By Yinka Odumakin
ELDER statesman Dr. Tunji Braithwaite once recalled how his mother just six years into Nigeria’s independence asked poignantly “when will this independence end?”. That was how brutal the old woman could put the simmering signs of failure in such a short period. If you are perceptive enough ,you may not have all the tips on how to seed but you sure must identify the signals of failure.
God bless the soul of Commodore Francis Ademoroti, a very brilliant and walking encyclopedia. He had world history on his fingertips. He knew something about everything. When he engaged you in discussion even on the roadside he would use his walking stick to plot graphs in the sand to prove a scientific law. But the contradictions of Nigeria assaulted him at all major milestones of his life until he died a bohemian.
In 1962,he won a scholarship to go to Harvard. That was truncated because a top official at the Federal Ministry of Education swapped his space for another boy from his own corner of the country who was not that bright to make it on merit. Young Francis went to report the matter to his Uncle,Oba Adesoji Aderemi the Ooni of Ife.
The monarch with uncommon gravitas asked one of his chiefs to accompany his nephew to the American Embassy in Lagos with a letter of protest. The Ambassador saw the injustice being done and took the duo to the education ministry. He wanted to know why a dullard should displace the brilliant. To his chagrin,the “big man” who sacrificed merit at the altar on nepotism rolled in his chairs, puffed up and told the envoy “Nigeria is now an independent country and no longer takes dictation from anybody”.
The white man surveyed his office, cast a furtive glance at the misfit and said to him as he fixed his gaze on the almanac hanging menacingly on the wall “This is August 1962,you people are not two years old and you have started this way,great nations are not built on the foundation of fraud”. And to Francis he said: “Young boy, don’t lose hope. You are bright enough to make it”.
No brains needed in Kuru
Francis Ademoroti eventually went into the Nigerian Navy and shone brilliantly at the Royal Naval College, had the best thesis at Nigerian Institute Of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru and rose to the rank of Commodore. He was appointed a Principal Staff Officer by the No 2 man in a military administration. That was when the contradictions of Nigeria caught up with him again. His boss one day was with the leader of the regime and decided to flaunt his PSO. “Sir,this my PSO had the best thesis at kuru…”. He was not allowed to finish when the maximum ruler asked: “And who told you we are looking for brains here?” Within a few months after he was kicked out of the Navy. He was not prepared for it and it disoriented him. He lived a reclusive life until he died a few years ago.
Nigeria did not allow him to make it as predicted by the American envoy just as it is also taking its rightful place in the graveyard of failed countries. From the lofty height of “Giant of Africa” it tumbled to the valley of Lilliputians. The practical joke was that Nigeria was GIANT until South Africa emerged on the scene and removed the G and then the I.
Pundits on the failure of Nigeria in the past were wont to say that Nigeria could not manage its post-independence years well because we did not have to do the type of struggles the Kenyans or South Africans engaged in to have self-rule. That view falls flat today given what South Africa has become in just twenty years after the yoke of apartheid was broken.
I was at the office of one of the biggest suppliers of generators in Nigeria last week and overhead this conversation between an Arab guy and a European. The Arab said: “We are getting ready for the boom as South Africa is the next destination for generator business”. The European said: “Yes,their power sector is collapsing as the present government is not planning at all”.
That hit me bad. Like Nigeria moved from the generation of Awolowo, Azikiwe and Bello to the leadership of political touts,it has taken South Africa less than two decades to descend from Mandela to Zuma.
The outcome is now a tottering state. The evidence of state failure in South Africa is all over. There are certainly signs that the military, the police and the public service have become dysfunctional, beholden to political interests or simply unwilling or unable to do the jobs for which they are paid. Infrastructure and the general provision of public goods are in decline, or in advanced states of disrepair. Consider the state of Eskom, the Post-Office, the increasing scarcity of water and sanitation, the increased uncertainty of the national carrier, South African Airways, the diabolical state archival system that has been stripping the country of institutional memory since 1994, and constant changing of the deck chairs in the country’s intelligence infrastructure, which would be laughable if it were not so corrosive.The high rate of unemployment has led to xenophobic attacks in recent times. And gradually goes down another promise of a country that works in Africa.
P.W Botha’s thoughts about Africans
Shamefully, one cannot but remember the speech of P.W Botha to his cabinet in 1985 at a time like this. Excerpts:
“We do not pretend like other Whites that we like Blacks. The fact that, Blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike. If God wanted us to be equal to the Blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect. But he created us differently: Whites, Blacks, Yellow, Rulers and the ruled. Intellectually, we are superior to the Blacks; that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the years. I believe that the Afrikaner is an honest, God fearing person, who has demonstrated practically the right way of being. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that behind the scenes, Europe, America, Canada, Australia -and all others are behind us in spite of what they say. For diplomatic relations, we all know what language should be used and where. To prove my point, Comrades, does anyone of you know a White country without an investment or interest in South Africa? Who buys our gold? Who buys our diamonds? Who trades with us? Who is helping us develop other nuclear weapon? The very truth is that we are their people and they are our people. It’s a big secret. The strength of our economy is backed by America, Britain, and Germany. It is our strong conviction, therefore, that the Black is the raw material for the White man. So Brothers and Sisters, let us join hands together to fight against this Black devil. I appeal to all Afrikaners to come out with any creative means of fighting this war. Surely God cannot forsake his own people whom we are. By now every one of us has seen it practically that the Blacks cannot rule themselves. Give them guns and they will kill each other. They are good in nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives and indulging in sex. Let us all accept that the Black man is the symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence. Isn’t it plausible, therefore that the White man is created to rule the Black man? Come to think of what would happen one day if you woke up and on the throne sat a Kaff*ir! Can you imagine what would happen to our women? Does anyone of you believe that the Blacks can rule this country?”