I may be stating the obvious; but really, there are no countries quite like Nigeria. We are without equals when it comes to our brilliance and benevolence, our silliness, our iniquitous conduct, and our grandiloquent and bombastic way of life. We have it all. We rein supreme. We sometimes stand alone at the top of the hill; and at other times we sit alone at the bottom of a stagnant trough. In so many ways Nigeria is an enigma: a country that defies all definitions, meaning and purpose. Nigeria is this and that; and Nigerians are that and this. Essentially, we have a country without national objectives and purpose; and a people without collective aspiration and destiny- lost in a vast expanse of nothingness without a purposeful leadership.
It is not as though we’ve never had a glorious past. We did. History can attest to the fact that we once had a celebrated past; a past peopled by men and women brimming with intellectual gravitas, honor and service to country and to humanity. Dr. Chidi Achebe’s recent article (Countering Nigeria’s Anti Intellectualism) — in which he listed men and women of substance, courage and essence — bears me out on this claim. Twenty-five years from now Nigerians may not remember any of the current crops of leaders — except perhaps, in derogatory terms. I may be wrong on this since Nigerians seems to suffer from collective amnesia and abachariasis.
But really, this article is not about my exasperation, my anger or my disappointment at the state of our nation. Forgive my digression. The real purpose of this missive is to respond to two articles — at the Gamji site — that pricked my attention: The Daily Trust and Its Traducers, by Mr. Mohammed Haruna; and Mr. President, Beware, the Air is Thick, by Dr. Olu Odeniyi. Now, allow me to say, from the onset, that I am not responding to these articles in their entirety — just to one or two points that caught my fancy. I begin with Mohammed Haruna.
Mr. Mohammed Haruna, writing about the Nigerian media’s response to the Daily Trust editorial, “Nigeria’s Crisis of Democracy,” took umbrage at the “calculatingly mischievous” way certain sections of Nigerians always “reduce the issue at hand into an ethnic or sectional one,” and also that some people are not averse to “putting an ethnic spin on any issue.” Doesn’t Mr. Haruna know that tribalism (or ethnicity) is the cankerous and cancerous growth that ails Nigeria?
I would submit that ethnicity is at the heart of all that is wrong with Nigeria; and that all the myriad problems we have are secondary to tribalism or to our sickening sense of tribal affiliation… A typical Nigerian would rather hire or give contracts to his ethnic brethren than to the most qualified Nigerian from across the River Niger; a typical Nigerian would betray fellow Nigerian because of ethnic differences; and a typical Yoruba would not come to the aid of an Ibibio if there are no impending gratifications; likewise, a typical Igbo father would never allow his daughter to marry a Fulani man. In the same vein, a typical Ekiti man would be very suspicious of a Tiv when conducting business. Ever wonder why an Ijaw man could live in Bauchi State for quarter of a century or more, and still would find it difficult, if not impossible, to find employment with the state civil service?
There are Nigerians, here in the United Sates, when meeting you for first time – and your names doesn’t give you away — that would ask “what part of Nigeria are you from?” and some would go as far as asking for ones exact village or hamlet. A few have been disappointed that despite my “almost flawless” understanding of the Yoruba language and culture — that I am not “one of them.” Some Igbos, seeing me for the first time would assume I am “one of them.” They wear their disappointment upon realizing I am not. How then do you suppose such people would have treated me if we were all back in Nigeria?
Culture matters. Education matters. Institutions matters. Democracy matters. Political and economic well-being of individuals and of the nation matters. Spiritual and mental well-being of people matters. Unfortunately, for a sizeable Nigerians – what matters the most is ones ethnic or tribal belonging. How many Nigerians have lost their lives since 1999 because of ethnic conflict? The Ijaws are chopping off the head of the itshekiris; while the Itshekiris are ripping out the heart of the Ijaws. Need I chronicle what is happening in Ile- Ife and Modakeke, and between the Tivs and their neighbors?
In today’s Nigeria ethnicity is either at the core or at the ring of our problems; or at the least, ethnicity straddles it. At the core of corruption is ethnicity. At the core of military coup d’etat is ethnicity. At the core of who gets what resource is ethnicity. At the core of the national blame-game is ethnicity. At the core of irrational violence is ethnicity. At the core of plum federal appointments is ethnicity. At the core of university admission is ethnicity. We disregard people’s skills, education, training, and work experiences all in favor of tribal affiliation. Therefore, whether one is qualified for certain position or contract is irrelevant — you get it, get in, or get by if you belong to the “right” ethnic group. This sickening arrangement had made mediocrity, inefficiency and ineffectiveness the order of the day.
One section of the country is suspicious of the other. Every move and every pronouncement has ethnic undertone. I believe it is tribalism, and the attendant consequences of marginalizing the minority tribes like the Ijaws that will bring about Nigeria’s violent disintegration.
Most Nigerians, no matter their level of education or exposure to Western concepts, ideas and ideals, still have tribalism lodged in their soul. Their sense of self, their purpose in life, and their personal philosophy is clouded by their tribal and provincial affiliation. Every child born in Nigeria (in recent memory) is being injected with tribal-vaccinations. It is sickening; but that is the Nigerian reality. And it is a reality I am sure Mr. Mohammed Haruna is well aware of.
It never ceases to maze me when people bring God or religion into matters concerning the nation-state. God or Allah or Jehovah has no place in a nation’s life; therefore we should leave God and his apostles and messengers out of this matter.
What does God have to do with ones leadership or managerial ability? What does God have to do with ones sense of probity, accountability, responsiveness, ethical and moral believes? What does God have to do with ones visions and plan for ones country and his/her people? What does God have to do with public policy planning and implementation? What does God have to do with democracy and democratic institutions? Please leave God out of it. He belongs not in our parliament, courts, Aso Rock, or in our media houses. The only place God belong is our hearts and in the privacy of our homes. There, I believe Dr. Olu Odeniyi was/is “out of line” to have advised, among other things:
“Mr. President…remember that God loves you so much and He wants you to correct all the mistakes you made during your first rule that ended in 1979. That is why He intervened and brought you back to cleanse your mess and get Nigeria on the right footing. You should remember what happens to the apostles of the Lord who disobeyed his commandments.”
Oh heavens! May be death shouldn’t have beckoned on General Sani Abacha so he too could have a second chance to right all his wrongs. I see…I see…may be God has decreed that General Ibrahim Babangida would be given a second chance to right all his missteps. Before Babangida, there was Buhari. Pray God anoint Buhari before Babangida; and while we are at it what about the good-natured, honest and hard-working Dr. Yakubu Gowon? After all, he was not allowed to finish his God-decreed assignment. Or, was he?
If God wanted Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of our republic; why then did we spend billions and billions of Naira conducting primaries, campaigns and elections? May be all those who accused and are still accusing President Obasanjo of electoral fraud got it wrong. The PDP didn’t steal the election; just that God was working in unexplainable ways. Their prayer was the loudest; and their offerings more sumptuous!
Religion poisons governance. Religion does not go well with public service. Otherwise, why would Nigerians spend an average of two-hours in Churches on Sunday and then be the first in line on Monday killing, maiming, lying, cheating, taking and giving bribes, foster and encourage other illegal and corrupt practices? Why would Nigerians spend however many hours in Mosques on Fridays and then be the first in line on Saturdays disobeying all the teaching of Prophet Mohammed?
Nigerians are adept at using religion as instrument of oppression and deceit. We use religion to command the loyalty of the lowly. “In the name of God” and “in the name of Jesus” has become the magic wand by which most commit all manner of atrocities.
From my vantage point, I don’t see the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians, and the French, and the British speaking in tongue, dancing and singing and offering supplications to God to come from heaven to solve their problems. I don’t hear them asking God to solve the problems they have with their public infrastructures, health and educational system. As far as accountability goes, well, the courts and the electoral system take care of that. God heals lost and sick hearts; not the ways of a wayward nation. The problem of a nation is for the nationals to resolve. Therefore, President Olusegun Obasanjo and all other government agents should do their jobs according to the dictates of the law and the wishes of the people.
Outside of the privacy of our homes and our hearts – religion is a nasty business. It truly is. If Dr. Odeniyi and President Obasanjo want to consult with God, well, that’s all fine and dandy; but they should do it in the privacy of their homes and hearts. Religion has become another avenue through which public servants bamboozle and defraud the public. Soon, very soon religion would be used as a WMD…yes, as a weapon of mass destruction because:
“As Nigerians, we do things — shamelessly — in the name of God: we steal, cheat and lie in the name of God. We oppress, exploit and subjugate fellow citizens in the name of God. We “command” people’s loyalty in the name of God; and if we fail to get the respect and loyalty we think we deserve – we kill the offenders in the name of God. Not to be outdone by our politicians and public servants, some armed-robbers have been known to pray before going out to rob and kill. And if they are too busy to pray, they simply pay top-dollars for prayers…”
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde: Norman, Oklahoma: Sabidde@yahoo.com