By Adisa Adeleye
Every anniversary day of Nigeria‘s Independence is generally regarded as a day when Nigerians have absolute freedom to comment on the progress or otherwise, of their country. It is that day in which the President of the country reviews the events of the past year and assures the nation of good life ahead. The President‘s address to the nation is usually awaited for by all Nigerians and comments are thus made by different people, according to their mood, political standing and predilections.
This year‘s event has not departed from the norm, except that the President spoke within the safety of the tightly guarded Aso Rock. As expected, President Ebele Goodluck Jonathan spoke about the difficulties of the present and the hope of the future if Nigerians would exercise patience and cooperate with him and his government to deliver in full the delicious fruits of democracy. Undoubtedly, the President‘s address would normally excite different comments from diverse quarters.
In order to avoid confusion, this article deals mainly with tribal jingoists (those who use tribalism by way of speech or writing to influence the course of events). For example, a tribal jingoist could mean a respected person in the community, who under the pretext of freedom of expression, could indirectly disturb ethnic stability.
Many good writers are often guilty of this deceit by their insistence on interpreting historical events through their jaundiced eyes. The gullible readers are often captivated by the free flowing literary style of such writers and forgetting their basic tribal instincts.
I am of the opinion that the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as a politician had his many virtues and vices. It would not be a bad thing if he ever attempted to be the President of Nigeria. Some analysts believed then that his imprisonment in 1962 for attempting to overthrow the Federal Government by force was unjust. Others also thought that it was unreasonable that the military government that followed the coup of 1966 did not release Awolowo until the appearance of the government of Lt. Col Gowon (now retired General).
General Gowon appointed late Chief Awolowo as Vice Chairman in his government and Commissioner for Finance, a position he held throughout the civil war of 1967-1970. Whatever methods used by both sides in the contest became irrelevant since the war ended on a slogan of, “No Winner, No Vanquished”.
It should be recalled that the late Chief Awolowo suffered political setback for his contribution to the successful prosecution of the civil war by the Federal Government. In the 1979 federal elections, late Chief Awolowo‘s party did not do well in Ibo speaking areas because of the cry of genocide policy leveled against him during the civil war. In the federal elections of 1979 and 1983, the votes of Shehu Shagari (Hausa/Fulani) were far higher than those of Chief Awolowo.
There was a common belief amongst the Yoruba that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe‘s interventions (at his old age) in these federal elections were to prevent Chief Awolowo from winning to become the President of Nigeria. As I wrote some years ago that, “between Awo and Zik, whatever might be the reasons for their rivalries and personal antagonism, their lack of vision at the crucial times in 1959 and 1979 contributed greatly to the rise in the fortunes of the North on the political horizon”.
As Chinua Achebe noted in his book “The Trouble with Nigeria”, `If we were a more discerning people, we should not have trusted them with our lives in the 1950s and 1960s. However, both Chief Awolowo (Awo) and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik) are now dead and have put their foot marks on the sands of their time. We are now in the 21stcentury under a new political horizon. The Ibos are more in Yorubaland pursuing their valuable and profitable trades far more than they were before the civil war. The peoples of the South Western, South Eastern and the South South zones are forging new understanding towards political and economic stability of Nigeria. There is no need now for writers of fiction to remind us of genocides of those terrible years.
In the analysis of Nigeria‘s political and economic scenery, there has always been a free zone or the panorama for cynics to wander around. People who are rooted in pessimism could not be expected to; at times relapse, into an avenue of optimism, even if there are sign-posts to glory. Every effort or any step towards the glorious future is challenged by evidence of past failures. Every Nigerian talks about corruption as if this corruption is a part of our daily food. Some do say that corruption is the 37th state of Nigeria and that all Nigerians are corrupt. If this is so, the attempt to stop corruption becomes laughable and the solution to corruption looks evasive. Corruption could be regarded as a situation in which an individual wants to live beyond his or her means. This in itself suggests a situation of extreme inequality in the country and promotes an attempt by individuals to solve the problem by any means at any time. Corruption could be a Nigerian‘s way of existing in a state of continuous rising prices.
In an inflationary condition accompanied by mass unemployment, the resultant poverty would be an invitation to criminal means of making money or other devious means. Under the oil subsidy scheme, the fake importers of petroleum products are as guilty as those who create conditions where a nation blessed with oil suddenly becomes a net importer of the same product.
However, in the Agricultural Policy of the Federal Government, it is possible to transform the rural areas and create more employment if the progressive policy is marched by action.
The famous Groundnut Pyramid of the North and the Cocoa Plantation of the former golden West were possible because of the ingenuity of past European administrators. If a farmer is paid promptly for his produce at the convenient centre or location, the more incentive he had to produce more and be paid more. The lack of storage system and the inability of the farmer to be duly paid for his products are sure ways to prevent increasing agricultural production. There is need to encourage rural farming by enabling the farmer to weed plants and harvest at less cost and to ensure that there is ready market (payments) for his labour (produce).