USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York
Times as the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia
networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine
was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994;
CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005
I am Hungry, Please Re-brand me
By Salisu Suleiman
Special to USAfrica, CLASSmagazine & USAfricaonline.com Houston, Texas
2009: I am Nigeria. I have millions of acres of arable land and billions of cubic litres of water, but I cannot feed myself. So I spend $1 billion to import rice and another $2 billion to import milk. I produce rice, but don’t eat it. I have 60 million cattle but no milk. I am hungry, please re-brand me.
I drive the latest cars in the world but have no roads. I lose family and friends everyday on roads for which funds have been looted. I lose my young, my old, and my most brainy and productive people to the potholes, craters and crevasses they travel on everyday. I am in permanent mourning, please re-brand me.
My school has no teacher and my classroom has no roof. I take lecture notes through the window and live with 15 others in a single room. All my professors have gone abroad, and the rest are awaiting visas. I am a university graduate, but I am illiterate. I want a future, please re-brand me.
Malaria, typhoid and many other preventable diseases send me to hospitals which have no doctors, no medicines and no power. So my wife gives birth with candle light and surgery is performed by quacks. All the nurses have gone abroad and the rest are waiting to go also. I have the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world and future generations are dying before me. I am hopeless, hapless and helpless, please re-brand me.
I wanted change so I stood all day long to cast my vote. But even before I could vote, the results had been announced. When I dared to speak out, silence was enthroned by bullets. My rulers are my oppressors, and my policemen are my terrors. I am ruled by men in mufti, but I am not a democracy. I have no verve, no vote, no voice, please re-brand me.
I have 50 million youths with no jobs, no present and no future. So my sons in the North have become street urchins and his brothers in the South have become militants. My nephews die of thirst in the Sahara and his cousins drown in the waters of the Mediterranean. My daughters walk the streets of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, while her sisters parade the streets of Rome and Amsterdam. I am inconsolable, please re-brand me.
My people cannot sleep at night and cannot relax by day. They cannot use ATM machines, nor use cheques. My children sleep through staccato of AK 47s see through the mist of tear gas. The leaders have looted everything on the ground and below. They walk the land with haughty strides and fly the skies with private jets. They have stolen the future of generations yet unborn and have money they cannot spend in several lifetimes, but their brothers die of hunger. I want justice, please re-brand me.
I can produce anything, but import everything. So my toothpick is made in China; my toothpaste is made in South Africa; my salt is made in Ghana; my butter is made in Ireland; my milk is made in Holland; my shoe is made in Italy; my vegetable oil is made in Malaysia; my biscuit is made in Indonesia; my chocolate is made in Turkey and my table water made in France. My taste is far-flung and foreign, please re-brand me.
My people are cancerous from the greed of their friends who bleach palm oil with chemicals; my children died because they drank ‘My Pikin’ with NAFDAC numbers; my poor die because kerosene explodes in their faces; my land is dead because all the trees have been cut down; flood kills my people yearly because the drainages are clogged; my fishes are dead because the oil companies dump waste in my rivers; my communities are vanishing into the huge yawns of gully erosion, and nothing is being done. My livelihood is in jeopardy, and I am in the uttermost depths of despondence, please re-brand me.
I have genuine leather but choose to eat it. So I spend a billion dollars to import fake leather. I have four refineries, but prefer to import fuel, so I waste more billions to import petrol. I have no security in my country, but would rather send troops to keep the peace in another man’s land. I have 160 dams, but can not get water to drink, so I buy ‘pure’ water that roils my innards. I have a million children waiting to enter universities, but my ivory dungeons can only take a tenth. I have no power, but choose to flare gas, so my people have learnt to see in the dark and stare at the glare of naked flares. I have no direction, please re-brand me.
My people pray to God every morning and every night, but commit every crime known to man because re-branded identities will never alter the tunes of inbred rhythms. Just as the drums of heritage heralds the frenzied jingles, remember – the Nigerian soul can only be Nigerian – fighting free from the cold embrace of a government that has no spring, no sense, no shame. So we watch the possessed, frenzied dance, drenched in silent tears as freedom is locked up in democracy’s empty cellars. I need guidance, please re-brand me.
But then, why can I not simply be me, without being re-branded? Or does my complexion cloud the color of my character? Does my location limit the lengths my liberty? Does the spirit of my conviction shackle my soul? Does my mien maim the mine of my mind? And is this life worth re-branding? I am not yet born, please re-brand me.
Salisu is a commentator on Nigeria’s public policy and social issues. The preceding commentary has drawn massive interests for its witty and biting edge.