How would one describe the rush to register for the National Identification Number handled by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, to get every Nigerian registered within a short time in the midst of a pandemic that has rendered cloistering of persons a treat to public health and safety?
I first came across the word absurdity as a little boy while I was reading a book written by the eloquent Father George Ehusani, titled, Nigeria: Years Eaten by the Locust. Amongst the plethora of books in the Library this particular book got my attention maybe because I enjoy reading about social justice and works on human development and societal transformation. When out of curiosity I checked up the meaning of the word, absurdity, I found out it simply means – ‘’a message whose content is at variance with reason; a ludicrous folly.’’ It could also mean any actions or utterances that are idiotic and laughable. It is not far-fetched to describe the day to day living experiences that form the world view, the polity of Nigerians, living in the country, as lethally ludicrous. Every facet of life in Nigeria seems to be a mockery. Absurdities have become phenomenon in Nigeria. It is convenient to describe Nigeria today as ‘a theatre of the absurd.’ The socio-political, religion cum economic realities we experience as a collective people are synonymous with the absurd plays of Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco, et cetera, who share the view that man is inhabiting a universe in which he is out of key.
Many Nigerians, especially our policy makers and stakeholders seem to be out of key. How would one describe the rush to register for the National Identification Number handled by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, to get every Nigerian registered within a short time in the midst of a pandemic that has rendered cloistering of persons a treat to public health and safety? This exercise enjoys a little bit of history. In 1977 the idea of a national identity Card was initially conceived and didn’t see the light of the day. In 2003 under the Directorate of National Civic Registration, DNCR, was initiated and it got about 54million Nigerians registered only to fail to meet expectations and was also hampered by allegations of corruption and embezzlement of funds. It is interesting to note that the NIMC came into effect again in 2010 and an initial budget of about 30 billion naira was appropriated in the 2011 budget yet no meaningful progress has been made. Why the sudden haste and rush to register Nigerians under conditions that are excruciating and incongruous to the new normal? The collation of identity card database is an ongoing activity. As advanced as the US is, the new administration of President Joe Biden has as one of her top agenda in her 100 days in office the collation and synchronization of database of her citizens in order to efficiently and swiftly provide and distribute the coronavirus vaccines.
The NIMC has a big venture it is venturing. We hope Nigerians cooperate by coming out to register for the NIN so that the benefits of the exercise would reflect in our socio-economic and political milieux. However there are so many challenges that would make anyone cast doubt on the success of this programme. A visit to some of the centres of registration leaves you with the option of ignoring the exercise. There is paucity of personnel and tools to efficiently register the teaming population available for registration. The reality is that in an entire local government you have just a single centre with a computer and printer. Most times there is usually no power supply. The staff rely on generator set to get power supply. You would hear them complain of no fuel as the generator has the habit of going off intermittently. Those to be registered would bear the brunt of this as the slip which is meant to be free would be paid for to provide fuel to run the generating set. If we have a deadline that is so short to obtain our NIN and get it linked to our various network providers at least the government ought to proliferate the centres, like we do have during elections, and get our National Youth Corpers as ad hoc staff. It is not impossible in a local government area to have the number of NIN registration centres equaled the number of polling units we have during elections. Oh, lest I forget, our political leaders are more interested in getting votes than in having a comprehensive database that would aid enhanced economic and security planning, amongst other things beneficial to the common man.
Leadership seems a laughing stock in our country! Our understanding of leadership is entitlement. We have leaders who are not public servants but Lords and Masters. They are best described as vaults- a strong room or compartment, often made of steel, for safe keeping of valuables. Leaders whose governing propensity is to store our collective ‘valuables’ for personal use. We have a crop of leaders who think about themselves only. A video of a certain First Lady recently went viral on the internet wherein she was receiving the Moderna Coronavirus vaccine. She revealed that of ‘their’ paramount interest is negotiating for a slot for the governor to come from Nigeria to have him vaccinated. She revealed this in an interview with the best of American ascent she could make up and it came out well enough. It is baffling that they are not concerned about the possibility of having vaccines for the masses they govern but are desperate in getting theirs. The leadership that the ‘Nigerian Democracy’ offers in our country gives credence to Francis Fukuyama’s questioning of the validity of democracy as the best form of government everywhere in the world. A democratic leadership that is faceless and voiceless in the face of harsh economic downturn; that is dummy in the face of senseless killings and outright disrespect for human dignity; that antagonizes voices that serve as critics; that thrives in lies, leaves nothing to be desired. The latest mockery our democracy recorded were the responses generated by the Christmas Message of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah among some Muslim Associations and the Nigeria Government. Bishop Kukah’s Christmas Message came on point; at a time when everything seems wrong with the goings- on in the country. It was a good message to wrap up the year that was replete with government insensitivity in the face of rising insecurity and social unrest, economic hardship, hoarding and looting occasioned by the pandemic, tribalism and favoritism in the country. For anyone or any association to have a problem with this message shows they are out of key; out of touch with realities that confront Nigerians or are just chauvinists and bigots.
The bishop asserts in his Christmas Message: ‘’the prospect of a failed state stares us in the face: endless bloodletting, a collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings, armed robberies etc.’’ This gory picture of Nigeria should ignite concern from everyone. Anyone who gives a thumbs up to the president and all those involved in the running of the affairs of this country at the moment is either profiting from the state of Dadaism we have been plunged in or he is dazed with tribalistic and fanatic ‘wine’. Their attitude is like this: once a leader is from our tribe and religion such a leader cannot make mistake and if he does you cannot criticize him. It is an absurd situation! We need ‘preachers’ like Bishop Hassan Kukah. If every cleric irrespective of the religion is enthusiastic about good governance and integral human development of the flock put in his charge our country would be better for it. Martin Luther King Junior said ‘’our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’’ We cannot turn deaf ears to the spate of kidnapping, banditry, arson, criminality that are prevalent in the country today. While clerics pray to God to intervene let them use their homilies to touch on these issues that stare us in the face. This is because the purpose of a homily is to provide insight into the meaning of the scripture and relate it to the lives of the parishioners of any given church.
It almost now appears that it is a prerequisite to be belligerent to live in Nigeria. You cannot get anything easily. There is no normal process. We live in a nation of ‘Marlians’! The rich, the poor, the mighty, the lowly, the educated and uneducated this has become our meeting point. We live in hostility. One would easily find people who for the slightest of reasons flare up and talk tough and angrily. Many Nigerians live a boisterous life. This is reflected in almost every of our institution of law enforcements. The police as an institution comes to mind because of the bad name it has earned for itself over the years by its brutality instead of been kind and gentle. The Nigeria society today would be best described as lawless and without order. It has become a way of life to be ruthless and be fierce.
We need to form the consciences of the younger generation if we would start to get things right in the future, and quality education is very necessary. There are millions of Nigeria who are uneducated. Many of those who are educated are poorly educated. Our educational system needs a total overhauling. We should upgrade the standard of our public schools and introduce curricula that deal on human development and formation, civic rights and duties, moral and spiritual formation. There should be courses on human formation and development in every level of educational formation. The family as an institution should be given attention to. There should be a ministry of family and it should ensure among other things that parents are responsible and should be able to instill discipline in all aspects of human formation. These are some of the difficult paths we need to walk to have a ‘New Nigeria’ – a Nigeria that is prosperous, safe and civilized. It is going to take time, money, sacrifice and commitment. Until then let us enjoy the plays of the absurd that we have all been subscribed to.
Rev. Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe
Assistant Director of Social Communications, Auchi Diocese