When I was in secondary school, I had so much hope, so much optimism and so much belief in this nation called Nigeria! I believed so much that I bought language textbooks on Hausa and Yoruba. I assumed it was proper to know and speak as many Nigerian languages as possible! Indeed, my generation believed in Nigeria. Why wouldn’t we believe?
Our country was saving lives with ECOMOG, our country was lending to nations including South Korea and China! Sparkling roads were being built, industries were springing up, car manufacturing was happening in at least four plants. Tractors, trucks, trailers, were rolling off assembly plants and in football, we were tops! We had so much to look forward to as Nigerians! Then rulers could be trusted and respected. Alas! Everything suddenly turned around for the worst! The hope and optimism simply melted away leaving Nigerians bewildered and in shock!
Everywhere one turns these days in our country, despair stares one in the face. From Zamfara to Zaria, from Lagos to Lapai, from Aba to Abaji, the story is the same. It is a story of failed governments at all levels. No local government in any part of Nigeria is functioning as it should, no state government is functioning at above 30 per cent of capacity, talk less of the federal government. These are facts and they stare us in the face daily. And I am not talking about parties or politics, I am not here to discuss politicians, I am discussing the reality of the decay and retrogression of Nigeria since 1960 till date!
Thankfully, any sane man can see and smell our rottenness. In no other country have I seen heaps of refuse as part of road furniture or road decoration! We seem to be comfortable with wrong things, if not, why do we ourselves dump refuse on streets and gutters? Why do we ourselves destroy our own roads and our own schools? The other day, a spritely old man who was my father’s classmate in primary school visited me. He had not advanced beyond primary but you need to listen to his erudite conversation. He was well informed, he was well spoken and he was well mannered. And all this he picked up and maintained merely from the primary school he attended over 70 years ago.
Compare this gentleman to the primary school certificate holders of today. Can you really? Can you even compare him with the secondary or for that matter university graduates? Yet it is we ourselves who destroyed education in our country. It is we with our greed and selfishness. Imagine a society that encourages exam malpractice? Imagine a country that subverts the training of its young. Have we forgotten that education is the greatest social and upward mobility catalyst, yet we have destroyed it thus robbing our nation of a glorious future. Is it now any surprise that Nigeria is considered a failed country worldwide? Is it now a surprise that top universities use Nigeria as a Guinea pig in their study of failed nations and failed leadership?
A nation so blessed yet so poor and corrosive that we can be considered a blight on humanity on the same scale with Haiti and Congo! Yet, we, a nation that has everything. A country that once lent money to South Korea. A country that was once a shelter for South Africans and many Indians. Today, we are the butt of jokes. The other day, we saw Bill Gates at a lavish and opulent wedding ceremony. The looks on his face told us clearly what was on his mind. This is a man who reportedly paid off our debts to Japan, this is a man who reportedly has spent $1.5 billion of his own money fighting poverty in Nigeria, yet he was a guest at a wedding that was the most opulent he had ever attended and in a country that is reputedly the poverty capital of the entire world!
When are we going to get it right? When are we going to stop losing trillions to medical tourism? When are we going to wake up to the fact that without work, harvest is a fallacy and a dream. We need to work on our country. We need to re-educate and rededicate ourselves. Nobody can claim that they are happy with the horror called Nigeria. A horror in which about 30 people lost their lives as collateral damage at the Offa robbery! A country in which human life is as lowly regarded as a rat’s life! I won’t even bother to compare a human life with a cow’s life anymore since thousands of humans have been wasted annually by those who claim to do so because they lost their cows! We have slid so much that no head has rolled at the story that policemen negotiated with robbers and collected N400, 000 rather than arrest the robbers. If they had done so, nobody would have died at Offa. Yet, no official response, no official rebuttal and no government reaction. It is as if Nigerians are now like grass to be mowed and killed by any lawless person with a gun or machete! Yet we expect foreign nations to take us seriously. We expect South Africans not to murder Nigerians at will when we have told them by our actions that Nigerian lives are worthless.
Yet this country can be great again. This country can recover. But first, our values must rebound, our sense must return. We must dethrone leisure and money and hubris. We must look ourselves in the face and tell ourselves the truth. Those in power must quit preaching and start doing. Those in office must stop destroying and start building. They must stop looting and enjoying and get back to work. The ordinary Nigerian is a workaholic. It is the elite who are bungling the chances and opportunities of this nation with their lack-lustre syphilitic and uninspiring performance in office. As the election season arrives, Nigerians must with one resolve elect the best amongst the lot starting from the local government to the highest office of the land.