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Nigeria, the land of musical chairs – the next person eliminated could be you


Nigeria, the land of musical chairs – the next person eliminated could be you

I grew up in an estate during the Abacha years and at least twice a year, we were blessed with birthday parties from those families that could afford them. A favourite birthday party game was “Musical Chairs”. The game was simple; a game of elimination with music, chairs and players with one fewer chair than the players. The players danced round the chairs to the music and when the music stopped, whichever player fails to sit on a chair is eliminated.

This morning (Monday 15th July, 2019), Francis a street cleaner in Ilupeju, Lagos woke up to go to his place of work with his bucket and tools in hand. Francis as a Nigerian had played the game of musical chairs his whole life and thus far, had been lucky in securing a chair whenever the music stopped. Some days were tougher than others and he barely secured a chair in the difficult craziness known as Lagos but as a survivor (aren’t we all till we are not?), he always pulled through. The music stopped for Francis today and there was no chair left. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad visited Ilupeju to harass young men this morning and Francis was shot and fatally wounded.

As the corpse of what was once a living Francis made the rounds on social media in a final dehumanisation of a man whose life was accorded no respect nor value in his lifetime, my thoughts strayed to the rest of us and the reality of our lives as Nigerians.

When a player is eliminated in the game of musical chairs, no one stops; the other players have to continue and the referee simply takes out one more chair to keep the player-chair ratio at the disadvantage of the players.


This is me Ndi Kato. I read about Francis today but I am trying to focus on my game, the music and the chairs so I gave Francis a brief moment on my WhatsApp status and moved on to filling a form for a UN event.


But for how long?

When will the music stop and leave me without a chair? The music stopped for Olufunke Olakunrin two days ago and any sane nation would have declared an emergency over such a dire situation by now but we offered our shallow condolences, used her aged father Pa Fasoranti, for photo ops and the game has continued.

With every elimination of a Nigerian, we continue to dance round the chairs, we don’t stop, we do not consider that the umpire keeps removing chairs to keep the country in perpetual chaos and we continue in hope that when the music stops, it would be some other person without a chair and not us. We are after all, players cemented with “grace”, “mercy”, “Allah Ya raba Mu” and other such magical words that imply we are above those to be eliminated.

Tomorrow, the game of musical chairs will continue and expectedly, a Nigerian or more will be eliminated. As a Nigerian, this game is given to you at birth. This game is more accurate in capturing Nigerians than our failed attempts at a census or any other form of national identification. You don’t get to choose whether or not you want to participate and the further you are down the ladder of poverty, the faster paced your game is. There are no rules to the brand or kind of person eliminated except these;

  1. You are a Nigerian.
  2. The music stopped and you were left without a chair.

The next person eliminated could be you and you will not be ready. No one ever is when their day comes, the game ensures you are not.


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Ndi Kato is the deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum

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