Nigeria: Who cares?
FOR any nation, an election period is a time for renewal and also for reflection. Currently, the Nigerian polity is mindlessly heated up as aspirants stake their claims to power. And in this quest for control over the people’s destiny, the politicians have put on display such behaviour as has made Nigeria look like a big nation entrusted to small men. This is a shame. Nigeria deserves better and all Nigerians, especially those occupying or seeking positions of power and authority, owe the nation a duty of care.
After a long spell of authoritarian rule, democracy came 16 years ago amidst expectation that a civilian political dispensation would offer a new lease of life to the entire country in terms of innovative policies, growing the economy, promoting civic culture and improving the human condition. That expectation has not been well met and this has, consequently, engendered despondency. Political institutions are inefficient and the political process has been bereft of essential ingredients of genuine democratic values. The parties are not what they should be, namely, the engine of the democratic process and platforms for elite recruitment and circulation. Instead, with no ideologies or ideas, they have morphed into avenues for imposition of candidates to the detriment of internal party democracy, becoming mere special purpose vehicles for power grabbing and wealth appropriation unto individuals. Electioneering process is even uncertain as it is now threatened by contrived booby traps. And in desperation for a hold on the nation’s treasury which political power confers, politicians are also deploying violence as well as other devices that are a disservice to the nation. The faces they or their hirelings show and the words they speak are nation-wreaking, and not nation-building.
Those involved in the contest for public offices have demonstrated not even the least understanding of the issues and how to move the country forward. Indeed, their campaign messages are mostly mere empty clichés.
Given the foregoing, citizens must be nudged into a reflective mood, to soberly wonder whether indeed, anyone cares about Nigeria.
Chinua Achebe once likened Nigeria to a child in need of nurturing. Disclaiming the image of a fatherland invoked in Nigeria’s old anthem and that of a motherland in the current one, the late author appropriately described the nation as a child in need of care. From the conduct of most Nigerians especially those in power and authority, however, the child would seem orphaned, oppressed by greed and selfishness. And nobody seems to care.
In reality, every Nigerian who morally and compulsorily ought to nurture the child appears to have abandoned that duty. This moral duty is drowned in the pursuit of the self by everyone, with the result that the neglected nation suffers the consequences of being uncared for: stunted growth, waywardness and disorientation.
So, what has happened to those values that edify Nigeria? Nigeria, after all, has not always been what it is now. As a people, the diversity of Nigerians has always strengthened their unity. And all have cherished freedom for self-development and actualisation. In that diversity, all tribes and tongues have always been united in their deference to age or respect for elders. Fellow feeling, self-respect and respect for constituted and legitimate authority are very Nigerian. Nigerians are accustomed to playing the Good Samaritan under any circumstance, providing shelter, security, food and clothing for those in need. Pluralism is an accepted norm and all have always allowed for mutual co-existence. Unfortunately, those in power take modernity as the end of development and in the process repress the social experiences. The result is, as the late eminent Nigerian social scientist, Claude Ake, once put it, “…we cannot determine how we are, who we are, or for that matter, why we are. We are dissipated in incessant rivalry. Our society is a contested terrain from which everyone takes and no one gives. One effect of this is that our prospect for material progress is irreparably injured by a firmly entrenched ‘distribute mentality.’”
Nigeria, of course, has strengths and weaknesses. Corruption, a certain mindset of the country as a no-man’s land, vast, rich and just there to be plundered, or the view of the country as an already baked cake which no one seeks to preserve for the future but to be shared today without scruples is one of the nation’s greatest weaknesses, the one that breeds the question who cares?
The nation’s strengths, however, inhere in those values, apart from the enormous natural resources with which Nigeria is endowed. At this point, these values as strength must be restored and these resources must be harnessed on a sustainable level for the sake of today and tomorrow. What is required is patriotism and nationalism to nurture Nigeria. Patriotism entails love for one’s country, which propels one to do something to protect and grow the country. Nationalism, more or less the same thing as patriotism, mainstreams the former by the inclusion of a political superstructure for the realisation of the love of one’s country. These values are required at no other time than now. These times do not allow for a revolting denial of responsibility to Nigeria, a child in distress and one that must be cared for.