The state of the country
Before the white imperialists came to Nigeria, the diverse ethnic groups in the country had their peculiar systems of government. And, the pre-colonial systems of government practised by Nigerians during the pre-colonial era guaranteed peace and unity among the peoples living in the place, which is called Nigeria, now. However, our coming into contact with western culture nearly caused the obliteration of our cultural practices. And it is an indisputable fact that the imposition of white rule on us disrupted our pre-colonial system of government.
But is representative government, which the white people brought to us, not the best type of government? Is democracy, which originated in Greece, not better than aristocracy, plutocracy, and military rule? In addition to bringing democracy to us, they established schools in our country, where native Africans where taught subjects like English Language, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and others. Education, we all know, is the light which illuminates the stygian night of ignorance on the African continent. So, armed with quality education, African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo and others fought for the decolonization of Africa. Not a few African people died while fighting for the political emancipation of African countries.
That’s why shouts of immense joy greeted Nigeria’s attainment of self-rule in 1960, which was marked by the symbolic lowering of the British Union Jack and the hoisting of our green and white flag. At that time, Nigerians reposed trust and confidence in our first republic politicians, believing that they would better the lots of the hoipoil by giving them good and responsible political leadership. However, the first republic politicians, who were ethnic chauvinists, religious bigots, and unscrupulous people, frittered away the golden opportunity offered to them to build a virile, peaceful, united, and progressive country. They sacrificed the national interests on the altar of their primordial sentiments, ethnic loyalties, religious affiliations, and base selfish interests.
Not surprisingly, Nigeria was embroiled in a civil war, which devastated it and caused its economic stagnation and technology underdevelopment. Thereafter, the country suffered and experienced military interregnum with its calamitous and devastating effects. Military rule is characterized by the suspension of the constitution in which our fundamental human rights are enshrined. It is an incontestable fact that the military incursion into our politics caused the economic depredation and technological stagnation of Nigeria.
So, we heaved a sigh of relief when representative democracy was restored to Nigeria in 1999. We have had twenty years of uninterrupted political leadership in Nigeria. However, it’s incredible that Nigeria, which is touted as the giant of Africa has, not realized its potential. For all its oil-wealth, humungous population, large land mass, equable weather conditions, many waters, the country is still stuck in the mud of infrastructural rot, graduate unemployment, security challenges, electricity problem, and others.
But can Nigeria become an economic giant and hub of technological innovation when her educational system is in a shambles? This is a rhetorical question. Rapid national development and dysfunctional educational system are diametrically opposed. Our tertiary institutions, which are legion, are not bastion of knowledge and centers of academic excellence where innovative scientific and educational researches are conducted to push back the frontiers of knowledge. Our schools have failed to evolve and develop our own variant of technological culture to mass-produce assortment of goods for exportation, which will yield revenue to us. Consequently, today, we import things like toothbrush, toothpick, and others.
More so, a country with near anarchic condition cannot hope to achieve sustainable economic growth and technological advancement. Insecurity of lives and property is not a force for national development. No thoughtful and percipient foreigners would build industries in a country that is susceptible to descending into war. Here, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgents, who are opposed to people’s acquisition of western education in schools, have run amuck killing people and sacking farming communities in the North-east, especially in Borno. Can Nigeria achieve food sufficiency when farmers are on the run owing to insecurity of lives and property prevailing in the country?
But it is not only the Boko Haram insurgents, who dispatch people to their early graves in Nigeria. The Fulani cattle herders have dropped their sticks for juggernauts of death, with which they unleash mayhem on people in their host communities and cause needless fatalities. So, from Nimbo, Enugu to Taraba, and from Delta to Ondo, they had killed a great number of people. Some men of the cloth, especially Reverend Fathers, were killed by them, too. Today, Nigeria has become one flowing river of blood on account of the killings plotted and deftly executed by Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, and Fulani cattle herders.
The security challenges, which have gripped Nigeria, can spark off war here as our country is already polarized along ethnic and religious lines. Add this situation to the PDP –APC political rivalry, which has increased political tension in the country, then, you cannot controvert the fact that Nigeria is a tinder-box, which can explode. But if Nigeria is engulfed in a political conflagration, can it emerge from it not dismembered? Are we better-off as one country? Or should Nigeria disintegrate into many nation-states?
The incontestable fact is that Nigeria’s greatness lies in its ethnic and religious diversities, large landmass, huge population, and abundant natural resources. But successive governments in Nigeria (both civilian and military ones) have failed to harness our human and material resources to build a virile, cohesive, united, economically prosperous, and technologically advanced country. That is why Nigeria still brings up the rear on the global ladder of development, in spite of the fact that it has immense human and natural resources, equable climatic conditions, many waters, and large land mass.
Over the years, Nigeria has not been led by its best political leaders because the factors of religion and ethnicity have trumped and gained ascendancy over meritocracy when it comes to recruitment of political leaders in the country.
Okoye wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.