Running away will never set us free

Symbolism with Simbo Olorunfemi

Email: Twitter: @simboolorunfemi

Our President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan is back. He was away to Germany, as we were told, on a “well-deserved rest” for a few days. Yes, he was away to Washington, some weeks back. But that was on official duty, though. He was there along with other African leaders to jaw-jaw with President Barack Obama on weighty matters of state. Uneasy is the head that wears the Nigerian crown, they say. A few days in Wiesbaden to keep the juice flowing is no big deal. He really needs to rest. He is home now.

Our soldiers too are back. In the heat of a fierce battle with Boko Haram forces, they suddenly found themselves in Cameroon. A BBC report claims them to have been sighted in Maroua, about 80 kilometres from the Nigerian border. It was a “tactical manoeuvre” out of the country, we were told. To save the country, there are times you have to make your way out of the furnace.  You know how it is with such cross-border tactical manoeuvres. But they are back now. Our gallant soldiers are back at their duty posts. All is well that ends well.

Our doctors are back too. No, they did not suddenly find themselves in Cameroon. They only stepped aside to prove some 24 points to the government. You don’t run away from catering to demands by doctors, without consequence, we now appreciate. While the doctors were away, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) made its way into the country. It was not enough to bring back our doctors, though. But following on a tactical manoeuvre by the government that might leave our resident doctors stranded beyond the border, the Nigerian Medical Association has tactfully retreated. The wise Nigerian is that one who knows when to manoeuvre and the time to retreat. The doctors are back.

Our Senators are not back though. It seems like eternity since they proceeded on their two-month annual vacation. Who goes on leave for eight whole weeks? So much has happened since they went away, but nothing of substance to make our Senators look back. They sure need some rest. What really will be the point in their coming back seeing how much work they put in while the Senate is in session? Even for those who occasionally make it to sittings, it is difficult to pick out a few in tune with where the shoe pinches Nigerians. The Red Chambers is gradually looking more like a retirement pad for Governors who have laboured hard for their states. They truly need to rest. We need not bring them back, just yet.

Many of our folks who went away on summer break are not back yet. Will you blame them? What with Ebola in the air. Resumption date for next session has been tactically moved forward, now. We might as well extend summer holiday even if the weather there looks like anything but summer. It has become a tradition that the well-to-do in Nigeria must fulfil. We put lives here on hold to go spend time abroad, to better the economy there. It is our way. It is our way to keep running away. Others will fix it, while we are on holiday.

Ebola Fever shows up, we pack our family in a suitcase, we run away.  Indeed, that has been our way. We run away from the problem hoping it will somehow go away. If you have one problem and cannot solve it, pretend that you are finding solution by creating more problems, then run away. Running away does not necessarily mean taking off physically though, pushing stuff under the carpet is one way of running away. Setting up a committee to study the report of a committee set up to find the remote and immediate causes of a problem we all can identify, miles away, is government’s own way of running away.

We keep running. We keep running away from the problems, simply wishing them away. Government invests in enterprises. It runs them aground, simply on account of corruption, and sells them off to the boys for pocket money. They call it privatisation.  People make away with profits, government socialises losses. Unable to fix the refineries, we start importing fuel from all around the world. Pulling the plug on the subsidy fraud has now become a problem for the government.  All we do is run away from confronting the problem. Andrew Yakubu says turn-around maintenance has been done on some refineries.  So, what is the production capacity of the working refineries? How has local production impacted on the volume of petrol imports? Rather than provide answers to our questions and present before us a work plan, they ignore us; sweep another report under Madam’s carpet, hoping the problem will simply go away.

Governments run away with the commonwealth, rather than face up to them, our people retreat, they run away. We always find a way round the problems. We set up our own governments, and shrug the problems away. Public water supply system fails, we sink boreholes. We have dug so deep now, that itself has raised a new set of problems. Electricity supply system breaks down? We bring in shiploads of generating sets to fire noise and pollutants into the air. City roads become clogged with traffic, we opt for bikes. It was only a matter of time before we had an array of limbs decorating the ‘Okada’ wards. Roads are in terrible shape, we buy ourselves more SUVs. Our highways are in dilapidated condition, we simply opt for chopper rides. Airlines and airports are left to their own devices; we take to our private jets to tour the world. We keep running. But, how long can we keep running away from our problems?

Oga is looking for a safe haven to stash away stolen money, he buys up houses in Europe and dumps the rest in Dubai. He desires company; our man brings in scarlet ladies from Asia. The Big Man takes ill; he goes to Germany for treatment. For education of the children, he looks in the direction of US or Europe. Where all else fails, he settles for Ghana or Benin Republic.  It has to be away from home, whatever it will take. The daughter is getting married; it has to be ‘destination wedding’ or nothing else. He takes the crème de la crème to Dubai, our second home. That effectively keeps the hoi polloi from the event. Won’t these children have cause to come home someday and interact with people from the other side of town? Won’t they need their own drivers, assistants and other people to lace their shoes? We keep running, but can we really afford to run away?

Some people have been running, half of their lives. Are you not tired yet? We source artisans from Togo, house keepers from Benin Republic, guards from Niger Republic and diviners from Senegal. We ship in champagne, tea, cigarettes, toothpaste, water, toothpicks and whatever else catches our fancy from the world over. Values are largely eroded, boundaries are now faint. We have destroyed the institutions that are supposed to stabilise us. Nothing seems to matter to us beyond immediate gratification of self and pedestrian, epicurean propensities. Yet, we keep running away, rather than confront our problems. We are running away from politics, leaving governance in the pockets of the same people making us run away? You keep running, but cannot really get away, because running away will never set you free.