Nigerians have done nothing but endure


Abimbola Adelakun

By Abimbola Adelakun

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Officials of the present administration do not seem to have any other platitude to offer Nigerians than appeal to them to just “endure.” When they mount any available pulpit to comment on the ongoing economic and social crises facing longsuffering and beleaguered citizens, their message hardly ever goes beyond preaching the gospel of endurance. The problems confronting the country have become so convoluted that there is no end in reasonable sight. Since no one can guarantee how and when this would shape out, the best they can offer is more bitter doses.

“Endure, endure, and endure,” they say, but it seems they forget that Nigerians have done nothing but endure. If people have started to cry and groan very loudly now, it is because their capacity to take pain has been overstretched. Even God, in his vindictive rage, did not visit the 10 plagues on Egypt at once.

In the past couple of weeks when the prices of goods and services have unprecedentedly been surging out of control, several emergency measures have been taken to combat the crisis of soaring inflation. From declaring a “war” on forex operators to raiding warehouses for “hoarded” food and several urgent (and contrasting) proclamations by state officials, it is clear that nobody thought through how our present situation was supposed to unfold. There was no clear plan for containing the fallouts from the outset, just the Nigerian tendency to wing things. We should have known that we would end up on Sorry Lane when the president stated that he was possessed by spirits when he pronounced, “subsidy is gone.”

Perhaps the conversations around endurance for the promise of greater glory would have been far different if at least two factors had been in place to reassure that there is a method within this madness. Number one would have been Bola Tinubu’s record of prudent economic management and demonstrated capacity for creative leadership. His paid media vuvuzelas would have you believe that he is the architect of modern Lagos, but they have never quite reckoned with how relatively easier it is to “develop” a city that had already established itself as a national economic base.

The real test of his managerial creativity would have been if he had taken on a poorer city like Osun or Ekiti and turned it into an economic centre. He has no such record, and even his supporters who willfully closed their eyes to that deficiency last year are now beginning to open them to the realisation that they are asking a man whose capabilities have never been truly tested to steer the country through hard times.

Second, it would have been helpful if those preaching forbearance could bring themselves to live what they preach. Apart from professional politicians like FCT Minister Nyesom Wike and Senate President Godswill Akapabio who asked people to be patient until the incoherent policies of their administration somehow begin to work out, even members of Tinubu’s immediate family deigned to contribute their voices from the lush palace of Aso Rock.

On Monday, his son, Seyi, also came out to urge Nigerians to endure the current economic difficulty saying, “We must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.” Not to be outdone, Tinubu’s daughter jumped into the spotlight to also register her existence on the radar of Nigerians with the same message of endurance and patience. I understand when the president’s wife attends a public function and speaks about the nation’s challenges, but his children’s interventions are an overstep. What exactly do these nepo babies know about life that qualifies them to preach virtues to anyone? If you think enduring hardship is the solution to Nigeria’s problems, maybe you should demonstrate it by offloading some of the privileges Daddy got you.

The Tinubus are not the only ones giving the wrong social cues while pacifying the people growing restless. Former CBN governor and deposed Emir Lamido Sanusi added his voice to those seeking to exonerate Tinubu from the ongoing calamity by saying that, “For eight years, we were living a fake lifestyle with huge debt from foreign and domestic debts. The Central Bank of Nigeria owes over N30 trillion, which resulted in debt service surpassing 100 percent.” I think the problem with people like Sanusi—and this is me being generous—is that they confusedly assume the privileges they enjoy under various circumstances beyond their clique of state-sponsored moochers.

When Sanusi said, “We were living a fake lifestyle,” he should have clarified who exactly was included under that collective pronoun. When he was being driven around in a Rolls Royce as an Emir—a position that gulps massive economic resources and yet has zero economic value—did the millions of almajiri children wandering the streets of Kano and its environs join him in living that fake lifestyle? Nigerian leaders have this penchant for assuming a collective voice when it is time to share either pain or blame for a rotten situation. When they want to splurge on public resources, they see themselves as individuals who have earned the luxury.

Nigerians could be groaning from the agony of insecurity and leaders would still go ahead and budget $2.8bn for bulletproof vehicles for themselves. The same leaders will forewarn the whole country that hard times are ahead and people should be ready to endure, and in the same breath also announce the billions they would be budgeting for renovating their official palaces and procuring even more vehicles for the motorcades.

Times are hard, the times are hard, but they will still throw a birthday party inside a stadium and expend billions on international and domestic travel just to earn the attendant estacodes. The biggest and the most scandalous instances of wastage were perpetrated by the ruling class who had near unlimited access to public resources, yet without concomitant accountability. They do all these in broad daylight and somehow still manage to retain enough guts to tell the rest of us to endure to attain the promise of future glory.

But the question is, how much more should people have to endure? The story of our Nigerian lives has been about endless endurance and unrelenting faith in the possibility of a better future. Nigerians in the past welcomed military coups with a similar same sense of expectation of a new beginning as the Nigerians who now go to the polls. Everything we have done as a people has been in the hope that we would finally turn the corner from merely enduring and start living. Year after year, one leadership tenure after the other, the story has hardly changed. Our leaders do not deliver on their promises, but they expect us to hold up the social contract by being patient and forbearing.

You must have seen Senator Adams Oshiomhole doing the media rounds and now blaming the “eight reckless years of Buhari” for all the woes in the land. Up until last year, he consistently blamed all Nigeria’s problems on the “16 years of PDP.” Now that that excuse is no longer tenable, he shifts gears to blaming the Buhari’s locust years. Notice how, in laying the blame for the present darkness on the immediate past administration, he crookedly manages to avoid naming the party and instead opting for an individual? That is a man who has found a calling in manipulating public memory. By 2031, you can take it for granted that he would still be running from one media house to another to ask Nigerians to be “patient” or to “endure” because whoever is in power at that time still cannot solve the problems caused by the “16 years of APC” overnight. There will never be an end to their weaponisation of the virtue of endurance.

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