‘Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must --- undergo the fatigue of supporting it’---Thomas Paine
Celebration of Independence in a country where over two hundred (200) of her girls are in the den of heartless terrorists for over five (5) months is a mockery of freedom and liberty- the cardinal ingredients of Independence!
There is need for deep reflection that will end up provoking action to guaranteeing freedom and liberty. Until we have leadership who can win victory over greed, corruption, despair and consequential state of insecurity the country is in, celebration remains unwarranted flattery!
One can argue it but it is largely obvious with the current happenstance that it has been fifty-four (54) years of gradual decline in the economic condition of Nigerians and polarisation of polity.
Fifty-four years of high expectation meeting with increasing disappointment and frustration. Fifty-four years of history that is more pronounced with oppression, repression and rights violation than toga of liberty and justice.
The recent UNESCO Report that 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school and that 64 Million illiterates are Nigerians speak volumes of our precarious state today and despicable hope tomorrow.
Any wonder while insecurity has become violent expression of disenchantments and while ethnicity has become the tool for mobilisation for violence by the powerful mediocre that hold the country hostage?
Insecurity paralyses people with fear while ethnicity ensures that they tear their polity apart, with each holding on to parts of whole to the exclusion of others. The combined result is panacea for disunity.
The intrusion of insecurity and the expansion of ethnic gulf have not been this wide and deep in the history of Nigeria. Opportunity for unity grows slimmer and slimmer with emergence of rulers that cannot use the platform of power and authority to galvanise people for social cohesion and national development.
Political interest and mobilisation for votes along this line has worsened the capacity of the political class and rulers to ignite the magic wands for nationalism and unity.
Except for those who love to deceive themselves, the words of Awolowo that ‘Nigeria is a mere geographical expression’ is as true now as it was then.
A nation has soul and spirit that connect her with her citizens. Nigeria has none of such now. A nation offers protective shield to her citizens. Nigeria does not. A nation ensures the currency of her people’s citizenship and stands for them in thin and thick, Nigeria does not provide such comfort now.
The people of a nation at all times defend her honour and pride, Nigerians hardly play this role now. Nigeria is a ghastly receding state. Most people see themselves as subjects rather than citizens.
Features of citizenship, which include sense of ownership is missing in Nigeria. She has become a country without ‘citizens’. The ‘citizens’ more often see themselves as Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, Ijaws and so on. A nation is a platform for common aspiration in spite of diversity; a vehicle for fulfilment of goals and self/group aspiration without laying mines along the paths of those who are different from us!
We as a people own the failure. We deserve the blame of our tragic state. We cannot hang it on the door of our history neither can we punish the past for our inaction. We cannot lament about colonisation forever.
Nigeria is not the only country ever colonised. Roman soldiers ravaged even Britain, our colonial master’s homeland for a long time in history. I was once in York City, where I was shown the exhumed concreted coffins of members of Roman Army, who once upon a time in history held Britain war bound and perpetrated a dastardly variant of colonialism.
Japan, South Africa and others were once colonised. Only few countries have the privilege of not suffering colonization. If after fifty-four years we still blame others for our woes, deliverance is far from us and freedom is not near.
Life should be understood backwards, but rather it must be lived forwards. We should concentrate on our future and stop making excuses for our self-inflicted failures.
Some have even gone to the ridiculous extent of hanging the security challenges we are currently facing on the neck of history. Wrong analysis and faulty conclusions are the dangerous banes of our society.
Underlying causes of both resource based conflict and value driven conflict (including terrorism) are often rooted in injustices. Inaccurate analysis and diagnosis of the Nigerian crises has for long resulted in application of wrong remedies.
Ask yourself how far could a country like Nigeria go with an economy that is said to be growing, yet witnessing a deepening poverty at the same time? What happens to the ever increasing population that is continually getting sunk in the widening pool of poverty?
Couldn’t this have been a veritable recruiting ground for sects such as Boko Haram? Would young persons have involved in doomed insurgency or war if they had assurances of decent live in a just society?
Would the State of Nigeria ever see beyond national security and begin to address human security concerns that are turning ‘citizens’ against their state? Is it not yet time to address the danger posed by the widening gap between the rich and the poor? These are the reflections we should observe if we do not want to see something worse than Boko Haram in future.
Manifestly, we project attributes of a failed state. Ingredients of a failed state include; inability to offer protection, provide security and safety to citizens, palpable lawlessness, unsafe space for economy to thrive, bad governance, corruption and impunity among others. These symptoms are ubiquitous in Nigeria. So, what further evidence of a failed state is needed?
Unless there is conscious effort to promote and guarantee the three key freedoms by the governments at all levels, the bleeding of the country called Nigeria will continue.
The three key freedoms are ;Freedom from fear, Freedom from Want and Freedom to Act on one’s own behalf! There is fear that is borne out of mistrust between those who make up Nigeria.
The country has been factionalised and fractionalised along ethnic, religious, political, social and economic lines. This fear has led to what I called ‘Mutual Assured Greed’ (MAG). This greed that is driving the machinery of governance has created a vast pool of poor people.
Poverty has placed Nigerians under grave situations to the point that they cannot ‘act on their owns behalves’. One ethnic or religious bigot has to dictate to them on what to do.
One godfather some where has to dictate the political pace and who governs them. There must be reconstruction of citizenship before Nigeria can be whole again. As it stands today, Nigeria is a fiefdom of ‘lords’ and ‘slaves’- comprising those who have all the power to dispense injustices and, surprisingly, those who have all the patience to bear injustices and suffer indignations!
It is the anger of the oppressed, targeting oppressors that can save this country. It is the anger of the oppressed that will force those in power and position to prioritise individual and group security over and above state security.
It is this anger that will enforce the lesson that human security is the foundation for National Security. A nation of passive citizenry can never be saved from the embarrassment of state failure and possible breakup.
I believe like David Lloyd George that “no democracy has ever long survived the failure of its adherents to be ready to die for it”. My own conviction is this, the people must either go on or go under.”
Gbenro Olajuyigbe is an Abuja based Human Security Expert and a Human Rights Activist.
Email: [email protected]