It was about 6:25 pm on a Friday evening, I was the last person to board a vehicle which was headed for parent and immediately my own son Qalb Saleem came to my mind. I smiled.
Kaduna from Berger Junction in Abuja. My destination was Kano, but often I have to break the journey into two halves. I was going for the weekend to spend some quality time with my wife and two kids. The vehicle was a five-seater Peugeot 504 station wagon. I sat at the back seat and psychologically prepared myself for the journey ahead, which usually lasted between 5-6 hours. There was a woman holding a cute little baby girl who was peering at me over the woman’s shoulder. I reached out and touched her little hand, experiencing the joy only an innocent child gives a
As is usual in public interstate transport vehicles, the passengers started a conversation with the woman being very vocal and highly informative. The subject was the newly ventured into political dispensation. How Obasanjo is daring the devil himself by his purge of the military. How ‘Yar ’adua, Aboila, Sani Abacha and Tunde Idiagbon were all poisoned in order that peace might prevail in the country. The looting and raping of the country by Babangida, Abacha and his cronies Gwarzo, Ani, Dalhat, the various ministers and military governors etc. Babangida’s role in the death of Dele Giwa as well as his legitimizing and legalizing corruption during his eight years of diabolic misrule. It was entertainment. The woman raised her little daughter to her eye level, kissed her and said to her “My dear grow up quickly and chop their money too, you hear. No chop too much o, but chop wipe mouth, na yim fine pass. Nobody go know, even if dem know, dem no go fit do anything.” The baby just looked at the mother without comprehending a single word. Thank God.
All this while I was quite, enjoying the gist, smiling at the flow of words from various contributors as the vehicle kept swallowing the white paint marks that divide the road on our side of the dual carriage way.
As the journey progressed, the discussion metamorphosed into religion. Miracles became the central topic. Someone was saying only miracle and prayer can change the country for the better and put it back on track. The woman (who was the only female in the vehicle…Oops except for her little daughter) said, “Believing in Jesus is the only answer” as she described how a pastor in one church confessed about his life as a former armed robber. That a bank manager defied their bullet shots due to his strong faith in the Lord. In fact he dialed the police and got them arrested single-handedly. He even took the trouble to visit them in jail and preached the gospel. This made the armed robber gave up his life of crime and became born-again. Now he is a pastor.
A passenger who was sitting by the door to her right expressed disapproval of the manager’s behavior as he could have endangered other people around him, since the incidence took place in a bank. He informed further that he was once involved in an armed robbery attack and vividly described how gruesome the ordeal was and how horrible and mean the robbers can be. So he advised that the best thing is not to tempt fate, but try and save your life, for you are more valuable alive than dead to yourself and your family.
The man sitting to my left joined in by saying that miracles occur only when and if there is a need for them. He cited the case of Daniel in the lion’s den, Moses and the Israelites at the bank of River Nile, pursued by Pharaoh etc. That such risky dare to armed bandits, who are usually high on hard drugs is usually ill-advised.
I was eventually interested enough to become part of the discussion, as I informed about an editorial report I read just that afternoon about a pastor who declared that his brother’s wife was evil and that he has been given “divine inspiration” to kill her. So he plotted and carried out the execution. The police promptly arrested him of course.
We all unanimously condemned such acts and their propagation without a word or two of caution. To which the woman also said, “Ah! I dare not do such a thing o, if, God forbid, I ever get attacked by robbers. I will just do what they ask me to do jeje .” She then brightened up our moods by telling us a story of a woman who was robbed of N100, 000.00 at gun point inside her house by a group of robbers. As they were leaving one of the robbers opened her refrigerator and discovered a pot of fresh fish pepper-soup and declared its presence. So the robbers decided to enjoy the soup before they go. Trust women to make an issue out of nothing. She quickly got up and shouted “Ehn, ehn abeg abeg make una leave the pepper-soup jo. Una don carry my money, that one never do! Una still wan eat the remaining food wey dey for house. So una wan make I die, abi?” So the armed robbers burst-out laughing and left the pepper-soup for the woman. We, in the vehicle also busted out laughing. It was really nice, this life of the ordinary, everyday people.
I was lost in my own thoughts for a while as the journey continued, then I heard the same man by the door in the middle seat abusing youths, saying something about their engagement in all things evil, cruel, merciless, deadly, wasting and so on. That during their own time, things were not like this. They were very respectful to elders. And their focus was what they want to achieve in life. “Look at these students in the university for example,” he continued, “so so into cults. Once out in the society, they are just becoming armed robbers. Why can’t they go and find some work to do instead, they just engage in the use of weapons to rob and kill innocent people. The girls are busy in Europe prostituting. That is all they know, having a good time without working for it.” He informed of a boy who was just 13 year old who once said, “’I just want to grow up quickly and be just like daddy. I will drink, carry a lot of women and enjoy myself’. Just 13, can you imagine?”
Sitting at the back listening, being a youth myself I couldn’t help, but come to our defense. So I asked him “Whose fault is that the youths are doing what they are doing?’ Like any typical Nigerian, he answered back. “Whose fault? It is the youth fault of course.” I then said “No, it is not their fault. It is your fault, the elders of this country.” I went further to say “Let me ask you, as a representative of your senior generation, without any intention to be disrespectful; under what kind of conditions were you people trained? How did you, the elders attend universities during your time?” He kept quite. So, I answered for him. “You were given all the best that life has to offer. You were given HOPE and CONFIDENCE. You were provided with quality food, decent accommodation, a room to a student, your clothes were dry-cleaned during the weekends. For most of you, brilliant or not, jobs were waiting for you upon graduation. A car and a 2 or 3-bedroom flat were part of the remunerations and soon as you start on the job, you are entrusted with very sensitive responsibilities. Three months later, you have forgotten about your furniture and other allowances, looking forward to a housing loan. It was worthwhile going for a degree, for you automatically know your future is secured once you graduate.”
By now all ears were on my words. I went further, “Please tell me why did Herbart Macaulay, Ajayi Crowther, Ahmadu Bello Sardauna, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe etc, took the trouble to do all that they did for you and this country? Tell me?” I was virtually excited now. “Is it not so you people can do better for us the younger, up-coming generation, the youths, than what was done for you? Is it not so you can make things better than the living condition than you received? Or was it so during your time? Now tell me, what have you as our elders of today, done with your knowledge, your education? Which of the above question can you comfortably say you have done for us the youths?”
The man remained silent. I took a deep breath and said. “Let me remind you of what you people did, since you don’t want to talk. You left the university and forgot why you went there in the first place. Which was to create a better society than the one you lived in, a better tomorrow. You abandoned all the responsibilities entrusted to you. You left your wives, our mothers with the burden of morally raising the children and feeding the family, you inclusive in some instances. Leaving the child of 4 or 5 to feed and fend for himself/herself off the street by whatever means. You joined secret societies, so that you can live the lies you so much craved, but could not afford. As government servants, you engage in nothing most of the time, but looting the resources that is supposed to be used in developing us, for the future.”
“Take a close look at what Kanu of the ‘2 Million Man Match’ fame, Muhammad and Ibrahim Abacha family issue, Italian prostitutes deportees and lately ‘The Buharigate’ saga. You will discover that it is the elders that have set the most evil examples and encouraged these youths to copy. Aha! Also the 13 year-old who wants to grow up and be like his father?” At this point the man interjected, “So relaxing and enjoying oneself after a hard day’s work is now a crime isn’t it?” I followed up. “You tell me which would you prefer, such a child or one that says the same, but this time referring to a father who is a responsible incorruptible Chief Judge in the Federal Civil Service. Please tell us?” he again kept mum. The driver who was listening chipped in. “My broda na true you dey talk o.”
“So now you can see, you are the root cause of our problems. You the elders of this country have done the damage and now you are blaming the youths that innocently deserve much more than they have been offered. I regret to say this and please do forgive me, but the elders have betrayed the youth of this nation. We expected much more, but have been given so little, almost next to nothing. Yet you still blame us. You don’t believe in us, because you failed to believe in yourself and your ability to create the much desired change that should have resulted in a better society.”
“Youths now have to educate themselves; that is, if they are lucky their faith in themselves and in their future is still intact. Upon graduation they have to seek for employment, which might take 2-3 years after NYSC in most cases now, before they succeed. When they do, the pay package is barely enough to keep mind, body and soul together. At work their ideas are never good enough, “Childish,” that is what their superior would describe them. Nor are they responsible enough to be entrusted with anything worthwhile. This, apart from the fact that, they constitute one of the lowest paid workers in the world, in a country where if a N130 million is shared among 100 million Nigerians, each would take N1million. To think that billions of Naira looted from the country’s treasury were boldly turned back to the government, who still could not find enough evidence to prosecute the looters! Oh! Mind you, both the looters and the people in governments are, that is right, our elders. You know it is only in this country, Nigeria you see a university graduate still not sure of a secured future, faced squarely by poverty even after acquiring a good degree.
Who are the landlords in our country today? The elders. When the youths close for the day after a hard day’s work, they retire into an over-priced, barely affordable apartment (considering their lean monthly salary), if it has to be fit or decent enough for living. If not, they end up renting a rat-infested, under-maintained one-room apartment. Plus a daily dose intimidation and harassment from another elderly caretaker as “gyara”. Also in Abuja more than 70% of the residential buildings are unoccupied, why? Because the owners, our older generation, have refused to be patriotic enough to make them affordable to the teeming youths working and living in the Federal Capital City. Yet there is constant complaint about lack of accommodation in Abuja. What more do you want to me to say?” I concluded.
He kept quiet for a while before he said, “Ok, so there is problem, now what is the solution?” I replied. “Solution? How can you ask me for the solution? You created the problem, you should find the solution and please slow down in condemning the youths of this nation.” Once again he was silent before he declared, “I don’t know what to say. I have never looked at it from this angle. But I must admit that we have done the youths quite a substantial amount of damage. As for a solution, I really don’t know what to say.”
“May be , we will have to wait for God Almighty to recalls you all, for the process has just begun and weather you like it or not you must answer His calls as we must too. So if you like, do the very best you can to address the problems, before you go or else our conscience will be on you when death ultimately comes to you guys for the final ride. As for our generation, I believe the change will and must start from us. We hold the formula to a bright future. A lot of sacrifices must be made by the youths; ill-equipped and ill-prepared as we are. We must start a re-orientation of our minds, bodies and souls to deal with the moral decadence we have been allowed to dive into by our elders, by the society. I say this because as children, our parents at home and elders in the society constantly controlled our actions and reactions. What we saw, we copied. Now look at where we are today. We must not forget that life is a circle, so what our own children see from us, they will in turn copy.
“Madam” I called on the woman, “the future of this country lies with this generation.” I pointed at the little child who was now suckling from the woman’s breast. “But the foundation must be laid by you and I. we must not accept that it is too late for us. We must try our utmost best to salvage what is left of our generation. We must not let our children; their grandchildren grow up to cherish evil like we are encouraged to. Please don’t pray for her, that devilish prayer I heard from you earlier. But rather educate her, raise her morally up-right, teach her to respect her person and her heritage and show her the way of the righteous and insist she follows it. For they surely “shall inherit the earth.” The woman smiled and said “Thank you, I will try my best.”
By now the journey was over. It was raining fit to drown a duck when we arrived safely at Kaduna about 8:20 pm by the Grace of God. The passengers of the crocodile city disembarked at various bus stops, from where they would take other rides to their individual homes, into the arms of anticipating families. As for me, there is yet another 2-3-hour journey to Kano. I dropped at Kawo Motor Park and boarded another vehicle, into the midst of another set of everyday people to continue into the night.
Tijjani Muhammad Musa