By Sunny Awhefeada
It never rains, but pours for Nigeria! Many have argued that the postcolonial state remains in constant flux until it is able to sort itself out and that the sorting out is the product of time and critical self-review and eventual pointing at the way forward. Nigeria is the handwork of British colonizers who deriving impetus from the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 seized the vast territories that were later amalgamated and christened Nigeria by the girlfriend of Lord Lugard who enjoyed the dubious ascription of subjugating the indigenous people for the greed of Great Britain. Colonialism was not only disruptive and destructive, it also arrested the development of the people and places it birthed. The crises bedeviling most of the Third World painfully and ineluctably remind us of the dastardly consequences of colonialism.
The rupture which colonialism inflicted on Africa and other places it registered its disastrous presence was not only physical, but was also psychological and spiritual. And we need not remind ourselves that the latter two are bound to have more devastating consequences that the physical manifestation of imperialism. The anguished experience of colonialism eventually morphed into an existential crisis that approximates a bubonic plague. Colonialism corrupted the African mind and distorted the essence of the values that sustained the continent as the center of human civilization for centuries. The Africa we know today sharply contrasts with that which Cheik Anta Diop valorized as well as that reframed in narratives and verses by Ayi Kwei Armah and David Diop.
The devastating reality of the spiritual devaluation and psychological erosion of the African is best depicted in the Nigerian experience.
Nigeria carries the burden of the Black race as the most populous black nation in the world. Nigeria’s historic destiny has never been in doubt, but the postcolonial plague foisted on her by the colonial experience has become a recurring decimal in the nation’s annals. The powers that forged the fate of Nigeria must have been endowed with the most malevolent of intentions. This must be the reason why Nigeria remains the biggest paradox of nationhood in the world. Nigeria is probably one of the most endowed nations in the world, yet she is held down in poverty and debt. Her citizens are, cerebrally, among the best in the world, yet she is plagued by incurable leadership influenza.
The country boasts of the largest military in Africa, yet her crude oil is daily stolen and bandits have turned her capital city into a hunting ground. Nigeria has all that it takes to be great, but the nation is the antithesis of greatness. Every index about Nigeria has a devastating negative manifestation.
Nigeria has everything in abundance, but the vast majority of her citizens go to bed hungry. Nigeria holds great promise and immeasurable hope, yet her condition looks dark, dreary and hopeless. This is the reality of the duality of experience under which Nigeria has been groaning. The promise of nationhood in the years before and just after independence has come to nothing.
The Nigerian story is as compelling as it is heartrending and there is hardly a day passing without the citizens being buffeted by the oddities.
The manifestation of our postcolonial crises is complex, inveterate and malignant. Is it the plague of inept leadership? Is it the cankerworm of corruption? Or is it the other innumerable malevolent deficiencies foisted on us by failed leadership and corruption? The Nigerian malaise was there from the very beginning in 1960, but it wasn’t as malignant as it is now. The novelist, Chinua Achebe, told the story in his prophetic A Man of the People (1966).
The malaise provoked the 15th January 1966 coup which in turn instigated the July 1966 counter-coup and eventually the bloody civil war that ravaged Nigeria for thirty months. If quite early in the life of the nation, she experienced the tornado occasioned by bad leadership, it would have been expected that by now, some lessons should have been leant to propel the nation. Sadly, no lesson has been learnt and we have cyclically repeated the oddities that tormented us years ago and still torment us perennially.
Part of our postcolonial destiny is that Africa was programmed to fail. And the tool through which that failure is realized is that of inept leadership. Bad as the case was in the early 1960s, Africa had a crop of leaders, the founding fathers, who did well in comparison to the adventurers who succeeded them.
The founding fathers like Sedar Senghor, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyeyere, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Sylvanus Olympio, Modibo Keita, Sekou Toure, etc, despite their frailties worked for the development of the continent and envisioned a prosperous future for their countries. Word is out there that most of the coups that torpedoed the African continent from the 1960s to the 1970s were sponsored by the West in order to set the Black race back.
Many of the aforementioned leaders dreamt stubborn dreams and had lofty visions for Africa. The sublimity of their dreams, the strides they made in the first few years after independence unsettled the West and the agenda to unhinge the continent was birthed. Yes, the early post-independent regimes were corrupt, but the attunement of the new nations to greatness was not in doubt.
The forces that have turned Nigeria into the hell that it is right now are the same undoing Africa. They are the conquistadors in cahoots with conniving compradors. They have overrun the will of the people. They step in at every moment that promises to evince light. That was what happened to Nigeria in 1999 when the present dispensation was unveiled.
The misfortunes that have befallen Nigeria since 1999, a year the people erroneously thought would end their sorrow, were not by happenstance, but by design and aimed at wrecking the Republic. Somehow Providence has infused an uncommon resilience in the people. So, the Republic is still standing, but for how long? Each day, each week, each month and each year brings us to the brink, but each time we manage to be pulled back as if by divine intervention.
These are the very early days of 2024, a new year, during which the citizenry should be looking forward to hope and good things to come with a new beginning especially as a new government is in place. But what are we confronted with? We are inundated with provocative corruption, frightening insecurity, howling hunger and other phenomena which portray the country in the character of an ungoverned space.
The last regime that lasted from 2015 to 2023 remains the worst in the unfolding experience of nationhood. Yet, it was the man at the head of that regime, Muhammadu Buhari, that a zombie wrote a book about in the manner of a whited sepulcher.
Buhari was celebrated as anti-corruption crusader before 2015 and that was what earned him the presidency. Sadly, at the end of his eighjt years as president, it is being alleged that over twelve trillion naira was stolen by officials who worked with him. The book created an opportunity for the compradors to gather in Abuja to sing to eight years of failure. They took turn to eulogize the man under whose watch Nigeria declined to an all-time low in all the indices of development. And the zombie told the insensate audience that there was an aspect of the man they didn’t know. He told them it was humour.
And I think he meant gallows humour. Truly, somebody does deserve flaying. We are too steeped in oddities, but we cannot afford to suffer this fate forever. There is a compelling need for a new dawn because we have journeyed in the dark for too long. The people must come together and awaken the nation to a new dawn. This federal republic of oddities must give way to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is doable.