National Distractions and Our Forgetfulness

Life in Nigeria is full of drama whichever way you consider it. A huge portion of the population is an unwilling cast in a tragic story of hunger, poverty and other deathly circumstances while a privileged few enjoy ring-side seats watching their actions and nonchalance collectively deal mortal blows on their subjects. Those empowered with the instrument of governance daily exploit the machinery to store up inexhaustible treasures for themselves while equally playing a soothing lullaby for the benefit of the people. Only a few people amidst the dizzy lot struggle with the tranquilizing effect of the music and its accompanying flashes of light, mirages and disappearing acts.

          It is the duty of government advisers to stir up a storm every single time the boat of inquiry approaches the still waters of those responsible for systemic failures in the education sector, grossly inadequate health facilities and nonexistent security. When questions are raised about the inability of the Education ministry to resolve a strike action in the universities for five months and for much longer in the polytechnics, the game-changers in high places switch pawns on the chess board. While the few conscious citizens are trying to wave the smoke aside, twenty billion dollars perform a disappearing act from the records of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company.
          The coughs become persistent but more dust is raised not to unearth the perpetrators of the loot but to immerse the bodies of hundreds of citizens mauled to death by rampaging terrorists in the north. Yet, the ceremonial drums sound at the villa for an expensive national talk show to commence: a national conference where outnumbered sane minds are expected to liaise with the abusers of our common patrimony in times past to map out the Nigeria of our dreams from their series of sleeping sessions. This comes shortly after lavish centenary festivities and conferment of awards on colonial masters, past dictators and all sorts. The Central Bank Governor also gets suspended; sparking legal arguments on the powers of the President to order his suspension or not while a Presidential social media aide is concocting reports linking the suspended governor to the Boko Haram terrorist group.
         The impact of the monies from fuel subsidy diverted into SURE-P is yet to be seen. The whole matter conveniently slipped away as the Farouk Lawan bribery saga and Oteh-Hembe scenario played out. Passionate pleas for the Petroleum Industry Bill have been sidestepped by confusion from the belly of the senate over child marriage in the course of constitutional amendment. One is hardly through with comprehending why an aviation minister is fixated on spending 255million naira on bulletproof BMWs before one is confronted with news of the Petroleum minister servicing renting private jets with N2billion. The Minister of Interior, not to be outdone, supervises a shoddy recruitment scam that fetches 6billion naira while twenty unemployed youths are dispatched to the world beyond. Evidently, Nigeria has too many complex tales in the company of incomplete sentences and complicated characters.
          There is no statutory body called the National Distraction Commission or National Distraction Committee as some others call it but it really is a coinage that best expresses how our discussions and vocal exertions are being maneuvered by the agents of government. We are never able to sustain enough momentum to see any issue through because right about the time we approach a climax, a sultry Delilah from the opposing corner sheds her clothes in a more captivating manner.
          A number of social analysts have fibbed that the National Distraction Committee is the most active committee of the present regime. In Tolu Ogunlesi’s January 2009 piece for the NEXT newspaper, “[Ongoing Concerns] National Distraction Commission”, he provides a fitting excerpt of a fictive bill creating the National Distraction Commission. The Commission is therein claimed to be charged with “creating, regulating, reinforcing and institutionalizing significant National Distractions with a view to ensuring that citizens and the mass media are kept occupied to such an extent that they are left with no time or energy to ask relevant questions about the future of the country”.
         It is the theory that there is deliberateness in staging overlapping tragedies of corruption and criminal negligence resulting in deaths to arrest our attention. The plan, it is believed, is to curtail our disruption of the exclusive comedy of our leaders and stop us from ever dethroning those who delight in the misery of the masses. I am tempted to agree in part with that assertion. The Wendell Simlin scenario and the subsequent supposed investigation of the SSS linking Lamido Sanusi to Boko Haram suffice to say that nothing really can be put past those who wield the axe of government. I however prefer the thought that these realities are helpless leaves falling off the tree of bad leadership with widespread roots into the Nigerian soil. Just a little wind and a present witness is all that is needed to notice the avalanche of leaves falling all around us.
          Each and every Nigerian is the present witness that is needed to amass a critical mass of watchful eyes that will correctly perceive the actions of our leaders to which we need generate reactions within legal means. For now, we are mostly unconcerned and forgetful. We remember to the extent to which we suffer personal loss. So long the missing billions in NNPC do not directly result in higher prices of garri, those complaining can shout themselves hoarse for all we care. A protest against Abba Moro is unappealing because all our family members who participated in the charade returned home safely save for some bruises. We have bequeathed the job of aching over our collective pains to those we call activists, only willing to remind them to rant about any issue when we remember and it is their season to forget.
            Nigeria needs more hands. We need more forthright people in government dedicated to selfless service to the citizens’ concerns just as much as we need an enlightened active citizenry. As more national distractions come, deliberate or otherwise, it will be our duty to keep our focus on the issues and keep asking till we get satisfactory answers. Perhaps, we may even constitute a National Solutions Committee within which the different sections of the citizenry are assigned to keep tabs on specified sectors and nothing more. Maybe that will help to retain sufficient attention on different problematic issues irrespective of what comes up in the news tomorrow night or the morning after.
Tobi Adebowale
@tobisammyjay on Twitter; tbowale@gmail.com

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