I weep for my country Nigeria
I cry for my country, Nigeria; a country endowed with both human and natural resources to an enviable magnitude, yet bedevilled by corruption whose stench oozes to the highest heavens. A country where the hopes of her citizens are repeatedly and brazenly dashed by a few individuals who are entrusted with basic responsibilities of safeguarding these hopes. The happenings of the last few weeks make one ponder and ask if there is still hope.
Hope for a Nigeria that works for all irrespective of whether or not you know anybody and not for a few political class and their cronies; hope for a Nigeria devoid of corruption, where diligence, honesty, competence and good character will be rewarded instead of thuggery, bigotry, mediocrity e.t.c.; hope for a Nigeria that we shall all be proud to call a home.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), through its conduct of the 2023 general election, which many see as the most opaque so far in the history of Nigeria, dashed the hopes and trusts of many citizens. Its flagrant abuse of the Electoral Act and its own electoral guidelines was quite appalling. The presidential and Enugu gubernatorial elections are two typical examples of such an abuse of a process and shady dealings by the Commission. A process which ought to be transparent became quite opaque under the machinations of INEC and its cronies.
What ought to be an election became a selection presided over by a few individuals, who lacked the conscience to understand the enormity of what they were doing in a country of over 200 million people. I really weep for my country. I had the option to weep and groan in silence over the happenings of these past few weeks, but in a time like this, silence is not golden.
We need institutions and processes as strong and transparent as what we see in other nations, not a process that throws mud on the faces of the citizens of Nigeria. If you help to enthrone malpractices and a faulty system because you have the power at the moment to do so in your favour, what would you do when the table turns and power slips off your hands? This is a pertinent question to all who rejoice at evil or enthrone a faulty process simply because they benefit from it at the moment. The wrong system you help to enthrone will haunt you and your future generation forever.
Power is quite transient and ephemeral and those who are in the corridors of power today may see themselves far away from power tomorrow. Therefore, you should not smile over injustices and corruption just because you benefit from them. The richest man a century or two ago in Nigeria had long been forgotten but a man of character might still be remembered.
Although I would want a very competent leader with sound character for my country and state, I do not care who wins if he wins legitimately and the results reflect the votes and the will of the people; that is the beauty of democracy. I am of the belief that If you claim to be competent, you should be able to convince the majority to vote for you freely and fairly. But a situation where the process is grossly distorted to give success to the wrong person(s) is unacceptable and calls for retrospection as a nation. We need to rethink our ideals and values as a nation.
Our actions today will define our tomorrow and I see a more gloomy tomorrow if we bequeath these bankrupt values to our next generation of Nigerians. Albeit I talk about tomorrow, today already appears very gloomy and we have a behemoth task at hand to rewrite history today in order to give tomorrow a chance. How we achieve this is quite difficult but still possible after the happenings of these past few weeks which plunged many Nigerians into agony. I have been in a serious agony not over the persons declared winners but over the processes that led to their declaration as winners; in agony over the enthronement of bribery and corruption in my beloved nation, Nigeria; in agony over what the future holds for us as a nation and for Africa as a whole owing to the actions and inactions of very few individuals on whose shoulders rest the fate of over 200 million people.
While languishing in this anguish, a lot of questions were running amok in my brain not only as a Nigerian who wants his country to work but as a teacher on whose shoulder lies the burden of teaching, among other things, morals and patriotism.
How do I teach my students that education is the key when the educated are cowed and the touts reign supreme? How do I teach them to be patriotic when their patriotism via their votes was mocked? How do I teach them not to lose hope in their country when all their efforts to fan their hopes to flame are always visited with suppression? How do I teach them that integrity and good character pays when bribery and corruption reigns supreme and bad character is rewarded instead of the good? More nauseating is the fact that some of my colleagues in the academia who are supposed to be role models of integrity and good character are alleged to have contributed in facilitating this mess.
Please, tell me how to teach my students to become good citizens when even some of their teachers were involved in the mess. I am in a dilemma as a teacher. However, I take solace in the fact that there were still very many people – men and women of integrity across the nation and in academia – who insisted on doing the right thing irrespective of the enticement and intimidation. Some chose to be heroes of our democracy whereas some others chose to be villains. The world is watching; we are all watching and taking records. The heroes give us the hope that the right things can still be done in Nigeria’s electoral process.
We should endeavour to imbibe that spirit of insisting on doing the right thing irrespective of whether or not it favours us. In that way, we will be able to inculcate in our children and generations yet unborn the right values of growing a strong and united nation. Let us not destroy our today for the sake of tomorrow and let us not jeopardise our tomorrow for the sake of our children yet unborn.
I enjoin all well meaning Nigerians, especially the youth, to keep hope alive and never to give up in our country. In line with the statements of many concerned Nigerians, I encourage the youth not to live by the standards the corrupt system had dictated for them. It is not a good way to live as a person.
Honesty still pays; good character still pays; we have all seen that in Peter Obi and the massive support he gained during the election. Therefore, endeavour to build a sound character and develop your skills for by your character and competence you shall enjoy the fruit of the land in due time.
Eze is a lecturer at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.