• Friday, February 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

The Nigerian condition: Who is to blame? (1)

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Like all privileged Nigerians, I have had the benefit of following through some of the most painful activities, pronouncements, political decisions, government actions and inactions culminating in profound indignation by the helpless and average citizens while a handful of people that benefits from such actions openly, recklessly and/or verbally display their power of influence. Cases abound of ethnocentric decisions taken with impunity, carpeting of criminal activities perpetrated by political office holders and their cronies, perverting justice where it was so openly committed, inaction on issues that borders on the fundamental issues that cements a plural country like ours, looting of the nations treasury and subsequently oppressing the citizens with the spoils of such corrupt practices, stealing electoral mandates through various malpractices, ignoring the state of infrastructural decadence while continuing to waste money on projects that only serves certain, self interest, etc.

If you are an average Nigerian like me, I am sure you can fill in more than ten additional pages of issues bordering on poor governance and impunity by our governments – past and present. Hence I would like to allow your mind to do justice to the endless list of issues incapacitating our development. As you do this you might not have much choice than to agree with me, or rather with the numerous local and international political, economic and social analysts who have tagged Nigeria as a failed state.

As an ardent follower of events in the life of our dear country in recent times, I may have to go back in time to remind us of what we know already so as to be able to rationally draw some inference about the implications of the actions of our leaders, numerous insensitive comments we make as followers on their behalf and the positions taken by blocs in support or against such actions. Such supporters, as we know are for sale to the highest bidders. Unlike what they have in the Capitol Hill and government lobbyist in the US, ours is a brand strictly made in Nigeria – a la Afenifere, Ohaneze-Ndigbo, Arewa Consultative Forum. Who have actually taken time to ask how these people meet and discuss with the ordinary people they claim to represent. Where are the minutes of such meetings and how many of the people that attends their meeting as a proportion of the people they represent attends meetings or sends proxies. What qualifies one for election or appointment to these leadership positions? These are questions. Other categories of pressure groups, for lack of a better phrase to use, have also sprung up either as ad-hoc for a purpose which dies off immediately their interests have been met or as permanent organizations, e.g. Association for Better Nigeria (ABN),  Movement for the States of Biafra (MASOB), Daniel Kanu’s One Million March for Abatcha, MEND, OPC, etc.

But how did we degenerate to this state? I am not an authority on Nigeria’s political-socio-economic issues, I am merely an observer and would like to be perceived as such. I need to dilate a little bit into our political history and attempt to make some inference from it as regards some of the decisions that are being taken, why there are too many self-centred goups and interests, its implications on the life of an average Nigerian.

We will all recall that immediately after the independence we had a parliamentary system of government with the Prime Minister from the then Northern region and the President from the Eastern region. Together the political parties, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the National Council of Nigeria and the Citizens (NCNC) from the Northern and Eastern region formed an alliance to form the national government. The Western region with Action Group (AG) became the shadow cabinet and provided a strong opposition for the government in power. Because of the relative maturity of the leaders of the political parties and the studious effort at ousting the colonial power, decisions were consultatively reached and ultimately favourable to the common Nigerian. Pardon me if I decided not to dwell on the acrimony, ethnic politics and crisis of this period here. We witnessed an unprecedented healthy rivalry amongst the regions to provide the necessities of life culminating in the dividend of democracy for the people. Education, roads and transportation, business and entrepreneurship, medical services, agriculture amongst several others flourished to provide the much needed employment for the people. We witnessed unprecedented mobility of factors of production – labour, capital as well as entrepreneurship.

The cornerstone of infrastructure we have in the 21st century Nigeria were the sacrifice and commitment made by the first set of political leaders in Nigeria. The northern, western and eastern region citizens enjoyed the dividend of democracy after independence from the colonial masters – call it the spoils of war. At this point I will need to give credence to eminent statesmen like Sir Tafawa Balewa, Chief Mike Enahoro, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Mike Okpara, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and a few others (as a typical Nigerian reading this article, please note that the names were not written in any particular order, they were simply how my fingers obey my thinking and the need to put them in print before it disappears from my brain). When I recalled my studies in history about the activities of these late statesmen, I can’t but compare them to what the likes of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo, etc did in South Africa, Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Thomas Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and a host of the early activist in Africa. Luck, circumstances or peculiarities of environment also enhanced the popularity of some of these leaders over the others. And to them I dare remember a verse in our national anthem which says “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain” (Amen).

By:  Akeem Akinfenwa