By Chimdi Maduagwu
In my construction of the generations of our dear country, I assumed the role of a social builder or a construction engineer. I drew upon the existing structure of the United States of America and I was quick to capture the strong generation known as the builders.
This is the generation that forms the “foundation” of the present. I identified the compatriots, who dominated the independence struggles and those who took over leadership from the colonialists as our own version of the builders.
It is however, unfortunate that this particular generation was unable to conclude the task of laying foundation because some very serious unresolved issues led to the outbreak of a civil war. It is for this reason that I named that set of people, the pre-war, “before-the-war generation. In this piece, I am going on to interact with people of this extraction.
Franz Fanon, the great Social theorist postulates that “each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its aim, fulfill it or betray it,” and I ask, is this the case with our generations? Left to me, I will rather believe that the generations have had some major problems, one of which is an inability to discover their aims. Let me make it clear that I am not condemning my people, past and present, but merely expressing my worries over the repetition of trends which we constantly condemn.
For instance, we need to ask this question, why it is that virtually all of us unequivocally express dismay over the developments in the country… and if one digs deep into this, there will be a veritable “research finding,” which is that the dismay cuts across all generations. It is this characteristic item that probably led to the major conflict among the elite of the first builders, the political class, the military and the technocrats and which resulted in their self destruction before they were able to even discover, not to talk about concluding their task.
Of course our history records major hostilities, which eventually became ethnic and almost, if not, resulted in an attempted genocide. I use the phrase “attempted genocide” because there has not been any national or international definition of the nature of the conflicts, hostilities and the eventual war that our dear country experienced in the mid to late 1960s. This equally forms part of the faulty foundations by the builders.
I have this joke that even the post modern leaders, in a bid to protect and defend (as if adhering to the letters of the oath of allegiance to the nation and the constitution) the status quo, literally “banned” the study of History in schools by our children. How then can we know who the builders are, their aims and how far they either fulfilled or betrayed them? I lament the exclusion of History.
Getting back to the task of discovering the generational aim, could we possibly trace our dilemma to the inability of the builders to discover its aim? Well to a certain extent, yes. I hate making categorical statement because I believe that I lack the strength to remain in a position. I am a restless, flexible creature but I will dare it this time. The major problem that we have had across generations is our inability to come up with acceptable definitions. We are quite creative and crafty, as a group or combination of groups, but we have not exerted enough energy towards defining who we are and what we need and where we are and where we are headed, amongst other very serious issues.
I have managed to go through our (1999) Constitution (as amended) and my impression is that we succeeded in adapting what is in existence in other places and also in the pool of scholarship. That was only able to give us letters of the laws and because of lack of originality, we miss the spirit or the essence of the laws.
This cuts across all facets of our societies. Take for instance, even though not constitutional, a cab or bus operator in Lagos must obey the law that requires his passenger to buckle the seat belt. For this reason he put a rope across the chest of the passenger and pleads with him to hold it as if it is fasted and the law “enforcers” will see that he has observed the law. Yes indeed, but the letters.
The real essence (spirit) of that law, which is the protection of life, is swept under the carpet. This is an unfortunate exemplification of our tendencies. So I insist that our builders did not discover their aim and this does not mean that they never achieved anything, but their achievements were accidental. Taking the bull by the horn, now I ask, what did they set out to achieve?
One would ask, additionally, after the fight for constitutional independence, what next? I am yet to come across a definite program of action. many of us thought it was disturbing when the North objected to an early request for independence by their southern colleagues for emotional reasons, but if the reason was because they thought we needed to get ready and make proper preparations, then I believe they understood the role of builders. Building is beyond the fascination with responsibilities, it entails “counting the cost.”
A builder identifies his site and makes sure that the site is capable of holding his structure. This is in terms of both the nature of the site and the size of the site. A builder makes sure that he has capable and adequate expertise and the adjoining support systems that will enhance his construction. A builder also ensures that materials are available for the specific structures he intends to build. I will avoid the boredom of technicalities and equally save myself from a possible embarrassment of an intruder by concluding with the essential need for a builder to consider the material for construction.
First the strength of materials (quality) and the critical mass (quantity) of the materials; a good or professional builder avoids substandard materials and workmen as well as inadequate supply of materials. This we all know and we ask, did our builders know this? If so, were they guided by this knowledge? We are not talking of Architectural Construction, but Socio-political and Economic Construction.
If it had been architectural, the physical appearance of the structural defects would have automatically indicted the architect; but in the socio-cultural and economic realms, the defects are deep and undetected by visual examination because they are buried. Finally therefore, the generation of the builders has ended without conclusion. I cannot condemn it because it was not opportune to conclude. It was engulfed in an inferno it consciously ignited but I want to suggest that it is however, never too late to restart building.