Is Being Nigerian A Misfortune?
Nigerian is reminiscent of someone destined to be king, but becomes a slave in the king’s palace. The nation’s situation chronicles the life of Wazobia: a boy destined to be a lawyer, but grows up to become a roadside mechanic. Wazobia is blessed with the qualities of a legal luminary. He is a smooth-talker, provides a well-articulated defense, good at arguments, and his favorite colors are white and black. These qualities manifests so much that people nicknamed him “D law”. Despite Wazobia’s abilities, the truth remains that he is a mechanic, not a lawyer. Why is Wazobia a roadside mechanic despite his potentials?
Wazobia’s parent may be illiterates who neither value education nor make effort to get him schooled. His parents may have the will, but lack the wherewithal. Wazobia may have lost his parents and got nurtured by an uncaring guardian. Life may have been so unfair to Wazobia that he had no opportunity to become a lawyer. But that is not the case.
Wazobia failed to discover himself and underutilized his potentials. He has all it takes to be a lawyer, but had mismanaged his life, time and resources. He lavished his school fees on show-offs and spent his time partying, snap-chatting and twittering, when his mates were studying. Sadly, Wazobia is not the only one suffering for his misdeeds and lack of foresight. The people he should be defending as a lawyer are being disrespected, cheated and jailed. His entire household that should be enjoying are terribly suffering. Of what gain is Wazobia? He has failed. The character Wazobia is the Nigerian State.
Nigeria is blessed with enormous human and natural resources, but majority of her population suffers amidst surplus. The oil rich nation cannot boast of any meaningful achievement after 58 years of independence. Successive leaders were visionless, clueless and unbothered about development. They built personal empires instead of infrastructure. Basic amenities are either unavailable or dysfunctional. In the 21st century, Nigerian campaign manifestos are still based on promises of providing the essentials when other nations are making giant strides in technology and inventions.
Nigerians are forced to seek greener pastures in nations that once ran to them for help. The then apartheid ridden South-Africa that Nigeria assisted is now better off. Nigerians now go there to hustle at the risk of losing their lives to xenophobic attacks. Sometimes ago, Nigerians said “Ghana must go”, but today, a significant portion of our population are leaving Nigeria to seek opportunities in Ghana. Prominent figures such as Dele Momodu lives in Ghana. Asari Dokubo is a naturalized Beninese.
Malaysia’s economy was on the verge of collapse after Singapore seceded decades ago. The nation had almost nothing. Malaysians had to come to Nigeria to negotiate the importation of palm seedling to their country. Malaysia is now making substantial earnings from the exportation of crude and processed palm-oil, while the Nigerian agricultural sector is unyielding. Front to back, Nigerians are now trooping into Malaysia for tourism and study. Nigerian Government spends millions of dollars - under the Tertiary Education Trust (TET) Fund scheme – sponsoring her lecturers to study in Malaysia.
Sadly, the Nigerian education sector remains undeveloped, underfunded, and runs archaic curriculums that produces unemployable graduates. Even the firms that could have hired the graduates and youths are either collapsed or nonexistent. What is being Nigerian to students unable to study because of strike, while the children of politicians are studying at the best universities abroad?
Look at yourself and look around you. The only stumbling block to some person’s progress is being Nigerian. People are configured to fail by default. There is no pathway to success and the system is unrewarding. Famous political thug, MC Oluomo is living large and well-connected than most Professors. Inventions and brilliancy do not often get patronized or celebrated. Frustration has turned many university graduates into motorcycle riders, prostitutes, kidnappers and fraudsters. The billions of dollars government failed to invest on the youths is now being used to fight crimes committed by the youths. The ruling elites’ greed and incompetence is impeding national growth, crushing creativities, burying potentials, and changing destinies.
Oh poverty and underdevelopment, why hast thou made Nigeria thy dwelling place? Pastors have cast and bind thee, Imams have recited the Quran against thee, Herbalists have cast out thy spirit, but thou hath refused to depart Nigeria. This is because thy antidote is not prayer. Other nations conquered thee by properly utilizing their human, material and natural resources. We are praying rather than working, when the principles of success says work (first) and pray.
The gap between the rulers and the ruled in Nigeria is as wide as that between the ground and the sky. The ruling elites live like they are more Nigerian than we the masses. They are under heavy security, we are insecure. We die on bad roads, they fly in the sky. They waste food and resources, we are starving. They have all, we have nothing. Yet we are not united. We allow them set us against ourselves and divide us along political, ethnic and religious lines. They feast on our disunity. Our pain is their gain.
Other nations are progressing while Nigeria is retrogressing. Why is our yesterday better than today? Some years ago, electricity was constant than it is now, the roads were better, foreign exchange rate was lower, and getting a visa was easier than it is now. Bombing was alien to us, kidnapping was a taboo, and Nigerians were more united. Disheartening, we are now more dependent than we were during independence. We cherish anything west; commend them as original while Aba made goods are derided as artificial.
Successive Nigerian rulers were bad managers and the current set of politicians in the ruling and main opposition party are middlebrow men. They lack the ideas and commitment to move Nigeria forward. US President Donald Trump allegedly called President Buhari “lifeless” not because he is old. Trump too is a septuagenarian. His comment is apparently based on President Buhari’s inability to stand up to him during diplomatic talks. While that is unfortunate for Nigeria, there is really no single way of measuring intelligence. In effect, Trump’s intelligence assessment is based on the extent of his own intelligence. One may also rate Trump as unintelligent because he speaks uncouthly.
But if truth be told, most Nigerian leaders lack foresight and intellectual insight. The drastic turnaround the nation needs is not within their faculty. Their major concern is retaining or regaining power; the efficient running of the country is secondary. The only barrier between most people and their success is being Nigerian. Else, why do Nigerians fail at home but succeed abroad? Being Nigerian is nothing other than a misfortune to many. You may be one of the few privileged individuals not so affected, but before you discard this, think: What is being Nigerian to those pushed into the sea while migrating to Europe and those being sold as slaves in Libya because of their nationality?
What is being Nigerian to the agrarian Ogoni populace whose land and marines have been degraded by oil spills, denied resource control, and abandoned by the government? What is being Nigerian to the fallen soldiers whose government failed to provide adequate weapons to fight Boko-Haram, but paid the terrorists to ceasefire and release abductees?
What is being Nigerian to citizens whose government spent $16billion on providing power, but still lives in darkness? What is being Nigerian to the poor and uninfluential persons being harassed, extorted, maimed and unjustly killed by the police, but never gets justice?
Does Ibrahim El Zakzaky – the Shia Muslim cleric who was granted bail, but detained by government - feels fortunate to be the citizen of a country that violates human rights, disregard the rule of law, and disobey court orders? What is being Nigerian to MKO Abiola who won a free and fair presidential election, but denied the right to rule by the Babangida led military regime? Buhari recently honored Abiola and apologized on behalf of Nigeria, but with their irrecoverable loss, can the Abiola family ever feel fortunate being Nigerians?
What is being Nigerian to the unarmed IPOB members that were declared terrorists and killed for demanding secession while murderous Fulani herdsmen operate unchecked? What is being Nigerian to citizens whose government vows to fight corruption, but protects corrupt politicians working for the President’s reelection?
What is being Nigerian to poor honest persons when then President Jonathan said stealing is not corruption? What is being Nigerian to the hardworking youths seeking opportunities abroad when President Buhari told world leaders that they are lazy? Which country will issue visa, scholarships or employ youths confirmed lazy by their President?
What is being Nigerian to Sambo Dasuki, the former national security adviser who was arraigned for mismanaging public funds, granted bail by several courts, but still being denied freedom by government? Does Dasuki and millions of people whose rights are being violated daily feels fortunate to be a Nigerian?
Be that as it may, Nigeria is not all about misfortune and downs. There are quite a number of things and people that still makes one proud of being a Nigerian. World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua is making many proud of being Nigerian. Welterweight Boxing Champion, Larry Ekundayo is also making Nigeria proud. Dr Oluyinka Olutoye, a Nigerian, who delivered the baby that was born twice in the United States made us proud. Olutoye removed the baby from her mother’s womb at 23 weeks, performed an operation, returned her to the womb, and delivered her at 36 weeks without any complication.
Five students from Regina Pacis Model Secondary School, Anambra State also made Nigeria proud by winning the 2018 Global Technology Challenge in the US. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and Novelist Chimamanda Adiche have also projected Nigeria positively to the world. While these persons signify that Nigerians are blessed and a blessing to nations, it is unfortunate that the Nigerian government virtually contributed nothing to their success. Most of them fought their way to the top independently. What is being Nigerian to the son of a taxi driver who is losing the fight to become a doctor because he could not afford the school fees or get an education loan? For every Soyinka you see, thousands of similar potentials has been wasted.
God has been kind to Nigeria, but Nigerians are a problem to themselves. The nation’s problems are man-made. Nigeria is not troubled by natural disasters such as earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclonic storm, avalanche or tsunami. The flood we’re experiencing is the aftereffect of an inefficient waste disposal mechanism. The nation became the world poverty capital on account of the leaders’ mismanagement and corruption. PDP squandered the treasury while the APC that promised change changed the promise after winning election. It is a misfortune that a blessed nation like Nigeria has been successively led by middlebrow men. Nigeria keeps falling because the leaders keep failing. The electorates need to stop reinforcing failure with their votes. Nigerians would work for all when the leaders lead well and the citizens act right.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via [email protected]