Special times have always existed in the history of man. Generally, they represent periods of history connected with particular events or experiences in people’s lives. While some special times represent commemoration of specific milestones in the society, others represent specific dates when some historic events are celebrated; yet others represent periods of transition or entrenchment of eras in the history of a people.
Also, some special times are unique to particular climes while others transcend geographical divide. For instance, the end of a political era and the entrenchment of a new one represent special times in the history of every nation of the world. Towards the end of a political era, incumbent political leaders are engrossed with glamorous chronicling of their political feats. This they do either to facilitate their re-election or to inveigle a new party flag bearer into the affection of the electorate. On the other hand, the dawn of a new political dispensation is often characterized by the rhetoric of political slogans embellished with professions of selflessness and unwavering commitment to serve the people.
The Yuletide is another special time that is globally acknowledged. It is characterized by the frenzy of savouring the special activities, innovations and sensational lyrics that herald the season. The Yuletide is often regarded as a season of expressing and reciprocating goodwill, both via communication and practical demonstrations.
However, special times in the Nigerian sphere are often travesties of what are obtainable in other climes. For someone who has just recovered from a state of oblivion, perhaps one who has just been roused from a medically induced coma, the perception of some hallmarks within the Nigerian sphere could give them an insight into the prevailing season. Although our sphere is replete with a number of such special times, three of them often take the cake.
When you hear of a sudden let-up in the stringency of economic checks and balances; when you hear of plethoric handouts by the government to the needy at different forums; when you hear of sudden plummeting of the prices of some hitherto expensive basic commodities; when the airwaves suddenly become overwhelmed by jingles of political accomplishments; think about the era of a political transition in Nigeria. These are the major hallmarks of political transition in the Nigerian sphere. In reality, however, these acts are aberrations of the essence of political transition and, by extension, good governance. They constitute cynical manipulation of the sensibilities of the people, covert undermining of their fundamental human rights, and unfair capitalization on their vulnerabilities by the government.
It behoves a sensitive government to, among other things, facilitate the creation of favourable socio-economic conditions for individuals and corporate bodies; reach out to the needy through periodic distribution of relief materials to them; and attend to the general welfare of the citizenry. These represent the dividends of good governance to the populace. Shirking these social obligations to the citizenry, especially when the impacts of such services really count, is tantamount to doing them a great disservice. In the same vein, deferring these social responsibilities by the government with a view to deploying them to its advantage is sheer hypocrisy. Unfortunately, this is the situation in the Nigerian political landscape. The citizenry, being at the mercy of their government, are forced to pander to their ungodly whims and caprices.
Again, when the mass media become inundated with avalanche of circulars signalling looming warning and full-blown industrial actions; when major cities of the country start crawling with synchronized mass protests by labour unions; when compliments and goodwill messages to a political figure reverberates in the airwaves; in the Nigerian sphere, it is most likely the dawn of a new political dispensation. On the part of the labour unions, they often take advantage of this period to register their dissatisfaction with the outgone dispensation, while at the same time trying to compel the new political administration to live up to its campaign promises to the electorate.
This move clearly underscores the lack of faith in the country’s political configuration by the people. The compliments and goodwill messages often emanate from political sycophants and their cronies. They do these in order to inveigle themselves into the affection of the government of the day, not necessarily because they are well meaning.
The third set of hallmarks herald the Yuletide in Nigeria. They are so unique that their appearance during this special time is incontrovertible. When a sudden surge in the prices of basic commodities hits the market; when the fares of the various modes of transportation assume geometric increments; when crude oil marketers begin to issue industrial action threats to the government on trumped-up grounds; when fuel filling stations become taken over by long queues of vehicles, jerry cans and people; it is most likely the Yuletide in Nigeria.
Sometimes I muse, asking myself this heartfelt question: “Why are most Nigerian business men and women opportunistic profiteers?” The Yuletide is supposed to be a season when people can heave a sigh of relief from the hustle and bustle of daily engagements, and savour the euphoria of the season in tranquility. It is supposed to be a time when families can visit resorts, embark on picnics, and reunite with friends and loved ones both within and outside their vicinities without much ado.
Unfortunately, the scenario in Nigeria is a travesty of the real essence of the Yuletide. The euphoria that characterizes this special time is often marred by the ‘Nigerian factor’. Rather than being able to relish the season, Nigerian families are left groping for straws to latch onto in order to get out of the harsh socio-economic conditions created at the behest of the powers that be. Motorists and entrepreneurs spend hours, or even days, on queues at fuel filling stations owing to trumped-up scarcity of refined crude oil products.
While the masses groan under the influence of the negative socio-economic conditions that have become synonymous with the Yuletide in Nigeria, pockets of ‘powerful’ individuals capitalize on the situation to augment their wealth at the expense of their fellow citizens. This is the height of inhumanity. Nigeria is an interesting paradox- a nation endowed with enormous human and natural resources but can barely meet the basic needs of its people without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The time has come for us as a people to rise to the occasion. It is high time we stopped chasing ghosts and began to see things from the right perspectives. We must change the status quo for the better. This jinx of negative hallmarks in the Nigerian sphere has to be broken; and it is our collective responsibility to make it happen. There has to be a change in our psychical dispositions. Nigerians should jettison selfish tendencies, profiteering inclinations, and acts of inhumanity to their fellow citizens. We should embrace selflessness and display empathy for the less privileged. These should be the solemn responsibilities of every Nigerian- the government and the governed.