#Reflections

Can Nigeria be like scent leaf?

By Busuyi Mekusi

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Eco-critical appraisals of happenings across the globe are reflective of the evidences of both the depreciation of the environment and the extended effects the despoliation throws up in human existence. This is not to mention the metaphoric symbolism inhered in the revolting propensities of the environment, against humans that have largely precipitated the harms done to it. To this end, just like I have argued in the past, psychologists have submitted that the different types of violence done to a particular human agent would characterise him or her in certain ways, that would elicit violent behaviours against some others. I similarly believe, as I have opined severally, that the memory system has the capacity to retain past experiences, particularly painful ones, and retrieve them for use at a later time. Little wonder that the Yoruba believe that someone that defecated in an inappropriate place might forget in a hurry, but whoever is made to clean the mess would live longer with the memory.

Economies all over the world are convulsing, only that those of developing nations, like Nigeria, are worse hit, given the many internal contradictions the country has to contend with. Some of these are: poor citizens’ data; endemic greed and corruption; weak institution and malleability of government apparatuses; poor power supply and collapse of industries and small scale businesses; unmitigated consumerism for imported goods; dollarisation of the economy and weak naira, etc. The visionary leadership paraded by PBAT has been vigorously challenged by the economic situation, precipitated by the removal of fuel subsidy, which he related to as Hobson’s choice on May 29, 2023, when he was inaugurated as President. Even though many Nigerians expectedly pooh-poohed that decision, everyone also seems to be in agreement that there was nothing else Tinubu could have done at that juncture, given the fact that the previous government did not budget for fuel subsidy.

Continuation of subsidy payment by the Tinubu government has also been advanced as the reason while fuel is not selling beyond N1,000.00 locally, given the rate at which the naira exchanges for the dollar presently. More monies are coming to the state and local governments, and it was rumoured that PBAT asked state governors why there are hunger in their states, when he has ensured increased allocations to them from the federation account. Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the country has continued to be challenged in different ways, with the economy shrinking: under over-bloated personnel overhead at the three levels of government; expansive political appointments and luxurious lifestyle of the political class; negatively skewed federalism; customised corruptions that have been shoddily investigated and prosecuted; systematic collapse of infrastructure across the country; elevated ethnic tensions and politically-motivated insecurity; newly-invented terrorism and banditry; vexatious herders/farmers clashes; neocolonialism  and citizens’ political passivity and reduced patriotism.

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Characteristic of the 20-year-old pounded-yam of the Yoruba that could still be hurtfully hot, allegations of malfeasances in the Obasanjo regime are still rife, as recently seen in the re-awoke Maanbilla Power scandal involving Olu Agunloye, which Wole Soyinka dismissed as an attempt to taint saints while rogues stand tall. The privatisation programme and other multinational contracts like that of Siemens/Halliburton, allegedly involving Atiku Abubakar, the then Vice President, of this regime also cast some doubt on the baby midwived through the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, As Amended, evolved by the military government of Abdulsalami Abubakar, whose regime was also tainted by the Halliburton fiasco. Yar’adua was phenomenal in his commitment to reposition Nigeria, downrightly pleasantly and truthfully but brutally focused, his exit left us with respite in the Niger Delta, through the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and a new political vocabulary of ‘doctrine of necessity’.

Goodluck Jonathan tried his best, was conciliatory and reformative, after his circumstantial ascension and election for a term of four years, but he got kicked out due to northern conspiracy, making him the first incumbent president to be ousted by the opposition. Of the many scandals of this regime, the arms’ deal, that had Sambo Dasuki at the centre, was a big blow on the fight against insecurity that decimated Nigerians and Nigeria. The administration of Muhammadu Buhari was expected to be strict, but it was riddled with very many scandals in the pension office, NDDC, and NNPC. The CBN under Emefiele was belligerently atrocious, killing small businesses through the ill-advised printing of new naira notes, causing major currency scarcity and hardship, the special investigation of the CBN by the regime of Tinubu, headed by Obazee has had some of its mind-bugling findings leaked to distressed and confused Nigerians. Although PBT has told us that we are merely in challenging times, and that Nigerian economy is not in distress, amidst assurances of light at the end of the tunnel, most Nigerians are now very dry, like the stem of scent leaf after acute dryness.

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Scent leaf, scientifically called Ocimum gratissimum, is a plant common in Nigeria, and named differently by the three major tribes. The Igbo call it Nchanwu, while the Yoruba refer to it as Ewe Efinrin, and it is called Daidoya in Hausa. Among many other things, scent leaf can be used to: stop stomach aches; dysentery, diarrhea and vomiting; prompt food digestion; normalize blood sugar; fight off bad breath; and prevent tooth decay. Dried scent leaves are mosquito repellant. Apart from the fact that the saponis present in the scent leaf reportedly have good antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, the liquid extract is believed to help in curing cold and catarrh. In another vein, when scent leaf is mixed with bitter leaf, it is used in Nigeria to potently treat malaria and fever. No doubt, scent leaf is one of the many natural leaves that Nigeria has reduced to mere culinary vegetable, when they should have been converted to more productive industrial and pharmaceutical resources that will help cut down on import and expand forex through export. Our researchers must be, and ready to be, encouraged! 

As leafy as scent leaf plant is in the raining season, it gets easily vanquished in the dry season, with the similitude of gestational expiration, unless it enjoys wetting through human benevolence. The nature of scent leaf is mostly illustrative of the biblical hope that is available to a tree that could sprout again after it has been cut down, following wetness by either rain or dew. The dying possibility of scent leaf symbolically reminiscent the metaphoric ‘death’ of Nigeria, which continues to lie prostrate, in spite of the many values that providence confers on it. As a result of the material dryness that Nigeria is going through, all the positively impactful potential that should help the existence of citizens, and make the lives of people across borders better, have been lost to bad governance, corruption, ineptitude, tribalism and manifold insecurity. Given this emasculation of values, Nigerians are physically and metaphorically suffering from stomach aches, dysentery, diarrhea and vomiting, bacterial infection, inflammation, low immunity, tooth ache, bad breath, cold and catarrh, mosquito invasion, as well as malaria and fever.

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The Renewed Hope agenda of PBAT is suggestive of a new rain or dew on the Nigeria horizon, even though the effect might be limited by the scorched atmosphere in the country. The Nigeria economy has been severally and severely buffeted, with old industries that inflated the economy in the past drying up like scent leaf in dry season. The struggling naira has been systematically reduced to fairly-valued paper, with few available dollars chased and captured to service interests and desires that gravitate towards the Northern hemisphere, by way of luxurious items, medical tourism and educational exile.

Between conspiracy theory and economic interest, food items are reported to be taken out of Nigeria from the northern part of the country to Niger Republic, Cameroon and Togo. While the former possibility is indicative of how governance by ethnicisation has destroyed the country, the latter is excusable on the need for maximization of economic gain, through the earning of currencies from neighbouring countries, that are now stronger than the naira, from the weak position they used to be. Cocoa is selling very well in the global market, with near-scarcity experienced as well, and Nigerians in the southern part that used to be sizeable producers of cocoa are either investing on overseas relocation for their children or their youths are into internet fraud to level up with members of the ostentatious oppressive political class. One would think that the necessity to restructure the country would be prioritised, more than before, as the country continues to walk on the titters.

Can Nigeria be like the scent leaf, for once, to come back to the greenness that will help her perform the many roles a nation owes her citizens, and for how long will the people suffer in the midst of plenty?

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