By Pini Jason
This title is actually a tinkering of the title of a paper delivered by Chief Phillip C Asiodu at a forum recently. The paper was titled: “Is There Any Hope For Nigeria?” (The Nation, 3 September 2012, page 21).
There is no doubt that many Nigerians have wondered and are wondering where the nation is heading to and if there is any hope for recovering from the present problems.
Any nation weighed down the way we are by the enormity of problems confronting us should worry for its future! Nigerians follow the politically correct nuance of referring to problems as challenges. Good! But where challenges are not confronted and dealt with, they remain problems!
Chief Asiodu, we must recall belongs to the tribe of Nigeria’s Super Permanent Secretaries when Nigeria was hopefully marching towards development. He later was a Minister of the Federal Republic. Chief Asiodu has seen and enjoyed the brief shining moment of Nigeria. Given the degeneration of the country, he rightly asked: “Is There Any Hope For Nigeria?” The Chief admitted with remorse that “this regrettably, is a fair question given the massive challenges confronting us today”.
These challenges he listed as: issues of security of persons and property, political stability, economic development, increasing pauperization of the masses, degraded infrastructure of power, transportation, educational and health facilities; all pervasive corruption and excessive greed and self-seeking amongst the three tiers of government, unresponsive governance and growing pessimism amongst the vast majority of the country’s population.
Then Chief Asiodu went down memory lane to recount the good old days. No one will dispute that Nigeria’s glory is in the past!
If the erudite Chief had stopped at “excessive greed and self-seeking….and growing pessimism amongst the vast majority”, he would have struck most forcefully at the heart of our present national malaise.
Given the level of individual and group self-seeking, and pessimism about our country, the real questions to ask today are: Are there true Nigerians left out there? Are there believers in Nigeria out there? What are the values on which this country is rooted? Are there people standing up for such values?
Corruption and infrastructural deficit, failure of educational and health institutions and the prevalent insecurity are symptoms of a citizenry that has turned its back on the nation. The problems confronting us today are symptoms of lack of belief in any value and indeed, a resistance to all laws that protect our common citizenship while we pursue self and group aggrandizement.
Things worked (or let me say Nigeria was held together) in the days of the Asiodus because we were all held responsible under the same laws and the same rules. It is not accurate, as the Chief implied, that the years of deterioration in the quality of governance and economic stagnation…followed the December 1983 coup against Shehu Shagari’s brief interlude of civilian rule.
The seed of excessive greed…self-seeking and pessimism were sowed the moment we abandoned merit, law and order, and began to aggressively pursue obsessive tribal, religious, sectional and regional interest. And this was long before even the 1966 coup!
The 1966 coup, the civil war, prolonged military rule, election rigging, Niger Delta militancy and the prevailing terrorism in the North are all outcomes of our retreat to enclave politics that placed Nigeria last. Today Nigeria is no more than a goat owned by all but no one takes responsibility to feed it.
Everybody milks the public goat to buy a mansion in Dubai. It is, therefore, unrealistic to expect that the economy would not collapse under such mindless rapacity that has unleashed on us politics of do-or-die. Thus, yesterday’s champions of nationalism are today’s strident ethnic champions.
And the ethnic champions are proud of their role. They are celebrated and bestowed with our national honours for being ethnic nationalists!
The cancer eating up Nigeria is not the jargon of Medium Term, Rolling Plan, Perspective Plan or National Development. Why did all of these come unstuck? Why did they fail? Are they the disease or the symptoms?
Are we not listening to the vitriolic language of our debates? Are we not reading the same newspapers replete with strident divisiveness? Where in our outbursts, threats and jingoism can we locate the interest of the nation? Where in the fire and brimstone can we locate a passion for our nation? Where in our scramble for the national cake for ourselves and our group can we locate our allegiance to Nigeria?
Can you feel the shame? Any nation where a few or any group places its interest above everybody else’s or above the nation, any nation where the operating philosophy is everyone to himself, nothing can work.
And so it has not worked for us and even that which worked in the past have been lost to selfishness and excessive greed. It is unrealistic, in fact, a pretence, to think that once our self or group interest is taken care of, Nigeria will be okay. That has not happened; that cannot happen. The Nigeria that will work for any individual or group is a Nigeria that works for all! Can’t we get it? Justice is it!
There is no new grammar to blow. It is very simple. Man is the only agent of change for good or bad. As I say to people: A nation can be destroyed by earthquake and the people rise up and rebuild. A nation can be ravaged by flood and the citizens rise up and rebuild.
A nation can be swept by flood and the citizens rise up and rebuild. The economy of a nation can collapse and the citizens take collective responsibility and rebuild it. But any nation where the citizenry is destroyed by excessive greed, self-seeking and pessimism about their country, loses the capacity for self renewal.
That is the reason why Nigeria is reeling from crisis to crisis. That is why we have gone from a strong economy to a weak economy, our oil resources, notwithstanding. That is why all the fine documents, from Vision 2010 to 20:2020, have failed to transform our economy. That is why every aspect of our national life has collapsed.
That is why we have gone from being the giant of Africa to a whimpering mouse. That is why we watch as our country is being shot to pieces while we hope for a miracle to stop it. No people have paid so much lip service to their country as we have.
Whatever Nigeria is today is what we made of it. Whatever Nigeria is not today is what we have failed to make of it. It is absolutely in our hands to make or mar Nigeria.
Yes, the anger in the land is justifiable. Nigeria has not been fair to all. But that is the architecture we constructed, all of us! Yet we are scared to even re-examine that architecture! Any leader who will make the difference must rise above himself, his ethnic proclivity and group dictates to put Nigerians to work for Nigeria.
Such a leader must reinvent the Nigerian citizenship that is patriotic and passionate about our country. That is the challenge. That is the only way to restore hope for Nigeria. Hope for our future must emanate from us, Nigerians.