Nigeria, and the gulf that drowns our voices

Once, more than a decade ago, I wrote about the tale of two nations that was Nigeria. 

Suffice it to say one nation belongs to those who have eaten the national cake so much that their big bellies protrude into other people’s territories. This is not so much  parable as indeed, their potbellies cause untold hardship to the underprivileged contemporaries. 

The other nation belongs to those who suffer, victims who must shift in order to create space for the potbellies of those who eat big our national treasures. In-between the nations is a gulf that drowns the people’s voices, one group unable to hear what the others are saying. Yet , we believe we practise a democracy where our voices count and where the people, being true subjects of governance, decide their fate.  

A few days ago, an acquaintance I met on the audio app, Clubhouse, shared with me what I consider valuable insights he got from his experiences having been on ground in Nigeria for a while. This anecdote drives home the reality of these two, or more, nations divided by a widening gulf.

Regularly, he visits the homes (if they can be so-called) of people less-privileged than he is, if not for anything, for empathy! One of such is a small room in a face-me-I-face-you arrangement.In one corner behind the heavily stained door is a small worn stove, covered with soot and spilled food. Scattered all around the room are dresses, and luggages meant for nothing less than twenty hustling ladies. This is just one of such human-faced manifestations of poverty and neglect prevalent in the land. 

Pooling of funds by about twenty persons to secure a place called home in a major city, especially, is a common smart practice to navigate this other “nation”. At least, this is much better than the sleeping spaces available under the many bridges across cities. These people are clearly “citizens” of a different nation, other than the one represented on the pages of papers or TV channels daily reporting progress. This other nation is ensconced within the Nigerian territory.


From that small room full of ladies, the occupants manage to bathe and dress to kill. One, for example, would order Uber or Bolt for a nightly short, quick trip to busy avenues to prospect for customers. Others may fancy the expensive clubs in highbrow neighbourhoods, where more pricey entanglement deals can be obtained.

My acquaintance also mentioned that those ladies who got an all-night rendezvous, that would take them away from the one-room home, are the lucky ones.They do not have to return to the den and they get envied by the left-overs.

The irony is that many of the men who take them away are part of those in the other nation, with pot-bellies; men actively involved in creating the gulf that drowns the voices of “citizens” in this and other nations.

I want it placed on record that within the bigger nation, Nigeria, there are already not just two but many nations created by the dichotomies of pain and bliss, oppression and victimhood, suffering and smiling, and a leadership that cares much less for the fate of their people.  

The gulf widens the more each nation ignores and remains oblivious of the existence of other nations. The more each one assumes we have in Nigeria, a democratically, economically, existentially or experientially united nation, the more the gulf drowns more voices and ultimately the people bearing the voices.

Let each one know that your voice, as much as mine, matters. Despair and surrender are twin disciples of the gulf that drowns. We should never forget that the history of Nigeria reveals a nation that rises when the people, by choice, raise their voices in a deliberate approach and stand by it.

‘Lakunle Jaiyesimi,

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