Chiedu Uche Okoye
Nigeria, a nation of nations, is an immensely blessed country. A heterogeneous nation-state, it has both material and human resources. Is Nigeria not one of the most populous countries in the world? Today, millions of Nigerians living in foreign countries are contributing greatly to the development of their host countries in diverse areas such as Medical Science, Aeronautical Engineering, Law, Economics, Agriculture, and others. These Nigerians living in the Diaspora can deploy their expertise to help Nigeria become a technologically and economically advanced country if our leaders enlist their support.
And, Nigeria is immensely blessed with natural resources like tin-ore, limestone, bauxite, crude oil, and others. In addition to this, Nigeria has equable weather conditions, and many waters, namely seas, rivers, ponds, and lakes. The existence of this body of waters in Nigeria is a big plus for us in our drive to revive and entrench mechanized agriculture in our country. Proceeds from the sale of our agricultural produce can replace crude oil revenue as the mainstay of our economy only if our leaders can give the practice of agriculture in Nigeria the much needed boost.
We should remember that when we had regions in Nigeria that the western region used to earn huge revenue by exporting cocoa to foreign countries. That’s the reason why the Premier of the western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was able to implement welfarist policies in that region, then. And the western region under the leadership of Chief Awolowo witnessed stupendous development. In that same period, the northern region would generate revenue from its sale of groundnut to other countries while the tropical eastern region was widely known for its palm oil produce. This happened in the 1960s when we practised the parliamentary system of government.
However, today, nobody can gainsay the fact that our sale of crude oil to other countries is the chief reason behind our leaders’ utter neglect of agriculture in Nigeria. Our oil wealth has become our curse rather than blessing. Over the years, our successive leaders had stolen our collective oil money, which they stashed in foreign banks. But, they could have used the money to finance developmental initiatives and programmes in the country. As our political leaders perceive their occupation of exalted political offices as open sesame and license to steal our collective oil wealth instead of executing well-thought out pragmatic economic policies, Nigeria is in a deplorable condition and trapped in a cesspool of backwardness.
Our country’s underdevelopment is linked to the gross mismanagement of our economic resources by past military juntas and erstwhile corrupt and profligate political leaders. While Rtd General Ibrahim Babangida entrenched corruption in Nigeria, the dark goggle-wearing human vampire, Sani Abacha, stole Nigeria blind and killed many pro-democracy activists. Thankfully, we are in a democratic dispensation now after we had suffered under the rulership of jackboots and brass hats for a long time. But can we pin-point the achievements of our political leaders since the start of the fourth republic in 1999? The fact is that Nigeria has been enjoying democratic governance for over twenty years; however, it has nothing to show for it.
Unexpectedly, the second-coming of Muhammadu Buhari as our national leader has not led to the positive transformation of Nigeria irrespective of the fact that he is reputed to be incorruptible, ascetic, visionary, and patriotic. He coasted to victory in the 2015 presidential election and won his re-election bid on the coat tails of the APC’s campaign slogan of change and his anti-corruption rhetoric. We believed him to be the political messiah that would right the wrongs in our body politic and set Nigeria on the path of attaining economic and technological advancement.
However, sadly, President Buhari has dashed our expectations and hopes that Nigeria would realize its potential and become a great country. Today, Nigeria is in a pitiable state. In the midst of stupendous oil wealth, millions of Nigerians have been reduced to sub-humans as they live below the breadline. And millions of university graduates in the country, who are young people, are idling away time as they cannot find jobs owing to their unemployability and limited job opportunities in the country.
To have a large army of unemployed people in a country is to have an inflammable tinderbox, which can explode when ignited by social unrest. So, this axiomatic saying has become true in Nigeria: An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Daily, we are regaled with tales about armed robbery operations and abductions of well-heeled Nigerians. Is there not a nexus between the great number of unemployed Nigerians and the high crime rate here?
Today, the Boko Haram group, which is one of the deadliest terror groups in the world, has been recruiting unemployed impressionable young people into its fold. They had been brainwashed to believe that they would enter heaven if they died while fighting the cause of Islam. Consequently, we are experiencing a rash of suicide bombings and attacks by the irrepressible and murderous members of the Boko Haram group.
It is sad and regrettable that the fight to exterminate the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast of Nigeria has not been won. And Leah sharibu’s continued stay in the Boko Haram’s captivity is a sore on our collective conscience and a historical sore point, too. A symbol of resistance to the Boko Haram’s forced proselytizing of non-Muslims to Islam, Leah Sharibu’s stay in the Boko Haram enclave is a further proof that our security architecture is incapable of routing the Boko Haram group and safeguarding life and property in Nigeria
But is the incapacity of the Nigeria’s security personnel to rid Nigeria of the menace of insurgency and terrorism connected to President Buhari’s recruitment of security personnel into top positions in our security organizations based on the criteria and index of ethnic origins and religion? President Buhari’s deeds, which are divisive, have portrayed him as a sectional leader, religious bigot, and ethnic jingoist rather than a rallying figure for unity and progress in Nigeria. He seems to be unconscious of the fact that a disunited Nigeria where people(s) are distrustful of one another will be a recipe for Nigeria’s descent into anarchy. And, anarchy and national development are antipodal; they are diametrically opposed to each other.
The pitiable state of the country was the impulse that propelled Omoyele Sowore, a former Presidential contestant and online journalist, to call for the staging of the “revolution now protest”. The federal government pre-empted his move and clamped him into detention, however. So, he was left to languish there even after he had fulfilled the court’s bail conditions. It took America’s condemnation of Buhari’s disobedience of court orders and subtle saber- rattling for the federal government to release Omoyele and Dasuki from prison. Is Nigeria not regressing to a totalitarian state where voices of dissent are muffled with state might?
The freedom of expression and association, which is guaranteed and enshrined in our constitution, is a force for the deepening of democratic practice in our country. Therefore, it behooves our leaders to respect the rule of law and put up with the deeds and utterances of members of the opposition group in so far as they do not border on treasonous deeds.
Okoye writes from Anambra