I am very passionate about Nigeria. This is why I have never shied away from fighting its cause, no matter the price I am made to pay. Last week, I tried to address the fundamental problems obstructing the advancement of Nigeria into a global superpower. I still feel that article did not address all the issues as satisfactorily as I had envisaged. So, I have decided to continue this week, sounding the warning and expecting that those concerned would listen. I do not think it is right for people to see what is bad and keep quiet. It seems Nigerians have lost their courage to speak out against the ills in our society. Things have continued to degenerate into a worrisome level, yet nobody is talking. It is like all of us are in a state of inertia. Nigerians have never been known as a docile and cowardly people. We are respected for our bravery and alertness on issues that border on our national survival. Check it out: the press, the civil society groups, the masses, themselves, have remained silent while the fire rages. Boko Haram is threatening to set the nation ablaze and yet those in position to call them to order have refused to do so.
The labour is threatening fire and brimstone over minimum wage, yet nobody has deemed it worthwhile to address the cause of their agitation. Armed robbers, kidnappers and other miscreants are having a field day, yet nobody is making any serious effort to deal with their excesses. Last week the Nnewi Main Market was shut down because of the inglorious activities of kidnappers. Tell me:
When will action be taken to deal with these issues of national importance? Is it when all of us have been killed or maimed? Good conscience demands that every Nigerian should stand up and defend our collective heritage. To elevate Nigeria from its present dwindling fortunes into a global colossus requires that all of must get up from our slumber. The British writer and statesman, Edmund Burke, says that all it takes for evil to thrive in any society is for good men to do nothing. We are where we are today because those who should speak out have failed to do so.
Rather they have chosen to pander to the whims and caprices of those in power for the sake of their daily bread. It is this lukewarm attitude that accounted for the recklessness and bravado of some leaders in the past to take Nigerians for a ride. Many commentators have placed the problems of Nigeria at the feet of our leaders. I agree with them. But the leadership a nation gets depends on the attitude of the led. If the led stand up and defend their rights then the leadership will be awake to its responsibilities towards them. I have refused to be discouraged or lose hope in Nigeria. I cannot lose hope in Nigeria, because I do not have any other country I can call mine. For the 50 plus years of my existence on earth, I have spent a sizeable part of it working for the peace and progress of Nigeria. Nigeria is not as bad as some persons portray it. It is a great nation with enormous human and material resources.
There was a time it was the centre of Africa’s socio-economic life. At that time, other nations shivered each time Nigeria sneezed. It was called the giant of Africa, Big Brother Africa; and it truly lived up to its name. The era I am writing about was the period when Nigerians used to travel to the United States and Britain without visas. At that time, it was not too attractive for Nigerians to travel abroad for studies. The naira exchanged for less than 70k to the dollar. A bag of rice sold as low as N30 a bag while a Thermacool 350 refrigerator sold for just N200. Sadly, today, things have fallen apart - to almost a point of irredeemableness. Nigeria and Nigerians are viewed with scorn across the globe. Our citizens are molested anyhow at entry points into foreign countries. A friend of mine told me with pain how was frisked by security agents in a foreign airport because he is a Nigerian.
Some countries brand us rogues and criminals. What is our offence? They say we are drug peddlers, 419ners, human traffickers, and prostitutes. They manhandle our people, frisk them without consideration, and even detain them on the flimsiest suspicion. I have taken pains to study the problems of our nation and wish to state without any fear that the root cause is erosion of family values and societal morass. Why have we suddenly lost our pride as a people? Why have abandoned those norms and values that made us the cynosure of all eyes in global affairs? They blame Nigeria’s retrogression on other mundane factors when the real culprit is the erosion of family values. We blame our leaders as if we all did not contribute to our national woes. Who are the leaders and who are the followers? Can leaders perform without the support of the followers? The kinds of leadership we have had so far are products of our individual and collective inadequacies and incompetence. What justification do we have to blame our leaders for wallowing in malfeasance and corruption when we made ourselves ready tools for rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices? Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 7 says that one reaps whatever one sows.
There is no way one can reap cocoa when one has sown cocoyam. I wonder why parents no longer correct their children when they go wrong. Rather than scold them whenever they do what is wrong they make themselves malleable tools in the hands of their children. They lack the courage to play their parental role because they have compromised their integrity for a pot of portage. Parents watch while their children dress provocatively, prostitute and engage in other demeaning, anti-social activities without calling them to order. Such parents themselves condone the excesses of their children because the children give them part of their ill-gotten money. The family remains an important socializing agent where cultural values are transmitted from one generation to another. If this is so, why then have we suddenly forgotten those values our forebears bequeathed to us.
I still remember those days when parents were held in awe by their children. In the heyday whatever parents said was awesomely respected by their children. Today, pornography and violence on television have obsessed them. Is it not saddening that parents would watch as their children watch pornographic movies without calling them to order? My heart bleeds as I watch the evils our children engage in these days. They have no atom of respect for their parents: they leave their homes and stay away for several days without anybody raising the lid. When they return from their escapades their parents welcome them with hands spread. What a world!Honestly, our society is decaying and nothing serious is being done to remedy the situation. Everybody moves about as if nothing is happening. I have said it time without number that unless we do something to salvage the situation all of us may be consumed by the impending conflagration.
It is sad that our people no longer believe in the dignity of labour. Everybody wants to be rich quick: They want to reap from other people’s labour. What is responsible for the high incidence of immorality that rules our national life, if not greed and lousiness? I am what I am today because I sacrificed comfort and leisure to pursue my destiny with honesty, forthrightness, creativity and humaneness. This is the way I want our youth to go. They should learn to be independent, law-abiding, hardworking and resilient. It is only by so doing will they attain the goals they have set in life. I stand for what is right at all times. This is why I have always been chastised and harassed by powers that be. However, I do not have any apology for my actions since it bothered on conviction and the welfare of the generality of Nigerians. Given another opportunity I will repeat it over and over again. I believe that what our youngsters need is a motivational and inspirational leader – somebody that will serve as a role model, a mentor – to propel their vision and make them better citizens. The continual degeneration of morality in our society stems from this fact. It is preposterous that what rule our world today are covetousness, revelry, greed, thievery,
licentiousness, malfeasance, ethnicity, godfather syndrome, and orgies of diverse forms, yet we wish to build a progressive and united Nigeria! What kind of leaders do we expect to produce in the next generation? Is it leaders that lack basic cultural and social values that edify?
How can this category of leaders develop Nigeria and make it the pride of the world? For us to move forward as a nation there is the urgent need to renew and rededicate ourselves to our laid them norms, values and national ethos as a way of regenerating our consciousness to become more selfless, patriotic and god-fearing. There is no way we can progress in an atmosphere of rancour, strife and belligerency. This is why it has become increasingly important to review our school curricula to incorporate those basic courses that will reawaken the inner spirit of altruism in the citizenry and patriotic ideals. Courses on Citizenship Education, Civics, Culture and Society, Sex Education, Constitution, and Religion should be taught with greater interest and vigour. The reorientation of the youth has become imperative with the prevailing global consciousness - as a way of equipping them for their ascendancy to power in the foreseeable future.
For us to rewrite the gory history of Nigeria we need to kill the ‘I’ spirit in all of us. We accumulate wealth we do not need. We make all the money quite all right, but how many of us live happily or long to enjoy it?Why not plough back the money into an enterprise that will promote national growth and development? Many of those that seek political offices do so out of selfishness – to make money for themselves to the detriment of the nation. Tell me, how many Nigerian politicians can offer their service to the nation free of charge. Another thing that encourages corruption and laggardness in leadership is specks of office. Political offices in Nigeria are too attractive, and that is why some can go as far as killing and maiming to railroad themselves into office.
What of the masses? As I wrote earlier, it is the kind of leaders they asked for that they got. If they had wanted vibrant, conscientious and God-fearing leaders they knew what to do. When you collect money from a politician and give him your vote you have sold your conscience. You no longer have the moral basis to question his actions. Nevertheless, all hope is not lost. Nigeria can still be redeemed, if we begin now to work towards real change. We need a new Nigeria in which everybody will be free to express his views, offer his best for national development, and shun the twin-sin of corruption and moral ineptitude. It will amount to a national tragedy if we failed to move at the same pace with the outside world. We are in an information age, when man is competing with machines for survival. In the United States there is a policy that every school child must pass math. And this policy is being pursued with all religiosity. Now, see where they have dragged our education into. The just released June/July WASCE results have exposed the inadequacy of our educational system. Over a million students that sat for the examination failed.
This is a national calamity. If it were in a developed economy those charged with the upbringing of these students should resign. The poor performance in WASCE has persisted since 2008. The situation is getting worse and worse. The truth about our students’ performance in national examination is that both the teachers and the taught are ignorant. The new generation of teachers lacks the competence to groom these children into national leaders. What kind of teacher will somebody who engaged in examination malpractices to graduate from school be? What kind of teacher will a cultist who bamboozled his way out of the University be? These are basic questions all us must provide answers to. How many of our children go to school to truly learn? Instead of concentrating on their education many of them engage in other pastimes that take away their precious time. Those of them who could not concentrate on their studies pay their way through. Why should any right-thinking lecturer collect money to pass somebody who did not study for his examination?
The federal government must take immediate measures to address this unfortunate situation. The simplest way to tackle it is to make salaries of lecturers, and other categories of teachers, very attractive, update infrastructure in our schools and enforce discipline. This is the only way the sector can attract quality personnel. Let me ask: Are those who said that our graduates were not employable not correct after all? We have unemployment at a very embarrassing degree because many of those seeking employment are not qualified for engagement. President Jonathan will do our nation a great service if he urgently declares emergency in the educational sector. If he failed to do so, before nightfall, then all of us are doomed.