My first meeting with Femi Adesina was after he took over as Editor in Chief of the Sun Newspaper, following the glorious tenure of Tony Onyima. I love reading his write ups, while my favorite is Funke Egbemode. My respect for Femi was solidified after he differed with his Chairman and Publisher, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu when he (Femi) endorsed APC in the run up to the 2015 elections. Orji Uzo Kalu had endorsed the PDP.
Today, when I read a statement credited to Femi Adesina that only few Nigerians were complaining that things were hard in Nigeria, I prayed that he was quoted out of context. The Femi that I had come to respect as a blue chip journalist would not be that insensitive to the plight of Nigerians even though insulated at this time, by the trappings of comfort in Aso Rock. It will therefore be inconsiderate for me or anyone to come down very hard on Mr. Adesina without confirming from him that he made those odious statements attributed to him. In response, I have chosen instead to review my activities for the day in America, hoping that a comparison to life in Nigeria will lead the readers to their own conclusions.
I started my Saturday morning with a walk round a famous golf course trail. While this particular golf course is a play ground for the upper class, the trail was open to the public. All persons rich and poor enjoy the breathtaking, unpolluted view of the Pacific Ocean. Along the trail, one is unable to tell the poor from the rich or the famous. There was an absence of noisy telephone calls, loud music, police, cars or loud conversations. All in sight were human beings walking or jogging, some with dogs, a few rabbits, and the sounds of splashing waves on the ocean, tranquility and serenity. Along the trail, someone had the sense to put out portable toilets so that people could answer the call of nature in peace and privacy; water fountains for people to quench their thirst.
There was no foul odor anywhere because no one urinated along the trail or defecated anywhere near it. People walking their dogs had small polythene bags to collect the poops of their dogs.
After my morning walk, I took a quick shower and drove forty miles out to my daughters’ basketball games. Although I did not know the direction to the venue of the tournament, I simply entered the address on MapQuest and so my navigation to the venue was quick and flawless. A few weeks ago, Paul my friend gave me a ride in his new Tesla car which showed off its self navigation capabilities. He did not have to touch the steering of the car from the restaurant where we had lunch until we got to his office, a distance of about three miles.
While Americans are worried about how quickly they could acquire driverless cars, the average Nigerian is not sure of his next meal. Most Nigerians simply do not have jobs, majority of the youth are unemployed. It is good that the government has realized this and opened up recruiting frontiers in many tiers of government like the ongoing 500,000 teacher employment exercise, the 10,000 police force hiring and many others. The Federal Government must however abolish secret hiring in all government ministries, departments and agencies since such tends to erode public confidence in government.
Back to my Saturday, when I arrived the venue of the tournament, I noticed that about twenty secondary schools were taking part in this weekend tournament. The gate fee was five dollars which all except the players paid without any argument. No lines, no police, nothing but orderliness. Many games went on simultaneously in this secondary school gym with Olympic quality basketball courts, same standard across the United States of America. As I watched my daughters play, millions of other parents across America were watching their children play different types of games, basket ball, soccer, base ball, soft ball and many others. The support system is so enormous and very infectious. The referees, linesmen and time keepers all volunteers, took their responsibilities very seriously. You will be left in no doubt that this was a talent development program and that all the participants had higher goals in mind.
During the break, my daughters team went for lunch in a nearby mall. Although the temperature was very hot and the girls would have been hotter from playing, once inside the mall, we were all cold. The mall air-conditioning was perfect. No sound of an annoying generator but power from the American “NEPA”, which is always reliable. Here again, I saw no security guards, no bag searches, no police men. Throughout my drive, I never encountered one police or military check point, no person asked if I had anything for the boys. The “Boys” here do not ask for and would not receive anything.
Once inside the mall, I went to BJs Bar. There I sought the company of a blonde. Not what you think, a blonde is a BJ Restaurant special beer. The day ended with my daughters winning their two games.
It was while I was nursing my glass of the blonde that I read the statement credited to Femi Adesina, that only very few Nigerians are complaining that things are hard. It could not be. It should be that only very few Nigerians are not complaining that things are hard. The prices of ordinary staple food items like garri, rice, beans, yams and ingredients have sky rocketed beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerian in the past few months. What captures the pathetic situation is the heart wrenching report that people now steal pots of stew and soup on fire in most houses with shared kitchens. Houses like “face me, I face you“, the house of choice for the average Nigerian.
The Nigerian has seen his purchasing power evaporate. A combination of the devalued Naira, restrictive foreign exchange policy, and an overall gloomy and murky economic climate has whittled away the purchasing power of the average Nigerian. To make matters worse, many public servants are owed many months’ salaries as many tiers of government struggle with liquidity problems. The talk these days is about the second round of bail out for states as the Federal Government grapples with loss of revenue caused by low oil prices and vandalism of Nigerian oil industry infrastructure by the Niger Delta Avengers.
Insecurity once confined to the North East of Nigeria, has spread like wild fire to envelope the whole Nigeria. Armed robbery, kidnappings, daily attacks by Fulani herdsmen and all manner of ills have trivialized the life of the average Nigerian. Many states are making special appeals to the Federal Government to send Special Forces to stabilize the deteriorating insecurity in those states. From Benue to Kogi and now Cross River State, many Governors are at their wits end on how to grapple with insecurity in their states. Invasions of communities in the Western States from the creeks of the Niger is taking ominous turns. This is as the Federal Government seems to have succeeded in wrestling the monster Boko Haram to the ground. All these make most Nigerians to complain loudly.
While I do not believe that he said it, I will like to inform Femi Adesina that majority of Nigerians are suffering and they are complaining loudly about it. To hear them though, one must step out and mix with ordinary Nigerians. To hear Nigerians clearly, one must extricate himself from the hoard of sycophants and praise singers that suffocate politicians, the likes that troop daily to Aso Rock.