Opinion

Nze Sylva’s Corner: How Much More Must We Sacrifice?

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The most important quote – at least it was what made the headlines, from Acting President’s Yemi Osibanjo’s Democracy Day message to Nigerians, was the need for Nigerians to be prepared to make more sacrifices for our nation to be great again. I don’t know about you but my immediate reaction to that was to wonder out loud how much more we need to sacrifice as a people, and how long we really must wait before this often referenced greatness of our country will begin to manifest.

We have forever made sacrifices. Much of my generation was born in the middle of the IBB structural adjustment program (SAP) when Nigerians were called upon to tighten their belt and ‘adjust’ to the prevailing hardship which had commenced in the preceding Buhari regime and was biting quite hard at the time. There was always this feeling that it was only going to be for a short time, that all would be well soon. It never got any better and has still not gotten better till date.

We were ‘fed’ the same call to be patient and to make sacrifices all through Abacha’s reign, after the hope that heralded June 12 elections, (coincidentally won by a campaign hinged on “Hope”), had vanished. We watched as various staple foods disappeared from the menu of many dinner tables and went beyond the reach of many families. Poverty grew. The middle class all but vanished. Who can forget the endless rounds of grueling fuel scarcity we endured in those days when many of us had to resort to the contraption known then as “Abacha stove”. Through it all, we were called upon to make sacrifices, to endure for just a little longer.

Democracy’s return in 1999 came with all the usual sweet talk and our hopes soared. But the call to be patriotic (read ‘make sacrifice’) was ever resounding. And like the patient people we are, we gladly made them. Never protesting. Never asking for more than we were given. Returning to the polls every four years to re-elect a new batch who make us the very same promises and once they get into office, begin to preach Sacrifice.

Enter the government of Change in 2015.

It was for those who bought the dummy so well packaged and creatively sold – the Eldorado. Finally everything was going to be alright. The expectation in the air on the eve of the inauguration was palpable. Even sceptics who did not support the APC must have silently shared some optimism, albeit measured. I recall my conversation with a taxi driver in Abuja few days to May 29, 2015. His car would have passed for a Buhari/Osibanjo campaign vehicle with the APC flag and pictures that adorned its body. “Sai Baba” he crooned when I asked him about his political allegiance. He was very sure, I found after our short conversation, that come May 29, all his problems will be over. It made me worried for the incoming president, the kind of messianic expectations people had of them.

It didn’t help that they had promised heaven and earth during the campaigns. Discerning minds knew it was not going to be a walk in the park. But two years on, and this administration must take full responsibility for the extent of dashed hopes (some might say ‘broken hearts) they have caused. It has been one error after another. One delay too many on key issues. Serial denial of campaign promises a and total lack of coordination. It has been so poor that these days those who (for self-pride or nearness to power) still publicly support them celebrate the acting President’s delivery of speeches as achievements – as if that affects the cost of garri in the market.

To cap it all up, on the second anniversary of their reign, this government calls on us once more to make even more sacrifices. How much more? Since this administration came to power, we have endured months of a very painful fuel scarcity, the worst in recent history. They told us to sacrifice, so we accepted for the pump price of fuel to go from N98 to N145. But that was not sacrifice enough. The economy nosedived and went into recession. They called on us to make even more sacrifice even though it took forever to come up with an Economic plan out of the recession. We watched as the naira almost hit N600 to the dollar. We lost jobs, factories closed up. Businesses couldn’t keep up. Inflation hit 18%. Prices of everyday goods went completely out of the reach of the majority of our people. Sacrifice continua.

The irony though is that it is the poor that have to make this sacrifice. We are the ones that have to watch our children withdraw from school because we can’t pay the fees. We are the ones that bury loved ones because the hospitals are empty (of doctors and drugs) and we can’t afford treatment abroad. It is our siblings that are retrenched without benefit by companies that can no longer pay their salaries. Our parents wait forever for their pensions after years of sacrifice. The rich, our elite continue to live in their opulence, jetting in and out of the country to treat common cold, attending the choicest schools and marrying themselves.

Making sacrifice is now a synonym for “patriotism” – for the economically disadvantaged, but I am not sure for how much longer we can endure. Except perhaps they want us to start bleeding ourselves in sacrifice. The greatness of our nation will come not from more sacrifices but from our leaders doing what they ought to do in order to keep their promises. And if at all anybody should make sacrifices, it should be that small percentage of our people who have never had a reason to, in the first place.

@nzesylva

Fiction writer, op-ed columnist, social commentator. Sylva lives in Lagos Nigeria

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