Lest We Should Be The Last

Lest We Should Be The Last
April 11 16:10 2016

BY FEMI ADESINA

[I]f my memory serves me right, the above title is taken from a poem I had studied for secondary school leaving examination 36 years ago. The poem was written by the Ghanaian, Kwesi Brew.

Why is the title of the poem relevant now? It came to mind as we were about to land in Muscat, Oman, Monday morning, on the way to China, where President Muhammadu Buhari is to pay a weeklong state visit. We had flown seven hours from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and it was time to refuel and refresh in Oman. Time was 5.15 a.m (2.15 a.m Nigerian time).

As the Nigerian Air Force 001 made a descent into Muscat, I looked out through the window. The city was bathed in dazzling, incandescent light from corner to corner. As far as the eye could see, there was no darkness anywhere. I shook my head.

As if clairvoyant, and reading my mind, Sarki Kalu Abba, a Senior Special Assistant to the President, who sat next to me said:”See light everywhere. No place is in darkness.”

And that was the sheer truth. Muscat was awash with almost blinding light from all angles. And I remembered Nigeria with less than 3,000 Megawatts of electricity, barely enough to power two states, not to talk of 36. And as government works hard to turn the situation around, somebody then goes to sabotage the installation, blowing up pipelines that supply gas for power generation and distribution. And for many months, we remain at Ground Zero.

“Lest we should be the last,” I muttered. “If we are not careful, the rest of the world would leave us behind. We would be grappling to generate and distribute 10,000 Megawatts of electricity by 2019, and some people would be throwing spanner in the works, while the rest of the world would have moved on. Lest we should be the last.

When we had taken off from Abuja, President Buhari, Sarki, and myself, who sat together, had reviewed the fuel supply situation. It had been hectic for about two weeks, and Nigerians had virtually seen hell. A very sorry spectacle. Things were getting better gradually, but Sarki shared an online report with us, which indicated that not less than 50 tankers of petrol had been taken out of the country into Benin Republic that day. Sad, dolorous information. It was not Beninoise people who drove those tankers out. They were Nigerians! Yet their counterparts groaned under acute fuel scarcity. Some security agents must have connived with those tanker drivers! Lest we should be the last.

During the flight, I was reading a book on Fela Anikulapo-Kuti written by journalist and activist, Richard Akinnola. The title is ‘Judge Don Beg Me.’ It chronicles the odyssey of the maverick musician with the law. It’s a hilarious book, but something struck me from Fela’s language. It was straight from the sewer. He used four letter words freely, and was simply at home with what would make some other people recoil in horror. And I remembered the Good Book: “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” There are some words we should never be caught dead using. But for some people, the dirtier, the rougher, the more from the sewage, then the better. Fela’s father was an educationist and cleric. How did he become so embarassingly foul in his language? Well, that was just a digression, and food for thought for those that care to ponder on it.

After an hour in Oman, we took off to complete the journey to Beijing. It took another six hours and thirty- five minutes, making the entire flying time about 14 hours. By 5.35 p.m (10.35 a.m Nigerian time) Beijing opened its arms like an expectant lover, to welcome us. We walked into the embrace.

Tomorrow Tuesday April 12, there will be the official opening ceremony of Business Forum of China/Nigeria Production Capacity Cooperation. And then we will visit a place called the Forbidden City. Rest assured, however, that in Forbidden City, we would not eat any forbidden apple.

Keep a date.