NIGERIANS are an ironically patriotic people. Ironic because despite all our posturing and avowed national pride, we remain incapable of taking logical, rational decisions preferring instead to defer, more often than not, to sentiment, thus ensuring we take several steps back every couple of years.

The Nigerian condition is enough to test the faith of the most faithful and to send any one who dares hope for better times into a quiet depression, an interesting form of numbness which makes one immune to the most villainous of actions.

We’ve all been anaesthetized, knocked out by incredulity when it comes to corruption and deadened by the daily, painful grind of survival. My question then is, what next? Will we continue to limp along for another decade or two?

Do we believe it is impossible for our country to implode if we do not fix the dysfunction that ensures some are born poor, uneducated and hopeless while others live a parasitic life and are praised for doing so?

The good and the bad co-exist in Nigeria, the former is ridiculed, the latter is praised and called to the front of the church without any embarrassment. The products of injustice proudly strut around like peacocks, starting businesses with funds from the public purse while talented graduates languish at home without a recommendation letter from a “big man” to secure them jobs and opportunities for progress.

Opportunities for progress

All activities, no matter their illegality, seem equivalent in the eyes of society and dubious persons are celebrated even by those who should know better. The President has returned, alive yet visibly ill, thumbing his nose at the naysayers and bearers of bad news.

Yet, many wonder about the possibility of him completing his mission and why he returned in the first place if he hadn’t completed his treatment, if not on the advice of a certain influential clique that saw power slipping through its fingers.

There has been much talk of “the North must remain in power for eight years” yet little of what is best for Nigeria. Then Acting President and now Vice-President Osinbajo has proven himself capable of leading Nigeria and of delivering on the promise, the “change” Nigerians dreamt of.

However, once again, our sentimentality, our allegiance to tribe and selfish reasoning seem to have truncated Nigeria’s chance at a new beginning. What about the war on corruption? What about justice? What about ordinary people who live like slaves petrified to stand up to their abusers? Can the President, in his weakened condition, stand up to those holding this country to ransom? It isn’t disloyal to ask the question, not if one loves Nigeria.

In a world that is shutting national borders, where most countries today have fallen prey to xenophobia, racism and the hatred of migrants, what does Nigeria have to offer its people? There are some who would still rather die trying to escape than stay here and there are no words strong enough to either describe or condemn such a tragedy.

If we don’t fix this country and rescue the many who are poor, do the rich believe they’ll enjoy their money in peace? The UK, the US and other developed nations will shut their borders if a massive influx of Nigerians attempting to seek asylum dares trouble their already struggling economies and societies. What will we do then? Were Nigeria to collapse, such a disaster would have grave consequences for the whole of Africa.

Yet, we appear to take our many problems lightly, shrugging our shoulders while we watch people in different parts of the country die of preventable illnesses, die on bad roads, or simply disappear, never to be heard from again.

“It’s not our portion” we all say, as if God loved those whose lives were cut short by misfortune any less than those of us who are still alive. All we can do is to continue to apply pressure and to insist that every government we as Nigerians vote into power does right by us.

It starts by speaking up when there is injustice and by taking actions which are in our interest and which are not forced upon us. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated into serving any cabal from any part of the country.

Most of all, we must now begin to insist, at all levels of the society that the best man gets the job in Nigeria. Forget age, forget tribe, forget religion: where have these considerations gotten us? Have they helped our economy? Have they put more children in school or given us better outcomes?

The Vice-President should be allowed to do his best for this country: his is a global mind-set, one that understands the challenges Nigeria will face when it is time (we are, in many ways already there) for all our children to compete with their global counterparts. The youth of this country are already faring very badly.

Whenever an employer can, he would rather import a Lebanese or an Italian expatriate than employ a Nigerian.

Without drastic reforms to our civil service, without reforms in healthcare and education, without whittling down the monster called corruption, both young and old in Nigeria will suffer the terrible fate of irrelevance: who wants to be a living relic?

A pauperised testimony to an ancient, inefficient order that the rest of the world neglects?

President Buhari should allow his conscience guide him in his next steps. With age and experience on his side, he should be able to free himself from those who allegedly urged him to contravene medical advice and return to Nigeria while still in need of his doctors’ attention.

Drastic reforms

As for the Vice-President, sooner, rather than later, it will be time for men of his calibre to prove that Nigeria deserves more than thuggery. In fact, it isn’t so much the Vice-President’s gentlemanly ways which make him stand out (there are a few “well born” politicians who embrace the ways of touts), but his intellect.

If given the chance, the Vice-President has the creativity and depth of thought to do something new in Nigeria. If not him then who? All sorts of dubious characters and has-beens are dusting up their empty CVs in preparation for 2019. President Buhari must again, let his conscience guide him and set the stage for truth and justice to prevail.


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