Editor’s Note: This is Part 1`of a series, you can read the second part here
Nigeria is an interesting place to live and perhaps, that is the one reason most Nigerians are yet to be tired of living there. Nigeria as a country is an offshoot of British civilization having been colonized since the 18th century and given independence on October 1st 1960. After this independence by the British, Nigeria has been striving for survival particularly to have a suitable place in the world. And we Nigerians have been crying since the birth of democracy that our leaders are corrupt and thus we are in dire need of change but till now, it seems the beautiful ones are not yet born.
To deliberately close eyes on the period of incursion into Nigeria politics by the military, Nigeria has, since independence, been demonstrating to its African counterparts that it is the Giant of Africa and it has shown its eagerness to show to the whole world that it has dream and vision. That is why it takes interest in exporting to other countries peace and democracy it does not have and continue to import what it has in abundance.
The ability to identify problems seems to be an inherent quality of every average Nigeria and as it is often said a problem known is half-solved but contrary is the case in my country. Sincerely, Nigerians can identify problems with correct and accurate data and in almost, if not all, the sectors of the country – economic, educational, agricultural sectors etc – we know what the problems are but one may ask; why do we still suffer what we suffer when we know what our problems are. If you will be patient enough to read through this piece to the last, you will understand.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant potential and raw materials. Before petroleum was discovered, many years back, people lived on agriculture and they were living well. After petroleum was discovered we became relaxed and heavenly rely on it, we neglect agriculture, we allow corruption to permeate the oil sector and unnecessarily misappropriate the proceeds coming out of it and that is why the discovery of petroleum marks the beginning of economic doom and poverty of the highest order. And today, Nigeria is yet to remove the dyke between its potential and fulfillment.
Also, Nigerian politics is a hide-and-seek game. It is a game that is already turned to warfare. It is seen as a ‘do or die affair’ and characterized with election rigging and political God-fatherism. The electorates’ votes hardly count. Perhaps, because of the dirtiness associated with politics, the attendant corruption that accompanies it and the fact that people hardly leave the position of leadership with such honor and respect that took them there, men of God and people of integrity, who do not want to be stained, clear themselves off the track. Eventually, we sprout out illiterates and fraudsters into the driver’s seat. We have several competent people among the citizenry who can drive Nigeria to the Promised Land but their ways are blocked and some even hardly come. Thus, we have zombies as our leaders – zombies who have no mind of their own and do not mind copying policies from any country, even from the moon, to the detriment of the citizenry. Unfortunately, they would never copy policy execution or implementation or copy US in upholding rule of law, independence of the judiciary, welfare of citizens or good governance, but they can copy tenure elongation, subsidy removal and lots more. When good people keep quiet, bad people would have their ways.
Besides, election period in Nigeria is usually seen as a green season for politicians, technocrats and even those who are apolitical. The period is seen by the politicians as the period to invest, the technocrat and the apolitical ones see it as the time to collect their own share of the National Cake. Only God knows the amount of money some people collected in the last election! In fact, should you try to sensitize them, especially in the rural areas and in some parts of urban centre, you would be seen as a big fool who does not know anything because they believe any one that needs their votes must be ready to pay the purchase price. At the long run, we got the kind of leaders we bargain for and their policies, actions and inactions affect us all. But what usually pains one is that people would soon forget that they have compromised and sold their mandates for token amount; then they cry louder than even a megaphone when they are affected by the government policy.
Next is the issue of despotism and favoritism. A country which has favoritism and ethnicity as its foundation hardly succeeds. In Nigeria today hardly can one succeed except you know somebody that matters. Even the issue of admission into tertiary institutions of learning which ought to be based on merit, until you know someone, if care is not taken, with the best of results, one may spend up to 10 years at home seeking admission. Political appointments are based on who knows who. And even the issue of employment, until you know somebody, you are on your own.
What is even annoying is people’s attitude towards politics. If a political office holder wants to prove to be Godly and decides not to misappropriate public funds, you will be surprised if I tell you that some Nigerians would blame him. Should a politician be invited to a function and donate little amount he thought he could afford, the audience would welcome him dejectedly. But let him donate a huge amount greater than his annual income and he would be welcomed with a standing ovation and nobody would bother to ask where the poor man got it from. Indirectly, we encourage corruption.
While the poorest person in the world is a person without a dream, the most frustrated person is he who has a dream but does not know how to bring it to pass. We have vision and dreams as Nigerians and our leaders also claim that they have as well, even in abundance they claim. As a nation, we have always had one vision at one time or the other – Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 7-Point Agenda, Vision 20:2020, etc – but little wonder that more often than not, our dream and vision as a nation have always become nightmare and unfulfilled expectations. It is no more a subject of debate that every Nigerian is now a living witness to the economic predicament, insecurity and uncertainty which our leaders, through their ineptitude and parochial interests, have imposed on our beloved country. The above include but not limited to why we suffer what we suffer.
By Kazeem Azeez Idowu*
He is a Freelance Writer based in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria.You can reach him on [email protected]