JUST BEFORE THE 2011 ELECTIONS
Nigeria is a great nation in every respect. It is the most beautiful country in the world. From its rich, arable land and abundant resources to its wonderful people Nigeria has prided itself as one of the most populous and panoramic nations on earth. Those who know Nigeria very well will agree with me that it is a peaceful and scenic place. Its peoples are hospitable, kind-hearted , energetic and resilient. Only a few nations in the world can boast of the peculiarities for which the nation prides itself.
I have traversed every nook and cranny of this great nation and can state, without any fear of criticism, that it is the best nation in the world. Fault that, if you can. Forget about the opulence, splendour and global acclaim of countries in Europe and America, including even those in Africa, such as South Africa, there is none that can rival Nigeria in terms of its quietness, greenness and resplendence. Nigeria is simply breathtakingly beautiful.
Look at the weather. Is it not clement the year round? Unlike the extreme weather in Europe and the United States, our weather is one of the biggest attractions to tourists that flood into the country from January to December. Save for a few weeks of cloudy haze between December and early February all the other months are good for flights and other aviation activities.
It is only me can describe the deep sentiments I share about Nigeria. I simply love Nigeria. If there are more superlative or highfaluting words with which to capture the gorgeousness of this nation I would be glad to use them copiously. If Nigeria were to be a beautiful bride, I would stake the last kobo in my account to court her. This nation is so beautiful. It is intriguing.
Aggregating the endowments of this God's nation will leave one perplexed, stupefied and speechless. I was watching a documentary on the rich natural resources in Nigeria the other day, and did nothing else in the end other than to marvel at the goodness of the Lord.
What most powerful and richest nations in the world cannot boast of can be found in Nigeria. Name them: gold, diamond, tin, bauxite, coal, crude oil, all kinds of domestic and wild animals, groundnut, palm tree, cocoa, rubber, assorted aquatic animals, magical landscapes, exciting grasslands, fine mountains and hills, game reserves, waterways, rivers and lakes, caves, holiday resorts, etc. It is just impossible listing all the goodies with which the good Lord has blessed Nigeria in one fell swoop.
What about the people themselves? They are, as I stated earlier, hospitable, welcoming, and kind-hearted. It was unanimously agreed of recent that Nigerians are the happiest people in the world. In fact, some commentators have opted to describe Nigerians as the salt of the earth. There is nowhere in the world you don't find at least a Nigerian. It is generally believed that anywhere there is no Nigerian is not good for human habitation. This verdict was not borne out of any frivolous assessment. Rather, it was a product of a meticulous and unbiased evaluation of the pressing circumstances under which they have lived and survived all these years. Despite our overwhelming peculiar national difficulties Nigerians still spare time to pray, recreate and smile.
Nigerians are also very cerebral, innovative, ingenious and creative. Their expertise spans every field of human endeavour. They make waves in the United States and United Kingdom as engineers, nuclear physicists, computer scientists, politicians, barristers and solicitors, accountants, academics, soldiers, and doctors, etc. Wherever they live they take as their home - investing their resources to make the place develop and thrive.
Now to the puzzle: why is Nigeria yet to get over its basic problems to expand its tentacles of development in such a way as to assume its rightful place in the scheme of things in the world? Is it not contradictory and preposterous that a nation that enjoys the superlative attributes enumerated above should still be held with disdain by other nations in the world - not excluding some small countries on the Continent of Africa? The profile of Nigeria in the outside world is below average. In fact, Nigeria is viewed as a pariah state by the developed economies for the simple reason that it frittered away golden opportunities in the past to become great.
Citizens of Nigeria are treated with scorn by security and immigration authorities at entry points into other countries, particularly the developed ones. They see Nigerian travellers as drug-pushers, child-kidnappers, money-launderers, and involvers in other forms of illicit activities. Of recent, due to the infamous action of Abdul Muttalab, Nigerians are being seen as sponsors of terrorism. Even though the United States has reviewed its policy on Nigeria with relation to terrorism the harm has already been done.
My pain about what is happening to Nigeria with regards its bad image abroad is that the situation is substantially manageable. I totally disagree with those who claim that Nigeria is endemically irredeemable. Who told them so? Whatever situation Nigeria finds itself was a product of the ineptitude that has characterised leadership in the country. Right from independence, Nigeria has been very unlucky with its leaders. The period after independence up to the mid 60's witnessed a tensed effort to save it from self-perdition.
Indeed, all the factors that led to the collapse of the First and Second Republics are yet to be given the back seats in our national life. It may not be out of place to identify the factors and situate them appropriately in the context of what is happening today. Take, for instance, ethnic chauvinism. The First Republic collapsed largely because of ethnocentricity. The regionalisation principle entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at that time gave vent to this dangerous canker - leading to the massacre of people from the Eastern Region in the pogrom that took place in the north in 1966.
There is no doubt that Nigeria would have outgrown ethnic cleavages in its socio-political life if the vision of its forbears had been kept alive. The protagonists of Nigeria's independence struggle buried their differences and embraced unity and oneness as a strategy to attain their goals. The result was the emancipation of the country from colonial control. There is no way we can build a homogenous nation if those things that divide us are not destroyed. The present disagreement in the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) over zoning is as a result of ethnic loyalty, which rules our politics and influences, to a large extent, its social life. My fear is that if the present ethnic hegemony that rules our body politic is not checked it will absolutely be difficult for us to grow beyond our present stage, which is not too salutary.
As a people we should strive to towards achieving a nation in which everybody, no matter his tribal, religious or social status should be free to live in any part of the country without fear of molestation or discrimination. Just as is obtainable in the developed world, Nigerians should evolve a country where, for instance, a Hausa can live and contest election in the South West and vice versa. It happened in the First Republic and it can happen again. Destroying ethnicity and clannishness should form the bulwark of our struggle towards new democratic freedom and order.
Next year's elections may not produce the long-trumpeted success if we continue to pander to ethnic and clannish pettiness instead of finding a way round the problems that face infrastructural and human capacity development. By building capacity we will be bidding goodbye to the use of our vibrant youth as thugs and brigands during elections. Check it out: no important personality will ever allow himself or a member of his family to be used as a thug. It is for this reason that I find it incredible that anybody should offer to die for another man's greed and selfishness. Any politician who needs the services of a thug to help him to rig election next year should use his children or, better still, himself for such a dastardly act. Our youth should grow out of their puerility and foolhardiness, especially in those things that have the tendency of destroying their future. I believe strongly that if the youth distanced themselves from the inglorious activities of disgruntled politicians the 2011 elections will be free and fair.
I have never failed to utilize any opportunity that presents itself to harp on the place of credible elections in national development. It is only when credible elections are conducted that credible leaders can emerge. A corrupt system produces corrupt and ineffectual leaders. This is the genesis of our national malady. Therefore, for 2011 elections to meet the expectations of Nigerians and members of the international community every effort should be made to destroy the spectre of violence, brigandage and general corruption that has become an integral part of our national life.
Again, there is the need for every Nigerian of voting age to come out and vote for credible candidates. They should also ensure that their votes count in the end by remaining vigilant throughout the duration of the elections. It amounts to an exercise in futility for a person to cast his vote and it fails to count in the end. In developed democracies, election times are periods for the electorate to change any government or politician that has not performed. But sadly, in Nigeria, it is used by politicians to perpetrate their hold on power, even when their performance is below average. This is why we can find in the hallowed chambers of our national and state legislatures some persons of questionable character who have nothing concrete to offer for the development of the nation.
There is undeniable evidence that some of our past and present leaders lack the moral strength to govern let alone govern well. The Latin axiom: Nemo quad non habet (You cannot give what you do not have) is true here. The level of corruption in the country is quite embarrassing and the situation is not helped by the apathy of the political class to the sufferings of the masses. Who can offer me any convincing reason for the increasing rate of poverty that has ravaged the people mercilessly despite the huge proceeds from oil sales monthly?
I was almost drawn to tears as I watched the devastation caused by flooding in Abeokuta last week. The incident only reminded me of the massive destruction of lives and properties by gully erosion in the entire Southeast Zone. And the government has not deemed it worthwhile to take drastic steps to salvage the zone from the menace that is gradually threatening to swallow it up. What is government if it lacks the will to deliver the dividends of democracy to its people? We are all witnesses to the perennial incidents of insecurity in the country exacerbated by the infamous activities of kidnappers and armed robbers. The situation has almost degenerated into total chaos in the Southeast Zone, forcing the Federal Government to compel the Inspector General of Police to relocate to the zone last week in the wake of the kidnapping of four journalists and their driver.
Some of those who attempted to hazard a guess as to the real causes of insecurity in the country have failed abysmally to place the blame where it should be. But ask me the real cause and I will be glad to point finger at greed and poverty as the major culprits. In fact, greed is at the root of many of the social ills that threaten the corporate existence of our dear fatherland. Greed is responsible for the inordinate desire of the political class to amass wealth they do not necessarily need. I read with dismay an article in a national newspaper in Nigeria, which alluded to the fact that our politicians ferried over 10 billion dollars monthly out of the country. If the report is true then, I am sorry to state that, our nation is doomed. How much then is left for real development?
The position I am trying to advance in this article is the need to remove some obvious obstacles to the success of the 2010 elections. Let me list them again as a matter of emphasis. They include: ethnicity, poverty, corruption, violence, unemployment, armed robbery, and kidnapping. Imagine what will happen next year if kidnapping is not checked. Politicians may capitalize on it to undo their opponents. This is my fear.
Let me state it the umpteenth time that until the ills I listed above are reasonably tackled then all efforts to conduct free and fair elections next year will amount to mirage. Quad Eras Demonstrandum (QED)!