Just one of the three critical problems facing Nigeria right now would easily crush governments in other countries, but the Nigerian system is too resilient to crumble.
Government officials have absolutely nothing to worry about, because the country is on autopilot.
It is run on prayers instead of governance and public administration.
For weeks, three serious threats have hit Nigerians simultaneously.
Public universities are closed.
Motor fuel is scarce.
Public electricity supply has collapsed.
While the extent and rapidity of the decay of our society is extremely appalling and depressing, Nigerians are hardly appalled or depressed.
We are accustomed to suffering. A life like this is unable to faze or darken the people’s spirits. We can have fun under a collapsing roof.
When we suffer, we are smiling.
In the middle of the extreme hardship we share a laugh. Our best witticisms are reserved for the hard times, such as the current jokes about slapping others.
Who remembers that the national electric grid has collapsed or that students are doing nothing?
The news is all about the fiery Ebelechuckuwu Obiano and combative Bianca Ojukwu’s public slapping championship in Anambra State.
The contestant celebrities were the story at an official state event, where attention was drawn away from a fine speech by the former governor of the Central Bank, Charles Soludo, who had apparently burned the night candle to talk as the new Governor of Anambra State.
Instead of the speech, the event was about the scuffle between two of the state’s most powerful women.
For days, the news was about the fight, rather than the inauguration. Another Nigerian preference for entertainment.
The Nigerian sense of humor is an antidote for depression, for if the average person were left to his peril, he would become insanely dangerous to public health. Seriously, an average Nigerian would have become too lethal to be allowed to roam.
The ability to laugh under tremor is why Nigeria has not exploded. It is why in spite of serious challenges, we can continue to exchange the slap jokes.
We are being saved by our sense of humor against huge problems that are not being tackled.
Our challenges as a people are gargantuan. They are so huge that in some places, the government would be in a panic. In a parliamentary system, the conditions in Nigerian life today would warrant an early election.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, just a 100-kilometer stretch of highway has been under construction by four presidents. Electricity supply has been budgeted for 22 years and the problem has gotten worse. We could go on and on about how we cannot solve very simple problems.
While the wife of a governor and another high-placed woman were dueling in public, and basic institutions were falling apart, the President was chilling out in a foreign country with – I can imagine – his emblematic toothpick stuck between his teeth in a “what’s that got to do with me” posture.
With the president out of the picture, metaphorically and literally, Nigerians were left to moan and groan, but they chose to laugh at it all.
Starting with energy, the national electricity grid collapsed twice within two days, throwing the nation into darkness.
Businesses and families cried out, but who could help them beside God? Only God helps Nigerians!
Without electricity there is no production. And without production there is no prosperity. Not that it matters, since the government routinely declares two or three days of public holidays to celebrate religious festivals. Real economic production is foreign to Nigeria as its president.
Before the electricity problems emerged, Nigerians were already suffering from the scarcity of petroleum products.
Airline operators had already signaled it could get to a point where their aircrafts would not be able to fly.
Again, some Nigerians turned the scarcity into an entertainment. In one case, a socially-prominent woman in Lagos State gave out plastics of petroleum as souvenirs at her party.
Reports indicate the scarcity was caused by a registered oil company which imported adulterated petroleum for the Nigerian market to consume.
The domino effect of the criminal acts by people who were certainly well connected was that as the bad products were being withdrawn, fuel became really scarce.
It is an open secret that Nigeria subsidises oil products for nations surrounding it, because connected Nigerians use the national subsidy to supply nations as far away as Sudan in an illicit market that oils the engines of the kleptocrats
The government’s response? No one can complain because this is the first time this would happen under this administration.
World events then followed. Nigerian, an oil-producing country, had become an oil-importing nation because of corruption and bad governance.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine spiraled into a global oil price increase. Nigeria should have welcomed the scarcity, but since the country taps into the international market for its own consumption, it suffered from the shortage instead of gaining.
Rising prices on the world market meant that Nigeria has to pay more in hard currency to meet local demand.
Mind you, local demand is not limited to the Nigerian market.
It is an open secret that Nigeria subsidizes oil products for nations surrounding it, because connected Nigerians use the national subsidy to supply nations as far away as Sudan in an illicit market that oils the engines of the kleptocrats.
Nigeria’s estimated real demand is estimated at 35 million liters per day, but it buys double the amount, throwing away tax payer’s money to fund an illegal export market created by and for leeches in government and their cronies.
Nigeria is not only a society that produces far below its potential, it is also a demoralized geography.
We have managed to create a nation in which depression is hard to detect and the people are crazily happy while in an apparent material deterioration.
I keep saying this, more than 80 per cent of Nigerians are living in abject poverty and 12 per cent of the world’s poor are our relatives.
We need no further evidence that things are not getting better for the greatest majority of our people.
Apart from energy issues, millions of students are idling away at home because university teachers are on strike – again.
Most Nigerian students in the university attend public institutions and the union of university teachers, the Academic Staff of Union of Universities (ASUU), is synonymous with labor action, not by its own wish but through conditioning by the government.
For far too many years, the universities have been closed because ASUU has a legitimate grouse with the government. One of such disagreements is active now.
The Federal Government, true to its character, has failed to adhere to a contract with university teachers. So, ASUU went back to bed. University students often graduate one or two years longer than expected.
That is life in Nigeria, except for those who can afford the expensive alternatives.
What does it tell us when our own government would not honor a contract? A government that has no regard for agreements has no contract with the Nigerian people. It does at it wishes.
Nigeria is no longer a society that runs normally. The inconceivable is now quite normal and real.
We no longer have what could be described as a government because the administration remains stable, regardless of the magnitude of problems the people face. It is irresponsive to its environment.
The government and its people are running in a parallel, in which the government is never in trouble no matter the intensity of the issues the people face.
That is where we are.
I am not at all sure if it is the prayers of Nigerians that is working, or if the prayers have actually failed and the plane is just moving unpiloted.
We have no electricity, there is no oil to power generators we shouldn’t even have needed and our children are sitting in the darkness at home.
Yet, politicians and public officials are not bothered to get on the television to explain what the heck they are doing to make life easier.
There are no inquiries in the national assembly, heads are not rolling and everyone is going about their businesses with an air of despondency.
What kind of nation are we left with, when we have three serious problems which nobody cares to fix?