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Nigeria: sorry, we fail thee!

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Martins Oloja

As we reflect today on our journey through Nigeria in the last 57 years, I could not find any more appropriate title other than this :“Nigeria,We Fail Thee”, which is not original to me. We are supposed to proclaim, “Nigeria We Hail Thee” as the old anthem suggests. But even in this season of sycophancy, there is nothing concrete to hail Nigeria about. There is no doubt that the angry young ones who will have access to the citizen journals on digital platforms today will repeat an earlier title by Toyin Dawodu (2014)“Nigeria, We Hate Thee”. October 1, 2017 should be a day to celebrate our great country really. But it should also be a day of reflections on the 57 years that the locusts have greedily eaten. It is also a day that is suitable for the locusts to know that because they have eaten our tomorrow for their today, we should tell them that we are now aware. Besides, we need to counsel the young ones to organise instead of agonising about the locusts. We should tell them that lamentation is not a strategy. And so, it is time to save up to buy more ‘insecticides of mass destruction’ to deal with the rampaging locusts that always eat up our national assets, our virtues. Finally, it is time to share some pieces of information to the young ones about the power of skills acquisition and research at such a time like this. And the purpose-driven research is about one thing; 2019 general elections. You may be wondering why I have to hit the nail on the head from the outset of this anniversary article. I have been reflecting on a 2009 statement by the U.S first African American President, Barack Obama that,“elections have consequences”.

On January 23, 2009, President Obama said, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won”. That was when President Obama was snapping at the Republicans after his election in 2009, when he didn’t have to worry about compromise, when his Democrats had majority control of both the House andthe Senate.So, the same Obama proceeded to introduce radical measures including the ObamaCare, among others. And in 2014, the voters noticed and voted in record numbers against Democrats in Congress. It was then recorded of the Hurricane Obama, “You said it, Mr. President: Elections have consequences. Because you lost in 2014, Republicans can now reject your lame-duck Supreme Court nomination. And should…” It came to pass then that when the Democrats were in the minority, and the Republican were trying to stall the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, even as President Obama told the Senate Republicans to go nuclear if necessary, they reminded the President about the power in his words that, “elections have consequences”. Again, finally in 2016, the words came back to Obama as an outgoing President when he was campaigning to get Hillary Clinton to succeed him as a Democratic Party candidate. Mrs. Clinton didn’t eventually win and the world has since seen the power in those words, “elections have consequences”. Hurricane Donald has since been redefining ‘the West’ and Tweeting away ‘America’s awesome exceptionalism’.

Those words have had some impact on me in recent months as I reflect on how the Nigeria’s power elite, nurtured by the Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army (according to General Chris Ali) have failed Nigeria, the world’s most populous black nation. I feel the young ones who desire real change for development should take the slogan to all the nooks and crannies of this country that: “We have been naïve. We did not know what General IBB and men knew in 1993 when they cancelled the people’s wishes expressed in 1993 general and presidential elections. We fought him and ran away. He too ran away to Minna, capital of Niger State on 26 August 1993. And democracy was scotched just as the self-styled Prince of the Nigerkilled the consequences (dividends) of our elections. Even after the sudden deaths of the symbol of democracy and the June 12 elections 1993, Chief M.K.O Abiola and the usurper-in-chief of the people’s mandate, General Sani Abacha, the same military cabal still imposed one of their own, General Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 2009. We all felt the consequences of his election and re-election in 1999 and 2003-2007. As we dozed off in 2007, the artful soldiers again imposed a candidate they knew was not healthy on the nation. And while men were deep in their slumber, the sick candidate too resisted all moves to get him a strong running mate. We all saw the consequences of election of the unprepared one in 2011-2015 after completing the truncated tenure of his principal from 2010 to 2011. Behold, the consequences of the 2011-2015 elections paved the way for 2015 election upset we all celebrated: that indeed a man of integrity whose body language alone could literally improve electricity and indeed the economy had been elected. Haven’t we seen the consequences of the 2015 elections? The administration produced by the 2015 election is battling with a two-point agenda namely, “fighting insecurity and corruption”. As was noted here last week, the president may have recorded some prominent plaudits in a section of the media on the two-point agenda, but they cannot be recorded as quite significant, in this connection.

Specifically, insecurity and corruption are still waxing stronger as headaches of all governments in the country. Are there any institutions of governanceor social servicesthat the nation can be proud of – from education, healthcare, power/energy sector, roads construction and maintenance to aviation? These are consequences of elections from just 1999- to 2017.

We have read enough about the patriotism of the founding fathers who built this nation and obtained independence for us. Today we should talk to those who have pulled down the house and failed Nigeria. Now, under the watch of today’s leaders, we do not write about Nigeria or the Federal and State Governments anymore. We now write about the presidency or president Obasanjo/Yar’Adua, Jonathan or Governor this or that or governor this-or that administration. There is no Nigeria or federal government to attribute anything to. We give all the glory to mere men in power. President this or governor that has approved road repairs from one town to the other: no reference to the federal or state governments anymore in our media language.

Where indeed did the rains start beating us? On October 1, 1960, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister who opened the first chapter in the history of Nigeria on Independence Day had notedamong others in his address titled, I Dedicate Myself To The service of My Country: “…At this time when our constitutional development entered upon its final phase, the emphasis was largely upon self-government: We the elected representatives of the people of Nigeria, concentrated on proving that we were fully capable of managing our affairs both internally and as a nation, However, we were not to be allowed the selfish luxury of focusing our interest on our own homes…

When shall we get leaders who will today dedicate themselves to the service of this country? In the country today, our leaders who failed to develop our roads and transportation infrastructure loot out treasuries to buy private jets to fly over the bad roads. Our leaders who failed the nation by refusing to equip public schools retired home to establish good private schools and universities that children of the real people cannot attend. Nigeria is poor, down and almost out but its rulers always have enough war chest to run for public offices at any time. They complain as candidates that Nigeria cannot make it unless the public oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is reorganised or even privatised. But when they get to the same office they accused of corrupting the operations of NNPC, they sabotage reform of the same oil corporation. Where will redemption song come when the legislature the organic law gives the power to oversee the public purse becomes the ‘legislooter’?

And so as members of the old setup and establishment people in Nigeria celebrate Nigeria at 57, the young ones should not join in over celebrating without remembering that Nigeria is still some work in progress. And the report we should believe is that the land (Nigeria) is good; it is just the rulers that are bad. Recall that two weeks ago, I remembered what an iconic figure and Africa’s authentic leader, Nelson Mandela noted about our dear country in 2007: “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence”.

As I have repeatedly noted here, we should encourage today’s leaders to deepen their understanding of what they stand to gain from restructuring institutions without breaking up the country. We need to simplify our discussion points in a way that will minister grace to the old ones who have promised change and even federalism but are curiously afraid of the power of change. So, let us recognise that our forefathers and fathers have eaten sour grapes and that is why our teeth are painfully set on edge today. That is why the younger ones should be more organised to recognise the immortal words of President Obama that, “elections have consequences”. So, here is the thing, 2019 elections have consequences. If we want to change Nigeria we cannot celebrate today because we have failed her, we should begin to organise to vote out those who have contributed to her failure since 1960. Most of them and their offspring are still around and in power. They have the war chest, but not the cognitive resources to make Nigeria great again. But meretricious lamentation in the social media daily will not deliver the change we desire for Nigeria. It is well with Nigeria at 57. But it won’t be well with those who would not allow her to be great as a source of pride and confidence to the black people and Africa.



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