SHOULD WE ALLOW NIGERIA TO PERISH?
There has never been a more precarious time in the annals of our great nation than now that it is faced with myriads of problems – ranging from social and political to and economic and religious. At every nook and cranny lurks one form of danger or another with the capacity of threatening our nascent democracy and bringing to naught all the efforts of our forebears that fought for the independence of our fatherland.
The forthcoming national elections have contributed to the fueling of tension on the political scene with the various actors and players perfecting their acts to ensure that they emerge victorious. Top on the card is the issue of zoning. In fact, zoning has assumed a larger-than-life image even to the point that every segment of our society has shown more than a passing interest in the matter. Politicians of all shades have made an issue out of zoning. Even those parties whose constitutions did not make any express provisions for zoning (as did the Constitution of the Peoples' Democratic Party, PDP) have taken the front-burner in the heated national debate.
It is not the intention of this article to comment on the rightness or wrongness of zoning a mechanism for distribution of elective and appointive offices. My reference to zoning at this point is rather borne out of a genuine intention to underscore the significance it has assumed in our national life and the danger it poses to its survival if not wisely and precautiously handled. My opinion on zoning is that it should be handled in such a way as not to torpedo our march towards national stability, justice, integration and development, which was the initial reason for inserting the clause in the Constitution of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP).
Close observers of developments will have noticed the tension that is gradually enveloping our dear country day by day. There is no part of the country that is not enmeshed in one form of politically related impasse or another. If it is not impeachments or threats of impeachments, it is threat of religious wars or cases of assassination or threats of assassination. Already, some high-profile assassinations and murders have been reported across the country. These incidents look every inch politically motivated. What of threats by the militias in the Niger Delta to resume their insurgent operations? Some have even threatened to 'set the nation' ablaze if some candidates were not allowed to rule. In all of these, there is a clear pattern emerging. This pattern points to one thing: desperation on the part of some individuals to remain in power or wrest power at all costs to the detriment of our hard-earned democracy.
My worry is that those who should enforce order and discipline are themselves embroiled in the imbroglio. Instead of paying attention to the pressing issue of voters' registration and earnest preparations towards having free and fair elections next year some persons are only interested in how they can manoeuvre the process to win elections. Ironically, all the sermonization about adhering to due process in election organisation fall on deaf ears.
The reports coming from the media also point to the desperate attitudes of politicians to compromise the forthcoming elections. It was reported last week that the police in Oyo State intercepted a lorry load of ammunition ostensibly intended to be used for sinister purposes. Whatever purpose they intend to serve does not deviate from the fact that those they were found in their possession were not authorized to have them.
Let me ask: when shall we demonstrate true love for our nation that has suffered serial exploitation in the hands of greedy and callous politicians over the years? Has Nigeria not bled enough for all of us? We milk the nation mercilessly to the point that it is crying for help. And nobody incidentally is ready to sacrifice to help it. I have written in this column on several occasions in the past that if Nigeria were a human being it would have bled to death.
I have read widely about profligacy, misadministration, corruption, malfeasance in other climes but none of them can be compared to the embarrassing dimension they have assumed in our own country. We run Nigeria as if we deliberately want it to die. If, God forbid, it eventually dies what then will become of our collective heritage? Are we not all agreed that Nigeria should develop to the level of competing with other nations in Africa and the world to assume global prominence? How can we attain this lofty objective with our growing indifference to matters that will engender national growth and development?
I was shocked by a recent report released by the Federal Ministry of Finance that Nigeria earned N34 trillion from oil from 1999 to 2009 without anything to show for it. But South Africa has been able to attain massive infrastructural development without oil. It depends rather on mining for the chunk of its foreign revenue. Why have we not been able to use our gargantuan earnings from oil to positively change our lives?
If you ask an average Nigerian what he would like Nigeria to become in future? You will almost get a unanimous response: 'the United States.' Surely, everybody loves the United States for the singular reason that in it everything works. Yes, everything works in the United States, but we can as well make things work in Nigeria. The United States is where it is today because its forbears fought, and even laid down their lives, for it to survive. Read the history of America and you will appreciate the enormity of the sacrifices its past leaders, especially the champions of its independence struggle, made to enthrone sustainable development and functional democratic principles.
I love the United States. I love the United Kingdom. I love France. I love Germany. I love South Africa (especially for the sake of the legendary Mandela). I love Canada. In fact, I love every country that promotes peace, justice and social equality. Nonetheless, as much as I love these countries, I regret to state that I still love Nigeria with passion. Nigeria is one of the best countries on the face of the earth. Tell me any nation in Africa that is so blessed with a diversity and abundance of blessings ranging from natural and human resources to rich arable land, beautiful and highly enterprising and religious citizens, clement weather, and stable polity. But unfortunately what we lack is quality leadership to spearhead the harnessing of these resources to the benefit of the nation and its people. What reason do we have, therefore, to continue to wallow in poverty in the midst of plenty? Is it not high time we jettisoned our old, disgraceful ways and become more patriotic and dynamic in the face of global challenges in order to be counted when the day of reckoning arrives?
One thing many of us have refused to appreciate is that time is moving swiftly and it will get to a point we may not be able to salvage this nation any longer. We have every opportunity to make Nigeria attain a prestigious position on the world map. Or do we want to give credence to the ominous projections from across the world that Nigeria may disintegrate in 2015? Are these prophesies of doom not enough to stir our conscience and make us change?
There are numerous things to demonstrate that Nigeria has great potentialities to grow into a world giant if we can put our house in order. Take, for example, technical manpower. Nigeria can boast of well-trained and richly talented doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer scientists, academics scattered around the world. These men and women have achieved excellence in their individual fields and are making waves abroad. But, sadly, they have not found it agreeable to return home and contribute to nation-building for many explainable reasons. How can they return home when there are no functional amenities and security of lives and properties is not guaranteed?
It is also important to refer to the recent issuance of the ICAO-CAT-1 certificate to Nigeria by the United States. By this development Nigerian carriers can now fly directly to the United States heartland. There are other benefits of this development. But one is outstanding: it will also stimulate growth in the aviation sector and increase the premium that Nigerian insurance companies will earn therefrom.
I have taken a cursory look at safety in the aviation industry that culminated in the issuance of the CAT-1 certificate and wish to commend the regulatory agencies in the sector for their thoroughness and dedication to duty. For instance, there has never been any major aviation accident since the last major one in 2006. This simply tells one story: that we can make things work if we show commensurate commitment and diligence.
This takes us to the other grey areas that constitute a threat to our national sovereignty. The first is the rising crime rate. Almost every state of the country has its own share of these crimes that include armed robbery, assassination, kidnapping, tribal and religious disturbances, rape, child trafficking and drug abuse. What about violence and fraud in elections? This is about the most worrisome crime, constituting a huge nuisance to the forthcoming elections. Even though the INEC chairman has given an assurance on the readiness of his commission to conduct the freest and fairest elections in the history of the nation, there are still visible and palpable signs that this maybe a tall order after all. There is no way free and fair elections can be achieved by rhetoric. It takes discipline, mass participation, honesty and adherence to due process on the part of the election umpire and the electorate to achieve this objective.
The second is corruption. Corruption is a canker that has exposed our country to international criticisms and opprobrium. As I stated earlier, the pillaging of the nation's resources by a few greedy individuals has contributed to the backwardness we experience today, making us a laughing stock.
The survival of Nigeria hinges on three broad-based spectra. The first is electricity. Electricity has been proved to be a strategic factor in economic and industrial development. There is no way we can harness our rich natural resources without regular power. It is the absence of constant electricity supply that has accounted for the folding up of many industries across the country. It is cheaper and more reasonable to run any industrial concern on electricity generated from the national grid than on generators as is the case now. It is in appreciation of the importance of steady electricity that President Goodluck Jonathan's administration awarded a contract for the construction of a super national grid to address the epileptic power supply that has stalled our march to economic prosperity. The second spectrum is good governance. Good governance promotes national development and stability. And the third is mutual coexistence. Living in peace and love engenders warmth and banishes fear and hatred.
Have our politicians ever paused and pondered what colossal damage their inglorious and ignoble attitudes have caused to the economic and social life of our fatherland? I regret to observe that our politicians have carried themselves as if they have no stake in Nigeria. This insensitive attitude must stop if we are to achieve our collective destiny. We cannot afford to sit on the fence while other nations are making progress to attain greatness.
It will be a tragedy of epic dimension if we should allow Nigeria to die in our time. Everything points to the fact that some Nigerians wish Nigeria dead. If Nigeria dies then all of us will perish.
There is no way we can fold our arms and watch Nigeria disintegrate when we can do something to save it. This is why it has become imperative for all lovers of this great nation to come together, sink our political, religious and clannish differences and work for the peace, progress and stability of Nigeria.
We must, as a matter of urgency, kill the ethnocentric virus in us that drives our urge to steal from the national till, provide jobs for our youth in order to stop kidnapping and other vices, support INEC in its bid to conduct free and fair elections in order to enthrone new leaders that will bring change and drive development and, above all, promote justice and social justice whose absence has accounted for all the upheavals that have befell this country.
I'M IN DEEP SHOCK
I wish to use this medium to convey my deep condolences to the family, relations, friends, colleagues and loved ones of Chinwe Ogbonna, who died recently from heart attack in my residence in Potomac, Maryland, United States.
I have been in deep shock since the unfortunate incident happened. This is the first time I've seen a dead body at a very close range. And this leaves me the more devastated and melancholic.
I will find time later, when I will have recovered from the trauma, to write a more detailed condolence message.
It is my prayer that God, in his infinite love, will console all of us, especially those sanguineously linked to the monumental loss.