Regrets of a patriot

Until 2015, towards the national election that paddled the Ijaw man’s boat home ward and heralded the galloping in of the Fulani into Aso Rock, I had never seen him argue so fiercely, passionately over any subject. As a matter of fact, he barely argued and that I say of a certainty because I have known him for years and we have worked on a great number of projects.

However, pre 2015 national election, he was literally on fire for then presidential candidate Buhari. A good friend and a senior lawyer in the nation, he made it a point of duty to spread the good tidings of the Buhari campaign to everyone and anyone he came across. He wasn’t a politician; he didn’t even belong to a political party, but with enviable gusto, he would beat his chest like the fictional king kong character, proclaiming these words, “I am a Buharist to the core, he will turn Nigeria’s fortune around, you will see.”

These words still resonate in my head, but does the fire with which they were spoken about a year ago still burn?

I called him last week but his hello lacked its usual spice. He tried to mask it but I knew something was amiss… we ended up having a very long conversation but the most of it was filled with sighs, long exhalations and more sighs… “I can’t believe that I could ever say this but I am regretting,” he began and “like me, several other Nigerians will be experiencing this ridiculing emotion.” “Imagine, I went out on a limb for a man whom I had no direct ties to, I pledged allegiance, paid obeisance but all for what?”

He went on to narrate the pathetic tale of a young lawyer who could no longer afford rent and got evicted…the soaring level of inflation, the sky rocketing prices of food stuffs and the mass of unemployed young lawyers, who paid through their noses to attend law school but can’t even find jobs… “I didn’t vote for this, if I was clairvoyant, I probably wouldn’t have…”

I was tongue-tied; I found nothing apt enough to console my dear friend. I simply sat there, on the other side of the line, listening to a man so heartbroken and disappointed with no words of comfort from my language repertoire to offer. What would I have said? He was Buhari campaign personified, in the flesh!

What could I have said to him to make the pain go away? What could anyone possibly say to Nigerians to make their pains go away?

Just the other day, my neighbour, a young lively lady came home practically speaking to herself. I was on my way out so I approached her to inquire if all was well. Her words were, “I just bought a bottle of palm oil for N500, there is trouble o!” I simply smiled and walked on, again, lost for words but she stopped me saying, “I hear a bag of rice would sell for as high as N40, 000 by Christmas. If you can’t do without rice, buy now. At least N20, 000, though high, would be cheap in a few months.”

To that advice, I nodded, thanked her and kept walking. The inflation statistic sickens me so I won’t go there today but how on God’s green earth did it come to be that a bottle of palm oil sells for N500 in Nigeria.

The same Nigeria, which is blessed with abundant arable lands, natural resources and minerals, is the same in which food, the supposed bare necessity of life, fast becomes as luxurious as a super fast sports car. How did we get to this place?

No wait, those are the wrong questions, but we have asked ourselves those questions for too long, without getting any reasonable response. Is it not high time we started asking new questions? I would posit, fellow countrymen, that instead of relieving our woes to any passerby, writhing in pain, gnashing our teeth and asking why, we should on the contrary ask how.

How can we get out of this economic Hades? How can we afford to buy food stuffs, keep our children in private schools, pay our house rents and drive our cars?

Allow me to replay this little scenario from last weekend. It is not meant to be just another story, but a didactic one that should revamp someone’s thinking.

I went shopping with a friend of mine who deals in cosmetic products at the Agbeni market, Ibadan. She bought goods going to half a million and I noticed this elderly woman hanging around us. I got cautious and called my friend’s attention to the woman but she simply laughed at my paranoia, dismissing my suspicions as baseless.

This elderly woman was an alabaru as called in the local parlance and was simply waiting to carry the goods.

After all the cartons were sealed, she approached us and offered her service and we led her to the spot my friend’s minivan was packed in the rowdy market. In high spirits and astonishing swiftness for her skinny looks, she followed with a heavy carton balanced on her head and we proceeded for the car.

Once the first cartoon was loaded, we stayed back while she returned to the shop. The distance from the minivan to the shop wasn’t so short but mama made the journey seven times, to retrieve all the cartons.

I watched her with awe, lost in admiration. My friend noticed the perplexed look on my face and tapped me out of my reverie, saying, “it’s not the easiest job for a woman her age but this way she can feed without begging anyone or lamenting why she was probably abandoned by some well to do children.”

While we lament why, our eyes are shut to opportunities. Times are hard but we must be tougher to survive in today’s Nigeria. Even the government doesn’t have the answers to our incessant whys; all we have got is our gut.