by Abdul Mahmud
Mondays at the Ukrainian embassy in Abuja are like carnivals of sorts, such that first time callers would mistake the thousands of young Nigerians who throng the embassy for students’ visas for revellers. They are mistaken.
Ukraine, beyond the occasional performances of her musical acts at the annual Eurovision contests, isn’t renowned for producing great musical talents. At least, not the popular musical acts our disc jockeys serve on the dance floors of our country. So, when young Nigerians turn up at the gates of the embassy they are lured by the thrills of exile than the desire to hang around a country that constantly validates misery as qualitative progress.
This Monday, as I sit on the balcony of my Abuja home to write this week’s piece, I peer across the shoulders of the road and at the huge gates of the embassy. Now and then, my eyes rove between this piece and the restless youths. Constantly shaking my head, I wonder why this country gives up on her future – these youths our leaders once claimed they had given up yesterday so they could have tomorrow, today. That tomorrow translates into illusion today.
Inspite of themselves, some would ask why our youths, or any Nigerian for that matter, reject the offer of a prosperous today, or even the promise of a brighter tomorrow? Is it that they prefer to live as vagrant shepherds in the lonely grazes of exile? The answer is simple: “No one expects a child to grip the wet and slippery path of life with a foolish faith when he slips,” the poet, Professor Remi Raji, wrote in his ‘Lovesong for My Wasteland’.
Our youths aren’t foolish. Rather than search out the entrances to the cold heart of a country that despises them, they reckon it best to get away through exits benevolent countries offer as scholarships. Onward Europe!
Our country abandons her youths. From parental abandonment to outright state neglect, their generation has truly become the abandoned generation.
Not long ago, the generation (the one Professor Soyinka once called the wasted generation) before their own enjoyed the best of our country: free tuition, assured enrolment into tertiary institutions without today’s post-UME nonsense, bursaries, grants and scholarships, world class libraries and centres for learning, excellent hostel accommodation serviced by cleaners and porters who catered for our yesterdays’ prima donnas, free meals – if one recalls, the removal of the free meals policy partly accounted for the 1978 Ali-Must-Go protests – to automatic graduate employment. Certainly, today’s leaders had the good life.
The picture tertiary institutions paint today is a far cry from yesterdays.
The 2012 Report of the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities (I commend the four hundred and eighteen paged document to readers) is disturbingly damning. The Report which proceeds from an analysis of needs, captures our educational edifices in perpetual decline and appropriates to misery the conditions under which those who fork out exorbitant tuition fees study.
Would anyone expect our youths to study in educational edifices ran aground by some of the most despicable universities administrators who appear deliberately signed up to the charter of dehumanising generations that have come after theirs? Isn’t it ironic that the greatest beneficiaries of our country’s benevolence are today cornering our commons, closing off the passages to the good life? Yet, they don’t give a damn.
Good leaders make good things happen. Ukraine’s transition from the rubbles of the old Soviet Union hasn’t been flawless. However flawed her transition is she has made tremendous progress; progress this writer can only credit to her visionary leaders. Unlike Ukraine, our post-military transition has ushered leaders who don’t take our country seriously. And with the sinking ship of state, profligacy of the ruling elite, social dislocations and strife, there is little wonder why so many youths disdain the present by seeking flights from leaders who make bad things happen for them.
This Monday the sun rests on the backs of these young men and women who sit and pray on the shoulders of the road. From inside the huge edifices of the embassy, misty-eyed young men and women emerge now and then, sometimes in pairs, tearful at the sad outcomes of the visa interviews. There are also the lucky ones who walk with pride, screaming joys and ecstasies – the kind one hears kids scream when they are given new toys – and leaving no one in doubt that they made it. They are few. Here, life presents its own intriguing spectacles: of those who confront life’s challenges with courage; and of those who break down and sob into the wells of the world as if the entire planetary system is weighted on them.
This day, and with many grieving, I imagine how this disconsolate lady walking away from my tunnel vision will break the sad news of her visa rejection to her siblings and parents who I presume spent the previous day – a Sunday – praying and fasting for the Monday of miracles.
Amnesia is an affliction of bad leaders. Our leaders forget that the flames they put out yesterday end up as the ashes from which the proverbial sphinx rises tomorrow. Tomorrow is nigh. Our youths shall rise. Morning comes.