By Toyin Falola
The sociolinguistic property of God Abeg became bare after Oludare Alaba’s hilarious video hovered around social media platforms and raised continuous conversations. Alaba, a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, returned to the school languishing that his “certificate is worthless.” According to his story, Alaba is not a lazy Nigerian young man; he has no one to support him. He has searched for a job and farmed, yet, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has remained elusive. Alaba’s travail was worsened by the destruction of his farmland by unchecked nomads whose cattle saunter and feed on cultivated farms. Only God knows how many God Abegs Alaba would have cried out before giving up hope and returning his certificate to retrieve the school fees he had paid. Alaba, you cannot return your certificate for a refund!
God Abeg means “God please” and depicts a cliché prayer to God for help in difficult situations, especially those beyond one’s ability or control. In many instances, it is not that one has decided to shift the onus of responsibility to the Almighty or that one has not attempted to make efforts that would resolve the situation. No, it is that after all these, nothing changes and one remains trapped in the labyrinths of hopelessness. Afterwards, people resort to chanting soft but resonating God Abeg. Oludare Alaba’s experience captures this situation, and he is not the only one in this misery. About 89 million Nigerians who live below the poverty line and the millions of underemployed and unemployed Nigerians who strive to succeed and fail all chant God Abeg!
Nigerians are characterized by their will to survive against all odds. From the Mai Gida who cultivates farms and rears cattle, to the young Aboki scavengers who scour garbage and refuse dumps from street to street, to the Nna who goes across regions to sell bales of clothes, to the unrelenting traders in Katangora and Alaba markets of Lagos, to Iya Risi who runs a small food Buka from dawn to dusk, to the hustlers who hawk in traffic and the brilliant innovators who are blazing the trails towards securing the future of Nigeria, one would be convinced that the country has enough energetic human resources that could change the economy of any nation. However, despite these attributes and the people’s honest toils, their situations do not reflect their diligence.
People like Alaba are living evidence that working and making efforts are not Nigeria’s problems, but whether those efforts can pay their bills. After spending donkey years in school with a high possibility of falling into the ambush of ASUU strikes or several of those years in the apprenticeship of a trade or vocation, one might come to a saddening realization that those time investments may be flushed down the drain by the country and its murderous systems. Dejected, the people go down rambling softly, God abeg!
The country has a terrific labour market capable of killing any charted career path. For those who have been able to acquire educational qualifications, job opportunities have become a luxury for the rich and connected. The National Bureau of Statistics currently put the rate of unemployment in Nigeria at 33.3%, one of the highest in the world. The rate is quite worse among the youth; 42.5% of the youth, who form about 60% of the population, are unemployed.
It is one thing to be employed and another to be gainfully employed. About 22.8% of the Nigerian population are underemployed, which means that where there is work, there is a chance that they are below the qualification of job searchers. The World Bank stated that only 17% of Nigerians hold wage jobs. Juxtaposing the average salary and living wage of about N43,200 to the nation’s cost of living, the cost of living is 5.3 times higher. God Abeg!
For those who have decided to have their start-ups, especially after seeing the saturated labour market, the country’s economy and the business atmosphere is suffocating enough to send them out of business. A study by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office in 2017 revealed that only 40% of those who aspire to have a start-up eventually launch it, and only 20% of Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria survive in Nigeria. This is due to the spartan conditions of Nigeria’s commercial and business arenas and stringent economic austerity. An inflation rate of 20.52% and other societal factors are demons that torment these honest hustlers. After each failed effort, it seems they are not fighting against “principality and powers,” but against some forces that require the supernatural intervention of the Almighty, so they say, God Abeg!
Nigeria is in trouble, and its systems are cankerworms eating away at the people’s possible potential and hope. If there is no decisive developmental fumigation of those cankerworms, the nation may beckon to its damning mayday. When physical efforts fail to solve physical problems, it is only logical to seek metaphysical means, which explains the muttering of God Abeg for God to come through for one. But despite these prayers, has God forsaken Nigeria that even God Abeg is coming with similar possibilities of placing a bet? Nigeria is on edge, and the nation is the architect of its undoing, not God. God saves and punishes, but God is not punishing us; Nigerians are punishing themselves. Perhaps we might need to beg Nigerians, some factors, individuals, and institutions before saying the slow-soft God Abeg.
Today, the son of nobody is often nobody, with nepotism and favouritism beating him down the pecking order. Recruiters would rather hire based on familiarity and ethnic sentiments than expertise. A 2019 survey established that about 50% of positions in public institutions and sectors in Nigeria were secured either by bribery or nepotism, or both. Police officers recruit their sons to the police, just as professors recruit their wives and children to fill vacant positions on campus. This is also the situation in private sectors with unnecessary requirements like a camel that must go through the eye of the needle. Hence, one Akpan may waste his educational and training age to be rewarded with secured employment, while others finish with nothing to show. There are very few people who are saints from nepotism, and to say God Abeg without begging ourselves first is to fiddle around. God will not stop nepotism; only you and I can.
After we have reserved a begging session to change the nepotism orientation among government officials and citizens, one must reserve another to end corrupt practices. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria ranked 154th least corrupt country out of 180 at the end of 2021. With the $2 billion Dasuki Gate scandal, million dollars Alison Madueke’s corruption allegations, General Abacha, our generous father in heaven who keeps sending money to us at intervals, and other colossal bribery and corruption cases, it is only reasonable that the economy and the society would be sapped of anything that would allow the citizens to flourish. Corruption has deeply penetrated all sectors and systems and stifled the nation’s progress. As the country’s major problem, it waters down any effort government and individuals make to turn the nation’s situation around. Hence, if we do not beg for a solution to corruption, God abeg may only be a psychological comfort without striving to make changes.
Where one does not see the direct effects of nepotism and corruption that lead to the God-abeg-worthy situations, the lack of infrastructure and facilities are evidential problems that build garrisons against the efforts of Nigerians and their businesses. Lack of adequate infrastructure affects the production chain and threatens the longevity of any business. It also increases the cost of living, as the aggregate effects tell on the economy and the standard of living. As a result, society seems to be in tune with reviving Sapa rather than resolving it.
At this point, God Abeg has multi-dimensional applicability, and the people’s living condition is just one of them. However, the more frightening applicability is the face of terror that many Nigerians experience almost daily. When you live in a society where the people are tossed between terrorist attacks, herdsmen and farmers’ brutal confrontations, common banditry and kidnapping, dangerous separatist agitation, oil militancy, ritual killing, and other life-threatening situation, begging God for food will become less important to begging God to survive every day. Nigeria has lost hundreds of thousands of lives to these security challenges; unfortunately, there is no end. God abeg!
Before we beg God again, three entities must be begged to resolve the nation’s problems. First is the government, which is not doing enough to alleviate the conditions of the people, has been ineffective in its duty and refused to take decisive actions against corruption and insecurity that are ruining the nation every day. The government, our Satan, God abeg, accept my sacrifices on behalf of millions of Nigerians. I slaughter for you a live goat. I just remember that you eat dollars, not goat meat. God Abeg!
Second is the enemies of Nigeria’s progress who, through their perpetrations, embezzlement, nepotism, criminal tendencies, and negative discordancy, reduce the little the government does, suspend peace, and make lives harsh for their compatriots. Our agbako wahala, wahala agbako, I offer prayers. I forgot that you attend the Sinners’ Cathederal, and my prayers cannot reach you. God Abeg!
The third is the citizens who grow political dementia every four years to vote for those who have put them in their present condition, thereby restructuring the circle of anguish and refusing to uphold the tenets of citizenship and patriotism. Sons and daughters of magicians, remember that salvation is not for free. God Abeg!
There is a solution in sight, but Nigerians have refused to clear the path to explore and nurture it into fruition. In January 2012, Nigerians came together to say an emphatic NO to the increase in PMS pump price from N65 to N140, and the government was made to succumb to this demand. In October 2020, Nigerians again united in opposing police brutality and demanded the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which was alleged to cause the same havoc it was supposed to fight against, and the government bent on these demands. With these incidents and the obvious increasing agitations on social media and physical, one can say that society can collectively demand good governance when they are committed to doing so.
Fortunately, there is an approaching opportunity for the nation to come together again to demand a better Nigeria where God thank you will be more than God abeg. The 2023 elections are approaching, and since leadership is paramount to the development and the first step towards resolving the country’s problems, Nigerians must Gbera the same way they did in 2012 and 2020 to redefine Nigeria through their votes. They must sing songs of the problems of Nigeria, so strong that those who have been hypnotized into forgetting their suffering will receive a rousing push to do the right thing. The citizens must resist vote buying, election violence, and electoral disorientations. The nation will be one step closer to its restoration if these are championed as a course with the same intensity as the #OccupyNigeria and #EndSARS agitations. The 2023 election is Nigerians’ next shot at the Nigerian dream. But not this kind of democracy, just to pre-warn you. As to this democracy, God Abeg!
Can the citizens begin to shout Government Abeg, Perpetrators Abeg, Nigerians Abeg? In that case, God will probably take a good look at the resources He has given to this green land and how we have been the architect of our undoing, and then HE will revert the pleadings, saying, “Man, Abegi!”