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Give Me Development And Take Your Religion By SOLOMON NNAM OKOCHA


My first visit to Dubai was supposed to be a fun filled escape from Nigeria's murderous pressure, or so my beloved wife thought. About three years ago, before the birth of our first daughter, Berenice Chimburuoma and in the heat of the general elections campaigns in Nigeria.
My wife, Oyeoma (like I fondly call her), insisted that we elope to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in search of leisure, at least we had to take some time off before the product of our biological fusion came on board. It was a well deserved rest; we had both struggled all year, toiling and rolling through the fierce Nigerian labour jungle. But ironically, I couldn't rest in Dubai. The sights and sounds of the beautiful Emirate capital made me restless, sad, and stiff.

"What could be the problem", my dear wife gently asked? She had noticed that my optimistic and quick to learn demeanour drastically evaporated as soon as our flight landed in the Dubai international airport. My mind was racing everywhere, raising questions in my head, questions that I believe needed urgent answers from those so called leaders who had been in charge of  Nigeria since independence. I saw my fellow Nigerians smiling and hugging at each other as though they had just been discharged from a refugee camp; they were all happy to leave their own country. What a shame.

The official religion in the United Arab Emirate is Islam. In fact, every 4 hours or so, the whole bubble and shuffle in Dubai Mall and other business districts came to a standstill as the first line of the Islamic call to prayer filled the air. Muslims were seen hurrying to their various mosques or designated prayer areas in order to observe the holy summon. Wait a minute. "I don't understand," I turned in complete amazement and whispered to my wife who was already trying unsuccessfully to hide her concern for my new emotional state. I was surprised that the same Muslims that we so love to vilify back in Nigeria have been able to optimally utilise the same 'oil money' that our supposed leaders so love to ruthlessly squander.

Despite the fact that we lodged in one of the most modern and luxurious hotels in Dubai, Grand Hyatt, which towers majestically over the edge of Dubai's historic creeks, my science inclined brain did not allow my Nigerian body to rest. Each time I looked out of the window, I saw a world that was completely different from my reality back home. I saw a place that was heavily endowed with all the trappings of good thinking. "What is the problem back home"? "Why are our leaders this wicked?" "How come everybody runs to Dubai, yet no one wants to make our country beautiful?" Why? I kept asking my pregnant wife who in her own unique way had adjusted to the new side of her 'activist' husband. Whatever the case might be, she was doggedly determined to enjoy her pre-maternal holiday.

The worst of it all was that we visited Dubai in August. I later learnt that it is the hottest month there, with an average temperature of 36°C and a high of 52.1°C. Do you know heat? But fortunately for the people living in Dubai, their government had taken into consideration the prevailing weather conditions there and have provided several means to reduce and cushion excessive heat and the resultant dehydrating effect on man. I talked to Fares, one of the white robbed mall officials about the very harsh weather condition and he told me that the main reason why the government recommends very big structures for malls, hotels, and other businesses is so that people can be subtly restricted to a particular environment at every point in time to avoid dehydration and excessive sweating. He also pointed out that standard air conditioning is a must for all buildings in Dubai. I quickly remembered that I had seen fans blowing under the bridge that I crossed yesterday. Planning is the key word here. Planning my friend!

Electricity that has been and is still more problematic than nuclear science to Nigerian leaders, is a non-issue in Dubai. Life in Dubai rotates around the clock. There is literally no night there. There was this particular day that I shopped with my wife till about 2:30am. We were moving from one shop to another, looking for designer wears to suite our carnal tastes, and we completely forgot about time. Time means nothing in Dubai. I suddenly realised that the limitation that inadequate power supply has brought upon the minds and productivity of Nigerians is immeasurable. Here I was, Solomon Nmam Okocha, the son of Kinikanwo Okocha, in an unknown land shopping for clothes in the middle of the night. My late father won't believe his eyes. It was highly unthinkable.

"The crime rate in Dubai is considerably lower than in most cities throughout the world of similar size", so I was told by a very friendly Pakistani taxi driver who was taking us around. He told us that he has not heard of any robbery or related incidence for the past 3 years since he came to Dubai and in truth, I saw it for myself. One midnight, while we were shopping in a Zara shop, my wife misplaced her purse. You don't understand; our traveling documents, cash and other equally important things where domiciled in that purse. Fear gripped my pregnant wife and I, and we started searching for the purse but to no avail. After 25 minutes of high powered hysteria, I reluctantly walked up to the desk officer and reported our misfortune. To my greatest surprise, after proper scrutiny and identification, the beautiful European lady brought out the purse from her drawers and gave it to us, whilst insisting that we confirm it's content. I thanked her and asked her where she found it, she pointed to an Indian security guard who was standing close to her desk. I went to the man and tried to thank him in the Nigerian way (I offered him money of course), but he declined, saying that he was just doing his job. Really?

Two days left to go, my wife insisted that we had lunch at Burj Al Arab, a distinctive sail-shaped stunning hotel; the perfect symbol of modern Dubai. This stunning hospitality structure did not look like what was built by mortals, it appeared as though Angel Micheal and others had dropped it down from heaven. Above all, it is the service at the hotel that really makes the Burj Al Arab so extraordinary. The staff are embarrassingly friendly, oh my God, no waiter or waitress had ever smiled at me the way these ones were smiling. Indeed, there should be a stronger word to use in describing service delivery in Dubai. Excellence is an understatement.

It was right there that I finally made up my mind to join forces with other progressive Nigerians in order to kick the rotten PDP-led federal government out of power. Sitting there on the 27th floor of Al Muntaha restaurant in Burj Al Arab, Dubai, I took the decision of a life time because I realised that religion does not guarantee development, otherwise a highly spiritual nation like Nigeria, with churches and mosques littered everywhere would have become paradise long ago. Therefore, I decided to counter the message of "Buhari will Islamise Nigeria", with "Buhari will develop Nigeria", it was all about development and nothing else. It became very clear that religion is a weapon mainly used by political elites in Nigeria to enslave the gullible masses and thereby hindering development and political participation. Today, I am proud to say that development has become my religion; just give me development and take your religion!

1 comment:

  1. viola.
    indeed, give me development and take your religion.