nigeria

What More Can I Say?

Nigeria will drain every ounce of hope you have, unless, like so much of the country, you exist in an idiot bliss of optimism while the signs all around point to, if not catastrophe, then the familiar slide of flattened aspirations and spreading poverty. The place never collapses, it never implodes, it never boils over. Years collapse into one another, and things just sort of carry on, as they always have and as they always will. But they don’t get better. The worst of it is that we’ve normalised this hypnotic slide, so that spreading poverty is no different from past poverty.

Lately things have taken such a bad turn that I am filled with too much dread to even contemplate where they may end up if we continue on the same trajectory for much longer. It is a repeatedly paralysing exercise to wake up to the day’s news.

And so I have sharply curtailed my commentary. I have stopped to conserve my energy; to try to live, rather than survive (which is what 2014 to date has felt like). I don’t keep abreast of the latest happenings; I don’t try to make sense of corporate fines, masked men shutting down the legislature, or a pronounced anti-business attitude spreading like a virus.

This is necessary also because I have talked myself out espousing positions which are overwhelmingly regarded as ‘negative.’ It hardly helps if clear-eyed realism leads you to the same place as those accused of being pessimists. Whatever your reasons, it is no fun to be the bearer of bad news, idiot bliss is much more agreeable.

But what else can I report? What is the record of our history? Have you not seen this pre-election movie before? Just today Nonso Obiliki reminded us that in 2011 we were seriously debating the need to increase the regulated price of electricity to make the sector more viable. That was almost a decade ago. Today, after all that time, after all that petrol, all that diesel, after all those kerosene lamps, after all that lost productivity and missed opportunity, we are further away than ever from a consensus on how to stop the lights from going off. Ten years. That’s bad, you say. But if you look back long enough, we have been having the power back and forth from as early as the President Obasanjo era, to my memory, and much much longer, I wager, if you dig back far enough.

The pattern repeats itself endlessly: the Biafra agitation, pollution in the Niger Delta, family planning, a national census, public education, and so on. Please take me literally and seriously when I say that on the fundamental issues there are no new problems in Nigeria—because there aren’t. We just don’t seem willing to arrive at any kind of actual solutions or even admit that the band-aid solutions are not working. Perhaps this is the natural messiness of nation-building. Perhaps. In any case, at least for now, I have nothing else to say.

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