There is nothing that gives me as concern much as the state of affairs in our dear country. This is why I have consistently advocated good governance, fear of God and selflessness in service. Last week, I did a piece on Nigeria’s federalism, and concluded by calling for the restructuring of the nation on the basis of equity, justice and fair play. After that piece, my heart has been at pain. I am worried things do not work well in Nigeria. Instead of getting better, they are getting worse.
In this piece, I have taken a deeper look at the state of affairs in Nigeria with a view to pinpointing the way forward as we approach the proverbial year 2015. Any right-thinking person would agree with me that Nigeria has migrated from one major problem after another since independence. The diverse and complex nature of these problems makes the issue we discuss today topical.
I have found out in all my years of writing about Nigeria’s development that identifying the ills of our nation is never a problem, because there are very many of them. The main problem lies with attempting to reconstruct Nigeria, especially when viewed from the angle of ethnicity, religion and politics. The task I have taken upon myself is similar to asking a bricklayer to rebuild a dilapidated house.
I want to state unequivocally that no matter how much one tries, he will achieve little, because the situation has grown more precarious with our present democratic experience. Fifty-three years down the line, Nigeria has grown from a little-known country into a giant in the sun. As it develops, so do its problems. Apart from the divergent nature of the tribes, languages and peoples that make up Nigeria, it has another problem that has threatened to destroy the fabric of its existence: bad, dishonest leadership. Bad and dishonest leadership has been at the centre of all the problems militating against the unity, peace and stability of our fatherland.
Let me point out quickly that I do not intend to sound hopeless or paint a picture of gloom about the fate of Nigeria. What I have tried to do is tell the story as it is – not minding whose ox is gored. The bane of our development as a nation is that our leaders do not tell us the truth. Those who know me well can attest that I am a man who stands up for what is right at all times – no matter the price I am made to pay. In fact, I have refused to join the league of those Nigerian leaders who say something is black when actually it is white. I actually mean those leaders who have held our nation and all of us hostage.
Reconstructing Nigeria is indeed a difficult task, and yet achievable. To reconstruct Nigeria involves our collective effort as a nation. Not the parochial, anarchistic and, often, individualistic approach some persons adopt in the name of offering leadership.
I have always regretted the fact that I belong to this generation of Nigerians that has failed to maximize its potentialities. A generation God has so blessed with everything that is good, yet has failed to make its presence felt. Why then have we chosen to follow the path of retrogression and infamy? My pain is caused by so many factors. Where do we start? Is it from our corrupt public officers – who have stolen our nation blind or students who have failed to go to school and learn? Where? I ask. Where? Can anybody tell me which sector of our national life is free from decadence?
That Nigeria has failed to grow out of infancy 53 years after independence is because many of us have worked against its growth and development. Who among us can vouch that he has not contributed, in any form, to the present trouble with Nigeria? I doubt if there is any such living Nigerian. The truth is that all of us have contributed in some measure to the woes of our nation.
It takes the collective will of a people to develop a nation. Great democracies of the world have had their sordid pasts, but they never allowed this to obstruct their growth and development. America presents a classic case. Today, America is a reference point on any matter under the sun. But they did not achieve greatness on a platter. China and other developed countries of the world have overcome their initial predicaments to become global superpowers. Where was China a decade and half ago? Where was South Korea? Where was Hong Kong? In less than 15 years they have developed their economies to a global level – to the point that even the United States and other developed economies fall back on them for survival.
We do not have any reasonable explanation to offer why Malaysia should overtake Nigeria in the production of palm oil, for instance. Fifty-three years ago, Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of palm oil and groundnut. But alas! We are far behind Malaysia in the production of palm oil, which they came to Nigeria to get. What an irony!
Where do we start the reconstruction? I still ask. Is it in the manufacturing sector that has functioned below capacity? Is it not funny that Nigeria with all its immense resources imports almost everything its needs to sustain its people? We import even toothpicks and water. I learnt that the Federal Government is planning to ban a new range of products. But the question is: do our industries have the capacity to produce enough to meet demand? Banning certain categories of products is one thing and producing sufficient quantity locally to meet the needs of the people is another!
Look at the way Nigerians live. Many of us live below one dollar per day (that is N160 a day). A recent World Bank statistics puts the figure at 60 cents (N96 a day). Almost 70 per cent of Nigerians are threatened by poverty, yet Nigeria is the sixth largest producer of oil in the world. Drive through the cities of Nigeria and what you see will shock you. Poverty is the greatest enemy of an average Nigerian family. Children of school age cannot go to school. Those in school drop out or go into robbery or prostitution to make ends meet. Our universities have turned into glorified secondary schools, our hospitals prescription centres. Why should we live such a lowly life in the midst of abundance?
Tell me why it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Nigerians to sleep at night with two eyes closed. They sleep with one eye open for fear of armed robbers. Those in the North do not sleep at all for fear of Boko Haram. The rich in the East and West live in steady fear of kidnappers. Nobody knows whose turn next.
There is virtually restiveness in every corner of the country. From East to West, North to South – the story is the same. Nowhere is safe. Those who govern us insist all is well. They tell us to go about our business without fear of molestation. We believe them. Out of trust we embark on our daily activities and end up either killed or maimed by the dastardly actions of terrorists who have sworn to destroy our once-peaceful nation.
The evil in our society today is so alarming that if nothing is done fast we shall all perish. Where lies our hope then when nobody is sure of what tomorrow will bring? The naira has suffered the worst slide in a decade against other currencies, while its purchasing power has kept dwindling. Many of our industries can no longer produce at optimal capacity, because they cannot sustain the cost of production, which skyrockets daily. Those that could not withstand the hostile business environment in Nigeria have relocated to neighbouring countries where they are doing very well.
There is no place in Nigeria that is safe. Assassins, armed robbers, forgers, scammers, liars, have virtually held all of us hostage. Nobody trusts the other. Everybody is like in a rat race – struggling as if there is no tomorrow. The decay is getting worse and worse, while the tales that come from every nook and cranny of this great country are quite disturbing.
I am deeply worried because of the way things are going. Everybody wants to acquire wealth at all costs – to the level that nobody cares for the other again. Where do we go from here? My heart is in so much pain. I have looked at my generation, and we seem to have lost focus. We are all buried in corruption that has eaten up the very foundation of our nation. What I see baffles me. It baffles me because everybody thinks only about himself, and little about Nigeria.
I weep for Nigeria, which in spite of its global fame, abundant resources, mighty men and women of valour is still a limping giant. We are told about the great exploits of our founding fathers who laid down their lives that Nigeria would survive. We read about their courage in the face of adversities and how they patriotically defended the sovereignty of our country with their blood. Their feats leave many of us in disbelief. But what have we done to emulate them? I ask: ‘what?
The much we have done for our nation is to pillage and steal its resources. We conspire to loot the treasury, connive with foreign elements to sabotage it, and even threaten to destroy its unity if our selfish desires are not met. This is how we love Nigeria!
Our leaders should bury their heads in shame that Nigeria which they inherited from the white man is fading away – dying in instalments. What will be left in Nigeria to share if we go on this way? We fight over allocation and kill one another over who controls the resources, but do nothing to replenish Nigeria.
It seems the primary function of government is to share money and no longer to defend the people and provide their basic needs. I feel sad to reason the way I do, because things have gone out of hand. It seems we have all lost our sense of consideration and integrity. We acquire wealth with mindless greed. For whom, I ask? Probably, we amass all the wealth for generations of our descendants unborn? What foolery!
Those who acquire wealth to the detriment of the people’s welfare are nothing but fools, because the money they accumulate will be eaten by termites. Have they not heard about the rich fool? He gathered all his wealth and at night his soul was demanded. In our vanity, we tend to forget how ephemeral life is. We revel in ostentation and lavishness without sparing some thought for the many Lazaruses in our midst. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man? Some day we will be asked question about our stewardship on earth. How will that day be? There will lamentation in Rama!
Nigeria as it stands today is in deep distress. For 53 years, we have fought over who should control its destiny. Every group claims it is its turn to rule. Even those who held the reins of power for 30 of the first 45 years still lay claim to its leadership as if it is their birthright. Those in power say that those who fought in the war should not be trusted with power. But the war was a divine design to restructure Nigeria. We fought the war that Nigeria’s unity would be preserved. Even those who did not raise a sword during the war, like my generation, are made to bear the repercussions of that war. What is the sin of my generation that it should be made to suffer for the sin of another generation?
I can say without fear that the hope of this nation lies in the hands of my generation. Those still clinging to power have nothing new to offer. They have tried for 53 years to give us direction, but sadly they have failed us abysmally. They know they lack new ideas to make a difference, but they have held tenaciously to power. They commit unprintable sins and have no respect for the rules that govern our land. They carry themselves as if they have the power of life and death. They even boast of knowing what tomorrow holds in store, they have suddenly turned fortune-tellers. They tell all of us that they know those who will succeed them. What arrogance! Does power no longer belong to God?
What they plan to do is to rig the elections as usual and intimidate the citizenry to accept them as legitimate leaders. 2015 election will put an end to election-rigging in Nigeria. Mark my words. Nigeria must be made well and whole again. They say Nigeria will be dismembered in 2015 (or even before). Let me ask: Are they God? Nobody can speak with any surety about tomorrow. Tomorrow belongs to the realm of guesswork. It is only God that knows what will happen tomorrow.
Each time I watch some of our leaders, I remember Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The hard truth is that they do not learn from the sad ends of past autocratic leaders. Were we all not witnesses to the fate that befell Idi Amin, Mobutu Seseko, and Pinochet? We saw how they fell like ordinary men. That is the transience of power. Which among our leaders can in certainty run away from this sad fate? I ask you, who?