Our Woes: The Way Out

One of my write-ups on this forum titled ‘To Nigerians in the Diaspora’ elicited many responses from Nigerians in the Diaspora and at home. My synthesis of the reactions was that Nigerians are aware of the nature of the cesspool our country has sunk; what remains is evolving promising solution to the rot. My personal approach to developing effective antidote to an obstacle or a challenge is to first identify the character of the problem. So, what is the nature of the problem plaguing our dear country, Nigeria?

Chinua Achebe described it as the problem of leadership. Alhaji Shehu Shagari saw it as the palaver of followership; others assessed it as an amalgam of both interests. What is of utmost curiosity is that the three alternatives are making reference to human beings; to be specific, humanity. It implies that Nigerian follwership comprise human beings, its leadership or rulership is made up of human beings too. But this level of individuals cannot subsist in their deprecating potentials without an active connivance of other nationals, hence my tethering the prime culprit to humanity. Whichever manner of analysis we want to adopt, Nigerians are still the specific culprits.

In my rumination over the nature of Nigeria’s problems and possible solutions, I wrote a novella titled Dark Moon which is now part of a collection of short stories. One of the characters examined the difficulty of separating the followership from the leadership given the Nigerian experience in this manner:

They had argued their points, he had held firmly to his views. Now, several years after the altercation, the ugly drama described to him was being staged before his very eyes with him at the receiving end. Does it mean our problems stem from bad leadership? he thought.

“Are you asking that question again?” he was jolted by the voice. Koye tried to locate it but could not; he realized it was all over the place.

“Bad leadership,” the voice was saying, “I am sure you know who a leader is.” Then he pinpointed it, the voice was coming from the speakers of the car’s stereo system. He got into the Datsun and drove along Kangiwa Street heading towards the hotel. He was patiently listening to the voice… “Remember I told you that the type of corruption we have in this place was designed to suit the situation. Now, the leadership is chosen from among a people, as it is not possible to pick a leadership from without the people. Many of the so called personalities that you regard as leaders are, in most cases, impoverished individuals who sweet-tongued, cajoled or bulldozed their ways into the corridors of power. Some of them sold their belongings in the process of getting elected. What do you expect of such people when they assume power? Of course they would have to recoup the money spent plus the profit.”

“Does it mean politics, I mean serving in government, is buying and selling and you have to make profit?”

“Of course. Why do you think the level of underdevelopment is this pronounced? I am sure you must have seen enough in the continent to make you see the evidence with your eyes.”

While a lot is still to be done to actually bring the story to its fictive domain, the focus of the characters’ dialogue is that Nigerians are at the center of the creation and it is from their view points that solutions to their problems must evolve. Therefore, if we agree that the Nigerian leadership and followership are the perpetrators of the circumstances that have continued to drag our country backward; we need to further examine the degree of culpability of these actors towards recommending commensurable antidotes. It must be affirmed that almost all the levels of Nigeria’s existence is fraught with one form of negativity or the other.

In ‘To Nigerians in the Diaspora’ I identified four diseased areas of our country’s existence: education, security, power, and water generation and supply. The attempt does not imply that other areas of our national life such as transportation, communication, health, sports, environment, value rating and other aspects of living are free from the debilitating features of the examined ones.

The most glaring of the Nigerian malady is corruption. The type of corruption where Nigerians in positions of responsibility divert the money meant for the development of the country into private pockets; it is only logical to conclude that where this type of sleaze exists, other forms of corruption will naturally follow. Evidences of the existence of this nature of corruption are common sights in our dear Nigeria. An officer in the civil service who earns less than forty thousand naira a month will enroll his children in private universities where he pays more than a quarter of a million naira on each child per academic session. He lives in exotic mansion and owns several landed properties all over the place. The most nauseating aspect of the gory drama is that, these officers flaunt the stolen wealth with reckless abandon, a development which informs the gestation of a second form of corrupt influence.

Every society is a continuum; the process of procreation ensures that there are human beings who take over the mantle from other members of the society through an agreed convention or natural injunction. Thus, when a lawyer or a teacher dies or retires there is another lawyer or teacher to fill his position. In my dear Nigeria, the potential future leaders are the thousands of students in tertiary schools scattered allover the rich landscape. My way of reminding myself of the nature of the future of our country is to engage these young ones in discussions at irregular interval on how they hope to serve Nigeria when they become senators, governors, councilors, local government chairmen, presidents, first ladies, etc. Their enthusiastic reactions have always frightened me: these Nigerians are aware of the degree of stealing going on in government; they are not oblivious of the various sickening financial manipulations going on in the private sector. The summary is that, they are bidding their time, waiting to collect their certificates and hop on the wagon of corruption.

There is this 300 level student who believes his first car is going to be a Jeep! The first day he declared his desire I waved him aside as unreasonable but the boy remained consistent in his resolve to ride the Jeep whose second hand value ranges ‘modestly’ between 1 and 2 million naira. When the boy’s insistence was becoming infectious, I invited him to my office and asked how he hoped to achieve such a feat. The boy regaled me with precise statistics on the weight of corrupt practices in Nigeria. The current revelations in the House of Representatives’ probe of the Power sector topped his list. But, when I questioned the reasonability of his process of possessing the car including the injury it will cause the economy, laying unpalatable examples for the younger ones and other shades of allied negative influence, my student asked what has happened to the billions stolen by the last board of Nigerian Port Authority, the several billions of naira meant for the national identity card that were stolen, the Police Funds. He concluded by citing Funke Egbemode’s argument in her article on the back page of Sunday Sun newspaper of Sunday, April 6, 2008, titled ‘Nigeria’s most wanted criminals.’ The seminal columnist had invoked the principles of Relative Frequency to argue that if one federal ministry shared 300 million naira unspent money how much would all the federal ministries corruptly save and share in the next ten years and how much had been criminally saved and illegally shared in the last ten years? The boy was actually bitter. I had to calm down the agitated student by telling him that the EFCC would catch up with all the thieves. ‘Maybe.’ He said, shrugged and left my office.

It was my turn to shiver a bit as soon as he slammed the door. If this student is an instance of the type of future political leaders Nigeria is grooming, the country is doomed. Does it imply that all is lost for us? Are we redeemable now or in the future?

Written by
Segun Akinyode
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1 comment
  • I am a Nigerian staying in South Africa. I love my country so much and I always think of returning home but whenever I read about my country, I always weep for the loss of innocence and the heart of darkness that can best describe the situation there.