by Ikemesit Effiong
I would like to bring a quick fact to your knowledge. You will never be able to finish all the books that were published in 2012 in your entire lifetime! The New York Times Review of Books in 2010 declared that for the first time in recorded history, human knowledge doubled every 30 years in the 20th Century. That is a staggering number.
I recently took a sabbatical off social media. In a world where we are increasingly becoming inundated with information on practically everything, it does the mind a wealth of good to just step back from it all and acquire a sense of proportionality and perspective. It certainly did for me.
If you notice carefully, the sabbatical applied only to social media. I still kept up with my resolution of reading every opinion piece on my favourite political blogs. Ours is a country blessed with very brilliant writers so I wasn’t starved of context and understanding. However, you read the odd piece that leaves you wondering, why does this guy have access to a pen or a keyboard for that matter?
I read Tonnie Iredia’s piece on the establishment of a new city as part of the Centenary Project of the Jonathan administration. While he wasn’t happy about the way the government was handling the project, he proffered some suggestions that included ensuring that it wasn’t a borehole city, providing world class infrastructure that Nigerians would be proud of and population control.
I couldn’t help but wonder why Mr. Iredia had decided to deploy his vast repository of experience and usually in-depth understanding of Nigerian politics to writing a pamphlet that essentially extolled the virtues of classism and divisiveness not to mention creating another avenue to siphon scarce public funds into yet another grandiose government wet dream.
I have a few questions for Mr. Iredia. What is Abuja meant for? Or at least, what was its intention? Is it the fault of Nigerians that because of the absence of a working public water system, we have to essentially build our infrastructure? What will be the position of this new city, a new national capital or a monument to a non-existent past?
Why did it fail to escape Mr. Iredia’s thinking that the best possible ode the government can give to Nigeria is a practical commitment to ensure that the next 100 years of our national existence will be everything that the first 100 years was not?
I rarely hold on to convictions so tenaciously. I tend to pride myself in the fact that my opinions on issues of policy are amenable to change on proof of a superior argument – and they still are. However I have made an exception in this case. I am yet to see the sense in extolling the deplorable. I have written on this particular issue and my earlier position still stands.
What we need are not new cities but the revitalisation of existing cities through urban renewal and the provision of social amenities. Lagos was not planned. The same goes for London, much of Paris and New York, Berlin, Shanghai, Mexico City and most of the world’s principal urban centres.
The idea of celebrating the almost beastly exploitation of our indigenous people, the criminalisation and relegation of much of our culture to the backwaters of global understanding and the brutal enforcement of alien forms of engaging with the world that was the signature of colonialism under the guise of the Centenary Project is an affront to the sensibilities of right thinking Nigerians not to mention the creation of yet another avenue for the siphoning of public money into private hands and nothing or no one can justify it as it stands.
Not even the irrepressible Tonnie Iredia.
The last two weeks, just like the whole of 2013 so far has been a busy one in Nigerian cyberspace.
The latest adrenaline fuelled craze to occupy us has been the menace of the #OgaAtTheTop and the #SomeoneTellNigeria and #SomeoneTellKenya menace. My techie friend, Nisisong Effiong reliably informed me that #OgaAtTheTop trended for a full week in its heyday – unprecedented in Nigerian Twitter history.
While I will not concern myself with the pros and cons of Shem’s regrettable performance on Channels’ Sunrise program and its fallout – that has been dealt with exhaustively, I want to point out an overlooked reality in the shaping of this debate.
The most positive thing about the hoopla surrounding the interview with the NSCDC Lagos State Command boss is that every public official has finally got the message that we are watching them, closely. It would have been the norm for a director-general or managing director of some government agency or ministry to go on national radio or television and rigmarole his way through an interview with a false sense of confidence in his ‘inside’ or ‘expert’ knowledge and experience often with a helping of braggadocio. With the hindsight of the bad fumbling of Shem and the #OgaAtTheTop bungle, they will be more humble when addressing the nation on important issues like – wait for it – cash for employment in public institutions.
Concerning the other top hashtag of March, it is my honest observation that a lot of young Nigerians missed the essence of why the whole Twitter war if you like to call it that took place in the first place. The Kenyan national football team was treated in a very shabby and unprofessional manner by the Nigeria Football Federation – something we should all be ashamed of and decry. We would never consent to the Super Eagles being treated that way by any other African country – case in point, the recent exchange with South Africa over the deportation of Nigerians on suspicion of holding fake Yellow Fever vaccination cards.
To allow a senior football team of a sovereign nation to stay in a two star hotel and train on a secondary school pitch after causing them to miss their connecting flight to the venue of the match that they came for in the first place is a firm slap on the long held belief that we are among the most hospitable and welcoming people on the planet.
However we allowed our false sense of patriotism to becloud all of this important background and we helped cement another long standing perception of Nigerians shared by other Africans – which says that we are often proud, overbearing and hopelessly occupied with our sense of being the ‘Giant of Africa’ by our quick-fire and really below-the-belt tweets in reply to the Kenyan onslaught.
We can do better than that, this coming from a veteran of many international tweet fights. As a benevolent Big Brother, let us take correction and actually shine the spotlight on the NFF and its concerted effort at dragging our football back into the doldrums.
After going through one of the longest procrastination bouts of my life, I have been mobilised to take part in the National Youth Service Corps scheme. For the next one year, I have resigned myself to living with the unenviable status of an ‘otondo’ but that’s a story for another day.
Three days to the Passing out Parade of the Orientation Course, there was an eruption of celebration all across the Iseyin Orientation Camp in Oyo State which I was seconded to. The reason for this was news which filtered in that the President had ‘approved’ an increase in the monthly allowance of corpers, popularly known as ‘allowee’ from its current N19, 800 to a revised amount of N38, 000.
In a country where money tends to develop wings and evaporate away under a sea of expenses and expectations, it was a welcome breath of fresh air from the triad of early morning beagles and Man o’ War drills, regrettable sanitary conditions and frog jumps. However, our shine was going to be punctured rather quickly.
The following day, the State Accountant of the Oyo Chapter of the NYSC informed us that she has gotten no circular from HQ notifying her of the increase and thus we would all receive N19, 800. Understandably, we did not receive the news with a lot of cheer. Some persons were indeed genuinely shocked when they received N19, 800 the following day.
I was not. Nigeria has taught me not to believe a thing until it is seen.
What piqued my interest, and made me write about it, was my chance meeting with a nice man at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) point at the corner of Ojoo and Iwo roads in Ibadan. He was a Hausa man originally from Yobe State but working in a factory in Oluyole and he was attracted to me because of my khaki trousers.
He told me about his time serving in Kwara State in 1983 on an ‘allowee’ of N300! I was stupefied. I was in for a bigger surprise when he said that he and his NYSC colleagues at the time hardly exhausted their allowees. I was gully impressed at the fact that there was such a time in Nigeria when that obtained, and saddened at the fact that I was thinking in the past tense about it.
While I am not advocating for an increase in the allowances of corps members, economic reality should also dictate how people who are in essence sacrificing a whole year of their lives for their country should be treated. This is made all the more important when you consider the pittances they will earn at their Places of Primary Assignment (PPAs).
I rest my case there before I break the law.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JudgeIyke