As the political campaign for the 2019 general election is about to begin, it would be advisable for Nigerian politicians to think “Nigeria beyond 2019”. Those aspiring to lead all of us must be willing to tell us in clear language and terms where exactly they intend to take the country beyond the election year. It has been established that history is cyclic. It has also been established that in Nigeria, history tends to repeat itself.
Nigerian history is like the poem “Abiku” by Wole Soyinka and J.P. Clark where the “abiku” child continues to come and go in a cycle. In Igbo, such a child is called “ogbanje.” But with modern medical advancement, the “ogbanje” phenomenon no longer exits. In fact, some of the “ogbanje” deaths were said to have been caused by sickle cell anemia. Our collective inability to learn from history is why we have been recycling one set of leaders from 1966 till date.
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Unfortunately, the same history is a subject most neglected in our primary and secondary schools. That is why the Nigerian civil war is not a subject of study in our primary and secondary schools. It is never a surprise that many Nigerians see themselves as strangers. In most towns, we have indigenes and settlers. Even within a state, there is so much bad blood over which senatorial zone will field the gubernatorial candidate. The issue is now tearing Imo State apart. But the political war in Imo is more dynastic than zoning. Other states of the federation have their share of the problem of zoning and political patronage.
From democracy, we are fast degenerating to oligarchy and ‘familiocracy’ as well as other variants of our new found democracy. This factor of division is more pronounced during elections. That can explain why the nation has arrested development. That is why the nation is retarded in so many sectors; power, education, health, transportation, housing, oil and gas, agriculture and many others.
Sadly, the supposed African giant is crawling while other smaller nations on the continent are marching forward. The 2019 election offers all of us another golden opportunity to decide where we are going as a nation. We have been too long in the wilderness of grand expectations with little or nothing to show. We have been treated like orphans without hope of where the next meal will come from. Some political actors had acted as messiahs and promised us heaven on earth and even wanted to be seen as miracle workers and magicians.
At last, we were utterly disappointed because of lack of messiah among our leaders. The 2019 poll reminds me of Sonny Okosuns’ evergreen, “Which Way Nigeria”? Which way are we going in 2019? Our political situation reminds me also of William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” from which Chinua Achebe derived the title of his epic novel, Things Fall Apart. The opening lines of the poem, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” are pointers to the socio-economic situation many Nigerians are grappling with at present.
Things will continue to fall apart or scatter for the country until we learn some useful lessons from history. We must know, as Achebe advised, “where the rain started beating us.” Any man who does not know where the rain started beating him will not remember where it stopped. Nigeria is like that man in Igbo fable who does not know where the rain started beating him.
We must, as a nation, go back to history to know how we started, where the trouble started and how we can resolve all our problems or most of them. It is never enough to say that the meaning of restructuring is unclear or that geographical restructuring cannot solve our problems and other sophistry, all in the name of bread and butter politics. Our politicians should never again deceive us with empty promises.
Since Nigerian politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose, we must decode their poetry before we can give them our votes. We should be circumspect with their oratory and promises of Eldorado. Our politicians should promise Nigerians basic things like water, public sanitation, electricity, hospitals, schools, shelter, food and jobs, massive jobs and provide them. Before they woo us with “one naira will exchange for one dollar” poetry again, remind them of past unfulfilled ones such as the removal of subsidy regime, bringing down the pump price of fuel and other petroleum products.
Remind them also of infrastructure revamping, healthcare, education, unemployment and insecurity that they promised to deal with. Tell them that health and education tourism are still in vogue among our leaders and their families. Nigerian universities are not so good for the children of our politicians. All of them graduate from varsities in Europe and America. The even attend secondary schools in foreign countries. Nigerian hospitals are not good for our politicians and their children.
If Nigerian leaders cannot patronize our healthcare system, then something is definitely wrong with the country. If the children of our leaders cannot attend the best varsities in the country, something is terribly wrong with the system. If we depend on imports for all that we need, we are indeed advancing to another wave of slavery even though we say we are free from colonialism.
It is, therefore, not enough for any political aspirant to mount the rostrum and say, “I will do this and that.” The person must tell us how and give definite time frame for the realization of the promise. Politicians must take governance as business but never as a family business or as a private business as we have seen in the present dispensation.
In the envisioned Nigeria Plc of the future, best global practices must prevail in terms of recruitment of the CEO and other managers of the estate and the execution of projects. We must be equal owners of the Project Nigeria. We shall all receive dividends at the end of every business year. The era of “monkey de work, baboon de shop” must be over and seen to be over. The socio-economic situation in Nigeria also reminds one of the alienation and powerlessness captured in T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Journey of the Magi.” Many Nigerians are currently alienated from the government and consequently impoverished. This is why the country must be restructured so that more power should be given to the states and local governments. Our type of Federal Government is too powerful for democracy to take roots.
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