Over half of the time of my life I have spent outside of Nigeria. My individual economy is not tweaked tough by either the ugly or beautiful state of the Nigerian economy. A good or bad government in the country really makes not much difference to many I know because they dwell abroad. To many Nigerians who have made America, the United Kingdom, or any other nation outside of Nigeria home; whatever happens in Nigeria is que sera; sera. The shoddiness of the Nigerian economy, or the decrepit state of safety and security only affects them when they travel home. And many I know don’t have to travel to Nigeria. They’ve not done so in ages. But we have never ceased to pray and hope for the best for our nation. We discuss and debate Nigeria just because of the undying love we have for that country. Several times, I have attempted to slaughter the love in my heart because of gory glitches we sporadically run into. But, killing Nigeria in our hearts and minds is not just possible. Who and who not is president, and where and where not he is from, have not been the determining factors for the expression of that love that has been in existence before some of these so-called leaders were conceived in their mothers’ womb. Nigeria is home.
What goes up in Nigeria does not come down. When I left the country over three decades ago, $1 was sold for N20. And it has crept up ever since. The first time the dollar crept to N200 a few years ago, the people raged in anger. Then it crawled up to N242. Later, economists projected that by a certain year, it would float up in the N250s. It did. Today, it is N770 to one dollar. Hunger and poverty in our land persist. Nigeria, a nation still being projected to become one of the world’s 20 biggest economies by 2030 is now in a grapple for survival. My friends, Nigeria needs a lot of help!
Do we need to look too far out to determine who is behind the nation’s travails? No! We know who. They are Nigerians. Nigerians in high and low places. Lousy leaders and many sheepish followers. The leaders are mean and menacing. And the people who follow them are sometimes meaner and more menacing. The ‘who’ are Nigerians given the power to lord over in governors’ mansions, senatorial seats, and the House of Representatives stools.
For example, a few years ago, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyibo of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi Lagos gave a marching order to the government to recover about N40bn collected as pensions by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly. The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by a concerned group of Nigerians who boldly determined that excesses of men and women in public service; and of politicians who coerce their state lawmakers to write and rewrite laws that suit their fancies when in office must be checked. These are some of the ‘who’ behind Nigeria’s travails. The ‘who’ are like some of the bricklayers who jerk up prices of building materials, lie about everything, and audaciously dare you when caught in the lies. Not too long ago, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello gave a spine-tingling revelation on discoveries in an ongoing screening in his state. One person was hauling home salaries for 40 ghost workers. Some of the state employees were found working in four offices at once in the same system. These are ordinary Nigerians, not elected officials. They have no idea what the love of country is. Many are in a race for individual and family survival. Few are in a dash for Nigerian corporate success.
The Roman philosopher and political theorist, Marcus Cicero, put it more lucidly, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” The woes besieging Nigeria are caused by Nigerians.
It is an understatement that Nigeria is rich in treasures of the earth; rich in men and women with cerebral aptitude, and rich in milk and honey flowing across every nook and cranny of the nation. The IMF once projected that Nigeria was on track to becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020. This is 2022. The cyclone of corruption and ineptitude in leadership has scuttled that aspiration. Check out comparable emerging nations recorded to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Nigeria in the 60s after independence. Check out the BRICS nations, (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Today, these nations are wealthy and industrialised. They are endowed with a highly educated workforce, and blessed with a strong and vibrant middle class. These nations excel in law, medicine, engineering, scientific and technological advancement with modernised commercial and transportation infrastructures.
States of our Nigerian cities are sour. They are in decay; they are overpopulated and polluted. Our roads are pits of mishaps, and public educational system is like a public toilet. Nigeria’s young people, who are the nation’s present and future, and the crème de la crème and corps d’elite of the engine that drives everything, are troubled. They are the hearts of our police protecting our streets; major organs of the military fighting our wars. They build our roads and labour in our businesses, and no glorious things have happened to Nigeria that her youths did not help bring about. The Nigerian state has forgotten our young people and railroaded their destinies. Grating economic conditions have forced young girls to become high-end prostitutes, and the boys have turned killers, kidnappers, thugs, and armed robbers.
Elections in every system are about the achievability of the lofty dream of greater heights for a nation in the doldrums. Elections are about picking the right minds that will mind the people’s business with peace, progress and prosperity of the people in mind. Whenever I listen to Nigerians buried in argy-bargies of who becomes president in 2023, I am tickled with laughter. The 2023 presidential election will not be about Bola Tinubu and allegations and accusations of malevolence and a penchant for wealth and more wealth. It will not be about Atiku Abubakar whose desperation to become President does not make Nigerians forget about a season of life he auctioned off Nigeria’s assets and wealth to his cronies and highest bidders. It will not be about Peter Obi and allegations around him about the Pandora papers where his name was mentioned as one of the most brazen corrupt politicians in existence, bloated and fictitious resume as Anambra Governor, and accusing fingers of lying about facts and figures. The next election is about all of us- leaders and the led. It is about fulfilling our individual and collective responsibilities. Are we all ready for that upward swing?