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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dear Nigeria, Show me you're worth it

Grandma Ige

Technically Kayode, Ayotunde and I aren’t related yet we tell everyone we’re cousins. Our grandparents were best of friends, our mothers the same. There was a period they lived together and have been around each other pretty much since birth. If anyone is family, they are. Within my family setting, Christmas day is spent with my maternal side and New Year’s with my paternal side. On the 23rd of December 2001, a day after my beloved Aunty Funso’s (their Mum) birthday the man she called her father (Bola Ige, then the Nigerian Minister of Justice/Attorney General) was no more. He was shot by assailants in his own home where they happened to be visiting. The next day, as soon as we could, we were off to Ibadan, bringing forward our plans to go on Christmas day.

I was just 9 years old but it touched me more than others. It made me shudder that my darling cousins had been present whilst their grandfather and hero was killed. I can’t imagine the mental scars they live with. At the time, the whole nation had some indication of who was behind it. It seemed preposterous that his police details were out for dinner when the killers struck. Days before, at the Ooni of Ife’s palace, the Osun state Deputy Governor Iyiola Omisore who was then in a dispute with then AD* family alongside a local thug, Fryo (Bisi Akande was the Governor at the time. During Ige’s tenure as Governor of old Oyo in the 2nd Republic, Akande was his Deputy) had accosted Chief Ige threatening him whilst Fryo had the temerity to take remove his native cap. Fryo and Omisore both spent some time in prison but the case was bungled and Omisore would end up winning a senatorial seat. Only in my darling Nigeria, could such a thing happen.

Grandma Ige was a star in the following years. My Grandmother Onalaja left the world a year after Chief Ige and it was also unexpected. My Grandfather and her were quite close in age( If I’m right, she was a year older) and happened to be Court of Appeal judges around the same time so they had similar schedules. Every weekend, she would come and spend time with us, buying us tubs of Blue Bunny, watching us play ludo and giving us money. As I think about it, I guess it was some form of therapy: spending time with her bosom friend (My Grandfather) and his family who could relate to some extent the pain she was going through. It also meant she didn’t have to spend all her time at home dwelling on her misfortune. Grandma Ige had my heart. She was a kind soul who was always there for us. (My parents tell me of a funny incident when as a kid she took me out for lunch to some high end restaurant and I sat in my chair and demanded “Omi isonwo” before I tucked in. Safe to say, she was quite embarrassed). Not too long after the case was messed up, she went to join her Maker. As a retired judge she understood the process and knew getting justice for the death of her beloved husband would be nigh on impossible. That must have hurt.

Kayode and Ayotunde are beautiful kids. Kayode is the best big brother I could ever ask for. When no one believed in me, he made me work harder and offered numerous ideas that have helped me reach this stage. He introduced me to people and insisted I buy my own domain name in order to stand out and ensure people understood I was serious about my craft. Ayotunde is an amazing sister. When things go wrong, I’ll run to her.  As kids we were constantly at each other’s throats,but  today if I need a quick meal, she’s the first person I’ll call.  They embody unconditional love, in thought and in deed.  Kayode’s taken a keen interest in Politics. He is super passionate and has taken steps in ways the average youth would not even dare. In an era where Twitter Activism is rife, he walks the talk. In 2011, as the National Elections took place he set up the website Shutterfeeds with the hope of encouraging  citizen journalism which would see people taking  pictures of the election process as they saw fit and uploading it on the website. The aim being; “to decipher what is propaganda and what is not whilst providing alternative individualistic news sources.” Of late, he’s been trying to make inroads into the political arena at grassroots level. He attends his ward meetings and is making plans to help the standard of living there. How a person who has suffered so much at the hands of this country has the bravery and willpower to take this step, I would never understand. But then again, he’s a greater being than I am. To say that he inspires me would be understating it.

My Aunty Funso is the strongest woman I know. When I had just graduated from high school, she introduced me directly to Kunle Ajibade (a relationship that would allow me get a couple of articles published in PM News). Like the metaphorical phoenix, she rises above the ashes. As a Law undergraduate, she wrote her exams whilst her father was incarcerated.  I wonder how she celebrates her birthday every year knowing that the following day marks the anniversary of the death of the man whom she wrote the book ‘He gave me wings’ about. We love our parents and never want to entertain the thought that they might leave us. To lose hers the way she did, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain she goes through. Despite all this, she has shouldered on and is currently playing a significant role in the moulding of a new generation through her school. I’m reminded of Olusegun Obasanjo’s assertion in 2004 that any Nigerian not prepared to die for the country was not worth of his/her Nigerian citizenship. I’m not sure how much of a sensible statement that was. Is Nigeria really worth dying for? How do you tell that to Kayode and Ayotunde after seeing their grandparents betrayed by a legal system they dedicated their lives towards upholding? When they try and explain the concept of patriotism to their kids, how do they do so without being upset at a country that hasn’t shown them love?  You see, we all love Nigeria. The Super Eagles gave us joy over the past month and reenergized us in some sense. However, I think the overriding feeling is that in its present stage, it would take a lot for us to sacrifice our lives for it. And this stems from the feeling that nothing would change. If Obasanjo and the political ruling class want us to die for it, perhaps they should do a greater job at inspiring us and making us feel that Nigeria is indeed worth dying for. As Okechukwu Ofili opines “Because a person is born in Nigeria, has a green passport and bears Chukwu or Olu or Mohammed in his name does not automatically mean he owes his country anything. A country has to earn its citizens respect and patriotism. I repeat that…a country has to earn its citizens respect and patriotism.” They should make us feel loved and important instead of demanding blind loyalty. Dear Nigeria, show me you are worth it.

*The Alliance for Democracy: an opposition political party particularly strong in South West Nigeria)

Originally published by the African Youth Journals

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