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Nigeria at 56 : A Story of Prodigality

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

So it’s 56 years since independence. Who knows where they imagined we would be? Yes, Hebert Macaulay and co-dreamers. Perhaps in the neighbourhood of Indonesia. Fate can be treacherous and life cruel, but many disasters are self inflicted.

Here we are, still blowing oil pipelines, Mau Mau style. And beckoning the Queen’s emissaries back to maternal duties – begging us to stop, explaining to us self-destruction. It may not be a sin to be blessed yet poor and wretched. The world is filled with wasted talents and gifts. What is unforgivable is collective resignation.

Quota system were told would soothe teething problems at infancy. Let her suck, so that she will not cry. We are supposed to be a country now. 56 years after, that finger sucking called quota system has left us retarded and infested with worms of mediocrity and indolence.

In the name of national unity, excellence has remained too idealistic to be embraced totally. We claim a peculiarity that necessitates unwholesome pragmatisms. We represent our villages and ethnic groups, whose ambassadors quota system has appointed us. We know we can’t plan without a census but we will never have one. And we have resigned to the helplessness of it all.

We won’t abolish vampiric security votes, we need some opacity- the system is intrinsically shady. And ecological funds are useful for many other murky reasons. Greasing, for friction and ricketiness . Pick pockets litter everywhere, from the bus-stops to the corridors of power. Only the rich has honour. The exploitation does not spare the sentimentality of the poor. They rush to queues to identify with infamy and swear to the righteousness of tribal rouges.

56 years of prodigal living. We allocate resources based on land mass and fictitious population figures. We promote a sharing mentality that breeds indolence and cooks data. In our prodigality we find too much time for too much navel gazing and too much masturbation. We remain intoxicated by our size and brag eternally about our potentials. We demand respect for what we could have been.

The greatest black nation, the Giant of Africa. Others mourn us. We are a lost opportunity. They grieve our inexplicable haughtiness. Like the aunties of a buffoon do . They say Nigerians are insufferably loud, rash and tempestuous. We gloat, that’s how we are! Always entangled with flattering delusions.

Vacuousness allows us sing ceaselessly about unity, and live perpetually acrimoniously. That is why the land brims with evil while overflowing with religiosity. They can’t understand us. We are not vague, we are comfortable with duplicity. Everyone is patriotic, but everyone has a warped sense of loyalty. Others come last. And the nation? Besides sports and perhaps the military, it’s largely too abstract to be understood.

Too contrived for any psychological attachment. Our loyalties are comical, sometimes diabolical. That is why herdsmen butcher and eviscerate, and elders waffle. Everything is viewed through an ethnic lens. And ethnic militiamen have stronger cult followership than our gallant Soldiers.

The only thing that unites us is poverty. It’s so diffuse we should be one. Down, desperate, dispossessed. But no. We are divided by ignorance, which is also general. The wedges are important to perpetuate the serfdom. Those who replaced the colonial masters put in bigger wedges. Our past may have been chequered. We fought a brutal civil war but later came by much more money than we could lavish.

But the present is decidedly dire. Broke and hopeless, we are more polarized , more divided, than we have ever been. We survived the civil war. But it appears we learnt nothing . We beat the drums of war for entertainment, like clowns.

Rwanda has emerged stronger. The consciousness of a certain history. And a determination to make it count. The 1966 Pogrom was holocaust. The efficiency of gas chambers was perhaps leniency. In Germany you can see signs of lessons learnt . The redemptive welcoming of traumatized and haunted others. One million Syrian refugees! And an atoning assumption of a sense of responsibility that makes the peace and well being of Europe a priority.

Here, true rehabilitation and re-integration have been no more than mere slogans and contemptuous tokens. Marginalization that was an open policy in the aftermath of the war has not been eradicated. And Biafra, 35 years after, seems not like a faded blissful dream but a necessity of increasing urgency. And charlatans are being made heroes.

The foundation was perhaps faulty. The contraption was crafted by the selfishness of the colonialists . But the real error is in the disregard of its reconstruction. Few are convinced the seemingly non negotiable structure will endure. Yet they won’t interrogate the union. They are not ready to test its viability by the removal of the makeshift rags and supports that hold it tenuously together.

Tentative living. Quota system, Federal character, Amnesty programs and appeasements, Ethnic militias, Institutionalized corruption. False federalism, and false secularism. Stitched up and patched up, always teetering on the brink of collapse.

So we don’t ‘heat up the polity and truncate our nascent democracy’. The government surrenders to clerics and rent-seekers. And yields to corruption and ethnic militias. Pictures show police protecting fugitive suspects against whom subsisting bench warrants exist. And no one is stung by the abomination. Suspected money launderers taunt the EFCC , poking fingers into the eyes of the law.

We go to the United Nations and lament the conspiracy that keeps our stolen monies abroad. Yet Abacha’s name adorns national monuments and he remains unprosecuted posthumously. Rather than let these eyesores infest the land with moral confusion why not do some shameful but necessary toileting. Grant them amnesty or pardon, or whatever, in advance or in perpetuity. That at least doesn’t leave us with vertigo.

But it is not all doom. Gradually being weaned off oil, staring at the teeth of a tempest, reason and repentance may well be forced on us. We must come to the green and white. Peace and agriculture will give us room to redeem ourselves. One Nigeria must be a Nigeria founded on equity, truth and fairness. The centre must be made powerless and materially unattractive. Healthy competition amongst the regions and states will spur growth and force ‘change’ organically.

Only then will a Nigeria worth hailing return.

 


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