“We are close to extinction as a viable comity of peoples, supposedly bound together under an equitable set of protocols of co-habitation, capable of producing its own means of existence” – Wole Soyinka
“If you are struggling with something today, take it to God in prayer. Call on Him. He is with you.” That encouraging advisory from the Holy book actually informed my decision to place this call to God about our beloved country. Hello God, is not truly original to me. It’s patent for social work as an artist or writer actually belongs to the legendary American Lady country music singer, Dolly Parton.
The two words and their meaning as inferred in this narrative are easily recognizable and attributable to the iconic emotive singer. As I listened to her song recently I just imagined my beloved country Nigeria being superimposed on the singer’s voice to God and everything in the lyrics fitting in superbly. As a citizen of today’s Nigeria under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari and who is going through the lyrics, just try swathing yourself into Dolly Parton’s voice as you beseech God about this country.
Whatever condition she was that made her to sing the song, whatever circumstance that informed such touchy elegy and appeal to God in 2002 when she released the album must have been very hard-hitting, she must have been in such a mood as most of us in this land today. If former President Olusegun Obasanjo says we are a failed state and that President Buhari is pushing the country to the brinks with his divisive leadership, he may just be stating the obvious. When Obasanjo called elders of the country across the six geo-political zones to Abuja last week to discuss the way forward for the country, the passionate expression of grief from all corners were ear-piercing. In fact, a situation that made the two intractable never agreeing Egba sons, Obasanjo and Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, to agree must be very precarious and severe.
But my concern really like Dolly Parton is not about the cry of the rich who may be fighting for being sidelined not for being hungry and lacking the basic needs of life. The country is not down because of them; we are down really because of the deplorable condition of the poor in the society. Any country that allows the poor in their midst to increase in number instead of decreasing is not growing. It’s official and empirical that Nigeria today is the headquarters of the World poor, meaning that in ratio there are more poor people here than any country in the World. These are our concerns not the rich engaged in class fight and settle easily at their economic tables. The cry of the rich ends the moment they get what they want, recognition and funding through jobs and contracts.
They easily back track, keep mum and end the struggle once their demands are meant and their bruised ego attended to. These are not the people whose emotive deepening call to God resonates impact fully like that of Dolly Parton. If they seem to be fighting for the browbeaten today, it’s not necessarily due to love for them or concern for their plight but more because of the threat of the growing anger of the surging poor in their midst. Those who are genuinely crying the Dolly Parton’s cry to God in Nigeria today are concerned about the effect of the fuel hike, the consequences of electricity tariff, the fallout of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on the already high inflation rate. They are the direct victims of the multiplicity of tax regime system which flows from this government.
A government who instead of stimulus to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic whose effect has already made the economics of individual and corporate World lay prostrate is heaping more burden on the people. They are those who cannot afford the high cost of medical treatment in the country, these are people when you hear their cry as they go in and come out of the cemetery every other day burying their loved ones who should have lived, you see a Dolly Parton voice in them. When you see youths, able bodied willing and bustling in energy and ready to work but have no access to work, when you see them idling away directionless and indulging in all sorts of crimes not by their desires, you hear Dolly Parton’s call to God in their voices. It’s when a country’s situation is that bad and everything appears to be hopeless, that’s when passionate calls are made to God in Dolly Parton’s exact lyrics saying:
“Hello God, can you hear me, are you listening’ anymore? Hello God, if we’re still on speaking terms Can you help me like before? I have questioned your existence, My resistance leaves me cold Can you help me go the distance? Hello God, hello, hello
This old world has gone to pieces Can we fix it, is there time? Hate and violence just increases We’re so selfish, cruel and blind We fight and kill each other In your name, defending you Do you love some more than others? We’re so lost and confused
Hello God, are you out there? Can you hear us, are you listening anymore? Hello God, if we’re still on speaking terms Can you help us like before? Oh, the free will you have given We have made a mockery of This is no way to be living, We’re in great need of your love Hello God
Hello God, can you grant us Love enough to make amends (Hello God) Is there still a chance That we could start again Hello God, we’ve learned our lesson Dear God, don’t let us go More than ever Hello God, hello, hello Hello God, we really need you We can’t make it without you (Hello God) We beseech you In the name of all that’s true Hello God, please forgive us For we know not what we do Hello God, give us one more chance to prove ourselves to you Hello, God; hello, God.”
Dear God, Nigeria is the one calling you. Where we are now calling you dear God is at a junction, we are waiting for something to give in to determine which direction to follow but we don’t know what, how and when it will happen. Something has to give in for your beloved people to survive. I mean your cherished people, the masses, the ones you created many because of your love for them, the poor. They are dying in droves and the only one being celebrated are the rich, nothing is said of their demise. The rich break financial and social rules to bury their colleagues and they go untouched, but arrest the poor who gather to bury theirs. Not even the story of Lazarus and the rich in heaven in the scripture is enough to frighten them, instead they behave as if their salvation is here on earth. Everybody is wishing that something happens before tomorrow even though they don’t know how. They just believe that nothing will be worse than the current situation. Their hope is anchored on the elasticity of your forgiven spirit, your willingness to overlook our past shortcomings. Our definition of justice in this land has been jaundiced by our ethnic and religious bigotry. We know and even appreciate it that your silence is golden as we wait for your time, although the long wait has enabled the oppressors to continue their suppression on your people on the believe that if they are wrong you would have acted. Please act now, Paul Kagame is a trailblazer in Rwanda after the bloody crisis in that nation, we have gone through our own bloodletting, from 30 months’ civil war to the insurgency of fanatics claiming to be fighting for you. The precious life you created no longer means anything in this country. Give us our own Paul Kagame now, create our own Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of the Dubai urban revolution now, give us our own Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore now to engineer and transform our land. We have all sinned but you can still find a Noah to stop the flood and a Lot to save this land. Hello God, come and save us because our leaders are unperturbed about our situation. As your people die their concern is 2023 three years away not about us, but we beg of you for blessing as we turn our worry into worship, please give us This day our Daily Bread. Thank you God for prayer answered.