A People Fighting Their Nation, By Tonneey Nnamudi
Writing under the caption, “Microcosmic Privatisation: A Panacea to National Problems”, I had challenged Nigerians to handle issues affecting Nigeria as they would their private and personal issues. Although, I had not argued that privatising national matters was an exclusive end to itself, it hadn’t occurred to me however that, more had to be done by the average Nigerian other than mere privatisation towards the actualisation of the ideals of a working nation. This realisation only dawned on me when a friend, having read the piece, opined that the average okada man on the street (representing the common masses) was not morally better than the politician in Abuja. According to him, the okada man if given the opportunity will stop at nothing to loot the national treasury. I couldn’t have agreed more.
It then occurred to me that majority of Nigerians have a defective conscience imbued with morbid vindictivity. In essence, most Nigerians were bad to the bones (especially, morally). This becomes shocking for a nation that is roughly divided between Christians and Muslims – indeed, a very religious nation. The probable explanation for this anomie could stem from the fact that the citizens are highly religious but spiritually and morally bankrupt. These spiritually and morally bankrupt citizens constitute the vast majority of Nigerians that are consciously and unconsciously fighting a costly war of aggression and stagnation against the Nigerian state. They are the enemies of Nigeria. These enemies of Nigeria wash away national progress with the soap of tribalism and ethnic bigotry, using the sponge of corruption and malpractice whilst rinsing it off with the water of partisanship and ineptitude.
Ordinarily, the expected target of the vitriolic vituperations of this venomous piece would have been the politicians of our time. Agreeable though, but the larger majority of Nigerians should not be denied of their fair share of scathing remarks for not been fair to Nigeria by virtue of the rot they bring into the system. This rot is evident in virtually every facet of the Nigerian system.
The average citizen who has refused to contribute anything meaningful to the improvement of the socio-economic status of Nigeria should also hold him/herself responsible for the collapse of the Nigerian system. They include, but are not restricted to those who dispossess their neighbours of their hard-earned resources. Those who want to reap where they have not sown. Those who use every available means at their disposal to amass wealth (like the okada man earlier mentioned). They also include the voting majority who continue to vote for the wrong candidates and consequently encourage mediocrity and dilapidation of basic infrastructures on the platter of monetary inducement prior to elections; those who exchange their right to good roads, basic social amenities, education, for a plate of food. They sacrifice the treasurable gift of a good future for their children on the altar of immediate financial gains and selfishness. They have not been fair to Nigeria.
Time was in this country, when teachers were consoled by: “don’t worry; your reward is in Heaven”. In any case, for a country like Nigeria, that comment may be deceitful. Thus, most teachers wouldn’t mind as they now do, to receive their reward right here on earth. This is not out of place as it is the case with every other profession. However, when they receive more than their fair reward in order to aid and abet examination malpractice, ultimately leading to the synthesis of worthless and valueless paper certificates, they become inimical to the growth of the Nigerian state. Teachers, by their very nature ought to be custodians of morals and ethical values. This position shouldn’t change irrespective of government’s inattention towards teacher’s welfare in terms of wage increases and conditions of service. To this end, teachers have a critical role to play in correcting the malfeasant rot in the educational sector.
The security operatives and indeed, the law enforcement agents have also contributed to the rot in the system. Where the security of lives and properties of the entire citizenry cannot be guaranteed, prosperity is just a hallowed promise. A situation whereby security operatives intimidate the ordinary unarmed Nigerians that they ought to protect while armed bandits terrorise and loot the neighbourhood unscathed is not just ignoble but shameful and dehumanising. Their inimical status to the Nigerian state is also made manifest when they encourage, stimulate, induce, coax or intimidate Nigerians into bribing them in order to thwart the cause of justice. Corruption remains the major reason why the law enforcement agencies and indeed, the custodians of law and order are not alive to their duties. A scenario in which, those who ought to help fight against corruption are themselves corrupt will only lead to a crippling status quo that could best be described by the title of Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things fall Apart”. Indeed, things have fallen apart in Nigeria. Sadly, it will continue to fall further apart unless the bad eggs are isolated from the few good ones. An adage has it that, “until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must learn to chew with caution”.
The judiciary that ought to be the lender of last resort; as such, a final arbiter and hope of justice for the common man has not been fully alive to this onerous responsibility. In the absence of justice, evil becomes a cherished virtue. A million lawyers could be called to the Nigerian Bar on a daily basis, the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) could be awarded to thousands on a weekly basis, but if justice for the common man is not made a priority, then, the law is just a charade. In fact, it is now suggestive that, the law is against the poor alone. This is because, it almost stands to reason that the instruments of law are meant to continually intimidate and subdue the poor. On the other hand, the rich and powerful in the society own the laws. They can bend the arm of the law in whichever direction, as it soothes their whims and caprices. In our Nigeria of today, some people are actually above the law. These include but are not restricted to those men and women who have pillaged the country’s resources and got away with it scot-free without been prosecuted.
Nigerians were able to unanimously speak in one voice during the fuel subsidy saga of January 2012. We thought, as would have been the case that the Nigerian masses were now alive and brave enough to keep their leaders on check. Due to the self serving interest of some corrupt and malicious labour leaders, that effort didn’t record all of the successes for which it was intended. It is funny how these men were able to take advantage of the sweat and blood of Nigerians to enrich their pockets. These corrupt labour leaders sabotaged the efforts of well-meaning Nigerians who were vehemently opposed to that particular government policy. They betrayed Nigerians for a plate of porridge. Indeed, they usurped a national cause for their own personal aggrandizement. One need not ask if these men have any moral justification to challenge politicians or question their integrity since their own integrity remains questionable till this moment. They represent a certain percentage of the enemies of Nigeria.
The military dictators of yesteryears and their cohorts who pillaged the country’s resources at the peak of the military regime are all walking tall and bold, scot-free on our streets today. Many will prefer to be addressed as “elder statesmen”. One will often wonder: what is elderly about an old man who defrauded his state? They have not been asked to explain to Nigerians how they depleted our foreign reserves. They have also not been asked to give account of the millions of naira they carted away while in power. On a humanitarian ground, they think Nigerians have forgotten how brutal their regimes were especially in the manner they jailed civilians who dared to criticise their dictatorial stance. Amazingly, they have automatically become self-professed democrats in the wake of democracy. They now claim to be hypocritical proponents of the rule of law in order to still remain relevant in the polity. This gives them the avenue to continue looting the national treasury. Do we need to remind them that they are the cankerworms that have endlessly devoured the Nigerian state?
In the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war, the principal actors were the 32 years old Gowon and the 33 years old Ojukwu. It is surprising that Nigerians of same age range cannot hold sway in today’s Nigeria. The youths of today have always been promised the leadership of tomorrow. Several tomorrows have been coming and going. Yet, what stills remains unattainable is the leadership status of the youths who are unconsciously aging and fast leaving that youthful age. On the other hand, the old men of yesteryears want to remain forever young. They coin such titles as “retired but not tired” in order to describe their lacklustre vibrancy and inordinate desire to perpetually remain relevant in the scheme of things. Many of them will not leave power even when their health suggests thus. They will rather die in power. Of course, this “lifetime leadership syndrome” is not confined to Nigerian borders, as is evident in Paul Biya of Cameroon, 89 years old Robert Mugabe’s 7th-term of another 5 years, etc. Let us however accept responsibility for our Nigerian leadership malaise. But, can you even blame the old men especially when you realise their embers are fanned by the sycophantic youths? A close look will reveal that the youths are also as morally culpable as the old men. One may want to ask: any hope for the future of this country?
At a time of depraved moral standings such a s this, all eyes will seemingly turn towards the direction of our numerous religious leaders for respite. Ironically, most of our religious leaders are not better off than their congregation. They have mastered the art of sycophancy especially when whetted with monetary gains. They tell their congregation what they wish to hear. They can no longer say the truth bluntly but will rather adopt cosmetic measures or shunt it totally. It is more shocking when they live a bourgeois lifestyle at the expense of their impoverished congregation. To many Nigerians, a religious enterprise appears to be one of the most thriving business endeavours in recent times. It is so obvious that the crass pursuit of wealth and fame remains the centre-piece of their mission. This is really bizarre.
To many persons, pundits alike, Nigeria represents the antithesis of an ideal democracy. The political process has been terribly polluted and pathetically defiled due to the costly shenanigans of Nigerian politicians. The filth and rot in the system is lucidly visible, even to a blind man. There are countless political personnel, making the political structures clearly evident even though, there are no corresponding political values. The superabundance of political personnel is alarming. Each of these political personnel have their attached aides – special advisers (SAs); senior special assistants (SSAs); special assistants (SAs); personal assistants (PAs), etc. I am yet to see what is senior, special and personal in all these appendages. The burden of the payment of salaries and allowances of these political personnel and their aides rests on the budget. It is not arguable that a large chunk of the national budget goes into the payment of the bloated salaries and allowances of these politicians. Also worthy of note is the large sums of money which they divert into their private purses – theft of public funds. These funds constitute “our collective wealth”. There are folks who contend that the easiest way to make money is to join politics. This is because it guarantees an undeniable and irresistible access to the national cake. The implication is that, the funds that ought to guarantee Nigerians access to good roads, electricity, clean water, educational facilities is diverted into the pockets of men and women who could better be described as “speech makers” since they actually do nothing to implement the contents of their flattering speeches. They are often times busy doing nothing. They paint a bizarre image of “anti-Nigerian” personalities. They are undoubtedly the greatest enemies of Nigeria.
The ideal country which we all envision can only be realised if we become ideal citizens. We cannot aspire to have an ideal Nigeria of corrupt Nigerians. It would amount to “fishing in a forest”. At this juncture, plain patriotism is not just enough. We need to revisit our ethical values vis á vis our morals and redefine our concept of goodness and badness. We cannot continue to do things in the wrong way and expect to get the right and desired results. We must accept full responsibility for all our wrong doings and lapses, and seek better and more refined ways of doing things in the future. Our love for the country, her future and her other citizens (apart from self) should supersede our love for money. We must stop the ignominious and diabolical culture of celebrating ill-gotten wealth at the expense of hard work, diligence, honesty and other similar virtues. We must be ready to bountifully reward these virtues and not pay lip-service to meritocracy. We must denounce vices (corruption and all its siblings) in all its ramifications. This appears to be the right time to emphatically say: “money is not everything”. We must discountenance the “get rich quick syndrome”. We must give to the public what belongs to the public and only take to ourselves, our fair and due share. We must start earnestly today, the arduous task of building a better Nigeria for the future – a better Nigeria for our children.
Tonneey NNAMUDI – an orator, opinion writer and political critic cum activist can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
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