By Abiodun Komolafe
I'M an angry Nigerian and I have my reasons! Nigeria is in trouble and only God can save her! She's hemorrhaging with excruciating felicity and only the Stone of Israel can say whether or not it is well with her soul. Dear country's socio-economic landscape is in dire straits and it's as if we are unjustly suffering for the impetuousness of our leaders. The leadership is far removed from the followership and one begins to wonder where relief and deliverance for the poor will come from. Unfortunately, while those who have held the country hostage are unwilling to let go, those who are struggling to rescue her do not even know how to approach this important task of life-saving for a country in distress.
Keen observers will admit that the situation on ground is so terrifying that one is at times tempted to ask: is democracy truly what we need to survive as a country? If our major undoing was military dictatorship which held Nigeria by the jugular for the better part of half a decade, why haven't sixteen years of uninterrupted civilianization brought unto us the desired reprieve? Why must we have to wait until a man "with a reputation of integrity" like Muhammadu Buhari returns to power before we are cleansed of our corruption filth and why did Osun State have to grapple with impassable roads for so long before a man of steady nerves like Rauf Aregbesola came to its rescue? Expanding the horizon, why is Africa unable to manage its successes in democracy and why do African leaders prefer to die on the throne? Why have attempts at forcing western democracy on countries like Libya and Iraq not brought about peace to their hapless citizens?
Nigeria is a country where patriotic citizens are reduced to mere means of self-satisfying ends. So far, ours has been a case of "bread and butter" politraders exploring the womb of 'rice and beans' politics with acidic fundamentalism and humor-infused activism. Inherent in our socio-political advancement is the introduction of tribal primordial sentiments. Many have been unjustly cut down in their prime while numerous others have unnecessarily lost their means of livelihood; only the more fortunate ones end up as exiles. Added to it is the administration of justice which oftentimes punishes the heroes and rewards the villains.
I have argued elsewhere that Nigeria's major shortcoming as an independent nation is her clashing contradictions. Another challenge is that the memory of her people is short; indeed, too short that since we tend to forgive and forget the past so easily, it has become practically difficult for the sinners of, especially, our immediate past to either repent or be treated to the real wages of sin. For instance, despite Yakubu Gowon's geo-political absurdities and socio-economic silliness, he is now Nigeria's chief prayer warrior. Sani Abacha, the Maximum Dictator, is now seen as a saint compared to Olusegun Obasanjo, the Maximum Democrat; while the Maximum Democrat is already comparing his place and space in history to Abraham Abraham Lincoln. Emeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, who rated personal ambitions above national pursuits, eventually became "the voice of the injury of the Easterners" while Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff, that military governor who once humiliated professionalism, is now seen as the 'beacon of hope' for the oppressed and the depressed people of the Niger Delta.
Besides, while Michael Ani, Victor Ovie-Whiskey, Eme Awa, Ephraim Akpata and Abel Goubadia died without treating Nigerians to what derailed their plans for the country, Humphrey Nwosu, on his own part, was literally too dull to comprehend what his job as umpire entailed. And Maurice Iwu only ended up wooing Nigerians into another round of electoral mess. Tragically, we now seem to have lost interest in our ability to put things right that, even, in the face of mind-boggling revelations of how our commonweal was recklessly abused and selfishly converted, we think 'go and sin no more' remains the best approach to issues of governance.
One important message I took away from Ijebu-Jesa Grammar School in 1985 was Adebola Ademowo's charge during our Valedictory Service that, unlike the popular saying, the struggle, for us as secondary school leavers, was "just beginning." Things being what they are, one can safely say that the Anglican priest actually conducted a spiritual scanning of Nigeria's socio-economic environment before coming to that conclusion. But that was thirty years ago, when all things about Nigeria were bright and beautiful. That year, Nigeria was just 25 years old as an independent nation, with only seven leaders' experience. Incidentally, Buhari, Nigeria's sitting president, was the Head of State for the better part of that year.
This is Nigeria in 2015! Thirty years after, times and things have gone so bad for dear country that Ademowo's exhortation looked more like a prophetic picture into Nigeria's future. How do I mean? Nigeria, now world's 7th largest country has also been rated as the world's 2nd most deadly country. No thanks to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram and its affiliates! Again, Nigeria is not only the largest economy in Africa with over-$500m dollars in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), she also ranks as the 21th largest economy by nominal GDP. But more than 60% of her population is below poverty level, courtesy of poor government and administrative laxity. Though Nigeria now ranks 6th in agricultural output globally; and first in Africa, her food exports continue to decline even as imports are on the increase. As if these are not enough, Nigeria is ranked 10th largest country with illicit financial flow even as her debt profile under former President Goodluck Jonathan alone was about 34.2% of Nigeria's total debt. The country's services sector is 63rd in the world but her economic situation remains precarious, thus making life "an absurd desire" and lack "a sign that we were born wrongly".
In 1985, Nigeria had 19 states, with a population of 83.9million. Now, it has 36 states, and Abuja, her capital city; and with a population of about 177,155,754. By that year, Nigeria's per capita incomes had dropped to about one-quarter of their 1970s' high; and oil had become the major source of income for the government. Then, our oil export stood at 1.82 million barrels per day; and the cost of a barrel was US$18. Now, Nigeria produces about 2.52 million barrels per day with a barrel selling for less than US$45. Naira as at 1985 exchanged at NGN0.894 to the dollar. Now, it hovers between NGN200.00 and NGN250.00 to US$1. In any case, we need not forget that it was the introduction of the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the Ibrahim Babangida-led junta in 1986 that eventually changed the face and the fate of the naira-dollar relationship.
Thirty years ago, a prospective secondary school leaver would gladly aim at lofty and profitable ambitions that would make his family proud. Babangida came and unwittingly mortgaged the spirit of courage and creativity of Nigeria's youth. Before Judas Iscariot was Judas Maccabaeus. But Judas lost its place and popularity among Christian and Jews alike after the Betrayer came to fulfill "all things ... which were written in the law of Moses." Now, our youth would rather prefer graduating as 'yahoo boys' to appreciating the true meaning of meritocracy and social justice.
That said, where do we go from here and how far can the president go in clearing the Augean stables? What can this land, which currently sacrifices transparency on the altar of efficiency, do to feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing that the Buhari administration is bringing on board? Indeed, this is why I am deeply worried!
In its July 17, 1966 reaction to Nigeria's first coup, The Sun (a prominent British newspaper), described democracy as a "sophisticated form of government needing time and economic security to develop." Students of history will readily admit that Nigeria's political space is full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Of course, that's why I don't envy the president. Amid this chaos however, it is gratifying to note that Buhari has within a short period of time in office done a lot to close up the gulf that has hitherto weakened our collective resolve to forge a common front. Needless to repeat that its results so far have been awesomely impressive. At least, we knew how Nigeria was before former President Jonathan took over as president in 2011 and we also knew how bad things had gone by the time Buhari was taking over on May 29, 2015.
Let me by way of conclusion state that the hallmark of a leader is his ability to realize that change begins with selflessness and sacrifice; that discipline is very germane to effective leadership even as war on corruption ensures better service delivery; and that political process gets corrupted when unfettered pursuit of money becomes a way of life. Therefore, irrespective of constraints like age, party patronage, artificial sentiments and class solidarity, Nigerians see in Buhari a man who understands better the complexity of the issue at stake as well as how to confront all those stubborn situations that've hitherto resisted remedy. So, as he defines concrete objectives with a view to raising the vision and showing to the world that a sustainable pathway to development is possible, one can only pray for him and wish him well! After all, who knows but that Buhari has come to this presidential position for such a time as this?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
(Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com)