*THE LIZARD AND A CITY IN SEARCH OF A SUNNY DAY*
By Jide Aluka
My country Nigeria is a remarkably beautiful country with a lot of hidden treasures. For the most part, these treasures have been hidden under the rubble of bad leadership and what used to be a notoriously complacent populace. Yet, so far, the beauty of this nation has continued to fight off everything thrown at it. It shows off every sunny moment even in the most unexpected places, sometimes like a tensed stare of an endangered reptile.
Throughout the expanse of this country we still find wonderful icons of nature. From the sand dunes of Yobe State to the caves of Anambra, we go from the hot springs of the Yankari to the waters of Badagry. Nigeria’s natural beauty has remained hugely untapped and grossly under-appreciated. A lot of these natural resources are unknown to most Nigerians and even those who know about them hardly appreciate what we have. The battle for individual and clique survival now plays out on a different level, in a manner that prefers to overlook some of the most boggling pressures on our society. Hence we continually deny and cover up, holding on to an interiorized notion of development. We maintain a faulty governing structure while attempting to perfect an electoral system to run on this fault line. We depend on crude oil export, retain fuel import subsidy, and still want to hedge the foreign exchange and other aftermaths of these policies. When security and economic frustrations boil over into street protests, we want to suppress it with violence and intimidation and still expect that the bottled-up anger won’t rear its head again.
On a trip to Lagos few weeks ago, somewhere around Ago, I spotted what people around me called Alligator. It was so fascinating a sight to me as it looked like a scene from a television documentary. I knew it was not an alligator. At first, I considered it a little version of the Komodo dragon I have seen on television, native to the Komodo island region of Indonesia. I was told the animal was commonly seen around the rapidly developing estate. Surprised at the possibility of seeing such animal in Lagos, I made a brief research to realize that what I saw was a monitor lizard, hiding beside the fence of a cleared plot of land. I saw a photo of a bigger one reportedly caught in the highbrow Lekki area of Lagos.
It’s startling that the beauty of an area blessed with such wide-life is indiscriminately being buried under the rubble of stones and self-indulgence. As the privileged displace nature from its course with sprawling mansions rising up from the mangrove, nature found its path. Without a canal, water still found its way through every available channel, sustaining the remaining bushes and wild-life habitats, cutting through the pathways and sustaining the air of anxiety.
A month ago, Nigeria had what could be an awakening as youths rose across this beloved country to demand an end to some of the most disturbing challenges of this country awkwardly being normalized. The two weeks END SARS demonstration, which was cut short after the unfortunate incidents of October 20 at the Lekki toll-gate, clearly indicated that Nigerians, especially the youth, love their country and would love to preserve what is best about this nation. Across religious and social divide, peaceful demonstrators rose to demand an end to police brutality and consequently a more responsive government that exhibits a broad capacity to move Nigeria beyond subjugated leadership and the pandering of disparate covens. Regardless of the near rudderlessness that ensued after October 20 and the attempt by some leaders to vitiate the gains of the movement, the events of last month is such Nigerians must be proud of.
The youths should be proud that we did not remain numb in the face of hardship. That when agents of the police needed some prodding to realize that we are all part of a struggling system begging for change, that nudging was kindly offered and the demand was not just for end to police brutality but also for improvement in police welfare. The yonder generation should be proud that their scion are not lame, and only able to continue with the worst they’ve had to offer. Our leaders should be happy there is an ideological alternative to bad leadership and to violent agitations.
Reactions have continued to pour in over the protests. It has been rather forceful that it threatens to drown the genuine prospects of the END SARS movement. Curiously, the reactions have been on the violence and mayhem that took place after October 20, regrettably leading to arson, looting and loss of lives across different cities. It will amount to a huge blunder for those who have this opportunity to effect genuine changes from this year, 2020, to continue building ideological and fraternal fences around what, perhaps, they consider their own portion of interest in this emerging expanse.
Whether we spot an unusual reptile in the streets of Ago or on the highways of Lekki, it should teach us that created things don’t always remain holed up in a vanishing field waiting for fresh breadth. No matter how well we attempt to cover the space, those most simple demands for an accommodating environment will continue to rear its monitoring head, even in the most unexpected places and in unexpected ways.