Sierra Leone’s president appealed Tuesday for urgent help for the flood-hit capital of Freetown where more than 300 people have died, as rescue workers resumed the grim search for bodies. The Red Cross says it is struggling to excavate families buried deep in the mud that engulfed their homes, although several bodies were pulled up by machines…
Do you remember the story of Okobo and the 200 needles? I once shared it here but it bears repeating for the purpose of this discourse today. There was this boastful man who just married a new wife. The whole community had waited long for him to find a wife. But he was a man full of excuses. He always had a reason why each woman introduced to him wasn’t good enough. If the woman was not too quiet, then she was a gossip. If one was not too slim, she had a fat backside. He even once took a long look at a tall slim shapely village belle and sneered,
“ This one is too slim to be fertile or carry pregnancy to term.”
The whole village was used to Okobo’s antics. Though they found it annoying, it was difficult to conclude that Okobo could not peel his banana, if you know what I mean, because there were always women around him. He was like a man surrounded by kegs of palm wine complaining of nothing sweet to drink. And that went on for years, you know how my people are, rumours of Okobo being an impotent gradually started gaining grounds. He became a metaphor for non-performance and all kinds of all-brag-no-action stories. Village belles had all kinds of jokes that led to the doorstep of Okobo. If a young woman went to visit her suitor and didn’t return until dusk and her friends started asking her questions about why she was out for that long, she would say;
‘What were you expecting, that I would return in 30 minutes, when my man is not Okobo?’
Okobo was the cock that could not crow and the horse that could not gallop. He was the theory that could not become practical. Apparently tired of being the butt of every joke about virility and manhood, Okobo decided to get married. And finally in the evening of the wedding day, Okobo sat with his friends outside his house. They drank, congratulated him, drank a little bit more, gave him tips on how to make a horse gallop on his wedding night, drank some more and then…
“Our friend, isn’t it time to go and check out what you bought with good money?”
“Are you going to leave your wife to count the rafters in your room?”
“You really should go in there and do justice to that beautiful woman.”
Okobo’s friends urged and edged him on. But he didn’t budge, just kept moving from one joke to another story. He told his friends not to worry, that he, Okobo, was the son of his father and he could thread 200 needles in the dark.
“What is one young woman compared to 200 needles being threaded in the dark?” He boasted.
“But tonight is not a night for threading 200 needles, Okobo. There is only one needle to thread and she is inside your room, warm and waiting. Just go in and thread her…”
Nigeria is like Okobo, thirsty in the middle of the river, hungry in a storehouse, annoyingly impotent or impotently annoying. Like Okobo, Nigeria has all it takes to be the envy of nations but it focusses on all the trivials, mishandling everything and leaving great opportunities to lie fallow. Okobo had only one virgin bride waiting for him for conjugal justice, Nigeria has scores, waiting to be threaded.
We are the butt of many jokes, as we should be, considering that we are sitting and drinking with accomplished friends instead of accomplishing something for ourselves. We have waited years, or is it wasted years, to get to where we are and yet we are still all thumbs about what needs to done.
Why, for instance, are we just talking diversification of the economy in the year of our Lord 2017? Why are we just waking up in the middle of the afternoon and saying good morning when serious people had gone to the farm and returned? How did we convince ourselves that our oil, that endowment that God gave us for free, will always be enough and always be there? What manner of people sit on their hands and expect manna to fall thousands of years after the Israelites left the wilderness? Why are we importers of everything and exporter of nothing? Oh yes, we export crude oil and import petroleum products. What a great achievement, right? That’s all we are good at; look for what’s easy and pretend to be busy.
When are we going to start real mining and real exportation of agricultural products? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the Federal Executive Council last month set up a task force to do something about rising price of certain commodities. Task Force kwa? Is rising prices no longer about demand and supply? If farmers are not producing enough, there won’t be enough in the market. if there is not enough in the market, there is nothing you can do about the prices no matter the size of the white paper or even green and white paper produced by the task force. The plain truth is you cannot force down the price of farm products from the confines of an air-conditioned office. From my small girl perspective, if the government sets up or encourages the setting up of small plants that will buy, store and process cassava, those factories will need more cassava. if there are ready buyers of cassava, more cassava will be planted. More farmers will emerge. That will create employment. More cassava means increase in supply. You cannot keep the price up if the market is flooded. Or isn’t that what happens during the rainy season every year? Plenty maize being boiled and roasted all over the place, plenty okra and other vegetables being sold at rock bottom prices that only benefit the buyers at the expense of the farmers.
I am not an economist but my small sense and A1 in o’level Economics tell me that making money for this country via a diversified economy is not rocket science. But then, we are Okobo, are we not? Talking all day and all night and expecting the real work to do itself. If you do not encourage farmers, you cannot tell them what to do and if farmers live from hand to mouth, you cannot encourage new entrants into farming. It does not matter how much English you speak at a million meetings, a needle that is not threaded will remain an unthreaded needle.
Have you been to any of our Unity Schools, the Federal Government Colleges, the secondary schools that produced our presidents, governors, lawmakers and our billionaires lately? Do those governors even visit their alma mater or they just hold Old Boys and Girls shindigs in Abuja and Lagos? Someone tell me how difficult it is to fix 36 public schools in one year, at the rate of three per month, simultaneously? We will soon have a summit or task force to do it instead of giving it to bricklayers and carpenters in the communities where those schools exist and those committees will meet and meet until there is no meat to keep them meeting and that would be that.
Like Okobo, we are romancing the wrong things and expecting the world to believe we are the giant of Africa. Is Nigeria even the Giant of Nigeria? Do Nigerian teenagers see this country as a great place, this place where the poor children work all day, read all night, pass JAMB examinations but still don’t get into tertiary institution? How many Nigerian graduates see their country as the place to be, the country that will guarantee a good future? They are not even sure when they will ‘go and serve’ (that NYSC thing is a matter for a long debate soon) and if they will all return safely to their parents and when they do, what they are expected to do with the rest of their lives.
We attend every international conference and summits, pretending that we are and those who have been doing what they should do with their brides are peers. We hang out with UN, AU, OPEC guys and come home with bagful of estacode and feel cool for achieving nothing. Our structures are warped, our implementation of great plans are even more warped. And the saddest part; possessing great minds, greater plans and achieving little or nothing. It is painful, really painful. If Okobo’s friends and neighbours were that worried about his useless 200 needles, you can imagine how miserable his untouched bride was.
This Okobo nation needs to put its money where its mouth is. This Okobo nation needs to thread the right needles. A bride left fallow for too long….
Re – Madam Breadwinner and her man
If she is already selling her body to a man that is not her husband, she is a fool and should pay the price. There is nothing wrong with a woman picking all the bills.
For me there can never be a meeting point for a lazy and shameless man.
It’s rampant now. Every man should get a job and meet his family’s needs.