Analysis & Opinion: As We March Into 2023

By Sunny Awhefeada,


Chinua Achebe was not just a reputable novelist, but he was a philosopher and thought leader who envisaged an experience that was in sharp contrast an alternative to our present ordeal. Although, he didn’t outline his vision for Nigeria in an outright manner, a perceptive reader could glean his idea of what a nation ought to be in many an Achebe treatise on our country. In his refreshing and thought provoking 1983 monograph, The Trouble with Nigeria, Achebe ranged on the side of Nigerians to counter the notion that a people deserve the kind of leadership they have.

That disputation made in sympathy with the hoi polloi was that time justifiable in view of the reality that a vast majority of the populace was still entrapped in ignorance and had no inkling of what path to take to encounter the liberating essence of the human sojourn. The thesis of Achebe’s monograph was framed against the background of the bitter disappointment birthed by the civil war, military rule and the monumental failure of the civilian regime that lasted from 1979 to 1983. Some readers are wont to describe Achebe as an alarmist and a pessimist, but the conditions he decried in the monograph were to calcify into the raison d’ etre for the 31 December 1983 coup in the same manner that his novel of an earlier date, 1966 to be precise, A Man of the People, anticipated the 15 January 1966 coup. In both scenarios, the people were the victims at the mercy of the comprador bourgeoisie.

The nasty experience occasioned by bad governance and exploitation was to generate a massive body of literature which owed allegiance to the Marxist ideology with its dialectics of struggle and victory for the oppressed. Festus Iyayi, Femi Osofisan and Niyi Osundare, among other scribblers, in novel after novel, drama after drama and in poetry after poetry depicted the excruciating exploitation and grinding poverty to which the proletariat was subjected by the triple chinned bourgeoisie.

These writers titivated the psyche of the downtrodden by creating an imagined mortal struggle in which the proletariat triumphed over their insensate oppressors. The goal was to inspire or better put provoke a sense of awareness that will enable the oppressed to yank off their shackles and proclaim freedom for all. Unfortunately, that goal was never achieved and the situation Achebe bemoaned in The Trouble with Nigeria got escalated and today our nation is at the mercy of those who take delight in betraying her.

If in 1983, Achebe exculpated the people to say that it was unkind to conclude that they deserve the kind of leaders they have, that defence can no longer be tenable four decades later. What has played out this last forty years is a reflection of a people who willingly submit to enslavement and delight in “suffering and smiling” as Fela Anikulapo put it.

Despite the strides in education, the enlightenment that came with exposure to other cultures, the bitter lessons learnt over time in the hands of our malevolent rulers we have remained docile and ever willing to lend our back to our oppressors to flog and ride on. Some of my classmates had their great grandparents alive during the corrupt and directionless civilian regime of 1979 to 1983.

The import of this reference is that their great grandparents suffered the misrule of the Shagari era, their grandparents agonized under the military dictatorship of Buhari, Babangida and Abacha, then their parents and themselves suffered Obasanjo’s kabu kabu government and now as full adults and parents they and their children are afflicted by Buharidemic. We are now counting generations in bondage.

What should agitate our minds are questions such as: are we eternally programmed for doom? Why are we so docile? For how many generations will a people suffer? Where is our turning or tipping point? What can we do to evolve a redemptive praxis? Are we ready to snap the chains that bind us to affliction and truly be free? These are germane questions that demand cogent answers and the responses must come from among us the people. Once upon a time we had “prophets” and icons of the struggle in Michael Imoudu, Tai Solarin, Segun Okeowo, Fela Anikulapo, Gani Fawehimi. Beko Ransom-Kuti, Frank Kokori and others, but Nigerians didn’t heed their voices.

They cried themselves hoarse and went the way of all mortals except Kokori who is still with us. Today, we look for prophets and we see none.

Our new found reality is that we must collectively tackle the things that buffet us. The struggle has to be collective and not individual. The era of the lone or individual hero galloping on a horseback with a shining sword, metal breasted and head in helmet is no more. Times and circumstances have changed.
Our utter disillusionment and cry for redemption stem from bad leadership which has become a plague in Nigeria.

Everything that is wrong with us is leadership induced. If in 1983, the people who are the followers were exonerated by Achebe in the schema that landed the nation in the morass of that era, the same cannot hold in 2023. Nobody retains his status as slave forever. With the world shrinking into a global village and the intrusion occasioned by ICT which has resulted in massive awareness, we as a people have no reason to indulge our propensity to self-affliction. The people now make and unmake leaders. The leaders also emerge from among the people. So, why are we so helpless? Why can’t we for a change take the bull by the horns and confine the genie of leadership failure to our unsavoury past? Should we allow 2023 to pass by just like any other year as we wallow in indecision?

The year 2023 is not just any other year.

The year has in store a series of general elections through which those who will pilot the affairs of Nigeria in the next four to eight years will be elected. It is apropos to add that those who will elect the leaders are not coming from Mars, but that we the people of Nigeria have the responsibility to elect our new leaders. This is the challenge that 2023 throws at us.

How we confront the challenge is another ball game. The body charged with the conduct of the elections is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by a social scientist that is desirous of making history. The INEC boss, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has told Nigerians that about 93 million have registered as voters in the forthcoming election. That figure is unprecedented in Africa and not just Nigeria. What is more enthralling is that over 60% of that figure is made up of youths, the demography for whom tomorrow is all about.

In addition to the encouraging number of registered voters is the water tight preparation by INEC deploying hi-tech to ensure that the elections are free and fair. What one sees in INEC is a patriotic intervention for securing the soul of Nigeria through credible elections.

Besides the INEC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) has also come with a policy of redesigning the naira on the eve of the elections in order to forestall vote buying. This like what INEC is doing is a commendable proactive step in reordering Nigeria unto the path of rectitude and thus development.

Nigerians must rise to the occasion and embrace the opportunities which 2023 offers. This is a rare opportunity for us to beat our chest and affirm our humanity and will to live decent lives. This is only possible if we make the right choice. And what is the right choice? The response is fluid and indeterminate, but we must think and think hard and make tough decisions to abandon that road of old and begin anew in our quest to redirect our nation on the right path. Let us consolidate and do this as we march into 2023!

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