Nigeria @ 50: Why We Are Getting It Wrong!

In 1960 when Nigeria obtained her flag independence from Great Britain, I was not yet living among the billions of homo sapiens inhabiting this sinful planet we know better. Back then I was still a human imagination in the fertile (reproductive) minds of my parents. I came in only a decade and half after the historic final negotiated disengagement of the British in our national affairs. Today one does not know whether the British ‘abandoned’ us at a wrong time or we abandoned ourselves at the right time!

I consider myself nonetheless as the child of independence. In the late 70’s and early 80’s when one was growing up one was confident of the future as things were going well: prices of goods and services were relatively lower, the Naira was not a victim of fluctuation, standards were high academically, security of lives and property was a bit sound, men were men in terms of dignity and self-respect, politics was played with responsibility, decorum and patriotism, everyone was free and happy. But all these changed abruptly in 1986 when professional coup plotters, the military barbarians struck destroying everything that was held sacrosanct. The catastrophic effects of that intervention is still being felt today across the landscape.

Few hours from now Nigeria will be fifty years old; we will be marking fifty years of attaining political independence from Britain after centuries of colonialism that succeeded in amalgamating the north and south of Nigeria as a country in 1914. Many people still view that amalgamation as a historical mistake worth correcting; they may not be unpatriotic but given the fact that a lot of cultural and social differences still exist between the southerners and northerners it is not out of place to make such suggestion for a structural re-engineering of the contraption called Nigeria.

Nigeria is deservedly called the giant of Africa but it is unfortunate to note that the giant is emaciating fast with liliputians even challenging her to a ‘fight’ with the giant not strong enough to mount any bold brave rebuke. How sad! How pitiful!! Fifty years of supposed adulthood but we are still grappling with ‘toddler’ problems, the elementary issues of development our small neighbours take for granted. We saw it coming but something snapped: leadership failure!

It is self-evident that we are getting it wrong since independence because of the bloated expensive unproductive government we run at the centre; with the system chronically corrupt from the lowest to the highest levels of governance the checks and balances mechanism only exist on paper. No one is checking or balancing any acts of political mischief of anyone anywhere. The institutions of state charged with bringing order and maintaining some control over excesses of those ‘elected’ to serve the people’s interest and see to their welfare are terribly weak and weakened by the corrupt system. So the rot gets worse and more generalised.

Yes, we are where we are, compatriots, because those we (the people) are constitutionally empowered to command have been allowed to command us irresponsibly emasculating our democratic rights and mindlessly sharing out our money among the privileged few. Time is now for us to unite and raise hell, for us to halt the degeneration of morals, the abnormal ‘big man’ ‘big woman’ syndrome in which the President or Governor is turned into a ‘god’ who can ‘make’ life and take one with manifest impunity! Enough is enough folks!

Beyond the billions of Naira voted for the event the occasion interrogates our sense of patriotism and calls for sober reflections. How have we fared fifty odd years on? Why are we stuck developmentally? Who is to blame or what is to be blamed for our apparent contentment with mediocrity and irresponsibility? What got us to this terrible mess that defies solution? Why are criminals honoured and merit dishonoured? Who is best suited to mount the saddle next year towards an organized national salvation? These are the crucial questions that should occupy our minds and not conspicuous consumption that bothers on debauchery and celebration of nothingness.

Questions galore. Are we not getting it all wrong because we have the despicable characters like Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Sani Abacha in our midst masquerading as ‘leaders’? Are we not getting it all wrong all along because there is a huge gap between those living up north and those living down south? Are we not getting it wrong by our collective failure to apply tolerance in the huge religious divide (between muslims and christians) which sometimes unnecessarily leads to bloodshed in the north?

Are we not ‘cursed’ as a people by the blood of innocent millions killed in the Biafran pogrom, the Zaki-Biam and Odi military invasions? Are the blood of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dele Giwa, Godwin Agbroko and Bashorun M.K.O Abiola not seeking for vengeance in their graves? Are the victims of the daily fatal accidents on our terrible road networks not crying to high heavens for divine punishment for our governmental neglect and failures?

Are the souls of those murdered for money ritual purposes (like the horrible story reported recently in ‘The Sun’ newspaper that a young man resident in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, had hacked his two young relatives to death in cold blood because he was promised one million Naira for each human head!) resting in peace whereever their remains were buried? Does such heinous crimes not contributing to our nightmare as a nation? How about the greed and money-is-everything syndrome that is afflicting our society? How far has that gone in exposing the man’s inhumanity to man in our relations to one another? The prevalent political and social injustice in the land is enough to attract bad luck to our quest for greatness as a nation.

Are we not getting it wrong when some wicked people in Aba and Onitsha are manufacturing fake drugs and fake beverages which they label as original and sell to the unsuspecting public? Many people had died as a result of this unconscionable act of economic sabotage and wilful killing of the innocent. What about the victims of ‘419’ the world over? Many had died agonizing how they bacame bankrupt after an encounter with the Nigerian internet ‘magicians’. Who knows how many among the dead that may have placed some curse on our nation for making them see ‘hell’ in their lifetime even before their demise.

Chelsea Clinton’s in-law Mr Ed Mezvinsky, a former U.S. Congressman, was once convicted and served some jail term for aiding and abetting the Nigerian wire fraud syndicate. The 72-year old Mezvinsky (whose son Marc married the Clinton’s only daughter recently) was reported to have lost millions of dollars to the scam as he got others involved following his bankruptcy. As the wedding was being announced the American irrepressible press focused on the old man and how he fell to the globally-notorious Nigerian internet swindling schemes. Doesn’t such negative publicity reduce our status in the world and keep away potential investors?

In a blessed land flowing with oil (but where most people live on less than $1 a day) demanding a fairer distribution of national resources cannot be said to be out of order. Oil must stop to be a curse in our country but begin to be a source of greatness of majority of Nigerians. For us to start getting it right in the next fifty years the equitable distribution of the petro-dollars must be a priority by those that lead us.

Though I will be marking the golden jubilee independence anniversary soberly in my station outside the shores of the abused fatherland, it is with patriotic pride that I will be celebrating with some good friends out here. Whilst it is beyond argument that we are celebrating more or less fifty wasted years of potential greatness nothing stops a patriotic Nigerian like yours sincerely from wishing millions of Nigerians, home and abroad, happy 50th independence celebrations.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!< br/>
Lastline: As I was writing this article I was still mourning the untimely death of my elder sister whose burial took place yesterday back home in Nigeria. She succumbed to diabetes and high BP in the hospital few weeks back. Sister Bridget you were a very good woman with a good heart! I can still remember the last time we spoke on the phone prior to your hospitalisation, you were full of life thanking me for what I sent across to you in the village. May the good Lord, the creator and master of the Universe, grant your gentle soul eternal repose. We grieve for you; yes we do: Emeka, Lovina and I. Adieu Bridget, Mama Ekene, Mama Osita! Fare thee well!!

Written by
SOC Okenwa
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