Why Nigeria is a mediocre nation
The first of October, in the year Two Thousand and Sixteen was Nigeria’s Fifty-Sixth Independence Anniversary. Some Nigerians and her friends had cause to celebrate; some were sad and complained bitterly, while others were just ambivalent – awaiting what the nation had in stock for them.
Why were people divergent in their attitude and assessment of the situation; you may want to ask? Without embarking on too much rigorous intellectual soul searching, we may have to place the situation on certain everyday happenings around us.
To begin with, history told us that Nigeria got her independence on a platter of gold. It is not that it is bad to get something on a platter of gold. The point to look at here is to what extent has this process been of value to Nigerians? A contrapted people without a centripetal force pulling them together, plunged into a marriage which they neither understood nor know how to manage, because Nigeria fared better in its days as regions under colonial government. What then was the result of this forced marriage? Your guess is as good as mine: strife to lord it over one another, bitterness towards each other, and the winner takes all mentality and worst of all a pander towards things that were of the ordinary.
What do we have as a nation today? A bewildered people who never expected that it could get that bad, a leadership that is so polluted that it’s every action stinks to high heavens, a rudderless nation without focus and without direction. What do we see in our institutions of today? We see a reign of mediocrity over excellence, the absence of vision and mission, laws that are respected only in their breach. A situation where sanity is seen as an abnormality and the proceeds of hard drugs, fraud and the illicit acquisition of public money for private gain is celebrated. In fact, Nigeria is currently inside a suffocating nest that is being dangled and awaiting whether to be done away with or to be rescued.
It was our own celebrated scholar (Chinua Achebe), who said long ago that the problems of Nigeria lied squarely on the problems of leadership. Majority of Nigerians may agree with him, or how else can you explain how the table turned between 1956 (when the motion for independence was moved) and 1960 (when independence was gained?). The answer is simple. It was because the colonial masters wanted the status quo-ante to be maintained.
That means: to have the old order in place (imperialism) but in a new form (Neo-colonialism). The leadership that Nigeria got at independence could not renovate itself after independence, and it has remained so, whether we are referring to military leadership or civilian leadership. You will agree with me that a cat cannot give birth to a dog.
In the same manner a compromised leadership will continue to reproduce itself and its every action will be compromised. It is in the sphere of policy or in its implementation? Is it in the sphere of quality or in its manifestation? Is it in the sphere of intellectualism or not? Is it in the sphere of creativity and productivity or it is when we talk about honesty and integrity. I may be wrong, but tell me what sector of the Nigerian project has not been infested. Even, the university systems where I belong have become polluted. Majority of us have become what the economist refers to as rent seekers. Lies are told in order to undo colleagues. Most frightening is the fact that, because of political patronage vice chancellors who are misfits are made and unleashed on the hapless staff and students. Of course, what do you expect in return: mediocrity. Although we know that it is not yet uhuru, Nigeria still has some pockets of excellence splashed around here and there.
A follow up to this piece as a way out will soon be published.
• Professor Mukoro writes from Delta State University