by Adeola Aderounmu.
Nigeria calls herself the giant of Africa. Please can someone tell Nigeria and Nigerians to wake up! Giant of where? Nigerians are giants only in their homes. They live under an illusion of pre-independence glory. They count on the dense population as a criterion to pronounce giant as a title. The events that have played out recently in Nigeria have precipitated the country to the lowest level of pity. Indeed, no one can take away the influence that Nigeria cast on the Africa continent or worldwide, but those influences will never be counted as greatness. Never!
In great countries and in giant nations, election time represents the voice of the people. It is a time to keep fate with a performing government or seek a change when necessary. Public offices are designed as positions for servants who must be ready to give account of their performance at any point in time during or after serving. In great countries with functional democracies, the arms of government are functional and independent. Simply, the executives perform its duties, the senate makes laws and judiciary interprets the law and constitution. The people of a great country know their rights and they demand for it.
Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world. It has been said that if Nigeria stops producing oil, countries like the US will be worst hit. Does anyone know that Nigeria has no functional refinery to make the oil available for her use? How can anyone explain that Nigerians import oil to use in their own country? How can you as a right thinking person correlate this to the status of a great country or self-acclaimed giant? Nigeria is not a giant! Let her sit down somewhere and weep. People die regularly in Nigeria because of pipeline explosions. They try to steal or scoop oil because someone is not doing his job. There are many other reasons why people die prematurely in Nigeria; diseases, lack of basic health infrastructure, religious violence, road accidents, collapse buildings, armed robbery and so on. Nigeria has one the highest child and pregnancy-related maternal mortalities in the world. There is polio is Nigeria and malaria related morbidity and mortality is high.
But I will not want to lose track of the essence of this piece. It is about the essence of public service and it’s relevant to the greatness of a country. Public servants are accountable to the people and are liable under the laws. This is not so in Nigeria. You are not accountable to anyone! As a public servant or politician in Nigeria, your primary duty is to become rich. The other thing you need to ensure is that you award contracts with favour and get your returns in your bank accounts spread all over the world. If you leave office as a politician and you are poor or your condition remains the same, the people will laugh at you. They will ask you what you were doing when your counterparts are cutting from the National cake. They expect you to save money for yourself and your unborn generations. They will give you the examples of Awolowo, Azikwe, IBB, Abacha, Shagari, Buhari, Obasanjo, Tinubu, and thousands of others. They will ask you if you think such families will ever be poor again! Pardon me for the names that appear here, I don’t know who among them was self made or self-enriched. It is also not clear to me who among them saved money or positions for their generations. But it is a common saying in Nigeria that once they appeared in public life, their generations are rich forever.
There may be a few honest men in Nigeria and there may have been a few dividends of democracy but in general, there is mass poverty. The implications of civilian rule in the last 8 years from 1999 to 2007 are catastrophic. The indelible marks of military regime before then were similarly catastrophic. Austerity measures and Structural adjustments of the 80s were suicidal. This is why it is still very annoying that some things never changed in Nigeria. For example, why is it impossible for the people to demand accountability from the elected politicians? Why is it impossible to imprison corrupt politicians and other persons? Why are the politicians stealing money and saving them for their future and family? Why are idiots been elected or selected to rule Nigeria? Why are the people disenfranchised during elections? Why do politicians use thugs as security officers? Why is it not possible to have a revolt in Nigeria and bring men of honour to power? Why do people expect politicians to be richer than they were after service? Why does the will of a few men in Nigeria take pre-eminence over the will of the many suffering masses? Why do a few men give Nigeria such a bad and unpalatable image abroad? Why is it impossible to have a government that will use the vast human and natural resources in the country to achieve greatness?
One can go on and on to ask many questions why the country that has produced the likes of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Emeagwali still remains in the doldrums despite proclaiming independence in 1960. Indeed, Nigeria has what it takes to be great but Nigeria is not great yet. The politicians have made a mess of the country. There is no functional electricity, the roads are bad, the schools are poorly equipped (many Nigerian academic live abroad), the hospitals are bad (Nigerian doctors and nurses prefer to work abroad), the unemployment rate is very high (with no plans for graduating students), lawlessness abound, clean water are sold to the people and insecurity is a major problem as armed robbers and militants operate freely.
Despite all these problems and hopelessness, it was still impossible for Nigerians to take their future in their hands in the last elections (April 14 and 21 2007). On the eve of the presidential election, Nigerians were informed that voting materials are arriving from South Africa. So, who is the giant? Is it a country that cannot print ordinary electoral papers? Nigeria imports almost everything under the surface of the sun including refined petrol! Wake up sleeping “giant”! The just concluded “elections” are nothing short of a farce. It is a slap on the face of the intelligent minds that abound in Nigeria. Nigeria has just set a very bad example to other African countries and it is a big shame. It appears to me that Nigeria has not made any progress democratically despite the mistakes and shortcomings of the past. We repeat history and never learn from them. It is useless to let the election results stand in the name of civilian to civilian transition. The significance of this election is not in the transfer of power; it is in the meaning of our lives. The significance is in the wish of the people, the need for a proper and appropriate change and the hope for a greater tomorrow.
After May 29th, I will be really disappointed if the likes of Obasanjo, Atiku, Iwu and the others who have contributed to the demeaning of Nigeria in the last 8 years are not placed on trial. We need to take control of our lives, our destinies and our future. It must start from someone, from somewhere and this is another opportunity. If we don’t probe and try the outgoing administration and its key players, we will be setting a pace for the new administration that we are not destined for greatness. I have nothing against still having the like of IBB or Buhari on trial. They are living burglars. We need to stop thieves in high and low places and put everybody on alert for national revamping. Making Nigeria great is not going to be a day’s job. It will be a collective duty on virtually on frontiers of our lives. But Nigeria will never be great if we don’t resolve to take the first step. Many more generations will be wasted and people will continue to wallow in poverty despite the wealth of the nation. My heart bleeds for Nigeria, a rich country where values are not placed on human existence and where sycophants are glorified.