Nigeria at 49: Building a better Union – by Leonard Karshima Shilgba PhD


Nigeria attained the political age of 49 on October 1st, 2009; this was the day on which I forced myself to write this article. I have for some months been overwhelmed by the reality that writing wonderful articles about nation-building alone cannot compel Nigerian oppressors (wrongly called

Political leaders) to begin to invest in the people and provide the basic infrastructure to challenge them to produce.

For sometime, there have been predictions of Nigeria breaking up in the near future. Some posit that there is going to be a serious class war between the rich and the poor, which will inevitably lead to a new socio-political order. I am not going to recount the problems with Nigeria here; I have highlighted those in many of my papers and articles in the past (check ). Rather, I am going to propose urgent steps that Nigerians like me can take in order to practically incite the mass of the Nigerian people against our oppressors who control the press, political power, economic power, social unions, and other agencies of the news media.

If you are one of those Nigerians who simply delight in complaining without a commitment to sacrificing for a national renewal, please, don't bother to read further. If you are one of those Nigerians who lazily leave to God what God has ordained for man to do, please disregard this article. If you are hoping that “one day, God shall deliver Nigeria”, please, don't waste your precious time reading my paper. If you are among the Nigerians who have been conquered by the eternal fear of Nigerian oppressors such as the president, some governors, ministers, state commissioners, legislators, local government chairmen etc, and you would be warning Nigerians like me to “thread carefully, lest you incur the wrath of Nigerian oppressors”, you may stop reading at this point. If you want an appointment in government, it will be very unwise to get involved in what I am going to propose.

There are Nigerians who are living within and outside of Nigeria, whose heart bleeds daily even as they ask, “What can I do; how can I contribute?” Some Nigerian scholars have come to the realization that Nigeria shall perennially disappoint as long as the content and character of her politics remain the same. Good governance in a democracy remains a mirage if the political players are not threatened by the electorate. Where the electorate matter, social polls are regularly conducted to gauge the mood of the electorate; and public policies are fashioned to agree with changing moods of the people. In such democracies, the consequences of poor governance and scandals on the political fortune of a politician are dire. This is the motivation for good performance in a public office, and not simply intrinsic sense of altruism.What I have just said above imposes on Nigerians like me two fundamental tasks:

1. The necessity to deliberately enlighten Nigerians, educate Nigerians about their rights, responsibilities, and power under the constitution.

2. The urgency to empower the commoners in Nigeria to practically and literally rise up against their oppressors who keep whatever commonwealth from the people.My dear reader, this is where you come in. Are you ready to part with your money? Yes, I mean your naira, dollar, yen, pound, euro etc.

You are not donating money for me to spend on a new car, a new house, etc. You must be ready to make regular contributions in order to accomplish 1) and 2) above. What do you think has made Nigerian political godfathers so powerful? They use stolen and ill-acquired wealth to win political power, which makes them king-makers. Many of us who are so knowledgeable, and can write highly intelligent articles at the drop of a hat cannot match them where money talks. Your Nigerian brothers and sisters at home are too poor to listen to grammar on empty stomachs. The deliberate impoverishment of Nigerians by the political class is in order to keep the people dependent on the hand-outs they dole out during political campaign seasons, and thereby mortgage their conscience and pride. If you are residing outside of Nigeria, you can only imagine the level of poverty in the land, while our big men and women allocate to themselves barrels of crude oil daily and smile to the banks. They use this ill-gotten wealth to hire thugs who kill those who dare call for change of the status quo.

This is our country where public universities have been closed down for about four months, as I write, and the children of the oppressors are either in private universities in Nigeria (such as where I teach) or studying abroad. This is your country where a governor spends about N1 billion in two years on foreign travels and N5.9 billion on “gifts” and has got expeditious permission of his stooge, called Legislature to borrow N20 billion, with less than two years on his tenure (I am talking of Governor Gabriel Suswam of my state of Benue), while school children in many public schools in Benue sit on logs of wood to study and HIV and other sicknesses are ravaging the people, and all the hospitals in the state combined have less than 60 doctors. My friend, N1 billion could provide decent desks and chairs for more than 120,000 students.

I am talking of your country where Nigerians spend about N1 trillion yearly on gas to power their generators in spite of billions of dollars pumped into building power plants. I am talking of your own country. You have none else like Nigeria, and that includes your adopted country. I am crying and bleeding within. I have got a job offer to leave Nigeria again, but I am contemplating… Can't we salvage our nation? Can't we take the risk once again of trusting each other for the sake of Nigeria? I could run for governor of my state; I could even run for president of Nigeria. But right now, we need each other. We need to send out a strong message. Where do you stand? Think of your children if you have any. Think hard about their future in Nigeria. I have nothing to hide; I have everything to lose. But I will not keep silent until Nigeria becomes a place of praise. Nations are built by heroes, not cowards; I intend to be counted with the former. Some of those politicians who have messed up our country are writing at this time of Nigeria's 49th independence anniversary to urge Nigerians to not “give up hope”. I laugh bitterly. Nigeria is adrift.

If you the reader can make a regular monthly donation of N5,000, N4000, N3,000, N2,000, N1,000, N500, N100, N10, [Any contribution that is more than N20,000 a month shall not be accepted] please, send an email on [email protected]

We shall publish monthly, how much we get and how much we spend and on what. We shall require the services of unemployed Nigerian graduates who shall be paid a monthly stipend and trained to go out and talk to Nigerians in the neighborhoods, offer assistance to our unemployed women, Okada riders, and beggars on our streets (using the money we shall collect). We shall use the constitution as our textbook. Just imagine us teaching Nigerians, that the big senator who comes around, flaunting ill-gotten wealth, collects on their behalf N45 million every three months, whose expenditure remains suspect.

How shall they react when we patiently teach them how they can, using section 110 of our constitution, recall inefficient, corrupt and selfish legislators who don't represent their interest as a people? We shall use the money you contribute to offer interest-free loans to women, youth, and men, who are unemployed, to pursue some businesses with our supervision and technical assistance. The people must be shown love and taught to shun those money-bags who believe their money can accomplish whatever they wish in Nigeria. We shall use your money to publish relevant advertisements on television, radio and in newspapers, which will pile pressure on inefficient rulers such as President Yar'Adua, some state governors, state and national legislators, and local government chairmen.

Finally, I urge newspapers and television stations to begin the culture of political endorsement. We need our newspapers and television houses to focus on declared manifestos of Nigerian political office candidates, their past antecedents, and direct the people accordingly. My friend, we shall use your money to support in this direction. If you have suggestions on what we should do to promote proper and transparent accounting of your money which we shall receive, do write us. Besides, find time to check our website We are prepared to work with all Nigerians who share our vision. The task cannot be undertaken by a few Nigerians. Together, as one group, one people bound together by a common cord of interest, we shall move Nigerians. Let us use our training to lead Nigerians in this undertaking. I am a University teacher. You may be an Engineer, Doctor, IT specialist, Accountant, Businessman etc.

Let us collaborate and use the power of synergy to move the Nigerian masses against our common oppressors. We must not fear jails, attacks, and even death. I must not rest, and neither must you, until we are sure that our children will not inherit a hellish Nigeria after we are gone. I must do my little bit and tell my children when they are old enough to understand, “Daddy did his bit. He kept not silent when a voice was required to speak, and a hand needed to work for the Nigerian people.” Thanks.

Leonard Shilgba is President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( ) and Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria. Yola.

Email: [email protected]

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