“Nigeria we hail thee
Our own dear native land
Though tribe and tongue may differ
In brotherhood we stand
Nigerians all and proud to serve
Our sovereign motherland
Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour
And this we count as gain
To pass unto 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”
Please, dear reader, take the trouble to re-read the wordings of the song that was from the old Nigerian anthem.
Looking at Nigerian today, one is bound to ask whether the composers were not simply beyond irony.
“Though tribe and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand.” Really, Nigerians in brotherhood? Sing me another song. Apart from football, one would be hard-pressed to name one single thing that unite Nigerians.
“Our flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reign.” Absurd, absurd., very few Nigerians will be able to relate to this. The Deltans who are virtual colonial subjects in ‘their own country’ are bound to disagree that they enjoy any modicum of justice.
“Help us to build a nation where no man is oppressed and so with peace and plenty.” Let’s continue to dream our dreams but very few will contest the fact that Nigeria is today a land of oppressed\oppressors. It is a nation where the capricious corruption of the ruling elite put them entirely in a class of their own.
It is very difficult not to feel sad about the country called Nigeria. Every single time I visit the land of my birth, hot tears poured down my cheek on their own accord.
With its immense natural wealth, a large, creative and very enterprising population (a fifth of every African is a Nigerian), the country has absolutely no business to be in the league of Almost Failed States.
Yet, the country is mired in every socio-economic-political problem imaginable. This country of some 150 million citizens has find it impossible to conduct a credible census since its foundation and organizing credible elections is way-way above the capabilities of our Anago cousins. On the economic front, Nigeria is, paradoxically an immensely rich nation with an incredibly poor citizenry. And the country has consistently ranked among the most corrupt nations on earth. It has also consistently performed poorly in all indices of well-managed nations. Until few years back, the country that ranked among the world’s oil-exporting nation is also the same where citizens breaks bones in order to fuel their cars. And almost half a decade of nationhood, Nigerians still dance for joy when their electricity service provider gives them their pitiable allotment of power!
“It is a great irony that Nigeria is the seventh largest producer of oil in the world, and yet, up to now, almost 100% of the finished petroleum products we need are imported.” That was culled from a speech by President Yar’adua to a meeting of investors in London recently.
What is saddest is that the country has never lack social critic with good conscience. What is baffling is that the rulers (both civilian and military) of this very heartrending nation appear totally immune to all criticism and advices.
It is not easy to forget the powerful lyrics of the irreverent Fela Anikulapo Kuti who spent all his years on mother earth chronicling and wailing about the shortcomings in his land of birth. Samples from Fela’s lyrics:
“United Nations dem come get name for us.
Dem go call us underdeveloped nation,
we must be underdeveloped to dey stay ten ten in one room.
First and second day dem go call Third-World,
we must be third world to dey sleep inside dusbin.
Dem go call us Non-Aligned Nation,
we must dey craze for head to dey sleep under bridge.
Ordinary thing for man to enjoy for town nko o, e no dey.
Food, e no dey. Problem, iyen dey. Light, e no dey.
Wahala, iyen dey. Dem turn us to suffer head O, original suffer head.”
That was from Fela’s album, ‘Original Sufferhead’.
And take this from the album ‘Suffering and Smiling,’
“Dem sleep, dem go wake like cock
Dem go reach road police go slap
Demi go reach road army go whip
Dem go look pocket, money no dey
Dem go reach house power no dey
Dem go reach house water no dey
Everyday na de same thing
Every day na de same thing
Suffer suffer for world, enjoy for heaven.”
Fela Anikulapo sang his powerful lyrics almost forty years ago, yet the conditions he was describing then still, inexcusable, exist in today’s Nigeria. If anything, they have become even worse.
Nigeria of the 1970s and early 1980s was a regional, even a continental superpower with clearly defined Global ambitions. Its currency was almost at par with the British pound and was more valuable than the American dollars. The leaders sank billions of petro dollars into building first class infrastructures, ports, refineries and road networks that was the envy of visitors from the sub-region. The country’s educational and health institutions were well serviced. The national carrier, Nigeria airways, boasts of some thirty-eight planes whilst the Nigerian National Shipping Line boasts a number of ships.
That was some three decades ago. Few who saw the promising nation of thirty years turned into an ugly shell will not cry for the nation. A sad parade of visionless and parochial leaders who consistently put their personal well-being above their nation’s needs have joined hands with their ‘friends’ in the west to turn the country into a sad caricature. Long gone are the super-highways that dotted the land. In their stead are dilapidated highways filled with swimming-pool sized manholes. A string of corrupt Directors have run both the Nigerian Airways and the NNSL aground. Nigerian universities have been taken over by students more interested in practicing cultism than learning anything knowledgeable. Nothing illustrates the sad state of Nigerian medical facilities than the simple fact the nation’s number one citizen, the President, is a frequent visitor to a German hospital.
Ask any number of Nigerian and they will tell you that among the best legacies left behind by President Olusegun Obasanjo was the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC. Chief Obasanjo, in his second incarnation as a ruler of Nigeria, was apparently appalled by the monumental corruption he met in Nigerian body polity that he vowed that the impunity with which the elite were looting the national patrimony should be curbed if not altogether eliminated.
Under the fearless scion of the Ribadu family, Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC did what many Nigerians believed were impossible: curbing the excesses of the moneybags who believed themselves above the laws and the rules of the country.
No, corruption was not totally eliminated under Obasanjo, but long gone was the era of ‘BIGMANISM,” which had characterized the elite have treated the national treasury. Chief Obasanjo handed power to his handpicked successor, Umar Yar’adua from the famous Yar’adua family. It’s a decision the Ota chief must be ruing unto this day as the dull and dour former governor of Katsina state has being busy systematically dismantling all that his predecessor managed to achieved for the nation in his eight years rule.
Unlike Obasanjo who is a totally detribalized Nigerians and who managed to packed his cabinet with the best technocrats the nation has to offer, Yar ‘adua has largely surrounded himself with his Hausa\Fulani clansmen. We now have the totally ridiculous position whereby the head of the executive branch of government as well as the head of the judicial arm and the Senate President all come from the geographic north. This is, in addition to the north occupying the powerful positions of Minister of the Interior and the National Security Adviser.
Nigerians could have well live with that. What they find too bitter to swallow is the apparent moves by Yar ‘adua to emasculate the EFCC. First, under the pretext of sending him on a Course, Nuhu Ribadu was removed as the head of the EFCC. Nigerians rose as one to condemn his removal; the power elite was unmoved. Ribadu duly proceeded to do his course at the Nigerian Institute of Strategic Studies, Kuru. Few months down the road came the shocking news that Ribadu, a serving police office, has been demoted by two ranks!
Nigerians are yet to come to grip with that obvious nonsense when news came that State Security operatives are trailing him in order to effect an arrest. Next shocker was the revelation by the former Governor of Kaduna State that Ribadu has been earmarked for assassination!
Although he had just celebration his one year in office, the administration of Yar ‘adua is bound to be one of Nigeria’s worst ever. A year might be too soon to judge but as the African proverb says: “The eye that will last until dusk does not begin by oozing at dawn.”
Nothing the President has done so far gives any indication that he understands the monumental challenges facing him as a leader much less to talk of his being capable of remedying them. Many Nigerians who remember the regime of another well-meaning dullard from the North, Shehu Shagari, cannot but wonder how such wonderfully inept persons managed to get to the nation’s presidential throne.
Nigerians used to boast that their country was the Giant of Africa, few of them today will contest the sad fact that the country has now turned to the Blight of Africa.