Can We Dance?

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Rivers State Dancing Step

Dancing is as old as music itself. It has its root in the Bible long before the time of King David when the Israelites had Levites who danced as well as sang.
Dancing is synonymous with joy. It is a genuflection of body, mind and soul to the rhythm of pleasantries. It is a self-re-awakening of ecstasy, an expression of joyful mood. Apart from the usual dirge that occasionally accompanies the demise of kings and powerful monarchs in some parts of Africa, dancing is uniquely meant for joyful celebration.
If the above allegory is anything to go back, can we, as Nigerians, dance as we mark the 18th year anniversary of uninterrupted civil rule in our country?
The Democracy Day, as May 29 of every year has come to be known in Nigeria, is a day we set aside to celebrate the re-birth of our country that had long been held captive and prostrate by a cabal of military careerists and self-serving carpetbaggers. It, indeed, sounds a death knell for the rule of gun.
May 29 provides Nigeria a big leap forward towards self re-awakening. It will not be a bad idea, therefore, if we break into songs and dances, clink glasses of champagne or even perform the annual ritual of slapping each other’s backs, either on the streets or on the pages of newspapers, all in the name of celebrating the successful completion of the 18th gear of our forward march.
Before we switch into the 19th gear, however, we should ask ourselves certain heart-to-heart questions. How far and how well has Nigeria fared in the last 18 years? What have we achieved in concrete terms? Or shouldn’t we look back? And why should we look back?
These soul-searching questions are important to us as a nation to enable us project into the future.
As erudite Professor Femi Osofisan rightly noted in his foreword to a book, some years ago; “The past is certainly important, as a backdrop, to show us where we are coming from, and hence furnish us with a firm footing to confront the future. But the past is even more important as a mirror, to show us who we are in the present, and to bring us as well a reflection of who we are going to be in the future”.
Sadly, most Nigerians hate to look back. Late Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was once quoted to have said that, if the Almighty wanted men to look back, it would not have been beyond Him to provide men with a pair of eyes at the back of the head.
The late Biafran General may be right. But in truth, a country that cannot look back cannot seriously look forward to its future, to paraphrase another scholarly mind, Dan Agbese.
To appreciate our forward march, therefore, we must ask ourselves the probing question that the former Republican Party candidate in the US Presidential election, Ronald Reagan asked the American voters during the 1980 campaign for the White House: “Are you better off today than four years ago?”
By way of emphasis, are Nigerians better off today than 18 years ago?
There is no doubt that the past 18 years of civilian rule have provided us the unique opportunity to walk free and even call our leaders names without the fear of Dracula fangs. Needless to say that Nigeria is no longer a Pariah that the international community dared to touch even with the longest pole.
And of course, the standard of living has taken some leap for-ward for few Nigerians who know the path to economic fortune, just as it has been a dream world for our politicians, most of whom have not recovered from the shock of the good fortunes that democracy has thrust on their laps.
It is perhaps from the hoipolloi and deluge of the scums of the earth who live out their lives in the laps of penury that you are likely to get an earful. And they are as many as the number of civil servants,  unemployed youths, pensioners, street beggars and urchins who eke out a living on daily basis.
Nevertheless, Rome, they say, was not built in a day. Why then shall we dance not?
Even though, some of our leaders have taken us one step forward, two steps backward, or better still, making us oscillate around the circle; a handful of them deserves a pat on the back, for having the political heft to put smiles on people’s faces.
So, as we celebrate the 18th annual ritual of our fledgling democracy, shall we, therefore, rise up and dance to the rhythm of our forward march, if indeed there is any? Please, never say nay to dancing.

Boye Salau