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Stuck in the mud of mediocrity!

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While Nigeria continues to demonstrate a pathetic inability or unwillingness (or both) to transcend such an outdated and debilitating discussion like the refusal of farmers to allow the conversion of their farms to “grazing routes” as a reason for genocidal attacks on them and their communities by cattle herders, a country like Tanzania recently announced to the world her plans to test her “maiden, cheaper and very superior…electric train” wholly funded by the country. This train, according to reports, will be “one of Africa’s high speed trains with projected speed of up to 160 mph.”

In March, Air Senegal, a national airline of international standard took delivery of its “first Airbus A330-900NEO, making (it) the first airline in Africa to fly the brand-new addition to the A330 Family.” In December 2017, the country opened a world-class international airport, which is talked about with overflowing excitement and relish by those who have passed through it. Now, where is Nigeria’s own national airline? What do our own “international airports” say about us to anybody coming into our country through them? What exactly does Nigeria have to show for its existence for several decades as a richly endowed country?

Okay, I get it: she recently overtook India to achieve a distinction as the World Poverty Capital, with 91 million of her 200 million people living in “extreme poverty.” And the World Poverty Clock is predicting that by 2030, extreme poverty will witness an overwhelming increase in Nigeria! That’s the “Next Level.”  And unless Nigerians will soon be able to muster the requisite will to deploy conscious efforts to put away primordial and retrogressive considerations to get it right in their choice of leaders next time and elect those armed with even the basic knowledge of what the issues are, leaders who would hasten to commence the reversal of the current decay tearing down the country with alarming speed, Nigeria may slip into a prehistoric state, a totally failed state, a jungle among societies! Nigeria is also one of the most insecure places on earth today, a situation badly compounded by the kid gloves with which promoters and perpetrators of violent crimes are treated. The World Economic Forum ranks Nigeria one of the “ten most dangerous countries in the world.”

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The Fulani herdsmen, classified by Global Terrorism Index 2018 as the “fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world,” who are engaged in private, commercial and other activities should have been compelled by now to breed and confine their livestock in ranches so as to end the blood, death and tears their presence constitutes anywhere they are in Nigeria today. Their operations ought not to be allowed to destroy the farms of other people, thereby, causing them humongous losses and unleashing terrible scarcity of food items in a country where people ought to have enough to eat and to spare. Farms worth millions of naira have been destroyed, and the attendant food scarcity and hardship have driven many people to despair and suicide while the herdsmen themselves who seem to derive peculiar animation from attacking communities with utmost impunity, razing houses, raping women and their daughters and making people destitute and refugees in a place they had called their home for ages, appear to enjoy immunity from facing the full weight of the law.

Now, many of our highways have become death zones. Travelling through, for instance, the Sagamu-Benin expressway, has become a huge gamble with life. The lavishly armed Fulani herdsmen swoop on the road at any period of the day (without any form of resistance from security agencies), brazenly shoot at commuters and kill many of them. Those who escape their bullets are abducted and taken into the thick bushes where they are brutally subjected to unspeakable indignities, even ordeals that would have been considered unthinkable even in primeval times. Those whose relatives are not able to pay the demanded ransom within a very short space of time are slaughtered and buried in shallow graves.

Till now, they are still ruling as the savage kings of the highways and bushes and the federal government appears more interested in disputing their identity as observed and testified to by freed victims than deploying troops to summarily end their daily enterprise of death and blood. Are we then to take it that they are “privileged bandits” as some people have suggested or part of a larger agenda to conquer other Nigerians and subject them to recolonisation by their sponsors as is now being widely feared? Has the federal government ever given the slightest thought to what might happen if all the other people arm themselves also and begin to attack their killers with even more ferocity?

According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), “in 2018 alone, deaths committed by nomadic Fulani herders are estimated to be six times greater than the number committed by Boko Haram.”  For four consecutive years, Nigeria has enjoyed the unsightly status of the third “most terrorised country” in the world, according to GTI. Only recently, The Punch newspaper quoted the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, USA, as stating that 24, 794 persons were killed in violent crisis during Buhari’s first term!

Instead of the authorities to seek a safer country for Nigerians by punishing the killers and containing their murderous activities, they are busy feeding the citizens with the exasperating, prehistoric argument that until these herders are allowed to convert other people’s farms into “grazing routes” or rather, “feeding centres” for cows, or allow large settlements to be created for them on other people’s lands in the name of RUGA, the herders would continue their genocidal exploits. And without any repercussions! What kind of country is this? Indeed, with this sort of mindset propelling Nigeria’s largely provincial leaders, is it any surprise that other countries have since left her behind and busied themselves with higher and edifying ideas, formulating and implementing high dreams and projects for the advancement of their own people and upliftment of their countries’ profile?

As at June 1, 2019, United Nation’s estimates put Nigeria’s population at 200,484,853, about 2.6 % of the global population. Yet power generation in Nigeria has scandalously sunk as low as 1,507.3 MW, and many Nigerians stay several weeks without even a flash of light.  But with a population of nearly 60 million (less than the population of just the South East and South South), “Tanzania has an installed generation capacity of 1,513 MW.” And according to a Reuters report, the East African country “boasts reserves of over 57 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas” and is aiming “to have six times its current power generation capacity by 2025 through investment in thermal and renewable energy.”

This is one of the many countries in Africa where electric power outage is a very rare phenomenon. She is even better than Ghana where I was recently for six days without witnessing power outage. The toxic noise and air pollutions which power-generating sets unleash in Nigeria are never felt throughout Dar es Salaam or Arusha, several other cities in Tanzania, and, in fact, in many African countries today where blackouts are not their uninterrupted nightmare as is the case in Nigeria. That is why Tanzania is set to launch an electric powered train, one of the fastest in Africa. Will Nigeria ever launch an electric train? Has anybody in the Nigerian leadership even started dreaming about it? How did people so richly endowed with human and natural resources find themselves in such a dark hole – where the blind appear to be   leading those with complete, functional eyes? When will the entrenched culture of mediocrity be uprooted and cast very far away from this land?  Please, Nigerians, wake up, this is 2019!

Recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) say that Nigeria’s “manufacturing sector recorded a decline of about N77.92 billion in output in the first quarter of this year.” Reports say that this very critical sector has “been badly hit by the harsh operating environment which took its toll on the profit margins of many companies operating in that segment of the economy.”

Only recently, Forbes warned investors across the world that Nigeria has become “Africa’s money-losing machine,” horribly unsafe for investments. This can only have two implications, namely, those with business concerns in Nigeria may soon begin to think of relocating them to our more economic-friendly neighbours while prospective investors would simply snub the country for now until some really seasoned economic managers take over Nigeria and begin to steer her economy out of the muddy pond of mediocrity where crazy experimentations and directionlessness by overwhelmed tyros had got it deeply stuck. Who will like to invest in a country superintended by a regime that has done almost nothing since its inauguration except to seek to elevate cows above human beings – where the security of the citizens is not guaranteed? .

International health monitors have since told the world that Nigeria is one of the places where maternal and infant deaths occur at a benumbing rate. Only last year, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates lamented that Nigeria was “one of the most dangerous places to give birth.”  And with all these negative conditions prevailing, Nigerian leaders still carry on as if there is no emergency situation requiring urgent intervention.

Sometimes, I am reluctant to blame these leaders who take on jobs they know next nothing about, probably, just because of what they stand to gain from those offices. Nigerians often behave like people under a spell. Despite the abysmal failure of this regime which became very evident during its first term in office, didn’t Nigerians allow themselves to be driven by the same primordial instincts that blind their eyes to excruciating realities to troop out to vote for them again, even though their “victory” is being hotly contested in court? Despite the reduction of the country to almost a state of war, where bandits kill, maim and rape with utmost impunity, are some otherwise educated Nigerians not out there defending and rationalizing the leadership and character failure of this government?

Until Nigerians free themselves from the mind-dulling influences of ethnicity and religion, and stop themselves from suspending their reason each time opportunity comes for taking critical decisions for charting and recharting Nigeria’s destiny, retrogression will continue to be the defining character of this country. And Nigeria will continue to be classified only by all the wrong things in the world! How long she would be mired in this sticky pond of mediocrity is difficult to predict.

Ejinkeonye wrote from Lagos

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