We got to this point as a result of bad politics. The country we have today is worse than what the colonialists handed over to us at independence in 1960.
If we were a serious nation the issue of proper development should preoccupy our discussions and practical actions every minute. We are not serious, so the things we are supposed to know and focus our attention have eluded us, and as would be expected causing us very grievous pains. Our country is down on all indices of national development; that is the truth. The trauma is all over us, and the funny thing is that we feel the pain but prefer to behave like the ostrich which buries its head in the sand and thinks that nobody is seeing the body. The country is not developing, at least in the right direction, and the consequences are there with us: bad roads, inefficient hospitals, castrated industrial sector, ill-conceived educational sector, lack of food security, burgeoning unemployment and general state of insecurity. All these are there and we pretend that nothing evil is happening.
Call that attitude the tragedy of a people and you wouldn’t be wrong. We got to this point as a result of bad politics. Many of us have spoken negatively about our colonial exploiters and what they did to us while they held the reins of power. We have tended to put every blame on them, but if the truth were to be told, the country we have today is worse than what the colonialists handed over to us at independence in 1960. I insist they gave us an averagely working country, but our people who took over failed to understand the mission for the time, which would have been to mould the entity they received from the colonialists into a nation.
The colonialists left behind a well-structured civil service and the early recruits were very distinguished technocrats; merit was the standard and job training was the standard procedure. Technocrats in those days were more astute than the political class, their vision and influence were salutary. The economy was built on imperialistic pillars and structures, but it was nevertheless very great. Investors competed amongst themselves to open shops in the country, vehicle assembly plants were common place, factories were established, the banks were flourishing and funded activities in key areas of the economy. We had better supermarkets like Kingsway and Chellarams, etc. Thus there were employment opportunities, Nigerians were employed and paid; and the most rewarding experience about it all was that the currency at the time had value. Graduates’ salary was between N300 and N500, whereas Naira had higher exchange value to the USD then. And a man with N1,000 was like a multi-millionaire of today. Education was free and with very qualitative teachers.
I told some young friends, that in the university at the time, a meal of rice/stew with chicken and salad went for as low as 50K. Security was guaranteed, in fact you could conveniently leave your house open and go to another city and return and nobody except your relations would have stepped into your house.
We lost all that, and the question is: “How did we get to lose it?” The take-over leadership class lacked global vision. Every nation that is successful today was built; what we see is the outcome of deliberate action, nurtured around global vision, sound rationalization and creative ingenuity. At a time, our leaders would have followed that path, they chose instead to become ethnic and regional champions. So people have said we did well under that dispensation, but the truth is that inside unmanaged diversity is the seed of discord. That challenge of poor foundation is still trailing our developmental efforts to the present day.
Lack of vision has turned us to be like the stupid boxers, who leave the target and beat empty air. This omission is at the root of the crisis and under-development plaguing this country.
Where you have vision, invariably you know what to pursue and what to punish, and that is the difference between what developed nations did at our level and what we are not doing. Somebody who returned from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire informed me that throughout his stay, he never heard anybody make such statements as “One Ghana or One Ivory Coast.” He said that everybody that spoke did so as a citizen. Here, I hear our leaders talk so much about one Nigeria and the indivisibility of the country as if national cohesion is something you achieve by mere wishes and rhetoric. The truth is that the leaders have been responsible for everything that has happened to this nation. It is important to say this again, we got to the crossroad because of bad politics. It was the political class that led the rest of us to jettison merit and to bring on board such obnoxious policies as “Quota System and Federal Character” with their associated negative variables like nepotism and discrimination.
Nepotism is corruption. It distorts and dislocates. It is a destroyer of creativity and dampener of morale. Discrim-nation pulls at the bonds of social connectivity and leaves the society with perpetual tension and conflict, and that has been our experience. A child born and trained under this atmosphere is incapable of loving and patriotism would mean nothing to him, because he is born into a country that welcomes him with hostility. If our children are behaving in an unusual manner that is part of the problem. At a point, in the development of this nation, Professor Jubril Aminu, as education minister destroyed the academic climate in our universities with a single advice when he told the military that “a lot of university teachers were teaching what they were not paid to teach.” Many teachers lost their jobs on account of that statement, and today the effects are still there. Many university graduates cannot analytically discuss events in this country.
Today, the harm done by mediocre leadership cannot be quantified. Even in simple things like creative law making, we are not there. Today, political defection is becoming a source of new concern and that is because those who were supposed to make laws that would stand the taste of time, chose instead to make rules to favour themselves. Defection would have been a principled action if our laws had expressly stated, “if you move on any grounds, relinquish your office.” The law said so but added a useless caveat that “you can keep your office if there is a division in your party.” And the question is what kind of provision is this? The one on qualification, states, “you are qualified once you have education up to school certificate level.” Wouldn’t it have been better to be specific? Keeping it vague, who does it help? Isn’t that criterion a gateway to mediocrity? Today we have inconclusive elections and void votes and you ask yourself, what is the correlation? Void vote should be void vote; you get into this kind of silly mistakes when leaders want to play below and to cheat themselves. The constitution has prescribed what has to be done, and yet a small group in the typical Nigerian fashion decides to subvert the grand norm and short-change the people by cooking their own rules. That is one of the biggest problems of Nigeria. We pray, we wake from our follies.