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Elumelu and Things We Need to Tell Ourselves

 In this glistering and moribund restaurant called Naija, hunger dies of lack!
Yesterday’s sour meals of sordid stories are still on today’s menu, the maggot-ridden appetizers of money-laundering cuisine are strung on the white linen thoughts of national prosperity.
Political pests continually finger and break into the lump of our national pudding with their greed-infested fingers.’
— Moribund restaurant (Taiwo Michael Oloyede).



United Bank for Africa (UBA) chairman Tony Elumelu spoke from the heart some days before marking his 59th birthday on March 22. He spoke about the state of our dear Nigeria. His words are pleasing to the oppressed but depressing to the oppressors.

In a series of tweets, the philanthropist and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation wrote: “This morning, I am listening to my colleagues at the office bemoan the very pressing issues that they face every day in this country, and how things have been getting worse and worse – no electricity for 5 days, hikes in the price of diesel, frightening food inflation, etc.

“How can a country so rich in natural resources have 90% of its citizens living in hardship and poverty? I have often said that access to electricity is critical for our development, alleviation of poverty and hardship. And speaking of security, our people are afraid!

“Businesses are suffering. How can we be losing over 95% of oil production to thieves?

“Look at the Bonny Terminal that should be receiving over 200k barrels of crude oil daily, instead it receives less than 3,000 barrels, leading the operator @Shell to declare force majeure.”

Since this frank exposition, those who should take action have feigned ignorance and life is going on with millions in pain. Severe pain.

Elumelu’s intervention represents the kind of things we need to tell ourselves at a time like this when we are about to choose our next set of leaders at different levels of government.

This is a season when we need to tell stories that are also confessions. In these stories, we should learn how many of us have enabled our political pests’ access to our national purse, how many of have sharpened the teeth with which they are biting us, how many of us have enabled era and error combined, how many of us have just generally messed up things for ourselves and generations to come, and how many of us have helped to fall things apart and make it difficult for the centre to hold.

This season, when men and women who want power have started currying our favour, is the time we need to tell ourselves that many of us have played critical roles in the pains we have borne since Independence. We need to tell ourselves that many of us have helped usurpers win fraudulent elections. We need to tell ourselves that many of us regularly attend rallies where personalities, rather than issues, are discussed. At these rallies, many of us wear shirts with faces of men and women who become overnight billionaires courtesy of the offices we catapult them into. We need to tell ourselves that many of us have chained ourselves by cheering men and women with no clear-cut agenda for us.

We must tell ourselves that elections are not won on Twitter and Facebook. Elections are won at the polling units. Shout from today till tomorrow on social media and your candidate will lose if you do not mobilise votes for him through door-to-door tactics. We must admit that without voter cards, our noises on social media are barren.

We must also not forget to admit that over the years many of us have allowed the corrupt ones to use their filthy lucre to buy us. We need to admit that an army of us has treated our abusers as friends once they give us cash, rice, noodles and things that evaporate in no time. Those in the government lie to us that the government is ‘broke’ and yet no one has resigned from office because there is no money to run his or her office. They always say there is no money in the government yet every electioneering season, politicians spend millions and, in some instances, billions to run for government offices that supposedly have no money in them.

Every electioneering period and beyond, many of us defend our abusers on social media and turn against ourselves when what we all should be doing is what Elumelu did: Speak truth to power.

Looters who display ill-gotten wealth on social media have become heroes to many of us. Many of us praise them, many of us follow them, many of us comment on their posts, like their posts and make them feel cool with themselves. It matters not to many of us that their lavish lifestyle is funded by what should have built us hospitals, schools, industries and fix the power sector. Many of us act as though we are in bondage and have no choice but to sheepishly do as our master’s command.

Every electioneering period, many of us allow politicians to claim we beg them to run, they allow them to claim they either buy them nomination and expression of interest forms, and they allow them to claim all sorts when these men and women are out to serve no one but themselves and their cronies.

We are not born to suffer. This is the truth we must tell ourselves. We were not born to drive on pothole-riddled roads. We were not born to relish power cuts. We were not born to attend miserable schools. We were not born to be loyal to people whose goal is to keep us in perpetual servitude. We were born to have basic amenities working and working well. All the time.

After telling ourselves the bitter truths, we must resolve that the end must come to exploitation, to corruption, to cronyism, to mediocrity, to fraudulent elections, to miserable schools, to potholes, to power cuts, to queues at filling stations, to businesses shutting down, to injustice, to insecurity, and to every affliction we have battled for ages.

We certainly deserve more than we are getting. We are so lagging behind that we need leaders who can make us run like Usain Bolt. We cannot afford to have leaders who find crawling herculean. Let us all play our parts to get to Canaan.

My final take: We have acted helpless when men and women in power debase our laws again and again. We should take responsibility for our failures and decide to toe a better path this time around. Our scars should be enough reason for us to say enough is enough, and ensure it is truly enough. And thanks to Elumelu for saying the things we need to tell ourselves.





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