He is guilty
I dedicate this article to my reader Mal. Ilham Yunusa Esq. who wrote me saying, “It is the misdeeds of a brother or uncle that are responsible for the misfortunes which befall the main.”
Today, he is one of the oldest among the Northern youths. He was delivered into this world in the 1950s or early 1960s to a family in one of the rural areas, or perhaps, if nature was more generous, to the new elite families in the emerging cities of the North. Life might not have been easy initially as the region was still struggling to overcome a number of problems – particularly disease, lack of good shelter and dress, etc. – each of which had the capacity to return him back to the unknown. Luckily, he survived them.
Under the able protection of his parent and nature, he started growing until when, at the age of six or thereabout, he started to come into direct contact with the larger civil society and government institutions. If he was living in any of the rural areas, his parents might have reluctantly allowed him enroll into a primary school. This was in addition to the Quranic School, into which he was automatically enrolled and the going to which had already become a daily routine since he was five. However, if he was a mun gada – from any of the few working families in the cities – then the primary school was already part of the life scheme designed for him by his parents.
All the same, given the development policies of the Northern Region then, every preparation was made for a smooth takeoff of his development as a child in whom the society was ready to invest, hoping that when he matures he will have every cause to be grateful. To protect him against diseases, the region offered him free health care services. All that was needed was for his parents to be convinced that the hospital or clinic has something to offer to their sick child. Once there, everything was free.
In the primary school, he used to receive soap and pocket money in addition to free books and tuition. His teachers were dedicated to transforming him into a successful citizen that will one day be useful to everybody – an engineer, a teacher, a medical officer, an administrator, etc. To achieve this, the father, uncle and all other commoners were taxed at every opportunity and from every asset they had, including the infamous harajin maianguwa and jangali. He might have also benefited from UNICEF and other aid sources.
Gradually, his cognitive abilities were developed. He was taught how to read, write and keep a good hygiene. Through subjects like Civics, his mission as a citizen was clearly defined. Learning became his practice, service his desire. How happy was he when, after seven years, he passed the common entrance? He was restless. He was sleepless. Then came the ‘interview’ day, a day that will determine what the rest of his life would look like. How happy was he, when his admission came out later, without lobby or bribe, that he has passed into one of the secondary schools or the teacher training colleges in one of the provinces? Out of joy, his heart was ready to burst, his smile as wide as it could ever be. He was finally free from the ‘hoe and plough’.
As in the primary school, he was given everything free in the secondary school or the teacher training college he was just admitted into. Free set of uniforms, free accommodation, free facilities, free books, free whatever. He might have even enjoyed free transport money to and from the school whenever it went on vocation or reopens there from. There he underwent a routine that was designed to make discipline, obedience and service his habit. He was taught how to be time-conscious and punctual at everything: in cleaning his hostel early in the morning; in attending the assembly; in his classes and dining hall; at his siesta, games, prep, bed check and lights-out. He was taught how to be obedient to his teachers and seniors, considerate to his mates, and compassionate to his juniors. He was the emerging leader in whom the resources – human and material – would be entrusted. He was also taught how to manage resources carefully for the benefit of coming generations, just as he benefited from the prudence of his predecessors. The books he used were earlier used by many generations of students and were meant to be used by succeeding ones.
All this was done without consideration to his family background. It was purely based on merit. After five years, he was able to graduate from the school or college, ready either to proceed to the HSC or take an appointment as a Grade II class teacher or a clerk in one of the few regional, provincial and native authority offices. Alternatively, he might have joined the federal service, representing his region at that level. He might have joined the military where he would receive the further regimental training necessary that would qualify him with the greatest trust of defending the nation and its institutions from perfidy and abuse.
Whatever institution it was he joined, he must have had a smooth career, with promotions as scheduled and in-service training programs at every given opportunity that naturally come his way. He must have had the opportunity to work in the sixties and early seventies under disciplined superiors that believed in honesty and dedication. The opportunity was there for him to serve, learn, copy and practice. He might have started, most probably, with a promising step, imitating them in every aspect of the job.
If he had passed his school certificate, the path was softened for him to sit for further examinations like the HSC or its ICSA version – IJMB – that was introduced later as part of a strategy for bridging the gap between the North and South, and the passing of which must have automatically qualified him into the university. He did not need to see anybody for admission. He simply needed to apply for a form and it is sent to him free. He would only include a N5.00 money order when returning it. He did not need to care about sending his results, if he was yet to sit for the exams. The university would take the pain of checking the master list and filling it for him later. He might have even been admitted with only a mock-result, pending the final result outcome. Suddenly, one day, on the pages of the New Nigerian his name appeared in the admission list. How great was his delight! He will one day be a graduate.
He arrived at the university, overwhelmed by the size, profundity and universality of its community. But he was from a poor country family. No. He did not need to bother. An arrangement was already in place. The system was working. His state awarded him an automatic scholarship. But a delay was inevitable due to some slight paper work that was necessary and possibly an interview to confirm his person and so. Poor boy! He hadn’t a dime. What to do? The university gave him a bursary loan, pending the arrival of his scholarship allowance called ‘Bulgaria’.
At graduation, a job was already waiting for him, with a service package that included an official vehicle, a personal car loan, a furnished house and an array of house workers. He enjoyed these facilities whether as a classroom teacher, a university lecturer, a military officer or a civil servant. His promotions were never delayed, his entitlements never stopped. If he chose to be in the private sector, he was willingly patronized as a consultant or a contractor for one project or another. He reached the top by the electric lift that opened as it sensed his graduation. A ladder was too manual: it was a burden that he was saved from shouldering by the founders and managers of the system then.
Now time might have passed, twenty or thirty years since he took his first appointment. His initial years appeared promising. He might have started by practicing the egalitarian theories he learnt in the university, that people are born equal. So any discrimination must be resisted; the interest of the community must come first. He might have even attempted to be a revolutionary, believing in his piety and the resolve that he could change the world, single handedly or with the assistance of his comrades. He could still recall every public lecture he attended at the university theaters, featuring various campus revolutionaries. But gradually he had to contend with change. He realized that the world was in motion. The society, with its intricate network of responsibilities and expectations, gently pushed him to change and move, in resonance with the world. The economy might not have been able to fulfill its promise of good and easy living that it accorded his elders. He could also have been also a victim of the contradiction between his old revolutionary principles, on the one hand, and the new ones that he gradually acquired from the rough theater of life that is full of scarcity and competition, on the other. He gradually moved from the former to the latter, before finally transforming completely into a conservative.
Today, while still a youth, he is far away from his revolutionary ideals and the cause his society wanted him to fight when it first brought him out of the woods. He a continent apart from the ideals he leant at the college or university. He is today an epitome of unimpressive features. He has replaced community interest with gross selfishness, hard work with laziness, and building with destruction.
His vision is no longer beyond his self and his immediate family. He sees the support he earlier enjoyed from the society not as an investment, which he should endeavor to make fruitful or repay, but as a right. If he is active, either in public or on his own, that is because the activity will yield a monetary dividend. Otherwise, he is lazy and nonchalant, even if the survival of his entire region is threatened and the livelihood or freedom of his children is jeopardized. He has chosen to destroy and abuse the egalitarian institutions put in place by his predecessors and from which he immensely benefited in his formative years. He is corrupt. He extorts the weak and the strong before he renders any service. He has no regard for the check and balances that gives equal opportunities to citizens and maintains standards and orderliness in the system. He can sacrifice anything, except his greed.
He is not ready to make life better for his parent community. Its people are a problem from which he must run away. The city – the epitome of selfishness and greed – is his new abode and identity. He is not ready to look once again in the direction of the home that produced him and see if a small fraction of his wealth, knowledge or experience will push it a step away, no matter how short, from its inundating ignorance, disease, poverty and unemployment.
No. Given the chance, he does not care to block whatever is meant for them. He is ready to sell them, together with their labor and resources, to others, just as his grandfathers were traded-off into slavery by the heartless merchants of our dark past.
He is the average northern youth of today. His preoccupation with the wealth – real or illusive – has driven him even away from his family. He does not care, whether he is busy or not, to pass his skill to his children. He will not make effort to educate them when today the public facilities he once enjoyed are no longer there. If he had endeavored to leave behind a child or two that are as skilled as himself or better, if he had given them a semblance of the attention he once enjoyed from his parents, if he had fulfilled the promises he made in the university or earlier in life, if... if, the society would have had no cause to blame him. But he was immobilized by his horrendous desire for wealth or by his unholy romance with laziness and sleep. Yet he expects to be honored with leadership. No. No.
God, my generation is sinking, as did the one immediately before it. We have sinned.
We are guilty.