This piece was in part inspired by My Egbon, Sanmori Bayo Ogunmupe of The Guardian newspapers. The veteran journalist has for some time now been flirting with the idea of joining that group of teeming Nigerians who do not glimpse any speck of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, notwithstanding sustained endeavours by successive administrations to make Nigeria achieve her all too evident potentials.
In the prolific mind of this illustrious son of Osun state, Nigeria’s ultimate fate would approximate those of failed Latin American states. He simply does not see that Nigeria could come up with the caliber of leaders that can make the country great, at least not in the foreseeable future. As a consequence, my expressed faith in a glorious Nigeria, sooner than later, never fails to work him into a passion.
“Afam, l really admire your unbridled faith; but from where do you find the courage?” My Egbon had blurted out in one of our many exchanges not so long ago. The word “courage” in his question instantly had put me in mind of that all-time best-selling book, The courage to be, by the great German-American theologian, Paul Tillich. I humbly commended the book to my esteemed interrogator – though l have no evidence he took the lead.
Tillich, like a long list of other great thinkers before him, posits that courage is that which remains when all hope is lost. The doctrine is hinged on the proven premise that God is inseparably linked with all His creations, more so with human beings. Therefore, “courage”, in Tillich’s immortal words, “is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt”. Plainly stated: the unfailing power of God is ultimately available to all noble causes, but the courage of unwavering faith is requisite to call forth that power. Such is the type of faith patriotic Nigerians need to cultivate as Nigeria’s tomorrow comes. “Oh boy! what a tall order; this Afam must be a fanciful dreamer!” l could well imagine millions of long-suffering compatriots moaning. And they would be entirely justified, what with decades of needless tribulations, and a litany of dashed hopes that have been visited upon the citizenry, even in the midst of abundance. My Egbon’s fast-vanishing patriotic faith feeds on little else other than this scenario.
But Nigeria’s tomorrow comes, notwithstanding, much in the manner many a similarly circumstanced nation’s tomorrow has come against all odds. Latest examples of these countries abound on the Asian continent. Rather tellingly, the histories of these countries follow the life of one Tracy Whitney, a lead character in If tomorrow comes, another gripping novel by Sydney Sheldon. Tracy was a raw diamond waiting to be cut into premium configurations. Outstandingly beautiful with a great talent for computer operations; pregnant and about to be married into one of the wealthiest families in Philadelphia, USA, the Stanhopes. Then the Fates inexplicable conspired against her. In New Orleans, her middle-aged widow mother was led by business associates to commit suicide. In seeking to avenge her demise, Tracy’s innocence makes her a priceless asset to a hardened criminal gang. She sleepwalked into a snare; was arrested; charged and sentenced for attempted murder and theft, even when the presumed victim was barely wounded and nothing stolen. To Tracy’s utter heartbreak, the Stanhopes acted with an eye on their centuries-old name and coldly distanced themselves.
Expectedly, prison and Tracy’s fellow inmates would dramatically impact her life; her pregnancy miscarried in the process. Helplessly following a lead from one of her former inmates on exiting prison, the erstwhile raw diamond would by slow degrees transform into one of the most resourceful diamond thieves in the western world. With time she crossed paths with one Jeff Stevens, a creative con-artist and a fellow jewelry thief. Jeff, not unlike Tracy had been another raw diamond whom the vicissitudes of life drew into the underworld. That primordial greatness in each of them would trigger attraction between the two, despite their cut-throat competitive dispositions. They eventually fell in love, and soon after decided to execute a big valedictory project together; retire; return to a legitimate life in Brazil, and marry. Against all odds, Tracy’s tomorrow eventually came!
I am persuaded that Nigeria’s history is also tracing the life of Tracy Whitney in every material particular. As early as the 1940s Nigeria had been declared a rough diamond – a potential agrarian giant; and a couple of years prior to Independence she struck “black gold”, petroleum. Nigeria was consequently universally adjudged a global economy waiting to happen. Then, the Fates, shall we say, inexplicably conspired against her: the January and July 1966 coups; the mindless pogrom and 3-year civil war on their heels; the 1975 coup and destruction of her civil service structure, etc. These events dramatically impacted Nigeria; the former would-be global economy and envy of the world as a net giant exporter, consequently transformed into a net importer of even basic agricultural, petroleum, and industrial products. Worse still, all manner of criminal activities, principal of which is mindless corruption by government officials, soon after became a culture of sorts across the country. The scale and depth of those activities have led to the most damning predictions on the fate of Nigeria, much to the alarm of the citizenry. But somehow the old country, like old soldiers, refuses to disintegrate.
(It is pertinent to observe that those prophets of disintegration were shamelessly hypocritical to have conveniently forgotten the “…life is poor, nasty, brutish and short” aspects of the respective histories of their own countries). Still, Nigeria marches on! Puzzled? We ought not to be, not after reading Tillich and Sheldon. I believe Nigeria’s primordial greatness has a lot to do with her resilience – a great future still gestures at Nigeria. Therefore, if the citizenry thereof could at once focus on that primordial greatness while looking beyond the obfuscating horizon of old hurts, tribe, and religion, it would doubtless behold the God who appears when all hopes have disappeared; that collective vision would eventually call forth those mysterious forces which give birth to great nations. So, with a confident heart, I say to My Egbon and other fellow compatriots alike, Behold, Nigeria’s tomorrow comes!
Nkemdiche is a consulting engineer in Abuja.