By PETER AWELEWA ADEBIYI
OUR country has witnessed several great events in the past years, indeed, within 100 years of the amalgamation of the different nations within it, under the then Governor General, Lord Lugard. It was his wife who had the singular honour of giving a common name to the various nations; she named it Nigeria.
Nigeria remained a colony of Great Britain for many years thereafter. However, less than 10 years of the amalgamation, the elite within the country had begun to agitate for political emancipation and the restructuring of a defective entity forcibly put together without any prior consultation(s) with the different nations that were fused together to form the country.
It was apparent that the people did not understand the rationale behind the formation of the country. They simply found themselves living under conditions and influences which came from a strange culture and environment. Nigeria wobbled on supposedly until the end of colonial rule in 1960, when the average Nigerian, both young boys and girls and indeed young men like me, felt that the situation of things would change as we were throwing away the toga of oppression from those who had ruled Nigeria in various parts and ways before 1914 and had only bound them into one country for better enslavery between 1914 until 1960. Little did we know that we were only making a move from frying pan to fire. Political stability had been barely effective for a brief period of six years when the military men struck in 1966 and sacked all the politicians.
This singular action shattered the dreams of expectant Nigerians who had been looking forward to a better future. The soldiers “ruled” Nigeria with the able assistance of the civil servants who encouraged the military men to implement their obnoxious and draconic laws and policies. The military was in active power in Nigeria for about 30 years without much pretence to accountability.
They prepared the national budget themselves and implemented same. The result was that together they constituted themselves into a class easily known as the elites and their collaborators. The three economic classes in Nigeria were reduced to two, namely the poorest and the richest. The Nigerian currency, one of the strongest in the world at that time, became heavily and mindlessly devalued because of untold corruption.
Year in, year out, poverty preyed on the people and today, Nigeria has become one of the poorest nations in the world. The reason why this is so, we all know. There are certainly enough financial and other resources in Nigeria with which every citizen could be educated, gainfully employed and have food on their tables.
Each of the 36 States of Nigeria can in fact form a country of its own and survive, but those who have hijacked the reins of government and the economy had rendered poor, 80 per cent of the masses. These few with no altruistic reasons for being in government other than to amass wealth, unashamedly flaunt their ill-gotten gain, in extreme posh castles which they have built for themselves and their children, wives and concubines.
As for those who chose to be politicians, they regard it as a profession and from which they can milk the economy dry. Someone recently gave an analysis or breakdown of the tragedy that has befallen Nigeria in recent times. He opined that the annual budget of the National Assembly was N7 Billion in 1999 but that in 2013, it was more than N155 Billion.
While the number of members in the Legislative Houses has not exceeded what the Constitution stipulated in 1999 when civil rule began, the budget has kept increasing at an alarming rate. He wondered what is responsible for this astronomical increase and resulting waste. His conclusion was that the Nigerian Political Godfathers and our political leaders, who have become incurably and politically bankrupt, should be held accountable.
If we were to assess the political years before now, we can say that the period between 1914-1960 was the best, 1960-1966 was good, while 1966-1999 was the worst.1999 till date, remains the most difficult to classify, because our mouths can no longer describe appropriately what we presently see and many of the various events that are currently going on, defy logic.
We are all in it and the road ahead appears not only tortuous but is laced with pits, valleys and dungeons. We are also aware that he who falls into a dungeon may have come to his ultimate end or destruction. That is the current scenario of life in Nigeria as it appears today.
We are in a country where one cannot guarantee that he or she will remain alive in the next minute because of many factors that can cause one’s sudden demise. These factors include but are not limited to violent “Boko Haram” attacks in the land, nefarious activities of kidnappers and ritual murderers all over the place, activities of armed robbers on the streets, in the homes, working places and banks. There are also road accidents and other untold, sudden happenings such as vicious community disturbances which claim numerous lives.
MENTION must also be made of the many debilitating diseases that affect the populace and which are not reported in hospitals, simply because people cannot afford to pay for their treatments bills.
It is also a fact that millions of children still roam the major streets of the country because many of their parents cannot afford to send them to primary schools owing to lack of money. The transportation system is still not worthy of good cheer because most commercial vehicles plying the roads are not road worthy.
Our electricity power supply competes with the worst in the continent of Africa where over 80% of Nigerians work and walk in darkness more than 80% of the time. There are also millions of Nigerian children who have not had the privilege of seeing what electric poles look like, talk less of the privilege of electricity power supply in their homes!
The question is, “should we still continue to refer to this State called Nigeria as a country?” Can a country that cannot cater for its citizens be rightly or justifiably called a country worthy of mention or its name? Those who can afford all luxuries in this country provide virtually everything for themselves, ranging from generator for light, bore hole for water etc. Yet, we pride ourselves with the fact that we have a great country.
Outside the shores of Nigeria, other Governments cater for the well being of their people by providing accessible motorable roads, pipe-borne water, electricity, education, employment opportunities and adequate social welfare for children, the sick, and the aged. In the past, the world over, people were not bothered about whether they have children or not, because they knew that the government will do what their children would have done for them at their old age and that the government would not allow them to suffer.
As elderly, they would be provided with food, shelter, transport and other social amenities required for comfort until they are about 85 and beyond, when they would expect to naturally die because of old age and old age related diseases or sickness. In Nigeria however, one can say that death begins as soon as a child is born. This is because he or she lives his or her miserable life until death comes prematurely at about the age of 35 or relatively at about 60-70 after relative suffering!
In 2007, Late Nelson Mandela said that he did not know how Nigerians could survive under the inhuman conditions we live in. He had expected a revolt of a kind, such that things could get better, but the truth is that even today, things are not getting any better because Nigerian politicians and leaders have “charmed” Nigerians by using ethnicity and religion to divide them. The result is that it has become more difficult for many Nigerians to think straight, question their parlous state and demand justice and equity.
Political l eader
In recent times, if a political leader is from the Northern part of Nigeria and does not perform well, his people hardly see anything bad in what he does or say. Anyone from the South West, or East or other parts of the country who criticises him is regarded as the enemy of the North. Is it not obvious then, that whenever anyone criticises President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the people of the South South States become extremely vexed? Indeed, recently, supporters of the Aviation Minister, Mrs Stella Oduah, who was in the bad news for corruption related deals in the Aviation Ministry carried placards in protest against those criticising her! These are indeed strange times!
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former President, is the only person, who in my opinion has been so much freely criticised and vilified by his own people- the Yoruba people, without the heavens falling. He himself is apparently not worried that his own people criticise him, because he knows that the Yorubas will not let go whenever any untoward behavior or event is observed.
This is the reason why the Yorubas are not in the good books of very many Nigerians. It is believed that they talk too much, they are too educated and would readily pull anyone down. In my own honest opinion, this position may be correct, but the majority of the Yorubas that speak out, do so with good intention and well informed knowledge of what the matter is about. That is why probably the South West, though in opposition to the government for many years in the past, are still better off than other parts of the country in terms of boldness and outspokenness concerning the ills prevalent in Nigeria.
The way forward is in two folds. Those who preach that the unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct and NOT negotiable are the actual enemies of Nigeria. This position may sound odd and strange, but how can you remain in an entity where your grandfather had suffered, your father has suffered, and you are also now suffering, yet all indices reveal that the suffering of your children may be greater than yours.
Meanwhile, you still believe that it is good to remain under such a situation in perpetuity? Is handing over pain and lack from generation to generation a grand idea? If anyone wishes such for me, I will certainly reject it and instantly too. So, I wonder why some people say that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable.
Time it was, when Israel, in the Bible, was a nation. Later, it was divided into two when its people could no longer politically and comfortably live together. We are also aware that there used to be one India, today there is India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
They all used to be part of India before now. There was also one country known as Czechoslovakia, but today, we have Czechs and Slovak. Once upon a time, there was Ethiopia, but today there is Eritrea and there is Ethiopia. Similarly, there was a country known as the U.S.S.R. but today, there are many countries, too numerous to count that have come out of it. There was one Great Britain in the days gone by, but today, we have Ireland, even south and north are now set to go on their different ways.
Already, Scotland has her own currency and parliament and is about pulling out of the United Kingdom. All of these geographical constituencies know the reasons for seeking autonomy for themselves. So, I ask a question: What is so special about Nigeria that we continue to harp on the illusory fact that its unity is not negotiable? I wish someone would give us the special reasons.
Obviously, some selfish people are singing a song that has no melody to the hearing of millions of Nigerians, in a failing country where all that they have for food is suffering. They drink the water of poverty and above all, live in perpetual fear not of tomorrow alone, but even of today! Those who are milking the country dry are set in their ways to continue to milk the goose (Nigeria) that lays the golden egg and even put the rest in the refrigerator for their subsequent use.
Obviously, it is them, their children and families that are singing the unpopular melody of the unity of Nigeria that is not negotiable. The poor, the weak, the dying and the weary who have no jobs, no food, no pipe-borne water, no shelter and no good medical facilities, are not members of the choir. It is time such apostles of doom who preach the inviolability of Nigeria shut up their mouths, otherwise the time is fast approaching when the poor masses will do it for them, by force!
Nigeria can save itself from disintegration, only if the proposed National Conference works out well to the advantage of the various ethnic nations who own the country and not for the greedy and professional politicians, whose business is only to govern the people and take undue advantage of their seeming ignorance.
By PETER AWELEWA ADEBIYI