By Ayodele Adio
The story of the twenty seven Nigerians who lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean has remained on top of our news feed, importantly so. Because, no serious nation should normalise the loss of dozens of her citizens in such cruel and dehumanising circumstances; a phenomenon the Nigerian state has grown accustomed to.
In countries where a premium is placed on human life, leaders will briefly suspend any immediate engagement in order to grieve with immediate families that have been bereaved, either through live telecasts or press briefings, which usually serve as opportunities to remind the entire nation that their lives do matter.
Nigeria is unable to dignify these twenty seven, even in death, by at least referring to them by their names, even as the president is unable to spare a minute to condole with their families and those of thousands of other Nigerians who have lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean, or to even offer cogent reasons why those planning to do so should desist from such contemplation. The truth is, a country that does not recognise one is incapable of grieving with and for one.
Perhaps, we need not look far to appreciate why young Nigerians will rather bleed through the deserts in Niger, slave in Libya and sail through the horrors of the Mediterranean in search of hope.
Nigeria has shown consistently, albeit shamefully, that once you ‘make it’ abroad, she will roll out her finest drums to celebrate a success she was never a part of. She will write a letter through the office of the special assistant on foreign affairs to congratulate Brits of Nigerian heritage who win elections into the British parliament, even if she never educated them nor presented them with any meaningful opportunity. She will send a delegation, led by the minister of sports to take selfies with the highly successful British boxer, Anthony Joshua, whose middle name she suddenly remembers as Oluwafemi. Rather than cover her face in shame, she will argue that ‘Even if the Brits discovered him, trained and exposed him, and though he now fights for them, he is still our son’. It doesn’t really matter to her, that the same minister who led the UK delegation, purportedly on public funds, is the same man who declared before the entire world that the reason the Nigerian female football team, who had just won the African championship, had not been paid their entitlements, was because “he wasn’t sure they were going to win”.
Yet, Nigeria can hardly see how she contradicts herself; she castigates her citizens for attempting to escape their woes by going through the desert but turns around to blow the trumpet of those who succeed over there. Her leaders have lost too much touch with reality and to a large extent, common sense, to see that they are the chief promoters of emigration by any means necessary.
It really doesn’t matter to Nigeria that about 15,000 of the doctors she trained are now advancing other health systems globally, when some of her states cannot boast of more than 47 doctors. She doesn’t care that her finest academics have left town and her most influential columnists are writing from the comfort of organised societies.
For as long as she can share oil rents monthly, Alhamdulillah, nothing else matters. Nigeria doesn’t care if you end up pushing a wheelbarrow and doing menial jobs to survive like Etim Bassey, a former Olympian and Nigerian weightlifter does today. As far as you haven’t ‘made it’, you are worth less than the Nigerian Kobo.
Ayodele Adio is co-host of a radio programme in Lagos, Nigeria. This article was originally published by PremiumTimes.
PHOTO: The bodies of 26 young migrants arrive at the Italian port town of Salerno on Sunday. (Getty Images)