By Tony Afejuku
Not long ago I had a debate with myself regarding what we are, who we are, as a country and as a people inhabiting the space, this space, we call Nigeria.
What a country and a people whose values are “poorly suited to the reality of their lives”! Of course, here I am echoing and quoting Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), the French activist and philosopher, who was “a man of staggering gifts.” But why should I bother to tell you this or to inform you thus? Do you know philosophy? Do your leaders, including those who we call labour leaders, or who call themselves labour leaders, know and read philosophy that suits our lives or that suits their lives?
As I ask these questions I can perceive the crushing lies crushing us all. And the moan I moaned when I was debating with myself is moaning again. I am moaning again the moaning of our sad consciousness that gets entangled in its crushing contradictions. I am turning myself into a philosopher who is never going to be at peace with the peace of himself, and that of his country’s leaders who are making monsters of the people, of us all. The exploitation and over-exploitation of us all are ruining us all. As a matter of fact, they have turned us into melancholic people in a perpetual state of melancholy. When I say us I mean all of us who are workers, poor but diligent workers, and real patriots, to boot, who are being exploited and over-exploited daily and daily; and expertly lied to and expertly lied about and expertly deceived time after time maybe because our melancholic melancholy has effectively turned us into gullible people who no longer know what is our right or what our rights are as workers and as civil servants who will become pensioners tomorrow.
Barely a week ago our labour leaders indeed ordered and thundered that governors who are not ready or willing to pay the lousy minimum wage should be impeached. I didn’t bother to read whatever they were offering as the reason(s) for their sterile statement. And you must waste not your good and wretched times listening to them. Where were the labour administrators before all the elections that were recently held in our country which rests, as all of us know, on over-exploitation which our labour administrators give their nod? Indeed, before the elections, did they not raise our hopes which they later betrayed with sterile threats of combat with the federal and states governments over the minimum wage that has since galloped to the destination of “zero effectiveness”? What truly is the present worth of the so-called minimum wage especially in view of the recent percentage increase in VAT from 5 percent to 7.2 percent? Why have the labour people kept mute on this even when the lousy minimum wage is yet to enter the melancholic pockets and purses of workers and civil servants? How beneficial are the current economic realities to the average family in our country?
The current economic realities have been suffocating the happiness of the average Nigerian family whose humanity is aggressively threatened ceaselessly by the inhumanity of the fine lords of power and authority that our labour chieftains and lords nauseatingly pretend to dare. The current tone of labour is not new. And it will not change for the better and to the advantage of the ideals of our humanity as workers and as civil servants. And the wretched of our country will stay and remain wretched.
This past Saturday, November 2019 I was in Isokoland of Delta State. The road from the Edo axis to the heartland of Isokoland is a road that is not a road. It is astonishing that this land that is very rich in natural resources including oil and gas has nothing of value for me to relate about it or for me to report about it from the perspective of a thorough and unbiased adventurer and traveler. How many men and women in the federal cabinet of ministers know anywhere or any place in Isokoland? Even our president, the one and only GMB, does he know the place? The land is a land of the wretched of our country.
The fishing lakes I saw were over-flooded, and the nets were ceasing to be ineffective. I saw some that were already broken by severe over-flooding caused by severe rains and strongly strong currents. And it was hell, real hell, for vehicles to wade through really troubling portions of the tiny, snake roads that link several communities.
The several Delta State governments did the little and much they could with internally generate revenue especially from oil in the areas of roads that link several communities, but how far did they go? And the farmlands? They are poorly suited to even the wretched state of the natives. And you must join me to wonder and bark and bark even if we can’t bite for now: Is Isokoland being treated the way it is being treated because it is the land of a minority people? There is no evidence that even carrots are dangled before them from Abuja.
Of course, as a peaceful minority, Isokos are not expected to whimper, and they cannot whimper. Is it because they are largely PDP people that there is no federal presence in that place? But the PDP was in power for many years in Abuja, I hear you echo. And what of the PDP politicians of Isoko stock in government at the state level? What are they doing for the natives, the majority of whom looked devastatingly wretched as I pictured those I came in contact with? Are the Isokos in government just in government to feather their own nests as the majority of our so-called leaders who are in government are doing? Hell! Phew!
But I must express this reservation – if I must so call it: Isoko-people on their native land are not the only wretched, over-exploitative, minority in our country. They are not the true representative or typical of the wretched. But it must be troubling that those in power and in authority are perpetuating their pain and unhappiness as they are doing to us by and large despite our fabulous wealth that is being turned into wretched wealth before our very eyes from – Warri of once-upon-a-time rich life to the desert of massacre called Maiduguri.
My people, fellow compatriots, patriots of our land, the masses of our country, melancholic wretched of our country from Edo to Ado and beyond and from Lagos to Lokoja and beyond, and from Port Harcourt to Potiskum and beyond, we have had it. This is a hard truth to accept, a difficult observation to present, but one of which we picture in our troubled minds – even if we hesitate to be convinced about the reality of our reality. But we must be truly wretched indeed if we refuse to listen to our pains talking to us to be philosophers of progressive chaos, not of sterile change, not of absurd heaven of consciousness of revolution that betrays itself and further revolutions.
We must imbibe this knowledge that we superbly need to rescue the wretched of our country. This is no mere idealism.And it is not late or too late to imbibe it in our haven of truth and heaven of progressive activism and challenges.