By Tabia Princewill
EVERY generation of Nigerians has heard this question asked in one form or the other and felt the intense frustration or anger it expresses. Why a country so blessed with talented individuals who find success abroad rather than within our shores, should continue to struggle to provide basic amenities for its people, is nothing short of a tragedy: One only has to visit any diaspora community to see what Nigerians are capable of in a well-functioning environment.
Unfortunately, a system that works for all, one which allows the best to thrive rather than merely survive off of handouts from parasitic forces, is not in the interest of those who have held sway for the past 30 odd years. In an open contest, one would find that many of those we celebrate, not because of any brilliance but simply because of their money or positions, would find it difficult to compete or even to stay afloat.
Fortunately for those at the helm of affairs, Nigerians are a docile, easily contented people who have been brow-beaten by decades of missed opportunities, lies and political manipulation.
Now, we revel in our own suffering, acting as if it were a badge of honour to be deprived of almost everything that makes modern life worth living. How they must laugh at Nigerians who allow themselves to be divided on ethno-religious lines when the truth is that politicians freely associate with each other, inter-marry, do business, etc. with no regard for creed or tribe.
Perhaps the real question should be “what is wrong with Nigerians” and not “what is wrong with Nigerian politicians.”
One thing is for sure: our environment, with its uncertainties and injustices, lax rules, inability to punish or to hold anyone accountable for their actions, has produced, over time, generations of individuals with psychopathic tendencies: both the leaders and the citizens themselves exhibit anti-social behavioural tendencies which curiously have become proven to guaranty success in Nigeria. If one is devoid of empathy, if one is ruthless to the point of madness, violent and altogether unstable, one is ironically more likely to achieve success in a country where rationality, truth and facts no longer hold the keys to the promise of a better life.
We have been trained to evolve negative traits to survive in a society that clearly rewards and supports all manner of corruption. We have also been trained to look down on those who dare tell us there might just be another way of doing things. We call them dreamers, the worst sort of fools; those who don’t know how to enact scams or to harm innocent people. This group is yet to find its champion, one who will fight for them not in words but in deeds by bringing to book those whose actions have brought us so low.
All over the world, former presidents who have been found guilty of corruption are being prosecuted then sentenced to jail, forced to refund whatever they illegally acquired.
Only in Nigeria are sacred cows allowed to enjoy their loot with the support of the masses who eagerly defend their leaders’ right to oppress them.
We have completely imbibed the logic that we are inferior, unworthy perhaps of breathing the same air, of being treated fairly and decently as befits any human being, which is why strange (not to say expired) elements keep re-branding and recycling themselves for our eager consumption: the Nigeria Intervention Movement, the Third Force, in any other clime would have been laughed out of the public space because it is composed of individuals who have either already been in office or people who have always associated with those in power and profited from doing so.
Therefore, they have had ample opportunities to do what is right if they so wished and can’t pretend to be well intentioned or to try to promote new, fresh, leadership as they have always aided and abetted those who have brought us to this sorry state.
We have to ask ourselves when we’ll finally stop asking “what’s wrong with Nigerian politicians” and realise that until we all decide to play a part in governance, at whatever level, in whatever capacity we feel comfortable with, real change will always elude us.
THE former South African president, appeared in court facing corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion eerily familiar arms deal. The political playbook in Africa, it seems, is basically a long list of ways to misuse public funds and to personalise government. Will we live to see a day when a former Nigerian president or head of state will be charged to court for corruption?
The rest of the world continues to show us what the rule of law and accountability really mean. From South Korea to Brazil, prosecution of former leaders has shown that in democracies there are no sacred cows.
Only in Nigeria do we continue to shield certain people from trial citing all sorts of strange reasons. Zuma’s years in power were riddled with scandal. In response, he faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
Zuma clearly didn’t have access to our SANs who specialise in legal loopholes and advising corrupt individuals on how to get away with murder. They would have advised him to feign illness, to go abroad for “urgent medical treatment” or told him to claim his human rights were being infringed by the investigation, or to use the classic “the money in the accounts is from my late mum” excuse.
THE Minister of Education released a statement bemoaning the fact that only 28 candidates from Zamfara State registered for this year’s common entrance exam. Curiously, no alarm bells seem to be sounding across the North.
Zamfara State has become famous for all the wrong reasons: from Senator Yerima’s infamous declarations on child brides, to violent killings; both issues are related to poor education. The North (like the rest of Nigeria to a certain extent) seems unwilling to fully acknowledge or face up to the root causes of insurgency and terrorism.
Nigeria has turned brushing its social issues under the carpet into an art form, pretending development is possible without carrying everyone along. The Minister of Education “pleaded” with state governments, principals and NGOs to “persuade” children from Zamfara, Kebbi and Taraba (Taraba is another state which is affected by insecurity and the farmers/herdsmen conflict) states to register for the exam almost as if he as the Minister of Education didn’t have a greater role to play.
He stated the registration portal would remain open till the April 13, therefore, giving people more time to register but without laying out a road-map to comprehensively tackle the problem. Taraba had only 95 candidates, Kebbi 50.
More worryingly, the minister stated that in 2018 only 71,294 candidates registered to sit the exam as opposed to 80,421 who sat the exam in 2017. What accounts for the discrepancy? Has this been the trend over the years and what are the implications for the rest of the country? Education is central to building the critical mass Nigeria needs; yet funding for education in Nigeria is always difficult to come by.
It isn’t enough for the minister to urge stakeholders to act, he must present his own plan of action then mobilise all those concerned to support it and implement reforms. There have been no publicized debates on far-reaching education reform and public policy at the federal level in decades, which is why Nigeria lags behind smaller African countries in terms of the quality of education available for its citizens.
In Nigeria, we’ve always focused more on physical infrastructure forgetting that without educating or empowering the people who’ll use said infrastructure, not only will it be misused and fall into rapid disrepair, one ends up, like in a number of state capitals in the north for example, with airports citizens don’t use (or can’t afford) and roads leading to nowhere.