For many Nigerians, there are similar questions that have been plaguing them some time. These questions are: I. When will the rebuilding of the nation truly commerce? II. Where will the leader or leaders come from? III. Will they be people that we have known over the years? IV. How long will it take them to rebuild our once great nation?
Looking for answers to these questions and following the last two articles, I plead to be allowed to repeat a part of a previous article that was published in this column some months ago titled “My Gift to the Younger Generation” and subtitled “Read me in 25 years.”
As I approach my mid-eighties, I must come to terms with the fact that I may not be around 25 years from now to refer you, my beloved young ones, to some of my writings that started as far back as four decades ago.
Over the years, I have not only accurately predicted some of the crises ravaging our nation in the different sectors today, in most cases, I also proffered practicable solutions very much based on sound research and findings, sometimes risking my life to do so. Our wise elders have a popular saying that I will like to remind us of, they say: “What a father can see sitting down, a son cannot see standing up.”
In the last four years, I have written over 175 articles and received hundreds of comments and criticism by Nigerians and even non-Nigerians alike but I have observed from the readership that I have not been well read by the younger generation. This is rather unfortunate because they are the ones to whom I mostly write due to the fact that I have a lot of faith and hope in their ability to right the wrongs of my generation and the generation before me. However, they will need to start fast and in fact immediately.
I have travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria and have lived in almost all parts of the country, spending quality time among the major ethnic groups and cultures. Due to this, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced the different changes in the different areas, from the first attempt at democracy to military invasion and back to democracy again. In the process of these many transitions, the numerous attempts at building Nigeria, interestingly, rather gave way to the building of individuals. Individuals that now rule and control the country to the betterment of their pockets and not the people they claim to govern. These are the people that the younger generation will have to reckon with.
Twenty-five years ago, I saw the climate changing and I foresaw the effect it was going to have on our nation and economy because of the 11 frontline states in Nigeria that directly border the Sahara, which has contributed immensely to the climate disasters. I saw the water bodies in the northern part of Nigeria disappearing right before my eyes. I saw the beautiful Lake Chad receding and becoming less than half of its size, and I saw the dust from the Sahara sand dunes approaching like an unstoppable army. I also saw the migration of humans and livestock from the North to the South, sometimes leaving a trail of destruction on their path. This next one was easy because one could easily see the insecurity, crisis and displacement that would arise from the migration.
Then, I saw the indiscipline among the security agencies and their disregard for due process or non-partisanship as they clearly take sides in wars and conflicts, leading to anarchy. I saw food insecurity and poverty becoming the order of the day, which has further widened the huge gap between the haves and have-nots.
I saw the destabilization of the political system that started as a multiparty state to a one-party sycophantic system. I saw massive corruption and looting by those in authority and the corridors of power. I then saw the law enforcement agencies becoming the enemy of the people and the people deciding to take the law into their own hands.
All these I foresaw already over two decades ago and started to sound the bell of warning but my admonitions were often met with ridicule or ignored.
The truth about the origins of our crises, therefore, must be transparently and truthfully investigated. For that reason I had to go all the way back to 1959, the year just before our widely acclaimed independence, when the two major political parties, the Action Group (AG) and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), became involved in what was known as “Operation Wetie,” an operation that was more literal than logical. These kind of operations were part of what took Nigeria to the nearly failed state that led to the 1966 coup and counter-coups.
It was like the country Nigeria came to be through the violent force with which the precolonial kingdoms were conquered and brought down one after the other.
Such acts of violence can only produce violence in return, the same politics by violence that resulted in a civil war and led to needless loss of over three million lives.
Even with the return of democracy in 1999, the military came back as civilised politicians in white agbadas. The politicians formed gangs and even set up cultist groups to help them fight off opponents and rig elections in their favour. The armed gangs often got out of control, evolving into mafia-like criminals then developing into more sophisticated deadly networks like Boko Haram, militancy, banditry, hijacking, kidnapping, etcetera. Oftentimes, the line between genuine agitations and criminality in Nigeria is blurred.
My biggest disappointment in this whole thing considering the amount of writings, interviews and lectures I have done over the years is that it appears we have learnt nothing from these experiences. We all see the country gliding somewhat quickly into the very situation we found ourselves in 1959. But because of my undaunted hope in the present generation and for the sake of my grandchildren who always look at me with so much hope for their future, I sincerely hope and pray that the younger generation who are not reading me now, will come to read me, hopefully, much earlier than 25 years from now because we are in dire need of salvation.