Our nation, Nigeria, turned a year older yesterday. Note, please, “our nation, Nigeria”, not Biafra, not Oduduwa and certainly not Arewa Republic. Yes, we should jump for joy. There are several reasons why we, ordinary Nigerians unconcerned with the politics of resource allocation, should be jumping for joy at a time like this. One, we are united. We are still one indivisible country. Two, despite sustained manipulation of the fault lines by those who should blunt them, we have come to realize the true enemy of the state-incompetent leadership.
This monster is not region bound. It is also not ethnic bound and for that matter, it is not domiciled in any spiritual domain. It has been the one disorder stalking our land. To a lesser extent also, it is a very meek followership. A followership that has over the years, suffered the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. This is a “psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy for, and have positive feelings toward, their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them” according to Wikipedia.
Nigeria’s followership ranks among the most sheepish on the African continent. And this is incomprehensible. Given the fabled resilience of the Nigerian spirit, how did we get to be this submissive and easily manipulated by the oppressor variously garbed in the borrowed robes of spirituality and ethnicity? Since independence, we have had leaders from the two major religions who have superintended over the worst pillaging of the nation’s resources.
Years ago, the late Chinua Achebe, that inimitable writer, identified this malady plaguing the nation since birth. He said the nation’s problem was and still is ‘squarely’ that of leadership. At the risk of using the over worn cliché’, Nigeria is richly endowed. Our natural resources are infinite. Our human resource is similarly enormous. One out of every four Blackman on earth is from among us. It is said that there are over 30,000 doctors of Nigerian descent working in America.
In the sciences and arts, Nigerians have dusted the best of other countries. In sports especially football, we have shone in intercontinental competitions like diamonds. We are the first, for instance, to win age grade world cup almost thirty years ago in 1985. One of the world greatest basket ballers, Hakeem Olajuwon is one of us. A young man presently making waves as an automotive engineer with General Motors, Jailani Aliyu ,is from among us. I could go on.
As much as oil has been a blessing, it is also a curse. All the venting of blood in the creeks and elsewhere is caused by this curse. Before its discovery, agriculture was the saving grace. Tilling the land for food and funds, the youths in the rural areas were fully engaged. Farming was energy demanding. But the dawn of oil inspired the drift from rural to urban centers for a fast buck. Soon some of them realized that white-collar jobs are for the skilled not for the illiterate with more brawns than brains.
Partly, this caused the rise in crime in urban areas. After the internecine war, it became compounded with arms readily available.
Years of visionless leadership and increasing exposure to education and an inverse exposure to moral values by our youths inadvertently gave rise to the present sad realities we are now contending with. The icing on the cake is the dawn of ‘do-or-die’ politicians. These undesirable elements in desperation to win armed these idle youths and the rest is history. Nothing could be more disastrous.
Our unity, no thanks to some of our leaders, is feathered by the sustained tolerance of ordinary folks represented in market squares and other places of trade. And by tolerant parents who encouraged intertribal matrimony and even inter faith marriages.
It would be unscientific to blame all our leaders for our present or past messes. Past and present, some of our leaders have turned the state into personal fiefdoms. The net result has been, invariably, the polarization of the nation along the whims and caprices of the specific man of power of the day.
I, as a product of integration, will feel diminished not to be called a Nigerian outside the shores of this land blessed beyond measure and equally cursed beyond measure with bandit leaders.
It is inexcusable for my generation, born post independent Nigeria, schooled in post-civil war and marinated in the fine ideals of NYSC to act along the flawed paths of our forebears. I marvel at those who sing the song of dismemberment. They don’t seem to learn from history. Look around you countries that walked the path of partition. Sudan is a ready example. The Scots only two weeks ago voted against opting out of the unity in the United Kingdom. The nay sayers of the unworkability of Nigeria should go jump into the lagoon. We are Nigerians. We are standing. And come 2015,we will outlive the doomsday apostles. They speak with the authoritative finality of those who speak directly with God. We might have lost some of our swagger but we, the post independent generation are optimistic of a light at the end of this dark tunnel.
From birth, Nigeria was not given a chance at survival. Those who fought (some swore that they negotiated) for her independence approached the colonial master as regionalists. They thought region first and Nigeria later. Those founding fathers, we so such love to romanticize, saw Nigerian through regional prism, according to history.
This may, indeed, be true but they were no less patriotic. They loved both region and country. When an ambitious squad of soldiers cut their reign short, they were accused of being ‘ten per centers’. Fast forward to present day. Our leaders are not ‘regionalists’. They are ‘separatists’. They have reduced governance to a ‘family affair’. Filial ties take precedence over legality. They are not ‘ten per centers’, they are bandits. They regard holding the reins of government as a successful incursion into an enemy territory and the resources therein as legitimate booty. They pillage these resources in the same manner soldiers of fortune would after conquering a territory.
Fifty-four years in the life of a nation are too short to dismiss her as unworkable. In the life of a person, 54 years are significant. In our nations dangerously low life expectancy pegged at 45, that is nine long years of bonus. Change will definitely come when we have leaders and followers who checkmate each other. At 54,we are certainly a long way from home but we have covered some grounds like knowing enemy-incompetent leadership.