I dare say we have all failed as citizens of Nigeria. Let’s begin with the Nigerian elite. Within this classification are you and I, many of our brothers and sisters, uncles and parents either in the corridors of power, outside of it, and those holding one political post or another. I mean those who are well read, having attended one institution of tertiary education or another.
This class of people constitutes the eyes and brains of every nation. They are expected to see into the future, to set the agenda, and coordinate implementation of policies which ought to have positive impact on the lives of all Nigerians and the country’s image in the comity of nations. However, what we have – or rather who we are – is a bunch of self-centered, undisciplined, corrupt, valueless and mischievous “elite.”
There’s also the failure of both the public and private sectors, the two legs of every nation. These two legs have been crippled by the Nigerian elite. The political elite, even the founding fathers of Nigeria – people like Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, etc – paid mere lip service to building a nation in the true sense of the word. Their respective prejudices and utterances fanned the embers of intolerance, distrust, unhealthy rivalry, bigotry, nepotism and maladministration. This class sowed the seeds of corruption in every sphere of our public life. The appetite for rigging as a way of getting power through the back door, in violation of the popular will, saw the abortion of the First and Second Republics.
In the public sector, we now have civil servants who will demand gratification before doing their jobs. The private sector is no better, as falsification of records is the order of the day. I can never forget the contribution of the erudite Bunmi Oni, the ex chief executive officer of Cadbury Nigeria during the days of Patito’s Gang. This pastor was caught cooking his books. We all know the stories of Rufus Giwa at Unilever and Cecilia Ibru of Oceanic Bank, to mention a few.
The military elite have not only failed us but also played on our intelligence for too long. The regimes of Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha exhibited the deep rot in the military.
General Aguiyi Ironsi’s indecision and inability to appreciate the sensibilities of Northerners after the botched first military coup and his inability to sanction the coup plotters of January 25, 1966 (in accord with military tradition) became part of the catalyst that led to the civil war.
Gowon reneged on his earlier promise to hand over to a democratically elected government. Babangida tried to run one of the longest transition programs in the history of mankind, only to waste all the effort and investment of resources by annulling the election of June 12, 1993.
Where were we when the groundnut pyramids disappeared? Where were we when northern elites tried to plunder the north by relocating federal allocations for community development to their private bank accounts?
We did not say a thing as the north slid into abject poverty, and as millions of youths became idle and disillusioned, as experienced by their Niger Delta counterparts who first took up arms against the state. Just as the northern elite saw nothing wrong in the killing of social crusaders like Ken Saro-Wiwa and Isaac Boro, which gave birth to Niger Delta militancy, the southern elite saw nothing wrong in the army of children known as Almajeris.
The deprived children, who eat from our dustbins, have now grown to become willing tools in the hands of a fanatical group – the dreaded Boko Haram.
Politicians like Governor Peter Odili and others armed jobless street gangs to unleash violence against their political opponents in the Niger Delta region. In the same way, Governor Sheriff of Borno and others used Boko Haram to silence opponents up north. When Dr. Odili could not meet the aspirations of his street “soldiers,” the armed youths looked downwards and tapped into the lucrative business of stealing and exporting crude oil. They metamorphosed into mega-rich oil buccaneers. As for Mr. Sheriff, he started setting up the leaders of Boko Haram with security agencies, who were instructed to kill them.
Nobody took note of the mayhem in Maiduguri.
We did not condemn the bombings and shootings then, because it was only members of the armed forces and Muslim clerics that were at the receiving end. Now these boys have received sophisticated military training in some African states under the very noses of our corrupt security agencies. Former Libyan ruler, Muamar Gaddafi, knew what he was saying when he predicted the disintegration of Nigeria because he and others like him trained, armed and financed the Boko Haram group.
Today, no single region or ethnic group can survive outside Nigeria. The political undercurrent in the east, the class struggle, which destroyed Anambra and other south eastern states, is very much there. The Yoruba have not fared any better. The contending influences of the “wild, wild west” of the 1960s and the “wetie” of the 1980s, which broke the back of the first two democratic experiments, are very much alive. The north has since lost its monolithic status as “one northern Nigeria.”
There is now a vital Middle Belt identity. No one needs to be told of the religious tensions in the north where the population is almost evenly divided among Muslims and Christians in Kaduna, Gombe, Bornu, Niger, Adamawa and Taraba. The only visible way to arrest this free-fall is to ensure fiscal discipline – because our problem is not religion. Let us put these millions of idle, unemployed youths to work. Let’s offer them gainful employment and training – and they will be drawn less and less to violence and other forms of crime. Let us hold our politicians and administrators in the three tiers of government accountable for every kobo entrusted to them.
Who does not know that the statutory revenue from the Federal Government to local governments is not what local government chairmen sign for and receive from their respective state governors? How come Boko Haram’s propaganda machinery is more effective than the enlightenment programs of state governments in the North? How come youths are falling for Boko Haram’s propaganda? The answer is still corruption, insincerity of purpose. Finally, we must all realize that “talk is cheap.”
Until all of you reading this are ready to put your money and efforts where your interest – Nigeria – is, we should cease complaining. How many of us have taken a child off the street, fed and clothed him/her, sent him/her to school or helped him/her to make something out of their lives?
Many of us – perhaps most of us – even shy away from involvement in small projects that can better the lives of our community. Many people like us find our way into positions of power and do nothing. We must be prepared to be agents of change, or face collective doom.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters