The dance of the masquerade
By Bayo Fasunwon
In Nigeria, festivals are a delight to watch. People are entertained, standing along dusty roads, munching sugar canes, chinchins, and other eatables with happiness irrespective of the gloom that surrounds them in dilapidated structures and empty pockets. One of such festivals is the Masquerade. In tradition, it is believed that a being, whose identity is shrouded in mystery, clothed in beautiful, sometimes fearful clothing, and masked is an ancestor who has come to visit his people, to punish with whips and rain blessings upon the living.
The Masquerade festival, with the pains mixed with blessings is always a delight to watch by all and sundry. As an observer of the dramatic and acrobatic display of one of the masquerades, I was amused, shocked, and sorrowful. This particular Masquerade was strong, energetic, and agile. It could climb trees, somersault, and dance to the admiration of all. There was however, something so unique about it, which I do not think others noticed.
This masquerade would start at a spot, climb trees, dance to the front, and back; run and do several summersaults, but would always return to the same spot it started from. I watched it closely for about an hour and realized that no matter the velocity and acceleration it manifests, it will always come back to the same spot. I left in dejection, when it dawned on me, that the Masquerade depicted Nigeria, a nation of activities, glued to a spot.
In academics, when conducting researches, it is often perceived that literatures that have been published over a decade may no longer be relevant for the study. However, fifty-nine years after independence, the songs waxed in the sixties and seventies, the articles written before we were born and the same problems our fathers encountered during the cold war are still unchanged, relevant, and fresh in this era of globalisation. Pick any newspaper article written in the seventies, and re-publish it now, the headlines and contents would still be new and relevant for this country. Have our leaders no shame? From the time of independence until now, the thinking of the ruling class has not changed, despite the fact that they see nations of same age flying to the moon, they are still arguing whether the moon is a ball of fire or a reflective mass of earth.
To me, it is annoying that the Federal Government should be making news headlines on the plan to re-introduce tollgates on federal roads. The Obasanjo led administration was so convinced, against advice that the tollgates were nothing but a legalized means of corrupt earnings for some Nigerians, and a hindrance to the free flow of traffic. The advice that it was the means of generating funds to repair, reconstruct, and construct roads fell on deaf ears.
Large sums of money were budgeted to remove the tollgates, which were initially constructed by huge funds. Now, the Buhari led administration is also budgeting billions of naira, which could have been used to build more roads, turn around the refineries, provide shelter, and capital for small scale enterprises, to rebuild toll gates, which another government would remove with trillions of hard earned national income, in years to come. A dastard masquerade dance.
In 1984, the nation’s education system that had hitherto run on 6-5-4 system was abolished with a fiat. An innovative, technological, and entrepreneurial driven 6-3-3-4 system was introduced. Another generation of future Nigerians were being brain tuned for a great Nigeria. Nigeria spent huge sums of money getting equipments for the program, installed, and created curriculums to drive the great revolutionary innovation in education.
The first set of this program would be in their late forties now in Nigeria. At the end of the day, the education policy was jettisoned. The machines rotted away, and the students’ time was just wasted. Now, Nigeria operates a so-called 9-3-4 system that boasts of subject combinations that make a mockery of real education. Students are trained to become consumers of information, and not custodians of knowledge.
Indigenous languages are thrown overboard; students leave schools without understanding their body systems, as biology is restricted; history is killed, resurrected, and distorted, and foreign languages of Arabic and French become compulsory for students whose grasp of English is laughable. The same government that waters down education, replaced certificates with affidavits and made a mockery of learning complains that the standard of education has not fallen, but graduates are unemployable. Very soon, another government would introduce another education curriculum wherein all students must first get two years of entrepreneurial training at the polytechnic before getting admission to the University.
All over the country are skeletal frames of abandoned projects. Roads, rails, bridges, office complex, farm settlements, schools, hospitals and many more litter the face of our national landscape. Many of these projects were ill advised, while most were embarked upon as a means to steal and plunder the nation’s resources. In others, politicians do not believe that government is a continuum, so when a new person takes over the helms of affairs, ongoing projects by past administrations is put on hold, monies lost and new elephant projects are embarked upon. The most dismal and appalling of all is the demolition of projects constructed by past administrations in order to erase ‘his’ legacies. Taxpayers’ monies fall under the heavy boulders of machines in a fit of rage without considering that billions of scarce resources are being flushed down the drain. Who cursed this nation?
The government of Nigeria over the years have been vengeful, and anti people. So sad that the narratives have not changed. ‘Things Fall Apart’, a novel written by Chinua Achebe depicting the errors of colonial rule and the consequent desecration of our indigenous heroes is still relevant in the postcolonial news of Nigeria.
Police brutality, extra judicial killings and harassments by men in uniforms, which held sway in the military era, is still an experience for Nigerians who are just being born in this country. The impunity, corruption, and arrogance of leadership had not waned in our fifty-nine years of paper nationhood, and we still sing Sunny Okosun’s ‘Which way Nigeria’ in the era of Facebook. Nigeria has never lacked enviable policies of development. These policies however die on tables of despondency.
A school of thought opined that Nigeria’s masquerade dance is borne out of the fact that the nation has been ruled over the years by the same circle of friends, and ancestors. Nothing new is expected from ancestral shrines. A new breed of leadership may be needed. Whatever needs to be done, Nigeria has to stop this Masquerade dance!