Thursday, 28 September 2017

Sunrise at dusk: A Prayer for Nigeria

When I look around, faces of despair are not in short supply. My own face is not immune. Thank God every Nigerian has some innate resilience to abjection. The issue however is that we all have our breaking points. We know when enough is enough! Though our past as a nation was quite eventful, we seemed to have thrown the cigarette butt into a trash can filled with papers and moved on without putting the fire out completely. The smoke from the trash can has gained dense billows and ignition is not far off. With reference to the political antecedents of Nigeria, no Government in uniform or without uniform has adequately coped with the immense expectations of Nigerians. If you kept an inventory of newspaper headlines from 1960 to date, the word chart would throw up a trend of words that abound in our discussions on national issues today. There is a popular saying that “Government is a continuum.” If this is true, why haven’t we as a nation overcome basic recurrent issues that continue to plague every successive Government in Nigeria?
Growth should mean positive incremental progression in the life of a nation. With positive growth comes the desire to dream and hope for more growth. Nigeria is growing as a nation. Our population is growing, our number of political parties are growing, our politically demarcated enclaves are growing in numbers, our corruption appetite is growing, and so also our civil unrest profile. Are these positive growths? A former member of the House of Representatives from Cross River State in an interview hinted that when Nigeria had twelve states, the national budgetary provisions for capital projects was quite higher than the recurrent provisions. This freed up resources for various infrastructural development projects around the country. Today, our recurrent provisions at the federal and state levels dwarf provisions for capital projects so much so that only a sprinkle of infrastructural projects are embarked upon and funding for these projects could spread across several fiscal years. The situation is made worse with every little stagger in global economics, crude oil prices, and militant actions in the Niger Delta. When crude oil was discovered in Oloibiri on Sunday 15th January 1956, Nigeria joined the league of oil producing nations. What many Nigerians don’t remember is that the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri ended an exploration search of about 50 years. A visit to Oloibiri today, more than 50 years after, will help you answer some of my earlier questions. The revenue from crude oil increased the appetite for corruption and it is sad that the trend has since skyrocketed. The giant strides Nigeria made in agricultural production gradually lost focus and were debased. The quest for a piece of crude oil revenue inspired several drama concerning governance of the Nigerian state. Corruption is an already belaboured issue in Nigeria. There is no Government since 1960 that has not said something about stemming corruption in Nigeria. But, is it really corruption that has inhibited a sustained succession of development policies in Nigeria? Besides corruption, I perceive in my naivety, that the wheels of cohesiveness of our pluralistic nation is clogged with various issues. There are deep issues of insincerity in our marriage as a nation. It would seem that there are schools of people with original knowledge about these deep issues in every ethnicity, and information about these issues are systematically passed on to protégées to continue the pursuance of whatever goals that have been agreed upon from the beginning. It is a common trend today to see that human capacities are deliberately being developed along lines of ethnicity to strengthen the ambition of various ethnicities. It is therefore no surprise that successive Governments have all had heavily tilted ethnic colourations. The lack of trust is so dense that nepotism has pervaded every facet of the Nigerian fabric. Despite the obvious reticence in our intra and inter-ethnic relations, I submit that we are better off as one nation. There is a potential in Nigeria that is evidently visible. Yes, because every now and then, we see glimpses of what we can achieve together as a nation. The potential of Nigeria is a threat to many nations and so seeing us at daggers’ end meets the aspiration of these nations. We should be aware of this and guard against activities that disunite Nigerians. The first step towards overcoming our problems as a nation is the realisation of the necessity for reconciliation. Since 1960, several wounds have not healed and several truths have remained unsaid. We have continued to journey on like a married couple with a storied past of insecurity and lack of trust. We must also confront the issues surrounding our sovereignty as a nation in order to emerge a stronger nation. We must address the issues surrounding the Presidential system of governance which we inherited, and the budget financing issues which has made it almost impossible for us to achieve any meaningful development. Imagine a man catering for 37 wives who are not working and have so many children. We must stop patronising ourselves and collectively embrace the desire to truly become great. Some of these issues have been discussed in recent past and about six hundred recommendations are lying in a report with the Government. These recommendations can serve as a foundation for more critical discussions on how we move forward as a true nation. Personally, I am pained by the current level of disunity, intolerance, insecurity and disrespect for human lives in Nigeria. We all must be aware that there are children growing up in these conditions and registering all these information. When Nelson Mandela finally became President of South Africa, he realised the racial animosity that existed and used his wisdom to implement policies that helped to move South Africa towards reconciliation. The current Nigerian Government has an opportunity to stand above board on these issues through facilitative leadership. Is our current situation really the foundation on which we hope to advance development? We must work together to produce sunrise from our dusk situation. It remains to be seen if the current Government is up to the task. May God bless Nigeria.