Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country – President John F Kennedy
Nigerian leaders are wont to remind their fellow citizens, in line with a popular quotation of the US President JF Kennedy, on the need not to think what their can country can do for them, but what they can do for their nation. The question that readily comes to mind is: What has the country done to the citizen to justify such gesture in standing up in defence of the country? For the American, at the time President Kennedy uttered such words, the country had laid a solid foundation towards the defence of their personal liberties and access to fundamental human rights. When Kennedy challenged his fellow citizens to rise up and lift their nation out of the despondence of the then American society, the American nation had discharged some basic responsibilities required by citizens to live a peaceful and meaningful life.
In Nigeria, can we, with all sense of sincerity, agree that our country has laid a solid foundation for all to contribute to her greatness? Apart from the civil war when the corporate existence of the nation was threatened, can we expect same feelings if such need arises today? How many Nigerians are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend a nation that has done violence to its citizens? When leaders abandon their mandate of providing for the people, what hope is there for a future where all will be proud of? When leaders are committed to the worship of Mammon and pilfering of the public treasury, how can the dream for development be sustained?
Our nation’s present realities present a clear evidence that our country is yet to advance beyond where the British colonialists left us. If any, we have embraced retrogression and returned to our ethnic cocoons by re-awakening primeval sentiments common to uncivilised society. Religion has become a tool deployed by our leaders to blind our eyes and further deepen their grip on us. Even when these leaders express an intention towards educational and industrial development, we know they sing a different songs in their hearts. With religion and ethnicity becoming our fault lines, these leaders have perfected the art of enthroning a divide-and-rule system, thereby keeping us perpetually to the ground.
Considering the fact that our nation has not lived up to its billings in terms of development indices, those who rule, or ruin, us are never short of supplying reasons for our present woes and explaining that we are too much in a hurry to be like Rome that was not built in one day. When citizens complain of the skyrocketing prices of fuel, our technocrats, who are in bed with the rulers, are quick to convince us that we are better off when compared to other nations.
How can we be better off when angels of death have taken permanent residence in Zamfara State, leaving bloody carnages that have become global cynosure for barbarism? Not even an additional deployment of troops by the federal authorities has staved off further bloodshed by these criminal elements who have become heartless mercenaries preying on defenceless citizens. Security forces fighting these bandits are up against a tidal wave of superior powers that are driving the people into fearful submission. The rising power of these monsters is best understood when, earlier this week, Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai was engaged in hot pursuit of abductors that have made our roads a dreaded thoroughfare for road travellers. el-Rufai may not have apprehended any of these criminals that have turned the Abuja-Kaduna expressway into a deadly zone, but one victim was rescued from their jaws.
Birnin Gwari is still an axis of uninterrupted criminal activities, with citizens reduced to objects in perpetual trepidation. Many of the victims are quick to cooperate with these criminals rather than risk their continued existence on this realm. The Boko Haram militancy in the North-east, especially in Borno State, is threatening a comeback, with fears being expressed in some quarters that the deadly sect is set to return in full force. Plateau and Benue States remain on edge, with victims of the Gashish district attacks in Plateau and Abagana IDP camp in Makurdi, Benue State, wearing a forlorn look. The southern part of Kaduna, especially the Adara communities in Kajuru Local Government Area, has become stranger to peace, as no fewer than 135 have been killed, while the death toll in the carnage has pitched the Adara people against herdsmen. These security challenges constitute a gross threat to the corporate survival and unity of a nation that has so much spilt blood and brought horror to citizens. Insecurity remains a present danger for any vision that is aimed at achieving true nationhood and greatness. Can a nation whose citizens are killed and their safety not guaranteed be expected to think of what they can offer for their country?
On the economic front, it has been a sad story, as Nigeria is the world’s capital of poverty. Another trophy won by the country is that it is the world’s sixth most miserable country. Unemployment has become a time bomb, as employment opportunities are only limited to children/wards of governors, National Assembly members and other top officials of government. Admission to Nigerian universities is now for special candidates, and where you happen to come from the wrong side of the country, all your efforts may end up in vain. We face a depressing present that hardly gives room for clear thinking. While we advocate for unity, the system insists we fill forms stating our state of origin, religion and ethnic groups, among the many discriminatory measures that disunite us. We hardly see ourselves as belonging to same country; we take delight in exploiting any fault line that gives us an edge over others.
Despite our potential to rise past our embarrassing present, we take pleasure in building our little heavens amidst the depressing poverty our faulty system has created for our teeming people. As if cursed from birth, we hate the progress of others and seek a means of turning the clock against them. Little wonder medical doctors in public medical facilities build private hospitals and refer patients there. Having elevated money to an idol, we have lost our compassion as long as it brings more money to us. A country that claims to be Africa’s giant, we have betrayed the African and robed the black skin in despicable shame.
The greatest culprit is the political leadership. Followership may be one of the factors behind our woes, but when the head is rotten, nothing good comes out of the body. We have become victims of an evil system called Nigeria because leaders have abdicated their responsibilities. That is why we need tonnes of prayers to secure jobs, long night of vigils in prayer houses to compel owners of businesses to constantly pay salaries, and longer days of fasting to make the power sector deliver less outages. When leadership defrauds citizens of their rights, such leaders lose the moral right to demand that citizens ask what they can do for their country.
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