Backlash:Time to take a break
I have done almost 730 days nonstop. It is not easy. If President Buhari who has a change agenda to deliver urgently could damn the heat of fuel scarcity, forex scarcity, electricity scarcity and a failing economy and take five days off, how much less a mere reporter who has nothing to prove outside his name. I am actually proceeding on vacation beginning tomorrow and this column shall come with me to my village where I shall spend the vacation and we shall not return until after five weeks.
Things are going perfectly my way. I pity folks who cannot stay one year in Nigeria without jumping on the plane twice or more to some location in Europe or America, not for anything more meaningful than maintaining a self-imposed aristocratic profile. How the CBN manages to shuffle the scarce dollars to accommodate holiday makers when there is hardly enough to import fuel for domestic consumption remains a wonder.
My option of heading for the village is most peaceful and least expensive. At the going rate, cost of a round ticket to London, the most popular destination for Nigerian tourists, is more than enough to cover all my operations in the village five times over for the five weeks I shall be away. This is outside the real and material cost of staying in London for 35 days for leisure. At £60 per night for some less than average hotel room somewhere in East London, accommodation alone would take more than £2000. Let’s say feeding, endless sightseeing and shopping will conservatively add another £2000 to make it £4000 for the trip, minus ticket.
I shall do the naira conversion for better understanding. At N500 to a pound, it comes to N2,000,000.00, which can do so much to the abandoned six-classroom block in the secondary school in my village. The Delta State government has abandoned completely the school in spite of my persistent plea for its renovation. Recall I taught at the school during my last vacation in 2014. I shall do same this year. The school lacks virtually everything; from basic infrastructure to the staff threshold needed to run a successful Senior School Certificate Programme and I had reported this to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan long before he left office on May 29, 2015.
Seriously, apart from the APC Change Agenda, which is reordering the priorities of many people, I am primarily not convinced about the taste of successful professionals, who always seek to upwardly integrate without any consideration for the background that created them. And I want to be specific here so that I don’t confuse the issues. Some of my fellow Urhobo brothers and sisters have a thousand and more reasons why home should be avoided like plague. They say if one is not taken out by witches and wizards who seek to black out light and keep the kingdom of darkness running, kidnappers may be on target to succeed where they (witches and wizards) have failed.
These are genuine fears I must accept. But should good people abdicate and permanently stay on their knees begging God to deliver goodness to mankind through evil doers? In the first place, I don’t know about witches and wizards; it is a matter best handled by the Almighty Father. What I do know, however, is that, there is perhaps kidnapping and violent crime in my place because the preceding generation failed to hand down better options to the succeeding generation. From whom would the young folks in the village tap inspiration if every successful man or woman in Lagos and elsewhere connects upwardly with Europe and America without a backward integration to regenerate the source?
Something must kill a man either in Lagos, Europe, America, or even in the village. And when a man dies, what endure are his crosscutting achievements that impacted a wider area of life. His personal glories, including material exploits are symbolically buried with him the same day. It is the slice of his wealth that went into building others and society as a whole that defines his greatness or smallness.
Simple as it seems, politicians in Nigeria have persistently failed to appreciate this point. It explains why they always seek to own the world and do not entertain qualms subordinating the people and public good to their narrow purposes. Effectively, the provision of roads, schools and hospitals could wait forever for just one governor to get stupendously rich enough to have the whole wide world in his hands. The issue today in public administration is not so much about the creation of a grand vision to turn things around as it is about the absence of good men and women to drive that grand vision.
As I write, communities are edging towards extinction due to the complete absence of government. We, the indigenes shall inadvertently hasten the unfortunate descent to the abyss should we yield to this debilitating existentialist feeling and stay aloof all the time. I have asked this question in one forum: Should the Urhobo, for instance, choose to die because government has chosen to ignore them? My position is that while we await government for the promised miracles, we can leverage our respective strengths to create a redemptive force to ensure our sustainability and tenability in all contexts.
Going back to the village to be seen and also add a block or two to regenerate the community is my own brand of advocacy and intervention in the great issues of the day. I have read wide, but I have not read where one community makes the development of another community a fundamental objective. Same way, one nation does not make the welfare of another nation a national policy. I need to say this so that President Buhari will understand what to expect as he traverses the globe in a fruitless search for foreign builders to build Nigeria.
The Nigerian State is impervious. It listens only to itself. One ex-militant from the Niger Delta, while justifying his approach said the “Nigerian state only understands the language of force.” This is most unfortunate. And come to think of it, this same Nigeria, which failed to spend just a little to raise the conditions of the almajiris is now spending trillions to quell the insurrection arising from that leadership gap in the Northeast. And much more will be spent on rehabilitation of the region at the end of the uprising.
I am appealing to my Urhobo people not to speak force, because whether or whethern’t, ogoro (frog) must jump. The Urhobo have always managed to live outside government patronage right from the days of colonialism and I think they can continue, and very well too, if that remains the only option. For instance, I do not think it would be so difficult to source 10,000 people in Urhobo land that could pay N1,000,000 to raise N10 billion for the exclusive use of Urhobo people. Well managed, that sum can rewrite completely the current ugly narrative of youth unemployment and criminality in Urhobo land.
For now, my embargo on foreign trips remains, except for a better purpose. And I shall continue to spend all vacations teaching in the secondary school in Oghara Agbarha-Otor, my village. The last time I was in London (March 2014), those folks had even short-changed me. The desk officer at the Hilton on Edgware Road, where I stayed, had promised to post a £50 refund to my card.
The tax officer at Heathrow Terminal 5 also said my £100 VAT rebate would be posted to my card. They both failed. I had mentioned it on this page hoping Prime Minister David Cameron would tell his people to refund my hard earned £ 150. Converted, we are talking of about N75,000. I need the money to add good number of blocks to the classroom building in the secondary school in my village. I shall return after five weeks!