January, 27th, 2010
What a difference a week makes in global affairs!
Barely a week after the publication of the first part of these series, the world suddenly came crashing down on our heads, literarily, and we’re forced to try to make some meaning from it all. That task has however not been made easy by the ensuing chaos that has engulfed us all either physically or mentally. One did not have to be physically present at the several theaters of events to feel their impacts. You didn’t need to be in Nigeria to feel the impact of President Yar’Adua’s absence. You didn’t need to be on the same flight with Abdul Mutallab to feel the impact of his alleged terrorist act and certainly didn’t need to be at the airport headed for the United States and be subjected to profiling and grueling pants-down searches, and body scanners to feel the impact of the placement of Nigerians on the terrorist watch list. And you certainly didn’t need to be in Haiti to feel the impact of the Armageddon currently taking place over there. The impacts of these developments hit you wherever you happen to be at their occurrence in varying degrees because you’re a human being, physically and spiritually connected to all humanity. Though not physically present, you instinctually partake of the concerns and sorrows as well as the hopes and aspirations of the victims and those affected.
The concluding parts of this series had therefore been held back by supervening developments that have captured and continue to capture the imaginations of the Nigerian public and the world at large. Events are taking place at such dizzying pace locally and globally even as this rolls out the press that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep pace and react appropriately in a timely manner. While this series deals with a different subject matter altogether, it is, in good conscience, impossible to ignore these developments and move on as if nothing happened. It would seem appropriate therefore to briefly touch on the more controversial, topical issues that define the present and shape our future. This must be done because in the final analysis these developments are organically intertwined and interwoven warranting a holistic/global rather than atomistic appraisal. Inevitably, this has conduced to the production of a monstrous piece that would tie down the reader for a while longer than originally contemplated. The plateful of events that have challenged humanity in recent times and their root causes deserve no perfunctory treatment but a more detailed and in-depth consideration. However, the time invested in going through this mammoth and highly explosive piece, will be adequately rewarded by the radically different and fresh perspectives that have been brought to bear on the work. Old dogmas have been shattered and conventional thinking has been turned on its head. What has been presented in the following pages therefore represents a new paradigm that is guaranteed to provoke a radical reappraisal of our national priorities, beliefs and dogmas, and conventions. As such, it hardly recommends itself for the hit and run reader, but for the patient and painstaking truth and knowledge seeker laboring in the vineyard of the intellect.
Domestically, what becomes of the endemically faltering, vegetative Yar’Adua presidency in the light of the increasingly ferocious agitation for his resignation is beyond human divination and best left in the womb of time hopefully to be delivered later at the appointed hour as the hour grows ever closer and closer by the day. However, this much is clear: as long as the President of the greatest black nation on earth remains outside the shores of the country on medical grounds without formally handing over to his deputy, the agitation for his handover of power either temporarily or through outright abdication, will remain live and well in the polity because the issue has become a political fodder for mischief makers, and a cause for concern by well meaning citizens. These strident calls for resignation might reach a decisive crescendo no matter how many hurriedly contrived BBC interviews he grants to silence the agitation. This is almost certain to be the case due to the atrocious manner information regarding his medical status has been made into a state secret, fuelling wild speculations and conjectures spun by the ever thriving Nigerian rumor mills. It must be admitted though that the BBC interview/coup was a political masterstroke brilliantly and tactically executed on a day the opposition was howling in Abuja and the National Assembly was to debate his continued absence. The interview helped to deflate the balloon of the opposition and took the wind out of its sail. It silenced the voices of the hawks in the National Assembly and gave those on the sidelines a breather and a reason to remain on the sidelines and non-committal perhaps until the hand of history forces their hands.
But that was only a tactical not a strategic success. Successful or not, such tactical maneuvers amount to playing hide and seek game with the nation unnecessarily complicating an issue as straightforward as this and overheating the polity. We cannot afford to play political ping pong with the destiny of our nation in this callous manner. It is past time for the President to set a precedent and quit playing games because governance is not a game but a set of processes affecting the lives, hopes and aspirations of not one individual but over 150 million Nigerians and corporate institutions who look up to the government to reorder their lives and economic activities. The Nigerian authorities seem to be postponing the evil day because in the present condition of acute uncertainties something is bound to give one way or another unless and until the government decides to normalize the situation by leveling up with the Nigerian people. This national distraction must not be allowed to continue endlessly because it has negatively impacted on the nation’s development agenda whether the authorities admit it or not. The President must therefore seize the bull by horn by graciously investing his deputy with the full complement of presidential powers not only to relieve the political pressure on him and take his time to recuperate, but also to take the wind out of the sail of mischief makers and set the ship of state on a smoother sail. This would seem commonsensical enough for any sensible human being who places a scintilla of value on his health. Yet commonsense is not always common. While we all pray for the President’s quick recovery, the nation must not be tethered to the sick bed with him in Saudi Arabia. Haven’t Nigerians prayed and waited enough? Haven’t Nigerians including this author empathized enough with Mr. President? And must we be rewarded with official secrecy about his health status? This is not monarchy but democracy and undue secrecy is anathema to democracy. The President’s health status is not and cannot be treated as official secret. A contrary position informed by politics is blatant and total mischief and unpatriotic. Nigerians, who put Mr. President in power deserve a better deal from their leader. It is therefore utterly contemptuous to treat them like babies whom their mother would lie to about the whereabouts of their dead or imprisoned dad. It’s a shame that the President’s hospitalization has been turned into veritable materials for the shooting of a movie of the mystery genre.
As a statesman, the President must rise above narrow geo-ethnic political calculations, and reciprocate the good gestures of his compatriots who have been praying hard and wishing him quick recovery and good health. And what is more? Nation building dictates that clannish interests must be subordinated to national interests in times like these. Therefore, while it is not constitutionally mandatory for him to hand over to his deputy while he’s on vacation or on medical treatment abroad, it is only wise and prudent that he exercises his discretion judiciously in the interest of the nation. But having said that this writer has sensed some subterranean moves apparently designed to empower the Vice President through the back door and wish to advise that a back-door or secret delegation of presidential powers by the President to his deputy is inimical to the development of our public institutions and constitutional governance. In the interest of our nascent democracy, delegation of presidential duties to the VP or his assumption of full presidential powers in acting capacity should be done in the open for the sake of precedent. Thus even if no previous leader has done it before as it’s being argued in some quarters, Yar’Adua should set a precedent and write his name in gold in our constitutional history and development. He should do it because democratic institutions and their cultures are built by exemplary acts of individuals in privileged positions who make the decision consciously to make a difference and add value to the democratic experience. Therefore, let it not go down in history that when the opportunity presented itself President Musa Yar’Adua was found wanting and chose to play the Ostrich by burying his head in the sand with his behind exposed to the world.
The President and his handlers should ask themselves a simple question: what is his contribution to nation building? What value has he added to our constitutional development? Sure enough the constitution does not require him to hand over, but the constitution contemplates his doing so at his discretion otherwise it would not have been mentioned at all as provisioned in sections 144 and 145 thereof. It is this discretion contemplated by the constitution that Mr. President has refused, failed and/or neglected to exercise when it is most prudent and judicious so to do in the interest of the nation. The president must not look only at the letters of the constitution but at its spirit and soul. This is where the issue of statesmanship comes into play because not every executive action is mandatory; some are but others are left to the judgment of the occupant of the office. While this writer finds the tactics of opposition elements fundamentally inhuman and un-African, extremely distasteful, and utterly insensitive to the plight of the President, the federal government’s dodgy, hide-and-seek, approach is quite unfortunate and disappointing, to say the least. Nigeria is neither a family nor a regional property to be administered by the administrators of a Will inter-vivos (living Will). This action is portraying Yar’Adua as one who is not ready for prime time nation building but would rather leave the nation tethered to clannish politics as he met it. It is even more painful and ironic that the first university graduate elected to lead the nation has decided to maintain the same ethnic bigotry and tribal politics that have bedeviled the nation from birth. He has quite tragically, appeared unwilling to move the country from her present status of a “mere geographical expression” (apology to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo) to a full fledged nation rather than an assemblage of disparate nationalities. It calls to question as to the use and wisdom of electing a graduate after all. The one thing about nation building is that it’s not all about concrete and mortar but the unseen, yet highly felt intangibles, such as a graceful and unsolicited gesture of presidential handover of power to one who is from a different ethnic group than the President himself. That, in and of itself, is bound to promote trust, empathy, understanding, and unity amongst the various ethnic groups, much more so than cold physical structures. Will the President rise to the occasion or withdraw as usual into an ethnic cocoon? Only time will tell. For now, however, President Yar’Adua is already a politically damaged good and it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to offer effective leadership even if he fully recovers from his illness. He will be more of a political liability to his party than an asset. The damage has already been done. He has frittered away his goodwill and has only himself to blame for his selfish and clannish decision not to let go off power even if temporarily.
On the global frontiers, there is even more turbulence. While agitated and mortified Nigerians wait breathlessly for time to yield up the contents of her womb concerning the Yar’Adua saga, they were rudely introduced to another theater of fate—the Mutallab terrorist saga—which reverberations have robbed off on them in the most cruel and unimaginable manner. The nation was stabbed on her back and Nigerians are still reeling from the pains of the unkind cut.
Oh, what a cruel fate! Never before had the action of one man so profoundly affected the fortunes of an entire nation. Never before was an entire nation condemned for the alleged act of one man whose guilt or innocence has yet to be established in a court of law in accordance with the tenets of rule of law in contradistinction to the rule of men. What happened to the presumption of innocence before conviction in criminal jurisprudence that is so cherished by the ‘civilized world’? Rule of law is either on vacation or has taken a different kind of flight altogether from that allegedly undertaken by Abdul Mutallab. The danger though, is that when rule of law flees from our shores in mortal fright under the jackboots of a super power, the rule of men takes over. And so, it came to pass that all Nigerians including unborn generations were left to the whims and caprices of the powers that be in Washington, DC, and placed on a terrorist watch list through an executive diktat even before all the facts were pieced together and made public. In the end, however, this is a matter not for the uninitiated but for diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic divide who have their works cut out for them. I will return to this matter in more details later.
And the harder they come!
Over and above the domestic and terrorist concerns of the Nigerians and the Americans, is the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti where death and destruction have entered into a calamitous partnership to reduce the entire nation to absolute ruins. According to the Haitian government, over 200,000 Haitians and non-Haitians have perished with its leader escaping by the whiskers, in the devastating earthquake that hit the poor, nine-million strong, Caribbean nation, last Tuesday, January 12, 2010. Haitians hospitals and medical centers that survived the monstrous quake have been overwhelmed with critical medical emergencies with as many as 70 amputations reportedly going on daily. Mangled streets are littered with both human and animal corpses threatening even greater health epidemic down the road. Hundreds of thousands of children have been orphaned overnight and Haitian refugees are fleeing from the humbled nation in droves in a mass exodus of biblical proportions. Many more are dying daily from starvation and dehydration because food is a luxury and water is now gold in Haiti.
Amid this unspeakable misery one is forced to ask, why Haiti of all countries? Why has nature picked on the “poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere” to annihilate? And the reader might ask: why should Africa and Nigerians be concerned about tiny Haiti? The answer is, for several reasons. Obviously the over-aching reason is humanitarian and the whole world is responding for that reason alone. That is reason enough for Africa to respond with the rest of the world. The second reason is, of course, obvious— blood relations. Haitians are descendents of African ancestry and is one of the countries that have held up African culture high in the Western hemisphere. Africa lives in the streets of Haiti. The third and perhaps the most significant is that Haiti was the flag bearer of the anti-colonial liberation movement. She has the singular distinction of being the first country in the ‘New World’ to gain independence as far back as 1804 from the colonialists when there was no Nigeria, India, USSR, People’s Republic of China (PRC) and so many other countries, and showed others the light. She achieved that even before the blacks in the United States were emancipated from slavery and long before Africa even began to think of decolonization. Haiti’s independence was the template for the anti-colonial and anti-slavery struggles that captured the imaginations and aspirations of such greats as the Martin Luther Kings, Kwame Nkrumahs, Du Boises, Julius Nyereres, Nelson Mandelas, Kenneth Kaundas, and the Nnamdi Azikiwes, just to mention but a few. Therefore, Africa and the blacks in general, owe that country a wealth of gratitude for showing the light and leading the way to political emancipation. As such, Africa should speedily come to her aid in her darkest hour yet. The United States and the rest of the world have responded robustly by pledging a $100m in humanitarian aid and the EU has just announced an additional 100m Euros in aid for the same efforts. Literarily hundreds of international aid agencies and humanitarian organizations are swarming into Haiti. It is my fervent hope that Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, will not be found missing in action. The AU should make itself felt on the ground in Haiti and so should blacks all over the world. This is an opportunity for all the roguish leaders who privatized our commonwealth while in power to make nice with their Creator and pitch in robustly in the ongoing humanitarian efforts to salvage what is left of Haiti and Haitians and to enable them rebuild their lives and their nation. This therefore is a message for all public treasury looters in Africa: here is a golden opportunity to plough back your loots into humanitarian causes in Haiti rather than keeping them in the vaults of Western countries and make peace with your God. Humanitarian causes are God ordained causes. When you extend a helping hand to the poor and those that are hurting physically, emotionally, spiritually, and materially, you’re doing God’s work, and perhaps earn divine forgiveness for the bargain. This is Africa’s call and she should not be found wanting when Europe, America, and Asia are outdoing one another in humanitarian efforts.
However, the disaster in Haiti, calamitous and guts-wrenching as it is, would not in anyway temper the angst and concerns of Nigerians over their classification as potential terrorists by the United States government. A mentally twisted maternal Yemeni citizen of Nigerian paternity, who was schooled in Togo and Britain, attended series of Islamic conferences and seminars in the United States, granted multiple-entry visa by the United States despite receiving warnings from his own father about his terrorist associations in Yemen, bought his flight ticket in Ghana and transited through Murtala Muhammed International Airport , Lagos, Nigeria, where he spent only 30 minutes, and Amsterdam International Airport, and duly passed through all immigrations checks approved by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) as late as November, 2009, and who has duly confessed to having been trained by Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen from whom he procured his bomb materials in Yemen to blow up an American airline on American soil, suddenly became a reason to ostracize peace and life-loving Nigerians as potential Al-Qaeda terrorists that would deserve a place on the US terrorist list! And with that brush stroke, Nigerians are no more peace-loving and life cherishing than the suicidal Afghans, Yemenis, Saudis, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and off course, the hated Iranians, in the eyes of the United States. They must therefore be lumped together with those nations and subjected to the indignities of terrorist profiling and surveillance across the globe at their homes, workplaces, and international exit points. Talk of strange bedfellows!
So how come Ghana is not on the list? How come the Netherlands is not on the list? So, all it takes to make the terrorist list is a national passport. Why is the United States itself with known “home grown” terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh who bombed the World Trade Center and many others, not on the list? And how come the Brits didn’t make the list either since a Briton was caught in Afghanistan and detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a terrorist as well as the infamous shoe bomber, Richard Colvin Reid, caught at Britain’s Heathrow Airport? Should United States citizens be placed on a terror watch list because an American was caught attempting to carry out a terrorist act in the United States or in another country? Why are American citizens not a terror watch list then? Am I missing something here? What exactly are the criteria for making the terror watch list? Or, is it by rule of thumb or some double standards? I would hate to imagine that such a grave issue with far reaching diplomatic ramifications across the globe should be handled on a whim. Why would the United States move so quickly to label Nigerians terrorists because of alleged terrorist act of one individual and looked the other way when a Briton was not only caught in a similar act but actually convicted and serving a life term in the US? For this reason alone there are those who may be tempted to read racism into the action of the United States but this writer is unwilling to go that far. My take is that President Obama whose experience on security had been questioned severally during the campaigns was eager to reassure the American people that he would do anything to protect them from terrorist attacks. And ‘doing anything’ to protect them, of course, includes placing all Nigerians on the terrorist watch list since a “Nigerian” was caught trying to blow up his balls over American soil apparently because he no longer had use for those balls here on earth or might not have had any use for them at anytime at all, all his life! At the very least, it shows the President has done something to protect Americans from the scourge of terrorism. Problem is he is doing so at the expense of 150million innocent, life-loving Nigerians who hate and fear terrorism like a plague as much as the Americans, if not more.
The reaction of President Obama’s government could be summarized as follows: It was politically expedient for the President to scapegoat some country—just any country, the same way former President GW Bush pounced on Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. And as always, the country must be outside of Europe. Why? It’s because Europeans are buddies to the Americans and therefore no evil could emanate from that hemisphere. And, if per chance it does, the blame must be shifted somewhere else to Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan. When President Obama lined up the countries that Mutallab transited he couldn’t find the usual suspects but found five other countries namely; Yemen, Ghana, Nigeria, Holland, and the United States itself. A process of elimination immediately kicked in: United States out! Holland out! Yemen was in long time ago and remained in. The new kids on the block were Ghana and Nigeria. However, these two West African countries were not the usual suspects yet perfect candidates to scapegoat all the same. Problem was, President Obama himself had gone to Ghana barely eight months ago to proclaim Ghana as the paragon of democracy in Africa and declaring her as a terrorist haven would not square up. It would have meant reversing himself so soon after and that would not be presidential. It would have raised serious questions about his sense of judgment. That left Nigeria alone in the dock carrying the can of worms! After all, Mutallab had been advertized by CNN as a “Nigerian” carrying Nigerian passport. It was a trial and conviction of a Nigerian passport not a Nigerian. What more would Obama need to convict Nigeria? A Nigerian passport was put in the dock and convicted because Mutallab is not a “Nigerian” but a Yemeni. How could a man who lived all his life outside of Nigeria be called a “Nigerian” in a substantive sense? It doesn’t square up. But a Nigerian passport was found on Mutallab at the scene of crime and evidence enough to incriminate and implicate Nigeria. And President Obama promptly delivered it to President Yar’Adua as his get well message to the Nigerian leader who is hospitalized in Saudi Arabia. It didn’t matter whether Nigeria and Nigerians played any role at all in the Mutallab terrorist game plane. Just hang the label on the damned dog and let him run with it or take it off if he can! As it is today it appears Nigeria is running with that label because she is too weak to take it off her neck. Cry, My Beloved Country!
This ugly development has however compelled Nigerians to look inward and reassess themselves and their nation. The public admission of “systemic and human failure” by the President of the United States has unwittingly opened the eyes of many Nigerians to the hard reality that no nation is perfect including a super power such as the United States. The admission is proof that failure is an inherent feature of all human undertakings; not necessarily a Nigerian but global citizen. And what’s more? Nigerians, who generally loved the United States more than their own country, are now beginning to question the intentions of the United States in placing them on a terrorist watch list and thus subjecting them to undeserved international odium. President Barak Obama has delivered a poisonous New Year gift to Nigerians that has jolted them into rethinking their perception of the United States as the vanguard of the rule of law and a progressive, color blind nation. The so-called post-racial Obama era has evaporated into thin air, not that anyone believed in it anyway except dreamers.
As earlier mentioned, to have summarily slammed punitive measures on an entire national population of over 150 million citizens for the alleged act of a single individual who has not been convicted of the crime alleged in a court of law does not sit well with the tenets of rule of law. And to single out Nigerians for terrorist profiling on the basis of a mere allegation that has yet to be proved in court, is not only discriminatory, but does violence to the principle of equality before the law. The United States itself frowns on the profiling of its citizens and residents alike by law enforcement agents on the basis of color, nationality or gender. It would appear hypocritical to frown at profiling at home while actively promoting and practicing same on other nationals abroad, at the drop of a pin. Such impulsive and ill-advised actions on the part of the US government towards a friendly nation as Nigeria, ostensibly designed to protect her citizens, do not promote goodwill toward the country, but only serve to brew ill-feelings toward the country. That is the more reason why the decision should be speedily reversed before greater damage is done to the relations between the two friendly nations and their citizens. This is an example of how not to treat a friendly nation.
Cynics might ask: why waste time and resources on the Nigerian Rebranding project when President Obama has already done the job for us rebranding us as terrorists? A quick and ready answer to that is that only fools and those who lack self-esteem would allow others to slam them with negative labels. Smart folks DO NOT allow others define them negatively. They define themselves. The good news is that Nigerians have with one voice resoundingly rejected the negative label slammed on them by the US government in its entirety. Therefore, that label will not stick on them. In time it will be removed and planted on the back of those who merit it.
Is this tantamount to giving the Nigerian authorities a pass on national security? Far from it! While the Nigerian authorities might not have been found wanting in the Mutallab affair, its indifferent attitude towards national security leaves much to the desired. The annual festivals of violent religious flare-ups in parts of the North resulting in wanton destruction of lives and properties are testimonies to official complacency and even complicity in religious uprisings that could be equated with domestic terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism whether domestic or external. Therefore, to treat domestic terrorism with kid gloves simply because it does not involve the security of other nations is criminal and an open invitation to its practitioners. The Nigerian authorities have been failing in their duties to nip this phenomenon in the bud. Why, if one might ask, is Nigeria the only country in Africa with annual harvests of domestic terrorism? One Moslem brother who heard about what’s happening again in Jos posed this question to me in New York and all I could do was throw my hands up in the air. Another Moslem brother tried to answer him by blaming the phenomenon on the large population of the country and the guy simply countered him by pointing to China and India that are far more populated and also multi-religious in composition. Hardly a year passes without religious fanatics causing mayhem and bloodletting of innocent Nigerians caught up in the vortex of violence in the Northern parts of the country. Yet the authorities have all the means to prevent this but always prefer to adopt fire brigade tactics when the evil is unleashed on innocent Nigerians. Somebody should either be made to take his work seriously or be shown the way out. There are many jobless Nigerians out there looking to fill in. It’s that simple. The business of governance is not for idlers and loafers. Is the life of a Nigerian so cheap that the Nigerian authorities don’t care how many of them are wasted in senseless killings? How much premium does the nation place on the lives of her citizens on a scale of 0-10? Perhaps 0! Otherwise a more robust, proactive security blanket would have been devised and implemented long ago to deal with these recurrent flare-ups. It’s a shame. Security is the first order of duty of any government before anything else and it is the foundation of the modern state. Citizens give up their individual rights to the state in exchange for their security and protection from unlawful harm by the strong and powerful. And the government is the agent of the state through which the state exercises its powers and functions. If those in power do not understand the meaning of statehood and the role of government, it is a shame. It seems that the blind are ruling the blind in Nigeria.
However, this development, ugly and discomforting as it is, provides a fitting backdrop to the concluding parts of this series. In assessing our performance and status as a nation, therefore, it is imperative that we start our inquest at the historical beginnings; gradually, methodically and painstakingly working our way to the present as a temporary or provisional end point from which we can then make an informed projection for the future. We cannot begin at the middle, which is the present, because it is transitory, nor at the end, which is the future, because it is unknown and indeterminate. Invariably, that means we must begin at the nation’s independence, because that was when the country’s umbilical cord was severed from her mother’s womb to become a baby, sovereign, nation-state formally invested with the power and authority to pilot her own affairs without recourse to her mother-nation for direction or approval. And as with all babies, she must learn to sit, crawl and stand before she could learn to walk and run, and even go for an Olympic goal as a world class sprinter. However, while some babies go through these developmental phases exceptionally in rapid succession, others experience delayed or even retarded development and never make it all the way through to adulthood. Whether physically, mentally, cognitively, or all of the above as the case may be, such children are said to have suffered developmental retardation.
Like all other young nations, Nigeria is still undergoing this phased process. “Young” because 49 is not the age of adulthood for a nation. Although she has successfully passed through the initial phases including walking, she appears to be having some difficulties learning to run. The transition from walking to running has proved quite challenging that it would appear sometimes that she is relapsing or regressing into the previous phase of standing instead of walking. Walking from point “A” to point “B” denotes progression, but standing still or walking backwards denotes inertia or retrogression respectively. It would appear from all available indications however that while Nigeria is certainly not running, she has clearly presented a composite picture of vacillation between walking and standing still; and even walking backwards, sometimes.
However, while we would all agree that the nation has underperformed her potentials at her present age in comparison with some (not all) of her peers, 49 years is nothing but a phase in the life of a nation. And come to think of it how developed was the United States, Canada, Britain, France, South Africa, ex cetera, ex cetera, at age 49? Anyone who cared to checkout their histories would be shocked to find that their records are a lot less enviable than ours at age 49. If life begins at 40 for individual humans, it follows that no individual can be written off at age 49, much less an entire nation. Delayed, probably yes, but retarded, certainly not. Therefore it can be stated without equivocation that compared with some of her peers who started out in this national journey at or about the same time or historical period, Nigeria has regrettably suffered some measure of delayed development in certain critical departments (not all) that have prevented her from taking her seat in the same class as her more developed peers. The good news, however, is that as the nation still breathes the air of freedom and liberation from the shackles of imperialism, these severe shortcomings can, indeed, be corrected. Democracy provides her with the best chance to address the endemic deficiencies starring her in the face.
It therefore behooves the leadership at all levels to demonstrate an abiding faith and commitment to the enthronement, protection, and nurturing of robust democratic practices and culture in the nation as best they can by putting national interests over and above personal, group, ethnic, regional, or partisan interests. The present generation of leaders will be judged by posterity not by how much material acquisition they garnered for themselves while in office but by their contributions, individually and collectively, to the enthronement of democracy and good governance that enables the nation to fulfill her destiny. Leadership is a call to service and not an avenue for self-enrichment or the promotion of narrow, parochial, or selfish interests. The military went back to their barracks more than ten years ago to give democracy a chance to flourish. And once again Nigerian politicians have been given the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for effective, purposeful and result-oriented leadership both at the executive and legislative levels. And the type of leadership that the greatest black nation on earth deserves and must have has no room for kleptomania and frivolous indulgences in ostentatious, executive and legislative lifestyles, in the face of grinding poverty and decaying infrastructures starring us unblinkingly in our faces. It is indeed beyond belief that our lawmakers and members of the executive branch could indulge in such provocative opulence at public expense when those who put them in power are gnashing their teeth and dying of hunger and preventable diseases. Such callous display of insensitivity and indifference to the needs of the people has no place in a democracy because public funds are meant for the public good and not for individual aggrandizement. This would require serious re-orientation of the mental disposition of the average Nigerian politician. There are lawmakers in the United States Congress who have served decades in office and still go about in beat-up automobiles whereas a one-term lawmaker in Nigeria who could barely afford a bicycle before his election now has a fleet of exotic cars and mansions with millions of naira stashed away in his accounts—all illegitimately acquired with public funds using all manners of official schemes like “constituency allowances” and what have you. Year in year out billions of naira are budgeted for office entertainment by the executive and legislative arms in a country with over 70% of the citizens living below the poverty levels. There are hundreds of frivolous projects and waste built into the annual budgets that are specifically designed for fraudulent purposes. For example it has just been reported in a daily that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has included in its budgetary subhead the amount of N150million for the ‘’renovation of the NNPC Tower and the laying of floor tiles from ground 5 to 8 and the furnishing of staff offices.”
This was disclosed in the course of the Ministry’s defense of its budgetary estimates before the House Committee on Gas. N150million to lay tiles and furnishing of staff offices! This is just a tip of the Iceberg as there are hundreds if not thousands of fraudulent schemes like this in both Federal and state budgets. And this is happening in a country where primary school children are literarily holding classes under trees due to lack of classrooms. Think of how many classrooms N150million would build in the country. Think of how many primary school pupils who are Nigerians just like the government officials would be spared the agony of schooling under the trees and exposed to the elements. It makes one wonder whether they’re animals that are in charge in the country or human beings. This is nothing but official looting scheme. Would the United States government, for example, indulge in such frivolities in its budgetary allocations? Absolutely yes, as evidenced in thousands of the so-called pork barrel projects running into hundreds of billions of dollars, including the infamous Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” episode by disgraced former senator Stevens. But the difference is that the United States is already a super developed country, not a Nigeria with over 70% of her citizens living below poverty line and broken infrastructure.
So, if the Americans can afford such frivolities Nigerians can’t, not at this stage. Besides pork barrel projects in the United States are meant as political largesse for constituents and not for personal enrichment of lawmakers and other government officials. Those in Nigeria are designed for fraudulent purposes. Those who do not possess the understanding and appreciation of the grave issues facing the nation that must be tackled head on should stay away from the business of governance because leadership is not for all comers, and take to vocations they’re best suited for. After all not everybody is a leader and people should not force leadership roles on themselves solely for the purpose of material acquisitions at the expense of the people. The 2011 general elections therefore provide the nation a golden opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaffs and enthrone real leaders and not the pretenders currently milling around the corridors of power.
While we ponder our status in the comity of nations, it might be just as well that we put matters in their proper perspective in order to have a clear understanding of why we are here and the forces that have shaped our destiny. Although many Nigerians would today look to our colonial past with nostalgia as personified by the late Chief Sam Mbakwe who, in a moment of exasperation at Vice President Ekwueme-led NPN’s onslaught on his Imo state, would openly invite the British to come back and re-colonize us, in reality, there was pretty little to glorify about Nigeria at independence. In that regard, it must be stated straight up that the colonialists had no intentions whatsoever of developing their colonial possessions anywhere, and Nigeria was no exception. Colonial territories were regarded as nothing more than cheap sources of raw materials for metropolitan industries. As such, they were meant to be plundered, denuded and discarded like orange peels. Thus Colonial Nigeria was the very definition of a primitive society with all that it connotes and denotes. The term “primitive” is used here not in a pejorative sense, but as a description of the prevailing economic mode of production at the time.
Colonial Nigeria had nothing remotely resembling a middle class because nearly everybody, save the political elites and a few merchants at the very top of the social ladder, was poor as would be expected of a superstitious, peasant and illiterate population eking out miserable existence from the soil with their chapped, bare hands. It cannot be gainsaid therefore that life expectancy was “short, nasty and brutish.” However her agrarian economy was at the mercy of her colonial overlords who carted away her agricultural produce virtually for free to feed their voracious industrial economies overseas. Commodity prices were dictated not by market forces but by the whims of the colonial masters. Thank goodness the discovery of crude oil by Shell Oil Development Company in Olobiri in 1956, for which real exportation did not begin until 1958, came a little too late at a time the Western and Eastern Regions had already secured self government and the nation was preparing for final talks in London for the granting of independence. Otherwise Nigeria might not have tasted independence at all or at the time she did.
It was no surprise, therefore, that no attempt was made to industrialize colonial Nigeria. Save for some cottage undertakings, not a single manufacturing was contemplated let alone consummated and industrialization was as far fetched a dream as going to the moon in the 19th century. Thus even though Britain and other western nations had become fully industrialized since the industrial revolution took place centuries back, the economy of colonial Nigeria remained stuck in wretched, back-breaking, primitive farming right up to her independence! At best there were cottage clinics and hospitals, which, though stocked with basic medicaments to treat common medical conditions, lacked sophisticated medical equipments to tend to complex healthcare needs of the conquered people who, in any case, would depend more on traditional medications than on some “white witch” wonder cures. And the very idea of a healthcare system comprising of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, could only have been imagined or mentioned in reference to colonial metropolis if it existed at all back then, and certainly not in Nigeria. The dominant means of transportation was by foot and camels, canoes and boats; and with some good fortunes, bicycles, augmented by primitive earth roads and singe-lane asphalted roadways that could barely contain two-way motorized traffic. Thus traveling from the East to the West or from the South to the North in some creaky, rickety trucks, was a journey not of hours, but of days and weeks guaranteed to break the backs of even a Japanese Sumo wrestler and cause pregnant women to deliver on their way. It could be likened to going to another planet altogether for which one must make adequate provisions to last the entire gruesome, nightmarish journey. The single-lane rail lines that were built by the colonialists were for the sole purpose of transporting cash crops from the hinterland to the makeshift coastal seaports and nothing was thought about providing a means of mass transportation for the people. It’s no coincidence therefore that the railroads only run from the North to the West and from the North to the East and no more. Such an ad-hoc rail network was all that was needed to transport farm produce from the North that was carted away to metropolitan Britain and elsewhere in the West. That would explain why the Nigerian leaders who took over from the colonialists still saw the railways as meant only for the transportation of farm produce and livestock rather than a mass transit mode that could relive pressure on the roads. It takes a while for a people that have been programmed to think in a certain way to see the light and liberate themselves from themselves. And that explains why even “freed” slaves would refuse to quit servitude and stick with their slave masters! Didn’t Northern Nigeria refuse to avail itself self-government when the opportunity presented itself which both the Eastern and Western regions grabbed with both hands before independence? That is the power of mental conditioning or programming, to use a more current terminology. It explains why Nigerians look down on traditional medicine which the Chinese have developed and turned into a multi-billion dollar industry that is now actively in competition with western medicine, if not better.
It explains why Nigerians shun their traditions and cultures in preference for western ideas because they have been conditioned to look down on their own as either barbaric or inferior including their own black skins. The issue of cultural genocide is so germane to our present pathetic condition in Africa it would require a major work to do complete justice to it. Many have written about it and I intend to dwell on it at some length because it is at the root of our present woes.
I shudder to say this but the fact must be recognized that the very dangerous, cancer-inducing bleaching creams that African women hanker after, were not developed in Africa or anywhere else in the black world, but in the West and introduced into black communities to destroy their skins to make them look less dark and become fairer in complexion. Some might argue that white women too darken their skins by tanning either naturally through sunlight or mechanically through tanning machines. Fair enough. But they’re not doing it because anybody looked down on white skins as being inferior or told them that a white could only win an election if he had a darker skin. They’re doing it on their own volition as a fad with no hint or suggestion of racial complex. On the contrary, a white or fair complexioned skin has been sold to blacks as somehow superior to a black skin and that’s why our women folks go to great lengths to bleach their skins to look white or fair.
And here is the clincher: In his private remarks revealed in the new book just published by Time Magazine's Mark Halperin and New York magazine's John Heilemann titled, “Game Change” the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, tied Obama’s chances in the US presidential elections to the color of his skin and his accent— "a light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," Reid said in private conversion, which he has, however, courageously owned up to and apologized for. Yet his private remarks represent the racial mindset of the West in general which tends to assess competencies and capabilities not on objective standards but on the basis of skin colors. It leaves open the question as to whether Obama could have won had he spotted a darker skin. Negro dialect! Did Senator Reid remember that when Arnold Schwartzeneger with a heavy, un-American accent, was contesting for the governor of California? No, he didn’t and couldn’t have because Arnold is a white Austrian! Has anyone heard former US Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, speak? His German accent is heavier than heavy. Yet it has never been a disadvantage to him because, guess what, he is white. It’s no surprise, therefore, that our women became easy prey to this subtle mental conditioning. But do not imagine for a second that they’re the only victims. Both sexes are equal victims of cultural genocide. It’s no news to find a typical Nigerian or African man marrying a white or Asian woman seeing it as a status symbol. That is not to say that there are no black men who marry white or Asian ladies for love. Sure there are and should be commended for promoting interracial unions. Yet there are many out there who do it in order to belong or be recognized in white or Asian elite circles and that is where the complex thing kicks in. But I’ve got bad news for such people. Those whom they try so hard to copy or look like have nothing but disdain for them because they’re just bloody imitators and copycats. Nobody respects imitators because they’re fakes. The world respects originality and authenticity. Get it?
When a culture is thus undermined as a deliberate colonial policy, it’s hardly surprising therefore that the nation was made to operate English common laws right up to 1990 at independence. In doing so, Nigerian customary laws were trashed as barbaric and “repugnant to natural justice.” One is forced to ask: natural or British justice? In what way does English common law confer natural justice that Nigeria’s customary laws lack? What the heck makes English common law more naturally just than our customary laws? No one was ready to ask these pertinent questions at the time. It was the legal phraseology used by the colonialists with the acquiescence of our leaders to commit cultural genocide in Nigeria. When it is realized that a nation’s laws carry its cultural heritage and its entire social and economic relations—in short, its entire way of life, it becomes crystal clear that the intendment of the colonialists was to jettison our cultural heritage for the British. The French colonial policy of cultural assimilation applied to her colonies was more direct and frontal but the goal and effects are the same nonetheless.
Of course it stands to reason that our founding fathers were more concerned with independence than with cultural suicide or genocide. But such conditioning, however subtle as it might seem, carries with it far reaching psychological consequences down the road that are difficult to correct at a later time. Those who hold the view that we cannot continue to blame the West for our woes gloss over this reality. The damage lingers on infinitum therefore its effects must never be glossed over or diminished in any way, shape or form, because they’re real and relevant to our social economic circumstances even today. Today, blacks in the United States are still suffering the pernicious psychological effects of centuries of slavery more than a century after the emancipation proclamation and subsequent desegregation. Emancipation from slavery that is not accompanied with a program of integration and rehabilitation of the victims is like sending off a ship on a voyage in the high seas without a compass. It is certain to be lost at sea.
The Jews who suffered the holocaust were adequately rehabilitated and compensated by the West but not the blacks who suffered centuries of slavery even though it is an established fact that hundreds of thousands of slaves in transit to the New World were murdered at sea and fed to the sharks. The only plausible reason the Jews were rehabilitated and compensated and blacks left in the cold is the color of their skin, nothing else that one could think of. Call it double standards or what have you, but the bitter truth is the skin determines who gets what and who suffers what in white-dominated societies including—guess where—South Africa even though the country is now being formally “ruled” by black presidents. The soul of the South Africa nation is still white though the face might be black, and will remain so for many more decades to come. That is the scenario faced by Zimbabweans that has thrown up a radicalized President Robert Mugabe to deal with. But he is getting nowhere with it because it is an entrenched force with tentacles spread across the globe. He needed a more nuanced approach that would not forcibly dispossess whites of their farmlands to benefit blacks. No matter the unjust historical process through which Zimbabwean whites appropriated black farmlands, a state policy of forcible dispossession of one racial group to benefit another in the same country, is a complete disaster right from the beginning and President Mugabe is finding out the hard way. His once thriving nation built by white supremacist, Ian Smith, on the broken backs of black labor as it was in neighboring South Africa and the United States, has been brought to her knees by a coalition of Western forces arrayed against him and his government. A liberation fighter and patriot fervently seeking to correct centuries of racial injustices suffered by his indigenous black people has been turned or turned himself into a racial monster and ostracized from the world. The problem with Mugabe is: not knowing where liberation struggle ends and statesmanship begins. It’s the same thing that the Edo state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomohle, is finding difficult to come to grips with—not knowing where labor unionism ends and governance begins—call it post struggle syndrome (PSS), if you like. It’s as good a diagnosis as any other out there.
Cultural identity translates into national identity. The world came to know the Chinese for their cultural exports through movies and other cultural artifacts. It formed the basis for the Cultural Revolution in China, which reverberations have stunned the world. China is today the third largest economy in the world behind Japan and the United States. She has already overtaken the United States as the biggest automobile and cell phone market in the world. And need I mention that it is the world’s biggest workshop!—all founded on the Cultural Revolution of 1949. We know the nation of Jamaica more through their cultural exports—music than through any other means. It was that realization that compelled many of Africa’s foremost nationalists such as Drs. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Obafemi Awolowo, and many more, to drop their Western middle names indignantly because they were nothing but badges of slavery and its twin brother—colonialism. You can count on this writer to do the same pretty soon because it is past time to reclaim our cultural heritage, and it should begin at the individual level in small but significant ways. While blacks are in search of cultural identity in the United States Nigerians are throwing away theirs and trying ever so hard to copy the West. It gives credence to the saying that you don’t value what you have until you lose it. I’ll say it again: the world respects originality and authenticity not imitations. Be original and authentic in your music, fashion, inventions, dance, crafts, language and intonation, religion, architecture, literature, and everything between, and the world will respect you.
I have looked around and found that in the main only Africans still wear and flaunt their colonial badges with pride. Apologists may ask: what is in a name? That question alone coming from the mouth of an African is indicative of the damage done to the African mind. What is in a name? Everything! Everything!! A name without a meaning is like a song without a meaning—a lyrical collection of sound bites signifying nothing. Gosh, there is a lot in African names. Unlike Western names, African names are not empty sound bites but veritable historical records that are imbued with philosophical significance and, in some cases, poetic flavors. Africans would not name their sons and daughters “Woods,” “Stones,” or “Fish” for example, because these ‘names’ are plain meaningless and utterly absurd. But this is more than the meaning of names, anyway. It is the rejection of one’s cultural heritage in place of another in order to fit in or belong when nobody is asking you to change your name or make it sound better in the ears of your host nation. This brings me to an experience I had fairly recently and one that many of the readers may have experienced as well at one time or another. I met a Nigerian of Yoruba extraction in New York, who introduced himself to me simply as “Bankol” which was kind of strange. However, when out of curiosity, I asked him to spell the “Bankol” for me because I couldn’t quite reconcile his Nigerian-ness with the “Bankol” he introduced himself with, it turned out that it’s the Yoruba name “Bankole” he chose to pronounce “Bankol” as in “Cole” ostensibly to make it easier for Americans to pronounce. And that is the United States that has citizens and individuals from different nationalities with wield jaw-breaking names. Yet this Bankole of a Nigerian was too ashamed to pronounce his Yoruba name as it is pronounced in Yoruba. He anglicized it and extracted out the Yoruba flavor from it! In other words, he killed the Yoruba in his name even while he remains a Yoruba man. There is no other way to describe his action than cultural suicide and this is going on at different levels as undying and almost imperishable legacies of colonialism and slavery.
Pray, would an Englishman or any other national for that matter, living in Africa Africanize his name to make it sound African and sweet to the ears of his host nation? Your answer is as good as mine. Yet there are possibly thousands of Africans out there with such a complex. And you want ask: how can a people with such a complex ever believe in themselves and achieve anything worthwhile for their country and continent? When a people throw away or undermine their culture they throw away and undermine their soul and personality because culture, not color or wealth, defines a people and brings out their uniqueness in the human race. Therefore a people without culture are a lost race and total nonentities. It would explain why slave masters targeted culture for destruction—their languages, traditions, music, religion, marriage rituals, festivals, folklores, dressing, and all the usual trappings of a cultural heritage were fair games. The Jews took that lesson to heart and held on tight to their culture for fear of losing it. The net effect is of slavery is that nearly a century after the abolition of slavery and black emancipation in the United States, blacks are still groping aimlessly in the dark to fill the void and find their cultural bearings which had been completely wiped out by white slave masters. And the most that could be achieved is through improvisation to give some meaning and identity to their existence in the midst of other races who tantalizingly flaunt their cultural heritage at them. That explains the invention if “KWANZA” in the United States.
Cultural genocide is one of the worst calamities that could befall a people and its effects endure forever. Would it come to you as a surprise, therefore, that the Jews, uprooted from their ancestral home and dispersed in far flung places, found it mightily important to hang on to their cultural heritage wherever they found themselves? They knew better than to lose their culture. In nearly every country, from Europe to America, Africa to Russia, and everywhere else in between, could be found Jewish synagogues, and Jewish way of life guarded jealously even in Hitler’s Germany and in Stalin’s USSR. The Jews found themselves in Europe in the bowels of Christianity, and rather than allowing themselves to be converted in order to “belong” promptly set up synagogues right next to Christian Cathedrals. They found themselves in bowels of Islam in the Middle East and set up synagogues right next to Mosques where they practiced their Judaic religion in the face of extreme hostility and mass murders. That is cultural heroism per excellence, and I doff my hat for the Jews for doing their ancestors proud! And guess what: the Jews are respected for that wherever they find themselves unlike copycats Africans trying to ingratiate themselves to other racial groups by denying their cultural heritage. Africans, most especially Nigerians, have a big lesson to learn from the Jews.
The point about the importance other nations attach to their cultural and traditional heritage is illustrated by the Chinese government’s reaction to the threat by the American search engine giant, Google, Inc. to shut down its China operations due to that country’s censorship of what it calls undesirable web contents such as pornography, for example. It has been reported that China has paid some 200 web surfers to track down such contents and report them to the authorities in a massive crackdown. In a report, January 19, 2010, posted by the Associated Press Business Reporter, Joe McDonald, the Chinese authorities, far from being intimidated and giving in sheepishly to Google demands as many an African government might have done, took a hard line and drew the line in the sand in the following words:
"Foreign enterprises in China need to adhere to China's laws and regulations, respect the interests of the general public and cultural traditions and shoulder corresponding responsibilities. Google is no exception," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu at a regular news briefing.
“Respect cultural traditions” is the operative phrase in the above quote. That terse warning is signal enough from China that the West cannot impose its cultural values on China. It is the other way around. And if Google and other Western corporations doing business in China would not respect Chinese cultural traditions, they would promptly be shown the exit doors wide open. The issue here is not whether China is right to censor web contents or not but what it considers offensive to its cultural traditions which the West has no problem with. It’s perfect clash of cultures and China has the right to defend and protect her cultural traditions which are under threat from the West. The West cannot come under the guise of free speech and use technology to ride rough shod over other nations’ cultural traditions because what is meat for one nation is poison for another. What makes the West think that its sex-centric, pornographic culture is superior and welcome everywhere? It’s not welcome everywhere but in sex-crazed societies found in the West where sex in all its symbolism is the currency of all social transactions. That is not the case in traditional or religious societies. It is within China’s sovereign prerogative therefore to censor such contents as she deems appropriate in the light of her cultural sensibilities. After all if China cannot protect her traditional values who else will do it for her?
However, in sharp contrasts to the Chinese bold, patriotic stance, Africans timidly and shamelessly abandoned their cultural traditions right in their own land and allowed Islamic jihadists and Christian missionaries to rubbish their religion and traditions to their faces. They readily allowed themselves to be quickly converted to Islam and Christianity and took turn to tear down their own cultural institutions as if with vengeance. In other words they simply rolled over. The readiness and rapidity with which Africans threw away their religions and traditions is only matched by the readiness and rapidity with which they captured their own kinds in contrived wars and sold them to foreign slave merchants in exchange for a few bags of tea, coffee, T-shirts, and Bowler hats, which they cherished as mementos in exchange for their own brothers and sisters tied up in chains like animals herded in waiting ships and transported into slavery. And with that thoughtless act Africans effectively destroyed the soul of their very being. And with that culturally suicidal act African moral restraints and values went up in smoke and in their places a huge vacuum was created that remains unfilled till date. Without a doubt foreign religions have destroyed our values and that’s why, to quote Africa’s foremost novelist, Chinua Achebe, things have fallen apart and the center cannot hold. To make matters worse, the cultural vacuum thus created could not be filled by the imported religions and traditions. This cultural vacuum is poignantly manifested and exploited to the hilt in our public service where corruption is the Lord and Personal Savior of both Christian and Moslem office holders. Can we not see that all the looters of our public treasury are either Christians or Moslems, not the so-called unbelievers? Though overtly religious, which they proudly wear on their faces, they have no regards whatsoever for their own religious injunctions that forbid stealing in whatever form or guise.
Looting of public treasury by those who called themselves Christians and Moslems has become the rule rather than the exception. Nobody seems to believe in eternal damnation offered by both Christianity and Islam as the wages of sin. Nobody seems to believe in the efficacy of the tepid, after-life, religious restraints found in the liturgies of imported religions, including their clergies who have made crass materialism their gospel truth. Christians and Moslems are told that the wages of sin is death but they have since found out that they can sin plentifully and still live their lives to their fullness. And if punishment by death would come but only come in the hereafter, why, they can always ask for forgiveness or buy their way out with their loots if forgiveness proves difficult. All they have to do literarily is to enlist the support of the pastor or Imam provided he gets his cut so long as the looter did not forget to pay his tithe and/or organize a flamboyant “Thanksgiving Service” to the lord for making his first billion naira loot. It is that bad. And why wouldn’t be that bad when all a sinful Christian needs is the “Blood of Jesus” to “wash away” his/her sins? Why wouldn’t be that easy when all he/she needs is speak in tongues—“Rakakama Kokomaalago! Dugadumamagala! Gee!! Gee!! Goodabokodara!”
That would send the Holy Ghost crashing down through the rooftop to wash away the sins of looting. It doesn’t matter that his cruel acts have deprived pregnant women and nursing mothers from receiving prenatal and maternal cares in hospitals and children from receiving vaccination. It doesn’t matter whether those in intensive care units are dying while undergoing surgical operations due to lack of drugs, equipment or power failure. It sure doesn’t bother him/her whether our roads are broken causing avoidable accidents that claims thousands of lives every year. It doesn’t matter whether our kids are taking lessons under trees and dilapidated classrooms that could collapse on them under minor storm so long as the Blood of Jesus is ever there to wash away his/her sins. And why would it matter when he/she has his/her own private pastor on his/her payroll who would always “intercede” for him/her when the loot becomes excessive and burdensome to prick his/her deadened conscience? Intercessory prayers by well clad prayer warriors who have mastered the art of speaking in tongues than the Disciples themselves who actually received the real Holy Ghost, not the make-believe fakes is now the in-thing.
Like everything Nigerian, the high level of corruption, fraud, sexual immorality, extortion by way of fee-for-prayer, looting of Church funds, and all manners of deviant behaviors, have become a way of life in the Church. Oh, Christianity has gone to the dogs and real Christians know it! Let’s face it. These moral atrophies were unheard of in traditional social systems. Unlike our traditional moral restraints, no Christian would suffer the consequence of violating the moral or religious codes of his community or faith. In fact he has nothing to fear so long as he has his loot and the right connections. Today, a Christian government official accused of corruption has no qualms holding the Holy Bible aloft in court in utter disdain to tell lies, knowingly. The same is true of Moslems. Yes the chicks are, indeed, coming home to roost and the results are the religious violence being perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists in Northern Nigeria and the fraudulent Christian churches mushrooming in Southern Nigeria operated by hardened conmen and serial swindlers masquerading as “Men of God.” Christianity is headed for the rocks!
As the American televangelist, Pat Robertson, wrote in the Introduction to his book titled, “BRING IT ON”:
“..Rather than being light in the darkness, the church has become a flickering candle struggling for survival against the wind of change.”
“Instead of being a counterculture within the culture, the church has so compromised, and watered down its message, it is almost impossible to distinguish a true Christian anymore. It is a well established fact that the lifestyles of many Christians are almost identical to those who make no religious claims at all. Modern day Christians passionately seek material gain, desperately watch out for number one, talk the same, look the same, imbibe in the same beverages, watch the same R-rated movies, have markedly similar value systems—including their tastes, attitudes, aptitudes and proclivities—as their non-Christian friends.”
Evangelist Robertson could have been describing Moslems in Nigeria as well, not just Christians. The question then is, if “modern day” Christians and Moslems are morally and spiritually indistinguishable from the so-called unbelievers, what moral and spiritual superiority can they assert against the later? None, indeed! What the respected Evangelist probably didn’t realize, however, and might not be willing to admit either, in relation to Africa, is that the moral and ethical maladies he railed against which are manifesting themselves variously in Nigeria in treasury looting, electoral brigandage, and religious oddities, are directly attributable to the willful destruction of African traditional heritage perpetrated under colonial Nigeria and intensified by their thoroughly brainwashed indigenous successors who are doing everything to look and feel Western at their own expense. The traditional moral restraints that defined the boundaries of rightly social conduct are gone and in their places imported laws and judiciary are left to fill the vacuum. Well, we all know that the judiciary is medicine after death. In any case, the culprits can always easily buy their way out of threatened incarceration to steal another day even in the vaunted Western societies perhaps to a lesser degree. For example, a plea bargain is negotiated justice and not real punishment because it substitutes a much lesser offense to the serious one alleged to have been committed and the accused walks away from justice with a slap on the wrist. And what is more? The standards of proof in the Western models of adjudication are so onerous and so weighted in favor of the defense that millions of accused individuals literarily walk away from justice year in year out only to repeat the same or similar offenses. Thus repeat offenders are a permanent feature of Western criminal justice system—cold-blooded murderers, rapists, arsonists, kidnappers, child molesters, fraudsters, armed robbers, swindlers, and the list goes on and on, who literarily walk away from justice to commit another day!
These things are thus possible because the imported religions have no effective means of checkmating them and end up being co-opted and sucked up into the cesspool of worldly material filth and sundry immoral entrapments. And please leave Satan out of this. It’s the system. Are the above submissions tantamount to advocating the return of African Traditional Religion (ATR) in place of the now dominant Islam and Christianity? Not necessarily, because it has already been incorporated into the liturgical fabrics of imported religions. The clearest evidence of this can be found in Christian Pentecostal sects and denominations which outward appearances and practices have been utterly stripped of their Western cultural appurtenances as to make them almost indistinguishable from African Traditional Religious costumes and practices. It is evidence of the recrudescence of Africa’s cultural traditions fighting back to reclaim lost grounds, the very same way the Hausa language survived the Fulani Jihadists Islamic onslaught in Northern Nigeria while everything else, including the political systems, fell. And with several of the Christian denominations including the Anglican Church getting incensed with the un-biblical sexual perversions in the West now actively supported by the Church in West, it’s only a matter of time before Africans take over completely the Christian faith and indigenize it with massive African cultural infusions. The process is already with Ugandan and Nigerian Bishops overseeing some Dioceses in the United States that broke away from their original bases in protest against the grossly immoral sexual perversions ratified by the Anglican Church in the United States. The ultimate split between the African and Western Christian establishments is the culmination of the process of indigenization and therefore the total liberation of African religious thought. Is this an attempt to whitewash or pass off African cultural traditions as perfect in all material particular? Far from it, but to indicate that it has got a better handle on both private and public morality than the imported species and could have been further developed and strengthened had it not been abandoned in preference for the foreign implants. Even so it must be acknowledged that the cross breeding of ATR and Christian faiths has been mutually beneficial in certain respects not the least of which is the abolition of human sacrifice. And the process of reformation of ATR will pick up apace with the severance of African ties to European and other imported religious establishments.
In this regard, I cannot thank enough those who have contributed immensely to the propagation of African traditional dress code in both public and private functions all over the continent. It’s testimony to the resilience of the culture. This is not religion but traditions, and there is clear distinction between the two. There are no valid reasons other than the desire for cultural genocide why African cultures and traditions cannot co-exist with imported religions. There is no reason why an Ibo or a Yoruba man, for instance, cannot celebrate the New Yam Festival or the Egungun Masquerade Festival because he is a “Christian” or Moslem as the case might be. Or, for that matter, there is no reason why traditional marriage should be subordinated to “Church” or “statutory” marriage or for one to be superimposed on the other as it’s presently the case. It’s schizophrenic to be straddling both cultural worlds leading to identity crisis. The Jews perform their marriages in accordance with their traditions dating back to Biblical times and there is no reason why Nigerians should be combining “English” marriage with traditional marriage. It’s not only schizophrenic but a total waste of time and resources.
Now, here comes the shocker! Have you ever thought about the reason why Nigerians are basically lawless and go to court to lie before Judges? Perhaps you’ve not but I’ve got an answer for you. The reason Nigerians are lawless is to be found, at the most fundamental level, in the cultural void between received English laws and our customary traditions. When a traditional ruler, such as an Oba or an Emir, makes a proclamation or rule, it is obeyed religiously with every fiber in the beings of his subjects. For the most part even with their severely diminished political power, traditional institutions still command the respect and loyalties of their subjects and communities. As such, their pronouncements carry the weight of laws that require neither the judiciary nor the cops to enforce. But the reverse is the case when it comes to our English or so-called modern laws handed down by the government. Our people treat our laws with disdain including law enforcement agents! The reason is that respect for traditional institutions is inherent in our genes and chemistry but totally lacking for our so-called modern institutional transplants. And because these laws are not derived from our cultural traditions for the most part but implanted from totally different cultures, they have no relevance and meanings to our people’s lives and so they’re ignored with impunity, and I should add, with little or no consequences. A ready example is the law of bigamy which no policeman in Nigeria is ready to enforce. In other words our laws lack what I would call cultural legitimacy. Therefore obedience and compliance thereto would never come naturally as matter of course, but at great costs to the state. Of the large community of looters in Nigeria that have stolen more than a $100bn from our nation’s coffers, not one of them is in jail! This is because, as indicated above, nobody, including the so-called law enforcement agents and the judges is ready to enforce our laws and have all perfected dubious ways and means of circumventing them and get away with it.
Conversely there are laws which have been promulgated that are antithetical and profoundly alien to our cultural traditions which observance by the authorities has done violence and incalculable damage to our moral compass. A ready example is the constitutional provisions of gubernatorial and presidential immunity. The English concept of the “Kind does no wrong” has been implanted into our constitution making it possible for executive looters to have a free reign. However, these same received laws that Nigerians treat with disdain are obeyed and enforced religiously in their countries of origin in the so-called advanced societies of the West for the simple fact that they grew out of those cultures and are readily understood and appreciated in those climes. In other words, their laws enjoy the element and quality of cultural legitimacy and therefore naturally command obedience and compliance as a matter of course. We can shout “Rule of law” all we want, it costs us nothing to shout it. But as long as our laws lack cultural legitimacy, they will continue to live only on the pieces of papers they’re written and not in the hearts of men and women. The net result of this scenario is of course the utter chaos and acute lawlessness that is endemic in the polity where anything goes.
These are the several ways cultural genocide has been used to destroy our way of life. Our languages have been reduced to second class languages in our own country. All of our official transactions are conducted in a foreign language. The result is the gradual deaths of our indigenous languages. The Ibos, Yorubas, Edos, Urhobos, et al, are all crying aloud about he death of their languages why the English language is growing exponentially and expanding rapidly to conquer the world. We have been handed with a constitution that nobody but the high priests of law understands. Of course it is written in English language that the rural dwellers who constitute over 70% of our population have no access to. We call them illiterate simply because they cannot read and write in our borrowed foreign language—English. These are folks that cherish their indigenous languages and dialects and can read and write perfectly in those media. But in our sheer ignorance, we label them illiterates and deny them access to the constitution that governs their lives when over a century ago the Bible was translated into Yoruba, followed by other languages through the foresight of our forebears. To be meaningful, relevant, and therefore commanding of willful obedience, a nation’s laws and institutions must be grown organically in its cultural soil, and not implanted wholesale. The present generation has lost it big time. We’re aping the West like some kindergartens without thinking about the consequences. Former British Prime Minister was right when he said “Africa has stopped thinking,” though used in a different context. It doesn’t matter—Africa has stopped thinking. Period! All she does today is Copy and Paste—copy from the West and past on Africa. Very soon she will be copying from the East too as the rapidly expanding China and the rest of Asia overtakes Europe and America in development. I’m sure that is no news for the reader.
Imagine THIS DAY Newspaper sponsoring American Hip Hop Artistes to its annual Musical Festival to come and be talking “Fuck ya mama,” “Moda-fucka,” “Fuckin’ Bitch,” “Nigger this, Nigger that,” and all that meaningless trash and lyrical aberrations that even black opinion leaders in the United States, such as the Reverend Al-Sharpton, have roundly condemned as debasing African womanhood. Yes THIS Day dumps this cultural toxic on our young and impressionable minds and then leaves us to clean up the mess later while smiling its way to the bank. THIS DAY would not sponsor some opera, classical or jazz musicians, but some ghetto rap artistes, of all people. And you know something? All that is being done in the name of modernity! Someone should please tell THIS Day publishers that modernity does not entail glorifying ghetto music that debases African womanhood and calls blacks “Niggers,” a totally offensive name that the whites in America would not even dare to touch with a long pole. Someone should tell them that modernity entails inventing the next generation of smarts phones, computers, and other technological gadgetry, not ghetto music popularized in American inner cities by outlaws and now imported into Nigeria. Don’t our people get it? The future belongs to those who invent tomorrow today. That is what THIS DAY should be sponsoring to advance the technological profile of the continent not American trash.
Yet it can be stated without equivocation that imperialist agents are complicit in the unabashed looting of the nation’s commonwealth so as to deny her the fulfillment of her manifest destiny. Otherwise, why would it be so easy for official rogues in Nigeria to transfer stolen funds and stash them in the vaults of foreign banks? And why is it so tempting for their political leaders to place great hurdles on the path of the Nigerian governments seeking to recover stolen funds from their countries? Sometimes there are so many legal difficulties and complexities involved in the recovery efforts that the cost of recovering the stolen funds from the countries harboring them is equal to or even greater than the stolen funds. Of between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillions estimated by the World Bank to have been stolen by corrupt leaders, world wide, Africa accounts for the lion share. In Africa alone over $400bn were stolen from the continent of which Nigeria alone accounts for more than $100bn. That is a sum big enough to turn the whole of Africa into a dreamland. But that amount is currently sitting in the vaults of Western banks as free funds readily utilized for the development of their countries while Africans are dying from mal-nutrition, squalor and preventable diseases amid dilapidated infrastructures. How then can the West escape charges of complicity in Africa’s underdevelopment? Yet their officials are the loudest in condemning corruption of African leaders. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, recently came to Nigeria to lash out at the EFCC, the government’s anti-graft agency for under performing. EFCC is medicine after death. The question is, is her country not a beneficiary of looted funds from Nigeria? What has her country done to bring Nigerian public treasury looters who go in and out of the United States at will to book?
The question naturally is why are they so effective in tracking foreign exchange transfers when it comes to money laundering relating to terrorism and looked the other way when Nigerian government officials were hauling plane loads of hard currency and stashing them in their countries to fund their economies under their very nose? Has any bank been sanctioned for aiding and abetting illegal or questionable money transfers from Nigeria? Why is it that Nigerian government officials indicted of corruption and money laundering at home could so easily find refuge in their countries from where they engage in subversive activities against their country? These are pertinent questions that cry out loud for answers. And we must never forget that these are the very same countries that turn around to impose questionable loans on African nations with crushing interest regimes that are designed to undermine Africa’s development. A significant percentage of the budgets of African countries that are victims of these fraudulent loans is devoted to debt servicing leaving little or nothing left for real development. The complicity and collusion of the West to African, nay, Nigerian underdevelopment cannot therefore be over-emphasized. It is at the heart of Western relations with the continent.
(C) Colonial Construct
Colonialism is the twin-brother of slavery and its effects are no less pernicious and no less enduring. Their ultimate goal is to undermine and destroy the conquered and subjugated race at the physical, psychological, social, economic and cultural levels. And just as in slavery even when political independence is granted the damage is already done leaving the so-called emancipated people to lick their wounds from generations to generations. When it is realized that slavery, which was used to depopulate and decapitate Africa for centuries, gave birth to colonialism which continued the process by when slavery became no longer profitable in the West due to the advent of the industrial revolution that replaced men with machines, the magnitude of the damage becomes, indeed, unfathomable. We are thus dealing with a mother continent that had been programmed to fail ab-initio, and Nigeria is the epitome of that colonial construct. As indicated earlier, the psychological damage done to a programmed people may, indeed, take a lifetime to heal. There is a reason why Nigerians do not like anything Nigerian even if Nigerian products are better than imported ones. There is a reason why you’ll not find a Nigerian youth humming the tunes of Nigerian artistes but know all the tunes of foreign artistes by heart. There is a reason why Nigerians won’t read Nigerian authors unless forced to do so for examination purposes whereas they know and read every line of foreign authors. And there is a reason why Nigerian journalists and columnists do not quote the philosophical lines of African statesmen and women and show off their learning by adorning their works with quotes from the works of foreign philosophers. There is a reason failed politicians in Nigeria shamelessly rush to foreign embassies to enlist the support of their home governments to intervene in Nigeria’s electoral disputes even where there is ample machinery on ground for the resolution of such disputes. Yes there is a reason why we are what we are as a people. That innate, visceral dislike for anything Nigerian proudly exhibited by Nigerians, including its leadership, manufactures, and cultural heritage, is already deeply embedded in psyche of the average Nigerian and perpetuated from one generation to another. Information and Communication Minister, Mrs. Dora Akunyili, has her work cut out in her Nigerian rebranding project. The rebranding project must start at the basics. She must go beyond superficialities and employ the services of psycho-analysts to de-program Nigerians if she ever hopes to make a dent in her rebranding crusade. There’s more to it than meets the eyes. We’re a victimized people suffering from the effects of centuries of slavery and colonialism. And the best place to start is not with the adults that have been set in their pre-programmed ways, but the young and upcoming generations in the primary and secondary schools with the government itself being the chief role model for the new Nigerian she is trying to recreate.
Has anyone cared to ask why the Nigerian government is only now just beginning to realize the utility and socio-economic importance of rail transportation at a time a time when the rest of the world has moved into high speed train service? China has just begun the fastest high speed train service in the world beating France and Japan to the 2rd and 3rd place respectively. Nigeria is yet to figure out what to do with her decrepit, aging single-lane colonial burdens that even British livestock would refuse to patronize let alone humans. The reason can be found in colonialism. As stated above the rail lines were built for the sole purpose of transporting farm produce and livestock from the hinterlands to the coastal ports, not humans. That attitude was inherited by Nigerian leaders who took over from the colonialists who viewed the railways as only fit for transporting goods and not humans. It doesn’t matter that poor Nigerians patronized the rail services anyway for want of other means of long distance transportation and cost factor. Thus while Nigerian leaders were building highways the rail lines were left untouched until they aged, became dysfunctional and left to die. Today, Nigerian roads and ports are clogged with gleaming automobiles. At a time it was said that there were more Mercedes Benz cars on Nigerian roads than Germany their country of origin. And if anyone needs convincing all he/she has to do is take a trip to any of the seaports to behold the gleaming mass of automobiles coming into the country which has made the Nigerian Customs and Excise Department the second highest revenue earner for the government after crude exports.
But it wasn’t always like this. Before independence, motor cars were like Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and quite a sight to behold as the locals would mill around them, turning their owners into instant celebrities. As if to prove the above assertion which some readers might find exaggerated, I came across this caption by the Sun Newspaper (02.01.10 edition), of an interview with Professor Femi Soyinka which graphically captures the celebrity status of car owners in Nigeria back in the 60s:
“I Felt Like A Lord When I Bought A Volkswagen Cabriolet In 1964 - Prof Femi Soyinka.”
That’s right. That line came straight from the horse’s mouth! The professor, then medical graduate in Germany, felt like a lord for owning a second hand car back in 1964 and that was four years after independence! Could I have put it better? Today, many Nigerians own airplanes and owning a brand new car in Nigeria today is like owning a television set. The second car that made the professor feel like a lord is like ‘pure water’ in Nigeria today—no big deal. That is Nigeria as of today compared with Nigeria as of yesteryears in colonial and post-colonial days. If that is no progress I don’t what is. And what is more? Those who travelled abroad in search of the Golden Fleece did so as stowaways in cargo ships that came to haul away our agricultural produce. By what other means could they have gone to the white man’s country to learn the ways of the white man? Airports and airships were like some fairy tales taken from “Tales by the Moonlight” and so were telephones that might have sounded like some ghostly devices used by the dead to communicate with their living relatives. There were primary and model schools with a sprinkling of technical institutes that one could count on his fingers and toes for entire regions in the country before independence, capped with a University College at Ibadan that was deliberately designed not to produce scientists and technologists and for the advancement of science and technology but for middle level administrative man-power for the colonial civil service. Electronic mass media such as radio and television existed only in the fertile imagination of those who were literate enough to read imported materials, and print media were rarity save for the Iwe Iroyin published in Abeokuta and the Daily News and West African Pilot published in Lagos. Politics was the new game in town for the emergent political elite, but it was founded on a system of indirect rule with traditional rulers holding sway at the very top which only succeeded in producing tin-gods whose unquestionable authority and influence exerted a stranglehold on their hapless and uninformed peasants—an insidious phenomenon that has transmuted into present day godfather politics. Old habits, they say, die hard and in Nigeria they die really hard, and that is, if they die at all!
Given these unflattering conditions therefore, it was easy to see why our founding fathers many of whom had had the privilege of actually experiencing the quality of life in Metropolitan Britain and elsewhere in the colonial west, sought to liberate their peoples from colonial servitude and vicious plundering of their natural resources. Bubbling with pride, triumphant joy and unbridled optimism for the future, they envisioned a just and egalitarian society that would meet the basic existential needs of their peoples and give them a quality of life that’s comparable to that of their colonial masters. And just like their valiant compatriots in the West African Frontier Forces who were drafted to fight imperialist wars on western and eastern frontiers found out that their white counterparts were no better fighters at the battle fronts, our nationalists knew that they could deliver the same quality of life to their peoples as could be found in metropolitan Britain. It was the vision that drove Chief Obafemi Awolowo to set up the first television station in Africa ahead of the former Soviet Union and gave the Western region free education and healthcare, to liberate their minds and bodies. It was the vision that led to the groundnut pyramids in the North, Cocoa House in Ibadan and huge palm oil and rubber plantations in the East and Southern parts of the country, respectively. And it was the vision that animated Nigeria’s anti-colonial struggles in her foreign policy that saw to liberation of the entire continent from the perilous burdens of colonialism. Yes, it was the vision that unleashed the beast of development as regional competition intensified with industries, universities and polytechnics springing up such that by 1966 when the military struck to terminate the First Republic Nigeria had racked up to four full fledged universities and several polytechnics. Considering that the colonialist only managed to establish University College which began UI throughout their colonial rule that lasted for about a century that was a huge feat by our post independence leaders. And that was not all: hospitals, television and radio stations and newspapers were going up at dizzying pace. And new highways were stretching out like a million snakes connecting towns and villages and bringing development and the people closer to their governments. Gradually but steadily middle class Nigeria was emerging from the shadows of colonialism. Nigeria was well on her way to fulfilling the promise and her world economic ranking was pretty decent as a newly independent nation—all in just half a decade. There was so much exhilaration in the air and great hope for the future of the young nation. Then suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, something snapped and the young nation was put on a tailspin, gripped by a series of terminal convulsions, culminating in a secession of military dictatorships that were accountable to no one including their own leaders. Coup making became the staple food of the nation’s military elite as the entire continent of Africa groaned under the deadly weight of military jackboots. It was Africa’s Dark Age. And while Africa was generally blighted with coups and counter coups Nigeria was one of the hardest hit grossing up no less than eight coups and attempted coup de tats.
Since then it has been a tale of arrested development and broken promises that has left the citizens totally dazed and flabbergasted. Up and until the year 1999, when the present civilian dispensation kicked in the military had ruled the country for 29 out of 39 years leaving the civilians with a mere 10. How was the country supposed to develop beyond where the military left it on May 29, 1999? How was it supposed to become an economic giant with the military in charge? What do the military know about nation building and economic development? What do the military know about institutional development and democracy? What do the military know about rule of law and civil rights when the first thing it does is the suspension of civil rights with the constitution? How is the military that is only used to command and control supposed to build the judiciary by respecting court orders? Or, for that matter, how is the military supposed to know about accountability and prudent management of the nation’s resources to secure the greatest happiness for the greatest number of the citizenry? Were Nigerians expecting these from the military or the nation just woke up from a bad dream? Did anyone seriously expect the military governments to do nation building in Nigeria? Someone has got to be kidding me. Such expectation is not tempered with realism but plain delusional. We’re all witnesses to the complete mess made by President Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, when he arrogantly brushed aside the US State Department and went alone using the US military to do nation building in Iraq. The result was total disaster and the war in Iraq would have been lost had he not been removed allowing the State Department to play its traditional role with the military focusing on its job of fighting that helped to turn the tide in Iraq.
Those who bemoan the nation’s underdeveloped status in the face of these historical realities are being unrealistic and suffer from selective amnesia. The fact of the matter is that the nation couldn’t have moved beyond what the military could offer and history shows conclusively that no nation ruled by khaki power has ever attained greatness in the modern world. Nigeria couldn’t have been an exception. You point to me a developed nation and I’ll show you a nation not ruled by khaki power. Even so I’m reluctant to heap all the blames on the military. There is more than enough blame to go round and no one should complain of being cheated or not getting enough of it. As such, I’m not about to single out any particular group or institution for vilification whether it is military, civilian, or for that matter, the citizens themselves. If the military suddenly abandoned their professional calling to become politicians it was because our politicians had failed us terribly and the people invited them to take over power to end the alleged drift. And if our politicians failed us terribly, it was because the media and civil society failed us miserably. A watchful and vigilant media and civil society would normally act to curtail the excesses of the political class and ensure a credible process of political leadership recruitment both at the elective and appointive levels. And contrary to what avails in developed democracies, we have witnessed the total abdication by the media of its role of informal vetting and thorough scrutiny of nominees for elective/appointive positions by political parties and the executive branch, resulting in the election and/or appointment of charlatans that masquerade as leaders in the corridors of power. Yet the media is the first to cast a stone when things go wrong. That is tantamount to medicine after death or bolting the door when the horse has left the barn-stead. Failure to vet political and appointive nominees before they assume power invariably begets poor leadership and poor leadership begets poor performance and poor performance begets under-development that we are all suffering today in Nigeria.
That is the nation’s present status. We cannot sit back and watch political parties nominate questionable characters or watch politicians appoint duplicitous characters to office and turn around to complain when they fail us. For instance, candidate Musa Yar’Adua, just like candidate Barak Obama, was a dark horse who was suddenly thrust on the nation by the PDP for the 2007 presidential elections. However, while Obama was thoroughly grilled, exposed and dissected by the American media during the three nationally televised debates and series of interviews, including grueling party primaries, Yar’Adua barely showed up on the radar screen and no real debates were held before he went for the elections. He relied solely on the PDP political machine (some call rigging machine) rather than his campaign strength to sail through. That is the fact. For the most part Yar’Adua’s campaign was undertaken by OBJ and the PDP in his absence while he was on medical trip abroad a trip that has since been repeated over and over again even till date. Had the media organized a rigorous debate regimen, it would have exposed Yar’Adua’s strengths and weaknesses as against those of his principal opponents who were already well known to Nigerians, but nevertheless still needed to persuade Nigerians that their development programs and blueprints were superior to their opponent’s.
Nigerians were short-changed. They were not given the opportunity to assess and understand the essential Yar’Adua before they went to the polls. Had he been sufficiently dissected by the media and exposed to the Nigerian people during the primaries and campaign periods, the problems now manifesting themselves at this later stage, including his lethargic leadership style, would have been sufficiently highlighted and dealt with at the very beginning. The idea that the President was imposed on the nation is silly and escapist. Nigerians voted for him out of ignorance and they know it. Both the Federal Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have established that as a fact in their concurrent findings. And what is more? The same Nigerians who applauded him when he was busy pulling down the legacies of his predecessor-in-office at the beginning of his lack luster administration, are the very ones claiming he was imposed on them. Having now found out belatedly who Yar’Adua really is, especially his style of governance, they’re quick to dissociate themselves from his election claiming he was imposed on them. That’s bull. People should be man enough to own up to their mistakes rather than looking for some bogeyman’s neck to hang them on. Since the fall of the first family in the Garden of Eden, it has been the nature of man to blame his mistakes on all but himself. When he ate the Forbidden Fruit and was confronted by God, he blamed it on Eve—“The woman you gave me made me eat it,” or something to that effect, thus implying that God had a hand in his disobedient conduct. He was indirectly blaming God and Eve instead of just manning up for his disobedient conduct and asking for forgiveness. Man has inherited and perfected the propensity to blame others for their sins including die hard criminals. It’s no surprise therefore that many Nigerians who voted for President Yar’Adua have turned around to blame OBJ and the PDP for their own votes when they found out later that Yar’Adua is less than their ideal President. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books for human beings to blame their faults, mistakes, and misjudgments on others, including the Devil himself, who have no right of reply or otherwise not in a position to do so. It’s best to leave them to their consciences.
Not all Tales of Woes—Building on Records of Successes
It’s time for a new beginning. Emerging from the throes of military dictatorships, it is entirely understandable even expected that the nation would grope in the dark searching for a path to self-rediscovery. This phase is inevitable and must be allowed to play itself out. Our national values had been bastardized and the fabrics of our moral and ethical constructs have been rented by the military for 30 years. A new nation must be reborn from the ashes of burnt dreams, hopes and aspirations. Nigeria is at the cusp of national ethical and moral regeneration.
While the past cannot be undone the future is totally in our hands and, like clay, can be molded and fashioned into whatever shapes and sizes we desire for ourselves. A great national project is afoot and it is by no means limited to the present government which frankly speaking seems unprepared and incapable consummating. But a national project of this magnitude must not be limited to any single government in power. Like the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” it is generational project with a scope and magnitude that go beyond the tenure of a single regime. We must there cast our sights beyond the present administration. But the good news is that the parameters for national regeneration have been set since the previous administration. It is in their implementations begun with the previous administration that the present administration has regrettably been found wanting in all departments. Yet the great project endures till the next.
However, while the nation takes her tentative and uncertain steps towards a new beginning it must be recognized and appreciated that amid our lamentable failures are huge successes in several sectors which can and should be built on and optimized. The nation has a welter of successes from which she could draw her inspiration for her aspirations recognizing that nations grow not by quantum leaps but by incremental development. And while we must condemn corruption, inept and visionless leadership at all levels, we must not close our eyes to the achievements already recorded in our national journey so far. That is what this series is all about. This series therefore is necessarily a catalog of our major national achievements. We have trenchantly and ceaselessly been bombarded even harassed with catalogs of our national failures. How about the successes? When we compare Nigeria of today with pre and post independence Nigeria, we are forced to behold a vastly improved landscape in terms of infrastructures for transportation, telecommunication, healthcare, education, information, housing, power and energy, the middle class, ex cetera, ex cetera, that were either completely non-existent at pre and post independence Nigeria, or marginally present at the time. It would be foolish and uncharitable therefore, to completely ignore these monumental achievements and concentrate exclusively on our failures just because some particular governments and leaders have failed to live up to public expectations at any given time. Such a myopic and microscopic view does violence to and ignores the huge sacrifices and labors of the several men and women who have toiled night in day out to make Nigeria a great country and preserve her unity and territorial integrity for future generations. While many Nigerians continue to whine and complain about the nation’s woes in their bedrooms, several of their compatriots have gone to work and are quietly building and rebuilding Nigeria from the ground up. They’re the Otumba Baloguns, Ibrus, Dantatas, Otedolas, Dangotes, Jimohs, Obaigbena, Imodibes, Nnajis, Okeys, and a host of other business moguls and budding entrepreneurs, who are making a difference in so many ways and in so many sectors of our economy. Together they offer us inspiration and hope because they hold the key to the nation’s economic emancipation. The failures in our midst that are busy writing Nigeria off should be prepared to first write off these successes and by the time they’re done, Nigeria will be looking down on them from the mountain tops.
While it is alright to be concerned about the nation’s shortcomings in certain critical sectors, we must not behave like the examination candidate who passed several subjects in flying colors but came short of making the grades in a few other subjects began to beat himself into a state of pulp while refusing to pat himself on his back for his successes. It goes without saying that all that an examination candidate who fell short in certain subjects need do is dust himself up and study harder for the next time around rather than rue endlessly over his failure. That is what many of the so-called critics and “consciences of the nation” would have us Nigerians do—singing the blues all our lives rather than contributing our own quotas to the nation’s development efforts. Isn’t it, at least, curious and thought-provoking that all the nation’s infrastructural deficits are entirely left for the government and government alone to close whether it is power and energy supplies including until recently even air transportation? An American citizen would be at a loss finding his federal government getting involved directly in air transportation by owning airlines in addition to owning almost exclusively until recently all of the nation’s universities and teaching hospitals. He would be totally mad to find his federal government getting involved directly involved in earth dams and sinking boreholes to provide water; all of which are areas properly pertaining to private firms and local authorities, respectively. When the federal government spreads itself so thin, it is only naturally that it would be unable to provide anything meaningful and substantial at the end of the day. That’s why the President must head the advice of his CBN Governor, who suggested to him the pruning down of his so-called 7–point agenda on concentrate on a few deliverables within the timeframe available to him without dreaming of and waiting for a second term to deliver.
Historically, the Nigerian Federal Government had been biting more than it could chew. As we shall see presently the Federal Government alone has 27 universities and at a time was the only provider of university education having taken over the first generation universities from the regional governments. The only shipping and airlines in Nigeria the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and Nigerian Airways (NA) were similarly owned by the Federal Government. The only automobile plants in the country, namely: Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) Kaduna, Volkswagon of Nigerian (VON) Lagos, Steyr Nigeria Bauchi, and Leyland in Ibadan, are all owned by the Federal Government. The only steel and paper mills in the country were owned by the Federal Government so are oil refineries, power plants, telecommunication, and so on and so forth. The Federal Government was both a business conglomerate and a government that provided the rules and there enforcement—all rolled into one leaving the private individuals as mere consumers of government-produced goods and services. This was the paradigm that animated government industrialization policy until recently under the so-called “mixed economy” model which saw the government in total control of the so-called “commanding heights” of the economy. It is hardly surprising therefore that having bitten more than it could chew, things began to fall apart rapidly in virtually all of the sectors—education, healthcare, power, energy, industrial production, telecommunication, transportation, you name it! A policy reversal was therefore direly needed and that’s why deregulation and privatization are keys to the nation’s economic emancipation. With that the private sector has stepped in to rescue tertiary education. It has stepped in to rescue telecommunication and it is stepping in now to rescue energy and power supply. It has equally stepped in to break government monopoly and in fact take over completely in air and maritime transportation services. In fact there is no limit to the involvement of the private sector as the sole driver of the nation’s economic engine.
It must be stated in this connection that every infrastructural shortcoming in Nigeria presents an economic opportunity for the enterprising Nigerian to exploit to full advantage. That one Bathlomew Nnaji, is building a power plant in Aba is due to the fact that there is acute shortage of power supply in Nigeria and he decided to take advantage of that shortcoming to invest in that sector. There is therefore no need chanting Government! Government! Government sure has its role but it is limited to providing the legal framework and the necessary incentives to get investor in the door. Our people must begin to learn to rely less on government and more on private enterprises to deliver the goods including those they have been conditioned to think only the government can provide such as electricity and petroleum products. The nation needs more of the Nnajis in her development efforts than the tribe of publicity seekers and armchair critics who want government to do everything for them, because in the final analysis, it is not the government that develops nations but individuals. If we want to compare ourselves with developed countries then we must be prepared to organize our economic system the same way it is organized by the developed countries because we cannot eat our cake and have it back. In the developed world the government is not involved in commercial activities. That is the role of the private sector. Here in the United States, privately owned firms produce and supply gasoline and electricity to both the government and the general public. For instance, in the New York Metropolitan Area comprising New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Con-Edison supplies both cooking gas and electricity to individual homes and offices, and effect repairs as needed. As such, nobody bothers the government when there is power or gas outage or leaks which rarely occur anyway, except there is a natural disaster. In other parts of the country, private firms like Con-Ed provide similar services with the government focusing on regulation which it does best. This is why the Nigerian government should totally hands off the gasoline and electricity businesses to private firms and focus on its core role. Presently the Nigerian government is dissipating its energies on too many fronts including wholly commercial undertakings which it is ill-prepared for. The government simply cannot compete in commercial undertakings and it’s amazing that it took her this long to realize it. And if anyone is looking for evidence of that the defunct NEPA, NNSL, NA, NITEL, NRC, Aladja and Ajaokuta Steel Plants, and of course, the refineries, to mention but a few would suffice. Government role should be strictly limited to industry regulation and enforcement of standards to avoid sharp practices such as price gouging. And even with the stiff resistance from the usual suspect quarters, that inevitably, is where the Nigerian government is moving. Anything short of that is tantamount to maintenance of the status quo that has held us back and caused so much pain and anguish in the land with a few smiling their ways to the bank at the expense of the general public. The nation cannot continue to tread this failed path.
It is perhaps appropriate to start this exploration with the nation’s biggest and most important asset—her over 150 million population. Nigeria is ranked the 8th largest most populous country in the world consisting of China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, and Pakistan. Only a handful of countries can boast of such a huge population and there is no other African country that belongs to that club. If for nothing else, Nigerians ought to be proud as citizens of the 8th largest country in world. That is not a mean feat and it’s testimony to the fertility of Nigerians at a time when Europe and Russia are suffering from infertility and burdened by aging population. If other countries are losing their populations at such an alarming rate and struggling to reverse the trends with incentives to their women to produce more babies as it’s currently happening in Russia, and you’re still growing yours at such a rapid rate, shouldn’t you be happy and proud of your accomplishment? The President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Professor Ibidapo-Obe, underscored this point of the dwindling population trends in other parts of the world when he stated in a newspaper interview that "The G7 countries that we target in 2020 have 0 per cent growth rate or less and in fact have to supplement their work force with encouraging migration from less developed countries (a new wave of brain drain).”
Obviously, that is not a plus but a clear deficit for the countries affected. And the countries suffering from zero or minus zero population growth rate would be at the brink of extinction but for immigrants that are being used to repopulate them. But for how long would migrants be used to balance their demographics? And to what extent would such repopulation affect the demographics in those countries? These are pertinent questions. It seems like these countries will lose their native populations in no distant future. Nigeria has no such fears now or in the foreseeable future. On the contrary she could afford to export her surplus population to those countries just like China and India—a condition characterized by the learned professor as brain drain. Brain drain, he said? Maybe so, but that is not entirely a bad thing. Or, is it? Indians and Chinese who migrated to the United States and the West, for instance, have been directly linked to the rapid economic growth in those countries particularly in the areas of information and telecommunication technologies through critical skill transfers back home. These nationals are known to have acquired modern technological skills in the West and gone back to their home countries to set up businesses that leverage those critical skills for the growth and development of their homelands. So also are their huge foreign exchange remittances to their home countries. Nigeria too has benefitted hugely from her sons and daughters in the Diaspora with annual remittances topping $10bn (officially) according to World Bank Report making her the 6th largest recipient of fund transfers from citizens abroad. This is more than the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to the country in any given year. The total tally is, of course, more than the official figure since several remittances delivered by hand would not be captured in the official estimates. Coupling that with transfer of technical and managerial skills acquired by Nigerians abroad could make all the difference and place the country in the same league with China and India. Without a large population of Nigerians in the Diaspora, the country could not have attained such an enviable status in fund remittances home has already contributed significantly to whatever economic growth recorded in Nigeria—hovering between 5-6% of her GDP.
What is a nation without its population? Nothing but a jungle of desolate pile of concrete, bricks, and metal! What is it about a large population? Or put differently, why is a large population an asset? Simple! Apart from the bragging rights it automatically confers on its citizens it is both the foundation and driver of economic and social development. A large population is the foundation of a consumer market, which is the single most important driver of all economic activities. Therefore a nation with a huge population, though poor, has all the potentials for becoming an economic giant somewhere along the way. In fact, it could rightly be called a sleeping giant even if it is poor and underdeveloped because its huge population already guarantees its inherent greatness. And when the sleeping giant eventually wakes up as we have seen in China, India, Indonesia and former USSR, it moves like a freight train. It is not surprising therefore that while not all developed nations have huge populations, all nations with huge populations are developed nations or almost there, and these would include United States, China, India, Canada, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, France, etc. Only Nigeria is currently missing from the list. Yet her inherent greatness is already guaranteed. When she wakes up there should be no question in our minds that she too will move like an unstoppable freight train. All countries with large populations have inherent capacities for growth and development and therefore liable to experience same at some point in their existence however delayed it might be. It would be a grave mistake therefore for anyone to write off Nigeria simply because her present leaders are wobbling and fumbling. It only goes to show that those who write off the country are only living in the past and the present and not in future because those countries that have risen up to the challenges of development were at one time or another wobbling and fumbling as well until they found their right bearings and ran with them to wow the world as the Chinese and the Indians have done. Futuristically therefore, Nigeria’s development trajectory and projection cannot be any less so in the fullness of time as the Indians and Chinese.
Admittedly, a large and unproductive population could be a temporary curse for any country as it would stretch social services to breaking points without contributing to its development. Yet it is a whole lot better to have a large population that can be made productive than not having one at all. As China and India have amply demonstrated, a large and unproductive population can be made productive and Nigeria cannot be an exception. If there is anyone out there reading this and still harbors some misgivings about the benefits, potentials, capacities and capabilities inherent in largely populated nations, here is a report that came my way from the Associated Press (AP) while I was rounding off this write up, published on January 10, 2010, and filed by Joe McDonald, AP Business Writer:
“China overtook Germany as the world's top exporter after December exports jumped 17.7 percent for their first increase in 14 months, data showed Sunday, in another sign of China's rise as a global economic force.
“German economist Volker Treier predicted recently that Germany was set to lose the "world export championship" because of China's bigger size and higher population.
"By 2010, this title will be history, because the Chinese will simply outdo us due to their bigness," Treier told the German news agency DAPD.
He said it may not be a bad thing, either, "because if China grows, this pushes the world's economy — and that's good for export-oriented Germany as well."
“China is best known as a supplier of shoes, toys, furniture and other low-tech goods, while Germany exports machinery and other higher-value products. German commentators note that their country supplies the factory equipment used by top Chinese manufacturers.
China surpassed the United States as the biggest auto market in 2009 and is on track to replace Japan as the world's second-largest economy soon. China passed Germany as the third-largest economy in 2007.”
That tells it all. I couldn’t have put it better than the Germans. The argument about inherent blessings of a large population is sealed, signed and delivered!
The nation’s road transportation infrastructures may be aging, broken and ill-maintained, but roads must exist in the first place before they age, broken and ill-maintained. The fact of the matter is that transportation infrastructures do exist in Nigeria and, big time too. Nigeria has one of the most extensive highway networks in Africa spanning 93, 200 km as of November 27, 2009, according to CIA World Fact Book 2009. But here are some interesting statistics sourced from the CIA World Fact Book on Nigeria, 1999:
“Nigeria has the largest road network in West Africa and the second largest south of the Sahara, with roughly 108,000 km of surfaced roads in 1990. However they are poorly maintained and are often cited as a cause for the country’s high rate of traffic fatalities. In 2004 Nigeria’s Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) began to patch the 32,000-kilometre federal roads network, and in 2005 FERMA initiated a more substantial rehabilitation.”
And she was rated 87th in the world in transportation infrastructure making possible the growth and development of interstate transportation services spearhead not by the government but private luxury bus operators located mainly in the South/East such as Ekene Dili Chuckwu, Young Shall Grow, ABC, Ekesson, GUO, New Tarzan, CN Okolie, God is Good, Ocheson, Trackers and so many others too numerous to mention. Without this large, extensive highway network, these interstate luxury bus services which provide employment for hundreds of thousands of Nigerians directly and indirectly would not have been possible. If this is not progress, I don’t know what is and somebody should tell me what progress is.
Economic Status and Projections
With an estimated GDP $336.2 as of 2008 and ranked 36th in the world the nation is on course to attaining the set goal of 20th position by the Year 20/20. The nation currently maintains a growth rate of 5.3%, and unemployment rate of 4.9% as of 2007, when President Yar’Adua took over the reigns of power from former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I wouldn’t want to bore the reader with a maze of statistics but here is one short take sourced from the World Bank’s “Country Brief” on the current economic status of Nigeria in Africa:
“Nigeria is also the second largest economy in Sub Sahara Africa and accounts for 41 percent of the region’s GDP. “
“The agricultural sector now dominates economic growth, contributing 42 percent of GDP in 2008.”
This is cheering. For the first time since the discovery of oil destroyed the nation’s agricultural economy, the agricultural sector now appears poised to displace crude oil as the nation’s chief foreign exchange earner. Currently there are ongoing World Bank assisted large scale agricultural projects in Kano, Kaduna Lagos, Cross River, and Enugu states. And both the Federal and state governments have rediscovered the place of agricultural as a veritable employer of labor and foreign exchange earner. Nigeria’s current status in yam and cassava production is second to none and it’s only a matter of time that she will snatch back her number position in palm oil production from Malaysia which she in fact taught palm oil production back in the days only to slide back due to the general neglect of agriculture. Indeed, Nigeria holds so much comparative advantage in several areas of agriculture that could easily place her as the numero uno of cash crops production in the world if the present newfound tempo is sustained.
Despite undeniable widespread poverty relative to her huge population Nigeria has witnessed growth and development in nearly all sectors, obviously with certain sectors doing much better than the others with some, like power and energy, atrociously lagging behind. In point of fact there are three areas sticking out like sore thumbs that have combined to give Nigeria a bloody nose; energy, power and lack of road maintenance culture. There are, of course, deficiencies in other areas, but these three musketeers, or to use economic terminology, lagging indicators, are the ones that have continued to draw bad press and therefore apt to be used by the citizens as benchmarks to judge the nation’s progress; more out of knee jerk emotional reactions than any holistic or serious evaluation of the overall picture. Thus rather than pursue an unwieldy 7-point agenda a smart government could limit its policy thrusts to these three areas at least in the first four years and make appreciable impact on deliverables. Unfortunately Yar’Adua shot down the suggestion of his newly appointed CBN Governor, Alhaji Sanusi, to prune down his agenda to a more manageable size.
Perhaps there is no greater evidence of Nigeria’s growth and development than in the educational sector. The educational system may be broken and needs to be fixed alright, but there must be in existence an educational system in the first place before it can become broken and fixed, and Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of tertiary institutions in Africa as of today. With just four universities, namely, UI, ABU, Ife and UNN and later Uniben, in post independence Nigeria, the nation’s tertiary educational system has witnessed what could appropriately be described as astronomical growth. Starting modestly with UI, the number of universities went up to five and these constitute the first generation of universities. Seven more were added in one fell swoop under the first Olusegun Obasanjo (military) administration in 1975; sited in Jos, Ilorin, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Sokoto constitute the second generation. The Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration added five universities of technology and agriculture in 1980. And since then there has been no let up with her first ever Open University first established in 1981 under Shagari and abandoned by the Muhammadu Buhari military administration, becoming operational and state governments moving in massively to join the bandwagon. However with private sector participation in the development of tertiary education actively encouraged under the second Obasanjo (civilian) administration, the thirst for higher education in Nigeria received a huge boost and the nation now boasts of 27 federal, 35 state, and a whopping 41 private universities making a grand total of 103 universities and counting. And this is in addition to hundreds of degree awarding polytechnics and mono-technics, colleges of education and specialized institutions across the length and breadth of the nation with a battery of research institutes; all of which were hitherto non-existent. Nigeria is sitting comfortably at the very top of tertiary education in Africa. And if this is not progress I don’t what is and someone should tell me what progress is. We can talk all we want about falling standards of education but that is a different issue altogether and it is not peculiar to Nigeria either as even some developed nations have the same problems. It does not take away from the progress made in tertiary education because as stated earlier there has to be higher education in the first place before we can talk about falling standards. And countries that have little or no higher educational facilities cannot even begin to talk about falling standards.
And by the way, falling standards is not a peculiar thing to Nigeria. Advanced countries are also bemoaning fallen standards in their education systems. Challenge me and I will supply you with at least one. Failing standards or no falling standards, there is hardly a family in Nigeria without a graduate and many of Nigerian trained academics are lecturing in overseas in highly reputable institutions of higher learning. And many Nigerian trained graduates have served other African countries under the auspices of the Technical Assistance Program (TAP). Nigerian university graduates are therefore in no way inferior to their foreign counterparts. Statistics from the US Census Bureau indicate that Nigerian immigrants are some of the most highly educated in the world. So much for fallen standards! This is not to underrate or ignore the issue but to indicate that it does not detract from the huge strides recorded in tertiary education in Nigeria since independence.
We cry about graduate unemployment in Nigeria, which is fine. The nation must be concerned about unemployment of her citizens, graduates or no graduates. It is extremely excruciating to graduate out of college and go without a job for years. It creates a sense of social liability on the individuals who have to rely on family members to make ends meet. But here again this is a global problem that is not peculiar to Nigeria. There are millions of university graduates right here in the United States and elsewhere who have been pounding the streets for years without a job and still have to contend with payment of student loans and interests running into hundreds of thousands of dollars per individual. Faced with such grim reality many of such graduates have been reported to have resorted to filing for bankruptcies with all its attendant consequences down the road. Many university graduates are compelled to do menial jobs in the US to make ends meet. Unlike their Nigerian counterparts they do not feel ashamed about it. How many of the proud graduates would do such jobs in Nigeria? I personally had to deal with a case of a Masters Degree holder who almost committed suicide because of his inability to secure a job and had become homeless literarily as a result of his financial predicament. He took to the bottle and became a wretched individual in the process. Such cases are quite common out here in the US. This is reason why I cautioned in the first part of this series that it is NOT all that green out there outside the shores of Nigeria. Although Nigerian graduates have a hard time getting jobs as in other countries, they do not have to contend with repayment of student loans and interests that would otherwise run into tens of millions of naira for their education. If for nothing else, they should appreciate this fact and be grateful to a nation that provided them with higher education literarily gratis. I said gratis deliberately because what passes for tuition fees in Nigerian higher education are peanuts compared to what obtains abroad. Those who schooled abroad on student loans know what it means. Take it or leave it, every Nigerian graduate of higher education has partaken of the proverbial National Cake!
I don’t want to dwell much on this but the evidence is there for all to see. The nation’s housing stocks have grown stratospherically both qualitatively and quantitatively over the years with new urban centers springing up –spawned by the creation of new states and oil wealth. From just a handful of cities at independence, the nation has witnessed rapid urbanization that has stretched social services to breaking points all over the country. I know of no other country on the African continent that is more urbanized than Nigeria. I however stand to be corrected.
From just a handful of newspapers at independence there are now literarily hundreds of publications and electronic media many of which have attained international status and employing thousands of Nigerians. There is perhaps no other country on the continent that enjoys such a vibrant press as Nigeria’s. And certainly no other African nation with such a television network as extensive as Nigeria’s. There is no point denying progress where it exists just because the nation has failed in some other areas. It’s there and even the blind can see it.
With no single airport at independence, Nigeria now boasts of over 56 modern airports and aerodromes many of which are of world standards equipped with modern navigation equipment and radar coverage with one of the highest safety records compared to other countries. This has made possible the development and growth of air transportation services in the country, again spearheaded by private operators. These would include Bellview, ADC, Arik, Eagle, Chanchangi and Aero-Contractors. Others are Dana, EAS, Overland, Sosoliso in addition to other major foreign airlines. Who in his right frame of mind would claim that air transportation has not grown and has been at a standstill in Nigeria? Such an individual would need to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist for thorough examination. In all there are now 24 major airlines operating in the country today that have provided employment for hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, directly and indirectly---all of which was non-existent in pre and post independence Nigerian until now. Now, Nigeria may not have been able to produce an aircraft, but if this is not progress in air transportation, I don’t know what is and someone should tell please me what progress is.
With no real standing armed forces at independence save for an amorphous West African Frontier Forces used imperialist wars abroad and suppression of the locals, Nigeria today has one of the best and modern Armies, Navies and Air Forces on the continent and indeed the world that is capable of projecting military power beyond her shores as we have witnessed in its peace-keeping operations across the globe. The Nigerian Armed Forces is a force to be reckoned with in global military operations and has many accolades from the UN to show for it.
While the Nigerian military has been rightly criticized for dabbling into governance and therefore partly responsible for the nation’s underdevelopment, the fact remains that without the military, the nation would have long splintered into mini-states and turned into the playgrounds of imperialist powers. The sheer size, technical expertise and determination of the Nigerian Armed Forces to keep the nation one is deterrence enough for the imperialist sharks angling and scheming to destroy and balkanize the nation and re-colonize its splintered parts.
Many thanks to the Nigerian Armed Forces!
As has been said a nation without a middle class is dead, period! Kill the middle class and the economy would go belly up like the great white whale washed ashore gasping for its last breaths. This is why the ongoing reported Sanusi dictated retrenchment of the middle staffers of the Sanusi induced distressed banks in the country should give the authorities and Nigerians a grave cause for concern because it is helping to wipe out the middle class and tank the economy. Someone should call the bull in the china shop to order before grievous and irreparable damage is inflicted on an already wobbling economy. The middle class is the engine of growth therefore a nation’s economic success is determined by the size of its middle class. The Nigerian middle class grew steadily over the post independence years accelerating rapidly with the oil boom. However military rule all but wiped it out due to the peculiar nature of its system of governance that is centralized and limited to a few who have access to the military establishment. The alienation of the citizens from participation in the processes of government was not conducive to the creation of wealth and therefore the middle class. However with the advent of civilian the middle class has again re-emerged in full force. The presence of the nation’s burgeoning middle class can be felt and seen in her glittering landscape of exotic buildings and fancy cars ordinarily seen only in developed rich societies, clogging her roads in all towns and cities across the length and the breadth of the nation. The shacks and shanties defacing our urban and rural environments have steadily been replaced with architectural masterpieces many of which would rival those found in developed countries, thanks to the middle class. But as indicated earlier I must hasten to mention that the middle class is again facing a hard time and it’s ranks are being depleted again with the economic downturn although this can only be temporary not permanent.
Did anyone say telephones are not for the poor? Look elsewhere not in Nigeria. Virtually non-existent at independence and existed only marginally in post independence Nigeria and remained so up to a decade ago, the story is radically different today with practically every Nigerian clutching a working mobile telephone handset for social and business intercourse thus reducing road journeys with 62, 988 million mobile lines and 1.308 million landlines as of 2008, and the figure keep growing in leaps and bounds. Today Nigeria is the toast of the global telecommunication industry and helping to create employment opportunities and acquisition of relevant skill sets for a modernized economy. Again as of 2008 the number of internet users in Nigeria had grown to 11millions and ranked 29th in the world. And while there were just one or two banking institutions at independence and no stock exchange, the Nigerian financial industry has grown into a global financial hub with its tentacles spreading across the globe.
In terms of orderly development human rights and political succession nothing comes close to democracy. As shown above, the absence of democracy had largely been responsible for Nigeria’s stunted growth and development in critical sectors. It is not as if the nation had not tried in the past but every attempt to tame this “Abiku” child had been frustrated by both the civilians and the military. Transition of power from one civilian administration to another had been the nation’s Achilles Heels. It had always been at that point that the military would move in either voluntarily or quite ironically at the invitation of disgruntled politicians, to terminate the experiment. Here I reproduce the statement from the Army High Command indicating the role of disgruntled politicians in military coups:
“…The Nigerian Army is not unaware of recent remarks in the press literally calling for what they term military solution to the political affairs of the country. While taking cognizance of the current democratic dispensation that respects the freedom of speech, the Nigerian Army dissociates itself from such remarks, as we are collectively resolute in operating within the confines of our constitutional roles.
“Whatever political disputes that may exist in our society, like they exist in all human society, they are best settled through constitutional means. Please the military should be left out of this.”
Those are the words of Nigeria’s Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau, as published in the Nigerian Sunday Sun 12.27.09, edition clearly speaking to the unfortunate role played by frustrated politicians in military takeovers in the past and are attempting to do even today when military rule has become anachronistic and anathema for the rest of the world and even in Africa that was home to military dictators. They will never learn.
Their credo is this: win and all will be well---lose and the entire house must come down. To them, it is a zero sum game. What a shame! They will never learn. It is needless to state that these are the very same politicians that would cry their eyes out when the military struck and unleashed their brutality on the nation. When that happens they’re immediately transformed into “pro-democracy movements” to “take their country back” from the jackboots. That is the character of the Nigerian political elite that has helped in no small measure in destroying democracy and therefore progress and development in the nation. What a shame! What a crying shame! They will never learn.
While electoral challenges remain with us however the nation has recorded significant progress of historical proportions by transiting from one civilian administration to another without aborting democracy in the process. The nation has, indeed, crossed the dangerous line and climbed the slippery slope to ascend the mountain top notwithstanding the machinations of the so-called foreign election observers who came to destroy rather than to build. If the UN could certify as valid and legitimate the widely condemned Afghan elections that returned President Ahmid Karzai to power which it had earlier condemned as unacceptable, there is no earthly reason why Nigeria’s should be any less so. Again it goes to the double standards employed in international relations when it comes to Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. This is by means an attempt to rationalize or defend electoral malpractices but to simply state the facts of our progress in democracy so far and the double standards employed in judging electoral outcomes in different parts of the world by the so-called guardians of democracy.
At a time the same disgruntled politicians who are now calling for military takeover, were scheming to scuttle the transition by calling for so-called “Interim Government” two men stood their grounds and moved on with the transition that has birthed this longest running experiment in democracy. Who are these two individuals? They are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Maurice Iwu. But for their tenacity and dogged determination to see to end of the transition democracy’s the “Abiku” tradition would have been re-enacted in Nigeria and the military back in full force. You may not agree with my conclusions but at least you understand the basis for them and where I’m coming from. Regardless of the wishes of detractors Nigeria proudly belongs to the league of democratic nations and the glory belongs not to detractors but to those who made it possible regardless of whatever imperfections experienced during the ballots.
I would personally take consolation in the fact that the elections were no less perfect that the Afghan elections pronounced valid and legitimate by no less a body than the United Nations. Didn’t President Obama congratulate President Ahmid Karzai the very beneficiary of the flawed election during his second term inauguration? Didn’t the entire Western leadership rush in to congratulate him even while urging him to fight corruption in his cabinet? In fact the Afghan elections were so badly flawed that after a recount that invalidated nearly half of the rigged ballots, President Karzai couldn’t muster enough votes to be declared an outright winner necessitating a run off that was frustrated by him. Yet he is the President of Afghanistan today receiving billions of dollars of Western aids for his notoriously and spectacularly corrupt government. Now here is a report presented by Jenny Francis of Green Left Online quoting President Karzai and a UN official. I have reproduced the report extensively to underline the massive fraud that passed for the Afghan elections:
“As a matter of fact, it doesn't bother me. If Afghans have two registration cards and if they would like to vote twice, well, welcome. This is an exercise in democracy. Let them exercise it twice.” These were comments from interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai, when asked at an August 11 press conference about the impact of multiple voter registration on the results of Afghanistan's presidential election.
“For a start, the practice of multiple registrations was rife. UN spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva admitted: “Probably there is a lot of multiple registering. This is not perfect.” Many people have openly declared the benefits of obtaining numerous registration cards, which could be sold to parties or candidates for up to US$150. In a country where most people live below the $2 a day poverty line, selling a voter registration card is a logical thing to do.
The further quoted the Afghan President as follows:
“If somebody gives me three cards, I will take it and will go and vote”, he said at the August 11 press conference. “But my choice in voting will be the same. We are beginning an exercise. We cannot be perfect.” When a reporter challenged him, saying that Karzai was describing “a farce” election, the US-appointed interim president said the Afghan people are enthusiastic and simply want to have more cards.”
Those were the elections that produced President Karzai and declared valid and legitimate by the UN and off course accepted as such by the guardians of democracy while at the same time demonizing Nigerian elections. Who is fooling who? Please give me a break! I’m sick of it to my stomach!
Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
It is perhaps safe to state that if there is one singular achievement that is emblematic of post independence Nigeria, it is the brand new, gleaming Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, located right at the heart of the country, and designed to promote national unity and sense of belonging for the multifarious ethnic groups comprising the union.
Without prejudice to the widespread kleptomania that has held back the nation’s growth and development, if anyone wanted to know where Nigeria’s oil wealth had gone, Abuja would substantively and substantially be a fitting reply. And this is without prejudice to the old and new state capitals that have witnessed unprecedented growth and development since their creation by the military administrations that ruled the nation before the current democratic dispensation.
Built virtually from the scratch on a breathtakingly picturesque desert land of approximately 8,000 square kilometers, Abuja has been turned into one of the best and most modern cities in Africa, if not the entire world, in less than two decades---thanks to oil wealth. In the words of one tourist as reported by Jerry W. Bird of the Africa Travel Magazine during the annual world class Abuja Cultural Carnival:
"Throughout Abuja there is much construction going on and the people truly exhibit an excitement about living in what is perhaps the most modern city in Africa."
With a rapidly expanding population rivaling comparable cities of its age, Abuja is the crowning glory and symbol of Nigeria’s power and prestige on the global scene. And it is fast becoming the de-facto black capital of the world where black intellectuals, political and business leaders converge annually at several fora such as the Leon Sullivan Summit to pontificate on political, social and developmental issues affecting the black world and chart the way forward for African renaissance.
One could go on and on to highlight the achievements recorded in post independence Nigeria and beyond, but the point has been made with the few examples cited above that the country has recorded some major successes along the way in her tortuous journey to nationhood. The long and the short of it is that all the indices of a modern society are currently present in Nigeria today with ATMs, broadband internet, GSM, credit and debit cards, air travels in and around the country, modern banking, and so on and so forth, which is a far cry from pre-and post independence Nigeria. These are the indices of modernity never before thought possible in Nigeria. The issue therefore is not really that Nigeria has not recorded appreciable successes and progress over the years, but that those successes pale into insignificance given our potentials in human and material resources. Put graphically, it is like taking an examination and coming out with less than or just a passing grade when other candidates came out in flying colors. This is so because those that started the journey with Nigeria have all passed out of college while Nigeria is still in school and unable to make the passing grades to graduate. When compared with countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, India and other colonized entities that attained their independence contemporaneously, it is crystal clear as night and day that Nigeria has put up a disappointing and humiliating show more so when we factor in the fact that she is more materially and humanly endowed than many of her contemporaries.
However, when reviewing Nigeria’s performance vis-avis the countries mentioned above, what struck me is the fact that they are all in Asia and none of them is in Africa and that’s why they’re usually referred to as “Asian Tigers,” which got me thinking and thinking hard. But does it matter? Has geo-politics got anything to do with it? Why is it that no single African country has made it to the top including Nigeria? And, please to tell me about South Africa that was already developed by the whites and handed over to the blacks to rule at the death of apartheid. That obviously, is a special case and therefore an understandable exception to the general trend. The fact that no African country has made it to the top more than 50 years after the first African country (Gold Coast, now Ghana) got her independence should get every African thinking and rethinking. It is not enough indulging ourselves in the blame game by merely pointing accusing fingers at the leaders. The problem is fundamental and goes beyond the leadership. It is one that goes to the very core or foundations of the nation states that emerged from the crucible of colonialism. Several conspiracy theories exist to explain the phenomenon and we all have read about “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” and similar writings. While there is obvious validity in the conspiracy theories, one thing is clear: all the countries that made it to the top in Asia did so after embracing democracy. And given that democracy not only promotes orderly transfer of power and socio-economic development it is not particularly surprising why the Asian Tigers made it to the top leaving African countries trailing behind. India has been a democracy from day one. Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia embraced democracy later on after years of decades of military dictatorships. Unfortunately, independent African countries, Nigeria inclusive, have been resistant to democracy alternating like an accursed pendulum between long spells of military dictatorships and short bursts of civilian rule. And this is one proof of the conspiracy theories. Africa has been set up to fail. Nigeria has been set up not just to fail but to disintegrate and collapse which explains the skewed federation that was handed down at independence. It was designed to fail. The seeds of regional wars and crisis that rocked post independence Africa were not fortuitous happenstances but were carefully implanted and embedded in their independence charters. It was not long after their independence that those seeds germinated and blossomed into regional conflagrations both internally and externally that prevented Africa from finding her feet. All her resources were thus diverted to fighting wars and seeking elusive peace with all the corruption that goes with it and little left for orderly and methodical development planning and execution. As Mr. Olaniwu Ajayi puts it in his new book titled “Africa’s Failed Asset”:
“Chaos there was in plenty. Twelve of the forty-seven new African States (including the Congo, Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia, that is, all the biggest states except Egypt and Algeria) have been crippled since independence by Civil War. There have been forty military coups in the last thirty years, many of them involving the murder or execution of the Head of State ...”
Sadly, this scenario is still playing out in parts of Africa even today and as usual actively supported by the West.
And writing specifically about Nigeria the Afenifere chieftain has this to say:
“To confer the national political leadership of Nigeria to Northern Nigeria under the auspices of the Northern People’s Congress, as the British Government did on the threshold of the country’s independence, was like a reckless and heterodox marriage whose disastrous divorce was around the corner.”
He cited the damning declassified report of the Sub-Committee on Africa of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives, which seriously indicted the British thus:
“At the same time, the boundaries used to erect the Nigerian federal structure—-for which the British political model provided no precedent at all—-owed their origin strictly to the system of British colonial administration. Those boundaries had been devised wholly for purposes of British control, certainly not out of concern for sound principles of representation. Structural “contradictions”—-most notably the fact that the Northern segment was larger than the others put together yet was also the poorest, educationally most disadvantaged, and the least prepared culturally to engage in the secular games of modern democratic polities—-abounded”
This declassified document cited by the author provides a window for us to peer into the mind of the United States government regarding its grave concerns about the designs of colonial Britain on Nigeria. There is no question therefore that Nigeria and other independent African countries were programmed to fail, which is analogous to a computer system that is deliberately configured to crash by impregnating it with catastrophic viral load to be triggered by future events. As a result nearly all major former British colonies, including the United States, India and Nigeria have been destabilized by civil wars the seeds of which were embedded in their very creation. India splintered into two with Pakistan emerging as a country from the fission. The United States splintered with one part of her population fleeing to become Canada. It was further threatened with a break up in a civil war. Nigeria’s own date with history came in 1967, barely seven years after independence when the nation was yet to even find her feet.
It is indeed a miracle that Nigeria is still standing to this day as one country and this fact should not be lost on the nation. The greatest achievement recorded since her independence therefore is not in the areas of infrastructure, healthcare, education, technology, democracy, quality of life, and the other mundane things. Her greatest achievement is the fact that she is still standing as one indivisible and indissoluble entity today. Had the British achieved their sinister aim we would not be taking about missed opportunities and underdevelopment today because there would have been no Nigeria in the first place. Worse of all, the splintered entities that would have emerged from a broken up Nigeria would have been reduced to banana republics liable to be kicked around as satellite states to the West as are many other African and Caribbean countries today. Thinking Nigerians must always bear this in mind when they criticize the country for her failures because it could have been a whole lot worse than it is today. Let us not delude ourselves--no part of a broken Nigeria would be allowed to prosper undisturbed. The same fate that was visited on other African countries would be visited on it---civil wars, political strife and further break ups into smithereens and complete nonentities.
As a result African countries have been late to the game of democracy and playing catch up at the moment. Thus if there is any magic wand to be waved to get Nigeria and other African countries to the top of the pile, it is the flag of democracy. Perfect or imperfect, democracy is the magic wand. Evidence of this is already showing up in Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. Of all these promising examples, however, Nigeria holds the largest sway and potentials by virtue of her sheer size, influence, role, resources and population. But then as if to further prove the validity of the conspiracy theories the West is still keen on sponsoring so-called election monitors seemingly with a mandate to rubbish African electoral processes with a view to fomenting crisis and political instability and thus arrest her development trajectory. In country after country we have seen and watched helplessly how election monitors sponsored by the West have sought to destroy the credibility and results of elections conducted African countries and the prime target couldn’t be any bigger than Nigeria. Presidential elections that have been extensively and painstakingly litigated and judicially declared to have “substantially complied” with extant Nigeria’s electoral laws and validated by the concurrent findings of the two highest courts in Nigeria were viciously attacked by western election monitors “as fundamentally flawed” and not meeting the basic tenets of electoral compliance. Opposition candidates and their supporters are encouraged to take to the streets and violently protest election results in a host of African countries including Kenya, Niger, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria and the Cameroons, but not in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. We have seen a similar enactment in Iran. It seems that protests of electoral results take place only in countries marked for destabilization by the West. It was little wonder then that Iranian dissidents and opposition supporters were egged on and given wide publicity in Western media and social networking sites across the globe. This should not be taken as an endorsement of electoral malpractices by the powers that be but in recognition of the fact that all electoral systems in the continent have built in mechanisms for the resolution of electoral disputes which are available and open to aggrieved contestants. Resort to violent street demonstrations to protest election results actively encouraged by the West is a direct negation of democratic practices which is hinged on the rule of law. We did witness violent street demonstrations when the blacks and minorities were disenfranchised in Florida and Ohio during the Bush/Gore presidential elections and their electoral disputes were settled at the US the Supreme Court dominated by Republican Party nominated Justices and their verdict was a forgone conclusion in favor of Bush. Even then Al-Gore and his supporters accepted its verdict and promptly congratulated the winner and the cliff-hanger ended and the nation moved on. That is the way it should be whether it is in Iran, Kenya, Zimbabwe, or Nigeria. Electoral disputes must have closure and the judiciary is the final arbiter on all legal and constitutional disputes, not violent street protests and endless challenge to the legitimacy of elected officials as we have witnessed in Nigeria.
That said the credit goes to General Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku for calling off the dogs and to President Yar’Adua for showing magnanimity in victory by inviting the opposition to join his government. Whether he has performed or not is a different matter altogether. What matters the most is the consolidation of democracy and qualitative improvements in our electoral processes and governance in general. With Professor Iwu still at the saddle it can only get better not worse, because as the saying goes, old wine taste better. As I opined previously in article titled, “Permanency of States, Institutions and Functionaries---Let Iwu Be!” and re-echoed by other knowledgeable commentators, frequent changes in electoral personnel is inimical to the growth and development of our electoral system. Our electoral problems which predated our independence cannot and should not be reduced to one man and one man alone. Since the very first election conducted under the 1922 constitution in Lagos into the Legislative Assembly, Nigeria’s electoral system has known no peace. And as we have seen in the results of the local government council elections held at the states conducted and supervised not by Iwu but by States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), no improvements were recorded and their results garnered no greater credibility than the national elections conducted by INEC. And this is in spite of the fact that the elections were held within very limited geographical areas and just for local councils compared with INEC that had to conduct elections nationwide not just for one office but for several offices including national and states Houses of Assembly, gubernatorial, and presidential offices concurrently.
In the words of Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, during a courtesy call on the President of the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdul-Waheed Omar, reported by The Nigerian Tribune October 8, 2009, edition:
“The electoral system doesn’t belong to Iwu. He might be the head of the system in Nigeria, but it is not only Iwu who has the responsibility for free and fair election; all of us do.
“It is a question of behaviour, if you don’t behave properly, if political parties and candidates don’t behave properly, if the electorate don’t behave properly, if the police don’t behave properly, you don’t blame Iwu for that; you can’t.”
Well said Mr. Afari-Gyan. He sure knows one or two things about elections and electoral processes and his views should be taken seriously. Interestingly, that has been the position of this writer all along since the anti-Iwu band was born. Iwu might not be perfect nor blameless but I would rather listen to his views than to the partisan posturing of failed politicians looking for scapegoats. I recognize that this stance does not make me any more popular in Nigeria than Maurice Iwu whom I cannot tell from Adam but who says this author is into popularity contest? Someone has got to spit out the bitter truth no matter how unpopular it might be and I chose to do it and I happen not to be the only one doing it. Only the truth will set us free not political grandstanding and partisan posturing. Therefore, I would repeat here what I wrote earlier cited above---Let Iwu Be! This might be a bitter pill for those who see him as an obstacle to their selfish, political ambitions, but his presence is not for good or bad of any particular individual but for the overall good of our democracy.
Our electoral system requires a steady and experienced hand to guide it through the waves and turbulence of Nigeria’s political terrain. And who better to do it than one who has seen it all and successfully delivered the first ever transition from one civilian administration to another in Nigeria. With him as the caption of our electoral ship it can only get better not worse which might not be the case with a greenhorn that would learn the ropes all over again. And someone might ask: how do I know it could only get better not worse with the present INEC chief? My simple answer to that is that since the 2007 general elections the man has put his experience to work and improved on the performance of INEC even as our unrepentant and irredeemable politicians have continued to ambush and destroy the electoral processes. That is why they say experience is the best teacher. As I was putting finishing touches to this series a report came from the African Herald Express taken from This Day 21/12/2009 edition. And without putting a spin on it, it is presented below for your own interpretation:
“A coalition of 45 civil society organisations, Rights Monitoring Group (RMG), has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for what it called the smooth conduct of the bye election in Kebbi Central Senatorial District weekend.
RMG, which deployed 54 monitors for the exercise held on Saturday, gave the commendation in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Olufemi Aduwo, and made available to THISDAY yesterday.
"We commend INEC for a good performance. The Resident Commissioner, Administrative Secretary and field officials were polite and ready to assist other stakeholders.
“The security agencies, parties and their candidates conformed themselves within the provisions of the electoral laws.
Concluding, the report says, "We enjoin the politicians to learn on how to be good losers.”
The nation must therefore stay and not change the course and continually striving to improve governance and the electoral processes even if incrementally; founded on the rule of law. This time around failure is not an option.
But while severe penalties, including jail terms and life bans, should be meted out on any individual candidate(s) convicted of perpetrating or otherwise associated with rigging or other forms of electoral malpractices, at the same time defeated candidates must be made to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship by gracefully accepting their defeats and promptly congratulate their victorious opponents. Whining endlessly over electoral losses is a sign of weakness not strength. An attitude of refusal to accept electoral results which often results in a deluge of electoral petitions that overwhelm the judiciary must be discouraged because it has contributed in no small measure in destabilizing the polity. And if litigation must be resorted to at all because the defeated candidates feel so strongly about their defeats, such litigations must be brought to a definitive closure and the winners congratulated, heal the wounds and then move on with life. Is that too much of a gesture to expect from a supposedly civilized people? I don’t think so. It is a disservice to the nation for defeated candidates to continue to question the legitimacy of the winners even when the courts have pronounced the validity of their elections. The prevailing attitudes of questioning both electoral and judicial verdicts that do not favor defeated candidates, is not only primitive but may well be criminal as well. Nigeria’s former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, had this to say about electoral losers in Nigeria as reported by the Sun Newspaper, 22/12/2009, edition:
“There is nowhere in the world where the electoral law talks about total compliance because there is no way you can do any election and there will be no flaws or mishap. Remember the case of Gore and Bush, which went to the Supreme Court three times. At the end of the day, Bush won by five to four in the Supreme Court of nine judges.
“But the moment the Supreme Court pronounced Bush as the winner; Gore took his telephone and congratulated Bush. That is the rule of law. But Nigerians here don’t accept defeat. Even when process of election petition is gone through and the Supreme Court makes pronouncement, people still complain,” the former minister.
Talking about complaining, it has been turned into a professional calling in Nigeria as Nigerians complain about just about anything under the sun as if they have nothing else to do than whining and complaining. And they have even turned the hospitalization of their President into a complaint industry! Things that would pass unnoticed or simply ignored in other countries are turned into complain theaters in Nigeria. It has become our national character as even the so-called elites are deep in it. Yet Nigerians would be the last people on earth to do anything about what they complain about. That’s right, they would complain from morning till midnight before they go to bed and continue complaining in their sleep till they wake up in the morning but they would not raise a finger or move a single toe and do something about their grievances. What would you call that, cowardice?
Our people should put in their resignation letters from the complaint industries and make themselves productive because it is citizens that develop nations not governments. Any Nigerian waiting on the government to provide him with a job or means of livelihood is deceiving him or herself. Let me put it as bluntly as I can: government owes no one a meal ticket. Governments do no provide jobs anywhere in the world except in the civil service, which is already bloated. Job creation is the business of the private sector. The earlier we get this hard fact into our heads the better for everyone. The business of government is to strengthen and enable the private sector to properly play its role leaving the government to focus on its core roles.
There is hope for our great nation, because a promise deferred is not a promise denied, abandoned or lost, but only kept in abeyance to be fulfilled at a later date. That date is today not tomorrow or the day after. Nigeria has a mission to fulfill because on her broad, muscular shoulders rest the destiny of Africa and the black race. And she cannot run away from her manifest destiny even if she wanted to. That’s why Nigeria is still around to fulfill her destiny and not even a three-year ferocious civil war that the West had counted on to do the demolition job, could break her. No sponsored electoral or internal disputes will break her. And no externally induced border skirmishes with her neighbors will break her. No foreign machinations in league with local elements will break her. All these have been tried in the past and they failed miserably. The things that break up other nations end up holding her together even more tightly. It shows Nigeria is here to stay and stay strong even as her sons and daughters dazzle the world in all areas of human endeavors. Are you a builder or a destroyer? As President Obama puts it during his inaugural ceremony, “you will be judged not by what you destroy, but by what you build.” Let’s join hands to rebuild our nation in our own little ways because it is our nation. Or isn’t it? Or, what did you think this whole series was all about? Just sounding off? I’m doing what I preach and this is my little contribution to the process. What about you? You too can do the same your own way. Yes you can.
In ending this series I can do no better than commend the inspiring words of the Chairman of International Third World Leaders Association and motivational speaker, Dr. Myles Munroe, as reported by the Nigerian Tribune on 12/16/2009:
“Nigeria is poised to become, probably, the greatest black nation in the history of the world and I believe that the 21st Century demands that Nigeria rises to the occasion. I think that there is nothing more serious than wrong perception.
“Nigeria is not what the world thinks it is. I think it is up to Nigeria to correct that perception. A good name is better than gold and I believe a good name attracts silver and gold,” he added.
What an inspiring message! Would you help correct that “wrong perception”? Would you help her become “the greatest black nation in the history of the world”? An American, Briton, German, French, Canadian, Russian, Italian, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian, Irish, Malaysian, Singaporean, Angolan, Egyptian would do it for his/her country. Why not you? Quit complaining and do your part because you too have a part to do. And if you’ve hung on this far it is clear indication that you’ve got the message and ready to roll. Let’s roll together.
Before I conclude this series I would like to commend to the reader the inspiring words of one American in our midst who has seen it all on both sides of the Atlantic. His name is Dr. Conrad Festa, President of American University, Yola, Nigeria.
He has some pretty interesting things to say about Nigeria in an interview with The Sun newspaper, January 11, 2010 that every true patriot should take to heart:
“I think Nigeria has done great in a short time. Your country is only 49 years, and look where you are it is not bad. Yes I agree you need a lot of change but let me tell you, you have a great people, smart people, people with a heart and you have a rich land. Agriculture, minerals and the oil, you have it all, it is going to take a couple more generations to put together, it may take a while to notice the great change but it is happening.”
“I look up to the green mountains and the trees and I say this is gorgeous, what a wonderful country…“
What shame! It took a foreigner in our midst to reveal to us the beauty of our country, her great and smart people, and how well we have done in 49 years. Trust the Americans—they sure know how to blow their own trumpets and perhaps teach others like us who do not know how to blow their own trumpets.
Dr. Festa has come to Nigeria to teach us how to blow our own trumpet and quit singing the blues and our indulgent self-deprecation and self-immolation.
He looked up to the green mountains and the trees in Gongola state and exclaimed, “this is gorgeous, what a wonderful country!”
What more should I add? But I would say to Dr. Festa: you ain’t seen nothing yet! Gongola state is just a tip of the iceberg. The doc. might want to check out places like Abuja, Plateau, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kwara; and move on to Enugu, Cross River, Edo, Oyo, Osun, Akwa-Ibom, Imo, Bayelsa, and Delta states, just to mention but a few, and behold Nigeria the Beautiful—a country like no other on earth!
He noticed the development going on all around him and concluded: Great change is happening but it may take a while to notice it. Yes indeed, but it has taken too long to notice it. Nigeria is big but she is big for something. Or, what do you make of Nollywood and our beloved Eagles? Isn’t that something to crow about? Isn’t her size and resources something to crow about? Isn’t her huge population of bright and smart people something to crow about? Isn’t her leadership role in Africa something to crow about? There is something to crow about. I know there is!
I’ll leave you with the immortal and inspiring words of an American legend and one of the most beloved Presidents of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, delivered to his countrymen and women at a momentous period of American history:
Think not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country…
I’m sure you’ve read those words before. What you need to know is that those words are just as good for the citizens of the United States as they are for the citizens of every nation, including Nigeria. Nigerians will do well to take them to heart to better themselves and their country without entertaining whatsoever any feeling of entitlements from the state.
Love your country with all your heart even with all her imperfections expecting no returns. If you do, you will be richly rewarded and leaving behind a great legacy of service and patriotism for generations unborn.
Nigeria: Great Nation Good People….
God Bless Nigeria!
Franklin Otorofani, Esq.—signing off…