BY ABIODUN AREMU
NIGERIANS cherish a society that works. Its successive rulership professes visions that articulate fantastic dreams and hopeless hopes. Every October 1, in particular, in the past three decades has become a ritual for its rulers to want to be associated with what they referred to as the “goals of the founding fathers” but their very despicable conduct betrays the very essence for which Nigeria was founded.
Nigeria @ zero on October 1, 1960 was a product of struggles and sacrifices that involved losses to life, career, organisations, etc. Without the struggles by those earlier generations of labour leaders, progressive politicians, radical intellectuals, activist youth, valiant women, business practitioners and professionals who had some modicum of nationalism and commitment to the Nigeria pride; probably the few measures of freedom we still manage to enjoy today would not be.
The paradox on Nigeria is better appreciated when viewed from deteriorating standards over the decades. The boom in agricultural produce in the ’50 to ’60s, that of oil in the ’70s were channeled into Development Plans that produced standard universities (ABU, OAU, UNN, and later, universities in every state), local manufacturing industries, hydro-power stations, the four oil refineries, airports, stadia, trade fair complexes, durable roads and health infrastructure, etc; but most of these national assets have been taken over as private property by those in political power today and their cronies, and in some cases, rendered obsolete; all in the guise of economic reform agenda of privatisation and deregulation.
As an undergraduate in the early ’80s, my Industrial Training Fund, ITF, @ N120 per month by three months (N360), which was equivalent of US$720 could fetch me a return ticket to London. Minimum wage was N125 ($260) in 1981 and had a purchasing value that guaranteed one-bedroom low cost house to the least paid worker with opportunity for mortgage facility of 25 to 30 years.
But N18,000 ($120) for the least paid worker in 2011, which the slave driver employers (public and private) are resisting to pay can never improve the lots of the workforce.
The degenerate state of the polity today is a reflection of our dependence status politically and economically to the dictate of US and its allies of imperial financial institutions and agencies, whose prescriptions on almost every aspect of our social life are swallowed by these “Uncle Toms” local rulers.
Nigeria @ 51 cannot really be celebrating “independence” when it is the neo-liberal global order that is actually governing us. From the first coming of Obasanjo as military Head of State, US, UK, France and other imperial looters in the G-7/8 impostor arrangement determine our policies and development objectives; which explains why governance has been reduced merely to:
*Levying and collecting all manners of taxes (petroleum, VAT, electricity tariffs, development levies, etc);
*Awarding contract to portfolio contractors;
*Taking kickbacks off and on front; and
*Elevating looting, money laundering and extravagant lives, while the majority of Nigerians live miserably as the goal of government.
Nigeria @ 51 cannot talk of the rule of law and due process when the most basic essentials of life articulated as the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policies in the 1999 Constitution – i.e. rights and access to life, health, education, water, light, food, shelter, employment, social security, and happiness – are denied the people.
We can never free the country or any section of it nor achieve true federalism or resource control (even assuming the ethnic balkanization agenda succeeds) so long as we have a subservient ruling elites who operate like touts (agberos) at the service of the G-7/8 countries that want us to fight corruption in line with their “democracy model”; yet have Nigeria’s stolen trillions corruptly domiciled in their banks in Europe and America?
Nigeria has wealth and limitless potentials, yet we have over a million children who should be in schools hawking on major Nigerian cities, and our youth with first and second degrees roaming the streets without jobs, and national highways have become death traps, full of valleys and potholes and almost impassable.
Nigeria will not move forward because those profiting from the present rots should not be expected to shun their luxuries acquired through looted fund, while the rest resigned to “suffering and smiling”, a la Fela.
At 51, the few (Presidency, governors, parliamentarians, local government chairpersons, political appointees, and their associates swim in serious money that accrues from excess sales of crude oil and the devaluation of the local currency, yet industries are closing down, unemployment is growing and there is no social security to the unemployed, aged and disabled.
To move Nigeria forward, every pro-people transformative measure must be adopted to resolve the ever mounting and complex social and political decadence. The people and their popular organisations in the market, workplaces, schools, mosques, churches, and among the women, farmers, artisans, and the disabled, etc, should be resolved to confront the neo-liberal regime of privatisation and deregulation in order to get back a productive economy.
Nigeria @ 51 has led to the popular maxim by many daily calling for a revolution as the answer. Even the middle class and local manufacturers and owners of small scale enterprises whose businesses have been ruined by the economic philosophy of neo-liberal globalisation have in the last few years also joined the chorus for revolution as the alternative to the present rot.
But revolution is not something that is just merely parroted. It requires great efforts and sacrifices and the willingness of the mass of the people to bring it about. It is not enough for people to daily agonise about their plights, hardships and sufferings, but to appreciate the fact that all the failures of governance are the result of the unjust system which they must struggle to change without which starvation, unemployment, privatization of collective wealth, hunger, food crisis, preventable and curable diseases, will continue.
A Nigeria @ 51 that desires to work must have people-oriented organisations and patriots (those who believe and ready to sacrifice everything, including their lives) to undertake the task of National redemption.