Shooting ourselves in the foot

by Odilim Enwegbara

Each time job creation is discussed in Nigeria there is always confusion all over the place. And not believing we too should follow the footsteps of today’s leading industrial nations, adds to that confusion. This is because our independence was narrowly sought for based on political sense of the geography, without a sense of economic sovereignty. Little wonder policies supposedly to better the well-being of the people have always been seen as taboos. With this, the question of political citizenship overrides economic citizenship. But that is done forgetting that after all why colonialists and imperialists came after us was simply economic exploitation, only using political weapons to accomplish that.

Most African economies – of course, led by Nigeria – are in their respective sorry states today because of their rush to reclaim the political territories without appreciating that – practically – nothing tangible could change with the imperialists still fully controlling our economic sovereignty, being the lifeblood of every nation. That’s why we are in this present economic slavery with no way coming out of it. We failed to notice then – and even now – that we are going nowhere from here as long as someone else determines our economic destinies. The fact that no efforts are being made to understand that the system has made us powerless – and will continue to make us powerless – is what makes us all jokers.

Why we seem not to recognize our reality is this oil wealth delusion that goes on giving us the false hope – and just enough false belief – that we too are matching forward and would one day also get there like those nations already there. Consumed by this imaginary belief, no one seems to care to stop and wonder what is truly going on here; what would happen tomorrow when the oil wells either run dry or oil itself becomes outdated source of energy; and of course, what would happen to our fantasy world, how it would crash overnight. Is it, then, that we would eventually be forced to come to our senses? Of course, enjoyment-loving people like us can only keep enjoying as long as so-called petrodollar flows to keep us enjoying and deceiving ourselves.

The real danger is that we have over the years developed such a strong sense of entitlement to good life and larger-than-life comforts without productive work. If you want to test how opulence-bugged we are, try to look at the kinds of phone handsets most Nigerians carry, including those who can hardly feed themselves. Or, look at the kinds of cars on Nigerian roads and compare them with the kinds of rotten houses and filthy neighborhoods these expensive toys are parked.

It is this that makes us create year-in-year-out more than five million jobs for countries providing us with the imported things we consume that would have easily been made in Nigeria. No one is alarmed that these are millions of jobs we would have annually created for our teeming unemployed compatriots because no one seems to see that as a problem. Or, should mere foreign gatekeepers we call our leaders ever see anything wrong with us spending the very capital supposedly for investment in the country’s future?

I don’t know whether I should have myself to blame for believing what I believe or because I am privileged to see what most Nigerians have cared less to see! In my sheer sadness, I am confused whether to give up on Nigeria and join the rest in this blissfulness. I am now beginning to appreciate that sometimes not knowing the truth (how one is being exploited by others) can set one free so much so that one joins others in the superficial lifestyles we are all known to be living. Ignorance – notwithstanding being a serious disease – in our own case really seems peaceful indeed.

That is more so because the truth can sometimes be so uncomfortable and so painful that it is better to prefer not to want to know the truth. So, it is much better for a people to continue with their blissful lifestyle driven by sheer ignorance than to begin to know the truth, especially when the truth is difficult for them to handle. Nigerians have shown that rather than ignorance being a disease, it is knowledge that is a disease.

Try your luck as a scholar in a country of moneymakers – I have tried it – and you are assured of having to have your fingers fully burnt. Try to preach honesty in today’s Nigeria and you will soon find yourself the loser. Everybody – I mean everybody that matters – would keep away from you in fear of getting your virus called honesty. It is a kind of self imprisonment you better not try.

The least people would do is definitely wondering what is truly wrong with you. Some would ask you, ”Do you want to die hungry? Try not to act like Jesus or Prophet Mohammed here because should they be in present Nigeria, they too would not hesitate to indulge in what goes on in today’s Nigeria.” You should be surprised the quality of people telling you this and how seriously they are about it.

Little wonder it takes a man grilled in super moralist family values to be able to refuse to indulge in such a decadent lifestyle, especially when all the temptations are blowing him in the face. Little wonder Nigerians have well schooled themselves in getting along with these immoral and unpatriotic behaviors. And more so, since oil wealth has continued to make this more and more acceptable.

The question should be why shouldn’t corruption have grown such large wings in Nigeria, rather than why has it? The reason is obvious. With the dearth of moral guardian statesmen and with personalities being the law themselves, it is obvious. Or can’t it be obvious with nature having already baked the cake for us, leaving us only to fight over it, and devise best ways to grab a larger portion of the cake themselves? The nature baked cake has so soiled us that it simply shows how easily made money is also easily spent money; how Nigerians spend their ill-gotten wealth fully demonstrates that.

And if you want to see the kind of damage that has done to my people – how empty and uninformed my people have become – try to engage any of them in discussions that do not involve money and enjoyment, but rather that require the rigor of the brain. You don’t even need to go that far. All you need do is see how their flamboyant lifestyle has reduced them toy mania. And then, look at the books in their hands – if at all any – and all you see are pictorial catalog-like books displaying the latest imported toys to keep them blissfully happy as usual.

This irony has gone as far that while engaging in our sheer extravaganzas, we want foreigners to come and invest their hard earned savings in Nigeria so as to help keep us continue with our spend mania lifestyle. But the truth is that even a foolish investor should immediately come to his senses as soon as he sees the joke called Nigeria. No matter how foolish the investor, he wouldn’t like to invest in a country where the entire infrastructure is moldy – just to say the least.

Because Nigerians lack interest in reading and knowing the truth about the direction their country is headed, they have allowed themselves to be enjoying fake imagery of who they are. That is why while all this goes no our newspapers are continuously filled with congratulatory messages. And on what are they congratulating each other? Of course, it is on our vast economic and social graveyards.

It is mind-boggling – and that is to say the least – that no one seems alarmed, seeing what our newspapers have been made to be shunning daily these days. It is mind-boggling how no one seems to be bothered that those who are supposed to be our statesmen-role-models are the very ones leading these leadership profligacy advertisements. These unbelievable pictures – to any reasoned eyes – should not be accepted as the Nigerian way.

The only consolation is that for the first time for a long time, there has just emerged a new leader in the country, someone who for the first time belie

ves that these years of endless partying should now be brought to an end; and that, in fact, for the first time he wants Nigeria to now run on a vision. President Jonathan recently envisioning a new Nigeria henceforth run like a corporation is the much awaited turning point.

But this turning point is already being challenged by the same saboteurs, who would never allow Nigeria to move forward. It is this unrepentant parasitic lifestyle of our elitists that is the irony we call Nigeria. It is this sheer wreckage of Nigeria by my people that is the irony that refuses disappear. It is this sheer narrow-mindedness of my people that leaves me in years of agony, crying profoundly for how long will my prodigal people do this to the commonwealth before realizing that they are sowing a dangerous seed? All I wish in my life is to one day see my people stop shooting themselves in the foot; bring this superficiality we call the Nigerian way to an end. No doubt it will one day happen. But all I cry for is that let it happen in my lifetime.

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