This piece was born out of an argument I had with a friend of mine, asking what is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians. It is kind of difficult knowing where to start with; Nigeria or Nigerians. However, I will attempt to articulate my thoughts in a way that will pass across my meditations with clarity.
What is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians? Nigeria, rich in natural resources and endowed with great people as citizens, yet more than half of its citizens live from hand to mouth. Why is this? Nigeria described as the Giant of Africa, however if we continue along the path we are presently threading, in no distant future, there will be no Nigeria to be called Giant.
What is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians? Corruption and high-handedness have become the order of the day. So much so that morals and morality have been thrown to the wind. These virtues have become something we only read about in our history books or something some of us only imagine for the future.
Without any doubt, Nigeria has the potential to be amongst the most developed countries of the world, but we continue to allow short-sightedness, greed, corruption, disregard for rule of law, lack of law enforcement, cripple the so called Giant.
What is referred to in economics as “poor income distribution” has become so prevalent in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it is celebrated and often used as a tactics for gaining political power and relevance.
In Nigeria we are experiencing what is known in economics as growth without development. All the indices of growth are steadily on the rise, yet the effect of such growth is hardly felt by its citizens. Nigeria now has a functional railway. It takes 24hrs to go from Lagos to Kano. No air-conditioning and almost no comfort, yet for my people, the availability of the rail service alone, is a major development.
Our standards, as a people have become so low, that every token gesture or proof that we do still have a government, is widely celebrated.
In Nigeria we put the cart before the horse: I think it was General Babangida who sent soldiers to Liberia to maintain peace and try to restore the country to democratic rule. Exporting democracy while we were under military rule. How laughable!
We send soldiers to maintain peace in other countries of the world when in our country we are experiencing very unstable peace; ranging from Boko Haram activities to communities executing jungle justice. And speaking of jungle justice, what happened to the perpetrators of the “Aluu 4” killings?
It is now a normal thing in Nigeria that between 10 and 15 people must die every day due to extremism or some people taking laws into their hands and nothing tangible is done to checkmate this scourge. I believe strongly that lack of law enforcement contributes in no small measure to where Nigeria is at the moment.
Nigeria is one of the few remaining places on earth, where authority, power and leadership, equate to license to trample on the people one is supposed to be serving. Nigerians are yet to realize that the real power rests in their hands. I hope the citizens wake up to begin to demand answers to questions that have lingered in their hearts and demand accountability from their leaders.
Nigeria is the real-life depiction of George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm; where all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Or how else can you explain that one region of the country has so many representatives occupying top positions:
Vice President North,
Senate President North,
Speaker House of Reps North,
PDP National Chairman North,
PDP BOT Acting Chairman North, Head of Service North,
INEC Chairman North,
Inspector General of Police North, Central Bank Governor (CBN) North, Chief Justice of the Federation North, President Court Of Appeal North, President of the Federal High Court North,
National Security Adviser (NSA) North, Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) North, Comptroller General Customs North and 19 Northern Governors.
Richest man in Africa,
85% of petroleum marketers in Nigeria, 80% of oil block owners in Nigeria.
Yet with all this, the prevailing poverty level in the region is unprecedented, the poorest states of Nigeria, the most educationally backward areas in Nigeria exists in the north and the people continue to adopt what is called in local parlance, a ‘sidon-look’ approach and instead choose to blame the president for under-development and their entire woes.
The other day the Vice President was distributing plasma TVs et al, as souvenirs at his daughter’s wedding, that money could have been put to better, more charitable use and gone a long way in improving the lives of the people of Kaduna State.
Recently, I saw a billboard, with the governor of Niger state inviting people to the wedding of his daughter. What is it with such disgusting and carnal display of affluence?
What comes to my mind is what Lord Lugard wrote in one of his reports, The Dual Mandate Report, pg.70 (1926):
“In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self-control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelry.
“His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals’ placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached.
“Through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural.
“He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility. He will work hard with a less incentive than most races.
“He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue. In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won, is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy. Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the future.” – Lord Frederick John Dealty Lugard, The Dual Mandate, pg.70 (1926).
What is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians? It is sad that almost a century later, we exhibit a greater level of what Lord Frederick Lugard described.
Another aspect of our existence that gives me serious concern is education. I came to realize, that a lot of the schools our leaders attended were missionary schools: St Luke’s, St Annes and the likes. The question in this present day is what happened to those schools? Have they somehow been replaced by those instituted by present day churches?
Using Covenant University as an example. This institution was built with the tithes and offering of church members, yet some of the ordinary members cannot attend the school due to the exorbitant fees. Bishop, please reconsider your stand on this issue as education is meant to help develop our kids and by implication our society. What is more painful is that nobody is saying anything about these things. Indeed I ask again, what is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians? I can use many more illustrations, by we are all fully aware what the numerous issues are, but choose not to address them. What is wrong with us Nigerians? Are we not human like the rest of the world? Is there something in the air we breathe that puts us in a trance-like state of existence? What is wrong with Nigerians?
Ojugo Onyelukachukwu is an alumnus of the premier University of Ibadan, Nigeria with post-graduate certificates from Ahmadu Bello University, Harvard where he did Judgement and Decision Making, the United States Institute of Washington DC amongst other great institutions. He is a registered member, People’s Democratic Party. He tweets @gentleojay