“The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain” – Nigerian National Anthem
For Nigeria, it has been a long road to nationhood. After centuries of Colonization, Nigeria became independent only 47 years ago. Seventy-Five percent of those 47 years were spent under repressive Military dictatorships while three were wasted in Civil War. The average Nigerian today is disoriented by incidents now of the past. If he is over 55 he probably harbours feelings of a failed First Republic and memories of Civil War. If he is less than 50 but over 40, he has probably never witnessed real democracy as he has lived all his life under Military Dictatorship. If less than 40, then he doesn’t even know what we are talking about.
What is however indisputable is that none is satisfied with the state of affairs in contemporary Nigeria. Our problem is not just with learning to live the democratic way of life. Democracy is not the answer to all our national travails though it is the magic wand to some. Our problems are more fundamental. After all Countries like China are not democracies yet they thrive. Nigeria has failed in many respects. As an emergent society we have been unable to harmonize indigenous socio-cultural notions with the dictates and challenges of modernity and technology. There is no real national orientation, nothing you can call the “Nigerian dream”. There are no national standards of morality precepts or decency. Certainly no national ideology. Our unity is only in name. There are over 200 nationalities and that many number of languages. But for loss at the battlefield one of the majority tribes would have seceded long ago. We obtained independence from the colonialists with plenty of hope and ideals only for those hopes to be dashed and those ideals jettisoned soon thereafter. We never really had a stable government and so have alternated between Democratic Government and Military Dictatorship, the latter being prevalent. In consequence of persistent misrule, there is poverty and hunger in the land; yet the country is a major oil producing nation. Government has made little progress in the pursuit of its stolen wealth yet unable to stop further looting. Bribery and corruption are excused in various guises. We condemned apartheid and fought racism yet tribal and ethnic discrimination is prevalent in our society. Religious freedom is used for wholly profane and eminently diabolical ends. More Nigerians were killed than in any other country during the Danish Cartoon crises. Not a wink or sleep is lost over the perennial destruction of life and property over religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. There is no respect for public property, no consequence for evil nor any reward for good.
The public sector is in a state of near anarchy. Those who resist the known beneficiaries of this state of things or expose and criticize are liable to loss of office livelihood or life. How does a society hope to meaningfully fight corruption when there is no protection for whistleblowers?
When disaster occurs (including electricity power outage) a few are poised to take advantage of the event politically or economically. Government has failed to guarantee security of life and property yet it complains of lack of foreign and domestic investments. There is massive unchecked abuse and misuse of corporate and personal confidential information. Military Rule, which has profited other nations was an unmitigated disaster to Nigeria yet the same actors of the failed experiment seek to return to governance as civilians. Our work ethics are low. Our citizens are trapped abroad as economic refuges even in less prosperous nations. As someone recently put it speaking about life in Nigeria – It is either something is pursuing you or you are pursuing something. Life is as near as it could be to the Hobbesian model – nasty, brutish and short.
These are great challenges indeed but all is not lost. They would task every nerve, every fibre, every cell of anybody aspiring to leadership. The excuse that “We did not know the magnitude of the Problems” would avail no leader. Leaders at every level will henceforth be evaluated by the followership. Dwelling on the past will only complicate issues, hence we just have to get over it and ignore the rapists, as in the past eight years, to move on.
Do not also appeal to citizens for patience for their patience ran out since June 12, 1993. Time does not by itself bring bread to table nor solve any serious problem. There is a place for jaw-jaw and another for action but action speaks louder than words. These issues cannot be confronted with kid gloves for it is the destiny of Millions of people involved. Fortunately, we are not short of precedents even Biblical ones.
Of course, not everyone will catch the vision immediately. There are bound to be distractions even sabotage. It is up to the leadership to stay focused on its task to salvage our nation. The resources are there, all that is needed is to harness them. With over 150 Million people and abundant availability of Minerals Resources failure cannot be an option. The train of liberation has taken off.
An administration unable to give hope to a hopeless people is not worth its name. The 2007 Election marks a threshold in our journey to nationhood. It is the first time we have successfully transited from a Civilian to another Civilian Administration. I hope our leaders in Government have not underrated the enormity of the challenges as reviewed above. We need a clean break from the travails of our recent past. I also hope they appreciate the nitty-gritty of Nigerians’ demand of their compatriots who are Public Officials. I hope they will be facilitators rather than cogs in the wheel of progress. Public Office is a sacred trust. In our peculiar under-developed state the destiny of much of the populace rests on that trust. To them failure is death. Therefore, our hopes are high and nothing, absolutely nothing but tangible achievements, can transform it to reality. These challenges provide opportunity for leadership and achievement. Nigerians do not demand magic but something drastic needs to happen to ameliorate the present hunger poverty and disease in the land. This indeed is the challenge to public Officials elected in the 2007 Elections.
But we must first see light at the end of the tunnel. Our challenges are not insurmountable or peculiar. The future is bright, fellow Nigerians but all hands must be on deck. Our Nehemiah task of building a new Nigeria must be accelerated in earnest. We need iron determination. The Sambalats and Tobiahs as well as the doubting Thomases who expect nothing good to come out of Nazareth must be put to shame. We must beware of iconoclasts in our midst. Nigeria must realize its destiny. We have the skills, abilities and (in late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s terms) “mental magnitude”. The eyes of the world are focused on Nigeria. A fresh air of optimism must be injected into the air. We must have faith that as a people, we can make it and our faith must be backed by visible action. Failure is not an option. In the immortal words of General Muhammadu Buhari: NIGERIA IS THE ONLY COUNTRY WE HAVE AND WE MUST JOIN HANDS AND SALVAGE IT TOGETHER. “ARISE O COMPATRIOTS!”