Would You Die For Nigeria?

The other day the Federal Government of Nigeria declared a year-long celebration of Nigeria’s diamond jubilee or 60 years since our ‘independence’. The rumour about that plan appeared like a cruel joke until it was formally proclaimed.

The announcement stirred some emotions- could this be real? Has sanity taken leave of our rulers? Has Nigeria created its own April Fool’s Day? Or, what actually is going on?

One full year to celebrate serial bungling? Three hundred and sixty five days to remind Nigerians of the failings and failures of 60 years? One year to rub it in that a country that promised so much at the beginning has failed so miserably?

It’s difficult to fathom the reasoning behind this proposed grotesque celebration in spite of the posturing of its promoters.

Well, there’s money to be stolen by the thieving class. Nigeria was once promoted and held up as the hope of Africans, nay the black race. How has it fared? Badly. So much so that our country is now the byword for hope dashed; for backwardness; for cyber crime; for economic migrants and destitutes; for human trafficking; for prostitution in foreign lands; for pervasive corruption; for vision-less leadership; and many more unflattering appellations. To top it up, our country is now the global headquarters for poverty. And the tragedy is that there’s no indication yet that we are doing anything to relinquish that odious title.

Does any sane person celebrate a birth day, even the so-called low key variant, for the dying? How is it difficult for Nigerians to realise that this country needs to die to reinvent itself? I believe it was Jerry Rawlings, one time leader of Ghana, who urged his compatriot, now a boxing legend, Azuma Nelson to ‘die’ in the quest to win a prized boxing crown for himself and for his country. Nelson ‘died’ to reinvent himself and to bring glory to Ghana.

Nigeria turned 60 on October 1, and yet majority of our people still look back in anger at a country that held so much promise. All they see is a huge canvas of carnage and wreckage. A depressing picture.

Perhaps, if the military adventurers had not interjected themselves in governance in 1966, the story of Nigeria could have been different. There’s no romanticing that era but with regional settings and strivings to be ahead of the pack by each region, Nigeria could have been a different proposition today. But that trajectory was arrested and the fallout still echoes through this, almost barren, land.

But why look back in anger instead of looking forward in hope and expectations of a turnaround for good? We should look back because there are lessons to be learnt. Are we willing to learn? Sadly, my answer is no. And that makes the future of the country foreboding. The world appears to have left Nigeria behind. We have become a basket case. We have become the butt of jokes amongst other nations. Nigeria as a country is dying in the hearts and minds of many its citizens. The despondency is staggering, the hopelessness is frightening. But the leadership elite is still playing the ostrich.

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The rot set in long ago and there appears to be neither the will nor the capacity to deal with it. But Nigerians should not give up on their country. In spite of the opposition of a section of the self serving ruling elite, this country can still be retrieved from the precipice. And one way of doing so is through political and fiscal restructuring. Those who benefit from the extant dispensation will scoff at calls for restructuring. They will fight the idea with every power they can muster. But Nigerians should not give up or give in. Victory is sweeter where the battle was intense.

A structure similar to what obtained in the First Republic will unleash the creative energies of the peoples of Nigeria. A situation where we claim to be a federation and operates a unitary system of government will not work. It has not worked since 1979 when the military usurpers first handed over government to civilians after 13 years of their occupation of Nigeria’s political space. In the fullness of time there just may not be any other way out of the mess that Nigeria has been turned into.

Over 20 years ago I read, in the heat of my journalism practice, a Letter to the Editor {for publication} written by a young Nigerian. He was a graduate and he made only one request from the reading public: that he be given one-way flight ticket out of Nigeria. For me it was a difficult read. Have things changed for the better in the intervening years or have they got worse?

Happy Birth Day to Nigerians if that makes us feel good. The birthday felicitation sounds like another ludicrous thing we say about ourselves: ‘the giant of Africa’.

Nothing is worse than self deceit.


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