About five decades ago or more, long before I was conceived, Nigeria was a country on the upward trajectory of socioeconomic development. She was tipped to be the next best thing out of Africa. Her potentials were too vast to be ignored and countries like USA, Germany and Britain were keen to befriend this new kid on the block.
From her large geography to the copious natural resources, intelligent citizens and a group of progressive leaders who fought for her independence, she had everything that was required to put the world in her pouch and even the sky was not ballsy enough to limit her.
But shortly after the first republic, her story changed and the country that was once looked up to as a giant of Africa, became a weakling in the eyes of many. Corrupt politicians, despotic military rulers and a self-centered elite ensured the decline of this nation as hardship and privation were bestowed upon the people.
Those who had access to power and public coffers enriched themselves while the people they claimed to serve constantly bathed in the ever-flowing stream of penury. Dejection replaced merriment in the lives of most Nigerians and impecuniosity flashed across their faces as they struggled to make ends meet on a daily basis.
To make matters worse, these leaders employed ethnic sentiments and capitalized on our religious differences to either keep themselves in power or obtain it at all cost. Unfortunately, their followers were oblivious of their ungodly intentions, so they followed blindly. This trend still persists till now.
Those heroes who had the guts to fight for their people (Dim Ojukwu, Awolowo, Wole Soyinka, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Fela Kuti, Tai Solarin, Ayodele Awojobi, Gani Fawehinmi etc) were either frustrated by the dishonourable lot around them or forced to the background after many years of activism. The likes of Ken Saro Wiwa and Dele Giwa were silenced with death so as to prevent a revolt.
In the 80s, military coups were staged like Shakespeare plays almost every two to three years in my country. Nigerians then became accustomed to the outrageous system of having a democratic government in power in a minute and compulsorily welcoming a dictatorship the next minute.
The military dictators and their cohorts who engendered corruption, embezzlement of public funds and rapid deterioration of the Nigerian economy include Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammed Buhari, Theo Danjuma, Sanni Abacha, Shehu Musa Yar’adua, Abubakar Atiku, Umaru Dikko, Shehu Shagari, MKO Abiola, Audu Ogbeh, Solomon Lar, Bamanga Tukur, David Mark etc.
Some of these aforementioned names still spring up in our present political clime. When I was a kid, these people governed tyrannically and unscrupulously; now that I am an adult, they are still the ones in control. The same persons are either vying for political offices or are behind the scene, pulling the strings till this day.
What makes this situation more disheartening is the way these rogues are now celebrated by my fellow countrymen (Abacha has streets and buildings named after him). Nigerians never learn from their mistakes neither do they use past experiences as a guide for making better choices in the future. We like to nurse our wounds in silence and pretend there are no scars. However, those scars are meant to remind us of the pains we endured when we sustained those injuries, so that we can avert a recurrence of such hurtful incidents. But we never learn, thus we keep recycling the same set of leaders over the years.
What is even more worrisome is that, I belong to a generation that is utterly disinterested in learning about their past, so how can they prepare for the future? The older ones have failed to install a good educational system where character building and effective knowledge-acquisition process will be enabled. Through a deliberate ploy, they have intellectually debilitated the youths, and consequently, the pervasive ignorance and moral decadence that plague my generation have disqualified many from taking up leadership roles. Hence, the continued presence of these old worms at the helm.
In as much as I enjoy taking up the quill to scribble my opinions, concerns and musings about the issues that affect my beloved country, I am more keen about the search for a permanent solution to our problems. But the solutions can only be provided when the root of these problems are fully understood and then grubbed out. Unfortunately, many of us do not understand the cause of our problems even though we suffer from them. Painfully, those who have the capacity to proffer the needed solutions are not the ones who enjoy the popularity votes during elections.
Ethnic loyalty still takes precedence over nationalism and patriotism. This has been the culture from way back. People vote on the basis of a candidate’s ethnic origin rather than his/her level of competence. Religious background is now a deciding factor in governance. Christianity is now a potent exploitative weapon in the hands of ‘godly’ opportunists. The same clergymen who preach against materialism fly in private jets while their congregants can barely fuel their cars. Thanks to Boko Haram, Islam is now a convenient pretext for terrorism and mass destruction.
Tribalism and nepotism are organic elements of our social structure and as a result, a united Nigeria is now becoming unattainable. Owing to the antecedents of the 1967 civil war, there is still sky-high level of distrust among the ethnic groups. Our diversity ought to be our strength but so far, it has been the bane of our progress as a nation.
Many still argue that Nigeria should never have been a merger of various ethnic groups in the country. Well, I concur to that assertion. The British brought us together because of what they stood to gain from ruling over a large expanse of land at that time, not because it was politically or economically beneficial to any of the regions. However, we can’t keep wailing over spilt milk.
The time to right all the wrongs is now as tomorrow might be too late. How do we right the wrongs? Well, I can write a thousand and one suggestions but the real solution lies with the average Nigerian. Our society needs a cultural makeover, our political system needs a complete overhaul and there is a need for mental revolution.
The change we desire can only occur if the average Nigerian understands why he should NOT collect a bag of rice in exchange for his/her vote. The change can only occur if Nigerians decide to look beyond ethnic background and religious affiliation, but focus on a candidate’s intellectual capacity and leadership capabilities.
The change can only materialize if we decide to educate ourselves, formally or informally, about the nation’s past and present as this will equip us with the knowledge and power to take on whatever the future brings. The bottom line is, change can only happen in Nigeria if Nigerians themselves decide to change. We can’t keep calling on God while we sit and do nothing. Let us bear in mind that a nation that only prays without action might end up being a prey to her own inaction.
I am done ranting…