I have written before that these days; I keep getting calls asking for how to get visa appointments. I do not run a travel agency neither do I work for an embassy, but the calls never stop. Most of the callers are not tourists or people looking for somewhere to vacation. They are people fleeing our country.
You do not need to be told that the belief of a lot of Nigerians in the future of our country is evaporating fast. People are selling everything they own, their cars, their electronics, even their father’s land, to pay for a visa and buy a ticket to flee to countries they know little about. They have become scared of being roasted in the pressure cooker that Nigeria has become. Time was when some people doubted the ability of the government in power to steer the ship of Nigeria. These days, many Nigerians doubt the ability of any government to steer the ship of Nigeria.
Do you remember the statement said to have been made by the immortal Zik of Africa: “a broken bottle has no mmekwatarism”? If you have forgotten, “mmekwatarism” is coined from the word, mmekwata, which in Igbo means ‘to repair’. In other words, what the great Nnamdi Azikiwe seems to have said is that a broken bottle is not repairable. Nigeria appears to have become a broken bottle. Who would have imagined six months ago that some Nigerians would be saying that Nigeria was much better under Muhammed Buhari?
When we used to drive cars with tires that had tubes inside, if your tire went down, you patched the tube. You would see some tubes with so many patches on them that there is no question that the car is spending more time with the vulcanizer than with the owner. But there comes a time when even the vulcanizer cannot help you – when both the tube and the tire explode in one moment of madness.
I am the eternal optimist, characteristically the last to give up on anything. I have however recently had to ask myself whether Nigeria has finally got to the state of no return. Are we in the situation where according to W.B. Yeats, “the falcon can no longer hear the falconer, things fall apart, the center can no longer hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.
Last Friday, I was Chief Host at a major Red-Carpet Tribute Night in honour of the late music industry brother, the great Chris Mba which held at COSON House in Lagos. Between me and my COSON colleagues, we worked non-stop for many days to make the event and the accompanying documentary a great success. To be candid, at the end of the day, I was spent.
I did not think I had the energy to attend the final burial ceremonies of Chris Mba which held in Abia State yesterday. There were also the challenges of additional resources and the overpowering security risks. There was so much premonition about what at other times would have been a simple trip to a part of Nigeria not at war. Who says there is no war? I was warned by many not to go to Abia State. I was told that it is too dangerous. In fact, I was warned that nobody knows anymore who runs that part of Nigeria, whether it is IPOB which can order a stay at home at will or the federal or state government. I however could not stop thinking of Chris Mba’s young widow and her four children whom I have met and who appeared lost at the loss of their hero and head of their family.
I did not quite make up my mind until a few hours before I left Lagos and only after confirming from two of my colleagues on the COSON Board, Angus Power Nwangwu and Uche Emeka Paul that they would join me in Abia State. So, yesterday, we made it to Umuhuaba, a village in Obingwa Local Government in Abia State. We were there with J. Martins, our brother in COSON, who is now Senior Special Assistant to the Abia State Governor. We were there with Chris Mba’s wife and his children when their hero was laid to rest.
On the way to Umuhuaba, I still saw the throngs of people struggling to make a living in Aba. Oh, man must wack! On the way to and from Abia, there is a “check point” almost every kilometer with security agents wearing red head gear. Sometimes, you can see the next check point from the last one and nobody gives you a tag to show to the next check point that you have been checked.
It is at the ugly and dirty “check points” made of disused tires, tree branches, bags of sand and disused drums that much of the security agents make some money which they share with their ‘ogas’.
I had a chance to dive briefly into Owerri, the Imo State capital. Life seems to have been sucked out of the place. The once beautiful hotel where I once spent a great time with my wife and my brother is breaking down. Nothing is working. The grass is overgrown all over the place. It is heart breaking. The bubble that made Owerri the entertainment capital of the Soth-East has evaporated. Everybody is looking over their shoulders. Nobody trusts anybody anymore. Things clearly have fallen apart, the center can no longer hold and the joy of the people has been enveloped by sadness.
See you next week.