I beg the readers of this piece to excuse my rather sarcastic, pessimistic and raucously discordant tone, which is born out of my candid disapproval of the pomp and pageantry accompanying the celebration (shouldn’t it be marking?) of Nigeria’s Fifty-Eight (58) years of “Independence” from British Imperial rule. Permit me to say that unlike some, who would prefer acting like Ostriches in the face of imminent danger, I choose to tread the path of reality – that reality being that, 58 years after our supposed “freedom” from our colonial masters, our country has depreciated from being a potential global Hercules to a crouching midget; a dwarfish, undernourished, sickly weakling. That is the truth of the matter, whether anybody wants to accept it or not.
The yearly charades of October 1 (an annual ritual since the formal lowering of the Union Jack and Hoisting of the Green-White-Green resulted in our paper freedom in 1960) is nothing but a grand exercise in self-deceit, a laughable denial of the rude fact that the celebrant is a cancer ridden walking corpse in need of urgent surgery. That is why rather than play along with the crowd, by celebrating a mere utopia, I choose to mourn the sordid fate of my country.
Now, some well-off Nigerians might accuse me of sounding like an alarmist; that the conditions on ground are not as grave as I am painting them; that, at least, “Nigerians are not eating out of dustbins”, as Dr. Umaru Diko, a one-time Transportation Minister in the defunct Second Republic once ranted; that, at least, we are not in a state of declared war or physical violence; and that things are not so bad after all. These set of Nigerians in the frenzy of misguided patriotism, might hastily proffer some largely hasty, sentimental and consolatory arguments aimed at puncturing my submissions in this piece. But if such persons have good memories and can flash back to the ugly events that have traditionally defined the country’s politics, there would be no need for further arguments, as history will tell a better story than my submissions.
Again, I would advise these supposed “patriots” to go out to the streets to see for themselves the deprivations and injustices that fellow Nigerians are daily subjected to. They should go to the ghettos to see, firsthand, the squalor and lack that their fellow countrymen helplessly wallow in. They should visit the hospitals – consulting centers is more appropriate – to see firsthand how people die from preventable diseases. I would like them to drive their customized luxury Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) through our bumpy roads that are more of death traps, especially during the rainy seasons. They should go out and see the real Nigeria, and not sit in the comfort and superficial security of their cozy Igloos to cast stones, for in the evergreen words of Herman Melville (See Criminal Minds Season II, 2005): Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity, nothing exceeds the criticisms made of the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed.
Looking back 58 years, can we proudly beat our hands on our chests and proclaim that all is well with us? Can we boast of having made the best of our independence from British overlordship, close to sixty decades after the ceremony at Tafawa Balewa Square? Can we hold up our heads with pride in the committee of nations, when we are lagging behind the rest of the civilized world on the human development index? If our founding fathers, who fought and won our independence, were still alive today, would they have given the country’s leadership pass marks for having helped actualize their lofty dreams of a great country, or thumbs up to the citizenry for ensuring that their leaders did not deviate from their visions for the country?
That Nigeria is sick and dying is an incontrovertible fact. Symptoms of a slowly vegetating patient are evident to all objective minds, except those who prefer wallowing in denial. From lax leadership, a weak mono-mineral economic base, decreasing international clout, a conflict-ridden political theatre, grinding poverty, a regime of searing insecurity, compulsive greed, gross maladministration, cyclical corruption, worsening ethno-religious animosities, institutional dysfunctionality, official impunity, nepotism, cronyism, etc., Nigeria suffers the visceral pangs of self-inflicted sores. That has been our sad lot for the past fifty-eight years, nothing more.
Nigeria’s current state of shame is unacceptable, considering the potentials (seemingly inexhaustible agricultural and mineral wealth, an educated crop of professionals, a vibrant public service and an industrious population rearing to spearhead revolutions on all fronts) she possessed at independence and the goodwill she enjoyed from the international community. She was a gleaming land of opportunities; a country where people could dare to dream big dreams; a land where anything was seemingly possible. Wolfgang Stolper (See Obadiah Mailafia, Vanguard, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. 31), the eminent American economist, who in concert with Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson propounded the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem, while describing the post-independence potentials of Nigeria noted that: Nigeria had far better prospects than Singapore, Malaysia and India, with a civil service that was unrivalled in the New Commonwealth.
But sadly, Nigeria’s post-independence years have turned out to be empty years of wasted hopes and unforced errors by the crooked leadership the country has churned out over the years. From being a country from which much was expected, a country touted to become a major player in global affairs, Nigeria has shockingly degenerated into a vast wasteland, an also-ran in the global system. From being a beacon of hope for the rest of Africa, Nigeria has become a monumental disgrace to a once proud race; an embarrassment in every sense of the word. Her 58 years of independence have been nothing but empty years of chasing after the whirlwind. Everywhere you look, you see a plethora of missed opportunities, an avalanche of avoidable blunders, a demoralized and hopeless populace, and a prospective colossus that has grossly misplaced its priorities.
Nigeria, in her current state, can be likened to a curvaceous, extremely beautiful black Belle who does not appreciate her true worth. She’s like an empress who thinks and acts like a commoner. She has all it takes to rule her world, but lacks the sagacity and drive to exploit her endowments to the fullest. She is a Gulliver who allows Lilliputians to lecture her on the act of giant-hood, despite her physical prowess. She is like the human anatomy which remains inert and unproductive when not fully utilized. She is like a Canaan Land – full of milk and honey – without willing people ready to harvest her exceedingly abundant wealth; an uncultivated fertile land, or what Ola Rotimi in his masterpiece, Ovoranmwen, refers to as “a rich farm soil without the feel of roots”. That is Nigeria for you: a country with all the trappings of greatness; a potential world champion that has continued to underachieve; a heavyweight that spars with featherweights; a king Kong trapped in a wooden cage; a lethargic sleeping giant.
Compatriots, why should we celebrate a country where graft is venerated and thieving leaders and their courtiers deified? Why should we celebrate a country where vast oceans of poverty coalesces side-by-side with islands of stupendous wealth? Why should we celebrate a country that has remained a huge potential without direction for decades? Why should we celebrate a country where citizens are subjected to the most dehumanizing forms of oppression? Why should we celebrate a country where leadership positions are seen as the birthright of a “special species” of humans who are supposedly “born to rule”? Why should we celebrate a country where leaders are aspiring emperors, in the mold of Napoleon Bonaparte, for whom power is a mistress that must be courted at all costs? Why should we celebrate a country where violence in its physical, psychological (and even spiritual) ramifications has become a currency of social interaction and expression? Why should we celebrate a country where beggars beg from beggars? Why should we celebrate a country where inefficiency in all its ugly manifestations is treated with kid gloves? Why should we celebrate a country where legal, non-violent dissent is put down with brute force? Why should we celebrate a country where rulers masquerade as leaders and where the processes of political succession are manipulated to suit the whims and caprices of a Mafia that has held the country captive for decades? Why should we celebrate a country being misruled and ruined by a demon crazed political machine – an evil cult – that has been waging an endless war of attrition against Nigerians without just course? What is really worth celebrating about Nigeria?
Fellow citizens, rather than celebrate this joke of a nation, this fool at 58, we should be mourning her. For me, I will keep mourning Nigeria, until she wakes up from her drugged slumber and begin to actualize her potentials. Until the living condition of the common man improves, I will keep mourning Nigeria. Until justice, equity, fair play and the rule of law become the building marbles of a new Nigeria, I will keep mourning her. Until all the symptoms of a terminal ailment vanish from her skin, I will continue mourning my country. Only when things are put aright, when sanity returns, when this age of darkness is replaced by a shimmering era of light, will I stop mourning and start celebrating my dear country, Nigeria.
God save Nigeria!