By Busuyi Mekusi
As blood dots the paths of travellers and adorn thatched houses in villages, the elites in the nation’s capital are cowed, crying in hunched voices. Anaemia is steering Nigerians in the face as a result of constant bleeding and deprivation of haemoglobin-rich foods. It is not just a disaster that Africa depends on Europe for grains, the succour new shipment of wheat from embattled Ukraine to economically deprived nations might not heal the famished people who have resorted to vicious rages against their leaders; from Sri Lanka to Ghana.
Nigerians are not only one of the happy people on earth, but they are resilient to a fault, that almost every abnormality is conceived by their limited religious minds an act of God. Only God knows how it feels to be loaded with the imprecations of people who are endemically faulty in their estimation, and largely bumpy in their expectations.
Reflecting on the queer details that characterise political arithmetic, economic sabotage and ruins, unchecked insecurity, ethno-religious bigotry, and worsening lethargy, Nigeria continues to exist in the 18th century, in clear disjunction with 21st century conversations ongoing between purposeful nations. Membership of regional, continental and global organisations is merely for pigeonholing, with the ideals of such clusters absent in the conducts of affairs at all levels in the country.
Political choices in determining leaders are coloured by inconsequential factors, as against indices that are firm and normative in democratically viable nations. For the umpteenth time, narratives about Nigeria have been fundamentally traumatic, magical and fantastically disheartening. How would coming generations feel reading the chronicles of Nigeria queer traumatic super stories!
PMB has for the greater part of his presidency behaved as if French leave or hibernation is the best option available to the leader of a problematic nation that always commits errors in electing appropriate leaders. Nigerians are idealistically desirous of good possibilities whereas their acts and casts are pointedly suggestive of desperate wickedness.
The lamentable negative realities in the Nigeria horizons are not just those of opportunistically deceptive oppressive leaders, but those of pretentious followers whose treasures are found in carcasses of their victims and who get their fortunes from the fermentations of other’s pains and panelled pounds of flesh. Suffering is not equal to sovereignty, while pains are not the paintings needed to engrave the richness of our soils and the viability of our strength. For Nigeria, human and natural resources are no assets but liabilities! The country is still divided between the disturbing question of where is our president, and cheering assertion of ‘lost but found’.
The fantastically surreal stories in Nigeria are representative of the fixation by literary writers who are still irrevocably committed to realistic portrayal in their texts, to underscore artistic commitments that portend the need to continually impose the burden of social regeneration on art. The foregoing is against the propensities in some other climes to transcend the mirroring of the society by literature to the level of a genre like Science Fiction. Bruce Sterling describes Science Fiction (SF) as ‘a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals’. This type of literature was believed to have been invented or popularised by the American publisher Hugo Gernsback in the 1920s. Themes common to modern Science Fiction are scientifically and technologically plausible, such as space travel, robots, alien beings, etc.
Further to the above, Science Fiction contrasts preceding speculative genres such as fantasy and horror, which are the preoccupations of realistic contemporary Nigerian writings, both satiric and surreal. In another vein, the regular ‘theatrics’ of Science Fiction include ‘prophetic warnings, utopian aspirations, elaborate scenarios for entirely imaginary worlds, titanic disasters, strange voyages, and political agitation of many extremist flavours’.
It is worthy to note that Science Fiction helps use satires, allegories and parodies to achieve techo-social change, and more from ‘cynical despair to cosmic bliss’. Paradoxically, even though Nigerian artists are not committed to the trappings of Science Fiction, the theatrical tropes mentioned above sufficiently capture the characterisations of the Nigerian state, in terms of unbelievable scandalous manifestations and adulterated opinions that make both the leaders and the led live in fool’s paradise.
In recent weeks, two major damaging news items have been circulated on both conventional and social media; that Buhari claimed not to be aware of the 5-month old ASUU strike, and that it was Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, who first informed PMB about the threats by terrorists to abduct him and himself. Whereas the former claim was circulated through a screenshot which turned out not to be true, the latter was part of the comment by the dramatic personae during a radio interview programme, and later clarified by his media aide.
With the misinformation about the president’s disposition about the ASUU strike, it remains a huge contradiction that institutions that are expected to incubate the human resources and invent the technologies needed to drive the nation could be shut for a long period of time, without any frontal efforts made by government agents to end it.
However, the claim by El-Rufai that PMB was not aware of his threatened abduction before he told him about it reinforces the fears by ordinary Nigerians that central leadership in the country is similar to the conceptualisation of the ‘present absence’. The present absence notion portends the state or condition of being present but absent or away by reason of being ignored or banished socially.
The palpable absence of PMB while the nation bleeds could both be a function of deliberate selective numbness on very critical issue of insecurity, or being silenced by the overwhelming inability of his government to perform the constitutional duty of protecting the citizens. Better still, the nuance of present absence could be adduced to the ineffectiveness of the various directives the president gave to the heads of the various security agencies to tackle insecurity. The last presidential directive about the ‘free’ hand given to the Service Chiefs suggests that not all directives carry the performative force that should ordinarily produce the desired result of improved security.
Speculations are rife about how PMB is holed up in the dens of members of the cabals, and insulated from commonplace news about, and developments in, the country. The grapevine has also suggested that the versions of conventional newspapers made available to the president are specially printed, and filled with selected news items that would sustain the estrangement of the president from the gory realities that substantially dominate his regime.
One wonders how this nefarious gimmick would easily be carried out in a postmodern globalised world of speedy information production and dissemination. Well, the internet is not only strange to some Nigerian leaders, but the social media is demonised by their handlers, but used for their satanic propaganda. No doubt, the Nigeria president is present but absent as the nation seems to be in an auto pilot, leaving the economy and security to drift, while corruption and theft of national assets go on unabated.
The PMB government is deliberately operating analogue models that disregard the use of technology to tame terrorists, improve the economy and safeguard resources. Public higher institutions of learning in the country are best at awarding controversial honourary awards to questionable characters while the awards of basic degrees have been hampered by incessant strikes by staff unions and unrests by socio-economically and emotionally fatigued students who have many unacceptable developments to respond to.
A greater number of these students only value their citadels as havens for their untoward activities and not places where their ignorance could be cured, and where their worth could be improved. The unfortunate engagement between Nigerians who were privileged with so many enablers and the present generation that has been endlessly dispossessed is similar to a wasted generation producing a wasteful generation!
The paradox of PMB’s present absence contrasts with scientific news about; James Webb Space Telescope that could probe cosmos to uncover the history of the universe, the robotic bodyguard of King of Bahrain with fitted 360 cameras and inbuilt pistols, and the soon-to-be unveiled first Elon Musk’s hotel in Mars, costing $5 Million per night. It goes without saying that since PMB and his handlers are averse to technology, they would be uninterested in the unearthing of the history of the earth, or how robots could be used to tame criminalities, nor whether to learn from the use of drone by the United States to kill an Al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Predictably but satirically, PMB must have since relocated to Musk’s Mars’ hotel, because of his present absence in confronting the many challenges affronting Nigeria.
Reflective of the theatrical shades of Science Fiction, the heats are becoming unbearable in Nigeria, as: ‘prophetic warnings’ of the past are now playing out, utopian aspirations have vanished, dream-like imaginary worlds have replaced the decency of the past, titanic disasters are pervasive, strange voyages are made by desperate citizens, and political agitations of extremist proportions are defining the 2023 trajectory.