Revisiting Remnants of a Great Country

COUNTER POINT By Femi Akintunde Johnson

We all hope, I would like to think, that 2023 shall be a year when our best imaginations and expectations would have a chance to become real. Most of us have nowhere else to go beyond our villages, and thus would want the country to receive a massive dose of positive and profound injection of good policies, tireless application and pragmatic fiscal discipline and investment. We are overdue.

  Looking back to 20 months ago when we published a series of articles (Great Country, Poor People), one has had reasons to reflect on the sundry issues highlighted in these articles, and sadly, not much has changed. We have not done much to improve our stature, nor have our political leaders – appointed or self-anointed – done much to advance the cause of peace, progress and prosperity – our over-hyped national mantra.

  Nonetheless, for whatever it is worth, let us deliberately cherry-pick salient points in those articles to remind us how far we have failed ourselves, and the generations afterwards…perhaps, we can still redeem the slide.

  “Frankly, we cannot remember the number of times we have read, written and complained about the quality of the Nigerian followership, in comparison to the usefulness or failure of the Nigerian leadership bloc. We have used the famous line of “a people get the leaders they deserve” to force down our shame and absurdities of a nation so blessed in human and natural resources; yet so prodigal and retrogressive in harnessing these resources for high growth and widespread prosperity.

  We recognise this seed of split personality in the mainframe of most Nigerians: we love peace, but explode at our neighbour’s slightest provocation; we drive into a mall in our big SUVs, and scurry away in a gale of jeers after slapping rude park attendants; we exclaim a sense of responsibility, but swiftly defend the malfeasance of public looters who happen to come from our villages… frankly, the distressing statistics are inexhaustible.

  While we admit that it will take much more than whining and lamenting about our poverty of civic aptitude, occasioned by sundry inter-locking incidents and failings of our nation-building actors, we must find the means and occasions to alert our people to the slippery paths we currently travel and the urgent need to change our ways, apply a more liberal, more civil, more neighbourly and more proprietary relationship with public utilities and infrastructures. In every area of our influence and authority, we must lead by examples, both in thoughts and deeds; in private and in public.

    However, we need to own up to our failings, and understand that current perplexities are not merely the handiwork of irresponsible and incompetent leadership; that many leaders are currently enabled, endorsed and actively lionised by vast sections of the followership. Even standoffish, siddon-look followership should not see themselves as immune or beyond reproach in this current dilemma.

    We will attempt to explore some of what we believe are the root causes of our present anomie; such as: the family and the home, our educational system and policies, politics and governance, public service and infrastructure, sociological perspectives, erosion of ethos and values, broken communication practices, and crimes as cornerstones of our informal economy.

  ‘First thing first’, the Family and the Home: This minutest unit of the society has been gradually and steadily liberalised and fragmented since the ascendancy of millennial parenthood. The discipline and firmness that corralled the children of the 50s, 60s and perhaps up to the mid-70s – just before the reckless flush of petrodollars inflamed our appetites and bloated our indulgent stomachs – vanished from our lifestyles. By the 1990s, single parenting was no longer an aberration; the 2000s embraced deviant behaviours – transgenders, same sex marriages and such ordinarily abhorrent lifestyles in years of yore became more acceptable… shattering the landscape for puritans and moralists.

   Those vigorous lifestyle paradigm shifts also had influence in thawing the admittedly strong influence of disciplinarian parenting. Children of the latter days were mostly not exposed to corporal punishment, even when they indulged in quasi-criminal activities. Teachers and school owners concerned about return on investment held back the rod of correction. Some of the children took cues, and began a reign of terror and bragging conquests. These later graduated into cultism, which in the past decade, has filtered into levels below tertiary education; into thuggery, gang-rape, and assorted acts that question the quality of recent parenting received by our children.

   The second element that has led us to this sorry state is the way we have handled our educational system and policies over the past six decades. In the 50s, before we became independent, we read about the great exploits of our sons and daughters who travelled abroad; or stayed at home, with the few institutions available: same results mostly – excellent grades, inspiring stories of out-witting grinding poverty to grab some certificates. Scholarships were fairly common, and they were judiciously and indiscriminately deployed – irrespective of time and zone. When you merited it, you got served. Progress was easy and predictable.

  Then the politicians went overboard, clutching at inanities, and creating dogfights over territories and captive constituencies. Of course, the military – restless and unoccupied – rolled in to “sanitize the corrupt system”. And coups and counter-coups later, the “corrupt system” became more intractable, laughably monstrous, to the point when the military had to high-tail out of power; relinquishing it to the sons and daughters of the older bands of civilian marauders.

  While we were being steam-rolled into all sorts of knee-jerked governance, our educational system suffered all sorts of devastations and dumping down, to accommodate and compensate political exigencies, and conceited agendas. Suddenly, idiotic appendages like quota system, catchment areas, deregulated cut-off marks in government-owned secondary schools and universities became a lingo. Thus began the unconscionable socio-cultural marginalisations, where brilliant students from the south of Nigeria could score excess of 150 in so-called common entrance examinations into federal “unity” colleges; and yet would have to queue behind abysmally low scores from their mates from the North of the same country. Don’t laugh when you hear that marks could be as ridiculously low as fifteen (15)! Yes, even much less in some blighted states.

  The vastly ridiculous excuse is that those educationally poor states would be completely left behind if they were subjected to the same stringent cut-off – somewhere between 130 and 150! And lumping students who score consistently above 150 with those struggling to get 10 would somehow make the laggards become smart, and mould them into effective and efficient manpower for the development of their beloved states? The answer is staring at us all over the northern states now.”

                                                                    (To Continue…)

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