comb the streets looking for never-available jobs, Nigeria blood need not be shed daily to insecurity, Nigeria should attract Nigerians and foreigners. To make this happen, we must ask the right questions and organize ourselves to make government live up to its promise.
Failure to do this, Nigeria may sink deeper in anguish while serious nations of the world will listen to our teeth gnashing with feigned concern, whispering among themselves, ‘a nation fantastically corrupt is bound to perish. That was a most blessed nation but most stupid.’ May this not be our epitaph. God won’t forgive us if we waste all His resources. May Nigeria arise and shine.