WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
Attempts at solving the very many problems afflicting Nigeria has been preoccupying many patriotic citizens over the years. But unfortunately, the more efforts that have been made till now, the more in quantity and sophistication the problems of the country have become. As much as we agree that corruption is a virus eating deep into the country’s fabric and must be stamped out, and despite all the efforts of the last six years, corruption still swims and soars among the citizens and our institutions. We are all well aware of the damage to the country caused by disunity stemming from tribalism and negative religious consciousness, which has been the constant burden to organising the unity of the country and creating a united front as a national response to every other of its problems. Yet proliferation of religious houses and organisation of clergies has only deepened the mistrust among citizens in the country along religious line, just as much as several attempts at bringing regional and tribal groups to the table to resolve national disunity in the line of tribal affiliations and sentiments, has altogether yielded no result for the country.
Today, despite all the cumulative efforts at ending the multidimensional insecurity across the spheres of the country, the nation has only continued to register new terror and armed groups into its list of terrorising forces, and records of more attacks, kidnappings and killing across states and regions of the country. It does appear that the responses and measures so far, regardless of their sincerity or otherwise, have been insufficient and ineffective in combating the problems. As at today, the south eastern part of the country is fast becoming as militarised as the north east with a level of destruction and attempts at destruction that is just at par with the very intention of the Boko Haram terrorist the country has been at war with over the decade. The south west has equally taken its place in the insecurity rank in the last months, turning Oyo state and its environs to the starting point of animosity and gruesome killings in the region.
Beyond the gruesome outright attacks on the country and its citizens in the forms of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, jailbreaks and similar crimes that are now hitting the country on full forces, the more subtle and dangerous elements of insecurity in the country are actually more worrisome as are not only responsible for the boldness of the increasing damning attacks but have a more lasting consequences on the integrity, wellness and survival of the country. A collection of several vices and criminalities that have become intrinsic to the country form the crux of this lot. Political crimes represented by political stealing and corruption, political manipulation of the citizens to hating one another, politically orchestrated unrests for the purpose of disintegrating agreements among groups, people and regions for the purpose of building blind supporters and then, a media freeness that has present the most potent platform ever for an ongoing cold war within the country.
In addition to the preceding list is also the permeated financial, social and relationship corruption in the country. The level of internalised corruption in the country has become a major source of concern to many; corruption has already become a household calamity for the country, beyond what could be measured or easily eradicated. We have gotten to the point where corruption is in every part of our existence; a time when our complaints about corruption are no longer borne out of disdain for the act, but for the “lucky” individuals who are involved. The politicians get more corrupt by the day; those who want to replace them are eyeing the very opportunity to access the corridor where the resources to pilfer are located; the businesses are sourcing means to deceive the consumers of their products and services to make more profits; market women and men are now openly defrauding citizens who patronise them to make more money, and even children now, unlike before, dupe their parents. It therefore seems we have all accepted the former President Jonathan slogan: “stealing is not corruption.”
Then comes the discussed and invisible economic insecurity of the country and the citizens of Nigeria; the economic indices might theoretically present adorable figures but what is mostly obtained in reality are seriously alarming and worrisome. Despite efforts, the country remains mostly a dumping ground for many foreign goods, both directly and via smuggling. The national currency seemed to have given up on the struggle for strength and is now taking a free fall, when compared to most other nations’ currencies. The nation’s solo income source makes the scenario more bothering; with the abandonment of the agricultural sector and the near unsuccessful effort to stage a return that could significantly influence the national income mix, and the failure of the country’s leaders to effectively harness the nation’s endowed mineral resources, that has, for instance, made major investments as the Ajaokuta steel complex non-functional till now as well as other mineral mining projects stuck on national paper works refusing to materialise into a positive for the nation’s financial purse. We do not see signs of an industrial revolution in a nation that prides itself as the giant of its continent; our technological power is so rudimentary when compared to others we should be competing with, simply because our commitment is limited to individual and specific groups’ interests that are being counted for the country. Since independence and till now, we have not for once developed a workable master plan for the nation’s technological development despite huge investment in multiple ministries that should anchor that problem space.
So, now that global love for the once darling black oil has begun to shrink across the globe, nations are moving away from crude oil and its derivatives as energy sources of choice, where does that leave us as a nation? We have seen our economic survival threatened a couple of times in the last decade because of instability and fluctuations in the crude oil global market, escaping and reentering recession a couple of times. The current Administration has received so many knocks because it has to feed its desires for infrastructural development of the nation mostly on borrowed capital, as income from the nation’s crude sale has become conspicuously unable to meet even the nation’s recurrent expenditures in the event of many need for subsidies. There are even rumours being carried around that the government had to order the printing of close to 60 billion naira to meet up with the March 2021 allocation that was shared among the various tiers of government. Though that may not be true, but the underlying message is that the country faces a drastic and threatening economic insecurity that must be addressed as an issue of national emergency before the trend becomes irreversible.
Eventually, despite the many efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC Administration at correcting many of these severe issues and possibly setting the country on a new path of growth, the efforts, unfortunately, have more or less amounted to making attempts to bend a dry fish; nearly an impossible task. From many outlooks, it actually does appear as if Nigeria’s problems are unsolvable, but the problems are not what are unsolvable; it is the people that seem unchangeable. If and when we could succeed at turning the people of this country around from their developed, stubborn cruelty, selfishness and criminal mentality toward the country, then, we will begin to see that there are no problems that are unsolvable, ours included.
What really are the problems that must be addressed foremost? Who needs to change? Is it the people, the government or all of us? Starting from the people, I remember the words of late Chuba Okadigbo, when he said “if you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary considerations, your education is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind.” This is quite profound. We, majority of us, have taken sides with tribal sentiments, religious sentiments, and political party leanings so much that the wellness of the country has become probably a distant secondary consideration for us. For the sake of our sentiments, our biases, we would throw truth and justice to the bin. Nigerians will gather to destroy themselves and the country because of differences in their tribal reckonings without any shred of remorse and thought of the larger society we all share in common. We have so become the lot of people who love to hear and propagate fake and destructive news about our own country; the people who enjoy the worshiping of the enemies of the country and openly show our indignation to integrity; the people that wake up each day waiting to rejoice over news of the next sad event to happen to the country. On the front, it so appears that we have some measure of hatred for the centre that we share together and for one another on the other sides of the divides we created. In such a heated and hate dominated atmosphere, vices and underdevelopment would be the natural result.
The solutions we need will not emanate from the common town hall meetings, political motivated conferences and workshops and the full political rhetoric that dominate our national space as at now. For as long as the real intentions of these politicians and leaders across the local government areas, the states and the center are not to discuss working solutions to the national perils, but politics: and how to win elections, with all willingness to both ignore the rots and cover perpetrators in other not to make enemies themselves at the expense of the larger citizens of the country; and it has even got to the point that some of these politicians are the ones who now take the resources amassed through the government to organise unrest in the country for their desired selfish ends. Our problems will remain with us with this unhealthy culture if nothing serious is done in response.
Town hall meetings will not resolve the violent crimes that have permeated the various corners of the country. It is time we consciously made the decision beyond politicking to emanate a strengthened criminal justice system for the country; the time to create the strongest ever crime deterrent policy that will measure our due consequences for crime and criminality against the state. This is the time for Nigeria and the handlers of the country to review and emanate corruption control strategy through working systems that prevent the very occurrence of the act, perhaps via a system that effectively monitors individual, corporate bodies and ministries spending real time.
This is the time when no one should be sacred and above the law. We have ended up growing a large number of citizens who are considered above the law; we have come to having a national unwritten agreement that past presidents and specific leaders should be untouchables; that some citizens have grown larger than the big laws and constitution of the country. This stake we raised has continued to be our undoing as many more Nigerians assumed that position and are welcomed into the group of the untouchables. No one is above the law; everyone that commits crime should be answerable to the law. We have seen leaders in other nations convicted of financial and other crimes against the laws of their countries and the heavens did not fall. We have seen past presidents and once sovereign leaders sent to jail in other climes without any negative consequences to the nation.
It is pathetic that we repeatedly recognise that certain powerful citizens are the forces behind the arming of groups that are terrorising the country, yet we could do nothing beyond street talks. We cannot address the onslaught of Boko Haram and the bandits by deploying our military forces against them, because we claim we cannot locate them, but ordinary citizens dine with, and serve as the mouthpiece of these outlaws. This needs to stop; the full extent of the power of the state, militarily and legally must be exerted to bring an end to these acts and the individuals behind them.
It is the weakness of our criminal justice system that has led us to the point we are now; the system has become so weak that the remote devices for its control is in the hand of multiple Nigerians who decide outcomes of criminal proceedings from their bedrooms. How Nnamdi Kanu got released and got out of the country to remain a menace to the country is a food for thought for us all. How Sowore could be out with full motivation to continue breaking the country apart with his selfish destructive tactics can only be blamed on the weakness of the nation’s criminal system.
In the United State of America, during and after events of the 2020 presidential election that the Republican Donald Trump lost, a number of news outlets and individuals joined the false propagation of an election fraud created by the former president and voraciously spread the misinformation about Dominion and other election software companies that took part in rigging the elections in favour of the Democratic Presidential candidate, when there was no such and no legally tenable evidence of the same. Now, we see a nation where the criminal system worked and is feared by all; Fox news and other media outlets and individuals who, for the sake of their allegiances to the former president, chose to align with the lies, have repeatedly worked back the lies and are now refusing to be associated with the same propagation of election fraud. Why, because they are conscious of the force of the law and would rework themselves to avoid the wrath of the law, if possible.
How can we wrestle control from individuals who unilaterally assume the control of forces and groups who are placing the country continually in harm’s way? How do we take influence from the likes of Nnamdi Kanu, Sowore, Sunday Igboho, and co, to irrelevance in the country? How do we bring to an end the prevailing acts of creating problems for ourselves in the name of strategising for relevance? Or what do we call the entire ENDSARS charade that led to the destruction of infrastructure and several unnecessary deaths of citizens across the country; what do we call the many jailbreaks since then that has released upon the society unrepentant criminals; what do we call the burning of police stations and killing of police officers in a nation already groaning under the weight of under populated police force? In all these, we allow these individuals to create more problems for us and our society. When and how do we stop them?
I think the time has come to begin holding individuals and groups accountable, even for the minute offenses and attack against the sanctity of our common identity as Nigerians. The time when every crime, regardless of the alleged perpetrator’s status and leanings, must be duly accounted for; the time when individuals and groups behind such demonic conspired uprising against the country in the form of ENDSARS revolution cannot be allowed to roam the street freely without answering to the crimes and the damage they caused to the unity and wellness of the country; the time when fake rhetoric, propaganda and intentional lies are allowed to get by without due consequences, when media houses are made to pay for their intentionally dissemination of fake and destructive information for financial and political considerations; and finally, the time when the nation’s constitution and its content become supremely powerful and revered by all within and beyond the boundaries of Nigeria.
As Nigerians, we should be able to live our lives and go about our daily routines as citizens without fear of insecurity, the fear of wondering if the next trip out could be our last. We should be able to go to sleep with our two eyes closed to rest, but currently we can not. When will those with the power and authority to end the deadly insecurity in the country summon the wherewithal to patriotically, and beyond political colouration, begin to do what must be done?
Right now, as Nigerians, we must all recognise that it may take a while to free the country of most of the ills mentioned here; of insecurity, poverty, unemployment, killings, but more importantly, of tribalism, ethnic disaffections, religious bigotry and political craziness that fuel majority of the current issues facing the country, but can we possibly begin to make it harder for the unrelenting perpetrators to continue to have their way until we finally get the desired peace we all wanted?
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA