The Problem With Nigeria

Posted on 16/07/2012


  • The Problem with Nigeria

    When Chinua Achebe wrote his 1984 publication, ‘The Trouble With Nigeria, his intention perhaps was to challenge the resignation of Nigerians and inspire his countrymen toward a sense responsibility, responsiveness and positive reaction. Achebe had stated most of his arguments on his first page:

    ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.’

    Although the book is only sixty-eight pages long, it provides a powerful analysis of why Nigeria has failed as a country. The chapter titles spell out the problems that Achebe identifies – Tribalism, False Image, Leadership, the Nigerian Style, Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity, Indiscipline, Corruption among others. I do not intend to re-write Professor Emeritus Achebe’s superior thesis – I merely believe that if thirty long years has passed since he put his thoughts together and the same problems still exist, then our ‘trouble’ has become an even more serious ‘palaver’ and something drastic needs to be done. Nigeria is disintegrating before our very eyes! Achebe believed that overused words like ‘unity’ and ‘faith’ and ‘patriotism’ should be expunged from our national lexicon. What good they have done all these years! He suggested that they be replaced with stronger ideals, such as ‘justice’ and ‘honesty’ and ‘truth.’ He even pondered if it was possible that as a nation we chose to extol easy virtues which are amenable to the manipulation of hypocrites, rather than difficult ones which would have imposed the strain of seriousness upon us. Thirty years after, nothing has changed!

    True patriotism cannot be demanded, or forced upon a people. Patriotism stems out of a contract between a state and it’s subjects, by which the state promises to uphold and maintain the provision of certain needs, requirements and benefits in trust for the people, for which the people in return must be willing to offer unalloyed obedience and support. Patriotism cannot stand any test in any part of Nigeria today, where governments have hardly delivered much to the advantage of the people, where corruption is calculated in triplicates of millions, and where serving First Ladies, unashamedly still draw salaries and allowances! Sans a few extraordinary examples, which have refused to sail with the buccaneers and cut throats, the Nigerian state is in free spin; the ship has hit an eddy and the captain is dead drunk! Actually, it seems we have all been drunk all these years! The year is 2012, and there is still enough time for the hangover to wear off. Wake up, Nigeria. It’s about time we did the right thing!

    It is time for us to revisit our constitution. Was it really in Nigeria’s best interest to permit the military to draft Nigeria’s constitution? What can the military understand about the ideals and ethics of democratic existence? What would be the best constitution for a country as diversely demarcated and structurally challenged as present day Nigeria, where ideals like unity, faith and patriotism have failed? How can we create a People’s Constitution? All the above, viable posers that must be challenged. My thoughts: The best way to produce a people’s constitution is through a constitutional conference of delegates that prepares a draft constitution for a referendum. However, one would query the credibility of the current crop of legislators in embarking on such an altruistic mission that would require an extreme measure of good intention, selflessness, objectivity and nationalism. When former President Obasanjo recently referred to the National Assembly membership as ‘a bunch of thieves’ it didn’t take long for him to be proven absolutely correct when more than a few scandals began to pop into the open – Nigerians will never look at a traditional cap sat upon the babanriga the same way again! Then again, lessons learned – there is everything in a name built upon conspiracy!

    Meanwhile, Obasanjo himself doesn’t quite smell of roses – his personal albatross is a trail of unsolved mystery stretching from the Halliburton conundrum to Third term schematics to his daughter’s secret oil businesses. In fact, many believe that the reason why Nigeria is in such a mess today points back in one person’s direction. There is something about the Owu man. The Owu’s of the Egba kingdom in South-western Nigeria are a unique clan. To illustrate the fierceness of the character of the Owu man or woman, historian Robert Sydney Smith in his “History of the Yoruba’s”quotes a proverb: “A child is born at Owu and you ask whether male or female; which will be a proper child?” (A bi omo l’Owu, o ni ako ni tabi abo ni, ewo ni yio s’omo nibe?) Did the man hate Nigerians so much for refusing to approve his third term agenda that he unleashes a double blitzkrieg on us? First in the form of an invalid who puts the nation into a still-born, comatose condition, followed by an utter dimwit who has set us into reverse? The man himself prescribes the solution. In an interview he granted the Guardian of London recently, the Balogun of Owu said: “In other countries corruption has not been a way of life. When you are found, you are dealt with. And that’s what we need. Fighting corruption is not a one-night affair. Of course, there are deep-rooted interests, and if you are going to deal with it, you have to deal with it ruthlessly and consistently.” You wonder if he would like to be a volunteer?

    To cleanse Nigeria of its evil past we must embark on a regime that is seen to uphold the principles of crime and punishment, to deal with corruption and corrupt people in finality, and be seen to practice what is preached. Currently we have too many criminals in positions of power. We have had federal representatives who have stood for election while serving prison terms. Convicted criminals have been governor’s past. We have even ex-convicts strolling along the corridors of state houses, brandishing billion dollar contracts. The few ones who have been caught by the oversight authorities were mainly the unlucky ones – it seems the watchdog organisations the EFCC, and ICPC have suddenly become toothless. Without wishing to inflict further punishment much has been said about the lack of moral standing in society, about the crudeness and total lack of civility, about the absence of mannered, civilised behaviour within our communities, and more disturbing, about the emergence of a new breed (tribe) of inhumans – who rejoice in the predicaments of their own kith and kin. The recent Dana plane crash brought out the beast in the hordes of people who gathered around the scene. They were not at the crash site to help the victims or assist in rescue operations, nay! They came to ravage, to loot, to search through the pockets of the dead, to see what could be salvaged in greedy pursuit. This new breed of inhuman is mean, dumb, daft and illiterate. You must be dumb, daft and an utter dodo if you would still revel in the act of scooping up fuel from a fallen petrol tanker, or burst oil pipeline after hundreds have met untimely deaths in such instances. And it is a misconception to argue that these things are caused by hunger and poverty – it is caused by greed. Q. E. D! This new breed involve in kidnapping as a form of business; freedom fighters they are definitely not – go ask high Chief Government Ekpumopolo aka ‘Tompolo.’ The former boss of MEND, currently sits on a N15 Billion waterways security contract for policing of Nigeria’s maritime domain and ensure compliance with international maritime conventions on vessels and ships voyaging the country’s waters, on behalf of the Nigerian government. His father named him well! And, worst of all, this new breed of Nigerian has mastered the extreme suasion strategy of suicidal bombing. Suicide had never been a prominent Nigerian trait, until recently. Now our trailblazers of this Asian art of extreme tactical warfare can even teach the kamikaze ninja a trick or two. If nothing is done to correct all these abnormalities, Nigeria is certainly doomed.

    Is it the curse of the military? Is it a result of the bane we have to suffer for the disastrous PDP years? How do we overhaul this morass? What shall we bequeath our children, and their children. The first strategy would be to undo the wrongs and embark on a clean up. The first task of that process would be to create a new People’s constitution. For that to happen we need credible leadership. Good governance is only possible when you have viable candidates to lead the vanguard. Despite the national shenanigans, ineptitude and tomfoolery, I am still pleased today to be able to say that a few of our political representatives have been extremely impressive so far and deserve commendation for the developmental strides they have made in their regions and states. Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola has shown superior capability and understanding of what true leadership requires. The Lagos State of today has become a model for all of Nigeria to emulate. Adams Oshiomole of Edo State’s recent landslide against the opposition PDP, is a testimony to performance. The days of Anenih oppression are definitely over. I predict the same scenario is likely to repeat in Ondo State, where Governor Mimiko has redefined the meaning of the phrase, ‘to serve.’ I equally reserve kudos for quite a few others who have maintained their stance for good governance over the years, without cowing to intimidation or to the carrot of persuasion. A person like Tunde Bakare should be commended for sticking out his neck on our behalves, ever so often, especially in an environment when there are quite a few Farouk Lawan’s surrounding us.

    This may be our last opportunity to build a new Nigeria. Doomsday theories and American analysts have already proffered a death date, and going by the timeline, things have been pretty accurately headed toward that destination, so far. So as a final thought – music, chants and songs have been known to inspire movements since the developments of institutions and nations and this is why they create anthems based on themes that unite people of the same ideals together. Have you ever attempted to analyse the current Nigerian anthem? You will find out that it is another vestige of our unheralded military past. Perhaps another reason why we have gotten it wrong. It begins: “Arise o compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey…” A friend of mine always had issues with the militaristic command process of those introductory lines. He would say, “You and who…? Are we fighting a war…? Order!!!” In hindsight, perhaps we were, but never quite realised it! We are still fighting that war, years after – them versus the rest of us. Only difference is, the military man has dropped his camouflage…he’s donned an agbada, since! Don’t search his cap, oh!

    Some people have even suggested that we should revert to the old National anthem whose words had more meaning to the Nigerian people and concept of a nation of diversified challenges than this current militarist syncopation. If I may remind you, and for those born after 1978, when miliary fiat ordered the change, here are the words of that glorious first Nigerian national anthem, written by British expatriate, Lillian Jean Williams. Was that fact alone good enough reason for a change in the first place? Nah! Methinks not. There was another more sinister hidden agenda, as we’ve since found out.

    Nigeria we hail thee
    Our own dear native land
    Though tribe and tongue may differ
    In brotherhood we stand
    Nigerians all are bound to serve
    Our sovereign motherland

    Our flag shall be a symbol
    That truth and justice reign
    In peace or battle honoured
    And this we count as gain
    To hand onto our children
    A banner without stain

    O God of all creation
    Grant this our one request
    Help us to build a nation
    Where no man is oppressed
    And so with peace and plenty
    Nigeria may be blessed.

    Can you see as those words effortlessly reveal a growth plan with a formula to success and achievement, reflecting all our hopes and aspirations at independence as well as our national need for dignity. Did you notice how the words ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ are employed in the anthem, without any ambiguity whatever? It cries out in the second stanza that we ‘hand our children a banner without stain.’ The final verse tells how our nation longs for ‘peace’ and that peace can only bring stability and growth. It gloriously ends by asking that God blesses Nigeria. I guess that’s all we have left to do now. Our destiny is in our hands.

    God guide Nigeria!

Posted in: Essays, Politics