The answer to this question “is this the Nigeria of our dreams”, is as obvious as it is disturbing. Sixty years after independence, it is to Nigeria’s eternal shame that she has failed woefully in applicable indices, on all fronts and applying all relevant criteria. From its position, at independence, when it was widely touted as possessing the potential to become the giant of Africa, Nigeria has spectacularly underperformed and underachieved, so consistently that it has become something of a by word for state failure. It is laughed at and mocked before the comity of nations. India, a once third world country like Nigeria, has hit the stars. She has developed her first cervical cancer vaccine; joined the world’s naval elites with her first home-grown aircraft carrier. Do you know that India manufactures aircraft except its turbine engine? Do you know that India is the 4th largest passenger vehicle producer in the world, and that she produced 4.06 million cars in 2018 -2019? Does Nigeria manufacture a bicycle? 

Nigerian, an artificial creation

Nigeria’s creation was fundamentally flawed with the British super-imposing Northern hegemony and dominance over Southern Nigeria. Nigeria is an artificial creation. Indeed, the name Nigeria was given to her by a young British journalist, Miss Flora Louisa Shaw (who later married Lord Lugard) on 8th January, 1897. What is today known as Nigeria was ruled by the Royal Niger Company around 1886 to 1899. Following the revocation of its character, the Royal Niger Company sold its holdings in the territory which later became Nigeria to British for £865,000. This was the price for which Nigeria was purchased. (i.e., about N 735. 2 Million only). By 1900, the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate passed from the Royal Niger Company to Britain. By 1st January, 1914, these two territories were amalgamated as the Colony and Protectorates of Southern and Northern Nigeria. The fusion of these two territories was done for political and commercial reasons without any consideration on the preferences of the inhabitants of these territories. These people already had their set ways of life – the Benin and Oyo Empires; Hausa City States; Igbo City States; Kanem Bornu, Ile-Ife civilization cradle of the Yoruba race. We already had great historical figure like Oba Ovonranmwen Nogbaisi of Benin Empire, King Nana of Itsekiri, King Jaja of Opobo, Queen Amina, Mal Idriss Alooma, Queen Idia, etc.

The independence

Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Joseph Tarka, Chief Dennis Osadebe, Herbert Macaulay, etc., who fought, unarguably, for the flag independence of Nigeria from Britain, in reality, projected the ideas of their enclaves. For example, while people from the Southern part of Nigeria craved for independence in the 50’s, the people from Northern Nigeria felt the timing was wrong. Chief Anthony Enahoro’s motion for Nigeria’s Independence suffered setbacks in parliament on several occasions with the northern members of parliament staging a walkout as a consequence of the motion. However, in 1953, Enahoro initiated move to self-government through the motion he sponsored in the Western House of Assembly. This eventually led to Nigeria’s independence on 1st October, 1960. While it could be argued that the people currently occupying the territory called Nigeria were never consulted before the amalgamation of 1914, all of them lifted the Nigerian flag the moment the Union Jack was lowered in October 1, 1960.

Many who felt granting independence to Nigeria would usher in unprecedented growth, were surprised to see unprecedented corruption, looting of the nation’s treasury and mismanagement of the country by the supposedly founding fathers of the Country. The military that came to salvage the problem on 15th January, 1966, even compounded it by their lop-sided manner of cleansing the system. There is a conspiracy theory that the Igbos used the coup to pave way for General Aguiyi-Ironsi to be Head of State of Nigeria. The Northern members of the Nigerian Army did not hold back as they retaliated over the killing of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Maimalar and others by also slaughtering many innocent Igbo soldiers and civilians through a genocidal ethnic-cleansing. This eventually led to the Nigerian Civil War. There have been many coup d’états in Nigeria since the 1966 coup d’état. However, since the year 1999, there has not been any coup. There have been different agitations springing up in some parts of the country.

If there is one thing all Nigerians are agreed upon, it is the belief – fueled by disappointment and frustration – that have we have failed to fulfil our potential as a nation, we are a long way from living up to the dreams of our founding fathers. Right from our 21st year of independence (when we hypothetically came of age), till date, few issues have consistently featured in our national discourse (particularly in the media) as the National Debate. By this is meant the seeming past time of virtually every Nigerian to bemoan our experience as a nation. Simply put, Nigeria is a failed, broken nation. Apply every conceivable yardstick, according to every knowledgeable (and not-so-knowledgeable) expert, the country is not just a disaster waiting to happen – IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.

The diagnosis

Virtually every thing that can possibly go wrong, is wrong with our country: insecurity, collapsed infrastructure, failure of the public school system, an economy in shambles (epitomized by the free-fall of the value of the Naira and spiraling inflation), an unremitting insurgency, etc. The list is endless. With such a litany of woes, it is no surprise that many Nigerians have since given upon their country. But is all hope lost? Is the situation irredeemable? Can Nigerian be salvaged? If so, what does it take? As usual, the first step in tackling any problem is accurate diagnosis. Accordingly, in attempting to deconstruct “The Nigerian Conundrum”, the first task is to assess the scale of the challenge –to probe the depth of the rot.

In his book “The Trouble with Nigeria,” Professor Chinua Achebe surmised that Nigeria’s problem “is simply and squarely a failure of leadership . . . The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, the challenge of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership”. He concluded that, with good leaders, we can overcome the challenges of tribalism, lack of patriotism, social injustice, mediocrity, indiscipline and corruption. Those sentiments were echoed a generation later by a notable scholar, who, when asked to identify the key “Issues/ Problems with Fix(ing) Nigeria “offered the following response:

• Complex ethno-religious composition that gives rise to tribalism,

• High power distance culture that makes institutional leaders see themselves as ‘Lords’ that cannot be questioned rather than as servants of the people,

• Corruption on steroids,

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• Weak institutions, and

• High illiteracy/poverty rate, that make it easier for the political elite to weaponise poverty.

I will add, state captured by elite buccaneers and weak followership/civil society.

As pointed out Ehi Braimah “Bad planning, wrong choices/priorities, egregious greed and corruption are largely responsible for Nigeria’s fall from grace”.  By that, he was alluding to a time (in 1974), when Nigeria was reportedly so prosperous, that she lent money to the International Monetary Fund, the IMF. The source of that revelation, Alhaji’ Abubakar Alhaji, the then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, identified over-dependence on oil and the huge cost of governance at all levels as contributing to the comatose state of our economy.

A funny country: misplaced priorities

*Naija & her ways*

79,000 Nigerian muslims spent $5,000 each to go to Saudi Arabia to stone and kill the devil with stones. $395 Million from a poor underdeveloped Country like Nigeria. Saudi economy is growing through Tourism. 50,000 Christians went to Israel to Kiss Jesus statue there and attach JP to their names. $250 Million ==$645 Million – (over Half a BILLION Dollars)…  $1.3 billion. Let’s not convert it to naira because some of us will not sleep, but let’s try. (782 billion naira, over half a Trillion naira.)

This amount can be used to fund fresh graduates who have innovative Ideas and in turn, create millions of Jobs. Since we have been traveling to Israel and Saudi Arabia, has our Economy improved? What is Government’s business with pilgrimages?  What is wrong with us?

Africans (especially Nigerians) what Is wrong with our logic?

Nowhere is the rot more noticeable than in the value of the Naira. From a high of US dollars to one naira back in the Seventies, it is shocking that the Naira has now plunged to an all-time low of N740 to the dollar. In terms of education, our public universities have been shut for the umpteenth time because of a prolonged strike (8 months strikes and counting) by lecturers over lack of payment of a mere living wage. Apart from threatening to proscribe their union, the Federal Government’s latest clearly desperate, response, was to ask affected students to sue the lecturers’ union.

Meanwhile, an assortment of Non- State Actors – from armed serenaded bandits to kidnappers and terrorists – have laid vicious siege on large swathes of the country, holding hapless citizens hostage with their campaign of unremitting terror and brigandage.  No one and nowhere is either safe or immune – including the capital city, Abuja, the President’s home State (and home-town) of Kastina and Daura, respectively. Some of those abducted have remained in captivity for almost a decade (the Chibok and Dapchi hostages), Infrastructure such as prisons and trains/rail tracks are targeted seemingly at will – with little or no resistance from those paid to safeguard such assets and our very lives. With the next general elections half a year away, the political class have resumed their 4-yearly ritual of promise-making and mudslinging. Nigeria practices Electionocracy, plutocracy, gerotencracy, judocracy, Executocracy, and legistocracy but never democracy as defined by Abraham Lincoln in his November, 19, 1863 Gettys Burg declaration of democracy being a government of the people, by the people and for the people. 

The only difference this time is that the usual suspects have been joined by a seeming upstart who is giving the former a run for their money. Is he a genuine hope of a break from the past? Does he represent the future which his supporters (and they are legion) portray him to be?


Thought for the week

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists”.

(Ernest Hemingway).