“Man salute Naija wakaman weh still dey suffer; hungry go bed every night; sleep and wake up inside darkness; no water for drink; run comot for Naija become slave and ashewo for obodo oyibo; live and die for poverty, all becos we selfish, greedy, and wicked leader dem no wan use crude oil money God give us helep dem; but dey tiff am put for obio mbakara for dem family and friend. Man salute all Naija wakaman weh bold stand up for take Naija comot from we leader dem weh dey fight only for dem belle” Dr Ehi Agboaye – “Wakaman Politiks”, 2007
Nigeria, we all seems to agree and say these days is a “blessed” country. It is blessed with a large population, a wealthy array of natural resources, a very highly educated elite and people (very contradictory, considering our very low literacy level), a very moderate climatic and vegetation environment, our very resilience to all kinds of burdens that come our way, protection from natural disasters that afflicts many other countries, and so on.
However, I contend that this is a delusion. Nigeria is no more blessed than any other country in the world. All other peoples of the world are blessed by the Creator, God, as all peoples of the world are supposed to be His own. So why should he bless some people more than the others? Herein lies the problem.
Judging from the situation we have found ourselves since independence, nay, from our existence even as separate tribal units, can we still justify this blessed notion? If we are blessed, should we still be groping about in the dark for good leaders? And if we agree that we are blessed specially by the Almighty, so also are we cursed with extreme poverty and other sufferings caused by bad leaders, as exemplified by their corruption, lack of ideas, prevarication, insensitivity and depravity.
In a lot of cases, some of the so called blessings have actually been converted into curses for the majority of our people. Oil is one of them. What enjoyment or benefit is it to Nigerians when we have so much oil and other resources, but which dividends have not filtered down to the common Nigerian on the street or in the village? What is the benefit of our oil wealth to the Ogonis, the Ijaws and the people of the Niger Delta for example? Or for that matter, the people of the high hills of Adamawa or the “talakawas” of Kano and Maiduguri, or to the poverty-stricken people of Iseyin and Abakaliki? Or the suffering people of Mushin and Ugwashi-Uku? And the under-siege citizens of Port Harcourt and Benin?
Yes, Nigeria may be a blessing or a blessed nation to the corrupt ruling elite who we tolerate everyday stepping over us and slapping us in the face with their ill-gotten wealth. But to me, Nigeria, in its present state, is not blessed. And I said before, it is indeed inapposite to use that term
Blessed Nigeria indeed! The sixth largest producer of oil in the world having such inept people in government, despite their so-called education, mismanaging our vast oil wealth and people. A blessed country where corruption in high places, and even in low places, is the order of the day; a blessed country that cannot feed its people, provide education and jobs for its youth, light the streets and provide energy that is required to drive a modern country; that cannot provide even the most basic of healthcare for its people; or provide effective, efficient, cheap and safe transportation modes for the movement of its people and services. And all these after almost fifty years of independence from colonial authority, who in fact, bequeathed a progressive legacy to us, and all we needed was move it forward and develop it.
Wealth, like power and other blessings, is a unique gift from God, and it is not specifically designed for a particular set of people in the world. When a newborn baby arrives in the world, irrespective of race, tribe, religion or gender, the baby represents a blessing from God, not only to the parents, but to the society of the world as a whole. It is then what this baby does with its life that matters to God and humanity. When a people are blessed by God, God expects us to use that blessing to benefit other people or the whole society, not a few people in the society. It is not a mundane gift to be trashed about.
In a country where we pretend to be very religious, blessings and forgiveness from God, and progress, will inevitably continue to elude us because of our hypocrisy, wrong-doings and wickedness towards one another. I am not a Mullah or a Pastor. The goodness of Man is within him and is expressed and judged by what he does to his fellowman. In Nigeria, it is the opposite. We have so many Churches and so many Mosques that any alien from another world that visits the Earth; will think, at first look, that Nigeria is the country where God has put His children (despite what the Israelis say). You should see what is going on in those churches and mosques. You should see what the mullahs and pastors are doing, and you should see what the congregation themselves are up to. No good at all. Lord, forgive me if I am wrong.
Please by all means, go to church (I do) or your mosques, believe in God, but God knows your intentions.
But let us look at ourselves first as a people, a country, a nation or a state and define ourselves properly, and then we can really start counting our blessings, if indeed, we are blessed more than others.
Here are some definitions:
• In political geography and international politics, a country is a political division of a geographical entity. Frequently, a sovereign territory, the term is most commonly associated with the notions of state or nation and government. (Nigeria seems to fall into this definition)
• A nation is a human cultural and social community. In as much as most members never meet each other, yet feel a common bond, it may be considered an imagined community. (From all our history of agitation for separatism or federalism, including a Civil War and unending agitation for creation of states, we are not a nation, but that is not to say we cannot co-exist peacefully and share common bond or other mutually progressive initiatives)
• A state is a political association with effective sovereignty over a geographic area. These may be nation states, sub-national states or multinational states. A state usually includes the set of institutions that claim the authority to make the rules that govern the exercise of coercive violence for the people of the society in that territory, though its status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it (Again, we may fall into this category, but I will leave this to social and political scientists to categorise)
• The nation state is a certain form of state that gets its legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term “nation state” implies that they geographically coincide, and this distinguishes the nation state from the other types of state, which historically preceded it. If successfully implemented, this implies that the citizens share a common language, culture, and values (Nigeria, by this definition, is certainly not a Nation State)
I just gave these insights for us to be able to judge ourselves and determine where we are going. Sharing common bonds is certainly akin to sharing a common blessing. Are we doing this at present? Does it matter whether we are a state, a nation, a people or a country? America, that icon of the world, hardly falls into many of these categories, yet it is acknowledged to be the greatest country in the world. This might be because they proactively and positively utilised all the blessings (natural resources, climate and environment, the diversity of its people, etc) to the benefit of their people. The progress and welfare of the American people come first, as far as their leaders are concerned. It is entrenched in their constitutions and laws, and is not negotiable. That is what made them great.
I am not trying to compare America to Nigeria – in fact, Nigeria is incomparable to any other country in the world – I am just giving a very simple example. America was not great within one day. Nigeria can be as great and as blessed as we want it, but we have to do it ourselves. We have to take our future in our hands and extricate ourselves from bad and corrupt leaders. That is the point. We can no longer blame; indeed, we have no excuse for blaming, colonial power or imperialists. The world is changing and Nigeria, and many other African countries (Zimbabwe is an example) is not trying to change or is failing up to keep up with the pace of change, and thereby is being left behind.
Why do we continue to take one step forward and then five backward? After we all decided, by God’s intervention, that we must try democracy after years of misrule, inordinate corruption and selfishness by the military cabal serving sectional interests, why are we still not moving in the right direction under the civilian-politicians (although diluted by the same military cabal who have wormed their way in again)? Is this a blessed country in action?
Lo! Just a few weeks ago, in their misplaced esprit-de-corps camaraderie, three of our living former military rulers all spoke in one voice to confer on another former dead leader, sainthood and immortality. And recently again, the controversy of the June 12 election came up in a book launched by the man who conducted that election in 1993, and what we learnt is that some of those military officers who cancelled that election are now state governors and senators in our current democratic dispensation. Can you bear any more of this arrogance and utter disregard for our feelings and our very lives? How much more can we be blessed?
Are we so blessed that the powerful forces of darkness that have been our guide for the past forty-eight years seem to be forever having the edge over us everytime?
My contention is not that we are not blessed, but that we are not so specially blessed in light of what we do or achieve with such blessings. Blessings should and must be converted into something that will benefit all of us, and when this purpose is not achieved, then it becomes a curse, or at best, a millstone round our collective necks. This is the situation we find ourselves today in Nigeria. Our leaders are a curse to us and definitely represent what we are not blessed with. That is our fault. They are dragging us down with them to certain catastrophe which many of us might not see now, but is there gaping at us. We only need to open our eyes and be honest with each other to see it and prevent it.
Whoever thought that in 1999 when we embarked on our democratic experiment for a third time, we will still be in this position? We had great hopes then. We thought all our blessings will be commuted to real gains, but what have we, another disappointment, with no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel, despite what they would make us believe?
Yes, they say Nigeria is progressing; our economy is strong; our foreign reserve is growing everyday; our banks are now more reputable and more efficient; our ratings have gone up in the Fitch rating; there is Vision 2020; there is the Seven Point Agenda; there is consultation to solve the Niger Delta problem. Don’t you see how we are fighting corruption these days because more and more corrupt government officials and dealings are being exposed and probed on an almost daily basis? They ask you.
But what have you? The Senate and the House of Representatives have not passed a single law since May 29 2007. They have been diverting and concentrating all their political energy, time, resources on probing and investigating, yet nothing has really happened; no results or white paper or blue paper have been published regarding these probes. Nobody has been convicted and jailed for corruption. Arraigned corrupt ex-Governors are still around free to do what they like doing best – mouthing off and trying to keep their cases from the courts. Some of them are even holding court amongst their people, except Peter Odili, who, after ruling Rivers State for eight years, is now suddenly afraid to go back, fearing for his life and safety. (The man is not serious, is he?)
There we are. A very “blessed” country where the people do not feel blessed or enjoy the so-called blessings.
Nigerians have a warped sense or interpretation of the Creator’s blessing, even on an individual context. The senator, representative, assembly member, councillor and civil servant who maimed and killed before he got to where he is will go to church or mosque and tell us he is blessed. The Governor, who embezzled funds meant to reverse the suffering of his people, will shout from the rooftops that he is blessed. The “419” fraudster will also give a thanksgiving in the House of God and declare that he is blessed, while his Pastor and Imam prays for him in God’s name. Warped minds. That tells you our mindset.
Nevertheless, blessings do not come to a people or country in the form of wealth, natural resources or what you have alone. Blessing comes in the form of good leaders, good and productive governance, effective and prudent management of resources and people, poverty alleviation, kindness of the leader to the led, honesty and sincerity of purpose, commitment and fear of God. If we are not ready to transmute all these blessings to benefit our people, and all mankind, I am afraid it still remains a curse.
Let the truth be said always. We will then deserve, appreciate and enjoy the blessings of God.