PLEASE HELP US
In the first week of January 1968, at the tender age of 11, I was torn from my mother’s warm bosom and tossed into a boarding house.
That was the day my depression started.
And it continues even now, more than fifty years later.
I am not alone. It happened to my entire generation.
My depressive experience is typical of all of us between the ages of seventy-five and fifty.
This depression is typical of all of us who are the “elites” of Nigeria.
It is typical of all of us “privileged” enough to have a “good” education in Nigeria.
No anthropologist has studied us. No psychologist has analyzed us.
But has anyone wondered why my generation is so cold, unimaginative, lacking in creativity, and generally unproductive?
Has anybody wondered why we have been unable to create an industrial revolution, unable to develop new infrastructure, unable to facilitate security, and remain incapable of original thoughts, unable to introduce innovative ideas, or to cultivate inspiring concepts?
Why do we love to import everything, and never considered anything local useful?
Why have we abandoned all our indigenous belief systems, and why we prefer the belief systems of other people?
Why do we always look outside to other nations to emulate, to other continents for solutions, to other cultures to copy, but never sit down to look inward within our own vicinities, environments and resources to find the answers to the challenges that face us?
Why have we taken the art of looting our treasuries to a higher level, as we become senators, members of the house, state governors, federal ministers, state commissioners—so that we are no longer happy to steal in millions, but to loot in billions, and plunder in trillions, even when obviously we know we don’t need all that money for our needs and desires?
And why my generation has built more churches and mosques than any other generation within a spate of half a century, even as we witness more murders, kidnapping, rape and moral laxity than this country has ever witnessed?
And how we have mastered and passed this culture of selfishness, insatiable consumption, limitless greed, and boundless lust to the coming generation, without providing for them any infrastructure, wisdom, or skill, beyond teaching them to be cowards, lazy and shy?
Have you wondered why we have not bothered to provide electricity, pipe-borne water, good roads, efficient transportation system, or proficient healthcare, and why we drive our imported luxury cars without shame in potholes and on dilapidated bridges?
Have you wondered why we are always antagonizing each other, are unable to collaborate, are incapable of supporting one another, while we covet the cars, houses, clothes, shoes and other material possessions of other people?
It is not our fault.
We are depressed.
Our parents wanted the best for us, to prepare us for life during the sixties, seventies, and eighties.
Our parents, therefore, placed us in the best available boarding schools all over the country.
They made us study hard to prepare for these schools, and after taking highly competitive exams, we gained admission to these schools—each with its own boarding house facilities.
Each one of us, at the tender ages of ten, eleven and twelve, were taken from the loving care of our mothers and confined to the boarding schools, at the most impressionable time of our lives, and we stayed in these facilities until we were seventeen, eighteen nineteen and sometimes twenty.
We were let out briefly during vacations to return home, before being locked back within the walls of the boarding houses.
Those who placed us there and those who were the custodians of these institutions meant well.
But their intentions do not compensate for the emotional damage that we sustained in these confinements.
The result of their unintentional damage is what you see today.
It was in these confinements that we were taught disinformation that would frame our lives until now:
That Mungo Park discovered River Niger;
That the belief systems of your ancestors are devil-worshipping;
That our forebears were primitive;
That our society is subordinate to Western, Eastern and any other society;
That we should look outward for good things:
That we should look down on anything from within your environment.
In many instances, they taught us behind these closed doors to even stop speaking our indigenous languages and to adopt foreign languages.
Many people in my generations can write English properly but are unable to place the correct diacritic marks on Sọ̀rọ̀ Sókè.
We read the Bible and prayed before we ate;
We read the Bible and prayed before we slept;
We read the Bible and prayed before we went to school;
We read the Bible and prayed before we left school:
We did all these things without knowing love.
We did them because if we didn’t we would be flogged, or made to cut the grass, or to kneel down, or to raise up our hands and legs for hours, or in some other ways get punished mentally or physically. We would be abused.
We did them repeated until we were broken down, and began to do them automatically like machines.
We were instructed that Ogun, Sango, Oshun, Oke, Esu and all our divinities are evil.
Yet, our names are Okediji, Ogundeji, Osuntokun, Esubiyi: how were we to process these conflicts and contradictions?
The traumatic experiences that we had were associated with success, because at the end of our stays in these institutions, we were presented certificates that enabled us to move higher to attend the universities, leading to our getting comfortable jobs, and landing influential positions.
But almost all these years in the boarding houses did not provide us with any skills that we could use to build industries;
or provide infrastructures for our societies;
or cultivate empathy for our fellow beings;
or respect our environments;
or understand the values inherent in ourselves as courageous and creative spirits.
Therefore, to compensate for our mental vacuity and depressive dispositions, we loot anything than can be looted;
we make policies to kill those that cannot defend themselves;
we abandon any infrastructure that needs renovation;
we cannot empathize with others;
we cannot lift up our nation or our people;
we do not care to about the future of the coming generation;
we only focus on our own desires and greed.
These are standard symptoms of mass depression.
Fortunately, the youths have realized that we are in a state of depression.
The youths can see that we are walking around but we are asleep.
They have taken to the street because they see that the national vessel is adrift.
They can see that we are disorganized and without any functional leaders.
They should take charge.
They should not let go of control.
They should find a way to treat our depression.
We do what we do because we do not know what we are doing.
PLEASE HELP US