By Akin Ojumu

Sick and tired of living in a country where daily existence is marked by anguish and despair, many Nigerians trooped to the polls on Saturday the 25th of February to rectify the situation. Unwilling to let their lives continue to be characterized by misery and distress, they showed up early and were battle ready. They came angry and eager to dislodge the feckless overlords who have ruled their lands with impunity for so long.

Confronted by machete-wielding miscreants who tried to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they were unfazed. Bruised and battered, they stood their ground and stubbornly waited in line for their turn. With blood running down battered faces, they insisted that nobody was going to stop them from bringing the reign of the despots of Nigeria and their cronies to an ignominious end.

As they’d soon realize, though, not everyone believed in their cause. Certain descendants of Uncle Tom decided it benefits them more to become collaborators with Nigeria’s feudal lords. In exchange for the crumbs that would fall from the slave masters’ table, the saboteurs sold their souls. These excessively subservient fellows pitch their tent with Nigeria’s subjugators because they are completely satisfied with their lowly condition as citizens.

After what appeared to be a momentary awareness of the precariousness of the path the country is on, these obsequious Nigerians chose to continue on the odyssey of visionless leadership. For what appeared to be a fleeting moment of realization of the futility of Nigerias current trajectory, a foolhardy segment of the population decided they’d rather continue their wandering in the desert of hopelessness.

A few days ago, I was reminded of the story of the African slaves in Janjanbureh, Gambia.

It came about that the slave masters decided to test the slaves to determine how well they had adjusted to their situation as slaves. What the slave masters did was to offer the slaves an opportunity to regain their freedom. 

The slaves were told to run as fast as they could towards a tree – called the freedom tree – standing a few feet away. Any of the slaves able to touch the freedom tree before the sound of the whistle would be granted his freedom immediately. At least that was what they thought.

Now, what you need to understand is that these were slaves had been subjected to cruel and degrading treatment. They hadn’t eaten or taken water for days, so they were weak, hungry, and thirsty. Also, tied around their necks and ankles were heavy chains that felt like millstones.

Tried as they may to touch the freedom tree, they couldn’t reach it before the whistle was blown. As fast as they ran, the whistle would blow even before they took a couple of steps.

You see, the intention of the slave masters was never about letting them reach the freedom tree and it was never about setting them free. This was a test of their will. The slave masters wanted to see which of the slaves still harbored a desire to be free.

What’s instructive though is the fact that some of the slaves never made any attempt to run. These were those who had largely resigned themselves to fate and had given up hope. Long gone was the yearning to be free. They had been so psychologically conditioned to life in slavery, the flame of liberty that once burned in their soul had since been quenched. The will to be free had been killed by the flesh-tearing stroke of the slave master’s lashes on their bareback.

While some Nigerians ran towards the freedom tree in the presidential election, others chose slavery. That anyone would prefer to remain slaves instead of being free shouldn’t come as a surprise. Some Nigerians have been so conditioned to slavery, they are beyond help. In their minds, they are slaves and always will be.

A slave at heart is forever enslaved. This is the legacy of psychological slavery that follows many years of abuse and misuse by cruel and callous rulers of Nigeria. 

The will to be free no longer exists in many Nigerians. And thats a pretty sad condition for any country to find itself.


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