Mr President, I See Stowaways

Aug 02, 2017|Chukwuka Ezeh

Dear Mr President,

Greetings from Nigeria!

I hear you are feeling better with each passing day.

Your doctors will not talk to us (we do not even know who they are), and your spokespersons keep repeating themselves, but they don't always sound confident.

Together with every Green-White-Green loving citizen, I will keep on praying for your speedy recovery.

I did not hear from you after my last letter in the first week of July. It probably got mixed up with the stowaway on July 5th. Mr President, I hope you laughed at that joke, as I was referring to the recent stowaway aboard a Lagos-London flight. While I do not make light of such a serious matter, Mr President, I was curious as to why people embarked on such dangerous journeys until I stumbled across the history of stowaways. I hope you are proud of Nigeria, Mr President, she is the major contributor to what I call the Flight Stowaway Index (FSI).  

There is also the less prominent but very alarming group that flee our shores via the Mediterranean. And what of those driven to neighbouring countries (Niger and Chad especially) by the menace that is Boko Haram? So many people are discovering routes to run away from this country; a country that has given them little in return for their patriotism and unwavering hope of a brighter future. 

Mr President, I apologise as it just occurred to me that you may not be the only person to read this letter. Perhaps someone else may need to read it before handing it over to you. For their sake, I should clarify that stowaways are those people who sneak into hidden compartments of aeroplanes to reach their desired destination – in this world or the next

Now, back to business. Mr President, I was alarmed at the report until I understood why your citizens embark on such trips. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, forced to trek across the country. Whether it is the menace of Boko Haram ravaging communities, the yawning chasm of unemployment swallowing our youths, the scourge of kidnappings, the ethnoreligious wars in parts of the country or the vicious claws of cultism massacring entire families. Our country is on the move, and not in the least humorous or progressive way. No doting father will turn the other way as his children struggle and run away from home. Mr President, your citizens desperately need your doting. We do not even need personal replies to all our letters; we just need you to show up.

The country is falling apart, Mr President, and the Centre, under the Acting President, is trying its best to hold.

In your absence, another group rises to make things more difficult. This one has issued an eviction notice in the North to 'displace' some of our citizens. Ironically, the eviction date is our Independence Day. A day we celebrate the eviction of our colonial masters is set to be a date with destiny in some parts of the North. It is even more ironic that a similar declaration was announced about 50 years ago too, leading us to the saddening conclusion that, perhaps, little has changed in 50 years. I remember when General Gowon and his Council chanted and danced "No Victor, No Vanquished" in the compound in 1970 and promised restructuring. What a mirage!

Mr President, I find it odd to talk about elections just yet, as we are only two years into this Republic. To a sane individual, there are more pressing discussions to be had – the economy and how to bounce back, the anti-corruption fight, the bills on the Senate floor, the battle against insecurity, flooding, restitution for our IDPs, etc. However, people are already concerned about the 2019 elections. Two years into their tenures, some state governors have barely improved their constituencies, and yet, it will be of little surprise if the re-election war chests are already open.

This cycle of vote, complain, and repeat has left us in a rut. Maybe that is why we are all running away. We have become disillusioned. Our resilience, though a virtue, has become a curse to our beloved country. We 'accommodate' and 'manage' to the point of self-destruction. The next few months are very critical to our country’s survival. “We have been here before”, many will say, “and we survived”. But at some point, Mr President, we have to question why we always have to get to this place and pivot, instead of improving. We never entirely escape the breaking point, we just change direction and prepare for the cycle to repeat itself. 

Mr President, forgive my digression, I have strayed too far from the FSI. That is what happens when you want to talk about Nigeria. It is a feeling all too common with every Nigerian now. We are anxious, apprehensive, and worried about the future of this country. We are afraid of becoming the next negative headline, or even worse, becoming a tragedy which the media barely even mentions. We are terrified for our present, nervous for our children, and full of angst about the future.

Apologies, once again, I digress. 

I hope you receive this letter Mr President, and I anticipate your response. Important conversations need to be had. You promised us jobs and security two years ago, but we barely see or hear from you. Even after disasters and tragedies, the least acceptable response from you is a promise to fish out the perpetrators and restore our image. It's the least we expect.

This country is resilient, our gift and curse. We shall pull through.

We will continue to keep you in our prayers. Do get stronger and come back!


Yours sincerely,

Concerned Citizen No. 180,821,111.