I was at the departure hall of the Chief Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar. My flight to Abuja had been delayed for about two hours, no big deal. I had time then to begin to write this article. A great opportunity I would say. I had arrived at the check-in counter and was promptly attended to, not many passengers today. I wanted to move to the departure lounge but I was asked by the ground handling guy to follow him. He had my suitcase and that of a white lady, a fellow passenger. We got to the security screening point. I thought it was the usual 'wait, let your luggage go through the security screening machine before you go', but I was wrong. I was met by the bulky FAAN staff who greeted me with great courtesy and politely told me that their screening machine broke down so I had to open my suitcase for MANUAL screening. What? At this age and time in the PEOPLE'S PARADISE (as Calabar is popularly called)? I remember that the famous annual Calabar Carnival just ended not long ago. This was in January. How did they handle the many flights into Calabar, both local and international? To my embarrassment, I opened my bag and displayed my personal effects. Thank God I did not take along with me the pack of crayfish I was offered. The odour would have been more embarrassing for a young man like me. The security check man kept apologizing for the embarrassment and I told him it was not his fault. He was only employed and the employer did not give him the necessary modern tools for this national assignment that has become an embarrassment.
This took me back to a conversation I had had about two hours earlier with my host in Calabar. Is Nigeria truly difficult to lead? Nigeria should occupy a prominent place in the politics of Africa. We lost our pride when our leadership lost focus in planning. At the turn of the third millennium, it became clear that our educational infrastructures were no longer enough to give our children quality education. The existing ones did not have enough accommodation for students, both bed space and lecture halls. Students lived in every corner of the town that was no longer safe for them. In the students' hostels, they lived like refugees as one person with accommodation slot would squat over five other students in a bed space made for one. Sleeping was difficult. Such a non-academic environment drove many of such students, boys and girls, into a life of drugs, prostitution, cultism and general debauchery. The expected casualty is what we see today, uneducated graduates on our streets.
If only governors do not run our states as fiefdoms, but as our collective home where the workers are employed, promptly promoted and justly paid their monthly wages. If only government workers can concentrate on their work and deliver their services conscientiously. If only security agencies can realize that their job is to provide security for Nigerians against their enemies and not to provide security for the government against Nigerians. If only those responsible realize that repairing the refineries will reduce the prices of petroleum products and bring in more money to the economy. If only those who are responsible can think of Nigeria as a home and that Nigerians are their relations. It wouldn't be necessary to expose my inner wears and panties and our women will not be displaying sanitary pads and bathing soaps at the full glare of everyone at our international airports in the name of manual security check.
We are not asking for too much. We are only asking that we should have good roads to move about freely in Nigeria. We are only asking for electricity like every other nation in the category of Nigeria has. We are asking for available, affordable and enough schools for the children of this country who will inherit our nation as we also inherited from those before us. We are asking for work so that we can be productive. It is common sense that those who have been leading this country for a long time continue to plunder the country and take away, without remorse, the resources of the nation. I do not think we are asking for too much when we say, do not take away what belongs to all.
In all, I believe we are only passing through a phase. Those who will build our nation are not yet in the saddle. Unfortunately, when the history of our country is read in years to come, many of us will belong to the page of infamy.
Ojaje Idoko is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Benue State