Not a few people dismiss such hopes as building castles in the air. And you just can’t but blame them little for slipping into a state of pessimism.
At 58, rather than cheers, all we get is jeers. We’ve failed to make a quantum leap as a nation despite our richness in both human and natural resources. We’ve been hobbled and humbled by ethnic strife plus other petty issues that drag us backward.
Basic amenities remain absent here. Steady Power supply seems a mirage. Dearth of infrastructure like good roads, remain contending issues on our national table. We are giants but nothing about us reflect this. Except, perhaps, in sleaze for which we have become notorious.
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We keep talking about the same issues year after year. One isn’t against keeping hope alive that Nigeria will be great someday, the headache is that we’ve been served this tale for years on end. So, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the other day that Nigeria will be great again, Nigerians weighed in with a raft of questions: when? How? Are we to wait eternally? Whose responsibility it is to make it great? Leaders? Followers?
It’s not the best option when one succumbs to negativity, but when, after 58 years, one is still told that light will come at the end of a prolonged dark tunnel, not a few people dismiss such hopes as building castles in the air. And you just can’t but blame them little for slipping into a state of pessimism.
One incontrovertible fact is that Nigeria is a rich nation. Across the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital Territory, there are deposits of goldmines that should keep us smiling on the economic and infrastructural scale, but we’ve either failed to utilize them optimally through our criminal negligence or our sheer flippant attitude to the riches nature has blessed us with, or we are blinded by engaging in needless wars as our unique potentials rot away much to our collective shame.
Democratically, we’re still tottering. Elections here are war. We watch in utter amazement as innocent citizens are hacked to death before and especially during elections. Distortion and dare light manipulation of election results remain a blight on our march to nationhood. Leaders are elected not based on their pedigree and capacity but on hollow sentiments like tribe, colour and religious leanings. Rather than bring bloom and boom, these sentiments have plunged us into the ocean of doom.
Rather than unite us, religion has divided us. So, we see a case where one is killed because he has refused to bow to a particular religion. We see hatred and utter disdain with which we treat the religion of others. Leah Sharibu has yet to be released by her mindless captors because she has refused to renounce her Christian faith. Where are we really headed as a people?
Yearly, many Nigerians take the audacious but risky venture of crossing the Mediterranean Sea as they head overseas in search of the proverbial green pastures. Not a few of them have died trying to navigate their way to Europe. Some lucky ones who are deported back alive often tell tales of woes and misery. While we condemn resorting to this excruciating and life-endangering means geared towards earning a better life, the government of the country, both past and present, must ask themselves the pertinent question of how we got to this sorry pass.
Those who go through this deadly routes en route Europe do so for reasons not far from securing better living conditions, eating well, making ends meet, access to basic infrastructure like power supply and good motorable roads and what have you. Alas, most don’t live to achieve the goal that prompted them to travel abroad using unconventional means.
As a nation, we are blessed stupendously by nature so much that if we were to utilize all these nature’s blessings for the benefit of the long suffering citizens of this country, the number of Nigerians who seek to port would have been greatly reduced. We’ve groped in the dark for too long. Our leaders must, as a matter of urgency, engage gear and see how they can bring sincerity and sanity to governance rather than taking Nigerians for a ride each passing year as we continue to swim in the cesspool of depression and lamentation.
Our leadership recruitment system also needs to be rejigged. A situation where leaders emerge from the standpoint of where they come from rather than their competence for the job at hand is not the best for this nation. Even if we are to stick to a federal character principle that, for me, has not really helped us, there is the need to always choose the best hands to man leadership and other strategic positions in the country.
So, if a particular job is zoned to a section of the country and there’s no one with the expertise and nous needed for the job, we should look elsewhere and hand the job to the person that fits the bill regardless of his tribe. We can always devise ways of compensating our brothers and sisters if we show some level of tact.
We shouldn’t sacrifice competence and knowhow on the altar of pandering to the dictates of federal character and all what not. We must evolve a system where young, vibrant, visionary and upwardly mobile Nigerians brimming with ideas and intellectual muscles attain leadership positions. Our current system favours the elites. We saw it when parties sold their tickets at exorbitant rates thereby shutting out some Nigerians willing to serve the nation. We say youths should run for political offices because they are not too young to do so, yet we create subtle blockades that preclude them from taking up the gauntlet. This must change if Nigeria, as Osinbajo said the other day, must be great again.
We can’t keep doing the same thing every other day yet expect different results. No. Time has come for us to tell ourselves the gospel truth without any hint of prevarication if Nigeria must be great again. If we must extricate ourselves from years of grumbling and hunger-stricken murmuring, then we must strive to build bridges of unity and prosperity so that this country can fulfil its potentials that, sadly, has been long in coming.
Today, many Nigerians are politically apathetic because they don’t see any reason(s) of queuing up in the rain and scorching sun to cast their votes, they yet don’t enjoy dividends of democracy. Getting their PVCs is, truthfully speaking, fulfilling all righteousness in case they want to do any transaction that will demand that they show their Permanent Voter Card (PVC).
Not that they don’t love their country. They do. But the many years that they have had to live in squalor and biting deprivations on account of failure of leaders to provide basic infrastructure that will make life easier and worth living, are contributing factors that have seen them treat election seasons with disdain.
One is not even talking about the falsification of election results, ballot box snatching and other ugly incidents that characterise our elections. When people vote for whom they want but another result is announced, it leads to despair and loss of hope in the system.
In all, it’s not all gloom and doom. A silver lining lies in wait for this contraption called Nigeria. Let’s deemphasize the things that divide us and emphasise those values that make us great and unique people. Let our leaders at all levels of governance see their positions as not a privilege to be misused for selfish ends, but a divine call for them to touch the lives of their people through embarking on policies that have direct and positive bearing on the citizens.
Like Osinbajo, I believe Nigeria will, can and must be great because it has all it needs to come out of its slumber and take a front row seat in the comity of nations where it rightly belongs. Happy 58th Independence Anniversary, Nigeria!
Jude, a public affairs analyst, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State