…Nigeria is not beyond repairs if we really want to be together
“There are three periods in the life of a people or in the life of a country. The three periods are yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday belongs to the dead and to chroniclers; today belongs to current functionaries and operatives and you will find them all over the place. Tomorrow belongs to visionaries and idealists, without whom you cannot build a new society.” – Chief Anthony Enahoro (Nigerian foremost politician and elder statesman: 1923 – 2010).
As Nigeria celebrates six decades of independence, all citizens both in the ruling class and the masses know that all is not well with the country.
Our celebration calls for worries because the walls that confine us as one nation has many cracks, which if not fixed, can lead to eventual ruin.
One of the proofs that Nigeria is ailing was seen when the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, pointed out that we have cracks in our walls. Some people in the country criticised his truthfulness, instead of all of us to accept the reality and find solutions to our problems.
Without mincing words, our roof is leaking. All aspects of our national life are being laden with perplexing deficits. We are drained economically, with our sole dependence on petroleum to run the nation. Our political leaders have been visionless, insensitive and corrupt over the years. And, all other departments rise and fall without a clear-cut pathway to success.
In his reactions to the numerous problems of Nigeria, Charles Okunrobo, a legal practitioner, said that the economic problems are caused by, “lack of proper planning on the side of government. Over-dependence on foreign goods, as well as over-reliance on crude oil because price fluctuation in the world market affects the economy. Also, expensive costs of running the government, and corruption”.
While it is not the purpose of this piece to dwell much on our deficiencies as a nation, it is imperative to ask ourselves an honest question if we can get this country repaired. If we can, who will lead the charge? If it’s impossible to fix, what should be done?
For those who are familiar with the Bible, Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, in 589BC was besieged, conquered and destroyed by an opposition country. It was burnt to the ground and the natives were scattered. However, after years of national ridicule and reproach, a Jewish palace servant in one of the foreign nations rose with the responsibility of rebuilding the old glory of his country, Jerusalem.
There were leadership qualities found in that man. He did not belong in the ruling elite of his time. He was having a good time in the strange land where he was. But, he was not happy with the conditions of his native country and rose to the encounter of redeeming his origin.
Nigeria, today, is in a mess. Apparently, all our proffered solutions, including this one you’re reading now, seem to be theoretical assertions which have failed in addressing our unending problems. But, I dare to say, if we have one Nehemiah in this country, Nigeria will get back on its feet and rule again. The question is, can we have that Nehemiah?
My argument of bringing a character from the Bible was intentional, after all, Nigerian people are religious. If that is the case, we cannot shy away from any solution that could liberate our country, even if it’s religious in nature. In respect to this, an enterprising publisher and writer, Michael Mbuko, said that, “Nigerians are highly spiritual people whose believe in God is second to none.”
Let me affirm here that the Nehemiah in the Bible, and of course, the Nigerian version we are searching for, would be brave and daring, unyielding in the face of stiff opposition, he would be mocked but would not compromise, he would be visionary, he would be loyal and a complete patriot that would also be brutal. How do we find such a fellow in this country?
The qualities of such leaders to play the roles of a Nehemiah in our country was submitted by a Nigeria-born, America-based freelance musician, Reign Ayo, who said that “we need vibrant, progressive, fearless, intentional and enlightened Nigerians who can steer and lead the nation in a direction that will secure our children’s future”.
I will also add here that as we view our cracked walls with problems of corruption, unemployment, insecurity, and other critical issues that have battered the country, it should also be viewed as a broken fence, meaning that the national cord binding us together as a nation is very weak.
Nigerians are no longer united. Babatunde Ileyemi, a lecturer in the University of Lagos, attested to this saying: “Another problem we have is tribalism which has eaten deep into our institutions and everyday life. We see ourselves first as the sub-nations of Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and so on, before we even relate as Nigerians. My observation is also that each tribe seems safest when it’s in their own region or homeland.”
These are the anomalies the Nigerian Nehemiah would correct. Nigerian people need to be one and not divided. So, the saviour of the Nigerian people should bear it in mind to address a twin-problem: fixing walls and mending fences. The idioms are similar but have different conceptual frameworks.
While I was gauging where the country has missed it, I compared its records in forty years back with the present predicament. In 1980, Nigeria was an exporter of oil. 80 Kobo equalled $1 at that time. But, do you really know what was accountable for the strength of its currency at the international market, Nigeria was producing. A productive nation cannot smell of stagnancy. Today, things have changed severely for the most populous African nation.
In the year under review, Nigeria locally assembled its cars. There were Peugeot and Volkswagen companies in Kaduna and Lagos respectively. Also, Leyland in Ibadan and ANAMCO in Enugu were producing automobile engines, while Styr located at Bauchi was producing our agricultural tractors, and not forgetting Exide Battery Company in Ibadan.
In addition, Nigeria Airways was functional to complement all other transport systems in rail, road and waterways handled locally. Our textile industry was a top-notch. UNTL textile in Kaduna and Chellaram in Lagos were leading the pack to boost the economy. Nigerian society boasted of quality electrical appliances produced by Sanyo and Thermocool, and Bata and Lennards manufactured our quality leather footwears.
The list is endless with the remarkable accounts that the Nigerian state had set for itself in the past. But, today, we import almost everything in this country. The reason is not far-fetched, corruption has been incorporated into the schemes of the Nigerian affairs. This is one of the irregularities our Nehemiah would remedy!
Very quickly, I want to call our attention to the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos. In 1980, when he was in high school, he worked at McDonald’s as a short-order line cook during the breakfast shift. He was sixteen and had nothing, but had a dream that one day human beings would colonise space. He worked hard to cultivate his dream and positioned himself to change the face of the earth commercially. Both his intentions and actions have been productive all the while. Today, Jeff Bezos is worth $204.6bn! Compare Nigeria as a nation in 1980 to Jeff Bezos as a person in 1980, and weigh them in the same scale today. It was all about a productive dream. The quality than can only be found only in a Nehemiah.
Amazingly, Jeff Bezos said, “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”
Our country is fixable if we have the people who still have the interest of the country at heart. Nigeria is not beyond repairs if we really want to be together. The call for disintegration is part of our problems, but that debate comes, only when we have exhausted all possible means, and then collectively resolve to scrap Nigeria.
Finally, I personally am convinced that the geographical landscape, political structure and social entity called Nigeria is redeemable, if only we have one Nehemiah that replicates himself in all our six geo-political zones, 250 ethnic groups, 36 states and a federal capital territory, and 774 local governments that form the country.
May we have a safer, better and greater Nigeria we dream of.
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