I have personally been challenged by the question of Nigeria’s terrorist status over the last few weeks flowing from the unfortunate event of a misguided youth trying out his hands with under-pant pyrotechnics. But beyond the feverishness of the moment is the seeming pull factor which this circumstance has evinced. We have somehow been pulled to look closely in the direction of the antecedents of Nigeria and make a fair assessment if or not we deserve such appendage from the United States. While the patriotic me screams “HELL NO WE AREN’T”, and I feel like joining every Facebook group that stands against the listing of Nigeria on the terror watch list, I still find myself asking the seeming innocuous question: “Is Nigeria a terrorist country?”
I arrived safely at the JFK airport in New York, after the much hassle in Lagos and Istanbul only to be subjected to a 30 minutes thorough search, just when I thought I had escaped the adversities of the time. As I stood there subjected to such humiliation including almost having my laptop decoupled because of some three missing screws behind, issues raced to and fro my mind on the series of unfortunate events that has so beset Nigeria towards the close of 2009. A sick and wanted President, a fickle-minded government lacking the boldness to act in the face of national dishonor, broken promises, religious crises, and the likes, I felt as though being a Nigerian was increasingly being a risk.
The risk is not about being held hostage at any foreign airport, or being labeled a terrorist by ignoramuses, but the very fact that Nigeria has somehow managed to be a country that terrorizes its citizen and keeps them living in constant fear. For the three weeks I stayed in Lagos, there was the constant worry of something. If it’s not the worry about where on earth I was going to find petrol, I was worried about overspending on diesel to sustain the ever running generators. Worse still, at every time I was about driving out, I am timing every move before I get trapped in the gridlock of Victoria Island traffic. These are all very frustrating circumstances, but hey! I can live my life joyfully despite these. Every nation has its dose of discomforts.
What then do I refer to when I see the country as a terrorizing nation? First of all let me conceptually clear what I mean by terrorizing. Terrorizing is simply the process of causing terror, or to a milder way, creating fear. Technically, I am referring to the situation when a country creates fear in its citizens, making them uncertain of the future. This is the sense I get of how ordinary Nigerians live. I am not concerned about those who have managed, by some personal ingenuity or by unscrupulous means, to create a comfortable living for themselves, I am more interested in those who are caught in the middle class and working their way up Maslow’s ladder. To these ones, Nigeria is a constant trouble and a hindrance to the capacity to dream and pursue the realization of such.
One such reason I have come to conclude on this is that I keep wondering how many people in the middle class can afford to own a house in Nigeria today, particularly Lagos. Of all the new developments ongoing, there is hardly any that is targeted towards meeting the growing housing needs of the middle class, especially those in the service sector. Land in some parts of Lagos, close to where the service industry is dominant goes for about $2 Million – $5 Million. Who in Nigeria, by honest means earns that kind of money in 5 years? Even the prices of homes in these areas range from $200,000 – $2Million, effectively slicing off a major portion of those who really need such accommodation. So what we have is a case of those who can afford such are those who already own an average of two. What is more disturbing is that hardly are any of the property developments targeted towards upgrading the living conditions of these priceless workers. This means that these young people are banished to a life of renting and leasing rather than increasing in their stock of wealth by owning property. Are we not terrorizing our own?
I walked into the popular Palms Shopping Plaza in Lagos, a place where you can strangely study the spending habits of the middle and upper class in Nigeria. I agree that most of the items sold there are imported, nevertheless the break neck and cut throat prices leave one in utter bewilderment. Yet we see people still trooping in as though their income is only valuable when competing against prices at The Game. I walked in and saw a dining table set of six chairs and a table for almost $5000 (650 thousand naira) and I almost flipped and threw a fit. I walked around the shopping complex comparing prices and screamed out in disbelief at how our people are being ripped off. Yet we have a government whose duty is to regulate and ensure that people have value for their money, yet what we see is outright price terrorism in our market places.
So my question is that how can people progress when their earnings are used to offset an unbearable cost of living? How can we build capital when the average Nigerian cannot save because too many strains are placed on him by his country? A country does not have to produce suicide bombers to be termed terrorist. Just look at how it treats its citizens by inducing unnecessary fear within its people and you can judge for yourself if indeed it is exonerated from such charges. So what we have is the rising cases of people who are trying to fast track their access to cash by tweaking and twisting every possible means to make money. Young bankers are now striking dangerous deals all in the name of modern banking and businessmen are importing all manner of fake and substandard products that dazzle the eyes but offer little substance. Everyone is driven by the motive of making money at any cost, because that is how you can afford the goodies that blaze across the land. In the midst of this, the honest ones seem oppressed by the fact that no amount of decent work and living will guarantee you a home in the near future.
I therefore, without going further by many words, submit that ours is a nation that has terrorized its people. In politics, in religion, in the economy and otherwise, we have created more fear of the uncertain future than have we given confidence in honest labour. What other people call us is not as important as what we call ourselves. One woman says we are a good people, great nation. But if we are what she claims, do we not also deserve a good life? Must we continue to be mesmerized by untrustworthy men who have chosen to bewitch us by creating a complex mix for a simple process? Perhaps I should wrap this up by letting her know that she is right, but she did not complete the sentence. It should henceforth read – “Nigeria: good people, great nation, terror government”.