How can Oguta remain like this? We have this little paradise waiting to be cultivated. But we all run away from it for selfish gain. We turn our faces away as the waste of daily living is dumped into the lake. We fear to swim in the beautiful Blue lake because we have dredged deep into the heart of the earth. We fear for what lies deep within the troubled waters. The lake lies wasting in the dying sun while we are making plans to replace it. We return home with forex to build our shallow swimming pools in our backyard, and empty the dirty waters into the lake. Why won’t the lake be mad, and carry away the children of erring parents? Why won’t the forsaken lady seek her revenge? The water lily grows long and serpentine underneath, dancing in the slow waves, waiting. Nature will pay us back with what we give to it. Who will swim in the lake with me? The dredger in Umudei village. The litter at the shore. No one swims in the beautiful lake anymore. They travel on it to the neighbouring villages to trade. They stack bags of cassava pegged to the bottom of the lake for days, washing away all the cyanide and smell. That is why our akpu does not smell. That is also why Ihu Ohamiri stinks. But we are happy when we eat our cassava. You would think that you are eating pounded yam. The lake carries away all the stench.Every Christmas now, a church holds an end of year crusade in Mgbidi, a village on the road to Oguta. Their members wear this fluorescent yellow coloured posters that burn the eyes in the harmattan dryness.It is long since our people went mad. The ancestral gods have gathered dust at the corners. Worse, they are now firewood at mother’s kitchen. We found a new religion. We also found oil. Now nothing else matters but these two… not even other natural resources that our fathers lived on. No, oil is king. On Eke, the traders line up to buy produce from those who live across. Oguta people do not farm around their homes. Our farmlands lie on the other side of the lake. So Oguta looks more like an estate without greenery. The local governments in Nigeria have lost their autonomy. The state governors control the local governments. The people at the grassroots live with their waste, they live without social amenities like electricity and pipe-borne water. We live on borehole water that we must make to survive. We are our own government. We are no government. We know no government. We do things our own way. There is no way we can continue this way. We are blind to the beauty that is ours. We live like strangers in paradise. This is the new history we are writing for the children.
At first they seemed like the opposition. Then they became the masses, then the line of separation was drawn. They were many; the unrepresented soon showed how they had become the ‘majority’. Though they stayed under, their voices soon started wearing recognizable faces in the din of mourning voices in the cities and villages. Suddenly, everyone knew the suffering ones by name- You, I and Theirs. We gathered together, soon we will become their nightmare. Soon after ours is gone with the dawn.
We have been deceived as a nation. Corruption is not the number one problem facing any nation. This sentence presupposes that there is, in fact, a nation in existence. So, the first problem facing a group of people who come together to form a nation is for them to have a unity of purpose and a sense of belonging. Everyone that comes together to form any nation must feel that they receive an equal treatment. Everyone must be represented equally and power must be decentralized and lie in the hands of the constituent units.
For years, I have been angry at the founding father of Nigeria who represented my side of the nation-Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. I now realize that my anger was based more on selfishness on my part, than any other thing. In my thinking, and unlike his contemporaries, it looked to me that the man truly wanted Nigeria to be a federal government. People from all parts of the nation were to receive a fair share of the largesse. Power was not meant to remain at the center.
Nigeria, alas, all nations will suffer when the members of the constituting unit feel alienated, disenfranchised and subjugated from power. We cannot claim to be one when there is so much power at the center, and that center is headed by one member from the six geographical zones, and that member prefers to perpetuate the injustice of appointing authority and creating other sorts of imbalance by selecting to favor the ‘percentage’ that nominated him to power!
I see how Goodluck Jonathan got it right-he wanted everyone to feel represented at the center. The greatest corruption is the injustice of creating an imbalance in the delegation of powers from a biased center that holds all authority to heart. A fight against corruption is not the first way forward for any nation. There has to be a nation first, before we think of getting things right. I have had brainstorming sessions with my friend Claire Bell (www.consciousnesscafe.com) Claire bears two passports- that of her native Scotland, and that of South Africa. She has seen three referandums called by nations- the most recent one that led to the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union being the most recent. We talked about why nations could disintegrate.
Since the Nigerian civil war, South-eastern Nigeria has been cheated, and suppressed by the centre. They have not received a fair share of the national cake, so to speak. The so-called problem when Mr. Goodluck Jonathan came to power was that he wanted to practice the faulty structure of federalism on the ground. It is to his credit that he called for a Sovereign National Conference during his tenure. He should have finished the good work by implementing the proposals from the conference before letting another power-hungry man take over authority. That was the disservice that Jonathan did to the nation.
A nation must first be created, must first exist, before the people unite in purpose to develop that nation. We must feel we matter. There is no such thing as a separate ‘5%’ in the polity. Nigeria must first apologize to Biafra for the injustices and unfair treatment from the years after the war to the present day. A reconciliatory committee must be set up to openly speak of the evils perpetuated the civil war that led to the death of millions of people. Then, and only then, should we sit to discuss the state of the union? Why don’t we have a referendum, like other nations have had? Why should the people not be given the power to question their participation in the union? A lack of unity of purpose is the greatest failure of any nation. The greatest problem with Nigeria is her practice of a flawed federalism.