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Nigeria, we fail thee!

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Nigeria we hail thee, Our own dear native land,
Though tribe and tongue may differ, In brotherhood we stand,
Nigerians all, are proud to serve, Our sovereign Motherland.
Our flag shall be a symbol That truth and justice reign,
In peace or battle honour’d; And this we count as gain,
To hand on to our children; A banner without stain.
O God of all creation; Grant this our one request,
Help us to build a nation; Where no man is oppressed,
And so with peace and plenty; Nigeria may be blessed.

Nigeria, you will be 60 in 12 months. I doubt that we will be able to compose redemption songs to celebrate you at 60. In the beginning, “we hailed thee” as was reflected in our defunct national anthem composed by Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate, who lived in Nigeria when it attained its independence on October 1, 1960. Frances Berda composed the music for “Nigeria, We Hail Thee.”

I think we began to fail you, our dear Nigeria when we rejected the independence version of the nation anthem, Nigeria we hail thee in 1978.
Since that time, we have lost touch with you, our dear native land. In brotherhood, we no longer stand. Since that 1978, we the people have not been proud to serve diligently our sovereign motherland.

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We have failed thee since then as our flag has not been a symbol that truth and justice shall reign. It is sad to note that we have had nothing to hand to our children. Indeed, the banner we have been handing to them has been stained by the stench of corruption, injustice and insecurity.
We fail thee since we have not been able to build a political system where no man is oppressed. We have failed to bless you with peace that you may be blessed.
The lyrics of the first national anthem, Nigeria, we hail thee 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 realise a fundamental flaw that we the people, have been naïve and too tolerant of poor leadership – since 1966 when our ‘soldiers of fortune’ ruined the majesty of federalism.

Besides, we also failed thee, our dear coun- try in 1993, when we could not defend the outcome of a general election, which threatened to unite the country. We did not fight enough to know what General IBB and his big men dared in 1993 when they cancelled the people’s wishes expressed in the 1993 presidential election. We fought him (IBB) and ran away – into a continued military rule. He too ran away to Minna, capital of Niger State on 26 August 1993. And democracy was scotched just as the Oloja self-styled Prince of the Niger killed 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 1999. 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 on the nation a candidate they knew was not healthy enough to rule. 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”. Nigeria, Our Nigeria, you know where the war declared on “corruption and insecurity” has led us.

Specifically, insecurity and corruption are still waxing stronger as headaches of all governments in the country. Are there any institutions of governance or social services that Nigeria, our Nigeria 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 2019.
We have read enough about the patriotism of the founding fathers who built this nation and obtained independence for us 59 years ago. 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/ Buhari or Governor this or that or governor this-or that administration. There is no Nigeria or federation/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. This is a reflection of how we have failed thee, Nigeria, our Nigeria. Where indeed did the rains start beating us? On October 1, 1960, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister (neither Hausa nor Fulani from a minority within minority in Bauchi state) who opened the first chapter in the history of Nigeria on Independence Day had noted among 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,

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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 Nigeria, our Nigeria? 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 and established 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 remember- ing 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.
In the main, we should remember at all times 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, 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, 2023 elections have consequences. That time, Nigeria, our Nigeria we will be about 63. 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 note this: meretricious lamentation in the social media daily will not deliver the change we desire for Nigeria. It is well with Nigeria at 59. 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.
•Oloja, former Editor/Columnist, The Guardian, is Executive Head, Editorial Board.

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