FEATURE ARTICLE

Ayo FawibeMonday, October 3, 2005
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fawibeayo@yahoo.com
USA

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NIGERIA: A CARICATURE AT 45?


ome of us have watched and listened with keen interest to developments in our dear fatherland, Nigeria as the entity clocks forty-five. While our leaders and policy makers continue to bury the nation in a self-delusion that we would be a China or Japan in some years to come, objective assessments from within and outside continue to warn of imminent political cum economic disaster.


Let's limit our overview to just the last decade. How many industries have we built and how many jobs have we created? How many research centers have we funded and how many projects have they accomplished? How well have Nigerians been economically empowered and how many of us can afford a standard level of living? How well have developed and managed our infrastructures? How well have managed and developed our educational system? Generally, how well have developed and managed our economy?

How politically matured have we been and how rapid is the growth of our democracy? How well are we reaping the dividends of democracy and how strong is our franchise as electorates? How much premium have we put on security of lives and properties? How united have we been and how much do we believe in Nigeria?

If we must answer all those questions with all sincerity, it's not debatable that our dear country failed woefully in all those areas, even in the last ten years; seven of them under a supposed democratic leadership. But when those US experts sounded an alarm what may befall the nation in a foreseeable future, all the reactions we got were within a predictable divide in their various approach. The serious minded ones (including the media) had a thorough look at the report and reacted cautiously while the lords of the land and their "committee of wise men" in the name of council of state had a fleeting overview of the piece and dismissed it. Even if as we know that, most members of the council of state belong to the category of those who are hewing the foundation of Nigeria while the cohorts who are relatively new in the 'system' and plundering the edifice from the top. And look at those that are supposed to be our lawmakers, the state of the nation is never on their agenda, the future of our country doesn't really bother them; they are probably more engrossed with the business of raking in as much money as possible, and if not, they are either bickering over committee membership or trading punches over the authenticity of each other's certificates.

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As it is getting clearer as clearer today, do we really need a soothsayer to let us know that Nigeria as a country is already moribund and no amount of empty bravado or face-saving showmanship by our leaders and political jingoists can save the nation from an impending doom, if we don't genuinely retrace our steps, not the kind of shadow chasing being perpetrated over the years.

At forty-five, Nigeria has been so unlucky as a nation to have suffered serious bereavement in the area of responsible leadership and the Nigerian people have been most tormented in that respect. The forecast of those US experts about the future of Nigeria is just a way of amplifying a sound that's been there in form of subtle music.

Minus oil and football as unifying factors, Nigeria has only enjoyed a frail unity that is often haunted by hatred, distrust and suspicion, which are usually tailored along, ethnic, religious and political lines. So, once in a while when some blabbermouths seize the airwaves to talk about national unity, it simply echoes the military's hypocritical coup language cliché "we are all together."

From North to South, East to West, in fact, from any angle you want to look at it, hardly has Nigeria really existed as Nigeria. If we can just improvise Nigeria without oil, then that entity for whatever name you call it will just collapse like a pack of cards. Before the oil boom, it was just a desire by the tribal and ethnic groups to outwit each other in the deflowering of a virgin Nigeria. The oil boom only deepened the lust for the beautiful new bride and that's exactly what influenced the series of dramatic and intriguing events that have deformed the outlook of the country as we see it today.

The faces and actions of government officials at the federal secretariat in Abuja is enough to depict Nigeria in character. The Hausa Fulani top civil servant is that young man in flowing babaringa, occupying a choice position as director. At any point in time, he's ready to bend the rules to suit his own purpose. The typical Hausa Fulani in the public service is always willing to award all the contracts to his kinsmen or fellow Moslems, of course, without following the due process. As far as he's concerned, your ability to mutter some Hausa language or at least say ranka-dei-dei is enough to fetch you 'something'. Kai berebe or yanminrin as they scornfully refer to Yorubas and Ibos, their fellow Nigerian brothers from the same father, the British. They are ever authoritative in their approach to running the Nigerian affair, they are the policy makers and they control the disbursement of the oil money to the other lesser members of the family. In the public service, they are there to further the agenda of their blood brothers, their uncles, their royal fathers and their religious mentors. They control the military and they must continue to succeed, since they were bold enough to capture political power from the weaker Yoruba and Ibo generals' aftermath the 1966 Nzeogwu coup. Even, the head of state in uniform, General Aguiyi Ironsi had to opt for a bed in a boat on the Lagos lagoon, rather than sleep in the state house, Marina.

General Ogundipe, the highest-ranking general after Ironsi's death, cowardly refused the offer to be head of state; he chose lesser challenge of representing the country as High Commissioner in London. Such was the level of fear that the young northern officers instilled in their fellow countrymen and who are we talking about here, the Danjumas, the Babangidas, the Abachas, the Murtalas, the Yaraduas, the Gowons and rest of them. It should be noted that the struggle for who owns Nigeria started with the events of that period and the North actually won the battle, that's why they have continued to be more relevant in the scheme of things, especially as it regards the governance of the country till today. If you don't agree with this assertion, just look at the list of presidential hopefuls, the Babangidas, the Marwas, the Atikus and it's sure that these three stand taller than an Orji Uzor Kalu in the present political configuration.

Have you seen a typical Yoruba senior civil servant, he stands out with the bold tribal marks well designed, three diagonal stripes on each of his cheeks; some people jokingly call them sergeant. If you miss your way into the office of that fellow and excitedly say e kaaro sir, the reply to your salutation is likely to be a passing "how are you?" and the next second; he's back to the pile of files on his table. Don't expect him to speak what the Ibo people refer to as 'ngbati ngbati', that's Yoruba language, then you missed the point, he's most likely going to communicate in English. He's grown up to know that education is the ultimate, so he's not going to help you into the civil service with half education, high school, O.N.D, N.C.E; he'd rather advise you to go to the university, most especially if he's from Ekiti State, where every household must produce graduates.

That Yoruba man may have benefited from Chief Obafemi Awolowo's free education and Awo's ideals are his guiding principles as a Nigerian. He believes that Awo is the best president, Nigeria never had, after all, he introduced the first television in Africa, he influenced the establishment of the first university in Nigeria (University of Ibadan), and he was so futuristic in thinking that he even established a private newspaper. Awo probably knew that political power was becoming elusive to the Yorubas; he wisely opted for economic empowerment through Oodua and other multi-national companies. For those Yoruba's who decided to dine with the left, they always have their own ration of the oil money, but whenever they choose to grow taller; they are cut down to size. They are the Arisekolas, the Adedibus, the Ogundoyins, the Akinjides, The Akinloyes, the Afolabis and the rest of them.

So far, the Obasanjo presidency is the smokescreen partially covering up the cracks in the Nigerian project and surely the eight years nerve cooling power shift is certainly not the stake of Yorubas; for Ibos, their stake is not even easy to fathom in a forty-five year old Nigeria.

The Ibo man became a suspect to the North as a result of the crisis of 1966 and the ensuing civil war. As far as the North is concerned, even in the public, the best position for that man form across the Niger is that of a messenger or junior clerk and as for the military, you can easily count the number of Ibo officers who rose to the position Major-General. After Ironsi, how many Ibo officers became service chiefs, even if Yorubas were being used for some partial quota system fulfillment, how adequately have the Ibos been accommodated, especially during the long years of military rule? We know too well that the Ibos are the core businessmen in Nigeria and we also know that those of them who come forward to ride the political train, do so most times as back benchers and the last time the Igbo nation spoke with one voice was during the civil war. As long as those in business don't care, the few politicians from that part of the country would rather fight for their pockets rather than protect the general interest of their people. Except, the Ibos have more of the Azikiwes, the Ojukwus and the Ekwuemes, the Anyaokus, that race may continue to play the second fiddle in the present set up. And that may account for Dr. Alex Ekwueme's worries about the nation's inability to entrench in our constitution, the pending six geo-political zones rotational presidency, which Nigeria lost due to Abacha's sudden death.

Those who should cry more over their loss are the South-South people who are still agitating for a higher percentage in resource control, not to talk of producing the nation's president.

Aside from other minority groups, our people from the South-South lay the golden egg that feeds Nigeria, but try to find out how many of them occupy top positions at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) not to talk about the military. Oil flows under their father's bedroom, but so many of them cannot even get kerosene to cook their food, not to talk of petrol for their vehicles. This group of people lost a brilliant son, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogonis to the determination of the North to control Nigeria's oil wealth at all cost. Since the hanging of the Ogoni nine by the Abacha government, the story is still the same for the South-South people, they remain marginalized, even though, and they live as well as sleep on oil. The world certainly waited in vain only to realize that the so-called National Political Reforms Conference (NPRC) would not end, but surely mark the beginning of harder times for the south-south people. The South-South leaders walked out of the NPRC and they threatened to shut down the oil installations in the Niger-Delta area, if their demand for a better deal is not met; they have surely escaped the hangman's noose, unlike their brother, Ken Saro-Wiwa in the hands of Abacha.

However, it's sure that the battle for the redemption of the South-South people in our Nigeria of today will not be a tea party. In as much as this is not meant to applaud the 'Jesus' of the Ijaws, Governor Dipreye Alamaseigha for depleting his state's treasury; of course, himself and Alhaji Asari Dokubo are surely paying for their role as some 'loudmouths' of the Niger-Delta. This shouldn't surprise those who all those who may now be familiar with OBJ's style of attack, some call it vendetta, but we all know that our president is a self-styled overlord who abhors any form of agitation and he's doing everything possible to convince the whole world as well as contradict people like Chief Olu Falae's whose recent posture was that, OBJ has already wasted seven years out of the little opportunity accorded the Yorubas to govern the country.

Generally, the pride in citizenship of any country is very much dependent on how much importance the government attaches to the welfare of its people. This Nigeria is not the Nigeria of our dream, especially under this so-called democracy, which wields a bigger image as an autocracy, and this mirror image of the nation stems from the various imbalances bogging down the system.

In a chat, a colleague, Seyi Oduyela asserted that President Obasanjo would vacate the presidency leaving behind a more disunited Nigeria. Well, the signals are becoming more and more glaring, especially when the OBJ government recently added another feather to its cap by once again making Nigerians pay more for petroleum products. For the US, it's Katrina and Rita, but for Nigeria OBJ is probably our own version of those hurricanes, since he has succeeded in dumping so many more Nigerians into the floodgate of unprecedented poverty and hunger. For the Nigerians masses whose lives have simply become miserable under the present parody of democracy, they should persevere because the real picture will emanate someday. A big and strong Nigeria is good, but if at this time, what we have is a listening and caring government whose concern is to foist unpopular decisions on the people, such that we lost people like our brothers, Chima Ubani and Tunji Oyeleru, simply because they had to go all the way to Maiduguri in order to shout loud enough for our ever listening government to hear. May the Lord Almighty bless their souls.

As we all know it, the vultures have perfected their plans for 2007, if an Obasanjo doesn't succeed Obasanjo, then it must be another retired general or one of their allies in the business circle, all these will come to an end one day. A time will come when the voice of the ordinary Nigerian would become audible and that is when the Obasanjos, the Babangidas, the Abubakars, the Akhigbes, the Aikhomus and their agents would have lost their voices. At the appointed time, the real patriots would refuse to sweep the salient issues under the carpet; so, for now, not even a PRONACO conference can adequately accomplish the goal of salvaging and rediscovering Nigeria.