NIGERIA IS A GOAT
A goat owned by more than one person usually starves to death ?- Igbo Proverb
Can anyone who would truly and honestly lay claim to the rightful ownership of the Nigerian federation please stand up? If you are Hausa/Fulani and you believe you own Nigeria, indicate by raising your index finger. Can we find any Yoruba in this category? If you are the one, let's hear from you.
Honestly speaking, I do not think that the Nigerian state conceptualized in the beginning to be a beacon of light for democracy in Africa will survive – that is if things continue the way they are going. I have said it somewhere before that Nigeria is like an orphan. It is like the proverbial goat owned by many, which inevitably will die of hunger. It is a nation without patriots. It is a nation whose patriot-rearing foundation suffered stillbirth some time ago. It is therefore a nation bound to die if urgent help does not come its way. This is definite.
But who will bell the cat? Who among members of the citizenry of the Nigerian wide and variegated ethnic communities will stake out for Nigeria? The answer is: nobody. The Nigeria dream, if there could be anything so called, has collapsed. It has been replaced by the Nigerian stillbirth project. There is an ongoing scramble and partition of Nigeria – the legislators on one side, the executives on the other.
The Judiciary? Let's reserve comment for another day. When you become a legislator, you are there first for yourself and then for yourself. When you become a minister, you are there, first for yourself and second for your community. When you become a president, you are there first for yourself and then for your geopolitical zone. Yes, that mansion derived from public fund must be built in your community with attendant chieftaincy titles. That is why the urge to rule is ferocious. That is why elections must be won by all means and at all costs. That is why Nigeria stagnates. And maybe Nigeria is a goat.
A generation and half, ago, it would have been possible to lay a solid foundation for the Nigerian state. Then, its leaders or those who pretended to be, were all products of the true Nigerian state. Most of the elite of two generations past had one sentiment or the other attached to Nigeria. Some, either must have gone to the same school(s), held high hopes of replacing departing colonial masters, went to the same military school, worked as colleagues in the colonial administration, learnt the same or other Nigerian language, or were too few to begin to compete for space being vacated by the colonial overlords.
But, we get it wrong when we try equating patriotism the Nigerian style with patriotism, the American style, the Yoruba style; the Igbo style; the Othman Dan Fodio style; the Bakassi style or even the British style. When you look deep, patriotism, also known as nationalism, loyalty, partisanship, devotion and jingoism, are elements that exist in small packets in Nigeria, waiting to be harnessed for the national good. Right now, there is no Nigerian patriot. Such does not exist. And this is the reason why Nigeria is like the proverbial goat owned by many people, who unfortunately, dies of hunger. In short, Nigeria is a goat. I said so. If Barrister Chidi Emelogu is reading, let him record it for me.
Sometime ago, a few Nigerian silver-haired which included men like Rotimi Williams the brother of Akintola Williams, and Ben Nwabueze, came together to name themselves Patriots. Occasionally, you will hear them speak very eloquently in elegant prose (on burning national issues). Interestingly in most cases, their opinions are noted because of their silver hairs and for whatever irritating impact they had on the polity and the society.
Ironically, an Idumota Igbo trader in faraway Addis Ababa en route Dubai is a very patriotic fellow. I watched him protect, kick and defend the cause of fellow Igbo trader recently at Addis Ababa's International airport, Ethiopia. He could die for the cause of Igbo.
He would speak Igbo to his troubled brother at the customs/check-in post telling him/her what to say to evade the microscopic search of the trained law enforcement eye in a foreign land. He could look after his brother's cargo/wares, aware that any loss so incurred will do his brother in, financially. He would repair roads in his community, extend electricity and donate to the welfare of the schools within his Igbo community. Tell me, have you seen any wealthy Igbo that rehabilitated roads in Ogbomosho or donated school equipment worth thousands of dollars to an elementary school in Maiduguri?
He would not because his son born in Maiduguri and who speaks Hausa as a first language can vote in Maiduguri but cannot be voted for. He is not a Maiduguri indigene. Take it to the bank, the Hausa man is a patriot when it concerns northern Nigeria and or Islam. What's his business if Onitsha market burnt down twenty times a year?
Yes, Nigeria is a goat.
The Yoruba OPC member is a patriotic fellow, howbeit, only when defending Yoruba interest. Even when OPC factions emerge; they still have one interest in mind – that of the Yoruba. He would set Igbo businessmen's articles afire and or collude with overzealous landlords to eject a recalcitrant Igbo who had a tiff or minor disagreement with his Yoruba landlord. A patriotic OPC member could burn Hausa markets in Sango Otta as a reprisal attack to an earlier decapitation of a Yoruba taxi driver in Kano. If he (the OPC member) died in the process, he would not mind. That is patriotism. Nigeria is a goat.
It is raw patriotism when Kenule Saro-wiwa puts his personal pleasure, freedom and life on the line to defend the Ogoni cause. When Isaac Adaka Boro puts his budding promising life on the line to agitate independence for his marginalized peoples of Niger Delta, that too is patriotism! He was a prophet. Was his deed driven by the urge for patriotism when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian potential suicide bomber almost detonated his lethal pack aboard an American airliner Christmas Day 2009? Whose patriotism was he propagating, you may ask, in wonderment. Definitely, not Nigeria's. Nigeria is a goat.
No matter how pained the people of Bakassi might appear to feel as a result of the World Court ruling; no indigene of Bakassi has set himself or herself ablaze to protest the ruling. Why is this so? He knows that on the long run, Bakassi belonged to him only in name. In actual sense, because Bakassi belonged to Nigeria (a goat), it was owned by no one in particular.
His only recourse as was reported then in the press was that he would unleash a swarm of snakes on the new Cameroon occupying forces. What kind of shakara was that? It showed that the Bakassi people do not want to collectively put their dear lives on the line for sake of Nigeria. Do you blame them? What did Nigeria do the last time many Bakassi people were decimated by Cameroonian gendarme? Nothing!
A very patriotic Ijaw youth could with little prompting take note that his cherished human and natural resources are being pillaged by oil exploration firms with the collusion of the Nigerian feds. He could go to war to try to dislodge the oil companies to protect the degradation of his ecological environment or to teach the feds one or two lessons, or both. He could fight for his tribe. But definitely he would not raise a finger in defense of Nigeria except by coercion and or a smidgen of force. Why is this so? Something definitely is fundamentally wrong with the concept of Nigeria as is.
With this in mind, who would blame any Nigerian, the president included, who would wish something right for Nigeria but flagrantly implements something seemingly very unpatriotic? For example, is there any rationale for a certain Nigerian president to want to buy for his personal use, a 10 billion Naira worth of presidential jet, when schools, colleges, hospitals and Nigerian roads are in decrepit states? Is it patriotism on the part of Nigeria's lawmakers to assign huge chunks of allowances, including that for furniture, when the average Nigerian hardly has a bed to sleep in?
Or is it patriotism when a well-paid Nigerian at the World Bank or the UN is asked and he or she accepts, to forgo a huge sum of compensation and a very cozy work environment for a compensation that should at best be described as peanuts in comparison. What of the soccer player disciplined for lack of discipline, later pardoned and recalled who says he would not return? Is he a patriot? No, he oughtn't, because Nigeria is a goat.
So is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the World Bank's super economist, its former VP and most recently the Nigerian Minister for Finance, a patriot or a villain for insisting that she be paid something that equaled her World Bank salary and even demanding that same be paid in US dollars?
Should Adeniji, her former foreign affairs counterpart be painted with the same brush for doing the same that Ngozi did? Are these people patriots? Do they believe they are co-owners of the Nigerian federation? Why should they, if Nigeria is a goat?
Am I a Nigerian patriot who sits in the cozy comfort of my home at Havensgate, a fine suburb in Owerri from where I dish out suggestions to Nigeria that neither fits nor is practicable? Can I die for Nigeria? Have I taught my children to do the same for their fatherland or their granddaddy's place? No. Do I have the moral authority to do that? Eeem…. maybe. Have I benefited from Nigeria enough to give back a little of that which I took from her? No.
Have I seen those who benefited without making commensurate input? Yes. I have. A lot. How are those I think benefited from Nigeria immensely been treating her? You want my honest answer? Like that goat owned by several people whom the wise men of yore talked about in the beginning of this essay.
Offoaro writes from Havensgate, Owerri. (07025161236)