By Tonnie Iredia
A few years back, the Americans were reported to have predicted that Nigeria may not survive a likely turmoil in 2015. The date obviously gives a political undertone to the problem considering that it coincides with when our next general elections are due. The significance of the prediction does not lie in the maker as those who perceive America as omniscience would want the nation to believe.
After all, France and indeed some of our own prophets/soothsayers were reported to have also seen ‘visions’ which corroborated the alarm. The truth is that anyone who has followed the history of Nigerian elections can easily have such expectations. In the last one week however, some rather soothing remarks on the subject have been credited to our President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and 2 former Heads of State-General Yakubu Gowon and former President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB).
To the positive views of these statesmen, I would love to say a loud Amen and proceed to wish our nation well. But because wishes are hardly coterminous with reality, it appears ill-advisable to rely on wishes. Again, those who think prayers would do the magic have to bear in mind the common saying that ‘heaven helps those who help themselves.
In other words, prayers alone may not be sufficient especially if some of our compatriots as usual, choose to be reckless about how they handle our numerous centrifugal forces. For instance, we are all aware that the fabric of solidarity which binds our heterogeneous society together is not only fragile but tends to stretch to breaking point at the slightest provocation. Yet, our people, especially the political class, always put our country through constant threat of dismemberment.
Although President Jonathan has said several times that it is premature and distractive to get involved in electioneering until next year, the nation is already broken into 2 irreconcilable groupings concerning his role in 2015 elections. And whereas the first group which is a large portion of the south appears ready to die if the President is not re-elected, the second group-another large portion of the North seems ready to bring the world to an end if power does not shift to the North in 2015.
Unfortunately, the show down is virtually inevitable because of the lucrative nature of politics and the winner-takes-all political system that we run. For how long will our nation survive, when with little or no work, a tiny elite group appropriates so much to itself while an exceedingly large segment of the population is left prostrate?
The other day, one political analyst made a rather uncharitable classification of the nation. He said everyone knows what it takes to become a judge, a medical doctor, a professor and indeed any professional practitioner. The politician on the other hand, gets to fame, according to the analysis, through several question channels such as illiteracy, fake certificates, thuggery and all forms of duplicity.
The question as to which of the two groups is better recognised and remunerated in Nigeria for its contribution to national development does not arise because the politicians themselves do not quite know how much they earn. They just expropriate. Why will politics not be a do or die game and who says Nigeria cannot break on account of politics?
The powerful Nigerian political class can in earnest do and undo. If the group or even just one of them organizes a function in our collectively owned Abuja these days, the only roads that would not be shut on the day by our eye-service law enforcement agents would be the few leading straight to the venue of the event. No one works or goes anywhere that day. How can the Nigerian bureaucracy be efficient or effective when the system of recruitment has been gravely corrupted?
Interestingly, we hear only about the scandalous sale of job placements. The other condemnable dimension of the numerous deficient recruits that are imposed on institutions by the powerful are taken as the entitlement of the latter. Indeed, the same powerful occasionally sets up panels to probe only the jobs that are sold. No one can question the political class as public policies weaken only the powerless
For instance, in order to make the apprehension of criminals easy, persons who own factory fitted ‘tokunbo’ tinted glasses are made to register their cars officially with the police supposedly at no cost. The people and the authorities are however aware that the powerless pay no less than N25, 000 per vehicle at the designated centres for the assignment.
As part of transforming Nigeria, the Immigration Service now officially renews an international passport at the same cost of acquiring a new one. It is probably for the same reason that the Federal Road Safety Commission has decreed that fresh and increased expenditures have to be borne for the procurement of newly designed vehicle plate numbers.
In major cities, landlords are passing to their tenants, increases occasioned by ground rent, tenement rate, facility fee and water rate to mention a few. In Abuja, parking fees by different collecting agencies are being imposed on the people although there are no parks. Based on these issues, which could obviously weaken the weak beyond weakness, it can be argued that Nigeria may not break physically but in the sub consciousness of the weak, the break happened mentally years ago. To the privileged class however, these are non-issues because they happen elsewhere and are reportedly temporary sacrifices for development.
Last month, I was at a workshop where some of the speakers blamed the nation’s woes on the media. According to them, journalists as patriots ought to be engaged in advocacy journalism by projecting their country only in good light. During the question and answer session, the key note speaker declined to respond to my question as to what he considered the best way for a journalist to report a public event like the process arranged by our 36 governors to elect a chairman for the Nigerian Governors Forum. He just said that was politics. I understood him to mean that whether Nigeria would survive over time depends on politics.