Revisiting Remnants of a Great Country (2)

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

We  continue with our dissection of the insufferable missteps and scattergun approach to governance in the making and running of our country, Nigeria. Frankly, no one is guiltless in the morasses we have indwelt for quite some decades.

 Let us further probe the perfidy of our educational iniquities which is well manifested in the atrocious “qualification limit for admissions into higher institutions in Nigeria. Though several tertiary institutions claimed four or five credits in one sitting as the least for admission, who would bet his life that more than few have not strolled in with fewer than that number of credit limit? Institutions that are created in pursuit of excellence have allowed a system of deferred corruption to dilute their mainframe by accepting applicants who have fewer credits, and lower marks in JAMB and post-JAMB exams, to come through the cracks, when more excellent students have had to be turned back because they were not born in the correct states, or far away from a particular university. It’s shamelessly called “catchment areas”. So, some, by sheer force of their all-round brilliance, have forced their way in, while few others would simply adopt the “catchment” states as their homesteads, with their active and wily parents providing the financial and logistical endowments to make the miracle happen. And you expect that child, threatened by a stupid long-held policy, to project love and patriotism in the face of colossal indifference and red-tapeism?”

   “You can gauge the barometer of resentment and underlying tensions amongst our ‘leaders of tomorrow’ when social events organised by the government or corporate bodies bring them together. The situations, if not creatively and carefully moderated and chaperoned, would flare and fester in shockingly worrisome dimensions. We have seen lots of evidence on midday TV news flashes.

  It is lost on our rulers, the wise counsel in the aphorism that when you give fish to one person, you merely feed him only, or at most, his family; but when you teach him how to fish, you invariably feed the entire village or city. Simply put, quality education presents the receiver with the immense opportunity, if he is wise and progressive, to expand his knowledge, influence and capacity; to replicate and deploy his acquired resources for the benefit of his family, contemporaries, community, and ultimately, his nation.

  Conversely, the student challenged by the inadequacy of his surroundings, but shoed-in by a broken, unfair and ridiculous system, into receiving quality, or qualified, education that mostly flies above his head, will most likely come out to express his deepened shortcomings in only ways he can survive this cruel, demanding, unquota-ed world. He will likely cheat and game the systems to climb the ladder. He will supplant his superiors by the use of primordial tactics to get to the tip of the ladder, in supersonic speed. He will inevitably pillage the treasury, while at the height of the ladder, and slump at the probe panel when comeuppance calls. 

 Such a man, or woman, currently sits atop one critical government agency or department, in one corner of Nigeria, as you read…he may be a short-time ‘visitor’ in one of our seedy prisons, writing ‘memoirs’ of how and where to spend the billions he had stolen, and starched on one of those tiny island covens of roguery and laundered loot, from nations wiped clean by poorly educated and lavishly tolerated scallywags, who call themselves leaders.

Then, to our third attempt at understanding and accepting the ugly facts that our actions and reactions combine to produce the much maligned leadership that we have been saddled with over the years, and invariably underscore the conflicted and grossly underwhelming followership that we have allowed ourselves to fall into. 

  The signs are there in our business practices and commercial interactions. Of course, we shy away from headless generalisations, such that no human organisation or activity is absolutely admirable or deplorable. There are always exceptions to the norm. There is a Prof.  Is-haq Olarewaju Oloyede in the fairly long history of JAMB superstructure; there was a Prof. Dora Akunyili in the storied history of NAFDAC. And this is not to suggest that greatness is the cornerstone of only the Ivory Tower. We will quickly remind you that a professor of soil science from the University of Calabar is currently in jail for electoral fraud…and many others under prosecution, or serving sentences, for embezzlement, misappropriation, sexual harassment, sex-for-grades malfeasance, etc. Surely, no area of human life is safe from infamy.

  Yet, we all know that most small to medium scale businesses have been destroyed, beyond resuscitation, by thieving and disgruntled workforce. When we are not working hard to kill some other person’s business, by stealing it dry, we are at the borders smuggling contrabands and such fancy consumables that many of us will virtually break our necks to purchase, and impress, or oppress, our neighbours. Without scruples that by such gluttonous acquisition, we join economic saboteurs in depleting and diminishing the opportunities of homegrown businesses to be in operation, to make profits, to pay salaries and other emoluments – and thus keep the industrial and commercial souls of the nation thriving and sustaining. 

We have no qualms smuggling expired drugs into the country, so far we can make millions over the top; nor do we care when we set up shop in some dinghy area of our community; whip out some sort of “research and development” workshop or factory, merrily producing drugs, aphrodisiacs, condiments and solutions with stunning similarities, in packaging, to authentic alternatives. You may even see on our roads, during slow traffic, supernatural portions of biblical or oriental origins, with potency to cure all, make rich, or indestructible… peddled by people who look far from the efficacy of the stuff they want others to benefit.

  We do not seem to worry about the attendant deaths and devastation wrecking many homes across the nation as a result of selling adulterated, unhygienically produced, fake products. We just want the money as the bottom line! Daily, we enact schemes and subterfuges to outwit regulatory bodies at every turn: we bribe our way, using cash, influence or mysticism to hoodwink NAFDAC, for example, so that our products can flood the streets without going through statutory rigour of regulatory procedures. 

This kind of villainy is not restricted to the struggling cadres of Nigerians. Some big companies and large organisations also fleece their customers, deliberately or inadvertently, with little or no reprimand or sanction from governmental bodies, or consumer protection agencies. Banks charge you for all sorts of services that, elsewhere, are taken for granted as an inclusive framework of banking. 

Many Nigerians have scars, tender and tear-jerking, that were inflicted by con-artists, sometimes in seeming collusion with bank workers. Nigerian scammers have now snowballed into a massive enterprise with fangs in different layers of financial services, always upfront and inventive with ingenious schemes and highly camouflaged charades to bamboozle and burglarize the hard-earned resources of unsuspecting Nigerians.”

(To  continue) 

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