• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
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There is nothing to celebrate!


Banke Orimolade

One has read and watched with consternation the plans of the Federal government to hold a party worth N10b to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th anniversary and quite a lot has been said about the cost of the ‘jamboree’.

The fact that the government is even planning a celebration at such a cost is symptomatic of how far our leaders are from being ‘thinking’ leaders. Malaysia, India and Ghana (all nations in our peer group) could afford to celebrate 50 years because there was something to show for it. With the level of our resources – human and otherwise compared against our current state of national development, we have no cause for celebration. Rather, the occasion should call for sackcloth and ash mourning like in the ancient times and a complete paradigm shift from our leaders if this were possible.

I recently read Karl Maier’s “This House has fallen Midnight in Nigeria” published in 2000. In the book, he quite insightfully highlighted the many challenges of Nigeria – religious and ethnic conflicts, corruption, poor infrastructure, paucity of leadership e.t.c. Fast forward to 2010, and the same issues (perhaps even worse) still plague the country. The aptness of the author’s description of Nigeria is prescient……. We remain on the same spot.

If anyone needs any convincing as to why we should not be celebrating, this book is it! The recent show of shame by the representatives representing themselves (not their people), in the House of Representatives is an example of why there is no need to celebrate. Our so called democracy is a self serving one where our leaders put their own comfort and needs above those of the people who voted them into power and the nation as a whole. I fail to see how in the midst of a global recession when a number of nations (more developed) are implementing pay freezes and cuts in public spending our legislators are seeking for an increase in pay…. Oil output is down and there is a budget deficit – on what basis is the increase being sought? Excellent performance, attainment of set objectives? Or perhaps the oncoming 2011 elections??

Our educational system is another reason why we should not be celebrating. Standing besides a young looking woman in church recently, a part of the hymn sung called for the pronunciation of the word ‘thee’, to my astonishment the word was repeatedly pronounced as ‘the’. How come a graduate cannot decipher the difference between the words ‘the’ and ‘thee’?? As petty as this may sound it is symptomatic of the abysmal level the nation’s educational system has descended into. This is a simmering volcano which (like the recent one in Iceland) will explode someday with grave consequences.

It therefore remains puzzling that our leadership fails to see or continue to treat this issue with levity. What is the percentage of the governments budget (be it federal or state) allocated to education? And yet an educated populace is key to unlocking the untapped potential lurking in its millions of citizens between the ages of 15 to 24 who form a significant percentage of the population. This group is also the one that is getting increasingly disenfranchised…. They are not seeing the changes that will launch them into the global community (with which they are very closely connected via technological means) because of the perceived greed and ineptness of some few people. Herein lies the danger for our leaders who ignore this fact at their own peril… 50 years of standstill may be acceptable to a more conservative and patient generation but certainly not for this group. The feeling is that something must give soon and it is a huge shame that our leaders cannot sense the general mood. A situation where there are millions of unemployed youths with no hope of respite and students who would rather ride the ubiquitous ‘okadas’ around town rather than stay in classrooms to be taught can only spell doom for us as a nation.

I grew up in a Nigeria where there was no constant supply of electricity and unfortunately, the situation remains the same! My children are growing up in the same circumstance. The words ‘diesel’, ‘petrol’ and ‘generator’ formed part of their daily vocabulary as soon as they reached the age of comprehension. A new special adviser on power has just been appointed by the president. We have been here before and worse still now billions of Naira short as a nation with nothing to show for it. What will it take to get constant electricity in Nigeria? Our inability to surmount this challenge is another reason why we should not be celebrating.

The world’s 6th largest oil producer cannot power its homes, industries (the few surviving ones)??? What are we then celebrating? A young, energetic and vibrant young stock broker died sometime in March. The story is that he went to refuel his generator, something led to an explosion and he died a violent and meaningless death. He left behind a wife and 2 very young children. The responsibility for this and many other similar incidents around the country must be laid at the feet of our so-called leaders. Those responsible for the nation but who are focused more on perpetuating themselves in power. A few good men may have something to celebrate, men like Lagos state’s Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers but even then it shouldn’t be an extravagant or lavish shinding as there is still a long way to go.

Mr. Maier, the house has not only fallen, it is now obliterated. Midnight has refused to give way to dawn and hope is slowly but surely fading but our leaders are partying on!