As the furies unleashed death, sorrow, annoyance, anxiety, class anger (and what have you?) on Nigeria last week, I kept remembering in my hideout the topic of a public lecture I enjoyed delivering in the 1980s and 1990s…The key to peace and happiness. My hideout was not a bunker, although at that time the house-to-house underground tunnels of old Egypt in the days of Moses and Ebranit fascinated me. Anyone who lived in Lagos then should remember the gales of armed robberies. I lived at 34 Ajanaku Street, Opebi, Ikeja. Young men who could number more than 200 could drive in a convoy of about 20 Bedford buses we called Molue into a neighbourhood and distribute themselves for house-to-house operation!
The house next door was attacked one night while I was away in Auchi to give one of those public lectures. The owner and her visiting younger sister were lucky. They got the Police in afterwards. The family relocated. But the Police continued to guard the property. About one week later, these boys returned, to attack, among other families, the family of expatriates who lived in an all-foreigners block of flats at the junction of Ajanaku and Alfred Olaiya streets. They raped the wife. The man and his raped wife flew to their home country that evening.
When one of the two policemen guarding the house next door inadvertently shone a torch on the robbers, the latter rushed towards the house, shouting in pidgin: “if you be Police, come out”. The Police retreated. The robbers attempted to climb the gate and take the fight to them. My bedroom was near where the policemen were hiding at the rear of the house. I overhead one complaint about the order:”I asked you to carry rifle, you carry pistol”. I was shaking uncontrollably. The Police fired a shot at the gate. The robbers fired back. Five minutes of gun battle stretched out like eternity. Happily, the robbers were recalled by their leaders. They did not wish to bite more than they could chew.
Another targeted home was that of a retired Army General. When they returned to Alfred Olaiya Street within the week, their target was the home of a bank manager opposite mine. They called out: “Manager, come and open the gate!” When he would not, they broke the fence with a sledge hammer. Many people assumed they were safe in a house fortified with bullet-proof doors. These boys were all sorts of construction workers (iron benders, bricklayers, carpenters etc.) who knew the security lapses of many buildings. They knew the blocks were sandy and hollow. A few sledge hammer blows created passage for them into the manager’s home.
Some Indians were not so lucky. Such were the experiences of many Lagos residents then that the vulnerability of our dwelling houses readily betrayed us.
As I hated to bear firearms even in self defence (how many people will you shoot?), my wife and I accepted the benevolence of my uncle-in-law who had a bakery on Adenubi Close, behind Allen Avenue, where he had an eatery named Bread And Butter. His benevolence was a single “self contained” room he reserved for his siesta in the bakery. How would we not accept the offer when, everyday at about 6pm, the estate became depopulated until the following morning, when “escapees” returned from their various hideouts to sneak in, bathe, and rush off to work. No one told anyone what was going on. You just knew you had to protect your life and that of members of your family as well. So, after the children returned from school, we rushed a meal and headed for the room on Adenubi Street.
Any softer word for what happened in Nigeria last week, especially at LEKKI TOLL GATE, Lagos? At that Toll Gate, unarmed young men and women protesting youth disempowerment, singing our National Anthem and waving the Nigeria flag at passers-by were fired at by yet-unidentified persons! Young people, angry over the years but who had no opportunity for collective expression, erupted in violence almost everywhere, hijacking the peaceful protests, extorting money, killing, maiming, looting and unleashing mayhem of untold proportion. In this situation, I remembered my dream of the 1980s and 1990s, the underground house-to-house tunnels of Egypt of old, the bunkers, and, of course, the title of my public lectures then…THE KEY TO PEACE AND HAPPINESS.
This lecture says that we cannot find, let alone enjoy peace and happiness in this great universe unless we know who we are, why we are here and behave ourselves accordingly. This recipe for peace and happiness is not for politicians or the leadership in any sphere of human activity alone. It is for the followers as well. Unfortunately, the school system hardly touches upon it anywhere on earth, while religion, too, is too distant from the correct answer to make meaningful impact on social life. People who have faint ideas about these questions struggle inwardly all through earthly life to advance towards a beacon of light and to sustain whatever understanding they glean there-from and nurture it to fulsome fruit in a stifling and suffocating bread and butter environment.
The bunker is that world in which we intuitively contemplate events and experiences, hoping intuition would ferry us beyond the boundaries of the intellect and emotions, to those “hills” and beyond them from where the Psalmist, King David, told us his help cometh.
Last week, I asked a group of angry young Nigerians: “DOES MAN MAKE HIS ENVIRONMENT OR DOES HIS ENVIRONMENT MAKE HIM? All of them said that man is conditioned by his environment and that the older generation is impoverishing the youth. But some budged a little when I asked: WHAT WOULD HAPPEN BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR IF,TODAY,THE GOVERNMENT SHARES NIGERIAS ASSETS EQUALLY AMONG ALL CITIZENS AND EVERY-ONE GOES AWAY WITH HIS OR HER SHARE,TO LIVE THE WAY HE OR SHE LIKES?
One of them remembered THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS by the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, some of us would be back to “square one in no time”. Didn’t THE PRODIGAL SON do that? The bottom line, which President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech or soothing balm could not effectively address is that POVERTY IN THE LAND or PLENTY is a SPIRITUAL QUESTION which only the individual can address. Some people know that Natural Laws govern the universe and irrevocably affect our lives as well. We did not create this Universe or ourselves. We are mere creatures and subject to THE WILL OF THE CREATOR. We speak of THE LAW OF THOUGHT. We know the spoken words can be beneficial or inimical, when we pray or curse for example.
Many young people today are angry and bitter and fail to recognize that they are part builders or destroyers of their society in thoughts, words, and deeds. The bottom line of such a lifestyle is that, IN THE LAW OF ATTRACTION OF HOMOGENEOUS SPECIES and in the law of Sowing and Reaping, Mother Nature brings to everyone the bountiful harvest of the seeds he or she has sown. When I encounter difficulties, I do not blame the other party. I ask myself how I got into the equation and then try to remove myself from it. I told these angry young men and women the experiences of two women in the KUSA GREEN PASTURES CHAT GROUP. The first is UDEME EDET JAMES, my House and Business Manager. She came over to me from GOSFAT, a private Nursery and Primary school at No 7, Tijani Street, near Iyana-Ipaja Bus-Stop, Lagos where, as an NCE teacher, she earned N12,500 a month. She is a good natured young woman, on whose tongue you are unlikely to find dirty words. Her heart is ever forgiving of any wrong done her. Sometime last year, this column featured a personal finance business from which anyone experiencing financial disempowerment could profit from investment as low as N53,200 or 106,400.
This column was titled PROTECT YOUR VISION WITH POWER (ENERGY) EYE GLASSES and posted in www.olufemikusa.com. Udeme James invested all her savings in it. About 12 calendar months after, she had invested a seven-digit sum in a plot of land. Mr Kunle Onifade, my 1964-68 class mate at Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, and a retired education ministry director in Lagos State is giving it a go. So is Mrs Mojisola Agbeyangi, who retired from Lagos State Ministry of Education as a director. She came to me after she read the post in Kusa Green Pastures chat group. A dynamic thinker and actualizer, Mrs Agbeyangi has discovered that life could be more meaningful in retirement than when in full time employment. Even my gardner, Micheal Adenola, a former NCE teacher, is doing well. There may be no fewer than one million Nigerians in this business.
The story I am trying to tell is what our forefathers in Yoruba land have told us…No matter what, if you pound yam in a mortar and cook soup in a groundnut shell, whoever will have his or her stomach filled will have it filled. Mother Nature is waving all sorts of opportunities before us, but many of us, out of spiritual poverty are not seeing this material benefit. Many people are risk freaks. Many are Doubting Thomases. Udeme James was not a doubter. She had no hatred for her country or its successful citizens. As a matter of fact, the proprietor fired her and did not tell her why. The fellow teachers she left behind are probably still smarting it out below N18,000 a month. Her story teaches me many lessons anew…it pays to not be agitated and to agitate no one, to be confident that, as one door is closing, another must be opening.
The Lord Jesus told us many people did not comprehend what they were seeing. That is the situation of many young Nigerians today. They hate their country. So, their country cannot give them anything. For their country is no more than a soil on which the seed of their thoughts were sown to sprout, flower and bear fruit for a bumper harvest of joy or sorrow, depending on the type of seed they sowed. That is why whatever money had been hurled at poverty had been unproductive. They have to learn to love and recognise that it is man who forms his society; the society does not make him. Those who believe the society is their undoing will never rise beyond that negative thought. Anyone who believes society is his or her undoing has not developed inwardly enough to be a master of his or her environment.
Creation stories talk about man’s dominion over his environment. The Lord Jesus Christ taught us man is not made for the SABBATH, but the SABBATH for man. We erroneously accused all policemen of the sins of a few and try to hack them all down. But what happened when the miscreants began to extort money, and invade our homes, burning, killing and maiming? We accused the police of not speedily coming to our rescue. In what ways were the looters across the country better than looting politicians and policemen?
A new world
Grammar education in Nigeria destabilised the thinking of my generation. We came out of the university, searching for ready-made jobs, not struggling to create jobs and become employers. Our children stepped into our shoes. Meanwhile foreign investment began to shrink and corporate jobs began to disappear. Who will bring these jobs back? The government tried to open the rice fields. But we prefer foreign rice which creates jobs in other lands. We prefer second-hand clothes which creates jobs in other lands. We want the borders reopened so we can smuggle in tomato paste and create jobs in other land when we are over producing raw tomato in Nigeria farms.
My fear for tomorrow is that while we may have no jobs today…we may have no country tomorrow. There is no village in southern Nigeria today where you would not find immigrants from Central Africa who look like northern Nigerians. The young people in southern Nigerian villages have either gone abroad or migrated to Nigerian urban slums where there are no jobs and there is a lot of suffering. Empty village houses in southern Nigeria are now occupied by Central Africans. We plan our families to smaller sizes. They still bear children like pigs and rabbits. These are the people who will vote in elections and out vote us in our home land.
They will be anchorage in our land for their kith and kindred who will also fall upon us, and the land will be gone, for the land belongs to whoever cherishes and lovingly tends it. The Jews left their land and lost it to the Arabs. But for the Balfour Declaration of 1948, which forcibly took it back for them, the Jews would not have had a homeland today. My generation has not mentored the young ones well enough. It is not too late to do that. We must get them to understand that MAN MAKES his environment as our forefathers taught us. Here is a point on which we can engage the youth for a better Nigeria…
Our land is chaotic because we are cow meat lovers. Can we not do away with red meat over which our farms are rampaged by cows, our crops are devoured and our people killed and maimed? According to several industry sources, Lagos megalopolis alone consumes an average of 8,000 to 10,000 cows everyday at prices which hover between N150,000 and N250,000 per table size cow. Bigger cows sell for up to 400,000 each. That could be between N1.2 billion and N10 billion the city pays everyday for cows, the meat of which in return gives the consumer elevated blood cholesterol levels, heart disease and heart attacks, stroke, especially colon cancer. Can we not deconstruct this story in favor of young people? Can we not mount a campaign that red meat kills?
Can we not run a massive campaign that lavish wedding and funeral parties, for example, drain the city and the region of capital for investment to create jobs with multiplier effects? Can we not mount a campaign that the Hindus of India do not eat cow meat and are nevertheless healthier than we are? Can we not encourage, through loans, our young people to return to the villages to farm grass-cutter, rabbits, goats, snail, periwinkle etc. to replace red meat on the dining table? If we achieve a shift from red meat, and cows do not sell as they do today, will the cow merchants from outside Nigeria not leave our farmland and farmers in peace? Only fools will not defend a N10 billion daily business with AK47 rifles. The business will go away on is own only when you stop eating cow meat.
On this page, I often tell the story of a young man in Edo State. He ran against Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of ThisDay newspaper, in an election which he lost. He quit politics thereafter to launch an NGO to which he invited me and made former Bendel State Governor Samuel Ogbemudia chairman. Together with him, we met former President Shehu Shagari in Abuja to make him National Patron. Our aim was to produce about one billion, yes one billion rabbits, every year, starting with pilot projects in the 774 local government areas which were to be affiliated, for extension services, to the nearest agriculture department of a tertiary institution. It was an ambitious programme to create many jobs. But finances derailed it. We can pick it up and dust it up. This is one of several projects which may stop youth anger and strife on the streets, because it tells us one story… that man makes and could unmake his environment and indeed society.
Think about it… Lagos alone could be losing between N 1.2 billion and N10 billion to Central Africa every day in cow trade. We can imagine how much the Southwest region is losing. The Federal Government, over the next three years, will pump N75 billion in loans to small businesses owned by youth nationwide. This is about N25 billion a year, N2.03 billion a month or N68.5 million a day. Compare these figures with Lagos alone loosing between N1.2 billion and N10 billion everyday to cow farmers from Central Africa. We banned rice and maize importation to create jobs on our farms. why can we not ban cow importation?
Can we not farm cows ourselves to keep Nigeria’s money within Nigeria? We do not appear prepared for this. We are building rail lines beyond our northern boundaries into Niger Republic, for example, that may let in more cows and foreigners who will inhabit our villages, cities and forests where they are armed with military guns, to protect the cow trade which drains Nigeria of capital and someday to take the land!
If 36 states are to share N2 billion among the youth every month, and we believe this will keep them silent, what if we stop Lagos city from loosing between N1.2 billion and N10 billion every day or between N36 billion and N300 billion every month, and put this into youth farm businesses in the villages? This is one of many grounds on which youths can constructively engage their country and government. Thus, genuinely concerned youths would not be infiltrated by hoodlums bent on rioting, killing, maiming, plundering or looting…
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