NIGERIA AT 55: BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND INTELLECTUAL COLONIALISM
Our founding fathers, Mr. Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr. Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house, President Muhammadu Buhari proclaimed in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015.
Nigeria has continued to struggle for real unity and development basically because her children, especially the leaders do not love her. Who really loves this country called Nigeria? Who is ready to die for Nigeria? If there are, then this is time to act because their mother, Nigeria, is old enough to become fully independent or to attain certain level of realistic self-reliance. I can bet to be one but that can be under extremely unusual circumstance. The circumstance must be that of the collaboration of like-minds from all major ethnic groups of Nigeria since, very unfortunately, till today after 55 years of acclaimed independence from physical colonialism, every movement and action of any Nigerian is linked with ethnicity, even often more than religion.
Nigeria is 55 years old after independence – which independence – 15 years above 40 which many philosophers claim to be the height of maturity and excellence in life attainments. And we keep on celebrating a non-existent independence from the white man's forceful and firm clutches on our economy. Do we rejoice and fool ourselves that we are free from all-round-the-clock colonialism? But yes, we are free because we no more see the white men sitting in our presidential villa as our presidents or governor-generals or premiers. Yes, we do not see them sitting in government houses across the 36 states of the federation as governors. We do not see them appointed as ministers, as ambassadors, as director generals and chairmen of federal and state boards and parastatals. We are free from their physical colonialism.
What about the intellectual colonialism? What about the economic colonialism? What about the technological colonialism? What, just little further, about the spiritual colonialism? Here we give up the struggle for full self-reliance – for the real independence. And here the white men control us and we rejoice every year for independence that has never existed. They do not only aid the starching away of our money in their countries, which they use to develop their own nations and citizens, they are even preferred over Nigerian citizens. Do not be in a hurry to conclude or judge me. Just pause a little and think of any serious contracts awarded by the federal or state governments which have no white man as the head, supervisor or controller. In short, most politicians prefer such deals to frustrate our local content. That is why an ordinary labourer in a construction or oil company can be escorted by the Nigerian security, intimidating other road users because the labourer is a white man. This is never done in any state with focused leadership, a leadership with the interest of its people – the populace – at heart. The intellectual colonialism has yet remained our worst enemy of today. It is everywhere within and sucking us like the bedbug not even when we are asleep.
However, we are all responsible for this because we have agreed to always disagree over trivial issues. Worse rather, we have disagreed to always agree on core issues that can really foster us together and pave way for national integration and development. Nigerians in positions see themselves as demigods and would stop at nothing to remain in it. They can easy compromise other interests, including those of the electorates; but never their personal interests. What then do we gather for every first day of October to waste funds and remember nothing afterwards?
I keep asking: Who really loves this beautiful and richly endowed mother of ours named Nigeria? Not many Nigerians can give a sincere deeply rooted positive answer to this question. Again, I ask: Has any fair judge ever lorded over her? Still, not too certain. In practical life, a father or mother at the age of 55 should begin to enjoy the fruits of the labour of bringing up his or her children in the best manner. That is the aspiration of every parent. The children owe their parents love and care even if they do not have the money to buy them everything that the parent may need. It is this love and care for Nigeria that have been missing in the leadership of our dear country, Nigeria. Majority of Nigeria's leaders are simply self-centered, egoistic and boastful and would stage any possible threat against the country – as it has been for long – if their political interest is checkered.
There is no problem from Nigerian masses. Rather, it is the Nigerian plebiscites that love Nigeria from heart. They live on paltry salaries every month and still do the rigorous jobs for the nation. They cannot afford good meals for their families and extended poorer families. They cannot afford to pay the bills at even supposedly general hospitals if there are drugs to administer on them, thus they prefer to patronize quacks and the traditionalists for cheap medication. Their children attend public schools that have some classes under the shades of trees often planted by outgoing students or youth corpers as a mark of remembrance.
However, no nation can develop by itself alone or survive without cooperation with its neighbourhoods and other nations that have attaied advancement in certain areas of developmental circle. But every nation has well-planned and workable system that guarantees the unlimited and unhindered participation of its citizens in every developmental stride the country undertakes. The white men have advanced in certain aspects of life endeavours. We can learn from them and then domesticalize the endeavour. It is not right to perpetually make them our contractors. At 55, Nigeria must have produced engineers, economists and other professionals to handle our complex nature. Let them teach us how to fish; how to build roads, houses, infrastructures; how to secure our lives and property; how to rescue the distressed; how to farm; and how to plan. They can even teach us how to think properly and how to feed. But it must not be an everlasting class. At 55, we must have produced our own teachers and implementers, so that they come and invest in our land.
At 55, it is time for Nigeria to attain economic independence, educational excellence, agricultural growth without dependence on importations, technological exigencies including power and manufacturing, and attitudinal revolution. It is time for stability, unity and progress in all ramifications. It is time for our groundnut pyramids to resurface; for our cocoa farms to flourish; for our plantain plantations to redouble; and for our palm trees to boost our revenue as Indonesians have done. It is time to reawaken in us the spirits of our heroes past who set standards of governance for us.
Nigeria was born – amalgamated – in 1914. This is what we are supposed to be celebrating. Or we cancel all such celebrations and declare May 29, 2015 as a Nationhood Day, not Democracy Day. By the time we compulsorily teach our children in schools the significance of 1914, the year Nigeria was created, it will impact on them more than the celebration for independence. Nearly every state of the federation celebrates its creation, thus reawakening in their citizens the need to make more selfless sacrifices to the development of their states. And Nigerians celebrate birthdays lavishly. So, the Nigerian children will appreciate the fact that Nigeria has been made one by the agreement of all the peoples' representatives at that time. With such idea in mind, they may be less hard in exploiting ethnic, tribal and religious lines when they grow.
***Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity and good governance.