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The hypocrisy of restructuring Nigeria

By Prince Charles Dickson

I was invited to be a guest speaker at Victor Kuchili’s annual stepping out convention, precisely the eighth one. I was asked to speak on the demand on leadership in a dynamic Nigeria with focus on regional agitation. I had been given the latitude to engage the subject matter as I deemed fit.

So, congratulations Victor and his wonderful team who were equally launching two books, and the first,  Wealth Creation, caught my attention, simply because somehow it was tied to the issues I sought to address as a speaker at the event, and the second, Stepping Out, was emphatic on my message that for a Nigeria of our dream to become reality, we needed to take a step out of our current state of mind.

So, how do we create wealth on a faulty premise? How do we become a truly wealthy nation when, indeed, we are at the hypocritical dichotomous T-junction? It is not possible that a nation like ours can hit half our potential when the desirable see-saw of the nation’s socio-economic and socio-political interactions cannot take place when the sheer weight of one participant ensures, at any given time, that one end of the bar firmly remains rooted to the ground.

So, the hypocrisy of restructuring is that we negate facts such as the need for unity for that to take place. In the absence of this, we cannot possibly see true leadership emerge, except our relationships as a people are allowed to be recreated by us abandoning our long held primordial attachments.

A nation that wants to restructure needs not fear unity, because as long as this is the case, virtually nothing can function with the requisite efficiency. We need to step out.

In my presentation, I took on the late respected literary icon Chinua Achebe’s thesis in There Was a Country… stating that with all the noise about the Nigerian state, one simple hard truth stands out, and that is “There was never a nation.” On the contrary there was a collective of individuals; all with different purposes and directions, none willing to create space for the Other, all sorts of mutually held suspicions and pretences of oneness, and having gone a near full circle, we again think restructuring a non-existent structure will solve our  forlorn migraine state.

So, as I watch even the debate on restructuring simmer down, I am amused that it is still within the parameters of a nation’s long suffered ailments. We suffer selective amnesia- we conveniently forget certain unpleasant facts about our journey as a country.

We suffer selective myopia, our vision skips areas we find unpleasant no matter how recent, and then from the not distant past, we are afflicted with an equal degree of selective hyperopic; perceiving and drawing lessons only from convenient happenings in our history, convenient sources. We listen but our hearing is defective, so our hearing is equally a case of selective audition, we hear the calls and narratives we wish to hear.

Our souvenir is also selective. When we display certain indignation, it is never for general application, rather it is hood-based indignation, a selective morality, such that our approach to restructuring is one of “what is good for the goose is almost never good for the gander.

Whether, it is fiscal federalism or state police, resource control or otherwise, a sizable construct of the conversation does not take into cognizance the ‘we’ narrative. Sadly, it is a cloth of tribalism as a social philosophy, which is a construction of imaginary boundaries, which establish the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy. Based on this dichotomy, we all are displaying our hypocrisy, we even look at who the restructuring would hurt most and who benefits most. We do not see it as a need to step out of old behaviours.

As long as there is no clear structure, we cannot restructure. For example, as long as there is no definition of, and clear concept of home, for as long as Nigerians already in Nigeria intend to eventually return home because Nigeria is not home to all Nigerians and state of origin is home, then we cannot be seen to be changing anything. Wealth in Nigeria cannot be wealth until it is wealth at home, so systems for creating wealth by default are faulty.

From all I said, it becomes very clear that Nigeria rhetoric is very much at variance with concrete realities of our Nigerian situation. In many of our conversations including this one on restructuring, it is not only at variance, the reality is a diametrically opposed question; who is deceiving who?

So,  we have not created wealthy persons nor a nation that is wealthy but a pseudo-wealthy nation, pseudo-elites and pseudo-middle class. Most things about us are pseudo, an alienation from that which is the truth and which is true. Life and appearances are generally untrue; acquisition of privilege has become the only criterion valid for the measurement of success. 

The bane of the Nigerian society is the obsession of her citizenry with the acquisition of wealth and the privileges it can buy.  We profane tradition to acquire titles, we buy degrees, when we are not cheating during exams, and we join exclusive and secret fraternities. We wear any conceivable uniform, expensive clothes; drive expensive cars that carry exclusive numbers, build the most expensive palaces, go to expensive clubs, and drink expensive beverages, put our wards in expensive schools, throw the most lavish parties and mate the most mercenary mistresses. The object is neither comfort nor luxury, just to be recognized and to further assault the underprivileged; as addicts of privilege, we do not create wealth.

A Nigerian is and must be a Nigerian, as Nigerian as any Nigerian in the context of Nigeria or we continually chase shadows, fearing realism, and hating the truth. A Nigerian must feel deep inside his Nigerian-ness as a state of being that enables him or her to be Nigerian anywhere and pursue wealth legitimately and contribute to the betterment of his immediate society first and step out with the same mindset or else what we see in the mirror currently is only but the real us for now, the question therefore is, for how long—Only time will tell

Maduako writes from Lagos

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