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The Danger Of Destructive National Criticism In Nigerian Geopolitics

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By: Alphonsus U. Nwadike

It is indisputable that many right-thinking Nigerians would love to see their fatherland, Nigeria, develop and grow as a nation and, to that end, some of them usually write and speak firmly against erring and corrupt officials of Nigerian government. However, one of the perennial problems that have kept bedeviling the Nigerian state is a culture, a pattern of socio-political criticisms made out of personal envy, out of malice, hatred, ethnicity, clannishness, negative ulterior motives and opposition that lacks patriotism, insight, foresight, hindsight, balanced judgment, and leadership skills itself.

It is a reality that poor, corrupt political leadership is one of the most serious problems that have plagued Nigeria since independence. This identification of Nigerian situation has also been made in the past and present by such credible Nigerian leaders of thought as the late Ayodele Awojobi, late Tai Solarin, late Ken Saro Wiwa, late Gani Fawehinmi, late Dele Giwa, late Obi Wali, Athony Enahoro, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Claude Ake, Arthur Nwankwo, late Beko Ransome-Kuti, Usman Yakubu, Falana, Denni Feberesima, Tam David West, and Ismaila Ibrahim. Since 1960, Nigeria has had about thirteen heads of state, representing about thirteen regimes with virtually different teams of political leaders, but each of the regimes was/has been marred by corruption and official incompetence. However, the pertinent questions that ought to be on the lips of all lovers of Nigeria at this juncture are:  why are most Nigerian political leaders always corrupt? What causes poor, corrupt, political leadership in Nigeria? Why does Nigeria consistently lack good human beings as political leaders? These are the critical questions which have been ignored and have not been answered by Nigerians over all these years of our nationhood, especially by those of them who describe themselves as Nigerian socio-political crusaders. In answering these questions myself, I will first take recourse to Confucius, a legendary Chinese philosopher whose wise teachings more monumentally influenced modern world thought than any other sage of his time. In 479 B.C and in his approach to social harmony, prosperity, and defined moral obligations between individuals and social systems, Confucius said:

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order , we must cultivate our personal life, and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

According to Confucius, to effect a positive change in a nation, the citizens of that country must start at its bottom level or base, which is the individual persons living in families and governed by natural rules of life. He said that the citizens must organize and tame their individual lives well and set their hearts in order. This means that once the bottom of a country (the persons in individual families) is well organized and well tamed in moral values, the top of that country (the
government) will automatically be well organized and well tamed, and the entire nation will be in order. This further means that if the families in a nation are made up of thieves, corrupt and incompetent members, the society as a whole will produce thieves, corrupt and incompetent citizens; thieving, corrupt and incompetent political leadership, and the country will not be in order. Again, in every society, it is from the people, the followership that the political leaders eventually emerge; a thief in his/her private life must remain a thief in his/her public life and vice versa. This teaching shows further that the character of the people as groomed in the individual families of a country determines the character of the people in the political leadership of that nation at each given time. In simple analysis, it means that if in country D, Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mrs. C are its only citizens, and the three of them are honest human beings in their individual families, the political leadership of the country D must be honest. If the reverse is the case, country D must have rogues as its political leaders. By necessary implication, Confucius has taught humanity that a person who is unable to put his/her individual life, individual personality, individual family and children in order CANNOT put a nation in order and has no moral authority to call himself/herself a leader. I don’t know of any Nigerian whose intellectual and philosophical teachings and thoughts are as legendary and as world-widely respected and accepted as those of Confucius.

The truth is that the corrupt, political leaders in Nigeria today were among the followers, the people yesterday and after serving out their terms, they will return to the fold of the followers. Tomorrow, another group of political leaders will emerge from among the people and take over the reins of government, but Nigerians will reap the same result, the same official incompetence, the same public corruption unless, we, the followers, the people, the base of the nation now and today are ready to mend our ways. Unless we are ready to change our individual character in truth and spirit for the better, we will not be able to correct the ills in the government tomorrow. Since 1960, Nigerians have drawn about thirteen cups of water (the political leadership) from their water container (the people) and all the thirteen cups have corrupt impurities in them, it means the water container (the people) itself is dirty and filthy, and unless the container itself is washed clean, no cup of water drawn from it will be free of impurities. My position is that If Nigerians, especially those of them who portray themselves as socio-political crusaders, are sincere and serious to change Nigeria for better political leadership, they should start to tackle corruption and incompetence in Nigeria mainly at the roots and encourage Nigerian leadership at all levels to turn over a new leaf.

They must first of all purge themselves personally of corruption, social injustice, ethnicity, clannishness, hatred, malice, envy, and ignorance which, over the years and more often than not, tend to becloud and make nonsense of genuine socio-political opposition in Nigeria. Nigerians generally (the parents, family/village/ town/church/school/university/market union/government leaders) must start now to inculcate in themselves and their children (the future political leaders of Nigeria) in their homes, families, villages, towns, schools, and churches/mosques the right moral values of life, the values of official trust, respect for the laws of the land, the values of honesty and justice. In my view, mere article-writing, mere noise-making, fighting or arguing, mere blaming and counter-blaming, mere book-writing or holding of official national debates and discourse on the best ways to instill leadership wisdom in Nigerian government, which is not supported by genuine soul-searching and heart-felt desire for a moral change, cannot do the trick; it cannot change Nigeria because the people from whom the government is drawn and formed are already rotten in character and personality. We must aim to change the people of Nigeria in order to change the government. The internalization and dissemination of this eternal truth are the solemn duty which successive Nigerian socio-political critics have woefully failed to acknowledge, let alone accomplish.

In fact, inability to understand Nigerian situation, the root cause of political corruption and incompetence in Nigeria and how to tackle them is one of the pitiable failures of many Nigerian socio-political critics, especially those of them who live overseas. Freedom of speech unarguably is an inalienable right of the people in many modern societies today, including Nigeria, UK, and the USA, and constructive, not destructive, criticisms from the citizens are part of the manure on which any nation is grown. Again, leadership is not just about the government of a country, state, or an organization; leadership includes the ability of an individual to influence the behavior of others for a positive change.

Many past and present Nigerian self-styled social commentators lack leadership skills themselves, and that is why Nigeria remains where she is today in national development in spite of all social criticisms. Many Nigerian self-made leaders of thought lack sincerity of purpose, truthfulness, balanced judgment, objectivity and clear understanding of what happens in other countries of the world. Many erroneously believe that political corruption and social imbalances are ills that are only peculiar to Nigerian nation. Many Nigerian social critics do not even know that sound education is one of the greatest gifts, one of the highest opportunities a country can give to its citizens in this modern age. I know, for instance, many Nigerian social commentators who got their primary, secondary, and tertiary school education in Nigeria and eventually graduated from Nigerian universities as medical practitioners and are now living a life of comfort and pleasure in UK, based on that educational foundation they obtained in Nigeria. These Nigerian commentators always claim to love Nigeria but usually like to portray her (the country that gave them sound education) as a country of thieves, idiots and murderers in their internet articles. They usually love to portray their fatherland, including all its people, as a failed, hopeless, insensitive, unconscientious, decadent, lawless, morally bankrupt, and fraud-ridden entity and people on earth. My questions are:

is it a constructive, a truthful social criticism for a Nigerian, trained in Nigeria as a medical doctor and is now enjoying his life in UK, based on the sound education he obtained in Nigeria or any other Nigerian to describe Nigeria as a nation of thieves, idiots, and murderers? If Nigeria had been as such, would that critic have been able to attain such a strong educational foundation in Nigeria, a foundation on which he now lives and thrives in UK? Again, I know other Nigerian self-proclaimed social crusaders who live abroad and who also claim to love Nigeria and would like to see her get as developed as UK, USA, Japan, China, Russia, Germany etc. but always like to portray their fatherland in their internet publications as a cesspit of corruption, lawlessness, violence, criminality, impunity, unabated ethnic and religious prejudices. My further questions are: is this characterization of Nigeria patriotic, truthful, reasonable, and constructive? Isn't this description of a fatherland capable of further destroying the prospects of having foreigners come to Nigeria for any investments? Can a right-thinking citizen of another country dare come to Nigeria, a country portrayed by her citizens as the home of violence, murders, criminality, and lawlessness, for any meaningful adventure? If the answers to these questions are in the negative, then, there is a solemn duty on any Nigerian who loves his/her fatherland to speak and write loudly and strongly against any publication that tends to characterize all Nigerians as thieves, idiots and murderers.
In fact, these are some of the issues that trouble a few patriotic Nigerians who bother to write to counter social criticisms that tend to destroy Nigeria, instead of helping her to grow as a nation.

Nigeria, admittedly, has problems in every echelon of her leadership, starting from the bottom (the family) to the top (the government house) just like any other country on earth. I have lived in the USA for a couple of years now and since I came down to the country, I have personally discovered that all that glitters in the USA is not gold, a country which, according to many Nigerian social commentators, is the richest and best democracy on earth.  I have also known that all that stinks in Nigeria, adjudged by Nigerian critics as the poorest and least developed nation under the sun, is not carcass. I have discovered, for instance, that majority of Americans live in genteel, decorated, camouflaged poverty. American citizens pay tax for everything in life except the air they breathe.

They, for instance, pay tax for buying pure water, red oil, vegetables, brooms, groundnuts, any food item, any medicine, peppermint, sugar, earrings, shoes, clothes, books, caps, socks, and cotton wool. They also pay tax for their house rents and for bicycle, motor cycle, and other motor vehicle repairs, including the dustbins in their homes. I have seen that the much orchestrated equality before the law in the USA is a farce, and it obtains more in principle than in practice, and that covert discrimination and injustice against especially the black minorities is unabated in every sphere of American life. I have discovered that what exists in the USA is plutocracy, not democracy, and that political sovereignty which is supposed to reside in the people has been hijacked by rich, powerful corporations which use millions and billions of dollars to determine remotely and covertly who wins federal and state elections.

The economy which is supposed to be in the hands of the people is also totally owned and controlled by the said corporations.

I have also seen a country where legislators mostly enact laws on bribes, nicknamed lobbies, from rich, powerful corporations in the USA, and I have seen a country where the citizens live and die in indebtedness to the said corporations. I have discovered a country where citizens, especially the minorities, are arrested, charged with trivial offences, and made to languish in jails, for matters that are easily settled at home or police stations in Nigeria. I have discovered a country where citizens who are imprisoned for misdemeanors or simple offences may not be able to get jobs or obtain college education again in life because they are adjudged to have criminal records. I have seen a country where children are taught in schools to report their parents to the police if they are even yelled at or disciplined in any manner and for any reason, but if the children commit a trivial offence outside the homes, the parents will be arrested and put in jail for the offences committed by their children. I have known a country proclaimed all over the world to be the richest nation on earth but it takes its best medical practitioners or other professionals a whole lifetime to own a decent, say, eight room house free of debts. I have seen a country where millions and billions of taxpayers' money are wasted on unnecessary wars all over the globe, wars that endanger and engulf previous citizens' lives, wars remotely engineered by rich, powerful corporations for business gains.

And I have discovered a country where free speech obtains more on papers than in practice, a country where people live in perpetual fear of almost everything in life. And I have seen a nation where reckless criticism against the country may provoke criminal investigation on trumped up charges of terrorism or racial hatred. These are but a few examples of what real life is like in America in my observation, in spite of all the numerous flowers, tall and beautiful buildings that adorn the streets.

Interestingly, Americans still love their fatherland more than any other country on earth in spite of all these societal shortcomings, and they don't criticize their erring government officials to kill or belittle their nation unlike in Nigeria where myopic and self-appointed national commentators do not know the difference between constructive and destructive socio-political criticisms.

To do better work as social critics, Nigerians must learn to separate always the goats from the sheep, the nuts from the chaff. Nigeria right now has over 100 senators, over 400 members of the House of Representatives, over 30 state governors, over 15 executive ministers, over 300 state legislators and commissioners etc. A truthful, right-thinking Nigerian knows that it is not all these officials that are corrupt, lawless, or incompetent in their duties in Nigeria. Some of them are doing commendable jobs and providing democracy dividends to our people as dictated by the circumstances of our nation's developmental stage of life.

There are some of them who are doing very badly and who need to be spotted distinctly, brought to the public view and chastised in the tribunal of public opinions. But instead of doing this service for Nigerians, the so-called Nigerian commentators indulge in bandwagon, blanket, random, confused chase and rat race, futile exercises that have even emboldened corrupt government functionaries  to continue their evil practices in Nigeria. My advice to the so-called Nigerian socio-political commentators, especially those of them residing abroad, is that Nigeria is our best home in spite of what anyone of us perceives as her numerous problems, and that they should always try to tailor their criticisms to specific and cogent facts to prove to the culprits among Nigerian government functionaries that there are public eyes that see whatever they do in their offices. In my judgment, investigative opposition is the only way the thieves among them will take Nigerian critics serious. The pattern of criticisms based on bandwagon, they-say, hear-say information or on mischievous foreign canards should be jettisoned. Bandwagon opposition has not yielded any positive result in Nigerian body-politic since 1960. Nigerian social commentators (especially those who live abroad) should always try to study deeply and practically what happens in foreign lands, so that they will be able to place Nigerian realities in the right perspectives.

They should always bear in mind that Nigeria must need foreign investors in order to grow as a country and should therefore refrain from cutting the nose of the nation to spite its face, a behavior which is characteristic of the corrupt officials, the enemies of Nigeria whom they are out to criticize and correct. With solid patriotism, wisdom, hard-work, and creativity on the part of all Nigerians, I strongly hope that at last Nigeria will rise and join the comity of developed nations in the course of time. 'The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit'——–Moliere.

Written by Alphonsus U. Nwadike
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

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