Story Five: Chideraa in Economic Recession
Chideraa his mother and his siblings moved to Oshodi, Lagos from Umuagwo to join their father when he was nine years old. Their father, Obierika, had left for Lagos in search of greener pastures in 1973, three years after the Biafran war. Chideraa was now twelve years old and was in Primary three, although he should have been in Primary four, but the standard of education was much higher in Lagos so he was stepped down by one class. Ironically, he excelled above his mates in his class and always topped the class. He was a very studious and intelligent pupil.
His father had owned a large farm in Umuagwo where he grew oil palm and supplied oil mills for processing, but had abandoned it to search of either white-collar or blue-collar jobs in Lagos, since he had an O’ level qualification. He had gotten wary of farming the fields and straining one’s self when he could just sit down in an office or do one or two things in a factory or an industry and get a reward that was more than what his strenuous oil palm farming generated. Besides, the government’s attention had shifted to the crude oil that came from beneath the ground and had left the kind of oil that came from oil palms that he produced. Also, cotton, cocoa and rubber weren’t recognized as export commodities anymore. He had spent five years already in Lagos working with the National Electric Power Authority and was now a trained Electric Engineer. He had a rented apartment in Oshodi where he lived with his family, and truly they were better off than when he tilled the hard ground for oil palm. The last time he travelled back to Umuagwo with his family for the Christmas and end of the year festivities, more and more Umuagwo youths had decided to abandon hoes and cutlasses and relocate to Lagos too.
The rest of Chideraa’s siblings were boys and they loved to play football a lot and when they listened to the radio, they either listened to comedy programs or music. Chideraa loved to help his mother out with the house chores and when he was with his father, they were either listening to news on the radio or were talking about the country.
The trending news had been about the oil boom all the while, but it was beginning to change a bit. Looting of public funds had once again become the order of the day. It was major reason Yakubu Gowon’s government was overthrown in a bloodless coup in July 29, 1975 and Brig. Gen. Murtala Mohammed was now into power. News broadcasts announced another coup in less than a year as Murtala Mohammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976 in another failed coup attempt. Then Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo came into power as the Military Head of State.
“Papa” Chideraa drew his father’s attention. “Would these coups continue forever?”
“I do not know my son. Those military men and their thirst for power; they claimed it was the corruption and indiscipline of the civilians that made them intervene in 1966. Now they are even more corrupt and undisciplined than the civilians of 1966. Although Obasanjo intends to hand over power back to civilians very soon; let us hope he will do so.” He replied.
Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo kept his promise and by 1979, he handed over power to a civilian, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. It sparked celebrations all over the country. Oshodi was not left out. The fact that the Vice President was an Igbo man, Alex Ekwueme, had given Obierika and so many other Igbos too, a reason to be jubilant, and it looked like Nigeria was heading to a good start again after so many years of struggle, looting and bloodshed. Although the country was in shambles, there was hope of a new beginning – A Second Republic.