A group of young men, having inherited their parents’ wealth, went on a spending spree. They quaffed the most expensive liquor, rode exotic cars, wore designer clothes and rocked the prettiest girls. Then, like in the case of the Biblical prodigal son, they soon returned to zero, haven squandered their fortune on a reckless lifestyle.
Looking like ex-convicts who had just been released from jail, they tramped the city in search of food and shelter. In their tattered state, one of the young men suddenly turned to his friends and asked: “Guys, what happened to us? How did we get here? How did we become what we are?” It was certainly a dumb question. It was also a question that popped up in a fleeting moment of self-realisation; what happens the day after a drunken party or hangover.
What happened to the merry-go-lucky delinquent young men is simple: they blew their lives away. How they got to the pitiable situation they found themselves was that, they took their inherited wealth for granted and lived as if there was no tomorrow. They sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. What they sowed was what they reaped. Law of nature, no less. It is possible they were warned by family members and elders of their communities on their wayward living, but they turned deaf ears. They were told to take it easy, but they scoffed at the persons offering advice as ‘old school’ who didn’t understand modernity or current happenings.
So they lived large, only to turn small. Nigeria is like that group of directionless young men who turned wealth to waste, instead of the other way round. We got the black gold, but turned it to waste; we got wealth, which we have blown like the prodigal young men. Those who found themselves in leadership positions neglected duty to community and country, and we soon began to breed worms and maggots all over.
Truly and painfully, who could have predicted that a nation so prodigiously blessed with every good thing on earth, human and material, would turn this way: a giant with the feet of a dwarf? Wobbling slowly, unsurely. Unsteadily. Greatly troubled and traumatized by myriad problems, not the least insecurity. How come nations we got independence almost at the same period left us far behind, in their steady march to progress? Look at India, a nation we once derided; Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, to mention a few.
How come we are still battling to get to 4000 megawatts of electricity, when power is no longer an issue in other countries? How come we are producing the 21st set of unemployed graduates, a country that is the 6th largest oil-producing nation on earth? How come we haven’t got our transportation right:air, road, rail and waterways? How come our army of the unemployed keeps lengthening, while our industrial capacity keeps reducing?
How come budgets are running into trillions, while the ordinary Nigerian is still battling the basic necessities of life: water, food, shelter, clothing, health care, amongst others? I don’t know about you, but all around me, what confronts me are faces of frustration, faces of the unemployed, faces of hopelessness awaiting hope in a leadership that seems totally confused as to where the nation should be heading. All around me, I see motion without movement.
I hear the egg heads speaking long grammar and economic jargons that produce no tangible results or garri for the hungry man’s stomach. How did we get here, to borrow the words of the distraught young men? The answer stares us in the face: leadership delinquency. We could have been a great nation, not a permanently developing nation or potentially great country, if those who happened on leadership had been more proactive; If those who took over from the independence leaders hadn’t turned vultures devouring our common wealth.
Where are the groundnut pyramids that once dotted the Northern skyline? Where are the textile factories? What happened to the once-flourishing cocoa industry in the West and the palm kernel production in the East? What about the agricultural prowess of the old Mid-West and the East? Gone! Drained, like the prodigal youngsters who blew their inherited wealth. Even our black gold, our oil, has been so mercilessly bled that many are wondering if we wouldn’t have been better off if God hadn’t deposited the precious liquid in our soil.
Don’t let’s get angry or depressed talking about the billions of dollars that have been stolen from our oil resource. The several probe panels on the rot in this sector are eloquent testimonies that we have been sundry gang- raped by those we had entrusted to oversee our most prized resource. Na wa. It is not only in the economy that things have abysmally plunged. How did we get to the level where death has become this cheap? Death on the roads.Death through armed robbery attack.Death in the hands of assassins.Death by Boko Haram.
Death, death everywhere. Indeed, never has life become this cheap and demeaned as we have seen in recent times. Never has the Nigerian felt so insecure as we witness daily. From the North to South; East to West, roadcarnages have become truly frequent and frightening. In the last four weeks alone, according to official statistics, over three hundred Nigerians have had their lives brutally abridged on the road.
Add to that, the number of Nigerians who die daily in the hands of gun men, assassins and through other gruesome attacks, you get the picture that Thomas Hobbes could have been talking about our country when he described life as ‘short, brutish and nasty.’ The disturbing part of this ugly scenario is that we have a government that is either unable to do something about the spectre of deaths in the land or has adopted an approach that is patently too slow. For example, road carnages could be reduced if we had motorable roads and enough logistics provided for the road marshals to properly police the highways, provide enlightenment to road users and have the capacity to deal with errant road users.
Of course, the rot didn’t start with the Jonathan government, but what’s wrong if solutions began with it? Over the years, hefty sums are budgeted for road construction, maintenance and rehabilitation. Paradoxically, the heftier the fund, the more deplorable the roads get. Don’t ask me what happened to the money! In the area of security, we know that not much has changed. The police itself is unable to protect its men and officers, not to talk of it offering protection to the larger members of the society. Don’t get me wrong.
Within the limit of their ability, resources, manpower and what have you, they are putting up a good fight, but the fight isn’t good enough to guarantee a good night rest for majority of Nigerians. When a whole commissioner of police is gunned down on the streets of Enugu and no one has been brought to justice yet, that paints a picture of how pathetic the situation is. If a serving commissioner is so brutally brought down and the high command hasn’t turned Nigeria’s criminal gang upside down to get the killers, we can’t expect much miracle from the same police as far as protection of lives and property is concerned.
The killing of Kwara Police boss, Asadu, in Enugu, should count as the most embarrassing incident for the police in recent times. If IGP Abubakar Mohammed can’t get the killers of his commissioner, he has no business sitting pretty in office and assuring Nigerians that the police he commands is equal to the task of protecting Nigerians. No one is ever going to take him serious. Of course, the police has in its crime diary a litany of unresolved murders: Comrade OlaitanOyerinde, Funso Williams, Bola Ige, Harry Marshal, Otunba Dina, amongst others.
If government can’t guarantee food, shelter and other basic things of life, it ought to be able to protect the life of its citizens, which the constitution says is the primary purpose for the existence of government. This brings us to the raging issue of Boko Haram and the controversy generated by a proposed amnesty for the militant Islamist sect. The first question to ask is: how did we get to the situation where a group of citizens would hold the government and the generality of Nigerians to a standstill? Simple: we got to this sorry pass because we brought a rotten wood home and ants have infested everywhere, as novelist Chinua Achebe would say.
Our leaders sowed the wrong seeds; the wrong values; the wrong culture, preached the wrong verses, and we are simply harvesting the results of bad leadership. When leaders enrich themselves and pauperise their peoples, when they devalue lives, when they fail to do what is right before God and man, what the nation harvests are violence and blood. We are paying the price for the mismanagement of our country at all strata.
Painfully, those who have lost their lives had nothing to do with it. From groups that said they were fighting for economic and political justice like MOSOP, MASSOB, OPC and MEND, we now have a Boko Haram fighting a totally intriguing and bloody battle garbed in a fight for religious justice, and we all are the worse for it.
Beyond the call, acceptance or otherwise of amnesty, the way out, I would think, is for government to urgently convoke a national conference of the Nigerian people to discuss our nationality and nationhood questions. With a heavy dose of mutual distrust, suspicion, ethnic and religious gulf, we can’t continue to play the ostrich by pretending all is well with us. This, indeed, is a troubled federation of the angry. Quick-fixes only assuage the anger. Temporarily.