I had the privilege of travelling to the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, a couple of days ago.
Timeline- Two days after the gubernatorial elections of March 2023; 25 years after graduating from medical school at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 32 years after graduating from secondary school at Federal Government Girls College, Onitsha and 40 years after graduating from University Primary School, Enugu and Ekulu Primary School, all in the South- Eastern part of Nigeria.
Arriving on a Monday by air from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), my intent was to, within a three-day holiday hiatus, travel down on Monday to see my Dad in the village, spend a night and part of Tuesday with him and return Tuesday afternoon to prepare for an early morning flight back to the FCT.
All this planned, until I encountered the South-Eastern syndrome of SAH-Sit at Home, which I have chosen to explain as a syndromic, systemic, self-destructive, self-inflicted autoimmune disease that is slowly decimating and disabling a region and its people, in much the same way a neurological disease reduces a full – grown man to a vegetable status of a convolution of jerky convulsive spasmodic paralysis…
For me, first-hand experiencing deserted and unopen businesses, half empty roads and a non-responsive economic ecosystem, my definition of the Sit-At-Home action is of a movement whose conveners and enforcers are brutal to the ‘protestees’ and ‘protestorate’[sic], a fight that needs a total review and evaluation of who is really the target. A distortion of reality that has become engrained in the psyche of the people, so much so, my 5-year-old niece knows she does not go to school every Monday because of ‘sitathome’, a neologism that is part of her paediatric encyclopaedia of words.
People plan work and socialization around an abnormal 4-day week. Tuesdays become a frenetically paced crazy day of hyperactivity around deformed and decrepit socio- economic structures.
The purpose of this opinion piece is to request an evaluation (by the powers that be and those to whom this crippling protest action owes its patent rights to), of the effect and impact of this sit-at-home activism and urgently plead for a better region and its people. After all, it is a known saying in that region, na onye gbasia osoo okwesiri k’ogua mile (literally: a good runner should evaluate distance/time covered after a race).
Permit me to give you my clinical analysis of the SAH syndrome, based on my experience and that of other indigenous South-Easterners.
Clinical Signs and Symptoms of SAH syndrome: 1. Disuse atrophy- all systems either shutdown or dysfunctional, people and an entire region catatonic on Mondays – a worldwide recognised day of maximizing economic activities. In the South-East, as I went from one shutdown public transport outpost to the other, in the Coal City, which is meant to be an economic hub like Dubai, everything was ghost-like and shrouded in dust. Let me not even mention the underlying decay, and stunted growth that was evident…the road networks in Enugu and environs were still as ancient and run down and dusty as they were when I was a child, or actually even worse.
Besides the addition of multinational brand shops like Spar and Shoprite, time in Enugu has stood painfully and pathologically still. What have our governors and local government Chairmen being doing for 40 years…’Cry my beloved South-East’!
2. Phantom limb pain and neuropathy- with people and economic systems ground down to a halt for at least 56 days in a 365-day year, for a ‘righteous cause?’, the prevailing ethos of the South-East people is one of desperate nothingness, like an amputated limb- people reach for what is not there- the corruption and pathetic ‘extortion mentality’ of everyone uniformed and un-uniformed on the streets of the South-East is numbing. Every human communication from visual evaluation of the next person to conversations with drivers and the exchanges between uniformed security on the streets, is distilled to one common theme- ‘extortion and what can I beget from you’, all this, evidence of the rough innards of a crippled and diseased region. In 48hours, I had to cast aside deliberately but unwillingly, every vestige of civilised relational conversation I knew with strangers, and take on an unideal, and best forgotten garb of pseudo-animalism- communicating with staccato, uncouth, and ragged expressions that summarise as ‘I just need to move on and survive without your input or concern’.
Why this, maka gini??
People and leaders of the South-East, is this what we want? Is this what this protest is aimed at, dehumanizing of ourselves in desperation to be heard? For what cause and by whom?…
South-East, the heartbeat of the nation, is this how the mighty have fallen? ’Cry my beloved South-East’ •Dr AE Ugwuanyi is a Clinical lecturer in South Africa. She believes in the philosophy and hope of -”A Great Nation with Good people” for the young generation.