By Sunny Awhefeada,
Nigeria must rank the highest in terms of paradoxical manifestations in all the indices of development ever known to humanity. Nigeria is big, but small. Yes, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu who announced the nation’s first military coup one chilly harmattan dawn in January 1966 accused the political leaders of making Nigeria look “big for nothing”.
Nigeria is rich, but poor. Nigeria has vast arable land, but her people are among the hungriest in the world.
Nigeria has a brilliant populace, perhaps among the best endowed in the world, but she remains in the wood governed by ignorance more than sixty years after independence. Nigeria has a large body of water, adequate sunshine, unceasing wind, inexhaustible gas and other resources that can light up the entire African continent, but the nation is in darkness. Nigeria is a leading oil producing country, but she neither has functional refineries nor are her citizens able to get adequate supply of petrol, kerosene and allied products. Nigeria has the largest armed forces in Africa, but her citizens are traumatized by insecurity.
It is in Nigeria that policemen that are paid to protect citizens rob and kill the same citizens, while judges, who should dispense justice, cash out and dispense injustice. It is in Nigeria that government abandons its primary objectives of welfare and security of the people to unleash untold suffering without reprieve on the same citizens. We are a prayerful and seemingly pious people, but we are among the most corrupt on earth. Nigeria is where diagnosis and prognosis have never brought healing.
That is why despite being Africa’s largest economy the country is the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria is trapped in the worst cul-de-sac of the paradox of nationhood. States or nations are never built in one day. They evolve to assume a character that eventually defines them.
In the course of that evolution such entities experience twists and turns which are a desiderata in the journey to nationhood. The citizens witness the fluctuating fortunes of history.
But there was always something, a kind of a beacon of hope which not only rejuvenates the citizenry when they are weary, but enables them to make that quantum leap whenever the opportunity offered itself. And the people and the factor of leadership, not just leadership, but good leadership, are central to this evolution into nationhood.
Good leaders emerge at trying moments to stir the affairs of State in the right direction. Once the opportunity for good leadership was missed such a State was bound to remain in the woods. Besides the factor of good leadership, is also that of good followership. Leadership and followership have become complimentary in a nation’s journey to greatness.
Yes, agreed that leadership is more central to the realization of a nation’s manifest destiny, members of the leadership class emerge from the people who constitute followership. So, a bad citizen, who is ultimately a bad follower, will make a bad leader.
Furthermore, followership has become complicit in the enthronement of bad leadership. Hence the settled thinking that a people get the kind of leadership they deserve. This is especially true for a nation that gained independence more than sixty years ago, now with a population of over two hundred million people and many of them conscious of their grievous condition and also in the know of what to do to undo their chains.
The Nigerian story often compels us to look back to see, as Chinua Achebe would say, “where the rain began to beat us”. An evaluation of our post-colonial trajectory will reveal that the rain has always beaten us. It only varied in intensity. Once it was fashionable to blame our woes on the colonial masters who left more than sixty years ago.
Then the blame was passed on to our own people, the nationalists, who succeeded the colonizers at independence and manifested in Achebe’s A Man of the People.
The leaders at independence, despite the development strides they recorded, were derailing the nation and it took the soldiers less than six years to turn their guns on them.
The streets of Lagos, Ibadan and Kaduna were still awash with the blood of slain political leaders this time, fifty-eight years ago. The soldiers who took over led us into a bloody civil war the consequences of which still haunt us till this day.
Between 1979 and 1999, Nigeria was run by different civilian and military regimes. Civilians and soldiers, rogues them all, brought the nation to grief. What was apparent was not whether the rulers were civilians or soldiers.
They were rulers united by selfish interest and motivated by a grand conspiracy against Nigeria. The soldiers who often railed against corruption in their dawn coup speeches turned out to be more corrupt than their civilian counterparts. It took Nigeria decades to realize that she had no Ataturks in her army.
The decimals which now characterize and define Nigeria are very frightening. Things seem to be daily falling apart without reprieve in sight. Those who promised us “renewed hope” now wallow in hopelessness. Hope thrives in vision and those who peddled the mantra of “renewed hope” less than a year ago appear to be without vision.
Under their watch Nigeria and her citizens get devalued by the hour. Every utterance they make remains ineffectual and wide off the mark. One plus one refused to add up. The economy is in ruins. Corruption remains a contagion. Insecurity is alarming. The nation’s socio-economic structure is comatose.
Government has abdicated its responsibilities. It looks as if nobody is in charge. Nigeria is in a very bad shape. The abductions and killings which have become hourly and nationwide, the looting spree and the grinding poverty ravaging the citizenry are unprecedented. The currency is in a free fall and the Governor of the Central Bank is ascribing it to the craze for foreign education and medical tourism.
And we need to ask him about those who indulge their children with foreign education and those who patronize foreign hospitals to attend to minor discomforts such as headache, toothache, backache and ear pain? Nigeria is down, but not out. The people are hungry, angry and disillusioned. Their pain and disillusionment derive from the acute sense of being serially betrayed by the ruling class.
What then happens in times like this? People should not just throw up their hands in surrender. They must think, offer suggestions and work out their destinies to evolve a new dawn.
They should be motivated by the knowledge that dawn will push away darkness, but this will not happen without work. This is therefore the time for a new crop of leaders to rise from among the people and reframe an ideal that will drive Nigeria on the path of rebirth and eventual greatness. Our people must be mobilized irrespective of “tribes and tongues”, religion or class or gender. We must form a common agenda deriving from a constructive and regenerative vision. We must embrace courage and take painful decision. We must know that we cannot make omelette without breaking eggs.
The maladies confronting Nigeria are gargantuan and we must brace up to undo and rout them. We have cried in anguish for too long to the point of being complicit. Our people must be made to see the beauty of a new dawn. But they should be conscious that such a dawn will not come without the requisite sacrifice. Getting out of times like this is in our hands.