BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, let me confess that I used to have so much hope in the possibility and viability of one indivisible Nigeria, but that pipe dream has waned drastically and seems about to burst dramatically. Please, forgive my bluntness. When a man is fast approaching 60 like me, you begin to turn from an optimist to a pessimist. What haven’t we tried, to make our country greater and better than it was in the colonial days and possibly into the 1970’s and to ensure our leaders are far more responsible and responsive, but it seems that our collective efforts have always been doomed to failure and thus we have come to the sorry pass where we can only lament that we have failed.
I have always believed that one should always be truthful to oneself. There is a Yoruba saying that two people can never be victims of lies simultaneously because “if the person being lied to does not know it, the person telling the lie knows the truth.” Such is the situation we have found ourselves in. Ironically, in our situation both the teller and the ‘tellee’, to borrow the language of lawyers, know the truth but still are determined to continue telling and living the lie!!!
Let me say it loud and clear that, I do not understand why some people appear to prefer war to peace. One thing I remind myself of on a daily basis is the inevitability of departing this sinful world someday. The Grim Reaper will come calling for each and every one of us at some appointed time and day. Nobody can cheat death. It is what happens after death that has been the source of serious debate. I do not think that it is a coincidence that whether you believe it or not, practically all religions agree on life after death. That we are heading somewhere, wherever and whenever the destined time comes. It is also the belief that once the race on earth is run, we must all answer to a higher being for our deed and misdeeds on earth. Murder, by any name called, is a cardinal sin, and it is only natural to expect that those who kill for the mere sake of it, or on the basis of some misguided notion of piety, do so at the peril of their eternal soul. So why then do the so-called believers of whatever religious persuasion behave like rabid infidels? Why do they kill in the name of ethnicity and religion? Why do they destroy the land and wreak havoc on the helpless and defenceless? Why do they savour the sight of blood as if it is vintage red wine? Why do they despise their fellow humans so much that they issue wicked threats in torrents? Why can’t we co-exist in peace and unity and live happily thereafter? Too many questions begging desperately for answers.
To say I love my dear beloved country, Nigeria, is an understatement, but I cannot say with equal degree of certainty that a country I love so passionately loves me in similar fashion. Right from my birth in 1960, a few months before our Independence, all I have known as far back as my childhood memories can capture is a state of anarchy. I remember “Operation Wet e” of the old Western Nigeria and then so soon after that for a growing child the pains and pangs of the Civil War. Since then it has been one form of internecine strife or the other based on ethnicity or religion and, sometimes, even both. No country on planet is perfect, but our headache is just too much.
I often sit down and ask, why do we have to know ourselves, and be known for this kind of things. Why can’t we have uninterrupted power supply like all normal nations and be applauded for it, especially since we have all the natural and human resources to make it happen? The answer has been rudely elusive. Nearby in Ghana, yes, I prefer to use examples of African countries, instead of Europe and America, before my very eyes, the old Gold Coast plunged into raven darkness, nicknamed ‘Dumsor’. And still, before my very eyes, ‘Dumsor’ was conquered and sentenced and banished to eternal damnation within a couple of years. But our situation of incessant power outages, crude darkness has remained unabashedly irredeemable, adamantly recalcitrant, ruthlessly repugnant and stupidly shameless. Out of curiosity, I have tried to carry out my investigations and I only came up with hundreds of reasons why we cannot have light. The more I searched for answers, the more I got confused. But eventually my suspicions got confirmed as all the myriad of reason led to just one inescapable conclusion. And my verdverdict led me in one direction, failure of leadership.
What do I mean? I must immediately stress that I have no intention of labelling, ridiculing or lampooning anyone. This is not about one person. It is something systemic and structural. So, let me now explain what I believe the problem has been and the way forward. A good leader must first believe in his country and see every citizen as a member of his own family. A leader must never see himself as being bigger and more important than others who must worship him as Lord and Saviour. A leader ought to be the servant of the people and do everything possible to serve meritoriously.
But what do we have in Nigeria? Leaders who live on Cloud 10 and behave like Overlords, Emperors and maximum Rulers. As broke as it is claimed that our country is, it has never reflected on our leaders and their families, particularly whilst they still occupy that vaunted position of leadership. They live larger than life, as if that’s all there is to life. So, in short, our first problem is wanton profligacy. If we can reduce the atrocious spending on useless enjoyment, Nigeria will have more money for capital developments. It is embarrassing for us to squander, waste and fritter away our resources and still have the temerity to borrow money for sinful pleasure and undisguised decadence.
Another feature of our gross indiscipline and lack of leadership is the nature and state of our civil service, which is too unwieldy, in any event. And the workers from top to bottom are not usually employed, appointed or promoted on merit but by special arrangements. It is more about who you know than what you know. So, I believe nothing will improve until we learn to do things appropriately and follow proper procedures. We cannot continue to wallow in the wake of mediocrity, ineptitude and incompetence on the altar of championing parochialism and bigotry. Federal character, which has been the tool used to supplant excellence with inferiority should never be an invitation to incompetent people to partake in a so-called national cake. It should serve as an opportunity to provide an outlet for the millions of talents that litter every part of Nigeria to be drafted into nation building.
As a way of reducing our problems, Nigerian leaders should have pity and mercy on the country by reducing their acquisitive tendencies, in all ramifications. Government needs to save money on all fronts for Nigeria to survive these perilous times. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did well in this area by paying off our debts, at least he managed to get some of it forgiven. However, what little benefit was derived from this venture, the carpetbaggers have since turned on its head and returned us to those inglorious days when our debts were a yoke on us with the result that our debts have hit the roofs again. One of the attractions of a Buhari presidency was the belief that he would be extremely frugal and prudent, managing our resources to such an extent that we would constantly have a budget surplus and live well within our means, but this expectation has since gone up in smoke!
What is noticeable today is a flamboyant Presidency that seems to have lost its moral authority in controlling the poverty ravaging the land, which has led to a horde of impoverished Nigerians furious not just with their leaders, but angry with their country. Whether they agree or not, Nigerians have never suffered this much, and I can see much more coming ahead unless a miracle happens and those running our affairs change their style of governance to something much more creative, imaginative and progressive. Government all over, must realise that they need to do good for the people. Democracy properly practised would be the beginning of the long road to salvation for our country. It would make for the accountability and selflessness which we are so sorely lacking now.
Some of us have been telling this government the truth, but it seems they prefer to listen to the liars who tell them all is well. All is not well, please, let’s stop deceiving ourselves and call a spade a spade. One day, when this government expires, like it must, no matter how long it stays in power, Nigerians would be shocked to hear what ssome of the people claiming to love Buhari today will say about and against him. We have seen and heard it all before. Leopards do not change their spots no matter what cloaks you may try to cover them with. It is then that President Buhari would understand and appreciate the chicanery of vipers in human skin.
I have stopped worrying about the usual groans about our abysmal state of underdevelopment and infrastructural decay. My hope and belief are that one day, we will get things right, even though it would need a minor miracle to accomplish that. So, we are used to all the failings in our socio-economic existence and we have proffered our individual solutions. However, I have a major worry. It is the virtual collapse of our democratic institutions, one after the other. They came for the Local Government officials and we pretended not to see or know, and we moved on. They attacked the National and State legislators, we shrugged our shoulders and simply moved further on. They lunged at the Judiciary, finding their soft underbelly, we hailed the stormtroopers and screamed “crucify them, they are thieves,” and we moved along. Now, they have come for the Governors and my friends in the legal profession have taught and lectured me that anything is possible in law, so Emeka Ihedioha has no remedy.
In short, there is no patriotism any more in the land. Injustice and unfairness reigns supreme. There is nothing like the rule of law. Nobody even pays lip service to that anymore. No-one is willing to raise a voice to challenge what is a debilitating attack on our very core and soul because it seems that we do not believe in the Nigerian project again. All manner of ill-will and ill-wind appears to be buffeting and ravaging our nation. It is just as if a cyclone of the worst of human traits has suddenly afflicted our country. Corruption has refused to be tamed. Integrity has long since gone out of the window. Justice is no longer a word to be found in our lexicon. Those who were beating the sectional drums and who we derided and treated with scorn are now in the ascendancy. Everybody now seems to want to follow their primordial instincts rather than joins hands to collectively forge a great and united Nigeria.
How can we continue to watch so helplessly and, now, so hopelessly? I must confess that I’m tired and have decided to take a sabbatical from the politics of Nigeria and Nigerian politicians. I’m not convinced majority of our people are ready for their own liberation and redemption. They have become used to suffering, abuse and degradation. I believe Nigerians have now conditioned their body and soul to receive the merciless battering that they are getting from soulless persons professing to run our various governments nationwide, and we are now in a state of sombre stupor and forlorn somnambulism. Don’t they say “a man who’s down fears no fall…”
Let’s start writing about other topics and places. Is there really anything better to do in this season of anomy? God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria…