(Published in the Nigerian Guardian, May 21 2007)
By Adeola Aderounmu
ONE of the biggest challenges in Nigeria is the absence of “for the good of all” since the day that Nigerians took their future in their hands by bidding farewell to the colonial masters from Britain. On May 1, 2007, The Guardian chose to publish the article contributed by Pat Utomi who seems to be a good man standing among the bunches that have just jostled for the criminalised election in Nigeria. This man, who appears to be without blemish, wrote that he has henceforth dedicated his life to the struggle called Nigeria.
In my opinion, this is a very positive and healthy development. We have seen a few honest men in the past but the problem is that they never get to that vantage position where their good intentions can be tested nationally. This to me is the greatest challenge that Utomi faces. On the face value, he wrote honestly and intelligently. I am not in a position to assess this man called Utomi but he has been around the corner long enough to be taken for his words. We may never be able to try such men as we should. In Nigeria, if you are not a thug or ruffian, you may not be well adapted to survive on the political terrain. Our democracy is not for decent people.
In our part of the world, we are involved in the selection of public office holders and an arrangement called kangaroo elections where we may or may not need to vote. It doesn’t make a difference what we do on polling days. I am still very amazed that we have Nigerians who vote on selection days. Why do you vote when the winner of the election could be someone who is not even a candidate? You are 20,000 in your community and a total vote tally of 100,000 could emerge. So, why are you as a normal (or abnormal person maybe) still heading for the polls at the next “election”? Nobody has given you a guarantee that it will not be business as usual.
Do Nigerians know the meaning of boycott? You could even lose your life trying to cast a vote for some lunatic attempting to reach a certain political status! Why take such a risk? There are more than 50 reasons not to vote in Nigeria. The number is correlated with the number of ways that do-or-die politicians achieve their objectives. The 2007 elections in Nigeria is a new world record for cheating possibilities. All other African countries should never allow the Nigerian government to give them advice anymore on democracy or how to chose or run their government. The example of Nigeria can ruin Africa and the entire world.
The reason for all these catastrophes and retrogression in Nigeria is simply because there is absence of the common good. The politicians are selfish and an average business adventure is set out to milk the populace. The blame is cyclic and the cycle itself is idiotism. The reason for politics in Nigeria is not to improve the state but for some nonentities to earn a living and siphon riches for personal gains. The Nigerian state is not set up to run itself like all modern systems are. Over the years, Nigerians generally have resorted to any means possible to be rich and live comfortably. This started with the rapid collapse of the infrastructure, non-maintenance of anything public/government owned. In short time, all social amenities hit the rock and the basic necessities of life became elusive. Eventually, only a few people live comfortably relative to the 140 million inhabitants.
Lack of common good bred by a fearful combination of both greed and corruption has ruined Nigeria. It is reported as one of the poorest countries in the world while on the contrary and in reality, Nigeria is arguably one of the richest countries in the world. There is abundance of natural resources in the country. If you study the geography of Nigeria, you will end up being confused since you will not be able to understand why average Nigerians should not be able to live on more than USD 100 per day if they so choose.
This is attainable since the intelligent minds have calculated that the wealth from the Niger Delta of Nigeria alone can sustain the entire Africa. If this is true, then it is extremely ridiculous that the people in the Niger Delta of Nigeria are among the poorest in the world. They are poor socially and ruined environmentally. Ask the foreign oil companies about that and how they have been aided by succeeding governments in Nigeria to trample on the local indigenes. Indeed, what I call “mass poverty” prevails in Nigeria.
Ask yourself, where does all the income from the oil goes to? Why are there no refineries in Nigeria, the sixth largest producer of oil in the world? Why is Agriculture no longer the main foreign exchange earner in Nigeria? Where are all the cocoa farms in Western Nigeria? Where are the groundnut pyramids in the North? Where is the Cassava from the East? Where are the products of the Ajaokuta Steel factory? Where lies the coal industry? What happened to the Hydro-Electric Power Generation system? Where are the graduate employment schemes of old? Do not attempt a full list of these potentials and don’t even think about the human resources in terms of intelligence and availability! You will be more confused and disillusioned.
So what went wrong? Many things went wrong. The bottom line is the absence of the common good. The politicians are the worst culprits and the civil service was not left out as well. Nobody believed in the government any longer and people did what they liked. The results: prevalence of hunger, increase in road accidents, increase in general morbidity and mortality-due to diseases and a non-functional health system.
Absolute collapse of social order, disappearance of public infrastructure, bad roads, lack of water, non-functional drainages, pensioners maltreatment, delayed salaries, public treasury looting, rage of armed robberies, police brutality, sports facilities disappearance, injustice to the poor and less privileged, examination malpractice across all strata, lack of electricity, relegation of educational values, tribalism, nepotism, anger, lack of planning, unemployment and frustration. Name any vice, it may be present in Nigeria, possibly on a large scale and acceptable (anything goes). There are also 419 fraudsters within Nigeria and as retaliation to take back from the western world (so they say).
The government of Nigeria is the greatest representative of 419 globally. Don’t look too far back, just ask the organisers of the last “election” how they conducted the last exercise. Ask them how the results were pre-determined as in all previous selections in Nigeria. Ask them how they have learned the tricks that further revealed the absence of common good. In Nigeria, the absence of common good has helped evil to prevail. Where evil prevails, sorrows abound and suffering will never end.
This takes me back to Utomi. Is he sincere? How many sincere people do we need to take Nigeria forward progressively? Shall we have more honest men to stand up in the fight to save Nigeria? Nigeria is collapsing and what she needs is the voice and actions of the people with common good.