Losing our past, groping into the future

Losing our past, groping into the future


Many Nigerians live in a bewildering world. They cannot make sense of their circumstances as poverty struts the land like a conquering giant with its Siamese twin, hunger, battling many to submission. With inflation at official 17.9 percent high, severe cases of malnutrition, last seen 46 years ago during the civil war, has made its unwelcome appearance especially in internally displaced persons camps. Nigerians grope around noiselessly, else they awaken their fears of the future.
An African proverb says if you do not know where you are going, you should know where you are coming from. We should know that a river that forgets its source is bound to dry up. We have forgotten our source. In order not to dry up, we must reconnect with our origins and marry it with our present in order to flow into a smooth future.
When my eldest brother was young, he was doing pole vault. Once, when he was air borne, the bamboo he was using broke under his weight. He came crashing back to earth with complicated bone fractures including his shoulder blade. The Orthopaedic Hospital concluded that he would have to live with some disability. Neighbours advised my mother to try traditional bone setters. She did, and he grew up with no deformity. That arm of traditional medicine is almost dead, as is the knowledge of curing lunacy. It is with a lot of efforts and foreign support that traditional midwifery is still alive.
We have fertile lands with very wide food variety and millions of unemployed. Despite this, according to the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Prof. Baba Abubakar, Nigeria is the largest importer of US hard red and white wheat, worth N635 billion annually; world’s number 2 importer of rice at N356 billion; we spend N217 billion on sugar and N97 billion on fish. An irony is that we have varieties of local rice which are considered by many to be more nutritional.
The textile industry was the largest employer in the private sector. Despite increasing population which need clothes and hence, a captive market, almost all the textile companies are dead. Same for the footwear sector in a country with 180 million feet needing at least, a pair of footwear.
When I was young, some homes in Lagos were regularly raided by the Criminal Investigation Department, what was then, the secret service, on the suspicion that they sold the local gin, ogogoro, which in the laws passed down by the colonialists, was ‘illicit gin’ attracting fines and imprisonment. In contrast, the sale and consumption of imported Schnapps was legal. It has the same chemical components like ogogoro and both are used to preserve local or European vegetable and or root-derived medicine. So while our gin was banned, imported gin was freely sold in supermarkets and stores patronised by the same police who arrest our people for selling ogogoro and the same magistrates who sent them to prison. It took a long campaign especially by social crusader, Tai Solarin to legalise the local gin, which until now remains unpackaged and without label.

Because we almost completely abandoned our culture of development including our traditional medicine, food and architecture, abandoned our knowledge and tried to learn only that of other people, and abandoned our

A gun is a weapon designed to discharge projectiles. All guns started as crude weapons before they were developed to their present state including machine guns. A vastly improved version was the gun with a wick tied to the hole which is then lit to ignite the powder. The most popular on our shores in precolonial times was a flirt lock musket sold mainly by the Danes, and became known as the Dane gun.
Given our mentality, until today, all guns produced locally are still called, Dane guns. While the rest of the world improved on their guns like the Russians producing and modernising the Kalashnikov designed in 1946 by Mikhail Kalashnikov, we criminalise local gun production even when we have old gun producing communities like the Awka blacksmiths.
Save for the foreign-built Defence Industries Corporation, the only period Nigerians produced their own weapons was during the civil war when the then Biafran rebels, mainly through their Research and Production Unit, manufactured their own rockets, armoured vehicles and anti-personnel mines. All these died in 1970 with the rebellion and the Nigerian military never inherited them.
Forty seven years later, when the country was confronted with the terrorist Boko Haram Sect, it had no good weapons to meet the challenge, and many died due partly to an arms embargo by the United States and its allies. It is this challenge that has led to the arms scandal or what is called Dasukigate.
Like arms, the Biafran rebels produced their own brake fluid, built their own refineries, which we are still unable to do in today’s Nigeria. In the Niger Delta today, thousands of people build crude but functional local refineries which are declared illegal and destroyed; yet, our oil rich country cannot refine its petroleum product needs. We have built beautiful structures fit for temperate regions while abandoning our traditional architecture, fit for our warm humid or dry climate.
We have built Nollywood with most of the films based on metaphysics in which foreign religions always overcome African religion. We practice Western democracy in which our primary duty is to sign off our sovereignty every quadrennial while the dominant political parties fight like spoilt brats, splitting the country, and, one side replacing.