As confirmation that our ailments and underlying issues have been festering for several decades, “The Guardian” newspaper published on its front page forty years ago, the views of Professor Lambo who had served as Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation [WHO]. His was a diametrically different perception form that of Chief Remi Fani-Kayode.
Headline: “Lambo blames woes on his generation”
“Renowned psychiatrist Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo yesterday indicted his generation for throwing a spanner into the works in the noble attempt at raising a virile post-independent Nigerian nation.
His indictment came in Ibadan as the government raised an alarm on the swelling army of lunatics in the streets.
In critique of what he tagged Nigeria’s slow march to greatness, the former deputy director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) told government officials and fellow psychiatrists at their yearly conference that “the cumulative result of the decadence and inept leadership foisted on the nation had resulted in dislocation of all ramifications of the country’s political and socio-economic life”. Going through the nation’s history, Lambo discovered that it was characterised by conceit, blunders, corruption, and indecision-a situation he said was responsible for the ailments afflicting the polity.
“We went into the first republic with a great deal of idealism, hope and trust, sincerely believing that it was an independence to end colonialism social inequality and poverty – one that will bring more freedom and democracy to the people of our country, but when the corrupt republic failed, we accepted the fact without rebellion,” he recalled.
To shake off the decadence of the past, the respected academician advocated a “new political institution and a very new constitution,” but quickly noted that the first act of military intervention was the suspension of the constitution:
“We will need new concepts with a new social theory. We don’t know when we will get these and what they will look like, but we know we are disenchanted with the government, primarily because they do not perform, he said.
His antidote for inept and purposeless government is “a government that can and does govern, focusing on its specialisation.”
Just before Oyo State Governor, Col. Adedeji Oresanya had sounded the alarm on burgeoning lunatics. Lambo warned on the rising incidence of mental illness in developing countries, describing the upswing as a new challenge to governments in the Third World. These countries are facing a rapid increase in the frequency and severity of health problems which until recently were erroneously associated with affluence and civilisation.
He listed Nigeria’s health related problems as:
i.) high incidence of infectious diseases; (this was long before the COVID-19 pandemic !!)
ii.) increasing concentration of people in urban areas with attendant problems of alcoholism, drug abuse and other social vices; and
iii.) lack of coordination and national health policy.
In Lambo’s view, Nigeria’s first attempts at development were at variance with its socio-cultural peculiarities. “Too often when we look for assistance, we look in the wrong direction, whereas we could achieve the same end by using our talents and employing our energy to great advantage.” He said.
There is also a class dimension to our problems – going back to the days of the IMF/Structural Adjustment Programme under General Ibrahim Babangida
“Many of the problems revolve around the middle-class who are traditionally the guardians of our social values and economic relativities.
The cumulative result of the decadence and inept leadership foisted on the nation had resulted in dislocation of all ramifications of the country’s political and socio-economic life … leadership characterised by conceit, blunders, corruption, and indecision – a situation responsible for the ailments afflicting the polity
However, the evidence before us provides abundant proof that the middle-class is itself an endangered species – crushed from all sides by the new economic game of survival. When economic pressures become suffocating, social values are inevitably the first victims. This is what probably prompted Professor Dotun Philips, the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) to ask the damning question: “Who bears the burden of SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme); to what extent; and with what relativities?
So, it would appear that the brunt of the burden is on those with fixed incomes – wage and salary earners and the middle-class. The question that should constantly agitate the minds of policy-makers is whether this category will be compensated and to what extent? History teaches that in virtually all countries, it is the middle-class (not the rich or poor) which constitutes the major agents of dynamism and progressive change in a society. Nigeria cannot escape this historical lesson. She must not destroy her middle-class on the altar of SAP.”
Perhaps, we should add what Vincent Ezenwa declared on CNN:
“Our society encourages corruption as criminals and crooks who amassed their wealth by hook or crook are publicly idolised and worshipped; and those who can’t make it through corrupt practices are jeered at and openly mocked in their communities, because there are no mansions and flashy cars to show for their stint and toil in the public service. So it is even a sin in Nigeria, given the scale of rampant corruption, for an honest and faithful public servant to live within his legitimate income.
Without belabouring the point, there is clearly a linkage between what obtains in our schools and universities; and what prevails in the outside world where the norms established by a previous generation have been ruthlessly crushed by the new generation – impatient, unscrupulous and unrepentant.”
Who is listening when Ezenwa adds: “Corruption would be greatly curbed when Nigerians are not prepared to die at all costs because of naira; when they revise their value system outside naira and kobo (money); and believe in other ennobling values, sacrifice, hard work, devotion and commitment to one’s duties no matter what they are. Those who laid down their lives for the economic survival of this country in the first military coup could be weeping in their graves because these vices they fought against are still very much with us, and worse still, it seems it is now a sin for paupers and nonentities who could previously boast of only mud houses in villages not to leave office as millionaires.’’
The late ken Saro-Wiwa, the Niger-Delta activist who was hanged by the military government of General Sani Abacha was prescient. Long before he was given the death sentence for murder, he virtually wrote his own obituary:
“What is wrong with pain? We go through that all the time. Living in Nigeria is to die so many times in one day.”