Wednesday, October 08, 2008
A PEOPLE BETRAYED
My mother told me how at Nigeria's independence (whatever that term means), she had willingly traded her British passport in (all citizens of the colonies had a right to the British Passport at the time) for a Nigerian one.
Many Nigerians who had studied in Great Britain returned home to help move the young nation forward. They settled everywhere, with Lagos receiving its fair share. There was no real demarcation between areas then- Iwaya, Onike, Surulere, Mushin, Ikeja...Opebi was bush-land, no one wanted it.
And the high-brow places were where the colonial 'masters' had lived- Ikoyi and Victoria Island.
They obtained mortgages, car loans, had steady jobs, paid back the loans. A Head-Of-State (Gowon) told the world that Nigeria's problem was how to spend money. There was too much of it.
Then the melt-down. Mismanagement, avarice, nepotism...all came disguised as Nigerian leaders and they tore through the treasury like rabid dogs in a cage of canaries.
When the final feathers floated to the ground, there was nothing left and a generation that had known the security of colonial influences had nothing. The security they had thought would last forever was gone and the economy was a shambles. A sitting 'President' (Babangida) told reporters he had no idea what was holding his country's economy up.
Those who had trusted the country to look out for them found they had nothing left. There was no where to go, no one to turn to. And old men who should have retired into quiet country homes to live out the rest of their lives in peace, returned to work. Some to offices, some to construction sites, carrying rubble in the tropical sun with their failing strength side by side with boys they could have been grandfathers to.
They roam our streets now, these tired old men, weary to their very souls, feet dragging as they walk in search of employment, but who will feed them if they stay indoors?
There is a generation though that has refused to be quiet. Some of those who studied abroad decades ago, gave birth to their children in those countries and now the children return in droves, seeking solace in distant, less-confused lands. Those not so 'lucky' to be born in those places, look for loop-holes, stow away in ships, walk across deserts. Some reach their promised lands. many fall by the wayside.
Some stay in Nigeria and make headway. It is my prayer that our country becomes a much better place, a place where many can thrive. It is my prayer that those who betrayed a people will someday pay heavily for their crimes.
The next time you walk past that tired old man on the street, spare a thought for him. He was once like you...before the betrayal.