Symbolism with Simbo Olorunfemi
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If the nature of man is a mirror through which we can see the nature of the state he has created, it is no shock that Nigeria is increasingly becoming a reflection of the people who have her jugular in their hands. It is there in the corner shop, the kiosks that dot our landscape, the crowd of young men gathered at street corners ruminating over nothing and everything. It is there in the array of betting outlets springing up in the land.
When the nation’s power elite is greedy and obsessed with today at the expense of tomorrow, the future is doomed. When leadership absconds from its responsibility to envision a future for the nation, but will rather fabricate a governance agenda on the basis of gambling, the message percolates to the floor. The evidence of that is to be found on the streets, in the gambling shops proliferating across the land. We sold off our tomorrow yesterday, now the youths congregate at the corner shops to fish for remnants from the plate of ‘Baba Ijebu’, while lubricating the system with strong, bitter drinks. How can we claim to be building a nation when a large section of the people have lost hope and are permanently inebriated on gambling?
Perhaps the answer stares at us from the mirror – ours might just be a nation of compulsive gamblers, and it reflects in everything we do – from politics to football. Gambling is in the blood. The Baba Ijebu phenomenon might be looming larger with each day, but it did not happen on us overnight. We gamble with our choice of political leadership. We gamble with our policies. We gamble by not having a coherent plan in place for governance. We gamble with our political choices, even when it is evident that such has not done us much good. As we prepare for 2015, we again place our future in the gaming machine. It is a gamble – the structure and processes are intrinsically rigged to achieve pre-determined results and there is not much that can be done to engender the change badly needed in the system. One might even argue that our fate had been rigged by the gods before now and we are left with little choice but to gamble, rather than employ a strategic mechanism to bring about change in the country.
Yet, most nations, accidents of history or deliberate constructs, only attained greatness on account of deliberate planning on the part of an inspirational leadership who took time to fashion a compass for the nation. Ours has had to rely on the providence of a benevolent ‘Baba Ijebu’. Even we sleep-walk into a jackpot from the abundance of natural resources under our feet, we are afflicted with the worst form of ‘Resource Curse’.
The nation has fallen short in many aspects, with our occasional successes bearing greater resemblance to winnings from the pools, rather than gains from our strategic thinking and planning. We have completely whittled down most of our institutions to benefit personal enterprises and private empires. The result stares us in the face – we have the largest pool of out-of-school children in the world, the number of internally-displaced persons is increasing by the day, the gap between the rich and the poor is the widest in the world. Is it any surprise that our youths have easily taken to ‘yahoo-yahoo’, prostitution and the strong drinks, rather than engage with building a future for the nation and themselves?
Where is the future? In the sports betting shops mushrooming all over town? Is it in the red or blue machine of Baba Ijebu? The future was traded away yesterday. The future lies prostrate in the street corners, raped of hope. The future is in the corner shop – school children, artisans, the unemployed, and the under-employed daily congregate to negotiate their way out of penury and hopeless from the merciless jaws of ‘Baba Ijebu’. What is the fate of a nation that places its future in the hands of Baba Ijebu? We just might have a ‘sure banker’ in our hands.