Angered by the way the expulsion order of January 1983 was enforced, Kwame Gyasi, a Ghanaian who was among over 2 million “illegal aliens” expelled by Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, wrote a letter to his friend in Lagos, as recorded by the defunct National Concord: “You say we were 2 million illegal aliens ruining your economy”, he wrote, “but one would like to ask: how many legal citizens are there in your country?.”
In an effort seeming to provide an answer to Kwame’s poser, the federal government of Nigeria swung into action by conducting a head count. The country would do this two more times, and every attempt has resulted in controversial figures failing to answer Kwame repeatedly.
The Federal government, while trying to provide an answer to Kwame, has only confirmed that the legal citizens may not be as many as the census postulates and possibly lower than the number of illegal aliens exorcized during the Babangida regime as the larger part of the population have been submerged in conditions unfit for citizens of a 21st-century world.
The average Nigerian is hungry, unemployed, prone to be killed by the police, prey to bandits, a number waiting to be claimed by terrorists, unnoticed by the government, and, when noticed, is only a waiting tool for electoral violence. In essence, the average Nigerian does not exist within the context of a “legal citizen”.
Over the last month or thereabouts, Nigeria has been at the centre of media attention and international pity as its people drown and die daily in flood water. The president, however, did not find the disaster consequential enough to make a statement himself and offer succour to the victims. But in a show of irresponsibility, he wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post titled “How not to talk to Africa about climate change, ” where he and his colleagues are “frustrated with Western hypocrisy and its inability to take responsibility.”
Muhammadu Buhari and other presidents before him are the least qualified to accuse anyone of not taking responsibility. Safe to say that while he was Nigerians drowned, the president prepared for his Western friends.
The flood, like many other calamities bedevilling our country, is the result of the failure of leadership to do the needful and avoid unnecessary loss of lives and properties. It is interesting to note that just a year before the expulsion order was issued before Kwame picked a pen to write his friend in Lagos an emotional letter conveying the question that remains unanswered, Nigeria entered an agreement with Cameroon to build damns that will provide electricity and boost agriculture, as well as mitigate flooding as is the case with Nigeria. While Cameroon completed the Lagdo dam from which the water threatening to swallow half of Nigeria comes, Nigeria laid the foundation of the Dasin Hausa Dam and went to sleep.
Dasin Hausa dam would have served as a cushion, a shock absolver to the excess water released from Lagdo dam. Reports say that the dam was proposed to be twice and half the size of Cameroon’s dam and would have the capability of generating over 300 megawatts of electricity and irrigating 150,000 hectares of land in Adamawa, Taraba and Benue states. But instead of completing the project to harness its economic potential, the federal government left the project uncompleted to the detriment of our dwindling economy and the poor masses who are at the heart of the damage being caused by the government’s neglect.
The flood is said to have killed over 600 people, destroyed over 70 thousand hectares of farmlands and displaced over 2 million people. All these are issues we would have averted had the government had a sense of responsibility to provide for and protect the people. Add these losses to the already biting economic realities of the country, which is fast obliterating the middle class and fast creating only two classes of people in Nigeria—the rich and the poor, who are over 80% of the entire population, the latter seen and treated as illegal aliens—and you’ll see the calamity Nigeria is heading towards.
It’s a bitter reality that one of Africa’s biggest economies which produces millions of barrels of oil daily, is collapsing speedily. The government’s only solution is to borrow and borrow more to fund frivolities while poverty and unemployment increase exponentially. Even those who are employed find it hard to survive these days. Prices of essential commodities such as food and clothing are only for the rich. A bag of rice which goes for over 40k is totally out of reach of a civil servant on a minimum wage of 33k.
It was JF Kennedy who made the famous quote: ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for the government”. The quote arouses patriotism, but to Nigerian politicians, it is an excuse for docility. To these lots, patriotism is owed to themselves and not their country. The economic rot the ruling class has caused the nation is quite enormous.
From an extremely bad monetary policies to the ridiculous fraud cover-ups—monkeys and snakes eating millions of naira— while the average Nigerian lives in abject poverty. This has earned Nigeria the title of the world’s poverty capital, and the poverty rate keeps increasing, with its attendant effects such as cybercrime, banditry and terrorism.
In the past few weeks, the US embassy in Nigeria released memos raising the alarm over security concerns in Abuja, sternly warning their citizens to vacate the city. This has become the lot of Nigerians, and the country has become a hunting ground for bandits and terrorists. When the government appears to be doing something, it appears reluctant, and the problems keep getting deeper.
There are accusations about those arrested for terrorism being let off the hook in the dark and those that surrendered integrated into the army. This has led many to question where the interest of the government lies. The military is highly sabotaged. No government can truly fight terrorism by giving perpetrators a pat on the back.
Many exist who would readily agree with Thomas Hobbs’s 17th-century philosophy and say that the life of Nigerians is poor, brutish, nasty and short. But the strong will for survival keeps the citizens going while clinging to hope that things will be better soon. This hope and solution are political.
Nigeria desperately needs a system that works. A government that can provide jobs to the teeming population ready and hungry for work will leave Satan with little or no workshops. The people’s interest must come first; therein lies Nigeria’s redemption. As 2023 comes close and Nigerians are looking for competent and committed leaders, their days of begging for survival may soon be over. When next the NPC goes to work, they can have a comprehensive list of legal citizens who neither feel threatened nor alienated in their own country.