By Adeola Aderounmu
There are many records and chronological analyses of what went wrong with Nigeria. Above all a once prosperous country with one of the greatest aggregation of potentials-both human and natural-was mismanaged, plundered and converted into one of the worst places to live on earth.
In 1993 in what appeared to be an act of treason a major electoral process was blasted by the tropical gangsters led by Ibrahim Babangida. So the hopes and stakes were high when a new civilian government emerged in Nigeria in 1999. The events from 1999 to 2012 have proven that the problem with Nigeria was partly the military governments and partly the civilian governments. In my opinion Nigerians have suffered to various degrees under all known types of dispensations after independence in 1960.
But there is a group of majority that continues to bear the brunt of more than 50 years of crimes against humanity in Nigeria. More than 90% of Nigerians are estimated to be living in poverty. This group is made up of people who are unsure of the next meal. It is this group that is called resilient, religious or happy depending on which investigation you read. They were the hopefuls in 1993 and 1999. All they ever wanted, and still want is the good life.
Unfortunately they will not get the things they want. Since the life expectancy in Nigeria is about 52.5 years it means that there has been a generation of Nigeria that went through life in the most hopeless way one can imagine. They never had constant power supply, they never had good roads and they never lived in quality houses or apartments. They did not get the best meals money can buy.
In historical perspective this will translate to two wasted generations of Nigerians. It is hard to give up on the argument that the nature of the Nigerian tragedy makes it one of the greatest (but hidden) tragedies of modern era.
When the Arab spring was in vogue, with Syria still as its melting point, some of us saw it as a misplaced uprising. I mean if the second wasted Nigerian generation was raised in North Africa they would probably have driven on good roads, slept in good homes and experienced what constant power supply meant. For the most, they may have lived longer.
The hope in Nigeria-where democracy exists on paper and its dividends in the pockets of the looters-is a misnomer. The description “resilient” fits aptly. Still, I prefer Fela’s description of Nigerians as “suffering and smiling”. The song “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” has the same relevance today as it did when it was released in 1977.
All they ever wanted, they never got. All they had left were taken away from them. A typical Nigerian worker or unemployed adult was a self-witness to the demise of public education. Right before his eyes, he saw how primary health centers turned to primary death centers and how major government hospitals degenerated in similar fashions to necrosis. History has a record of how lesser or fewer tragedies have triggered massive protests, revolutions and government changes in several places.
One sad revelation of the Nigerian society is that the country continues to produce rulers (never leaders) who eventually turned out to be out of touch with everyday life of the Nigerian people once the ascension is made to either top or trivial political positions. Therefore the conclusion that a people deserve the type of (ruler) it gets deserves a closer evaluation in the Nigerian context.
Those who are ruling Nigeria today were on our side when we started complaining that things are not right. Why is Nigeria getting worse under the people who saw the problem with us from outside of government? In My Radom Reflections At 40, I wrote that-irrespective of what the future holds for Nigeria-the shape of things to come will depend on institutions and not people.
Had it been that the institutions are well and functioning for example more than 99% of Nigerian politicians today will be serving prison terms or facing trials for corruption, treason and outright negligence of responsibilities. However Nigeria has almost no working institution, therefore it doesn’t matter if the politicians got legal or stolen mandates, in the end they always do what they like. In uncountable situations they do bad things and get away with crimes and all sorts of unthinkable acts never expected of public office holders.
Even today the regime in Nigeria is a mockery of the meaning of democracy. Nigerian rulers do not hide their autocratic powers. The situation in Nigeria is almost hopeless because when good people get into government they become bad, corrupt and unbelievably silent about evil deeds. Those who managed to get into government offices end up seeing those outside of it as the problem. They see them as envious or jealous people. There is something inexplicable about how governments work from the inside in Nigeria. Hence the cycle of idiocy for Nigeria is endless.
The situation in Northern Nigeria was avoidable. If the institutions had been there, they would have rid the society of criminally minded and corrupt people both in and out of government. In the worst case the appropriate institutions would have ensured the security of life and property in the case of criminally-induced terrorism. But when the foundations are absent and everything is wrong as a result of round pegs in square holes, things will definitely fall apart with almost irredeemable consequences.
Several concerned Nigerians have begun to argue for the reinstatement of true federalism as one of the ways forward. For them corruption is a secondary issue as far as the problems with Nigeria are concern. True Federalism will probably be a way to induce peaceful political changes in Nigeria. It is sad when those holding firmly onto power do not see the transient nature of it. By such negligence they stubbornly fail to initiate the right political alternatives that can bring probable succor and social justice.
Sometimes stubbornness can generate earthly consuming fires. If the fire starts on the mountain as predicted by Asa, there may be nowhere for us to run. In this sense the political option, with religious inclination, chosen by Boko Haram is too costly and deadly. Most of it is senseless. Nevertheless, it has been spoken about for years and in many ways that those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. A violent change does not imply positive outcomes. The political structure of Nigeria must change. It is better to approach the change constitutionally than to sustain the loopholes that terrorists are utilising to expose the weakenesses of Nigeria.
The common people will always be there. All they want is the good life