The coinage we have as the title is not my creation; it belongs to another person, who responded to issues I discussed on my Facebook wall. I was ruminating about democratic practice in our society, especially on June 12, our Democracy Day, when some of our people poured into the streets in different cities to demonstrate against what they perceive to be poor governance in the land. They were tear-gassed, forcefully dispersed and many arrested by the security forces. In some other instances those who intended to step out and express their wishes were sternly warned by state governments not to venture in their own interest.
I looked at the events and began an inquest, to convince myself that what I know as the hallmarks of democracy are what we do or even attempt to do here. My predicament in comprehending the subject matter was boldly expressed on my Facebook wall and this attracted the coinage we have as the title for today›s discourse. It struck a chord in my soul and immediately I told myself that it amply captured how we have handled the affairs of our society since we got independence in 1960. Those who want to lead us always talk of unity but they take positions and say something different; they take actions that increasingly polarize the people and by extension the society.
We need not go very far back in our history to draw rich inferences. The incumbent president fought in the civil war as a soldier to keep our society as one. He still romanticizes that era and in particular his gallantry. He never fails to recall his exploits at the least opportunity. For three times he earnestly desired to lead the society as president and for that much he was rejected, the last being in 2011. Recall that when he opted to retire from partisan politics he cried bitterly, telling us he regretted not having the opportunity to make his contributions towards building a united, rich country. On the fourth attempt he got power and never got tired telling us that the unity of the Nigerian state is non-negotiable.
In his time, naked nepotism has become elevated as state policy. Challenged, he told us a leader must pick those familiar to him, meaning it was about trust. When the divisive act became unbearable he told us about merit and seniority yet he couldn’t explain why an ex-military officer became head of Nigeria Customs Service, why Deputy Commandant in Civil Defense organization couldn’t succeed his retiring boss or why the appointment of a Chief of Army Staff would lead to premature retirement of 29 experienced Generals at a time their services were required most. Today under his watch our society is much more divided than at any other time.
The presence of crude oil in other places turned out a blessing. In applying its gains the political powers in those places allowed sound economic reasons to guide and dictate applications of the accrued funds but not so in our case. Let us begin from the ground zero – that is first things first. In all 60 years of nationhood this mineral wealth is mined by external organizations, it has remained so not because our society lacked productive capacity, but simply because it offers the hegemony that has dominated power easy access to unmerited wealth. This oligarchy has come from mainly one side of the larger society. The motivating factor is that it is easy to do deals with foreigners.
The same reason explains why refineries can be built thousands of kilometres away from the source of raw materials, which increases production costs and makes local refining unprofitable. We make so much over oil subsidy and increase hardship by frequent increase in the price of petrol and others but never to apply same rigour in building new refineries. The truth is that nobody wants the right thing done because it will turn a big loss for those who have used state power to corner resources meant to service the people.
I was in Israel and during banter with the security men at the airport in Tel Aviv, a young officer said to me: “Men I hate your country.” My reaction was, why? He was prompt in his answer: “Your country is rich but the wealth is in the hands of very few people, the people are left hungry to die.” I was yet to offer a reply when one of the colleagues who was obviously listening dropped another bombshell: “Why do individuals own your oil wells?” I could not explain the last part. Till tomorrow I don’t know why individuals take and own public oil wells, I guess someone would have to explain that to me. Check out the names of beneficiaries and you immediately see abuse of the unity concept.
Today we hear our resources are dwindling in a very rapid manner, it is affecting operations to the point that some routine government responsibilities are no longer being met as and when due. We are high on borrowing, yet in the same period we are spending huge sums in foreign exchange to dredge Chad River basin, building rails and roads into neighboring countries, spending to search for oil in very arid territories even when we are yet to fully maximize the ones we discovered already. We are deploying US$2.6 billion to bury gas pipelines away from the source of material because those in power must see developments take place first in their localities before it gets to the others. Our brothers in Sahel must enjoy what our citizens don’t have and yet need most.
A southerner is building railway, standard gauge for that matter into the Sahel region and another gas pipelines and fire stations towards same area while people are not sure when they will see the same good come to them. They have been told when it is time to extend the largesse to them it will be of a lower quality to what we give our neighbouring countries. Truly Nigerians say restructuring is an idea whose time has come going by the things we see happening around us every hour. Why this should be issue of controversy is difficult to make out since federalism was the basis for coming together.
It is broad daylight hypocrisy to want unity and not support pillars that would make the edifice strong. Some of us who care so much have pinpointed that the National Assembly is incapable of giving us a new Nigeria; soon it will dawn on all. We will see what they make of such issues like imbalance in administrative structure and secularity of the Nigerian state. We have heard the account of how the late head of state motivated the smuggling of Sharia jurisprudence into the constitution of a supposed secular country. It has been disclosed he used one who later became a governor, one of those mouthing national unity as if his life depended on it and a northern academic. It is even rumoured that government funds were used to pave the way. It is this kind of double dealing that has brought us to where we are. Broad daylight hypocrisy! When can our leaders be principled people?