A NATION IN TEARS AT 50
When countries approach a major milestone such as a silver, gold or centenary anniversary, the citizens look forward to bounties and bonuses in policy initiatives, scholarships, handouts, and other mementoes. All or most of these were seen a couple of years ago when Ghana clocked and celebrated 50 years of nationhood. But as Nigeria celebrates 50, we have a harvest of tears and anguish. Parents and relations of six kidnapped NYSC members would swallow harder each moment, ignore Abuja and hook on to Abia in case their wards would find freedom on the day of freedom.
Already, thousands of soldiers have taken positions in parts of Aba (Abia) in attempt to do battle with hordes of kidnappers who have overthrown the national flag and hoisted their own flag stained in red. The result will be death, injury, pain and tears. Elsewhere, kidnappers are on the prowl, armed robbers are permanently in Ore area along Lagos - Benin Road; assassins are sniping at victims around Nigeria; thugs are stopping aspirants with live bullets; looters are pillaging the treasuries around the 815 governments (made up of one FG, 36 state governments, 774 LGAs, and 4 Abuja councils), and tears and blood are flowing freely. In Bauchi, Borno and many other places up north, citizens are in tears over deaths caused by the Boko Haram sect. Even as President Jonathan and his guests and other Nigerians were at the Eagle Square pretending that all is well with a wobbling nation, several bombs were exploding and killing even those who went to cheer.
It is difficult for several thousands of young Nigerians who asked for slots in Nigerian universities in 2010 without success (even when JAMB said they passed) to join in hailing a nation that has no place for them. The millions of graduates and other school leavers who seek jobs without success would hardly agree that there is something to celebrate, though there is a lot to celebrate in Nigeria. The problem is that they have so much tears in their eyes to see what others see. The truth is that we are a nation in tears.
It is not the laughter in few mouths that matters but the tears in majority of eyes, for a chain is as strong as its weakest link. It is not the millions in the pockets of political office holders, rogue contractors and shylock traders that matters but the hollowness in the hearts of jobless citizens that defines Nigeria's journey into maturity. Good countries create social remedies that reduce the pains of poverty and the gapping gap between the haves and have-nots by creating a wealth redistribution system to close them. In Nigeria, the rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer. It is a nation in tears because education that the British bequeathed to us which made Nigeria tops in standards around the world has been adulterated to ignoble levels.
We now have funding chasms in our education system, cheating is now accepted, sexual harassment by lecturers and sale of marks challenge us. There is admission fraud perpetrated with impunity. We have teachers without commitment, and corruption is king. With what is happening in the education sector, Nigerians are less prepared to face the challenges of the next 50 years. Few had education 50 years ago but they were the best around the world. We have simply lost track, and it is self-evident that we are a nation in tears.
In Health, other countries make progress, Dubai is new centre of medical excellence within the emerging markets, India is a new medical tourist point, but Nigerians no longer believe in government hospitals. Shops and herbalists now provide a new hope, but how much indeed does it take to install the best medical facilities in our cities and towns?
Our police force is an abomination unto the citizens. Under- funding has twisted their sense of patriotism. Over time police officers are sold like groundnuts in Nigeria, and they prefer to collude with robbers and kidnappers than cooperate with citizens. There is no deterrence mechanism whereby an offender would fear the pains of justice. Those who forgive their neighbors do so 'because of God', not because the government would react. In fact, an offender has greater hope in the
Government than a good citizen. The dilapidated prisons are populated largely by the innocent while the guilty walk the streets freely. Human life has lost its sanctity. People are now more wicked than the devil, and there is avoidable death everywhere.
The blood of innocent Nigerians who should not have died weep for our nation.
Patriotism is at the lowest ebb as Nigerians are prepared to collude with outsiders to cheat the nation. Margaret Hill was a three-year old British girl (from a Nigerian mother) who was kidnapped in Port Harcourt in the early days of violence. The hell Britain gave Nigeria for the black girl was something instructive in how to care for citizens. But, 15 Nigerian kids were kidnapped and the nation went on as if nothing serious happened. What next would happen to warrant a state of emergency in the section of the country where this happened than this? Elections are here and the President sees no reason to be tough on a failed governor governing a failed state because he would need his support at the PDP primaries.
In other countries, they try to preserve public funds but here, after 50 years, we loot. In real countries, it is easier to kill a person than to steal public funds. This is because murder may kill a person but stealing will kill the masses. For a government that must maximize resources to save more citizens, stealing must be resisted with tenacity. In Nigeria, we rather celebrate and protect large-scale looters, and we align with the thief because there is more prospect of getting a share.
In agriculture, we have deteriorated from exporters to importers, and we do not even care. Other nations are moving forward but we have learnt nothing. The nation is yet to pacify the Niger Delta since 50 years, despite Sir Willink's Recommendations.
The only groups that can stand out for salute, at least in the past 11 years are the Armed Forces for managing to stand aloof in the last eleven years as we fumble in search of the pathway. They have allowed us to find the solution to what we caused.
The ordinary Nigerian has nothing to celebrate, and even the VIPs that are celebrating do so for what they will benefit, not because they believe in Nigeria. Elections are around the corner but it will likely bring more tears, soon after the huge celebrations.
The clamor for credible elections and promises about it may be a mirage, as we have repeatedly warned. There is no motivation within the INEC staff family. The story of leaking roofs around INEC's offices around the country is sign of the state of affairs in the organization . If they are independent, it has not shown in their finances. The way it is today, how many INEC personnel can resist inducements from politicians.
Governors still decide who goes for what elective office.
It is believed around the states that no governor would allow an LGA chairman he does not trust to emerge, a lawmaker he does not want to emerge, and would want to nominate ministers. Yet, nobody can beat the governor's candidate. Many also feel that no Nigerian sitting president can lose an election. The journey to credible elections is simply yet to start. But in all, we pray God to spare innocent Nigerians the agony of another war.