By Jide Ajani
You can neither legislate nor decree happiness into existence. It does not work that way; and it can never work that way.
Perhaps, that is one of the lessons President Muhammadu Buhari is coming to terms with as President and Commander-in-Chief. Apart from his frontal attack on corruption, virtually every other campaign promise has either been repudiated or has, unfortunately, not matured; and patience is running thin. But the question persists, even after 57years of independence: How do you make Nigerians happy?
For a people whose desires are so basic and modest, it should not take so much to make Nigerians happy. But they are not.
Buffeted by a cocktail of afflictions ranging from failed infrastructure, to illiteracy, communal clashes and tribalism, corruption, nepotism, indiscipline and ritual killings, just to mention a few, Nigerians have become more impoverished than they were at independence, for, as you look deep into the eyes of the average Nigerian, what you see is bewilderment. In October 1986, more than 31 years ago, the late Dele Giwa, writing in Newswatch, had made the point that most Nigerians were bewildered at their state of being. That was then.
Today, apart from democracy, things are worse than they were in 1986 and have simply engaged a reverse gear.
To many Nigerians, their song of lamentation has generated a chorus that is so easy to chant but which does not sound friendly to the ears. Yet, Nigeria is seen as a thriving economy based on numbers. These numbers, however, do not reflect or find resonance in the day-to-day living of a greater percentage of Nigerians. For instance, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, released its 2017 second quarter figures regarding the Nigerian economy and claimed that the country was already exiting recession after about one year. However, talk to the average Nigerian on the street and he will tell you the figures coming out of his pocket do not justify any such claim.
Therefore, we need to ask: What went wrong? The answer to that would elicit a plethora of charges ranging from military incursion into politics, to the absence of good leadership, a populace lacking in patriotic ethos, and so on. In fact, the fashionable annual ritual almost always during every independence anniversary is to lament about how Nigeria, with all its potentials for greatness, missed the target. At independence in 1960, Nigeria fared better than all the countries of South-East Asia. The late American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had expected Nigeria to become a first world economy before or by 1975. We did not.
In what is a clear departure from the usual lamentation song, Vanguard’s Board of Editors decided to look for answers on how best this potentially great country can unlock the potentials. To do this, Nigerians, who have made their mark in the academia, politics, business, governance, as well as institutions with a commanding relevance in the polity, were sought. A request for either an interview or a simple write-up on how Nigeria can rise to more glory was presented to them. The list the editors came up with was by no means exhaustive but attempted to cover a wide spectrum. Some responded, others, because of the vicissitudes and challenges of day-to-day survival, could not meet the deadline.
Mind you, this request had gone out in August, before the malady of Nnamdi Kanu’s serial hate speeches against his fellow Igbo and other Nigerians, the reckless muscle-flexing of some mis-guided northern youths who were sent on a mission, the unhealthy invasion of the South-East geo-political zone by the military and its spat with members of IPoB and the return of President Buhari from his medical vacation abroad, among others. The request went out at the height of the push and shove debate about restructuring and the unthinking and some times thoughtless comments coming from otherwise respected leaders in the country.
Whereas former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan could have engaged a restructuring of the country using the report of the confab he organised, he did not; only to advance a solution to the growing discontent in the country by saying the National Council of State should meet, as if such a meeting would solve all the problems he could not solve in six years as President. John Odigie -Oyegun, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and one of the leaders of then National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, whose major plank of engagement was the restructuring of Nigeria, shocked many when he said he did not understand what restructuring meant. And, just last week, he added another embarrassment by saying if Igbo wanted to stop being marginalised, they should join his party – a cheap and reckless blackmail. This, after one Vincent Ogbulafor, a former counterpart of Oyegun for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had long said that his party would rule Nigeria for the next 60years – it could not even rule beyond 16years. When you have leaders whose thinking unashamedly reflects such statements, you need not look too far to have answers on why Nigeria is underdeveloped after 57years of independence.
But there is hope. There is hope because the type of ideas on the following pages – ideas by Nigerians who still believe that things can get better and that Nigeria can rise to more glory, if followed through – can change the paradigm. Usman Bugaje opens our eyes to the new face of wealth, Joy Emodi insists we must move away from luggage economy while billionaire Folorunso Alakija explains that collectively we can build a thriving economy. We did not leave out the religious bodies – the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA. The two main political parties, APC and PDP, made their voices heard. Professor Auwalu Yadudu and Chief E. K. Clark provide uncommon insights into how best Nigeria can rise to more glory.
There is hope. However, as one writer put it, hope is better served as breakfast, not expected for dinner.