My dear fellow compatriots, I bring you sincere and heart-felt greetings, and hope you find time to read this letter and digest it in order to be well-informed and fortified about the state of things in our great nation. I was moved to write you openly and directly, because of the importance of my message and the urgent need for us to brainstorm on how to move our nation forward. Contrary to insinuations in some quarters that things are getting better, the situation is getting worse.
This does not mean that the authorities are not doing anything. Far from it! They are doing the best they can, but the situation is getting increasingly difficult. It has got to a stage that we need to pool resources and work closely with the leaders of our nation to find solutions to the myriad of problems confronting us. This is not the time to sit on the fence and expect miracle to happen. The truth I want to share with you today is that Nigeria is passing through its worst times since its independence.
And things seem to be getting from bad to worse. The more government tries to tackle the debilitating situation the worse it becomes. I have followed very meticulously the socio-political development of our dear fatherland since the end of the Nigeria Civil War and can, therefore, state without any equivocation that we have never had it so bad and rough. The nation has been moving systematically from one crisis to another. And if care is not taken, it will reach a breaking point. Yes, breaking point.
The signs are all over the place. Curiously, all the efforts being made by government to ameliorate the situation seem not to be working. From East to West, North to South, there is no respite. We are told government is working round the clock to arrest the dwindling economic drift, worsening insecurity and joblessness, corruption, and other social ailments that have eaten deep into the soul of our nation. Beautiful and impressive as they look on paper, yet they have not produced any practical results. We read daily about the calamities that befall our nation.
The last one was flooding that wiped out families and livelihoods of many of our fellow hapless citizens. In the history of our nation, the only serious flooding that had caused so much concern to the Federal Government was the Ogunpa flood disaster in Ibadan, Oyo State. Definitely, not in the proportion we have had it in recent times. For, close to two months, several parts of Nigeria were flooded, even to the point of cutting off vehicular movements between Kogi State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Anambra and Kogi states were the most devastated.
We all saw the epic tragedy as it happened and how helpless many of us were. Government (both state and federal) was caught unprepared. It could show in the haphazard manner the rescue operations were conducted. The agency responsible for disaster management (FEMA) was overwhelmed. The Federal Government hurriedly set up some committees to tackle the unfortunate development. As the floods subsided, it was time to assuage the pains of the victims.
The Federal Government, in the usual manner, released some billions of naira to the affected states to take care of the victims. Now the question is: how many of those affected among us got the money? Up till now nobody has told us how the money was disbursed by the states and who got what. The issue now belongs to the past as far as I am concerned. Everybody seems to have gone back to sleep, waiting for the next time disaster will occur. The Dangote Committee is going round, collecting money to support the victims of the flood, but they are indeed very far from the target of N100 billion.
So far, they have collected a little over 10 per cent of this amount. Certainly, many of our afflicted compatriots will have been dead by the time all the money comes in. Would it not have been better if the government had opened a central account with an appeal to interested Nigerians at home and abroad, to make personal contributions to the fund for the rehabilitation of the victims? This is the standard practice globally. Imagine what would have happened if 60 per cent of eligible Nigerians, including companies and external empathizers, had made direct contributions to the fund. We would have surpassed the expected target long ago.
The setting up of a central committee as the Dangote stuff wasn’t a bad idea though. Nonetheless, the committee is bogged down by undue bureaucracies. For how long shall we wait before help eventually comes? The N17.8 billion the Federal Government released to affected states was like a drop of water in the ocean. The amount is not even enough to reconstruct a major expressway anywhere in Nigeria, let alone take care of the millions of displaced persons among us agonizing in different parts of the country. I sincerely feel the pain of those going through all kinds of degrading conditions as a result of the sufferings in the land. I have done my little, in several small ways, to share in your pain and grief. We are all in it together.
Whatever happens to one person among us happens to all of us. This is the kind of spirit we desire now, especially with the hopelessness that stares us in the face. Everywhere I go, I feel the pain and despondency of our people. I feel the awry sense of abandonment and despair that pervades the land. My pain grows worse when I cannot do much to help. How wish I had the chance to show you in real terms how much I feel for you. Millions of our youths who left school are without jobs. Even some of those that have jobs suffer from other inhuman conditions, such as lack of quality accommodation, roads, potable water, electricity, and security. In my own little way, all the companies I have interest in have collectively offered jobs to over 3,500 Nigerians.
We are ready to do more as we make progress. There is too much poverty in the land. Many of us cannot afford one meal a day, not to talk of a square meal, in the midst of catapulting oil prices. Unimaginably, some of us feed from the bins, some have no bins to eat from, while yet many are without hope of food for as many as four days. I sympathize with you over the increasing food prices. There was a time we could go to the market with just N5 and bought enough food for our families. Today, N1000 could barely feed a family of three at once. I have been wondering how many of you have managed to survive under these dehumanizing and stifling conditions. When I look at your doggedness and tenacity, I am greatly relieved. I have always trusted you would bring to bear on the current situation your indefatigability and courage. My joy has always been that you have mastered the art of surviving under very excruciating conditions.
Imagine what would have happened if you had allowed the situation to weigh you down. Instead, you have held the bull by the horns and looked up, with faith, to God for redemption. The most daring enemy that has sneaked into our national life, threatening to destroy all of us, is insecurity. What started like an innocuous grievance has today degenerated into a national catastrophe. Ethnic militias, kidnappers, armed robbers and other miscreants have made life hellish for many of us. We go to bed and sleep with one eye open. Is that life? The state of insecurity in Nigeria has got to a stage that we all have to come together and fight the monster before it consumes us. Incidentally, churches, which used to be places of worship, have suddenly turned into death-fields. Gradually, the unity of our country is being systemically destroyed by the greed and egoism of some of our highly-placed compatriots. Some of them are fingered for sponsoring terrorism – something alien to our culture before now.
Terrorism, which used to be associated with the Arab world, has found its way into our national life. People are blown to pieces by bombs strapped round the body of a dare-devil suicide bomber who sees the church as a must-destroy target. Are the militants, insurgents, suicide bombers, terrorists, or by whatever name called, not our brothers and sisters? Why have they chosen the path of infamy and destruction in settling personal scores? Who told them that by killing people indiscriminately their views will be heard? It is a sign of madness and wickedness for anybody to take another person’s life, no matter the provocation.
What reason are they going to give their creator, when the time comes, to justify their obnoxious activities? I admire the courage and single-mindedness of some of you that have refused to be cowed by these social deviants, whose stock-in-trade is destruction. They bomb churches, schools, market places, mosques and diplomatic institutions – all in an effort to instil fear into us. Why should we become cowards when we can collectively defeat these enemies of darkness? Running away from them only emboldens them and makes us shiver like frightened kittens.
The war of attrition going on is geared toward the soul of the nation. And we must not back down until we have achieved victory. There is no doubt that our confidence in the government to protect us is daily dwindling. But we should not lose hope. The God we serve is still on the throne and will visit our nation when the time is nigh. Evil has an expiry date. Certainly, one day the insecurity we are suffering at present will give way to a more peaceful and progressive environment. Things may be difficult for many of us now, just as many too will be thinking about where the next meal will come from. Yes, Christmas is fast approaching and there is no hope in sight.
What is most important is that we are alive and expectant. We should not lose hope; rather we should look up to God from whom our help comes. Instead of recriminating ourselves, we should take up the gauntlet and do what is needful to keep hope alive. President Goodluck Jonathan is doing what he deems fit to lead Nigeria out of the current drift. He can only give what he has (nemo quad non habet – you can’t give what you don’t have). What he deserves at this critical time in our national history is our collective prayers and support. Nothing happens in life by accident – everything happens just as the Lord has willed it. It is the wish of God that he should be in the saddle at this time. Therefore, we need to cooperate with him to see what God can do for us through his instrumentality.
We should not murmur like the Israelites, as they did at the waters of Meribah, when our Canaan is in sight. It is only a myopic person that would not see the hand of God in what is happening in Nigeria. Those who are in evil league to destroy Nigeria and set us apart will have destruction at the sentinels of their doors. We fought a bitter civil war for 30 months, but have refused, up till now, to imbibe the lessons of that war. The way some of us carry ourselves smacked of selfishness, greed, self-righteousness, and clannishness. Instead of working to cement the bond of unity among us some of us fan the embers of hate and ethnocentricity.
In whose benefit then are the evil ones perpetrating their deviousness? Definitely to the detriment of our nation! This is why we should stand up and be counted among the good citizens of Nigeria who have shunned evil machinations that we may continue to live together in peace and one accord. I urge you all to remain steadfast in your love for one another, avoiding things that divide us. We will gain nothing by fighting one another or working against the peace and development of Nigeria. It pays better for us to remain as one and weather the current storms together. It is the duty of every one of us to contribute our own little quota to the development of Nigeria, so that when posterity will judge us we shall not be found wanting.
Very soon political activities toward 2015 will commence. As usual we will be expected to discharge our civic duties with utmost sincerity and clear-headedness. The future of our nation rests squarely on our shoulders. What we make out of it will determine which direction the tide will take us. Great nations became great not by sheer pessimism or meanness, but by working in concert with one another for their development. They made personal and collective sacrifices to attain greatness. In the same way, we should demonstrate restraint and perseverance in the face of obvious hardships and work together to develop Nigeria.
It will be a great achievement for us as a people if we got through the current trials and difficulties and emerged unscathed. We will relish in its joys and happiness for a very long time. I commend you all to the protection and direction of God. I ask him, in his infinite love and mercy, to bless you all and shield you from every harm and evil. Amen.
Orji Uzor Kalu