Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nigeria: Siasia as a metaphor

The recent hullabaloo surrounding the position of Nigeria's (now ex) national football coach, Samson Siasia, vividly showcases a stunning metaphor of a nation that cannot seem to get anything right.

For those who do not know the story, here is the lowdown: Samson Siasia was hired by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) as the national coach following vociferous calls by many Nigerians who clamored for an indigenous coach following a sad parade of foreign coaches -- paid hyper-salaries -- who failed to get them anywhere.

And for those not in the know, Nigerians consider football their only redeeming feature.

Football is about the only thing that binds the citizens of the vast nation of one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty-eight million (depending on who is doing the counting) souls. Having been so badly let down by a succession of very callous, shameless, unprincipled, amoral, ruthless, and corrupt leaders, Nigerians find solace only in the glories their national football team used to bring them.

And also for those not in the know, Nigeria, like most African nations, is a fiction invented by the European colonialists to satisfy their imperial ambition.

Sadly, however, post-independence leaders have failed to build a nation from the vast conglomerate of ancient national, tribal, and ethnic groups forced by colonial imperatives to live together in the same geographical space.

To be fair, there were glimmers of hope in the immediate post-colonial period when the enthusiasm of seeing the demise of foreign rules galvanized the people to aspire to prove to the world that, in the words, of Kwame Nkrumah, "the Black man is capable of managing his own affairs."

Sadly, this golden period was short-lived. Tribal jingoism colluded with political opportunism and grand larceny to set the country ablaze in a 30-month-long civil war from 1967-1970 when the Igbo people (of Eastern Nigeria) sought to secede.

Successful prosecution of the war to keep the country united also brought about a semblance of unity. This was helped by easy petro dollars that flew into government coffers and soon gave the people and their leaders the illusion of wealth and grandeur. A Nigerian president boasted in the 1970s that money was not the country's problem but how to spend it.

Like all good things that were obtained easily, the vast wealth was soon wasted mainly on consumption and white-elephant projects that contributed nothing to the nation's economic development.

The petro money was soon frittered away so much so that by the 1980s, Nigeria needed to be rescued by the Bretton Wood institutions. A punishing austerity measure wiped out the country's nascent middle class and saw the devaluation of the currency, the naira, to the point of virtual inutility.

Things fell apart for Nigeria and the people were no longer at ease.

In recent years, tribalism, political hooliganism, and virulent religious intolerance have polarized the country so badly that citizens' lives are being wasted with Old Testament abandon. Nigerians no longer feel safe except in their home regions. Not even members of the National Youth Service Corps set up to foster a sense of unity among Nigerians are immune from the senseless tribal-cum-religious slaughters.

A militant Islamic sect, so-called Boko Haram, is wreaking havoc in much of Northern Nigeria, and the federal government appears powerless to stop them. Both the UN office and police headquarters in the nation's capital, Abuja, bore the brunt of massive suicide car bombings.


No comments:

Wise saying:

" Never use both feet to test the depth of the sea." - African proverb