We Were Happy, But We Are so Sad Now

The Igbo saying mgbe onye tetalu ula bu ututu ya, simply translated, states: “Whenever one wakes from sleep is that person’s morning.” On a deeper level, the saying is an acknowledgement that persons, and even non-persons, have different capacities and abilities, and, therefore, different paces. The saying came to my mind as the Nigerian Navy (NN) only recently commissioned the service’s fist home-made warship in its 56th year of existence. President Goodluck Jonathan beamed on the occasion. Clearly, Nigeria’s incumbent First Citizen was happy that day penultimate Friday at the Nigerian Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos, when he commissioned the first Nigerian-made warship, the NNS Andoni, into service with the NN.
Described as a seaward defence boat (SDB), the 31-metre boat was built by the Navy engineers at the Nigerian Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos, over a period of about four and half years. The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, in his address at the commissioning ceremony gave a veritable profile of the NNS Andoni, including why it took so long for her to be commissioned. Positing that the deployment of the NNS Andoni would further help in providing platforms to curb the myriad of security challenges in Nigeria’s territorial waters, the Navy chief said: “This ceremony is an expression of Nigerian Navy’s total commitment to the Transformation Agenda of the President in repositioning the country as a technologically self-reliant nation, as captured in the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of the Federal Government.

Thus, it gladdens me to state that this seaward defence boat was designed and built after other river town class patrol craft in the NN inventory such as NNS Yola and NNS Brass, albeit with several modifications. The preliminary design of the boat was completed in September 2007, while the keel was laid in this yard in December 2007. However, several challenges in overseas procurement, technological capacity, environmental factors and production skills led to rescheduling of the completion timeline to April 2012. The basin and sea trials of the boat were successfully carried out in compliance with the International Maritime Organisation’s Certification.” From the countenance and utterances of the President, it did not matter much how ardous had been the NNS Andoni’s journey to actualisation. Commending the NN, particularly the Naval engineers for outstanding performance and determination to break new frontiers and make a positive input on the country, he waxed lyrical: “This is the beginning of transformation. We cannot transform without technological revolution. I believe, probably in another 10 to 15 years,we will be thinking of starting a project that wil probably take Nigerians into the air.

We cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market that even what we can consume alone is enough to support an industry. So, if we have that market, we must exploit it and utilise it.” He went on: “It is day to to thank God and the Nigerian Navy for what they have done. We have formally commissioned NNS Andoni built by Naval officers here. I am particularly impressed that of retired Naval engineers participated in the project. When you are good, you will never retire; it is only dead men that retire.”
Not missing the great opportunity commissioning Nigeria’s first home-made warship, and his laying of the keel of the second boat in the Navy’s works offered, the Commander-in-Chief pledged that the Federal Government will continue to promote the local content policy, noting that the Local Content Development Act is key to his administration and will boost the nation’s economy, creating job opportunities. It was time for some home truth, as the President said: “Nigeria at independence grew and we had Nigerian Airways, Nigerian (National) Shipping Line, and quite a number of investments that were doing well. But, because there was no indigenous touch, all these died over the period. And we refuse to embrace technology. Even countries that are at par with us are doing well building aircraft and other things.”

That was June 1, 2012, in an upscale part of Lagos, and the President sounded upbeat, if he be the barometre with which the nation’s mood is measured, Nigerians, truly keen on the Nigerian Project, were infected by his joy.
However, barely 48 hours later, in a much more modest part of Lagos, on the boundary with Ogun State, our mood as a nation dipped dramatically. A Dana Airlines flight crashed at Iju Ishaga, killing all the passengers and the crew. There were several other casualties on ground in the heavily-built-up location the plane had crashed into, several kilometers away from its intended destination, the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, that fateful Sunday, June 3, 2012, enroute Abuja. Unfortunately, the final death toll may never be known, given Nigeria’s technology troubles. The nation is not yet in that “technological revolution,” not for lack of ready revolutionaries talented technologists and inventors who suffer limitless frustration at the hands of insufferable officials.
Nigeria’s long-suffering masses are very familiar with the very ugly face of government reflected several spheres of their lives. The issues of public power supply and security will suffice for this piece.
Epileptic public power supply has long been so much of a constant across the country that so many businesses and households routinely generate their electricity, earning Nigeria the unflattering position as the world’s highest importer of power generators. In the process, the country is a dumping ground of power generators of various sizes and capacities. Even the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) routinely runs its offices on generators. Laughable? Yes, indeed, laughable! But, really, the issue of public power supply gives no cause for mirth; just real sadness.

Security is another very sad issue in Nigeria. The land is under siege by armed robbers, kidnappers, terrorists and all other manner of brigands. The cruel joke here is that the lamentations and wailings of the people are drowned in the sight of the intimidating numbers of government security operatives deployed in the baby nursing of the minuscule number of public functionaries and their private cronies that are the ruling class. For effect, these tax payers-funded bodyguards sadistically hound the citizenry with the sight of blinding emergency lights on vehicle rooftops, accompanied by the deafening sound of frantic sirens.
So much is wrong with Nigeria, as a country, yet Nigerians, in the main are a very hopeful people. Nigerians live with the hope that their country has a better life on offer for them, just round that next corner. It does not matter to them that, like a mirage, each of these corners dissolve into nothingness each after the other. Still, it is good that a particular research finding concluded that Nigerians are the happiest people on earth. At least, it will not do for us to wear the toga of a bitter people. Not in addition to the existing unfair profiling of Nigerians as a notorious people, presentation of the nation’s passport at the entry points of various countries automatically branding the holder a potential drug courier or a criminal of another bent in the eyes of their security operatives.
What a pain that is the lives of the Nigerian peoples. The Dana Airline crash rips the heart. May the souls of the dearly departed rest in peace.

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