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Beyond Being the Most Populous Black Nation

By: Olaniyi Olayinka  
 Published  May 17th, 2012

The Project - Nigeria needs a close re-examination. It was a creation of colonial masters and for their administrative convenience. More than 5 decades after the British had gone, no serious step had been taken to see the desirability or otherwise of the Nigerian Nation. Many reasons account for this. One is the selfishness of the leaders that benefit from the comatose status of the country. This is made possible in that the Nigerian togetherness affords the maintenance of a loaded joint account of idle cash to which anyone who has ever held a national appointment or holds one will never see anything wrong in the nationhood as presently constituted. Federal appointment remains a life sustenance ticket, at least, for the immediate family of the office holder.

What does the pride of being most populous black nation in the world connote to an average Nigerian?. The performance indices for a healthy standard of living are virtually absent. A well known principle in law of Contract is that, any party therein has something to offer. The Nigerian nation is an exemption, for how can anyone explain the idea of Nigerian Government having to share revenue accruing from crude oil sale on the basis of States created purposely for the sharing game. This has in a long way killed the initiatives, creativity and productivity in leadership and followership, so much so that the dream of all is how to ‘injure’ either the government or the unwary to get rich quick. The implication of this is that corruption has not allowed the government to run any productive business on its own. The private sector is also on the extinction for the minimum trust which business transactions requires is absent. Elder Statesman, Chinua Achebe observes: “Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage and Nigeria will die if we keep pretending that she is only slightly indisposed.”  (The Trouble with Nigeria (1984)).

The founding fathers of Nigeria, who we celebrate today did not bequeath legacy of indolence as every region in Nigeria were productive. Each region had its main agricultural product. In the West, Cocoa was the mainstay of the economy. It was a very productive venture with which Chief Obafemi Awolowo ran free education in the Western Region, built the first stadium in the country, established the first television station in Nigeria and put in place some other infrastructure.  In the North, groundnut was the main agricultural product, ‘the pyramid’ is still fresh in the memory and, the East produced rubber in commercial quantities.

The implications are manifold. There was security for lives and properties. The adage that an idle hand is devils workshop applied then. There wasn’t anything known as Lagos Area Boys, Eastern Nigerian Militancy, the present Boko Haramic Movement of North Eastern Nigeria and the Nation-wide Cabalic Exploits in Nigeria.

With the mutual productivity,  politics at that time was call to service and not a money making venture as of now. Or what money could have been made from sitting allowances paid to an office holder? How then could a set of indolent people, back in the community expect to be ‘settled’ by a political office holder?  You do not make Politics a career; everyone had a professional base, in which he would have made his mark, before being called to serve in greater capacity.

A further implication of the productivity was a very strong currency. Less than one Naira in the late 1970’ exchanged for 1 American Dollar. What basis was it for anyone to have desired to travel abroad for a greener pasture, when a secondary school graduate had three to four job options? What we have now is ridiculous or what can be said of the N160.00 exchanging for $1.00.

The stronger South African Currency, Rand has to be considered by Nigerian Government here. R 7.70 exchanges for $1.00. It goes without saying that if Nigeria is aspiring for the leadership position in the continent; it has to have a strong currency as well.

The Government of Nigeria recently expressed its desires to evaluate its  Gross Domestic Product with a view of boosting the same, so as to compare with South Africa; and ultimately to be in contention as the real leader in the African Continent. Aspiration is good and may be realistic, given the desired commitments. What productivity or ingenuity can the Nigeria Government bring into disbursing free oil money. Doesn’t a  lunatic on the streets  spend money? What input has any Nigerian, any tier of Government made in realizing the oil rent? Is it not right to keep the oil while any State or Local Government that cannot sustain itself be merged with others? Strike action for salary increment will never end as the labour force is conscious of the free money which is sustaining the nation.  

Calling Foreign industrialist to come and invest in the Country, we should be honest with ourselves if the environment is conducive to live and invest? The power generation issue has been over flogged without any positive changes. Medical facilities are dysfunctional and that’s while the government official travel abroad for medical treatment. Senate President Mark recently returned from a foreign medical mission and was being congratulated. A foreign industrialist who desires to come and invest would convince himself if the medical facility on ground can be of assistance if himself or any family member is sick. In South Africa, the first President of Democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela took ill of recent and was treated at a military hospital in the Country.This is not the first time that he would be treated within the Country. Our Dim Odumegu Ojukwu had to be flown abroad for medical treatment. The state of schools in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. In the higher institution, you may ask how many foreign students are attending. Political leaders also will not send their children and wards to Nigerian educational institution, because apart from being turned out half baked, his graduation year is never certain. If government knows this much and feel uncaring to turn things around, is it not proper that the citizens compel them to sleep on their beds the way they lay it. Or while will they be flying in the air when they have embezzled the funds for road repairs?

Further on GDP parity with South Africa, it has to be noted that there is a negative link between a country’s growing population with decreasing productivity. An average South African woman, will not for religious injunction, senselessly give birth to children not planned for, as she would also carry a pregnancy for a man whose only credential is ability to procure plates of pepper soup for her, for a couple of months. Given the economic situation in South Africa, without any damaging effect of extruding population, Nigeria has to look inwards, in order to compete. The stronger South African Currency, Rand has to be considered by Nigerian Government here. R 7.70 exchanges for $1.00. It goes without saying that if Nigeria is aspiring for the leadership position in the continent; it has to have a strong currency as well.

State creation particularly at the commencement of Second Republic has ushered in a politics of ‘It is Our Turn to Rule.’ This remains an unnecessary distraction of a purposeful development, because competence  is not an issue in election or appointment. The implication is that the office holder just holds forth, fills a vacuum, until his tenure expires or is sacked and Nigerians would be wondering ‘What Journey and to Where Have we Come?

 Alhaji Shehu Shagari held forth at the helm of affairs, Nigeria could no longer feed itself, or what about the massive importation of rice into the country. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo held forth for two terms of 8 years and Nigeria achieved just two things. One was that, with his military background, democratic government was not cut short by his juniors in uniform. The second achievement was a boost in the telecommunication industry. Mobile telephone operators were invited to operate in the country, thus making it possible for an average Nigeria to connect with friends and families and for business purposes. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua  can be said to have intended transparency to reign in public sector as himself and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, his vice declared their assets to public knowledge. His regime also felt for the poor in Nigeria, as he reduced pump price of petrol from N70 to N65. He soon took ill and eventually died. His good intentions for the masses became aborted.

With the confirmation of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as substantive President, and with his election in 2011 as President,  people now wonder if Goodluck’s  coming has really brought a good omen to the country.

The politics of ‘it is our turn to rule’ which gained prominence in second republic refused to address problems of Nigerian ineptitude, and this makes a call for constitution of a conference (by whatever nomenclature) desirable. What is the essence of a nation where a cabal will continuously hold down its progress and the President will be helpless. The cabal was at work at full force under President Shagari. Abuse of office thrived and corruption knew no bounds, with public fund being squandered on birthday parties abroad and irregularities in rice importation transactions. The President was above board, but not with his lieutenants. What could he do to tame them? Were they not stronger in political contacts?

Chief Obasanjo was there, his military background, and experiences of having led the country before only earned him a very stabble political environment, he could not   fix  electricity problems of the nation. He called his friend Chief Bola Ige, a disciplinarian and first elected Governor of Oyo State, and from opposition party to help out in the power sector. The later lost his life without any additional megawatts. Cabal was at work. and Governor of Lagos State Raji Fashola recently attested to this. The same cabal would not let the nation’s refineries to work, in spite of huge sums of money sunk into it. The faces of cabals and their purpose became manifest over the sharing of oil subsidy funds. Nigerian rails became vacated by trains, no thanks to the cabal who forced their trailers on the business class. The roads are now bad, we do not know the alternative they would offer the nation.  The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines cabal as a secret political clique or faction. This paper explains that cabal may be a single person with his lieutenants as well. The question however is that do they not die? Or why has Nigeria has continuously been under their bondage? The cabals also enjoy immunity from investigation and or prosecution.

Every President comes to power with good intentions of how to turn things around for good, the fact however is that those people determine a boundary of achievements that can be attained. President Goodluck Jonathan inherited cabalism which has shown recently in the distribution of petrol subsidy fund, how well they could be investigated for draining the nation’s purse and prosecuted is yet to be determined. Another cabalistic attack on the polity is the Boko Haramic Movement. Government cannot say it does not know the financiers, but what has been done since 2009?

Nigeria’s problems are here categorized into two. One is the cabal which has persistently coerced the government into submission in the area of power generation, refineries, air and  rail transportation, steel rolling mills, crime detection, investigation and justice dispensation, of which Boko Haram is just one example and of late the cabalised looting of the petrol subsidy funds. Assuming without conceding that the cabal has a changed mindset and submits to the government, like the Niger Delta Militants, the second problem becomes relevant.

Corruption/ Elder Statesman, Chinua Achebe has hinted on the imminent death of the country on account of this endemic cankerworm, which has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. It has become a standard, a norm so much so that ex- corruption convicts are celebrated. Can we now say that most Nigerians subscribe to what they will prefer to call western definition of ‘corruption’? It is only in a conference that Nigerians in the manner of Preamble to the 1999 Constitution say as follows;

WE THE PEOPLE of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:

HAVING firmly and solemnly resolved:

To stamp out corruption…

 Let the people meet in a conference to discuss the nation’s challenges and the way forward. Without this, the anticipated 2015, 2019 till Jesus comes, which we regard as election shall remain mere routine. If a cabal is bigger than a president elect, can it be bigger than the people in a sovereign conference?

Olaniyi Olayinka is a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and a Doctoral Candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa (

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