Have you ever asked yourself why our children do very badly in mathematics? Please just talk to the average young man or woman going to school in these parts. Ask him which subject gives him or her the biggest headache and before the question is out of your mouth, the answer is thrown at you – ‘Mathematics!’ Most of them are scared stiff of the stuff. Some believe that Maths is magic and only the likes of Professor Peller, the master magician, can understand how ‘a plus b’ can be equal to c.

You might want to blame the kids. Don’t blame them. Their parents before them and maybe their grandparents grew up in an environment where everything is conjecture and the only thing that is true is what the juju man or witch doctor says. Regardless of how educated, travelled or exposed we are, we are still deep inside, villagers trapped in the fables of juju men and witch doctors – the babalawos who intercede to the Gods on our behalf. We might be very religious or even call ourselves ‘men of God’ but the prism through which we see God is still that of the juju man, witch doctor or ‘jazz’. Our new ‘men of god’ are our modern-day juju men. They wear designer suits, drive fancy cars, speak high-sounding English and ‘prophesy’ to us what we want to hear. Like juju men of old, they also speak in tongues!

Why are we so backward? In a world of mathematics, quantum physics, empiricism, driver-less cars and Artificial Intelligence, we still consult cranky old men with chalk marks on their faces to toss around cowries in the air and tell us what the future holds. Oh, we still hire and pay prayer warriors to clear the path of our tomorrows. At a time, when much of the world can forecast hurricanes or tornadoes a week ahead or tell us precisely when it will rain in any village on earth, we still procure rain doctors to pretend to prevent the rain!

We fear to face the fact that much of our future is not dangling in the air like the cowries tossed by the witch doctor but is dependent on what we do or fail to do. We do not want to deal with facts because that means taking responsibility. So, we embrace conjecture and blame the devil or even God for our endless disasters.

Our mathematics problem is at the core of our many difficulties. Mathematics means facts. It means transparency, accountability, order, planning and the taking of responsibilities. In mathematics, two plus two will always be four. It can never be five or three and half. If we were to take mathematics seriously, how do we explain much of our contradictions? For instance, how does a level 8 officer in the employ of the government explain to his son how he owns an estate which his salary and all his allowances put together cannot contemplate even if he worked for one thousand years?

If the son of the level 8 officer were to ask his father: ‘Daddy, how did you make this much money and own so many houses?’ Do you think that the father would answer: ‘as a cashier in the government service, I stole the money placed under my care to provide service to the community’? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the answer would be something like: ‘It is God’s blessings.’ Which God? The answer avoids the simple additions and multiplication that mathematics demands. By what do you multiply his sixty thousand naira a month salary to obtain the billion naira that he has stashed away in underground septic tanks?

Pray, how can our ‘democratic’ government explain paying a man in its employ, with a wife and four children, the incredible salary of thirty thousand naira a month and expect the man to pay for food, housing, transportation, NEPA, clothes, school fees, medicine and all the many expectations of the extended family and not be a thief? Thirty thousand Naira a month is really one thousand Naira a day, less than the cost of one decent loaf of bread! Some brilliant persons will tell you: “the man will survive… he will find a way”. Tell me, what way? What kind of mathematical formula will the man apply to make one thousand Naira a day take care of his family?

And then, our dear dazzling newly minted president, in a moment of profound economic inspiration, announces the immediate removal of fuel ‘subsidy’. And the life of the average Nigerian citizen goes into a tailspin! On many of our roads, Nigerians with heavy loads on their heads and angst in their hearts are trekking and trekking. Kwashiorkor seems to be on the way back and we better be ready for free-for-all stealing, banditry, on a scale we never imagined, and everyday suicide? I hear they are now talking about palliatives. Please, why did we not design and introduce the palliatives before the fuel subsidy removal? What mathematical formular will be employed to distribute the palliative and please what use is any palliative to the many who would have died before the palliatives come on stream?

Exactly how did Nigeria, with one of the world’s biggest reservoirs of crude oil and other hydrocarbons become one of the world’s biggest importers of petroleum products with subsidies and scams that defy logic? Please, how did we come to the brilliant conclusion that paying to transport our crude oil to Europe, paying to refine the crude oil in Europe and then paying to bring the refined product to Nigeria is mathematically sound? Who killed our refineries and what price are they paying for the madness?

Let’s face it: we hide behind the name of God to do so much that is evil. Our politician who in four short years becomes richer than the state he promised to develop, at the end of the day goes to church for thanksgiving. What is he thanking God for? In his mind, by doing thanksgiving, he is bribing God to look the other way as he wallows in his thievery.

We have created a god in our image who is illiterate and does not understand mathematics. This creation of ours is based on our babalawo mentality, the belief that everything is abracadabra and facts and mathematics do not matter. It is the babalawo mentality that pushes some of us to take the life of a fellow human being, lock up his corpse in a cupboard and expect that if we chant some magic words, the corpse will be printing money every day for us in every currency. It is the babalawo mentality that makes us believe that once a ‘man of God’ has prayed for us, we do not need to plan or work hard anymore, we simply go home and there will be money everywhere. The ‘man of God’ is our later day babalawo, the middleman between us and the gods.

OMG! We have a big problem. Mathematics does not work in Nigeria!


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