The elation over Nigeria’s experiment in democracy is over. Reality is once again at our doorstep with the worrying questions about our future – the calibre of those running (or ruining) the country, security, impunity of those in power, marginalisation, restructuring, economic slump, poor governance structure, etc.
Why is our nation, home to brilliant minds, rich traditions, rich in natural and mineral resources and centuries of wisdom, withering in poverty while most other nations rapidly move ahead of us?
Why are we, as a nation, drifting purposelessly, without direction or vision? Are our current systems, economic, political, and social, limiting us in this era of intense global competition among nations?
Can we, the people of Nigeria, afford to watch while barefaced official corruption, political volatility, rudderless administration in the states, flagrant profligacy, tribalism, religious intolerance, maladministration and administrative lapses, overloaded and corrupt judiciary and cumbersome civil service, and unbelievable personal greed demoralise our society and negate the advances we seem to have made so far? Why have we been getting a raw deal from our various leaders and governments over a very long period of our existence as a nation?
Like all nations, Nigeria too has changed. Unfortunately, the fatherland that we see today is not what we desired our country to be. Much of the change, especially over the last two decades, has caused serious anxiety amongst a lot of us, to the extent of desperation and sadness. However, haven't we haplessly and helplessly watched on, either choosing to compromise our integrity or insulating ourselves from the forces that threaten our society?
Nigeria is at present assailed, besieged and afflicted with multiple deficiencies of the following (not in order of any importance)
Insecurity and fear.
Endemic and brazen corruption, impunity, and indiscipline.
Massive unemployment and youth discontent.
Poor, insensitive (and in some cases, a dearth of) leadership.
Religious, ethnic, and political intolerance.
Poverty of both mind and material.
Deficiencies in our educational system.
Economic slump that we seemingly have no answers for.
Nigeria has the resources (both human and material); we have the brains, the ideas, the education, the skills, the knowledge, in other words, we have the potential and everything to make a great nation; a peaceful, progressive, and developed nation that could be the envy of the comity of nations.
Unfortunately for us, what we DO NOT have is simple, collective, and individual Honesty and Sincerity of Purpose. Let’s face it, we are not sincere and honest in this country. Truth has also gone out through the window and dissipated into thin air. Hypocrisy and sycophancy are the order of the day. Truth and Sincerity are very hard to determine, to see, to hear and to speak in Nigeria. Nobody says it, hear it, or adhere to Truth. Truth is like the proverbial needle in the haystack – impossible to find! Those who sometimes wish to express the Truth soon find themselves in trouble, or worse, dead.
Majority of the citizens, supposedly patriotic and well learned and capable, elected, elevated, or appointed into government and public positions end up being corrupt, even if not corrupt before their appointments. For many of our politicians, they are corrupt before election into public office. Some are even proven wanted criminals. The lure of easy money, the gaping loopholes in the system, the pressure from their communities all intensify their eventual capitulation to greed, selfishness, insensitivity and ultimately, corruption. And once you start, you cannot stop; so, the looting is endless, and with so much lucre, (that is, money regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonourable way), coming into a jealously centralised government, the opportunity to “chop” what you can is infinite.
It never fails. Supposedly acclaimed, good men/women, brandishing CVs that are as long as the arm, with enviable records of achievement, education, travels around the world, recognition and accolades from respected and respectable organisations and individuals all over the world, eventually disappoint us when their brazen corruption is exposed. Or rather, they expose themselves when they start flaunting wealth that the public know are not commensurate with the positions they hold or have held. They never cease to astound me with their greed and corruption, despite their educational and academic brilliance, global knowledge, and experience, etc. Some, if not most, even came from so humble a background that one would expect a God-fearing, kind-hearted man/woman who had gone through such hardships and poverty in their early lives, would take it as personal and humanitarian crusades to serve the people and ensure that those he/she is elected or appointed to serve do not undergo such hardship. Alas! it doesn’t turn out to be so, rather, they want to acquire everything acquirable within such a short time to make up for their childhood hardship and poverty.
It is very true, that power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power, position, and wealth are really weapons of the devil against Man. The corruption of the political class, the military, private business and industrial communities and security agencies is bringing Nigeria to its knees. On a personal note, if you ask Nigerians, you find that there is no allegiance to the Nigeria state but a system to take from and not to contribute into.
Government contracts can only be obtained by bribery; and if you do, nobody cares if you execute it or not. Nobody does anything without demanding or accepting some form of illicit gratification. It is a vicious cycle of corruption and misappropriation of funds. Thus, what should take one million naira to do will eventually cost ten million, plus poor workmanship. And we wonder where the money is, wonder where the contractor is and wonder where the government officials are. It is unending.
What is happening is that the Nigerian state is trying to re-invent itself when it has disallowed itself to evolve with the people. I believe if the institutions and structures are working the average Nigerian will not go into these extremities of corruption, swindling, armed-robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, and all other ills we are now experiencing in a previously strict, traditional, disciplined and morally-upright society.
Who do we blame? Do we keep on blaming the British for colonising us? Do we keep blaming the slave raiders (and our very own slave culture even before the arrival of the white man) for our current afflictions? Or do we continue to blame modern imperialists like the US, UK, China, etc.? Coloured television arrived in Nigeria before countries like Germany and many European countries and Australia. The discovery of oil in very large commercial volumes in the Niger Delta changed all the progress we were gradually making towards modern nation development and the easy money from the black gold oozing easily from beneath the ground and the creeks made it equally easy for the military to jettison all carefully and brilliantly laid development plans for the country towards agriculture and industrial growth. The result? A nation that has abandoned all sense of planning, and working hard and conscientiously for what they want – a lazy, indolent, focus-less and visionless nation whimpering on the edge of delusion, degradation and abject poverty of the mind and the physical; praying to God to come down and help them out without themselves wanting to lift a finger. A society where mediocrity gains a lot of mileage, and is preferred over merit, where almost everybody wants to work very little or less, but earn very large. A country where corruption is celebrated and honesty and truth are abhorred, unrewarded and shunned. Mediocrity rules and holds sway in the country and consequence is “res ipsa loquitur” (the thing speaks for itself). A country where abnormality has now become normal, and normality is considered abnormal.
It will take very strong, highly-disciplined men/women, with absolute and unflinching fear of God, consideration for the lives and plight of other less fortunate people, kind-heartedness and sensitivity for the plight of other people who are not even related to you, to resist the temptations posed and presented when in positions of power and authority, when in charge or have access to billions of naira/dollars. And it would seem there is a dearth of such men/women in our society, because, according to some schools of thought and opinions, some of us shouting against these injustices and corruption, are just waiting for our turn to get into power or appointment to grab/steal our own share of the loot. In fact, I have been personally accused of such over the years.
However, I fervently believe there is hope…! We know from the testimonies and occasional glimpses of hope from people who are fighting independent battles to correct the system.
Can you and I change our nation's current course? I am positive that we can, in many ways and with the right people and disposition.
In many conversations with fellow Nigerians, I could feel an urgent need to embrace real change, to create for us and for our children, a society with hope, opportunities, and fairness for all. But we need to do the walk, not the talk anymore. And this is what is missing. But maybe it won’t happen until the goat gets pushed to wall and has no alternative but to fight back.
But do we have to wait until that happens? When will that happen? What will make it happen?
Reminds one of ‘Animal Farm’. Lately I saw the fantastically ‘animated’ version of the Orwellian classic. Real animals were engaged and made to come alive with CGA overlay assists. What set out as a relaxing fun turned out to be an insightful journey, taking in the stunted growth that has characterised our beloved country, the many failures that are borne out of our individual traits and collective ineptitude, the myriad of excuses that are often pleaded in extenuation of our ability to rise even to the simplest of national challenges. I could go on and on. It seems that we never go low on excuses…many of us love our country dearly, and long to do something positive but where do we start? I am not talking about investing per se as I have no such accumulation. However, a few people are in our league who honestly want the country and the general populace to prosper, but cannot show up, because the bad seem to have overwhelmed the good. The love of money has so badly eaten into the moral fabric of our existence that you can never be sure of what to expect from any quarters: political, clergy, academia or what have you. It’s sad, sad, sad…
We have to do it NOW!!!