Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo and Chika Unigwe on "Our Borrowed Smile”

There is an Igbo adage which says that since Aneka the bird has learn how to fly without perching the hunter has also learnt how to shoot without targeting. It is in the same way that Nigerians have decided to fight corruption and impunity in our fatherland with all the available means. Some by protestation, some with Music while others have decided to use their God giving intelligence to pen down any idea that will help the World understand in which situation we are in. We have read many brilliant and scholarly prepared articles from prominent Nigerians denouncing the rate at which the present administration and all their Aliens are maltreating Nigerians in their fatherland.
The worst aspect of it all has been the fact that in-spite of the of the hardship Nigerians are going through, the so called Nigerian transforming government has vowed to suppress any type of manifestation of unhappiness. The government have just acted like a mother who beats a child and prevents him from crying.
This very article that I am sharing from the Sahara Reporters site is just one of those forms of crusades that I deem right making available to as many as possible. We adore men who decide to make changes in our society by participating in one way or the other in this noble crusade that aims at making Nigeria the very Giant of Africa she had woefully failed to be. The article reminds me also of the album of one of the first strong Nigerian activists who used his talent to make an impact in our society, great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Fela in fact foresaw all this when he sang SS, Suffering and Smiling.

Everything will fade... seeing and hearing, but first of all laughter."              – Wolfgang Hildesheimer
While preparing to interview Chika Unigwe for SaharaTV, I read again, Borrowed Smile - her award winning short story. In the story, a girl who has been working as a prostitute in Europe returns to Nigeria on holiday. She tells her parents that she works as a typist. Her parents pretend not to notice that she is lying so that they can enjoy the things she brought home with a free conscience.
Before January 1, 2012, many Nigerians have acted like the parents of the girl in Borrowed Smile. Many of us pretended that the lies the people who ran the affairs of Nigeria told were okay. Many of us pretended that it did not matter if they steal our commonwealth. Some of us even attributed the looting our rulers engage in as something sanctioned by God. We pretended as if their incompetence had nothing to do with our poverty.
Then, came January 1, 2012. On that day, President Jonathan more than doubled the price of petrol. What followed was the doubling of the cost of living. It triggered ‘the winter of our discontent.’ The protest and debate that ensued did not make the government to reverse the price of petrol to N65 naira. The government essentially took a chunk of the income of all Nigerians with a promise to build bridges and hospitals and power plants and refineries.
As a result, the scale has fallen off the eyes of many Nigerians who had been blind. The Nigerians who had been flashing borrowed smiles brought them to an end. For some Nigerians, it is no longer business as usual. Those rulers who have insulted Nigerians for so long are now subjects of intense scrutiny. Those who used to bow for them now bark at them. Those who used to beg to differ now bang and chant as a way to force the issue. Many Nigerians have finally realized that to hold public servants accountable you must cease to worship them.
The first high profile government official to notice the change was the Minister of State for Foreign Affair, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri. She came abroad to explain government policies to Nigerians in the Diaspora. In New York, she saw that the borrowed smile had faded.
A typical visit by a Nigerian government official attracts several characters. There are those who come with their resumes, job applications and proposals for projects and contracts. There are those who come to sell houses and cars to government officials. There are those who come to take pictures with the official and those who come to propose marriages to the children of the official. And there are those who come to hear what the government officials had to say as they weighed the option of going back home.
Before January 1, 2012, the likes of Mrs. Onwuliri would have been pampered wherever she went. Nigerians would have fallen over each other to impress her and satisfy her needs. They would have convinced local politicians abroad to give the visiting Nigerian government official a key of their city. After all the public events, behind close doors of expensive hotels, deals would have been struck. Typically, these would have been deals that fleece Nigeria the more. But the deals would have been welcomed as long as they generously benefited the government official.
Now Nigerians aboard are asking questions. They want to know- Who sent you? Why must you come? How much is your trip costing us? How many people traveled with you? What is the objective of your trip? Couldn’t you talk to Nigerians abroad by skype? How long are you staying? How much is the hotel where you are staying?
Nigerians are insisting that the rights of Nigerian government officials end where the rights of Nigerians begin. Nigerians are no longer afraid to humiliate those who have humiliated them for decades. Nigerians are no longer intimidated by stolen wealth, hijacked power and false Excellency.
There are still those who suck up to those in power. These yes-men will do everything within their means to preserve and fortify the privileges of the establishment. But the good news is that many of the people who were indifferent not long ago have woken up. Many are joining the league of the vigilant. With vigilance comes query. Queries like: Why are you running for chairmanship of the African Union when your house is on fire? How many people traveled with you to Addis Ababa? How much does it cost to fuel your official cars? How could you budget over one million naira to set up a Facebook account for your department?
A new normalcy is emerging. Those who have insulted the intelligence of Nigerians for so long are going to be greeted with insults at many quarters. Those who have disrespected the honor of Nigerians are going to be disrespected by angry Nigerians in places they least expect. Those who have abused the trust of the people are not going to get the often abused ‘benefit of the doubt’. The emerging conflict will lead to heat. And light.
Those who suffer and smile do so because they embraced the illusion of the borrowed smile. That illusion is crumbling. And so is the smile. The drum of justice is booming deep into the night. Many are lining up for the eternal struggle to build a fair society by exacting justice for all.
For the first time in many generations, the alternative to our rot is becoming attractive. If we sustain the alternative by maintaining the pressure, we may be able to limit the inglorious bullshit of our ignorable bastards.

Source: http://saharareporters.com/column/mrs-viola-onwuliri-our-borrowed-smile-rudolf-ogoo-okonkwo
''The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said''. ALISON.

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