One thing that has given me so much joy in writing this article every week for almost four years is the broad and diverse community of readers that has grown and shared with me all over the country and beyond. My community of readers is made of people from different age groups, backgrounds and social constructs; this makes for a very interesting mix of responses on issues I speak about. I have often received criticism, sometimes very harsh criticism, from the military: men and women currently serving and many who have retired; politicians; people in the public and private sectors.
My last few articles have been on the hopelessness of the Nigerian crisis and how we got to this level of underdevelopment, corruption and insecurity. Of the many responses that I have received, one stood out for me. It was a question by a reader who wanted to know why it had taken me this long to realise the brokenness of the nation that started many years ago and also requested that I tell my ever-attentive audience when Nigeria once had hope and when the broken expectations came into play.
I believe this is a question that can be thrown to all of us, as there are various schools of thoughts on the trajectory of Nigeria’s downfall. On that note, I am taking this opportunity to appeal to my readers to help me out by contributing to this very interesting conversation. If you chose to, kindly state your name and location in your response to [email protected] Your comments and contributions will be clearly published in subsequent articles because we share a joint responsibility in solving the problems that plague our nation. It is a duty that we owe our children and grandchildren.
To answer the question posed by my reader, I will present my own school of thought that avid readers of my column would be no strangers to. The substantial part of the origin of our crisis started with the two military coups of 1966 and, if we must come out of this crisis, we ought to begin by telling ourselves some very ugly and bitter truths. For starters, we must identify the young men that carried out the gruesome killing of the best of our founding fathers, the very best of our military personnel who were trained in some of the best military institutions around the world and also the best of our students of politics who were astute scholars of the activities associated with governance and leadership and who, if given the chance, would have implemented what they had learned for the betterment of the country.
Those coups, unknown to many of us, served as the beginning of the decay we now have.
Present-day Nigeria is lacking in political maestros that can be inspirations to the younger generation. We see this by the crop of leaders that govern the nation. Our military is also in a shambles, being ravaged by a plague called Boko Haram in a fight that is, in my opinion, simply one-sided, a war with no army yet one that has persisted for more than a decade. Is it a curse that afflicts this nation?
I and many others have come to accept the fact that the military class has an agenda, which is complete power and control. The political class also has an agenda, which is very similar to that of the military, but, in their case, they don’t mind taking all the money as well.
Unfortunately, like the saying, when two elephants fight, the grass suffers, most often, the two classes clash and, of course, the people pay for it.
But what makes the whole crisis so complicated and somewhat interesting is that oftentimes the two elephants go into partnership because many Nigerians believe that they made themselves and in actual fact complement each other when they are not disagreeing over who claims the seniority title.
At this point, I will take a minute to commiserate with the nation and the family of the Chief of Army Staff Attahiru Ibrahim and the 10 other military persons who died on the 21st of May in an air crash. Their deaths have certainly left holes in the already weak structure of the nation’s security arm.
The issue of seniority was not well defined by the first constitution that was based on the British parliamentary system of government, which was why we eventually opted for the American presidential system. Sadly, the politicians that assisted in writing the adaptation of the working American presidential system cleverly removed the elements that didn’t favour them, not knowing that those were actually the elements that made the system work. A continuation of this toxic partnership has led to unprecedented and endemic corruption that has reduced the whole country to a laughing stock before the rest of the developed world. This same partnership makes nonsense of the word ‘Accountability’ because no one is accountable to anyone and everyone does what they want and gets away with it. This is evidently portrayed by the existence of several anti-corruption institutions and agencies with not even one properly convicted case.
Starting with the regime of Murtala Muhammed that began with the goal to purge out the bad elements but ended up purging the good with the bad, we moved to the Buhari/Idiagbon regime with a similar goal but, before attempts were made, they were overpowered and succumbed to the pressures from the political and traditional institutions.
Then came Babangida and Obasanjo with the No-business-as-usual mantra. Their entry renewed hope in a lot of Nigerians as many politicians and ex-military personnel with dirt on their palms fled the country. Unfortunately, they soon returned when it was discovered that it was still business as usual after all and most especially when their loot ran out due to mismanagement, a skill they fine-tuned by mismanaging the resources of the country.
When President Buhari returned, those of us who had studied and understood history knew it was going to be difficult without Idiagbon manoeuvring through the imbalance of power facilitated by the politicians and military men responsible for giving us more states than we can manage, wars that cannot be won, incessant kidnapping and demand for ransom that has become the most lucrative business of the day, infrastructure deficit, education without learning and the nearly non-existent health care facilities. We were right, it hasn’t just proven difficult, we have seen that it is impossible.
Therefore, I am also left with a very big question begging for answers. My question goes to all my Honourable Heads of State, and all those that have been Presidents of this great country: why take over 60 years to make plans for the future of this nation? Why do we need 60 years when other countries less rich and bigger than Nigeria have built and transformed their countries in less? I am hoping they would have a different answer or answers because the unfortunate but very sad answer that I can think of is that maybe it’s an African curse or, better yet, let’s say the curse of the Dark Continent.